Asian Horror Month: BLACK CRANES : A Review in Verse

 

BLACK CRANES: A REVIEW IN VERSE

Tales of Unquiet Women

From voices no longer silent

In this anthology of Asian narratives

Ranging from hilarious, to haunting and violent

A frisson towards an immersive journey

Headlined by Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn

Not merely stories, but an assemblage of shared experiences

And teamwork presented by Omnium Gatherum

Alma Katsu leads the proceedings

Of what follows and what to expect

Asian, women, and horror

Tales of identity, expectation and neglect;

Obligations, traditions, duties and more

Scientists, warriors, princesses, spirits

We can be many things

But we cannot be defeated

A haunting foreword sets the tone

For Elaine Cuyegkeng to kick off with a bang

Pandora’s box of gene editing

Or more attuned to a boomerang;

Snipping out traits and replacing preferential ones

Rarefied offspring too good to be true?

There’s always a price to pay

Specimens or daughters? Are we a ‘what’ or ‘who’?

Nadia Bulkin marshals an uprising 

With Indonesian history and folklore

A princess’s people retrieving her throne

A fight and reclamation at its core;

Who is monster and who is human?

Questions Kapre in his chronicle

Rin Chupeco’s unique love story

Depicts a tale heartwarming and ironical

Beauty, cosmetics, enhancements galore

Two tales from Angela Yuriko Smith

How far would you go to be yourself no more?

Sci-fi abounds; this isn’t myth

White on the outside, yellow within

Patchwork eyes and warring factions all over

Whom do we belong to if we don’t belong at all?

Gift recipient or pushover?

Grace Chan makes a two-fold mark

With hunger and fury, suspicion and doubt

Gabriella Lee’s rites of passage

Aspects of womanhood poured out;

The legend of the nine-tailed fox

Of trickster entities and lotus feet

Rena Mason presents womanhood again

As past, present and future accrete

Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn

In their dual roles of editor and writer

Lend duality with contrasting themes

From heartbreak to horror, and lighter;

Caring for an ailing parent,

A mind-blowing take on pets,

A litmus test of acceptance,

Words – their shining assets

Set the clock ahead with Christina Sng

As we time travel to a zombie apocalypse

An ode to women in the military

Fury is not one to be eclipsed;

The fury of sacrifices to accommodate 

Meeting the expectations of others

Hollowed versions of ourselves

Emptied out; unconsidered druthers

With stories of folklore and legend

From the common to the esoteric

Across geography and culture

From charming to barbaric;

Returning to one’s roots

Or imagining a far-fetched world

From the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore

China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand;

Asian women from wherever they might be 

Scattered across place and time

Breaking notions and stereotypes

That living is not a crime;

There’s no single type of woman

No all-encompassing concept of Asian

The multifaceted identities of horror

And the stories of women who experience their own versions.

                                      ~Renata Pavrey

                                        December 2020

Ranata Pavrey is a Nutritionist by profession; marathon runner and Odissi dancer by passion. Driven by sports, music, animals, plants, literature and more. She reads across several genres and languages, and loves the world of horror – in both, books and movies.

 

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Deathcember

At 1:15 am pst on Dec. 13th 2020, Crystal Connor, finally settled into her sleeping bag on the couch with snacks within reach and dog in lap picked up her remote. The footage you are about to see chronicles the harrowing experience that her neighbors endured for hours as she screamed, cried, and shouted expletive obscenities at her television as she watched: Viewer discretion is advised.

Plotline: A collection of 24 films that take a look at the dark side of the festive season. 24 international directors with the most diverse ideas and styles; linked by short animated segments that deal with the Advent calendar itself.

Who would like it: Fans of anthologies, short films, collections, international films, horror lovers, gorehounds, tech geeks, sci-fi fans, indie horror movies, and people who love jump scares

High Points: This was a super strong anthology, loved about 80% of the films

Complaints: Nothing really

Overall: Highly recommend

Stars: 4 Stars

Where I watched it: Amazon Prime

 

Historian of Horror: In Memoriam 2020

In Memoriam

As is de rigueur for this time of year, we look back at some of the genre connected people who passed away in 2020. Some connections are tenuous, some very solid. A few names, everyone knows. Many, I didn’t even know until I set out on this journey. 

By the way, there be spoilers here. Act accordingly.

January

Veronika Fitz (3/28/36-1/2/20) German actress with a nearly six-decade career. Her only genre performance that I could find was a bit part in The Haunted Castle (1960). Oh, well. We had to start somewhere.

Robert Blanche (March 30, 1962 – January 3, 2020) American actor, played Sgt. Franco on the American television program, ‘Grimm’, from 2012 to 2017.

Edd Byrnes (July 30, 1932 – January 8, 2020) American actor, best known to the generation just prior to mine for his role as Kookie in the television mystery show, ’77 Sunset Strip’. Played a psycho killer in 1973’s Wicked, Wicked, a film notable only for its use of a split-screen for its entire running time. Brian de Palma had used the technique of showing two scenes at once in parts of his film, Sisters, that same year. Too much of a good thing, in this case.

Buck Henry (December 9, 1930 – January 8, 2020) American actor, writer, director. Creator of the classic ‘60s TV spy spoof ‘Get Smart’, frequent first season contributor to ‘Saturday Night Live’, and doomed swinger in the 1982 dark comedy, Eating Raoul.

Ivan Passer (10 July 1933 – 9 January 2020) Czech director of 1988’s Haunted Summer, one of several films about the 1815 gathering in Switzerland that produced Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and John Polidori’s Vampyre

Mike Resnick (March 5, 1942 – January 9, 2020) Award-winning American science fiction writer and editor. Author of The Official Guide to Fantastic Literature (1976).

Carol Serling (February 3, 1929 – January 9, 2020) The widow of Rod Serling, who guided the Twilight Zone brand through decades of reinvention and adaptation into other media, including the magazine of the same name.

Neda Arnerić (15 July 1953 – 10 January 2020) Serbian actress, Venom (a.k.a. The Legend of Spider Forest, 1971)

Patrick Jordan (10 October 1923 – 10 January 2020) English actor who spent most of a long career as a character actor on the BBC, but did manage to squeeze in a bit part in the 1959 kaiju classic, The Giant Behemoth.

Robert Sampson (May 10. 1933 – January 18, 2020) American actor who appeared in the TV shows ‘One Step Beyond’ and ‘The Twilight Zone’, and as Dean Halsey in 1985’s Re-Animator.

Terry Jones (1 February 1942 – 21 January 2020) Welsh actor and writer and founding member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Played Sir Bedevere in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a performance that required him to run away from several scary things. That rabbit’s dynamite!

John Karlen (May 28, 1933 – January 22, 2020) American actor. Ah, yes. Willie Loomis himself, who foolishly awoke vampire Barnabas Collins on the classic horror soap opera, ‘Dark Shadows’. In the second half of the 1960s, everyone I knew ran home from school to plop down in front of the television in order to find out what devilment Barnabas was up too, all because Willie had been tempted by the rumors that the undead main character had treasure buried in his coffin with him. He ought to have known better. Nobody puts chains around a coffin to keep people out. The chains are obviously there to keep the occupant in. Duh.

Robert Harper (May 19, 1951 – January 23, 2020) American actor devoured by the inhabitant of ‘The Crate’ in 1982’s Creepshow.

Monique van Vooren (March 25, 1927 – January 25, 2020) Belgian actress who essayed multiple roles in Andy Warhol’s 1973 film, Flesh for Frankenstein.

Jack Burns (November 15, 1933 – January 27, 2020) American actor and comedian, best known for his partnership with Avery Schreiber in the comedy team of, you guessed it, Burns & Schreiber, and for being Barney Fife’s replacement on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’. Did make one appearance on the late ‘60s supernatural TV show, ‘The Ghost & Mrs. Muir’.

Norbert Moutier (1941 – 27 January 2020) French director of 1983’s Mad Mutilator and 1993’s Dinosaur from the Deep.

Marj Dusay (2/20/36-1/28/20) American actress who had a lead role in the 1969 TV movie, Dead of Night: A Darkness at Blaisedon, a pilot for a supernatural investigations series that was not picked up by the network. She appeared in virtually every television series made in the United States during her very long career, including in one episode of the short-lived Tucker’s Witch in 1982, also a supernatural investigations show. 

Nicholas Parsons (10 October 1923 – 28 January 2020) English actor. Okay, blame the Beatles for this, or maybe Elvis, but it seemed that every rock & roll band in the ‘60s made an effort to break into movies. The Spencer Davis Group tried their hand in 1966 in a fab little feature called The Ghost Goes Gear. Gear being a synonym of the time for fab, or george, or groovy. As opposed to grotty. Clear as mud? Parsons played the band’s manager, a nobleman whose manor house was haunted. I recommend sticking with A Hard Day’s Night.

Dyanne Thorne (October 14, 1936 – January 28, 2020) American actress, ‘star’ of Ilsa: She-Wolf of the S.S. (1975). Naughty, naughty Ilsa, performing all those awful experiments on her barely clothed female prisoners in her own personal Nazi concentration camp. Camp being the operative word.

Mary Higgins Clark (December 24, 1927 – January 31, 2020) American author of numerous suspense novels than danced around the edges of being horror. 

Andrée Melly (15 September 1932 – 31 January 2020) English actress in The Brides of Dracula in 1960 and the cheapjack retread of William Castle’s 1963 remake of The Old Dark House called The Horror of it All in 1964. Her image from Brides was also picked for the Old Maid in a 1964 monster card game in which she is misidentified as Dracula’s Daughter.

One of several things that Milton Bradley got wrong. Sounds like meat for a future column.

Katsumasa Uchida (19 September 1944 – 31 January 2020) Japanese actor, played an Interpol agent in 1975’s Terror of Mechagodzilla.

February

Lila Garrett (November 21, 1925 – February 1, 2020) American writer who scribed a dozen episodes of the 1960s supernatural TV series, ‘Bewitched’.

Luciano Ricceri (26 April 1940 – 1 February 2020) Italian production designer for the 1966 dark comedy, The Devil in Love.

Lovelady Powell (May 9, 1930 – February 2, 2020) American actress who appeared in one episode of ‘Dark Shadows’ in 1966 and in the 1972 horror thriller, The Possession of Joel Delaney

José Luis Cuerda (18 February 1947 – 4 February 2020) Spanish producer, The Others (2001), with Nicole Kidman.

Gianni Minervini (26 October 1928 – 4 February 2020) Italian producer of the 1976 Giallo, The House of the Laughing Windows

Kirk Douglas (December 9, 1916 – February 5, 2020) American actor not generally known for genre work, but he did star in a not-well-received musical TV version of ‘Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ in 1973. 

F. X. Feeney (September 1, 1953 – February 5, 2020) American screenwriter on Roger Corman’s 1990 adaptation of the Brian Aldiss novel, Frankenstein Unbound.

Raphaël Coleman (30 September 1994 – 6 February 2020) American actor in the 2009 remake of It’s Alive.

Orson Bean (July 22, 1928 – February 7, 2020) American actor who was all over television in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and who made one appearance on ‘The Twilight Zone’.

Robert Conrad (March 1, 1935 – February 8, 2020) If you love steampunk, this is one of the guys who created it. Conrad was the star of ‘The Wild Wild West’, still after fifty years my favorite TV show of all time. Only one episode is truly horror related, ‘The Night of the Man-Eating House’. Hurd Hatfield from 1945’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is the guest star.

Paula Kelly (October 21, 1942 – February 8, 2020) American actress in the borderline horrific science fiction films, 1971’s The Andromeda Strain and 1973’s Soylent Green. Spoiler alert: It’s People!

Ron McLarty (April 14, 1947 – February 8, 2020) American actor whose first film role was as the real estate agent in 1977’s The Sentinel, which was based on the Jeffrey Konvitz horror novel of the same name.

Mirella Freni (27 February 1935 – 9 February 2020) Italian operatic soprano who sang in several genre-related operas over her illustrious fifty-year career, including Gounod’s Faust and Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame (AKA Queen of Spades).

Marjorie Redmond (December 14, 1924 – February 10, 2020) American television actress, likely best known as Sister Jacqueline in ‘The Flying Nun’ (yes, a ‘60s TV show about a nun who, you guessed it, could fly), with stopovers along the way in ‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘The Munsters’, as well as an episode of the spin-off (sort of) from Rod Serling’s ‘Night Gallery’, ‘The Sixth Sense’ in 1972.

Raphael Romero Marchent (May 3, 1926 – February 13, 2020) Mexican director, Santo vs Doctor Death (1973) and Curse of the Black Cat (1977).

Zoe Caldwell (14 September 1933 – 16 February 2020) Australian actress with one appearance on the TV version of radio’s classic series, ‘Suspense’, in 1960. She’s best known for her stage performances in Macbeth and Medea, both of which have horrific connections. In fact, in early 1983, she brought her touring company of Medea to Knoxville, Tennessee, while my wife and I were students there. Yes, we saw it, and, yes, it was very, very good. Mitchell Ryan, late of ‘Dark Shadows’ and Dame Judith Anderson, who co-starred with Vincent Price in the great film noir, Laura, in 1946, appeared with her. There is a filmed performance of that production on YouTube.

Frances Cuka (21 August 1936 – 16 February 2020) English actress in 1980’s Watcher in the Woods with Bette Davis, and one episode of the ‘Hammer House of Horror’ BBC series.

Sonja Ziemann (8 February 1926 – 17 February 2020) German actress, Ghost in the Castle (AKA Spuk im Schloß, 1947)

Flavio Bucci (25 May 1947 – 18 February 2020) Italian actor, Suspiria (1977)

Bob Cobert (October 26, 1924 – February 19, 2020) Soundtrack composer on numerous genre films and TV shows, including the aforementioned ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ with Kirk Douglas; House of Dark Shadows (1970) and Night of Dark Shadows (1971); and The Night Stalker (1972) and The Night Strangler (1973), the forerunners of the ‘Kolchak: The Night Stalker’ TV series. Also, The Norliss Tapes (1973), 1974’s TV Dracula with Jack Palance, and the 2012 Dark Shadows feature film with Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins.

José Mojica Marins (13 March 1936 – 19 February 2020) Brazilian actor best known as Coffin Joe in a trilogy of films, 1964’s At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, 1967’s This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse and The Embodiment of Evil in 2008, with numerous other spooky film and TV appearances along the way.

Peter Dreher (26 August 1932 – 20 February 2020) German artist who enjoyed painting skulls. He called this series of creepy images ‘Totenschädel‘.

Claudette Nevins (April 10, 1937 – February 20, 2020) American actress, The Mask (1961). Not the one with Jim Carrey. This one is in 3-D, which would be much too much to tolerate from a Jim Carrey movie.

Nicola Cuti (October 29, 1944 – February 21, 2020) Comic book writer, editor and artist who wrote well over two hundred scripts for the horror comics line published by Charlton Comics in the 1970s, and co-created with artist Joe Staton the classic comic book super-hero, E-Man. 

Boris Leskin AKA Boris Lyoskin (5 January 1923 – 21 February 2020) Romanian actor who had a small role in 1988’s Vampire’s Kiss with Nicolas Cage.

Russ Cochran (July 3, 1937 – February 23, 2020) A former physics professor who quit academia to collate and reprint the EC Comics of the early 1950s, preserving for new generations those gruesome yarns from crumbling issues of Tales from the Crypt, The Haunt of Fear and The Vault of Horror. And some other stuff, Disney and Hopalong Cassidy comics and the like.

Ben Cooper (September 30, 1933 – February 24, 2020) American actor who made appearances on TV’s ‘Suspense’, ‘One Step Beyond’ and ‘The Twilight Zone’.

Michael Hugh Medwin, (18 July 1923 – 26 February 2020) American actor with one genre performance, in 1949’s Queen of Spades.

R. D. Call (February 16, 1950 – February 27, 2020) American character actor with appearances in ‘X-Files’ and ‘Supernatural’, among many, many other television shows.

Dieter Laser (17 February 1942 – 29 February 2020) German actor, Human Centipede (First Sequence), 2009

March

Frank McLaughlin (March 18, 1935 – March 4, 2020) Comic book artist and art director for Charlton Comics whose first credited work was on a story in the kaiju comic, Reptisaurus, in 1961.

Max von Sydow (10 April 1929 – 8 March 2020) Swedish actor and long-time collaborator with director Ingmar Bergman, he played chess with death in 1957 in The Seventh Seal and died trying to drive Pazuzu out of Linda Blair in The Exorcist in 1973.

Gary B. Kibbe (January 9, 1941 – March 9, 2020) American cinematographer on the John Carpenter films Prince of Darkness (1987), They Live (1988), In the Mouth of Madness (1995), Village of the Damned (1995), Escape from L.A. (1996) and Vampires (1998), and one episode of HBO’s ‘Tales from the Crypt’, 1992’s ‘King of the Road’ starring Brad Pitt.

Suzy Delair (31 December 1917 – 15 March 2020) French actress in the 1942 dark comedy L’assassin habite… au 21 (The Murderer Lives at Number 21).

Roy Hudd, (16 May 1936 – 15 March 2020) English actor who played a morgue attendant in 1968’s The Blood Beast Terror, which starred Peter Cushing.

Stuart Whitman (February 1, 1928 – March 16, 2020) American leading man, star of many theatrical and television westerns, mysteries and adventure yarns, with one episode of ‘Night Gallery’ on his resume. He also co-starred with Psycho victim Janet Leigh in 1972’s Night of the Lepus, generally considered one of the worst movies ever made. I will not take an opposing position on that question.

Giovanni Romanini (27 December 1945 – 20 March 2020) Italian cartoonist, illustrator of the dark and often horrific Italian comic book series, Satanik, in the early 1970s. 

Lucia Bosè (28 January 1931 – 23 March 2020) Italian actress who had a small role in Jean Cocteau’s 1960 film, Testament d’Orphee.

David Collings (4 June 1940 – 23 March 2020) English actor who played Bob Cratchit in 1970’s Scrooge.

Melinda O. Fee (October 7, 1942 – March 24, 2020) American actress who played Mrs. Webber in 1985’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddie’s Revenge.

Stuart Gordon (August 11, 1947 – March 24, 2020) American screenwriter and director on 1985’s Re-Animator, the 1991 version of The Pit and the Pendulum, 2001’s Dagon, and two episodes of the ‘Masters of Horror’ TV show.

Juan Padron (January 29, 1947 – March 24, 2020) Cuban director of Vampiros en La Habana (1985) and Mas Vampiros en La Habana (2003).

Barbara Rütting (21 November 1927 – 28 March 2020) German actress in early ‘60s adaptations of a couple of Edgar Wallace’s horror-thriller novels, Der Zinker (The Squeaker, 1963) and Das Phantom von Soho (1964).

Krzysztof Penderecki (23 November 1933 – 29 March 2020) Polish composer of Die Teufel von  Loudun (The Devils of Loudun), a 1968-1975 opera based on an episode of mass demonic possession in 17th Century France. Yes, it took him seven years to write an opera. How long does it take YOU?

Hilary Heath, AKA Hilary Dwyer (6 May 1945 – 30 March 2020) British actress in 1968’s The Witchfinder General and 1969’s The Oblong Box, both with Vincent Price in Edgar Allen Poe inspired films, 1970’s Cry of the Banshee, also with Price, and in the 1970 version of Wuthering Heights, which starred future James Bond Timothy Dalton.

Vincent Marzello (July 4, 1951 – March 31, 2020) American actor in 1990’s The Witches.

April

Olan Montgomery (April 12, 1963 – April 4, 2020) An American actor known for playing a newsman for four episodes during the third season of the Netflix series, ‘Stranger Things’. He died of COVID-19.

Honor Blackman (22 August 1925 – 5 April 2020) British actress who made her mark in film history by portraying the redoubtable Pussy Galore in the third James Bond film, 1964’s Goldfinger, after having spent two seasons practicing her judo throws on bad guys in the BBC series, ‘The Avengers’. She co-starred with Christopher Lee and Nastassja Kinsky in 1976’s To the Devil a Daughter, based on the Dennis Wheatley novel.

Lee Fierro (February 13, 1929 – April 5, 2020) American actress who played the mother of the little boy eaten by the shark in Jaws in 1975.

James Drury (April 18, 1934 – April 6, 2020) American actor who spent nine seasons starring in the ninety-minute television western, ‘The Virginian’. Before that, though, he was a crewman on the spaceship C-57D in the 1956 science fiction classic, Forbidden Planet, which was loosely based on Shakespeare’s marginally horrific last play, The Tempest, and did have folks killed by something called ‘the monster from the Id’. So, yes. It counts as horror, at least a little.

Allen Garfield (AKA Allen Goorwitz; November 22, 1939 – April 7, 2020) American actor who specialized in playing officious minor authority figures whose bark was always worse than their bite. Except, of course, when he starred in 1978’s Sketches of a Strangler, in which he put the bite on several actresses in a manual way. He was also in the 1996 remake of the classic French horror film, Diabolique, with Sharon Stone.

Mort Drucker (March 22, 1929 – April 9, 2020) For decades, Hollywood actors only knew they’d finally ‘arrived’ when this Mad Magazine artist and master caricaturist included them in one of his movie or television parodies. Drucker started out doing war comics for DC before signing on with EC, Mad’s publisher, shortly after they shut down their comic book line (see the Russ Cochran entry above) in favor of putting all their eggs in the Mad basket. The first one of his I remember seeing must have been in one of the reprint collections Mad issued a time or two a year. It was the parody of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic, Psycho. To this day, there are frames from that film I see in my mind’s eye, not in cinematic black and white, but in Drucker’s distinctive style as he recreated them for the magazine.  

Nobuhiko Obayashi (9 January 1938 – 10 April 2020) Japanese director, House (1977)

Margot Hartman (August 15, 1933 – April 11, 2020) American actress, Curse of the Living Corpse (1964). Janet Leigh should stay out of showers, and poor Margot should stay out of tubs for the same reason. How is a lady supposed to stay clean?

Danny Goldman (October 30, 1939 – April 12, 2020 American actor in 1974’s Young Frankenstein. He was the obnoxious medical student who drove Gene Wilder to stab himself in the thigh with a scalpel.

Joel M. Reed (December 29, 1933 – April 13, 2020) American schlock director of Blood Sucking Freaks (1976) and other exercises in questionable taste.

Brian Dennehy (July 9, 1938 – April 15, 2020) American tough guy actor, who discovered in First Blood that he wasn’t nearly as tough as Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo. He didn’t do much better as the fire chief in 1977’s Ants!

Gene Deitch (August 8, 1924 – April 16, 2020) Czech-American animator on Where the Wild Things Are (1975), and creator of one of my childhood favorite cartoon series, ‘Tom Terrific’, who appeared periodically with his sidekick, Manfred the Wonder Dog, on the Captain Kangaroo show. Ah, the good old days.

Jacques Rosny (25 March 1939 – 18 April 2020) French actor who had a small role in Roman Polanski’s 1976 psychological horror film, The Tenant.

Hector Garrido (1928 – April 19, 2020) American illustrator who painted hundreds of paperback book covers in all genres, including horror.

Shirley Knight (July 5, 1936 – April 22, 2020) Oscar-nominated American actress whose only genre work I know of was an episode of ‘The Outer Limits’ in 1963, co-starring Martin Landau.

John Lafia (April 2, 1957 – April 29, 2020) American director of 1993’s Man’s Best Friend, one of several lethal dog movies from around that period

May

John Ericson (September 25, 1926 – May 3, 2020) German-American actor, the leading man and personification of the Great God Pan in The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao in 1964, and the German officer whose invading force was driven off of Britain’s shores by empty suits of armor animated by apprentice witch Angela Lansbury in the 1971 Disney live-action feature, Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

Richard Sala (June 2, 1954 – May 7, 2020) American comic book creator on 1995’s The Ghastly Ones and Other Fiendish Frolics from Manic D Press, and IDW’s 2005 Dracula, among others.

Marty Pasko (August 4, 1954 – May 10, 2020) Canadian comic book writer who primarily worked in the super-hero genre for DC and Marvel, but who began his career with a script each for Warren Publication’s Eerie and Vampirella magazines in the early ‘70s.

Jerry Stiller (June 8, 1927 – May 11, 2020) American comedian and actor, father of Ben. He appeared in one episode of ‘Tales from the Darkside’.

Frank Bolle (June 23, 1924 – May 12, 2020) Italian-American comic book artist who, among many other things, illustrated horror stories for Atlas Comics, the precursor to Marvel Comics, in 1956 and 1957. 

Fred Willard (September 18, 1933 – May 15, 2020) American comedy actor, perhaps best known for his work in the series of Christopher Guest comedy films of the 1980s and 1990s, beginning with This is Spinal Tap. He did make a memorable appearance as the rascally realtor in the 1979 TV miniseries Salem’s Lot who gets caught with his pants down, both by the cuckolded husband and by vampire Kurt Barlow.  

Cindy Butler (October 15, 1955 – May 26, 2020) American actress, The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976) and Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues (1984). Neither one, to paraphrase Dr. Samuel Johnson, worth seeing, and even less worth going to see.

Richard Herd (September 26, 1932 – May 26, 2020) American character actor whose genre career began with 1980’s Schizoid and culminated in a videotaped performance of patriarch Roman Armitage in 2017’s Get Out, with a stop in the ‘Tales from the Crypt’ TV series along the way.

Anthony James (July 22, 1942 – May 26, 2020) Twitchy American actor, sort of the poor-man’s Anthony Perkins, who played the chauffeur in the 1976 classic Burnt Offerings with Bette Davis.

Dan van Husen (30 April 1945 – May 2020) German actor who, among many other minor horror roles, played the warden in 1979’s Nosferatu the Vampyre. If forced to choose between this among his films, or Killer Barbys vs Dracula from 2001, I think you know which way to jump.

June

Andrée Champagne (July 17, 1939 – June 6, 2020) Canadian actress, Playgirl Killer (1967). Not Canada’s finest hour.

Joanne Lara (June 3, 1952 – June 9, 2020) American actress notable, if that’s the word, for being the title character (‘Maria’) in an episode of ‘Tales of the Unexpected’, and for playing a bit part in It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive.

Joe Johnson (June 25, 1957 – June 10, 2020) American actor, victim of a misapplied power tool in The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

Dennis O’Neil (May 3, 1939 – June 11, 2020) American comic book writer who worked for both Marvel and DC but is best known for his long association with the artist Neal Adams on Green Lantern/Green Arrow and on the various Batman titles, many stories for which he included a supernatural element. ‘The Secret of the Waiting Graves’, the Batman story in Detective Comics 295 from January of 1970 concerns a couple whose time ultimately runs out after several hundred years, for example. O’Neil also worked with artist Steve Ditko on Beware… the Creeper in the 1960s and with Mike W. Kaluta on The Shadow in the early 1970s.

Ian Holm (12 September 1931 – 19 June 2020) Distinguished English actor who, long before he was Bilbo Baggins, played a murderous android in 1979’s Alien.

Philip Latham (17 January 1929 – 20 June 2020) English actor, Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

Joel Schumacher (August 29, 1939 – June 22, 2020) American director, notorious for taking the campy surrealism of Tim Burton’s two Batman films and twisting the franchise in his own two sequels into a surrealistic campiness that was a definite step down. Viewers can make up their own minds as to whether he redeemed himself by directing Gerard Butler in the film version of the Phantom of the Opera musical in 2004. This deponent sayeth not.

Joe Sinnott (October 16, 1926  – June 25, 2020) Legendary comic book artist, favored inker over the pencil work of King of the Comics Jack Kirby, and prolific illustrator of 1950s horror tales for the aforementioned Atlas Comics.

Stuart Cornfeld (November 13, 1952 – June 26, 2020) American producer, The Fly (1986) 

Taryn Power (September 13, 1953 – June 26, 2020) American actress, daughter of Golden Age of Hollywood megastar Tyrone Power, Junior, and granddaughter of silent movie star Tyrone Power, Senior. She appeared in the Ray Harryhausen classic, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, and not much else. This apple did, it seems, fall far from the tree.

James Holloway (d. June 28, 2020) American illustrator for many monster-laden Dungeons & Dragons related publications, including Dragon Magazine.

Johnny Mandel (November 23, 1925 – June 29, 2020) American music producer, orchestrator and conductor, Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)

Dan Hicks (July 19, 1951 – June 30, 2020) American actor, Evil Dead II (1987) and Darkman (1990).

July

Billy Tang (1951 – 7/2/20) Chinese director, Dial D for Demons (2000)

Yoon Sam-yook (May 25, 1937 – July 2, 2020) Korean screenwriter, Suddenly in the Dark (1981)

Ronald L. Schwary (May 23, 1944 – July 2, 2020) American producer, Meet Joe Black, the 1998 remake of the classic Death Takes a Holiday, previously filmed in 1934 and 1971.

P.H. Aykroyd (February 5, 1922 – July 4, 2020) Canadian father of Ghostbuster Dan Aykroyd, author of “A History of Ghosts: The True Story of Seances, Mediums, Ghosts and Ghostbusters” with Angela Narth

Ennio Morricone (10 November 1928 – 6 July 2020) Italian soundtrack composer, The Thing (1982), as well as numerous gialli. The spaghetti western scores he is most famous for comprise a small percentage of his total, voluminous output. Tell me you didn’t just whistle the opening bars to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Go ahead. Not that I’ll believe you. Wah-WAH-wah…

Charlie Daniels (October 28, 1936 – July 6, 2020) American musician, The Devil Went Down to Georgia. The Devil should have known better than to bet a golden fiddle against the soul of a Saltine-American bluegrass champion. Stupid Devil.

Raymundo Capetillo (1 September 1943 – 12 July 2020) Mexican actor, Bestia Nocturna (1986).

Kelly Preston (October 13, 1962 – July 12, 2020) American actress, Christine (1983).

Sonia Darrin (June 16, 1924 – July 19, 2020) American actress best known for playing the snarky porno dealer in the 1946 Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall film noir classic, The Big Sleep, based on the novel by Raymond Chandler. That was pretty much the pinnacle of her brief career, but she did manage to squeeze in a bit part in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man in 1943.

Jacqueline Scott (June 25, 1931 – July 23, 2020) American actress, Macabre (1958).

John Saxon (August 5, 1936 – July 25, 2020) American actor, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). I had no idea he was living maybe twenty miles from me when he passed away. I’m not sure what I would have done had I known, but I’d like to think if I’d run into him at some point, I might’ve asked to shake the hand of a man who had sparred with Bruce Lee. That’s something not a whole lot of folks can say they’ve done.

Dame Olivia de Havilland (July 1, 1916 – July 26, 2020) British actress born in Japan, the woman no less an expert on the topic of feminine pulchritude than Errol Flynn always considered ‘the one that got away’. They made some damn good movies together, starting with 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, far and away the best film version of that legend. Alas, Errol died in 1959, and a few years later Olivia joined the brigade of past-their-prime actresses in the psychological horror film fad of the early 1960s. Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte was the 1964 entry in that sweepstakes, and it’s a doozy, with Bette Davis, Bruce Dern, Mary Astor, Joseph Cotten and Agnes Morehead along for the ride.

Jan Skopeček (19 September 1925 – 27 July 2020) Czech actor, The Mysterious Castle in the Carpathians (1981)

Gianrico Tedeschi (20 April 1920 – 27 July 2020) Italian actor, Frankenstein: Italian Style (1975) and Dr. Jekyll Likes Them Hot (1979).

Alan Parker (14 February 1944 – 31 July 2020) English director, Angel Heart (1987), starring Mickey Rourke and Robert DeNiro as the Devil, based on the novel by William Hjortsberg. 

August

Wilford Brimley (September 27, 1934 – August 1, 2020) American actor and commercial spokesman, owner of one of the few mustaches more impressive than mine, and one of the poor fools isolated at the top of the world with an interplanetary shapeshifter in 1982’s second version of The Thing. Okay, the 1951 original scared the hell out of me when I was eight and caught it on Night Owl Theater early on a Saturday morning, but I totally get why many folks consider John Carpenter’s remake of John W. Campbell’s 1938 short story ‘Who Goes There?’ to be superior. I don’t agree, but I don’t totally disagree. Either way, Brimley’s performance is suitably creepy, albeit brief. 

Daisy Coleman (March 30, 1997 – August 4, 2020) American actress and advocate for her fellow victims of sexual violence, she made Texas Death Trippin’ in 2019 before committing suicide a year later. Regardless of the film’s quality, it’s such a terrible waste of a human life and potential that I find the situation far more horrific than the film could possibly be. People suck.

Ben Cross (16 December 1947 – 18 August 2020) English actor who essayed the role of Barnabas Collins in the revival of the TV classic, Dark Shadows, in 1991. He also appeared in an episode of HBO’s ‘Tales from the Crypt’, and played another vampire in 1989’s Nightlife opposite Maryam d’Abo.

Lori Nelson (August 15, 1933 – August 23, 2020) American actress, Revenge of the Creature (1955). Clint Eastwood has a bit part as a marginally competent lab assistant. Lori gets carried off into the Florida swamps by the escaped Gillman in this first sequel to Creature from the Black Lagoon, until she’s rescued by leading man and former Mr. Shirley Temple John Agar. Like the first one, this is also in 3-D.

Joe Ruby (March 30, 1933 – August 26, 2020) American television producer and co-creator of Scooby-Doo. Darn those meddling kids!

Peter Licassi (April 1, 1959 – August 27, 2020) Actor, Killer Clowns from Outer Space (1988)

Sidney Noel Rideau (December 25, 1929 – August 27, 2020) New Orleans TV host of ‘House of Shock’ (Dr. Morgus).

September

Bob Fujitani (October 15, 1921 – September 6, 2020) American comic book artist of Irish-Japanese ancestry. He illustrated numerous stories in all genres for a variety of publishers in the 1940s, including some horror. He had a long run on the peripherally horrific series, The Hangman. The Hangman appeared in MLJ’s Pep Comics as well as in his own title. MLJ was the original name of the publisher now called Archie Comics, by the way.

Dame Diana Rigg (20 July 1938 – 10 September 2020) British actress who, like Honor Blackman, graduated from female lead of the BBC’s ‘The Avengers’ to Bond Girl status in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969. Unlike Blackman, she got 007 (George Lazenby) to put a ring on it. Too bad arch-nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld machine-gunned her out of the British spy’s life before the wedding night. She went on to play the daughter of crazed Shakespearean actor Vincent Price in 1973’s Theatre of Blood, probably the best specifically Vincent Price movie ever. Partisans of the Dr. Phibes films are free to disagree, but they’re still wrong.

Barbara Jefford (26 July 1930 – 12 September 2020) British actress who manages to get herself garroted in her wheelchair in The Ninth Gate (1999). How rude!

Michael Chapman (November 21, 1935 – September 20, 2020) American cinematographer, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). The second version of the classic Jack Finney story first published in Collier’s Weekly magazine in the 1950s. The tale of how I and two friends saw this film at the old Tennessee Theater in downtown Nashville is the stuff of legend, and if you and I ever run in to one another in a bar or pub somewhere, and you buy me a few drinks, I will tell you all about it. The saga involves a 1956 Chevy, a double-boom wrecker and a multiple Hugo Award winning science fiction author, so I don’t think I’m too out of line in assuming that you’ll be obliged to admit in advance that it’s worth the price of a few drinks to be told. If I’m wrong, I’ll apologize.

Ron Cobb (September 21, 1937 – September 21, 2020) American production designer and concept artist, Alien (1979). And what a great job he did! I’ve got to tell you folks, I saw this film the first night of its release, and I was the only person in the audience who knew about the chest-burster scene. You have not lived until you’ve been in a movie theater with four hundred strangers going absolutely berserk over what’s happening to John Hurt, while you’re sitting back and laughing at the whole bloody thing.  

Xavier Loyá (December 31, 1934 – September 22, 2020) Mexican actor, one of the partygoers trapped in the apres-opera drawing room in the Luis Buñuel classic, The Exterminating Angel (1962). He was also in Santo vs the Vampire Women the same year. A very versatile fellow, apparently.

Juliette Gréco (7 February 1927 – 23 September 2020) French actress, Jean Cocteau’s Orphee (1950).

Yūko Takeuchi (April 1, 1980 – September 27, 2020) Japanese actress, Ringu (1998).

October

Maud Hansson (5 December 1937 – 1 October 2020) The Swedish actress appeared as a witch in the 1957 Ingmar Bergman film, The Seventh Seal.

Armelia McQueen (January 6, 1952 – October 3, 2020) American actress, Ghost (1990). 

Henryk Boukolowski (January 11, 1937 – October 4, 2020) Polish actor in the 1972 short film, Beczka Amontillado, based on Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, ‘A Cask of Amontillado’. For the love of God, Montressor!

Margaret Nolan (29 October 1943 – 5 October 2020) English actress, went from a bit part in 1964’s Goldfinger with Sean Connery to a bit part in 1968’s Witchfinder General with Vincent Price. Not exactly a step up, but neither was it a step down. Call it a lateral move.

Osvaldo Ruggieri (January 8, 1928 – October 10, 2020) Italian actor, Werewolf Woman (1976).

Rhonda Fleming (8/10/23-10/14/20) Zaftig American actress known as the Queen of Technicolor for how the process loved her red hair, green eyes and fair skin. She made mostly westerns and a few films noir, as well as the first (and best) version of The Spiral Staircase in 1946, based on the novel by Ethel Lina White. She gets her pretty neck wrung by serial killer George Brent well before the denouement. Am I beginning to sense a theme here?

Spencer Davis (17 July 1939 – 19 October 2020) Welsh musician and actor. Way up there, near the top of this list, I mentioned The Ghost Goes Gear. Here it is again. See the previous entry. Davis discovered his lead singer, Steve Winwood, later of Traffic, when the fourteen-year-old was playing jazz in a club in Birmingham, England. The Spencer Davis Group made some very good records. Movies, not so much. Unlike Herman’s Hermits, who made three films, they had the good sense to quit when they weren’t too far behind.

Gianni Dei (21 December 1940 – 19 October 2020) Italian actor, Patrick Still Lives (1980).

Wojciech Pszoniak (2 May 1942 – 19 October 2020) Polish actor, The Devil (1972).

Marge Champion (September 2, 1919 – October 21, 2020) American dancer who, with her husband, Gower, was perpetually prominent in the MGM musicals of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and who modeled for Walt Disney on his feature films, Snow White & the Seven Dwarves (1937), Pinocchio (1940) and Fantasia (1940). Not specifically for characters in the scary parts of those pictures, but close enough for inclusion here.

Richard A. Lupoff (February 21, 1935 – October 22, 2020) American speculative fiction author and genre historian. I can’t say that knew Dick Lupoff, although he was a member of a couple of Yahoo groups I belonged to when that was still a thing. We might have commented on the same threads, I don’t recall. I wish I had interacted more with him when I had the chance, for he was a treasure. He was one of the editors and contributors to both All in Color for a Dime and The Comic Book Book, two of the seminal histories of one of the crucial media by which our genre has been disseminated, and both of which volumes included important chapters regarding horror in the comic books. Future columns on horror comics will no doubt contain information gleaned from one or the other of those two volumes. 

Jacques Godin (September 14, 1930 – October 26, 2020) Canadian actor, The Pyx (1973) with Karen Black and Christopher Plummer.

Ricardo Blume (August 16, 1933 – October 30, 2020) Peruvian actor, Sobrenatural (All of Them Witches, 1996)

Sean Connery (25 August 1930 – 31 October 2020) Scottish actor. There is a no-doubt apocryphal story that Connery was contacted when Gordon Scott decided to hang up his loincloth and retire as the cinematic Tarzan. Connery had played one of the villains in Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure in 1959, Scott’s penultimate appearance in the series. Sean had done such a good job that he was supposedly asked if he’d be willing to don the loincloth himself. According to legend, he told Tarzan producer Sy Weintraub that he was committed to star in some spy picture, and that once that was finished, he’d consider the offer to play the Lord of the Jungle. As everyone knows, Connery went on to play James Bond another six times after Dr. No, won an Oscar for The Untouchables in 1987 and never got around to playing the apeman. Weintraub was forced to go with the villain from Scott’s last Tarzan picture, Jock Mahoney, as his next jungle lord. The two pictures Mahoney starred in are considered among the best of the Tarzan films. A pity Connery got so tied up with Bond. He might have made something of himself, had he dispensed with the vodka martinis, Aston-Martins and Bond Babes, doffed his tuxedo and run off into the jungle wearing a scrap of deerskin instead. Ah, well. Fortunately for horror fans, he had already appeared in the Disney live-action Halloween staple, Darby O’Gill & the Little People, in 1959, as scary a picture as the Mouse Factory ever produced.

November

Rachel Caine (April 27, 1962 – November 1, 2020) Author of, among other works, the Morganville Vampire series of young adult novels.

Elsa Raven (September 21, 1929 – November 2, 2020) American actress, The Amityville Horror (1979).

John Fraser (18 March 1931 – 6 November 2020) Scottish actor in Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965), with Catherine Deneuve.

Ken Jones (d. November 6, 2020) American actor, Phantasm (1979).

Sven Wollter (11 January 1934 – 10 November 2020) Swedish actor, The 13th Warrior (1999).

Philip Voss (20 August 1936 – 13 November 2020) English actor, Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974). Voss’s last work was as Mason in the British TV series, ‘Vicious’, with Sir Ian McKellan and Sir Derek Jacoby. 

Daria Nicolodi (19 June 1950 – 26 November 2020) Italian actress, Dario Argento’s Profundo Rosso (Deep Red, 1975) and Paganini Horror (1989).

David Prowse (7/1/35-11/28/20) English bodybuilder and actor. Yes, yes we all know about Darth Vader, but everyone eulogizing Prowse seems to have forgotten that he also played the monster in two Hammer films, The Horror of Frankenstein in 1970 and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell in 1974. And in 1980, he was in Nashville for a Star Wars convention I attended. I was standing in the back of one of those big hotel ballrooms, in front of a pair of double doors, listening to Peter Mayhew talk about being Chewbacca. I was twenty-two years old, six-foot-one, 210 solid pounds, young and impressive and in the best shape of my life, with all my teeth and a lot more wavy, blond hair than I possess now. I frequently enjoyed the company of attractive ladies, and they seemed to enjoy my company, as well. I was feeling, in other words, pretty good about myself.

And then, something huge moved into the room behind me. It was like being in the gravity well of a small planet. I turned and looked up and up and up at David Prowse, not in the Vader costume, but a head taller and a twice as wide across the shoulders as me on my best day. I felt very, very small and insignificant, indeed. We smiled and nodded, and then he was gone. I never spoke to him at that convention. I’m not sure I would have been able to.

The weekend was not ruined for me, I’m glad to say. That evening turned out well. Remember those drinks you were going to buy me? Add a few more, and you’ll hear the epic saga of a gold-plated droid, an AMC Hornet, and a crimson crustacean.

December

Richard Corben (10/1/40-12/2/20) American comic book artist. I first noticed his distinctive air-brushed style in the black and white Warren magazines, Creepy and Eerie, around 1970. His best-known work was probably in the Heavy Metal magazine in the late 1970s, for which he created the perpetually naked, bald and musclebound hero, Den. Den’s origin story was adapted to animated form in the Heavy Metal movie in 1981. He also did a lot of horror genre work for underground publishers Last Gasp and Rip Off Press.

André Gagnon (2 August 1936 – 3 December 2020) Canadian soundtrack composer, Phobia (1980)

Eduardo Galvão (April 19, 1962 – December 7, 2020) Brazilian actor, appeared in one episode of the 2002 television series ‘O Beijo do Vampiro’ (A Vampire’s Kiss).

Barbara Windsor (6 August 1937 – 10 December 2020) English actress, played Jack the Ripper’s second victim Annie Chapman in 1965’s A Study in Terror. The poor lass was well and truly dismembered before Sherlock Holmes (John Neville) could put a stop to Jack’s spree of spontaneous vivisection.

Hanna Stankówna (4 May 1938 – 14 December 2020) Polish stage and screen actress from the lovely city of Posnan, where my wife and I enjoyed a delightful lunch and some damn good beer some years ago. Her only genre role, as far as I can tell given my non-existent ability to decipher titles or plot synopses in her native language, was Lokis. Rekopis profesora Wittembacha  (Lokis, the Manuscript of Professor Wittembach), from 1970.

Peter Lamont (12 November 1929 – 18 December 2020) British art director and production designer, Aliens (1986), as well as a slew of James Bond films.

Jiří Hálek (9/10/1930-12/18/2020) Czech actor, The Cremator (1969).

David Giler (January 10, 1943 – December 19, 2020) American film producer & screenwriter, Alien (1979).

Pero Kvrgić (4 March 1927 − 23 December 2020) Croatian actor, Nausikaya (1995).

Guy N. Smith (21 November 1939 – 24 December 2020) Prolific British horror author. 

Josefina Echánove (September 29, 1927 or July 21, 1928 – December 29, 2020) Mexican actress, Amityville 3-D (1983).

Corrado Olmi (24 October 1926 – 29 December 2020) Italian actor in the dark comedy The Devil in Love (1966) and in the classic Giallo, The Cat o’ Nine Tails (1971). 

Dawn Wells (October 18, 1938 – December 30, 2020) American actress. Like most families in the 1960s, we only had one television. While my parents were pretty indulgent as far as allowing my brother and I, and later our sisters, to watch whatever we wanted to, Dad did draw the line a few times. One of those instances was whenever Gilligan’s Island came on. He considered it the dumbest show ever, and objectively, at this considerable temporal remove, it’s only the existence of My Mother, the Car that argues very much against that assessment. So it was that I rarely watched it in first run. However, it ran, and still runs, in syndication, so I caught up with it as I raced into puberty in the early 1970s. And I was Team Ginger, all the way. I never got why anyone would prefer Mary Ann, and still don’t. I didn’t dislike her. As a character, I thought she was fine. As fine as the material allowed, anyhow. She seemed very sweet, and she was pretty in a cornfed sort of way, but for pure prurient interest, it was Ginger for whom I lusted. Oddly, in the case of WKRP in Cincinnati, I’m all about Bailey instead of Jennifer, which is the exact opposite dynamic. Wonder why that is? 

Never mind. When Dawn Wells died, yesterday as I write this, from COVID-19, I was shocked and more than a little saddened. She lived in my hometown of Nashville for some years, and lent her support to the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, a worthy cause if there ever was one. Ginger is the last surviving castaway, and that makes me feel more than a little old. Dawn’s only forays into horror were a couple of truly wretched B-flicks, The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976) and Return to Boggy Creek (1977). Probably just as well she didn’t make any more, but I’m glad there were enough to include her in this list, even if she never was the object of my desire.

Robert Hossein (30 December 1927 – 31 December 2020) French writer, director and actor, The Wax Mask (AKA Maschera di Cera, 1997)

And there it is. Hopefully, the list I compile at the end of 2021 will be shorter. ‘Twould be a consummation devoutly to be wish’d.

Asian Horror Month: Chilling Chat: Jess Chua

chillingchat

Jess Chua is a writer and editor for a personal development podcast. Her micro-fiction was a runner-up in the Mysterious Photograph contest at Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She enjoys yoga, healthy cooking, and spending time with her pets.jess_bnw_wc

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

JC: I was possibly five years old when I first started learning about ghosts. I’ve been savoring taking my own sweet time exploring the genre since then.

NTK: What is your favorite horror movie?

JC: Hmm, it’s hard to pick just one. Some of my favorites include Psycho, The Shining, Pet Sematary. The Stepford Wives (1975). Alien, Silence of The Lambs, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974).

I recently added some Asian horror movies (like Third Eye and 23:59) onto my Netflix queue and look forward to checking those out.

The Ring (Japanese; 1998) was very creepy, too! I watched a little bit of it long ago and will need to finish watching it someday…

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror television show?

JC: I was very drawn in by Bates Motel and Kingdom (South Korean). I found the latter’s portrayal of zombies refreshing.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

JS: Psycho was a slim book that packed a punch. I enjoyed the pacing and range of human emotions in Pet Sematary.

Aside from novels, I enjoy short stories in this genre as it allows me to check out different worlds and characters in a short amount of time.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

JS: I’ve been a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe since I was sixteen. His haunting tales of the macabre stay with me long after I’ve finished reading them.

I almost have the full collection of out-of-print books by the late Singaporean writer Damien Sin, so he’s definitely another one of my favorite horror authors. I appreciate the originality and authentic, local flavor of his writing.

NTK: What inspires your writing?

JS: The highs and lows of the human psyche and human behavior.

NTK: If you were to meet a reader for the first time, and they asked for a recommendation from you about one of your works, what is the one book or story you would recommend to them?

JS: I would probably recommend a dark fiction chapbook that I’d like to compile in the near future. It’d be a convenient way for a new reader to check out my writing style and ideas.

NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you plan their every move?

JS: I think a 50-50 approach is fun to take. The characters sometimes have free will within a set idea that I have beforehand of what I’d like them to experience or be like. Visualizing the scenes they’re in is always a creative and analytical exercise.

NTK: What is your favorite monster?

JS: The Pontianak (a malevolent female spirit in Malaysian and Indonesian folklore), King Kong, or Godzilla.

NTK: As an Asian writer in the horror community, how has your experience been?

JS: As a writer of mixed ethnicity (Chinese-Eurasian) who has lived in different countries, it’s sometimes difficult to find the right balance in a story or piece of creative work. It can become very anxiety-inducing to think about whether the characters or story is inclusive enough to readers of different cultures and backgrounds. I try to stay focused on the plot and characters, and if race or geographic setting is integral to the story, then I do my best to write about it in an authentic way.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What works do HorrorAddicts have to look forward to?

JS: I’d like to continue working on short stories and reading the horror anthologies on my bookshelf. One of my stories will be published in a Gluttony-themed anthology and I have some Singapore-based ghost stories in mind. Southeast Asia has a rich variety of paranormal lore which have stayed with me, even though I’ve lived halfway across the world for over a decade now. Thanks for checking out my interview–and best wishes for 2021!

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Enjoy Last Call a short story by Jess Chua at HorrorAddicts.com on January 8, 2021

Chilling Chat: #SWP – Loren Rhoads and Emerian Rich

lorenLoren Rhoads served as editor for Bram Stoker Award-nominated Morbid Curiosity magazine as well as the books The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two, Death’s Garden: Relationship with Cemeteries, and Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues: True Tales of the Unsavory, Unwise, Unorthodox, and Unusual. Her short stories have appeared in the books Best New Horror #27, Strange California, Sins of the Sirens: Fourteen Tales of Dark Desire, Fright Mare: Women Write Horror, and most recently in the magazines Weirdbook, Occult Detective Quarterly, and Space & Time.

Emerian Rich is the author of the vampire book series, Night’s Knights, and writes romance under the name emz1smallEmmy Z. Madrigal. Her romance/horror cross over, Artistic License, is about a woman who inherits a house where anything she paints on the walls comes alive. She’s been published in a handful of anthologies by publishers such as Dragon Moon Press, Hidden Thoughts Press, Hazardous Press, and White Wolf Press. She is the podcast Horror Hostess of HorrorAddicts.net.

In our round table interview, these talented ladies spoke of their newest creation, The Spooky Writer’s Planner. 

NTK: What inspired The Spooky Writer’s Planner?

LR: I am a planner junkie. To be honest, I have trouble deciding what to do next, especially if projects have multiple steps, so I really need a planner to take the stress out of deciding how to move forward on a project. I kept buying new systems, hoping to find one that would tame my chaos, but no single system ever had all the forms I wanted or needed. I tried cobbling together a bunch of different systems, but it was ugly and frustrating.

ER: I wanted a planner that fit my needs better than any of those on the market. I’m kind of a planner fanatic. I buy several every year to try and “Frankenstein” one planner that will fit all my needs. I was talking to Loren about this and she has the same problem, so we join forces to create this one. We figured, even if no one else finds it helpful, at least we’ll have our perfect planner in our hands.

NTK: How did the planner come about? What started this awesome collaboration?

LR: I turned to Emerian and asked if she would consider designing the perfect planner for me. Once we got talking about the project, she realized that she could make a planner that was perfect for her, too.  So, then we started sending our favorite planner pages back and forth, talking about what worked for us and why. That part was really fun.

I think she was startled by just how many planners I’ve tried over the years, though.

NTK: Who came up with the name?

LR: I credit Emerian for that. We went back and forth between Spooky Author’s Planner and Spooky Writer’s Planner, but I think she made the right choice to make it more inclusive.

ER: I think it was a collaborative brainstorm.

NTK: What are some of the problems you’ve encountered with other planners? Did you address these specifically when creating the Spooky Writer’s Planner?

LR: Other author planners that I’ve experimented with focused on things that weren’t useful to me. The one I started with last year spent pages on choosing editors and logging finances. The one I used in the middle of the year spent an enormous amount of time on figuring out how many hours you have to write in a week, then on choosing projects you can finish in those hours.  Which required a much better understanding of how long projects take to complete than I have!

So, we stripped our planner back to what we really need as authors: a place to track submissions, a form for developing characters and one for world-building, weekly lists of deadlines, a way to track big projects, a game for collecting rejection slips as a way to inspire us to take chances on pitching to new markets, a system to celebrate successes… I am so bad at tracking things that I sat down earlier this month to figure out how many pieces I’ve had published in 2020. It was way more than I thought! I kept coming across interviews I’d forgotten I’d done.  I need a place where I can log all of that and be able to track it better.

ER: Planners usually don’t address the needs of a writer’s life. They don’t account for charting progress or keeping track of submissions. So, often, a writer will have a planner and then other books or sheets to keep track of all that. With this planner, writers will have all that information all in one place. Easy to track and most of all, easy to access. We’ve also made the planner customizable. If you want a print book, we have that, but if you only use certain sheets or certain spreads, you can get the digital copy so you only print what you use.

NTK: There are inspirational quotes and tips included in the planner. How did you choose them and how did you come up with them? Are these tips and quotes personal to you?

LR: Years ago, I belonged to a writers group called the Red Room Writers Society. One Christmas, they gave us each a little red leather-bound book called a Commonplace Book, for collecting quotes that inspired us. Every time I see something about writing, I copy it down in my Commonplace Book. I’m really thrilled to share some of my favorite quotes in the planner.

A lot of the tips came from a seminar Emerian and I did at BayCon a couple of years ago. The topic was “How to Get Out of the Slush Pile.” We talked about what you can do as an author to improve your chances with an editor. Emerian suggested we include some of that in the planner, which I thought was a great idea.

ER: The tips and tricks are things we’ve learned during the combined 50 years of publishing experience we have. We give tips on publishing, submitting, marketing, and social media. We’ve also got quick tasks listed. Only have five minutes? We give you ideas on how to use that time to benefit your writing schedule.

NTK: Is the planner available in print and digital forms? Where can Horror Addicts find it?

LR: Yes!  Emerian wanted a book-style planner. I wanted to be able to print pages as I needed them and keep them in a three-ring binder. So, we each got what we wanted! The paperback version is available on Amazon. The digital download is for sale on Etsy.

ER: They can find it on Amazon for the print version and Etsy for the digital version. We show the different types with pictures and examples, here.

NTK: Do you have any plans for future collaborations?

LR: I would love to work with Emz again. For a long time, I’ve been in awe of how many things she accomplishes and how incredibly creative she is.  She was really a driving force in getting this planner done. I did a lot of the “fun” work, pulling together sample planners and daydreaming about the pages I wanted, but she did the hard imaginative design work. I kibitzed and proofread—which I love—but she had to make my suggestions real. She made the process really fun for me.  I hope it was as much fun for her!

ER: I am so thrilled to be collaborating on this planner. Loren has been one of my favorite creators for years, even before I knew her, I admired her ‘zine Morbid Curiosity. Now that we’re friends, I’m still inspired every day by the way her brain works and the fun topics she comes up with, so you never know! PS… we’ve just been told we’ll be sharing a fiction TOC soon, so… stay tuned!

Chilling Chat Update: EmoWeasel

chillingchat

Christie Crapeticio, known as “EmoWeasel,” is a San Francisco-based illustrator who draws comics, children’s books, horror art, and pattern designs. She went to the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. While cover and back vol 1 (2)attending school, she studied comic book art and children’s books. 

EmoWeasel has been busy since we last spoke. Here’s what she’s been up to.

NTK: Welcome back to Chilling Chat, EmoWeasel! I hear you have a new comic series. What is it about?

EW: The comic series is called Demon Eye. It is a war fantasy. Here is the small elevator pitch:

Cirsto is forced to return home from a war she created. Once home she gets to see her old friends and family and is reminded of who she has truly failed. They all hope they can get back to where they were, but Cirsto knows she can’t be what she was. Haunted by her past actions she knows she can never be the friend they once loved.

Now Cirsto must readapt to the old ways of life while being plagued by what she has become.

NTK: Who are the main characters?

EW: The main character is named Cirsto. She is a wolf-demon from the Clover pack. The other supporting main characters are Garien, Panda, Alek, and Jay. They are all humans.

NTK: What inspired this new series?

EW: This has been a dream project of mine since I was 13, so it’s been a project I’ve been working on literally half my life.

While growing up I never had a lot of friends, so I loved to either watch cartoons and stuff and that always sparked stories in my head.

One day when I was in middle school, I saw a show called Naruto and I just fell in love with it! I started to watch it and read it and almost studied it. And after seeing the show and loving how it was built, I decided to finally put my overactive mind into use and start building my own story!

Working on Demon Eye has been one of my biggest drives to follow my art dreams. It’s because of the comic that I went to school, the Academy of Art University, here in San Francisco.

NTK: Where can Horror Addicts find it? 

EW: Currently it is on Tapas.io, WEBTOONS, and my art Facebook page (@EmoWeasel). But it is getting printed into a comic book now! The book was supposed to be out on November 26, but due to printing problems, it will be available in my Etsy shop, Square shop, and Book shop on December 26. It will also be available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble on January 26. (keeping the 26 theme for all the months.) (Laughs.)

It should be available for preorder on Etsy and Square around the beginning of December. For the preorders, you can get some special stuff! Like a signed book, two special dye cut stickers and a print! These specials will only be available for preorders.

NTK: You also have a new podcast. What’s it called and what’s it about?

EW: The podcast is a spooky! It is done like the old radio shows back in the day. It is called Koszmar, and it is a dream project by the creator, in both senses because she’s wanted to make this come true and it’s based off a nightmare she had.

“In this story, we join a Detective, a washed-up recovering drunk who is transferred to Shaker Heights to work on a string of murder cases to find the culprit. As the Detective draws the strings together, he’s haunted by a past he cannot shake. Will he survive the nightmare? Join us on our journey with the Detective to try and solve the riddle behind the Widow’s Creek Lullaby.”  

NTK: Where can Horror Addicts find it? 

EW: It is on Spotify, apple music, and most podcast platforms.

NTK: What does the future hold? What new projects are on the horizon? 

EW: So much is happening while nothing is happening at the same time. (Laughs.) I will be doing some fun short comics soon. One of the comics I will be doing is actually based off the podcast, so viewers will soon get to see the true horror that is the story.

Besides comics I am working my butt off the get my online stores looking pretty and also, I hope to finally get my art classes up and running. I will be doing comic classes, of course, and some fun crayon craft classes.

NTK: Thank you for joining us, EmoWeasel! It’s a pleasure as always!

EW: You’re welcome!

Addicts, you can find EmoWeasel on Facebook, and Instagram. Discover her work on her Etsy page. You can pre-order Demon Eye at her Etsy and Square sites. The book will be available December 26, 2020.

 

Historian of Horror: For Freaky Foodies Month / Food, Goriest Food

Food, Goriest Food!

They tell me this is Freaky Foodie Month here at HorrorAddicts.net, so I’ve wandered down into the kitchen area of the basement laboratory and cobbled together a tasty little treat that I hope will satisfy the palate of even the most discriminating connoisseur de frissons. And yes, there will be dessert. I call this offering: 

Submitted for Your Approval – A Man with No Upper Lip

Rod Serling got his start as a writer by winning a radio contest, after spending a few years in the Pacific Theater jumping out of airplanes in order to expedite the extermination of Japanese soldiers. He gradually worked his way up to the new medium of television in time for what is considered its Golden Age, a period when every evening brought Great Dramas into the homes of millions of Americans. Serling wrote his fair share of those Great Dramas, including Patterns and Requiem for a Heavyweight. Both were later made into movies and are considered high points of that Golden Age.

This was all heady stuff for a decorated war veteran and one of early television’s cadre of angry young men, but Serling wanted more. He yearned for a vessel into which he could pour his social concerns about censorship, racism, and war, and maybe exorcise the psychological demons left over from his military service. Alas, comfortable and complacent Middle America wasn’t ready to have its collective face shoved into its sins, and so a more allegorical approach was called for. 

The Twilight Zone premiered on October 2, 1959. For five years, Serling, along with collaborators Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson, created a series of little morality plays couched in the more palatable tropes of science fiction, fantasy, and horror tales. And then, it was gone, cancelled by the suits, only to reappear in the realm of perpetual syndication, where it lives on even today. Sixties television devolved into an endless parade of sitcoms, many of them with a supernatural bent; westerns; shoot-em-up action dramas; variety shows; spoofs of comic books and spy movies; and body counts from the Vietnam War on the evening news.

Like the War, the Sixties slopped over into the next decade. Popular music continued on much as before, not yet sullied by the arrival of disco. The usual array of genres persisted on television. And the news was still just as depressing as ever. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Serling spent the second half of the Sixties much as he had the Fifties, writing dramas for a medium that had turned out to be too small for him. He wrote a successful teleplay about an airline high-jacking, and an adaptation of A Christmas Carol that was as weighted towards modern concerns as the original story was towards the social ills of the Victorian Era. He created a high-brow western series called The Loner that only lasted one season, and lent his distinctive voice and stiff-upper-lip visage to a number of commercials. 

At the end of the decade, he came up with a made-for-TV movie superficially similar to his last great success. Night Gallery was an anthology of three spooky stories, more horror-based than Twilight Zone ever was. Serling introduced each tale by revealing a painting inspired by it. Hence, the ‘gallery’ part of the title. The middle section, Eyes, starring Joan Crawford, was directed by Steven Spielberg. It was his first professional media job, and very nearly her last. Her final performance came a few years later in Night Gallery’s spin-off series, The Sixth Sense. More on that, and her, and him later in this space. Stay tuned!

Night Gallery was picked up for regular broadcast in 1971, one of a set of four titles that rotated weekly episodes as part of what was called a wheel series. The other show that survived Four in One’s only season was the fish-out-of-water detective show McCloud, starring Dennis Weaver. McCloud moved over into another wheel series with two other long-running mysteries, Columbo and McMillan and Wife. Night Gallery went into regular production as a weekly program. Win for Serling! 

But not quite as much as before. More of the same, but less, I’m afraid. This is not to say that Night Gallery wasn’t a good program; it was. It just wasn’t The Twilight Zone. But then, what was? Not even a major motion picture and a couple of revival series have been able to recapture that particular lightning-bolt-in-a-bottle. 

It might have helped had Serling been able to exert more creative control than he was allowed, but that was not to be. Still, Night Gallery is not a series to be brushed aside without due consideration. It adapted some of the great stories in the genre, including works by H.P. Lovecraft, August Derleth, Fritz Leiber, Algernon Blackwood and Robert Bloch, and by Serling’s old pal from Twilight Zone days, Richard Matheson. 

Christianna Brand is not a name well-known to horror enthusiasts, I suspect. She was a mystery writer of some renown, but she only wrote enough horror tales to fill one collection, What Dread Hand?, published in 1968. One of the yarns therein, ‘The Sins of the Fathers’, first appeared, as far as I have been able to ascertain, in The Fifth Pan Book of Horror Stories. It was edited by Herbert van Thal four years previously. If you’re not familiar with this delightful series of anthologies, I urge you to haunt whatever used paperback vendors you have available to you and track down as many editions as you can get your talons into. I shall have more to say later on regarding the estimable Mijnheer van Thal, but for now, the dish upon the table is getting cold. And a little, um, congealed. 

Mangiamo!

Sin eating is an old practice found in Wales and those English counties bordering Wales, in which a poor person would be hired for a nominal sum to dine upon bread and ale placed atop the corpse of a recently deceased sinner as it lay in state. The sins of the late reprobate would transfer, through the bread and ale, to the soul of the diner, preventing the lamented one from wandering the Earth as a vengeful spirit. The question remains, what of the sins of the sin eater, both original, and those acquired through gustation? What keeps that worthy in his grave? Therein lies the tale.

‘Sins of the Father’ was one of two stories presented in the second episode of Night Gallery’s second season, airing on February 23, 1972. It starred, among others, Barbara Steele, she of the vast, magnetizing eyes long familiar to horror aficionados from her performances in such classic terror films as Black Sunday, The Pit and the Pendulum and The Ghost. Frequent Oscar nominee and future winner Geraldine Page was along for the bumpy ride, as well, along with soon-to-be John-Boy Walton Richard Thomas, former Batman butler Alan Napier, and Michael Dunn, who had just recently completed a long run as master villain Dr. Miguelito Loveless on the classic spy-western show, The Wild Wild West.

Dunn scours the Welsh countryside on half of his master, who lies three days dead, covered in a feast of lamb and cakes and cheeses. The servant is in search of a sin eater, one who has not already succumbed to the plague and famine ravaging the land. With time running out, he finds his last option too sick with disease and hunger to travel the distance, but that sin eater has a son. The boy absconds with the food without taking on the sins of the dead man, but when he returns home, finds his own father dead. Where are that sin eater’s sins to go, but into the starving mouth of the next one in line?

Not so horrifying in the brief description, perhaps, but like any fine meal, there’s so much more in the presentation. Even better, every name mentioned above has a genre pedigree that dates back, in some cases, into the silent era. Lots of material for future installments. 

I did mention dessert, yes? Well, Stanley Ellin is another mystery writer of historical significance who dabbled in the macabre. His first published short story, ‘Specialty of the House’, is one of those that really sticks to the ribs, so to speak. A restaurant that caters to a very particular clientele offers an occasional specialty that only the best customers get to sample, or participate in the preparation thereof. Creepiness is on the menu, served with healthy dollop of frisson on the side.

‘Specialty of the House’ has been reprinted in dozens of periodicals, collections and anthologies since it was first published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, in the May, 1948 issue. It was adapted to television during the fifth season of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents show and broadcast on December 13, 1959, and on the revival of that series on March 21, 1987. Robert Morley, whose turn upon the spit in Theatre of Blood also involves food, stars. That classic film deserves its own lengthy consideration, rather than a superficial glossing over here, so more on that later.

The first one is available for viewing here:

In the early Seventies, Vincent Price was among several stars who were part of an attempted revival of old-time radio in the modern era. His BBC program, The Price of Fear, featured an adaptation of the yarn on April 13th, 1974. It can be found on You Tube or in the Internet Archives. Worth seeking out!

So, there it is. Hope you enjoyed my little concoction. Would you like an aperitif? A little libation to wash it all down with? Don’t worry, there will be more coming, perhaps sooner than you think. Stay blood-thirsty, my friends. And, as always –

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Static – X

 

Greetings HorrorAddicts. This month’s review has one helluva backstory. There’s a rock band, a romance, a drug problem, and a resurrection of sorts. I had to do a deep dive to give the album a full critique and what I found was a story that tragically has a lot in common with so many bands who have lost frontmen to the excesses of rock ‘n’ roll, however, the surviving members of Static-X are determined to make their own way back in an unusual but compelling way. 

Static-X celebrated the 20th anniversary of their album Wisconsin Death Trip in 2019. The original lineup toured to commemorate the album…with a singer dubbed Xer0. Because Wayne Static died in 2014 of a deadly combination of prescription drugs and alcohol. News came out that the band was recording a new album using some of Wayne’s demos and compositions, a guest spot from Al Jourgenson of Ministry and would feature this new, unknown, masked singer, which has been a controversial move for some of their fans. The band, on the other hand, maintains that Wayne would have found it hilarious. (https://www.loudersound.com/features/static-x-the-story-behind-that-controversial-wayne-static-death-mask).

And man is this album amazing. What a testament to Wayne and a reminder of the magic the original line-up had together. 

For those new to Static-X, their hit song “Push-It” has been a staple of the industrial rock/metal scene for years. On this new album, Project Regeneration, Volume I, there’s that same electronic-tinged in-your-face feel of their early work, but the melodic atmosphere of powerhouse bands like Korn, Rammstein, or even Rob Zombie can be heard in the mix. “Worth Dyin’ For” has a hooky chorus, and “Terminator Oscillator” is a hard-hitting tune with a chanting rhyme that is the metal fan’s version of INXS’s “Mediate.” My favorite track on the album so far—and that changes each time I listen because they’re all great—is “Something Of My Own,” a powerful, emotional jam that resonates with its lyrics about opportunities missed due to the loss of Wayne. 

The hard rock/metal scene these days has matured from the days of nu-metal when Static-X first set up shop, but Project Regeneration, Volume I fits in nicely with today’s sound. The album is a great tribute to a band that obviously has a lot more to offer, and it’s one I will be jamming to for quite some time. 

That’s it for this month. Stay Tuned for Ro’s Recs…

R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. You can also find her hope-filled posts at www.queeromanceink.com.

Freaky Foodies Month: From the Vault / Dark Divinations: Breaking Bread

DarkDivBanner

The Inspiration Behind “Breaking Bread.”

By R.L. Merrill

Breaking Bread begins in the home of Fidelia Meek, the Meek Mansion, which is less than two miles from my house. The house is an historic site and I drive past it every week. The home was built in 1869 after William Meek and his family relocated to what is now San Lorenzo in order to plant orchards. He and his partner, Henderson Lewelling, got their start in the fruit business up in Oregon and brought their know-how to California to start anew. The area is now part of the Bay Area suburban sprawl, but the Hayward Historical Society has gone to great lengths to preserve the home. It’s a glorious white building with many windows and turrets. I’ve been inside a handful of times and it always feels full to the brim of stories, almost as if you could run your fingers along the wall or the banister and absorb the history through your pores.

When I discovered the submission call for Dark Divinations, I fell into a rabbit hole of research on the house, the area, and what women of the time may have been interested in. I discovered the use of Alphitomancy—the use of bread to determine one’s innocence or guilt—and away the story went! I was even able to score a couple of tickets to a paranormal investigation of the home one night and though it was a thrill to attend with my pal Karysa and to hear stories about the people who lived there, nothing much out of the ordinary occurred. Still, we got to explore parts of the house that are usually closed to the public, and I loved every moment.

When the place you live in and love is full of history, it doesn’t take much to be inspired.

Merrill_RL-HeadshotOnce upon a time… A teacher, tattoo collector, mom, and rock ‘n’ roll kinda gal opened up a doc and started purging her demons. Twenty-five published works later, with more tucked away in her evil lair, R.L. Merrill strives to find that perfect balance between real-life and happily ever after. You can find her lurking on social media, being a mom-taxi to two brilliant kids, in the tattoo chair trying desperately to get that back piece finished, or headbanging at a rock show in the San Francisco Bay Area! Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance.

 

Freaky Foodies: from Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Cannibals vs Cannibals

Plotline: Somos Lo Que Hay vs. We Are What We are 

Who would like it: The people who would like both movies fans of Coming of Age stories, Zombies, Twisted Families and gore hounds. 

High Points:  —

Complaints:  —

Overall: Preferred Somos Lo Que Hay over the remake We Are What We are 

Stars: No Rating 

Where I watched it: VOD

 

***

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: The Strain Season 2 and 3

Real World Trauma Acerbates the flaws in The Strain Seasons Two and Three

by Kristin Battestella

After an unraveling end to the First Season of The Strain, it took me a long, long while to return to the thirteen-episode 2015 Second Season. Childhood flashbacks recounting fairy tales of nobles with gigantism and quests for the curing blood of a gray wolf start the year off well. Horrific blood exchanges lead to village children vanishing in the shadow of the creepy castle before we return to the present for secret deals with The Master, alliances with the Ancient Ones, and blind telepathic feeler vampires canvassing the city. Scientists Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro) contemplate vampire vaccines while former antique dealer Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) pursues a rare strigoi text and rat catcher Fet (Kevin Durand) prepares their explosive defensive. Government officials like Justine Feraldo (Samantha Mathis) fight back against the zombie like masses despite shootouts in infested laboratories, double-crosses, and sentient, disguised as human foot soldiers. Old fashioned black and white Mexican horror reels add personality and history to our reluctant heroes while more superb action and flashbacks standout late in the season with “The Assassin” and “Dead End.” Unfortunately, early on in Year Two, my main dilemma with the First Season of The Strain returnedyou can read all of this, but it is much too much onscreen. Unnecessary timestamps and location notations clutter reintroduced characters, new problems, old problems, and unintroduced newcomers. There are too many separated characters with unbalanced screen time who must repeatedly explain who they are. Enemy’s enemy is my friend mixed motivations create confusion – multiple people hunting The Master individually making promises to his fellow ancient vampires with little background on who these chained monsters chilling beneath Brooklyn are. Cryptic double talk and real estate transactions may be filler or meandering developments, but it’s a toss up on which one will drag on or disappear. The past stories are often more tantalizing because our team isn’t much of a team. It took so long in the First Year to get everyone together, yet each is still toiling over what to do in this vampire zombie apocalypse. After previous fears over any tiny contagion, one and all shoot, blast, slice, and splatter at will. They hand out fliers with the monster details and warn the community, yet unaware police are shocked to find vampires in a dark alley.

Maybe The Strain is meant to mirror how no one is on the same page in a crisis – we are now witnessing that chaotic misinformation mistake first hand indeed – but the plot is all over the place, too. It’s been a few weeks onscreen since The Strain began, however, life is upside down for some while others seem totally unbothered. Again, this is a foreboding parallel to our real life pandemic with the poor working man much more deeply impacted than the wealthy ease of access, but here there’s no sense of the storytelling scope despite opportunistic orchestrations and tough women securing the five boroughs. Slick villains talk of great visions and master plans, but tangents diverge into a dozen different threads and multiple dead ends. Is The Strain about a doctor experimenting on the infected to test scientific theories or weird do nothing telepathic vampires and slow strigoi chases? Are we to enjoy the precious moments between our little people struggling on the ground or awe at the zombie outbreak turned vampire mythology? New people and places are constantly on the move, jumbled by an aimless, plodding pace as too little too late politicians talk about quarantines when The Strain is past containment. Confusing, pointless storylines take away from important intrigues and significant elements tread tires amid random threats and dropped crises. The conflicts on cruel science for the greater good grow hollow thanks to constant interruptions and changed emotions. Provocative diluted worm extracts taken for illness or ailments are used as control by the strigoi or when necessary for our heroes, but the scientific analysis of such a tonic or hybrid cases is never considered. Infecting the infected experiments and vampire free island security only take a few episodes, yet viewers today who can’t pay the rent are expected to believe it takes weeks for a market free fall and runs on banks? “The Born” starts off great, but often there’s no going back to what happens next regarding cures and Roman history as contrived messy or blasé action pads episodes. Rather than driving away in a cop car, dumbed down characters run into a church for a lagging, maze-like battle that kills an interesting minority character. When the community comes together for “The Battle for Red Hook,” unnecessary family pursuits ruin the sense of immediacy while the hop, skip, and jump to Washington D.C. for two episodes of scientific effort gets ditched for glossed over vampire factions and historic relics. Both the lore and science are interesting, but these mashed together entities compete for time as if we’re changing the channels and watching two shows at once. Instead of the rich detail we crave, The Strain continually returns to its weakest plot with shit actions and stupid players causing absurd consequences.

The Strain, however, does look good, and the ten episode Third Season provides coffins, gore, goo, and nasty bloodsucking appendages. The vampire makeup, creepy eyes, monster sinews, and icky skin are well done. Occasionally, creatures scaling the wall and speedy, en masse action is noticeable CGI, but the worms, tentacles, and splatter upset the body sacred. Sickly green lighting invokes the zombie plague mood while choice red adds vampire touches alongside silver grenades, ultraviolet light, and ancient texts. Sadly, Season Three opens with an unrealistic announcement that it’s only been twenty-three days since the outbreak started. The uneven pace makes such time impossible to believe, and tricked out infrared military are just now arriving three weeks into the disaster. Mass manufacture of The Strain’s bio-weapon is also never mentioned again as the science is now nothing more than a home chemistry set. Instead, step by step time is taken to siphon gas in a dark, dangerous parking garage – which could be realistic except The Strain has never otherwise addressed food, supplies, precious toilet paper, or the magically unlimited amount of silver bullets. Once again, everyone who fought together goes on to separate allegiances on top of hear tell global spread, Nazi parallels, control centers, and messianic symbolism. It’s all too clunky thanks to people made stupid and contradictions between the onscreen myths, technology, and abilities. Too many convenient infections, Master transformations, tacked on worms, and excuses happen at once – cheapening Shakespearean touches and monster worm bombs with redundant failures. Montages wax on human history while voiceovers tell audiences about government collapse, glossing over arguably the most interesting part of the catastrophe for drawn-out experiments on microwaves. There’s no narrative flow as the episodes run out but suddenly everyone is sober enough to use the ancient guidebook to their advantage. After such insistence over sunlight and ultraviolet, those safeguards are inexplicably absent when needed. No one maximizes resources and opportunities in “Battle for Central Park,” and people only come together because they accidentally bump into each other. In “The Fall,” a carefully orchestrated trap and prison plan is finally put into action against The Master, but ridiculous contrivances stall the operation before easy outs and one little effing asshole moron ruining it all. Again.

The cast is not at fault for the uneven developments on The Strain, but if Ephraim Goodweather is only there to be a drunken bad parent failing at every turn, he should have been written off the show. If we’re sticking with Eph and his angst before science, then his pointless strigoi wife and terrible son Zach should have been tossed instead of hogging the screen. Cranky, obnoxious, budding sociopath Zach’s “Why? No! Don’t!” lack of comprehension is unrealistic for his age, and everything has to be dumbed downed to appease him.  Onscreen The Strain is continually talking down to viewers like we are five and it gets old very fast. Previously compassionate characters are reset as cold marksmen, and Eph claims he no longer cares about the cause when he was once at its epicenter. He complains he has nothing to do, bemoaning the lack of a feasible vaccine before gaining government support in creating a strigoi bio-weapon only to ditch it for microwaves and vampire telepathy. Zach ruins each plan anyway, and by the end of Season Two, I was fast forwarding over the Goodweather family plots. Nora Martinez is also nonexistent as a doctor unless convenient, relegated instead to babysitting, and Samantha Mathis’ (Little Women) Justine Feraldo likewise starts off brassy before unnecessarily overplaying her hand and failing bitterly because of others. Initially The Strain had such a diverse ensemble, but by the end of the Third Season, all the worst things have happened to the women and minorities. Ruta Gedmintas’ Dutch wavers from the cause for a conflicted lesbian romance that disappears before she returns to the fold as Eph’s tantalizing research assistant when she’s not being captured and rescued. I won’t lie, I only hung on watching The Strain as long as I did for Rupert Penry-Jones (MI-5) as the thousand year old hybrid Quinlan. He uses his conflicted history with The Master to help Setrakian and sees through Ephraim while developing a distrustful shoulder to shoulder with Fet. Unfortunately, his vampire super powers come in handy unless he’s forgotten about when it’s time for the action to sour or let failures happen, and nobody tells officials about this almost invincible half-strigoi who could be useful in a fight. Setrakian, Quinlan, and Fet make for an ornery, begrudging trio, living in a luxury hotel while pursuing Abraham’s relics whether they agree with the plan or not – mostly because Fet accrues all manor of weapons and is happy to use them. Setrakian has some crusty wisdom for them, but his battle of wits with Jonathan Hyde as the at any price Palmer provides great one on one scene chewing. The double crosses and interchangeable threats feel empty, and Palmer also has an odd romantic side plot that wastes time, but Richard Sammel’s Nazi vampire Eicchorst remains a deliciously twisted minion. “Dead End” and “Do or Die” reveal more personal history as the mature players provide intriguing questions on immortality, humanity, and barbarism. Miguel Gomez’ Gus finally seems like he is going to join the team, but then he’s inexplicably back on his own rescuing families and refusing to accept his mother’s turn in more useless filler. He and Joaquin Cosio (Quantum of Solace) as the absolutely underutilized fifties superhero Angel are conscripted to fight vampires but once again, they remain wasted in isolated, contrived detours.

Streamlining Fet, Dutch, Quinlan, and Gus as vampire fighters testing methods from Setrakian’s texts and Eph’s science funded by Feraldo could have unified The Strain with straightforward heroes versus monsters action we can root for in an apocalypse. Watching on the eve of our own real world pandemic, was I in the right frame of mind to view The Strain unclouded? Thanks to creators Guillermo de Toro and Chuck Hogan and showrunner Carlton Cuse’s foretelling social breakdowns between the haves and the have nots, maybe not. That said, The Strain terribly executes two seasons worth of source material. An embarrassment of riches with a scientific premise, mystical flashbacks, assorted zombie and vampire crossover monsters, and intriguing characters fall prey to uneven pacing, crowded focus, and no balance or self-awareness onscreen. The Strain may have been better served as television movies or six episode elemental seasons – science in year one, vampire history the second, relic pursuits, and a final battle. Disastrous characters and worthless stories compromise the meaty sacrifices, crusty old alliances, and silver standoffs – stretching the horror quality thin even in a shorter ten episode season. Rather than a fulfilling mirror to nature parable, The Strain Seasons Two and Three are an exercise in frustration, and even without the real world horrors, it’s too disappointing to bother with the end of the world reset in Season Four.

For More Frightening Television or more Guillermo del Toro, Re-visit:

All Things Dracula Video Review

Top Horror Television

Crimson Peak

 

December: Freaky Foodies Month

Congratulations and Salutations Horror Addicts!

As of today, you have arrived in December 2020!

Ahead of you lie 31 days of co-workers offering fudge, your Grandmother sending packages of cookies, and banks and dry cleaners placing containers of candy canes at the service desk!

The holidays of this month are so closely connected to food, that we at HorrorAddicts.net have decided to offer some relief in the form of foods of another nature. Foods more suited to the Horror seeking palate.

We hereby declare December 2020 to be Freaky Foodie’s Month. Please join us for some scary, spooky and gut-grabbing delicacies. Happy horrordays!

 

Latinx Month – FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Mexican and Spanish Vampires!

Mexican and Spanish Vampires, Oh My!  By Kristin Battestella

The Bloody Vampire– The English version of this black and white 1962 Mexican import El Vampire Sangriento opens with eerie slow motion, silent carriages, tolling bells, howling wolves, and creepy forests to set the macabre mood. The candles, Old World Feeling, secret crypts, great architecture, and period costumes counter the almost comically out of place and unmatched dubbing, but there are some eerie good effects, thankfully. Fun Bats, zooms, and coffins mask the fact that once again, there isn’t much of the titular blood. However, the religious arias are a bit out of place and too reverent for the subject. Likewise, some of the sound effects are more fifties UFOs than scary. Fortunately, a few corsets and kinky bedroom threats accent the household violence, vampy bitch slaps, and whips. Although, I’ve never heard a vampire tell his victim/bride to put some clothes on before! It might have been neat to see a South American set tale rather than the standard Eastern European mold, but the English translations add to the gothic horror homage. Count Frankenhausen has a maid named Hildegard “The servants must call me Frau” and a daughter Bronehilda at his cave the “Haunted Hacienda.” Yes, and did I mention that “Vampirina” is the blood of a vampire? The English track is tough to hear, and it’s all back and forth wooden exposition on deadly flower roots, grave robbings, early autopsies, science versus death, vampire mythos, and secret vampire hunting family histories. It might be a dry translation or stilted from the innate Espanol, but at least this isn’t in the over the top telenovela styling we expect today. The pace does pick up for the last half hour, and once you’re past the niche logistics and morbid humor, then this is a good little hour and a half.

Crypt of the Living Dead – There’s isn’t a lot of information available on this black and white 1973 tale also known by the wonderfully bad title Hannah, Queen of the Vampires.  Andrew Prine (V) looks so young and the architecture and medieval religious designs are well done, yes. But sadly, the drab, colorless photography hampers the fun, gothic atmosphere. Was this later day black and white filming done by production plan or necessity? The editing is also either very poor or there has been some unfortunate film damage, and the plot is a little slow and silent to start, with too many setups and tough to hear dialogue when we do have it. The nighttime action is almost impossible to see as well, and the frantic camerawork and extreme close ups make what should be straightforward scares somewhat confusing. All this production doom and gloom and yet the script and cast actually aren’t that bad. The music and eerie effects are sinister enough, and there’s a historical spin on the then-contemporary skepticism and ethical debates. Die-hard vamp fans looking to have a fun nighttime viewing will enjoy this. However, the finale is a bit overlong and repetitive for horror lay folk, and those low budget values will hinder the natural fears and good scares for today’s more visually treated audiences. 

The Vampire – With such a confusingly plain title, I had to look up this 1957 Mexican horror El Vampiro starring Abel Salazar and German Rubles to make sure I hadn’t already seen it. Fortunately, there’s no mistaking the foggy villa courtyards, Gothic Victorian interiors, hypnotic eyes, and fangs afoot here. This original tale gets right to the screams and neck nibbles, and the black and white patina perfectly matches the don’t go out after sunset warnings. Even the fake bat doesn’t feel hokey amid the fifties train and ingenue in white visiting her sick spinster aunt. The boxes of soil from Hungary, suspicious cape-wearing count, and carriage at the crossroads may seem Stoker-esque to start, however there are some undead surprises – and an older aunt who remains young and reflection-less but thinks all this vampire talk is ridiculous. Torches and tolling bells invoke some medieval funerary alongside crypts, superstitions, and fearful folk crossing themselves. The recently late are buried with crucifix in hand while creepy crescendos accent the phantom ladies in black about the cemetery. Ghostly effects, well-framed shadows, and spooky lighting schemes heighten the ruinous haciendas as well as the suspenseful count and his then-shocking vampire bites – sudden falling books or slamming doors also help build the dangerous mood unlike today’s fake out jump scares. Rather than detract from the horror, just the right amount of humor and a whiff of romance accent the fine dialogue – although despite DVD commentaries and a variety of caption or audio options, the English subtitles don’t exactly match the español. Secret passages, dusty books, and otherworldly singing provide more flavor for a wild finale combining stakes, sunlight, and fire. To be sure, this toothy little number wins with heaps of atmosphere.

The Vampire’s Coffin – Salazar and company returned for this 1958 sequel aka El Ataud del Vampiro, and the two pictures can be found together on the generically named The Vampire Collection set for more howling cemeteries, grave robbers, and disturbed vampire tombs. Of course, it’s amazingly easy for two men to remove such heavy headstones and take a giant coffin to the local hospital for a scientific study, but hey, me want that sweet fifties Hearst! Skeletal reflections, giant wooden stakes – the Gothic creepy moves into unexplained science territory but the old-fashioned hospital retains a gray, mod feeling with scared kids and a cross above the bed. What can modern medicine do compared to a determined monster? Sharp shadows and dark angles add Expressionism accents while staircases and noir pursuits akin a Val Lewton aesthetic. Although a missing vampire about the ward could be laughable, spooky effects, a dark cape, and hypnotized victims add macabre. There is, however, a lacking finesse here thanks to a busy narrative crowded with swanky theater glamour and gruesome wax museum hideouts. Disbelieving medical directors, ritzy routines, and torture devices are all well and good on their own, but one moody, fully embraced locale would have been better. Convenience and poorly choreographed fights aside, the fun finale packs in plenty of rituals, chases, and guillotines, as you do. Ironically, it feels like pieces of this film are borrowed in more recent cliché horror, and despite a general bloodlessness and try hard approach, bared fangs and la Sangre talk keep up the theme.

The Vampire’s Night Orgy – Spanish director Leon Klimovsky (The Dracula Saga) uses an unusual widescreen format for this hour and twenty minutes from 1974. The color is very washed out, too, and unfortunately, the picture is often too dark or tough to see. Like most of the foreign or obscure horror of this era, there are edited versions and lost prints, and some scenes are regrettably dated and look the likes of seventies porn. Thankfully, those are about the only problems here.  Crazy funerals, wild music, and a nutty countess add to the demented ambiance of ticking clocks, creaking doors, and spooky sound effects. The dubbing is actually in sync and performed well, too, with a few words of un-translated Spanish adding to the Euro flavor. From the interesting premise – an en-route house staff’s bus breaks down in a seemingly abandoned town that really has an all too generous blood drinking population – to a bit of kink, nudity, and cannibalism, the screams and foreboding build up are solid. Sure, most of the men look the same with huge mustaches and I’ll be damn, there isn’t a lot of blood to be seen. However, the child actors aren’t annoying, and the vampire violence is well played. One by one, victims are taken down in fast, almost gang rape terror, and the chase finale and twist ending earn top marks. Though in serious need of a restoration and some may have trouble getting past the dated look, this is a nice little scary movie.

The Werewolf vs the Vampire Woman – Never ever do an autopsy on a supposed werewolf on a moonlit night!  Just one of the many warnings from this 1971 Spanish treat, the fifth in the loose Waldemar Daninsky series from writer and star Paul Naschy.  Director Leon Klimovsky tackles then-contemporary disbelieving science versus superstition with good screams, fun growls and fangs, zoom attacks, and slow motion eerie.  There’s a good quality of blood, too, and a twisted medieval flashback establishes the satanic ritual roots. Of course, the nighttime photography is almost impossible to see, and the handheld forest camera action is poor. The werewolf makeup and effects may be a bit hokey but considering the low budget foreign production, they suffice. The flowing fashions and happy vamps running thru the glen can seem more like Frodo Lives hippie, I know. However, it is nonetheless very unnerving and effective. Actually, the pop references in the dialogue – such as man walking on the moon, James Bond, and the obligatory “Dracula! Ha ha.” – feels more dated amid the fine gothic history and Euro-style. A touch of lingerie, bloody shackles, and crazy girl on girl suggestion keep the run of the mill acting and yell at the TV moments bemusing.  Cap this eighty plus minutes with unusual monster relationships and cool mod clothes and you have a picture that’s a cut above the standard dollar bin foreign horror. Naturally, multiple video releases, unavailable uncut editions, international reissues, and title changes can make pursuing Naschy’s horror repertoire extremely frustrating.  For fans of retro Euro-horror, however, this is worth the hunt. 

For More Vampires, Visit:

Dracula 2020

Dark Shadows Video Review

Summer Vampires

Buffy Season 1

 

Historian of Horror: Hath Music Charms to Soothe the Savage Breast? Not Necessarily

 

I would encourage the populace, if possible, to at least take a look at the recent Netflix series, Ratched. It will help if you’re familiar with the 1975 film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the one that took home a slew of Oscars for that year, the one in which the television series’ title character was the villain, but that’s not essential. Ratched is a beautifully mounted, albeit severely flawed work, and worth seeing if only for the sumptuous set design. Indeed, every frame looks like a photograph from a 1947 issue of Architectural Digest or some similar slick magazine of its type. The costumes could be out of Vanity Fair, the automobiles from Road & Track. It is gorgeous in its every visual element and blessed with a slightly languid pace that allows the eye to gorge itself at leisure on all that gorgeosity.

While I have several issues with the writing (cardboard and occasionally inconsistent characters, cliched situations, predictable plot points), I cannot fault the technical prowess of those who designed the visuals, or, indeed, the audio. The incidental music is eerily reminiscent of Bernard Hermann’s score from the 1962 film, Cape Fear, as well as Elmer Bernstein’s score for the 1991 remake. One day, I will discuss both film versions of that story in this space, and the music from each, but today I want to talk about the title music from Ratched, for it touches upon one of my passions.

Yes, I am a Baby Boomer, a member of that much maligned, fairly or unfairly, generation that for all its flaws did indeed spawn the best popular music of the past century. And, yes, I grew up a fan of, among others, the Beatles, the band whose massive output of incredible music in the space of less than a decade was not only the ne plus ultra of its time but the sine qua non of all popular music since. But they and the rest of the 1960s artists were not my first musical love.

That would be classical music. Before the Fab Four showed up on the Ed Sullivan Show on that momentous night in February of 1964, I had already begun to sample my father’s record collection. The first piece of music I remember being enraptured by was Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges. I had no idea at the time what that title meant, for although I was able to operate a turntable at that early age, I had not yet learned to read beyond a very superficial level. In fact, I suspect that it was to decipher the tiny print on the back of all those record sleeves that I set about becoming literate so assiduously at such a tender age. 

I still love classical music. It occupies a significant portion of my listening time. I don’t know squat about music theory, but I know what I like. And in the years since I discovered the wonders on those ancient LPs, most of which are now in my possession, new discoveries of what I like have regularly occurred with delightful frequency. 

I think I must have been about thirteen or fourteen when I first encountered the work of Camille Saint-Saëns, or, rather, a portion of one of his works. A radio station in or near Nashville began to broadcast episodes of the Shadow radio show from the late 1930s, the ones starring Orson Welles. The theme music was eerie and compelling, drawing the listener into the outré adventures of He Who Had the Power to Cloud Men’s Minds. No one I knew could tell me what that strange tune was. Fortunately, this was in the early years of a new cultural phenomenon, nostalgia, and every trip to the bookstore revealed a new volume on some aspect of the cultural ephemera of past decades, including radio. I knew of radio solely as a delivery system for current music, but as my dad told me at the time, it was in his youth the primary source of free entertainment in the home – musical, comedic, dramatic. Frightening.

More on that later. I think it was in a paperback edition of Jim Harmon’s 1967 book, The Great Radio Heroes, that I learned the provenance of that snippet of strange music. It turned out to be the middle section of a symphonic poem by Saint-Saëns, Omphale’s Spinning Wheel. Once I knew that, I began to search for more music by this new composer I’d discovered.

Skip years, indeed, decades ahead, and I’d just settled myself into my favorite spot on the couch to watch the first episode of Ratched. At that moment, my wife of nearly forty years came in, and I surrendered that spot, because when Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. It’s okay. The seat I gave up is slightly off-center to the TV mounted on the wall opposite, and the spot I almost always wind up in has a more straight-on view. Yeah. That’s the ticket.

For some reason, the subtitle function was turned on, which was fine. I watch a lot of films in languages I don’t understand, and I heartily despise dubbing. Nothing ruins the rhythm of a film than the dialogue being out of sync with the actors’ expressions and mouth movements. Give me subtitles, every time. So, I’m used to them, and made no particular effort to turn them off.

No issues with the first episode, although my lovely bride thought it moved a tad slowly. There was no title sequence that time out, the credits rolling at the end. And for just over five minutes, there was no such thing in the second episode.

And then, there was. I immediately recognized the music playing, although the first bit of it had been lopped off. It was Saint-Saëns’ 1874 tone poem Danse Macabre, a piece I play heavily around Halloween, for it is spooky and creepy and laden with dire forebodings.

And then, I noticed the subtitle that popped up as soon as the discordant violin screeched out its first few notes.[haunting classical music playing]

Say, what? Haunting classical music? Haunting classical music?!?!?!? Does no one at Netflix have access to a decent music library? This piece has a name, a title that has been well-known for one hundred and forty-six years. That’s as bad as people calling the tango Al Pacino danced with Gabrielle Anwar in Scent of a Woman ‘the tango from Scent of a Woman’, as if that’s its title. It’s not. It’s called Por Una Cabeza, and it’s by Carlos Gardel, a significant composer of Latin music in the first half of the 20th Century. It’s not quite as bad as pronouncing Porsche as a one-syllable name, but still, come on! Is it all that much trouble to identify a major piece of music by its actual name?

Ahem. Sorry ‘bout that.

Danse Macabre was based on a Late Medieval allegorical theme of death as the one truly universal reality, and its application in a variety of artistic expressions. Paintings, frescoes and woodcuts depicting souls of all financial stations and every societal stratum dancing their ways along to the grave accompanied by decomposing corpses and animated skeletons were all the rage in the waning decades of the Middle Ages, and into the Renaissance. 

I know most folks think of the term ‘classical music’ as encompassing all that stuff you had to sit through during school field trips to the local symphony hall, but for the cognoscenti, classical refers to the music of roughly the 18th Century, composed by folks like Mozart and Haydn in an organically structured and sometimes excessively ornamental style that reflected the artistic sensibilities of the concurrent Rococo period in art and architecture. During the preceding century, more-or-less, both art and architecture on one hand and music on the other were done in what was known as Baroque style, which was also overly ornamented but with a somewhat more constrained, almost geometrical structure. Kind of. That’s very much a Reader’s Digest Condensed version of things, but not, I hope, totally off the mark. 

The 19th Century in music was dominated by the Romantic period, and Saint-Saëns was very much a Romantic composer. That word does not mean, as applied to the music of its time, what you think it does, just as an opera comique is not necessarily funny. Romantic in relation to the music of composers from Schubert and Beethoven in the early 19th Century to Dvorak and Verdi near the end of the century, and even beyond with Rachmaninoff and Ravel, was intended to produce within the listener a sort of naturalistic evocation of emotions, so that the music inspired more than merely an aesthetic response. It is no accident that the Romantic period in music coincided in its later decades with Impressionism in painting. The intended reaction from the consumer was the same in both areas, an empathic connection with the artist through the medium.

And Danse Macabre did produce an emotional reaction from early critics, indeed. It was not received well at first, as it was considered to be a source of anxiety for those who heard it. As I stated before, I know little about music theory, but I have been given to understand that there are certain key signatures that lend themselves particularly well to certain types of music, and even the emotions those pieces are meant to convey. According to what I have read on the subject, G Minor is one of those keys that tends to invoke dread and angst, and Danse Macabre is in that key. I’m going to go ahead and assume my informant was correct, for it does put the nerves on edge. 

Listen to it throughout that title sequence in Ratched, when and if you’re able to watch it, and see if it doesn’t augment the show’s overall feeling of fearful expectation, even more so perhaps than the story warrants. Then, listen to it in its entirety. 

Then, please don’t tell me you felt nothing from that – no frisson, as it were. I hope you do. I might just worry about you if not, just a little. 

Also, rest assured I won’t leave you hanging regarding all the possibly unfamiliar references above. I will, one of these days, wax poetic on horror as it was used in old time radio programs and operas, comique and otherwise, as well as by other composers, artists, and even architects. I might even explain just what is meant by a ‘slick magazine’, translate the Latin phrases I love tossing around like confetti, and reveal from what major genre work I lifted the neologism ‘gorgeosity’. Stay tuned.

And, as always, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Ro’s Recs – November

Ro’s Recs

Creativity and Haunted Places

On the weekend of November 8, 2020, the legendary Foo Fighters took the stage on Saturday Night Live and played a song from their upcoming album, Medicine at Midnight, called “Shame Shame.” It was different and brilliant and a little bit dark, including lyrics like: 

“If you want to

I’ll be the one

Be the tongue that will swallow you” 

and 

“Another splinter under the skin

Another season of loneliness

I found a reason and buried it

Beneath a mountain of emptiness.

The song was definitely a departure for the band and I was anxious to read all I could about the production. Grohl has always been very open about his recording process. He boldly created the documentary Sound City, which I highly recommend, as well as taking the journey on the Sonic Highways, where the band visited some of the biggest cities in rock music history and wrote songs based on their experiences and interviews they had there. In an article with Rolling Stone dated March 23, 2020, Dave Grohl revealed that the house they recorded the album in was haunted and that totally piqued my interest. (https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/foo-fighters-new-album-ghosts-971615/)

What is it with amazing things coming from supernatural experiences? Some of my favorite albums have been recorded under haunting situations including Black Sabbath’s debut, Blood Sugar Sex Magic from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hypnotize/Mesmerize by System of A Down, and Slipknot’s Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses, the latter three being recorded at Rick Rubin’s Mansion in Southern California. How did being in a haunted space contribute to the artists’ creative process? (https://www.kerrang.com/features/10-rock-and-metal-albums-recorded-in-haunted-places/)

Corey Taylor discussed his experiences in The Mansion in his book A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven, which is full of incredible stories and Taylor’s philosophy about the afterlife and things that go bump, well, at all times of the day. From his perspective, it seems that the hauntings kept him on edge, which may or may not have contributed to his manic performance on Slipknot’s Subliminal Verses. He said in an interview with Kerrang! Magazine in 2019, “Only recently have I noticed the ethereal feel to the album,” Corey said on the eve of Vol. 3’s release. “And that’s definitely come from making it in that house. That house was so fucking haunted.” (https://www.kerrang.com/features/slipknot-the-inside-story-of-vol-3-the-subliminal-verses/)

Over the past several years, I’ve had the fortune to attend writing retreats with my fellow San Francisco Bay Area authors. The first one was at the Holbrooke Hotel in Grass Valley, California, and I immediately fell in love with the grand old building which boasted that it housed the longest continuously-open saloon west of the Mississippi (which it likely can’t say anymore since the hotel has been closed the past two years for renovations). It’s a place with an incredible amount of energy, mostly positive, and during the retreats we held there, I was inspired to write some of my favorite stories. “A Piece of Him,” which was featured in the Gone with the Dead anthology back in 2016 is still one of my favorite short stories I’ve written and was my first traditionally published story. I wrote some of my Banes of Lake’s Crossing stories there and the hotel has even been a setting in my writing. I love working in old buildings. The Weller House in Fort Bragg is another favorite as well as the Jupiter in Berkeley and a friend’s turn-of-the-century house outside Portland, Oregon. There’s something about working in a place that has held within its walls all walks of life that causes its very fabric to hold onto that energy, both positive and negative, that gives me a supercharge of creativity like nothing else. I so look forward to being able to travel to my favorite haunts when this pandemic is over. 

So if you’re missing that feeling of someone looking over your shoulder as you work, or want to listen to music closely for any signs of ghostly hijinks, check out the albums listed above, and if you’re like me and love a good “behind the music” type of story, be sure to watch those docs listed above as well as read Corey Taylor’s book. 

How about you? Does a good haunted spot bring out the creativity in you? I’d love to hear about your favorite places and projects you’ve been inspired to work on there. Definitely check out the albums listed above as well as the two Foo Fighters documentaries. And as always, stay tuned for more Ro’s Recs and Merrill’s Musical Musings…

R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. 

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: The Deeper You Dig

Plotline: Ivy and Echo are not your typical mother-daughter team. Ivy, once an intuitive psychic, makes an easy buck as a bogus tarot card reader; 14-year-old Echo likes old-timey music, hunting, and black lipstick. When reclusive Kurt moves down the road to restore an abandoned farmhouse, an accident leads to Echo’s murder, and suddenly three lives collide in mysterious and wicked ways. Kurt assumes he can hide his secret under the ground. But Echo burrows into his head until he can feel her in his bones. As she haunts his every move, trying to reach her mother from beyond, Ivy must dig deep to see the signs and prove that love won’t stay buried.

Who would like it: Fans of mind-bending atmospheric films, witches, tarot cards, mother and daughter movies, revenge, and movies about possessions.     

High Points: The sheer originality! 

Complaints: None

Overall: Love this shit out of this!

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: VOD

 

***

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Where are all the Mid-Century Mexican Horror Films? A Frightening Flix Editorial

Where Are All the Mid-Century Mexican Horror Films by Kristin Battestella

From The Witch’s Mirror to The Curse of the Crying Woman and more, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the mid-century Mexican horror productions I’ve seen from the forties, fifties, and sixties. I would wholeheartedly like to see more, but where did all these Mexican horror movies go? Read on for my rant about the frustrating difficulty in finding these quality classic scares.

Why so inaccessible?

Thanks to directors such as Rafael Baledón or the likes of Abel Salazar’s filmography, one can filter, search, and find dozens of Mexican horror films on IMDb, Wikipedia, and more. We know they exist, so where are they and why aren’t they readily available? Ten or fifteen years ago, a budget DVD set with twenty or fifty so-called horror classics was a get what you pay for way to find a few old horror gems amid the so bad it’s good obscure, public domain scares, and cheap VHS quality rips. This was how I first found some Spanish horror delectables. Today, however, those sets aren’t really viable compared to affordable streaming options. Unfortunately, be it the free horror channels, discount streaming tiers, or the big mainstream options, none of them have any of these films. Back when we had Xfinity and could browse all the thousand channels on the guide including the Spanish cable package, I used to see some great horror films listed on the Peliculas de clasicos channels. I’d write down great titles like Museo de Horror, El Beso de Ultratrumbo, La Cabeza Viviente, and more but can’t find any of them anywhere. How with today’s instant access to everything are these films still so inaccessible?

Cultural Drift is No Excuse!

It takes a lot of digging and research to find these titles, and although it’s easy to search with Spanish language filters, that creates its own set of problems. Sure I’ve been able to find a few Salazar sixties horrors or Mexican movies, but those searches also yield a lot of Paul Naschy pictures from Spain (and searching for his Waldermar werewolf films is another aggravating not all available pursuit). Soon, these lists skew to Spain, European productions, Jesus Franco, Dario Argento, and Mario Bava. Seventies Italian Giallo pictures are not what we’re looking for, and finding the right version of a film with different releases, run times, and different titles per country only adds more fuel to the frustrating fuego. Sometimes you think you are getting the right movie and it turns out to be something else, or worse a film you’ve already seen under a different name. I myself am guilty of putting all my Spanish horror viewing lists and recommendations together because it’s so tough to find just the Mexican scares. Of course, Spain and Mexico are different cultures with different español and different identities, and it’s problematic to presume they are interchangeable. Many years ago I had a vehement argument on an online film forum when a commenter said he wanted a role to be cast with Penélope Cruz or Salma Hayek or “one of those types.” O_o This person could not see why I objected to these actresses being lumped together as one and the same. On a non-horror note, I highly suggest the Maya Exploration Center’s Professor Edwin Barnhart’s Great Course lectures including Ancient Civilizations of North America, Ancient Mesoamerica Revealed, Lost Worlds of South America, and Exploring the Mayan World to educate oneself on the history of Southwest, Central, and South American communities.

The Classics are Better.

What irritates me most is the perception that because Hollywood or mainstream horror is more prevalent, that means it must be better. In my recent viewings, however, that’s been far from the truth. I’ve enjoyed the majority of independent Australian, New Zealand, Irish, UK horror, and European productions, sure. Canadian pictures, on the other hand, have been more mixed bag. When the festival finds are true to themselves, they’ve been good – but you can tell the difference when a north of the border production is compromising itself in hopes of an American sale and wide distribution, catering to the formulaic and cliché. I had such high hopes for The Curse of La Llorona. It starts well with colonial Mexican scares so viewers think we’re in for some period piece Hammer flair, but sadly the film – written and directed by white men, because of course – degrades into the typical kids in peril with whooshing entities and trite jump scares. Cultural fears are dismissed and protective warnings are treated like Mysticism 101, and the entire time I was waiting for it to end, I had one thought, which was that The Curse of the Crying Woman was better. There’s an entire Wikipedia page called “Golden Age of Mexican Cinema” but where are all the films? Netflix if you’re lucky has one DVD copy, and when that breaks, it’s just saves and unavailables.

It’s Frustrating and Offensive.

For viewer looking for quality horror of any kind, it’s disturbing how unique storytelling, different cultural scares, and the many horror stories to be told must be bent to serve white mainstream horror. The fact that these films are not widely available almost feels like an intentional burying – the way a great Asian horror film won’t see the light of day stateside because the rights were bought up and it is being deliberately suppressed until the rich white blonde jump scare cliché remake is released first. Why aren’t these classic, quality films being celebrated? Why are they not freely available to watch at any time? A black and white picture? So what! Spanish subtitles or a bad English dub? Big deal! Is it because they are not in English that white America suspects releasing these films properly won’t be profitable enough for them? Well that’s just too damn bad because I want to see these films. Do you have an inside source on where to find some classic mid-century Mexican horror movies? ¡Damelo!

 

For More Frightening Flix, visit:

Horror Cliches I’m Tired of Seeing

All Things Dracula Video Review

Ciao, Horror!

Bone Tomahawk

 

HorrorAddicts.net 191, Holiday Ghost Story Special

Horror Addicts Episode# 191
SEASON 15
**Holiday Ghost Story Special**
Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich
Intro Music by: Russell Holbrook


**Holiday Ghost Story Special**
Dedicated to our long-time listener Jeff. Here you go, buddy!

Ghost Stories:

“A Corpse Going to a Ball” or “Fair Charlotte” by Seba Smith, read by Emerian Rich

http://www.emzbox.com

“The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert W. Service, read by J. Malcolm Stewart

https://www.amazon.com/J-Malcolm-Stewart/e/B0088I39XG

“The Open Window” by Saki, read by Daphne Strasert

http://daphnestrasert.com/

“Gatekeeper” by Rish Outfield, read by the author

http://rishoutcast.blogspot.com/

“The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christen Anderson, read by Emerian Rich

http://www.emzbox.com

“Staying After” by Angela Yuriko Smith, read by Ryan Aussie Smith
http://www.spaceandtimemagazine.com/

“Four-sided Triangle” by Nancy Kilpatrick, read by the author

https://nancykilpatrick.com/

“Company” by Sumiko Saulson, read by the author

http://www.sumikosaulson.com/

“Citrus, Spice, and Not a Thing Nice” by Phillip T. Stephens, read by the author

https://reifinery.medium.com/

“Just Like a Dolls” by Michele Roger, read by the author

https://www.amazon.com/Michele-Roger/e/B00FJQIMJ6


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Guest Blog: What’s your Jam? by Michael Fassbender

What’s Your Jam? By Michael Fassbender

Recently, I was browsing on Stuart Conover’s site, The Horror Tree, and I saw an interview with a publisher who got his start with a Punk magazine. While he’s branched out to the realm of fiction, the punk sensibility has never left him. Indeed, “punk” is the second adjective in the list of qualities he’s looking for in prospective stories. For those who have been a part of that scene, the punk sensibility remains an enduring part of their character. 

It’s a sensibility that resonates with many writers, as attested by the gamut of subgenres from Splatterpunk to Steampunk. It’s not one that resonates with me, however. I identify with a competing scene, Heavy Metal, and have done since I was in high school. Superficially, there are certain similarities: music that is played loud and features distorted guitars, and wardrobes that boast a lot of black T-shirts, but there aren’t too many common threads beyond these. 

As art forms, Punk and Metal are created very differently. In Punk, the medium is secondary to the message, and Punk Rock songs tend to be fast, energetic, and haphazard. The band is reminding you that they don’t take anything seriously, including themselves and their music. Metal bands are quite different; they may take nothing else in the world seriously, but they are fiercely earnest in their dedication to their craft. They are perfectionists in their technique, and for those unfamiliar with the genre, surprisingly sophisticated in their composition. Much of the Metal scene has been converging with classical music at least since Randy Rhoads recorded “Blizzard of Ozz” with Ozzy Osbourne in the early eighties. Doubters are urged to listen to string quartet or piano arrangements of Metal songs, such as Apocalyptica’s first two albums.

Both genres relish horror imagery. It just manifests itself differently. Punk horror art takes on a pop culture veneer, almost an Andy Warhol approach. Metal horror art favors the look of medieval woodcuts, Hieronymous Bosch paintings and Grand Guignol-style performance stills. Contrast the imagery of The Misfits and Mercyful Fate, and you’ll see what I mean. Each of these bands exemplifies the horror aesthetics of its team.

We generally don’t hear about a Metal sensibility in horror fiction. We don’t have Occultmetal or Possessionmetal subgenres in the community, but upon examination of my own habits as a writer, I see common threads with the musicians I champion. I share their perfectionist tendencies in terms of technique. Typos and faulty grammar vex me, unless they’re meant to appear in the story as a function of characterization. I was mortified recently when I discovered a continuity error in a story that had reached the final proofing stage. For the most part, I like to think that my stories are in good editorial shape when I present them to editors. Whether or not they resonate with the editor is another matter entirely.

It’s not just about the technique, either. I do take myself and my art seriously. I’d rather give my readers the chills than make them laugh — or score points in an imaginary debate. In terms of horror styles, I have a marked preference for supernatural horror, although this encompasses a number of subcategories, such as Lovecraftian, occult and mythological themes. The same preoccupations reign among many Metal acts, from Scandinavian Black Metal through retro acts like Blood Ceremony and Brimstone Coven. And in execution, I prefer to write my stories in earnest, not with irony. One annoyance I’ve had with the Lovecraftian community is the prevalence of tongue-in-cheek content. Overtly jokey stories and poems only serve to lighten the mood.

Metal and Punk are not the only musical in-groups with substantial linkage to horror. Goth is a third, and it carries its own sensibility to the same literary well. Of the three groups, the Goths probably feel the greatest affection for classic tropes like vampires and ghosts. The differences with Metal are more in the realm of nuance: Metalheads are more likely to present monsters as menacing, and Goths more as misunderstood. Goths are more likely to bask in the melancholy side of the spectrum, and Metalheads incline more to the macabre side. Nor should these three musical genres feel that they control horror imagery in music; other bands have swum the same waters, either intermittently or chronically. Stephen King is famous for interjecting his classic rock obsessions into his fiction.

Herein lies the significance of the exercise. Readers in general, and writers in particular, are likely to discern common threads in the literature that drives them, the films that excite them, and the music that drives them. While the linkage between books and movies is obvious, given the number of stories that came to the screen after success on the page, the relevance of musical taste can be just as significant, at least if the musical interest is a strong one. Horror writers can learn a great deal about themselves and what drives them if they stop to consider their musical tastes and examine their parallels in the fiction they love and the stories they produce.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Michael Fassbender is a part-time writer in the Chicago area. His story “Inmate” appeared in Sanitarium Magazine in 2016; “The Cold Girl” appeared in Hypnos Magazine in 2016 and has resurfaced in October 2019 in a volume entitled Re-Haunts. “But Together We Are Strong” has appeared in the February 2020 issue of Horror Magazine, “Miroir de Vaugnac” found its place in Dark Divinations on May Day, and “Schattenlenker’s Hidden Treasure” was revealed in The Nightside Codex in August. This Halloween, “Old Growth” began spreading in Scary Stuff. You can read about more of his work on his website, michaeltfassbender.com.

Chilling Chat: Authors of SLAY – L. Marie Wood

L. Marie Wood is an award-winning author and screenwriter. She is the recipient of the Golden Stake Award for her novel The Promise Keeper, as well as the Harold L. Brown Award for her screenplay Home Party. Her short story, “The Ever After” is part of the Bram Stoker Award Finalist anthology Sycorax’s Daughters. Wood was recognized in The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, Vol. 15 and as one of the 100+ Black Women in Horror Fiction.

L. Marie is a fun and vivacious lady. We spoke of writing, vampires, and The Golden Stake Award.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Lisa! Thank you for joining me today.

LMW: Thank you so much for having me!

NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror?

LMW: Believe it or not I was five years old! I started writing a story and it was just… dark!

I didn’t associate the term “horror” to it, but that’s what it was, it was psychological horror. And I still write in that sub-genre today.

NTK: Was it inspired by a book or a movie? What inspires your writing?

LMW: No—it literally came from out of nowhere, which is actually, how I find inspiration now.

Sometimes an idea for a story just comes to me. Could be something I saw–some detail about how someone was dressed or something they did maybe even the weather or catching a glimpse of someone making a facial expression they don’t realize is being noticed. When I go looking for inspiration, I can’t always find it.

NTK: Who was the first horror character you felt represented you? The one you could identify with the most?

LMW: Interestingly enough, the first character that came to mind isn’t from the horror genre, so I am still thinking about that one (Laughs.)

I identify with the villains and Darth Vader’s cool calmness is just so awesome to me, I’ve always wanted to emulate that.You know… should I have the need to subdue someone… you know what I mean! (Laughs.)

Then I was always partial to Bruce Lee—like I wanted to kick like him and the sound effects—heck yes. So, combine those with my favorite horror antagonist—vampires!!—and you have a really kick-ass villain. I can’t say I’ve seen this character yet… maybe Blade…wait—DEFINITELY Blade! And I have to say that I never realized that I am Blade until JUST NOW. I always saw myself more like Jerry Dandridge.

NTK: Did you see yourself as Chris Sarandon? Or Colin Ferrel?

LMW: Definitely Chris Sarandon. He was sooooo smooth.

So I guess I am the female Blade… I’m going with that. (Laughs.)

NTK: (Laughs.) Do you have a favorite horror movie?

LMW: I do! Angel Heart! Being the psychological horror lover I am, I love a movie that has twists and turns and makes me think. I find something new every time I watch that movie!

NTK: That movie is so awesome and underrated! Did you like Robert De Niro’s portrayal of the Devil?

LMW: I did, even if it was a little ham-handed… Louis Cypher HAHAHA! He looked awesome though, just enough to make sure you know who he was and what was going on, but easy enough to miss if you aren’t trying to focus on the flick.

NTK: Exactly! Do you have a favorite horror television show?

LMW: Horror Tv shows are difficult. I was a Walking Dead Fan for years and then… I mean, ok and…? I loved The Haunting of Hill House and Lovecraft Country but those are just season-long entries. AHS – I’ve really only enjoyed one whole season – the one with Cuba Gooding Jr…Roanoke.

So… I might have to say no…?

But if the stand alone, one season and one shows count, I will definitely say Haunting of Hill House. Creepy as hell, that one.

NTK: What about favorite horror author?

LMW: That is a harder question than you might realize! I adore Ira Levin’s work, the way he spun a yarn was like no one else. Very casual, conversational, it’s like he is sitting with you on a park bench or while waiting in line at the movies and telling you this creepy thing. I find that my own writing is a lot like that—like we’re having a conversation, only what I am saying is scaring the bejesus out of you. Reading his work just feels good to me.

At the same time, I love Stephen King. His ability to make the mundane spooky is so unsettling and I really love that! Finally, Shirley Jackson has psychological horror in her pocket. Her work just creeps up on you and you don’t even know why you are afraid, but you are. Read “The Lottery”… you may find yourself shivering—either because you might be the one to get stoned, or go along with the stoning and not even know why!

So my fave… Shirley Ira King. Hell of a pen name!

NTK: (Laughs.) That would be! Do you have a favorite horror novel?

LMW: I do, and interestingly enough, none of those three wrote it! Quietus by Vivian Schilling. It is so lyrical! I remember thinking that I wished I could write something so tight, so beautifully done. No purple prose. No fluff. Just amazing control and beautiful execution. I fangirled a bit when I read it and contacted her (this is like 2002 or 2003). Had to tell her it was an amazing experience reading her book.

NTK: That is so awesome! What did she say?

LMW: She was so kind. We actually spoke for a while—she was gracious about the compliment I lavished—I can only imagine that she was red-faced… I was laying it on thick because this book is… chef’s kiss!

She encouraged me to write after I told her I was actually writing my novel. Wonder if she ever read it…? Wow, how cool would THAT be??

NTK: That would be mind-blowing! I hope she did. Speaking of your writing, what attracted you to the Vampire Noire? Why did you want to write a story for SLAY?

LMW: I love vampires. Always have been drawn to them as opposed to werewolves or zombies.

I like to tell my stories from the psychological horror perspective, but sometimes the fear isn’t what you were bargaining for. Vampires let you play, they let you experiment, there is such flexibility with them. I guess I couldn’t resist!

NTK: What inspired your story? Was it something that just came to you?

LMW: Yep—always is. A song did it this time—the rhythm… I don’t even think I ever found out what it was… (Laughs.)

NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you plan their every move?

LMW: My characters do what they want to do when they want to do it. They routinely defy me.

And I can be as upset as I want to about that, but they do not care. I like to say that I sit back and watch the show and just write it all down for posterity.

NTK: As a person of color, how has your experience in the horror community?

LMW: Good, actually. I have been lucky enough to not have experienced a lot of what I have heard about. I started being active in the community in about 2003 and met some wonderful people from everywhere. Had signings, broke bread, shared stages, etc. I took a bit of a break for a number of years and when I came back in, I encountered the same. But as a person of color, I know that my experience isn’t everyone’s and that there have been some challenges that my fellow creatives have encountered. I can only help to be one of those people who helps pave the way, ease the way, help others along.

NTK: You’ve won some interesting awards. Could you tell us about the Golden Stake and about the UMMFF award for The Black Hole?

LMW: Ahh the Golden Stake Award! Seriously, I love that thing, it is literally a golden stake with blood on the tip!!!!! I wouldn’t even bring it back with me—left it in London to be shipped over so that they didn’t take it from me in customs, because, seriously, how could I have explained it?? (Laughs.)

My second novel, The Promise Keeper, is a psychological vampire horror tale! I must say, it felt AMAZING to go over to London during the 200 year anniversary of the publishing of The Vampyre by John Polidori and WIN this coveted award! We drank cocktails out of syringes later that night—it was a freaking blast!

As to The Black Hole, it is a very timely screenplay about colleagues who compete with each other on the paintball field along with a group of their friends. And let’s just say this… all is fun and games until the paintballs fly. My undergraduate degree from Howard University is actually in Film Production. Years later, I went on to get an MA in English and Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University that has a focus in Screenwriting. It is my second love and I am back to doing it with a vengeance. This particular screenplay won best Afrofuturism/Horror/Sci-Fi Screenplay at the Urban Mediamakers Film Festival.

NTK: Awesome!! You have a novel coming out on October 29th. Could you tell us about it?

LMW: Yes, absolutely! My third novel, The Realm, is about man’s greatest fear and it starts FAST!

There is much running, many things lurking in the shadows, and pure, unadulterated fear waiting for the protagonist and for you, if you dare to read it! This is book one of a series that will keep you on the edge of your seat!

NTK: L. Marie, what does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

LMW: This year I have been lucky enough to be either an official selection, semi-finalist, or finalist in over fifteen other festivals! I have eight screenplays making their rounds out there—and I am so excited to see that each of them have gotten industry nods!

NTK: Thank you for joining me today, L. Marie! It’s been a pleasure!

LMW: Thank you so much for having me! I enjoyed the discussion!

Addicts, you can find L. Marie on Facebook. Check out her book, The Realm, available now.

“The Realm drops you into a bizarre and disturbing vision of the afterlife where the dead will never rest in peace. L. Marie Wood’s compulsively readable and fast-paced tale grabs you and doesn’t let go. Hang on tight!”

– Kirsten Imani Kasai, Author of The House of Erzulie

In The Realm, L. Marie Wood presents readers with a cast of nuanced characters against the backdrop of an intricate world where nothing is simply black and white or right and wrong. The “sins of the father” takes a refreshing detour from triteness and makes us accomplices to the main character’s ( Patrick’s) endeavors.

– R. J. Joseph, author of Monstrous Domesticities

Latinx Month: Chilling Chat with E.M. Markoff

From the Vault – Feature from 2019 #172

E.M. Markoff is the indie award-winning Latinx author of The Deadbringer and To Nurture & Kill. Growing up, she spent many days exploring her hometown cemetery, where her loveEMMarkoff_authorpic_sm of all things dark began. Upon coming of age, she decided to pursue a career as a microbiologist, where she spent a few years channeling her inner mad scientist. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat E.M.! Thank you for joining me today.

EM: Evening, Naching! Thank you for having me.

NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror?

EM: Pretty young–in elementary school! Despite not knowing English, my mom was a fan of the Hammer Horror films and Vincent Price, and she was the one who first introduced me to the genre. She also never limited my reading, which allowed me to discover Stephen King at a pretty young age as well. I have no doubt all of this consciously and subconsciously helped shape my love of horror and “dark” things.

NTK: Did Stephen King influence your writing? Who influenced you the most?

EM: I have no doubt Stephen King influenced my writing, as he was the reason I fell in love with reading, to begin with. The vivid image of the monkey with the cymbals on the cover of Skeleton Crew is the first real memory I have of a light going off in my head and thinking, “Reading is amazing.” Other authors whose words have no doubt inspired me include Neil Gaiman with The Sandman series, Clive Barker, Shirley Jackson, C.S. Friedman, Carlos Fuentes, Junji Ito . . . the list goes on.

NTK: Where do you find inspiration? Do you find it in everyday life? In dreams? What inspired The Deadbringer?

EM: The heart of my inspiration for all my writing comes from my identity as a Mexican-American, which was passed on to me by my mom. All of my works, whether overtly or not, reference my culture. I do, however, sometimes get ideas in dreams. The first section of the chapter entitled “A Memory Dissolved by Pain” originated from a dream. I had been working on that section, with little progress, when it suddenly came to me. Consequently, the chapter title got its name because dreaming the dream and writing it was very emotionally difficult. I don’t like hurting my characters, so I tend to get pretty bummed out when something bad happens to them. The other major influence on The Deadbringer was the end of my mom’s life. The decisions that you have to make are painful, and that pain wound up carrying over to the characters that were also suffering a loss.

NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you plan their every move?

800px-the-deadbringer-cover-emmarkoff-ellderet-seriesEM: My characters are assholes with too much agency! (Laughs.) My editor says I like to “play house” with my characters, so to a certain extent, they have to do what I say. But–like life–sometimes they refuse to cooperate until I figure out exactly what it is that’s just not falling into place. I had this happen with a character who is unexpectedly getting their own POV in the forthcoming second book in The Ellderet Series, The Faceless God.

NTK: Your style is very distinct, almost Gothic. Do you enjoy Gothic horror?

EM: Thank you for those kind words. You just made my evening. Yes, I do love Gothic horror and have no doubt that it has found its way into my writing, although I know I have a long way to go before I can hold a candle to the masters of the style!

NTK: You mentioned your mother’s love of Hammer films. Are they your favorite too?  What is your favorite horror movie?

EM: It’s impossible not to love Hammer Horror films. Their films, in particular, all the Draculas because of the dynamic duo of Lee and Cushing, will always have a special place in my heart. My fave, however, is The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

NTK: Favorite horror Novel?

EMThe Picture of Dorian Gray.

NTK: Favorite horror TV show?

EM: El Maleficio.

NTK: E.M., what does the future hold for you? What do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

E.M. More immediately, I will be at a number of conventions, including one with HorrorAddicts.net at Sinister Creature Con from October 12-13.  My future plans involve publishing The Faceless God, the sequel to The Deadbringer, in 2020, as well as attending plenty of local Bay Area conventions and (hopefully) readings. I also have planned a standalone novella that focuses on two of the characters from the world of the Ellderet, and I have a few ideas for non-Ellderet short stories that I would like to see come to life. You can follow what I’m up to by signing up for my Newsletter of the Cursed. You can also follow me @tomesandcoffee on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter, or buy my works on Amazon or direct from me. As for my work as a publisher, readers can check out the horror charity anthology Tales for the Camp Fire, which includes a short diverse ghost story of mine — “Leaving the #9.” All profits from the charity anthology will be donated to Camp Fire relief and recovery efforts which will be administered by the North Valley Community Foundation.

NTK: I just interviewed Loren Rhoads about Tales for the Camp Fire. What a greatTales for the Camp Fire idea! How did you come up with it?

EM: It began as an idea by Ben Monroe, a fellow member of the Bay Area Horror Writers Association. The idea brought together horror writers from the Bay Area with the goal of giving back to the victims of a terrible NorCal wildfire – the Camp Fire. Loren Rhoads served as editor, curating an eclectic range of short stories that showcase the many faces of horror, including a story graciously donated by the estate of Clark Ashton Smith. The entire project is indebted to people who volunteered their time to put in the work necessary to bring it to life, thus keeping production costs low and maximizing profits for charity. Even now, the authors are continuing to do what they can to spread the word about the charity anthology because they want to give back to the community. I think it says a lot about horror writers, that in the face of tragedy they stepped up to help.

NTK: Awesome! Horror Writers are such great people! Thank you so much for chatting with me. E.M!

EM: Thank you for having me, and for the lovely interview, Naching. It was my pleasure.

Latinx Month: FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ, The Witch’s Mirror

By Kristin Battestella

The Witch’s Mirror – Oft spooky actor Abel Salazar (The Curse of the Crying Woman) produced this black and white 1962 Mexican horror treat with Isabela Corona (A Man of Principle) as a creepy housekeeper amid the excellent smoke and mirrors and titular visual effects. From a macabre prologue and illustrations to Victorian mood, candles, and rituals, El Espejo de la Bruja has it all – love triangles, jerky husbands, revenge, betrayals, grave robbing, and ghoulish medicine. The plot is at once standard yet also nonsensical thanks to all the sorcery, implausible surgeries, ghosts, fire, even catalepsy all building in over the top, soap opera-esque twists. The sets are perhaps simplistic or small scale with only interior filming, but this scary, play-like atmosphere is enough thanks to wonderful shadows, gothic décor, and freaky, sinister music. Several language and subtitle options are available along with the feature and commentary on the DVD as well – not that any of the dubbing, subtitles, or original Spanish completely matches. The audio is also messed up in some spots, but the script is fun and full of cultish summonings and medical fantasies. Maybe this one will have too much happening for some viewers, as every horror treatise is thrown at the screen here. However, this is a swift, entertaining 75 minutes nonetheless and it doesn’t let up until the end.

Historian of Horror: Hot Town, Summer in the 60’s

On a regular basis when we were kids, my brother and I were shipped off from Nashville to visit our grandmothers and cousins for a few weeks every summer so our parents could get a well-deserved rest from our shenanigans. Today, I suspect that would be considered child abuse at best, given that we were ferried by either car or train to a small town in Northern Alabama in the days before the pervasive hum and whir of air conditioning could be heard everywhere. 

The funny thing is, I don’t remember the heat being all that oppressive. There were lots of electric fans, and open windows, and sleeping in upstairs bedrooms under thin sheets, while the distant sound of a train whistle carried us away with it into slumberland after long discussions about girls and Auburn football and whether or not it were possible to tip one of my uncle’s Black Angus bulls. It’s not, by the way, and given how much at least one of them resented the attempt, it’s a wonder any of us are still alive.

Good times.

Even better, for the voracious consumer of popular culture that I was even at the tender age of eleven, was that a marvelous new invention did arrive in Athens about 1969, one that would not make it to Nashville for another sixteen years. Nowadays, cable television is almost quaint, but in those halcyon days of three channels, it was a magic carpet ride that carried me for that brief, hot period beyond the Lawrence Welk schmaltz and Mike Douglas talking about God knows what with people you’d never heard of and soap operas that for some reason didn’t feature vampires, and all the other adult programming that pervaded the local airwaves of the tiny town to which we were remanded into durance vile for those few weeks.

I’m exaggerating, of course. We had lots of fun with the cousins, and occasionally with the kids who went to the Baptist and Methodist churches in which our grandmothers were virtually matriarchic figures. But there are times when you just want to turn on the TV, and it was in Athens that I first encountered What Lay Beyond.

Athens is about halfway between Nashville to the north and Birmingham to the south, and twenty miles west of Huntsville, which at the time had, I believe, one television station. If the weather conditions were just right, you could almost pick up a Nashville station and maybe two Birmingham stations, but you couldn’t count on it. Which is exactly why the first rudimentary cable system I encountered was in tiny Athens. Its original purpose was apparently to bring those distant network affiliates (and their commercials) out into the hinterlands.

I have no idea at this late date which of the ten buttons on my grandmother’s cable box I pressed to find the old horror pictures I was already enamored of, but I sure figured it out at the time. A few days into our enforced vacation, I had started missing the daily after-school movie, the Big Show on Channel Five from which I normally got my fix. When I discovered something close enough to it to serve in a pinch, I latched on to it. I remember seeing old-time movie star Jon Hall stomping around in a rubber suit in Monster in the Surf for the first time on whatever channel it was, along with the big-headed BEMs from Invasion of the Saucer Men and a string of pictures that were rather clumsily dubbed into English and with the credits in Spanish.   

I had never seen Mexican horror movies before. The Big Show was full of Universal monsters and Hammer horrors and Japanese behemoths stomping model cities flat, but nothing like this new thing I’d found. I don’t recall any specific titles from that summer more than fifty years ago, but I do remember that they were fun, and spooky, and some of them starred masked wrestlers. I was a big fan at that age of the local wrestlers who popped up on TV back home, Jacky Fargo and Tojo Yamamoto and that crowd, so I gleefully absorbed the adventures of Santo and the Blue Devil as they battled a variety of monsters and mad scientists that summer, while my grandmother was off working at the local newspaper where she was the society editor. I’m sure she would have disapproved, had she known. 

But isn’t that the best part?

The Mexican horror movies weren’t there on her cable box the next time I visited Athens. It was years before I saw any of them again. It took the internet to bring them back into view, and while I understand the draw those specific films must have had on my eleven year old mind, this much older geezer is looking for something a little more sophisticated. And, just as one should never judge classic North American films by, say, the Bowery Boys, one should look for a higher level of fright-inducing Mexican cinematics with an expectation that one would find it.

One did.

I will admit that, despite my early exposure to Mexican films, I am not yet as conversant with the national oeuvre as I am with, say, French or Japanese filmmaking. I suppose it does take a while to get all the way around the world and back close to home again in exploring world cinema, even with the wonders available online. I am of course familiar with the great films made by Spanish ex-patriot Luis Buñuel during his time in Mexico from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. The Exterminating Angel is the closest I can think of to Buñuel having made a genre film, but I’m not really sure it can be classified as a horror film. I might take a gander at it in this space down the road, anyhow, but for now, let’s look, as we would pretty much have to in regards to North American horror films, at the middle range of overall cinematic quality.

And there it is that we find a number of quite good Mexican horror films in the early 1960s, on a level with anything being done in the genre by Hollywood filmmakers such as Roger Corman or William Castle, if not, in some cases, better. (Notice how nimbly I wriggled out of including Psycho in that category? Hitchcock was a director on a par with Buñuel, and like the Spaniard, not really a horror director, per se, no matter how he might have dabbled in its pleasures.)

I will speak in future of Messers Corman and Castle. For now, let’s speak of la Llorona.

The Weeping Woman, in English. An old Mexican folktale about an abandoned mother who avenges the betrayal of her unfaithful husband/lover by murdering their children. She regrets her act when denied entry into Heaven, and is fated to roam the Earth in search of her dead children. Since they are beyond her reach, she seeks to replace them with the children of other mothers, with dire results all around. It’s one of those cautionary tales meant to keep the younguns of Mesoamerica in line. I have no data as to how well it works. What I do have is some Mexican-made films I want to have us all take a look at.

I’m not in this instance concerned with the numerous recent North American and Mesoamerican cinematic examinations, of varying quality, of the ancient legend. And by recent, I should point out that I mean anything since about 1980. When you get to my age, that’s when the cut-off date between old and new falls. Hell, I’m so old, cougars are barely legal.

Can I get a rimshot? No? Oh, well. Never mind.

I want to examine in this space three of the earliest films that were constructed around this legend – 1933’s La Llorona, 1960’s La Llorona, and 1963’s The Curse of the Crying Woman. There is one from 1947 I haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy of yet, La Herencia de la Llorona, but I hope to correct that oversight in the very near future. I expect I’ll address that one in a coda to a future column if you would all be so kind as to be patient with an auld phart.

The first la Llorona film, indeed the first Mexican horror film, was directed by Ramón Peón, one of roughly seventy films he made over a long career. La Llorona is not a bad film, but production-wise, about on a par with one of the better Hollywood Poverty Row studio films of its period. Some of this impression could be a simple lack of a good, restored copy, given that I’ve only been able to find a rather fuzzy presentation on YouTube, along with poorly synced subtitles to match. Maybe. The running time, like many of the la Llorona films of all periods, is taken up with an extensive flashback of the original legend as it unfolded in the late 16th Century. There is a second flashback to an even earlier, similar legend, that of la Malinche. She was the Aztec translator for and lover of Hernando Cortez, who also responded to being treated shabbily by killing the children she had borne the Conquistador almost a century before la Llorona began to weep. I’m not sure that segment adds to the overall quality of the film, but it does have some interest as a historical artifact. None of the other pictures I looked at for this column featured that older tale.

I think I might have just noticed a few eyes glaze over there a moment ago when I mentioned Poverty Row. My wife has been complaining for forty years now that I tend to throw out terms without always explaining them. I promise I will take a long, loving, terrified look at the old Hollywood studio system in the not-too-distant future, including what that phrase meant in the history of our genre. For now, you only need to know that Poverty Row was the collective noun for small, cheaply run and often fly-by-night independent studios mostly clustered along Gower Street in Hollywood that produced, at best, grade B movies. Westerns, serials, gangster pictures, and low-grade but often quite enjoyable horror pictures poured out of these movie mills, some shot in a matter of days on budgets that wouldn’t pay for a good used car today.

Moving on. That first La Llorona film has placed around the two flashbacks a contemporary story involving descendants of the original family, and the peril to the newest member, Juanito, on his fourth birthday. According to a legend related by the mother’s father, every first-born child in that line of descent disappeared on their fourth birthday, carried away by la Llorona. A mysterious, cloaked and masked figure lurks around the set, peering through secret panels and other such conventions of the Old Dark House sub-genre. It has comic relief, red herrings and all the trappings of better, and worse films. The climax reveals – Spoiler alert! – that it has been a trusted servant that has been possessed by the evil spirit of la Llorona. It had been she who was behind the several thwarted attempts to make away with the little boy.

As I stated above, not bad. Competently acted and directed, with a brisk but not rushed pace, it’s an enjoyable film of its period, with all the technical limitations inherent to that era. I just wish I could have found better subtitles, as my Spanish is not much better than at a ‘decipher-the-menu’ level. I suspect if I had been able to, I’d rate this one at C+. As it is, it’s a solid C.

The identically named version from 1960 is, structurally, very similar to the first film, but technically on a much higher level. I could easily see this coming from a North American studio of the caliber of Columbia or a second-tier Universal unit in that same time period. In fact, it reminds me, stylistically and technically, of one of the better William Castle vehicles, without the distracting gimmicks. A solid, well-made film, very enjoyable. I liked that the identity of la Llorona is made clear during her repeated attempts to do away with the child in this version. The build up of suspense for every attempt is handled with stylistic flair and subtle, gradual make-up effects at least as good as a contemporary Hollywood picture of its kind and time. B+

That leaves us with what is perhaps the most problematic of the films under consideration, The Curse of the Crying Woman, AKA La Maldición de la Llorona. Problematic in that it doesn’t exactly fit thematically with the others, being closer in tone and storyline to one of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allen Poe adaptations. Still, it’s quite an attractively mounted film, albeit in black-&-white rather than the color productions Corman was making by 1963. Otherwise, the influence is obvious. Its historical setting, in this case, the mid-to-late 19th Century, the mise en scene, the acting, are all seemingly in keeping with the style Corman had established north of the Rio Grande. And yet, its departures from the basic legend make it hard to judge as a la Llorona film. 

Oh, boy, I did it again, didn’t I? Mise en scene is, simply put, everything in a film or play that isn’t acting or dialogue. Costumes, set design, props, lighting, music, etc. Clear as mud? Moving on.

This time out, the spirit of la Llorona is lurking around an ancient house, waiting to displace the soul of her nearest available female descendant. At the exact moment of her twenty-fifth birthday, the latest in the line is fated to pull a spear out of what looks like a Medieval torture device known as a Catherine Wheel upon which the decayed corpse of the original la Llorona has been pinned since she was executed for her crimes. That will free the spirit of la Llorona to possess the young woman so she can carry on her demonic career. The somewhat convenient escape of the insane former owner of the crumbling house, up until the climax locked away in the bell tower, scotches the evil plans by strangling the villainous aunt so that the heroine can escape with her less-than-hypercompetent husband. 

Good, solid filmmaking of its kind and era. I rate it a B. 

I hope the populace doesn’t object to my comparing these efforts of the Mexican studios to the contemporary output of Hollywood. I’m making the perhaps unwarranted assumption that the majority of the folks likely to read this are more familiar with North American horror films, and that that familiarity might provide some context for fitting these three pictures into the overall history of the genre. If I’m incorrect, feel free to let me have it with both barrels in your comments. I’m a tough old codger. I can take it.

Until next time, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Chilling Chat with Best in Blood Winner Selah Janel

Selah Janel was blessed with a giant imagination, even if it made her gullible enough to wonder if fairies lurked in the woods and vampires waited in abandoned barns outside of town as a child. As an adult, she writes in various genres, including horror and dark fantasy. Her work has been published in multiple anthologies, magazines, e-books, and a short story collection. She likes her music to rock, her vampires lethal, her faeries to play mind games, and her princesses to have adventures and hold their own.

NTK: Welcome back to Chilling Chat, Selah! Thank you for joining me today!

SJ: Thanks so much for having me again!

NTK: How did it feel to be named 2020’s Best in Blood winner?

SJ: I’d say pretty shocked is a good description for it! I was not expecting it at all!

NTK: You are very deserving! Tell us a little about “Wallpaper” your winning story.

SJ: I had originally written it as a flash story for another project, but it started going over word count, so I just kept it saved in my files for a while. It’s a pretty simple concept story of a woman at a crossroads in her own life stumbling into a haunted hotel and dealing with some particularly strange interior design. (Laughs.) Something is in the wallpaper, so it’s a short that focuses on that discovery and spirals from there.

NTK: What projects have you been working on since last we chatted?

SJ: Well, 2020 has obviously changed a lot of things and I was already doing a lot of changing and dealing with some things last year, as well, so the writing has been forced to slow down a bit. I’m starting to come back to it here and there, which is awesome and necessary. I’ve been typing a lot from my notebooks to edit, going through old files, submitting, etc. This summer I started helping the crew at Legendary Tales Magazine as a slush reader, and that really brought about a new perspective on what editors look for and how things work on that end. I’ve been going through a lot of my old shorts from anthologies and other places and hope to be putting some of those out on kindle soon as individual titles, too. There’s a lot of trial and error, and I’m rebuilding a bit and working on a few original manuscripts and ideas.

NTK: Legendary Tales Magazine is lucky to have you! You’re very involved in acting and costuming. Have these experiences inspired any of your stories?

SJ: Oh definitely, in a lot of ways. In general, I think my years of acting classes in college taught me how to approach characters a little differently, to use techniques like sense memory while writing to get more into their heads or into certain moments. And improv classes have been great for latching onto unintended plot development and rolling with it. Costume work has made me detail obsessed so a lot of my stories, especially my longer work, have several layers or little hidden details or researched bits. I live for stuff like that. I usually overthink clothing details and try to make them matter, as well. In terms of content-wise, yes and no. I think I avoided some of that trying to put distance there for a while, but enough time has passed that I’m ready to incorporate it more. There’s an old vampire story I did for the anthology The Big Bad, the title of the story is “Real Wild Childe,” and there’s a seamstress character in it who ties a lot of the plot together. Her specific backstory isn’t mine, but her frustrations at trying to get ahead and have her work be appreciated, the long hours it takes to do something well, and the sheer amount of scars from seam rippers and rotary blades and needles is pretty much from my life. I’ve set a story behind the scenes of a haunted attraction and that was a lot of fun to do—with all my life stories in that and the amusement park world, I’m pretty much looking for excuses to use those settings at this point. An old, out of print novel I’m working on re-editing dealt with a midwest small town guy becoming a rockstar and a cursed pair of shoes, so a lot of that book was looking at aspects of the entertainment lifestyle and the work involved, as well as a lot of costume detail there. I tend to not like description for description’s sake—I want to know what a character is wearing has a reason or fits the world or whatever. And I think with acting, it’s kind of the same skills involved that you’d take into scene work—only now I’m playing all the characters and responsible for all the emotional moments landing true, if that makes sense.

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NTK: Where can our readers find you in the future?

SJ: I’ve had to take a break from media while dealing with life and putting my health back together a bit, but I’m starting to get back to it again! People can look for me at my website and I’m on Twitter and on Facebook. I’m on Instagram, but haven’t had a chance to really play there and start posting yet. My historical horror/kinda vampire story Mooner is on Amazon.
I’m really hoping to have two shorts up soon. These were either done under another name or showed up in other places, but I’m still working on edits and tweaking some things. Hopefully soon for those, though!

NTK: Sounds wonderful! I’m sure the readers look forward to it. Thank you for chatting with me today, Selah. It’s always a pleasure, and congratulations on winning Best in Blood!

SJ: I always love talking to you and the rest of the Horror Addicts! Thanks so much!

I’m still shocked and touched!

Chilling Chat Special: Eric Shapiro

chillingchat

Eric Shapiro is a writer and filmmaker. Called “the next Philip K. Dick” by author Kealan Patrick Burke, Shapiro is the author of six critically acclaimed fiction books, among them the novella “It’s Only Temporary” (2005), whichEric Shapiro appeared on Nightmare Magazine’s list of the Top 100 Horror Books, and numerous short stories published in anthologies alongside work by H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, and many others. His nonfiction articles have been published on The Daily Dot, Ravishly, and The Good Men Project. His first feature film, “Rule of 3” (2010), won awards at the Fantasia International Film Festival and Shriekfest, and had its U.S. premiere at Fantastic Fest. His second feature film, “Living Things” (2014), was endorsed by PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals) and distributed by Cinema Libre Studio. In 2015, he won the 19th Annual Fade In Award for Thriller Screenplays. He was a founding partner of Ghostwriters Central, a writing and editing firm which has received positive notices from The Wall Street Journal, Consumers Digest, and the TV program “Intelligence For Your Life.” Eric has edited works published on The Huffington Post and Forbes, as well as two Bram Stoker Award-nominated novels. He lives in Northern California with his wife, Rhoda, and their two sons.

Eric is an intelligent and experienced writer. We spoke of writing, horror themes, and filmmaking.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Eric! Thank you for joining me today.

ES: Thank you for having me!

NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror?

ES: Ohhh, I think I was about six or seven; my cousin Steve told me about Danny from The Shining, saying, “Redrum.” Firsthand, I think I was ten, watching The Lost Boys with my cousins Lauren and Jessica and my sister Stephanie. We weren’t expecting it to be so dark, but it was great.

NTK: Is Lost Boys your favorite horror movie? What is your favorite horror film?

ES: I think my first early favorite was Witchboard, which I saw a couple years later. I liked how tight and melodramatic it was. I’d probably still like it, but it’s been awhile. My favorite recent horror movie, as in from this century, is Martyrs, the original French version, which is a great movie regardless of genre. Maybe my favorite since the year 2000.

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror TV series?

ES: I don’t! I’m so behind on series, and movies too since I became a dad nine years ago. I’ve just lately been catching up more during Covid.

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror novel?

ES: It’s absolutely Stephen King’s IT, which I read in 7th grade and which devoured me like no book before or since.

NTK: Who is your favorite character in IT?

ES: Well, I had to upgrade Stan Uris in my mind since I’m Jewish. He’s not the deepest character in the book, but I pictured myself as a more detailed version of him. I actually wrote some fan fiction in junior high from Stanley’s point-of-view, to get into him more. (laughs)

NTK: As a Jewish horror writer, how has your experience in the horror community been?

ES: Oh fine. The horror heads are generally very cool people, usually sensitive and looking for fun. I just became an HWA member after years of flirting with it, and everyone I’ve interacted with has been very welcoming and warm.

NTK: Going back to King, is he your greatest influence? What author has influenced you most in your writing?

ES: Pound for pound, it’s probably him, with Chuck Palahniuk as a close second. Or rather I should say that since Palahniuk came later, King is a more foundational influence. I actually prefer King when he wrote/writes as Richard Bachman—he’s tighter and less sentimental. I like that side of him. Palahniuk’s work taught me a lot about sculpting every sentence, though he’s not about narrative and suspense the way King is—and the way I usually am.

NTK:  What inspires you to write?

ES: Lately it all starts with a character. It’s the psychology of a character interacting with the society around them. I have ideas all the time for worlds and stories but it’s usually the extreme characters I follow through on. Like I’ll picture a guy or a woman and get a feel for him/her, and want to see where it leads. I worked professionally as a ghostwriter for 17 years, though, and am still not completely out of the burnout. It’s been a gradual healing process of writing for joy instead of under pressure, and finding my own voice and insight again.

NTK:  Do your characters have free will? Or do you plan their every move?

ES: Total free will. I think I know where it’s going in general, but it often ends up nowhere close. And I’ve found that if I force them to do something it comes out stiff. If you let them lead, you end up learning their whims and instincts and limits, which brings them to life more.

NTK: What inspired Red Dennis?

ES: I co-own and write for a local newspaper in Silicon Valley and a local woman essentially tried to “cancel” me. It was all on the basis of my opinion-editorials. The attempt ended up backfiring. But it made me so angry that I started wondering how far I’d have to be pushed to lose my mind. Fortunately, I put the energy into something constructive! We always have that choice.

NTK: What is your favorite horror theme? Do you enjoy good vs. evil? Transgression horror? What interests you most in a horror story?

ES: I think it’s transgression. Psychosis. Cruelty. Blind ideology or selfishness. Also, I’m addicted to suspense. So, my stories are often about people who are running out of time. They have pressing deadlines to achieve this or that. That’s where a lot of my narrative focus goes: structuring a scenario where the protagonist is pressed for time or has a looming obligation or encounter.

NTK: You’re also a filmmaker and screenwriter. Which is more difficult? Writing a screenplay? Or writing a novel?

ES: Definitely a novel. You have to populate the whole world. Whereas a screenplay has less words per page and is a detailed blueprint for something else. As for making a movie, though…well, a novel is much easier, as least in terms of what it does to you physically…

NTK: You spoke of ghostwriting earlier. Do you feel ghostwriting helped you become the writer you are today? Was it easier to learn the craft writing under a different name?

ES: I think so. That’s where I got the 10,000 hours of experience. I was always stealing time to work on my own projects but couldn’t really go full-fledged, beyond novella-length, until 2019, when I switched to the newspaper full-time. That gave me time to work on my books over the course of months, as passion projects. And all the experience gave me a lot of confidence and discipline to push. Each day is always hard for writers, especially when starting off the day. But building up the muscle over time helps you feel more oriented and in command of the words.

NTK: Hemingway and Jack London worked for newspapers. Do you feel newspaper writing has also helped you in your writing?

ES: Absolutely. The reporting has muscled up my command of pure facts and research. The op-eds have fine-tuned my approach to persuasion and finding moral clarity in a piece. More people have read my work as a journalist than in any other form, which is ironic since I’m “known” for writing horror. People in my city will say, “Did you read his article? The horror writer’s?” But they’ve never read my books! But the journalism has sparked a new wave of awareness in the books, so it all works together.

NTK: Eric, what does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

ES: Good question! I just republished my whole backlist of six dark fiction titles, and Red Dennis was new this year. Also new this year was a nonfiction book to inspire people’s writing called Ass Plus Seat. Right now, I have a movie in the works with horror legend Greg F. Gifune, but it’s on delay due to the pandemic. I will say I’m acting in it, which I’m ridiculously excited about. We should be announcing more soon…

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me today. It was a pleasure!

ES: Likewise! Thank you so much, Naching!

Addicts, you can find Eric’s work on Amazon.

Book Review: Darkest Hours by Mike Thorn

Darkest Hours is a collection of horror short stories by Mike Thorn.

Content Warnings: gore

Darkest Hours presents a combination of realistic and supernatural stories, running the absolute gamut of subjects. The variety in stories is astounding. Thorn succeeds with visceral, gory body horror as well as psychological tension and cerebral, philosophical horror. He addresses traditional tropes and creates entirely new nightmares for his readers.

Darkest Hours gets off to a stomach-churning start with “Hair”. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it through the rest of the book if it was going to all be like that. Fortunately for me, the following stories didn’t go after my gag reflex in such a way. “Long Man” and “Economy These Days” were stand-out performers in an already excellent line-up. “Long Man” took a traditional childhood fear and made it the sort of nightmare that sticks with you. “Economy These Days” was a unique and brutal look at modern struggles.

There is an academic leaning in some of the stories—one that can, at times, be a little patronizing. But Thorn writes the characters well, clearly drawing on personal experiences in university and graduate life. No matter what, Thorn keeps all of his stories short and tight, starting right in the action and leaving just enough room to build to the climax. His endings are superb, clinching the story at just the right moment.

Darkest Hours is a wonderful introduction to Mike Thorn as a writer. He’s created a wonderful collection of riveting stories. If you like small bites of horror, please pick Darkest Hours up.

Historian of Horror : Here Be Monsters!

Here Be Monsters by Mark Orr

So, read the edges of maps in the Age of Discovery, that period when Europeans wandered around the planet, snatching up lands and property and natural resources from indigenous peoples, to designate those areas into which they had not yet ventured. They feared what was there, but coveted the treasures they suspected would be found in those unexplored and unexploited regions. That’s where the monsters were, they thought, never realizing that they themselves were the monsters. 

Isn’t that how it goes? The peril in staring so long into the abyss, according to Nietzsche, is that the abyss stares back into us. We become what we fear if we’re not careful. Alas, we are not very often a careful species. As Pogo Possum pointed out in the 1950s, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

And so, off the edge of the map, we sail, in search of treasures. And, in the case of the horror genre, monsters. For what would horror be without monsters?

The easy answer is, it would be suspense. There’s nothing wrong with suspense, as a genre. In many of its respects, it is very much like horror. It relies on many of the same tropes and tricks as horror. It’s just not what we’re are gathered here together to talk about. And, therefore, we must needs talk about monsters.

We love them, we hate them. We fear them, we pity them. We jump when they suddenly appear, we weep when they fall off of the Empire State Building. They are the primary and most reliable delivery system for le frisson, that delicious shiver we’re all looking for in our horror diet. That transient, delightful, cathartic physical sensation we feel when fangs pierce flesh when the mask is ripped away from the Phantom’s hideous face when clawed fingers emerge from the darkened room on the other side of the slowly opening door. The goosebumps, the dilation of the pupils, the quickening of the breath as we eagerly and, let’s admit it, sadistically anticipate the gruesome demise of some unfortunate nonentity.

Who’s the monster now?

More importantly, what is a monster?

The word comes from the Latin monstrum, from an earlier word that meant a warning or omen, often of evil events raining down upon humanity from the gods themselves. As applied to the manifestations of those warnings, it refers to beings that are disfigured or distorted in body or mind, the unnatural and the supernatural, those that are both outsized and outside the norm in other ways. In other words, those that we readily identify in our own culture as monsters. 

Fritz Leiber, Jr. is more renowned for his fantasy than for his horror, having coined the term ‘sword and sorcery’ in 1961 and being arguably its most adept practitioner over the bulk of his nearly sixty-year career, but he wrote quite a few tales of terror and one major novel in the genre, Conjure Wife. He also won five Hugo Awards for science-fiction, but that’s even more neither here nor there than the fantasy. It’s horror we’re after! And I do plan to cover the estimable Mr. Leiber and his novel in more detail later, so don’t worry that you’ve inadvertently skipped a page or something, or that I’ve gotten you turned around or otherwise lost in the narrative. All shall be revealed at a later date.

Anyhow, in 1974, DAW Books published The Book of Fritz Leiber, for which he wrote a short essay entitled, “Monsters and Monster-Lovers”. Over the course of thirteen pages – and how fitting is that? – Leiber explicated his understanding of what a monster is, whence comes our fascination with them, and how does one go about most effectively creating them and using them to summon that frisson I mentioned earlier. Along the way, he lists some of his favorites, all of whom I intend to expound upon in future entries herein. Lovecraftian menaces from the outer darknesses, creatures of folklore and science fiction, giant apes and shapeshifters and even poor old Richard III, all will have their say in this space. Feeling that shiver of anticipation yet?

No? Then let me introduce you to legendary anthologist Peter Haining, who included in his 1988 collection, Movie Monsters: Great Horror Film Stories, a prologue by the late great Ray Bradbury. In “Inviting Frankenstein into the Parlour”,  Bradbury covered much of the same ground Leiber had fourteen years earlier, with some additions. Including Vertigo, of all things. He made a fairly good case for a third Hitchcock horror film, along with Psycho and The Birds. I expect I’ll take a look at that one of these days, as well. It’s too soon to mark your calendars, but don’t be surprised when it pops up.

Haining himself deserves a lengthy entry or two, along with other great gatherers of literary horrors like Richard Dalby, Donald A. Wollheim, August Derleth, Marvin Kaye, Christine Bernard, Dennis Wheatley, Gerald Page, Herbert Van Thal, and Charles Birkin. That and more will be forthcoming in times to come, along with so much more. But for now, the central question remains:

Why monsters? What is it about the disfigured, the deformed, the gigantic and the unnatural that draws us into their world, time and again? Is it some deep-seated need to exorcise our fears, or tap into the collective unconscious, or connect with the like-minded, or some other intense but subcutaneous psychological need? 

Or is it simply that monsters are fun?

Yeah. I think that’s it. Don’t you?

I came along at the tail-end of that first generation to be inundated by the classic horror films of the 1930s and 1940s when Universal and other studios realized they had a gold mine and dumped their catalogs onto local television stations all over the United States. I was too young to stay up late on weekend nights to watch Shock Theater or whatever it was called in Nashville, but there were frequent appearance by Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man and their myriad fellow denizens of the night on our local stations during the hours when I was awake. I, like a few million other boomer kids, scheduled my playtime around movie presentations like the Big Show, which came on right after Dark Shadows and had at least one classic horror film a week. Or I’d crawl out of bed at five o’clock on a Saturday morning to catch Son of Frankenstein or The Mummy’s Curse on Night Owl Theater, before settling in with a bowl of Cap’n Crunch and a morning filled with cartoons. The Universal horror films were rarely much more than an hour in length, so once commercials were spliced in, they fit very nicely into the ninety-minute slot allotted to them. I’ve always suspected that was why it was that horror movies were so widely distributed on television, and thus one of the first entire classes of films largely preserved for future generations. Thank the Elder Gods for ninety-minute time slots.

Kids today are accustomed to massive promotional campaigns for pretty much anything that shows up on TV or in the movies, but that was a fairly new phenomenon in the early 1960s. There had been such campaigns in the 1950s for TV cowboys and such, but they were very specific. Hopalong Cassidy was the first, and Davy Crockett the most extensive, but those were before my time. My earliest memories of advertising premiums were the action figures from the third James Bond film, Goldfinger, that several of my fellow second-graders had, or the lunch-boxes decorated with pictures of popular TV and movie characters. Those, and all the monster stuff. And what monster stuff we had! 

My parents frequently shopped at the old Sears store on Lafayette Street in Nashville. That building is now the Union Rescue Mission, but when I was a kid, when you came in through the garden department, you emerged into a magical world. Toys as far as you could see, and to your right a display of Matchbox Cars, back when they were actually packaged in matchbox-sized cardboard containers. Hence the name. Just beyond those was the real treasure trove, a long wall filled with plastic models, including the Aurora Monster kits. Frankenstein. The Mummy. Godzilla. Dracula’s Dragster. The Bride of Frankenstein. I built them all, at one time or another. There were monster wallets, too. I had one with the Phantom of the Opera on one side and the Wolf Man on the other. Didn’t have any money to put in it, though. My allowance was fifty cents a week, which barely covered a few comic books and some baseball cards and the occasional paperback or Whitman hardback or Big Little Book. But I had the wallet! And I had a Thingmaker, with metal molds you filled up with Plastigoop and baked in the little oven until Creepy Crawlers emerged that you could throw at your little sister and freak her out.

Best of all, when you could find one, were the issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine. Articles on all the old horror films, and news of upcoming ones, with lots of pictures and groan-inducing puns. The thirty-five-cent cover price took up most of my allowance, cutting into my comic book collecting, but it was worth it to read Forrest J. Ackerman’s deathless prose about Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi and Basil Rathbone and Peter Lorre and peruse the ads in the back for Don Post monster masks and 8mm films of old horror movies and real-life venus flytraps and record albums of scary stories and all the other goodies for sale to those whose allowance was more generous than mine.

All of which I intend to examine in some detail in installments yet to come, along with all the other spooky goodies I’ve read and seen and heard and otherwise accumulated in the decades since then. Hang around and travel down my memory lane with me into dark corners of horror you might not have ever suspected existed, and meet some monsters you might not have encountered yet. 

It should be fun. Because, yeah, monsters are fun.

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Ro’s Recs October

Ro’s Recs October

Hey HorrorAddicts! I hope you all are staying safe and insane—I mean healthy—during these peculiar times, and I hope, like me, you are taking advantage of all the PHENOMENAL horror offerings this season! MAN! What a great time to be a horror fan! 

One of the best films I’ve watched recently is the Shudder film The Mortuary Collection, directed by Ryan Spindell and starring Clancy Brown. A nod to anthology films like Creepshow and Tales of the Crypt, The Mortuary Collection is at turns ominous, creepy, campy, and MAN does it ROCK! I found myself digging the music so much I whipped out the old iPhone and used Shazam! to try to find out who was responsible for these groovy tunes. Much to my chagrin, the tunes were nowhere to be found.

But thanks to my pal Google, I did a little more digging and I discovered the culprits: The Mondo Boys. This duo has been making music together since they were fifteen and are not only quite adept at creating hauntingly beautiful scores, but at writing “lyric-and-vocal” pieces as well.

For this film, they had the challenge of creating an Elfman-esque/Potter-ish score as well as tunes to go with different eras portrayed in the film. You had a Frat-boy-gone-bad tune in “Little Lover,” a funky throwback in “Suicide,” and the 60s reminiscent back-and-forth in “Find Me In The Fall” that suck you into the theme of that section of the film as though you’d switched on a radio station made of the exact ingredients necessary to evoke the desired emotion. You know it’s the perfect soundtrack when you’re pulling up iTunes or Spotify to download the songs. Ahem…Mondo Boys, if you’re reading, will you get right on that? In the meantime, you can stream the songs on their website.

So, the next time you’re watching a film and think “huh, I wonder who wrote that song? It’s perfect for this scene,” you just might discover that The Mondo Boys are responsible. You can find their website at https://www.mondoboys.com and I encourage you to check out their other projects. The Mortuary Collection is a great film. Check it out and I guarantee you that you’ll be smiling so wide your face will ache by the time it’s through!

That’s it for this month. Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings and Ro’s Recs…

Kbatz Kraft: Pot O’ Bones Tower

When one spots a bag of loose Halloween skeleton bones at Goodwill for $5, one snatches it before anyone else! Like an archaeologist on a discovery, opening the bag revealed large femurs, skulls, spines, and bony hands perfect for a towering Pot O’ Bones!

These odd, incomplete skeletons, however, were two different colors, and a brown paint dry brushed gave the bones a cohesive color before a second coat of a yellow and brown muddy added to the dug up and weathered theme. An unused skull meant to go with the collapsed Shakespeare Cardboard Tombstone and a pair of skeleton arm tongs from the dollar store were also doctored with aging paint and tossed into the collection. Initially, a found terracotta pot served as the tower base, but it was too big, requiring more backyard stones to secure the inner cardboard tower roll re-purposed from an upholstery fabric sale. The hole in the bottom of the pot meant a stabilizing stake could run through the pole, but since this isn’t weather proof anyway, the stake and the increasingly heavy terracotta were swapped for a smaller rusted metal pot.

With the stand fixed, the bones were strategically set using semi-adjustable hot glue rather than a mega strong adhesive that doesn’t allow maneuvering. Once the large femurs were in place, the cardboard base was painted brown just in case any gaps showed. More leaves, sticks, or stones as fillers between the angular bones were an option, but two bags of dollar store moss completed the decrepit look. Although one could paint the post and even moss the entire tower before adding the bones, that also creates unnecessary work in spots that might not show. This assembly could be done quickly in a day, but I did the bones and moss in stages and made adjustments. Like a Christmas tree, I keep seeing gaps were there should be less moss or another bone and wasn’t quite pleased. Fortunately, the discarded bottom halves from my 3D Skeleton Frames project provided more bones.

Obviously, long term outdoor use requires different materials, but with on hand paint supplies, found materials, $5 for the bones and $2 for the moss, this was much cheaper than the luxury skull towers online. Bags of bones themselves run between $15 and $30! This same model can be applied to family friendly leaves and pumpkins or more birds and bats morose, and a Pot O’ Bones Tower is perfect for a foyer statement, autumn porch, or cemetery sentry.

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

Spider Ball Topiaries

DIY Flower Pens

Re-Purposed Black Topiaries

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins Video

For more Project Photos, Follow Kbatz Krafts on Facebook! 

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: 12 Hour Shift.

Plot: t’s 1999 and over the course of one 12 hour shift at an Arkansas hospital, a junkie nurse, her scheming cousin and a group of black market organ-trading criminals start a heist that could lead to their imminent demises.

Who would Like it: Fans of dark comedies, gorehounds, and fans of thrillers!

High PointsWith all the gore, off the charts plots and comedy this will probably end up being a cult favorite.

ComplaintsIt’s not horror.

OverallI liked it, it was super fun

Stars3 and 1/2

Where I watched itScreener  

***

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

 

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Book Review: SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire

Edited by Nicole Givens Kurtz

Published by Mocha Memoirs Press

SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire is a groundbreaking anthology, featuring stories of black characters, written by black authors. The stories featured have a staggering range, pulling from myths and cultures worldwide.

Desiccant by Craig Laurance Gidney

In “Desiccant” a woman moves into a new apartment, only to discover that a mysterious illness plagues the building, draining the residents dry.

This story is absolutely original. Gidney set the tone for the entire anthology in terms of creativity. From the start, I knew I was in for a revolutionary set of stories that took vampire myth to new heights.

Love Hangover by Sheree Renée Thomas

This creative telling of the Infinity Disco fire in 1979 tells the story of a man entranced by a siren, leading him into a grim life of covering up murders.

Thomas weaves infatuation and horror together into a tightly told story that draws you deeper into dread. Her descriptions of Delilah are enchanting and terrifying all in one.

The Retiree by Steven Van Patten

An old man, taken to a retirement home hides a terrible secret from her daughter, something he must do to keep her safe. And he must make one final sacrifice to do it.

Patten’s characters jump off the page from the start. He pulls no punches when it comes to a crotchety old man. His slow reveal of the story made this stand out in an impressive anthology.

The Dance by L. Marie Woods

Gillian finds herself entranced with a woman dancing at a club and is drawn into her spell.

Woods brings blood and sex to the page with “The Dance”. I was absolutely enthralled. Her prose is impressive. The brief glimpse she offers—the story spans mere minutes—is so satisfying.

A Clink of Crystal Glasses Heart by LH Moore

In “A Clink of Crystal”, a group of teen girls is ushered into womanhood, and something more, by their mothers.

Moore steps inside the mind of a teenage girl with ease. She creates a unique and imaginative take on the vampire myth, weaving it with femininity in a way that delighted me. She could easily weave this into a successful novel.

Diary of a Mad Black Vampire by Dicey Grenor

The vampire Ashanti does not get attached to humans until she meets Tetra. As Tetra’s darker desires are revealed, Ashanti becomes more enamored. The ending is a twist to die for.

Grenor creates incredible tension throughout the story. I was filled with dread just reading, knowing something was right, but not sure where everything would go wrong. “Diary of a Mad Black Vampire” is a masterful story.

The Return of the OV by Jeff Carroll

In “The Return of the OV”, an old-school vampire is imprisoned after a heinous murder threatens to expose vampires to mankind.

“The Return of the OV” is clever. That’s really the best way to describe Carroll’s premise and writing. He explores the intricacies of vampire politics in a short format, hinting at a wider world just beyond what we can see.

The Last Vampire Huntress by Alicia McCalla

After her guild of hunters is murdered by a vampiric ex-boyfriend, a woman struggles whether to accept her destiny as a vampire hunter and the grim fate that comes with it.

McCalla introduces a novel’s worth of content in a short story format. She manages to tell a complicated and fascinating story with very little space. Her characters are engaging and her ability to write action is impressive.

Gritty Corners by Jessica Cage

In “Gritty Corners”, a young vampire hunts down her sire for revenge, only to find out there’s more to the story of her transformation.

I desperately want to see “Gritty Corners” as a novel or series. Cage introduces a kick-ass female protagonist who can truly hold her own. She left me wanting so much more than what I was given. This was one of my absolute favorite stories in the anthology.

Shadow of Violence by Balogun Ojetade

A woman infiltrates a vampire feeding ground and reveals herself to be far more than they ever expected.

Ojetade writes action like no one else, creating tension without being overly technical. He introduces unfamiliar mythology with ease, weaving it into the story without bogging down the plot.

‘Til Death by Lynette S. Hoag

In ‘Til Death’, a vampire assassin must help a client dispatch his wife when he suspects she’s been turned into a vampire.

The humor and horror in ’Til Death’ work so well together. Hoag creates a larger than life character who could hold her own in a series.

Encounters by K. R. S. McEntire

In ‘Encounters’ a woman sees her dead husband twenty years after he should have died.

The revelations to come and the choice she must make kept me on the edge of my seat. Mcentire presents a powerful story of family and love.

Unfleamed by Penelope Flynn

When an important vampire finds herself in trouble after feeding from an important human, she’s rescued by a lowly vampire who has important news to tell her… and a favor to ask.

It’s clear that Flynn created a wonderful and complex world that she only hints at in “Unfleamed”. The story is packed with fun references to Dracula and honestly made me laugh with the reveal at the end.

Beautiful Monsters by Valjeanne Jeffers

In “Beautiful Monsters”, a vampire combats a corrupt system of oppression against supernatural characters in a small town.

Jeffers presents another story that could easily be expanded into a novel. She pulls more than just vampire lore in for the fun and “Beautiful Monsters” is better for it.

Frostbite Delizhia D. Jenkins

In “Frostbite”, a woman discovers her family’s dark past after she’s turned by a vampire, along with the betrayal that could change the course of her future.

“Frostbite” is a beautiful story. It’s masterfully written, with nuanced characters and a slow reveal of the plot that made me ravenous for more. Again, I want to see a novel adaptation with even more.

Di Conjuring Nectar of Di Blood by Kai Leakes

In this story of love, community, and hope, ancient lovers reunite to protect their friends and family from old threats in a new age.

The atmosphere of this story is everything. Leakes writes the culture of her characters in a way that few authors can. The setting comes alive and the tension of the story is wonderful.

Snake Hill Blues by John Linwood Grant

In “Snake Hill Blues”, Mamma Lucy hunts a vampire that stalks the community of Harlem.

Grant creates a compelling character in Mama Lucy. It’s impossible not to root for her, and even more difficult not to worry as things get hairy. “Snake Hill Blues” was one of my favorite stories in the anthology.

Ujima by Alledria Hurt

In “Ujima”, a newly turned vampire tries to save her sister and other humans from the vampires that enslave them like cattle.

Hurt creates a horrifying world where vampires rule and humans are merely food. Using a pair of sisters to explore this dynamic makes the story all that more compelling.

Attack on University of Lagos, Law Faculty by Obhenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

When frightening creatures attack the university, turning students into zombies, a lone man must rise as a hero to fight them.

The voice of Ekpeki is incredible. The story was both frightening and hilarious. I enjoyed the overly confident nature of the narrator.

His Destroyer by Samantha Bryant

“His Destroyer” retells of the story of the Passover from the point of view of the angel of Death, a woman compelled by insatiable hunger to feed on the first-born Egyptians.

Bryant created a unique and literary story that was a delight to read. The grief of the woman at her actions is palpable.

Quadrille by Colin Cloud Dance

“Quadrille” tells the story of misfit monsters that find a home and family together.

Dance writes in an innovative style. His characters are compelling and the way he weaves the scientific information about vampires’ abilities doesn’t drag down the action.

Asi’s Horror and Delight by Sumiko Saulson

In “Asi’s Horror and Delight”, a witch attempts to trick a god by offering a legendary vampiric bird shapeshifter as a lover.

Saulson brings various myths into play in this story. She kept me in suspense about the intentions of the characters and their ultimate fates until the very end.

In Egypt’s Shadows by Vonnie Winslow Crist

In this story, a vampire follows generations of his former lover’s descendants, unable to let go of her memory.

Crist created a love story with vampire trappings. She wove in themes of obsession and love while also exploring what it means to live forever.

Rampage by Miranda J. Riley

In “Rampage”, a vampire hunter must make a monstrous sacrifice to hunt a vampiric elephant and the creature that created it.

Riley’s story is innovative. She takes the typical vampire myth from an unusual perspective, all while creating a compelling narrative.

No God but Hunger Steve Van Samson

In “No God but Hunger”, two companions hunt a leopard, only to find that they’re being hunted by something far worse.

Samson creates a world where humans have been driven from civilization by a greater threat. The return to basics is a wonderful twist on the dystopian genre.

Bloodline by Milton J. Davis

In a world ruled by a theocratic government, vampires are tightly watched. They are never to feed on people. When Telisa is introduced to human blood, it causes a drastic transformation and puts her on the run from the authorities.

Davis blends old vampire mythologies with new science to write a story that sings. The twists are unexpected, but satisfying.

Message in a Vessel by V.G. Harrison

In “Message in a Vessel”, a vampire plague has ravaged the world and the remaining vampires are running out of food. The humans have been enslaved, but their numbers are dwindling. In search of more, a space ship is being sent out.

The characters are vivid and the horror of the world is sinister, though it lurks under a clinical veneer. I loved this story. It was a piece of sci-fi mastery and I hope that Harrison creates so much more based on this premise.

Blood Saviors by Michele Tracy Berger

In “Blood Saviors” an investigator for the Vampire Council discovers a horrific experimental lab where fae are used to create beauty products for humans. She works to free the prisoners, but must also find a way to save her brother from the disease ravaging her community.

Berger’s world is immersive, pulling us into the tension of the story right away. The conflicting goals of the protagonist make the story all the more real. I liked that Berger didn’t hold back when building this story.

Overall, SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire was a compelling read. Each story presented something new. Old and new themes of vampires were explored in great detail. The authors should all be proud of what they created.

Kbatz Kraft: Mini Macabre Bone Wreath

It’s the Autumn of Bones for Kbatz Krafts! What’s one to do with the smaller bones left over from my Pot O’ Bones Tower? Why make a morbid little wreath of course!

A dollar store metal frame was wrapped in brown yarn for the base, as I intended to finish off the glued on bones with some twine ties for a rusted look. However, this fourteen inch wreath seemed too big for the angular bones. Unlike more traditional wreath items like leaves or pine cones, the bones didn’t seem to fit with too much yarn and twine showing gaps between the bones. Fortunately, switching to a smaller diameter wreath frame meant the bones could be the star of the design, going off the edges of the round. Gluing onto the smaller wire frame, however, proved difficult with bones teetering on too few glue spots. Thankfully, switching to a nine inch willow wreath finally did the trick! This natural base that didn’t have to be hidden opened up the possibility for more raffia ties and small black branches sourced from more dollar store florals.

An additional bag of dollar store mini bones were tossed into the mix, too – again painted with the same dry brush brown technique as the Pot O’ Bones Tower to take off the new plastic edge while creating a cohesive, rustic look. After trying the bones in different positions and doubting if this wreath was meant to be because none of the arrangements looked right, I realized it was the largest bones that were the most troublesome. Without them, the smaller femurs and mini bones created a much nicer jointed and angular shape. Now that the placement was at last settled, each was hot glued on to the wreath with the black branches adding macabre but natural pop as well as hiding some of the glue globs. The slightly darker raffia loosely wrapped in symmetrically asymmetrical spots also hid the assembly. This bony wreath looks like the branches and ties are what’s holding it together, and a twine hanging loop sets off the natural motif.

Unlike a traditional wreath where any arrangement comes out complimentary, these morbid materials took some trial and error addition, subtraction, and experimentation. Fortunately, this afternoon project packs a demented little punch for a modest under $8 for supplies that were already in the craft closet – except for those extra Halloween season only mini bones! Compared to expensive skulls and florals, this macabre bone wreath is much more fun and affordable.

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

Decorating Like Dark Shadows Video Series

Goth Parasol Upgrade

Mini Coffin Tray

DIY Cardboard Coffin

For more Project Photos, Follow Kbatz Krafts on Facebook! 

Authors of SLAY – John Linwood Grant

‘AIN’T NO WITCH: CAROLINE DYE, HOODOO AND THE BLUES’
by John Linwood Grant

Hoodoo. Conjure-work. We’re going to the roots of root-work today, with music, material, and musings. My writing flowed this way from an interest in Cunning Folk, both European and African, plus the pleasure of early blues. I also have a love of Manly Wade Wellman’s character John the Balladeer, though that part only came to mind afterwards, when I was looking up early sourcebooks related to hoodoo (more below). The Memphis Jug Band was the real start for me, decades ago, with their “Aunt Caroline Dye (Dyer) Blues”, and it spread from there…

I’ve written about the Northern European tradition of Cunning Folk before. The hedge-wizards, wise women, and more, often – though not always – Christians, who could be called upon for protection against curses, hexes, and blights. Whilst Wicca, historical witchcraft, and voodoo or vodun, are fascinating in themselves, the real roots that interest me in the US are those of hoodoo.

“Because sometimes I’m waitin’ at the crossroads, but I does it how I choose,” said Mamma Lucy. “I ain’t one of your mamalois, voodoo girls or Sant-eria ladies, liftin’ their skirts when you come callin’, neither.”

I’m only a writer, exploring strange places. But you might find what follows interesting. Historically, as with many of the old Cunning Folk, the guiding principle for most hoodoo was belief in God and the Bible. Where Caribbean and New Orleans spiritual movements blended Catholic saints with African belief systems, a lot of hoodoo folk were Protestant in one form or another. Voodoo and hoodoo get confused, but they ain’t the same.

You might call hoodoo a dominant blend of African beliefs, with threads of European herb and symbolic lore pulled in as well. Much conjure-work links back to Ewe and Fon lore from West Africa. The lines got blurred, as people from different tribes and cultures were enslaved and forced together. They sought systems that might sustain at least a fraction of their origins and identity, including shared reference points. With time, some of these developed into beliefs and oral traditions that echoed the lost past but also reflected life in the States.

If this was a predominantly black road, it didn’t automatically exclude whites, because it slowly drew in folklore from European immigrants, especially Germanic ones. It came from the big slave plantations, but as the 19th century progressed, it spread into communities through freedmen and women and had value for many poor and disenfranchised people. It absorbed elements of Native American herbalism and became its own thing. Hoodoo. Rootwork is another name, from the use of medicinal or magical roots and herbs.

(Zora Neale Hurston, who we mentioned briefly last week, wrote a study of Afro-American folklore, including discussion of hoodoo, rootwork and conjuration in her 1935 collection of tales, Mules and Men.)

One written crossover example is The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, a magical text allegedly written by Moses, passed down as hidden portions of the Old Testament. A grimoire, a text of magical incantations and seals, the text circulated in Germany from at least the 1700s, passed through immigrants such as the Pennsylvania Dutch and entered both white general folklore and black Christian hoodoo.

John-the-Balladeer

The direct Manly Wade Wellman link slipped into my mind when I came across mention of Pow-wows, or The Long Lost Friend whilst researching conjure-work. This book crops up in a number of Wellman’s stories. This is another genuine ‘grimoire’ from the 1820s, by one Johann Georg Hohman, and was originally called Der Lange Verborgene Freund.

“Bind,” he said to someone over me. “Bind, bind. Unless you can count the stars, or the drops in the ocean, be bound.”

It was a spell-saying. “From the Long Lost Friend?” I asked.

Wellman, ‘Vandy Vandy’, (1953)

The Long Lost Friend is a collection of spells, charms and remedies for everyday use. Like the Books of Moses, it initially entered hoodoo through the Pennsylvanian Dutch and other groups of Germanic origin.

It crossed relatively easily into hoodoo because it also puts Christianity in the driving seat and emphasizes belief in the Bible as the core. ‘Pow-wows’ was added to later editions, in reference to real or supposed Native American practices.

“The book has remained quite popular among practitioners of Hoodoo… James Foster noted that many shops in Harlem and Brooklyn stocked The Long Lost Friend in 1957.”

Daniel Harms, The Long Lost Friend: A 19th Century American Grimoire (2012)

So, I was traveling 1920s Harlem in my mind a year or two ago, learning, and expanding my Tales of the Last Edwardian, when I saw someone passing through, one of the Cunning Folk who might resonate in her own time and place.

She was old like me, black like I’m not, and a foil to the industrialised, post-Edwardian scientific approach. Bare feet in the earth, and silver dimes around her ankles. A worn print dress on a strong, gangly frame. She used her brains more than she used out-and-out conjure-work, but she knew what she was doing if she had to lay a trick or turn a jinx.

I also knew that she held no truck with oppressive wealth and monstrous laws, that she was plain ornery, her heart with the voiceless.

‘She’ turned out to be Mamma Lucy.

Caroline Dye: A Mighty Fine Vision
If you write about hoodoo from around the early 20th Century, you can’t avoid the blues – which is a good excuse to mention some tracks here. You also can’t avoid Aunt Caroline Dye (not Dyer- the track at the start was named through an error or pronunciation or transcription).

Despite her association with hoodoo, Caroline Dye was a psychic, a fortune-teller – there’s less evidence of her performing the slower root-work, laying tricks or setting up actual spells. And typically, there were more claims made for her and her skills than she made for herself. People went to her for readings, and they went in their thousands, hopefuls looking for answers.

She was born to enslaved parents in Jackson County, Arkansas – or in Spartanburg, South Carolina. There are different versions, both of her origins and her death. The earliest suggestion of her birth is 1810, which seems unlikely, and the more accepted one is in the 1840s. As Caroline Tracy, a name which seems to have come from her family’s original owners (a phrase which should never have had to be typed), she married Martin Dye of Sulphur Rock, sometime after the American Civil War.

Called “one of the most celebrated women ever to live in the Midsouth”, she is said to have died September 26th, 1918 (which would have made her 108 years old – or, more likely, in her seventies). She was buried in Jackson County.

Caroline Dye was supposed to have the ‘second sight’ even when she was young, but became famous for being a seer after the Dyes set up home in Newport, Arkansas, around 1900.

Despite the dates above, others such as Catherine Yronwode of luckymojo.com have compiled evidence that suggests Caroline Dye may have been around longer. One of the problems is that there are mentions of her in music which suggest she was alive in 1930, when Will Shade and the Memphis Jug Band recorded their song about her. This details Dye’s hometown as Newport News, in Virginia, but the song’s music and a verse was lifted from the band’s 1927 song Newport News Blues, so that was probably just convenient (or locally popular).

Some have spoken as if she was around until 1936-37. This may have been the general remembrance of a notable figure. It may even have been complicated by the tendency for famous ‘names’ in fortune-telling and hoodoo to be adopted by later practitioners. So there may have been a second ‘Caroline Dye’, no relation but using her reputation.

Aunt Caroline and the Blues
Dye was “the gypsy” in the 1914 song “The St. Louis Blues,” according to W.C. Handy, who wrote it. He later names her directly, in his 1923 song “Sundown Blues.”

For I’m going to Newport
I mean Newport Arkansaw
I’m going there to see Aunt Car’line Dye
Why she’s a reader
And I need her
Law! Law! Law! She reads your fortune, and her cards don’t lie.
I’ll put some ashes in my sweet Papa’s bed,
So he can’t slip out, Hoodoo in his bread

In 1937, Johnny/Johnnie Temple named her again in his “Hoodoo Woman” song:

Well, I’m going to Newport,
just to see Aunt Caroline Dye
Well, I’m going to Newport,
just to see Aunt Caroline Dye

She’s a fortune teller, hooo, Lord,
she sure don’t tell no lie
And she told my fortune,
as I walked through her door

And she told my fortune,
as I walked through her door
Said, “I’m sorry for you, buddy, hooo, Lord,
the woman don’t want you no more”

Aunt Caroline Dye also crops up in “Wang Dang Doodle,” (1960) by Howlin’ Wolf and Koko Taylor. This is a curious song about rowdy merry-making. It borrows from black oral history, including lesbian nicknames of earlier times. The original reference to Fast Talkin’ Fannie, for example, used a word other than Talkin’.

Tell Peg and Caroline Dye / We gonna have a time…

Dye would read futures and make predictions. Her most commonly quoted method was using cards, as in Handy’s lyrics. It’s said that she wouldn’t help in romantic matters, though, and told people that they should sort their own love lives out. She did offer to find lost people, lost cattle and other items through reading her deck, or through her visions.

“Going to go see Aunt Caroline Dye” became a common saying among black people of the time, and as she grew famous, she became respected by many whites as well. She reportedly died a landowner with a substantial fortune.

In the 1960s, Will Shade spoke of her having wider powers. He said of her:

“White and Colored would go to her. You sick in bed, she raise the sick. Conjure, Hoodoo, that’s what some people say, but that’s what some people call it, conjure.”

Interview by Paul Oliver, Conversation with the Blues

“Seven Sisters ain’t nowhere wit’ Aunt Caroline Dye; she was the onliest one could break the record with the hoodoo.”

A Mojo Number
The Seven Sisters were supposed hoodoo women in 1920’s New Orleans. As usual, controversy surrounds their nature. Some say they were genuine sisters, others that they were just seven black women working together, and it’s even been claimed that they were one woman in different guises. The name also crosses concepts of seventh sons and seventh daughters being special. As with Caroline Dye, they were well known for their psychic abilities or clairvoyance.

They tell me Seven Sisters in New Orleans that can really fix a man up right
They tell me Seven Sisters in New Orleans that can really fix a man up right
And I’m headed for New Orleans, Louisiana, I’m travelin’ both day and night.

I hear them say the oldest Sister look just like she’s 21
I hear them say the oldest Sister look just like she’s 21
And said she can look right in your eyes and tell you just exactly what you want done.

They tell me they’ve been hung, been bled, and been crucified
They tell me they’ve been hung, been bled, and been crucified
But I just want enough help to stand on the water and rule the tide.

It’s bound to be Seven Sisters, ’cause I’ve heard it by everybody else
It’s bound to be Seven Sisters, I’ve heard it by everybody else
Course, I’d love to take their word, but I’d rather go and see for myself.

When I leave the Seven Sisters, I’ll pile stones all around
When I leave the Seven Sisters, I’ll pile stones all around
And go to my baby and tell her, “There’s another Seven Sister man in town.”

Good morning, Seven Sisters, just thought I’d come down and see
Good morning, Seven Sisters, I thought I’d come down to see
Will you build me up where I’m torn down, and make me strong where I’m weak?

Number Seven has its own significance in hoodoo work, as have the other odd numbers.

Conjuration
As to hoodoo itself, apart from mid-century and later commentaries, it’s interesting to read earlier writers. One source is Charles Waddell Chesnutt (1858 – 1932), an African-American author, essayist and activist. Chesnutt was born in Ohio, his parents being “free persons of color” from North Carolina.

His position was odd – Chesnutt was legally white in some States, black in others. In a shameful time of Jim Crow laws in America, many state had a ‘one drop’ rule, which meant that even if you had only a single grandparent or great-grandparent who was black, you could be discriminated against. North Carolina adopted ‘one drop’ legislation in 1923.

Chesnutt’s paternal grandfather was known to be a white slaveholder, and he would have had other white ancestors. Despite his outward appearance, he identified as African American, and apparently never chose to be known as white.

Here are a couple of passages from his essay Superstitions & Folklore of the South:

Conjuration

The origin of this curious superstition itself is perhaps more easily traceable. It probably grew, in the first place, out of African fetichism (sic), which was brought over from the dark continent along with the dark people. Certain features, too, suggest a distant affinity with Voodooism, or snake worship, a cult which seems to have been indigenous to tropical America. These beliefs, which in the place of their origin had all the sanctions of religion and social custom, become, in the shadow of the white man’s civilization, a pale reflection of their former selves. In time, too, they were mingled and confused with the witchcraft and ghost lore of the white man, and the tricks and delusions of the Indian conjurer.

The only professional conjure doctor whom I met was old Uncle Jim Davis, with whom I arranged a personal interview. He came to see me one evening, but almost immediately upon his arrival a minister called. The powers of light prevailed over those of darkness, and Jim was dismissed until a later time, with a commission to prepare for me a conjure “hand” or good luck charm, of which, he informed some of the children about the house, who were much interested in the proceedings, I was very much in need.

I subsequently secured the charm, for which, considering its potency, the small sum of silver it cost me was no extravagant outlay. It is a very small bag of roots and herbs, and, if used according to directions, is guaranteed to insure me good luck and “keep me from losing my job.” The directions require it to be wet with spirits nine mornings in succession, to be carried on the person, in a pocket on the right hand side, care being taken that it does not come in contact with any tobacco.

Modern Culture, volume 13, 1901

His collection The Conjure Woman (1899) is available on-line, and also includes the full essay.

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11666

Passing Fictions
Finally, there is one problem with writing fiction about hoodoo. It’s difficult to get right, and yet sometimes difficult to get wrong. People did make up ‘spells’ to suit them. And there are so many variants – styles of traditional conjure-work can be personal to a practitioner, or peculiar to a geographical area. The terminology varies across the States, and some branches came from passed-down pamphlets, others through family word of mouth. I always try to use versions of recognised conjure-work where I can, preferably form direct folk sources.

But it’s always interesting, anyway.

So Mamma Lucy is around in a number of my stories – ‘Hoodoo Man’; ‘Iron and ‘Anthracite‘, ‘Whiskey, Beans and Dust’, and ‘The Witch of Pender’, plus a few others. I hope she trusts me well enough to keep spinnin’ them tales…


Bio: John Linwood Grant lives in Yorkshire with a pack of lurchers and a beard. He may also have a family. When he’s not chronicling the adventures of Mr Bubbles, the slightly psychotic pony, he writes a range of supernatural, horror and speculative tales, some of which are actually published. You can find him every week on greydogtales.com, often with his dogs.

Chilling Chat Special: Authors of SLAY – Craig Laurance Gidney

TBM HORROR EXPERTS-Mocha memoirs press - SLAY tw banner white 2

Craig Laurance Gidney writes both contemporary and genre fiction. He is the author of the collections Sea, Swallow Me & Other Stories (Lethe Press, 2008), Skin Deep Magic (Rebel Craig GidneySatori Press, 2014), Bereft (Tiny Satchel Press, 2013) and A Spectral Hue (Word Horde, 2019).

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

CLG: When I was in elementary school the local channel, for some reason, played horror movies at four o’clock, and that was when I was first introduced to horror cinema. Movies like Trilogy of Terror and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark were a part of my after-school rituals. I’d watch them before doing homework!

NTK: Who was the first horror character you felt represented you, the one you could identify with the most?

CLG: The Wicked Witch of the West. She reveled in her malevolence, and was stunningly green.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

CLG: Shirley Jackson. My horror tastes tend to subtle and atmospheric, and she was the queen of this flavor of dark fiction.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

CLG: The Haunting of Hill House.

NTK: Favorite horror movie?

CLG: The Exorcist.

NTK: Favorite horror TV show?

CLG: The Channel Zero Anthology series. I was sad to see that it wouldn’t be continued. Each season featured surrealistic horror stories that were like catnip to me.

NTK: What inspired your story in SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire?

CLG: The old Environmental Protection Agency’s building in SouthWest DC was a major inspiration for “Desiccant.” The irony of the EPA building being a source of “sick building syndrome” was too rich to pass up!

NTK: What attracted you to the Vampire Noire? Why did you want to write a story for Slay?

CLG: I was invited by Nicole.

NTK: What inspires your writing?

CLG: Everything inspires me! I find the most mundane occurrences appear in some of the strangest fiction I’ve written. The “sick building” idea, for instance, has been bouncing around in my brain for a decade.

NTK: Do you allow your characters free will? Or do you plan their every move?

CLG: It varies from project to project. But the characters in my short fiction tend to have tighter leashes.

NTK: As a person of color, how has your experience in the horror writing community been?

CLG: It’s complicated. In one-to-one, meatspace interactions, most everyone I’ve met has been perfectly professional. Online, it’s a different story. My tiny portion of horror fiction—the Weird/Cosmic Horror subgenre—-is chockfull of Lovecraft fanboys who minimize, ignore or, in rare cases, agree with his toxic White Supremacist ideals, and it makes for some unpleasant online interactions.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

CLG: I have a bunch of stories coming out in anthologies in the Fall. My fairytale novel Hairsbreadth is being serialized by Broken Eye Books. And I have an audio story coming out from Tor-Nightfire sometime.

Addicts, you can find Craig as @ethereallad on Twitter and Instagram.

Chilling Chat Special: Authors of SLAY – Sumiko Saulson

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Sumiko Saulson is an award-winning author of Afrosurrealist and multicultural sci-fi and horror. Zhe is the editor of the anthologies and collections Black Magic Women, Scry of Sumiko Saulson Mixy AwardLust, Black Celebration, and Wickedly Abled. Zhe is the winner of the 2016 HWA StokerCon “Scholarship from Hell”, 2017 BCC Voice “Reframing the Other” contest, and 2018 AWW “Afrosurrealist Writer Award.”
Zhe has an AA in English from Berkeley City College, and writes a column called “Writing While Black” for a national Black Newspaper, the San Francisco Bay View.

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

SS: Both of my parents were huge horror fans. They played horror movies and television programs in the home when I was a kid. My mom got mad at my dad for taking her to see Rosemary’s Baby when she was eight months pregnant with me. Her favorite TV series was Dark Shadows, and she watched it all the time when she was pregnant with me, and when I was an infant. I remember seeing It’s Alive at the drive-in theater when I was five. My brother and I saw a lot of old seventies horror classics as little children, so it started very early for me.

NTK: Who was the first horror character you felt represented you, the one you could identify with the most?

SS: Without a doubt, Kevin Foree as Peter in the original 1978 Dawn of the Dead movie. That was the first horror film I saw with an African American protagonist. I was very excited and rooting for him. Afterwards, my dad tried to show me the original Night of the Living Dead starring Duane Jones as Ben, but I just found it depressing. He fights through all of the zombies only to be more or less racially profiled and killed at the end. I preferred the triumphant, action-hero-like Peter. I imagine that the scene where he contemplates suicide, then decides to go for it and try to escape, is a nod to the first movie.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

SS: When I was 10, I read my first horror novel, which was Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. This lead to me reading Stephen King and Peter Straub’s The Talisman when I was 12, which lead to a more or less lifetime love of Stephen King. However, LA Banks and Christopher Rice have both usurped his title since. I do not currently have a favorite horror author. Over the past four years, I have had a series of deaths of family members and close friends, and my concentration has become too poor for pleasure reading. I have stuck with assigned readings, which, when I was in college a couple of years ago, lead to an increase in my already large collection of owned and read Toni Morrison novels. I still believe that Sula and Beloved both belong in the annals of horror, and perhaps The Bluest Eye as well.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

SS: The Stand. Heh. I feel so basic right now.

NTK: Favorite horror movie? 

SS: Bones, that 2001 horror film starring Snoop Dog. I fell into a deep depression after 9/11. I went through a divorce immediately following it, and had a nervous breakdown. Bones was literally the only thing that made me laugh or smile at the time.

NTK: Favorite horror TV show? 

SS: Supernatural. Although it is going off the air now, and it really isn’t as good as it used to be. I am going to be forced to find a new favorite very soon.

NTK: What inspired your story in SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire

SS: I really loved the Oscar-Award Winning 2016 film Moonlight and decided that I wanted to make my vampire story tell a tale of black man/man love. However… it IS a horror film, so it might be a little more Bones than Moonlight

NTK: What attracted you to the Vampire Noire? Why did you want to write a story for SLAY?

SS: Well, I already write a lot of African Diaspora characters, and I really love vampire stories. So, it stands to follow that I would be crazy about this concept. And I love that luscious cover art.

NTK: What inspires your writing? 

SS: A lot of my writing is inspired by personal trauma, of which I have survived a great deal, dating back to childhood. Horror writing helps me to process my inner demons, and have more control over my internal dialogue and conflict. I am also very inspired by current social issues, sort of like Jordan Peele is, and so I write a lot of political and social horror.

NTK: Do you allow your characters free will? Or do you plan their every move?

SS: Free will. They sort of write themselves after a while. When I plan their every move, the writing becomes stilted and really isn’t as good.

NTK: As a person of color, how has your experience in the horror writing community been?

SS: It’s been a mixed bag, although there have been a lot of good experiences. I find that the African American and African Diaspora speculative fiction communities – that is, Black Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Weird, Horror, etc.. writers are very supportive of one another. Women in Horror are also very supportive of each other. And there are a lot of allies. But there are definitely glass ceilings in mainstream horror, and the old boy’s club gets resentful when people break through them or try to shake things up. There are still far too many people who believe that only a middle-aged white cisgender heterosexual man is qualified to write horror.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

SS: I have a paranormal romance novel that I am working on and an interested publisher. Someone has an option on one of my short stories for an anthology movie of black women horror writers and directors. I just finished co-writing a script for a black vampire movie called Despoina: Dark Chanteuse with James Leon. I also have a poem in the upcoming HWA Poetry Showcase, so I am very excited about that.

Addicts, you can find Sumiko on Facebook, Twitter, and Tik-Tok as @sumikoska. Zhe can be found on Instagram as @sumikosaulson.

 

 

Chilling Chat Special: Authors of SLAY – LH Moore

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LH Moore’s speculative fiction and poetry have been published in all three Dark Dreams anthologies of Black horror writers; Bram Stoker Award Finalist anthology Sycorax’s Daughters; Black Magic Women; the collaborative Chiral Mad 4 and upcoming Chiral Mad 5 and SLAY anthologies; the StokerCon 2019 anthology; Fireside, Apex and FIYAH LHM Bio photo_webMagazine. A DC native exiled in Maryland, Moore is a historian and loves classical guitar, graphic novels, and video games. 

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

LHM: My mom took me to see The Exorcist (*gasp*) when I was three. She said I jumped up at one point and shouted “Oh Mommy! He FELL!”  I would watch Count Gore and his Creature Feature on DC’s channel 20. I always loved scary stories and in Jr. High School my local library had a sale and I spent the summer reading almost everything Stephen King wrote at the time.

NTK: Who was the first horror character you felt represented you, the one you could identify with the most?

LHM: I can’t say I ever identified with a character. If anything, I relate very much to FInal Girls in an “Oh no, I’m getting through this and surviving!”

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

LHM: Tananarive Due, but I never want folks to forget L.A. Banks. Not only a great writer, but a great person who was kind to me when I was a newbie writer years ago.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

LHM: Oooo…IT will still reign supreme for me as I’ll never forget how I felt as a young person reading it. So much “WTF?” to me.

NTK: Favorite horror movie?

LHM: Hard to choose! Get Out for its social commentary. Let the Right One In (Swedish) for its quiet. Cabin in the Woods because it was so surprising to me. The Blade series. But honestly, I find movies that are about things that really could happen to be scary as hell. Open Water messed with me for a long time.

NTK: Favorite horror TV show?

LHM: Right now? Lovecraft Country!! The real-life horrors of Jim Crow-era racism had me up on my feet pacing back and forth like “MY HEART” and nervous as hell more than the monsters!

NTK: What inspired your story in SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire?

LHM: Funny enough, it was Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. That whole mystery and expectation of womanhood and the tropes that go along with it. I wanted to write something light-hearted and almost humorous, which is different for me.

NTK: What attracted you to the Vampire Noire? Why did you want to write a story for Slay?

LHM: Writers of African descent have so many stories to be able to draw from. That well is deep and open to so many interpretations beyond that of the traditional neckbiter. I thought it was important to be a part of that representation and new storytelling.

NTK: What inspires your writing?

LHM: My heritage. The stories my grandma and auntie told me. History. And anxieties that create pure nightmare fuel.

NTK: Do you allow your characters free will? Or do you plan their every move?

LHM: I have an idea of how they are as individuals and roll with it.

NTK: As a person of color, how has your experience been in the horror writing community?

LHM: Let’s just say that there is still room for improvement. I’ve been an HWA member for over ten years now and Linda Addison is a force to be reckoned with. When she encouraged me to renew, who was I to say “No”? Besides, the more Black and POC authors are represented, the better. We are out here doing this work.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

LHM: I have more to come, believe me! Definitely, some longer form works in the pipeline.

Addicts, you can find LH on Twitter and Instagram.

 

HorrorAddicts.net 190, 3 hr Halloween Special

Horror Addicts Episode# 190
SEASON 15 “Cursed, Cubed”
Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich
with guests Star, Mercy Hollow, and R.L. Merrill
Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe


3 hr Halloween Special!

nicole givens kurtz | jack mangan | frank h. woodward | selah janel | shadow fashion | frankenstein chronicles |

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net
14 days till Halloween/Halloween NOT canceled!
terror trax: shadow fashion, children of the night
catchup: welcome, intro to in-studio guests: star, classic literature, r.l. merrill, musical musings maven, mercy hollow, return victim, drinking word: horror
merrill’s musical musings: r.l. merrill, mechants by isolation
craft: halloween wall-hanging
supplies:
*3 (or more) wooden halloween cutout ornaments
*thin string or embroidery thread
*at least 2 markers of your favorite colors that compliment each other
*a sparkly glitter pen
*various halloween charms and beads that match your colors.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

how not to be cursed: know when to quit, jeanne rodgers the “most cursed”, bat, boat mishaps, etc…mercy cursed? star favorite costumes, lucy, sonny bono, mad hatter, boy George

14:00 Interview Selah Janel
costuming, acting, gizmo, gremlins, king’s island, friday the 13th, punked fairytales, lost boys, dress made of synthetic skin, demon attack, swedish chef outfit, batgirl, fairy, wings

ro costume misshaps, cyndi lauper, how to use/start your glitter pen
daphne’s den of darkness: daphne strasert small town horror, hold the dark, the crazies, the fog, 30 days of night, and the town that dreaded sundown. emz, storm of the century, mercy, alfred hitchcock, the birds
frightening flix: kbatz, frankenstein chronicles S2

42:13 Interview with Frank H. Woodward

men in suits, frank was on #97, s8, lovecraft fear of the unknown, wrong turn 6, 30 years of working in movies, movie biz, marketing, covid, closure of sets, postponing releases, netflix buying theaters, disney, amc, microbudgets, short film, clean, drivein festival, lovecraft country, h.p. lovecraft, racisim, harry potter, j k rowling, bad mouthing trans people, doesn’t belong to her anymore, movies, etc are the fans, neil gaiman, new rules about set procedures, tyler perry, pods in filming, batman, robert pattinson, quarantine pay, sick pay, celebrate, film fest, zombie escape room in your home
Film Sense Podcast
https://directory.libsyn.com/shows/view/id/filmsense

crafting check-in, juiced glitter pen, color the wooden pieces and use glitter pen on top of colors
live action reviews: crystal connor, alone magnolia pictures
movies coming up: Don’t Look Back (2020), The Empty Man (2020), Synchronic (2019), Come Play (2020), Dune (2020), Antlers (2021), Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021), Morbius (2021), A Quiet Place Part II (2020), Last Night in Soho (2021), Godzilla vs. Kong (2021), Spiral (2021), CANDYMAN Expected 2021, The Forever Purge (2021), The Batman (2021), Halloween Kills (2021)
halloween movie watchlist game: evil dead 2, rocky horror, frankenstein, nightmare before christmas, the great pumpkin, hocus pocus, beetlejuice, ghost ship, little shop of horrors
craft check-in, tie them together

1:37:10 Interview with Nicole Givens Kurtz and Mocha Memoirs Press / SLAY
The book SLAY, non POC writer mistakes, women write horror, only white men can write horror?
Writing the Other: https://writingtheother.com
Mocha Memoirs Press: https://mochamemoirspress.com
halloween suggestions: bram stoker’s dracula, sleepy hollow, the crow, the haunting of hill house, pet semetery
Nicole’s work: https://nicolegivenskurtz.net
chilling chat: naching t. kassa, nicole kurtz

2:05:01 best band award announced and message from the winner,
kbatz krafts: halloween haul and how not to make orbs
logbook of terror: russell holbrook, milo’s yard
bigfoot files: lionel green, the search breedlove’s documentary

2:12:03 best in blood, winner is announced and surprised on audio.
glitter attacks, watermelon glitter burst, mercy glitter crime boss, star craft, too much glitter, rassle dazzle ghost
dead mail:
michele: the grey lady, the turnoff the screw, the woman in white, dracula, the portrait of dorian grey, salem witch trials, cotton mather notebooks, the house of seven gables, old time radio, the plague by albert camus
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotton_Mather
(other suggestions: “The Spider” by Hanns Heinz Ewers, “Diary of a Madman” by Nikolai Gogol, “The Signal Man” by Charles Dickens)
jeff: answer for realistic pandemic movies for james, contagion, outbreak, the hot zone, alas babylon, the stand, ghost story special, nancy kilpatrick, mercy favs: 12 monkeys, i am legend, the rain, the handmaids tale, 3%
seth: movie soundtracks for writing, interview with the vampire, dracula musical, 5th element, beetlejuice, accuradio video game soundtracks, classic horror film soundtracks, suspiria, ros: fright night, pet semetery, rocky horror, reanimator, the shining, danny elfman, in the tall grass, midnight special, the twilight zone, wanna see something really scary, creature features, gremlins, the lost boys, g tom mac, episode #136, dan shaurette interviewed him
news: the new craft movie, the craft legacy, blumhouse, jesse orr, my darling dead, bastards, mocha memoirs press, SLAY, haunts and hellions, transmundane press, ON TIME, emerian rich, philip steven, dj tryer, valentine wolfe.bandcamp.com
book review: benjamin langley, normal review by stephanie ellis

2:41:50 Interview with Jack Mangan
was on #23, #52, in two of dan’s two audiodramas, am i evil, metallica, diamondhead, brian tatler, sean harris, witch burning, revenge, comic, graphic novel, fan art, rich catino, james f beverage, derek mau, spherical tomi, fiction writing, halloween plans, no more events on halloween, no trick or treating, but fun at the house, candy, harry potter, peanuts, star wars, snakes, slytherin, horror movie recommends: evil dead 2, bruce campbell, evil dead musical, splatter zone, poltergeist
Am I Evil: https://www.amievil-graphicnovel.com
Metal Asylum: http://www.metalasylum.net
Jack Mangan’s site: http://jackmangan.com

last word on crafts, ro: advanced crafting, star: by the book, mercy: flamethrower edition.
Mercy Hollow: https://www.mercyhollow.com
R.L. Merrill: https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com
Star: I can’t wait for The Haunting of Bly Manor!
bloopers


Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…

horroraddicts@gmail.com

h o s t e s s

Emerian Rich

h e a d  o f p u b l i s h i n g

Naching T. Kassa

p u b l i s h i n g  p. a.

Cedar George

b l o g  e d i t o r

Kate Nox

s t a f f

KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Daphne Strasert, Jesse Orr, Russell Holbrook, Lionel Green, Keiran Judge, Crystal Connor, Nightshade, Courtney Mroch, R.L. Merrill

Want to be a part of the HA staff? Email horroraddicts@gmail.com

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s t i t c h e r 

https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/horroraddictsnet

spotify 

https://open.spotify.com/show/0DtgSwv2Eh6aTepQi7ZWdv

overcast

https://overcast.fm/itunes286123050/horroraddicts-net

podcast republic

https://www.podcastrepublic.net/podcast/286123050

himalaya 

https://www.himalaya.com/en/show/501228

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Chilling Chat: Episode #190 – Nicole Givens Kurtz – Slay Book Launch

chillingchat

Nicole Givens Kurtz is the author of eight novels, and over 40 plus short story publications. She is a member of SFWA and her science fiction novels have been named as A Carl NGK2017Brandon Society Parallax Award’s Recommended title-(Zephyr Unfolding), Fresh Voices in Science Fiction finalist (Zephyr Unfolding), Dream Realm Award Finalist in Science Fiction (Browne Candidate), and EPPIE Finalist in Science Fiction (Browne Candidate). Her short works have appeared in, Serial Box’s The Vela: Salvation, Baen’s Straight Outta Tombstone, Sycorax’s Daughters (Bram Stoker Finalist in Horror), and White Wolf’s Vampire the Masquerade Anthology. 

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

NGK: I discovered horror when I was about 10 years old. The teacher read us the woman with the silk scarf around her neck during Halloween. I immediately fell in love with the story, and I sought out other scary tales. Because I’m an 80s child, that search led me to Stephen King.

NTK: Who was the first horror character you felt represented you, the one you could identify with the most?

NGK: The first horror character I felt represented me was Susannah in King’s Dark Tower Series. She was the first Black woman I read. Although aspects of her personality and her treatment plagued me for years, I still felt represented in that she was Black, I was Black, we were both women and she was her authentic self.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

NGK:  My favorite horror authors are Ed Kurtz, Joe Hill, Shirley Jackson, and L.A. Banks.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

NGK: My favorite horror novel is We All Live in the Castle.

NTK: Favorite horror movie?

NGK: The Crow.

NTK: Favorite horror TV show?

NGK: The Dark; Lovecraft Country.

NTK: How did the idea for the anthology, SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire come about?  

NGK: SLAY came about due to many conversations I have had with authors about the lack of Black vampire stories in the wake of L.A. Banks’s death. Sure, there have been other Black vampires, but they remained on the perimeter, in the background, window dressing. We wanted stories like Banks wrote, that centered Black people, Black vampires, and Black slayers in the forefront. What would that look like now? So, the idea was born to seek out short stories for an anthology to answer that question and to fill the void.

NTK: What was your slush pile like? Was it difficult to choose stories from the ones submitted? 

NGK: It was incredibly difficult to choose stories. It is likely they’ll be a volume 2 at some point because I had more solid stories than I could fit into the anthology. It’s already 29 stories strong.

NTK: Putting you on the spot here, which story of the 29 is your most favorite?

NGK: Oh, this is definitely asking a mother to pick her favorite child! I loved them all, for various reasons, but the stories that lingered the longest after I read them were, Craig L. Gidney’s “Desiccant,” Steven Van Patten’s “The Retiree,” L. Marie Wood’s “The Dance,” and Alledria Hurt’s “Uijim.”

NTK: What’s it like running a small press? 

NGK:  It is incredibly stressful, especially in the challenging times we are in now. It is also rewarding in so many ways. The flexibility to tell stories that otherwise may not have made it past the gatekeepers of large publishing houses, is why I do this work.

NTK: Who did the cover art for this anthology? It’s terrific!

NGK: Taria Reed did the cover and it was one she had created as a pre-made cover. She has semi-annual sales and I selected it and another one for my personal horror stories, but when the idea for SLAY came about, I thought this cover would be perfect. Taria also came up with the title of the anthology, SLAY. I added, “Stories of the Vampire Noire.” Taria is a true talent and if authors need cover art, she’s one of the best around and a mainstay on my list of artists.

NTK: As a person of color, how has your experience in the horror writing community been?

NGK: I have developed solid relationships with people in the horror writing industry, like Anya Martin and Linda Addison. But the writing community in horror as well as other genres, are reflections of what is happening in the United States. The acceptance of racists, misogynistic, and hate-filled attitudes and beliefs are allowed, even encouraged in some circles, to be out and proud. The horror writing community is reflecting that, because people who embrace those beliefs write horror (and other genres) too. I have encountered racists attitudes in the community. Yet, I know there are writers actively combating these ills, just as there are people in the U.S. actively protesting and battling the celebration of hatred.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

NGK: I’m actively working on the sequel to my fantasy mystery, Kill Three Birds: A Kingdom of Aves novella. I am also working on revising my science fiction opera, Zephyr Unfolding. I don’t have any horror topics on tap for now, but that can easily change as my Muse’s first love is horror and suspense.

NTK: It was a pleasure chatting with you, Nicole!

NGK: Thank you for having me, Naching and Horror Addicts.

Addicts, you can find Nicole on Twitter, Facebook, Other Worlds Pulp, Patreon, and you can subscribe to her newsletter.

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Chilling Chat Special: Authors of SLAY – Steven Van Patten

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Brooklyn native Steven Van Patten is the author of the critically acclaimed Brookwater’s Curse trilogy, about an 1860s Georgia plantation slave who becomes law enforcement SVP-15 copywithin the vampire community. In contrast, the titular character in his Killer Genius series is a modern day hyper-intelligent black woman who uses high-end technology as a socially conscious serial killer.

SVP’s short fiction includes contributions to nearly a dozen horror anthologies, including the Stoker Award-nominated New York State of Fright. A collection of short horror and dark fiction stories entitled Hell At The Way Station, published by his company Laughing Black Vampire Productions and co-authored by acclaimed storyteller, Marc Abbott hit shelves in 2018.

Along with a plethora of other honors and accolades, SVP won three African-African-American Literary Awards in 2019, two for Hell At The Way Station (Best Anthology and Best In Science Fiction) and one for Best Independent Publisher. He’s written about everything from sleep demons to the Harlem Hellfighters of WWI for episodes of the YouTube series’ Extra Credit and Extra Mythology, He’s also a contributor for Viral Vignettes, a charity-driven YouTube comedy series benefitting The Actor’s Fund.

When he’s not creating macabre literature, he can be found stage managing television shows primarily in New York City and occasionally on the West Coast. Along with being a member of the New York Chapter of The Horror Writer’s Association, he’s also a member of The Director’s Guild of America and professional arts fraternity Gamma Xi Phi.

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

SVP: I’m not even sure. Probably six. I have blerd in my blood. One of my first fights as a 2nd grader was over a Planet of the Apes action figure.

NTK: Who was the first horror character you felt represented you, the one you could identify with the most?

SVP: That’s easy. Blacula. I even use William Marshall as an alias when I’m someplace I have no business being.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

SVP: Stephen King still has my heart, even after all this time. Crazy, I know.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel? 

SVP: That is tough. Truthfully, I am forever torn between DraculaFrankenstein, and Salem’s Lot.

NTK: Favorite horror movie?

SVP: Again, it’s like Pringles! You can’t pick just one. This one changes and adjusts according to mood, but today it’s The ExorcistAliensAmerican Werewolf in LondonBlaculaDracula 1972Dracula (Frank Langella), Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Silence of The Lambs.

NTK: Favorite horror TV show?

SVP: I love the anthology stuff like Tales from The Darkside, and Creepshow, but NBC is responsible for a great yet shortlived Dracula series and well as their take on Hannibal. I am currently falling in love with Lovecraft Country.

NTK: What inspired your story in SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire?

SVP: Well, I had already been doing the epic vampire thing in my Brookwater’s Curse series. One day, I got it in my head to do something a little more earthy. That’s when I came up with the grumpy old black man who is a retired monster killer angle. So it’s fun, but it’s also an exploration into how we don’t always recognize how heroic our parents really are.

NTK: What attracted you to the Vampire Noire? Why did you want to write a story for Slay? 

SVP: Truth is, I had already written this and had been meaning to shop it. When you’re out here playing the short story game between novels, you always have a few extra bullets in the chamber on the off chance someone asks, “hey do you have x,y, and z handy?” Then you can just say yes. I try to stay prepared.

NTK: What inspires your writing?

SVP: When I started out, my mission statement was “I must create strong, fully developed POC characters for the horror genre.” That hasn’t changed, per se. I think the difference now is that I’m actually having fun now because I’m stronger, if that makes any sense. Whereas my focus was lasered-aimed on one thing, now I have all sorts of ideas coming to me.

NTK: Do you allow your characters free will? Or do you plan their every move?

SVP: That kind of depends. I usually have a game plan going in, and that game plan gets thrown out the window midway. The story ends up needing more. The character ends up needing more. I end up needing more.

NTK: As a person of color, how has your experience in the horror writing community been? 

SVP: Well, the thing I did wrong was taking too long to find everybody! Outside of a couple of debates about Lovecraft’s racism, it has been tremendous for me to be fully accepted into the culture. Currently, most of my commiseration is courtesy of the NY chapter of the HWA. And I love every one of them. And I wish I was able to spend more time with them, as well as several of the people in this anthology, but the day job, (I also stage-manage a variety of TV shows) keeps me pinned down. I miss a lot of conventions and other things because of that. I would love to see more of everyone!

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

SVP: As I answer you, I am currently in Macon, Georgia working on a Game Show. When I am done with that, I am fully committed to one more vampire novel, (Brookwater’s Curse 4), One last serial killer novel, (Killer Genius 3), and two more sequels to Hell At The Way Station, the anthology I co-wrote with Marc Abbott. There will also be more short stories, more Black History stuff like the “Burning of Black Wall Street” episode I did for the Youtube Channel Extra Credit, and even some comedic stuff. I am going to be very busy. People can keep up with me by finding me on social media or visiting my website.

Addicts, Steven uses his full name on Facebook but goes by @svpthinks on Twitter and Instagram

Logbook of Terror : Milo’s Yard

“Milo’s Yard” 

Every year Milo’s Halloween decorations grew more elaborate, ambitious, and horrific. Milo’s yard had become so scary during the month of October that all the neighborhood joggers and walkers rerouted their familiar paths to avoid that peculiar house until November came and the terror was put away for another year. 

Halloween night was especially dreadful, so much so that none of the adults would come within a block of Milo’s yard. Only the children were brave enough to go, and yet still, only the bravest would return, their faces ashen white, their eyes deep pools filled with dread. And the children who weren’t so brave, the ones who were called The Lost, the ones all the neighbors whispered about during the months that followed Hallow’s Eve, they seemed to somehow disappear; they would enter Milo’s yard and never return as if their own fear kept them trapped there forever. But, everyone knew that Milo had the best candy. There was no candy like it anywhere else in the whole neighborhood, and no one could ever figure out where it came from. It was beyond delicious. It was legendary. It was worth the risk. 

Milo checked his watch – it wouldn’t be long now. He surveyed the yard and smiled far and wide at his creation. Gargoyles leered from every corner of the roof. Phantoms hoisted on unseen wires and pulleys flew back and forth above the headstones, zombies, witches, and ghouls that filled the front yard. Lights burning orange and purple lit the scene. Two meandering rows of glowing skulls illuminated a path that weaved its way through the yard to the front door. Wireless speakers hung hidden in the trees, waiting to come to life and proclaim their fearful song.

Milo hurried into the house. He powered up the six fog machines. Three minutes later dense fog began to fill the yard. Excitement and anticipation filled Milo’s soul. He pressed the play button on the stereo. As his favorite haunted house tape echoed out into the gathering gloom, Milo sat in the dark of his front window and waited for the trick or treaters to arrive. 

***

Chase Cabrini stood with his parents and little sister at the top of the hill, just up the street from Milo’s house. “You know we can’t go with you, son, it’s just the way it is,” Landau Cabrini said to his oldest boy. 

Chase had just turned eleven and was teetering on the edge of adolescence and the loss of childhood wonders. He looked up at his father. “It’s alright, dad, I’m not scared.” 

Landau looked down at his boy. His eyes filled with empathy. He knew the kid was full of shit. 

“Alright, son, we’ll wait here for you,” Chase’s father said. 

The small family stared down the street toward Milo’s yard. Horror music wafted up the hill, carried along on the ever advancing fog. Chase took three steps before he turned back and glanced at his family. He grinned and then trotted away and disappeared into the mist, his black vampire’s cape flying in the wind behind him. 

***

The fog seemed to clear a bit as Chase neared the house. He could hear odd, unearthly voices underneath the music, inside the fog. He felt eyes on him. His shoes hit soft earth. He was there. He was in Milo’s yard. He stopped and took a breath, taking in the sweet aroma of the fog. A cool wind chilled his skin. He gazed into the fog and saw the lighted path that led through the cemetery and to the front door. Chase felt his nerve start to shrink. The door suddenly seemed so far away. His dad was right after all; he was totally freaked. “Shit…” Chase muttered to himself. He stood still and listened and hoped to hear the reassuring voices of other children coming down the hill but there were none. He was all alone in Milo’s yard. 

Peering through the fog, Chase saw the front door creep open. He choked down the lump in his throat and began to walk. 

The front door seemed impossibly far away. His ears burned hot with fear. His eyes watered. His hands trembled. Leaves crunched under Chase’s feet as he walked the path. He felt fingers and hands brush across his back. Strange creatures beneath the gloom breathed hot breath onto his legs and nipped at his toes. Chase’s eyes darted around, searching for the monsters hidden in the fog. Two zombies lunged at him, one from either side. An ancient black cat tore at his pants leg. A coffin lid moved and a mummy rose up into the fog. A sudden banshee shriek tore the air behind him. Chase jumped and bolted straight for the door, his heart racing out ahead of him. He tripped and stumbled on to the porch. He looked up and there was Milo, standing in the doorway, staring down at him with a devil’s grin. Chase straightened up and cleared his throat. “Trick ‘r Treat,” he squeaked out. 

Chase held out his trusty plastic pumpkin bucket. Milo smiled and dropped a handful of candy in. “Why don’t you go ahead and try a piece now?” Milo asked the boy. 

“Sure…!” Chase said, his face beaming with eager joy as he reached into the pumpkin. 

At first bite, the candy didn’t seem all that special, but then something happened. The flavor changed. The chocolate coating somehow seemed indescribably delicious. Chase felt a wild euphoria sweep over him and he cooed like a baby. His eyes went limp and numb. 

“This is delicious,” Chase said through a full mouth. 

“Good…” Milo said. “Have another.” 

So Chase stood on Milo’s porch and ate another and another and still one more. And Milo dumped more candy into the plastic pumpkin bucket. Chase’s feet felt light. Pure happiness flooded through him. He couldn’t feel the porch beneath him. He looked down and saw that he was floating. He began to laugh and Milo laughed along with him. Chase dropped his trick or treat pumpkin and flapped his arms. He felt his teeth grow into sharp fangs. He drew his cape up around him and floated out into the fog of Milo’s yard. 

“I love it here!” Chase exclaimed. “I never want to leave!”

“And you’ll never have to!” Milo said with a huge smile. “You can stay in my yard forever and ever and have all the candy you like.”  

“I’m a real vampire now!” Chase shouted as he perched on the limb of a withered old tree, enshrouded in fog, and waited for the next trick or treater to come by.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: The Frankenstein Chronicles Season 2

The Frankenstein Chronicles Season Two is Brimming with Monster Quality

By Kristin Battestella

The 2017 six-episode Second Season of The Frankenstein Chronicles picks up three years after the twisted events of its Debut Series as Sean Bean’s supposedly dead Inspector John Marlott pursues Lord Hervey (Ed Stoppard) for his monstrous science while Sergeant Joseph Nightingale (Richie Campbell) investigates the gruesome murders of several parish officials as new mad machinations and corrupt officials collide.

It’s 1830 and disturbed flashes of what has transpired match the Bedlam catatonic in “Prodigal Son.” Jailers think this case is hopeless, for the angry, rattling chains can’t tell of the heartbeats, fires, agony, and horrors. Silent screams, gory garrotings, and escapes lead to the abandoned laboratory with cracked mirrors, empty bottles, and lingering phantoms. The Frankenstein Chronicles refreshes the audience whilst the characters themselves struggle with the previous experiments, former pain, and fresh dilemmas as a murdered archdeacon sends fear through the local parish. The poor cannot feed their families on faith alone, but the Dean maintains his luxury by hampering the police with jurisdiction technicalities. New cemetery bills don’t stop grave robbing schemes, and cruel high versus kind lows are firmly established in the multi-layered mysteries and investigations. Despite a sophisticated period mood, church fires, eviscerating shocks, and eerie figures with lone candles always remind viewers of the morose horror drama. London is run amok with slicing and dicing nobles on The Frankenstein Chronicles, and there’s no solace for “Not John Marlott” as more bloody crimes begat missing organs, epidemics, and piled bodies. Creepy dreams and laughing visions add to the on edge, ghosts approach former friends, and headlines say the escaped lunatic is responsible for these unholy murders. Local parish watchmen rebuff inspectors, and back-alley deals lead to corpse bearer job opportunities and intriguing new characters. Desecrated bodies are dug up and moved to pits – clearing the graveyards for people who can pay more for sacred ground. Mirrors and reflections create more soulful questions as the dead man walking sees the naked, animalistic internal monster. Shrouds, vaults, torches, and coffins keep The Frankenstein Chronicles on the morbid move in “Seeing the Dead.” Our former detective has his own underground investigation amid the church bells, empty steeples, and plague-ridden alongside tender moments and a real life famous name or two. Dead children abound, and families that can’t afford consecrated burials paint crosses on their doors to honor the deceased while a carnival caravan arrives with freaks and re-enactments of Frankenstein. Politicians argue about burial taxes, and motives for the murders include selling off church properties, twisted science, and blaming the devil. Who’s clearing the slums and pocketing the money? It isn’t God who’s brought this pestilence, but men of science playing with God’s power. Black horses, night owls playing the piano by candlelight, and men talking of the final nail in the coffin add symbolic subtext while dreams, monster memories, and ghosts provide clues. Superstitious fears and wrongful medicine clash thanks to sewers, sailors, on stage within Frankenstein horrors, and knife fights behind the curtain. Autopsies, methodical precision, and poisoned pumps hone in on the contaminated truth – revelations perhaps made more disturbing by the water crises happening in America today.

Old inspectors and suspicious aristocrats meet face to face in “Little Boy Lost” amid fancy balls and false sermons waxing on demons and souls. Unfortunately, the truth is blasphemy, and quarantined ships send the sick to die in abandoned buildings behind chained doors – making for some silently terrifying scenes of garish dead haunting the corridors. Messengers from religious officials come baring knives in the back, leading to bloody struggles and gurgling groans. The innocent must flee in chases through the streets and leaps across rooftops, contrasting the footmen and tête-à-têtes on the ballroom balcony. Lifelike machines and automaton displays escalate the mad science amidst more grief, twists about who is real or phantom, and dead babies in jars. Thanks to town mobs and persecutions, circus folk with cut out tongues are arrested just because they fit the description of monsters, but ominous staircases descend to bright laboratories, creepy equipment, and shocking revelations with touching supernatural moments linking our characters. Politicians using the poor and too good to be true health plans in “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” again mirror the contemporary political climate as scary ideologies hide in plain sight. Be it illness or slit throats, people in this era don’t live very long, and officials double-cross each other to fill the void left by the dying King. Likewise, constables and the press are at odds over evidence and thin leads as all roads point to monstrous men throwing their own to the dogs if it suits their toys, tears, and conspiracies. Blocks of ice are used to store organs alongside secret formulas, memento mori, psychic encounters, and plans to escape to the continent. Chilling confrontations trap the unwilling in the choice to be reborn, for more things are possible than what God can do according to our seemingly sacrosanct gentleman. Stone towers contain romantic rooms draped in white soon to host some serious butchery, transformations, and abominations. Why wait to rekindle what one’s lost in God’s time when life’s mysteries can come full circle now? Wounds and spirited intervention culminate in “Bride of Frankenstein” as lies, gags, and convulsions reunite our firstborn with the reanimation process. Life-giving elixirs, breathing apparatus, and unique tissues lead to coastal visions and life or death limbo. Our murder victims got in the way of political ambitions so now their bodies are being put to good use. There’s no need to make apologies when sacrificing for science! Once again The Frankenstein Chronicles builds its crimes and mysteries before escalating to full-on horror. Raids, arrests, and eponymous resurrections mean nothing when death is not the end for men who live forever in a world without God. However loose ends must be tied up, and another corpse on the church steps leads to confessions, ironic justice, and science preventing the dead from staying deceased in an excellent denouement of amoral horrors.

He’s angry, doesn’t know his own strength, and vows revenge, yet Sean Bean’s former inspector John Marlott remains haunted by his past. Initially he doesn’t speak much, only “I was abandoned by God,”– which sums up The Frankenstein Chronicles quite well. Marlott insists he isn’t who he was, for whether he was a man of kindness and justice or not, he received neither. Marlott feels forsaken since his family has gone on without him, yet he finds solace and a clean bed in a church and recognizes psalms of mercy when he hears them. Unfortunately, he can’t look himself in the mirror, and any peace is quickly ruined by tragedy. Marlott moves on, pushing away the living because everyone around him winds up dead. He becomes a corpse bearer and calls himself Jack Martins, revisiting places he once frequented to prove his innocence despite nightmares that seem to indicate otherwise. Marlott is disturbed by all the death he sees and talks to ghostly guests from Series One, but he’s more upset that he cannot see the spirits of his own wife and daughter. Marlott gives his coins to orphans and poor families so they can bury their dead properly and helps the sick households by doing their cleaning and hard labor, becoming the ironic hero of Pye Street roaming the slums at night – a foreboding grim reaper silhouette escorting a wagon of the dead to their mass grave. He tells people to flee the plague but ultimately ends up communing with their lingering spirits in superbly haunting moments. He cannot help the ghosts who torment him, but Marlott is deeply sorry for all the souls he seemingly damned. Forgiveness, however, may be found in the darkest places, and Marlott comes to accept he can live to do good even if he is not blessed. The Frankenstein Chronicles provides fascinating winks at Bean’s walking spoiler onscreen image amid chilling declarations, strong demands for vengeance, and tearful displays. Granted I am biased – and I still think Marlott is Sharpe – but Sean Bean seems to have become a better, more seasoned actor with age, and it is a pity The Frankenstein Chronicles received no awards notice for his excellent performance.

Though now a sergeant, Richie Campbell’s Joseph Nightingale is assigned to a seemingly routine escape from Bedlam rather than a murder higher up officials want forgotten. He’s a lot like Marlott, actually, getting praised for his initiative, punished for his insistence, and circumventing orders to find out about Marlott’s surprise reappearance. Joe must still deal with racism from above and below and knows he’s being stonewalled once victims’ bodies are removed before he can inspect them – leaving Nightingale no choice but to get the truth at a terrible price. Ryan Sampson’s fast talking Boz is still a reporter for the chronicle, chastised by Nightingale for writing outlandish reports to scare the public but shocked when the dead Marlott comes to see him. He wants Marlott’s surely fantastic story, and remains unfettered in his outrageous reporting, because the truth that victims are having their hearts cut out is supposed to scare people less? Although grossed out by the autopsy reports, he’s reluctant to give up his sources until their differing private exams prove they want him to print lies. Boz believes Marlott when he tells him there is a poisoning scheme in the works, but says he should do the talking when they poke around at the inquest. Charles Dickens ends up bombing around London with Frankenstein’s Monster – one of many fascinating what ifs on The Frankenstein Chronicles. Laurence Fox’s (Lewis) Mr. Dipple, meanwhile, is a creepy, reclusive aristocrat overly concerned with weird marionettes, music boxes, machine models, and masks. He’s become enamored with contraptions because he is afraid to live, seemingly tender or sensitive but suspect when he asks guests to keep an open mind about what they see. The character embodies several contemporary ills viewers will recognize – saying one thing but doing another for his own purpose , which is to have power over death and grief. Sadly, Maeve Dermody (Carnival Row) as kind, widowed seamstress Esther Rose is unknowingly caught in the middle when taking in Marlott while commissioned to make dresses for Dipple’s dolls. She buys clothes off the dead to re-sell to poor, not so particular customers and gives Marlott back his own effects. There’s not much difference between her craft and stitching him up when he’s injured, either. She’s glad to have him protect her shop, for Esther thinks she is weak, afraid to live, and too nervous when invited to a ball showcasing her work. She’s glad when Dipple calls her designs exquisite and doesn’t believe he has ulterior motives despite Marlott’s warnings. However, Esther insists she is not part of Dipple’s collection, vowing to be no man’s property despite her loneliness.

 

Lily Lesser as (Wolf Hall) Ada Byron, Lord Byron’s mathematician daughter, also dislikes Dipple’s obsession with “toys.” She’s interested in automatons for the future and power for women, debating Dipple about whether a man building machines means he has power over God. Men’s power pollutes what it touches, demanding obedience and stifling genius – leading to slavery and humans as the automaton. Although at times the character seems too modern, her progressive ideals aren’t wrong, and it would have been intriguing to see more of her. Corpse bearer Francis Magee (Game of Thrones) knows Marlott is too shrewd for this job, but then again so is he. Spence is a former priest who criticized the Dean for his greed, and now he fears he is in danger. Nonetheless, he does his gruesome job and stands by his convictions, returning to his Bible even to his own detriment. Unfortunately, Kerrie Hayes (Lilies) as Dipple’s orphan maid Queenie is also scared of her employer, his contraptions, and the locked doors deep inside his manor. She and Nightingale grew up in the foundling home together, and she clearly has a crush on him, telling him not to be consumed by blaming Marlott. Queenie wants to help Joe’s investigation, but her curiosity gets the better of her. She knows the police won’t believe what she’s seen, but eventually, Queenie finds tell tale tokens as proof for the police. Locating Ed Stoppard’s rumored to be dead Lord Hervey, however, isn’t so easy. He’s as in pursuit of his creation as Marlott is, but is he truly connected to the current crimes or is Marlott’s wishful seeking of justice involving the not so good doctor? Hervey is said to be here or there, off in the carriage, or just missed him – pinning his gruesome actions on others as it suits his plans. He’s happy to offer the choice of transformation to those who want it, developing a sick delight in what he does. For Hervey, there is no such thing as God’s will, only indifferent science. Sir Robert Peele, however, wants to build new closed burials and give the poor the right to a Christian interment, but Tom Ward’s Home Secretary has to move fast on his reforms before losing the ailing George IV’s favor. Peele seeks cleaner cities where nearby decomposition isn’t going back into the water and objects to the circumvention of his authority, for Guy Henry’s (Rogue One) Dean of Westminster lords over everyone with his stranglehold on the police as well as the church. He squashes murder investigations, pockets burial fees, and uses Martin McCann (The Pacific) as parish coroner Renquist to do away with the bodies privately. For his dirty deeds, Renquist rightfully fears he’s going to be the fall guy, just another of many corrupt officials on The Frankenstein Chronicles.

 

Fallen leaves and overcast skies create a perpetual autumn feeling for The Frankenstein Chronicles while barren coasts invoke a bleak limbo. Storms, mud, moors, and fog contrast the carriages, top hats, walking sticks, and frock coats. Careful editing, silence, and natural sounds parallel the horror realizations amid dank cells, chains, spooky lanterns, and autopsies. There are fancy stone manors and slum streets, but the graveyards and churches are somewhere in between – grand, old, but empty cloisters despite the cross’s symbolic shelter and arched windows providing rare light. Wax seals, lockets, quills, waist coats, and cravats birth mechanical innovations, clockworks, masks, and uncanny valley eyes, layering the creepy science what ifs alongside the innocent flowers, lace, and painstaking embroidery attention to detail. Fair fiddles and carnival acts provide morbid bemusement, yet our star is often alone in the center of the camera frame or on the outside looking in at the action through doorways or arches. Then again, golden sconces and grand libraries can’t compare to decomposing bodies as the gasps and covering mouths provide shock and stench for the audience. Sometimes the blue and night time drab are too dark, however, firelight adds a realistic touch so often missing from overly saturated shows. Oil lamps and disturbing harpsichord music accent syringes, hissing gears, leeches in jars, elixirs, tubes, catalysts, and beakers. The candlelit laboratory almost has an enchanting glow, but who knew blocks of ice could be so..well…chilling? Oddly, neither director Benjamin Ross nor writer Barry Langford are involved in Season Two – all new writers join director Alex Gabassi (The ABC Murders). With previouslies and credits, these episodes are also slightly shorter at forty-five minutes, however it is more annoying that Netflix wants to skip both with seconds to spare. The Frankenstein Chronicles Season Two doesn’t use Mary Shelley as a character or the William Blake interconnected themes from the First Season, either. Fortunately, the personal morals, monsters dilemmas, and new mad science elements expand the drama and performances. Although this year ends well, it’s a pity there is no word on a Third Season for The Frankenstein Chronicles. There’s still time and the series deserves more. In reviewing, I must multi-task, pause, and take notes. The Frankenstein Chronicles, however, is a can’t look away parable that’s easy to marathon and superbly blends period piece aesthetics, mystery, and horror.

For more Frankenstein, visit:

The Frankenstein Chronicles Season 1

Frankenstein: The True Story

Victor Frankenstein (2015)

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Alone

 

PlotlineA recently widowed traveler is kidnapped by a cold blooded killer, only to escape into the wilderness where she is forced to battle against the elements as her pursuer closes in on her.

Who would like itFans of cat and mouse, wilderness survival, suspense, serial killers, brutal fight scenes, and people who love to scream at people in horror movies

High PointsThe camera work! some of the way certain scenes are shot makes the suspense of the moment even more stressful

Complaints I don’t have any

OverallI super loved this movie

Stars: 5 Full Stars!

Where I watched itStreamer link from the producer  

 

***

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

My Darling Dead : Bastards / Episode 13

Her husband had become just that. A husband, in name only. There were days she did not even see him, so busy was he flaunting his power over the desirable women of the court. More desirable than his queen. 

When the wizard came upon her at her window, weeping silently into a goblet of wine, he was uncertain. But she had imbibed enough already to unload her heart’s anguish onto him. As she wept, she sought solace in his arms. The wizard’s initial reluctance melted as she moved against him, carnal desire replacing sense, lust overcoming caution. 

Afterward, she had forbidden him to speak of it. It was a promise they both kept until she began to show. Fortunately, it was nearing the frost, nobody thought twice about the extra layers the queen now wore. Clothes only covered so much though and finally, making up a story to the distracted king, the queen took refuge in a cabin in the woods with two of her most trusted ladies in waiting. Upon news of his son’s imminent birth, the wizard set out for the cabin. He arrived just as the child made his first cry and, without a word, took the child from the queen’s midwife and vanished, the queen never even laying eyes upon her son. 

Zavier had clearly been waiting long to share this fact and the light shone from his eyes with the intensity of a bonfire. Orteg and Agathas both were stunned into silence. Zavier paced back and forth before them, gesturing wildly as he continued his soliloquy. 

“A bastard by the queen is nothing to anybody. My father knew that, as did our mother, Orteg. They saw to it that I was kept out of the way, a humble pageboy, and learned all I could from my father in the ways of magic, for the day when he would no longer be there and the kingdom required a leader. But as I watched it descend into more and more chaos, I became certain; the queen’s son would have no right over the throne in the eyes of the people, particularly in these troubled times. It would have to be a man who carries the blood of King Wendell himself, who would reunite the kingdom. 

“When I found you, Orteg, I thought my search had ended. Here was a simple, stupid man who would be easy to install as a figurehead, then direct him to do my will, by one means or another.” Zavier shook his staff. “Then Barris and his disgusting sister here decided to place before you an unthinkable choice, one that no father would have made. My entire plan would fall to ruins if you refused to ascend to the throne. I compelled you to dispose of your obstacles to the throne, but instead of accepting your destiny and becoming king, you had to start conspiring with that bloated sack of offal, Barris. I hoped to teach you a lesson watching him die, but you seem to be the same angry self-righteous peasant as you were born, and you have irked me overlong as it is.”

Color rose in Zavier’s face, veins in his forehead standing out as his face darkened. His eyes bulged and he looked quite demented. Orteg tried with all his might to move any muscle and only succeeded in twitching his nose. Agathas whimpered from the cage. Zavier’s eyes shifted to her. 

“Agathas. You have no reason left to live. You realize that, don’t you?” Zavier said, his voice sympathetic though his eyes lost none of their manic gleam. “You know I have to dispose of you as well as this fool or nothing will ever change.” Zavier began breathing heavily as he pulled out his polished staff, running his fingers over its contours lovingly. “For the kingdom. You understand.” He pointed the staff at Agathas. 

Without warning, a blinding light seared Orteg’s eyes. Unable to throw up a hand to cover them, Orteg screwed his eyelids together tightly, though the light continued to grow. Dimly, he could hear Zavier yelling and Agathas screaming. The light was so bright through his closed eyes it seemed loud, shouting in his ears and even though he could not see, he prayed for release…then it came.

Darkness. Orteg ventured his eyes open only to see more darkness. Gradually he heard the snuffling moans of someone laying on the ground nearby. This reminded him of his previous paralysis and he flexed a finger experimentally. It responded, along with its fellows. His entire hand and arm worked as though there had never been any interruption. He clambered to his feet, his legs aching. The darkness was fading and he could make out the room he was in once again. The light had been so bright it had drowned out the pitiful sunshine from outside. 

The moans came from Zavier, laying spread eagled on the floor on his back, struggling to move his lips to form words. Though he trembled with the exertion, no sound beyond his quiet moaning escaped his mouth. Orteg scarcely noticed Zavier though, his eyes were drawn to the fairy Liseem, standing over Zavier, looking more radiant and lovely than ever in her fury. Agathas was similarly gaping at her, making no effort to hide her awe. 

“Zavier, Son of Hespa, bastard child of the crown, you have disgraced the name of sorcery with your foul actions,” Liseem stated, not raising her voice though it filled the entire room and Orteg’s head rang with it. “Due to your haste to grow beyond your status, you shall henceforth be smaller than the eye may readily see, that you may observe the world you may not engage with. Those who do observe you will hate you upon sight and hasten to murder you.” Liseem spun away from Zavier’s horrified expression, raising her hands to the sky and calling out a strange word. 

The light exploded in the room again. Orteg and Agathas screwed up their eyes at once but the light was not nearly so merciless this time. There was a popping sound and the smell of sulfur. The light winked out and Orteg opened his eyes at once. Zavier was gone. Where he had lay on the floor scurried a large cockroach, antenna twitching frantically as it sought to avoid the humans in the room. It rushed at Liseem, then seemed to think better of it, making for the door. 

“My lady?” Orteg asked, a smile on his face. 

“Please,” said Liseem, her own smile radiating light. 

Orteg raised his boot, bringing it down with all the force he could muster. The cockroach crunched under his boot, sending a stream of yellow goo shooting across the floor. Orteg ground his boot back and forth, the crunching sound beneath his foot giving way to the whisper of dirt on stone. When he raised his foot, there was nothing but a wet spot. 

Orteg Bluenote was crowned king of Dandoich before an enormous crowd. From his viewing point, he could see nothing but his new subjects as far as his eye would reach. As the crown was set on his head by Agathas, the roar of the crowd took his breath away. A tear came to his eye, speedily wiped away, lest he show weakness before his new subjects. Agathas stood at his side, her part in the death of the king’s children having been overlooked in the fate that befell Barris. As the king’s adviser, and with Barris out of the way, as the senior member of the council who had run the kingdom for years, she was uniquely positioned to be invaluable to the inexperienced king. Her mind was already feverishly at work, thinking of how best to turn her new position to her advantage.

After the coronation ceremony, the new king was in his chambers, still attempting to grasp the changes in his life over the last few weeks. His family was gone but he had more wealth and power than he could ever imagine. With the blessing of the fairy, he felt invincible. Pouring himself a glass of the finest wine in his chamber, he toasted the window and the moon pouring its light into the chamber. 

Midway through sipping the wine, Orteg heard a noise from just outside the window. It was a scratching sound, as though a cat were sharpening its claws on the stone below the window. As Orteg listened, it became clearer and more pronounced. A snuffling sound, then a high-pitched giggle floated through the window, chilling Orteg’s bones. His innards turned to ice as a hand, thin and bony, with long filthy ragged nails, crawled up over the windowsill. It was attached to an arm, as scrawny and filthy as the hand. Eyes appeared over the sill, dark slits in the dirty, pointed face twisted in a demented grin. 

The brilliant light appeared in the room, making Orteg and the rat creature shield their eyes. As it faded, Orteg saw that the rat creature had entered the room, along with a second and he could see a third scrabbling at the window and (dear Gods) it sounded like there were more working their way up the wall. A figure had solidified in the center of the room, coalescing out of the whiteness into the fairy who had saved him. 

“Liseem!” Orteg gasped. “Thank the gods you are here! You must help me! This creature—”

“These creatures,” Liseem broke in, a nasty grin upon her face, “Will be your doom, Orteg Bluenote.” The fairy touched the face of the first rat creature, delicately pressing her finger against the sharp teeth in the creature’s face. Instantly, all the rat creatures froze. The sound of those climbing the tower ceased. There was nothing but the fairy’s voice.

“Many years before your birth,” Liseem said, turning to face him, “I was in love with a king. The king of Dandoich in fact. Your father.” She fell silent for a moment, looking at Orteg with no kindness in her eyes. “You are of his seed, yet I do not recognize you at all. You are nothing like the king.”

“But—Esemli!” Orteg gasped, his hands clasped before him in an unconscious prayer. “She was in love with the king and was killed by the princess! She has been dead longer than I have been alive! Everyone in the kingdom knows that story!”

“This is where the story ends,” whispered the fairy. “I, Liseem, am the fairy Esemli.” 

A series of images rushed through Orteg’s head. The fairy and the king rutting in his receiving room before being interrupted by the queen. The king groveling as Esemli listened from behind the door, listening as he cast their love aside instead of keeping his promise. Faster, images of the kingdom’s descent into chaos flashed through his mind. Rat creatures feeding on garbage, peasants, each other. Crops rotting on the vine as farmers barricaded themselves in their houses, afraid to tend to the harvest. Esemli laughing, laughing, laughing. 

The images stopped, but the laughing continued. Liseem’s laughter merged into that of Esemli and Orteg knew that she spoke the truth.

“No…” whispered Orteg, feeling as though all blood had drained from his body. 

“Yes,” hissed Esemli, her hatred changed the fairy’s beautiful features into an inhuman rage. “And now, Orteg Bluenote, you shall die carrying on the suffering of your lineage. The kingdom’s spiral into darkness will continue!”

With mad laughter, the fairy vanished. Sound regained its control on the world, the scrabbling sounds of a rat person clawing its way into the room registering first on Orteg’s ear. He realized with a start that his back was against the stone wall opposite the door. The first creature crawled across the floor, its jerky skittering motions sending spasms of horror up and down Orteg’s spine. The thing kept grinning, nose twitching, as it advanced. Orteg tried to make a break for the door, but the creature was too fast, scuttling between Orteg and the door with a drooling grin. There were more crawling in through the window. Cowering back against the wall, Orteg moaned, helpless, frozen in terror as the creatures came for him. 

Agathas had been waiting to visit the new king in his chambers until after he had time to get himself sufficiently drunk. She intended to ask for less oversight on his part as she conducted the day-to-day business of the kingdom, in essence giving her free reign to govern as she saw fit. Under Barris, she had learned from the best and had no interest in the new monarch sticking his nose in her affairs. 

She was lingering in the anteroom below the king’s chambers when the screaming began. The king’s hysterical shrieks brought all within earshot running. Throwing open the door, Agathas and the castle staff beheld the new king, his eyes and throat wide open, gaping in the direction of the door, hand stretched out, even as the humanoid thing that now resembled a rat snuffled and scrabbled at Orteg’s chest, seeking his heart as blood from his neck bathed them both. Other rat creatures prowled the room, looking in corners and under things for their next meal. At the sound of the door, they stopped as one and stared.

Agathas screamed, drawing the attention of the rat creature away from Orteg’s lifeless body. Like a spider, the creature scuttled toward her, eyes twin pinpricks burning brightly amid the face of blood. The next moment, it was flying back, impaled by a long silver spear. Blood ran from its mouth, grinning even as it spluttered for breath. The captain of the guard pushed past Agathas, striding across to the creature. It snarled at him, coughing blood all over his boots as it did. 

The man’s face wrinkled in disgust. In one smooth movement, he drew his sword and struck the head from the creature’s shoulders. It flew across the room, striking the stone wall with a sound like wet sand. Falling to the ground, the jaws gnashed twice, then were still. Looking around, Agathas saw the last rat creature scuttling out the tower window and heard a thud as it hit the ground below. 

“The king is dead,” Agathas said, recovering her composure speedily. “Let it be known throughout the kingdom that the Council once again reigns supreme.” A smile spread across her face. “Inform the council members that their leader has summoned them at once.”

“At once, Honorable Prefect,” said the captain of the guard, sheathing his blade.

“Queen, I think you’ll find, Captain,” Agathas said, smiling an ugly smile. The captain of the guard was only taken aback for a moment, before bowing to her.

“My liege,” he said, already scheming his own rise to power. 

There would never again be another monarch to rule the kingdom. The fairies would see to it. 

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 5 Small Town Horror Movies

Small towns are known for being tight knit, often portrayed as the idyllic location for a quiet, peaceful life. But small towns are also secretive and isolated. They’re the perfect setting for horror.

Hold the Dark (2018)

Russell Core, an expert in wolf behavior, travels to the tiny town of Keelut, Alaska after he receives a plea from a mother who claims her son was carried off by the pack. But things are not what they seem, and Core finds himself drawn into a dangerous fight for survival.

You can watch Hold the Dark on Netflix.

The Crazies (2010)

Some of the residents of Ogden Marsh are beginning to act strangely, exhibiting violent behavior in the wake of a military plane crash that contaminated the water supply. The military shows up to contain the situation, forcing the uninfected to evade both the soldiers and their own neighbors to escape.

You can rent The Crazies on Amazon.

The Fog (1980)

The coastal town of Antonio Bay discovers the grizzly secret behind their town’s founding when supernatural events begin to occur. A ghostly fog reappears along with a 100-year-old sunken ship and revenants of murdered passengers seeking revenge.

You can watch The Fog on Shudder.

30 Days of Night (2007)

Barrow, Alaska is preparing for the annual polar night, which will plunge the town into darkness for thirty days, when a group of vampires shows up. The vampires slaughter most of the town and the survivors are forced to hide, flee, and fight to survive.

You can rent 30 Days of Night on Amazon.

The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1977)

The town of Texarkana is terrorized by violent and mysterious attacks on local couples. For months, the killer stalks the residents, his face obscured by a burlap sack, while authorities try to hunt him down.

You can watch The Town that Dreaded Sundown free on Amazon Prime.

Whether its zombies, ghosts, vampires, serial killers, or the residents themselves, small towns prove they can hold big horror. What’s your favorite small town horror story?

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Murder Manual

Plotline: Eight creepy tiny tales of terror!

Who would like it: Fans of short films, collections and anthologies 

High Points: It is a really strong anthology. 

Complaints: I have 2 and they aren’t really complaints. The 1st, tho the title suggest that this is going to be a manual on murder not all of the segments revolve around a killing. The 2nd is most of the marketing for this anthology is focused on the cameo of Emilia Clarke but this anthology is so strong that the marketing could have encompassed the film in its entirety and not just her micro short cameo

Overall: Love it! 

Stars: 4 stars

Where I watched it: Amazon Prime

***

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

HorrorAddicts.net 189, Lucifer Fulci

Horror Addicts Episode# 189
SEASON 15 “Cursed, Cubed”
Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich
Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe


david mark stashko | lucifer fulci | insidious the last key, 2018 

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net

28 days till Halloween/Halloween NOT canceled!

terror trax: lucifer fulci, heavy metal 2020

catchup: allergies! School distance learning, slytherin, ravenclaw, jk rowling shut up, frank h woodward, fans own harry potter, all inclusive, ghost voyage, syfy, #alive, movie, zombies, great movie 

merrill’s musical musings: r.l. merrill, horror soundtracks

how not to be cursed: listen to your dreams, ramon artagaveytia, finale talk, guests announced

logbook of terror: russell holbrook, nightmare listener

audiodrama: they wound like worms

kbatz krafts: DIY Halloween repairs

GB: quick and easy pirate costume, emerian rich

frightening flix: kbatz, insidious the last key, 2018

daphne’s den of darkness: daphne strasert, 5 blood drinking monsters, cabin session by isobel blackthorn

live action reviews: crystal connor, hall

bigfoot files: lionel green, on the trail of bigfoot the legend

dead mail: 

taylor: artistic license, eternal kingdom: http://www.feeds.feedburner.com/eternalkingdom

shannon: monkey attack! X.x

james: reality virus, zombie, apocalyptic, plague movies

news: jesse orr, my darling dead, bastards, haunts and hellions, the walking dead: world beyond,

unsafe words, loren rhoads
https://www.amazon.com/Unsafe-Words-Stories-Loren-Rhoads-ebook/dp/B08HHNQ6XV

laroux manor, liz butcher
https://www.amazon.com/LeRoux-Manor-Liz-Butcher-ebook/dp/B089W59RBF

 resident evil cgi show coming for netflix

book review: the willows comic, nathan carson, sam ford, review by sebastian grimm

author feature: interview by naching t. kassa, lucifer fulci, blasphemy


Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…

horroraddicts@gmail.com

h o s t e s s

Emerian Rich

h e a d  o f p u b l i s h i n g

Naching T. Kassa

p u b l i s h i n g  p. a.

Cedar George

b l o g  e d i t o r

Kate Nox

s t a f f

KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Daphne Strasert, Jesse Orr, Russell Holbrook, Lionel Green, Keiran Judge, Crystal Connor, Nightshade, Courtney Mroch, R.L. Merrill

Want to be a part of the HA staff? Email horroraddicts@gmail.com

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Chilling Chat: Episode #189 – Lucifer Fulci (David Mark Stashko)

chillingchat

By the light of day, David Mark Stashko practices social work with special attention to addiction, recovery and homelessness. He is also an avid cryptozoologist and paranormal/supernatural explorer. He writes books and speaks about these topics in various circles and under the moniker of “Light, Darkness and Dreamscapes.”

At night, David often transforms into Lucifer Fulci, a character he created in 1994 for death rock legends, Penis Flytrap. Since the inception of Fulci, he has created/participated in horror conventions, numerous solo records, multiple extreme horror books, various short movies, music videos and is the co-creator of his current band, LORDS of OCTOBER, with fellow author and filmmaker, Paul Counelis AKA Uncle Salem.

Fulci is partnered with his Wife, Scarah Stashko, who creates the majority of the art for all his projects and is his morbid media muse for all things strange and beautiful.

Lucifer is an amazing writer and musician with a terrific sense of humor. We spoke of the paranormal, writing stories vs. music, and H.P. Lovecraft.

 

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Lucifer! Thank you for joining me today.

LF: Of corpse. I am honored to be here. Horror addicts rules. Thank you for having me

NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror?

LF: I was probably about 7 or 8. I saw a commercial for The Exorcist on the tele and told my parents that I wanted to watch it. They told me not to, and if I did, I could not sleep in bed with them. I watched it.

And then I went to sleep in bed with them

Since then, I have had the infection of horror.

NTK: (Laughs.) Is The Exorcist your favorite horror movie? If not, what is?

LF: That is the loaded question of all time. To answer it plainly, it might be. I simply cannot say.

To give you a longer answer, a more real answer, it changes from time to time.

So, for today, I have been having a love affair with Dawn of the Dead again. And Zombie.

But The Exorcist has to be the one that will always remain closer to my little black heart

and a million more. I love so many of them and so many are meaningful to me. Really, it is so hard to say.

NTK: What is your favorite horror television show at this time?

LF: Lovecraft Country, most likely, as I have just discovered it and am having a love affair with it. Also, Raised by Wolves is a close second…for right now.

I finally finished the Outsider and love that, too, but not as much as those other two.

NTK: Lovecraft Country is based on a book. Do you have a favorite horror novel at this time?

LF: That is another loaded question. It is easy for me to say that I have a few all time faves, like Ninth and Hell Street by Chas Balun and Off Season by Jack Ketchum, but I also love to say how I love my own books a lot. That is kind of cheating…but each time I open an old one up, I think like, if I had not written it, I would love to be reading it. I recently read a portion of my book Vile Witches for an event called The Fall of April Ghouls Days…and I found that I actually enjoyed it greatly. But I dunno if that is cheating, to answer it like that.

NTK: (Laughs.) I don’t think so. What author has influenced you the most?

LF: Lovecraft, for sure. It was Chas Balun who really mentored me before my first novel, and I love his work, but over the years, Lovecraft has influenced me so much in my writing, in my music..its undeniable.

NTK: Did his work inspire any of your stories? What inspires you in your writing?

LF: Yes, by all means, there are a ton of short stories, like in my Collection of Horror series, just all over there, but I have a novella called The Elder Thing that was greatly inspired..and Wormutanous. I love my Howard Phillip.

It all depends on what inspires me..

its like..

Really, I get inspired by so many elements of the supernatural…music…Halloween…love stories, too. And then it’s just what I feel..and I try to not do the same things all the time..but that happens sometimes.

I used to want to make the goriest book ever made..and then I kept outdoing it..again. And again.

So yeah..

All kinds of things…from another world.

NTK: You’ve mentioned music and you’re a musician as well. Do you feel writing songs is the same as writing stories? Or do you feel you have to use a different part of your brain for each?

LF: Good question. It is similar, in many ways, yes. There is a lot of me that, when I create, it just sort of happens. When I sit at the keys and type, and the same with music…and then I try to organize it. I would have to say that with music, I have, so far, a broader range of emotion. I have a lot more love songs that I do stories about love.

NTK: What inspired “Blasphemy?”

LF: That is a kind of funny story, because like I was saying before, I have tried to outdo one gore book over another..over the years..but for this one, I felt a real desire to touch into the satanic type of realm. Just for fun. Not to mention, I had made a new friend around the same time. Her name is Soma and some of her images, art, creation, they inspired me. She is also the cover model for that book. So, in a lot of ways, she inspired me…but it is a work of fiction. She is not really a demon…or is she? (Laughs.)

NTK: Do you outline your books and stories? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

LF: Definite outline. I will come up with an idea..and then I will think of the full story, break each idea down to chapters and then start from there.

I tend to jump around sometimes, but I still stay pretty grounded in the core story.

NTK: Do your characters have free will at all? Or do you control their every move?

LF: I am their master, their Lord. I am in control of all of their little lives…unless they gather their own self-awareness. Then the game is over.

NTK: (Laughs.) You’re a cryptozoologist and supernatural/paranormal explorer. Have you ever participated in any paranormal investigations?

LF: Yes, the real deal. I have been a part of, party to and experienced more than the scope of this conversation allows. What I can say, with no reservations, is that it is all real. All of it. There are other worlds before our very eyes and things within it. Sometimes they speak and show us, other times, they sing in our dreams, but yes, I have known for many a year that this world is only one of endless worlds.. if we keep our eyes open equally as our spirits, we shall feel what most people fear.

At one point, many years back, I channeled a spirit to a family I knew in Los Angeles and answered questions I could not have known the answers to. It was strange and wonderful

And it allowed some kind of closure to previous issues they had. And I had no idea it was happening until it was over.

I don’t mean to sound hokey at all, these things have just been with me for many years.

NTK: What is your favorite curse?

LF: My favorite curse? I am not sure I have one! (Laughs.) But I do like that movie, the Curse of La Llorona. It was pretty cool.

NTK: How about your favorite curse word?

LF: Well, I am not sure. I can bet you 666 dollars that my friends would say that it is FUCK. There are just so many ways to use it. I hardly ever use it in anger, unless I am by myself.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What work do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

LF: The future looks grim and bedazzled by horror…so it’s awesome! Currently, my solo record called The Elder Sign is near completion. There are a few songs and videos for it out there now, but I have been taking it slow since the pandemic struck. I love it, though, it’s a lot of heavy metal fun. For my band, Lords of October, we are about to start working on our next effort, Cryptozoology, again. We have had enough of this COVID and are taking measures to practice safely and record, too. We had only begun that record when Covid hit. Lots of groovy ghoulie songs. I have a story, along with my Lords of October frontman, Paul Counelis AKA Uncle Salem, on a new Bigfoot compilation called “Unimaginable.” It’s a lot of fun…I use my real name, David for that story…and another book of my own called The Anomaly. So much more, really…I do a podcast now, I Love Lucifer, and then there are other books, films…all kinds of stuff that people can read about at

There is more stuff always brewing…I just wanna get back into the world and play live again. I miss the people. I miss putting on the makeup and becoming Lucifer.

I could go on, too, ya see, because I am working with a lot of talented people, always, usually the guys in my band and the guys behind the Flint Horror Collective, which is a group I am a part of here in Michigan.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me today, Lucifer! You’ve been a wonderful guest!

LF: And you have been a wonderful host. Thank you for this opportunity

Now, Addicts, enjoy this music video from Lucifer’s band Lords of October!

Addicts, you can find Lucifer on Ghoul Cast, in his short horror film The Idol, and in his former band–Penis Flytrap. You can also read his Guide to the Italian Cannibal Film.

 

Logbook of Terror : Nightmare Listener

A Small Poem By Russell Holbrook

 

In dreams I am told, there are secrets to behold

Should one listen or take heed

To verses and curses, ships and hearses

In nightmares, there are warnings indeed.

If horror gives chase, be sure to make haste

Listen to what I say

Through blood and bone, wind and stone

Death will find a way.

 

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Scary Movies and Scary Dreams!

Scary Movies and Scary Dreams! By Kristin Battestella

These, sleepers, mind benders, and franchise twists provide plenty of dreams and distorted realities. Unfortunately, some are scary good and others are scary bad.

Insidious: The Last Key – After the thin, uneven, seemingly nowhere left to go Chapter 3I’m surprised there’s room for this 2018 sequel aka Chapter 4. There’s headache inducing volume issues once again with soft voices versus incredibly loud excuses to make you jump if the scares don’t. Fortunately, penitentiary gates, latches, and skeleton keys disturb the nearby 1950s families. Lights flicker during every execution, and young Elise insists ghosts are in the bunk bend and playing with their toys. Dad, however, gets out the switch for talking nonsense and locks her in the basement bomb shelter where child voices taunt her to open a special red door – leading to evil claw hands with keys for nails, ghostly possessions, and hanging consequences. Grown up Elise Lin Shaye dreams about the past as her Spectral Sightings team moves in with their semi-working technology and a tricked out ghost hunting van. When the latest call for paranormal help is her old address, she’s initially reluctant to return to the house she fled with scars on her back. Though some of the emotion seems rushed or superficial – actual ghosts and ghosts of the past metaphors, we get it– the mix of sardonic, nerdy banter, and friendship ground the trauma, lingering cobwebs, and bibles. Night vision and point of view cameras provide shadows that some see and others don’t while microphones and phantom whistles create one yes, two no communications that are more chilling than unnecessary references to the prior film. False walls and hidden keyholes reveal chains, crawling entities, and creaking demons approaching the paralyzed in fear. Awkward confrontations with brothers left behind and meeting grown nieces create personal touches amid the metaphysical and psychological horrors as the family is lured back to the maze like levels of the house. Tunnels, old suitcases, and skulls address both the personal demons and the underlying sinister as spirits need to be freed from the dark. Metronomes lead to eerie fog, lanterns, underworld jail cells, and risky confrontations in The Further. Detours with real world violence, loud action, guns, and police, however, are time wasting filler when the ghosts still have to be faced. After the fine demon reveal strengthening our family connections, everything degrades into typical whooshes, television rattling roars, and a deus ex machina that’s the same deus ex machina from Chapter 3 complete with winks to the First Insidious for good measure. Although there are problems when the plot strays from the tale it’s supposed to be telling, this was more entertaining than the ultimately unnecessary third movie.

You Make the Call

All Light Will End – Thunder, rustic cabins, and a scared little girl in white saying there’s a monster in her closet open this 2018 scary before folk songs, creaking doors, and hiding under the sheets with a flashlight to keep the growls at bay. However, rather than building on these chills, the story restarts twenty years later with a fat redneck cop chastising a rookie black cop as they answer a call about a severed forearm. We’re told the little girl is the sheriff’s daughter before restarting again with her big city rise and shine complete with taking pills while looking in the bathroom mirror, edgy ballads, and posters for her titular bestselling debut. Multiple driving montages, radio chatter, cliché talk show interviews, and therapy lose more momentum – arbitrarily going through the motions while giving everything away in the first fifteen minutes. Her medication can cause disassociation or a fugue state mixing dreams with reality, and flashes of previous conversations, nightmares, and suicides provide guilt, blame, and inner demons. Alarms, flashing lights, green hues, and eerie tunnels accent the hospital nightmares, and the best scary moments allow the potential frights behind each door to play out with darkness and screams. Unfortunately, these quality night terror vignettes delay our writer’s six-hour drive home to face her fears, and it takes more than half the movie for any forward action to happen. We’re at the wrong point in the story, and viewers who haven’t tuned out will wonder why we’re watching now when all the story seems to have happened then. Bungling cops jar against the severed limbs, creepy gas stations, suspected abuse, and campfire tales, but the grieving family moments and women mulling over telling secrets or keeping them and losing your sanity are better than the try-hard pals with beer. The blurring of dreams versus reality are intercut well when we finally do get to the cabin, mirroring the mental disassociation with similar nighttime lighting, mind-bending jumps, distorted voices, blindfolds, and bloody trails. People are missing, searchers are separated, and woods and whispers blend together. Prior arguments between mother and daughter are revisited with negative portrayals, sacrifices about what it takes to be a writer, and doubts about who wrote what escalating to blackmail and crazed, violent reactions. Although there are some choice twists as well as a reason for the disjointed, non-linear telling, the structural flaws make it tough to enjoy this story. Key points are both obvious thanks to that front-loaded information and muddled with unanswered plot holes and abrupt resolutions. The possibilities devolve into hammy actions, unnecessary running at the screen with open mouth screams, and strolling through the woods in bloody lingerie. With four minutes of end credits, this really is an eighty minute movie that should have traded the first half hour for a half hour to resolve everything properly.

 Skip It!

Mara – Sleep paralysis statistics and fears of demonic possession open this 2018 thriller starring Olga Kurylenko (Centurion) amid children’s bedroom terrors and behind closed door screams. Ticking clocks and blue lighting set off the creepy drawings, mental evaluations, and witnesses recounting their sleep demon experience – weighed down on the mattress and unable to breathe. Unfortunately, there are too many of those Horror Movie Cliches I’m Tired of Seeing contrivances interfering with what should be an interesting story. Character sympathies and our strong woman psychologist in a tough policeman’s world jar against the forced scary elements, making the titular ominous as laughable as the overly dramatic slow motion, arias, and ripped teddy bear on the floor. At times this wants to be a standard procedural using jump drives, CCTV, crime scene notes, and tablet technology, but then our gal goes off to a mysterious address without notifying police and listens to sleep-deprived crackpot theories to learn about the sleep demon rather than just, you know, Googling it. The detective is right to remind her she’s out of bounds, for this psychologist is easily bothered by what seems like a routine case. After hearing sufferers admit this sleep demon sounds like crazy talk, we’re not surprised when the trapped sleep and stilted breathing happens to her – there’s never any doubt this is a monster, not delusion or delirium thanks to early reveals and unnecessarily spooky compromising any innate suspense. From a divorcing couple and their child to prayer freaks, disturbed veterans, and our psychologist with a crazy mom past, everyone who sees Mara has other issues yet nobody wonders what’s really causing their sleepless nights. Hypnotic ceiling fans, fiery deaths, and gasping paralysis build scares, but bemusing bloodshot eye markings and demon mythology deflate the terror. Mara doesn’t kill you right away but comes in four assault stages that can’t happen if you only sleep in twenty-minute shifts. Predictable encounters and dream jump shocks tread tires while our agitated sleepless victims are more annoying than believable. With today’s technology, no one sets up a camera for proof? The notion to involve more science and sleep monitoring comes too late, and the doctors blame The X-Files and pop culture for scaring people anyway. Weak paranoia and guilt metaphors provide no payoff to the psychologist’s suicidal schizophrenic mother backstory, but Olga’s look becomes increasingly frazzled – physically changing her appearance rather than addressing her turmoil. Car accidents and fighting to stay awake chases in the finale could have been the entire strung out focus, but time is wasted on the demon doing both in your face screams and taking its sweet, creaking time to inch toward the victim. When we finally get to the desperate cutting off of the eyelids, it’s just gore and a thin idea run out of steam. Although this could have been much better and seems content to be repetitive and Elm Street derivative, it can be a mildly entertaining late-night watch or bemusing drinking game if you aren’t looking for something really scary or expect any real sense of dread.

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My Darling Dead : Bastards Episode 12 / Long Lost Relations


Barris was dead. 

Orteg had awoken one morning to see what remained of the man who had orchestrated the murder of Orteg’s children laying immobile with his usual coating of insects. He had gotten used to the inexorable rising and falling of the hollow wood sitting atop Barris’ chest and its sudden stillness drew his eye immediately. 

Every day Orteg had been given a bladder of water and some days he was given stale or moldy bread which he wolfed down before they could change their minds and remove the crusts. He knew that with Barris dead, they must come for him today; now that Barris was dead, the torture of watching the man be infested and rot from the inside was over. But what would become of him? Would the wizard prove merciful? What would he have to gain by setting Orteg free? 

The answer to which he kept inexorably returning was: nothing. 

Orteg’s black musings were interrupted by the sound of rushing wind, though the trees and grass were still. A piercing light split the early morning air, causing Orteg to throw up his arm and turn away, cowering against the wall of his cage. The sound of the wind tapered off to nothing as the light faded, leaving absolute silence in its wake. Even the creatures of the swamp were silent. 

“Orteg, son of Wendell. Attend me.”

The voice was female, rich, and cultured. Orteg’s eyes opened wide and he turned. The woman standing before him was tall and willowy, silver hair shining from simple braids. A white garment like a toga was wrapped around her from which seemed to emanate the same silvery light. 

“Who–who are you?” Orteg asked, shaking. 

“I am the fairy Liseem,” she said, a smile on her face. “I am come to release you from this captivity, that you may take your rightful place as king.”

Orteg blinked, his stomach spasming as it growled abruptly and the world spun around him. “I’m sorry, you’re who? What? I’ve finally started hallucinating, haven’t I?”

The fairy smiled and extended a finger. The door to the cage simply went away. One moment it was there, the next it had ceased to exist. Orteg gaped. 

“Come, son of Wendell,” Liseem said, holding out her hand. 

Orteg held his own hand out. Touching the fairy’s skin which was softer than anything he had ever experienced. She smelled like life. He smiled at her. “You’re beautiful,” he said. 

She laughed. “Prepare yourself,” she said. 

“For what?” Orteg never got the chance to ask. There was a tug at the hand the fairy held and the world around him blurred into dark nothingness. Wind roared in his ears and he got the sensation that there was nothing at all around him. He squeezed and felt Liseem’s hand. He tried to yell but before he could, he was standing in the forest beside Liseem with the castle’s towers visible through the trees. 

“We have arrived,” Liseem said. “Observe yourself; you will find you are no longer weak from hunger and thirst.”

With a start, Orteg realized she was right. He was certainly hungry, but no longer felt as though he might pass out at any moment and, while he felt thirsty, he would not have sold his soul for a cup of water. “Where have we arrived?” he asked dumbly. 

“Your birthright,” Liseem said, gesturing toward the castle. “You have all you require. You only lack the christening of a true king.”

Orteg looked at her blankly. She smiled. “Kneel, son of Wendell.”

He did as she bade, bowing his head. She placed one cool hand on his head, sending chills down his spine. 

“I christen you King Orteg Bluenote of the kingdom of Dandoich. May your reign be as long and happy as it is possible to be!”

A dazzling silver light shone from her hand, enveloping them both. Orteg’s eyes were squeezed tight shut as he heard the rushing of wind but felt nothing. As it died, he noticed that her hand was gone from his head. He opened his eyes a fraction and looked around him. He was alone in the forest, as though there had never been another soul. 

He raised his eyes and took in the castle, still a great distance but near enough to taste. He recalled his hours there, the respect he had been shown, earned or not. He remembered Barris, the man’s bloated visage smirking at him, that same face half-eaten by vermin, pleading for water. He remembered his children being bundled into the castle by a patrol with as little care shown for their well-being as a sack of unwanted kittens. He remembered seeing those same bodies born out of the castle, toward the burying ground. Looking at his hands, those same appendages which had stolen the lives of his children, tears rose to his eyes. He clenched them, taking a deep breath, and began to move. 

Agathas cowered in the corner of her cage, cold iron bars pressing into the naked folds of flesh she normally kept covered by her robes of state. Now, naked, dripping and shivering from the buckets of ice water that had been dumped on her, she watched Sir Antion manipulating himself beneath his trousers, breathing heavily as he stared at her. Another bucket of water sat beside him, this one steaming hot. Her eyes went from his flushed cheeks to the bucket and back in endless cycles. 

Sir Antion grinned, thrusting his hips in her direction as he massaged himself. “You wet enough yet, Prefect? But you look cold. Shall I warm you?”  He made as if to grab the handle of the bucket. 

“NO!” she shrieked. Dropping to her knees, she laced her fingers together. “Please, Sir Antion, don’t burn me…don’t burn me…”

Antion dipped a finger into the bucket of water. Wincing, he pulled it out, waving his finger in the air to cool it. “Mighty hot water, this is,” he said with a grin. “Castle cooks had it boiling all morning. Wouldn’t you care for a little—”

The door banged open. Antion and Agathas both jumped, Antion spinning in place, his foot colliding with the bucket of hot water, sending a flood of scalding liquid cascading across the chamber. Antion scarcely felt it though, occupied as he was by the giant broadsword now protruding from his middle. 

“For my family, you foul scum!” Orteg shrieked, pulling the broadsword clear of Antion’s stomach before running him through once again. The knight screamed, a gout of blood pouring from his mouth as he grabbed at the sword blade, slicing his fingers to the bone as he attempted to pull it out. Orteg pulled the sword from Antion’s belly once again, the latter falling to his knees as he stared down at the ragged holes in his stomach. He looked up just in time to see the massive broadsword blade swinging toward him. 

Sir Antion’s head rolled across the wet floor, splashing in the cooling puddles of water before coming to rest against the cage containing Agathas. The head’s lips twitched into what could be construed as a grin. One eye winked at her once, then was still. Agathas screamed, curling up in the corner farthest from the severed head, unable to take her eyes from its glassy stare, terrified that it would move again. 

“Silence!” roared Orteg, splashing across the floor to the cage. “By the gods, woman, silence your infernal tongue, before—”

“Someone hears the racket you are making and comes to investigate?”

Orteg spun as the door slammed shut. Zavier stood before it, his face a malevolent blank. Before Orteg could react, he felt all the strength draining from his limbs, like water from a pierced gourd. He sank to the ground, fighting to maintain his upright posture and helpless to do so. He gazed up at Zavier from the stone floor, filled with equal parts of hatred and dread. 

“So,” Zavier said, “Now that you won’t be trying anything foolish, we can have a little chat before I am finally rid of you. How did you like my little arrangement for Barris? A friend in a far-off country told me about that method of disposal but I’d never had an opportunity to try it out for myself.”

Orteg’s stomach rolled as his mind flashed back, unbidden, to Barris, grinning with his face that was not a face and drooling as the insects infested him from the bottom up, continuing their life cycle relentlessly inside the body of the dying man. Zavier saw the look on Orteg’s face and smiled. 

“Yes, I thought you would enjoy that. You know, Orteg, all you had to do was take the throne and do what I told you. Had you done that, you would have been the lord of the land with nothing to concern you but which wench you wish to service you. Instead, you allowed yourself to be manipulated by this piece of trash—” Zavier waved at Agathas who cringed as though he had struck her, “and her brother, leaving us where we find ourselves now.” Zavier sighed. “It didn’t have to be this way. You should never have listened to Barris.”

“Barris is… is dead?” Agathas whispered, her voice hoarse. 

“Of course he is,” Zavier said, contempt dripping from his words. “The great fat lump was consumed by the smallest inhabitants of the swamp, with plenty of time to think about his actions, let me assure you. A big man like that probably won’t be fully claimed by the swamp for months…”

“Why, though?” Orteg asked angrily. “Why are you going to this effort?”

Zavier was still for a moment, staring at Orteg. “Do you have family, Orteg?”

“None, they have all been murdered!” Orteg spat from his position on the floor. Try as he might, he could still not move a muscle below the neck. 

Zavier waved a hand, dismissing Orteg’s murdered family. “Family by blood, not a wife or your disgusting spawn.”

“Never,” Orteg said. “My mother died when I was very young and I had no siblings.”

“A lie you have espoused your entire life, without even knowing it,” Zavier said, a mad light in his eye. “You are the bastard son of the king. However, he was not the only one to seek solace outside of his holy union. King Wendell’s wife, the Queen Hespa, had her own child out of wedlock, with the wizard Sapius. Orteg, I am your half-brother. I am the queen’s son!”