Black Horror Movies

This is our list of Af Am, African, and Black movies from around the world either produced, directed, or main character acting by people of African descent. If you have any suggestions, please add them in the comments and we’ll add them to our list.

Anaconda

Angelheart

Antebellum

Attack the Block

Bad Hair

Beloved

Blackenstein

Blacula 1

Blacula 2

Blade movies

Bones

Candyman, 1992 (review by Kieran Judge)

Candyman, 2021 (review by Crystal Connor)

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (review by Eden Royce)

Dawn of the Dead

Def by Temptation

Dracula 3000

Eve’s Bayou

Fallen

Ganja & Hess (review by Eden Royce)

Get Out (review by Kenzie Kordic)

Gothika

Heks (review by Crystal Connor)

His House (review by Kbatz)

Hood of the Living Dead

House on Haunted Hill

House on Willow Street

I Am Legend

Last Ones Out

Leprechaun 5: In the Hood

Lost Boys: The Thirst

Ma

Missing Angel (Nigerian)

Night of the Living Dead (article on Tony Todd by Sumiko Saulson)

Queen of the Damned

Serpent and the Rainbow

Strange Days

Sugar Hill (review by Valjenne Jeffers)

Surviving Evil

Synchronic

Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight

Tales from the Hood

Tales from the Hood 2

The First Purge

The Green Mile

The House Next Door

The Mangler

The People under the Stairs

The Scary Movie franchise

The Soul Collector 8

The Tokoloshe (about Tokoloshe by Kieran Judge)

The Unforgiving

Thriller

Us

Vamp (with Grace Jones)

Vampire in Brooklyn (review by Kbatz)

Vampires in the Bronx (review by Kbatz)

If you have any suggestions, please add them in the comments and we’ll add them to our list.

Chilling Chat: Episode #201 – Crystal Connor

Crystal Connor grew up telling spooky little campfire-style stories at slumber parties. Living on a steady literary diet of Stephen King, Robin Cook, Dean R. Koontz and healthy doses of cinema masterpieces such as The Birds, Friday the 13th,Wordsmith Crystal Connor Hellraiser, The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone; along with writing short stories specializing in the Science Fiction & Horror genres since before Jr. high School, it surprised no one that she ended up writing horror novels! 

Crystal is a fascinating person and a thought-provoking author. We spoke of writing, her influences, and her literary father. 

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

CC: Thank you so much for having me.

NTK: What got you into horror and how old were you?

CC: Gosh, that’s such a good question. I’ve always told really good horror stories. When I was little, I was invited to all the slumber parties because I told her really good horror stories. (Laughs.) It’s something that I’ve always done. I didn’t grow up thinking that I was going to be a horror author—it just happened by happenstance, so yeah.

NTK: Did you watch horror movies at the slumber parties? What is your favorite horror movie?

CC: I don’t remember watching horror movies at slumber parties, unless I was the one hosting them. Horror is something that’s always been in the peripherals of my life. I grew up watching the black-and-white Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Dark Shadows, Tales from the Crypt, Twilight Zone, Hellraiser, Stephen King, Michael Jackson’s Thriller. You know, horror’s always been a part of my life, and I always like things—you know—darker around the edges.

NTK: What is your favorite horror television show?

CC: I think my favorite TV shows growing up was a tie between The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone. I believe science fiction and horror are fraternal twins and there’s a lot of stuff in those two series that are just like downright unsettling. So, growing up—ya there would be a tie.

NTK:  Do you have a favorite horror novel?

CC: Ok, so people actually raise their eyebrows when they hear me say this, but my favorite horror novel of all time is the Book of Revelations in the King James Bible. Now, I grew up in a Christian household and I’m a Godfearing person. I don’t think I’m a Christian because, of course, I’m not living according to the scriptures. But the book of revelations has shaped my writing and me as a person. From a very young age that was the first story that I read from start to finish without stopping, and it’s just so terrifying. I mean, I was just like terrified, right, ‘cause I think I might have been like 10 or 11 years old and I’m super seduced by images and that book is so visually terrifying that it stuck with me. The visuals and the things that were prophesized that are going to come to pass if we don’t change our ways of living—so, yeah, it’s the Book of Revelations that has shaped me as an individual in my personal life and in my writing life as well.

NTK: So, do you have a favorite horror author?

CC: My favorite horror writer, besides myself, hands down has to be Stephen King. I didn’t take any writing classes and when I write, I just kind of dislike writing everything down as it comes to me. But Stephen King is the person who taught me how to write. He is my mentor even though he doesn’t know it. So, when I’m working on a scene and I’m struggling through it, I usually just read a book from Stephen King to see how he did it, and then, I kind of copy that style to get me out of whatever hole I’m in. Whatever I’m like struggling to get by. The very first King novel that I read was Pet Sematary and of course, I’ve read everything that he’s written after that. He’s my favorite horror writer because he’s my literary dad. (Laughs.)

But there are so many amazing horror authors now, that there’s no way that I would be able to name them all. Some women who have been influential in my career would be like Linda Addison, Eden Royce, and Sumiko Saulson. There’re so many of us, and that’s a really good thing.

NTK: That’s great! As a person of color, what has your experience in the horror community been like? Good? Bad? Both?

CC: It’s been a combination of all three. With my first novel, The Darkness, the editor working on it suggested that people would not connect to my two main characters which are both strong black women leads but don’t fit the stereotypical idea of a black woman in the media, you know. So, that was really shocking to hear as a first-time writer coming up. But luckily, I didn’t take her advice and I stayed true to my story. And then, six months after it was published, I was the recipient of two international book awards. It’s been amazing because I’ve had people come up to me saying that they didn’t know that there are black people writing horror.

I think my favorite part of being a black horror writer, is meeting other people of color who are creating horror content. This has just been so incredible. But it’s a double-edged sword, because the assumption is black people are unable to write really good horror, but it is a compliment and because I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my shit. I’ll take the compliments where I can. (Laughs.)

But it’s incredible to see how people are now recognizing our work and also enjoying our work. Last night, I went to see a private screening of Candyman, and it just brought me to tears to see people of color creating stories of horror that are mainstream. So yeah, this is just incredible.

NTK: You often review movies and books, what did you think of Candyman? Had you seen the original?

CC: Yup. I saw the original and the new movie blew me away. It is not a reboot. It is not a sequel. It is a continuation of the story, and it was so amazing, that I left the theater just numb. My advice to everybody is just to go see the movie, but keep in mind that it’s told from a different point of view. So, the first Candyman was produced by, you know, a white crew, white writers, and predominantly white actors. But this time around, we’re telling our side of this story. So, for me, it was more horrific than the first one. But it is every bit the type of movie we have grown accustomed to and get excited about.

When the movie has Jordan Peele’s name attached to it, it’s just hands down incredible. It was beautiful, and it was frightening, and even the kill scenes were almost elegant. I hope you get to see this movie.

NTK: What inspires your writing? What inspired you to write My First Nightmare?

CC: Oh my God, what inspired me to write My First Nightmare was when my fans would come up to me at conventions and ask me to write a children’s novel. I don’t write for children so for the first two years I absolutely refused to do it. But it did start growing in the back of my mind and when I reached out to an artist, and explained what I wanted to do, the numbers he came back with is what really propelled me to write the book. It could afford the artwork that’s in that book.

The idea for My First Nightmare was to introduce children to the horror genre through the stories of urban legends, myths, and monsters from actual cultures from all the way around the world.

But not from cultures that we are heavily bombarded with. So, there’re no Egyptian monsters, there’re no Norse monsters, I really spent a whole entire year researching the monsters that I wanted to be presented in this book so that it’s truly a diverse horror novel for children and even adults who want to, like, put their toe into the waters of horror.

NTK: So, when you write your characters, do they have free will? Or do you direct their every move?

CC: I think this might be true for all writers but there comes a time in the story where the characters take over. I usually just start writing with an idea and about a third of the way through, I’m just hanging on for the ride. With my Spectrum Trilogy, I was not expecting that to be a trilogy. That was just gonna be a medical thriller/science fiction/ horror book about a child that was created in the lab. But because I didn’t let myself stay in a box, I ended up with a complete trilogy with the genres of time traveling, sorcery, and military thriller. It’s just people who read that series are blown away that I wrote it in the first place, and then the second thing they always ask is how I kept everything straight. And the answer is—I have no idea. (Laughs.)

NTK: (Laughs.) That is cool! What advice do you have for other authors?

CC: My advice would be to always have fun and don’t beat yourself up when you don’t feel like writing that day, or if you have writer’s block. And I’m also gonna share a cheat code: watching movies counts as research!

NTK: (Laughs.) That’s great! What does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

CC: I’m currently working on two books. They’re both standalone. One is YA. The other book I’m working on is a straight adult horror novel called The Family.

And, as far as HorrorAddicts is concerned, whatever they throw my way. I have been able to prescreen and review some of the most amazing horror movies that are out there, and that’s one of the things that I love so much about working for HorrorAddicts. It’s my tribe. That’s my tribe.

NTK: That’s wonderful! Thank you for joining me today!

CC: This was really fun. Thanks for interviewing me.

Ghastly Games: Top Five Horror Related Video Games By CM Lucas

Top Five Horror Related Video Games  by CM Lucas 

Since the beginning of the modern video game revolution (or generation 1), the genre of horror has always been present to varying degrees. Unlike its Hollywood counterparts, horror within the gaming industry has been met with acclaim and admiration. From the early days of the Atari 2600 to the powerhouses that are modern consoles and computers alike, horror video games have captured the imaginations and instilled fear in a way film is simply incapable of doing. From the slight jump scares to the titles that delve into the dark void of the subconscious, here are the top 5 horror video games of all time. 

Silent Hill 1 (PS1) 

Emerging from the foreboding shadow left by Resident Evil, Silent Hill cast off the shackles of its predecessor and took players into a visceral, psychological direction. Harry Mason searches for his daughter within the endless mist of Silent Hill. As his search progresses, the town begins to transform into a twisted version of itself. 

At the center of the chaos, a demonic cult wishing to bring about the birth of “God” with the sacrifice of Harry’s eight-year-old daughter. 

With crucified, mangled bodies adorning walls, and demonic apparitions on your heels, this nightmare come to life will leave you with an uneasiness hours after you’ve finished playing. 

Limbo (PS4, Xbox, PC, Nintendo Switch, ios)

Set within a child’s nightmare, we follow a nameless boy as he travels through a silhouetted forest en route to finding his sister. The terror comes from empathy with the nameless child. The terrified but brave boy is forced to endure the hellish landscape filled with frightening imagery, dangerous pitfalls, and a giant spider, all while trying to find his sister, makes for a horrific and somber experience. 

Uninvited (NES, Macintosh, Commodore 64) 

Perhaps one of the best examples of music and atmosphere compensating for limited graphical capability. The oldest entry on this list, Uninvited, places the player in immediate danger as you wake up within a mangled wreck, seconds from erupting in flames. After exiting the wreck, the player finds themselves at the doorstep of a Victorian mansion. Upon entry, the atmosphere is thick with impending doom, as the empty foyer hints at the house’s evil secrets. 

Immersing the player deeper into the experience by placing you in first-person perspective. Adding to the uneasy nature is the game’s limited, point and click controls; there is no free roaming, giving the player a feeling of helplessness when encountering one of many hair-raising specters. Although visually antiquated, Uninvited has the ability to frighten by setting mood and instilling “nail-biting” dread as you prepare to enter a room or speak to a proper southern belle, waiting within a cavernous hallway. 

P.T. (PS4)

Impending, palpable dread is the immediate feeling you get within the opening moments of this 2014 classic. Appearing mysteriously on the PlayStation Network, P.T. was an enigmatic demo that had players scratching their heads as well as sweating profusely (is sweating the right word?) Much like Uninvited, P.T. places the player in first-person, allowing for a more immersive experience. 

The player wakes within a darkened room, focusing on a face peering in from a slightly opened door. We then enter a sprawling hallway that sets the player in a never-ending-ending loop. As the player traverses the loop, your interaction with the environment brings you closer to solving the puzzle. With haunting audio, foreboding atmosphere, and the feeling that there’s always something behind you, the tension rises as you turn the corner upon each consecutive loop until the inevitable and unwelcome encounter with the ghoulish “Lisa.” 

Silent Hill 2 (PS2, Xbox, PC) 

Not only one of the most psychologically scarring experiences in gaming, but in any medium. Silent Hill 2 is an unsettling journey into subconscious self-torment brought to life. James Sunderland is a man who finds himself in the unenviable position of being in the foggy, desolate town of Silent Hill. After receiving a letter from his late wife, James searches for answers, encountering subtextual creatures hell-bent on him suffer. 

As James traverses the small town, he plunges deeper into the nonsensical, nightmarish underbelly of Silent Hill. Coming face to face with issues of incestuous rape, sexual frustration, bullying, and euthanasia; Sunderland must come to grips with his past sins or suffer in a self-imposed purgatory

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CM “Spokkas” Lucas is a freelance writer who enjoys writing Horror/Science Fiction and works as a freelance writerof articles and reviews. He watches movies and plays video games of the horror genre. Look for more articles to come from hin here on HorrorAddicts.net

Nightmare Fuel: Peggy The Doll

Hello Addicts,

A staple of most childhoods is the doll. Whether they are action figures, Barbie, or whatever you called them, practically all of us played with a doll in some fashion growing up. As Hollywood and paranormal shows have shown us, spirits can inhabit them. More often than not, they can be less than pleasant or downright evil. Many believe that dolls are not just toys but also used in education, rituals, and messengers or effigies of gods and goddesses. Some believe that the creation of dolls was to house spirits of the dead. Such is the case with Peggy the Doll.

Peggy is a three-foot cutie with blonde hair and blue eyes. It looks like the typical child’s companion, but that only seems to hide the ghostly abilities attributed to her. A previous owner reported being unable to sleep after purchasing the doll. She lived alone but heard footsteps around the house and the clicking of the bathroom light turning off and on at night. It spooked her to the point of wrapping the doll in a rug and placing her in a shed. From there, the doll, who was unnamed at the time, passed on to paranormal investigator Jayne Harris.

Within days of taking the doll home, Jayne began feeling fatigued, to the point of being unable to get out of bed. When she allowed a friend to take the doll away for a couple of days, she began feeling like her old self again. The strangeness became more evident after she posted a picture of the still-unnamed doll to her Facebook page without any details. Overnight, people sent messages detailing strange things that happened after just seeing the picture. The complaints included headaches, chest pains, lightbulbs burning out, footsteps, and dogs spinning in circles and barking. One message came from a psychic medium, who claimed that the spirit inhabiting the doll was a restless and frustrated woman named Peggy.

Currently, Peggy has a room in the Zak Bagans Haunted Museum in Las Vegas, NV, where cameras watch her 24/7. Before being allowed to see her, visitors sign a waiver in case of any strange occurrences that may follow.

Whether Peggy actually can affect the people in the ways described is left up to the individual. As for me, she has inspired a short story of my own involving a haunted doll. I hope to visit the museum someday and get to meet her face to face.

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J. Pitsiladis

FRIGHT TRAIN : An anthology of spooky tales set around the railways

FRIGHT TRAIN

An anthology of spooky tales set around the railways reviewed by Renata Parvey

Editors: Switch House Gang

“Anyone who has ever been awakened late at night by a distant train whistle knows there is no lonelier sound. It is a mournful howl from a soulless traveler on a night journey to destinations unknown.”

Halloween arrived early this year with a spooky collection of tales based on the railways. Editors Charles R. Rutledge and Tony Tremblay came up with the concept of horror stories set around trains, and were rewarded with an assortment of stories ranging from Victorian-era ghostly yarns to contemporary thrillers, fantasy, and science fiction, ranging from creepy and humorous to atmospheric and downright gory. Fright Train comprises a mixture of contemporary authors with classic writers and a plethora of suspenseful, horror, and chilling stories set on or around train journeys. I particularly liked the concept of train travel and picked up the collection curious to see how each writer interpreted the narrow theme. The anthology is a ticket in itself to travel to unknown lands with shady co-passengers in suspicious cabins. Switch House Gang has reserved a seat for the reader and the ride awaits!

The collection includes classics like Charles Dickens’ The Signalman and Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost Special which have spooked us for over a century. And there are also newer stories about ghost trains, train accidents, missing trains, invisible rails, piercing whistles, vampire and zombie passengers, peculiar drivers, specials that give a whole new meaning to ‘special’, and a host of wonderful short stories that keep you on edge as you ride along with the characters. Themes include broken marriages, dead children, grieving parents, retrospecting the past, seeing the future, predicting alternative realities, journeys to and from hell.

It’s hard to pick a favorite because every story is outstanding in its own way and deserves its own review. They’re so different from each other, while simultaneously adhering to the narrow theme. The haunting tale of motherhood in Amanda DeWees’ A Traveler Between Eternities, as an unborn child takes a train ride; the dystopian rail route of Stephen Mark Rainey’s Country of the Snake; Errick Nunnally’s gore-fest Lust for Life that keeps you guessing till the end who the real killer is; past demons catching up with the present in James Moore’s The Midnight Train; the pandemic world of Scott Goudsward’s Plague Train; the haunted joyride of Elizabeth Massie’s Tunnel Vision; Jeff Strand’s Devil-powered Death Train of Doom that questions parental behavior and its influence on the actions of children; Tony Tremblay’s Pépère’s Halloween Train that focuses on the grandparent-grandchild relationship; Charles Rutledge’s twist on Dracula in The Habit of Long Years; Lee Murray’s cultural fest of Maori traditions and seers, spirit-guides and goddesses assisting a search-and-rescue in Weeping Waters; Mercedes Yardley’s The Rhythm of Grief that navigates the rail crossings between the living and the dead; Bracken MacLeod’s Weightless Before She Falls that distinguishes real monsters from imaginary ones, Christopher Golden’s All Aboard and its eerie 3:18 special. The contemporary writers even make up thirteen in number, to go with the horror theme of the book!

A special mention needs to be made of Lee Murray and Christopher Golden whose stories follow Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle respectively. Fright Train is a spectacular collection in itself, and to be placed next to classic writers is a formidable task. Murray and Golden are absolutely stellar with their standout creations, Weeping Waters and All Aboard. The sounds of the fantail and the shrill whistle of the 3:18 stay with you long after finishing the book.

Some quotes:

-The 3:18 was a ghost in and of itself, ridden by phantoms.

-The night air seemed to ripple, to have texture, just a hint of substance.

-Resentment and blame hung in the air like static building before a thunderstorm.

-An engine, a tender, two carriages, a van, five human beings – and all lost on a straight line of railway! Does a train vanish in broad daylight?

-The fog lay like a thick mist so that people appeared to be dissolving at the ankles.

-The sharp scream of the whistle slashed his eardrums.

-The desert sun pummeled his face like a hot iron fist.

-Does his intention define his evil nature, even if his actions harm nobody?

-You are trapped in the quandary of welcoming the tourist potential of Stoker’s work, but still wishing to change the national image of Romania.

-Pihanga’s tears rolled down the mountainside and onto the plateau.

-There were too many vampires on the train. Inspector Godina rolled his eyes at the motley assortment of Halloween revelers.

-That was the trouble with his gift – it was a feast or a famine – either everything spoke to you, or nothing at all.

-The slow touch of a frozen finger tracing out my spine.

-The stars themselves were weeping, hurling themselves from the heavens.

-They fill their ears and minds and souls with noise, because it’s easier than listening to the quiet.

-This is a train for the dead, and you’re still very much alive.

-He wasn’t a cosmic spiderclown in the sewers. He was a real monster.

The old-world charm of the cover is extremely striking too – it reminds me of those classic spooky movies that showed so much in so little. Atmospheric horror at its best! A good time to revisit Horror Express (1972).

My rating: 5/5 

Historian of Horror : Whatever Happened to Baron von Emmelmann?

Whatever Happened to Baron von Emmelmann?

My devoted followers may recall that last time out, I briefly discussed the career of one Theodore Sturgeon, and his early story, “It”. The tale, which was published in the August 1940 issue of the fantasy and horror pulp magazine, Unknown, concerned the layers of naturally occurring compost that had formed around the lost skeleton of one Roger Kirk. Many years after Kirk’s passing, this was caused by some unknown mechanism the spontaneous generation of a sort of liveliness that resulted in death and destruction until the monster was dissolved in running water. A simple tale well told.

So, who the heck is Baron von Emmelmann?

For the answer to that question, we’ll need to fast forward a few years. The Golden Age of Comics was already in full flower by 1940, but it rapidly exploded into a riotous garden of four-color blooms once the United States joined the Second World War. Even before, as various patriotic-themed superheroes made their appearances even prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. Captain America himself punched Adolf Hitler on the cover of the first issue of his own title in March of that year, and he wasn’t the first denizen of the new medium to take on the Nazi menace.

In the context of the times, comic book publishers proliferated, spewing out myriad characters ready, willing, and able to face the fascist threat and sell War Bonds, a large number of them heroic aviators. One of the smaller publishers, Hillman Publications, quickly assembled the first issue of an anthology title, Air Fighters Comics, that sold poorly. It was retooled a year later with an all-new line-up, including a young flyer with an almost sentient plane named Birdy. Airboy was so popular that the book was renamed after him a couple of years later, and ran until 1953.

In the eleven years between, a fair number of backup characters passed through the title’s pages, including a second-rate, gimmicky rip-off of Quality Publications aviation hero, Blackhawk. Sky Wolf hung around for a few years, and was featured in the Eclipse Comics’ Airboy revival of the 1980s. Honestly, though, his one real contribution to comic book history occurred in his second appearance, Air Fighters Comics volume 2, issue 3, with a cover date of December 1942.

In a brief flash-back to the First World War, German fighter pilot Baron Eric von Emmelmann was shot down over a swamp in Poland. His corpse festered and percolated there in the miasmic bog, accumulating layer upon layer of muck and mire. Eventually, the Heap emerged, like the creature in “It”, and began breaking things and mangling living beings. And, as in the Sturgeon tale, it resembled a huge, shambling mound with no discernable human features other than arms and legs.

Not long afterward von Emmelmann’s rebirth as the Heap, German pilot Colonel von Tundra was shot down over the same swamp. He survived and encountered the newly born muck-monster, who responded favorably to being yelled at in the native language of his former self. The Heap appeared in three more Sky Wolf stories as an ally of the Nazis before graduating to his own feature, beginning with Airboy Comics volume 3, number 9, October, 1946. By then, he was only vaguely aware of his origins, and less a villain and more of an elemental force for good. His adventures all over the world continued through the final issue in 1953. The character was parodied in an early issue of the Mad comic book, and revived briefly by Skywald Publications in the early 1970s, and a couple of times by Image in their Spawn comic book series. And of course, he was a prominent feature of the Eclipse run of Airboy previously mentioned.

Much more human-looking was DC Comics’ Solomon Grundy, who has never been anything but a villain, or at best an anti-hero. Originating as an opponent of the Golden Age Green Lantern in All-American Comics 61, October 1944, he has continued popping up in various titles and television shows, both animated and live-action, ever since. In his case, the swamp muck formed around the corpse of murder victim Cyrus Gold. 

The Golden age of Comics began to wind down at the end of World War II. Super-heroes gradually gave way to other genres, including war, western, crime, romance, funny animals, amusing teenagers, and horror. Captain America’s publisher, Timely Comics, morphed into Atlas, and like so many other houses concentrated on these new genres, with only a brief revival of its old heroes in the mid-fifties. After the institution of the Comics Code Authority in 1955, Atlas’s horror output was rendered as bland and toothless as all the other publishers, but unlike so many of them, the company survived. Barely.

As the decade wound down, the primary creative force at Atlas, Stan Lee, shifted his focus from ghosts, alien invaders and the like to gargantuan monsters, remnants of ancient times like Chinese dragon Fin Fang Foom, or colossal mummies, or giant statues animated by lightning strikes. One of these was “Monstrum! The Dweller in the Black Swamp”, from Tales to Astonish #11, September 1960. As was not unusual in a Stan Lee tale, Monstrum was more clumsy than malicious, being a refugee from a far planet whose spaceship was trapped in the Black Swamp. Rejected by the humans he sought assistance from, he returned to the swamp to await the evolution of a more compassionate population.

Fortunately for all concerned, not long afterward Lee revived the super-hero genre at his company, renamed it Marvel, and revolutionized the industry. Without the use of any more swamp critters, at least for a while.

The next significant muck monster made his appearance in DC’s horror title, House of Secrets, in issue 92, July 1971. Swamp Thing was created by writer Len Wien and legendary artist, the late and very much lamented, Berni Wrightson. Alex Olsen was an early 20th Century scientist developing a plant-growth formula. When his laboratory was sabotaged, Olsen got mixed up with the formula and the essence of the swamp in which he was located. He returned as the sentient but mute Swamp Thing to get his revenge. 

Under a new alter ego, Alex Holland, he was given a contemporary origin not long afterward in his own title that ran a mere dozen issues. A highly acclaimed series from writer Alan Moore followed in the 1980s, along with a pair of so-so theatrical films, two live-action TV shows and an animated TV mini-series.

Swamp Thing was no paragon of masculine pulchritude, but he was more-or-less sort of kind of human-shaped if you turned your head to one side and squinted. Marvel Comic’s Man-Thing was not. His original artist, Gray Morrow, returned to the source material, creating a shambling mound of insensate gunk and goo with a carrot-nose and beady eyes, much closer to the Heap than to his DC predecessors. First appearing in the black-and-white magazine format Savage Tales #1 in May of 1971, Man-Thing languished for a year before popping up again in a variety of Marvel super-hero titles. He attained his own series in January 1974. Man-Thing’s gimmick was that he was an empath. He responded well to the kindness of strangers, but not to their fear. His touch would burn anyone who was afraid of him, which fortunately turned out to usually be bad people. Man-Thing sold well enough that a second title was added, the unfortunately named Giant-Size Man-Thing. Go ahead, giggle. I won’t judge you. G-S M-T featured as a backup strip some of the earliest adventures of Howard the Duck, along with reprints from those old Atlas comics of the 1950s.

I honestly have no idea if Ted Sturgeon ever knew about the comic book characters that were inspired by his original creation. It never occurred to me to ask him, back in those halcyon days of my mis-spent youth. I’m sure he never received a dime in recompense from Hillman or DC or Marvel or any of the other comics publishers that made use of his concept. I’m not sure that would have bothered him. I hope not. My memories of Ted Sturgeon have no room for rancor, because I only remember him as genial and warm, and wickedly funny. Read, if you can find it, his 1972 short story, “Pruzy’s Pot”, about a living and very accommodating toilet. I heard him read that aloud in 1978, when he was the guest of honor at the Nashville science fiction convention for that year, Kubla Khan Ate. A room full of fen laughed uproariously at that one. There is a place for potty humor, indeed. It all winds up in the swamp, anyhow.

And so, until next time, connoisseurs of chills…

Be afraid. 

Be very afraid.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Tales from the Crypt Season 5

Star Studded Tales from the Crypt Season 5 remains Memorable.

by Kristin Battestella

The Fall 1993 Fifth Season of Tales from the Crypt is a star-studded season full of familiar faces and frights to remember beginning with Tim Curry (Clue) and Ed Begley, Jr. (She-Devil) in “Death of Some Salesmen.” Our unscrupulous cemetery plot salesman snoops in the obituaries, preying on old widows like Yvonne De Carlo (The Munsters) with a rural, door to door con as the humorous winks, overalls, and southern gentility contrast the risque sex, bloody secrets, and murderous traps. Headless revelations offer a quirky, if disturbing grain of truth on swindling salesmen getting what they deserve, but the revolting comeuppance had both me and my husband gagging and laughing at the same time. Our Crypt Keeper host is taking calls on KDOA Radio as Hector Elizondo (Chicago Hope) suspects young wife Patsy Kensit (Full Eclipse) of having an affair in director Kyle Maclachlan’s (Twin Peaks) “As Ye Sow.” Unfortunately, Adam West’s (Batman) upscale surveillance firm says she does nothing but go to church everyday – to a controversial priest tossed from his last parish. Debates on the church as living organ, throbbing with his flock in his arms provide juicy winks as the power of suggestion has our paranoid husband fearing betrayal and jumping to the wrong conclusion. An unreliable point of view imaging what’s going on in the confessional makes for a controversial mix of sacrilegious horror, but it’s cheaper to hire hit men than get a divorce. War photographers Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire) and Roger Daltry (Highlander: The Series) likewise fight over Lysette Anthony (Dracula: Dead and Loving It) in “Forever Ambergris” while The Keeper himself shoots for Vicghoulia’s Secret. Anything can happen during this Central America assignment, and villages contaminated with germ warfare create an elevated dramatic mood amid macho guns versus the camera, mercenaries, and screaming convulsions. Bubbling flesh, oozing blood, squishing eyeballs – what’s a little imbued chemicals once you steal the award winning photographs and get the girl?

In “Two for the Show” bored, adulterous wife Traci Lords (Cry Baby) wants more passion. However, her husband is worried her leaving will make him look bad at the corporate banquet, leading to strangulation, scissors, knife play, and stuffing the body into a bedside chest even if it just won’t fit. Suspicious cops, dismemberment, and a heavy suitcase provide suspense with shades of Hitchcock in the overhead parallels and two shots of men on a train hypothetically debating about killing their wives. The crime has already been committed, yet there’s a classy, potboiler tense to the garbage disposal twists. Of course, the audience is on trial with the barrister wig wearing ‘Honorable Judge Crypt Keeper’ presiding over “House of Horror” as Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Kevin Dillon (Entourage), Brian Krause (Sleepwalkers), and more eighties teens are all grown up and trying to join the fraternity with paddles, humiliation, kneeling, and scrubbing dog poo with a toothbrush. The sister house is here for their final initiation at a haunted fraternity house with a murderous past, and one by one the plebs must make it to the attic with all the tricks, gags, screams, chainsaws, and turnabouts along the way. Assistant Maryam d’Abo (Bond Girls Are Forever) is unhappy when magician Billy Zane’s (Dead Calm) show isn’t a success in “Well Cooked Hams.” While The Crypt Keeper is taking French lessons for his trip to ‘gay Scaree,’ the turn of the century magic scene is cutthroat and our magician will kill to get ahead when not stealing the Box of Death trick from fellow hunchback illusionist Martin Sheen (The West Wing). Inserted knives, sulfuric acid, burning ropes, and handcuffs add to the magic rivalry and period mood as the disguises, reflections, and smoke and mirrors leave the audience screaming. The difference, you see, is in not when the crowd is aware of the ruse but when they actually believe it. Slick Anthony Michael Hall (The Breakfast Club) tries to outwit the mummy legends and sacrificed princesses in “Creep Course,” however his attempt to steal the mid-term answers leads to statues, tombs, torches, and a sarcophagus from the professor’s private collection – courtesy of some grave robbing family history. The jocks versus academia double crossing twists provide gross embalming techniques, through the nose icky, and projectile vomiting for a fun atmosphere with good old fashioned wrappings in contemporary mummy spins.

Big CK is a flight attendant on Tales from the Crypt Scarelines for “Came the Dawn,” but the bimbo in the bathroom and the bloody ax murderer have other dismembering ideas. Good thing suave in his Porsche Perry King (Melrose Place) picks up broke down Brooke Shields (The Blue Lagoon), taking her to his cabin on a stormy night – after stopping for oysters and champagne, of course. Medieval décor with executioner artifacts and weapons accent opera, fireside candlelit dinners, and jewels. Unfortunately, tales of adultery begat black stockings bondage interrupted by an ex-girlfriend shouting at the door. Wise Tales from the Crypt viewers will figure out what’s happening easily thanks to taxidermy and ladies clothing in the closet. However, that obvious doesn’t make the revealing attacks any less chilling. Con artist couple Lou Diamond Phillips (La Bamba) and Priscilla Presley (Dallas) dig up their buried alive cohort and the money with him in “Oil’s Well That Ends Well” – a fellow con who happens to be the man behind the Crypt Keeper John Kassir in his only onscreen Tales from the Crypt appearance. She wants another con and shows her authority at the rowdy bar, taking on the nasty boys with a great speech on how strong women are called bitches, screwed, fucked, and screwed again. Oil claims help swindle the local rednecks into drilling under the graveyard, with explosions and self-referential quips setting off the who’s screwing whom. More bemusing dialogue mixed with suspense and surreal shootouts elevate “Till Death Do We Part.” Although this is another crime drama and love triangle more about violence than horror, gigolo John Stamos (Full House) and mob dame Eileen Brennan (Clue) provide diamonds, dice, jazz clubs, and saucy betrayals – leading to limos in the woods with guns, bodies in the trunk, rubber aprons, and axes. Crook Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager) is just so polite in making the vomiting, fainting lady stand up and watch the quartering! Our KRPT sportscaster Crypt Keeper, meanwhile, is on the radio with the World Scaries featuring the Fright Sox versus the Boo Jays. Which team will keep their winning shriek alive?

This is a short, mostly solid season, however, there are a few less than stellar episodes of Tales from the Crypt such as Ernie Hudson’s (Ghostbusters) “Food for Thought” with its carnival warped, saucy dessert metaphors, and perverted quid pro quo abuses between a mind reading couple. The racial implications among the freaks, conjoined twin ladies naked in the shower, illicit fire eater romance, and a jealous girl gorilla make for fiery consequences, yet the revenge is thin, with most of the circus designs just for show. The fourth and ghoul Crypt Keeper quarterback also can’t save the uneven crimes in director Russell Mulcahy’s (Highlander) “People Who Live in Brass Hearses.” Violent ex-con Bill Paxton (Aliens) and simpleton younger brother Brad Dourif (Child’s Play) are out for revenge, harassing the suspicious ice cream truck driver before bloody hooks, murderous mishaps, gory gunshots, and safe cracking gone awry. There are some twists, but the sardonic humor and quirky characters can’t carry the heist amid unenjoyable outbursts and obnoxiousness. Ghoulish bodies, morgue drawers, and colorful goo open “Half-Way Horrible” and the Keeper is shrinking heads in the dryer at his scare salon while a detective asks Clancy Brown (Highlander) about his chemical company’s proprietary ingredients. These rare herbs were of course stolen in the jungle amid tribal drums, native secrets, and zombie rituals. Voodoo dolls come back to haunt the corrupt chemist, and once again it’s just rich white guys learning the err of their appropriating ways – told from the sympathetic point of view of said rich white guys. It’s not surprising and doesn’t make us feel bad when he gets his due. As The Keeper says, ‘he needed to learn rot from wrong a little fester.’

Fortunately, old fashioned kitchens, cameo jewelry, and country strings accent the rural settings of these tales again based on Haunt of Fear, Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, Shock SuspenStories, and Crime SuspenStories. Cha-ching money sounds, stormy nights, and other audio bells and whistles set off the vintage video, VCRs, old televisions, giant tape reels, transistor radios, huge ass car phones, and hi tech nineties corporate contrasting the old school noir, file folders, and black and white photographs. Warped camera angles, dark lighting, shadow schemes, and colorful touches keep the on location production values top notch amid effective jungle horrors, gross make up, blood, and disturbing gore. Downtrodden circus tents and lanterns provide golden Victorian patinas while haunted houses and cobwebs create congested scares. Train tensions begat outdoor ominous and penultimate zombie gross, and though front loaded with juicy nudity, later in the season the steamy lingerie isn’t as important as the swanky bling, period costumes, or Egyptian motifs. Tales from the Crypt’s horror prosthetics really allow the cast per episode to sink their teeth into the role or multiple roles whether playing to or against type. Tales from the Crypt Season Five starts strong with some of the series’ finest humor and horror with sardonic sexiness and star studded scares. This shorter year shines with relatively few poor outings – a precursor to today’s brief, quickly digestible fall horror and anthology seasons. Tales from the Crypt Season Five is a creepy, fast marathon for Halloween or anytime of year.

For More Horror Television check out:

Tales from the Crypt 1 2 3 4

Tales from the Darkside 1 2 3 4

Kindred: The Embraced

Dracula (2020)

Claustrophobia Revisited : By Loren Rhoads

Claustrophobia Revisited by Loren Rhoads

The first time I went away to sleepaway camp, I was a junior in high school. Michigan Tech, a university five hundred miles north of my home, was hosting a weeklong writing program. I dragged my typewriter into my assigned dorm room and waved goodbye to my parents, excited to be a real writer for a week.

Almost immediately I met another high school girl there for the program. I really liked her at first. She seemed sunny and competitive and dramatic. I thought we’d provide a good challenge for each other. I looked forward to reading her stories.

I’m not sure what set her off. She and some of the guys from the program were hanging around in my room when I went into the large walk-in closet to demonstrate how big it was. Once I was inside, Nicole slammed the door behind me.

I heard giggling. Nicole enlisted the guys to help her shove the dresser in front of the door so I couldn’t get out. They talked loudly about going to dinner while I was trapped. They slammed the dorm room’s door behind them on their way out.

I didn’t have a flashlight. I didn’t know where the light switch was. With the dresser blocking the door, the closet was very dark inside. This was long before cell phones were a gleam in some engineer’s eye. My parents wouldn’t be back for a week. I wasn’t due in class until morning. No one would even know I was missing until then.

I sank down onto the floor of the closet, tears burning at the edges of my eyes. What if there was a fire? What if I needed to pee? If I screamed, would anyone hear me? Were there people on the floors above or below me? Would my tormentors only laugh at me more if I begged to be let out?

I decided to tell myself I was too angry to cry. I tried to figure out what had happened, what I’d done to be tormented like this. I’d only just met Nicole. I’d even admired her. I’d thought she seemed like fun, that we might be friends. Why would anyone be so mean to a total stranger?

I never realized I was claustrophobic until I found myself barricaded in that closet. As I sat there in the blackness, I felt the walls shooting away from me into space. I felt them contract toward me with every panicked breath. I couldn’t hear anything but my blood pounding in my ears. My body flushed with heat, then iced with fear. I understood why people went crazy when locked up alone in the dark. I wondered how long that would take.

This essay was initially published on Horror Addicts the year my space opera trilogy came out. (https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/claustrophobia-and-the-dangerous-type/) It’s now part of This Morbid Life, a collection of my confessional essays, which came out August 22 from Automatism Press.


Loren Rhoads is the author of 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel. She was the editor of Morbid Curiosity magazine and the book Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues: True Tales of the Unsavory, Unwise, Unorthodox, and Unusual. Her most recent book is This Morbid Life, a memoir comprised of 45 death-positive essays.

What others have called an obsession with death is really a desperate romance with life. Guided by curiosity, compassion, and a truly strange sense of humor, this particular morbid life is detailed through a death-positive collection of 45 confessional essays. Along the way, author Loren Rhoads takes prom pictures in a cemetery, spends a couple of days in a cadaver lab, eats bugs, survives the AIDS epidemic, chases ghosts, and publishes a little magazine called Morbid Curiosity.

Originally written for zines from Cyber-Psychos AOD to Zine World and online magazines from Gothic.Net to Scoutie Girl, these emotionally charged essays showcase the morbid curiosity and dark humor that transformed Rhoads into a leading voice of the curious and creepy.

“Witty, touching, beautifully written, and haunting — in every sense of the word — This Morbid Life is an absolute must-read for anyone looking for an unusually bright and revealing journey into the darkest of corners. Highly recommended!” — M.Christian, author of Welcome To Weirdsville

The paperback is up for sale at Amazon now: https://amzn.to/3mhZajO

The ebook will be live on Sunday. It’s available for pre-order now: https://amzn.to/3kcFlrP

Get signed copies from: https://lorenrhoads.com/product/this-morbid-life-autographed-1st-edition/

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Dark Shadows 1897

Revisiting Dark Shadows’ 1897 Storyline by Kristin Battestella

Let’s celebrate with Dark Shadows as we are so often wont to do! Though arriving in the middle of the macabre sixties soap opera, the 1897 storyline is the series’ longest time travel jaunt at 183 episodes. Its Victorian turn of the century vampires, werewolves, and panache make this plot the perfect place to sample what the eerie endurance of Dark Shadows is about as our company stock becomes all new characters for the period mayhem. Thanks to video releases and streaming options broken down into forty-episode seasonal Collections, viewers new or old can easily jump into this Dark Shadows breadth. Here’s a recap of said Collections covering the 1897 ghosts, secrets, and curses.

Collection 13

When the Ghost of Quentin Collins (David Selby) drives the entire Collins family from Collingwood, governess Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott) and her two possessed charges (David Henesy and Denise Nickerson) flee to the Old House as Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) and Dr. Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall) search for answers to rid them of the poltergeist and stop Chris Jennings’ (Don Briscoe) werewolf transformations. When Barnabas and Professor Stokes (Thayer David) discover Quentin’s I Ching wands, Barnabas uses them to will himself to the year 1897. Once in the past, he introduces himself to Judith Collins (Joan Bennett) and investigates Quentin’s secrets. Unfortunately, Barnabas harbors a secret of his own – he has been unchained from his coffin and is once again a vampire.

Collection 13 begins with Episode 696 from February 1969, just before the nineteenth-century switch, and concludes with a wallop for Number 735. Opening narrations get the viewer up to speed on the scandals and ancestral players after the Episode 701 transition, and the paranormal tricks work well with the soap opera mysteries. We’re like the newly arrived vampire Barnabas indeed – at the mercy of unfolding mysticism, scheming gypsies, heirs at each other’s throats, and missing wills. Why is the maid Beth Chavez still on at Collingwood if her mistress Jenny Collins has left? Where is Edward Collin’s wife Laura and what does she have to do with Quentin’s banishment? Why does governess Rachel Drummond see lights in the empty Tower room? Borrowing from classic literature on Dark Shadows is apparent with this Jane Eyre symbolism, yet the familiar gothic tropes anchor the spooky changeover. Iconic Dark Shadows music accentuates the shockers, and Robert Cobert’s morose motifs and creepy cues help build character suspense. Scary shadows, fake cobwebs, spotlights, darkness, and candle effects invoke careful mood and ominous set design even as Dark Shadows remains notorious for its fly-by-night production cheapness. Thankfully, the antiques, colorful frocks, microphone shadows, and set bloopers alike set off the quality storytelling keeping us on the edge of our seats with illicit twists, fiery whodunits, and Martinique zombies. Episode 705 has a sweet, fatal climax, and plenty of red herrings and tower mysteries makes for some great undead kickers and fainting frights – especially Episode 723.

Collection 14

The mysterious Laura Collins (Diana Millay) returns to Collinwood determined to take her children Jamison (David Henesy) and Nora (Denise Nickerson) away from Reverend Trask’s (Jerry Lacey) strict boarding school. Her former lover Quentin Collins, however, has other occult plans for her. Barnabas Collins also battles Laura with the help of gypsies Magda (Grayson Hall) and Sandor (Thayer David). Unfortunately, his unraveling of Quentin’s secrets has deadly consequences, and Barnabas must help family matriarch Judith in the 1897 past to save the Collins’ 1969 future.

Dark Shadows adds even more supernatural elan with children in peril in Episode 736 and wolfy foreplay thru 775. The 1897 action interweaves bizarre dreams and eerie prophecies as the ensemble tackles several well balanced plots at once. Unlike slow soaps, something happens each episode with real-time half-hour pacing. First time viewers are treated to surprise connections and cliffhangers regarding the murders, blackmail, and poisons. Certainly, there are melodramatic hysterics, but the lycanthrope suspense, meddling witches, and phoenix – yes a phoenix – storylines remain unique. The impish Quentin is oh so suave, calculating, and full of love to hate charm as he causes trouble in every way possible. Paranormal layers populate Dark Shadows with bats, doppelgangers, Egyptian motifs, and psychic torment. Cool crypts, wolf howls, and chilling knocks at the door invoke atmosphere while the wobbly Styrofoam tombstones and visible boom mikes are drinking game-worthy. Poor Barnabas Collins, stuck in a foreign time and dealing with ghosts, wolf investigations, and vampire victims all at the same time. His flub, “My cousin, Uncle Jeremiah…” is certainly understandable! We can laugh and forgive such same day tape mistakes because Dark Shadows comes together so effectively – creating intense, ambitious daytime action with complex characters to match.

Collection 15

While werewolf Quentin Collins and Magda the gypsy who cursed him seek a cure for his lycanthropy, time-traveling cousin and vampire Barnabas Collins tries to keep their paranormal secrets from fellow family members Edward (Louis Edmunds) and the newly married Judith Collins Trask. Corrupt Reverend Trask has all but taken over the Collinwood estate and soon seeks to cleanse the family of its evils once the mysterious Count Petofi (Thayer David) and his magical cohorts come to town.

After nearing over 100 hundred episodes in the 1897 storyline, Dark Shadows lends itself a hand by adding even more vengeful ghosts, gypsy curses, and freaky talismans to the gothic storytelling. 1969 names and plots are mentioned to remind the audience of this 1897 excursion’s original purpose, but the time travel troubles, shockingly bloody vampires, and expanding werewolf yarns lead to a zany off-screen shootout and elaborate action sequences. Character shakeups and spooky developments keep the paranormal fresh; no player is superfluous as each wrench contributes to the complex immediacy amid witches, zombies, and disembodied hands. Steamy dream sequences, psychics, and undead secrets come to a head as disposable policemen, jailed werewolves, and possessions provide tension and suspense. Manipulated wives mix with supernatural causes, and the infamously inaccurate Collins Family History book means anything can happen. The Picture of Dorian Gray twists delight along with a crazy finale in Episode 816. Of course, that monkey’s paw style hand leads to some wildly bad makeup and pasty skin effects that are actually ghoulishly fitting, and the black and white kinescope versions of Episodes 797 and 813 are more disturbing thanks to chilling séances and ghostly overlays. When the panning cameras, zooms, booming screams, coffin creaks, slamming doors, fog machines, and lights out cooperate, it’s the exclamation on all the fearful gothic mood. Certainly, the gypsy material here is stereotypical and cliché. For some audiences, Dark Shadows may seem comical in its juicy horror camp. However, today many shows seem to easily unravel with less material over shorter amounts of time. There’s even been a small Victorian cum steampunk resurgence onscreen, but Dark Shadows has been doing this kind of entertainment all along.

Collection 16

Vampire Barnabas Collins is re-entombed in his coffin by the warlock Count Petofi who is intent on escaping 1897 by traveling to the future with werewolf Quentin Collins. Unfortunately, the witch Angelique (Lara Parker) has marital plans for Quentin, leaving the possessed Charity Trask (Nancy Barrett), jealous maid Beth Chavez (Terry Crawford), and painter Charles Delaware Tate’s (Roger Davis) perfect woman come to life Amanda Harris (Donna McKechnie) with brokenhearted, violent, and trigger happy threats.

1969 time travel goals lay the 1897 exit groundwork as skeletons, full moons, gunpoint confrontations, and confessions spearhead the intersecting supernatural tangents, unreliable I Ching attempts, and astral projections gone awry. The vampires, vendettas, paradoxes, and possessions are no longer secret thanks to prophetic harbingers and fatal deadlines. Hooded executioners provide suspense and vicious murders push the daytime television envelope while deceptive visions create an eerie mix of who is who, past or present, and living or dead. Vampires can’t help against unique spells during daylight nor is the werewolf available during the full moon. Characters learn of their own suicides from their future ghosts as villainous malice and emotional anchors swell with sword-wielding terror. Spectral toppers, paranormal visuals, and dark romanticism balance the traditional two-shot soap opera conversations. Although the performances are sincere and earnest, the cast tries not to laugh over crazy dialogue, infamous flubs, and teleprompter glances. Enemies sit together over brandy, waiting for who will blink first before the witch hypnotizes a man to put the pistol to his temple. That’s Twisted! Hidden letters written in 1897 are read in 1969 just in the nick of time – bringing the ominous facts full circle with bloody bright red flashbacks, cyanide, and jealous women. Redemptions and rejections lead to dying for love morose, and mystical bargains trap the afflicted via voodoo effigies, shackles, or black magic. Episode 839 would seem to resolve this fatal past with all is well second chances but the lycanthrope troubles and bodily possessions then and now linger. Stolen portraits, magic rings, late messages, and all aboard whistles add to the diabolical in Episode 850, and unknown prices must be paid. On Dark Shadows, most characters accept the fantastic rather than balk. However, no one ever really escapes from Collinsport.

Collection 17

Barnabas Collins travels from 1897 back to 1796 with Countess Kitty Soames, the reincarnation of his beloved Josette DuPres (Kathryn Leigh Scott) after seemingly defeating the vile Count Petofi – who has switched bodies with the now immortal Quentin Collins in order to travel to 1969. Unfortunately, ancient Leviathan interference and an evil antique shop run by the enthralled Megan Todd (Marcia Wallace) upset numerous events past and present for Dr. Julia Hoffman and the rest of Collinsport.

Body swaps, mistaken identity, and abused I Ching hexagrams open Episode 858 amid bitter marriages, magical portraits, and blackmail. Enemies become allies as characters must prove who they are thanks to skeleton keys, psychic visions, and mystical ruses. Inner monologues matching the real person in the wrong body curb confusion as well as garner sympathy while buried alive threats and haunted punishments result in kidnappings and failed rituals. Dubious lawyers and lookalike vampire encounters ramp up the scares in Episode 868 as suspicious relatives and antagonizing ministers plot with buried suitcases and decoy burglaries. Will power over evil, cliffside desperation, and deadly shockers in Episode 876 up the intensity before 879 adds double-crosses, stranglers, poison, and fresh cement. Climatic scandals keep the paranoia and graveyard chases on track as victims must stay awake lest spells overtake them. Green screen mistakes and innate camera flaws may make the magentas look garish, however, the distorted hues are terribly effective for gaslight ambiance and ghostly overlays. Cursed people are packing, gold diggers are making plans – there’s a sense that 1897 is a wrap and 1969 is imminent thanks to psychedelic dreams, astral interference, and time travel technicalities. Unfortunately, the fiery 1897 finale fumbles thanks to a shoehorned in 1796 detour before the much maligned leviathan storyline with its naga lockets and necronomicons. After three odd colonial episodes, the vampire brides and meddling witches are also left hanging for torches and snake altars before the return to 1969 in Episode 888. It’s a big WTF that today would have audiences immediately tuning out and complaining on Twitter. If Dark Shadows had directly taken the I Ching back to 1969 and then revealed the unusual Lovecraft-inspired leviathan abstracts as a subplot to what happens with our 1897 immortals; the ancient rituals and cult incantations might have been received differently. A lot happens on Collection 17, but Dark Shadows has plenty of juicy left to come, and the 1897 escapade remains perfect for a spooky marathon.

Want more horror like Dark Shadows?

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For even more Dark Shadows reviews, visit my detailed analysis at I Think, Therefore I Review!

Wicked Women Writer’s All-star Competition: Jaq D. Hawkins

wwwbannerStory Title: Naga People
by: Jaq D. Hawkins
Object: Circuit Board
Cultural Influence: East Indian

*~*Judging panel has not altered/edited this text.*~*
*~*Text is posted as sent by the author.*~*

Naga People

Music

Sound of underground train

Kat: Excuse me, can I sit with you?

Hamima: Is someone bothering you? There’s not a lot of people on the trains this time of night.

Kat: You could say that. See that guy in the front of the car, the one with sunglasses?

Hamima: Yeah, sunglasses on the Underground is pretty weird. Is he the creepy guy?

Kat: Not just a creepy guy… um, what’s your name?

Hamima: Hamima.

Kat: Indian, huh? I’m Kat.

Hamima: My family is from India. I was born here.

Kat: Hey, no offence.

Hamima: So what do you mean by not just a creepy guy?

Kat (loud whisper): Aliens.

Hamima: Oh crumbs. Look, whatever you’re on, don’t involve me. I’m getting off at Piccadilly anyway, the next stop.

Kat: Here, take this with you. Please!

Hamima: A circuit board? But it’s so small! How could this…

Kat: It’s what he’s following me for. It’s a key for… look, I know it sounds crazy, but they’re planning to totally eliminate humans from the planet. Without this, the machine won’t work. Just take it! Put it in cement and drop it off a pier somewhere. You don’t have to believe me, just do it anyway.

Hamima: So won’t he follow me then?

Kat: Not if he doesn’t know you’ve got it. Just say what you’re thinking when you get off at the stop, call me a crazy woman. You can even mean it. Then get rid of the thing where no one can find it.

hesitate (music)

Hamima: So… will you be alright?

Kat: I’ll get off at Piccadilly too and lead them up where there’s lots of people. They won’t dare do anything in a crowd. I can lose them.

 Hamima: This is crazy…

Kat: Look, just when we go into the tunnel. The light changes so you can see through his sunglass lenses.

Hamima: Oh my god!

Kat: Do you believe me now?

Hamima: His eyes!

Kat: Like a snake. I know.

Hamima: My grandmother told me a story about Naga People.

Kat: This is no story. Now take the circuit board!

Sound of trains stopping, then running footsteps and a distant scream.

Walking footsteps

Hamima (frustrated): How do I get myself into these things.

Man with Sunglasses: Excuse me, Miss.

Hamima: What are you doing? Let go of my arm!

Man with Sunglasses: If you come with me quietly, there’s no need to make a scene.

Hamima: Come with you where? Who are you?

Man with Sunglasses: You have something of mine.

Hamima: I don’t…

Man with Sunglasses: What did she give you? Do you know who that woman you were sitting with is?

Hamima: Some crazy woman…

Man with Sunglasses: That’s right. She’s a terrorist. She’s tricked you into carrying the key to an explosive device.

Hamima: That’s crazy. She tried to give me a circuit board, but I refused.

Man with Sunglasses: She still has it?

Hamima: It’s just a circuit board. Why don’t you just make another if it’s so important?

Man with Sunglasses: You don’t understand. The sequence on it can’t be duplicated. The plans were destroyed.

Hamima: Then you should be happy if you’re stopping a terrorist.

Man with Sunglasses: You think you’re clever, do you?

Hamima: Clever enough not to accept things from crazy people on the tube.

Man with Sunglasses: Let’s not play games. We know you have it. She has already been searched… thoroughly.

Hamima: How… how do you know she didn’t hide it on the train?

Man with Sunglasses: Stop prevaricating. I can have you dissected if necessary.

Hamima: Is that what you did to her? Is that what that scream was?

Man with Sunglasses: How do you know it was her you heard scream?

Hamima: You said you didn’t want to play games.

Man with Sunglasses: I don’t. Give me the circuit board. Now!

Hamima: Al… alright.

Sound of shuffling in handbag.

Hamima: I… I can’t find it!

Man with Sunglasses: Stop stalling!

Hamima: Let go of my arm! We’re on CCTV you know… why are you smiling?

Man with Sunglasses: We thought of that. We’re being observed by my people. No one is coming to help you.

Hamima: Where are you taking me? Let me go!

Man with Sunglasses: This corridor is unused. We can search you here.

Hamima: Wait! Shouldn’t we go back and look to see if it dropped somewhere?

Man with Sunglasses: Our people are doing that now.

Hamima: I don’t have it, I swear!

Man with Sunglasses: We will find it.

Door opening.

Hamima: Oh thank gods! Security, this man is forcing me to go with him against my will! Please make him let go of my arm!

Security Officer: Empty her bag on the desk.

Hamima: Wait! Let go of my bag. Umg!

Sound of handbag contents clattering on desk.

Hamima: (outraged) You can’t do this! That’s my personal property!

Sound of rummaging.

Hamima: What kind of guard are you? You’re supposed to protect me!

Security Officer: On the contrary, miss, my job is to destroy you and all of your people.

Hamima: Oh my god, your eyes…

Man with Sunglasses: Now you begin to understand. We are everywhere. Here it is!

Security Officer: The key…

Hamima: You mean… that woman… she wasn’t crazy? This really is…

Man with Sunglasses: The end of your kind. This planet is ours now.

Hamima: (hyperventilates, moans)

Sound of fast steps trying to run.

Security Officer: Grab her! Don’t let her get away!

Hamima: (muffled scream)

Man with Sunglasses: What shall I do with her?

Security Officer: Take her through to the break room. Some of us haven’t had our lunch yet.

Hamima: (panicked muffled screams)

Sounds of scuffle and door opening then closing.

Distant scream.

*~*Judging panel has not altered/edited this text.*~*

*~*Text is posted as sent by the author.*~*


To vote for this story in the 2021 Wicked Women’s Writing All-star Challenge, CLICK HERE
Voting ends: September 15th, 2021

An Introduction to Deathly Fog

largeaddfWhen Jacob and his brothers discover the ability to capture fog from the marsh behind their house, they bring it back with them. The fun game turns to danger as they realize perhaps something else accompanied them home. Is it too late to escape the Deathly Fog?

Available now on Amazon Kindle

https://www.amazon.com/Horror-Bites-Deathly-Adam-Breckenridge-ebook/dp/B09BP5L3Z8

 *****EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT BELOW*****

Introduction

“There it is, fog, atmospheric moisture still uncertain in destination, not quite weather and not altogether mood, yet partaking of both.” – Hal Borland.

Fog. John Carpenter terrorized us with it, Charles Dickens used it as a metaphor for corruption, and Carl Sandburg spoke of its fleeting nature. Fog’s a common weather effect that still manages to awe us when it occurs.  Basically a cloud that touches the ground, it occurs when water droplets suspend in the air near the Earth’s surface. And yet, it baffles, intimidates, and brings a mood with it that can’t be shaken easily.

Whether it was the fog that surrounded me, blocking out the landscape as I walked to school or that trip I took with my cousin when all we could see was a car length in front of us and she had me talk to her the whole time to calm her nerves, fog has always fascinated me. The feeling of being surrounded by tangible air and yet also so completely alone can chill you to the bone. For a horror addict, it can also thrill you into fantastical imaginings of what might be lurking in the fog.

When “Deathly Fog” crossed my desk, I knew we had to publish it. Adam’s story grabbed hold of me and threatened to pull me into the computer screen. As I read his words, I felt like I was right there with the boys, exploring the marsh. As they breathed in the visible air, I breathed it in and well… What happens next, I won’t spoil for the world.

I hope you enjoy this work as much as I did,

Emerian Rich, Publisher

Read Deathly Fog.

**************************************

Adam Brekenridge is a traveling professor for the US military who goes around the world teaching US soldiers stationed overseas. He has eighteen short story publications and most recently his work has appeared in Visions Magazine, Mystery Weekly, and Clockwork, Curses and Coal from Worldweaver Press.
He’s currently based in Seoul.

**************************************

Horror Bites Series

Horror eBites

Volume 1: Alice’s Scars by Adam L. Bealby

When he met Alice, he wasn’t prepared to go down the rabbit hole. His love for her pushes him into the uncomfortable realization she might be mad. He wants to keep her safe, but what if that’s not what Alice wants?

Volume 2: Campfire Tales

Dear Reader,

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

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

Volume 3: #NGHW Editor’s Pick

HorrorAddicts.net is proud to present our top 14 contestants in the Next Great Horror Writer Contest. The stories, scripts, and poems are the result of the hard work and dedication these fine writers put forth to win a book contract. We hope you enjoy the writing as much as we did.

Volume 4: #NGHW Winner

Requiem in Frost by Jonathan Fortin

BLACK METAL LIVES! When Ingrid and her mother move into a home in the deep frostbitten woods of Norway, they are haunted by extreme metal musician, Skansi Oppegård. Hoping to exorcise Skansi’s ghost, she talks her mom into being part of a metal band. Oppegård’s last musical creation awakens forces beyond Ingrid’s understanding and causes Skansi’s murderer to resurface. In the battle between a madman and zombies, metal may be the only weapon she has.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Spiral (Not that one)

 

Plotline: A same-sex couple moves to a small town to enjoy a better quality of life and raise their daughter with strong social values. But when neighbors throw a very strange party, nothing is as it seems in their picturesque neighborhood.

Who would like it: Fans of cults, secret societies, diversity, nail bitters, and religious horror

High Points: How the director used the current social climate to tell this movie and how he centered the only black character in the movie

Complaints: Absolutely nothing!

Overall: I LOVED this movie

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: Shudder

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is red-ram.jpg

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

“Deathly Fog” Facebook Party Begins Today!

DFBannerFInal2

Deathly Fog
by Adam Breckenridge

When Jacob and his brothers discover the ability to capture fog from the marsh behind their house, they bring it back with them. The fun game turns to danger as they realize perhaps something else accompanied them home. Is it too late to escape the Deathly Fog?

You are cordially invited to attend a Facebook Party in the honor of

Deathly Fog

Where: Facebook

When: Today, August 17th – Thursday, August 19th

Please, join us for trivia, fun and prizes! Winners will be announced Friday, August 20th.

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Free Fiction: An Excerpt of Deathly Fog

DFBannerFInal2When Jacob and his brothers discover the ability to capture fog from the marsh behind their house, they bring it back with them. The fun game turns to danger as they realize perhaps something else accompanied them home. Is it too late to escape the Deathly Fog?

Available now on Amazon Kindle

https://www.amazon.com/Horror-Bites-Deathly-Adam-Breckenridge-ebook/dp/B09BP5L3Z8

 *****EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT BELOW*****

Deathly Fog

by Adam Breckenridge

Not long after Jacob released the fog into the house, he started dating a girl named Jenny who soon became a regular presence in our lives. In fact, she was at the house so often, I sometimes wondered why her parents were okay with it. She was a slender, silver-haired girl with pale skin and green eyes. Beautiful and mischievous, she would mock us endlessly for our anxiety over the marsh and the fog we released into the house.

“You guys are so stupid,” she’d say. “What, do you think? The fog has evil powers or something?”

That was actually what we had thought, but none of us were going to say it out loud.

Releasing the fog into the house had killed a lot of our passion for the marsh. We didn’t go out there much anymore but at Jenny’s insistence we visited it again. The three of us hoped to try to instill some sense of the place’s dread in her but she had no fear of it. We watched with some horror as she walked straight into the marsh, deeper into it than any of us had ever been willing to go. She walked until the fog enveloped her and she was gone from our sight.

All three of us were terrified but none of us were willing to show it. Jacob in particular was struggling to maintain his poise. I tried to emulate him but felt sick at the thought of her disappearance. None of us were ever willing to go past the visible edge of the marsh, even as a trio. Mattie was too youthful to try to play it cool like Jacob and I were.

“She has to come back.” He was near to tears and started crying. “It’s too dangerous to go out there.”

Her laughter echoed all around us.

“It’s beautiful so deep in here,” she said.

I couldn’t place the direction her voice was coming from. She emerged from a place different from where she went in, the fog curling over her shoulders. She held up a finger to tell us to wait a moment and then she unleashed a long, fog-filled breath, blowing it from her lungs like smoke.

“I heard once that in a lot of languages ‘breath’ and ‘soul’ are the same word,” she said. “Isn’t it stupid that’s not true in English, too? We should call our souls breaths or when we’re breathing we should call it souling. That’d be a lot better.”

“You breathed the fog in?” I asked, shuddering at the thought.

“I souled it in,” she said. “You guys are all wrong about this place. There’s no death in there. In fact, it’s more alive than anywhere I’ve ever been.”

It took some coaxing to get her to go back to the house. She wanted Jacob to teach her how to cup the fog in her hands as he had done. He claimed not to remember the secret to the trick anymore. All the same, she grasped at fistfuls of the fog, trying to stuff it in her pockets. When that proved ineffective, she tried breathing it in again.

“I want to bring as much of it back to the house with me as I can,” she said between breaths.

“But why?” I asked.

“Don’t you see? You didn’t bring the marsh’s death into the house. You brought its life.”

Read more of Deathly Fog.

**************************************

Adam Brekenridge is a traveling professor for the US military who goes around the world teaching US soldiers stationed overseas. He has eighteen short story publications and most recently his work has appeared in Visions Magazine, Mystery Weekly, and Clockwork, Curses and Coal from Worldweaver Press.
He’s currently based in Seoul.

**************************************

Horror Bites Series

Horror eBites

Volume 1: Alice’s Scars by Adam L. Bealby

When he met Alice, he wasn’t prepared to go down the rabbit hole. His love for her pushes him into the uncomfortable realization she might be mad. He wants to keep her safe, but what if that’s not what Alice wants?

Volume 2: Campfire Tales

Dear Reader,

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

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

Volume 3: #NGHW Editor’s Pick

HorrorAddicts.net is proud to present our top 14 contestants in the Next Great Horror Writer Contest. The stories, scripts, and poems are the result of the hard work and dedication these fine writers put forth to win a book contract. We hope you enjoy the writing as much as we did.

Volume 4: #NGHW Winner

Requiem in Frost by Jonathan Fortin

BLACK METAL LIVES! When Ingrid and her mother move into a home in the deep frostbitten woods of Norway, they are haunted by extreme metal musician, Skansi Oppegård. Hoping to exorcise Skansi’s ghost, she talks her mom into being part of a metal band. Oppegård’s last musical creation awakens forces beyond Ingrid’s understanding and causes Skansi’s murderer to resurface. In the battle between a madman and zombies, metal may be the only weapon she has.

Deathly Fog: Book Event Calendar

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HorrorAddicts.net proudly presents Book 5 in our Horror Bites series, Deathly Fog by Adam Breckenridge. Please, help us celebrate our newest release by attending the following online events:

August
13 PR Press Release horroraddicts.net
14 BE Calendar Book Events horroraddicts.net
14 Excerpt A.F. Stewart http://afstewartblog.blogspot.com/
15 Inspiration Adam Breckenridge horroraddicts.net
16 Interview Chilling Chat horroraddicts.net
16 Excerpt Deathly Fog horroraddicts.net
17 Announcement Facebook Party horroraddicts.net
17 Facebook Party Facebook Party https://www.facebook.com/groups/208379245861499
18 Intro Introduction emzbox.com
18 Facebook Party Facebook Party https://www.facebook.com/groups/208379245861499
19 Intro Introduction horroraddicts.net
19 Facebook Party Facebook Party https://www.facebook.com/groups/208379245861499
20 Announcement Announce FB Winners horroraddicts.net
20 Excerpt Deathly Fog www.rlmerrillauthor.com/blog
September
7 Excerpt Deathly Fog https://lorenrhoads.com/blog
7 BE Calendar Book Event Recap horroraddicts.net

Deathly Fog
by Adam Breckenridge

When Jacob and his brothers discover the ability to capture fog from the marsh behind their house, they bring it back with them. The fun game turns to danger as they realize perhaps something else accompanied them home. Is it too late to escape the Deathly Fog?

New Horror Bite: Deathly Fog by Adam Breckenridge

HorrorAddicts.net is proud to present our newest Horror Bite…
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Deathly Fog
by Adam Breckenridge

When Jacob and his brothers discover the ability to capture fog from the marsh behind their house, they bring it back with them. The fun game turns to danger as they realize perhaps something else accompanied them home. Is it too late to escape the Deathly Fog?

Chilling Chat: Episode #199 – Sandra Becerril

chillingchat

Sandra Becerril was born in Mexico City and is a writer, author and director. Her books include The Street of the Witches (2004 ), Blue Whisper (2007 ), The Name of the Clouds ( 2011),  Before Me, After (2012 ), The Night Pirates (2013 ), Whosandra3 - Sandra Becerril Are You Thinking of Killing (2014 ), Love Me More (2015), the thriller bestseller Valley of Fire (2018) with Random House Mondadori, (winner of the international Best Noir Novel in Spain), Your Corpse in the Snow (2019), and The Silence of All Dead—which has been translated into more than 10 languages—(2021).

Sandra is the translator and anthologist of Nightmares (in Spanish 2019) and the first Mexican to write for Masters of Horror in Hollywood. She directed the films, The Hideout, They are Here, and the documentary War and Compassion. She has written several documentaries and TV series and has directed and written dramas of terror. She is recognized as the most prolific and important Mexican horror writer of her generation.

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror? What got you involved in it?

SB: I was five-six years old. My parents told me not to see The Exorcist, so, of course, I saw it. And they were right. I got traumatized but enchanted with the story. I discovered that I wanted to take the sleep of people as The Exorcist did to me. I started to write stories since then.

NTK: What inspires your writing?

SB: Everything inspires me. I love scaring people; I love writing stories. And I write all the time.

Maybe it’s because I find the dark side of everything, but I’m inspired by atmospheres, people, certain situations, everything.

NTK: What inspired El Silencio de Todos Los Muertos (The Silence of All the Dead)?

SB: During my childhood, I lived in a house that terrified me. And not just me, it scared children and adults so much that people stopped visiting us.

I had to take that inspiration and create a novel.

The voices of the characters are from the point of view of when they are children because under that gaze, we believe that everything can be true, we see terror with innocence, we do not seek further explanation.

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

SB: They have a will of their own as long as they are within the world that creates them.

I try to model them well, to know them better than anyone else so that they act with logic in the midst of the situations they are experiencing.

I try not to help them.

I like to make them suffer and see what they will do next, what they are made of.

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

SB: As a Latina, it has suddenly been difficult to open the doors of my own country to get out of there with my stories to the outside world.

Once outside it is easier.

The first time that a producer in Spain or the United States trusted my stories, it was easier. The complicated thing is the first time.

And yet, I have suffered discrimination, for being a woman, for being a Latina, for being a single mother, even for writing terror, and for not dedicating myself to a more “serious” genre.

So, I would say that it has been a good experience and sometimes a bad one. It all depends on how you look at it. Everything is learning to move forward.

NTK: Are any of your stories based on personal experience?

SB: I am not my characters although many think I am.
However, the construction of my stories and the characters that act in them are based on real places, or on situations (not mine) that I have heard or investigated. This is because I like people to believe that this can happen, it is the magic of terror, breaking the barrier of credulity. And for that, you need to feel that they can be real, even if they are fantasy.

NTK: What is your favorite horror movie?

SB: Nosferatu (1922) and Macario (1960).

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

SB: I Am Legend.

NTK: What is your favorite horror television show?

SB: It used to be The Twilight Zone and now also Dexter.

NTK: You are the first Mexican to write for Masters of Horror. Could you tell us about that experience?

SB: It was wonderful.

Writing for directors who scared me when I was little is a great experience and every day, I learned something new.

There are a couple of them who are the men from my nightmares (they know it).
That showed me that any dream can come true, no matter if it’s about creating monsters and scaring people. Any dream is valid.

I also felt nervous, that is, those figures of terror that I admire so much were reading and directing my stories.

It was something surprising that I didn’t quite believe until I went to the set and said: this is true.

NTK: You’re also a director. Tell us a bit about your films. Do you enjoy directing? How is it different from writing? How is it the same?

I started directing for fun. First, it was a feature film that I did not love how it turned out, but it was in festivals. Then another feature film (They’re Here), where I already had more experience and also knew the story very well, and then several television series. In each experience I have learned a lot, everything I should do and not do. And they have been wonderful experiences.

I really like directing but I like writing more. This is because directing takes a lot of time, a lot of patience. And in that time, let’s say two years when you prepare a project, I can write maybe six scripts. I feel like writing is a more personal job. A film does not only belong to the director or the scriptwriter, it belongs to a whole team, the art team, the costumes, the makeup, the casting, etc. It’s very different. Writing is lonely and your story is only your responsibility.

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

SB: My new novel, The Loneliness of the Birds, will be released in Spain in September. It is a horror-thriller.

Also in September, the anthology Nightmares will be available in the US by Gauntlet Press, where I brought together Mick Garris, Richard Christian Matheson and Lawrence Connelly. The cover is by David Slade and also includes a text of mine with a foreword by John Skipp. The anthology is collectible, signed, and for horror collectors. This same anthology will be translated into Italian by the Independent Legions and will be out in January and it will be in Spain in February.

I’m also writing a thriller series for HBO and adapting The Silence of All the Dead into a feature film; it’s almost going into pre-production.

I am a jury member of several international festivals such as Feratum and Espanto, so I have to see many films.

NTK: Thank you, Sandra!

SB: This was fun! Thank you!

Addicts, you can find Sandra on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Odds and Dead Ends : Cultural Touchstones in Candyman

Clive Barker was one of those names (and still is) to give Stephen King a run for his money. When he burst onto the scene with his short story collections, Books of Blood Vol I – VI, he didn’t hold a single thing back. People getting faces ripped off like balaclavas, all the hands of the population becoming murderously sentient, a secret subway station piled high with carcasses; they never stopped for a second to think of people’s sensibilities. Barker’s tales just went for it.

            One of those stories is called ‘The Forbidden’, published in Vol 5. It follows Helen, wandering around the poorer, less-well policed neighbourhoods of the aptly named Spector Street Estate, looking for ideas for her thesis on urban graffiti. After stumbling upon a local legend of a man with a hooked hand murdering people in the recent past, and finding the figure’s murals on the walls, her explorations and curiosity lead her to discover the mythical figure himself: Candyman, embodiment of urban legend, kept alive by the rumours and fears of the local people. Needless to say, it doesn’t end well for Helen.

            After Barker had become one of the new voices in horror, film adaptations of his stories began to follow. The Hellbound Heart was made into Hellraiser, which truly established his name. Cabal became Nightbreed, Rawhead Rex from Vol 3 was made into a film in ’86. It would take until 1992 for ‘The Forbidden’ to become Candyman, and when it did, it made the journey across the pond from the UK to the USA, with some cultural changes.

            In the original short story, Barker focused on the issues of class in British society as the major cause for the dilapidation and poverty in the estate. There is, perhaps, a little similarity to a folk-horror setup, that the ‘locals’, portrayed normally in those films as less educated and less technologically advanced, but have a connection to the area or land, and therefore the past. This gives them a greater connection to whatever supernatural occurrences may come through in the course of the story/film, with the modern, upper-class, wealthier city-folk unable to embrace the past and therefore perishing as a result. Here, despite the narrative taking place within an urban area, there seems to be a similar concept. Those who have not had their minds polluted by education and wealth of the upper echelons of society are much more of-the-moment, of the now, connected to the primal nature of things, including the supernatural.

            In terms of narrative, not much changed when the story went across the pond, but the class element went away, presumably because class is much more of a concern and talking point in British society (blame our aristocratic, pompous background which we’ve never quite shed). Instead, the issues of racial inequality in ethnic minority communities were brought in, especially in black communities. Spector Street Estate became Cabrini-Green, a real housing estate in Chicago which had, since its creation, fallen into a reputation of crime and poor living conditions.

Cabrini-Green had, over the years, numerous incidents leading to its reputation. Gang warfare in 1970 saw the death of two police officers, gang killings claimed the lives of 11 in the early 80s, and other incidents besides these – including rapes, poisonings, sniper killings, and more, even in the years after Candyman – meant that Cabrini-Green was already a location with its own monsters and dark history. Bringing this darkness and animosity in the shape of a mythical evil presence could be seen to be personifying the violent myth of Cabrini-Green itself, allowing a community and a nation to see a specific entity, and therefore rationalise the violence. After all, that’s sort of what urban legends are; easily digestible, concrete tales and embodiments of fears and social taboos which can teach us life lessons. Here, we can see all of the issues and problems within a certain portion of society brought together and embodied in a single figure of the Candyman.

            Speaking of which, it should also be acknowledged that it’s a rare thing to have a black, now-franchised, horror villain. Casting Tony Todd is an inspired move, bringing a slow, imposing malice to the role in a similar (but different) way to Doug Bradley’s Pinhead from Hellraiser (considering both are Barker stories, not too surprising). Barker wanted something menacing for Pinhead, specifically harking back to Dracula for inspiration. It’s not hard to see that Dracula’s grand, somewhat regal appearance, might have even influenced Candyman. With the gentleman vampire now bleeding into popular culture (thanks to people like Bram Stoker and John Poldori), it might be possible to say that there’s a deliberate drawing on this same set of influences for the portrayal of the lord of urban myth himself. There is an education about him, knowledge and learning, which is at odds with the portrayals of almost all other characters of colour in the film (with a few exceptions including Kasi Lemmons’s Bernadette), further making him different and ‘other’. He straddles the worlds of the student and the studied, the haves and the have-nots. He is outside reference, and yet a reference for all.

            I could mention the influence of actual urban legends such as the hook-man leaving his hook in the side of the car, but I’m fairly sure are discussed in the film anyway. The film, nonetheless, is a compilation, a merging, of various aspects of the real world and of popular culture, culminating in one of the most memorable franchises in horror (and perhaps one of the most unique). With the new film being released shortly, it will be interesting to see how the film story is once again updated to bring in new influences and elements. It’s a superb cultural touchstone, purely of the time, yet applicable to all times.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: kjudgemental

Historian of Horror : The Good Girl vs The Greatest Villain of Them all

The Good Girl Artist vs the Greatest Villain of Them All

Let’s look at the second half of that title first, shall we? Who is the greatest comic book villain of them all?

Lex Luthor? Not even close.

Thanos? Amateur.

Galactus? What a piker.

Darkseid? Can’t even remember which planet he left his Mother Boxes on.

Green Goblin? Red Skull? Purple Pantywaist?

Nope, nope and nope.

The greatest villain in the history of comic books was a Vienna-born American psychiatrist who studied under Sigmund Freud and specialized in the treatment and understanding of violent behavior. His name was Fredric Wertham, M.D.

Like most villains, he was the hero of his own narrative. And, truth be told, he was not otherwise a horrible person. He never slaughtered half the life in the universe. He didn’t eat inhabited planets or reduce them to cinders. He didn’t kill Spider-Man’s girlfriend. His research was even put before the Supreme Court as evidence in the Brown vs Board of Education case that overturned racial segregation in American public schools in 1954. No, all he did was virtually shut down an entertainment medium on the verge of expanding out of its cultural ghetto into near respectability. Would the Pulitzer committee have had to wait until 1992 to award the first and only prize to a graphic novel without his baleful influence? Maybe, but we’ll never know, will we?

Wertham never set out to destroy the comics industry. He simply wanted to stop juvenile delinquency, using the false notion that, because naughty kids read comic books in the 1940s and early 1950s, then obviously, quad erat demonstratum, comic books caused childhood misbehavior. Of course, he had to falsify his data (i.e., make it up out of thin air) to prove his point, given that virtually every child in America read comic books in the period before television absorbed American popular culture into its unblinking cyclopean eye. 

Along the way, he facilitated the forced shutdown of vast swaths of the comic book publishers of the time. The number of markets for comics creators dwindled from dozens to a handful. There were other factors, of course, and other decriers of the latest medium to draw the ire of concerned parents, but it was Wertham’s 1954 book, Seduction of the Innocent, that slew the so many of the giants of the field and made his name anathema to generations of comic book fans.

Notice I used ‘fans’, there. ‘Fen’ is only the plural of ‘fan’ in science fiction fandom, or was when I was active in both, way, way back in the Cultural Pleistocene Era. 

Anyhow.

Wertham didn’t manage to kill the industry off completely, nor was that his aim. He simply wanted parents to know what their children were reading, and give them tools to help them head off the behaviors he found so problematic. Like that has ever worked. Right, Tipper?

He didn’t even kill off the worst offenders among the super-heroes, Batman with his ‘homosexual’s dream’ relationship with Robin or the ‘lesbian ideal’, Wonder Woman. They, along with Superman, were too big to succumb to the general dying off of the rest of the super-hero genre. 

Wertham did, however, inflict a fatal blow to other genres, particularly crime and horror. A Comics Code Authority was cobbled together by the remaining publishers to address Wertham’s concerns, led by the president of Archie Comics, John L. Goldwater. Werewolves and vampires were banned, as were the very words ‘horror’ or ‘terror’ in the titles of the magazines. Refusal to conform would cost the recalcitrant publisher access to distribution, unless that publisher was the acknowledged curator of wholesome sequential art content, Dell Comics. Those specific restrictions alone wiped out entire companies, most particularly E.C., which had drawn the ire of the Code hierarchy with a merciless and nearly libelous lampooning of Goldwater’s main money-maker, Archie Andrews, in Mad #12. E.C. publisher William M. Gaines soon switched over from putting out titles like Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror and Haunt of Fear to dumping all his yeggs into a single basket, a magazine format continuation of E.C.’s ground-breaking parody comic book, MAD, that was beyond the reach of the Comics Code Authority.

Didn’t see that one coming did you, Goldwater?

Among Wertham’s other targets for opprobrium were the ‘headlight’ comics, those that prominently featured female, er, prominences. One of the illustrations included in Seduction of the Innocent was a specific example of such, the cover of Fox Publications’ Phantom Lady #17 from 1948, an illustration in which the title character was bound with ropes to what looks like a dock piling in such a posture as to accentuate her, um, pulchritudinous assets. 

Oh, my.

The artist who drew that cover was the subject of the first part of the title above. Bet you were wondering when I’d get around to that. His name was Matt Baker, and he was the first significant African-American comic book artist. And from this point on, he is the focus of our tale, for he was the dominant, so to speak, ‘Good Girl Artist’ of his day.

That’s as in artist who drew girls good. The morality of the females involved was not necessarily their salient feature. Or features, as it were.

Anyhow.

Clarence Matthew Baker was born in Forsythe County, North Carolina, on December 10, 1921. His family moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania circa 1924, where Matt graduated from high school in 1940 with the stated ambition of being an artist and photographer.

Due to a heart condition, possibly due to having had rheumatic fever as a child, Matt was not eligible for military service during World War II. He did some sort of job for the Navy Department until moving to Brooklyn in 1943 with his brother and working for the National War Labor Board while studying art at Cooper Union in New York. He stayed at that school for only one term before taking a job with the Iger Studio.

Jerry Iger had started a studio that supplied content for the burgeoning comic book markets with his partner Will Eisner, but when Eisner’s creation, The Spirit, gained lucrative newspaper syndication, Iger carried on without him. Through Iger, Baker churned out mass quantities of work for the aforementioned Fox, as well as Fiction House, St. John Publications and myriad smaller houses. He drew mostly jungle hero and heroine stories for Fox and Fiction House, even going so far as to create the first obviously black hero in a mainstream comic book. Voodah ran in Crown Comics, published by a very minor house called McCombs, for the magazine’s entire nineteen-issue run from 1945 to 1949. Alas, Voodah was only dark-skinned in the first few issues before he miraculously transformed into a garden-variety Caucasian jungle hero.

Baker’s work for St. John was mostly in the romance genre, a field in which he excelled. Few artists of his day drew women so beautifully. There are those who claim his attention to the details of feminine beauty was due to him being quite the ladies’ man. There are those who claim the opposite and even speculate on the nature of his relationship with Archer St. John, his primary publisher. Either way, he turned in some great comics stories in those days, along with the first graphic novel, It Rhymes with Lust, published in 1950 by St. John, and a short-lived syndicated newspaper comic strip, Flamingo.

Baker did do horror tales for St. John, as well as for other, lesser publishers. Alas, in the wake of Wertham’s attack on his medium, Baker lost his most reliable markets. Fox and Fiction House were defunct by 1955. St. John held on until 1958, but just barely. Baker spent the rest of the decade working for the less prestigious houses Charlton and Atlas, the latter being the forerunner of the modern-day Marvel Comics. The titles he contributed to for those houses are a litany of defanged spookiness – Out of This World, Tales of the Mysterious Traveler and Strange Suspense Stories for Charlton; Journey into Mystery, Tales to Astonish, and World of Fantasy for Atlas. None of them with the frissons he created in his earlier horror work, but they paid the bills for the remainder of his short life.

Baker passed away from his life-long heart condition on August 11, 1959, at the much too young age of thirty-eight. Had he survived another decade, he would likely have been a major player in Marvel’s ascendancy in the 1960s. But that was not to be.

I doubt that Wertham took note of Baker’s passing. He wrote more books, even managing one last dig at the baleful effect of comics on American youth in his 1968 tome, A Sign for Cain. His last book was a generally favorable examination of the phenomenon of fanzines, those amateur paeans to various fandoms that proliferated in the days before the internet made everyone a pundit on whatever topic took their fancy. Present company included. 

Wertham died in 1981, if not reviled by comics fans, at least regarded with ye olde legendary jaundiced eye. Comics writer Mark Evanier wrote a not entirely condemnatory article that was reprinted in his 2003 book, Wertham Was Right! I won’t go so far as to say that Wertham’s reputation was fully reformed by Evanier’s essay, but it does put his actions, however questionable, into a context that is more favorable than he enjoyed in earlier days.

Baker’s reputation, in the meantime, has remained high and even grown. He was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2009, and numerous artists of the last several decades cite him as a major influence on their own work. Given the comparative legacies of the Good Girl Artist and the Greatest Villain of Them All, I’d settle for Baker’s over Wertham’s any day of the week, and twice on Sundays.

In addition to my well-worn copy of Seduction of the Innocent and the Evanier volume mentioned above, I would like to commend to the populace two other essential works on the relevant history of the period covered herein. To whit, The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How it Changed America by David Hadju, and Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books by Ken Quattro. Both are available from Amazon.

And, so, until next time —

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Book Review: “Ghost Magnet: Crime and Magic in the New Russia #1” by James Beach

Hello Addicts,

When you are on the run from the bad guys, you always try to stay one step ahead of them. It could be continuous running, maybe even hiding in places they never think of looking. What if you do all of that, but they find you no matter where you go? Better yet, what if their informants are impossible to escape because they are ghosts?

In Ghost Magnet: Crime and Magic in the New Russia #1 by James Beach, Aurelian is a thief on the run after a jewel heist went sideways. He is hiding out amongst drug addicts for the night while he waits for a boat to take him to Odessa, where he can get the means for a new start elsewhere. He discovers that the drug den belongs to a former coroner named Mikhail Coba. Rumored to have murdered his wife and children because they got in his way, Coba and his bodyguards are looking for someone or something. That makes Aurelian more nervous but not as frightened as when he sees the thugs inject an addict with something that changes the man before he points to his hiding spot. After a brief surprise attack, the young thief escapes and doesn’t stop until he’s lost his pursuers, or so he thinks. Within minutes he is captured, and that is when the strangeness and horror kick in.

Coba has a channeling medium in his employ, along with a drug that allows ghosts to possess people before eventually consuming their bodies in a gruesome fashion. The mobster shares that he is looking for a wicker basket, which the spirits have advised Aurelian knows its location. This wicker basket provides a vital clue to a long-dormant experiment Coba wants to restart for his purposes.

This novella offers lots of twists and turns and whose pacing fits well between action and rest periods. It is an exciting start to a series I highly look forward to reading more of in the future. It is perfect for an afternoon read when you don’t want to jump into a girthy story and will want more by the end.

Until next time addicts,

D.J.

Chilling Chat: Episode #198 – 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 Realm.

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

LMW: Thank you so much for having me!

NTK:  What have you been up to since we last talked?

LMW: Oh my gosh, so much! After Slay came out, my third novel was released. It is called The Realm and it’s about a man who wakes up in an afterlife he never expected with a responsibility that he doesn’t know if he can shoulder. It is a fast-paced novel, and I am so over the moon about it. In May of this year, my first novella was released by Mocha Memoirs Press. It is called Telecommuting and it is a purely psychological horror tale about a man who finds himself utterly alone for most of the time. We follow him as he navigates this new normal, all the while wondering when he will hear the whispering…because we definitely do. My first and second novels, Crescendo and The Promise Keeper respectively, will be re-released by Cedar Grove Books at the end of July.

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: 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: Tell us about your book, The Realm. What’s it about and what inspired it?

LMW: The Realm is about a man who finds himself in a predicament that he never ever thought possible. The story starts with him awakening in the afterlife, but this space is nothing like he had been taught to expect. Patrick has to run… right away if he wants to save his family and himself. It is a high-energy story that never let’s you settle down. So much fun! As for inspiration, I’ve always been interested in what lies beyond the stars and this story allowed me to create a world in the space – an alternate reality. It also allowed me to do the cross-genre work that psychological horror so often lends itself to. It is a lot of fun.

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

LMW: Tons, actually! I mentioned that my first two novels are coming out again in July. Then we prepare for the release of book two of The Realm series – Cacophony. This comes out in October from Cedar Grove Books, and I am just so ready for people to meet Gabby! I have a few more things coming out in 2022, including a neat project that I am working on with Falstaff Books. Please visit my website and sign up for the newsletter to get updates!

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.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Heks

 

Plotline: A grieving woman discovers that her mother’s murder has ties to a South African witch doctor’s curse.

Who would like it:

High Points:

Complaints: Too many to list.

Overall: IMO this movie isn’t very good, the plot is weak, there was no research on the subject matter, there is no back story or character development and it doesn’t make much sense.

Stars: 1

Where I watched it:

 

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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

Nightmare Fuel: The Conjure Box

Hello Addicts,

There are plenty of different means of contacting those on the other side. There are ouija boards, spirit boards, tarot cards, tape recorders, and any number of other different ways used by mediums, psychics, and paranormal investigators. For this week’s Nightmare Fuel, I wanted to look into one of the more extreme methods: The Conjure Box.

Before I share any details on the box and the procedure, I must ask listeners and readers not to try this game unless you and your partner are strong-willed. It is said that people who enter the box change due to opening themselves to possible demon-like entities.

What you’ll need to build a Conjure Box are:

  1. Six metal sheets. Five should be no taller than the person who will enter the box with their hands raised, and the sixth should be slightly taller than the rest as it will be the lid.
  2. Six mirrors the same size as the metal sheets. All should be as flawless as possible.
  3. A battery-operated or crank-charging light source capable of emitting bright yellow or white light. Do not use a light requiring outlets since there can be no gaps in the box. Also, do not use candles for health safety reasons. (Carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide)
  4. Two or three alarm clocks, synchronized.
  5. Two ladders.
  6. Blankets.
  7. Water.
  8. First aid kit.

Construct the box so that the metal is on the outside and the mirrors attached inside facing each other. One ladder should remain outside the box, and the other placed inside when the witness enters or exits. There should be absolutely no outside light visible inside. Set all of the alarm clocks for ten minutes after the witness plans to enter the box. The witness should only take the light source, which should remain turned off until the lid is closed, and one alarm clock. Before closing up the box, the partner remaining outside needs to confirm they are ready to begin. If confirmation is not received, do not proceed.

After that, it is a waiting game for both people until either the witness signals they want out or once the alarm clock goes off. When either happens, the partner should open the box and lower the ladder for the witness to climb out. They should not remain in the box beyond ten minutes, no matter what is said. The blankets, water, and first aid administered if needed. It is important to only enter and exit by the lid and not dismantle the box until after the witness is outside of it.

If all of this seems too much or too silly to attempt, there is a smaller and safer version. The box construction is scaled-down and involves either metal or wood, with mirrors facing each other inside. However, instead of someone entering the box, you place a recording device inside before sealing it up for ten minutes. Demonic growls emanate from the speakers upon playback when there is no cause in the box. Either version of the game carries the danger of allowing something through, so always play with caution and respect.

Until next time Addicts,

D.J.

Historian of Horror: In Memoriam April ~ June, 2021

In Memoriam, April through June 2021

We are met again to celebrate those who made contributions to the horror genre and who passed

away during the second quarter of the year.

April

William “Biff” McGuire (October 25, 1926 – April 1, 2021) American actor in one episode of Kraft Theatre (season 6, episode 13, “A Christmas Carol”, aired December 24, 1952), four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents from 1956 to 1958, and The Werewolf of Washington  (1974). 

Mark Elliott (September 24, 1939 – April 3, 2021) American actor in Edge of Sanity (1989).

John Paragon (December 9, 1954 – April 3, 2021) American actor, appeared in the feature films Eating Raoul (1982), Pandemonium (1982), Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988), and Elvira’s Haunted Hills (2001); and on television in Elvira’s Movie Macabre, Elvira’s MTV Halloween Party, The Elvira Show and 13 Nights of Elvira from 1981 to 2011.

Giuseppe Pinori (September 15, 1928 – April 3, 2021) Italian cinematographer on the 1984 giallo, Murderrock: Uccide a Passo di Danza (English title – Murder-Rock: Dancing Death), as well as the horror films Contamination (1980) and l’Apocalisse della Schimmie (2012).

Francisco Haghenbeck (1965 – April 4, 2021) Mexican comic book writer, novelist and screenwriter. His 2011 novel El Diablo me obligó was the basis for the Netflix supernatural television series Diablero

Zygmunt Malanowicz (4 February 1938 – 4 April 2021) Polish film actor, The Lure (2015).

Phil Eason (May 5, 1960 – April 5, 2012) British actor and puppeteer, Labyrinth (1986) and Little Shop of Horrors (1986).

Robert Fletcher (August 23, 1922 – April 5, 2021) American costume and set designer, The Scarecrow (TV movie, 1972) and Fright Night (1985)

Paul Ritter (5 March 1967 – 5 April 2021) English actor in Nostradamus (2006), Hannibal Rising (2007), The Limehouse Golem (2016) and all four episodes of the English television mini-series, Neil Gaiman’s Likely Stories (2016). He also played Bram Stoker in one episode of the 2016 mini-series, Houdini and Doyle.

Grischa Huber (18 September 1944 – 6 April 2021) German actress, Vampira (1971).

Walter Olkewicz (November 14, 1948 – April 6, 2021) American character actor in Comedy of Horrors (1981) and the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” episode of Tall Tales & Legends (season 1, episode 1, aired September 25, 1985). He also had a recurring role as Jean-Michel Renault in the various incarnations of Twin Peaks (1990-2017).

James Hampton (July 9, 1936 – April 7, 2021) American actor who played the lycanthropic dad in Teen Wolf (1985) and Teen Wolf Too (1987), as well as the Teen Wolf television series (1986-1987).

Olga Pashkova (2 January 1966 – 7 April 2021) Russian actress, Burial of the Rats (1995).

Earl Simmons (AKA DMX, December 18, 1970 – April 9, 2021) American rapper, songwriter, and actor in The Bleeding (2009).

Edwin L. Aguilar (August 16, 1974 – April 10, 2021) Salvadoran-born American animator on The Simpsons, including several of the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes.

Giannetto De Rossi (8 August 1942 – 11 April 2021) Italian makeup artist on Doctor Faustus (1967), Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974), Zombi 2 (1979), Cannibals in the Streets (1980), The Beyond (1981), The House by the Cemetery (1981), King Kong Lives (1988), and Killer Crocodile (1989).

Enzo Sciotti (September 24, 1944 – April 11, 2021) Italian illustrator, noted for producing more than 3000 movie posters including those for the horror films The Beyond (1981), Manhattan Baby (1982), Demons (1985), Phenomena (1985), Neon Maniacs (1986), Girlfriend from Hell (1989), A Cat in the Brain (1990), and Two Evil Eyes (1990).

Zoran Simjanović (11 May 1946 – 11 April 2021) Serbian composer on film scores for Variola Vera (1982), Već viđeno (1987 AKA Reflections and Deja Vu) and Sabirni Centar (1989, The Meeting Point).

John C. Pelan (July 19, 1957 – April 12, 2021) American horror and science fiction author, editor and small-press publisher.

Siboney Lo (31 October 1978 – 13 April 2021) Chilean actress, Fragmentos Urbanos (2002), Get Pony Boy (2007), Hidden in the Woods (2012), and Road Kill (2014).

Amedeo Tommasi (1 December 1935 – 13 April 2021) Italian film music composer on the horror films Balsamus, l’uomo di Satana (1970), Thomas and the Bewitched (1970), Hanno cambiato facia (They Have Changed Their Face 1971), Off Season (1980), and Il signor Diavolo (2019); on two gialli, The House with Laughing Windows (1976) and Sleepless (2001); and on the giallo spoof, Tutti Defunti… Tranne i Morti (1977).

Patricio Castillo (December 29, 1939 – April 15, 2021) Chilean-born Mexican actor, Violencia a Sangre Fria (1989)

Ira Keeler (July 22, 1940 – April 15, 2021) British visual effects artist on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), The Witches of Eastwick (1987), Jurassic Park (1993), Congo (1995), Mars Attacks (1996), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), Men in Black (1997), The Mummy (1999), and Jurassic Park III (2001)

Helen McCrory (17 August 1968 – 16 April 2021) English actress, appeared in the feature films Interview with the Vampire (1994), The Woman in Black: Angel of Death (2015), and as Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter film series. On television, she appeared in the 2007 British version of Frankenstein, “The Vampires of Venice” episode of Doctor Who (Season 5, Episode 6, aired May 8, 2010), and as Evelyn Poole (AKA Madame Kali) in the first two seasons of Penny Dreadful (2014-2015). On stage, she played Lady Macbeth in 1994 at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, for which she won the Richard Burton Award for Most Promising Newcomer, and starred in Medea at the Royal National Theatre, for which she won the Critics’ Circle Theatre Award in 2015. Wonder how Edward Lionheart would have felt about that?

Abu Bakar Omar (1949 – April 16, 2021) Malaysian actor, Rahsia (1987).

Anthony Powell (2 June 1935 – 16 April 2021) Oscar, BAFTA and Tony Award-winning English costume designer on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and The Ninth Gate (1999).

Liam Scarlett (8 April 1986 – 16 April 2021) British choreographer who was associated with a number of ballet companies worldwide, including as artist-in-residence at The Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, London. He choreographed several genre-related ballets, including Frankenstein, Queen of Spades, and Die Toteninsel.

Felix Silla (January 11, 1937 – April 16, 2021) Italian-born American film and television actor and stuntman, played Cousin Itt on The Addams Family series in the 1960s and in the 1977 television movie, Halloween with the New Addams Family. Also played the Polka Dotted Horse and other roles in H.R. Pufnstuf (1969-1970) and the related 1970 film, Pufnstuf; a goblin in a 1967 episode of Bewitched and a troll in a 1971 episode of the same show; Colonel Poom on Lidsville (1971-1972); and Baby New Year in “The Diary” segment of the November 10, 1971 episode of Night Gallery (season 2, episode 8). He acted in the feature films She Freak (1967), Sssssss (1973), Demon Seed (1977), The Manitou (1978), The Brood (1979), The Dungeonmaster (1984), and House (1985), and the 1973 television movie Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. He performed stunts in Poltergeist (1982), The Monster Squad (1987) and Phantasm II (1988).

Jim Steinman (November 1, 1947 – April 19, 2021) American composer, songwriter, record producer and playwright. Wrote the music and lyrics for Meat Loaf’s debut album, Bat Out of Hell, as well as Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell; also wrote the music for the 1997 stage musical Tanz der Vampires, first performed in Vienna (hence the German title) which was based on the 1967 Roman Polanski film The Fearless Vampire Killers.

Monte Hellman (July 12, 1929 – April 20, 2021) American film director, producer, writer, and editor. Directed The Beast from Haunted Cave (1959); was location director on Roger Corman’s The Terror (1963), starring Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson; and wrote, directed, edited and had an uncredited cameo in the 1989 slasher film, Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!.

Wiesława Mazurkiewicz (25 March 1926 – 20 April 2021) Polish actress, Lokis. Rekopis profesora Wittembacha (Lokis, the Manuscript of Professor Wittembach, 1970).

Tempest Storm (born Annie Blanche Banks, February 29, 1928 – April 20, 2021), “The Queen of Exotic Dancers,” American burlesque star who was one of the most famous strippers of her generation. Her handful of movie appearances included Mundo Depravados (1967), written and directed by her husband, Herb Jeffries, who had his own unique film career as the pre-eminent African-American western movie star of the 1930s.

Charles Fries (September 30, 1928 – April 22, 2021) American film producer or executive producer on She Waits (1972), Tales from the Crypt (1972), The Norliss Tapes (1973), The Vault of Horror (1973), Scream of the Wolf (1974), The Strange and Deadly Occurrence (1974), The Spell (1977), Halloween with the New Addams Family (1977), Night Cries (1978), The Initiation of Sarah (1978), Are You in the House Alone? (1978), Cat People (1982), Terror at London Bridge (1985), Flowers in the Attic (1987), Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge (1988), Deathstone (1990), Screamers (1995), The Initiation of Sarah (2006), Screamers: The Hunting (2009), Flowers in the Attic (2014), Petals on the Wind (2014), If There Be Thorns (2015), and Seeds of Yesterday (2015).

Amit Mistry (January 12, 1974 – April 23, 2021) Indian actor, Bhoot Police (2021).

Yves Rénier (29 September 1942 – 23 April 2021) French actor, director, screenwriter and voice actor. Appeared in the television mini-series Belphegor, or Phantom of the Louvre (1965). Dubbed the voice of James Woods in the French-language release of John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998).

Shunsuke Kikuchi (1 November 1931 – 24 April 2021) Japanese film and television music composer, Kaidan semushi otoko (House of Terrors, 1965), Kaitei daisensô (The Terror Beneath the Sea, 1966), Kaidan hebi-onna (Snake Woman’s Curse, 1968), Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell (1968), Gamera vs Guiron (1969), Gamera vs Jiger (1970), Gamera vs Zigra (1971), and Gamera: Super Monster (1980).

Charles Beeson (10 May, 1957 – 26 April 2021) British television producer and director on the 2015 American mini-series The Whispers, and director on one episode of The Vampire Diaries (Season 2, Episode 7, “Masquerade”, aired October 28, 2010), five episodes of Fringe (2010-2012) and fourteen episodes of Supernatural from 2007 to 2020.

Johnny Crawford (March 26, 1946 – April 29, 2021) American actor, one of the original Mousketeers in the 1950s and prolific child star on American television into the 1960s. Best known for his role as the son of Chuck Connors in the classic western TV series, The Rifleman (1958-1963). He also, along with most of his fellow television adolescents of that era, placed a few bubblegummy songs in the Top 40, with “Cindy’s Birthday” making it all the way to the #8 position in 1962. Played one of the thirty-foot-tall juvenile delinquents terrorizing a small town in the utterly bonkers dark comedy, Village of the Giants (1965).

Billie Hayes (August 5, 1924 – April 29, 2021) American stage, film, television and voice actress, played Witchipoo on the children’s television series H.R. Pufnstuf (1969), The Paul Lynde Halloween Special (1969) and the second season of The Banana Splits Adventure Hour in (1969); a similar character in one episode of Bewitched (Season 8, Episode 10, “Hansel and Gretel in Samantha-Land”, aired November 17, 1971); and Weenie the Genie on Lidsville (1971-1972). She also appeared in one episode of the Bewitched spin-off series, Tabitha (Season 1, Episode 6, “Mr. Nice Guy”, aired December 10, 1977). She did voice work for the animated television series Trollkins (1981), The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries (1984), The Real Ghostbusters (1986), Aaahh!!! Real Monsters (1995), and The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy (2005), and the feature films The Black Cauldron (1985) and The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).

S. G. Chelladurai (1937 – April 29, 2021) Indian actor, Airaa (2019).

Libertad Leblanc (February 24, 1938 – April 30, 2021) Argentine platinum blonde sex symbol, best known for her work in erotic films. She did make a couple of horror pictures, La Endemoniada (A Woman Possessed, 1968) in Mexico and the Spanish/Italian Cerco de Terror (Siege of Terror, 1971).

May

Tom Hickey (1944 – 1 May 2021) Irish actor, Gothic (1986) and High Spirits (1988).

Bikramjeet Kanwarpal (29 August 1968 – 01 May 2021) Indian actor, Mallika (2010), Dangerous Ishhq (Dangerous Love, 2012), Horror Story (2013), and Creature 3D (2014).

Willy Kurant (15 February 1934 – 1 May 2021) Belgian cinematographer, The Incredible Melting Man (1977) and Mama Dracula (1980).

Chuck Hicks (December 26, 1927 – May 4, 2021) American actor and stuntman, Creature with the Atom Brain (1955), Zombies of Mora Tau (1957), Shock Corridor (1963), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1972), Beyond Evil (1980), The Ring (2002), Hood of Horror (2006), and Legion (2010). On television, he appeared in one episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (“Ten O’Clock Tiger”, season 7, Episode 26, aired April 3, 1962) and two of The Twilight Zone (“Steel”, Season 5, Episode 2, aired October 4, 1963, and “Ninety Years Without Slumbering”, Season 5, Episode 12, aired December 20, 1963).

Feđa Stojanović (31 January 1948 – 5 May 2021) Serbian actor, T.T. Syndrome (2002)

Guillermo Murray (15 June 1927 – 6 May 2021) Argentine-born Mexican actor, El Mundo de los Vampiros (1961), La Huella Macabra (1963), Los Murcialagos (1964), The Chinese Room (1968), and Six Tickets to Hell (1981).

Tawny Kitaen (August 5, 1961 – May 7, 2021) American actress, Witchboard (1986)

Jean-Claude Romer (19 January 1933 – 8 May 2021) French actor, Les week-ends maléfiques du Comte Zaroff (Seven Women for Satan, 1976), Cinemania (short film, as the Frankenstein Monster, 1978), Baby Blood (1990), Time Demon (1996), and Marquis de Slime (1997). Romer was also co-editor of the French science fiction, fantasy and horror film magazine, Midi-Minuit Fantastique (1962-1972). The first issue is available in the Internet Archives.

Neil Connery (1 January 1938 – 10 May 2021) Scottish actor and the younger brother of Sean Connery, The Body Stealers (1969).

Dennis Joseph (October 20, 1957 – May 10, 2021) Indian scriptwriter and director, Geethaanjali (2013).

Norman Lloyd (November 8, 1914 – May 11, 2021) American actor whom I was about convinced would live forever. Linked both to Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles, he was a significant presence in every medium of American entertainment for most of a century. He appeared in the May 24, 1945 episode of the Suspense! radio show (“My Own Murderer”). His genre-related films included the 1951 remake of M with David Wayne in the role created twenty years earlier by Peter Lorre; Audrey Rose (1977); the TV mini-series The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (1978); Jaws of Satan (1981), Amityville Horror: The Evil Escapes (1989); and the 1995 TV remake of The Omen. On television, he directed, produced and/or acted in several episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, as well as being executive producer on the 1968-1969 series Journey into the Unknown and producer on Tales of the Unexpected (1982-1985). He acted in one episode each of One Step Beyond (Season 2, Episode 1, “Delusion”, aired September 15, 1959), Night Gallery (Season 2, Episode 16, “A Feast of Blood”, aired January 12, 1972) and the Twilight Zone revival series (Season 1, Episode 24, “The Last Defender of Camelot”, aired April 11, 1986).

Jaime Garza (January 28, 1954 – May 14, 2021) Mexican actor, Dinastia Sangrienta (1988) and The Bloody Monks (1989).

Roy Scammell (28 July 1932 – 15 May 2021) British stuntman and stunt arranger, Circus of Fear (1966), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Horror Hospital (1973), Alien (1979), Venom (1981), and Seize the Night (2015).

René Cardona III (1962 – May 16, 2021) Mexican actor, director and screenwriter, The Bermuda Triangle (1978), Terror en las Barrios (1983), Cementario del Terror (1985), Vacaciones de Terror (1989), Alarido del Terror (1991), El Beso de la Muerte: Historias Espeluznantes (1991), Pesadilla Fatal (1991), Colmillos, el Hombre Lobo (1993), and El Asesino del Teatro (1996)

Nitish Veera (1976 – 17 May 2021) Indian actor, Airaa (2019) and Neeya 2 (2019). 

Vladimir Fyodorov (February 19, 1939 — May 18, 2021) Russian actor, Ruslan i Lyudmila (1972), Dikaya okhota korolya Stakha (Savage Hunt of King Stakh, 1980), and Lisova Pisnya. Mavka (1981). 

Charles Grodin (April 21, 1935 – May 18, 2021) Award-winning American actor, comedian, author, and television talk show host, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), King Kong (1976), and So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993).

David Anthony Kraft (May 31, 1952 – May 19, 2021) American comic book writer, publisher, and critic. Wrote the Man-Wolf feature in several Marvel comic book titles in the middle 1970s, including Creatures on the Loose and Marvel Premiere. Man-Wolf was the astronaut son of Spider-Man’s nemesis J. Jonah Jameson who developed lycanthropy after picking up a magical rock on the moon. 

Kraft also wrote stories for the Marvel publications Giant-Size Dracula, Haunt of Horror and Tales of the Zombie. He wrote Demon Hunter #1 for Atlas/Seaboard in 1975, and a Swamp Thing issue for DC Comics in 1976. Kraft founded Fictioneer Books in 1974. Its subsidiary imprint, Comics Interview, published the Southern Knights comic book during the 1980s. Southern Knights was a super-hero group, one member of which was a dragon who could assume human form. A friend of mine at the time illustrated the final issue. 

Romy Walthall (September 16, 1963 – May 19, 2021) American actress in the feature films Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988), The House of Usher (1989), and Howling: New Moon Rising (1995); and in one episode each of The X-Files (“Millennium”, Season 7, Episode 4, aired November 28, 1999) and The Nightmare Room (“Don’t Forget me”, Season 1, Episode 1, aired August 31, 2001)).

Robert Green Hall (27 November 1973 – May 24, 2021) American special makeup effects artist on the television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, and the feature films Vacancy (2007), Killer Pad (2008), The Crazies (2010), Quarantine 2: Terminal (2011), and Fear Clinic (2014). Also directed Laid to Rest (2009) and ChromeSkull: Laid to Rest 2 (2011).

Desiree Gould (March 27, 1945 – May 25, 2021) American actress, Sleepaway Camp (1983), Under Surveillance (2006), Caesar and Otto Meet Dracula’s Lawyer (2010), and Tales of Poe (2014).

Ben Kruger (25 March 1957 – 25 May 2021) South African actor, Snake Island (2002).

Carla Fracci (20 August 1936 – 27 May 2021) Italian ballet dancer, best known for the supernatural ballet Giselle

Robert Hogan (September 28, 1933 – May 27, 2021) Prolific American film and television actor in the feature films Westworld (1973), Species II (1998), and in one episode each of The Twilight Zone (“Spur of the Moment”, Season 5, Episode 21, aired February 21, 1964), Kraft Suspense Theatre (“The Wine Dark Sea”, Season 2, Episode 11, aired December 31, 1964), Night Gallery (“Brenda”, Season 2, Episode 7, aired November 3, 1971), and Tales of the Unexpected (“No Way Out”, Season 1, Episode 8, aired August 24, 1977).

Lorina Kamburova (February 1, 1991 – May 26, 2021) Bulgarian actress, Nightworld: Door of Hell (2017), Leatherface (2017), Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2017), and Doom: Annihilation (2019).

Paul Soles (August 11, 1930 – May 26, 2021) Canadian voice actor on the 1966 Saturday morning Japanese-produced American cartoon series King Kong. Yes, THAT King Kong. Big monkey King Kong. As a commenter on the show’s IMDb page pointed out, it wasn’t a particularly memorable series, but it had one of the catchiest theme songs on Saturday mornings when I was a kid. Not as great as the theme song from Underdog, but still pretty darn good. Soles also did voice work for several of the cartoon shows based on the Marvel Comics characters during the 1960s, including as the title character in Spider-Man, making him the first actor to ever play the web-slinger. It also had a great theme song. Yes, childrens, music was indeed better in the ‘60s, in every aspect of the popular culture.

Shane Briant (17 August 1946 – 27 May 2021) English actor, Demons of the Mind (1972), Straight on Till Morning (1972), The Picture of Dorian Gray (1973), Captain Kronos-Vampire Hunter (1974), Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974), Cassandra (1987), Out of the Body (1989), and Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein (2019).

David Butler (March 1, 1960 – May 27, 2021) South African actor, The Canterville Ghost (1983).

Marcell Jankovics (21 October 1941 – 29 May 2021) Hungarian animator, A Székely asszony és az ördög (The Transylvanian Woman and the Devil, 1985), one of a series of short animated films based on Hungarian folk tales.

Maurice Capovila (16 January 1936 – 29 May 2021) Brazilian film director and screenwriter. His 1970 dramatic film, The Prophet of Hunger, while not explicitly horror, may appeal to horror fans as it starred Jose Mojica Marins, better known as Coffin Joe, and had a rather surrealistic plot.

John Gregg (12 January 1939 – 29 May 2021) Australian actor in one episode of the British television series Dead of Night (“Two in the Morning”, Season 1, Episode 6, aired December 10, 1972), and one episode of the Australian supernatural comedy series, Spirited (“Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead”, Season 1, Episode 2, aired September 1, 2010).

Joe Lara (October 2, 1962 – May 29, 2021) American actor best known for playing Tarzan on television in the 1990s. Died in a plane crash in Percy Priest Lake, a few miles from where I live in Middle Tennessee. Appeared in the horror films Night Wars (1988) and The Presence (1992).

Gavin MacLeod (February 28, 1931 – May 29, 2021) American actor best known for playing Murray Slaughter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977) and Captain Stubing on The Love Boat (1977-1986). Appeared in one episode of The Munsters (Season 1, Episode 12, “The Sleeping Cutie”, aired December 10, 1964).

Arlene Golonka (January 23, 1936 – May 31, 2021) Ubiquitous American actress with an extensive career in television from the 1960s to the 1980s. Appeared in Skeletons (1997). Also did some voice work for the Saturday morning cartoon series, The New Scooby-Doo Movies, in 1973.

June

Violeta Vidaurre (12 September 1928 – 1 June 2021) Chilean actress with a long career in television and in the theater. She appeared as Ercilia Núñez in twenty-three episodes of the Chilean vampire telenovela, Conde Vrolok (2009-2010).

Michael Ray Escamilla (died June 3, 2021) American actor, The Orphan Killer (2011) and The Possession of Michael King (2014)

Damaris Hayman (16 June 1929 – 3 June 2021) English character actress who appeared in one storyline of Doctor Who during the tenure of Jon Pertwee, the Third Doctor. She played Miss Hawthorne in all five episodes of “The Dæmons” in 1971.

Ernie Lively (January 29, 1947 – June 3, 2021) Prolific American character actor, Ghost Chase (AKA Hollywood-Monster, 1987), Shocker (1989), Sleepwalkers (1992), and one episode of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents revival series (“Four O’Clock”, based on the classic short story by Cornell Woolrich, Season 1, Episode 21, aired May 4. 1986).

N. Rangarajan (17 December 1930 – 3 June 2021) Indian film director, Kalyanaraman (1979).

Valeriy Sheptekita (December 20, 1940 – June 3, 2021) Ukrainian actor, Ivanko I Tsar Poganin (1984), 

Arlene Tolibas (1966 – June 3, 2021) Filipina actress in Regal Shocker: The Movie (1989), Tarot (2009), and one episode of the Filipino Tagalog-language TV series #ParangNormal Activity (“Yung may ghost na extra”, Season 1, Episode 5, aired August 8, 2015).

John Sacret Young (May 24, 1946 – June 3, 2021[1]) American screenwriter, The Possessed (1977).

Clarence Williams III (August 21, 1939 – June 4, 2021) American actor, appeared in the feature films Perfect Victims (1988), Maniac Cop 2 (1990), Tales from the Hood (1995), Mindstorm (2001), and American Nightmares (2018). First made his mark on television as one of the leads of The Mod Squad (1968-1973) and worked extensively in the medium, including one episode of the BBC program Orson Welles’ Great Mysteries (“The Furnished Room”, Season 1, Episode 26, aired February 24, 1974), one of Tales from the Crypt (“Maniac at Large”, Season 4, Episode 10, aired August 19, 1992), and as FBI Agent Roger Hardy in two episodes of Twin Peaks (1990). 

Camilla Amado (7 August 1938 – 6 June 2021) Brazilian actress, Quem Tem Medo de Lobisomem? (Who’s Afraid of the Werewolf?, 1975).

Surekha (10 March 1955 – 6 June 2021) Indian actress, Aathma (1993).

Douglas S. Cramer (August 22, 1931 – June 7, 2021) American producer on the television movies The Cat Creature (1973), The Dead Don’t Die (1975), Snowbeast (1977), Cruise into Terror (1978), and Don’t Go to Sleep (1982). 

Laszlo George (May 30, 1931 – June 7, 2021) Canadian cinematographer, Something is Out There (1988), and two episodes of Reaper (“Rebellion”, Season 1, Episode 14, aired April 22, 2008 and “Coming to Grips”, Season 1, Episode 15, aired April 29, 2008).

Ben Roberts (1 July 1950 – 7 June 2021) British actor, Jane Eyre (2011).

Julio Calasso (1941 – June 11, 2012) Brazilian actor, Filme Demencia (1986) and Olhos de Vampa (1996).

Kay Hawtrey (November 8, 1926 – June 11, 2021) Canadian character actress, Funeral Home (1980), The Intruder (1981), Videodrome (1983), Haunted by Her Past (1987), Urban Legend (1998) and American Psycho II: All-American Girl (2002).

Dennis Berry (August 11, 1944 – June 12, 2021) American film director and actor. Directed La mort mystérieuse de Nina Chéreau (The Mysterious Death of Nina Chereau, 1988). Played a bit part in the “Metzengerstein” segment of the Poe-based anthology film, Histoires extraordinaires (Spirits of the Dead, 1968).

Ned Beatty (July 6, 1937 – June 13, 2021) Prolific American character actor, Deliverance (1972), Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), The Haunting of Barney Palmer (1987), Purple People Eater (1988), The Unholy (1988), Repossessed (1990), one episode of Tales of the Unexpected (“The Final Chapter”, Season 1, Episode 1, aired February 2, 1977), and the pilot for the revival of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (“Incident in a Small Jail”, aired May 5, 1985). Perhaps best known to many for playing Lex Luthor’s dim-witted henchman Otis is the first two Superman films starring Christopher Reeve.

John Gabriel (May 25, 1931 – June 13, 2021) American actor, Fantasies (1982).

David Lightfoot (1959/1960 – 13 June 2021) Australian film producer, Wolf Creek (2005) and Rogue (2007)

Lisa Banes (July 9, 1955 – June 14, 2021) American actress, Dragonfly (2002) and Them (2021).

Dinah Shearing (12 February 1926 – 14 June 2021) Australian actress, appeared on stage in Medee, Macbeth and Bell, Book and Candle, and in a 1960 production of Macbeth for Australian television.

Robert Desroches (14 July 1929 – 15 June 2021) Canadian actor, Friday the 13th: The Series (“The Prophecies: Part 1”, Season 3, Episode 1, and “The Prophecies: Part 2”, Season 3, Episode 2, both aired October 7, 1989).

Sanchari Vijay (July 18, 1983 – June 15, 2021) Indian actor, Riktha (2017).

Lily Weiding (22 October 1924 – 15 June 2021) Danish actress, The Green Butchers (2003).

Frank Bonner (February 28, 1942 – June 16, 2021) American actor, best known for playing sleazy sales manager Herb Tarlek on the classic sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati. He apparently also thought turkeys could fly. Appeared in the 1970 horror film, Equinox, which also featured Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine editor Forrest J. Ackerman and horror, science-fiction and fantasy writer, and sometime actor, Fritz Leiber, Jr. 

Chandrashekhar (7 July 1922 – 16 June 2021) Indian actor, Maa (1991).

Linda Touby (1942 – June 17, 2021) American artist, widow of legendary illustrator Basil Gogos, as well as custodian of his estate. Gogos painted numerous covers for Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine.

Joanne Linville (January 15, 1928 – June 20, 2021) Prolific American television actress, appeared in one episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (“The Safe Place”, Season 3, Episode 36, aired June 8, 1958), two of One Step Beyond (“The Dead Part of the House”, Season 1, Episode 9, aired March 17, 1959 and “Moment of Hate”, Season 3, Episode 6, aired October 25, 1960), one of The Twilight Zone (“The Passersby”, Season 3, Episode 4, Aired October 6, 1961), and the 1989 television movie, From the Dead of Night.

Nina Divíšková (12 July 1936 – 21 June 2021) Czech actress, The Great Unknown (1970), Morgiana (1972), and Wolf’s Hole (1987).

Robert Sacchi (March 27, 1932 – June 23, 2021) American character actor best known for his uncanny resemblance to legendary Hollywood tough guy star Humphrey Bogart. He exploited that similarity to play the inspector in The French Sex Murders (1972). As he also sounded like Bogie, he was the voice of Lou Spinelli in one episode of Tales from the Crypt (“You, Murderer”, Season 6, Episode 15, aired January 25, 1995). The story was shot from Spinelli’s point of view, but whenever he was seen in mirrors or other reflective surfaces, his appearance consisted of images of Bogart recycled from old films noir.

Med Reventberg (7 June 1948 – 24 June 2021) Swedish actress, Porträttet (1999), based on the short horror story “The Portrait” by Nikolai Gogol.

John Erman (August 3, 1935 – June 25, 2021) American television and film director, directed one episode of The Outer Limits (“Nightmare”, Season 1, Episode 10, aired December 2, 1963) and eight episodes of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir from 1968 to 1970.

Hans Holtegaard (August 5, 1952 – June 26, 2021) Danish actor, The Substitute (2007).

John Langley (June 1, 1943 – June 26, 2021) American television and film director, writer, and producer best known for creating the series Cops (1989). He co-wrote the screenplay for Deadly Sins (1995) and was executive producer on Vampire Clan (2002).

Stuart Damon (February 5, 1937 – June 29, 2021) American actor best known for his thirty-six-year run on the soap opera General Hospital. I first came across him on the late-sixties BBC series, The Champions, which was sort of like the contemporary BBC show The Avengers, but with super-powered leads. He appeared in one episode of the British TV series Thriller (“Nightmare for a Nightingale”, Season 6, Episode 3, aired October 2, 1975), and the 1982 television horror movie, Fantasies.

Graham Rouse (1934 – June 29, 2021) Australian actor, appeared in one episode of the Australian horror television series Things That Go Bump in the Night (“I See a Dark Stranger”, Season 1, Episode 3, aired March 13, 1974).

 

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 5 Infectious Horror Movies (for if you aren’t sick of pandemics)

Horror is a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, it’s an escape into fantasy. For others, a way to explore their own fears. After a year like 2020, you may want to shy away from pandemic-themed movies altogether, or maybe a plague movie is just the thing you crave. Check out my list below for horror movies featuring disease as the main monster.

Quarantine (2008) – An apartment building is put under quarantine after rescuers are attacked by an elderly woman who has succumbed to a mysterious, rabies-like virus. Soon the residents are in a race to escape as they fall victim to the disease and each other.

Contracted (2013) – a woman contracts what she thinks is a sexually transmitted disease, but turns out to be much worse. She begins to question her sanity as her body rots away while she’s still alive. If you’re into body horror, this movie is for you (even the trailer made me queasy!). Content warning – this movie contains sexual assault.

Pontypool (2008) – A crew is trapped inside a radio station as the world around them descends into chaos. Violence is spreading, seemingly through the use of the English language. Certain words become triggers for violence. The crew must warn the world before it spreads, without spreading it themselves.

Cabin Fever (2002) – This list wouldn’t be COMPLETE without Cabin Fever. The 2003 original is considered a classic for bringing disease-horror to a new generation. Cabin Fever follows five college students as they succumb to a flesh-eating virus and crazed locals. (There is also a 2016 remake if you’re into that sort of thing)

Blindness (2008) – A mysterious disease transmits from person to person, causing the victims to go blind. The government puts those afflicted into a derelict asylum, which quickly becomes an abandoned concentration camp. Desperation causes the prisoners to turn against one another.

What are your favorite movies involving infections or disease? Do you prefer zombies? Leave your favorites in the comments!

Also, check out my other movie recommendations for any phobia!

31 Gothic Shows to Creep the Romance Alive

crimsonp

  1. Crimson Peak, 2015
  2. Dragonwyck, 1946
  3. The Monk, 2011
  4. Byzantium, 2012
  5. Wuthering Heights, 1939
  6. Bram Stoker’s Dracula, 1992
  7. Dracula, 1931
  8. Rebecca, 2020
  9. Dark Shadows, 1991
  10. Gaslight, 1944
  11. Sweeny Todd, 2007
  12. The Bride, 1985
  13. Corpse Bride, 2005
  14. The Woman in Black, 2012
  15. Sleepy Hollow, 1999
  16. The Crow, 1994
  17. The Haunting of Bly Manor, 2020
  18. The Heiress, 1949
  19. Phantom of the Opera, 2004
  20. Love Never Dies, 
  21. Edward Scissorhands, 1990
  22. Jane Eyre, 1997
  23. 1408, 2007
  24. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, 2016
  25. My Cousin Rachel, 2017 
  26. Dark City, 1998
  27. The Old Dark House, 1932
  28. Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, 1970
  29. Kiss of the Damned, 2012
  30. Lisa and the Devil, 1973
  31. A Cure for Wellness, 2016

Have we forgotten one? Help us grow our list! Comment below.

Manga Review: Muhyo and Roji’s BSI by Yoshiyuki Nishi

mujiThe BSI is an agency consisting of two boys named Muhyo and Roji who at first I found childish and annoying, but they grew on me. Made for the pre-teen shonen-jump market, this manga has it’s scary moments. The boys battle all sorts of creatures from the underworld. There are monsters that look like langoliers, a scary chair that eats your shirt – and then you, and some ghosts that look like giant sorting hats from Harry Potter.

Muhyo and Roji help a host of ghost or demon afflicted clients. If you can get past Muhyo’s pint-sized Napoleon complex, you will enjoy it. Armed with his official magic book of law, Muhyo casts beings into the underworld by yelling out a law such as:

“The laws of magic, article 741- For the crime of unlawful object parasitization, I sentence you to the Night Train.”

After which a whole bunch of chugga, chugga zap happens and the ghosty with the mosty gets sucked into the Night Train to hell.

bsi2I was more impressed with volume two where they travel to the school of magic to try to see if Muhyo’s assistant can pass the magic law test. Once there, they find the school has been taken over by evil and some of the people are infected. The infection makes mouths break out all over their bodies. The artwork of the mouths all over their bodies is done really well. The fact that it starts infecting everyone there, including the main characters makes it an exciting read.

Something annoying to me was the unusual break in words. I know sometimes when the words are translated, the boxes are not sufficient and for this reason they may have to break words unnaturally, but in this case there seemed to be enough room. Words like should-ers, na-gano, prefec-ture were confusing and made me pause in the story to figure them out.

Overall, this is an interesting series and might perhaps be a little scarier for the pre-teens than I found it. Good news is, if you enjoy this series, there are tons more volumes to gobble up.

Get your copy here from amazon: Muhyo & Roji’s Bureau of Supernatural Investigation

Free Fiction Week: The Invitation by Alice Paige

The Invitation by Alice Paige

The dinner table is set. The two face each other, both smiling sharp smiles highlighted in red lipstick. A smile is a weapon. Both women knew this from childhood. It’s a kind of truth men aren’t aware of. They see the smile, but not the tongue curtained behind the teeth. 

The two women, both with too pale skin, lean forward in their wicker chairs. The blood-red dresses they wear shine and shimmer in the candlelight cast from a ring of quickly melting candles rimming the room. No light shines from the table. There is no room on the table for light as this is where the corpse lies flat on its back, dressed in a black see-through shroud. The corpse’s face is gaunt and grey, desiccated. The old corpse is set out, as if for a funeral viewing. What is a viewing if not invitation to grieve? 

“But this is no funeral,” one of the women says, or perhaps, both the women say at once. They glance towards the single curtained window in the room. 

Outside, the snow falls. It is not a kind snow; it is a hungry snow that drinks sound from the air. The abandoned London streets are swallowed in a blanket of white. This snow mutes sound and is an offering of violence. A silencing. The streets are abandoned, a feat in the heart of London with its sickly, sprawling populace. 

The two women smirk as they stand from the table. Slowly, they walk across the room, bare feet slapping against the dark, wooden floor, the candlelight flickering between their toes. Quickly they move from candle to candle burning clippings of the corpse’s hair. 

“In case you are wondering,” one of the women begins, “this is for you. A welcoming,” the other woman finishes. Each candle flairs as hair burns and smokes. The room is a mix of sick sweetness. There is the potent stench of corpse flesh and burnt hair, but the candles provide a stark, contrasting smell of sweet honey. 

The room fills with a startling sound like rubber bands snapping. The corpse on the table spasms again and again under its shroud as the final clippings of curled, grey hair burn. The legs of the table hop and scrape against the floor.

The two women hurriedly walk to the curtained window together and throw the curtains back. Sickly, grey light spills into the room. The window faces out upon a small, abandoned city square. Both women grab the base of the large window and lift. Painfully chilled air rushes into the room. The sound outside is still muted but, just on the edge of audible perception, there is a labored breathing that seems to invade the room as the window opens. 

The two women walk back over to the table and place their hands atop the corpse. Their fingers slowly intertwine atop the soft, black fabric and their hands rise and fall with the corpse’s chest. The women’s skin goosebumps. They look at one another with cautioned excitement.

 “Are you ready?” they ask the empty room. It is unclear who or what they are speaking to. They wait a moment, and, despite the lack of answer, they seem satisfied. Slowly each woman leans backwards, fingers still locked, and they begin to chant. The two chant in unison at an alarming pace, their bright red lips quickly enunciate each word with a labored intensity. 

“It juts its fingers into the dirt, finds the face beneath, the orbital, the mandible, 

cracks the ossuary, slithers into this shattered church, makes a blasphemous home 

of once  priest, rips the faith root and stem, hungrily gorges on intently scarified 

meaning, is pulled, is plucked, is jutted like sharpened weapon, we call, we demand, 

we twinned sisters, given twinned names, we control the star pointed razor, 

the space beyond space, we space behind face, we who have pulled host from holy grave to give you shape once again demand you take shape once again.”

The twin voices drone on together, echoing off the bare, wooden walls and spill into the town square. 

And that’s when I feel it. A tug in my guts. Not that I have guts. 

It’s a strange sensation, to not have a sense of self until I suddenly have a sense of self. To be thrust into “I” once more. It’s as if I have been here the entire time, watching, but have only now just arrived. The two women fall into silence. I recognize them. We were friends once. Before. Before what? My mind feels like a waterfall climbing to be a river. Entropy turned on itself. A collecting.

My vision shifts as the room rotates, turning on its head. I feel my chest heave and my ribs crack. I cough because I can cough. 

“You’re here,” Emily says. She is the woman to the left of me. Her voice is slightly softer than her sister, Emilia. I could always tell the difference. 

I try to speak but my throat refuses to move. I am on my back. How did I get on my back? I was watching the room from above.

“You need to give it a moment. The body will be able to speak soon,” Emilia says. 

 I glance down to see the shroud covering the corpse’s body. No, not the corpse’s. Mine. My body. I inhabit the corpse. I can feel it around me like swimming in muck. Its skin is so tight. I try to move the tongue in its mouth and the tongue shifts slightly. Suddenly, I can taste. Its mouth, my mouth, tastes like ash and copper. Emily places a hand on my forehead. Her skin is so soft. So alive. 

“We told you nothing would keep us apart Dahlia,” Emily and Emilia say together. 

I scream in this body that is not mine. The corpse’s vocal cords hiss.


Alice Paige is a trans woman, poet, and essayist living in St. Paul, Mn. Her writing largely focuses on topics like mythology and queer love. Her work can be found at FreezeRay Poetry, Crabfat Magazine, Coffin Bell, VASTARIEN, Button Poetry, Luna Station Quarterly and Take A Stand, Art Against Hate: A Raven Chronicles Anthology. She is also a co-host for Outspoken, a Queer Open Mic.

 

https://www.instagram.com/alicegpaige/

Free Fiction Week: The Get Together by Prapti Gupta

THE GET TOGETHER by Praptui Gupta

“Mom are you ready?” I asked.

“Yes dear, let’s go” she replied.

Today my mom and I are very excited. Today we are going to meet with our father after a long time. I can’t really explain how happy and excited I am. After a lot of struggle and patience, we are getting to meet him. But the sad part is the meeting period is very short, just 10 minutes.

On our way, I was thinking what questions I will be asking him. There are so many but I can’t ask all of them. We reached the place after some time. Mr. Morgan was waiting for us. He was the medium through which we are going to talk with him. 

 He was seeing us in a very strange manner as if he hasn’t seen people like us before. Yes, I admit we are different because we are new to this place but yet we look like human beings. 

“Good morning Mrs. Evans, I was just waiting for you and your son,” he said to us.

“Is everything ready? We can’t wait to meet him; hope you can understand” my mom said to him.

“Yes. The whole process is to be of 20 minutes and you can talk to him for about 10 minutes, not more than that, otherwise, it can be risky for me” he said.

Though we were disappointed upon hearing the time limit, we nodded.

Then he took us inside a room. It was a dark room, in fact very dark.

Okay, let me clear the fact. We are going to do planchette. This is the only method and medium of our contact with him.

My mom and I haven’t talked with him since the day we two died in a road accident a year ago but my father survived!!!!

It’s really a special day for both of us. 

THE END


Prapti Gupta is an 18 year old writer from India.

 

To read more of her work: Wattpad

Free Fiction Week:The Tomb of the Red King by Hank Belbin

In the Tomb of the Red King by Hank Belbin

The sarcophagus screeched open. Wafts of ancient dust spewed from the yawning blackness within.  Something else came rushing out too. Francis Aberdeen felt its dark presence as soon as he’d pried the lid from the thing. He had felt it as clear as he felt the ripping winds battering the Cornish coastline above the cave. He felt it like he felt the salty spray of the sea as he descended the cliffs to the entrance of the tomb itself. Something evil and old. Something dark. 

So bizarre to find such a coffin in Cornwall. Such practises were seldom discovered this far north of the equator. But there it was, just like the stranger had said it would be. After hours of crawling on his hands and knees through narrow tunnels by candlelight, Francis finally came into a vast domed chamber with a single white light beaming down onto a stone tableau ahead. The tableau was a  huge scalene triangle of ebony stone that raised up in the centre of the cavernous gloomy crypt. The triangle was surmounted with graphite plumbago shards that all pointed northward like rows of serrated teeth on a great dragon. Along the rim were esoteric carvings, hieroglyphics, and other depictions of demonic entities upward reaching to the coffin’s lid—none of which Francis could understand. It was beyond being prehistoric. Judging by the stratum of rock, Francis put the crypt’s age at somehow being of the late Cretaceous period. The walls of the tomb sloped down and back,  headlong into pitch-black nothingness. Around the sarcophagus itself were dusty old black jars containing a fetid red liquid that smelt like rotten meat. Everything in the chamber pointed towards mummification. But there was no body in the sarcophagus. The room was far too old for that.  Francis paused as he considered what to do next, his heart beating hard in his chest. Thick grey mud from the climb down into the tomb clung to his clothing like a cold blanket. His hands shook, and he felt the chill in his bones.  

Although he was positive he was alone, he distinctly felt the air grow tighter the instant he had unwittingly opened the coffin. A gnawing tingling sensation rose from the base of his spine and up into his neck, and it whispered to him softly that he had made a grave error. He knew it too.  Reckless pride and the desire to discover something unknown had blinded his pragmatism. And now the casket in the dark was open. What have I done? Francis cautiously leaned over the edge and gazed down into it. As he did, he felt the lingering thought that something was alive in there. Its aura impossibly glaring back at him from the abyss somehow. He didn’t know how to describe it with mortal words, but he was steadfast that he felt this lean and hungry stare of a spectre looking back at him from down there, in the pit of the coffin that seemed to stretch inward for eternity.  Something had been waiting for this. 

As he stood over the open chest, the damp air descended languidly all around him, laden with primal particles of disease and unknown threats that had seldom felt any other air for aeons. The darkness drew nearer, clutching up from the corners of the forlorn tomb with wide-open talons of shadows. All that was old and mystical was awake once more. All that once was—would now be again. In a flash, his mistakes came tumbling down to him. How could I have been so foolish? 

Days of hiking, hours of precarious scrabbling down the cliffs, even more, indeterminate time going lower into the caves had brought him to this moment, and in one nauseating instant, he regretted all of it. Some things are better left unknown, he thought to himself. How could he have been so careless? Why had he come into this tenebrous little hole in the earth? In the pit of his stomach, he already knew why. 

A tip-off from a dark-eyed stranger in the local tavern had sent him on this quest, bringing him here;  that was what started it. His shadow had crawled across the table as he approached. The hooded stranger had sat himself down opposite Francis in the meager tavern, offered to buy him an ale,  asked him if he was an archeologist; then proceeded to tell the most vivid tale of a seldom-talked about tomb near the tavern that supposedly held one of the last old spirits of the world. A spirit of great decadence. Beside the twinkle of the candle on the table, Francis could’ve sworn deeply that the stranger’s eyes were glowing faintly red—like the blood-thirsty anticipation of some starved hyena.  

But that wasn’t what brought him down into the cave. The real reason why he’d brought himself to the tomb was he had to see for himself if the fable was indeed true. He wanted to discover it for himself, to brand his own mark upon its finding. And with all the deathly stillness of the tomb around him, he had discovered it. Some unexplainable presence was there in the tomb, next to him,  over him, in him. Something unseen. But something that reared up and climbed inside his mind. It clung to him like cold tar. Whispers of all things primordial and malevolent swam through his thoughts—ancient days of death and blood.  

It wanted to be found, the force murmured to him. Of course, it did. It was all so clear now. The expedition was far too easy, the navigation of the unknown tunnels leading down to the stygian crypt even more so. The map was precise, the weather conditions favourable. All that was needed was for him to undertake the route. All it needed was a vessel. All of it made sense to Francis why.  He felt strangely heavy at the revelation. As if cast-iron weights had been suddenly tied around his shoulders.  

The hooded stranger from the tavern whispered one name to him before he departed. Izuzu. The  King in Red. Francis only knew of the title in passing. The King in Red was an old mystic fable that had only been passed down through subdued whisperings and superstitions in various isolated  Cornish villages such as Boscastle. In the tales, it was always associated with death and disease. A  great horned figure who loped between the shadows and spaces. He who controlled life. Something that betwixt all things that are and all things that never will be. Wherever it would roam, decaying slow death would follow. Its cape soaked in the crimson from the blood of the fallen wherever it had trodden. Legend has it that he was entombed in an impenetrable block of ice by the Old One for his amoral acts upon all things living. If he were to be released once more, he would bring with him the black clouds of death to all things. 

In one sickening realisation, Francis knew why the stranger in the tavern had told him about it. He knew Francis was a greenhorn archaeologist. He knew the young clear-skinned boy could not resist the opportunity to make a name for himself. He knew Francis, the naive 20-year-old, would take the bait. He wanted Francis to open it for him. And Francis did. Without hesitation, Francis Aberdeen of Leicester University had unwittingly unleashed all the eternal gloom of Izuzu, the King in Red, unto the world. What would become of the earth next he would never see. Because in the Red King’s steed, Francis would be trapped in the crypt forever. The darkness closed in. The candle flickered nervously then went out. The crypt sealed once more. He tried to scream, but it was cut short.  

_______________________________________________________________________________

I am a semi-professional writer who has published one novel and several short horror stories. I currently write screenplays and offer script treatments also. I am based in the UK and specialise in gothic and folklore horror set in the United Kingdom.

 

http://www.hankbelbin.co.uk

Free Fiction Week: Once Bitten Twice Shy by Dan A. Cardoza

Once Bitten Twice Shy by Dan A. Cardoza

If you have been diagnosed as having Zika, a strain of the Bubonic Plague, like the one they’d discovered at Kiva Beach in Lake Tahoe, or a malady analogous to Lyme disease, chances are you’ve been bitten by a mosquito, a flea, or a tic. 

Once bitten, twice shy. But at least the odds of recovery favor you. 

A bite, a nip, or an insecticide-resistant tooth is not required for a few idiosyncratic diseases. Unfortunately, Reno won’t give you any odds on your survival.

Melvin Beckham had something worse than cabin fever. He could have died had he not bailed out of his companies Zoom meeting hell. He’d scheduled a short holiday. Hiding from COVID in his house had brought him within an eyelash width of insanity. 

He’d planned the short trip months ago, booking the lakeside view through his timeshare. It wasn’t Europe or Tahiti, but it was something, the twelfth-story view facing the gorgeous Lake Tahoe on the Nevada side. There had been a lot of vacancies. He’d assumed folks were still scared of catching death from traveling. 

Beckham paid big money for his illegal injection, though he hadn’t been a Vaxhole about it. He’d refrained from bragging to his colleagues and the one or two friends he didn’t have. There had been none of his usual insecure boastings after he’d received the two Pfizer doses. He’d kept how much he’d paid a colossal secret in a small black hole in his mind. It wasn’t easy. Beckham was a narcissist. 

Beckham reasoned he was relatively young, thirty-two, and had suffered enough confinement. After all, his dating app had lapsed, and he’d dumped a shitload of Canadian blue pills down the toilet bowl. Enough Viagra, he mused about his giving each fall salmon in the American River a tiny hard-on. 

Cash talks, M.D.’s listen, R.N.’s understand. They all have families to feed. After all, money, not love, is the universal language of record he was certain. 

He’d arrived at the condo complex, with its columns of balcony patios, late Monday. 

The first few nights, Beckham felt warm, slept naked. He’d kept the patio door open. Who or what was about to complain, he’d convinced himself? 

Fish a mile deep in the lake, he giggled? Beckham determined that the Lake’s Coho Salmon were welcome to stare at his blurry, pale sexy ass all week if they had a mind to. 

Wednesday had been sailing into the stiff winds of his first week. It was early evening. Beckham had felt a little uncomfortable. His appetite had been waning. Uber Eats had delivered supper again via Robbie, the lobby clerk. Robbie was the best. He was new at the timeshare, a 49’er gold nugget that had dropped out of somewhere above. Beckham thought him a saint. 

Earlier in the day, Raleys, the local supermarket chain, had delivered Beckham’s subsistence balance for the entire week. Jesus, he’d stuffed the jowls of the fridge. 

Beckham’s judgment had been a little clouded. He’d binge purchased. Inside the fridge, he’d prepared for fall’s hibernation, tee-bones, celery, a couple of six-packs of silly water, butter lettuce, a bag of bagels, and some top roman, mainly for quick lunches, and carrots, bags of carrots, and a large beet. 

Several cans of mixed soup rounded out his impulsive hoard in the cupboard above the dishwasher. The dishwasher had been the machine that washed his dirty laundry the night before. It was a simple mistake, he’d thought.

Beckham couldn’t make himself sleep Thursday night. He’d gotten hot and sweaty again, become a little depressed watching the local news go on and on about the summer’s algae bloom and COVID. He’d retired early. Too many invasive species, viruses, and germs these days, he’d concluded. 

Beckham had woken around at 3:30 A.M. It was early Friday morning, according to his digital bedside clock on the nightstand at home. The old-school hands were running backward. He’d gotten disoriented.

Friday night’s insomnia punished him like a seasoned dominatrix, slapped his cheeks so red they burned. Beckham couldn’t keep his left eye from twitching. He’d taken a long hot shower. After, he soaked in a warm bath, passed out. After a couple of hours, he’d woken from a sound sleep. He’d pruned himself up pretty good, but all that wrinkly water had damned sure cured his crazy belly scratching. 

After, he nibbled carrots and watched a few Oprah Winfrey reruns. Beckham needed all the carrots he could ingest. His sight was dimming, and the world around him too. Soon, he wouldn’t be able to keep anything inside to save his life.

By the following Monday evening, Beckham had nearly lost his voice. He’d been out on the balcony, doing jumping jack calisthenics. All he could recall was that he’d given the neighboring balcony guests the finger as they shouted for him to put his clothes on. He’d cussed them back. Beckham didn’t have any clothing. He’d thrown all the linen, his shorts, and three Hawaiian shirts, as well as his new sandals, over the railing. 

Later, after the beautiful western sunset had darkened the sky, and long after the other guests had stopped complaining, Beckham fell into a deep sleep on the patio lounge.

As Beckham dreamed, his dreams grew wrestles, European electro tech. His delusions had begun as a backdrop of warehouse music. He would truly miss his music one day soon.

The vocals were from an old playlist, his favorite, Sad Transmission. The song was by one of his favorite Indie Bands, the Raveonettes. The Danish duo of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo had been thrumming over his body’s entire electromagnetic nervous system. Slowly, the beautiful sound, effortlessly, had taken over his being. Beckham gladly let go. 

Beckham’s mind had been turned into a radioactive Chernobyl Meltdown Farris Wheel, whirling away with his ability to reason in minuscule megabits. He’d felt as if he were his timeshares antenna. Beckham had slept until around seven AM the next morning.

Ding-dong–Beckham stumbled toward the bell at the room’s door. First, he’d covered himself with a nautical motif shower curtain. 

The peep-hole said It was the new lobby clerk, Robbie. He was acting as a special delivery courier. Beckham unlocked the door and let Robbie in.

“Robbie, right, that’s what your name tag read in the lobby when I arrived? Thanks for shooting up here in the elevator so quickly, by the way.” 

“Yes sir, Robert, ah, Sherman at your service, sir.”

Beckham wasn’t thinking. He’d grabbed Robbie’s clammy right hand and shook it. It flopped around in his palm, a damp fish dying on land. Robbie had placed his left hand deep in the mucky bottom of his left pocket.

“What say we book another week, Robbie Sherman? Howza bout it?”

“Sir, kind sir, terrific, I’ll make another bundle of invoices and text you a copy.” Robbie noticed that Mr. Beckham was drooling if only a little. 

“You can do that?” Beckham asked. He sort of knew he could. 

Robbie moved his thumb slowly, deliberately. He looked down on what Beckham had assumed was a nervous thumb on an iPhone keyboard. 

Beckham’s cell phone tinged against his loin. It felt like Phantom Limb Syndrome. When he’d arrived, Robbie had agreed to lock it in the lobby’s safe.

Beckham had said, “Let’s bury the fucking thing in the safe so deep I’ll be forced to get some real rest and be able to entertain myself!”

Robbie had agreed with a grin, “Good choice, sir, we’ve done that before.”

Beckham had winked.

There appeared a flashing yellow light on the room’s landline telephone messaging button. 

“Sir?” Robbie asked permission. Beckham nodded yes. Robbie held the phone next to Beckham’s blooming cauliflower ear. Beckham hadn’t wanted to let on that everything he lifted weighed as much as a rusty, sunken ship anchor. 

It was Robbie or someone who sounded a lot like Robbie. It was a message from the lobby, “Kind sir, as requested, I have sent you and an updated invoice straight to your iPhone for good keeping.”

“Ah, Robbie, I thought you were quick, but Jesus Kee-Kee-Christ?”

“Fast?” puzzled Robbie. Robbie bobbled his head, “Not really sir, is there anything else we can do to make you comfortable, bottled water, sir?”

Beckham wagged his head yes, but lied. He’d gotten so used to taking in his life. “Wait,” he’d said. Beckham struggled to the fridge. He snatched the bottle. And then Beckham slowly returned to engage Robbie at the other end of the room. 

Robbie observed Beckham’s shuffling as slow as blackstrap molasses off the side of a yam. 

“Robbie, take this complimentary bottled water. It’s making me hydrophobic just to look at it?”

Robbie cracked up. He moved his thumb over his iPhone again, texting the lower lobby, “Hold the complimentary water; please, Mr. Beckham is no longer thirsty, LMAO!”

Beckham had thought Robbie brilliant, his thumb an electronic bow over a Silicon Valley violin. 

“Will there be anything else, kind sir?” Robbie had politely inquired.

“No, hell and no,” Beckham slurred. “Oh, just the timeshare password. I intend to do some righteous online gaming.”

Robbie removed a pen from his pressed pant’s back pocket. He imagined himself a New York City Bell-Hop in the age of the Roaring Twenties. Everything had felt similar. He was in room twelve hundred at the Algonquin Hotel. Somehow, he watched himself from above as he scribbled the note. After, he’d placed the note on the room’s desktop. The message was intended for his famous guest, Ms. Greta Garbo. 

“There, sir,” Robbie said. Beckham thanked him for the code he’d placed on the desk. 

“How about we stop slipping the complimentary U.S. Today papers under the door each early morning, sir? It looks as though the newspapers are piling up?”

“Robbie, no, no, I may be vacationing…” Beckham paused, rubbed his lower lip. It had been bleeding again. He continued, “I may be vacationing, but just having them thatched there, in that damned pile makes me feel that I’m still tethered to reality if just a little.”

“I see Mr. Beckham, sir. We shall continue then.”

“Robbie?” asked Beckham, “aren’t you going to do your movie magic over the phone again?”

For the first time, Robbie looked dead serious. “Sir, kind sir, there are some things around here we do the old school way. Like you, kind sir, we need to hook ourselves to some sort of reality, even if it’s as simplistic as attaching a monofilament trout fishing line to a rusty hook.”

Beckham guffawed so violently, he gassed himself, blew a snot-bubble. He would have maintained his usual grin, except the left side of his face had been sagging. 

Robbie watched over Beckham. Robbie’s anatomy was as still as onyx marble. He perused over Beckham as David might have watched over Michelangelo.

Beckham composed himself and dragged his right foot along as he let Robbie out. He thanked Robbie kindly. With great effort, he poked a five-dollar bill in Robbie’s shirt pocket. Beckham had thought his effort worth a million bucks. 

Beckham chained the deadbolt shut, but methodically, so Robbie could sense how much he trusted him. Robbie walked casually down the long dark corridor and disappeared into the vault of an elevator. 

Another knock, the hallway had been emptied, the lights had dimmed.

As the sun heated the living room, Beckham found himself in the Mojave Desert. He’d thought it the holy land, not a river, a creek, or a dribble for the rest of his life.

Beckham searched his way into the bathroom. He opened the stainless steel medicine cabinet. His ham sandwich and a Fuji apple were missing. He slammed the cabinet doors. He hadn’t been hungry anyway.

Later that evening, the T.V. remote had broken. The God-damned garage door wouldn’t open. “Hell, it’s only three years old. I just changed the batteries two weeks ago, maybe three,” Beckham yelled at the big screen T.V. as if it had mule ears. 

It had to be three weeks. That’s when he and his neighbor Harry couldn’t turn on Dancing with the Stars for the longest time. 

Harry had gotten under his skin that night. Beckham having enough of his neighbor’s antics, had escorted the twentieth-century charmer to the front door. It was about 10:23 P.M.

Beckham was a flexible man and a chill sort of guy, but not after all that shadow dancing shit by Harry. And after, Harry had commenced calling himself Fred Astaire and meant it. 

Harry Clingman had been sent to the hospital shortly after Beckham had left for Lake Tahoe. Beckham had lied to his friend Harry that night. He’d said he was heading south, maybe L.A. By the time they’d attempted to reach Beckham, Beckham was an afterthought. But really, it hadn’t mattered. Beckham’s phone had been placed in solitary confinement in Robbie’s lobby iron vault. 

Sometime during the second week of Beckham’s short stay, he’d morphed into a newt. You know the slimy lizard types that live in creeks, behind rocks, and under the mosey bottom of lakes and rivers?

Thankfully there wasn’t much carpeting in Beckham’s unit. It made for easier wriggling. 

Beckham had seen and heard the coolest hallucinations. He’d turned paranoid as the result of the high fever. Those damned fish had been stocking him. 

His brand new manic reality had cost him most of his 401-K on South Lake Tahoe’s virtual slots and craps tables. Beckham’s laptop gaming appl had asked him for everything “Just pick a pretty color and turn, turn, turn that damned Russian Roulette Machine, Mr. Beckham?” 

On the last day of his intended short stay, Beckham’s strength had failed him. 

A final invoice had been slipped under the room’s door, along with another copy of USA Today. The newspaper pile had become a thatch of pitchforked paper alfalfa.

His painful progress was serpentine and exhausting as he wrangled toward the door. That day he used his belly ribs to crawl. He crawled to the horizontal crack of light under the door that had shown into his darkened room. To Beckham, the light represented life itself.

Beckham’s breathing had grown deep and laborious. His crape paper lungs had withered into an accordion that wheezed a dry melody. He listed, rolled on his back as if he were a shipwreck. He struggled to wrap his upper torso in newsprint to absorb his lake of sweat. 

Beckham’s paralysis had taken over after only a few wraps of newspaper. 

It had come toward him swiftly, his complete paralysis, as if a fast-moving locomotive off the slopes of the Heavenly Valley Ski Run, now a dry strip of broken granite. He’d been tied to the tracks. Whatever he’d caught, it was intent on running over his humanity. 

Buried deep in the mesh of his newspaper was an important article. The article was dark print, over a yellowing recycled paper backdrop, a story in itself.

USA Today–Sacramento Area Man Dies from inhaling rabies virus–Mr. Harry M. Clingman, a long-time resident of Placer County, has died from the rabies virus. Rabies lyssavirus, formerly Rabies virus (RABV), is a neurotropic virus that causes certain death if untreated. 

Placer County health authorities have asked anyone who has been in contact with Mr. Clingman to call (530) 889-7274 immediately. Several friends and family members exposed to Mr.Clingman have been given the first dose of the four required injections. 

A forensic autopsy has concluded that Mr. Clingman hadn’t been bit by any animal. However, of the six bat boxes removed from the family’s two-story cedar-shingled home. Two of the bats tested positive for the rabies virus and had to be destroyed. 

Years earlier, a Wyoming resident had awoken during the night, with a fluttering feeling on her neck. She flicked off the annoyance and discovered it was a bat. In horror, she elbowed her husband, who woke, captured the bat, and set it free outdoors. Three weeks later, the woman died. A pathologist could not find any bites or scratch marks during the autopsy has concluded that it is scientifically possible to contract rabies without a skin abrasion–The Centers for Disease and Control.

Beckham lay motionless. Fear and anxiety had nearly completed their running of all the red lights in the corrosive intersections of his synapse. He’d become a hebephrenic blob stuck in a block of concrete. His mind had been tortured into a Vitamix blender, unwittingly pureeing his thoughts into some sort of cilantro salad dressing.

Beckham suffered horrifically, the balance of the day and evening. He died the following early morning, about the time bats return to caves. 

           In the Lobby, Robbie listened to Beckham’s phone as it rattled and buzzed in the safe. To him, it was the phantom limb syndrome that Beckham’s ghost had been feeling.

           Robbie spoke kindly across the lobby’s white marbled counter, “Hello Ms. Harris, I’m Robbie. I intend to make your short visit a most wonderful stay.”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Dan’s most recent fiction has been published in the 45th Parallel, Allegory, honorable mention, Aphelion, BlazeVOX, Black Petals, Across the Margins, Bull, Cleaver, Close to the Bone, Coffin Bell, Dark City Books/Magazine, Door=Jar, Dream Noir, Entropy, Flash Bang Mystery, Gravel, Literary Heist, Mystery Tribune, O:JA&L/Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, New Flash Fiction Review, Overstock, Spelk, Variant, Visitant, Your Impossible Voice, The 5-2. Dan has also been nominated by Coffin Bell for the Best of the Net Anthology, 2021, and best micro-fiction by Tiny Molecules.

To find more about Dan’s work @cardozabig

Free Fiction Week: July 11 to 17, 2021

 

HorrorAddicts.net is proud to present for your reading pleasure, an entire week of Free Fiction!

Enjoy seven different authors as they bring you tales of tomb raiders, dark assailants,  environmental carnage, strange visitors, rising from the dead, bloody war, and disease.

And be sure to encourage the writers by following links to their work and by leaving encouraging comments! And remember~ Stay Spooky!

 

 

Chilling Chat: Episode #197 – ON TIME – Alisha Costanzo

chillingchat

Alisha Costanzo holds an MFA in Creative Writing as well as a BA in Communication Studies and a BA in English (writing). She spent three years as a line editor for Sapphire Blue Publishing and is a college professor and publishedAlisha Costanzo author.

She and Anthony S. Buoni founded Transmundane Press in 2014. They are co-editors of the anthology, On Time.

NTK: What got you into horror and how old were you?

AC: My first Goosebumps book when I was eight. After that, I claimed a corner of the living room with a small bookshelf and a purple bean bag chair where I read my ever-expanding collection of horror books.

NTK: What’s your favorite horror movie?

AC: Don’t laugh, but it’s Scream. The satire did me in, and the music, and Matthew Lillard. I’ve seen that movie more than three hundred times now…

NTK: What’s your favorite horror TV show?

AC: Tales of the Crypt. I used to watch it when I was seven or eight, and one episode had a man faking his death on an autopsy table. Then, he died for real, and the punch line was that feeling was the last thing to go as he got cut into. I loved that ending so much. I have a habit of loving really messed-up endings to stories.

NTK: What’s your favorite horror novel?

AC: I have a hard time with this one. A lot of what I read mixes genres, but I’m going to go with Season of Passage by Christopher Pike. It mixes mythology, science fiction, and horror into a beautifully dark story with a wonderfully horrific ending.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

AC: Another difficult one. My all-time favorites are Christopher Pike, of course, R.L. Stine, Ray Bradbury, Margaret Atwood, and Flannery O’Connor. The first two shaped my reading and writing when I was young. The last three haunt me, nearly daily, from my MFA work. They wrote formative stories for my education, and they showed me that darkness and horror can be celebrated by everyone.

NTK: What inspired you to create the anthology, On Time? How did it come about?

AC: My business partner, Anthony, had the idea during a brainstorm. We have a list that we keep of anthology ideas, and we both had stories brewing for the time theme. That’s how we knew it was time. No pun intended.

NTK: What do you look for in a story? How did the stories in On Time make the cut?

AC: Voice, action, and imagery. I want to be grabbed on the first page by a character. Since we get hundreds of submissions, it’s hard to justify reading past page one or two if I’m not feeling it. One way this happens is if there’s potential–in the writing and the story. A hint at a twist or interesting perspective will keep me going, too, when the writing isn’t fully polished. Oh, and concrete details. Those are always helpful!

NTK: What was it like working with over 70 authors?

AC: Crazy. It was crazy. We’ve done it several times now, and the process always improves and evolves. This one had a bit more stress, but all of our authors stuck together and were so supportive of each other and the project, and thankfully, everyone was understanding about delays. Most of our writers have day jobs, and so many were teachers and nurses and worked in high-stress jobs during the pandemic. They made me really proud of our community. My absolute favorite part was, and always is, reading the interviews and guest posts because I get to learn so much about our authors and their stories throughout it.

NTK: What’s your best piece of advice for the anthology editor?

AC: One of the hardest balancing acts I have as an editor is cultivating a stylistic preference without imposing my voice on an author. I do my best to make suggestions amongst a few steadfast rules, aka I pick my battles. Writing is personal, so I like to keep that in mind while trying to be honest and pushing my authors.

Also, I want to remind editors in the middle of the process how rewarding it is.

NTK: What does the future hold for you and Transmundane Press? What new books are in the works?

AC: We have a new anthology we’re planning to finish up our elemental series. It focuses on earth, and we’re pretty excited to collect some excellent stories for the final piece. After that, we’re thinking of making a hardback set out of the four (UnderwaterOn Fire, In the Air, and the earth-themed anthology).

Addicts, you can find Transmundane Press on Facebook.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Tales from the Darkside Season 4

Still Enough Gems in Tales from the Darkside Season Four

by Kristin Battestella

The 1987-88 Fourth season of the George Romero produced Tales from the Darkside provides a darker horror bizarre in its final twenty episodes beginning with the smuggled artifacts, Egyptian statues, and golden sarcophagus in writer Robert Bloch’s “Beetles.” Although the premise is familiar, the petrified corpse, gem eyes, and eponymous scarabs create a great atmosphere and ominous warnings – return the mummy to its tomb or suffer the cursed consequences. The unheeded desecration leads to more hysteria, insects, and death throws, setting the mood for the season alongside the dolls, mannequins, and stuffed animals of “Mary, Mary.” These are our lovely photographer’s friends, and the photoshoot trickery for the video dating service calls is weird, pathetic, and sad. A real-life friendly neighbor is too scary – she can’t hide behind any facade and live vicariously in this orchestrated illusion. However, the warped horror escalates once the dummies start talking back. The new owner of an infamous haunted townhouse in “The Spirit Photographer” also intends to use rare technology and mysticism to prove the paranormal to his rational friend. They’ve spent their lives seeking evidence or to debunk, obsessing over life after death and paranormal explanations in an interesting two-hander mixing real science, ectoplasm gadgets, and ghostly images. Some of the supposedly irrefutable photos and phantom wails are laughable, but the eerie messages, stakeout suspense, and deceased drain on the living provide great ambiance. “The Moth,” by contrast, is brimming with rural mood thanks to a humble cabin and spellbooks that won’t burn. Debbie Harry’s (Videodrome) stabbed by a jealous wife and her angry mother thinks she is a wicked girl for the water rituals, broken clocks, branches, and circles in blood. Our daughter intends to come back – so long as her mother captures the moth that comes out with her dying breath. The religion versus the devil, who’s right and sinister, is well-done thanks to counting the sand to keep out evil, creepy conversations, and deadly twists. Writer Clive Barker (Hellraiser) adds holiday melodies, trees, and presents to the underlying menace in “The Yattering and Jack” with angry apparitions, cracked mirrors, and apparent poltergeists. Unexpected family visits escalate the supernatural and pleas to Beelzebub as carols turn to fiery smoke and devilish demons debate the rules found in Job regarding tormenting a good man into admitting evil exists. Tales from the Darkside presents another disturbing December demented–possessed turkey dinner and all.

A horror writer dad videotapes his scary movie adaptation for his squabbling kids while mom’s on a long-distance call in Stephen King’s (Creepshow) “Sorry, Right Number.” Flashing call waiting buttons and desperate pleas for help, unfortunately, leave mom worried. She knows the voice but it isn’t their collegiate daughter nor sisters or grandma. Our husband thinks it was a prank or wrong number, and the family dynamics change thanks to the understandable apprehension. The bad feeling continues in the night with damaged door locks and well-developed suspense that keeps viewers invested right up to the twist. A passive-aggressive bill collector in “Payment Overdue” threatens unpaid folks and enjoys scaring kids who answer the phone with how their parents are going to jail – getting the job done with no exceptions until she receives a raspy call from a supposedly dead claim. It turns out she doesn’t like being on the receiving end of the harassment, and the fearful frustration phone acting isn’t phoned in like today’s television with abrupt smartphone conveniences. A mysterious man delivers the payment from the deceased dialer – an avenging angel forcing our overly confident go-getter to face the chilling pleas before it’s too late. Tales from the Darkside has several similar stories in a row here with devils and telephones, but the excellent turnabouts make for a strong mid-season before a plump lady who’s tried all the guaranteed weight loss gimmicks in “Love Hungry.” Amid talking to her plants and crumbs everywhere, she spots an ad for ‘your weight is over.’ Soon a small earpiece arrives allowing her to hear the painful screams of the foods being ingested. It’s both an amusing and disturbing way to ruin dinner, and it’s amazing no one else has thought of the horror of considering body, environmental, and self-worth statements from the fruit pleading not to be eaten. Now that she has a pair of glasses revealing the food in question, it would be murder to eat them but she has to eat something – leading to hunger, paranoia, guilt, and a bitter finale. Period clothing, spinning wheels, and old-fashioned décor belie the 1692 Colonial Village in “The Apprentice” as a contemporary student applies for a re-enacting job. The magistrate insists on no sign of the twentieth century allowed, but our coed doesn’t take her apprenticeship seriously. Smoking, flirting and telling the puritans to lighten up and not have a cow lead to stocks, hangings, and debates on using so-called witches as a scapegoat to bind a struggling society together. Horror viewers know where this has to go, but it’s a real treat in getting there.

“The Cutty Black Sow” continues Tales from the Darkside’s late superb with trick or treating, fireside vigils, and an ill grandma who doesn’t want to die on All Hallows’ Even. Scottish roots and Samhain lore combine for deathbed delirium about the titular beast and warnings to stay safe inside the stone circle. The young grandson is left to make sense of the ravings, trying to finish protection rites he doesn’t understand in this unique mix of candy, masks, and contemporary Halloween fun alongside old word spells, rattling windows, glowing eyes at the door, and home alone frights. The spooky darkness and chilling what you don’t see is dang creepy even for adults! However, a cranky old wife is unhappy with her husband’s junk in director Jodie Foster’s (Flightplan) “Do Not Open This Box.” She wants new things – including the titular package that a strange mailman says was delivered by mistake. He insists he’ll pay anything for the unopened box’s return, and our browbeating lady sees an opportunity for a reward. While she shows up her friends with ostentatious jewels, her husband only asks to invent something useful to others. Our carrier also has a midnight deadline and a limit to his gifts, and his repossession notice exacts a fiery turnabout. In returning director, Tom Savini’s “Family Reunion” dad Stephen McHattie (Deep Space Nine) does whatever it takes to find a cure for his son – taking the boy from his mother and remaining on the move as chains, snarling, shadows, and howls handle the surprise. Prior torn shirts and accidents send mom to child services; and despite nightmares, pain, and the urge to run free, the boy wants to be with his mother, leading to wild confrontations, hairy threats, and superb revelations even if you already know what’s what. Barking dogs, parakeets, kitchen timers, coughing, and ominous toys also foreshadow the noisy horrors for the babysitter in “Hush.” Her charge has been experimenting in his father’s workshop – creating a noise-eating robot with one freaky suction-like hose. Initially, the primitive gadgets seem hammy and the premise simple, but the accidental activation and broken controller lead to heavy breathing, beating hearts, and some quite disturbing, slightly sexual imagery.

 

Of course, it wouldn’t be Tales from the Darkside without a few awkward entries including the impromptu champagne and sensitive puppeteer forced into a private performance for a hammy gangster in “No Strings.” Cliché accents, vendettas, dumb shootouts, and sexism litter an already silly premise, and the supposedly scary pantomime is just dull. Yuppies also get what they deserve in “The Grave Robber” – another Egyptian piece with hieroglyphs, explosives, a creaking mummy, and yes, strip poker. It’s laughable in all the wrong ways, and Divine (Hairspray) likewise can’t save the corny jokes, offensive portrayals, and stereotypical visions seeking the obnoxious titular leader of “Seymourlama.” Will these terrible parents sell their indulged son for shiny trinkets? Although disturbing, the attempted mix of satire and sinister misses the mark. Downtrodden scriptwriter Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) also doesn’t believe his innocuous neighbor with a dog named ‘Diablo’ can help him achieve movie-making power in “The Deal.” Hellish quips contribute to the deja vu, for we’ve seen this plot previously on Tales from the Darkside as well as in other horror anthologies. This isn’t bad in itself, just derivative. The shutter clicks and outsider point of view trying to solve humanity’s mystery in “Going Native” is stilted and drab, too. Our photographer regrets joining this bizarre reverse therapy group with dark robes, rage, aggression, and creepy innuendo. It’s all trying to be lofty about the human condition with on-the-nose debates about why we let advertising dictate what we value, obsess with wish-fulfilling television, and use sex to alleviate solitude but everything falls flat. For its time maybe this was provocative, however, it’s run of the mill after better Tales from the Darkside episodes, and the steamy, alienated analysis could have been better explored on Tales from the Crypt. Unfortunately, from Nicky and Ruthie to the bad accents and red hair, the I Love Lucy spoof in“Barter” is just plain bad. A rambling, ammonia-drinking alien salesman gives mom a gadget to freeze her son – providing some peace and quiet amid all her good gollies and household hints. Of course, everything goes wrong, and the attempted parody completely drops the ball as Tales from the Darkside ends with two clunkers. Likewise contending for worst in the series is “Basher Malone.” Its gritty music, seedy crowd, and wrestling cliches are terribly dated alongside some macho, blue lasers, and a masked man coming out of a portal behind the soda machine?

Fortunately, that Tales from the Darkside introduction is as creepy as ever, and the crawling bugs, icky corpses, gory faces, choice monster effects, and ghostly overlays remain effective. Hellish red lighting, dark silhouettes, nighttime eerie, fog, and thunder invoke horror despite small-scale sets and one-room storytelling. There are often only a few players per episode, too, but the acts flow as conversations rather than relying on flashing editing or visuals over substance. Through the frame views, mirrors, reflective shots, and basic camera ruses accent good old-fashioned corded phones, big cordless phones with those giant antennas, answering machines, long distance calls, operators, and Ma Bell references. There’s big old computers, tape decks, record players, radio reports, boob tubes, and the rush to find a blank VHS for the VCR amid nostalgic antiques, retro lamps, classic tunes, and period piece clutter. The obligatory eighties cool with big hair, excessive make-up, lots of pinks, and terribly glam fashions, on the other hand, woof! Strangely, the Tales from the Darkside DVD Special Features includes two more episodes – odd spin-offs or backdoor pilots that sadly went no further. Wills and flirtations mix with black roses and exotic pursuits in “Akhbar’s Daughter,” for sheer near nudity, steamy silhouettes, and threats about what happen to the last suitor add to the sense of forbidden danger. By day, the tantalizing lady is not what she seems at night – leading to ominous portraits and gross consequences. Instead of wasting time on silly entries, it would have been interesting to see Tales from the Darkside grow into this more mature vein, and “Attic Suite” has a desperate paycheck to paycheck couple contemplating how to get rid of their elderly, costly aunt and gain her insurance policy. Auntie herself wishes she could starve herself to death for them, and we believe how sad and bitter the options are as the dire needs escalate in another serious, demented, and twisted plot. These two extra entries should have replaced the last two clunker episodes, which send an otherwise fine season and overall perfectly demented series out on a cheesy note. Compared to timeless horror series before like The Twilight Zone or upping the saucy Tales from the Crypt after, Tales from the Darkside is steeped in low-budget eighties sinister. Season Four’s eerie goods live up to the series name, and Tales from the Darkside remains watchable with memorable if bizarre vignettes and frightful storytelling.

For More Scary Television, check out:

Tales from the Darkside 1 2 3

Penny Dreadful 1 2 3

Tales from the Crypt 1 2 3 4

The Munsters 1 2

Nightmare Fuel: White Lady Lane In Walhalla, ND

Hello Addicts,

As you are all aware, you can find “lady in white” ghost stories anywhere and everywhere you look. This week, I thought I might share one from my current home state of North Dakota. In Walhalla, ND, there is a tale of a woman in a white flannel nightgown walking the dusty road long after her death. Join me on a trip down White Lady Lane.

white lady lane

Anna Story was a fifteen-year-old girl living with her mother and two brothers, aged 8 and 11, in a little shack by a railroad track near Leyden, ND. According to the official story, Anna drew the attention of Sam Kalil, a peddler of pots, pans, and other household items. Her mother, not keen on the older man’s affection for her daughter, managed to make a deal with him. She offered her daughter’s hand in marriage when she turned sixteen if he allowed her to take whatever she wanted from his wagon. Sam agreed and allowed her access to all his wagon carried.

When Sam returned a year later to claim his bride, Mrs. Story refused to honor her part of the bargain and showed him the door instead of her daughter. Angry at being denied his promised bride, Sam drew his gun and shot Anna in the chest. Mrs. Story was shot in the jaw as she attempted to protect her daughter. Anna’s brothers escaped through a window and ran for help. Sam, fully realizing the gravity of what he’d done, pointed the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. Unfortunately, it failed to fire, so he resorted to using his pocket knife to try and slit his own throat. This attempt also failed as the blade was not sharp to cut deep into the flesh. He surrendered to authorities without a fight when they arrived.

Mrs. Story’s jaw was broken from the bullet and still had a dent after it healed. Sam Kalil was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in Bismarck State Prison. At the age of seventy-one, Sam was released from prison into the care of relatives in neighboring Minnesota after serving only ten years. Anna’s body lay dead and buried but perhaps not her spirit. Every Halloween, she is reported to walk through a muddy bog named Eddie’s Bridge in the same white nightgown she died in, searching for something she has yet to find.

Although the details of the murder reported in the newspapers of the time match this version of the story, it has not stopped other legends of Anna from being created. One has her becoming pregnant out of wedlock, forced to marry Sam, and then hanging herself when she lost the baby. Another has Sam taking advantage of her on the same road she now haunts.

I will admit, I have only recently been made aware of this tragic tale but am making plans on taking a drive down White Lady Lane one Halloween soon. I don’t know whether I’ll see Anna, but I hope to. If so, I’ll be sure to let you know so you might plan a trip of your own.

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J.

Odds and Dead Ends :The Weeping Angels and the Terror of Temporal Displacement

“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective point of view, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobby… timey-wimey… stuff…”’ –The Doctor, Doctor Who S3 E10, ‘Blink’.

After apparently coming across the statue of a weeping angel in a graveyard, and seeing it chained up, writer Steven Moffat went away and crafted one of modern Doctor Who’s greatest episodes, and established a threat which would bleed through from the show into popular culture. In the episode ‘Blink’, a race of aliens called The Weeping Angels have zapped the time-traveling Doctor back into the past. Communicating via a video tape recorded decades in the past, The Doctor enlists the help of Sally Sparrow, who must face down the Angels and return his time machine, the Tardis, to him. But with the Weeping Angels, when you’re looking at them, they’re a statue. And you can’t kill a statue. But they’re incredibly fast, and as soon as you look away… as soon as you even blink…

            The Weeping Angels have a range of terrifying points to them. Their speed, their appearance, and their ability to turn off lights by pointing at them makes them a walking jump-scare, and most episodes to feature them have used this jump-scare mechanism in some way. But one of their other points, their method of killing, is of particular note. As is said in the episode, they’re the ‘“only psychopaths in the universe to kill you nicely. No mess, no fuss, they just zap you into the past and let you live to death. Rest of your life used up and blown away in the blink of an eye.”’ This, in itself, is terrifying on a fundamental level to our traditional notion of experience, as I will now attempt to explain.

            Warning: some of this can get a bit abstract, but bear with me.

            As in the quote from the episode at the beginning of this article, people assume that time moves in a strict movement, everything in a nice, neatline. But this is, of course, simply something that humans have come up with in order to try and comprehend everything happening around us. As Kenneth Denigh notes in Three Concepts of Time, ‘Time is not ‘out there’ as a substantial thing like a river in flow; it is rather an abstract entity, a construction.’ (p.3). Essentially, there is no time; there’s just stuff that happens and we’ve come up with an idea called ‘time’ in order to make sense of it all, to string it together in an understandable pattern. Remember that the idea of everyone being in the same specific time zone (at least in Britain), was to enable the trains to run correctly; before that, everyone had a different time in different parts of the country. I’m assuming the same came in eventually for worldwide, for similar reasons.

            And when we do all this construction to our understanding of time, we also give it a direction, because as human beings we can understand directions. We understand the relationship between two different tangible objects, and so we liken the relationship between events in the same way. In his book Space and Place, Yi Fu Tuan discusses this by saying that for us, we normally conceptualise all this by bringing in the idea of ‘forward’. ‘The future is ahead and “up”. The past is behind and “below”’.

            What all this means, roughly speaking, is that people have ascribed arbitrary references to direction in order to understand everything. There is no ‘past’ realistically speaking, but we have come up with the concept of it, and discuss it as being ‘behind us’ to help us process it. When we think about something coming ‘up’, we have it to look ‘forward to’.

            All of this comes with extra baggage. Concepts of direction also come coupled with social and cultural understandings. Everyone wants to be at the ‘top’, because we’ve said that ‘top’ means best, whether that’s the top of the standings in a tournament, on the top floor of a company building, or coming out ‘on top’ of something difficult. The direction is arbitrary, as there is no ‘top’, but over the years social etiquette has come to associate ‘up’ with ‘good’. There’s a reason why the typical description of a hierarchical system has the most powerful at the top of the pyramid. Why do we ascribe Heaven as being ‘above us’, whether in the Christian belief system or in others, such as Olympus being on top of a mountain, ‘up’ in the clouds? And of course, the reverse is true as well. We can be ‘down in the gutters’, at the ‘bottom’ of the pile; Hell/Hades, etc are ‘below’ the ground. You can see how this goes on. I believe Noël Carroll touches on this in his book The Philosophy of Horror, or Paradoxes of the Heart, by relating cultural repulsion of excrement because it comes from, literally, ‘behind’ us, but it’s been a while since I read the book, so you’ll have to excuse me if I’m getting mixed up with another author on that front. Still, I think the point remains. Behind is bad.

            So we, therefore, head into ‘Blink’ with an ingrained cultural understanding that the past, that behind where we are currently, is not as good as where we are, and even that is not as good as what will come, what we head ‘forwards’ towards. This is even in a show with time travel as the norm. And then we are presented with a terrifying monster in the shape of a traditional Christian angel (note the association with Heaven/Up/Forward), who, in the literal blinking of an eye, can send us back into the past. Not only that, these creatures feast on the energy we would have expended had we lived on in that time. Their whole power is their ability to disrupt our culturally ingrained, traditional notion of linear time, sending us into a worse temporal ‘behind’, without the chance to change it, and feast upon the ‘good’ which traditionally is associated with the ‘forward’ future.

            There’s no doubting that the Angels are terrifying even without the time-zapping part to them. Sharp teeth, claws extended, appearing from nowhere when we but blink; it’s the stuff of nightmares. But I think that this temporal dislocation might be one of their most terrifying features. That they exist to disrupt how we as people essentially view and understand reality, and use this as a method of sentencing us to a kind of death, is truly horrifying.

 

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: kjudgemental

Historian of Horror : You Had To Be Then

You Had to Be Then

The one Nashville science fiction convention in the second half of the 1970s I couldn’t attend was the 1977 Kublai Khan. None other than the redoubtable and controversial Harlan Ellison was the guest of honor that year. I had just started a job at Opryland, the theme park that is now a mall and a convention hotel and a testament to the excesses of modern American life. Instead of interacting with one of the great writers of the 20th Century, I spent that weekend washing and drying and dry-cleaning and pressing and hanging up the costumes for all the shows performed in the park. 

Oh, well.

Like most of my fellow fen in that deep and abyss of time that was my misspent youth, I had fairly strong opinions about Harlan Ellison. I loved his work and still do. I’d seen him on television several times, so I knew he had little inclination to couch his own opinions in tactful language. And he did have opinions, many of them. I tended to agree with most of them, so missing out on the chance to meet him and hear him speak was yet another one of those regrets I mentioned a couple of columns ago.

Oh, well.

I’d first encountered his writings in the late 1960s, back when he was one of the brash young things pushing science fiction to emerge from the genre ghetto it had existed in for so many decades and evolve into a real live literary form worthy of respect from academia and Hollywood alike as well as being one able to generate lots more money than was being paid to its practitioners in them thar days.

He was part of the New Wave that had started in England during Michael Moorcock’s tenure as editor of New Worlds magazine that was dedicated to taking speculative fiction (as Ellison called what he did rather than the stale old term ‘science fiction that the non-cognoscenti thought meant cheesy special effects and monster costumes with the zippers clearly visible in the back) in new directions.

It was real people doing real things; in space, in laboratories, even in bedrooms. Because real people, you know, have sex. And poop, so, yeah, let’s think about how a being from Alpha Centauri might arrange his bathroom. That’s part of it, although nowhere near all. But you kind of see what some of the ideas floating around were like in those days. Real people, or real BEMs (Bug-Eyed Monsters), doing what they will probably actually be doing in the future, explained in language that was more sophisticated and poetic than the simplistic pulpy sensationalism of days of yore. Or something like that.

It was the 60s. As the title of this piece points out, you had to be then.

In 1967, Ellison edited a ground-breaking anthology of New Wave stories called Dangerous Visions. He got more than thirty of his fellows in the field whom he had not managed to completely alienate to write the best stories of their lives, the ones they’d always wanted to write, but never felt would get bought by the publishers of that time. The tales that were too avant-garde, too controversial, too dirty for the fiction markets of the day. 

And so, they did, those thirty-plus legendary scriveners. And it was an era-defining success. Fritz Leiber, Jr. (whose novel Conjure Wife will receive some attention in a future column – stay tuned!) won both a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award for his novelette, “Gonna Roll the Bones”, beating out Philip K. Dick’s “Faith of Our Fathers” for the Hugo. Philip Jose Farmer took the Hugo’s novella category for “Riders of the Purple Wage”, and Samuel R. Delany won the same award for his short story, “Aye, and Gomorrah…” That’s pretty much a sweep for a single anthology. Ellison was also honored at the 26th World SF Convention in Berkeley, California (of course) for his efforts. 

Now, those of you denizens of darkness out there who only know of Robert Bloch as having written the book Alfred Hitchcock based his most famous movie on might be surprised to learn that the author of Psycho also wrote science fiction. In fact, he won the 1959 short story Hugo Award for “That Hell-Bound Train”, so of course, he was invited to contribute to Dangerous Visions

And boy, did he deliver. He delivered so well that Ellison was inspired to write a sequel to “A Toy for Juliette” that he called with his typical carefully considered restraint “The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World”. But it’s the Bloch tale that concerns us in this space, in this moment, as we’re thinking about time travel this week. 

Simply stated, in “A Toy for Juliette”, a man in the distant future has been fetching people from the past for his bored, jaded, spoiled rotten and thoroughly homicidal daughter to play with. One day, he decides she needs a real challenge, so the toy he brings to her is…

Spoiler Alert!

Spoiler Alert!

Spoiler Alert!

Oh, go ahead and look. You know you want to.

Jack the Ripper.

Yep. That Jack. 

The Ripper. The Whitechapel Horror. 

Hoo, boy.

Dismemberments ensue.

No wonder he was never caught, huh?

Is it science fiction? Well, yes.

Is it horror? Very much so. Did I happen to mention dismemberment?

Is it time travel? You bet. So, it fits with our theme, n’est pas?

If Ellison didn’t suspect Bloch might go that route, he probably ought to have. Bloch had already written one of the most important Jack tales of the 1940s, “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper”, which by 1967 had been adapted to both radio and television. Bloch was more than due to revisit his old friend anyhow, and Ellison gave him the perfect showcase for it.

According to its Amazon page, Dangerous Visions does appear to still be in print, if not available from your local second-hand bookstore, if there is such a thing near you. There was a follow-up anthology, Again, Dangerous Visions, which is available as an ebook from Amazon. I found no dead tree editions for sale except in the used book markets. It had forty-six stories from forty-six different writers. 

There was to be a third volume, The Last Dangerous Visions, but Ellison was never able to get it into print before he passed away in 2018. Some of the purported 150 stories he contracted for it by 1979 were eventually placed elsewhere. Some were withdrawn. In 2020, the executor of Ellison’s estate, Michael Straczynski, announced that he intended to go ahead with publication of whatever is left of Ellison’s original compilation. 

I worry, though, that there will turn out to be a consensus that the moment might have passed, that those visions are no longer particularly dangerous. That the tales Ellison gathered together over forty years ago are nowadays pretty much in the mainstream of the genre at best, dated at worst, and that despite all the efforts of the New Wave writers the genre they strove to bring legitimacy to is still called science fiction and still thought of by the illiterati as ‘that Buck Rogers stuff.

Oh, well. 

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

The more it changes, the more it stays the same. 

I haven’t provided my fellow horror addicts a lagniappe in a while. You know, that little something extra, like the thirteenth doughnut in a dozen that nobody gives out anymore, or the free lifetime tire rotations you get when you buy four new Michelins. It’s well past time you had une lagniappe, and I think I’ve got a doozy for you.

Way back in the early years of the millennium, I placed a cluster of short stories in several long-out-of-print anthologies published by Rage Machine Books. Rage Machine is an imprint run by a gentleman and a scholar by the name of G.W. Thomas. He has spent a couple of decades doing yeoman labours in the field of the history and study of the supernatural detective story, which was the focus of most my own work in those days, as well as of the Rage Machine anthologies in which the majority of my yarns appeared. G.W. also had an email thingie you could sign up for to receive daily “flashshots”, very short tales of one hundred words or less. I placed eight or nine ultra-short stories in that venue, one of which is right here:

God Bless Us, Every One

Thanks to Scrooge’s change of heart, Tiny Tim lived, and he grew strong. Forty-five years after the events of that memorable Christmas Eve, the man who had been Tiny Tim stood in a dingy, blood-spattered room in Whitechapel, hacking away at the corpse of Mary Kelly, muttering under his breath, “God bless us, every one… God bless us, every one… God bless us…”

Sixty-three words, not counting the title. Not the shortest one I did; a gruesome little piece called “Oops!” clocked in at a mere thirty-two words. I did try to expand “God Bless Us, Every One” into a longer yarn later on, but never could get it right. The concept cried out for a flash tale of sixty-three words, and no more.

Oh, well.

Anyhow, G.W.’s website and associated blog contain a wealth of information on some aspects of the history of our genre that I have not yet examined, and are well worth the time anyone interested in our shared cultural heritage might be inclined to invest in them. I commend them to you. They can be located here:

http://darkworldsquarterly.gwthomas.org/

Go thou and be enlightened, as well as entertained. It’s good stuff.

And so, until next time, fellow fiends…

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: The Giant

 

Plotline: A teenager’s small town life is changed forever when a series of murders begin on the same night that her missing boyfriend suddenly reappears.

Who would like it: Fans of atmospheric, dreamy, horror movies about coming of age.

High Points:

Complaints:

Overall: This movie left a lot of unanswered questions

Stars: 2 1/2 Stars

Where I watched it: VOD

 

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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

Chilling Chat: Episode #196 Part II – Dan Rabarts

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Dan Rabarts is an award-winning author and editor, four-time recipient of New Zealand’s Sir Julius Vogel Award and three-time winner of the Australian Shadows Award, occasional sailor of sailing things, part-time metalhead and father ofDan Rabarts two wee miracles in a house on a hill under the southern sun. Together with Lee Murray, he co-writes the Path of Ra crime-noir thriller series from Raw Dog Screaming Press (Hounds of the Underworld, Teeth of the Wolf, Blood of the Sun) and co-edited the flash-fiction horror anthology Baby Teeth – Bite-sized Tales of Terror, and At The Edge, an anthology of Antipodean dark fiction.

His steampunk-grimdark-comic fantasy series Children of Bane starts with Brothers of the Knife and continues in Sons of the Curse and Sisters of Spindrift (Omnium Gatherum Media). Dan’s science fiction, dark fantasy and horror short stories have been published in numerous venues worldwide. He also regularly narrates and produces podcasts and audiobooks.

NTK: How did you become involved with horror and how old were you?

DR: Aside from strange nightmares being some of my first actual memories? My first taste of horror was the Fighting Fantasy gamebook, City of Thieves by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson, back when I was about 10, but the book that really bit hard and held on was Stephen King’s IT, which I read at the tender age of 14, and never looked back. Then in my teens, I read a LOT of Hugh Cook, a kiwi author who blended SF with fantasy and horror like he was just mixing up cheese and chilli omelettes and frying them in the skulls of his enemies, and after that I found anything that didn’t have at least a hint of darkness about it just didn’t appeal. When I started writing for reals, it didn’t seem to matter if I was trying to write SF or fantasy or even something vaguely literary, the horror just crept on in and made itself at home among the words.

NTK: What is your favorite horror movie?

DR: Ridley Scott’s Alien, although Event Horizon is a very close runner-up. Followed by Shaun of the Dead. But from a purist horror perspective, I’m going to say that actually, I really like The Ring.

NTK: What is your favorite horror television show?

DR: Black Mirror, hands down. Season Two in particular.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

DR: Phil Rossi’s Crescent is a stunning deep space horror debut, even more so if you listen to it in his own sultry voice from when he released it as a podcast novel. Another excellent book which I first discovered in audio, but is now only around in ebook is Jack Kincaid’s Hoad’s Grim. And right now I’m really enjoying Gemma Files’ Hexslinger series.

NTK: What inspires your writing?

DR: I find that inspiration is a sort of building-block exercise, with small ideas clattering around in the corners of the old think-box until enough of them collide together to create some resonance, their own light. Often when I start to write, if I’m just free-writing without a particular theme in mind, one of these mash-ups will drive an urge to figure out what’s in the middle of that light, by breaking it down in words. So in short, I find inspiration by soaking up lots of random stuff all the time and surprise myself by seeing what comes out on the page at the end of the day. Oh, and simmering rage at the vile injustices of the world and my role as an artist to balance those scales with words.

NTK: As a person of color, how has your experience been in the horror community? What improvements could be made?

DR: Ever since I started to find my voice as a Māori writer, I have had far more feedback to the tune of please do more of this, than anything negative. In Aotearoa New Zealand, we’re on the long hard road towards reconciling the damages wrought by colonialism, and overcoming decades of ingrained racism and inequality is a huge challenge. But we’re getting there, slowly. Māori voices in literature tend to focus on the literary, both historic and contemporary, so bringing my perspective to the speculative genres has offered readers a fresh look at not only the sort of stories we in Aotearoa can tell, but it has also allowed me to explore some of these social issues through the lens that the speculative offers. Someone famous once said something along the lines of “Those of us who have the ability to express ourselves, have a duty to do so, on behalf of those who have not”. Writing Matiu in the Path of Ra, who exists not only along the fringes of race and the law but also the fine line between this world and the next, between sanity and madness, allowed me a fantastic opportunity to really delve into what that phrase means to me, and to exercise my need to speak out, and give voice to those who cannot.

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

DR: I usually find out what my characters have done the day after I write it. You know, I tell Lee that I’m working towards the plan, but really it’s the characters who take charge and tell the story. I can’t be held responsible for all those unexpected explosions and body parts that litter the pages. It’s all them.

NTK: (Laughs.) What’s it like working as a collaborative team? What is your writing process like? 

It is my duty to make sure that while we’re following all the rules of telling the story we planned to tell, we’re making sure that if the story wants to take itself off at a tangent for the benefit of the story, that I enable that to take place. The story has a right to be heard. It’s a highly dynamic process.

NTK: Lee said, “Dan writes that bad-ass character, Matiu Yee, so well, I have to wonder what he got up to when he was younger…”

DR: Well, to answer your question Lee, I used to do my fair share of walking the streets at night, looking all gloomy, but that was mainly because I didn’t have a car, which was sad. Not because I was secretly an enforcer for a seedy dog-fighting ring in the backblocks of the Hutt Valley AT ALL. I even have witnesses who’ll back me up on that. Dependable, reliable people, who you don’t want to mess with. As you can tell, part of my role in this partnership is often to deliver the comic relief and smile darkly for the camera.

NTK: (Laughs.) What’s your best piece of advice for the new writer?

DR: Finish what you start, have faith in what you create, and follow through by getting feedback, revising your work, and submitting. You won’t know if you can sell a story until you dive in and start selling stories.

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

DR: My main focus right now is Children of Bane, a grimdark/steampunk/comedy fantasy series about unlikely hero Akmenos, an imperial cook accused of political assassination most foul, who has to save the world armed with little more than good intentions, salt and pepper, and an armload of food-related puns. I’m currently working on the final chapters of Book Four in the series, titled Daughters of Dust, but anyone who’s keen to try something dark yet wildly absurd can take a bite out of Brothers of the Knife, where it all begins (the first couple of chapters are up to read over at my website).

The Dead Lands : Directed by Tao Fraser

The Dead Lands – Directed (2014) by Tao Fraser 

Reviewed by Kate Nox

When warriors from a rival tribe commit sacrilege in his tribe’s burial ground, Hongi (James Rolleston), son of a Maori Chieftain reports the act to his father. When questioned about the act, the rival crew of hot heads declares war on the village, killing all but Hongi who has been knocked down a ravine and forgotten.

Coming to and finding himself the only survivor he pursues the killers into a forbidden area (the Deadlands). There he meets an invincible ghost warrior who is rumored to haunt the land. 

Hongi discovers that the ghost is in fact, a fierce warrior, (Lawrence Makoare) although throughout the film there are times you wonder if the frightening warrior is truly a ghost or still human. Either way, he is tormented by a ghastly memory of loss in his own life which gives him a thorough understanding of the young boy whom he teaches to fight, and they join forces to hunt down and destroy the rival killers. 

If you are a fan of action films, you will appreciate that The Dead Lands, in fact, follows the action film formula. There is plenty of bone-cracking, slashing, and gore to keep you interested.

If you are bothered by horrific characters who battle in close and bloody conflict, taunting their opponents with insane faces, wagging tongues, stomping, screeching  and other acts designed to instill fear in the opponent, then I’d advise skipping this one. It is one of those movies where you want to reach out and smack the evil characters just for being so overwhelmingly nasty!

As for telling the story of loss, revenge, and horror lying in the psyche of both main characters, this movie is a winner.

The writers and director use a mix of tradition, mythology, and visions of dead ancestors to produce a truly spiritual “other-world” ending which will make you question what you’ve seen.

Thumbs up on horror and realism!

Chilling Chat Episode #196 Part I – Lee Murray

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Lee Murray is a multi-award-winning author-editor from Aotearoa-New Zealand (Sir Julius Vogel, Australian Shadows), and a two-time Bram Stoker Award®-winner. Her work includes military thrillers, the Taine McKenna Adventures,Lee Murray supernatural crime-noir series The Path of Ra (with Dan Rabarts), and debut collection Grotesque: Monster Stories. She is proud to have edited seventeen volumes of speculative fiction, including international Bram Stoker Award®-winning title Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women co-edited with Geneve Flynn. Her latest work, released May 2021, is non-fiction title, Mark My Words: Read the Submission Guidelines and Other Self-editing Tips co-authored with Angela Yuriko Smith. She is co-founder of Young NZ Writers and of the Wright-Murray Residency for Speculative Fiction Writers, HWA Mentor of the Year for 2019, NZSA Honorary Literary Fellow, and Grimshaw Sargeson Fellow for 2021 for her poetry collection Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud. 

NTK: How did you become involved with horror and how old were you?

LM:  If horror is what scares us, then I guess I was involved as soon as I could breathe. Although only diagnosed in the past five years, I’ve lived with anxiety (and depression) for most of my life. As a tiny child, I believed that the crunch of the pulse in my ear against my pillow was a wolf prowling under my bed. Yes, I had a rich imagination even back then—and there aren’t even any wolves in New Zealand! Also, anxiety isn’t really acknowledged in Asian cultures, at least it wasn’t back then, so I spent a lot of time worrying about things that made me uneasy. In an anxious mind, scary things escalate. But I guess you’re asking about my involvement with horror writing, which has only really been over the last decade. Taken in by the notion ‘write what you know’, I started my writing career with a light-hearted chick-lit novel, and while I had a lot of fun, and learned a lot about writing, I realised that the plot complications faced by my ambitious but misguided heroine weren’t resonating for me; I wanted to explore deeper issues, topics like otherness, expectation, and oppression, and those themes naturally led me to the dark side. So, not long afterwards, that wolf-under-the-bed experience became “Peter and the Wolf”, a story which appeared in the award-winning anthology Baby Teeth: Bite-sized Tales of Terror. The story went on to inspire a panel discussion, an essay, and is currently being developed as an animated film. It was also where Dan and I started our collaboration.

NTK: What is your favorite horror movie?

LM: Okay, this is where I admit that I don’t watch ‘horror’ movies because I am a wimp. They give me nightmares. Keep me awake. I stayed up late and watched The Trilogy of Terror nearly half a century ago, and it still gives me nightmares. Then there was Friday 13th Part Something, which I saw at the movie theatre with friends at around thirteen, and for weeks afterwards I smashed the wall and screamed in my sleep, so my father put his foot down and said, “No more horror movies for you.” Of course, I still watch some horror because it’s a genre that exists on a spectrum, ranging from unease through to entrails and gore; some movies allow me that horror fix without setting off my rather pathetic threshold for nightmares. The same doesn’t apply to books; I can read extreme horror and it doesn’t seem to have quite the same effect. That doesn’t mean horror literature fails to elicit fear in me—quite the opposite—but my brain seems to compartmentalise those responses, allowing me to distance myself from the imagery as soon as I put the book aside. (I have some horror researcher colleagues, and now I’m thinking I must ask them if this is a known phenomenon…)

NTK: What is your favorite horror television show?

LM: See above. However, I can do the next best thing, and read responses by my learned colleagues to those shows, which gives me great insight into the interpretation, even though I might not have seen the work. For example, I loved reading The Streaming of Hill House: Essays on the Haunting Netflix Adaption edited by Kevin J. Wetmore, perhaps because the essays allowed me to enjoy the programme vicariously, with a measure of distance—book to film to book. Also, those essays were so accessible and scarily entertaining. Recommended.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

LM: Aargh! Such a difficult question because I read so widely in the genre, and there is so much great horror to enjoy. I can see Dan shaking his head, too. How are we supposed to answer this question? We love dark works. You’re asking us to single out just one? How about one for each day of the week? One for different periods of your life? One to reflect a current mood? For summer? For Halloween? For a rainy Sunday afternoon? To encourage a love of dark literature in a new reader? [wails!] How about I tell you about some upcoming works that I have had the privilege to read prior to release, and that everyone should be looking out for over the next few months? For example, there’s Garrett Boatman’s Floaters, coming in September from Crystal Lake Publishing, a historical horror novella which pitches a horde of undead, risen from the Thames River, against the city’s gangs. Pulse-pounding stuff. There’s James Chambers’ science fiction, fantasy, and frankly bizarro short story collection, On the Hierophant Road, coming later this year from Raw Dog Screaming Press. If you like your fiction dark and weird, and superbly crafted definitely grab a copy of Chambers’ incredible collection. Poet Jamal Hodge has The Dark Between the Twilight coming, an exciting collection of speculative poetry exploring abuse and depression; dark themes, but Hodge makes space for hope and restoration. And finally, I’m currently enjoying David Rose’s gritty military horror, Lovecraft’s Iraq. That title, right? I’m about fifty pages in and it’s pretty damn good so far.

NTK: Awesome! Thank you for those recommendations. What inspires your writing?

LM:  Everything. Oh, you need me to narrow it down a bit? In the last year or so, I’ve been focused on short fiction rather than longer works, and I’ve been lucky enough to have had a number of stories commissioned by some fabulous horror editors. In those cases, the editor-publisher typically suggests a theme to write to, and it’s always exciting to come up with something fresh that the other invited authors haven’t considered. I especially like writing at the intersections of culture and have been exploring aspects of my Asian-Kiwi heritage in my work—in poetry, prose, and also non-fiction.

NTK: Speaking as a person of color, how has your experience been in the horror community? What improvements could be made?

LM: In my view, the horror writing community is extremely inclusive, perhaps because horror is already a subversive genre, addressing the things that provoke fear—and, sadly, one of the things people fear most is the ‘other’. Anyone different or out of step. Horror writers get that; after all, we’re the people who write the books that everyone hides under the bed. We’re all weird here, so we’re going to recognise you as one of our own, embrace those differences, and celebrate them. We’re going to hold space for your stories, and not just during WiHM or Pride Month or Mental Health Awareness month. Of course, dialogue is just the first step, but the success of Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women has shown me that the community is not afraid to explore issues like Asian otherness and persecution, even at a time when anti-Asian sentiment is high.

NTK: What inspired Blood of the Sun?

LM: Well, it’s the third book in collaborative supernatural crime-noir series written by Dan and myself, so I guess we can say we were intrigued to see what might happen to our intrepid brother-sister sleuths, Penny and Matiu Yee. The only way to do that was to knuckle down and write it! The book ties together a lot of the story threads introduced in the previous two books, including story arcs for some much-loved characters, and culminates in an epic finale on Auckland’s Mount Maungawhau (also known as Mount Eden). We had great fun writing it once we got underway, but the book had a slow start because not long after we’d penned the first chapters, New Zealand suffered the Christchurch mosque shootings. We’d included a massacre early in the narrative, and it shook us to see something so horrific and so unexpected, at least in a New Zealand context, playing out in real life. It affected us so much that we had to put the book aside. We seriously considered starting over with a completely different narrative, but eventually we decided to push on, and I believe it was the right decision, since the book is arguably our best collaborative work to date.

NTK: What’s it like working as a collaborative team? What is your writing process like?

LM: Writing with Dan has been one of the most frustrating and fulfilling experiences of my life. He’s like my baby brother, vastly annoying yet I can’t help but love him to bits. I think the depth of our friendship is the basis of our success. (Also, because as the Lucy-van-Pelt big sister, I am very bossy and like to get my way!). The Path of Ra series is a dual protagonist narrative with Dan writing smouldering bad boy, Matiu Yee, who walks with one foot beyond the veil, while I write his uptight big sister Penny, who is a science consult to the police. We write chapter-about in a he-said, she-said approach, each of us drawing on our personal backgrounds to inform the characters and the plots, with the bickering yet affectionate tone readers see on the page perfectly summing up our collaborative relationship. (Actually, Dan writes that bad-ass character so well, I have to wonder what he got up to when he was younger…)

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

LM: It’s a negotiation. Sometimes, I’m in control, guiding them through the prescribed plot events, but occasionally they surprise me. Which is as you would expect, because fully authentic characters have all the foibles and whimsy of real people.

NTK: What is your best piece of advice for the prospective mentor?

LM: You’re not making a mini-me; instead, your job as a mentor is to give your mentee the tools they need to be the best version of a writer they can be, in terms of craft and also professionalism, and offered at the mentee’s own pace. (But mentors know all this. Mostly, I want to say thank you to all the hardworking selfless heroes who step up to give their time, expertise, and encouragement to support our emerging writers. You rock!)

NTK: Congratulations on your Bram Stoker Award wins!! How do you feel about the projects which won the awards? What made you choose to do these projects?

LM: Thank you! I’m still reeling from this kind acknowledgement from my horror colleagues. It hasn’t really sunk in. I’m so proud of both these projects. Grotesque: Monster Stories was the response to an invitation by Steve Dillon of Things in the Well, Australia, who encouraged me to put together a collection. His confidence in my work was the impetus, because I wasn’t convinced I was sufficiently established to have a ‘best of’ album. But I looked at my back catalogue, determined that monsters loomed large, selected a few stories to include, wrote some fresh ones, and we released my debut collection smack in the middle of the pandemic. I think that timing had a lot to do with its success. New Zealand’s response to the pandemic has been held up globally as an example of good practice, so perhaps there was an interest in escaping here through story. I’m certain that was the reason, in part, for the success of Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women. Attacks on Asians were on the rise, and I think readers were looking for stories that explored that otherness, either out of solidarity, or just as a means of informing themselves. And of course, Geneve Flynn and I were absolutely thrilled to be able to assemble such a fantastic lineup of contributors. Our authors simply wrote themselves out of their skins, overwhelming us with the beauty and horror of their work. The Bram Stoker Award has my name on it, but it is their work which resonated with readers. I’m extremely grateful.

NTK: As an editor, what are you looking for in a story? What kind of stories interests you most?

LM: Editors are all looking for the next big thing: something innovative, evocative, ground-breaking. Relevant. Something that lifts the hair on the back of our necks, while at the same time making us shiver at the beauty of it. (But editors are simple creatures too, and at 2 am when we’re reading the 876th submission for an anthology call, any well-crafted story which fits the submission guidelines and isn’t written in Comic Sans is going to make us happy.)

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

LM: My most recent book, released just over a week ago, is Mark My Words: Read the Submission Guidelines and Other Self-editing Tips, which I have written with Angela Yuriko Smith, the publisher at Space and Time magazine and this year’s HWA Mentor of the Year. The book was intended to be a hand-out for a Horror University course we presented for the HWA (which is still available online), but being conscientious Asian girls, we got a bit carried away and our ‘little handout’ turned into a book of close to 50,000 words packed with tips and suggestions from our horror editor and publisher colleagues (including Horror Addicts editors). We hope the book will help writers get their work off the slush pile and into the hands of editors. We also hope it will save our hardworking mentors the trouble of repeating things like ‘use a serif font’ or ‘remove all the TABS!’ ad infinitum. And prompted by our work in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, Angela Yuriko Smith and I are also working on Unquiet Spirits, a collection of essays exploring Asian monsters, with personal responses from horror writers of the Asian diaspora. Coming up in August, I’ll be taking up my Grimshaw Sargeson Fellowship in Auckland, where I’ll be working on my poetry collection, Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud, an exploration of the New Zealand Asian women’s diaspora through the lens of the shape-shifting fox spirit. I can’t wait!

Haunts and Hellions now in eBook!

Now in eBook format!
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Haunts & Hellions edited by Emerian Rich

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13 stories of horror, romance, and that perfect moment when the two worlds collide. Vengeful spirits attacking the living, undead lovers revealing their true nature, and supernatural monsters seeking love, await you. Pull the blinds closed, light your candle, and cuddle up in your reading nook for some chilling—and romantic—tales.

With stories by: Emily Blue, Lucy Blue, Kevin Ground, Rowan Hill, Naching T. Kassa, Emmy Z. Madrigal, R.L. Merrill, N.C. Northcott, Emerian Rich, Daniel R. Robichaud, Daphne Strasert, Tara Vanflower, and B.F. Vega.

To read, go to: Amazon.com

Nightmare Fuel: The Rake

Hello Addicts,

Urban legends and creepypastas are the campfire stories of our day and age. The stories they share are ones to frighten, make us question their reality, and fuel our nightmares. To me, the best are the ones that sound plausible enough to hope they are not real. One such tale is regarding The Rake.

The creature known as The Rake stands around six feet tall and hairless with gray, sallow skin and a humanoid or a dog-like appearance. As if not scary enough, the creature also has big black eyes and long talonlike fingers that will throw the bravest into terror. It is patient, preferring to stalk its prey to feed on their sanity via nightmares and fear. After it is satiated, the creature tears its victim apart or infects them in a fashion similar to the face-huggers in the Alien movies. As frightening as it is, the beast is not one to get physical right away when confronted. It will, however, widen its eyes and mouth to drive your fear into overdrive. There are also reports of it speaking at times in a shrill and otherwise indescribable way. Some say that hearing the Rake’s voice means being marked as its next victim.

Tales of interactions with The Rake are few. One of the earliest is a story in a mariner’s log from 1691, where it names the tormentor as The Rake. Other sources are a Spanish journal entry in 1880 and a suicide note from 1964, each reporting the feeling of terror in falling asleep and waking face to horrid face with the beast. A majority of the creature sightings in the U.S. are around New York and Idaho. There are even instances of the creature caught on video and in trail-cam photos. There was even a video taken in 2018 of a Rake stalking a moose in Quebec, Canada.

The popularity of The Rake in storytelling did not take off until after 2006 when a woman posted her terrifying run-in with the creature online. According to the story, she woke one night to find the terrifying creature staring at her from the foot of her bed and promptly woke her husband. His body curled up after spotting the monster and tightened more when it made its way to his side of the bed. In a flash, The Rake took off to their children’s bedroom, where it brutally attacked their daughter before fleeing. To make a tragic story worse, the little girl and her father died while he rushed her to the hospital by accidentally driving into a lake. The tale concluded with the wife claiming to have captured the Rake’s voice with a tape recorder as she slept, intimating that she may become its next victim.

Like any good legend, the truth behind the stories is often hard to prove one way or another. There is visual evidence and written accounts of The Rake seemingly dating back centuries, but none as abundant as UFOs, ghosts, or bigfoot. In the end, the stories may be tales for people to chill the blood of others around a campfire. Just in case, however, I hope none of you ever wake to find yourself face to horrible face with The Rake.

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J.

Odds and Dead Ends :The Silly, Slimy Charm of ‘Braindead’

Horror movies sometimes get a bad rap, and one of the reasons it gets this is all the blood and the gore and the violence and the splattered body parts that can make an appearance in some of its roster. And I’ll admit, on occasion you do watch someone pull glass out of their leg in gratuitous detail and have to admit that it was unnecessary to the emotional impact of the story. But some films can go in for gleeful blood and gore, and despite the usual apprehension, get good opinions in both the public consciousness and decent reviews from the critics. The 1992 film Braindead (released as Dead Alive in some territories), an earlier project from Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, is one of those films. By embracing an absurd concept and playing up both the scenario, and the execution (in a filmic sense and a killing sense), it makes for a strangely charming, slapstick zombie comedy that’s fully aware of what it’s doing, and manages to survive the usual criticisms of ‘too much gratuitous violence’.

            The basic plot of the film, for those who haven’t seen it (and if you haven’t, spoilers ahead), sounds exactly like a run-of-the-mill zombie movie we’ve now before. A ‘Sumatran Rat-Monkey’ is captured and placed in the local zoo; an animal which used to be used in black magic rituals. Whilst stalking her shy son, Lionel (Timothy Balme), who is on a date with a young woman she disapproves of (Paquita, played by Diana Peñalver), Vera Cosgrove (Elizabeth Moody) gets bitten by the rat-monkey, and over the next few days she succumbs to her infection in gruesome, decomposing fashion. The infection spreads, culminating in a mansion full of rotting corpses spurting blood and other bodily fluids, and a finale with a lawnmower and an awful lot of body parts.

            Films had come before which had reveled in the amount of violence on screen to self-aware effect; the obvious candidate being Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films. And whilst the first film played it straight (to a certain extent), Evil Dead II took such pleasure in killing off deadites in a gleeful manner that it’s hard not to see it as a possible influence on the tone of this film. There’s also the large amount of practical effects, and the relatively low budget natures of the films (Braindead had around $3m in it, Evil Dead II had apparently a $3.5m budget). But even Raimi’s films, which had set new bars for the amount of severed heads and splattered limbs, can’t come close to Jackson’s movie. Reportedly Braindead is, by the quantity of blood used in production, the goriest film ever made, though of course, we’ve no way to properly assess this claim.

            The excess is so absurd that the film manages to give a nodding wink to the audience that it isn’t meant to take the violence seriously (there’s no way the human body can be cut up that easily, and also contain such an amount of blood). This self-aware presentation is also carried out through the regular comedy of the film, from the ridiculous setup to the occasional joke (we have, for example, a wonderful exchange between Lionel and Paquita, the latter of which exclaims ‘“Your mother ate my dog!”’, with Lionel’s immortal reply of ‘“Not all of it,”’ to follow). At points, Jackson manages to blend the disgusting gore with the comedy, to give beautiful gems which couldn’t happen in any other film. You wouldn’t be able to get a close-up of porridge, eaten a second before, squirting out of the neck-wound of a nearly-decapitated zombie, in even something like a Nightmare on Elm St film.

            By blending the black comedy and the excessive violence together, it can get away with elements which would be frowned upon even in a so-bad-it’s-good movie, let alone one that was just offensive to filmmaking. When you’ve got an eccentric, kung-fu priest kicking zombies with comic sound effects shouting the line ‘“I kick ass for the Lord”’, and an eccentric Latvian vet with a ridiculous accent and glasses who takes money from people’s hands with a pair of tweezers, you understand that this isn’t a film which goes for realism. When we have a man taking on a hoard of zombies with a knife and a cleaver, and we cut back to him standing over a foot-high pile of severed limbs without having suffered even a scratch, we know we’re not meant to really believe he’s fought them all off; the film just says he did and we believe it because we’re just going along with it at this point. And that’s even before the giant inflatable zombie-mother in the finale.

            But despite pulling out ribcages and going through an army of zombies with a lawnmower, there’s some good, quality filmmaking in here. Jackson uses several exaggerated crane moves which would become part of his main arsenal in The Lord of the Rings which look glorious, for example in a scene with Lionel and Paquita on Lionel’s balcony. Their first kiss is led up to by a big crane move from the ground up to the balcony, sweeping in on them as they are swept into each other’s arms; a wonderfully romantic camera movement. The lighting in the finale is great, with just the right mix of psychedelic colours and silvery moonlight turning the blood black. The lighting is even worked into a gag with one zombie thrust onto a light fixture, where bright orange light streams out of her eyes and mouth, turning her in effect into a lampshade.

            And one might even say there’s a little touch on class and possibly even immigration in the film’s writing. Vera and Uncle Les, both wealthy individuals, look down on Paquita (Vera because she believes her to be ‘experienced’, and Les because he’s misogynistic and specifically suggests that he goes after Paquita because she’s ‘“Latin”’), and try to get Lionel away from her. Even the strange vet initially thinks that Les is from immigration, claiming to have lost his papers, showing his deepest fear of being deported.

            It’s a silly, purposefully overdone zombie comedy with far too much blood and gore to be taken seriously, but it’s made a connection with audiences and critics. IMDb has it rated at 7.5/10, which, for a film with this amount of churning guts stinking in the open air, is ridiculous. The dialogue isn’t the greatest, and some of the acting isn’t good. But despite this, Braindead has somehow managed to click the right combination of direction, practical effects, comedy, and sheer absurdity, to make it out of the ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ category and into genuine horror merit. It’s not the greatest horror movie ever made, but there’s a slippery, stomach-churning charm to the film which has allowed it to remain in the public consciousness for so long and going beyond the other films in the director’s oeuvre. It’s silly, slimy, and charming.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: kjudgemental

Historian of Horror : To Creep or Not to Creep, That is the Question…

To Creep or Not to Creep, That Is the Question…

In most cases, someone has to have had a significant or even seminal impact on some aspect of their field of endeavor to have an award named after them. Hugo Gernsback essentially created science-fiction as its own genre, so the main fan-based award for that branch of literature is known as the Hugo. It looks like the rocket ship from the 1950 film, Destination Moon. Edgar Allan Poe invented the detective story, so the commemorative statuette given out for mysteries is the Edgar. It’s a bust of the author. Bram Stoker’s Dracula has had an enormous effect on the popularity of horror, so the trophy for spooky writing is the Bram Stoker Award, which is in the shape of a haunted house. And so on. And so on.

You would think that a significant award for classic horror might be named for a major figure in the history of our genre. H.P. Lovecraft, perhaps. Until 2016, the World Fantasy Award was a bust of him. Boris Karloff might be another likely candidate. Or Bela Lugosi. Maybe Rod Serling. Surely someone of the stature of any of these gentlemen deserves to have a statuette modeled in their likeness to be given out for meritorious achievement.

So, why is the classic horror award not named for one of them? Why name it for a character actor who appeared in a barely noticeable bit part in one of the great horror films of that great horror film year of 1939, and a short series of performances as essentially the same character in a handful of extremely minor horror entries?

Why the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award?

Because Rondo Hatton was ugly, that’s why. Really, truly, a physically deformed human being. The Man Who Didn’t Need Makeup to Play a Monster! Who better to exemplify the monstrous and horrific?

He didn’t start out that way. He was actually voted the most handsome boy of his high school senior class in 1913, but around the end of the First World War, he began to manifest symptoms of acromegaly, a disorder of the pituitary gland that causes accelerated growth in the bones of the head, face, hands and feet, and in some of the internal organs. Including the heart.  Hatton did serve in the United States Army in France, but despite some reports, did not develop the disease as a result of a German mustard gas attack. It was a natural but extremely unpleasant occurrence. 

It did, however, take him to Hollywood. He began picking up bit parts, including as one of the ‘Ugly Man Contest’ participants in the Charles Laughton version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). Laughton’s Quasimodo won, of course, and Rondo went on to pile up a modest list of very small and rarely credited parts.

Going to backtrack here, a little bit. By the time you see this, you’ll possibly have been able to listen to Episode #195 of the Horror Addicts podcast for this season. In my little section, I stated that it was my intention to take a look in this space at the horror output beyond the main line of the Universal horrors, both at that studio and the others. Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolf Man get the bulk of the press, so I thought I’d explore some of the lesser and less well-known efforts. Like the Inner Sanctum movies starring Lon Chaney, Jr., or the Captive Wild Woman trilogy.

Or The Creeper.

Which brings us back around to Rondo Hatton.

In the last two years of his brief life, Rondo wound up at Universal, where he played an inarticulate brute known variously as the Hoxton Creeper, Mario the Man Monster, or simply The Creeper. Basically the same character, a hideous murderer who crushes his victims in an iron grasp. Apart from the first one, an entry in the Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes series, the series was so minor a run it barely registered at the box office. And yet, there’s that pesky award to bestow upon The Creeper a cachet he never enjoyed in his lifetime.

Good for him, I say. Not sure what he would say, though.

His first outing, as the Hoxton Creeper, was in The Pearl of Death, based on the Sherlock Holmes short story, “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons”. It was the ninth film of the fourteen in which Rathbone played the great detective, the seventh at Universal. The first two were made by Twentieth-Century Fox, and one of those will be examined when that studio comes under the monstrous microscope in due time.

A pearl of great value has been hidden inside one of six busts of Napoleon sold to six different residents of London. The main villain sends out his henchman, the Hoxton Creeper, to smash each one until he finds the pearl. Of course, the owners of the busts object. Rondo reacts to their remonstrances by crushing their spines. Holmes is called in and figures things out in the requisite sixty-nine minutes allotted to b-movies at the studio in those days.

Evelyn Ankers, the studio’s resident “Queen of the Bs”, co-starred as another of the villain’s accomplices in her second appearance in the Holmes series. She had a long career in Universal horrors, barely escaping dismemberment at the hands of Lon Chaney, Jr. in The Wolf Man in 1941, strangulation by his Frankenstein Monster in Ghost of Frankenstein in 1942, and exsanguination by his Count Alucard in Son of Dracula in 1943. One wonders if Chaney had something against her. 

Spoiler alert – she didn’t always get away from him.

Rondo’s second turn, this time as Mario the Man Monster, came in what is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a sequel to another of the Rathbone Holmes pictures. The deliciously menacing Gale Sondergaard, who deserves a thorough examination in a future entry, played the title character in the 1943 Holmes picture, The Spider Woman. In 1946, she starred in The Spider Woman Strikes Back, which has absolutely no connection to the Holmes movie or her character in that film. Rondo is her lurking henchman as she slowly drains the blood from Brenda Joyce, who survived well enough to continue playing Jane in what was eventually a total of five Tarzan pictures. Mario neglects to crush anyone’s spine this time out, but he adds just a soupçon of that frisson the movie could have really used a lot more of.

Rondo made two more pictures, both as The Creeper, before passing away from a series of acromegaly related heart attacks on February 2, 1946. House of Horrors and The Brute Man were released posthumously, to barely noticeable acclaim. Rondo’s body was flown back east for interment in the American Legion Cemetery in his hometown of Tampa, Florida. He was fifty-one years old.

1945’s House of Horrors starred Martin Kosleck as a sculptor who is The Creeper’s only friend and protector until Rondo turns on him over the affections of the lovely Virginia Grey. Kosleck went on to forge something of a career playing Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. He died in obscurity in 1994.

Grey played in a number of prominent mainstream pictures before and after being menaced by The Creeper, including Another Thin Man in 1939, The Big Store with the Marx Brothers in 1941, and in support of star Lana Turner in 1966’s Madame X., Her last horror film role was Black Zoo in 1963, starring future Batman butler Michael Gough as the naughty zookeeper. Grey kept company for some years with King of Hollywood Clark Gable until he got distracted by and married a British noblewoman in 1949. She passed away in 2004.

Speaking of Batman’s butler, Alan Napier from the 1960s television series and 1966 feature film also appeared in House of Horrors. And the hero is played by Robert Lowery, who portrayed none other than Bruce Wayne himself, as well as his cowled alter ego, in the 1949 Columbia serial, Batman and Robin

Everything leads back to the Caped Crusader eventually, it seems. 

Finally, the least of the entries, The Brute Man, removed the last vestiges of the mild sympathy one might have felt for the poor Creeper and turned him into exactly what the title suggested, a brute hunted relentlessly by the police for going around breaking other human beings. Rondo blames hero Tom Neal for his disfigurement, leading to his antisocial behavior. Not much more plot than that, I’m afraid. In 1945, Neal played the lead in the film noir classic, Detour, directed by legendary horror director, Edgar G. Ulmer. He was convicted of manslaughter in the accidental death by gunshot of his wife in 1965. He served six years in prison and died in 1972.

So. There it is. The entire horror career of the man for whom a respected award is named. Of course, his grim visage has been resurrected often in comic books on both sides of the Big Pond, and as one of the villains in the 1991 film, The Rocketeer. And he has been referenced here and there in novels and television shows since the 1970s. And there’s the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award, which is modeled on the bust of The Creeper created by the Martin Kosleck character in House of Horrors

I like to think he’d approve of all this attention. I’d like to, but I have to wonder how he would feel about his unfortunate situation being exploited so. Would he be grateful to be remembered so long after his death, or embarrassed by the context of that remembrance? 

I don’t suppose we’ll ever know. 

Until next time, fellow fiends…

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

And maybe, a tad compassionate.

#HauntsandHellions: In Case You Missed It…

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Did you miss out on our Haunts and Hellions Book Events, Horror Addicts? Well, never fear. Here’s your last chance to see what you missed.

WHAT? WEBSITE
31 Days of #GothicRomance on Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/horroraddicts.netpress/
Press Release for Haunts &Hellionshttps://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/05/13/horroraddicts-net-press-presents-haunts-and-hellions/
Haunts & Hellions Inspiration for the Bookhttps://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/05/15/haunts-and-hellions-the-backstory/
Chilling Chat: Author Lucy Bluehttps://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/05/16/chilling-chat-haunts-hellions-lucy-blue/
Excerpt “The House Must Fall”https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com/single-post/haunts-and-hellions-a-gothic-romance-anthology
The Inspiration Behind “Left Behind”https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/05/17/haunts-hellions-the-inspiration-behind-left-behind/
Excerpt “Hungry Masses”http://www.emmyzmadrigal.com
The Inspiration Behind “The Siren and Bowery Jack”https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/05/19/haunts-hellions-the-inspiration-behind-the-siren-and-bowery-jack/
Excerpt “Left Behind”emzbox.com
Chilling Chat: Author Emerian Richhttps://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/05/21/chilling-chat-episode-194-haunts-hellions-emerian-rich/
HorrorAddict.net #194, Haunts and Hellion Podcasthttps://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/05/21/horroraddicts-net-194-haunts-and-hellions/
Excerpt “She Woke at Midnight”https://nachingkassa.wordpress.com/2021/05/23/an-excerpt-from-she-woke-at-midnight/
Chilling Chat: Author B.F. Vegahttps://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/05/23/chilling-chat-haunts-hellions-b-f-vega/
Chilling Chat: Author N.C. Northcotthttps://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/05/24/chilling-chat-haunts-hellions-n-c-northcott/
Chilling Chat: Author Kevin Groundhttps://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/05/25/chilling-chat-haunts-hellions-kevin-ground/
Chilling Chat: Author R.L. Merrillhttps://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/05/26/chilling-chat-haunts-hellions-r-l-merrill/
Chilling Chat: Author Rowan Hillhttps://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/05/27/chilling-chat-haunts-hellions-rowan-hill/
Chilling Chat: Author Daniel R. Robichaudhttps://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/05/28/chilling-chat-haunts-hellions-daniel-r-robichaud/
Excerpt “Companions”http://daphnestrasert.com/write-as-rain-1/2021/5/29/haunts-and-hellions
Chilling Chat: Author Tara Vanflowerhttps://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/05/29/chilling-chat-haunts-hellions-tara-vanflower/
The Inspiration Behind “She Woke at Midnight”https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/05/30/haunts-hellions-the-inspiration-behind-she-woke-at-midnight/
Chilling Chat: Author Emily Bluehttps://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/05/31/chilling-chat-haunts-hellions-emily-blue/
Excerpt “With Red Eyes Gleaming”https://consideringstories.wordpress.com/2021/06/01/handh/
The Inspiration Behind “Californio Fog”https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/06/01/haunts-hellions-the-inspiration-behind-californio-fog/
Chilling Chat: Author Daphne Straserthttps://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/06/02/chilling-chat-haunts-hellions-daphne-strasert/
Excerpt “Lady of Graywing Manor”http://blueswriterthoughts.blogspot.com/2021/06/haunts-and-hellions-excerpt.html
The Inspiration Behind “Companions”https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/06/03/haunts-hellions-the-inspiration-behind-companions/
Excerpt “Love Never Dies”https://www.writerrowanhill.com/blank-page
Chilling Chat: Author Naching T. Kassahttps://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/06/06/chilling-chat-haunts-hellions-naching-t-kassa/
Excerpt “Maudaleen”https://nachingkassa.wordpress.com/2021/06/18/an-excerpt-from-maudaleen-by-kevin-ground/
The Inspiration Behind “With Red Eyes Gleaming”https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/06/09/haunts-hellions-the-inspiration-behind-with-red-eyes-gleaming/
Excerpt “The Siren and Bowery Jack”https://thetaooftim.wordpress.com/2021/06/17/haunts-hellions-an-excerpt-from-the-gothic-romance-anthology/
Chilling Chat: Author Emmy Z. Madrigalhttps://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/06/11/chilling-chat-haunts-hellions-emmy-z-madrigal/
The Inspiration Behind “The House Must Fall”https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/06/12/haunts-hellions-the-inspiration-behind-the-house-must-fall/
Excerpt “Blood and Dust”http://emzbox.com
The Inspiration Behind “Maudaleen”https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/06/14/haunts-hellions-the-inspiration-behind-maudaleen/
Excerpt “Californio Fog”https://bookhoarding.wordpress.com/2021/06/15/haunts-hellions-excerpt/
The Inspiration Behind “Hungry Masses”https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2021/06/16/haunts-hellions-the-inspiration-behind-hungry-masses/
Excerpt “My Ain True Love”https://lucybluecastle.wordpress.com/2021/06/17/haunts-and-hellions/

#HauntsandHellions: The Inspiration Behind “Hungry Masses.”

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The Inspiration Behind “Hungry Masses.”

By Emmy Z. Madrigal

SS_WaratahMy story in Haunts and Hellions, “Hungry Masses” was based upon a real ship that was lost at sea. The SS Waratah (named after an Australian flower) was a passenger and cargo ship built in 1908 by the Blue Anchor Line. Its route was from England to Australia, and then back to Europe via Cape Town, South Africa. In July of 1909, it vanished with 211 passengers and crew aboard. It has never been found.

During my research of the SS Waratah, I discovered a lot of history. I combed through passenger lists and descriptions. I looked at the ports it stopped in and what type of people it may have picked up. Where did they come from? Where might they be going? Some of the characters in my story are based (loosely) on characters I read about. Some of the names I used are actual surnames of the passengers and crew. Because it was never found and passengers lists are very light, I had to fill in a lot of the details for myself. I was not on that ship when it met its fate, but then again, no one who was, is alive to tell about it.

I’ve always been interested in the lost ships of history. The Mary Celeste is one I love reading about. In the papers and articles written about the Mary Celeste, they speculate about why it was found, but without its passengers. What happened? Why did the people abandon the ship? Why were they never found, and what was that slimy muck that was found all over the deck? This got me thinking… What kind of creature might have attacked? Did a giant Kraken gobble up the crew and leave behind its slimy trail? Did a disease take hold of the passengers that manifested slime?

Mixing these two disappearing ships, and countless other occurrences like them, I wove a tale. “Hungry Masses” takes place on the SS Waratah and tries to explain what might have happened on that fateful journey. Who were the passengers on the ship really, and what illness might have overtaken them? And why wasn’t the ship ever found? If the boat had been struck by storm or breakdown, wouldn’t remnants have been found? What happened to the boat to make all traces of it cease to exist? Where are the bodies?

What would you do if you were on a ship and a sudden illness broke out? How would you protect yourself? Would you take the hero role and save others first? Or would you hide in your cabin until everyone was gone?

Emmy Z. Madrigal is the author of the Regency novella, Lord Harrington’s Lost Doe.  Her previous works include the

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Sweet Dreams Musical Romance Series and the novelettes Anime Girl and Anime Girl 2.  Emmy has been praised for her realistic portrayal of modern female characters and their will to survive in a world of adversity, prejudice, and economic hardship.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Gaia

Plotline: On a surveillance mission in a primordial forest, a park ranger encounters two survivalists following a post-apocalyptic lifestyle. The boy and his philosophical father seem to have their own religion, and a mysterious relationship to nature. There are many suspicious aspects to their existence, but when the cabin is attacked by strange, post-human beings one night, she learns that there is a greater threat in this emergent wilderness.

Who would like it: Fans of religious horror, eco horror, fans of the occult, suspense, the outdoors, and anyone who love a damn good horror movie

High Points: I really believe this is more of a religious/occult movie more than an eco-horror. With that being said, I loved seeing the parallel between the pagan and religious beliefs and practices

Complaints: The black guy dies 1st

Overall: I loved it!

Stars: 4

Where I watched it: Pre-release screener.

 

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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!” 

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