FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Kindred the Embraced

What Could Have Been with Kindred: The Embraced

by Kristin Battestella

Based partly on the Vampire: The Masquerade role playing game, Fox’s 1996 Kindred: The Embraced is an eight episode miniseries cut short despite enticing vampires and gothic atmosphere. Ventrue vampire Julian Luna (Mark Frankel) is prince of San Francisco and ruler of the Kindred clans – a precarious alliance between Lillie Langtry (Stacy Haiduk) a Toreador nightclub patron, underground Nosferatu Daedalus (Jeff Kober), and Brujah mobster Eddie Fiori (Brian Thompson). Their masquerade to live among humans is threatened by detective Frank Kohanek (C.Thomas Howell) and reporter Caitlin Byrne (Kelly Rutherford) – who falls for Julian, further complicating the interconnected love triangles and vampire peace.

Rooftop chases at dawn open the hour-plus premiere “The Original Saga” alongside quick detective exposition and gunshots intercut with ledge leaping culprits, stakings, and victims set on fire in the sunlight. It’s a very nineties, busy start crowded with back and forth cop and vampire perspectives. The charred body is enough to start the investigation without the cheap action, and you need a flow chart to figure out who everyone is thanks to the world building and clan intrigue dropped in the dialogue – who belongs to the Gangrel gangs or Brujah mobsters, who are moving in on another Kindred’s territory, which ones abide by the masquerade rules to hide from humans, which clans are loyal to whom. Fortunately, the steamy vampire dinner date with steak very, very rare leads to one drop of blood on the white dress, sneaky scalpels, morgue drawers, and chilling kills. One-on-one conversations and hypnosis add to the tasty and sensuous, invoking the gothic atmosphere amid graveside vigils, moody mirrors, and shaving mishap temptations. In its early hours, however, Kindred: The Embraced is dominated by guests of the week and newly embraced vampires when the main Phantom of the Opera forbidden romance in the third episode “Nightstalker” is a much nicer bittersweet. Uneven A/B plotting and sagging police arguments hamper the superior Kindred stories as vampire killers are held for psychiatric evaluation. There’s a fine line between schizophrenia, blood lust, enchantments, and predators. Saucy shadows reveal our Kindred ills and charms as precarious clan war talk escalates to action halfway through the series – finally turning Kindred: The Embraced where it needs to go with guns drawn, vampire standoffs, and mob strong arming that should have come much sooner than the sixth episode, “The Rise and Fall of Eddie Fiori.” The Kindred front at the Dock Workers Union seems pedestrian and this arc was made to wait as if it were less important than the police plots, but clan peace is bringing down the business for Brian Thompson’s (Cobra) Brujah leader Eddie Fiori. The Brujah clan prefers carnage to reason, and Eddie sets up crimes only to act like the Kindred would be safer if he were in charge. Shapeshifting killers, head choppings, decoys, stabbings, and assassination attempts caught on camera provide enough gothic horror without resorting to more of that intrusive cop drama. A vampire using a private investigator is unnecessary in a blood feud, but it’s superb when the rival ladies get to sit face to face as the Kindred point fingers over who has blackmail photos or is sleeping with a journalist. Council meetings and swords resolve any broken vampire rules – damage the peace and you will pay.

Ironically, the wire tapes, moles, and crazy cops in the second episode of Kindred: The Embraced “Prince of the City” contradicts the pilot movie. You wouldn’t know this show was about vampires as enemies suddenly become friends over a cup of coffee and traitors are discovered or forgotten from one scene to the next. It’s a terrible entry and probably deterred a lot of viewers from continuing with the series week to week. “Live Hard, Die Young, and Leave a Good Looking Corpse” is also a great title, but an anonymous, obnoxious Kindred is embracing groupies and leaving them in the streets, again wasting time when the regular players have so little. Kindred: The Embraced could have opened with a newly turned against her will vampire learning the ropes point of view, but debates that could delve further into such assault parallels somehow end up boring and repetitive here. Police dismissing the monster stole my baby claims in the second to last hour “Bad Moon Rising” are unnecessary, too, as evil and ugly Nosferatu vampires abducting babies for blood sacrifices and Druid rituals are terrifying enough. Our vampires fear this banished Kindred wishing to return the clans to a more primitive sewer dwelling state no masquerade needed. Why demand vampires wear suits and drink blood in wine glasses when they can take it all? Kindred explaining their own rules to a sneering cop every single hour gets old fast compared to female Nosferatu, Carmilla references, chains, and ceremonial blades. “I only drink red” quips and garlic braids in the kitchen winks add to the Kindred: The Embraced mythos – some vampires can feed and go out in the sun while others gain more powers under the full moon. Direct questions about who’s making love or poisoning whom lead to tender moments among humans and vampires waxing on whether it’s them or us who are the real monsters. Suave Kindred fang out for both moonlit showdowns and juicy fireside passion as rivals try to exploit the clan war opportunities while the prince is away at the vineyard in “Cabin in the Woods.” Angry Brujah are determined to put bodies in the empty family cemetery plots while hooting owls, creepy forests, and eerie fog accent fiery flashbacks, attacks in the woods, white wolves, and Kindred truths too fantastic to believe. Past betrayals coming to light and vendettas are revealed, but only the precious healing blood can save the sacrifices and sad choices. Here at its end is where Kindred: The Embraced finds how it should have always been.

Of course, the series should have never strayed from it’s true and unfortunately gone too soon star Mark Frankel (Leon the Pig Farmer) and his Kindred prince Julian Luna. He keeps a tenuous peace between the clans, but Julian’s conflicted about being their judge, jury, and executioner. Despite his slick widow’s peak and cool control, it’s easy to see what gets to him, as Julian continually protects humans and associates with the descendants of his family from before he was embraced. He makes others toe the line about the masquerade yet Julian is sentimental himself, often going with banishment or failed punishments that force more finite, deadly resolutions. Although everyone tells him otherwise, Julian thinks we all can coexist, and he actually might not be that great a leader if his rivals can push his buttons with personal vendettas in hopes of inciting a full out clan war. Fortunately, Julian is nothing if not shrewd. He commands loyalty and respect, orchestrating ploys against his enemies that leave them out in the sunlight and begging to get into his trunk. No matter the pain or peril to himself, Julian does what he has to do to keep the peace above all else. He admits he was a violent henchman in the past, but his loves and human attachments make Julian want to be a better man. Journalist Kelly Rutherford (Melrose Place, but with whom I always confuse Ally Walker from Profiler, and also with Amanda Wyss briefly on Highlander: The Series. Nineties genre blondes, man!) is writing an article about Julian being a mysterious and powerful businessman, but he never gives interviews. He buys the newspaper and makes Caitlin editor, but she doesn’t sit behind the desk, seeking out the hot cases herself and dismissing the spooky connections that lead back to Julian. Caitlin struggles to listen to her conscience when he’s around, foolishly more curious despite how little she knows. The relationship is stagnant at times, never really advancing until the finale, but the chemistry forgives the blinded by love stupidity as truths and tearful revelations make for well done human versus vampire emotions. Stacy Haiduk (SeaQuest DSV) as Toreador leader and Haven club owner Lillie makes loose alliances as needed, using her allure for power, jealousy, and to support the arts. Her club is a sanctuary and Lillie saves a young musician with her embrace, but rock stars aren’t super discreet. She protects the wrong vampires and Julian insists they are no longer lovers but she makes her presence known by spying on Caitlin when not biting, flirting, and having her dalliances, too. Ultimately, Lillie still loves Julian and dislikes when he lies, expecting the truth after what they’ve been through together. This is a complex character – Lillie will stab a person in the back and do it with a smile and we don’t blame her. She deserved more time and Haiduk’s eyes are fittingly enchanting I must say.

Detective C. Thomas Howell (The Outsiders) is top billed on Kindred: The Embraced, but Frank Kohanek is a terribly over the top eighties does forties cum nineties, generic copper. The edgy delivery and angry scene chewing jars with everything else, and point blank the series would have been better without him. Frank starts so full of hate and thinks all vampires are monsters even as he is helped and protected by Kindred, but turns a vampire killer over to Julian because his law can’t handle them. His entire police element is unnecessary since the Ventrue already has Erik King (Dexter) as their inside cop Sonny, but he isn’t featured half as much. Sonny’s reveals happen way too soon, leaving him to ride shotgun with Frank as the stereotypical Black cop partner, and Kate Vernon’s (Falcon Crest) seductive Alexandra also has her melodrama cut short when Kindred: The Embraced sets up her supposedly great romance with Frank but then tears it apart in one episode. Channon Roe (Bio-Dome) as perpetually scowling Gangrel biker Cash doesn’t think being embraced is all it’s cracked up to be, and he’s actually not that good of a bodyguard because he’s always making moon eyes with leather jacket bad girl Brigid Walsh (Army Wives) as Sasha. Although the motorcycle double entendres are cliché, Julian doesn’t want his last human descendant to be embraced, forbidding the romance between Sasha and Cash. She doesn’t believe the hear tell monstrous, but Sasha is quickly caught between the love of one clan and the hate of another. We know what to expect from an episode named “Romeo and Juliet,” but the secret rendezvous, gang killings, and family payback does what it says on the tin in fitting vampire style and shows what Kindred: The Embraced can do. Jeff Kober (China Beach) is immediately excellent as the Nosferatu leader Daedalus, decrepit and living underground but suave in a smoking jacket as he does Julian’s dirty work. Daedalus loyally does the series’ scary with a calm and quiet chill but falls in love with a beautiful singer. The “Nightstalker” hour should have been devoted to him, and we notice his absence in weaker episodes. Kober isn’t made up to be that much of an ogre, but Daedalus is ashamed of his own clan and dabbles in alchemy to enchant and change his appearance, for who would love him? He disposes of a nasty vampire doctor for hurting children and befriends an ill boy who asks if he is a monster. Daedalus wants to embrace him, but it is of course against the rules. It’s another fascinating dilemma that deserved more time on Kindred: The Embraced but c’est la vie.

Although there are no subtitles on the two-disc DVD edition of Kindred: The Embrace and the full-screen picture is flat; unlike today’s overly saturated digital grading, the nighttime scenes aren’t uber dark thanks to practical lighting and ambiance. Some shaky cam zooms and herky-jerky handheld aren’t so smooth now, but contrived police action is brief and choice dolly zoom horrors and great vampire eyes forgive poor fire effects. Picturesque Golden Gate Bridge scenery and San Francisco skylines at dusk contrast charred bodies, morgue toe tags, lunar motifs, and wolf overlays. Lavish wallpapers, draperies, artwork, water fountains, and grand staircases make up for that then luxurious nineties pink marble while creepy underground lairs, candelabras, and scary paintings create an edgy industrial. Red silk, purple satin, crushed velvet, and suave men’s suits provide allure; women’s fashions are both nineties runway sheer and flowing old fashioned with tantalizing slips and camisoles rather than then taboo nudity. Beheadings, skulls in the incinerator, heartbeats, and flexing jugulars provide chills while brooding nineties music invokes a sexy, classy simmer. Stained glass ruins, graves, greenery, and roses create a sensuous, romantic melancholy as Kindred: The Embraced remains a fine mix of modern debonair and gothic mood. That beeper though, with the fake giant screen and super easy to read analog text…lol. With eight different writers and six different directors, obviously, no one thought of having one cohesive narrative back then. Maybe twenty-five years ago cross-medium interactive content was unfathomable, but today such a franchise with books, games, official social media, and RPGs would be massive. Kindred: The Embraced was caught in the middle – a series that didn’t stand on its own but nor did it satisfy the built-in audience of Vampire: The Masquerade. Having gaming source material may have even contributed to viewer confusion as Fox shuffled the airings around and potentially out-of-order episodes seemed lacking in information. Of course, had Kindred: The Embraced stuck to its roots instead of wasting time with nineties cop show intrusions, the vampire love triangles, and intriguing clan wars wouldn’t have been so crowded. Revelations that could take several seasons happen in the first hour, and it’s tough not to shout at the what-ifs and ponder what Kindred: The Embraced could have been. Fortunately, Kindred: The Embrace is easy to marathon, remaining entertaining as a fun introductory piece for younger horror lite audiences as well as vampire fans and nostalgic viewers looking for gothic panache.

Want More Vampires and Gothic Romance?

Dracula (2020)

Gothic Romance Video Review

Mexican and Spanish Vampires

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Chilling Chat: Episode #192 Nicole Givens Kurtz – Slay Book Launch

chillingchat

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

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

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

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

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

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

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

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

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

NTK: Favorite horror movie?

NGK: The Crow.

NTK: Favorite horror TV show?

NGK: The Dark; Lovecraft Country.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Vampire Showdown!

A New York Vampire Showdown! By Kristin Battestella

Big city undead sexy for the adults and hip horror for the whole family face off in this bemusing vampire showdown! Which do you choose?

Vampire in Brooklyn – Lonely vampire Eddie Murphy wants Angela Bassett (Black Panther) as his willing bride in director Wes Craven’s 1995 horror-comedy opening with talk of ancient Nosferatu out of Egypt feasting on those lost in the Bermuda Triangle until vampire hunters bro movie must rely on Murphy’s retreads from Coming to America. Excellent “I would love to have you for dinner” winks, sexy bites, and a simmering score betterught the undead to extinction. Now that’s a backstory I’d like to have seen! Foggy harbors, bloody bodies, and a scary wolf invoke Dracula while black and white televisions, hard language, and R attitudes provide refreshing throwback humor. Leaps in the air, breaking through the windows stunts, an unnecessarily elaborate ship crash set piece, and poor visual effects cement the nineties tone, but the Blacula references, monster transformations, no reflections, and itchy gunshots add tongue in cheek to the vampire fangs, pointy nails, and eerie eyes. That wig, though, wolf! The full moon, day servant ghouls a la Renfield, and a heart ripped out of the chest bring the vampy to the street as horoscope warnings, chases, and gore set off the urban creepy afoot. Viewers expect a camp aside or pithy comeback in every scene, but the witty matches the serious horror thanks to little things like, oh say, an ear found at the crime scene that serves both laughter and atmosphere. Increasing ghoul mishaps, “RIP” license plates on the smooth ride, and “Whatta Man” montages set off the dangerous coffin retrievals, but faith versus snakes and vampire lore in a murder investigation are too unbelievable for our tough cops to consider. Unfortunately, the apparently obligatory Murphy disguises are totally out of place. Awkward preacher fakery ruins the vampire build up before another offensive Italian stunt, and the makeup for both is terrible. The evil is good allure could have been better presented with vampire suave rather than dragging the film down with overlong laugh out loud send ups that make viewers wonder where all this is supposed to be going. Why torment this strong woman via stupid delays when you can just charm her instead? The blood pulsing temptations, supernatural flirtations, nightmare paintings, love triangles, and saucy roommates come to a complete stop as if the accent character dilemmas over eternal life, predatory pursuits, and rough seductions. Horror attacks, candles, and juicy vamp outs lead to serious character decisions and tense one on one revelations before a wild finale with a fitting chuckle. I’d have loved a sequel with ghoul turned cool Julius Jones! This is oddly similar to Craven’s Dracula 2000 in several ways, and there are many flawed elements here – pointless narration, meandering focus between the humor and scares, datedness, and uneven try hard that wants to be both niche for Black audiences yet mainstream hit acceptable. Fortunately, overall the late night fun here is still entertaining; a great re-watch with mature, modern vampire chemistry.

 

Vampires vs. the Bronx – Sirens, flickering neon signs, new construction buyouts by Murnau Properties, and paperwork sealed with fangs and screams open this PG-13 2020 Netflix original. Suave tunes, multiple languages, and cultural blends set off the summer heat, bicycles, and friendly neighborhood bodega, but missing persons fliers, Vlad the Impaler logos, and Polidori references provide ominous. Adult gravitas anchors the youthful ensemble, but the realistic kids aren’t trying hard for the camera. These boys just want to impress the older girls but end up embarrassed by mom wanting to get a babysitter. Narrations and video angles a la Tik Tok balance church bells and scripture quotes, developing the locales and characters well as the youths face local gang pressure to do things they don’t want to do. The new white woman in town insists she isn’t one of those types who will call the cops, and the genre mirror to nature commentary is superb. It’s not the hood the kids fear, but the nasty white folks who’ve come

to suck the life out of town. Vampire vows to wipe them out like vermin are all the more chilling because we recognize the gentrification and racist mentalities. What would the authorities care if vampires are pecking bad guys off the street in the Bronx? A wealthy white man writes a check so no one notices those made to disappear, and such a forgotten, downtrodden place is perfect for vampires who want to stay under cover. Friendships are tested when some want to do good for their community and others are right to be wary. Neighbors disbelieve the hear tell vamps dressed like Hamilton taking out the local thugs while humor alleviates suspenseful close calls – the vampire was just coming in to buy…sanitizer of course. Daytime nest explorations and homages to The Lost Boys accent the self aware genre winks while a bemusing montage establishes the lore herein complete with that cookie they hand out at church that doesn’t taste very good aka the “eucharist” and watching Blade. Single mothers try to keep their kids on the up, but the boys are trespassing for vampire proof and stealing holy water in a Sprite bottle. Skeleton keys, coffins, ringtones rousing the dead – what’s worse then being chased by vampires and caught in the backseat of the cop car? When their mothers come to get them but the vampire didn’t show up on your camera. Fun zooms for youthful actions and watchful eyes match creepy red lights, growls, and hypnotic kills as Haitian history preparations and shootouts don’t stop the undead. The kids take the crucifix off the wall and hope tia doesn’t notice, but the powdered garlic comes in handy and calling the Bronx a shithole is the last straw. Although a little short at under eighty-five minutes with credits, the swift solidarity doesn’t stray from its goal. Rather than underestimate the audience with stereotypical obnoxiousness, this refreshing contemporary take is great for young audiences as well as fans of wise and wise-cracking horror.

 

For More Vampires, Visit:

All Things Dracula Video Review

Summer Vampires

Only Lovers Left Alive

Mexican and Spanish Vampires

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: Five Black Vampire Myths

While the word “vampire” usually conjures images of foggy European forests and crumbling gothic castles, vampire legends don’t start and end with Dracula. Blood-sucking monsters exist in the shadows of cultures all over the world.

Today, I’ll introduce you to five vampires from black cultures.

Impundulu

From the Western Cape region of Africa, comes the impundulu. This creature takes the form of a beautiful woman and serves as the familiar of a witch, doing her bidding (and potentially becoming her lover). But the impundulu has a voracious appetite for blood and if the witch fails to keep her fed, she’s just as likely to turn on her mistress.

Sasabonsam

The sasabonsam lives in the forests of Togo and Ghana, waiting for unwary hunters or travelers to pass underneath. When they do, the sasabonsam scoops them up and takes them into the canopy to feast. The sasabonsam looks like a human with one distinct difference: it has short, stubby arms that turn into monstrous, batlike wings. With a wingspan of twenty feet, it’s truly a terrifying sight, even before it eats you.

Adze

From southern Togo comes the adze. The adze’s favorite food is children—specifically their hearts, livers, and blood. Normally, this creature takes the form of a firefly, sneaking into homes to suck blood, but when it’s captured, it transforms into a hunchbacked figure, black as ink, with sharp talons.

Obayifo

The Obayifo of West Africa is considered both a vampire and a type of witch. While traveling at night, it emits a bright green phosphorescent light. Like the adze, the Obayifo’s favorite food is the blood of children. Legend says that you can tell someone is an Obayifo by their shifty eyes and obsession with food.

Soucouyant

The soucouyant hails from the Caribbean islands. She is a shape-shifting, blood-sucking hag. She looks like an old woman during the day, but at night transforms into a ball of fire to find her victims. Interestingly, the soucouyant shares some similarities with vampires from European folklore: 1) if her victims don’t die, they become a soucouyant themselves and 2) she can be trapped by scattering rice on the ground, forcing her to pick the grains up piece by piece.

Want to discover even more vampire myths? Check out my previous post: Five Blood Drinking Monster Myths from Around the World

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: The Strain Season 2 and 3

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

by Kristin Battestella

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mexican and Spanish Vampires, Oh My!  By Kristin Battestella

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

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

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

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

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

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

For More Vampires, Visit:

Dracula 2020

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Chilling Chat: Authors of SLAY – L. Marie Wood

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

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

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

LMW: Thank you so much for having me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LMW: Definitely Chris Sarandon. He was sooooo smooth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So… I might have to say no…?

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

NTK: What about favorite horror author?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Kirsten Imani Kasai, Author of The House of Erzulie

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

– R. J. Joseph, author of Monstrous Domesticities

Book Review: SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire

Edited by Nicole Givens Kurtz

Published by Mocha Memoirs Press

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

Desiccant by Craig Laurance Gidney

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

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

Love Hangover by Sheree Renée Thomas

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

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

The Retiree by Steven Van Patten

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

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

The Dance by L. Marie Woods

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

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

A Clink of Crystal Glasses Heart by LH Moore

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

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

Diary of a Mad Black Vampire by Dicey Grenor

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

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

The Return of the OV by Jeff Carroll

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

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

The Last Vampire Huntress by Alicia McCalla

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

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

Gritty Corners by Jessica Cage

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

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

Shadow of Violence by Balogun Ojetade

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

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

‘Til Death by Lynette S. Hoag

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

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

Encounters by K. R. S. McEntire

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

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

Unfleamed by Penelope Flynn

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

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

Beautiful Monsters by Valjeanne Jeffers

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

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

Frostbite Delizhia D. Jenkins

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

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

Di Conjuring Nectar of Di Blood by Kai Leakes

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

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

Snake Hill Blues by John Linwood Grant

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

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

Ujima by Alledria Hurt

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

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

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

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

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

His Destroyer by Samantha Bryant

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

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

Quadrille by Colin Cloud Dance

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

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

Asi’s Horror and Delight by Sumiko Saulson

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

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

In Egypt’s Shadows by Vonnie Winslow Crist

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

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

Rampage by Miranda J. Riley

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

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

No God but Hunger Steve Van Samson

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

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

Bloodline by Milton J. Davis

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

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

Message in a Vessel by V.G. Harrison

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

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

Blood Saviors by Michele Tracy Berger

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

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

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

Chilling Chat Special: Authors of SLAY – Craig Laurance Gidney

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

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

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

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

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

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

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

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

CLG: The Haunting of Hill House.

NTK: Favorite horror movie?

CLG: The Exorcist.

NTK: Favorite horror TV show?

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

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

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

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

CLG: I was invited by Nicole.

NTK: What inspires your writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chilling Chat Special: Authors of SLAY – Sumiko Saulson

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

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

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

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

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

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

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

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

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

NTK: Favorite horror movie? 

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

NTK: Favorite horror TV show? 

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

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

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

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

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

NTK: What inspires your writing? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Chilling Chat Special: Authors of SLAY – LH Moore

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

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

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

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

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

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

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

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

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

NTK: Favorite horror movie?

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

NTK: Favorite horror TV show?

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

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

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

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

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

NTK: What inspires your writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addicts, you can find LH on Twitter and Instagram.

 

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

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

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

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

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

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

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

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

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

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

NTK: Favorite horror movie?

NGK: The Crow.

NTK: Favorite horror TV show?

NGK: The Dark; Lovecraft Country.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chilling Chat Special: Authors of SLAY – Steven Van Patten

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

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

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

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

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

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

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

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

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

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

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel? 

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

NTK: Favorite horror movie?

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

NTK: Favorite horror TV show?

SVP: I love the anthology stuff like Tales from The Darkside, and Creepshow, but NBC is responsible for a great yet shortlived Dracula series and well as their take on Hannibal. I am currently falling in love with Lovecraft Country.

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

SVP: Well, I had already been doing the epic vampire thing in my Brookwater’s Curse series. One day, I got it in my head to do something a little more earthy. That’s when I came up with the grumpy old black man who is a retired monster killer angle. So it’s fun, but it’s also an exploration into how we don’t always recognize how heroic our parents really are.

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

SVP: Truth is, I had already written this and had been meaning to shop it. When you’re out here playing the short story game between novels, you always have a few extra bullets in the chamber on the off chance someone asks, “hey do you have x,y, and z handy?” Then you can just say yes. I try to stay prepared.

NTK: What inspires your writing?

SVP: When I started out, my mission statement was “I must create strong, fully developed POC characters for the horror genre.” That hasn’t changed, per se. I think the difference now is that I’m actually having fun now because I’m stronger, if that makes any sense. Whereas my focus was lasered-aimed on one thing, now I have all sorts of ideas coming to me.

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

SVP: That kind of depends. I usually have a game plan going in, and that game plan gets thrown out the window midway. The story ends up needing more. The character ends up needing more. I end up needing more.

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

SVP: Well, the thing I did wrong was taking too long to find everybody! Outside of a couple of debates about Lovecraft’s racism, it has been tremendous for me to be fully accepted into the culture. Currently, most of my commiseration is courtesy of the NY chapter of the HWA. And I love every one of them. And I wish I was able to spend more time with them, as well as several of the people in this anthology, but the day job, (I also stage-manage a variety of TV shows) keeps me pinned down. I miss a lot of conventions and other things because of that. I would love to see more of everyone!

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

SVP: As I answer you, I am currently in Macon, Georgia working on a Game Show. When I am done with that, I am fully committed to one more vampire novel, (Brookwater’s Curse 4), One last serial killer novel, (Killer Genius 3), and two more sequels to Hell At The Way Station, the anthology I co-wrote with Marc Abbott. There will also be more short stories, more Black History stuff like the “Burning of Black Wall Street” episode I did for the Youtube Channel Extra Credit, and even some comedic stuff. I am going to be very busy. People can keep up with me by finding me on social media or visiting my website.

Addicts, Steven uses his full name on Facebook but goes by @svpthinks on Twitter and Instagram

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: Five Blood Drinking Monster Myths from Around the World

There’s something about blood that captures the horror imagination. Maybe it’s the rich, red hue. Maybe it’s the way it oozes and flows. Or maybe it’s simply the fact that we need it to survive. No matter the reason, cultures all over the world recognize the importance of blood and consequently have legends about the witches, demons, and monsters that steal it. It’s time to think beyond the Vampire.

Peuchen – Chile

The Peuchen is a shape-shifting creature from the legends of the Mapuche people. Commonly, it’s described as a giant serpent. This snake can fly and makes whistling sounds as it travels through the air. The gaze of the Peuchen is said to paralyze the victim, allowing the snake to coil around them, pierce their neck with its fangs, and drain them of blood.

Baobhan Sith – Scottish Highlands

The baobhan sith are said to be beautiful women who lure young men to their deaths by inviting them to dance. They may hunt in packs. Once the men they seduce have their guards down, the baobhan sith puncture their necks with their fingernails and drain them of blood. Legend states that to stop one of these creatures, you must build a mound of stones over their graves to prevent them from rising.

Asanbosam – West Africa

The Ashanti people of Ghana tell of the Asanbosam, a creature that lives in the canopy of the rain forests. The Asanbosam is hairy, with blood-shot eyes and iron teeth. Their long, dangling legs end in sharp iron hooks. The Asanbosam uses these hooks to grab victims that pass underneath and drag them into the trees. If you travel through the forests of Ghana, you may hear the metallic sound of the creature sharpening its hooks.

Soucouyant – Caribbean Islands

The soucouyant appears in many places throughout the Caribbean. She appears as an old woman but strips off her skin at night to prowl for victims in the form of a fireball. She sucks the blood from sleeping people. If she takes too much, the victim may die and the soucouyant will take her skin for herself. Similar to many European myths, if the soucouyant comes across spilled rice, they will feel compelled to gather every grain.

Penanggalan – Malaysia

The Penanggalan appears as a beautiful woman by day, but by night, she swoops through the skies as a disembodied head and dangling entrails. The penanggalan seeks out women in labor. When the child is born, she swoops into the room to drink the afterbirth and scoops the baby up with her long tongue. Those who fall victim to the penanggalan waste away slowly.

Do you have a favorite myth about blood sucking fiends? Or have you had a spooky encounter? Let us know in the comments!

Kbatz Kraft: Goth Parasol Upgrade

Last year I picked up an old cane umbrella at the Salvation Army Thrift Store for half the $1 sticker price. Yes, fifty cents! Though functioning, this decades-old umbrella feels delicate. Areas on the black canvas are faded and there are a few pinprick holes in the fabric. However, with the right details, this for pennies find can become the perfect goth parasol!

While the honey-colored wood handle and point are superior to modern plastic, the color doesn’t match any of my summer straw hats and bags. Fortunately, a day’s work with 80 grit sandpaper, a generous coat of Jacobean stain, and a semi-gloss topcoat create a fresh, dark finish. Rather than a recognizable bamboo or cherry, this wood smelled sweet when sanded – perhaps a good old hickory. For walking, this all-black exterior cane is sophisticated, but I left the interior stem its original warm wood color. When opened, the vintage shaft advertises old fashioned craftsmanship compared to cold contemporary metal, and inside the canopy where the notch locks there’s a piece of tape with the previous owner’s name. Instead of destroying such unexpected history, I stuck the price tag next to it, embracing a fifty-cent, fifty-year conversation piece with a story to tell. Thanks, Joseph!

After the rough stuff comes the expected parasol lace. Gathered straight lace from that three dollar cumbersome clearance roll last seen on my Victorian Bonnet became a delicious flounce sewn around the end point easily enough, but this was not going to become multiple tiers of bridal shower ruffles or baby bows and cutesy swag. More time-consuming lace both hand-gathered and machine sewed on a black ribbon was glued down to cover the faded canvas edge – just enough romanticism without being twee or too heavy. Although I couldn’t do much about the overall faded fabric, those pinprick holes could be disguised with sequin ribbon from my stash. Trails of sequins were glued over the imperfections, which when open, reflect some sunshine for a final ooh la la. Did I forget to mention this has a cute little button closure instead of lame modern Velcro? Oh yes!

With on hand craft supplies, $4 stain, and sandpaper found in the garage, for under $12 I have a priceless looking parasol with history and craftsmanship that can’t be found in those tiny yet expensive and not made to last Halloween knockoffs. Certainly, there are much more involved ways to do a complete parasol retrofit, but with the right affordable materials and glam vision, anyone can ritz up an umbrella for a sunny day in dark times. The most difficult thing here was waiting on fair weather to work outdoors. I’m too superstitious!

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts or Frightening Flix including:

Gothic Thrift Alterations

Upgrading Masquerade Masks

Gothic Romance Video Review

For more detailed Project Photos, Follow Kbatz Krafts on Facebook! 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kbatzkrafts/

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

Review by Daphne Strasert

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

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

Revenge of the Vampir King

Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess

Abduction of Two Rulers

Savagery of the Rebel King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: All Things Dracula Video Review

Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz compares and contrasts Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and then some more Draculas, Nosferatus, and television to Bram Stoker’s original 1897 novel. Penny Dreadful, Hammer Horror, Gerard Butler, Francis Ford Coppola and Netflix’s recent Dracula series all have a moment here alongside Dracula: Dead and Loving It because why the heck not?

 

 

Read all the reviews mentioned in our Dracula conversation including:

Penny Dreadful Season 3

Dracula (2013)

Dracula 2000

Dracula 1931

Dracula (Spanish Version)

Nosferatu

Horror of Dracula

Brides of Dracula

Dracula Has Rise from the Grave

Dracula A.D. 1972

Count Dracula (1977)

Dracula (1979)

Dan Curtis’ Dracula

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Dracula: Dead and Loving It

 

Thank you for being part of Horror Addicts.net and enjoying our video, podcast, and media coverage!

 

Our Horror Addicts.net Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/horroraddicts.net

Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference: http://horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net/

Tell Kbatz what you’d like to see with our Online Survey: https://forms.gle/3CE4LjFTLLxxyedK6

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kbatzkrafts/

 

 

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Dracula (2020)

Netflix’s New Dracula is Downright Frustrating to Watch.

by Kristin Battestella

Initially, I was excited for the BBC/Netlfix 2020 co-production of Dracula featuring Claes Bang (The Square) as the infamous Transylvania count terrorizing lawyer Jonathan Harker (John Heffernan) before sailing to England on the subsequently cursed Demeter. Unorthodox nun Agatha Van Helsing (Dolly Wells) tests all the legendary vampire elements in a cat and mouse battle against Dracula. His survival into the twenty-first century spells doom for fun-loving Lucy Westerna (Lydia West), and unfortunately, the poorly paced, uneven back and forth between the Bram Stoker source and intrusive contemporary changes make for some terribly torturous viewing.

The Rules of the Beast” opens with annoying extras already calling attention to themselves as nuns surprisingly blunt about faith or the lack thereof try to make sense of this Mr. Harker and his monstrous experience. Beginning with the convent rescued is an interesting place to recap the preceding horror, so there’s no need for weird questions on whether Harker had sex with Dracula. Such sensationalism underestimates vampire fans familiar with the tale and lures new audiences with the wrong notes. After the opening credits, snowy Carpathian prayers, crosses, and howling wolves restart the story with the more recognizable coachmen creepy and ominous castle. The full moon, booming door knocker, and fluttering bats build toward famous introductory quotes as Carfax Abbey paperwork and tutoring in English etiquette force Harker to stay with Dracula. Sadly, the actors don’t have much room thanks to the orchestrated frame – the convent interrogation intrudes on the castle tension while extra zooms or hisses over blood and broken mirrors point out the obvious. Rather than letting the audience enjoy the eerie for themselves, the harping voiceover undercuts any ominous with “So it struck you as strange? And so your search continued. Tell us.” minutia. The womanly phantoms and gothic explorations take a backseat as we’re told how Dracula gets younger and Harker grows gruesome – ruining the sinister irony by giving away gory discoveries, bodily contortions, and spinning heads. Viewers anticipate the funhouse horror shocks and laugh as the undead leap out at the screaming Harker before another monologue ruins the quiet reveal of Dracula’s crypt. Spinning panoramas and intercut, fast-talking plans over-edit Dracula in that British heist movie or clever case closed Sherlock tone. Dollies into the mouth of the biting vampire are special effects for the audience instead of painful for the victim, and everything stalls for “You were about to explain how you escaped from the castle.” redundancy. It takes ten minutes to explain how sunlight reflected from a cross burns the vampire as if it’s some shocking revelation, but at least the nuns are ready with stakes when Dracula begs for entry at their gate with severed heads and convent slaughter tacked on in the final fifteen minutes.

Crawling hands, ship-bound nightmares, and onscreen notations introduce the captain, crew, and passengers of the Demeter in “Blood Vessel” alongside ominous cargo boxes, buried alive scratches, and dead deckhands. However onscreen chess parallels, unfortunately, fall prey to typical attractions between Dracula and our female Van Helsing. Characters wax on how books must immediately engage the audience and today’s horror loves a frame narrative, yet editors would ditch the prologues, bookends, and flashbacks. Once again, the episode restarts with one and all coming aboard – including Dracula and a Goodfellas freeze-frame to point everything out for the audience. Despite the Demeter disturbia, the back and forth setting is ambiguous, and flashbacks again disrupt the point of view. Humorous questions about going to the dining room when one doesn’t eat food fall flat, and intriguing passenger opportunities go unexplored in favor of baiting homosexual mixed signals. Dracula roughly attacks men from behind before wiping the blood from his mouth with the closeted newlywed’s napkin. Bram Stoker already wrote of the bite as sex metaphor, so treating the vampire suckling, flirtatious nods, and knee squeezes as a disease to demonize gay men comes off wrong. If this Dracula was going to address more sexual topics, it should have done so properly instead of toying with both characters and viewers. The turbulent ship is a superb locale, yet there’s no sense of space. Is Dracula attacking people and oozing blood in the crowded dining room or leaving bodies above deck in front of everybody? The disjointed editing doesn’t disguise the muddled scene, for key pieces of action that should be shown in real-time are withheld for later spooky flashes. Lackadaisical live-tweeting style voiceovers with a lot of “I don’t understand” and “but I assumed” interfere with the locked cabins, unseen travelers, and tantalizing murder mystery. Searching the ship, suspect evidence, and pointing fingers on who can’t be trusted are delayed for mind games and let downs from the first episode nonsensically tossed in here. Dracula toys with the crimes so he can solve the case with winks on what a great detective he is, detracting from Van Helsing’s book quotes and passenger tensions. At first, it seems so cool to see Dracula up to no good aboard the Demeter, but once the episode backs itself into a corner, one almost wishes we had just seen the passengers on the vampire deduction themselves.

Contrived answers as to how Dracula got out of his watery grave in “The Dark Compass” aren’t shrewd, just gimmicky – pulling the rug out from under viewers with chopped up, non-linear storytelling. After Dracula labors for over two hours on adapting the beginning of the novel – albeit with new intrusions – the series up and decides to move into the present, restarting again with trailer park terrors and in world inexplicable. The vignette style disarray encourages audiences to half pay attention to fast-moving scares with no time to ask questions as the beach raid seriously gives way to Dracula laughing at technology and playing with cameras. Underwater preservation, diving teams, accidental fresh blood revivals, and science briefings studying Dracula are treated as less important than his being down with the lingo or telling doctors his blood connections are like downloading memories. Dracula has a grotesque reflection showing his age, police bulldoze a house so he won’t have a roof over his head during the day, and seeing inside the bite reveals a unique abstract limbo. Poisoned blood makes him vomit and this vampire research foundation was founded by Mina Murray in Jonathan Harker’s name, but any intriguing background or choice horror gets dropped for deadpans like Dracula wondering why his jailers gave him a toilet and “Who gave him the wi-fi password?!” Phones, photos, and raves introduce viewers to a whole new set of characters, and where Dracula painfully dragged out earlier episodes, now the cemeteries, supernatural, and undead move at lightning speed. Problematic cancerous blood, suspect scientific organizations, and ill characters drinking the vampire samples stall thanks to sassy emails from Dracula read as a voiceover – avoiding one one one confrontations for glossed over montages skipping to three months later where there’s no longer any pretense at this being a gothic novel adaptation. Existential wordy on flavor, being in love with death, and suggestions that Dracula has lived so long simply because he is a coward afraid to die are thrown at the screen in the final fifteen minutes alongside Hammer knock offs and a stake through the heart dusting ripped right from Buffy. The “Children of the night…” quote finally comes in a fascinating sequence about hearing the still conscious dead knocking in their tombs, but the lack of paranormal follow through, forgotten up to no good foundation, and barely-there medical crisis are infuriating when this science meets occult agency versus new to the millennium Dracula could have been a series in itself.

It’s a lot to ask for the audience to like an unlikable protagonist with no redeeming qualities thanks to glowing eyes, gross nails, and tasty babies in bags. Claes Bang’s Count is white-haired before being re-invigorated as a well-spoken Englishman – he has the gravitas in serious moments inspired by the novel, but the jolly good clever retorts replace any menace. Dracula need not explain anything, yet our mustache twisting, almost camp villain wastes time mansplaining into the new century even as sad crescendos suggest we should be sympathetic to his crocodile tears. His powers are more cinematic convenience than supernatural, and the glib gets old fast as Dracula complains about exercise while he swipes left for his latest food delivery hook-up. Bang deserved to have a faithful adaptation to sink his teeth into, but the script has the character patting himself on the back before giving up just because the page says so. It’s also obvious Dolly Wells (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) is our Van Helsing when we see her. Using the Stoker text as she explains the undead and waxes on having plans not faith when dealing with those denied salvation are strong enough characterizations, yet Dracula sacrifices her action with too much reflective talking. Agatha doesn’t believe in God but stays in their loveless marriage for the roof over her head, but her serious study is hampered by super sassy bordering on ridiculous. She stands face to face goading Dracula over his invitation status when she isn’t sure of the no vampire entry rules, and their debates are played for temptation. Agatha admires and encourages Dracula, but her lack of undead information leads to deadly consequences. How can she be both bungling sardonic and grandstanding with not today, Satan speeches? It’s not seeing the actors acting per se, but the scene-chewing intrusions are too apparent as Agatha tells Dracula to a suckle boy before her great-great-grand niece Zoe swaps hemoglobin with him for some cryptic ancestral conversations – which could have been awesome if they weren’t tacked on in the last twenty minutes. Despite spending the first episode with John Heffernan’s (Dickensian) pasty, deformed, and desperate Jonathan Harker in an unnecessarily drawn out account, we never really know the character because so much of his development is given to others. His outcome is also significantly different than in the novel, and Morfydd Clark (The Man Who Invented Christmas) is surprisingly almost non-existent as his fiancee Mina Murray. Glittery Lucy Westerna loves selfies and making the boys jealous, but I wish we saw Lydia Wells (Years and Years) in Victorian frocks instead of modern cool and cliché party girl garb. Viewers are tossed into her pretty snobbery before skipping to her down low Dracula feedings, and the pointless cremation screams versus skin-deep beauty wears thin fast. Writer and producer Mark Gatiss (Coriolanus) as Dracula’s lawyer Frank Renfield Skypes with the Count over his human rights being violated. This awkward self-insert calls attention to itself with fast-talking legalese tut-tuts. Renfield asks questions the viewer has, but the answers should be in the story, not told by the writer onscreen.

Steeple silhouettes and gray skies open Dracula with gothic flavor, but sweeping CGI panoramas and bugs squashing against the fourth wall are irritating when we’re here for the flickering torches, winding staircase, stone corridors, and heavy drapes of Dracula’s castle. Echoes and shadows accent the candles, lanterns, portraits, creaking doors, and scratching at the window as boxes of dirt, rats, and undead adds grossness. Hidden laboratories and crosses would suggest medieval hints, but the snarling at the camera is lame and the should be disturbing vampire baby is as laughable as that delicious lizard puppet from the original V. Raw, furry black wolf transformations are much better thanks to birthing contortions, blood, moist oozing, and nudity. Likewise, the congested, ship bound Demeter scenery is superb with all the proper maritime mood, moonlit seas, foggy isolation, and claustrophobic horror tension before fiery explosions and underwater spooky. The present, however, is extremely colorful – purple nightlife, teal laboratories, dreamy red visions, and jarring pink filters. Enchanting abbey ruins contrast the high tech prison rotating toward sunlight to keep the vampire in his place, and the organization’s Victorian roots could imply a steampunk mix with the modern technology, but any older aesthetic is sadly dropped for rapid shutter clicks, strobe headaches, and onscreen text speak. YOLO! For once I’m somewhat timely on reviewing a new series – rushed to beat spoilers because social media compatriots were already talking about not finishing the First Episode here. Unlike Sharpe and Wallander, the three ninety-minute television movie-style episode season does not work for Dracula. Maybe this format is good for a Netflix binge where we just let the whole smorgasbord play, but if Gatiss and co-creator Steven Moffat (Doctor Who) had designed Dracula as six forty-five minute episodes instead of lumping everything together, it would have helped heaps in organizing the story between adapting segments from the page and adding new material or time jumps. Rumors suggest Netflix tracks viewing duration rather than series completion, so maybe bowing out after the initial ninety minutes goes further in their algorithms than if audiences had tuned out after a forty-five-minute start? The bang for instant viewing buck shows in the mess onscreen, and the only thing that could have made this worse was if it had actually been named Dracula 2020.

Narrative interference and deviations from the novel make this Dracula terribly frustrating to watch. This is the first time I’ve felt reviewing was an obligated chore, and at times, I had to take a pause because I was so aggravated. The Transylvania start and Demeter ride imply a novel retelling, but the convent shenanigans and Van Helsing ladies past or present suggest new adventures. Attempting both in a back and forth, short attention span frame only insults audiences looking for new vampire spins, experienced horror viewers, and teachers who can tell when the student has only read the first few chapters of the assigned book and just makes up the rest. Dracula isn’t scary – the Netflix and chill model is designed to make us awe at something creepy now and again, but the try-hard gore is dang common with little sense of dread. There’s so much potential for a faithful book interpretation as well as new vampire direction, but this transparent seemingly cool ultimately ends up being the same old horror same old and Dracula wastes most of its time on nonsensical absurdities.

I feel so scathing but I started with fourteen pages of complaints and made it down to six so I guess that’s an improvement? ¯\_()_/¯

For More Vampires, revisit:

Top Horror Television

Gothic Romance Video Review

Dark Shadows Video Review

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Top Horror Television!

 

Say hello to our favorite HorrorAddicts.net 10iversary television blogs!

 

The Addams Family 1 2

Buffy The Vampire Slayer 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Dark Shadows Video Primer

The Frankenstein Chronicles

Friday the 13th The Series 1 2 3

The Munsters 1 2

Penny Dreadful 1 2 3

Tales from the Crypt 1 2 3

Tales from the Darkside 1 2 3

Thriller 1 2

 

10iversary Chilling Chat with Mike Bennett

10IVERSARYMike Bennett is the five-time Parsec Award-winning author of Underwood and Flinch, Blood and Smoke, Hall of Mirrors, and One Among the Sleepless. He lives in Wexford, Ireland. Mike can be heard on Season 1 Episode 2 and Season 1 Episode 15, as well as his cameos on GothHaus.Mike Bennett

1.)    How old were you when you first became interested in horror?

Very young. I had a friend when I was about eight or nine whose parents let him stay up with his older sisters to watch horror movies on TV on Saturday nights, and he’d tell me all about them. I used to drive my parents nuts begging to be allowed to stay up, too, but they never relented (and quite right, too). This meant that these horror movies I was hearing about existed only in my imagination. I don’t know, maybe those horrific imaginings had more of an effect on me than being allowed to stay up to see the movies themselves would have. Either way, when my grandmother died and her old black and white portable TV found its way into my bedroom, I finally got to see the forbidden fruits for myself – and I loved them all.

2.) Could you tell the Addicts a little about Underwood and Flinch?

It’s a free podcast novel that became a saga. It’s won 3 Parsec Awards (2 for Underwood and Flinch as best novel and one for Blood and Smoke as best novella). Here’s the book blurb:

All David Flinch ever wanted was a normal life. But when you’re a member of the Flinch family, normal has never been easy.
For hundreds of years, the eldest-born male of each generation of the Flinch family has been servant and guardian to the vampire, Lord Underwood.
While the Flinches have changed through the generations, Underwood has remained eternal. David had hoped to be spared the horror of serving his family’s lord and master, but when he is summoned to the Flinch home in Spain by his dying older brother, he knows his luck has run out.
After fifty years of slumber, Underwood is to be resurrected from the grave in a ritual of human sacrifice, and David, by right of succession, is to be his resurrector. But there is another Flinch, one who craves the role of guardian to the vampire: David’s sister, Lydia. It’s a job she means to have, even if it means making David’s the first blood shed in this new age of Underwood and Flinch.

3.) How did you feel about winning Best in Blood?

Honoured and delighted, as anyone does when winning something that listeners have voted for.

4.)    What is your favorite kind of horror? (i.e. Classic, Splatterpunk, Slasher, Gothic, etc.)

I like it all. I can’t pick a favourite.

5.)    What is your favorite horror novel?

Hard to say, but I can certainly identify the one that had the biggest impact on me: James Herbert’s The Rats back in 1977. I was 12.

6.)    What is your favorite horror TV show?

The 1979 mini-series of Salem’s Lot.

7.)    What is your favorite horror movie?

For many years I would have said Dawn of the Dead (1978). Nowadays I’ll probably say Dawn of the Dead (2004).

8.)    How did you first become involved with HorrorAddicts.net?

When Emerian interviewed me for the podcast ten years ago.

9.)    What is your favorite part of the blog? (i.e. Book Reviews, Movie Reviews, Interviews, Game Reviews, Free Fiction, Crafting, etc.)

Book and movie reviews.

10.)  What would you like to see on the HorrorAddicts.net Blog in the future?

More of the same 🙂

Addicts, you can find more about Underwood and Flinch here.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Our Favorite Horror Movie Reviews!

 

Follow these links to reminisce with our HorrorAddicts.net Anniversary look at some of our Favorite Frightening Flix Reviews! 

Black Death

Brimstone

Bone Tomahawk

Crimson Peak

Eden Lake

The Exorcist

House of Usher

Only Lovers Left Alive

Phantom of the Opera (2004)

The Wicker Man (1973)

 

 

Book Review : Whisper Music (The Morrigan Canticles) by JBToner

Review by Jason Morrison

What can I say about Whisper Music  ( The Morrigan Canticles)? This book had everything you could ever enjoy:  buddy cops, ancient vampires, and a war against the forces of evil.

The book opens when Danyeala Morrigan, a young vampire given vastly superior powers by one of the last original vampires, is in an epic battle with the Virgin Mary, yes, the Virgin Mary, mother of Christ.

When Danyeala tastes the blood of Mary, she gains new powers and soon after begins to develop a change of heart, leading her into contact with two Boston cops. One is detective Harry Blake, the other a rookie detective named Danny Mcardle. The two are investigating a homicide victim whose spine was ripped out of his body. Soon after detective Blake and Danyeala cross paths, Blake finds out that vampires are real and a group of vampire hunters run by the Vatican, joins the story.

I really enjoyed this novel, one of my favorite things was the interaction between Blake and Mcardle, one being the older grizzled cop and the other a light-hearted jokester.

The author does a great job of describing scenes in wonderful detail, like how Danyeala must decide whether to embrace her vampire nature fully, or piece her humanity back together and salvage whatever good she has left in her. If you are not afraid of hardcore violence, lots of cursing, and non-sex sexuality then I would recommend this novel to you.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Jason Morrison is a first time reviewer for HorrorAddicts.net.

Chilling Chat with Best in Blood Winner Tara Vanflower

chillingchat

Tara Vanflower is a vocalist whose music has been described as ambient, experimental, and darkwave. In October 1994 she became a vocalist for darkwave outfit Lycia. She married fellow band member Mike VanPortfleet.

Her debut solo album, This Womb Like Liquid Honey, was released in 1999. This was binb2018followed in 2005 with My Little Fire-Filled Heart. Vanflower appeared on the Type O Negative song “Halloween in Heaven” off their 2007 album, Dead Again.
She has also appeared with side projects Black Happy Day with Timothy Renner, Secondary Nerve with Daniele Serra and numerous collaborations including Oneiroid Psychosis, Dirge, Numina, The Unquiet Void, Falling You and Methadrone.

The majority of her creative energy is spent these days writing. She is the author of Lives of Ilya, and Violent Violet and its sequels.

NTK: Welcome back to Chilling Chat, Tara! Thank you for joining me today. How does it feel to be named “Best in Blood?”

TV: Honestly, it’s bizarre to me. I’m so isolated as far as the “writing world” goes so I don’t know much about what goes on with anything. I was blown away when I got the call because I’m so not used to getting any attention for writing.

NTK: Violent Violet is pretty awesome. Could you tell the Addicts more about it and what made it so special?

TV: I think for me it’s because Violet’s world is so relatable. I think we’ve all either had friends like her and her friends, or we are her and her friends. At least those of us who grew up on the fringe. I do my best to describe her world in detail so the reader can see it in their mind like a movie. The characters are real to me so I just let them map their own course and I do my best to describe where they go and where they’re feeling. Despite the fact that the supernatural is involved I try to show realistic reactions to the sometimes outlandish situations she finds herself in. I try to show the humor, the fears, sorrow, lusts etc. One thing that always bothered me about any type of supernatural book, film, etc. is people don’t ask the questions I think most of us would ask. A lot of times there’s no personal struggle with accepting things or realistic responses to trauma and abuse and I tried to be real about that. I think these characters are real enough that you don’t want to stop hanging out with them when their bookends, which is exactly why I have continued to write their stories and have added more characters and a broader scope as the books continue. What started out as a girl and her small group of friends in a small town is now a catalog of characters and alt dimensions.

NTK: Are you currently working on the sequel? Or has it already been completed?

TV: I just released the 5th book “Violet Blood.” There is so much more to do with her next book that I kind of need to redirect myself elsewhere for a bit to let her work things out. I’m currently working on a wolf book with some new wolves, as well as some returning friends.

NTK: Wow! I didn’t realize the series had moved so far along! Do you find it easier to write sequels or more difficult? It sounds like you won’t be running out of ideas anytime soon.

TV: I legit just kind of shocked myself the other day by counting how many books I’ve actually released at this point. I’m so chill about the whole process that I don’t really think a ton about it. I don’t know if it’s because of years of releasing music and being used to releasing things or what, but yeah, It’s bizarre.

I absolutely love the recurring cast of characters. When they show up in books I don’t even plan for them to show up in it always brings a smile to my face because I actually miss these people when I don’t get to spend time with them. Writing Violet books is difficult because now I have to line up timelines with all the various characters and there’s so many storylines going on simultaneously that it’s a bit like putting a puzzle together. I put off writing Violet Blood for so long for just that reason… knowing where it was going in a vague way I knew it was daunting. The next Violet book is going to be even more challenging because the characters are all going to be in one place at the same time and that’s just a lot to map out to do it properly. I will probably end up having to break the story up in order to do each person justice. I’m excited about it though. My problem is lack of writing time. If only I could do away with my pesky day job or get adopted by the Kardashians.

NTK: (Laughs.) Tell us about this new wolf book. Who are the main characters and when do you expect it to come out?

TV: I’m actually almost done with this book for the first go through, but I put it off recently because I felt like I needed to let them figure out what the hell is going on in their life. (Laughs.) It’s called Black Wolf Manor, at least for the time being, and it’s related to The Wulric which I released a while back. It’s basically about a woman who is getting older and she’s alone and focused on her work and an acquaintance from her childhood shows back up in town whom she becomes friends with and shenanigans ensue. I’m terrible at giving outlines.

I also always drag my feet towards the end of a book because I think I subconsciously don’t want to stop hanging out with the characters.

Oh, and the main characters names are Olive and Devin. (Laughs.)

NTK: Sounds exciting! Thank you for chatting with me! You’re a wonderful guest as always!

TV: Thanks so much for caring about my writing and THANK YOU SO MUCH for the honor of Best in Blood!!!!

Addicts, you can find Tara on Instagram.

Also, see her Chilling Chat Interview and listen to her feature episode, HorrorAddicts.net Episode 151.

 

 

Chilling Chat: Episode 174 | Elliot Thorpe

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Elliot Thorpe is a freelance writer. He scripted Doctor Who–Cryptobiosis (2005) and in 2013 wrote his first novel Cold Runs the Blood. He has contributions in Seasons of War Elliot Thorpe(2015), The Extraordinary Lives of People Who Never Existed (2015), Grave Matters (2015), Doctor Who–A Time Lord for Change (2016) and The Librarian (2017). 2018 saw the publication of Dean Martin–Recollections by Bernard H. Thorpe and Elliot Thorpe. Elliot writes for Search Magazine and redshirtsalwaysdie.com. A new, fully-revised edition of Cold Runs the Blood from Fossa Books is available now.

Elliot is a consummate gentleman and a remarkable writer. We spoke of inspiration, characterizations, and Dr. Who.

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

ET: Lovely to be here!

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

ET: The earliest memory I have (and I might be giving away my age here!) was back in the mid-70s. My father was a big fan of the Hammer Horrors so there was always a Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing horror movie on TV at some point that I remember hearing while I was (meant to be) tucked up in bed! So when I was old enough in the early 80s, I started watching them with him (when we had a first-gen video player). I was hooked from then on. My first horror movie I sat all the way through was Legend of the Werewolf (1975).

NTK: Are Hammer films your favorite films? What is your favorite horror film?

ET: I’ve got a great love for Hammer–I love the iconography, the style, the music. They are as unique as the old Universals. I love the “imply, don’t show” notion of horror movies–expecting a chill or a fright which doesn’t happen…then it does seconds later! With regard to a favorite– that’s a tricky one. I can watch something like Get Out or Us and find that as equally as enthralling as Bride of Frankenstein… I like the original Omen, but my favorite movie is Cronenberg’s The Fly.

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror TV show?

ET: There are three: True Blood, American Horror Story (albeit some of the later seasons aren’t as great) and Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

ET: I was waiting for this question!! Hands down, without a shadow of a doubt…William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. It was first published in 1972 (when I was not even yet 2!) and I first read it in 1990–and I still own my 1990 copy. Very threadbare but very loved. It surpasses the movie. Blatty’s use of language, expression, passion is unbound and I wish I could write as well as he did. I can almost chew the sentences, they are just so well constructed. I’ve never felt so passionate about any other fiction/horror book before or since. Paul Theroux is a close second for much of the same reasons but he’s not a horror writer so that’s going off topic!

NTK:  Blatty is awesome! Is he your greatest writing influence? Who is your greatest influence?

ET: The writer who made me want to write actually only passed away this week: Terrance Dicks. He was script editor for Doctor Who in the 70s but also novelised over 60 Dr. Whostories of the series–so he was my first understanding of how to write when I was a kid. I collected his books for years. Blatty I could never equal and wouldn’t even attempt to: but I still wish I could write like him! Bram Stoker, Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen King, and Ben Elton all inspire me (four markedly different authors and their differing styles allow me to push myself. Ursula K. Le Guin is another.)

NTK: Terrance Dicks was a great scriptwriter and wrote several frightening episodes of Dr. Who. Including, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang.” Which frightening episode is your favorite?

ET: “Talons of Weng-Chiang” is a great one. One that I always thought was chilling was “The Seeds of Doom” from 1976–where the alien seed pod split open and this tendril snaked out and grabbed one of the characters, turning him into a big green creature! Of the modern series, I fear I may have grown up, so I don’t spot the “behind the sofa” moments so much.

NTK: What inspires your writing?

ET: Inspiration for me comes in unexpected places. I can be sitting at my desk, reading a paper or a book, watching the news or watching a film. I can see snippets of things that I like and would like to use or find homage in using. Point in fact: my short story HorrorAddicts.net featured was inspired by the movie The Revenant. Nothing like the actual original story, but it’s the feel I was after. Also, I’m currently writing an alternative history World War I novel and so my inspiration comes from my great-grandfather who served, any number of WWI movies, Peaky Blinders (a recent BBC series), the books of Pat Barker and factual accounts of the war itself. And because it’s an alternative history, I have to make nods to authors like Philip K Dick and Robert Harris.

NTK: What inspired you to write the Bloodkind series?

ET: I originally wrote Cold Runs the Blood as an original Doctor Who novel for the BBC. This was when the series was due to be come back in 2005 (so around 2004) and it was called The Craft of Foreign Rule. Doctor Who had never featured Vlad the Impaler so, knowing that historical figure so well, I wrote a novel. The BBC rejected it: now, I hope it was because they had cancelled all scheduled books because of the sudden return of the series itself to TV. It may, of course, have been because it wasn’t very good!! In any case, it was in effect now a “dead” novel. So I filed it away and forgot about it until 2012 when I decided to rewrite it as a full-blown horror novel, removing all and every Doctor Who reference! It then became Cold Runs the Blood and was published in 2013 by Grosvenor House Publishing.

I never intended to write a sequel. What intrigued me most was the fact that I had created my own take on the vampire mythos so I started writing short stories based in the same fictional universe. It allowed me to maintain my love for vampire fiction but write in different styles: so we have stories jumping from one century to another…pirates and swashbucklers, contemporary or period, retro or future…and I called my vampires the Bloodkind.

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

ET: That’s a great question! I could speak to fellow writers who would say that mapping out a character’s actions is a requisite. But I disagree. There has to be some sort of autonomy: yes, I created my characters; yes, I need them to carry out certain objectives to move the plot along…but my best characters are those who tell me what to write! For example, in my WWI novel, there’s a scene set on a train heading to Lyon in France. My two main protagonists are being waited upon by a guy who works in the buffet car. When one of the protagonists returns to her berth, the waiter is in there ransacking her room looking for something he overheard in conversation. Now the waiter, when I Cold Runs the Blood - cover - 2019 editionintroduced him, was simply meant to be background detail. Now he’s involved in the plot proper and I have to work out why! And I love that challenge!

NTK: What a great example! What’s it like to write such a famous and established character as Dr. Who? How do you stay true to the character and yet create your own original story?

ET: When I got the commission to write for the Doctor, I didn’t know at that time which one, so my outline was very Doctor-by-numbers. When they told me it was for Colin Baker, I was overjoyed. He was and remains my favorite incarnation.

The sixth Doctor had a very obstreperous and arrogant style which meant I adapted the dialogue to fit his TV persona. Interestingly, I was asked by my producer (a really lovely guy called Gary Russell who I would love to work with/for again someday) to tone down the arrogance I’d imbued him with—to soften him, mellow him. I still injected those moments of pomposity but it was the characters around him who I had fun with, too. And I gave his companion, Peri, all the best lines. Intriguingly, it was an approach the rebooted TV series took: the companion pushed the story along, so I like to think that I unconsciously pre-empted that!

NTK: Elliot, what does the future hold for you? What work do we Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

ET: Well, I’ve got my WWI novel to come out in 2020 (I’m so proud of the title that I’m not telling a soul yet what it’s called!!) and I’m pulling together my vampire short stories to make a follow-up volume to Cold Runs the Blood. Called The Mistress and the Rogue…and other Tales of the Bloodkind, it’s also scheduled for 2020. I’m aiming for a Fall release, hopefully, to grab hold of that Hallowe’en fever. The story you’re featuring in your latest podcast will form part of that.

NTK: Awesome! Thank you for chatting with me, Elliot. It was really fun!

ET: It’s been an absolute pleasure, Naching

Horror Addicts, Elliot writes for The Doctor Who Companion and you can find him at the Dean Martin Association as well.

Odds and Dead Ends : Scaring Ourselves Silly | Monsters and the Uncanny Valley

We all love a good monster. Be it Godzilla or King Kong, werewolves or cenobites, we can’t get enough of them. Guillermo Del Toro has made a living out of them, and nobody in their right mind would begrudge him that. But when we think of being scared, perhaps what touches the nerves more than anything else are not the big, lumbering beasts towering above us. It’s those fiends that come close to being human, just one step away from actually being us.

This concept is known in the field of robotics as the ‘uncanny valley’. Coined initially by Masahiro Mori, the basic idea of it is that there is a distinct, graph-able curve in people’s emotional responses to the verisimilitude of a robot to people. Essentially, when you start to make a robot look like a person, people view it more favourably. Then, suddenly, as you keep going, there’s a point where it’s not completely robotic, but not completely human, and it’s in this stage when we have a strong feeling of revulsion or disgust. When it gets close to being indistinguishable from us, it becomes so lifelike that we view it favourably again. This dip into disgust is the uncanny valley.

The theory of the uncanny itself was used by Sigmund Freud in his 1919 essay The Uncanny as a way to explain why we’re so creeped out by dolls and waxwork figures and the likes. He goes back to the original German for uncanny, unheimlich, and its roots in the word heimlich which roughly means to conceal or hide. He proposes that we find something uncanny because it is a revealing of social taboos and ideas which we try to hide in everyday life. This eventually gets linked on to concepts of the id and the subconscious, which is really the subject for another article altogether.

But what does all of this mean for our monsters? How can we link these concepts together in a way that impacts our understanding of our favourite horror villains?

Well perhaps this doesn’t apply for the big Kaiju as such, but maybe it helps explain why we’re still chilled by vampires, ghosts, and ghouls. The brain sees their general shape and recognises them as human, or at least, very human-like. Yet there’s always something just a little bit off, be it the pallor of their skin, or the sharp claws or teeth, which sets them apart and makes them disturbing to us. Going back to Del Toro, think of The Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth. He’s got a recognisably human shape (based off Saturn in the painting Saturn Devouring His Sun by Francisco Goya), but with the skin stretched over the frame, the nostrils flared with no bridge, claw-like talons, and eyes in his hands. He’s started off human but been warped.

Even cursed or possessed dolls have something off about them; the animation of a human avatar is almost the very concept of the uncanny valley, with the robot being substituted for a doll, but the basic principle remaining. Toys are essentially us, preserved in miniature, and when they rise up against us, the human part of their design strikes a chord with us.

This is perhaps why we find masked killers a distressing concept. The shape is human, and the mask is human-like, but it doesn’t change, and as humans learn to see the face as the main projector of emotion when it doesn’t alter during extreme acts of violence, we slip down the slope of the valley. Masks such as those belonging to Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers, fairly blank and devoid of emotion, would, therefore, represent something uncanny. Also very often the mask represents a demon or spirit (thinking of films such as Onibaba or Scream) which conjures up concepts of possession by an unseen force. This might explain why we’re so focused on the killer’s mask in these films, because they are themselves imbued with that uncanny quality which makes them memorable beyond the killer behind them.

Think of the Scream franchise, where the mask comes to represent something much deeper, a force of evil in itself. When you see someone without the mask, they’re normal, but as soon as the face is obscured, they become terrifying, a body for the murderous will of the mask. And the mask and the murderous intent has the power to transfer its ownership from one person to another, like a spirit darting in and out of its possessed victims. Even think of the numerous killers that take on Jigsaw’s role in the Saw films. As soon as you come into possession of Billy, leading the charge of the traps, you become Jigsaw, the embodiment of John Kramer and his will to put people to the test of their drive to survive. We dip from being too human to being something slightly removed.

The idea of the uncanny valley even feeds into ghosts. Think of Kayako and Toshio from the Ju-on films. Though it sounds funny, how many of us were deeply disturbed when Toshio, a pale little boy, opened his mouth and meowed? When Kayako came crawling down the stairs, her throat croaking like a door very slowly opening? This concept of uncanniness transfers over to the sounds we make, affecting us when someone’s voice is not what it should be. This is something obviously well known to anyone who has watched The Exorcist in their time.

And so whilst the big monsters from The Ritual and Cloverfield might scare us, they don’t get anywhere close to instilling that distinct feeling of unease which those humanoid villains which nestle in the uncanny valley have the ability to do. When vampires flash their fangs, with blood in their eyes, we see something hiding inside the human form. When we see Schwarzenegger doing his own repairs in The Terminator, we find lines between humanity and inhumanity blurred. From now on, he looks just like us, but we know he isn’t.

And when we transfer over to imitation narratives such as The Thing or The Body Snatchers, suddenly we’re even more scared, because any one of us could be them. Now the uncanny transfers into paranoia, and we have to rely on looking out for the uncanny to alert us to danger. We have to fall back on something terrifying to keep us calm. In a way, we hope for something uncanny to confirm our fears. And that, more than anything, is scary.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: KJudgeMental

Bibliography

Cloverfield. 2007. [Film] Directed by Matt Reeves. USA: Bad Robot.

Finney, J., 2010. The Body Snatchers. Great Britain: Orion Publishing.

Freud, S., McLintock, D. & Haughton, H., 2003. The Uncanny. New York: Penguin Books.

Friday the 13th. 1980. [Film] Directed by Sean S. Cunningham. Unites States of America: Georgetown Productions Inc.

Godzilla. 1954. [Film] Directed by Ishiro Honda. Japan: Toho.

Goya, F., 1819 – 1823. Saturn Devouring His Son. [Art] (Museo del Prado).

Halloween. 1978. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Falcon International Productions.

John Carpenter’s The Thing. 1982. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Universal Studios.

Ju-On: The Grudge. 2002. [Film] Directed by Takashi Shimizu. Japan: Pioneer LDC.

King Kong. 1933. [Film] Directed by Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack. USA: RKO Pictures Inc..

Onibaba. 1964. [Film] Directed by Kaneto Shindo. Japan: Kindai Eiga Kyokai.

Pan’s Labyrinth. 2006. [Film] Directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Spain: Telecinco Cinema.

Saw. 2004. [Film] Directed by James Wan. USA: Twisted Pictures.

Scream. 1996. [Film] Directed by Wes Craven. United States: Dimension Films.

The Exorcist. 1973. [Film] Directed by William Friedkin. USA: Hoya Productions.

The Ritual. 2017. [Film] Directed by David Bruckner. UK: The Imaginarium.

The Terminator. 1984. [Film] Directed by James Cameron. United States of America: Hemdale.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chilling Chat: Episode 169 | Nancy Kilpatrick

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Award-winning author Nancy Kilpatrick has published 22 novels, over 220 short stories, seven story collections, and has edited 15 anthologies, plus graphic novels and one non-nancy K.fiction book, The goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined (St. Martin’s Press).

Nancy is an honest and passionate writer. We spoke of inspiration, classic horror, and vampires.

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

NK: It’s my pleasure, Naching! Thank you for inviting me.

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

NK: I was a kid. We had the Saturday Night Chiller-type movies on but they were late and although it was Saturday night, I wasn’t allowed to stay up for those except on rare occasions. Horror films were my favorites and that just continued when I got old enough to watch those films. But before that, when I was in grade school (not sure of my age but likely around 6 or 7) the school visited the big library in downtown Philadelphia, where I lived, and we were each allowed to take one book out. I choose The Little Witch, which says I lot, I guess. Little did I know how famous that book was, in print for 40 years. So, my love of horror goes way back.

NTK: Who are the authors who’ve influenced you most?

NK: In horror, I tend not to mention living authors. I know way too many writers and I don’t want to offend anyone or leave anyone out. And frankly, it’s many dead authors that shaped me. Poe, Lovecraft, Carter, Jackson, Kafka, Shelley, Stoker, Byron, Bloch…even then, there are more than I’ve named. I see myself as shaped and influenced by every book I’ve ever read, even the terrible ones, and in every genre, both fiction and non-fiction. I’m kind of a lit vampire, meaning, I drink in experiences, so besides general life experiences, books and film have played a big role in who I am as a writer and likely who I am as a person.

NTK: Do you find inspiration in the books you’ve read? Where do you find inspiration?

NK: Inspiration is everywhere. I can see something, smell something, a twig on a peculiar taste, hear a sound and so on. I can have a dream and have written two stories from dreams. I daydream a lot. Many avenues lead to a story idea but the ones that lead to actually writing down those ideas in short story or novel form, those are the exceptional ideas. It’s hard to say what inspires them. One avenue for me is that I own and have read thousands of vampire novels and short fiction so I know what has been done and that always leads me to what has not been done before and how that fits into my personal view of the vampire. To a lesser extent, that works with ghosts and zombies for me, werewolves a bit less. If it’s “reality” horror, for example, nothing supernatural, more like a serial killer, there’s plenty of info on those types of killers around and that can inspire a thought. But thoughts have to connect to feeling for me because I’m essentially an emotional writer.

To keep it simple: I’m inspired when a thought or a feeling becomes a spark.

NTK: How did “Root Cellar” come about?

NK:  I lived on a farm for almost a year, 10 miles outside the small town. The house was in exchange for “fixing it up.” It was bought by a well-off Judge who didn’t want to live there but it needed repair so a few friends and I went and painted and sanded and such. When we first arrived, we explored the house. The attic was a crawl space with a peaked roof and slats on the floor. We found some creepy things there, including the coffin and the cards I put into that story. The house was also, as in the story, the “old” part and the “new” part, with all the pickled things in the stairwell down to the basement.

“Root Cellar” was originally a literary story, a story of incest. I had a phase where I tried to force myself to write ‘lit’ fiction. That didn’t last long, though I published a bit. But, I could never get over the idea that lit fic had lost its way in terms of plot. Which is one reason I love horror, because plot is still crucial and that means a story to me. Anyway, I submitted “Root Cellar” to a major newspaper that was having a short fiction contest (yes, that was exceptional!) I was the first runner up and the story was published. As I was reading it in the paper, it struck me how that story was really a vampire story so I rewrote it and published it and it’s been published several times, been in a Best-of antho, up for two awards and so on. Really, it was crucial to see that in print and recognize that what I was trying to force myself to do was not right for me. Generally, I’m pretty aware of when I’m trying to go the “wrong” way because I think it’s the “right” way, and it’s not.

Revenge of the Vampir KingNTK: You’ve written a series called Thrones of Blood. How are your vampires different from others?

NK: Because I’ve read so much vampire material and seen so many movies, and because I’ve written erotica (mainly a series of seven pastiche novels based on horror classics: Dracula; Frankenstein, Jekyll/Hyde, etc. etc.) and because I’ve seen and read erotic vampire novels and movies and wanted to infuse a series with that but not just that, I started thinking about a new series. I began writing these books about 12 or 13 or more years ago, because the idea churned for a few years before I started writing. One year in the winter I was staying alone in Florida for a month and cranked out book one and some of book two and three. Of course, all that had to be revised. I was just having fun and threw in a lot of genres and kitchen sink and had to clean up all the mess and stick to the story. There are other books, of course, with warring vampires and humans but I wanted to show the vampires as somewhat more evolved, while still violent, and that the humans might be even more violent. Ultimately, I wanted to show that because of a long life, the vampires, which are as resistant to change as humans, do have a longer perspective and can alter, at least a little. I wanted all this to come through in each book amidst the violence, the sex, the treachery, betrayals, viciousness, traitorous acts and even love and kindness where least expected.

I have not seen what I’ve done. And frankly, readers need to be a bit smart to read these books because I work with paradox a lot in my writing. It’s awfully hard to hold two opposites at the same time and that’s kind of what I hope readers will do. I also like to shift allegiances a lot. That’s kind of real life too for thoughtful people.

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

NK: I usually have a kind of plot overview for novels but rarely do a chapter by chapter outline. At the same time, as I write, I kind of know where I’m going. That doesn’t mean the characters want to go there and more times than not they insist on me paying attention to them. As I said, I’m an emotional writer so I have to respect my feelings and if it feels dull, wrong, just a big NO, then it won’t work for me and I have wait until something comes to me as to how to proceed. And as with all creative endeavors, one can go this way and that, both ways pretty obvious. But waiting often leads to a third way that wasn’t envisioned and that’s much better and leads to something much better. So no, I plan a bit, but I’m open to change. If I wasn’t, my characters wouldn’t work with me! (Laughs.)

What I mean by “this way and that” is that in every story, based on the conflict, there are usually two obvious resolutions of that conflict. If you go to either, the reader (who is as smart as the writer) feels bored and cheated because both resolutions are too obvious. This is where a creative solution has to make an appearance.

NTK: What makes good erotica?

NK: I was on an erotic-horror panel once with about eight or nine women and they ranged in age from youngest to oldest. At the oldest end were Nancy Holder and me. Someone asked if we writers were aroused when we wrote erotic-horror. Invariably from the younger end, there were definite and resounding “NO’s” all along and when it got to Nancy Holder, she said, kind of, maybe a little, yes. Then me, who said, “Of course I am aroused! If I can’t feel it, I can’t write it!” (Nancy H., by the way, thought I was so brave to say that, but I didn’t see myself as brave, more just honest because if I can feel the emotion of what I’m writing, I can make it believable for the reader—and that goes for the unsavory emotions too. There’s a huge difference in feeling murderous, which almost everyone has felt at some point, and committing murder. Knowing and feeling the difference is what keeps us all from acting horrifically in a spontaneous, or even a thought-out, moment.)

My seven erotic novels are The Darker Passions: Dracula; Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Fall of the House of Usher, Carmilla, and The Pit and the Pendulum.

NTK: What is your favorite horror movie?

NK: There are soooo many. I’d just be listing them. I’ll say a few. Daughters of Darkness (stylish). The Exorcist (the original, so scary). [REC] (an adrenalin rush for sure!) All of Romero’s zombie movies, especially Night of and Dawn of the Living Dead. 30 Days of Night (great concept and a horrific vampire gang). 28 Days Later (I like fast-moving zombies). Martin (another Romero, this one vampire). And I loved the original The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price, a black and white based on Richard Matheson’s wonderful novel. That, of the three films based on the novel, was very creepy. Train to Busan (from South Korea, a great zombie movie, human, touching. It’s in subtitles. I’ve seen it three times.) It Stains the Sands Red (Wow, what a surprising zombie film. Two coke heads from LA, car stalled in the desert en route to see people, and a zombie comes and does guy in. The woman, seemingly a coke-head, has to “run” from the zombie but they are in the desert. It shifts and is so amazing. I was really blown away by this movie.)

You see, there are so many more I could name. Give me a minute and I can name 100 or more!

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror TV show?

NK: I liked the original Dark Shadows, and even the remake with Ben Cross. Forever Knight was fun. True Blood was incredible. (Kudos to Harris for allowing the adaptation.) There’s a great book called Vampire TV which is incredibly thick and surprisingly stuffed with TV shows of vampires alone. I also liked the old Twilight Zone, Kolchak, those kinds of X Files TV shows. Again, many more than I can name.

NTK: What’s your favorite horror novel?

NK: Again, I can’t name books by living authors so I’ll have to go with early works. And in fact, there’s little horror I’ve read or seen that I haven’t liked, even the bad stuff, because I can see merit in just about everything, sometimes just a drop of merit, but still. So that would Dracula by Stoker, Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, The Picture of Dorian Grey, all of Poe’s work, Robert Louis Stevenson’s work, even the ponderous Varney the Vampire or, The Feast of Blood which predates Dracula by a few decades. There are all sorts of wonderful novels out there and I encourage people to find and read some of what has been done in the past because, for example, the vampire did not start with Anne Rice’s books or Buffy. You’d be surprised by some of the beautiful and intense work that came The goth Biblebefore.

NTK: Nancy, what does the future hold for you? What works do we have to look forward to?

NK: At the moment, I’m working on book five in the Thrones of Blood series: Anguish of the Sapiens Queen. Book six is next up and that should be the end of the series, published in 2020. I also have a science fiction novel just about finished. The former will be out later this year and that latter…no date yet. I’m likely reissuing my horror (non-vampire) collection Cold Comfort. And I am in discussion for a new antho I’ll co-edit. This year I’ll be traveling to a few summer/fall events: Fan Expo in Toronto, and Word on the Street. Possibly Frightmare in the Falls. Early next year I’ll be at Stokercon in England.

By the way, if anyone wants to join my newsletter, which is short and once a month via email, they can go to my website: nancykilpatrick.com. The form to join is at the top.

NTK: Thank you so much for joining me today. It was an honor to interview you.

NK: Thank you, Naching, for having me.

Addicts, you can find Nancy on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chilling Chat: Episode 165 David Leinweber

chillingchat

David Leinweber is a historian with over 25 years of experience in the college classroom. He has published numerous articles, reviews, essays, and academic reference worksDavid Leinweber (including works on folklore, the occult, mythology, magic, and religion.) Dr. Leinweber is also a lifelong guitarist and pianist whose music has been featured in numerous venues, ranging from festivals and clubs to television, radio, theaters, and art galleries.

David is an amazing professor and an accomplished musician. We spoke of horror, inspiration, and the legacy of Dracula.

NTK:  Welcome to Chilling Chat, David. Thank you for chatting with me today. Could you tell us about A Song of Dracula? What is it about?

DL: A Song of Dracula is a romantic musical, loosely based on the classic 1897 novel by Bram Stoker, and also Jane Eyre.  It features a collection of original spooky songs, along with a few tavern singalongs.

It is about a young girl named Madeleine who arrives as a governess at a great estate in England, like Jane Eyre.  There is a romantic interest with the head of the estate (also like Jane Eyre).  However, witchcraft, vampirism, and a ghost enter into the story.  I really wanted it not to be gory or sensationalistic, however—no hissing or blood.  It’s a romantic story.

NTK: What inspired you to write this musical?

DL: Well, I’ve been a lifelong horror fan, especially of the old Victorian novels like Carmilla and Dracula, as well as the classic horror films.  I wanted this to be a production that evoked the romance and the historical/geographical settings of the old films, especially Hammer Films.  I also wanted it to be something that could range in targeted audiences from adult theater groups to community or high-school productions.

Interestingly, the word vampire does not appear in the story, though it’s obvious that is what is going on.

NTK: How much research went into A Song of Dracula? Did you try to incorporate songs appropriate to the time period?

DL: I would say that the play/musical reflects my long interest in horror, romance and gothic lit, if not flat-out research.  I did try to evoke spooky songs that have the spirit of a gothic estate.  There are also some tavern tunes that would be good for sailors or other port-city type characters right out of central casting (Laughs.)  However, I think the songs could be interpreted in a number of different ways.  I mostly envision them as spooky, romantic ballads.  But several could be done in a range of styles, including a few that could be hard-rock with electric guitar, and a light show.  I think a lot would depend on the director’s ideas.  For me, though, it’s a romantic Victorian gothic story, first and foremost.

NTK:  What do you think the attraction to Dracula is? Why does he have such a lasting legacy?

Bela LugosiDL: Great question.  I certainly think one could point to the classic psychological themes, like the fear of death, or subliminal sexual desires.  I also think that a good vampire story often has a folklore quality to it, and evokes a sense of being bound in time.  I sometimes think the classic elements of the Dracula tale don’t appear as much in vampire stories of the present-day when so many film studios want to update the classic elements.  Call it cliche if you want, but some of the classic horror tropes were very powerful and we should try to transmit them to the next generation.

NTK:  How did you discover horror? How old were you?

DL: Pretty young.  There was a guy on TV in Detroit when I was a kid called Sir Graves Ghastly—a Saturday matinee movie host who came out of a coffin hosted old horror movies, told bad horror jokes, read kids’ birthday cards, and all that.  I used to watch him every Saturday.  I remember all the “House of” horror movies he showed, which were truly classics, among many others.  I also was a big Dark Shadows fan, though pretty young at the time.

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror film?

DL: Another great question.  Hard to answer though (Laughs.)  I actually like some of the quiet, spooky films like Let’s Scare Jessica to Death.  But I think the Hammer films are my favorite, especially the three horror films they did that were loosely based on CarmillaThe Vampire Lovers, To Love a Vampire.  There was something special about the horror films of the late sixties and early seventies—it was still the hippie era, with all the creativity and mood that came out of it.  The fact that there were Drive-in Movies back then also created a big demand for lots of movies.  They weren’t all exactly Citizen Kane or The Godfather, but they were usually pretty fun to watch, and often surprisingly good.  That was also before Star Wars came out, which changed Hollywood into more of a Blockbuster mindset and the tasteful little movies, including B films and Drive-in Movie titles, became less common.

NTK: As a musician, did you find these soundtracks inspiring?

DL: Yes, a lot of those films had fine soundtracks.  The film I mentioned Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, in particular, had a really distinct soundtrack— quiet piano and flutes and guitar lines that really created that sense of loneliness, haunted locales, and, towards the end, isolation and fear.  That soundtrack really gave that sense of going back in time.  The Hammer Film, Lust for a Vampire, also had a really strange, very ‘sixties’ sounding tune—“Strange Love.”  It’s almost comical to watch it today because it can seem dated and out of place in the film, but it was actually a pretty eerie musical effect.

NTK: Who do you think portrayed the best Dracula?

DL: Of course, I like the Lugosi and Lee Draculas.  But Lon Chaney also did a good job and John Carradine.  But a sometimes underrated and/or less noted version was the Frank Langella 1979 Dracula, a very fine production.

NTK:  Do you have a favorite horror novel?

DL: Well, I guess the obvious choices would be Dracula and Carmilla.  But beyond those two classics, I remember that Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot really scared the heck out of me when I first read it, along with the 1979 miniseries.  When I was a kid, I used to read a lot of the cheap paperback horror novels, too, though I don’t have time for that anymore and I’m not sure if there is as big a market for them as there used to be.  Horror novels were kind of like horror movies.  They made a lot of them, which meant that there were often some quite good ones mixed in with others that weren’t’ so good, but it was always fun to read through the find the gems.

NTK: Do you think there’s any truth to be found in the folklore surrounding vampires? Do you think there are personalities who could be considered vampiric?

DL: Another great question.  Well, I certainly can see how the folklore had its roots—all the classic fears of premature burial, blood-borne diseases, or wasting away.  I also think the classic vampire motif that mixes terrible fear with desire is very powerful, for everybody.

And yes, I do think there are people who could be considered vampiric.  Not sure I want to give any names (Laughs.)  I think there are people who have a way of draining your energy and vitality.  They get stronger and richer, while you get weaker, more uncertain, and lose your zest for life.  But I guess the most classic vampire is a romantic attraction, and sometimes even kind of tragic and sad in the way they kill what they love.

NTK: David, what does the future hold for A Song of Dracula? Where can Horror Addicts see the musical? And, do you have any other upcoming horror projects?

DL: Well, I’m really hoping to have a good theater production do the musical.  Of course, Dark ShadowsI’d even love to have it turned into a film.  But first and foremost, it’s a theatrical production.  I’m still working on finding the right theater to debut the show, but hopefully soon.  I also enjoy writing ghost songs and am compiling a list of ghost songs to release as a song cycle.  My song “Daphne,” about the Kate Jackson character Daphne Harridge on Dark Shadows, remains my favorite song and it was the ghost song I wrote that got me the most inspired along these musical and storytelling lines.  Kate Jackson loves the song, which was encouraging.

NTK: Thank you so much for joining me, David. It’s not often we gain insight from an awesome educator like yourself.

DL: Thanks again for your interest in my musical and thoughts about horror.

Guest Blog: Vampires-Animated Corpses-By Brian McKinley

Vampires – Animated Corpses by Brian McKinley

This is what most people in Western culture think of when they hear the word vampire. But, as you’ll see, there are nearly as many varieties of animated corpse vampires as there are every other kind.

The Vetal of the Indian subcontinent is an example of a vampire who straddles categories. It’s a spirit that possesses and animates corpses and in many tales it has sorcerous powers. In the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Vetal are said to be a race of divine vampiric beings who appear half human and half bat. However, like other vampires we’ve seen, the Vetal can possess a human corpse in order to disguise itself, using fresh blood to keep the body from decay. Feeding on the intoxicated, the insane, and others whom society would not be likely to believe, the Vetal enters a home by use of a magic thread down the chimney—so those of us with central air are safe. Not content simply with blood, it consumes intestines and excrement as well.

Despite this unsavory aspect, the Vetal is far from a mindless killer. In fact, its’ most famous appearance is in the tale of King Vikram in which one of these creatures thwarts twenty four attempts to capture it by telling tales which all end in a riddle. Later, the vampire gives the king advice on how to turn the tables on a trap which his enemy has planned.

In some versions, a Vetal is created when a child dies and doesn’t receive proper funeral rites. This is similar to creation methods found in vampires of surrounding regions like the Greek peninsula, China, and the Balkans. Turning our attention to China, no survey of vampire folklore would be complete without the Jiangshi, the infamous hopping vampire.

One of the most distinctive and memorable tales from around the globe, the Jiangshi is created in a number of ways: cats jumping over fresh corpses, moonlight shining down on fresh corpses, and black magic. In its early form, it is literally just a corpse stiff with rigor mortis who hops around and attacks either on its own or under the command of a sorcerer. It is difficult to destroy in this form, but relatively easy to capture or elude, as it fears running water, can’t move in anything but a straight line, and has a compulsion to stop and count rice, peas, or iron filings thrown in its direction. While doing that, you sweep them away and the Jiangshi follows so that it can resume counting.

As it ages, however, it is said to grow long white or green fur, limber up, and gain the ability to fly and shape-shift into mist and animals. Now, a lot of these traits—aside from the fur—sound pretty familiar, right? My personal theory is that the Chinese incorporated elements from other vampire legends into their own. Anyway, by this point, Jiangshi are nearly indestructible and need to be burned completely in order to be rid of them.

Which brings us to Greece and the Vrykolaka. These can be created by a person living a bad life, being excommunicated by the church, committing suicide, and many of the other typical methods we’ve seen. One unique method is simply by being a werewolf in life, which is a condition one is born with in Greek culture. When those come back from the dead, they’re called Varkolaks. When Vrykolakas rise from the grave, it looks every bit like the bloated, animated corpse that it is. It will go to the homes of the people it knew in life and knock upon their doors. Whoever has the misfortune to answer, the vrykolaka will ruthlessly attack by day or by night. Victims who happen to survive the attack of a vrykolaka will become this type of vampire themselves when they die unless they eat some of the dirt from the grave of the body that attacked him.

The vrykolaka can be prevented from attacking if its resting place is found. Decapitating the vampire and hiding its head where it cannot be found is used in modern times, but the traditional method of rendering the body to ash is the most certain and effective. The only way to destroy a vrykolaka that was created through excommunication is to have a priest perform a special ceremony over the body followed immediately by either of the methods of destruction previously mentioned. Honestly, though, this one has more regional variations than almost any other.

The Draugr of Iceland was a fearsome revenant exists solely to guard its treasure, which Viking warriors were traditionally buried with. Draugrs could do strange tricks like increasing their body weight and growing or shrinking, move freely through earth and stone, conjure storms, and see the future. What’s more, draugrs were said to be impervious to mundane weapons and that the only way they could be killed was by being wrestled into submission by a hero and then beheaded. Some scholars believe that Grendel of the Beowulf saga was a draugr, and others think that we get the concept of the ogre, troll, and dragon from these legends as well.

Finally, we come to the guy that most of us think of when we think of a traditional vampire: the Upyr. Known by many regional variations including Upire, upior, upiri, vapir, and wampyr, this is most likely the word that eventually gave us the term vampire. Russia’s version has iron teeth that allow it to chew out of its grave and eat the heart from its victim’s chest. Unlike our modern version, though, it tends to be active between noon and midnight—kind of like me. The Polish variety has a stinger on the end of its tongue to drain blood with and it likes to sleep in a bath of blood. In Germany, it resembles the Greek Vrykolaka but needs to be destroyed with a stake made of mountain ash in a single blow. Call Buffy for that one. In other Slavic countries, the body has to be dug up and re-buried face-down so that the suspected vampire can’t dig its way out anymore. In other areas, you hear about garlic, prayers, and holy water.

And that most famous of vampire terms, Nosferatu? Where’s he? Well, there’s some debate about that. The term itself comes from Greek and means plague-bearer; many believe that it had nothing at all to do with vampires until Emily Gerard used it in her book on Transylvania, which Bram Stoker based much of his folklore in Dracula on. Others insist that there is a particularly sexually oriented vampire by that name in central and Eastern Europe, known to return to its home and try to resume its old life. To me, this also sounds a lot like some of the stories of the Vrykolaka, but I could be wrong.

In any event, you’ve probably noticed that almost none of these types fit all the tropes of the modern vampire archetype and that’s true. Today’s vampire is an ever-changing amalgamation of various folklores and that’s what makes them so captivating.

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Brian McKinley doesn’t really exist. He’s a constructed mortal identity used by a relatively young Vampyr in order to publish the truth about The Order. Due to the world-wide influence of The Order and its minions, these accounts must all be published as fiction. Sometimes the names and sequence of events have been changed to protect the innocent, the guilty, and to keep from getting sued.

Guest Blog: Otherworldly Vampires by Brian Mckinley

Otherworldly Vampires by Brian McKinley

This is, admittedly, a catch-all category for vampiric creatures of several varieties with the common element being that they originate from a non-human source. Demons, ghosts, spirits, gods, and even fairies are found here. Yes, I said faeries, so we’ll start there. Most of the cutesy, Tolkien-esque fae of our modern folklore come to us thanks to people like the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen and a general romanticizing that took place throughout the Victorian age. In their earlier, pre-Christian forms, many fae creatures had distinctly vampiric characteristics. In my post on “Irish Vampires,” I discussed the Leanan-Sidhe and Baobahn-Sith as well as the White Ladies. Our final example of vampiric fae comes from Germany and it’s perhaps the most surprising.

The Alp is also considered a demon in Germanic lore, but in a lot of ways their fae and demons are closely related. A creature described in many ways due to its ability to shape-shift, its one consistent feature is the white hat, or cap of concealment, it wears because it is the source of its power. The Alp is known for creeping into beds of women at night and drinking blood from the nipples. It also enjoys breast milk if the woman is lactating. The crushing weight of the alp on the chest causes horrible nightmares to the victim. These dreams even had a name: alpdrucke or elf dream. That’s because the alp is the basis for the English word elf. The resemblance can be seen a bit more in some of the alp’s more mischievous attributes.

In addition to its’ bloodlust, they were also known to be responsible for knotting people’s hair while they slept or re-diapering babies with soiled diapers. Not even livestock were safe from the terror of the alp, as it was also known to attack horses, geese, and rabbits—crushing them to death under its weight. This fearsome creature was rather easily warded off, however, by such methods as keeping your shoes beside the bed and pointed at the door while you slept, protective wards, prayers, and pentagrams, or keeping a mirror on your chest while you slept. If you could manage to steal the hat off its head, the alp would lose all its power could be killed by putting a lemon in its mouth.
That’s right. A vampire destroyed by citrus, you heard it here. The alp has a female counterpart called the Mara, the basis for the term nightmare. It attacks men in their sleep, also crushing their chests and drinking their blood, but the Mara’s attacks tend to be more fatal. However, you probably noticed a similarity between the Alp and another famous pair of demons: the succubus and incubus. Which brings us to my next sub-category of otherworldly being vampires: demons, ghosts, and spirits.

The Greeks gave us the Lamia and the Empouse. With the upper bodies of women and lower bodies resembling snakes, the Lamia lived in deserts and cemeteries, eating the flesh and drinking the blood of infants. Later Greek storytellers gave the Lamia a tragic backstory, saying that the first Lamia was a queen of Lybia. Her beauty attracted the attention of Zeus who took her as a lover. Par for the course in these stories, Zeus’ wife Hera became terribly jealous and punished Lamia by destroying her children. In some versions, Hera tricks Lamia into eating her own children. This drove Lamia insane with grief and she went on a horrific murder spree, killing the babies of her people. Additionally, she lured men into secluded alleys for sex and drank their blood. Over time, her terrible crimes transformed her into the hideous creature that her name became synonymous with. However, by aligning herself with the Empouse—more on them in a second—she learned to shape-shift and disguise her appearance with illusion, as did her progeny.

The Empouse were the vampiric demon spawn of the witch goddess Hecate, who acted as her attendants. Red-haired, they possessed the legs of mules and an insatiable appetite for human flesh. As with many other varieties I’ve described, they possessed the ability to appear as beautiful women in order to seduce men, who they would drain of their life energy during sex before consuming them. Luckily, if a man was able to resist the allure of the Empouse’s disguise, it was easy to run away from them as their legs made them very slow. The half-woman, half-beast theme appears in several types of vampires, including the original Mermaids who dragged shipwrecked sailors below the waves and drank their blood.

Similar to the demon women in Greece and India, the Japanese have the Yuki Ona (Oo-key Own-a), or “snow woman.” Appearing as a beautiful woman in a white kimono with pale skin, the Yuki Ona only hunts in the winter where her appearance gives her the perfect camouflage. Like the Lamia or Empouse, it is known to lure men into sex so it can drain their life energy, but just as often is said to simply lead travelers astray until they succumb to the elements or freeze them with her icy breath. On occasion, they are also said to appear to parents in search of a child, appearing to hold it in her arms. When the parents come to claim it, of course, the snow woman freezes them. Unlike most of the others, however, legends do say that if a potential victim is able to plead for his life pitiably enough to melt the cold heart of the Yuki Ona, then she will spare him.

Then there’s the K’uei (GUAY) of China, which looks like a translucent, dark humanoid with black hair and dark eyes. It is created when a person’s lower soul doesn’t leave his body because he led a dishonest life or committed suicide. The K’uei feeds on the emotions of evil people and is somewhat harmless by the standards of most vampires. Agile and intelligent, it’s also a somewhat cowardly creature and, as long as it’s left alone to feed, it generally doesn’t harm anyone. Should they be interrupted while feeding, the K’uei usually resorts to using its magic to curse that person. They love battlefields and the chaos of war, but holy artifacts and holy ground will repel them. There are several types of K’ueis in Chinese lore who all feed on different things, including the Hsi-Hsue- Keui (Zi-Zu-Guay) whose name translates to “suck blood demon” so you can guess what that one feeds on.

This same idea appears in Japan as the Gaki and in India and its surrounding regions as the preta. The souls of those who were exceptionally greedy or evil in life return, condemned to consume blood or other, even more repugnant, substances. In many stories these creatures are invisible while in others they take the form of monstrous humanoid figures with sharp teeth and claws, but a narrow neck; gaunt and starved like the Native American cannibal spirit, the Wendigo.

Even stranger than demons and ghosts are the strange and unique vampires that don’t fall into any neat category. The monsters like the famous goat-sucking Chupacabra of Mexico, which has taken numerous forms over the centuries but preys almost exclusively on livestock, to the Nabeshima (Nob- BAY- she- ma) of Japan. That one is a magical cat with two tails which can shape-shift into a specific person its victim knows in order to get close. Then it strangles its victim unconscious and drinks their blood.

Back in Africa, the Sasabonsam (Sa-so-BUN-sum) snatches up passers-by from the branches of cotton trees where it hides. A bat-like creature the size of a man with huge wings and a body covered in hair, it pulls its victims up into the trees where it tears their heads off and drinks their blood. These fearsome beasts are sometimes commanded by witch vampires I mentioned earlier, making them even more dangerous. Then there are less terrifying specimens like the Spanish hellhound called The Dip, which has black hair and glowing red eyes and … a lame leg. Don’t ask me why that’s scary…

Another amusing creature from Japan is the Kappa, little green child-like turtle people who live in lakes and ponds and can be appeased with cucumbers…and blood! Normally, they attack livestock who come to the water to drink, much like alligators and crocodiles. However, these most Japanese of monsters are also sticklers for courtesy and if one comes out of the water to attack a human, the person should quickly bow to it. The kappa will pause to return the bow, at which point the water will pour out of its bowl-like head and render it powerless. As mentioned before, you can also give them cucumbers, even going so far as to write your family name on a cucumber to gain protection for all the members of your family. Far from mindless, ravenous killers, they are also reputed to be skilled in medicine and teaching and is known to honor contracts made with it.

Two of the strangest, though, have to be the Filipino Aswang and the Australian Yara-Ma-Yahoo. The Aswang is another vampire that hides in a human guise during the day and then transforms—this time into a bird—in order to hunt. It flies to the house of its intended victim, usually a child, and perches on the roof directly over the spot where its prey lies sleeping. Then it sends its long, tube-like tongue into the house. Using a barb on the end of its tongue, it pierces a small hole in the flesh and sips its meal. When the Aswang has finished, it then flies back to its home where it will breastfeed its own children. You can come up with your own joke for that one.

For me, though, the prize for oddest vampire goes to the Yara-Ma-Yahoo and not just for its name. Like the Sasanbosam, it’s an ambush predator that hides up in a tree, but that’s where the similarities end. Described as a very short, red-skinned man with an enormous head and suckers on its hands and feet, it hides from the sun and generally attacks at night. Once it grabs its prey, it sucks their blood through its hand and foot suckers. Then it swallows the body whole. But here’s the best part: Sometime later, it vomits the person back up, completely whole and alive! They say that if it happens to you enough times, though, you get a little shorter each time until you become the same size as the vampire, and then your skin turns red, and then you become one yourself.

Well, that’s enough for this time. Join me next time when I unearth the Animated Corpses of folklore!

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Brian McKinley doesn’t really exist. He’s a constructed mortal identity used by a relatively young Vampyr in order to publish the truth about The Order. Due to the world-wide influence of The Order and its minions, these accounts must all be published as fiction. Sometimes the names and sequence of events have been changed to protect the innocent, the guilty, and to keep from getting sued.