Say hello to our favorite HorrorAddicts.net 10iversary television blogs!
Say hello to our favorite HorrorAddicts.net 10iversary television blogs!
Mike 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.
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.
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.
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 followed 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.
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 (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 stories 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 introduced 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
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
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.