FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Thriller Season 2

Though Flawed, Thriller’s Second Season Remains Frightful

By Kristin Battestella
In 1961, Boris Karloff returned as host for Year Two of the spooky and suspenseful anthology series Thriller. With 30 episodes a season, the mixed focus on scares and scandal runs thin at times. However, several thrilling and frightful gems –with a few from Big K himself – keep this season entertaining.
Disc One of Thriller’s Second Year opens with an ill wife, an easy to suspect a husband, and pretty younger sister in “What Beckoning Ghost?” Directed by Ida Lupino (The Hitch-Hiker), the suspense, coffins, premonitions, wills, and funerary wreaths escalate the gaslighting versus supernatural possibilities. Smart shadow placement and quality editing on the toppers combine for a nice mix of both scary and crime – a positive blend in the identity crisis that will continually hamper Thriller. Also directed by Lupino and adapted by Charles Beaumont (The Twilight Zone), “Guillotine” sets the French flavor with slicing practice, dark prisons, and jingling shackles. The delicious intro from Karloff, crimes of passion, simmering pace, and seduction anchor the sinister poisons versus ticking clock executions. Although the plot boils down to a straightforward crime, the unique period piece tone and final twists make up the difference, and “The Premature Burial” ups Thriller in full on, macabre Poe fashion. Boris himself is involved with this dreary Victorian tale, its elaborate tombs, questionable deaths, and catalepsy – and this episode aired before the release of the 1962 Roger Corman film adaptation. The larger than usual cast, great costumes, and fancy sets add to the deceit, unfaithfulness, and obsession while the black and white accents the morbid fail safes, bells, turnabouts, and demented performances. More statues and fortune tellers highlight “The Weird Tailor,” written by Robert Bloch (Psycho) and also later adapted in the 1972 Amicus anthology film Asylum. The deadly sorcery mistakes here can’t be amended, but the special eponymous request leads to marital dysfunction, one unusual sewing dummy, and fine social drama amid the occult intensity.
Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched), Tom Poston (Newhart), and John Carradine (Bluebeard) start off Disc Two with the lighthearted, perfect for Halloween farce “Masquerade.” From a writer on a honeymoon and a stormy night breakdown to ominous music, the Psycho house setting the scene, and rumors of vampires afoot – even Karloff’s introduction is unabashedly in on the spooky winks, tongue in cheek tone, and self aware repartee. Maybe the vampire cliches are too hammy for some viewers expecting true scares, but fortunately, the haunted house kooky and maze like bizarre contribute to a delightful kicker! “The Last of the Sommervilles” – again directed and also written by that oft Thriller gal Ida Lupino – has hastily buried bodies as garden fertilizer as well as Karloff once again making a slick appearance alongside Martita Hunt (Anastasia). This greedy family has plenty of crazy aunts and hidden relations with inheritance double crosses and Victorian irony. The actual murder how tos are a little loose, but sinister bathtub suggestions and fine interplay raise the suspense. Intense silhouettes, a bemusing score, card game puns, and old ladies with binoculars make the crimes in “A Third for Pinochle” all seem so quaint in this quid pro quo social etiquette meets hatchets tale. The belittling frumpy wives and unassuming killer neighbors ala The ‘Burbs is perhaps too similar to Season One’s “A Good Imagination” also starring Edward Andrews (Sixteen Candles), however, there’s enough whimsy to accent the hi-jinks while thunderstorms, slamming windows, a spooky castle, dungeon cobwebs, and great costumes up the scares in “The Closed Cabinet.” The medieval riddles sound like nonsensical hyperbole, but the 1880 flair, disbelieving lineage, and a superb black and white mood add to the ghostly beckoning, gothic dressings, and ye olde medieval harmonies.
For Disc Three of this Second Season, Thriller finally caught on with the need for more in on the game Karloff and serves up two tales both featuring Boris in different roles for “Dialogues with Death.” Morgue slabs, afterlife questions, skeptical reporters mocking the idea of asking the departed who killed them – and that’s the first half before more American Gothic swamps, flooded mausoleums, and catalepsy. Thriller can seems redundant or as if its running out of content with too many family scares in a row, especially so if every episode had been this kind of multi-plot variety, but writer Richard Matheson (The Twilight Zone) picks up the slack with a crazy uncle and his unusual internment requests in “The Return of Andrew Bentley.” The shrill sounds effects are terrible, indeed, however, familiars, necromancy, and occult warnings on tampering with the perimeters of death add to the moody marital discord. Wow, Jo Van Fleet (Wild River) looks so beautiful and evil alongside pup Bruce Dern (The ‘Burbs) and the again suspicious John Carradine in “The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk.” The quaint farm, cute piglets, weird whimsy, and county fair gentility belies the ruthless thieves and deadly rural. This toes the too goofy line, but there are some fun chess battles had here. More creepy voices, shadows, nightmares, and a noose start “An Attractive Family” before Leo G. Carroll (Spellbound) and Robert Long (The Big Valley) duel over crafty but thwarted spousal accidents that keep the audience guessing to the end.
“Waxworks” leads Disc Four with uncomfortably realistic designs and what you think you see tricks setting the mood for another Robert Bloch tale. The cops are trite, however French flavor adds to the Old World atmosphere, double take scares, unexpected violence, and noir style – making for another pleasing combination of the crime and paranormal parents on Thriller. Ursula Andress (Dr. No) looks divine for “La Strega,” making the viewer care for the peasantry even if the Italian setting is slightly stereotypical and somewhat Spanish thanks to Ramon Novarro (Mata Hari) and Alejandro Rey (The Flying Nun). Once again director Ida Lupino builds an Old Country and foreign horror feeling with witches, familiars, and a dangerous mix of beauty, curses, and superstitions. Operatic orchestration accents the romantic tragedy and inevitable pursuits that can’t be outrun while creepy crones ascend toward the camera with their dread uninterrupted. More screams, black cats, and solitary perils elevate the standard premise, understandable fears, and expected suspicions in “The Storm.” Pesky cabbies and unheeded warnings escalate toward frightful power outages, deadly downpours, animal knee jerks, natural scares, and a fine topper. “A Wig for Miss Devore” begins with past executions and fatal beauties before film within a film aging starlets and movie magic deceptions featuring John Fiedler (The Bob Newhart Show). It’s interesting to have seemingly contemporary talk of parts for 25 year old fresh red heads only and a 38 year old has been who was finished at 32 – a swift social commentary on desperate charms and Hollywood extremes. Thriller is on point when the crimes are supernatural, period set, or elevated with more cultural dimension as in “The Hollow Watcher.” Backwoods murder and Irish mail order brides lead nosy but fearful townsfolk, local legends, and phantom vengeance with scandalous touches and schemes compensating for anything that may appear comical now. Besides, scarecrows are already disturbing enough, right? The series peaks here with what may be the single best disc in the complete Thriller collection.
Karloff’s final in character appearance in “The Incredible Doktor Markesan” leads Disc Five with excellent slow, stilted moves and a sunken, deathly veneer. Suspicious medical university secrets, a kitchen with food so old its turned to dust, and inquisitive nephew Dick York (Bewitched) accent the no trespassing signs, old newspapers, and eerie meetings. Terrifically terrifying makeup and music ala The Gentleman from Buffy highlight this mix of murder and science, going for the scares as Thriller should have done all along. “Flowers of Evil” brings yet more ghoulishness with skeletal props and Victorian flavor. How does one come into the business of procuring bad luck bones to sell, anyway? coughmurdercough. Though overlong in some spots, budding forensics, cadavers, and dissection keep the gruesome mood afloat. Robert Bloch pens the western set “Til Death Do Us Part” with a fortune hunting undertaker in a town where the dead body business isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. The comedic music is overdone, but the unique setting, murderous intentions, and eloping in a horse drawn Hearst are much more fun when played for the macabre bigamy gone bad. “The Bride Who Died Twice” has torture, creepy Mexican generals, and unwilling marital alliances with a wonderfully different setting, epic music, and lovely costumes accenting the star crossed lovers and corruption from director Ida Lupino. Despite the horrors of revolution, fine cinematic flair, and all around period delightful, ironically this strictly dramatic hour doesn’t seem like it belongs on Thriller. Fortunately, Mary Tyler Moore sings Cole Porter in “Man of Mystery,” setting a swanky, urbane feeling for this whodunit full of playboys, money, secrets, and escalating obsessions, and Ida Lupino bows out her Thriller directing on Disc Six with sulfuric acid, animal trophies, timid librarians, iron fisted new bosses, and play within a play winks for the dual femmes in “The Lethal Ladies.”
Since it took so long for Thriller to get its full on horror, it’s tempting to give several pedestrian episodes a free pass. As the spelling suggests, “God Grante that She Lye Stille” serves up ye olde burning at the stake declarations before more familiar moonlight curses almost pull off all the horror stops. Unfortunately, the odd, interchangeable combination of witches and vampires doesn’t quite fire on all cylinders. The room to room opening and closing doors in “Letter to a Lover” feel like an old Scooby Doo montage, complete with repetitive, nondescript country manor suspicions, subservient minorities, subterfuge, and murder. Someone even nearly says, “And I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for you kids!” “Portrait without a Face” has a neat premise, but John Newland (One Step Beyond) starts with a hammy Vincent Price imitation before one annoying, cackling old lady and a slow double talk investigation that can’t fill up the 50 minute runtime. “Cousin Tundifer” repeats the Edward Andrews humor and comical music, missing the teleportation and topsy turvy time irony and opportunity on laughter and yet another nephew trying to get rich while “Kill My Love” also rinse repeats murder, adultery, and gas leaks. Young George Kennedy (Dallas) can’t save the obvious and disposable Burke and Hare plots of “The Innocent Bystanders,” and as to the crooks and cops of “The Specialists”…yawn. For such a short run, Thriller over relies on too many of the same witches, suspicious couples, amoral families, murderers, and profiteers, and in retrospect, the series seems reluctant to fully embrace its built in horror mantle. I suppose mystery and adultery of the week were simply cheaper to film than weekly macabre. That doesn’t mean that the suspense and crime episodes aren’t entertaining – Thriller provides a little something for everyone across the spectrum from witty to scary and everything in between. Through today’s lense, however, Thriller appears to play it safe more often than it should.
Thankfully, mid century furs, pearls, old technology, fedoras, cool cars, and classy interiors add charm alongside somewhat simplistic but atmospheric and fitting ghost effects – which were probably pretty elaborate for a time when $3, a cup of coffee, or 20 cents a mile paid the cab driver and real operators connected the phone line. Thunder, lightning, fire, mirrors, and black and white ambiance accent the 17th century through Victorian times. Again, it probably wasn’t cost prohibitive to always be period set, but more mood and effort seems to grace the historical pieces, and those well dressed interiors and gothic feelings carry Thriller regardless of the time period onscreen. The series may not be as immediately recognizable as The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, however, Thriller does have a universally spooky atmosphere. Part of that may be Karloff’s lure, but he’s still having a good time doing the introductions, even occasionally getting into it with more spunk on the weaker episodes – popping in amid the sets more like Serling this season and quoting Shakespeare in the cemetery! Although the soft voices and sometimes bombastic sounds on this Complete Thriller series set are still obnoxious, more fine Jerry Goldsmith scores add ambiance and can be isolated on select episodes alongside commentaries and other treats.
This second season lags across the middle discs, and a shorter season with more Karloff would have been so sweet, but I’m happy Thriller righted itself this year with a more scary focus. I’d love to see the earlier Karloff series The Veil for comparison, but unfortunately, those sets appear incomplete, elusive, and unavailable on Netflix. Today, a show like Thriller would have been continuously tweaked into its short ruin with all half horror horrors reaching for stunt casting guests and anything and everything shocking in a desperate grab for ratings. Overall, Thriller’s attempt at a suspenseful and scary middle ground is uneven and divisive, leaving audiences to skip around the scary or pick and choose the scandal. However, I’m glad the series didn’t cater to the lowest audience with cheap horror, and thus, Thriller remains sophisticated fun be it murder or macabre.
Advertisements

HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference: Chat Transcripts!

 

Did you ever want to start a podcast but don’t know how?

Do you want to submit material but don’t know what the editor wants?

Never fear! At The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference, our Podcast Hostess Emerian Rich and our Head of Publishing Naching T. Kassa have answered your questions in two live chat sessions via our HOW Forum.

 

Missed the chats, did you say? HOW Con has you covered once again with our chat transcripts! Emerian discusses podcasting, publishing, and the changing trends in horror while Naching, editor of the upcoming Dark Divinations anthology, shares insights on the submission process and the Next Great Horror Writer Contest.

Both transcripts can be found in HOW’s Horror Workshop section alongside more articles and tips from authors including Dina Leacock and Mercy Hollow and video interviews with witch author J.L. Brown and vampire writer Brian McKinley. There’s so much to see and read at HOW!

 

 

HOWConference: Live Chats!

The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference is offering Several Live Chat Events with our Publishers, Editors, and Staff. Join us at HOW to ask Your Questions!

Sunday, February 24
CHAT with AN EDITOR!

Sunday February 24 4 p.m. Pacific/ 7 p.m. Eastern Naching T. Kassa, Horror Addicts.net Publisher and Dark Divinations anthology Editor will be chatting with HOW!
Naching is a wife, mother, horror writer, and Head of HorrorAddicts.net Publishing. She’s created 17 short stories, two novellas, a poem, and co-created two children. She lives in Eastern Washington State with Dan Kassa, her husband and biggest supporter. Naching is a member of the Horror Writers Association and a contributor to the Demonic Visions series. She took second place in Horroraddicts.net’s Next Great Horror Writer Contest and one of her poems was included in The Horror Writers Association’s Poetry Showcase Vol. IV.

 

To chat with Naching, join us in the Shoutbox at the bottom of the #HOWConference Front page. If you have a question for Naching, post a “?” comment during the chat hour and the moderator will call on you.

Monday February 25 we are having not
One but TWO Live Chats at HOW!

First on Monday February 25 10 a.m. Pacific / 1 p.m. Eastern join Emerian Rich, HorrorAddicts.net Publisher & Podcast Hostess for Publishing 101

Creator and Horror Hostess of HorrorAddicts.net Publishing Emerian Rich created HorrorAddicts.net as a place for horror addicts, by horror addicts, glorifying every aspect of the horror lifestyle. Emerian is the author of Night’s Knights Vampire Series, the Sweet Dreams Novel Series, and has been involved in dozens of podcast and story projects. She was the editor of the horror ‘zine DarkLives for ten years starting in the mid-nineties. To find out more about Emerian, visit her site at: emzbox.com

Next we are having an Evening Welcome Party!

Monday February 25 8 p.m. Eastern / 5 p.m. Pacific it’s a Shout Box Welcome Night Party with Kristin Battestella, Dark Fantasy author and HorrorAddicts.net Staff Writer. Yes, Yours Truly!

When other kids were playing with dolls and teddy bears, this South Jersey born and bred addict KBatz was watching Price, Lee, Hitchcock, Dark Shadows, Alien, anything and everything in analysis of what was scary and why. Be it vamps, scares, or weres, you name it-freaky or macabre and she is there-regardless of how you pronounce macabre. For more bent paranormal fiction and horror film, television, and literature reviews, find Kbatz’ insanity on the web at: vampfam.blogspot.com

Can’t Wait to See You at HOW!

 

Book Review: Welcome to the Show

Welcome to the Show 
Reviewed by Voodoo Lynn

Reading this anthology reminds me that not everything that is written is your favorite, standing coffee order and that sometimes, something different can be a good thing. There are enough stories here that are written by Bay Area natives to inject just enough truth (whatever that word may mean to you) to make everything plausible. As a lifelong Bay Area native, I have haunted various San Francisco bars and venues, especially when I was an intern at a well-established and known indie label. I have seen everything from burlesque to punk, to spoken word to I don’t know what the hell to call it. I have many fond memories of those shows and wouldn’t trade them for anything. The descriptions of this place, ring true to me.

Like every venue, the Shantyman has its own vibe. From its dark inception to its dystopian future of outlawed music, this venue follows a dark, sinewy path of death and destruction that both ravages the innocent and guilty alike within its infamous walls.

You have a selection of seventeen stories to choose from in this collection, so I know there will be something for everyone. I have to say this is one of the most diverse books I’ve ever read. Now, that’s not saying that I liked every story because I didn’t. In fact, there was more than one story that I felt fell short of the mark and could’ve been fleshed out more instead of giving it the ‘…and everyone died…’ ending. Having said that, let me take you through some of the highlights in this book.

The first story from this collection is “What Sort of Rube” by Alan Clark. This story is based in the 19th century and illuminates for us the very dubious beginnings of this infamous venue. It is narrated by a sailor, so the requisite amount of jargon is utilized but not so much as to take away from the story. It begins with one curse. A curse for revenge. A curse for love. Crazy, stupid love. And its basis is in, music. It’s always about the music. It is the alpha and the omega and through the burning fires of revenge, the stage is set for the damned and unlucky alike, to bear witness to the performances in the Shantyman.

The next story liked was “In the Winter of No Love” by John SkippThis story moves us forward to the summer of love era and a sense of the free love/freedom movement of the 60’s. It also takes us to the darker reality of that line of thinking, to the shattered dreams and memories of an idea that never came to fruition. The main character, Marcie, says that she “tastes” the history and creepiness of the venue and yet, she stays to watch the show of a lifetime. To me, that speaks volumes of the dark allure of the Shantyman. Interesting detail, the author mentions that Marcie is from Milwaukee and at one point, talks about how Marcie is 2173 miles away from the Shantyman door. 2173 is exactly how many miles San Francisco is from Milwaukee. Details. I love little details like that. So, aside from details, this story wins in the category of most unusually imaginative description of the end for the main character and all those poor bastards that was there for that show. I would’ve never seen that end coming. The ending, interestingly enough, is met by a character that reminds me of a very famous 27 year old poet/musician that died way too young. His character, this angel of mercy so to speak, exemplifies the 60’s philosophy on life. Plus, I totally dig the song lyrics in this story. Very groovy…

The last story I want to touch upon is “We Sang in Darkness” by Mary San Giovanni. It is the last story in the collection and it is by far my favorite. It’s set on the future, a sad, dystopian one that is totally plausible. Perhaps it is the conspiracy theory element that currently rings so true. With more and more criticism of fake news and mainstream media and its exclusion and downplaying of important stories, it is the conspiracy theorists that are gaining more traction and followers. Maybe I like the physics aspect of it discussing experiments with electromagnetic fields in the sky (can anybody say HAARP?) and how it was these experiments that caused one of the greatest tragedies of humankind, the complete utter ban on music for the safety of the planet all because the vibrations attract creatures from another dimension which are needless to say, dangerous. It is from here that I have my favorite quote from the story:

“I’d say I saw humanity there, but who’s to say that thoughts and feelings are the exclusive domain of human beings?”

Indeed. The story is so plausible that you can imagine the apocalyptic end of life and society as we know it and the beginnings of a new one, void of such an integral part of us as human beings- music. The main character perfectly illustrates how music has the power to help and change people for the better and we are reminded of how much we really lost because of him. Throughout this story I kept hearing the theme to the X-Files going through my head and though Mulder and Scully don’t arrive just in time, some feds at the end did and we all know what happens to eye witnesses to strange things and the feds…

I can’t say this is the best collection of stories that I’ve read but it is certainly a good one and I enjoyed it. It’s good enough for me to forgive what I call “The Little Story that Could’ve Been” that had a main character that reminded me of Alice Cooper placed into “Rock and Roll Nightmare” instead of Thor. I mention this because this story, that shall remain nameless, was one of my favorites until it just died a quick, uneventful, predictable death. I hope the author of it someday decides to expand on it because it could’ve been something.

Just like many of the Shantyman’s performers and audience members. People whose lives were cut short within the venue doors. Whether it’s cults, sea creatures, time travel, or vampires (I told you there was variety) I’m sure you’ll find your own ticket to ride within the pages of this anthology.

Book Review: Freaks edited by Toneye Eyenot and Michael Noe

Are you looking for stories that stick in your dreams? Ones about people twisted both inside and out? You might regret what you wish for.

Freaks, a collection of stories and poetry edited by Toneye Eyenot and Michael Noe, contains 19 chilling tales of monsters, murderers, and madmen.

This anthology is not for the faint of heart. The stories inside may vary in style and subject matter, but the collection holds nothing back. Each is gruesome and stretches the limits of what you as a horror addict can stomach. The authors explore the depths of human depravity, then dig down a few more feet just for good measure.

Each author put their own spin on the anthology’s theme of horror in the realm of circuses and carnivals. The stories are a good mix of the supernatural, the speculative, and the frighteningly realistic. There are killer clowns, sure, but what about a man with a killer appetite, or a roadshow zombie attraction, or a carnival ride that is actually alive? Not all freaks are easy to identify and the worst ones are really the ones that are monsters on the inside.

My personal favorite entries are “Two for the Show” by Tina Piney and “Clownbear’s Last Performance” by Brian Glossup. Both authors created compelling characters within a short span, a difficult task when also including spine-tingling imagery and suspense.

If you’re brave enough to chance reading this, I can guarantee that you’ll be looking over your shoulder and sleeping with the lights on. And no way in hell are you going anywhere near a circus. If you feel a little squeamish, I think that’s the point.

Freaks appeals to a certain variety of horror addict. If you love to stretch the limits of what is appropriate to publish, take a look. If you want stories that will make your skin crawl and stomach churn, check this out. If you want to question your sanity and that of the authors and maybe of humanity in general… read Freaks. And don’t say I didn’t warn you.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Friday the 13th The Series Season Three

Friday the 13th: The Series Loses Steam in Season 3

by Kristin Battestella

The 1989-90 final twenty episode leg of Friday the 13th: The Series sputters as Micki Foster (Louise Robey) and Jack Marshak (Chris Wiggins) continue to retrieve cursed objects sold from the Curious Goods shop. Ryan Dallion (John D. LeMay), however, can no longer confront the evils they face, and Johnny Ventura (Steve Monarque) doesn’t fully comprehend the magical wrong doings of their terrible quarry.

Crosses, Madonna statues, religious paintings, and church festivals create Old World feeling in “The Prophecies Parts 1 and 2” as Jack is off to France claiming he’s researching spiritual phenomena – which isn’t that far from the truth. Creepy long nails, sharp teeth, evil eyes, and demonic voices accent 3:33 a.m. bells, prayers, and eponymous readings as priests cross themselves against possession, hell hounds, and evil tomes. If Lucifer can do his work in a holy place, what hope is there for the rest of us? Family reunions are bittersweet between miraculous visions, foretold fallen angels, and whispers of demons wanting a soul. Frightful falls, a pilgrimage blasphemed, scripture versus scripture – is the faith of a child enough to trap this evil in the protected Curious Goods vault? Though the good gone bad themes feel rushed in the second part, fiery thunderstorms and disturbing violence set off the big terrors for this opening twist. Upsetting injuries, gang violence, and shocking car accidents continue in “Crippled Inside.” It’s difficult to cope with the wheelchair bound result – until an antique pushchair provides some healing astral projection and gory doppelganger payback. What’s a little acid or a short walk off a tall building among rapists? This dilemma on an cursed quarry’s justified usage happens almost without the regular trio, establishing a pattern this season where our collectors are excused away or stumble onto the curio after an otherwise anthology style tale. Gross boils and a bloody hearing aid worming its way deeper anchor “Stick It In Your Ear” alongside magic tricks, blindfolds, guessing game schemes, and the ability to hear people’s thoughts. Camera revelations, scary editing, and vivid sounds make the audience fear this evil little amplifier! Had Friday the 13th continued, it would have been neat to see one elusive object reappear each season, and the standout “Bad Penny” revisits the ominous coin from Season Two’s “Tails I Live, Heads You Die.” The piece is found in the rubble with a skeleton or two alongside cops in the back alley, informant prostitutes, laundered briefcases, and shootouts. Jack and Micki are understandably upset to battle this piece again, and tender moments come between mistakes, conflicts, trauma, and car chases as a cop raises the wrong ghoulish person from the dead with dark magic he doesn’t understand.

Whoopsie, a car radio is sold from Curious Goods without checking if it is on the evil manifest while vintage automobiles, confederate flags, and redneck racism set the tone for “Hate On Your Dial.” Our villains were already nasty before the sale, using derogatory terms and shooting at children for funsies, and such murderous blood on the dashboard is a time travel catalyst for a black and white Mississippi trip. Again the social statements are mostly developed without the series stars, and the fictitious fears wrapped in real world horror is somewhat uneven thanks to the back and forth editing between the color present and the black and white past. The appalling racism issues, however, are both dated yet still relevantly disturbing. The eighties may have been thirty-five years from this past depiction, but we aren’t much better in the near thirty years since. More silver screen clips and vintage film reels provide a fallen Old Hollywood glitz in “Femme Fatale” as an aging actress’s screenwriter husband tosses young starlets into his cursed print. How many pretty face fatalities will it take for his wife’s young onscreen self to permanently exit the frame? The eighties does forties mood goes all out with film within a film classic movie retrospectives on lost youth and escapist ingenues willing to do anything to be in pictures. Samurai swords and family honor bring the 1945 Tokyo start of “Year of the Monkey” full circle with sensei instruction, a poisonous tea set, and our trio on the trail of some creepy little see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil monkey statues. As is often the case, the Japanese motifs are slightly cliché exotic with calligraphy, rice paper screens, and guest Tia Carrere (Wayne’s World). Fortunately, the generational lessons and revenge mysticism prove themselves with each statue testing the telepathy, teleportation, and ritual suicide for a promised immortality. Satin lined coffins, somber organs, and Polaroids for the company scrapbook open “Epitaph For a Lonely Soul” between fluids, tubes, classical music, and some sherry while working on the gory wounds and ghoulish purple tissues. Vintage embalming equipment can reanimate bodies, and the candles, grave digging, and undressed corpses suggest a twisted desecration. Memories, decomposition, and the trauma of life renewed hold the undead pretty captive – and Micki may be next for our lonely mortician.

Perilous kids and dogs are quite graphic with very little for “Repetition” and the missing posters, confessionals, and hidden bodies add to the immediate guilt and personal dilemmas caused by a life trapping cameo necklace. Ghostly echoes and desperate kills repeat this swapping cycle as drinking and homeless shelters crisscross over dead mothers and fatal trades. Ironically, Micki isn’t even pursuing the locket and Curious Goods merely bookends the hour. Despite a reversed episode listing order, The Complete TV Series DVD Set has “Spirit of Television” next complete with swanky parties, thunderstorms, seances, and a madame calling on the deceased through a suspect vintage television. Unfortunately, the seemingly happy chats with the departed are followed by upset ghosts, and the subsequent blown up boob tubes and electrocutions in the bathtub renew our madame’s youth. The fantastic conduit, static white noise, and spooky nostalgia accent the psychic fraud as the team must both debunk and retrieve the cursed set – doing what Friday the 13th should with this supernatural late season redeemer. Likewise, the poolside bullies and strong arming of “Jack-in-the-Box” lead to floating bodies and one of Micki’s friends among the deceased. The surviving daughter acts out and rightfully slams the adults responsible. However, the titular toy turns her innocence and grief into vengeance. Drowning in alcoholism parallels set off the ghostly visits and fatal vignettes, but our curio trio can’t endorse this creative revenge no matter how justified. Ancient Gaelic languages, candles, charms, and oak trees open the 1984 prologue for “The Tree of Life,” but when a husband objects to this so-called mumbo jumbo as part of the prenatal regime, these druids cum nurses keep the baby. A present pregnant couple shopping for dolls at Curious Goods is also scheduled at this rigid clinic, and our collectors involve themselves in this sisterhood of spells and solstice sacrifices. Too bad Last Season’s white versus dark coven rivalries weren’t tied in among the disagreeing team and women versus women cult extremes. A shady professor also tells his female students to get in touch with their dark side in the series finale “The Charnel Pit,” and the blindfolded nightcaps lead to a two-sided, time traveling painting said to be done by the Marquis de Sade in blood. Torture, shackles, and a little loving pain leave Micki trapped in the eighteenth century disguised as a duchess and writing of her alluring predicament with Mr. MdS. The boys, meanwhile, must figure out which of the painting’s victims are from the past by looking for a lack of dental work. Fancy dressings add to the courtly facade, dungeon gallery, and willfully sinister charm, for after all, one learns a person’s true colors with a whip. Fortunately, there’s just enough room for one more cursed antique in the vault.

Friday the 13th’s previous two seasons certainly had some duds, and there aren’t as many super bad clunkers in this shortened year. Most of these episodes are okay or decent, but no one really puts everything totally together to zing like the memorable years prior. Dated surveillance equipment and Aliens wannabe trackers in “Demon Hunter” are hammy early with hokey moonlight silhouettes and more Predator commando knockoffs. Power outages at Curious Goods, a museum returning a sacrificial dagger, and further dark secrets hidden beneath the vault that could have been explored more are shoehorned in like an A/B plot behind the laughable family vengeance meets monster puppet, and R.G. Armstrong’s annual Uncle Lewis appearance is sorely missed this year. The series also randomly plays with inconsistent time travel and flashback aspects with one episode’s flashbacks in black and white but another time travel hour in color. Rather than previous innovative technical attempts, the style doesn’t seem to matter. We also never spend enough time at Curious Goods, and “Midnight Riders” has our team star gazing while teens necking in a nearby car are accosted by a try hard phantom gang and local Sleepy Hollow biker legends. A ghoulish headless biker reattachment can’t save this one – oh, and Jack’s mysterious sea captain dad not seen in ten years is somehow in this backwoods on top of those annoying teens who, it turns out, are siblings! o_O A late night swimming pool in “The Long Road Home” is also an excuse for a juicy underwater lip lock between Micki and Johnny amid storm warnings, terrible flirting, and a tacked on yin yang charm with body transferring properties. Highway diners, cliché taxidermy, and country killers can be found elsewhere in horror, and Friday the 13th strays from its virtue once the protagonists use the evil object and its hammy body swaps when it suits them. The trio is actually more present and capable than usual in deducing the preposterous selfishness in “My Wife as a Dog” when a miraculous leash helps a whiny fireman make his ailing dog and soon to be ex-wife one and the same. Curious Goods being cited for not being up to fire code is the better story, and this is an unlikable, perverse little episode with major mixed messages on making your woman a bitch and moving your dog into the bedroom. Again, O_o

Our Micki may get groceries or stay at home and research, however she also continues on a case without Jack or Ryan and it is dumb to have her repeatedly call Johnny for unnecessary help when we’ve seen her face plenty of evil on her own. It’s also surprising she would let a man follow and attack her just to get an object – as if, not that it is her only plan, but rather just the best the writers could do. Micki is either the lovely victim or referred to as minding the store and doesn’t always have very much to do either way. “Bad Penny” has Jack give the past exposition rather than show Micki speaking about the experience herself, although she’s right to be afraid of dying in this fight against evil. The trio is also closer to the terror and within the investigation sooner for “Mightier Than the Sword” thanks to execution protests, pardons, and a pen that lets the author write what the guilty party will do while he gets the subsequent crime writer exclusives and literary glory. Jokes about word processors versus the good old pen and paper write themselves amid nom de plumes and slashers who don’t remember their fatal deeds. Unfortunately, Micki struggles to resist the scripted urge and uses a discreet straight razor to scratch her new murderous itch. She’s briefly smitten by a vampire again, trapped in a gangster movie, and sucked into a hellish painting for some 1790 saucy, too. There are consequences and nightmares as a result, but it’s understandable to see Micki snap – wouldn’t we all? Despite a brief Roxette mohawk meets I Love Lucy updo, one of those fake ponytail braids a la Madonna, and some lovely baroque feathers and period frocks; most of the time Micki’s style is maturely toned down with more nineties turtlenecks and business blazers. By the end of the season, she is once again independently strong, breaking in places and confronting people rather than letting these evils continue.

Once again, Jack’s continental battles have one wondering what Friday the 13th would have been like with him alone on the evil relic hunt. We don’t even get to see it when he’s said to be off recovering the Shard of Medusa from Year Two! The devil punishes him for all his good works, but Jack officially becomes part owner of Curious Goods on paper nonetheless. He’s the reluctant treasurer of the Antiques Association, too, but doesn’t like having its swanky party at the store when the other snobby dealers belittle his occult focus. Jack takes the lead in most cases, researching all aspects and utilizing his magic act connections or Druid knowledge. He also looks more nineties suave in more suit styles rather than his somewhat quirky trench coat and hat. Jack’s there for Micki as a fatherly shoulder, telling her to not let evil defeat her and even getting harsh with her when he has to be. He brings Micki food when she’s on a stakeout, too – even if that’s more about delivering some exposition. Jack waxes on good, evil, the gray between, and how their job never seems to get any easier in “Night Prey” thanks back alley bites, impromptu stakings, and one killer crucifix. Granted, some strobe effects are hokey, however those vampires floating outside the church’s stained class windows are eerily effective. If the show insisted on branching out from the object of the week format, it could have been cool to see Jack team up with such vampire hunters more often. This lone wolf monster vendetta with misused medieval relics feels like a rare Jack-centric episode, but the team is two steps behind as usual and Jack dictates information just as much as he gets in on the conflicted action. He admits that in their line of work, doing the right thing can be a little too weird sometimes, and Jack gets caught in the middle with twisted romance, then shocking innuendo, and murdered priests. It’s 1990 but these vamps are pretty indiscriminate on who they bite.

Unfortunately, Ryan is clearly over all the death in his life, and close to home battles versus Lucifer interfere with a new chance to bond with the mother who abandoned him. Seriously, how do you explain this line of work to mom? Demonic corruption, violence that can’t be undone, guilt, and final heroics send the character off in an eerie and unique, if far fetched exit. It’s at once cathartic to see innocence win in a series where evil can’t always be defeated, however, continuing Friday the 13th with two thirds of the regulars and a tacked on pal shifts the show’s dynamic considerably. Johnny Ventura suddenly becomes Micki’s sounding board but he feels more like an intrusion rather than helpful. The hood from a few episodes last season is now supposedly the hero as if a stranger dropped in with no explanation when the series had other opportunities to involve better mystical support. Whether Johnny stays at the store or has his own car is inconsistent depending on if he is called for a lame reason or if his wheels are part of the plot. He remains a non-believer in the paranormal even as Jack tells him to make himself useful and warns Johnny to take these dangerous curios seriously. Johnny can’t retrieve an object alone nor mind the store without selling the wrong item, and takes an ax to an indestructible evil object when not trying to use the evil for himself. For being the young muscle, he gets knocked out a lot, too. Johnny does write fiction by getting ideas from the tabloids – which Jack calls rubbish even though earlier in the series he said the rags were the best place for tips. They discourage him from writing about the store, but an underground publication angle might have been neat instead of pushing this new character at the expense of the others when Jack and Micki get on as a duo just fine. Thankfully, Johnny is put to use climbing outside to adjust the television antenna. Heck, Jill Hennessy (Law and Order) pops up three times as a sultry vampire, snotty secretary, and a lifeguard. She could have kept around as an undercover regular disguised per antique.

Orange lighting, distorted bells, white out eyes, and wolves leaping through windows keep up the horror intensity alongside foggy cemeteries, stone crypts, religious iconography, fires, and red devils with the horns to match the ghoulish skeletons, gory flesh, and melting oozes. Underground tombs, torches, demon altars, rune manuscripts written in blood, and pentagrams beneath the vault help make Curious Goods by lantern light even creepier, and there’s a stained couch with a body in the pullout cushion! Mirrors assure those vampires have no reflection, there’s holy water on the shelves at Curious Goods, and the store’s business cards give its address as 666 Druid Avenue. Hearts pounding and distorted camera angles set off veiny prosthetic gore even if the period flashbacks and foreign locales are slightly under budget old looking. Fortunately, the retro designs make the most of the horror effects, building that patina mood with frock coats and frilly collars for some provincial time travel or green lighting, cigarettes, and noir styling for the vampire nightclub. The swanky cars, station wagons, mothers in sweaters and pearls, and thirty year old high schoolers with bad perms keep the nostalgia in the forefront, compensating for reused sets and locations or that same Tudor house used for everything. The early computer snooping is also somewhat fake. You couldn’t just type in a name on blank screen and get clues back in the day! What do they think this is, Google? This was the era of phone booths when folks still had black and white televisions, and Friday the 13th gets then edgy by using ‘bitch’ a lot – although such grit feels hollow when wearing those big eighties blazers and tiny bolero ties. Men in tight jeans, long scarves, duster trench coats, and mullets isn’t so timeless nor are the seriously purple eighties mod bathrooms with black fixtures and bloody bathtubs. Of course, rather than due to any letdown in syndication popularity, Friday the 13th: The Series was canceled at a time when sponsors and advertising were swayed by complaints on television violence and how far shows could push the envelope in prime time. In retrospect, it’s an ironic end knowing everything seen here is almost friendly fair compared to the excessive shocks across all the television viewing platforms today.

Season Three strays from the Friday the 13th formula as cast changes and a larger focus on plots of the week loose the ability to fully capitalize on the spooky ideas presented. Fortunately, enough late hour gems keep these terrible little tchotchkes entertaining for old school horror audiences and series completists.

Chilling Chat Episode 154 Crescendo of Darkness with Emerian Rich

Emerian Rich is the author of the Night’s Knights Vampire Series. She’s been included in many short story anthologies and also writes romance under Emmy Z. Madrigal. She is the horror hostess of HorrorAddicts.net and Editorial Director for the San Francisco Bay Area magazine, SEARCH. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. Find out more about Emerian at: http://www.emzbox.com

Our lovely horror hostess is a real scream. She took time out of her busy schedule to chat with me about Crescendo of Darkness, editing and publishing, and the new HorrorAddicts.net submission call.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Emz. Thank you for chatting with me.

ER: I am so excited to be on here. I never get to chat with you except about HorrorAddicts.net business.

NTK: Crescendo of Darkness is the eighth book in the HorrorAddicts.net series of anthologies. How did it come about?emz1small

ER: I had been thinking about doing a music-themed horror anthology for a while. I had read A. Craig Newman’s “Circe’s Music Shop” back in the 90s—Yes! The 90s!—as part of a crit group I was part of online. The story stuck with me. I just loved it. So when Jeremiah Donaldson E-mailed me to say he wanted to do a music anthology, I said, “Yes! Under one condition…We have to have this guy’s story in the book.”

NTK: So, “Circe’s Music Shop” set the bar for the anthology?

ER: Yes, in a way. However, Jeremiah has a much different view of music than I do. He knows more about guitar/rock and you will see that a lot of the stories go down that road. For me, music is more melodic and dramatic. My favorite stories in the anthology are the ones that put off a spookier piano-y vibe. I think we got a really nice mix because we were both reviewing them.

NTK: Did you look for stories to surround “Circe’s Music shop?” What was your criteria for the stories you chose?

ER: We did not look for stories that fit with A. Craig’s. He might have put the idea in my head but, when we were reading, we just graded them by how much they moved, scared, or touched us. We were open to all interpretations. HorrorAddicts.net Press has a system for populating our anthologies. We have a team of four readers. The Editor, me, and two others from staff. We all read and grade. Whichever stories get the top grades, we publish. The Editor has veto power and can fight for one if it’s not in the top of the list but, mostly, the highest graded ones (meaning the ones that all of us enjoyed) are the ones that ultimately get into the book. Except yours, which won an award when graded by pros. Congratulations, by the way.

NTK: Thank you! “Audition” was a fun story to write for the Next Great Horror Writer Contest and I’m so honored to be included in Crescendo. We have another NGHW finalist included in the anthology. What attracted you to Daphne Strasert’s story?

ER: Well, as you know, we were only allowed to publish one story from the competition, that being yours, which we felt was the best out of the group. However, we allowed the other contestants to submit something else. When Daphne’s new one came in, I was happy to see it, because she is also a great writer. We graded hers just as all the others and she rang in to the top grades as well. I can’t speak for the others on the submission team, but for me, not only was Daphne’s so different from the others—starring a music box, not an instrument—but it’s also a really creepy story. Daphne’s voice is so fresh and contemporary. I could see this story being made into a movie like The Ring.

NTK: There are fourteen authors included in the anthology and you have a wonderful variety of stories. Can you give us a quick run-down of what the reader can expect to see within these pages?

ER: First, we have a good number of guitar-based stories. Your story, “Audition,” “Circe’s Music Shop” by A. Craig Newman, “Loved to Death,” by Sam Morgan Phillips, “While My Guitar Gently Bleeds,” by Benjamin Langley, “Six String Bullets,” by Cara Fox, and “A Whisper in the Air,” by Jeremiah Donaldson really reflect the cover. Then, we have piano themes in “Solomon’s Piano,” by Jeremy Megargee and “They Don’t Make Music Like That Anymore,” by Kahramanah. There are cursed objects like Daphne Strasert’s, “The Music Box,” and Sarah Gribble’s, “The Legend of Crimson Ivory.” “Lighthouse Lamentation,” by R.A. Goli involves a haunted lighthouse, while Calvin Demmer’s, “Keep the Beat,” is about a cursed village. H.E. Roulo’s, “Become the Music,” is about a child who is allergic to music and my story, “Last Lullaby,” is a re-imagining of the Phantom of the Opera tale.

NTK: Emz, as I mentioned before, this is HorrorAddicts.net’s eighth anthology. What made you become an editor and publisher?

ER: I’m not sure when I fell into all this. When I was in my 20s, I had a local ‘zine called Dark Lives. I would publish horror/goth authors and artists. In the early 2000s, I decided I better stop and get to work on my own novels. When I started HorrorAddicts.net as a podcast, I never even dreamed it would be what it is today. As you know, we are populated by fans and the staff that come to help spread the horror goodness. We became a blog and a site and a lifestyle for so many craving horror that publishing just seemed like a natural progression. Also, I love reading horror and I read so much by authors that haven’t been published before that I’m like…THIS is the stuff I want to read. But if no one is publishing it, then it can’t be enjoyed by other horror enthusiasts like me. I’m really interested in publishing things I like that may not fit the mainstream publishing system. Cool things I haven’t heard before. New ideas that aren’t the same rehashed formula we get in industry anthologies.

NTK: So, what is your favorite kind of horror? What movies, novels, and TV shows do you enjoy?

ER: I like classic horror. By classic, I don’t mean I always have to crouch by the light of the black and white set, straining my eyes to make out the grays of the darkly lit forest, I mean what we think of as classically spooky. The shutters banging, the ghost in the tower, the creaking doors, and melodramatic music. The Woman in Black, The Others, and Ghost Ship are some of my favorites. For TV, I am more into humorous horror themes like Reaper and Dead Like Me. But, I’m also a fan of shows like Ghost Whisperer, The Others (TV show from the 90s), and Midnight Texas. Reading is a whole different story. I really like Anne Rice and Andre Neiderman. My favorites of those two are Anne’s Pandora and Andrew’s Bloodchild. But, it’s been so long since I’ve been able to just sit and read for fun, it’s hard to pin any new author’s down. I am either reading shorts for anthologies reviewing a book for the show, or working on my own stuff. Oh, for the days of laying in bed or on the porch swing and reading! I want all those bored hours from my childhood back!

NTK: Do you write classic horror? Do your books and stories fit in that category?

ER: Now, that is something I haven’t been called on! Wow. I never thought about that. I have written a book like that, Artistic License. A woman inherits a house where anything she paints on the walls comes alive. My vampire work would probably be considered more like dark urban fantasy. Gritty, street kids, and Hell kind of stuff. However, now that you mention it. I think my love of classic horror is really coming out in my work in progress. I am re-imagining Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey in modern times. The heroine is now a goth girl who adores horror media. So, I’ve been injecting lines from movies, excerpts from classic books like The Grey Lady by Elizabeth Gaskell, and Witch House by Evangeline Walton, and even creating a little myself when seeing through the character’s eyes. Jane Austen is thought of as a romance writer but, this book (while it does have romance in it) is more like a love letter to all my favorite horror creators.

NTK: As you know, Emz, Season 13 is CURSED! We’ve talked about your favorite horror, what is your favorite curse?

ER: This is so tough! Omg…so many to choose from! Well, I can’t give you just one. I really like studying the curses surrounding the Titanic. I think it’s fascinating and just can’t get enough of the conspiracy theories there. I really like the Egyptian and mummy lore and the scarab devouring thing creeps me the hell out. But the coolest curses, I think, are the book curses. The ones we’ll be talking about later in the season about the books that have curses written inside them…“Those who lay their eyes upon this manuscript and have not pure intentions, shall be struck down by their maker,” kind of stuff. I had something happen to me in real life where I witnessed someone unable to read or decipher a book. It was a magick book that had an inscription in it about if the person didn’t believe or wasn’t pure of heart, they would not be able to read it. I could read every word as plain as day but, she was like…“What does it say? Is it some sort of code?” Really made an impact on how I consider book curses today. If that could work, why wouldn’t a curse in a book work?

NTK: What awesome curses! And, speaking of books, HorrorAddicts.net has a new submission call coming up. Could you tell us a little about Kill Switch and what you’re looking for?

ER: Yes, Kill Switch is Dan Shaurette’s brainchild. I will be looking for interesting, new, Black Mirror-like stories. I think Dan will have a more sci-fi accepting view, but they all must be horror, so I’m looking forward to reading some really great things. Tech horror is so interesting because we are living in an age where things like implanted chips and bionics are so close to us. Tech is going so fast and it’s not even the future anymore. It’s NEAR future. How will your tech terrorize the world?

Something new we are trying is a blind submission process. We will be grading stories before we know who wrote them. I’m interested to see how that turns out.

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

ER: Wow…you do ask the hard questions huh?

My goal is to keep writing and publishing unique and exciting horror with new ideas that we can all geek out on. Also, I plan to continue to support new horror writers and get their voices heard.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Emz! It’s nice to talk to the lady behind the scenes of our favorite podcast and blog.

ER: Thank you for the interview! It’s rare that I get to be on the other side of the couch!

Crescendo of Darkness is available for purchase now. The submission call for Kill Switch ends on October 31, 2018.