HorrorAddicts.net Press Presents… Kill Switch, A Tech Horror Anthology

HorrorAddicts.net Press Presents…Kill Switch

FREE on Kindle
Father’s Day Weekend Only!

As technology takes over more of our lives, what will it mean to be human, and will we fear what we’ve created? What horrors will our technological hubris bring us in the future?

Join us as we walk the line between progressive convenience and the nightmares these advancements can breed. From faulty medical nanos and AI gone berserk to ghost-attracting audio-tech and one very ambitious Mow-Bot, we bring you tech horror that will keep you up at night. Will you reach the Kill Switch in time?

EDITED BY:
DAN SHAURETTE
& EMERIAN RICH

STORIES BY:
H.E. ROULO, TIM O’NEAL, JERRY J. DAVIS, EMERIAN RICH, BILL DAVIDSON,
DANA HAMMER, NACHING T. KASSA, GARRETT ROWLAN, DAPHNE STRASERT
PHILLIP T. STEVENS, LAUREL ANNE HILL, CHANTAL BOUDREAU, GARTH VON BUCHHOLZ

MOW-BOT / DANA HAMMER

Mike’s new Mow-Bot is the answer to his weekend chore dreams until the neighbor’s cat disappears.

REMS / TIM O’NEAL

A doctor eager for publication and fame unethically tests a wound debridement technology with disastrous results.

PHANTOM CALLER / NACHING T. KASSA

An elderly woman enlists the aid of two repairmen when her pest elimination program goes haywire and begins attracting ghosts.

SOULTAKER 2.0 / EMERIAN RICH

A game programmer in the final stages of launching a new version of the MMORPG “SoulTaker,” finds a bug even he can’t fix.

IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER / DAPHNE STRASERT

Daemon is willing to do whatever it takes to get the girl of his dreams and if his Iriz eye implant can help him do that, he doesn’t care what else it does.

HAÜS / GARTH VON BUCHHOLZ

A five-year-old boy is left home alone while his parents travel overseas, but his smart-house will keep him safe, right?

TRAVELS / JERRY J. DAVIS

In a near future world where viewers are addicted to a television station featuring a hypnotically seductive sphere bouncing on an endless, surreal journey through unspoiled natural environments, Dodd is the only one who is “awake” enough to fight back.

GO GENTLY / GARRETT ROWLAN

In a future world where no one except fake grandparents live past the age of 65, Enid needs to land the job that will save her life, but a trip down memory lane may prove more difficult than she expects.

STRANGE MUSIC / CHANTAL BOUDREAU

An audio-sensitive college student is the only one who can hear the difference in a mechanical birdsong that attacks her little sister.

ANGELS DON’T FEAR HEIGHTS / H.E. ROULO

A man uses technology to control his daughter from beyond the grave, will she ever be free?

INTELLIGENIE / BILL DAVIDSON

A terminally ill woman discovers a frightening secret when she issues a deadly order to her personal robot.

13TH MAGGOT / LAUREL ANNE HILL

A scientist working with bioengineered medical maggots fails to document her obvious erroneous observation, only to later realize her horrific mistake.

SUBROUTINES / PHILLIP T. STEVENS

A computer programmer looking for his missing children in a legendary ghost house encounters a malevolent AI.

Available now on Amazon!

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HorrorAddicts.net Press Presents… Kill Switch on Kindle!

HorrorAddicts.net Press Presents…Kill Switch

NOW ON KINDLE!

As technology takes over more of our lives, what will it mean to be human, and will we fear what we’ve created? What horrors will our technological hubris bring us in the future?

Join us as we walk the line between progressive convenience and the nightmares these advancements can breed. From faulty medical nanos and AI gone berserk to ghost-attracting audio-tech and one very ambitious Mow-Bot, we bring you tech horror that will keep you up at night. Will you reach the Kill Switch in time?

EDITED BY:
DAN SHAURETTE
& EMERIAN RICH

STORIES BY:
H.E. ROULO, TIM O’NEAL, JERRY J. DAVIS, EMERIAN RICH, BILL DAVIDSON,
DANA HAMMER, NACHING T. KASSA, GARRETT ROWLAN, DAPHNE STRASERT
PHILLIP T. STEVENS, LAUREL ANNE HILL, CHANTAL BOUDREAU, GARTH VON BUCHHOLZ

MOW-BOT / DANA HAMMER

Mike’s new Mow-Bot is the answer to his weekend chore dreams until the neighbor’s cat disappears.

REMS / TIM O’NEAL

A doctor eager for publication and fame unethically tests a wound debridement technology with disastrous results.

PHANTOM CALLER / NACHING T. KASSA

An elderly woman enlists the aid of two repairmen when her pest elimination program goes haywire and begins attracting ghosts.

SOULTAKER 2.0 / EMERIAN RICH

A game programmer in the final stages of launching a new version of the MMORPG “SoulTaker,” finds a bug even he can’t fix.

IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER / DAPHNE STRASERT

Daemon is willing to do whatever it takes to get the girl of his dreams and if his Iriz eye implant can help him do that, he doesn’t care what else it does.

HAÜS / GARTH VON BUCHHOLZ

A five-year-old boy is left home alone while his parents travel overseas, but his smart-house will keep him safe, right?

TRAVELS / JERRY J. DAVIS

In a near future world where viewers are addicted to a television station featuring a hypnotically seductive sphere bouncing on an endless, surreal journey through unspoiled natural environments, Dodd is the only one who is “awake” enough to fight back.

GO GENTLY / GARRETT ROWLAN

In a future world where no one except fake grandparents live past the age of 65, Enid needs to land the job that will save her life, but a trip down memory lane may prove more difficult than she expects.

STRANGE MUSIC / CHANTAL BOUDREAU

An audio-sensitive college student is the only one who can hear the difference in a mechanical birdsong that attacks her little sister.

ANGELS DON’T FEAR HEIGHTS / H.E. ROULO

A man uses technology to control his daughter from beyond the grave, will she ever be free?

INTELLIGENIE / BILL DAVIDSON

A terminally ill woman discovers a frightening secret when she issues a deadly order to her personal robot.

13TH MAGGOT / LAUREL ANNE HILL

A scientist working with bioengineered medical maggots fails to document her obvious erroneous observation, only to later realize her horrific mistake.

SUBROUTINES / PHILLIP T. STEVENS

A computer programmer looking for his missing children in a legendary ghost house encounters a malevolent AI.

Available now on Amazon!

Kill Switch Chilling Chat: 10 Quick Questions with Laurel Anne Hill

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Laurel Anne Hill has authored two award-winning novels, most recently The Engine Woman’s Light (Sand Hill Review Press), a gripping spirits-meet-steampunk tale set in an Laurel Anne Hill Promotional 2015alternate 19th Century California. Laurel’s published short stories total over thirty. She’s a Literary Stage Manager, speaker, anthology editor, and writing contest judge.

1.) How old were you when you first discovered horror?

I was eight years old when my mom took me to see the scary science fiction movie The Thing from Another World. Afterwards, I had nightmares for weeks. Sometime between age seven and ten, Mom took me to see Dracula (starring Bela Lugosi) and Frankenstein (starring Boris Karloff). No nightmares from those two films. I became hooked on classical horror.

2.) What author has influenced you most?

Many authors have influenced me a great deal. If I can only name one, however, I’ll say Ray Bradbury.

3.) What inspired you to write your piece, “13th Maggot?”

An article in the newspaper about medical maggots caught my attention. Plus, I worked several years in the field of regulatory compliance for a biotechnology startup company.

4.) How much control do you exert over your characters? Do they have free will?

I give my characters a lot of personal space during the first manuscript draft or two. After that, we generally need to have some serious discussions inside of my brain. Often my point prevails, but not always. For example, in “13th Maggot,” ongoing drafts held complicated conflicts between my main character and the woman she works with in the lab. The complexity detracted from the main story, but it took my protagonist great effort to show me why we needed a change.

5.) Do you listen to music when you write? Who do you listen to?

I used to listen to music often when writing, or before sitting down to write. This music connected me to my protagonists’ emotions. The pattern changed during the final years of my husband’s life. David—my beloved—was the co-protagonist in my daily life, our joint story written with each sunrise and sunset. These days, I’m trying to reintroduce music to my writing experience. I concentrate on the same sort of music as before: general classical, world, baroque organ, ballet and opera favorites, 50’s favorites, bagpipes, and other music David and I used to listen to together.

6.) Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere! Rain hitting my face. Tulips blooming. The sound of a steam locomotive’s whistle. The early morning taste of coffee. The odor of pine trees. Sunrises and sunsets. Shadows on the bedroom ceiling in the dark.

7.) What is your favorite horror novel?

Bram Stoker’s Dracula, of course, tied for first place with several others, such as The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty, and Ghost Story by Peter Straub.

8.) Favorite horror movie?

The Shining, without a doubt.

KSCoverSmall9.) Favorite horror television show?

The six o’clock news.

10.) What does the future hold for you? What do we have to look forward to?

I’m going through the process of finding a freelance fantasy/magical realism editor for my novel-in-progress: Plague of Flies. Sand Hill Review Press has expressed interest in the final product. Plague of Flies is not a horror story, but blends true horrific events with fantasy and magical realism in 1846 Mexican California, during the Bear Flag Rebellion, when the USA stole Alta California from Mexico.

Kill Switch: The Origin Story

In January of 2018, when our then Head of Publishing, Dan Shaurette, approached me about doing a tech horror anthology, I was all for it. I was enjoying the Black Mirror episodes that had just popped on Netflix and I had always been inspired by tech breeding horror. From the time I’d seen Electric Dreams back in the eighties, to the tech-watching-death Brainstorm, to Arnold Schwarzenegger saying, “I’ll be back” in Terminator, I’d been fascinated with tech doing horrible things. But now, as we sit at the edge of a precipice where these devices are no longer science fiction, but a reality, the horror of what really could happen is terrifying.

January 15th, 2018

Dan Shaurette: Hey, I saw your post about tech horror and I, too, am digging the genre these days.

Emerian Rich: Let’s do it!

Next came the name and Dan and I brainstormed that for a bit. Everything from Glitched to Future Dark to Kernel Panic to Digital Dread was brought up, but when Dan said Kill Switch, something just clicked.   

January 19th, 2018

Emerian Rich: No, I’m waiting for one to sock me in the face.

Dan Shaurette: Kill Switch?

Emerian Rich: That’s it!

Dan had already found the awesome vampire android cover and we were on our way.

March 9th, 2018

Submission Call: Tech Horror Kill Switch

“The Future is Broken.” – Black Mirror

What horrors will our technological hubris bring us in the future? When technology takes over more of our lives, what will it mean to be human, and will we fear what we have created? Artificial intelligence, robotics, bionics and cybernetics, clones, and virtual reality. These are a few of my favorite things. The technological singularity is fast approaching, and post-humanity is a frighteningly dark future.

First and foremost, your submission must be a horror story and contain something emotionally, physically, or mentally horrifying. Secondly, the technology should be front and center, not just a deus ex machina. Whether it be a modern technology we are creating now with a purpose yet fully realized, or some new horror as yet to be discovered. We are looking for stories in the same vein as NETFLIX’s Black Mirror.

Post-apocalypse is welcome, as are dystopian societies, but technology must have brought them about. Supernatural elements are welcome in conjunction with the technology. What we don’t want is aliens attacking humanity as the core conceit.

However, as we started to receive submissions, something was going on with Dan. He had a series of health issues and on Father’s Day of 2018, he suffered a medical emergency similar to a stroke. I waited for news on how he was doing. Would Dan come back to us? Or was this his time to go? Weeks passed where the family wasn’t sure of the outcome and finally, we got the word that Dan would survive, but that he wouldn’t be able to finish out the anthology.

My heart sank. We at HorrorAddicts.net were stunned and in a frozen state of denial. Dan, the dude who had always brought humor and brightness to our lives would no longer be on the crew and his book… What would we do about the book?

It was a tough decision. First, I had no help to produce the book with Dan gone, but even more, should I continue his vision without him at the helm? It was a tough decision. I spent hours considering canceling the book. I wrote out a pros and cons list. I spoke to Dan and his wife on text, on the phone, and considered what the impact would be should we cancel the publication mid-stream. And then I asked a question that I had joked with Dan about many times in the past. I simply asked,

What would Dan do?

And the answer I could hear in my head as clear as day was…

Dan would want the book published.

Dan had imagined a handful of stories he was going to write for the anthology. We talked about it daily. He’d poured his heart and soul into planning the book. So why shouldn’t Dan’s dream be realized?

We decided to go ahead and complete his dream of publishing this book. The fact that we have finished it for him makes me sad that he was not able to be involved very much, but it also fills me with happiness that we could see it through.

Naching had come on during this trauma and really helped pull me through. She has been an integral part of this publication as our new Head of Publishing and I couldn’t have done it without her!

I hope you enjoy this book and the plethora of ways tech can kill you. Should make for a fun read. 🙂

There is a little secret in the beginning of the book in binary code.

00110100 00100000 01000100 01100001 01101110

Which translates to: 4 Dan

I am glad this book is out for your enjoyment and the best thing about this book promotion will be when I am able to hand Dan the print copy when I see him this summer and watch the elation in his face as he realizes his dream has come true.

Thank you Dan.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Tales from the Crypt Season 3

Tales from the Crypt Season Three Stands Out by Kristin Battestella

 

During Summer 1991, HBO’s Third Season of Tales from the Crypt delivered fourteen episodes adapted from the Tales from the Crypt, Shock SuspenStories, The Vault of Horror, and Haunt of Fear comic book canon – and nearly every half hour plot steps up the sarcasm, star power, and scares.

The ‘Honey, I’m home!’ opening of the “Loved to Death” premiere leads to something saucy in the kitchen but it’s just a bad script in progress by Andrew McCarthy (Weekend at Bernie’s) when he’s not fantasizing about his demanding actress neighbor Mariel Hemingway (Lipstick). Forget the old boombox and shoddy word processor – leather, lingerie, and boobs inspire his creativity and a watching big brother landlord speaking over the intercom braves him to knock on her door. Of course, she’s not interested until he’s successful, making for a bemusing mix of imagination and real world bitter from writer turned director Tom Mankiewicz (Live and Let Die). Unfortunately, subtle make up and costuming reflect the turnaround when a love potion makes the amorous too much to handle.

The Crypt Keeper, meanwhile is smoking in bed with a headless skeleton as the escaped Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks) opens “Carrion Death” with dusty Arizona manhunts, motorcycle chases, and fiery accidents. The desert setting invokes a barren purgatory as a vulture waits amid the echoes, gunshots, race to the border, and loot blowing in the wind. The no water, talking to himself delirium may seem slow for some audiences, however the sardonic trek, gore, and just desserts escalate once the handcuffs are on and there’s no key.

Back to the Future star Michael J. Fox directs Terri Garr (Tootsie) in “The Trap,” for her nasty husband has a life insurance policy and a coroner brother-in-law who can help fake a death. Bemusing morgue saws, faux dead make up, and a bumbling cover story combine for over the top funeral wailing, cremation mishaps, and tropical hideouts. The askew trials, double crosses, and mistaken identity aren’t really horror, but the crime fits the screw here.

Likewise, the memorable “Abra Cadaver” opens with a black and white morgue, autopsies, pretty corpses, necrophilia quips, and dangerous practical jokes on Beau Bridges (Stargate SG-1) by Tony Goldwyn (Scandal). The color present has high tech lab equipment and research debts owed for these experiments on brain function after clinical death – studies done with ritual altars, folk medicine, and poisoned scotch. The distorted voiceover and overhead camera angles match this appearance of death as the acute senses remain to experience the meat locker, hooks, saws, embalming, and John Doe toe tags as the warped mix of science and revenge creates blood trickling down the screen twists.

The Crypt Keeper does a little Mashed to Pieces Theatre in “Top Billing” as desperate Jon Lovitz (Saturday Night Love) fails another audition. He won’t stoop to commercials like successful sellout Bruce Boxleitner (Scarecrow and Mrs. King), and this is an interesting commentary on the look being more important than the talent. Agent Louise Fletcher (One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest) says it’s commerce and product, not art, that sells tickets, winking to the viewer as oft comedian Lovitz is determined to play Hamlet with intense director John Astin (The Addams Family). Will he kill for the part? This little back alley theater at 895 ½ needs a real skull for its Yorick.

“The Reluctant Vampire” also begins with a traditional gothic atmosphere – before the alarm clock by the coffin and fang dentures on the night stand add modern humor as blood bank nightwatchman Mr. Longtooth Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange) dreads Mondays and The Keeper reads Vampirism Made Easy. Manager George Wendt’s (Cheers) donation numbers don’t add up, so our sensitive vamp – who doesn’t drink direct from humans so he can respect himself in the morning – attacks an old lady’s mugger to replace his martini makings in the vault. Certainly he asks if his victim has any blood born diseases before filling up the water cooler. He’s saving the blood bank and taking a bite out of crime amid newspaper spinning montages, Transylvania soil myths, lighting candles at the snap of the fingers, and dangerous squirt guns with holy water. Van Helsing descendants are on the local talk shows, and Tales from the Crypt manages to be gothic and cute at the same time. Of course, Little CK has a Betty Croaker cookbook while womanizing reporter Steven Weber (Wings) keeps a tape recorder under the bed to get what’s off the record when, as they say, pumping a source for information in “Mournin’ Mess.” Hard nose editor Ally Walker (Sons of Anarchy) wants the scoop not drunk excuses, but suave spokeswoman Rita Wilson (Now and Then) spins the rhetoric on cleaning up the streets as the homeless murders mount. Dead witnesses and some literal cemetery digging lead to tunnels, coffins, skeletons, and underground revelations on The Grateful Homeless Outcasts and Unwanted Layaway Society, ahem, GHOULS. Although this starts off run of the mill, Tales from the Crypt continues to push the envelope with its grotesque.

As a kid I loved director Russell Mulcahy’s (Highlander) “Split Second” and even had it on one of several made ’em myself Tales from the Crypt VHS mixes! Foreman Brion James (Blade Runner) seethes over his sassy waitress with a reputation turned hottie wife Michelle Johnson (Blame it on Rio) while her short shorts and tank top get skimpier for new lumberjack Billy Worth (The Lost Boys, you know, the “Death by stereo.”) Axes, chainsaws, and the inherent dangers on the job immediately hook the audience as the camera reflects the peril, speed, and saucy games people play – leading to new power tools, a violent comeuppance, and plenty of blood splatter.

“Deadline,” however, would see drunk newsman Richard Jordan (Logan’s Run) clean up his act for particular hooker Marg Helgenberger (CSI). Although the narrative bookends are unnecessary, the newsroom clickety clack adds nostalgic pressure, and his cranky editor wants a juicy murder headline or else. Fortunately – or unfortunately – Jon Polito (The Crow) gives him an exclusive, ironic scoop on a crime of passion gone awry.

Tales from the Crypt’s tongue in cheek is in full swing for “Spoiled” as bored housewife Faye Grant (V) loves the over the top scandals of her favorite soap There’s Always Tomorrow. Her married to his work husband’s basement experiments may make medical history, but they interrupt her fantasizing, too. Good thing ‘Abel with the cable’ repairman Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace) is there with all the connection in the bedroom innuendo, drafting a bemusing life imitating art mad science mix and self-aware commentary complete with Tales from the Crypt on the boob tube. Like the soaps, the saucy isn’t actually shown – letting the male input and female boxes speak for themselves once the lovers play out their part.

Series producer Robert Zemeckis directs the supersized “Yellow” finale with general Kirk Douglas (Spartacus), his lieutenant son Eric Douglas (The Golden Child), loyal captain Dan Aykroyd (Ghostbusters), and gritty sergeant Lance Henriksen (Near Dark) facing the no man’s land trenches, explosions, and limbs lost of 1918 France. Battle failures, breaks in the communication line, family expectations, and the titular cowardice risk the chain of command, for this solider son refuses to kill and doesn’t want to be killed, undermining his father’s position as the enemy nears. Panic on the mission results in more slaughter and church held court marshals layer the religious iconography. It’s okay for fathers and sons to be afraid to die, and one’s a fool or a liar if he claims he isn’t – especially when facing the firing squad. This is a serious parable about real fear and horrors, yet the episode is not out of place. Who says Tales from the Crypt has to be all cheeky all the time? Rather than the expected juicy or sensationalism, this unique choice sells itself with innate intensity and cruelty for one of the series’ finest.

Of course, there are several less than perfect entries sagging Tales from the Crypt mid-season, including the late Tobe Hopper’s (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) star studded “Dead Wait.” The thieves are arguing over small scale island plantations and pitiful pearl treasures, and should be tense chess conversations fall flat amid red hair superstitions, voodoo talk, and witch doctor suspicions. Jungle fever romance with red king takes black queen quips and sweaty sex with voodoo drums compromise the hanging ram heads and dead chickens in the bed – playing into the very exotical stereotypes that the dialogue warns one to respect. Each eighties era horror anthology series seems to have a problematic voodoo tale, but they are always about a white man looking for something sexy and dangerous with an obvious turnabout. The gore and creepy worms are fine – this isn’t a terrible episode, but it doesn’t zing as it should.

The late night spoof with Whoopi Goldberg (Ghost) as The Crypt Keeper’s guest is more fun. Painter Tim Roth (Rob Roy) doesn’t get the showing he was promised and fantasizes about killing his agent in “Easel Kill Ya,” but some accidental violence and nearby deaths inspire his art. He channels his darkness into some gruesome canvases and sells the paintings to a creepy buyer, but he can’t keep up with the killer demand for his art. Again the fatal twists and obsessive performances aren’t the worst, but this tortured artist cum murderer plot is nothing new.

“Undertaking Palor” also has obnoxious punks at the movies complaining about being one short in the Milk Duds box before they scare each other and capture it on camera. They break into the mortuary to raise the frights in their amateur film making and unfortunately discover twisted little practitioner John Glover (Smallville) using a Shop Vac for his latest embalming. The ironic classical music and Pepsi with pizza while the creepy mortician works makes for some delightful Tales from the Crypt grossness, but the juvenile found footage Nancy Drew mystery weakens what could have been wild had we seen the morgue conspiracy from the inside perspective. The Crypt Jam music video feature on the Tales from the Crypt Season Three DVD set is also a humorous little rap with babes, gore, and highlights from the year in a fittingly oh so nineties fashion both embarrassing and hysterical at the same time. The features also cheat slightly by listing two panel segments, for the first fifteen minute bonus recounting the history of EC Comics mid-century history and their ongoing relevance in horror is just pieced together from the second feature – which is the full half hour Comic Con discussion with voice of the Crypt Keeper John Kassir, producer Alan Katz, and additional crew telling more behind the scenes tales and answering audience questions. This DVD set also goes right to the menu without the “Kill Intro” theme playing only once per disc as in the previous video releases, and I like being able to see that spooky house opening per episode.

There are less fifties abstract and colorful comic designs for this season of Tales from the Crypt, but the seedy dark palette feels a little more nineties grown up to match the mayhem. Lots of familiar faces in supporting roles lend an extra sophistication with old televisions, rabbit ears, Polaroids, or T-n-A as icing on the cake per the humorous or grotesque plots as needed. That newfangled frivolous cable and HBO freedom allows Tales from the Crypt to exploit many women with then nudity, abuse, and victimizing. However, the series also has numerous working women in positions of power or ladies that give back all the ills deserved and never get naked to do so. Occasionally, the hammy over does it with stunt casting and humor falling flat, but bigger names, chilling stories, plenty of gore, quality production values, and heaps of ironic horror help Tales from the Crypt step up its winking formula for Season Three for a macabre and self referential but no less twisted good time.

HorrorAddicts.net Press Presents… Kill Switch, A Tech Horror Anthology

HorrorAddicts.net Press Presents…Kill Switch

As technology takes over more of our lives, what will it mean to be human, and will we fear what we’ve created? What horrors will our technological hubris bring us in the future?

Join us as we walk the line between progressive convenience and the nightmares these advancements can breed. From faulty medical nanos and AI gone berserk to ghost-attracting audio-tech and one very ambitious Mow-Bot, we bring you tech horror that will keep you up at night. Will you reach the Kill Switch in time?

EDITED BY:
DAN SHAURETTE
& EMERIAN RICH

STORIES BY:
H.E. ROULO, TIM O’NEAL, JERRY J. DAVIS, EMERIAN RICH, BILL DAVIDSON,
DANA HAMMER, NACHING T. KASSA, GARRETT ROWLAN, DAPHNE STRASERT
PHILLIP T. STEPHENS, LAUREL ANNE HILL, CHANTAL BOUDREAU, GARTH VON BUCHHOLZ

MOW-BOT / DANA HAMMER

Mike’s new Mow-Bot is the answer to his weekend chore dreams until the neighbor’s cat disappears.

REMS / TIM O’NEAL

A doctor eager for publication and fame unethically tests a wound debridement technology with disastrous results.

PHANTOM CALLER / NACHING T. KASSA

An elderly woman enlists the aid of two repairmen when her pest elimination program goes haywire and begins attracting ghosts.

SOULTAKER 2.0 / EMERIAN RICH

A game programmer in the final stages of launching a new version of the MMORPG “SoulTaker,” finds a bug even he can’t fix.

IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER / DAPHNE STRASERT

Daemon is willing to do whatever it takes to get the girl of his dreams and if his Iriz eye implant can help him do that, he doesn’t care what else it does.

HAÜS / GARTH VON BUCHHOLZ

A five-year-old boy is left home alone while his parents travel overseas, but his smart-house will keep him safe, right?

TRAVELS / JERRY J. DAVIS

In a near future world where viewers are addicted to a television station featuring a hypnotically seductive sphere bouncing on an endless, surreal journey through unspoiled natural environments, Dodd is the only one who is “awake” enough to fight back.

GO GENTLY / GARRETT ROWLAN

In a future world where no one except fake grandparents live past the age of 65, Enid needs to land the job that will save her life, but a trip down memory lane may prove more difficult than she expects.

STRANGE MUSIC / CHANTAL BOUDREAU

An audio-sensitive college student is the only one who can hear the difference in a mechanical birdsong that attacks her little sister.

ANGELS DON’T FEAR HEIGHTS / H.E. ROULO

A man uses technology to control his daughter from beyond the grave, will she ever be free?

INTELLIGENIE / BILL DAVIDSON

A terminally ill woman discovers a frightening secret when she issues a deadly order to her personal robot.

13TH MAGGOT / LAUREL ANNE HILL

A scientist working with bioengineered medical maggots fails to document her obvious erroneous observation, only to later realize her horrific mistake.

SUBROUTINES / PHILLIP T. STEPHENS

A computer programmer looking for his missing children in a legendary ghost house encounters a malevolent AI.

Available now on Amazon!

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.