SUBMISSION CALL: Dark Divinations

Dark Divinations
Edited by Naching T. Kassa

It is the height of Queen Victoria’s rule, the world is powered by steam and seen by gaslight. Fog swirls in the street, while in the parlor, hands are linked. Pale and expectant faces gaze upon a woman, her eyes closed and shoulders slumped. The medium speaks, her tone hollow and inhuman. The séance has begun.

Séances are but one method of divination and communication with the dead. There are many others. From Tarot to the witch board, scrying to numerology, HorrorAddicts.net wants it all. We want your Victorian Age stories of Dark Divinations.

First and foremost, your submission must be a horror story and contain something emotionally, physically, or mentally horrifying.

Secondly, it must take place during the Victorian Era. We don’t care if it’s in England, the American West, colonial India, or Africa, it must take place during the years of 1837-1901.

Lastly, the story must concern a method of divination (the practice of foretelling the future through supernatural means.) This can include but is not limited to: Ouija boards, cards, scrying, entrail reading, and necromancy. We’re looking for originality above all.

What we don’t want: We are not looking for steampunk stories for this anthology. We also don’t want a story where the divination is just “stuck-in” and isn’t really an integral piece of the story.

No previously printed work and no simultaneous submissions.

We are doing blind submissions. Wow us with your story.

Enter up to two short stories only. Make sure they fit the theme

Manuscript Format:
*Font: either Courier or Times New Roman.
*Double spaced, font 12 point.
*Your manuscript must be in either DOC or RTF format.
*Do not place your name in the manuscript, just the title.**
*No header on the manuscript.
**Again, we are doing blind submissions. Make sure the manuscript is scrubbed of your name and personal info. This could be an automatic decline.**

In the body of the email:
*The header info usually found in the manuscript should be in the email. Please include: author name, mailing address, email address, and word count.
*One sentence explaining the story attached; your elevator pitch.
*100 words or less biography about you.
*Facebook, Twitter, Instagram links
*Your website or blog.

Subject line of the email should state:
*DARK DIV SUBMISSION/DIVINATION THEME (crystal ball, tarot cards, Ouija Board etc.)/STORY TITLE
*Send to: ha.netpress@gmail.com
Deadline: October 31st, 2019, 11:59pm PST
Length: 2,000-5,000 words
Payment: $10.00 USD + digital contributor copy

Return time: Final decisions will not be made until AFTER the submission close date (10/31/19). You should expect an answer within three months of the submission close date. If you do not receive an email stating your manuscript was received within two weeks of submission, please send a polite query to:  ha.netpress@gmail.com

For any other questions, please send an email to: ha.netpress@gmail.com

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Kill Switch Chilling Chat: 10 Quick Questions with Phillip T. Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens writes and rescues cats in Austin, Texas. He publishes several times a week for Medium. He is a  contributing author to our new anthology, Kill Switch

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

Other than life as a Baptist Preacher’s Kid in general? I don’t remember my exact age, but I remember the event. I was in elementary school, and my father insisted I accompany him to a youth retreat for high school students. The facility was creepy, but the moment of crisis occurred when he showed a movie at midnight (don’t laugh) Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy. Toward the very end of the movie is a quick shot of the mummy’s bones, which for some reason I can’t explain having watched the movie a dozen times as an adult, scared the living bejeezus out of me. I couldn’t sleep that night.

The next day we went for a hike around the lake. (If you’ve seen Tarkovsky’s Solaris, think of the lake at Kelvin’s parents’ house.) We rounded a bend and I spotted a moss covered stick poking from the water, a stick which, at that moment, I mistook for a human finger.

I couldn’t sleep by myself for months. Instead, I slept on a cot in my sister’s room, which probably contributed more to my adult neuroses than the moments of terror I experienced at the retreat.

2.)    What author has influenced you most?

Walker Percy, but I suspect you mean horror writer. From a literary standpoint, Peter Straub, but from a writer’s standpoint Steven King. I lived for each new release for several years until The Stand, which became the manual for everything I never wanted to do as a writer. I loved the story, but the prose was atrocious. I continued to read him until It when I couldn’t pick up another book.

This doesn’t change my respect for what he’s accomplished, and I faithfully followed his exploits with Joe Bob Briggs (John Bloom), redneck film reviewer as long as Bloom’s column ran.

3.)    What inspired you to write your piece, “Subroutines?”

I was working with a writing group on the topic “passing through a doorway.”

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

If I like the direction they’re taking, they’re free to do as they please. If I think they’re interfering with the story, I’ll slap them down in a heartbeat.

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

I have, but I also write with the TV on.  Looking back, I’d say my biggest influences are Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, and Brian Eno.

6.)    Where do you find inspiration?

I’ve trained myself to take inspiration from scraps of information and passing thoughts. I often riff off (aka rip-off) strands of conversation. But it could be a reflection in a window, an asshole ordering coffee, or something that passes the corner of my eye.

7.)    What is your favorite horror novel?

William Browning Spencer’s Zod Wallop. Think night terrors wrapped in a meltdown and surrounded by a mind fuck. Spencer is a brilliant writer that few readers know.

KSCoverSmall8.)    Favorite horror movie?

Tarkovsky’s Stalker. Many consider it science fiction, and it is, and others find it tedious, but this movie exemplifies Tarkovsky’s ability to make beauty from debris. The movie explores the premise: what happens when you discover what your heart truly desires?

9.)    Favorite horror television show?

Twin Peaks. Nobody twists angst into terror better than Lynch.

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

That depends on the publications to which I submit. My life is in the hand of good editors like you. I’m making the final corrections to the novella version of my #TweetNovel Doublemint Gumshoe which I posted Tweet-by-Tweet for the better part of a year. Think the mob, digital gangs, the tech industry, aliens, nanobots and the dumbest detective who ever lived. We’ll see what happens.

You can find Phillip on Twitter and Instagram.

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.

HorrorAddicts.net, 166 Isobel Blackthorn

Horror Addicts Episode# 166

SEASON 14 “We’re Cursed, Again!!!”

Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich

Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe

———————

Tamerlane’s Tomb

isobel blackthorn, laang, tales from the crypt S4

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net

166 days till halloween

*terror trax: lang, shenyuan

*catchup: always behind, busy, kid, old, granny goth, end of emz? no time, race to death
*cursed place: tamerlane’s tomb, california accent,

*logbook of terror: tamerlane’s tomb, russell

*darkvein manor: by emerian rich with cleo de milo concept by e.m. markoff, rish outfield-ives, kadirah wade-hazel, emerian rich-clara and willow, pete lutz-jay, theme music-valentine wolf

*ghastly games: daphne, space station zemo

*guest blog: john c adams, from beast to man and back again

*frightening flix: kbatz, tales from the crypt S4

*live action reviews: crystal,  the matriarch

*the bigfoot files: lionel, hunter shea, swamp monster massacre, skunk apes

*dead mail:
**patricia #sevenghostlyspins, berkeley book fest, hwa, campfire tales, loren rhoads, em markoff, ls johnson, sumiko saulson
**lola run, baby, run, spekrfreaks
https://www.facebook.com/spekrfreks
night’s knights, dusk’s warriors, listen to books:
https://nightsknights.wordpress.com/

**freddie, black summer, zombies, outbreak
email us: horroraddicts@gmail.com

*news: my darling dead: jesse, kill switch, ha sub call, play or die, werewolf the apocalypse, video game, e3, earthblood, the weeping woman, la lalorana, detective pikachu,

*book: my boyfriend is a vampire, yu-rang han, reviewed by emerian rich

*chilling chat: isobel blackthorn  interviewed by naching

*story: cabin session by isobel blackthorn, read by emerian rich

————————————-

Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…

horroraddicts@gmail.com

h o s t e s s

Emerian Rich

h e a d  o f p u b l i s h i n g

Naching T. Kassa

p u b l i s h i n g  p. a.

Cedar George

b l o g  e d i t o r

Nox

s t a f f

KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Daphne Strasert, Jesse Orr, Russell Holbrook, Lionel Green, Keiran Judge, Crystal Connor, Cedar George, Diana Clarke, Nightshade, Mimielle, D.J. Pitsiladis.

Want to be a part of the HA staff? Email horroraddicts@gmail.com

b l o g  / c o n t a c t / s h o w . n o t e s

http://www.horroraddicts.net

t h e  b e l f r y  a p p

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tv.wizzard.android.belfry&hl=en_US

 

 

Chilling Chat: Episode 166 Isobel Blackthorn

chillingchat

Isobel Blackthorn is a prolific novelist of unique and engaging fiction. She writes dark psychological thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary and literary fiction. On the dark side Blackthorn_Isobelare Twerk, The Cabin Sessions and The Legacy of Old Gran Parks. Her Canary Islands’ collection begins with “The Drago Tree” and includes “A Matter of Latitude” and “Clarissa’s Warning”. Her interest in the occult is explored in The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey, and the dark mystery A Perfect Square. Her short story, ‘Lacquer’, appears in the esteemed A Time for Violence anthology.

Isobel is a gracious and charming woman. We spoke of inspirations, influences, and surprising characters.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Isobel! Thank you for joining me today. Could you tell the Horror Addicts how old you were when you discovered horror?

IB: I discovered horror when I was sixteen and sat petrified in the movie theatre watching The Omen. Then came Rosemary’s Baby. I am not sure which was more terrifying. I could not bring myself to watch Carrie or The Exorcist. I was too easily spooked.

NTK: What author has influenced you most?

IB: Both King and Stoker were my early influences. Now I have been introduced to the novels of many horror authors, including the magnificent Sangré by Carlos Colón, a vampire tale like no other, and Return to Hiroshima by Bob van Laerhoven, which is as classy as noir thrillers get.

NTK: What inspired you to write The Cabin Sessions?

IB: The Cabin Sessions arose out of a combination of factors that were going on in my life at the time. That was how the book started out.

NTK: How much control do you exert over your characters? Do they have free will?

IB: As soon as I started writing The Cabin Sessions, a minor character stepped forward and took over the narrative. Nothing like that has happened to me as a writer before or since. It was a very dark and confronting process, giving her the freedom to express The Cabin Sessionsherself. I had my own internal horror story going on inside of me during the writing process as a result.

NTK: What is your creative process like? Do you outline before writing? Or do you just write as the mood strikes you?

IB: A little of both. I start out with an idea, which gradually gathers substance. I conjure a few characters, the setting, and the bones of a plot. Then, once I have enough, which usually takes a year, I start writing. I let the voice come, the narrator. Once I have the narrator, I write the first chapter and see where it takes me. Then, there is usually a bit of figuring out before I write the next few chapters. After that, I only plot when I have to. Sometimes I know the ending, sometimes I don’t.

NTK: Where do you find inspiration?

IB: I am inspired by everything. I follow my passion and it leads me all over the place. Every book I write is unique as a result. Horror is a vast genre and as soon as The Cabin Sessions came out and I tried to define it–it’s a dark psychological thriller–I began to explore all the other kinds of horror fiction out there and wondered where I was heading next. I decided I had an appetite for dark thrillers and as soon as I was introduced to Giallo, I was sold. My novel, Twerk, set in a Las Vegas strip club, draws on Giallo tropes.

NTK: What is the difference between a thriller and a horror story?

IB: A thriller follows certain rules and does not necessarily contain any horror tropes. Horror is all about the tropes. Horror is there to shock, to horrify, to revolt. Thrillers seek to thrill. I write dark thrillers and there is enough horror in them for all but the most hardline horror aficionados.

NTK: In your opinion, why do people enjoy horror? What attracts them to darkness?

IB: People like the adrenalin rush. It’s the same as a roller coaster. You are wobbly when you get off and kinda pleased it was over, then the rush fades out and you are in the queue for the next ride. It is very addictive.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What do we have to look forward to?A Time for Violence

IB: I have written three dark fiction novels and a few dark short stories. One has just come out in A Time for Violence, an anthology including shorts by Richard Chizmar and Max Allan Collins, Paul D. Brazill, Andrew Nette, Joe R. Lansdale, Elka Ray, and Tom Vater. My story, “Lacquer” forms the first chapter of a noir thriller set in San Francisco and Singapore.

I’ve also been shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge prose prize and my story will appear in the anthology.

NTK: Congratulations, Isobel! That’s awesome! Thank you so much for chatting with me.

IB: Thank you so much for this, Naching!

You can find Isobel on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

 

#KillSwitch Blog Tour and Events

Interested in Tech Horror?
Join us as we tour the web and host live events.
#KillSwitch
Read the excerpts and get a taste of what you will find in our book.
Come listen to our authors read at events.
Join us as we geek out tech horror-style.

MAY #KillSwitch Blog Tour and Events
13 #KillSwitch Press Release / horroraddicts.net
14 #KillSwitch BLOG TOUR begins / horroraddicts.net
15 “Intelligenie” sneak peek at: / www.billdavidsonwriting.com
16 #KillSwitch on Emzbox / http://www.emzbox.com
17 “Subroutines” sneak peek at: / https://ptstephens.com
18 “Phantom Caller” sneak peek at: / https://frightenme.weebly.com/frighten-me-blog
19 #KillSwitch Origins Dan Shaurette / horroraddicts.net
20 Interview Phillip T. Stevens / horroraddicts.net
21 Interview Laurel Anne Hill / horroraddicts.net
22 Interview Bill Davidson / horroraddicts.net
23 Interview HE Roulo / horroraddicts.net
23 Twitter Scavenger Hunt / https://twitter.com/horroraddicts13
24 Interview Chantal Boudreau / horroraddicts.net
25 Interview Garrett Rowlan / horroraddicts.net
26 Interview Jerry J Davis / horroraddicts.net
27 Interview Garth von Buchholz / horroraddicts.net
27 Announce FACEBOOK LIVE EVENT / horroraddicts.net
28 Interview Daph, Emz, Naching / horroraddicts.net
29 “SoulTaker 2.0” sneak peek at: / http://www.emzbox.com
30 “Haüs” sneak peek at: / http://DarkEyeGlances.com
30 Twitter Scavenger Hunt / https://twitter.com/horroraddicts13
31 FB LIVE Event with EMZ / https://www.facebook.com/emzbox
JUNE
1 #KillSwitch Kindle announcement / horroraddicts.net
2 “REMs” sneak peek at: / https://davemstrom.wordpress.com/
3 “In the Eye of the Beholder” sneak peek at: / http://www.ellderet.com/blog
4 Announce Twitter Terminator Tues / horroraddicts.net
5 “Mow-Bot” sneak peek at: / http://www.emzbox.com
6 Twitter Scavenger Hunt / https://twitter.com/horroraddicts13
7 Announce FB takeover party / horroraddicts.net
8 “13th Maggot” sneak peek at: / http://selahjanel.wordpress.com/
9 #KillSwitch Origins / horroraddicts.net
10 Interview Tim O’Neal / horroraddicts.net
11 Interview Dana Hammer / horroraddicts.net
11 Twitter Terminator Tuesday / https://twitter.com/horroraddicts13
12 TBA Chat
13 “Travels” sneak peek at: / www.SumikoSaulson.com
13 Twitter Scavenger Hunt / https://twitter.com/horroraddicts13
14 FB Release Party / https://www.facebook.com/events/421059278473352
15 “Angels Don’t Fear Heights” sneak peek at: / https://www.hauntjaunts.net/blog/
16 Dad’s day promo! / horroraddicts.net
17 Loren interviews Emz / lorenrhoads.com
18 “Strange Music” sneak peek at: / Michele-roger.com
19 “Go Gently” sneak peek at: / stephanieellis.org
20 Twitter Scavenger Hunt / https://twitter.com/horroraddicts13
21 Overview of #KillSwitch / horroraddicts.net
22 HorrorAddicts.net #168 Kill Switch Cast / horroraddicts.net
TBA Second Life Party

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.