Book Review: Vacuity and Other Tales

Hello Addicts,

This month, I had the distinct pleasure of reading the 3rd annual horror anthology from Tell-Tale Publishing, “Vacuity and Other Tales.” This collection of short stories run the gamut of scary stories and does so very successfully. I found all of the stories fun and exciting, with enough variety to give a palate-cleansing from the more blood-chilling stories at the right moments.

The book begins with the most intriguing story of the collection, “Vacuity.” Julie Duplantier is a young schizophrenic woman whose mental voices take great pleasure in the slow, methodical ways she tortures and murders others. We also see things from the point of view of her doctor, Christian Andreu. His solution is to perform a risky surgery that will silence the voices forever, which he is successful in doing. What everyone realizes, much too late, is that the voices kept something much worse at bay. If you like your stories drenched in blood, this one is for you.

There are stories of missed love during the Crusades, government-sponsored experiments on vampires, a modern take on Hansel and Gretel, and a curse that nearly brings about the pumpkin apocalypse. There is a little bit of everything for everyone in this book. I especially recommend this collection for those cold and stormy nights ahead.

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J. Pitsiladis

Book Review: Followers by Christina Berglin

Review by: B. Nguyen-Calkins

Internet privacy is a scary concept. Anybody, with enough effort, could find your name, photos of you, and even past locations you’ve visited. If somebody wanted to, I’m sure it’d be easy to… you can fill in the blank with any horrifying end. Stalking, online harassment, or worse. Why are we online at all?! 

Followers expresses the benefits of online friendships and social media. When Sydney, a horror movie enthusiastic and reviewer, is isolated and hit with constant passive-aggressive comments from her personal acquaintances, she instead goes online where people may appreciate the details of the genre (however shallow they may be). She kindles relationships online that have meaning to her personal life. And, ultimately, she sees her blog as an escape from her dead-end job. 

With the benefits of an online life comes risk. Are those often-shallow interactions even reading her work? Do those relationships have any substance? Will she ever make a living as a reviewer? Can Sydney live with the constant horror that runs beneath the surface of her everyday online interactions? And what if those interactions meddle within her personal life? The buildup brewed constantly as I found myself questioning each of the people in her life. This justified paranoia ends up hitting Sydney in the face as she struggles with the balance of digital and personal.

The novel works as a contemporary horror piece on multiple levels. Horror fans will look out for references to the genre as a mental trivia. My personal favorite was when characters review independent horror films at a festival. Holistically, the book is also meta-horror. One element of examining the genre explores the guilt of the “final girl,” especially in a progressively worsened situation. Who could be hurt because she posted clickbait photos for her online blog? How much information is too much to reveal to a virtual stranger? Can Sydney handle the repercussions of a demented stalker?

Strap yourself in and be sure to finish the book, because it truly thrives when Sydney finds herself in her own Scream. Sure, the book is initially carried by its prose and its likable (and unlikeable) characters. Christina Bergling sprinkles some interesting prose inside some dialogue and monologues and plays with some of the reader’s pent-up tension. But while the beginning may seem like a story on another shelf, the story’s resolution rightfully places it as a suspenseful, introspective horror. Followers is a worthwhile read, especially for fans of horror cinema. Its tension builds continuously throughout the story, and it extends today’s horror of digital social lives. The story is finished with some jaw-dropping scenes that seemingly come out of nowhere. It felt like Bergling was biding her time to lull the readers in while she waited for the opportune moment to strike.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Achoura

 

Plotline: Four childhood friends are reunited when one of them surfaces after twenty years, forcing them to confront a creature straight out of a spine-chilling Moroccan legend.

Who would like it: Urban Legends, international films, family horror, creature features, unpredictable endings

High Points: This movie is super good without being downright terrorizing. This would be the perfect movie for a teenaged slumber party

Complaints:

Overall: I loved it, it stressed me out! lol

Stars: 4

Where I watched it: VOD

 

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Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Oblivion in Flux: A Collection of Cyber Prose by Maxwell I. Gold

Oblivion in Flux: A Collection of Cyber Prose by Maxwell I. Gold

Reviewed by A.P. Hawkins

Oblivion calls.

The sound of Näigöths’ leathery wings fills the skies over ruined cities. Nature is corrupted, trees turned to pillars of metal and plastic. Humanity has deteriorated to a mere shade of its former greatness, entranced by lies and unaware of the oncoming storm. They bow to new gods, Cyber Gods of their own making, who offer nothing but empty promises and ravenous hunger.

In Oblivion in Flux: A Collection of Cyber Prose, takes readers on a deliciously horrifying journey through wildly imagined apocalyptic landscapes. With each piece, he paints a picture more wild and weird than the last. The vivid imagery all but leaps off the page, pulling the reader further into the mad, broken world Gold has built. 

Many of the pieces in Oblivion in Flux are loosely connected, weaving a thin thread of story as the narrator struggles to escape humanity’s own creation and remain free in the face of cyber horrors and fates worse than death. Repeated words and phrases at the opening and close of many pieces contribute to the overall feeling of madness and horror and make the reader feel as though they, too, might succumb.

Other pieces feel more separate, unconnected to the story running along in the background. But the themes, of decadence crumbling into decay, of humanity, blinded to the destruction it brings upon itself, come through very strong throughout the collection.

Of all the pieces in this collection, REVES DES CYBERDIEUX: A NATION IN THREE ACTS stood out as particularly powerful and timely. Though occasionally heavy-handed, the picture it paints of bloated politicians fawned over by hypnotized sycophants is extremely accurate and provocative.

Oblivion in Flux is an imaginative and gripping indictment of our time, where the metals and plastics and technologies of our society, our Cyber Gods, have turned, mouths agape, to devour us whole. Gold’s collection of cyber prose is a must-read for anyone who enjoys weird horror.

Merrill’s Musical Musings : In Chasms Deep

 

In Chasms Deep

Greetings HorrorAddicts! I hope these musings find you dim, dismal, and dissolute. Not really. I hope you and yours are doing well and that your life has returned to some sense of normalcy. But since we are going to be discussing black metal today, I thought I’d get you into the right headspace. For those of you, like me, who are new to the subgenre, black metal is characterized by screaming vocals, atmospheric sounds that don’t necessarily follow a typical song structure and pagan and/or satanic themes. The subgenre has received criticism due to the actions of some members of the community, but as with all music, it is unfair to judge all participants by the actions of the few. Metal music has healing properties and many of us turn to metal of all types to get us through the difficult times in our lives. 

In Chasms Deep is a one-man black metal project from the United States who has been making music since 2011. Their latest release, The Wind and Her Lament, draws the listener into a melodic journey from the beginning track. The pieces flow from hauntingly inviting to explosive rainbows of sonic power. The album draws on the four elements to give the listener an immersive experience. Tracks like “A Suicide in Paradise” build from melancholy piano to dream-like guitar sequence to thundering, furious shredding before sinking back into pensive strumming and those haunting piano notes once more. It’s probably my favorite track on the album. “Abyssgazer” piqued my interest with the organ parts in the beginning as well. 

If you’re new to black metal, I’d recommend giving The Wind and Her Lament a listen. The artist has created a landscape of beauty in darkness, which is a place many of us HorrorAddicts love to dwell. I’ll definitely be checking out some of their earlier work on Spotify. 

How about you? Have any black metal recommendations? As a bona fide metalhead, I’m always down to check out new music, so send me an email, rlmerrillauthor at gmail dot com or leave a comment. Thanks for joining me on this musical journey. Stay Tuned for more Musical Musings…

R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. 

Book Review : Of Men and Monsters by Tom Deady

 

Review by Matt Marovich

CW: Child and Domestic Abuse 

To be perfectly honest, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book.

That’s not to say that I had low or bad expectations for Of Men and Monsters by Tom Deady, quite the opposite, but that I found myself very quickly pulled into this story in a way that was quite surprising.

Taking place in 1975, Of Men and Monsters is the story of two brothers, older brother Matt and Ryan, and their mother. They have recently moved to a coastal New England town named Bayport, although a potentially better way to describe it would be “fled”. We quickly learn that the trio have recently escaped the predations of their abusive father and husband, a violent drunk who started beating his wife before expanding his terrible attentions to his two sons as they grew older. Once he began abusing Ryan, their mother packed their belongings and left as quickly as they could.

In Bayport, life for the three of them begins to have a sense of normalcy and peace. Matt quickly meets a girl named Kelly that he becomes smitten with, while Ryan meets Kelly’s cousin Leah. Their mom gets a job waiting tables at the local diner, and soon enough they fall into a steady routine. A routine that is, unfortunately, shattered when they receive an unexpected phone call and learn that their father is hunting them.

One of the things I enjoyed a lot about this book is the characters. The story is told from Ryan’s perspective but we spend plenty of time with Matt and his mom, seen through Ryan’s eyes. All of the characters are believable, especially Ryan whose perspective, thoughts, and reactions are incredibly realistic. I was almost immediately drawn into the book because of this, having to provide very little suspension of disbelief to get into Ryan as a person. Matt and Ryan have a loving relationship, even if Matt occasionally treats his brother with the frustration or mild disdain that only an older, barely teenage sibling can have.

All throughout the brothers’ summer, enjoying the time they can even as they fear the approaching monster of their father, the story has another thread in the form of an actual monster. While exploring their new home, Ryan discovers a cache of old comic books in the attic, one of which has an advert for Sea Monsters (not Sea Monkeys), which he stealthily sends away for. When they arrive and he begins to grow them, Ryan and Matt quickly learn that the ad’s claim of the creatures being “monsters” wasn’t false advertising.

It’s these three threads woven together that make this story so strong in my opinion. The normalcy of the brothers’ life feels realistic like I could totally see anyone growing up in Bayport having the life they create for themselves, and it’s that normalcy that helps make the other two threads horrific. With the approaching father, it’s the growing dread that comes with each passing day, that he might be closer to finding them, that this new existence of theirs may prove to be as fragile as a soap bubble. With the actual monster, each time we see it the thing has grown, changed, and it doesn’t take much to feel like the brothers are soon in over their heads. The presence of something so unnatural is heightened and emphasized by the rest of their lives, 

I won’t go into the plot any further, you can probably guess how it’s going to go, but even if the final resolutions of the story arcs are somewhat predictable, it’s still enjoyable due to the characters we interact with. Of Men and Monsters is a short read, only eighty-one pages on my Book app with current settings, and I definitely recommend it if you’re into novellas/novelettes. 

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Palace of Tears


Review of Palace of Tears

Greetings HorrorAddicts. 

It’s getting close, my lovelies. How soon do you pull out your Halloween decorations? When do you start the scary movie marathons and pull out your frightening reads? We’ve got some melancholy darlings in review this time around as well as some Ro’s Recs.

This edition of Merrill’s Musical Musings is going to take you to a dark and dream-like state, with a little romance added in for flavor. The duo known as Palace of Tears has a very interesting backstory that includes a shared love of goth/dark music genres and performing arts. There was a move, followed by some Mardi Gras debauchery, and then the Great Pause, which has affected all of us in different ways. The album Of Ruination rose from these circumstances and listeners will definitely experience the wide array of emotions the artists experienced during these dark and anxious times. 

The tracks are all quite hypnotic. Some tracks are soothing, and others ride that edge of disturbing, adding a slight unease to your mood. The title track “Of Ruination” slices into you with distorted guitars then soothes the wound with ethereal vocals. Standout tracks that really show the artists’ range include “Cold Dead Skin” and “Masque L’Intrigue.” The production value was fantastic as well. Check out Palace of Tears and add them to your spooky, gloomy playlists. 

This month in Ro’s Recs, you should definitely check out Ice Nine Kills’ video for “Hip To Be Scared” and Twelve Foot Ninja’s “Long Way Home” for some horror-inspired music videos. And if you aren’t following Vision Video on Instagram, you’re missing all the Goth Dad jokes you can possibly stand! Let me know what you think.

I’d love to hear from you. What are you most looking forward to? Hit me up in the comments or at rlmerrillauthor@ gmail.com Thanks for checking in and Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musings.

____________________________________________________________________________

R.L. Merrill writes stories full of hope, love, and rock ‘n’ roll with a twist of spooky and creepy. You can find Ro on all the socials @rlmerrillauthor and for more about her books, check out www.rlmerrillauthor.com

 

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Candyman (Prerelease Private Screening 1st thoughts)

 
 

 

Plotline: In present day, a decade after the last of the Cabrini towers were torn down, Anthony and his partner move into a loft in the now gentrified Cabrini. A chance encounter with an old-timer exposes Anthony to the true story behind Candyman. Anxious to use these macabre details in his studio as fresh grist for paintings, he unknowingly opens a door to a complex past that unravels his own sanity and unleashes a terrifying wave of violence.

Who would like it: Fans of the Candyman franchise.

High Points: What I love most that even though this are slasher kill scenes, the killings take a back seat to the story.

Complaints: Absolutely nothing!

Overall: This is one of the most amazing horror movies that I’ve see in the past 5 years

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: Private screening

 

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Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

FRIGHT TRAIN : An anthology of spooky tales set around the railways

FRIGHT TRAIN

An anthology of spooky tales set around the railways reviewed by Renata Parvey

Editors: Switch House Gang

“Anyone who has ever been awakened late at night by a distant train whistle knows there is no lonelier sound. It is a mournful howl from a soulless traveler on a night journey to destinations unknown.”

Halloween arrived early this year with a spooky collection of tales based on the railways. Editors Charles R. Rutledge and Tony Tremblay came up with the concept of horror stories set around trains, and were rewarded with an assortment of stories ranging from Victorian-era ghostly yarns to contemporary thrillers, fantasy, and science fiction, ranging from creepy and humorous to atmospheric and downright gory. Fright Train comprises a mixture of contemporary authors with classic writers and a plethora of suspenseful, horror, and chilling stories set on or around train journeys. I particularly liked the concept of train travel and picked up the collection curious to see how each writer interpreted the narrow theme. The anthology is a ticket in itself to travel to unknown lands with shady co-passengers in suspicious cabins. Switch House Gang has reserved a seat for the reader and the ride awaits!

The collection includes classics like Charles Dickens’ The Signalman and Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost Special which have spooked us for over a century. And there are also newer stories about ghost trains, train accidents, missing trains, invisible rails, piercing whistles, vampire and zombie passengers, peculiar drivers, specials that give a whole new meaning to ‘special’, and a host of wonderful short stories that keep you on edge as you ride along with the characters. Themes include broken marriages, dead children, grieving parents, retrospecting the past, seeing the future, predicting alternative realities, journeys to and from hell.

It’s hard to pick a favorite because every story is outstanding in its own way and deserves its own review. They’re so different from each other, while simultaneously adhering to the narrow theme. The haunting tale of motherhood in Amanda DeWees’ A Traveler Between Eternities, as an unborn child takes a train ride; the dystopian rail route of Stephen Mark Rainey’s Country of the Snake; Errick Nunnally’s gore-fest Lust for Life that keeps you guessing till the end who the real killer is; past demons catching up with the present in James Moore’s The Midnight Train; the pandemic world of Scott Goudsward’s Plague Train; the haunted joyride of Elizabeth Massie’s Tunnel Vision; Jeff Strand’s Devil-powered Death Train of Doom that questions parental behavior and its influence on the actions of children; Tony Tremblay’s Pépère’s Halloween Train that focuses on the grandparent-grandchild relationship; Charles Rutledge’s twist on Dracula in The Habit of Long Years; Lee Murray’s cultural fest of Maori traditions and seers, spirit-guides and goddesses assisting a search-and-rescue in Weeping Waters; Mercedes Yardley’s The Rhythm of Grief that navigates the rail crossings between the living and the dead; Bracken MacLeod’s Weightless Before She Falls that distinguishes real monsters from imaginary ones, Christopher Golden’s All Aboard and its eerie 3:18 special. The contemporary writers even make up thirteen in number, to go with the horror theme of the book!

A special mention needs to be made of Lee Murray and Christopher Golden whose stories follow Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle respectively. Fright Train is a spectacular collection in itself, and to be placed next to classic writers is a formidable task. Murray and Golden are absolutely stellar with their standout creations, Weeping Waters and All Aboard. The sounds of the fantail and the shrill whistle of the 3:18 stay with you long after finishing the book.

Some quotes:

-The 3:18 was a ghost in and of itself, ridden by phantoms.

-The night air seemed to ripple, to have texture, just a hint of substance.

-Resentment and blame hung in the air like static building before a thunderstorm.

-An engine, a tender, two carriages, a van, five human beings – and all lost on a straight line of railway! Does a train vanish in broad daylight?

-The fog lay like a thick mist so that people appeared to be dissolving at the ankles.

-The sharp scream of the whistle slashed his eardrums.

-The desert sun pummeled his face like a hot iron fist.

-Does his intention define his evil nature, even if his actions harm nobody?

-You are trapped in the quandary of welcoming the tourist potential of Stoker’s work, but still wishing to change the national image of Romania.

-Pihanga’s tears rolled down the mountainside and onto the plateau.

-There were too many vampires on the train. Inspector Godina rolled his eyes at the motley assortment of Halloween revelers.

-That was the trouble with his gift – it was a feast or a famine – either everything spoke to you, or nothing at all.

-The slow touch of a frozen finger tracing out my spine.

-The stars themselves were weeping, hurling themselves from the heavens.

-They fill their ears and minds and souls with noise, because it’s easier than listening to the quiet.

-This is a train for the dead, and you’re still very much alive.

-He wasn’t a cosmic spiderclown in the sewers. He was a real monster.

The old-world charm of the cover is extremely striking too – it reminds me of those classic spooky movies that showed so much in so little. Atmospheric horror at its best! A good time to revisit Horror Express (1972).

My rating: 5/5 

Book Review: Howls from Hell Anthology

Book Review: Howls from Hell review by Matt Marovich

No matter what the theme of the anthology, the one constant among such books is that an anthology is not going to completely be the thing for everyone, and Howls From Hell, A Horror Anthology (which I’ll just refer to as Howls from here on out) is no different. That said, I will say that I enjoyed most of the stories in Howls and even the ones I enjoyed less were still decent. 

Other than being generally “horror”, there’s no real standard theme to the stories in this anthology, all of which come from members of an online community called the HOWL (Horror-Obsessed Writing and Literature) Society. The stories cross the gambit from ones I would describe as more Weird fiction than Horror to body horror, monster horror, and slasher horror. There are strange occult stories that might fit in the Lovecraft Mythos or something similar and one of body-hopping police officers/crisis interventionists who possess people in order to solve problems. While I generally prefer anthologies organized around a more standardized topic, the lack thereof doesn’t detract from Howls and I think instead provides it a little bit of strength; where an anthology with a unifying theme might have a few weaker pieces that don’t quite match the rest of the stories, by not having such a thread to tie the stories together it allows Howls to offer a greater variety of experiences that might provide more of a palette to appeal to a greater audience.

The one thing that I will say about Howls is that there were some stories that didn’t quite strike me as “horror”. One such story is “Manufactured Gods”, a piece that struck me as more sci-fi than horror about future explorers of an ancient tomb who make a startling discovery. Another is the story I referenced above, “Possess and Serve” which seemed more like a police procedural or thriller than a true horror story. The first story in the anthology “A Casual Encounter”, which details the first-person perspective from a sex worker who is more than she seems, having an encounter with a john, really isn’t a story with a beginning, middle, and end or a plot with a conflict that is resolved; it feels like it should be a scene in a larger piece. Despite these opinions, these three stories were creatively written with vivid descriptions that captivated me and I enjoyed them quite a lot. 

If you are a fan of horror and anthologies I would recommend giving Howls from Hell, A Horror Anthology a try; it’s a quick read and with the variety of tales to provide I’m sure you’ll find something to enjoy.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Spiral (Not that one)

 

Plotline: A same-sex couple moves to a small town to enjoy a better quality of life and raise their daughter with strong social values. But when neighbors throw a very strange party, nothing is as it seems in their picturesque neighborhood.

Who would like it: Fans of cults, secret societies, diversity, nail bitters, and religious horror

High Points: How the director used the current social climate to tell this movie and how he centered the only black character in the movie

Complaints: Absolutely nothing!

Overall: I LOVED this movie

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: Shudder

 

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Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Merrill’s Musical Musings

Merrill’s Musings – Funhouse Collective

Greetings HorrorAddicts. I hope this month’s Merrill’s Musings finds you happy, healthy, and ready to rock. I am a sucker for a great cover song, and Dutch artist Golden Earring’s “Twilight Zone” is an excellent choice. This month we’re checking out Funhouse Collective’s creepy, sinister version of this classic hit. The Funhouse Collective is the brainchild of Johnathan Mooney who had gotten the inspiration to start this new endeavor as a “collective” of multiple musicians and artists to collaborate with on different sounds and songs. Gone is the 80s rock sound, and in its place, we’ve got an alternative take that makes for a decent homage. The spirit of the song remains in their delivery, which is a little uneven but is a fun reminder of the horror roots of the decade. All three versions of the song have a different take on the tune and a variety of beats and synthesizers are used in the artist’s arrangement. I appreciate the effort to bring a little dark nostalgia. Anything to take me back to the 80s for an audio visit is fine by me. This is the artists’ first collaboration, and I look forward to seeing them take some other old favorites for a spin.

What are some of your favorite 80s tracks? Or maybe you’ve got a great cover to share? Hit me up in the comments or on the socials @rlmerrillauthor and share your favorites! Here’s a playlist of some of my favorite covers done recently by current bands. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/404GT0TGFW2D8YBVABbR9t?si=8UrYSVO5QNWefE_4tfAT-A

Stay Tuned for more of Merrill’s Musical Musings… 

 

Book Review: “Ghost Magnet: Crime and Magic in the New Russia #1” by James Beach

Hello Addicts,

When you are on the run from the bad guys, you always try to stay one step ahead of them. It could be continuous running, maybe even hiding in places they never think of looking. What if you do all of that, but they find you no matter where you go? Better yet, what if their informants are impossible to escape because they are ghosts?

In Ghost Magnet: Crime and Magic in the New Russia #1 by James Beach, Aurelian is a thief on the run after a jewel heist went sideways. He is hiding out amongst drug addicts for the night while he waits for a boat to take him to Odessa, where he can get the means for a new start elsewhere. He discovers that the drug den belongs to a former coroner named Mikhail Coba. Rumored to have murdered his wife and children because they got in his way, Coba and his bodyguards are looking for someone or something. That makes Aurelian more nervous but not as frightened as when he sees the thugs inject an addict with something that changes the man before he points to his hiding spot. After a brief surprise attack, the young thief escapes and doesn’t stop until he’s lost his pursuers, or so he thinks. Within minutes he is captured, and that is when the strangeness and horror kick in.

Coba has a channeling medium in his employ, along with a drug that allows ghosts to possess people before eventually consuming their bodies in a gruesome fashion. The mobster shares that he is looking for a wicker basket, which the spirits have advised Aurelian knows its location. This wicker basket provides a vital clue to a long-dormant experiment Coba wants to restart for his purposes.

This novella offers lots of twists and turns and whose pacing fits well between action and rest periods. It is an exciting start to a series I highly look forward to reading more of in the future. It is perfect for an afternoon read when you don’t want to jump into a girthy story and will want more by the end.

Until next time addicts,

D.J.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Heks

 

Plotline: A grieving woman discovers that her mother’s murder has ties to a South African witch doctor’s curse.

Who would like it:

High Points:

Complaints: Too many to list.

Overall: IMO this movie isn’t very good, the plot is weak, there was no research on the subject matter, there is no back story or character development and it doesn’t make much sense.

Stars: 1

Where I watched it:

 

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Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Ro’ Recs : Vision Video’s Upcoming Album

Greetings and Salutations! I’ve got a great rec for you this month and it all started with a bloody video. Like most 80s kids, I loved my MTV…so much that I got a job just so I could convince my mom we needed cable and that I’d pay for it so I could watch videos 24-7. It really “chaps my hide” when I think about how good kids have it today with YouTube and the like putting all this great music at their fingertips, rather than having to keep their fingertips on the pause and record buttons of their tape decks. But I digress. 

I received an email with a link to Vision Video’s new clip for “Comfort In The Grave” and I clicked it while preparing for a day of educating America’s youth. And whoa. It was an imaginative short film with gore and a great soundtrack. Score! I hit the sender back and replied, “send me more,” and much to my delight, I received an early promo copy of the band’s upcoming album Inked In Red. Fellow former and current goth friends, when I tell you you’re gonna love it, I mean you’re gonna love it. 

With jangly guitars, bouncy bass lines, and silky synthesizers reminiscent of Joy Division, New Order, and The Smiths, Vision Video has created an album full of delicious tracks. The Athens, Georgia quartet delivers a solid album that HorrorAddicts will love, especially after watching the killer video for “Comfort In The Grave.” Keyboardist Emily Fredock does a fantastic job with this moody track, taking the listener with her on a homicidal journey. Vocals from frontman Dusty Gannon give me a modern Killers-esque vibe and the lyrics are inventive and poetic in a refreshing way. Tracks “Static Drone,” “Run,” and “In My Side” are some of my favorites on first listen, but all of the tracks have the potential for repeat plays. While heavy topics like trauma and terror are covered in the tunes, there’s also a danceability and hopefulness that makes this album special. It’s a rare band that can bring nostalgia along with that fresh feeling of finding a new favorite. 

Discovering new music and other expressions of art during the pandemic has been so important. We need art to keep us motivated and determined to keep putting one foot in front of the other, now more than ever. I’m so glad I found Vision Video in my inbox. I am looking forward to watching this band grow and expand their reach and I hope all of my HorrorAddicts.net pals will join me in celebrating the release of Inked in Red with them. Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings and Ro’s Recs…

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R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. 

 

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: The Giant

 

Plotline: A teenager’s small town life is changed forever when a series of murders begin on the same night that her missing boyfriend suddenly reappears.

Who would like it: Fans of atmospheric, dreamy, horror movies about coming of age.

High Points:

Complaints:

Overall: This movie left a lot of unanswered questions

Stars: 2 1/2 Stars

Where I watched it: VOD

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is red-ram.jpg

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Book Review: Smithy by Amanda Desiree

Reviewed by Ariel DaWintre

Genre: Horror-paranormal

The story of Smithy is centered in an old mansion called Trevor Hall with a past in a wealthy old town. It begins with a group of college students and a chimpanzee called Smithy. The story is told through the characters’ letters, journals, and diaries. The story starts out very academic. The students and scientists are conducting an experiment with a young chimpanzee which is very smart. They are teaching him to use sign language to communicate but he starts signing things that don’t make sense and acting oddly in the mansion. Strange things start happening at the mansion and the students can’t explain. 

I liked the characters Ruby, Gail, Tammy, Jeff, Eric, and their very different personalities. The main character is the chimpanzee Smithy, whose formal name is Webster. And is about his interactions with everyone and his surroundings. The main person running the experiment and head of the program is Dr. Piers Preis-Herald along with his assistant Wanda. The students are at different levels of academics and have their own ideas of how things should be run, setting up issues, friction, and confusion between the team members. 

The story took a bit to get started for the horror part but it was a good story. I was engaged and with the group wanted answers. I don’t know if I got all the answers to what was happening. I know at the end I was looking back in the story for answers. You did get an ending and it was kind of a sad ending and but the house did win after all. I did have lots of questions and wondered if there will be a part two or a new story and see if it was based on a true story.

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Riot Legion

Greetings HorrorAddicts! Time continues to pass in stops and starts. The days blend together and are distinct only by the latest headlines or weather phenomenon, like what the heck even is an “atmospheric river?” It sounds to me like the next thing in darkwave music. As I write this, we’ve made it through Groundhog Day and that means we’ve passed the darkest time of the year. We have light at the end of the tunnel, and that can be interpreted in many ways. Thank goodness for music, I say, as we could all use a little pick me up. Today I’m here to bring you a new artist who might just get you through the next six weeks of winter that precocious Punxsutawney Phil predicted, the little furry bugger! We need the rain here in the West, but I’m sure folks would like a break from the cold. Hang in there and let’s meet this month’s artist, RIOTLEGION.

RIOTLEGION hail from Seattle and pack a hard-driving industrial sound. Whereas Seattle is known for its grunge musical history, RIOTLEGION breaks with tradition. The album Machine Liberation was released  23 June 2020 through Blind Mice Productions. The brainchild of Michael Coultas, RIOTLEGION is known for high-energy audio-visual performances in the area. Their lyrics delve into the chaotic political landscape we find ourselves in after the events of the past few months. 

Many of the tracks on Machine Liberation lean heavily on distorted beats and chants that might appeal to fans of previously reviewed artists JUSTIN SYMBOL or CELLMOD. “Out of My Head” hits with a hypnotic beat and a rhythmic chant and is a standout on the album and the creepy intro to “Liberation” piqued my interest. The artist relies heavily on flickering synthesized beats and static to add atmosphere to tracks like “Decimator,” and “The One You Deserve.” 

Check out RIOTLEGION if you’re looking for some angry club music to work out some of your aggressions. I’ll be back next month with more new music for you to feast your ears upon. In the meantime, be sure to follow me on Instagram @rlmerrillauthor where I post music recommendations in my stories. I can’t have my lovelies going without the best tunes to listen to, now can I? You can also find playlists on Spotify for my books and whatever mood I’m currently in. Stay tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings…


R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor.

 

The Dead Lands : Directed by Tao Fraser

The Dead Lands – Directed (2014) by Tao Fraser 

Reviewed by Kate Nox

When warriors from a rival tribe commit sacrilege in his tribe’s burial ground, Hongi (James Rolleston), son of a Maori Chieftain reports the act to his father. When questioned about the act, the rival crew of hot heads declares war on the village, killing all but Hongi who has been knocked down a ravine and forgotten.

Coming to and finding himself the only survivor he pursues the killers into a forbidden area (the Deadlands). There he meets an invincible ghost warrior who is rumored to haunt the land. 

Hongi discovers that the ghost is in fact, a fierce warrior, (Lawrence Makoare) although throughout the film there are times you wonder if the frightening warrior is truly a ghost or still human. Either way, he is tormented by a ghastly memory of loss in his own life which gives him a thorough understanding of the young boy whom he teaches to fight, and they join forces to hunt down and destroy the rival killers. 

If you are a fan of action films, you will appreciate that The Dead Lands, in fact, follows the action film formula. There is plenty of bone-cracking, slashing, and gore to keep you interested.

If you are bothered by horrific characters who battle in close and bloody conflict, taunting their opponents with insane faces, wagging tongues, stomping, screeching  and other acts designed to instill fear in the opponent, then I’d advise skipping this one. It is one of those movies where you want to reach out and smack the evil characters just for being so overwhelmingly nasty!

As for telling the story of loss, revenge, and horror lying in the psyche of both main characters, this movie is a winner.

The writers and director use a mix of tradition, mythology, and visions of dead ancestors to produce a truly spiritual “other-world” ending which will make you question what you’ve seen.

Thumbs up on horror and realism!

Odds and Dead Ends :The Silly, Slimy Charm of ‘Braindead’

Horror movies sometimes get a bad rap, and one of the reasons it gets this is all the blood and the gore and the violence and the splattered body parts that can make an appearance in some of its roster. And I’ll admit, on occasion you do watch someone pull glass out of their leg in gratuitous detail and have to admit that it was unnecessary to the emotional impact of the story. But some films can go in for gleeful blood and gore, and despite the usual apprehension, get good opinions in both the public consciousness and decent reviews from the critics. The 1992 film Braindead (released as Dead Alive in some territories), an earlier project from Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, is one of those films. By embracing an absurd concept and playing up both the scenario, and the execution (in a filmic sense and a killing sense), it makes for a strangely charming, slapstick zombie comedy that’s fully aware of what it’s doing, and manages to survive the usual criticisms of ‘too much gratuitous violence’.

            The basic plot of the film, for those who haven’t seen it (and if you haven’t, spoilers ahead), sounds exactly like a run-of-the-mill zombie movie we’ve now before. A ‘Sumatran Rat-Monkey’ is captured and placed in the local zoo; an animal which used to be used in black magic rituals. Whilst stalking her shy son, Lionel (Timothy Balme), who is on a date with a young woman she disapproves of (Paquita, played by Diana Peñalver), Vera Cosgrove (Elizabeth Moody) gets bitten by the rat-monkey, and over the next few days she succumbs to her infection in gruesome, decomposing fashion. The infection spreads, culminating in a mansion full of rotting corpses spurting blood and other bodily fluids, and a finale with a lawnmower and an awful lot of body parts.

            Films had come before which had reveled in the amount of violence on screen to self-aware effect; the obvious candidate being Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films. And whilst the first film played it straight (to a certain extent), Evil Dead II took such pleasure in killing off deadites in a gleeful manner that it’s hard not to see it as a possible influence on the tone of this film. There’s also the large amount of practical effects, and the relatively low budget natures of the films (Braindead had around $3m in it, Evil Dead II had apparently a $3.5m budget). But even Raimi’s films, which had set new bars for the amount of severed heads and splattered limbs, can’t come close to Jackson’s movie. Reportedly Braindead is, by the quantity of blood used in production, the goriest film ever made, though of course, we’ve no way to properly assess this claim.

            The excess is so absurd that the film manages to give a nodding wink to the audience that it isn’t meant to take the violence seriously (there’s no way the human body can be cut up that easily, and also contain such an amount of blood). This self-aware presentation is also carried out through the regular comedy of the film, from the ridiculous setup to the occasional joke (we have, for example, a wonderful exchange between Lionel and Paquita, the latter of which exclaims ‘“Your mother ate my dog!”’, with Lionel’s immortal reply of ‘“Not all of it,”’ to follow). At points, Jackson manages to blend the disgusting gore with the comedy, to give beautiful gems which couldn’t happen in any other film. You wouldn’t be able to get a close-up of porridge, eaten a second before, squirting out of the neck-wound of a nearly-decapitated zombie, in even something like a Nightmare on Elm St film.

            By blending the black comedy and the excessive violence together, it can get away with elements which would be frowned upon even in a so-bad-it’s-good movie, let alone one that was just offensive to filmmaking. When you’ve got an eccentric, kung-fu priest kicking zombies with comic sound effects shouting the line ‘“I kick ass for the Lord”’, and an eccentric Latvian vet with a ridiculous accent and glasses who takes money from people’s hands with a pair of tweezers, you understand that this isn’t a film which goes for realism. When we have a man taking on a hoard of zombies with a knife and a cleaver, and we cut back to him standing over a foot-high pile of severed limbs without having suffered even a scratch, we know we’re not meant to really believe he’s fought them all off; the film just says he did and we believe it because we’re just going along with it at this point. And that’s even before the giant inflatable zombie-mother in the finale.

            But despite pulling out ribcages and going through an army of zombies with a lawnmower, there’s some good, quality filmmaking in here. Jackson uses several exaggerated crane moves which would become part of his main arsenal in The Lord of the Rings which look glorious, for example in a scene with Lionel and Paquita on Lionel’s balcony. Their first kiss is led up to by a big crane move from the ground up to the balcony, sweeping in on them as they are swept into each other’s arms; a wonderfully romantic camera movement. The lighting in the finale is great, with just the right mix of psychedelic colours and silvery moonlight turning the blood black. The lighting is even worked into a gag with one zombie thrust onto a light fixture, where bright orange light streams out of her eyes and mouth, turning her in effect into a lampshade.

            And one might even say there’s a little touch on class and possibly even immigration in the film’s writing. Vera and Uncle Les, both wealthy individuals, look down on Paquita (Vera because she believes her to be ‘experienced’, and Les because he’s misogynistic and specifically suggests that he goes after Paquita because she’s ‘“Latin”’), and try to get Lionel away from her. Even the strange vet initially thinks that Les is from immigration, claiming to have lost his papers, showing his deepest fear of being deported.

            It’s a silly, purposefully overdone zombie comedy with far too much blood and gore to be taken seriously, but it’s made a connection with audiences and critics. IMDb has it rated at 7.5/10, which, for a film with this amount of churning guts stinking in the open air, is ridiculous. The dialogue isn’t the greatest, and some of the acting isn’t good. But despite this, Braindead has somehow managed to click the right combination of direction, practical effects, comedy, and sheer absurdity, to make it out of the ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ category and into genuine horror merit. It’s not the greatest horror movie ever made, but there’s a slippery, stomach-churning charm to the film which has allowed it to remain in the public consciousness for so long and going beyond the other films in the director’s oeuvre. It’s silly, slimy, and charming.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: kjudgemental

Book Review — “Made in L.A. Vol. 1: Stories Rooted in the City of Angels”

Hello Addicts,

This month’s book review takes us to Los Angeles, CA. The anthology Made in L.A. Vol. 1: Stories Rooted in the City of Angels contains stories written by Los Angeles based authors which take place in or around the Los Angeles area. The tales range from funny to spooky and many genres in between.

The first in the anthology, “Between Broken Pieces,” is about an actress trying to be what everyone expects her to be, no matter how self-destructive it is. The story, shared from the points of view of the four women most directly tied to her life and career, is the kind of tragic story that can carry the tagline, “ripped from the headlines.”

The second standout for me takes place in the Cecil Hotel, “No Vacancy.” A man travels to the famed haunted hotel with a psychic to help him solve a mystery involving his sister that led to her death.

Another that caught my imagination was “Unquiet Baggage.” The story is told from the perspective of a murdered man as he follows the suitcase carrying his remains wherever his husband goes with them. It very much has a “The Lovely Bones” feel about it.

In truth, any of the ten stories included in the anthology is well worth the read. I recommend it to anyone looking for a good rainy day read.

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J.

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Vexillary

Greetings HorrorAddicts I bring you some groovy reviews and righteous recommendations this year to keep your tuneage vibing. Or something like that. Despite the insanity that was 2020, many artists were able to come up with inspired material and I’ll share some great picks with you over the coming months. 

Vexillary is an instrumental project by New York based Reza Seirafi that was influenced by the artist’s love of blending components to create something new. A chemist in his other life, he likes to take seemingly inharmonious sounds and make them fit together. Tracks like “Maritime Panic” offer additional sonic adventures with each new listen. “Annihilation” has a manic feel that leaves the listener grasping at the elements and trying to find something to hold onto. There is a feeling of doom, especially in the opening notes of “Forged Skies” but this offering of electronica is never gloomy, and by the time you reach “The Geneticist,” the mad scientist vibe of the SurViolence is complete.

Vexillary is music for those who need an intense infusion with a side of chaos to make their aural journey complete. Give it a listen and let us know what you think. 

Want to share your favorite music from 2020? Comment below or email me at rlmerrillauthor@gmail.com. The next Ro’s Recs will be less of a “best of” and more of a “here’s what you don’t want to miss.” I’ll see you soon, my HorrorAddict Darlings. In the meantime, Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings…

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R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. You can also find her Hope, Love, and Queeromance posts over at www.queeromanceink.com

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Held

The footage you are about to see chronicles the harrowing experience that her neighbors endured for hours as she screamed, cried, and shouted expletive obscenities at her television as she watched: Held

Who would like it: Fans of trapped environments, survival, strong female leads, suspense and thrillers.

High Points: My favorite part of this the reason what was happening was happening and the way the final girl got out of it

Complaints: None!

Overall: Love it

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: Screener

 

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: The Binding (Il legame)

 

Plotline: While visiting her fiancé’s mother in southern Italy, a woman must fight off a mysterious and malevolent curse intent on claiming her young daughter.

Who would like it: Fans of the occult, magic, witchcraft, curses, and international films

High Points: I love the slow burn of how this movie opens up and sets the scene but in no way is this a slow movies

Complaints: I don’t have any complaints

Overall: I enjoyed the heck out of this!

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: Netflix

 

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Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Book Review: Unknowing, I Sink by Timothy G. Huguenin

Julian takes a summer job cleaning the house of Mr. V, a notorious recluse in his small West Virginian town. He soon discovers that the sickly old man is far weirder than the rumors say. Julian tells himself that the money is worth it so he can get a car and impress the girl he likes. But when his crush asks Julian to sneak her in to see the mysterious Mr. V, Julian puts much more than just his job at risk.

Because Unknowing, I Sink is a novella, there’s no room for excess in the plot. The story is tight, keeping the action fast. There is no unnecessary fluff. Still, Huguenin manages to build dread organically, keeping the horror in the back of your mind for most of the book. He does an excellent job of making the reader create their own worry. Something is going to happen, something is right around the corner. The pay off is worth the wait.

Unknowing, I Sink features a small cast of characters, but each are inundated with flavor and personality. Julian just wants to impress the girl he likes. He’s barely spoken to her before, but he’s sure that if he could just get money for a good car, it will be enough to get her attention. Huguenin wrote Julian as a flawless teenage character, annoying enough to be realistic, but not so much that I threw the book across the room (it’s happened before).

Mr. V does more than just hide in shadows. Huguenin imbues him with vibrant personality while still keeping him shrouded in mystery. The unearthly visage created by the many screens and umbilical of electrical cords only foreshadows the true horror.

Huguenin also went the extra mile in filling out his background characters. Stacey—who initially only appears in Julian’s imaginings—comes roaring to life off the page, defying Julian’s expectations and blazing a trail for objectified girls in fiction everywhere.

Huguenin has always expressed a strong desire to write stories imbued with the spirit of West Virginia. From the tone, to the characters, to the town, I feel he succeeds. Setting steps to the forefront throughout Unknowing, I Sink. The house is a character in its own right, with cameras and intercoms that turn it into an extension of Mr. V.

Huguenin has a grounded style of writing that makes the story incredibly accessible. You’re immediately pulled in by the description and character voice.

I consider Unknowing, I Sink one of the most literary horror books that I’ve picked up in the past year. Huguenin takes a subtle hand in guiding the reader through the story, letting tension build organically, before punching them in the gut with the reveal. I hope Unknowing, I Sink is in consideration for a Stoker Award next year. It would be well deserved.

If you’re looking for creeping horror with a satisfying twist and excellent writing, pick up Unknowing, I Sink. Also check out Huguenin’s other books.

Timothy G. Hugunin was a contestant in the Next Great Horror Writer Contest here at HorrorAddicts.net. Check out this interview with him!

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Dissonance

Greetings HorrorAddicts. This month we’re listening to the Dark Wave artist Dissonance. Cat Hall has a new maxi-single that’s perfect for fans of bands like GARBAGE, NINE INCH NAILS & INFORMATION SOCIETY. Precipice is a techno-moody piece that is very personal to Hall. Music helps us heal from the tragedies in our lives, and for Hall, it’s been a form of catharsis. After a serious health battle, she’s come out on the other side to share her emotional experience in these three pieces. With remixes by Joe Haze, Diverje, Junior Kain, and Machines with Human Skin all add layers to the composition. Reminiscent of Tubular Bells or early Depeche Mode, Precipice is music to sit with and contemplate. Each element woven together, whether it be effects or harmonies, all evoke feelings of loss and yet are ultimately hopeful. 

Thank you for joining me this month. I hope you and yours are well. I’d love to hear what kind of music is getting you through this tumultuous time. If you want to hear what I’ve been listening to, you can check out my #SpotifyWrapped. If you’re not on Spotify yet, you might want to change that in 2021. Getting a report on your listening habits can be…creepy, but also a great trip down memory lane. Stay Tuned for more Ro’s Recs and Merrill’s Musical Musings… 

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R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. You can also find her at www.queeromanceink.com writing about Hope, Love and Queeromance. 

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Koko-di Koko-da

 

 

Plotline: A case of food poisoning derails a family’s holiday and forever alters the course of their lives. Years later, the couple go camping again, looking for one last chance to go back to the way things used to be. But what once was is lost, and they instead find themselves having to relive the same nightmarish events, as that day and the horrors it brings repeat themselves infinitely. Together, they must overcome their trauma, reconcile with the past and fight for their lives — over and over again.

Who would like it: Fans of camping horror, cosmic horror, WTF, international films, myths and fairytales

High Points: I really love how told in two different media’s

Complaints: None

Overall: I really enjoyed this super creepy little movie!

Stars: 3 1/2

Where I watched it: Sling

 

 

Book Review : Aleister Blake by Valentina Cano

Review by Matt Morovich

An admission before I begin: I’m not that much of a fan of the romance genre.

It’s not for particularly any negative reason, the previous statement isn’t an indictment of the genre, it’s just not a genre that I have had much experience with. Admittedly, it also not one I have a preference for; if I’m going to pick up a book, it’s much more likely going to be horror, science fiction, or fantasy.  Maybe a more accurate statement would be that I don’t have enough experience with the genre to say if I’m a fan or not. 

That said, this book, Aleister Blake

Here I thought it was going to be a horror novel and yet it’s a sneaky, stealthy horror romance.

And that is not a bad thing in the slightest.

Aleister Blake is the story of Nora, a young woman living in Victorian London with her brother Peter. Decidedly working class, the pair work as rat catchers for a man named Sharpe, clearing the homes of wealthier citizens of vermin. Having grown up as orphans on the city streets, the siblings are incredibly close and Peter has done everything he could to keep his sister safe. That said, they are still products of their environment which expresses itself in Nora’s suspicion and dislike for the upper class and her penchant for nicking objects to pawn from the homes of their clients when her brother, the moral compass of the two, isn’t able to stop her. Due to her smaller size and figure, Nora is the quick and nimble one, crawling beneath floors and between walls to catch the rats while Peter helps manage their working relationships to get more clients.

While not a comfortable life, the two of them get by with their work, making a mostly honest living, and things go well until Peter makes the mistake of placing too large a bet on a dog during a rat-baiting when a tip doesn’t pan out. When it is revealed he doesn’t have the money to cover the wager, Peter is stabbed and mortally wounded while his sister watches. Crying for help in a filthy London alley, Nora’s prayers are answered when a stranger appears out of the night to offer her a devil’s bargain: Nora could agree to work for the stranger on a project that he needed her assistance with and he would save Peter. The additional drawback would be that Nora would become invisible to everyone who had previously known her, excising her from her previous life, but, facing living in a world without her brother, she’d rather go on knowing he was alive and unable to see her than for him to be dead, so she agrees. 

And that is how we are introduced to the mysterious Aleister Blake.

The horror of Aleister Blake comes from the same-named character, who, right from the go, is clearly more than he appears. Able to heal mortal wounds with a wave of a hand, he lives in a Tardis-like home that is far larger on the inside than it is on the outside and is staffed with misshapen shadow creatures that flit about silently on the edges of your vision. Over the course of the book, we learn Aleister’s secrets as Nora uncovers more about her mysterious benefactor and business partner and the unsettling nature of his house.

The romance portion of this novel is, you probably could have guessed, the growing relationship between Nora and Aleister. Over the course of the book, the two come to an understanding of each other and gain mutual respect, leading to Nora acknowledging she has feelings for him. To go too much more into either the romance or horror aspect of the novel would be to give too many spoilers, but, to my unfamiliar experience with the romance genre, the relationship seemed to grow organically and realistically.

I’m happy to say that, as opposed to the last two books I reviewed, I enjoyed Aleister Blake quite a bit. Written from Nora’s perspective, she’s an entertaining and realistically written character who I enjoyed getting to be a part of. Her interactions with her brother, Aleister, and others felt real and unlike other female protagonists whose name rhymes with “Smella”, she is competent and realistically flawed. She has a sense of humor, her own fears, and desires, and the end of the novel was refreshing in how it turned out. I particularly enjoyed how Cano wrote the dialogue, it flowed well and sounded like how people actually talk; additionally, the way that Nora and Aleister speak with each other also really emphasized the changing nature of their relationship, becoming more familiar and humorful as they grow closer. 

The only thing that made me frown at the book was, once again, the main threat came down to sexual violence around women, specifically women who had been kidnapped to be trafficked. I will say that there are no graphic depictions of any abuse, only implications of it, but again that was being used as a trope made me roll my eyes a bit. What saved it for me was how little it was part of the plot; it existed, and dealing with the kidnapping was part of Nora’s motivation, but it wasn’t the singular facet of the story nor was it over-emphasized. Part of me wishes Cano had found a different reason for Nora to care about Aleister’s schemes, because of how overdone this sort of thing feels to me, but I could look past that opinion for how much I enjoyed the rest of the book.

I will say that I was hoping that the book would have had more horror. While what was there was well written, I felt like this skewed a bit more toward the romance side of the hyphenated genre than the horror side. The horror had a decidedly PG-13 feel to it, which isn’t necessarily bad, I was just hoping for more. 

If you’re looking for a horror-romance book with an interesting and entertaining female protagonist, I would definitely recommend Aleister Blake.

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Static – X

 

Greetings HorrorAddicts. This month’s review has one helluva backstory. There’s a rock band, a romance, a drug problem, and a resurrection of sorts. I had to do a deep dive to give the album a full critique and what I found was a story that tragically has a lot in common with so many bands who have lost frontmen to the excesses of rock ‘n’ roll, however, the surviving members of Static-X are determined to make their own way back in an unusual but compelling way. 

Static-X celebrated the 20th anniversary of their album Wisconsin Death Trip in 2019. The original lineup toured to commemorate the album…with a singer dubbed Xer0. Because Wayne Static died in 2014 of a deadly combination of prescription drugs and alcohol. News came out that the band was recording a new album using some of Wayne’s demos and compositions, a guest spot from Al Jourgenson of Ministry, and would feature this new, unknown, masked singer, which has been a controversial move for some of their fans. The band, on the other hand, maintains that Wayne would have found it hilarious. (https://www.loudersound.com/features/static-x-the-story-behind-that-controversial-wayne-static-death-mask).

And man is this album amazing. What a testament to Wayne and a reminder of the magic the original line-up had together. 

For those new to Static-X, their hit song “Push-It” has been a staple of the industrial rock/metal scene for years. On this new album, Project Regeneration, Volume I, there’s that same electronic-tinged in-your-face feel of their early work, but the melodic atmosphere of powerhouse bands like Korn, Rammstein, or even Rob Zombie can be heard in the mix. “Worth Dyin’ For” has a hooky chorus, and “Terminator Oscillator” is a hard-hitting tune with a chanting rhyme that is the metal fan’s version of INXS’s “Mediate.” My favorite track on the album so far—and that changes each time I listen because they’re all great—is “Something Of My Own,” a powerful, emotional jam that resonates with its lyrics about opportunities missed due to the loss of Wayne. 

The hard rock/metal scene these days has matured from the days of nu-metal when Static-X first set up shop, but Project Regeneration, Volume I fits in nicely with today’s sound. The album is a great tribute to a band that obviously has a lot more to offer, and it’s one I will be jamming to for quite some time. 

That’s it for this month. Stay Tuned for Ro’s Recs…

R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. You can also find her hope-filled posts at www.queeromanceink.com.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: In The Earth

 

 

Plotline: As the world searches for a cure to a devastating virus, a scientist and a park scout venture deep into the woods. As night falls, their journey becomes a terrifying voyage through the heart of darkness as the forest comes to life around them.

Who would like it: Fan of mythologies, folklore, monsters, slow burns and slasher films will love this movie!

High Points: I like the concept of using science to try to communicate with nature

Complaints:

Overall: I really liked this film, it’s the kind of movie that you’ll see something different every time you watch it

Stars: 4 1/2

Where I watched it: Screener

 

Odds and Dead Ends: Why Blade’s introduction is a cut above the rest

I make no apologies for discussing Blade, especially when the topic of black vampires comes up. To me, Snipes is the black vampire, at least until we rightfully bring more well known black nightwalkers to the canonical party. And though there’s a new Blade movie in the works for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (just when it’ll come out, who will direct it, where it will come out, are all questions up in the debating room air), and Del Toro did a decent job with Blade 2 in 2002 (we ignore 2005’s Blade Trinity), nothing will fully compare to the opening 10 minutes of the 1998 film, and its near-perfect introduction to the character.

First, a refresher. A young man is taken to a nightclub deep inside a meat-packing plant, and they have to go past rows of animal carcasses to get there. Once inside, it seems like a typical nightclub, with hundreds of teens dancing to rave music in strobe lights. Our young man tries to join in, but is pushed away by the dancers. Then a spot of blood drops onto his hand. The lights come up and the DJ reveals the words ‘Bloodbath.’ Suddenly the sprinklers kick in all over the rave and drench the room in torrents of blood. The young man, confused, tries to escape, but everyone in the room has now turned on him, flashing fangs and snarling. The vampires close in on him. He trips and tries to crawl away before he ends up at a big, clean, leather boot. The crowd parts, the air gets heavy. “It’s the daywalker,” someone says.

Without a word, the action commences. Snipes lunges into action, shooting and spearing, punching, and karate-kicking any vampire nearby, turning them to fire and dust. Soon the vampire security come in, all dressed in black leather, ready to do battle. Blade takes out his namesake sword and traces an arc on the floor. Nobody gets closer than this, it says. And it holds true. Leaping through the air like a wire-fu master, Blade slices and dices, his black leather coat swishing as his attacks come off like dance choreography. When the human police arrive, he leaves one vampire burning, another to take the blame, and escapes through a drain into the windy, moonlit city night.

We must have a little appreciation for the context of the film. Marvel Comics weren’t at the full height of their powers at this time. It would be another ten years before Iron Man began the blockbuster run they’re on now. The Matrix, with all its anime-inspired fight scenes, cyberpunk trenchcoats, and synthwave soundtrack, wouldn’t come out until the year after this. And Blade wasn’t a household name at the time (according to my brief research of the topic), and though he’d appeared in plenty of stories, he wasn’t exactly up to the same reputation as Spider-Man or The Incredible Hulk.

Blade was therefore a daring film to undertake, especially with Marvel and New Line putting $45m on a fairly unknown quantity. So the introduction had to be just right. Spoiler: it was.

It’s vital that the audience fears the vampires. Yes they are teenagers with half their clothes off in the rave, but there’s cunning behind them. There’s a deliberate decision to have the rave in a meat-packing plant behind hundreds of carcasses. There’s a calculation to hold off on mindlessly attacking him until the right time, pushing him away and making both him, and us as an audience, uncomfortable. There’s something deliberate in waiting for the blood to start pouring before striking. There’s something about being covered in blood, and enjoying it, which turns them from humans into vicious pack animals. And there must have been long, logistical thought in how to get all that blood into the sprinklers, and not turning it on until they knew there was a human in the rave to get the full effect. Every vampire knows the plan. It’s cold and calculated, all designed to elicit the maximum amount of fear in the young man, and therefore us.

But then Snipes appears. The hush that falls over the room is beautiful. Blade allows his presence to linger. We’re allowed to see that his attire is spotless. His eyes are hidden. He’s confident and poised. Not only that, but that cold, calculated understanding of the vampires has suddenly turned to fear. Through them, we understand that this character must be important, well known, and a threat. The bloodbath ends and the music quietens down. We feel the tension in the marrow of our bones.

Without uttering a word, the fight scene kicks in. Blade wastes no time showing off a variety of techniques and skills, from gunplay to martial arts, shooting stakes into vampires, using his sword and his glaives (bladed boomerangs). We understand instantly that he’s skilled, knowledgeable, and can adapt to the situation. There’s a nice little setup when he throws his stake-shooting gun across the floor, only to collect it near the end of the fight and impale the final vampire to the wall. It reminds me very much of the old gun-in-the-flowerpot idea from action movies of old. Blade has the right combination of instinct and strategy and brings the sense that he enjoys hunting the creatures down.

It’s this enjoyment of the task which makes this entrance work. Not only do we know that we’re going to be in for a hell of a ride thanks to the directing style, fight choreography, etc, but that Blade smiles when he’s drenched in the blood and ashes of monsters of the undead means that we also get a sense of enjoyment. We know we’re in safe hands, and so we can, in a way, get a secondary kick of catharsis from the scene. If this stranger, who can instill such fear in the monsters of the night, is fighting them off without saying a word, but flashing bright white teeth as he goes about his work, then maybe we can get behind him and enjoy the ride.

There’s very much the feel of an old Western cowboy to Blade, emphasised by the swirling newspapers in the alley as he escapes like tumbleweeds. The drawing of the tip of the blade along the floor in the fight is also similar to the way a cowboy movie might set up a duel. We draw upon subconscious film archetypes within ourselves to understand the scenario. Despite being dressed in black, it’s very clear who the good guys and bad guys are here. And so we return to thinking of Blade, in a way, as John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. We’ve got a natural inclination to get behind these characters, and as we draw the parallels, we put our chips behind Blade. The lone gunman, come to save the town and disappear again.

Everything in this opening sequence is constructed for maximum impact. Drawing upon tropes and ideas from a wide range of genres, the sequence comes in roughly two halves. First, setting up the terror and threat of the vampires, and then using Blade to diffuse our tension, as well as giving us some fighting excitement. It works because, besides the acting, direction, music, cinematography, costumes, and all the other bits and pieces of film form, it’s simply well made. It’s well set up, with clear stakes and conflict, a good fight scene which isn’t too choppily edited, and introduces the character of Blade through mostly visuals (he speaks a couple of lines near the end but that’s it). He’s strong, dangerous, and perhaps a little unhinged (anyone who enjoys slicing up vampires in the way he does must be a little bit wrong behind the eyes). You could watch it without dialogue and it still works. It’s a perfect introduction to one of horror’s greatest vampire anti-heroes.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Kindred

 

Plotline: A psychological thriller rippling with suspense, Kindred follows vulnerable mother-to-be Charlotte as she is taken in by her recently deceased boyfriend’s mother and her stepson, who seem increasingly obsessed with her every move Charlotte’s suspicions grow about Margaret and Thomas’ intentions for her unborn child.

Who would like it: People who love demented families, cults, cat and mouse and psychological horror

High Points: I like the way this movie was shot because it highlights the isolation of our heroine

Complaints: There is the suggestion of a cult and lots of symbolism of the occult but the movie doesn’t explain it, it’s just left as unanswered questions

Overall: This was pretty stressful to watching and the ending feels like an uppercut to the jaw.

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: Shudder

 

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Ro’s Recs /Vision Video

Ro’s Recs – Vision Video

Greetings and Salutations! I’ve got a great rec for you this month and it all started with a bloody video. Like most 80s kids, I loved my MTV…so much that I got a job just so I could convince my mom we needed cable and that I’d pay for it so I could watch videos 24-7. It really “chaps my hide” when I think about how good kids have it today with YouTube and the like putting all this great music at their fingertips, rather than having to keep their fingertips on the pause and record buttons of their tape decks. But I digress. 

I received an email with a link to Vision Video’s new clip for “Comfort In The Grave” and I clicked it while preparing for a day of educating America’s youth. And whoa. It was an imaginative short film with gore and a great soundtrack. Score! I hit the sender back and replied, “send me more,” and much to my delight, I received an early promo copy of the band’s upcoming album Inked In Red. Fellow former and current goth friends, when I tell you you’re gonna love it, I mean you’re gonna love it. 

With jangly guitars, bouncy bass lines, and silky synthesizers reminiscent of Joy Division, New Order, and The Smiths, Vision Video has created an album full of delicious tracks. The Athens, Georgia quartet delivers a solid album that HorrorAddicts will love, especially after watching the killer video for “Comfort In The Grave.” Keyboardist Emily Fredock does a fantastic job with this moody track, taking the listener with her on a homicidal journey. Vocals from frontman Dusty Gannon give me a modern Killers-esque vibe and the lyrics are inventive and poetic in a refreshing way. Tracks “Static Drone,” “Run,” and “In My Side” are some of my favorites on first listen, but all of the tracks have the potential for repeat plays. While heavy topics like trauma and terror are covered in the tunes, there’s also danceability and hopefulness that make this album special. It’s a rare band that can bring nostalgia along with that fresh feeling of finding a new favorite. 

Discovering new music and other expressions of art during the pandemic has been so important. We need art to keep us motivated and determined to keep putting one foot in front of the other, now more than ever. I’m so glad I found Vision Video in my inbox. I am looking forward to watching this band grow and expand their reach and I hope all of my HorrorAddicts.net pals will join me in celebrating the release of Inked in Red with them. (Release date April 16) Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings and Ro’s Recs…

R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. 

From The Vault: Midnight Syndicate’s Monsters of Legend

 

MOL

 

Reblogged from 12/14/2013

If you are a fan of the classic Universal monster movies, like Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolf-man, then I think you will enjoy Midnight Syndicate’s latest album, Monsters of Legend. Listening to the tracks, one cannot help but feel the stirring moments from these classic films. In fact, as an experiment, I watched the great silent classic “Nosferatu” with this album in the background acting as a soundtrack, and I thought it provided some amazing atmosphere. It just lends itself so well to the genre, no matter what was playing.

My other Midnight Syndicate albums typically get played only around Halloween, and it is obvious this one will join them in such a rotation. However, I think a good classic horror tale can be watched anytime, and I dare say the same can be said for this album.

It’s very hard to pick out a favorite track on a collection like this. I will say that all of the tracks have been very inspirational for background while I am writing. This is something I have done with other Midnight Syndicate records, but this one by far has the most cinematic feel of them all and lends itself the most in my mind.

Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka have outdone themselves with this album, and after all of the years of gothic goodness they have produced, that fact really shines. Whether you are a new fan or old of Midnight Syndicate, or you are a fan of classic horror movies, Monsters of Legend will not disappoint.

Midnight Syndicate

Monster Madness Month: Review of GROTESQUE : Monster Stories by Lee Murray

GROTESQUE: MONSTER STORIES 

A book review of Lee Murray’s Bram Stoker Award nominated collection

Reviewed by Renata Pavrey

“Generosity could be as contagious as the plague, as long as enough people were willing to be carriers”, is a quote that opens the book and sets the tone for the kind of writing one is in for. A collection of eleven tales narrated as flash fiction, short stories, and novelettes, Grotesque spans the horror landscape from mythological creatures to contemporary social media addictions, as the reader travels across France, China and New Zealand, meeting everyone from Maori warriors to zombies, spirits and sea gods and gods of earthquakes and volcanoes, Leonardo Da Vinci and Tangaroa, tin soldiers and kaiju. A taut collection I came across in a horror literature forum, the book is in equal parts thrilling, dark and educative, an action and horror fest, with layers of historical references and cultural influences.

The titular story opens the collection with an archaeological find transporting us to the 16th century to reveal its secret. As we move back and forth from the 1500s to present day, fantasy elements of horror merging with historical roots made Grotesque one of my favorite stories and a fabulous one to start the collection as it set the pace for what lay ahead. History is followed by mythology that serves to remind and educate about the stories of lore, as Hawaiki takes us through Chinese mythology, Taiwanese history, and the Maori immigration story; as does Maui’s Hook, another monster story with its foundations in Maori mythology. I love mythological retellings in literature as they teach you so much about different cultures around the world; legends and folklore containing treasures of life stories through the ages. The kaiju story was another one of my favorites.

The New Breed is a post-apocalyptic zombie story, while Cave Fever merges science fiction with horror through a two centuries-old storm that forces mankind to seek refuge underground into a claustrophobic cave existence. Selfie and Dead End Town are out-and-out horror fests. I loved Lee’s take on the millennial social media obsession with her twisted spin on selfies in the former, while addressing domestic violence in the latter. Edward’s Journal was another stunner of pure horror – an epistolary story of colonialism featuring a British soldier from India helping white settlers in New Zealand, while Heart Music takes us through the restless spirit of a fourteen-year-old dead child. Into the Clouded Sky is a novelette of adventures in New Zealand – a ride through action, thrills, and monsters all the way, and Lifeblood pits marginalized groups against each other to detract from their actual problems.

Every story offers a unique reading experience, and encourages you to read between the lines into the theme being expressed in each one. Grotesque is a splendid collection to note the range of the writer’s prowess in relaying stories across genres and themes, having relatable elements as well as something new to learn wherever in the world you might be reading the book. Lee’s dark and disturbing tales cover commonplace topics like clicking selfies, address issues like dementia and child abuse, and turn the spotlight on immigrants and grave robbers – causing the reader to ponder upon who the real monsters are. Grotesque is a collection filled with monsters, but through an array of science fiction, fantasy, horror, mythology and more, Lee reminds us that we have already encountered many monsters; with many more still to be met.

In an increasingly dark and ominous world, monster stories force us to challenge our fears. 

~Lee Murray

This book will delight horror fans and is a magnificent collection for those new to the genre to explore. I would also recommend it to readers of mythology – there’s much information to be gleaned about world cultures. The Maori glossary is a wonderful touch to familiarize readers with terms and phrases in the stories, although Lee does a splendid job in explaining them through the context of the story itself. Lee’s creations are out of this world and each one surprises in its own way. There’s an aftertaste that you could read an entire novel surrounding each plot.

Lee Murray is an award-winning writer and editor with several novels and series to her credit. Grotesque is her first short story collection, which has been nominated for the Bram Stoker Awards this year in the category of collections.

My rating of the book: 5/5

Renata Pavrey

March 2021


Renata Pavrey is a Nutritionist by profession; marathon runner and Odissi dancer by passion; driven by sports, music, animals, plants, literature and more. She reads across several genres and languages, and loves the world of horror – in both, books and movies.

https://tomesandtales365.wordpress.com/Asian

 

Guest Blog : Mr. Mercedes’ Latest Season Premieres and It Brings the Feels by Rebecca Rowland

Mr. Mercedes Latest Season Premieres on Peacock on March 4, and It Brings the Feels

by Rebecca Rowland

In the first fifteen minutes of the third season of Mr. Mercedes, Bruce Dern is murdered. 

Dern plays a best-selling, reclusive writer, and this revelation is in no way a spoiler: not only is the crime the catalyst for the season’s story arc, but it is also the basis for Stephen King’s Finders Keepers, the second in the horror scribe’s Bill Hodges trilogy. According to King, Dern’s John Rothstein is not an alter ego but a mishmash of J.D. Salinger, John Updike, and Philip Roth, but let’s face it: Robert Frost insisted until the day he died that “The Road Not Taken” was not an allegory of selecting an extraordinary life path but only a plain ol’ poem about walking in the woods. Any high school English teacher would beg to differ. 

As a reader of King’s for more than thirty years, I admit to having felt a bit unnerved when Rothstein bit the dust specifically because I equated the fictional author with King himself. Shared grief when a celebrity dies is not a new phenomenon. When the grunge god’s suicide splashed across radio and television, someone spray-painted C-O-B-A-I-N across the interstate exit near my childhood home. When David Bowie, Prince, and Tom Petty were picked off by the Grim Reaper in what seemed like the trifecta of musical rapture just a few years back, I tore their glossy magazine photographs from their media memorials and taped them to my office wall. Watching the first third of season three’s lead episode, I considered what it will be like when King himself takes a final walk down the mile. 

I could track my life based on the release dates of King’s books. I was one of those kids who loved to read; my parents had to lock me outside in order to keep me from hunkering down in my room, my nose buried in a book. Because my father was a diehard Stephen King fan in the 1970s, I, of course, became instantly curious about his books, and at the age of ten, I was allowed to read Thinner because my parents had determined that it was the least nightmarish of King’s works up to that point (body image of a tween girl, be damned). I immediately moved on to The Shining and promptly had trouble sleeping, the obvious culprit being the clear view from my bed of a shower curtain in the night-light-lit bathroom. At the age of twelve, I went to the movies with a boy named Jimmy, and after we watched Silver Bullet, he gave me my first kiss. Throughout my teen years, I favored King’s short fiction, and it is because of Night Shift’s “The Boogeyman” that I insisted my college dorm room’s closet door always be shut completely, much to the vexation of my freshman-year roommate (who, incidentally, went on to executively produce not one but three of the CSI series as well as Murder in the First. I’d like to think my closet fixation takes partial credit for her career success with suspense, but it’s probably just a coincidence…).

After focusing my graduate degree in English on feminist theory, I based my thesis on the portrayal of female characters in popular horror fiction using Stephen King’s most recent releases at the time: Insomnia, Gerald’s Game, Dolores Claiborne, and Rose Madder. After entering the workforce for the first time as an adult, I read The Green Mile in its original serial form and sobbed uncontrollably on the subway after the initial demise of Mr. Jingles. Many years later, while working as a librarian in Western Massachusetts, I had to laugh when I read “Big Driver” in Full Dark, No Stars: maniacal main character Ramona Norville was a librarian, and the story was set in the town in which I was living at the time. 

When I tell people that I write dark fiction—psychological horror, in particular, I am more often than not met with a roll of the eyes or a patronizing tone. Genre fiction, it seems, lacks the street cred inherent with traditional literary fiction. Stephen King is popular, but he’s no Dostoevsky or Dickens, they say. I beg to differ. A professor once told me, a classic is a work of literature with themes and relatability that supersede time and place. There is humanity in horror, at least in well-written horror, that could go toe-to-toe with any stuffy college literature course tome. Although we read horror primarily for the screams, what keeps many of us coming back, no matter at what stage in our lives we are, is the sympathy its characters bring out in us.

And so, I return to the latest television installment of King’s Hodges trilogy. The now defunct Audience Network shuffled the novels of the series, choosing to base its second season on the third book, End of Watch, to mixed reviews. Although there is little to top the show’s first foray, season three captures much of the dread and believability that were often absent from the second ten episodes. Brett Gelman, always a scene stealer in comedy funfests such as The Other Guys and Fleabag, displays dramatic range as attorney Roland Finkelstein and potential love interest for Holly Gibney, but it is Breeda Wool’s portrayal of Lou that is most impactful. Wool inhabits the imprisoned assassin of Brady Hartsfield so strikingly that I’ve added most of her other work to my watch list. 

Season three is aglow with plenty of gruesomeness, from a spontaneous hatchet to one unsuspecting character’s head to a pick-axe being inserted and dragged through another’s, but perhaps the most chilling scene occurs in the final episode of the season, one that brings to a head the mysterious dream sequence Bill Hodges has been experiencing. For me, it is this scene in particular that solidified what the third installment of Mr. Mercedes seemed to be proselytizing all along, that the best writers are the ones whose work continues to impact our lives long after they have left this earth. Was it morbid for me to ponder Stephen King’s eventual demise? Perhaps. On the other hand, it’s possible that horror literature’s crown prince will outlive all of us, Mother Abigail-style. Regardless, for horror fans, he will never really disappear.

 



Rebecca Rowland is the dark fiction author of The Horrors Hiding in Plain Sight and Pieces and curator of the horror anthologies Ghosts, Goblins, Murder, and Madness; Shadowy Natures: Stories of Psychological Horror, The Half That You See, and the upcoming (June 2021) Unburied: A Collection of Queer Dark Fiction. Her work has appeared in venues such as Bloody Disgusting’s Creepy podcast, The Sirens Call, Coffin Bell, Curiouser, and Waxing & Waning and has been anthologized in collections by an assortment of independent presses. For links to her latest publications, social media, or just to surreptitiously stalk her, visit RowlandBooks.com.

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Riot Legion

Greetings HorrorAddicts! Time continues to pass in stops and starts. The days blend together and are distinct only by the latest headlines or weather phenomenon, like what the heck even is an “atmospheric river?” It sounds to me like the next thing in darkwave music. As I write this, we’ve made it through Groundhog Day and that means we’ve passed the darkest time of the year. We have light at the end of the tunnel, and that can be interpreted in many ways. Thank goodness for music, I say, as we could all use a little pick me up. Today I’m here to bring you a new artist who might just get you through the next six weeks of winter that precocious Punxsutawney Phil predicted, the little furry bugger! We need the rain here in the West, but I’m sure folks would like a break from the cold. Hang in there and let’s meet this month’s artist, RIOTLEGION.

RIOTLEGION hail from Seattle and pack a hard-driving industrial sound. Whereas Seattle is known for its grunge musical history, RIOTLEGION breaks with tradition. The album Machine Liberation was released  23 June 2020 through Blind Mice Productions. The brainchild of Michael Coultas, RIOTLEGION is known for high-energy audio-visual performances in the area. Their lyrics delve into the chaotic political landscape we find ourselves in after the events of the past few months. 

Many of the tracks on Machine Liberation lean heavily on distorted beats and chants that might appeal to fans of previously reviewed artists JUSTIN SYMBOL or CELLMOD. “Out of My Head” hits with a hypnotic beat and a rhythmic chant and is a standout on the album and the creepy intro to “Liberation” piqued my interest. The artist relies heavily on flickering synthesized beats and static to add atmosphere to tracks like “Decimator,” and “The One You Deserve.” 

Check out RIOTLEGION if you’re looking for some angry club music to work out some of your aggressions. I’ll be back next month with more new music for you to feast your ears upon. In the meantime, be sure to follow me on Instagram @rlmerrillauthor where I post music recommendations in my stories. I can’t have my lovelies going without the best tunes to listen to, now can I? You can also find playlists on Spotify for my books and whatever mood I’m currently in. Stay tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings…


R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor.

 

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Coast 2 Coast Horror

I am so very excited about this post guys! I’ve teamed up with Lady Shasha, the host of What Did I Just Watch? to bring you a three-part mini series to celebrate Black History Month, WiHM, and all things horror.

The Daughters of the Dark, Lady Shasha host of What Did I Just Watch and Crystal Connor, A Trusted Name in Terror joined forces to bring you a 3 part mini-series to celebrate Black History and Women in Horror month!

Get to know Lady Shasha …
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHrhUeOoE7C46NKJcrdTNUQ

https://www.facebook.com/wdijwcommunity

https://twitter.com/horrorfreq

Book Review: “Severed Wings” by Steven-Elliot Altman

Hello Addicts,

Imagine that you are an actor on the cusp of becoming a breakout star in a new series, only to have fate take it away in the blink of an eye. How low would your life sink, and what would you do to get that life back? These are the questions raised by Steven-Elliot Altman in Severed Wings. .

Brandon Jones is a rising star set to take on a sitcom role that he sees as his big break. Fate intervenes in the form of a head-on car accident that takes the life of a teenager and places him paralyzed from the waist down and permanently in a wheelchair. He breaks up with his girlfriend, a starlet in her own right, loses the sitcom role he fought hard to get, and cuts off contact with family and friends. He sinks into depression, finding solace in alcohol and companionship with a drag queen and an escort working her way through college.

Life and circumstances change when new neighbors move in down the hall. At first, they are a mystery he feels a strong urge to solve, but he is smitten when he sees the woman living there. Unfortunately, while she is distantly friendly, her boyfriend is anything but that. The mystery behind the couple deepens when a man leading a blind older woman knocks on Brandon’s door by mistake. He recognizes the woman as a prestigious agent. Her presence in their apartment building is enough to inflame his curiosity further. What follows are miracles and the discovery of entities almost as old as the world itself.

I found the take on a man falling from the highs of stardom to the lows of despair, self-loathing, and depression to be engaging. The supernatural elements fold into the mix in a satisfying way for the tale. There is a bit of redemption towards the end, although it doesn’t go as far as offering a thoroughly happy ending. If you are looking for a quick read a la the Masters of Horror television series, I think this will satisfy that craving.

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J. Pitsiladis

Book Review: Blackwater Val by William Gorman

Blackwater Val  by William Gorman
Reviewed by Ariel DaWintre

This story revolves around a place called Blackwater Val. The main characters are Richard and his daughter Katie, who is six-years-old. He takes her back to where he is from to take care of some personal things. Richard realizes right away that he has forgotten a lot of his past, but that he is starting to slowly remember. Blackwater Val seems so normal at first, but strange things are starting to happen and a dark past is being uncovered. Although Richard starts to remember his past, what he thinks he knows is not always accurate or true and we learn along with Richard.

I found myself writing a list of what I perceived to be the monsters, ghosts, demons, or bad guys in the story. There seemed to be quite a few. I kept wondering who the bad guy was and was he controlling them all. I liked that even though I thought I knew who the bad guy was, it wasn’t that simple. The story also brought in true facts from the past about the Indians in the area and the wrong that was done to them. Although Blackwater Val is not a true place, the locations around it are. I also found myself looking up things on Google, wondering which parts were real and not. I can now officially say I know a lot more about Suak Indians.

This is a definite horror story and there is blood and guts aplenty. This is a classic good vs evil tale, but nothing is simple as lines are drawn and a battle unfolds. The details and story are clear and you will stay up and be kept engaged and rooting for the good guys to win. The story has several twists that will make you go, “Wow.” There is also an element of magic and special gifts introduced into the story. There is not really a romance in the story but it has a romantic element with a strong sense of family and friends.

The main evil in the story is very twisted and scary and relentless throughout the story. Clearly, Blackwater Val brings out the worst in some people. The author does a great job of bringing his characters to life and keeps you wondering how the story will end and who will come out okay. The story gives a good ending but leaves an opening that not all is settled and done. Can’t wait to read the sequel.

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Vexillary

Greetings HorrorAddicts and welcome to a new year! I plan to bring you some groovy reviews and righteous recommendations this year to keep your tuneage vibing. Or something like that. Despite the insanity that was 2020, many artists were able to come up with inspired material and I’ll share some great picks with you over the coming months. 

Vexillary is an instrumental project by New York based Reza Seirafi that was influenced by the artist’s love of blending components to create something new. A chemist in his other life, he likes to take seemingly inharmonious sounds and make them fit together. Tracks like “Maritime Panic” offer additional sonic adventures with each new listen. “Annihilation” has a manic feel that leaves the listener grasping at the elements and trying to find something to hold onto. There is a feeling of doom, especially in the opening notes of “Forged Skies” but this offering of electronica is never gloomy, and by the time you reach “The Geneticist,” the mad scientist vibe of the SurViolence is complete.

Vexillary is music for those who need an intense infusion with a side of chaos to make their aural journey complete. Give it a listen and let us know what you think. 

Want to share your favorite music from 2020? Comment below or email me at rlmerrillauthor@gmail.com. The next Ro’s Recs will be less of a “best of” and more of a “here’s what you don’t want to miss.” I’ll see you soon, my HorrorAddict Darlings. In the meantime, Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings…

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R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. You can also find her Hope, Love, and Queeromance posts over at www.queeromanceink.com

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: The Vigil

At 4:04 am on Dec 14th 2020, Crystal Connor, finally settled into her sleeping bag on the couch with snacks within reach, and with dog in lap she picked up her remote. The footage you are about to see chronicles the harrowing experience that her neighbors endured for hours as she screamed, cried, and shouted expletive obscenities at her television as she watched:

The Vigil 

Plotline: A man providing overnight watch to a deceased member of his former Orthodox Jewish community finds himself opposite a malevolent entity

Who would like it: Fans of demonic possessions, religious horror, cultural horror, international films, paranormal activity fans with like this as well.

High Points: This is very cultural specific. This is a story line that you won’t see anywhere else.

Complaints: None!

Overall: I LOVED IT!

Stars: 5 Stars!

Where I watched it: VOD

 

WOMEN WRITING HORROR: A Listicle of Women to Read

WOMEN WRITING HORROR by Renata Pavrey

Horror is my favorite genre in fiction and I read across all of its sub-genres including true crime, psychological horror, comedy horror, from novels to short story collections, dark poetry and anthologies. A random search for horror books throws up the usual fare from Stephen King, Joe Hill, Josh Malerman, Kealan Patrick Burke. While I have loved books by all these writers, women authors in the genre don’t show up as easily, with the exception of Shirley Jackson and Mary Shelley for their classic works. I thought back to all the books I’ve read and the ones in my to-read list and came up with this listicle of horror stories from women writers. These include translated books as well as original language ones, novellas, novels, collections, prose and poetry, fiction and non-fiction by writers, translators, editors, and publishers who create terror through words. From historical fiction, science fiction, young adult, satire, to mythology, folklore, speculative fiction, re-telling of true events, and dark verses – take your pick. Since February is coming up, I compiled a list of twenty-eight women in horror – one book recommendation for each day of the month.

  1. Agustina Maria Bazterrica – Tender is the Flesh

A virus has eradicated animals, and humanity turns to cannibalism for its source of meat as humans are domesticated, mass produced, and slaughtered. Translated from the Spanish, a nauseating and provocative satire that blends science fiction with horror.

       2. Ally Blue – Down

An underwater, paranormal suspense fest surrounding the discovery of a rock-like sphere that causes humans to mutate and turn into horror versions of themselves.

       3. Alma Katsu – The Deep

Historical fiction horror set around the events of the Titanic and its sister ship the Britannic. The maritime disaster and World War I are caught in sinister happenings in this supernatural thriller.

       4. Cassandra Khaw – Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef

A novella about the dual life of a sorcerer and soldier, combining horror and comedy with Malaysian and Chinese mythology.

       5. Christina Henry – The Ghost Tree

YA horror about missing people and terrifying visions of monsters dragging remains. Ghostly trees, creepy children, witches and curses – almost like watching a horror movie.

       6. Christina Sng – Dreamscapes

Horror, fantasy, and science fiction come together in this poetry collection that addresses the darkness within. Verses that serve to unsettle and terrify, proving how poetry can be more impactful than prose.

       7. Elizabeth Kostova – The Historian

A historical fiction Dracula story moving across time and place with shifting narrator perspectives. A debut vampire novel that interweaves history with folklore and makes for a riveting read.

       8. Fernanda Melchor – Hurricane Season

Mythology and terror from Spanish literature, with the English translation maintaining the grim, intense and graphic prose of its original source in this portrait of a Mexican village and its witch.

       9. Francine Toon – Pine

A haunting tale in the Scottish highlands, filled with intrigue and eeriness, alternating between terrifying and heart wrenching, spooky and suspenseful in equal measures.

       10. Gemma Amor – Dear Laura

A novella of lifelong obsession, this dark, twisted tale about penpals stands out for its brilliantly atmospheric writing.

       11.Jennifer Hillier – Wonderland

Psychological thriller, amusement park, serial killer – gruesome and wicked as you set out to solve crimes.

       12. Jennifer McMahon – Winter People

Historical fiction meets fantasy in this chilling story of missing people and secrets galore.

       13. Joyce Carol Oates – The Doll Master

A collection of short stories that borrows its title from an obsession over dolls, and leads into an unsettling world of abominations and mystery.

       14. Kaaron Warren – Into Bones Like Oil

A haunted house novella with an unconventional narrative and storyline, and an interesting take on the ghost story.

        15. Kathe Koja – The Cipher

Winner of the Bram Stoker award for Best Debut Novel, The Funhole does not live up to its name. A black hole that calls out and launches a journey of obsession, darkness, and blinding terror of classic horror in spectacular prose.

        16. Laura Purcell – The Silent Companions

There’s nothing like historical fiction for a dose of gothic horror. An asylum, a haunted mansion, intriguing journals, hidden secrets – a creepy ghost story that grabs the attention from beginning to end.

        17.  Laurel Hightower – Crossroads

An exceptional novella dealing with the horrors of heartbreak and grief, and things coming back from the dead. An emotional and devastating read that shows you just how diverse the horror genre can be.

        18. Lee Murray – Grotesque

A collection of monster stories that range from mythology to legend and science fiction offering a dip into Maori folklore and French history, zombie attacks and adventures. Packed with action and gore, the stories are a delight for monster fans.

        19. Lisa Kröger – Monster, She Wrote

Why read one horror story when you can read about them all? A non-fiction horror book about women who pioneered the genres of horror and speculative fiction; writers who defied convention and crafted some stellar spooky tales. From ghost stories to psychological horror, intriguing trivia and reading recommendations, a book about books not to be missed.

        20. Lucy A. Snyder – Sparks and Shadows

A dark fantasy collection of short stories, poems, and essays. Twisted tales in myriad settings, witty and diverse, horrifying, amusing, and thought provoking.

        21. Mariana Enriquez – Things We Lost in the Fire

A short story collection of the macabre, mixing magical realism with gothic fiction in this astonishing treat from Spanish literature brought to us in English by translator Megan McDowell.

        22. Mariko Koike – The Graveyard Apartment

Detective fiction and horror writing come together in this translation from Japanese literature of psychological horror set around a graveyard. Deborah Boehm brings this to us in English.

        23. Michelle Paver – Thin Air

A historical fiction ghost story set in the Himalayas. Nature can be brutal enough, but what if it isn’t the only thing you’re battling? Subtle supernatural elements, more psychological rather than physical, can be more horrific at times.

        24. Nalo Hopkinson – Skin Folk

A short story collection of magical realism, science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction interweaved with horror. Storytelling at its best.

        25. Samanta Schweblin – Fever Dream

Some more magical realism from Spanish literature is this surreal nightmare of an otherworldly story. Menacing, unsettling, and thoroughly absorbing in its usage of horror to explore current world issues.

        26. Taeko Kono – Toddler Hunting

An exceptional collection of Japanese short stories that explore the dark side of human nature and antisocial behavior. Lucy North translates to English to bring us a startling and disquieting world.

        27. Yoko Ogawa – Revenge

Another dark treat from Japanese literature in an experimental format of seemingly unrelated short stories coming together to form a larger novel. Bland settings and ordinary people up the ante of terrors lurking in everyday life.

        28. Yrsa Sigurdardottir – I Remember You

Scandinavian Nordic noir of isolation and remoteness; horror based on true events. Translated from the Icelandic, a ghost story that proffers the chills.

~Three bonus books for the women who lead the way as editors and publishers~

  1. Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn – Black Cranes

A collection of short stories by Asian writers, highlighting the dual themes of women in horror and Asian women writers. A smorgasbord of mythology, legend, folklore, science fiction, comedy horror, satire, dark fantasy.

       2. Aiki Flinthart – Relics, Wrecks, and Ruins

A collection of science fiction and fantasy with horror to showcase the remnants of humanity and celebrate a legacy. 

        3. Tricia Reeks – Meerkat Press

The publishing house comes out with some very different but very good books, in equal parts weird, unique, and dark.

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Renata Parvey is a Nutritionist by profession; marathon runner and Odissi dancer by passion. Driven by sports, music, animals, plants, literature and more. Reads across several genres and languages, and loves the world of horror – in both, books and movies.

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Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Anything for Jackson

In the early morning hours of Jan 2nd 2021, Crystal Connor, finally settled into her sleeping bag on the couch with snacks within reach and picked up her remote. The footage you are about to see chronicles the harrowing experience that her neighbors endured for hours as she screamed, cried, and shouted expletive obscenities at her television as she watched:

Anything for Jackson 

Plotline: Satanist couple kidnap a pregnant woman so they can use an ancient spellbook to put their dead grandson’s spirit into her unborn child but end up summoning more than they bargained for.

Who would like it: Fan of the occult, possessions, creature features, ppl who love monsters, and everybody who loves endings that keep you guessing

High Points: The strong storyline and original plot

Complaints: I don’t have any!

Overall: I super loved this movie!

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: Shudder

 

Asian Horror Month: Book Review/REVENGE by Yoko Ogawa (Japanese)

Book Review – REVENGE by Yoko Ogawa (Japanese)

(English translation by Stephen Snyder)

Review by Renata Parvey

Yoko Ogawa is one of my favorite contemporary writers, and I love how her writing covers a range of genres, all brilliant works in their own way. Revenge is a peculiar book, written in the form of short stories, where each story connects to another – in no particular order – culminating into a larger tale somewhere down the line. More recently, Jane Borges’ Bombay Balchao was another book written in the experimental fiction format – a collection of seemingly unrelated short stories woven together to form a novel. Both Ogawa and Borges are a pure delight to readers with their literary prowess in taking writing – and reading – to a different level.

Coming back to Revenge, it can be termed as a series of dark tales, with sinister elements binding them to one another. The protagonist of one story can be a minor character in another, at times not even named – leaving the reader to decipher who we are reading about, what role they play in each story, are they even connected or does the reader feel so because we assume the stories are strung together. The eerie world created by Ogawa moves across generations, time spans, places – past, present, future, the real world and the supernatural, fact and fantasy all drawn in as well as apart from each other.

An aspiring writer, a murderous landlady, an obsessed bag maker, a singer, a surgeon, a Bengal tiger, a mother, strawberry cake – crossing paths and converging their fates in this dark web of vengefulness. Ogawa can be emotional and unsettling, impassive and heartbreaking, creepy and gentle. Her macabre take on relationships and emotions make this book effectively terrifying. Revenge is not horror in the traditional sense. A passenger train, a bakery, home gardening – the fact that her settings are so bland ups the ante of the terrors that lurk within. Ogawa’s writing can transform a normal scene next door to something downright horrifying – nothing seems out of the ordinary, and you can’t tell when and how the horror crept up on you. The best part is connecting the stories, navigating clues as you wander in this strange world.

Of course, Ogawa’s frequent English translation collaborator Stephen Snyder deserves as much of credit as the writer herself, for marvelously bringing life to her stories. Revenge is a disturbing collection for those who revel in the written word and the beauty she creates with literature.

My rating – 5/5 

Renata Pavrey ~ December 2020

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Renata Parvey is a Nutritionist by profession; marathon runner and Odissi dancer by passion. Driven by sports, music, animals, plants, literature and more. Reads across several genres and languages, and loves the world of horror – in both, books and movies.

Asian Horror Month: Lily Wong Books by Tori Eldridge

Review: Lily Wong Books by Tori Eldridge

If you think a ninja’s life is all about throwing stars and black pajamas, think again. For Chinese-Norwegian born Lily Wong, it’s a mixed bag of fighting domestic abuse, family dynamics and this little issue with the Los Angeles Ukrainian mob. No big deal.

Lily Wong is a heroine for modern times. Gutsy, humorous and bad*ss, she takes on injustice wherever she finds it, using her skills to defend women against those who would enslave them. Loads of action will keep readers turning pages faster than Lily can break a knee cap. There’s even a little romance thrown in to round out the story.

There’s more to Lily than martial arts, however. Author Tori Eldridge brings personal struggles to the table as Lily faces issues of being mixed race, loss of a loved one and how to preserve non-traditional values with a domineering grandmother. Despite her prowess with martial arts, Lily is far from being an inaccessible character. Flawed and conflicted, she’s easy to identify with.

I enjoyed being exposed to new concepts like the kunoichi, a female ninja. Unafraid to touch the hard topics of racism and human trafficking, Eldridge doesn’t disappoint in the second book of her series, The Ninja’s Blade. Lily will go to any means to protect those who would otherwise be victimized. If you are looking for a fast-paced action read with plenty of social value, Tori Eldrige’s Lily Wong series will not disappoint.

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Tori Eldridge is the bestselling author of The Ninja’s Blade and The Ninja Daughter (Lily Wong series), nominated for the Anthony, Lefty, and Macavity Awards for Best First Novel and named one of the “Best Mystery Books of the Year” by The South Florida Sun Sentinel and awarded 2019 Thriller Book of the Year by Authors on the Air Global Radio Network. Her short stories have been published in horror, dystopian, and other literary anthologies, and her narrative poem appears in the inaugural reboot of Weird Tales magazine. Tori’s screenplay The Gift earned a semi-finalist spot for the Academy Nicholl Fellowship.

Before writing, Tori performed as an actress, singer, dancer on Broadway, television, and film. She is of Hawaiian, Chinese, Norwegian descent and was born and raised in Honolulu where she graduated from Punahou School with classmate Barack Obama. Tori holds a fifth-degree black belt in To-Shin Do ninjutsu and has traveled the USA teaching seminars on the ninja arts, weapons, and women’s self-protection. Look for the third book in the Lily Wong series in September 2021.

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About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher, and author with over 20 years of experience in newspaper journalism. She co-publishes Space and Time magazine with author husband Ryan Aussie Smith. For more information visit SpaceandTime.net

Odds and Dead Ends: The Bloody Brilliance of Lady Snowblood (1973)

Article by Kieran Judge

Japan is not known for holding back when it comes to throwing around buckets of blood on screen. Not just limited to horror, the country’s samurai and revenge films are some of the bloodiest on record, and because there are often swords involved, it’s not just limited to splashes of red from bullet-wounds either. Lady Snowblood (Toshya Fujita) is a perfect example of this, featuring copious amounts of the red stuff gushing in geysers from slashes and stabs. But the film is much more than just a blood-fest, and is an interesting window onto Japanese society in the beginning of the Meiji Era, when the country was beginning to examine western ideas, moving from the feudalistic, pre-industrial country of old, into a nation that had changed almost indescribably by the era’s end.

            The story is one that has been told times before. Yuki, born in the first years of the Meiji Era (I believe 1873, give or take a year, according to my rough estimations), is raised to be an assassin who will one day track down her mother’s four abusers. The film follows the now named ‘Lady Snowblood’, as she follows the four trails, taking out each one in turn, until the final bloody climax. Based off a manga of the same name, it spawned a sequel, a spinoff, and had its legacy largely cemented in western culture when Quentin Tarantino used it as primary inspiration for Kill Bill (2003). It’s a kind of narrative we’re still seeing today, with a female assassin raised from birth for the sole purpose of murder, and anyone who hasn’t seen the stylish 2017 film The Villainess (Jung Byung-gil, South Korea), which in turn was inspired by the Luc Besson film La Femme Nikita (France, 1990), would do well to check it out for a fun, modern example of the narrative.

            Lady Snowblood has enough filmmaking technique going for it to make it a good watch on its own, and attention to the use of colour as part of its thematic expression is just part of it. Red is obviously a large feature in the film, and not just because of the severed hands and blood-splattered faces. After several flashbacks to Yuki’s birth, red light spills into the night, colouring the snow crimson. The women in the prison at her birth are all dressed in red, the floor of the palace in the finale is red, the kimono of the daughter of one of her targets is red; the symbolism is obvious. She is born to blood, which is said as much “poor child, you were born to vengeance”, and it is in red where the story ends. She can never escape it.

            It’s also no coincidence for her to take the name Snowblood, as the translation for ‘yuki’ is ‘snow’ (according to Google), a name given to her by her mother, just before passing after giving birth, after looking outside to the falling snow. Indeed, the purity of the colour white contrasts with the blood in many scenes. Our introduction to ‘present-day’ Yuki takes place in the snow, which ends in a violent bloodbath, and the film ends in the snow also. Yuki also wears a white kimono for much of the film, which, when contrasted with a red sash, demonstrates her attire as a reflection of herself. A pure woman forever destined to spill blood, for no other reason than that is what she was born to do. It might also reflect the death of her mother’s husband, whom the group killed before abducting her mother, who was wearing a white suit at the time.

            Perhaps of most interest from a cultural point of view, however, is how the film examines the growing western influence in the country in relation to the antagonists, especially Gishirō. Both he and Okono (two of the four being hunted) use pistols, the only two characters to do so. Okono’s policemen, which she uses to try and stop Yuki, are dressed in a western-inspired uniform, with gold buttons and shiny billed caps. Her relative rank and influence is coming as a direct response to assimilation of western technology and culture, whereas Yuki carries a parasol, dresses in a kimono, and uses a katana, as she has done all her life, all seen as traditional icons of Japan’s history.

            As mentioned before, Yuki’s ‘father’ was wearing a suit when killed. The film explains that government officials wore white when visiting the towns to draft young men for the war effort, and so the four villains of the story were running a scam to say that young men would escape the draft by paying them (they would then promptly vanish with the money). This plays into an excuse to rob and kill Yuki’s ‘father’, as a result of paranoia and hatred of men dressed in white. But, that he was wearing a suit specifically shows that the new era of exposure to western influences can unstable a nation’s people. A symbol of western society, it is seen as inherently threatening to a traditional way of life. By getting rid of someone dressed in attire of the world beyond their borders, which had been closed off for so long, the four align themselves as friends of the people, helping to persuade them to take up their scam. Thus their hypocrisy deepens as they themselves adopt similar dress in the later segments of the film. They will align themselves with anyone who help to further their own rank and influence.

            The finale at the masquerade ball is also interesting, as it is set up for dignitaries from all over the globe. From the ceiling are hung flags from countries all across the world, from the UK to Belgium to Greece, and Japan’s white flag and red circle is not exactly hung right in the middle of the room. The chandelier is definitely in the style of an aristocratic European mansion, some of the guests speak English, and once again, Yuki is attacked with a pistol. Yuki must go into this new world, still upholding a tradition of the past, straddling the strange, mixed ‘netherworld’, to accomplish her mission. That the villain’s final plunge from the balcony causes him to fall into, and drag down, the Japanese flag, is perfectly apt. Draped in the colours of white and red (just like Yuki herself), Japan’s past has taken revenge for exploiting the incoming influence of the West for personal, nefarious gain, and not for the unilateral gain of all.

            Thus, not only is Lady Snowblood very entertaining, stylish, and well shot, but is very much a story which could only be told about this country and about this period of its history. Through the bodily dismemberments and fountains of blood is a reflection of a nation’s exposure to radical change, and the chaos that this can bring about when some seek to exploit it for ill-gain. If horror fans are looking for a little change of pace to their usual demonic possessions and serial killings, this bloody tale of revenge should certainly be sought out and savoured.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: kjudgemental

Asian Horror Month: Princess Resurrection by Yasunori Mitsunaga

Contrary to what the cover and write up leads you to believe, the star of this manga is not Princess Resurrection.  The true star is Hiro, an abandoned boy who is resurrected to be a slave for the princess. Poor Hiro wakes up in a morgue unaware that he is now undead and wanders to the Princess’s house.

Hiro

Princess Resurrection is nonchalant and uncaring of his life or what becomes of him. As the daughter of the king who stands above all monsters, I guess she has the luxury of being jaded about death.  She wields many weapons such as stakes, swords, jackhammers, and her favorite, a chain saw. Despite the many monsters she massacres, her dress is never damaged. Now, this is a girl we can look up to!

So, let’s see… we have a hell-bent princess, an undead boy, a robot maid, is there someone missing?  Ah yes!  Let’s add a rebellious werewolf girl into the mix.

These books are great. No matter how many times Hiro is “accidentally” killed by the Princess’s weapons or the robot maid says her only word “Hooba”, this story never gets old.

What you’ll find in Volume 1:princessr

  • Hiro wakes up dead and finds the Princess battling a horde of werewolves.
  • Insane hospital employees attempt to make Hiro their savior and then try to kill him.
  • Werewolf girl saves Princess Resurrection from a battalion of squidmen.
  • Extras in the back include a four-page spin-off comic and two pages of translation notes explaining the significance of certain scenes along with a sneak peek at Volume 2.
  • Favorite quote: “You think Hiro’s alright?”
    “He only drowned for one night.  There shouldn’t be a problem.”

What you’ll find in Volume 2:

  • The Princess’s evil little sister visits and infects the house with triffids.
  • A sexy vampire girl wants Hiro for her own and attempts to steal him from the Princess.
  • The Princess battles another horde of werewolves.
  • The robot maid finds an android who she cares for.
  • The Princess kills an eyeball squid creature with a jackhammer.
  • Extras in the back include a five-page spin-off comic and two pages of translation notes explaining the significance of certain scenes along with a sneak peek at Volume 3 which looks to include a mummy army.
  • Favorite quote: While most of the crew is fighting for their lives against triffids, the maid is cleaning up. “It’s a little noisy upstairs… Oh well. I need to vacuum!”

The art in this manga is not pretty and frilly, but it is very well done. Monster art, gory blood, fighting, and a girl who cuddles her weapons? What more can a horror manga fan want?

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Dissonance

Greetings HorrorAddicts. This month we’re listening to the Dark Wave artist Dissonance. Cat Hall has a new maxi-single that’s perfect for fans of bands like GARBAGE, NINE INCH NAILS & INFORMATION SOCIETY. Precipice is a techno-moody piece that is very personal to Hall. Music helps us heal from the tragedies in our lives, and for Hall, it’s been a form of catharsis. After a serious health battle, she’s come out on the other side to share her emotional experience in these three pieces. With remixes by Joe Haze, Diverje, Junior Kain, and Machines with Human Skin all add layers to the composition. Reminiscent of Tubular Bells or early Depeche Mode, Precipice is music to sit with and contemplate. Each element woven together, whether it be effects or harmonies, all evoke feelings of loss and yet are ultimately hopeful. 

Thank you for joining me this month. I hope you and yours are well. I’d love to hear what kind of music is getting you through this tumultuous time. If you want to hear what I’ve been listening to, you can check out my #SpotifyWrapped. If you’re not on Spotify yet, you might want to change that in 2021. Getting a report on your listening habits can be…creepy, but also a great trip down memory lane. Stay Tuned for more Ro’s Recs and Merrill’s Musical Musings… 

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R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. You can also find her at www.queeromanceink.com writing about Hope, Love and Queeromance. 

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Deathcember

At 1:15 am pst on Dec. 13th 2020, Crystal Connor, finally settled into her sleeping bag on the couch with snacks within reach and dog in lap picked up her remote. The footage you are about to see chronicles the harrowing experience that her neighbors endured for hours as she screamed, cried, and shouted expletive obscenities at her television as she watched: Viewer discretion is advised.

Plotline: A collection of 24 films that take a look at the dark side of the festive season. 24 international directors with the most diverse ideas and styles; linked by short animated segments that deal with the Advent calendar itself.

Who would like it: Fans of anthologies, short films, collections, international films, horror lovers, gorehounds, tech geeks, sci-fi fans, indie horror movies, and people who love jump scares

High Points: This was a super strong anthology, loved about 80% of the films

Complaints: Nothing really

Overall: Highly recommend

Stars: 4 Stars

Where I watched it: Amazon Prime