Merrill’s Musical Musings : Giants on the Horizon

Merrill’s Musical Musings – Giant Monsters on the Horizon 

We’ve made it through August, Horror Addicts, and I hope this post does not find you in pieces. I’m preparing to transition into a new teaching job while supporting a high schooler and a new college student through uncertain educational times. It’s wild out there, so take a minute to sink into the slick sounds of this month’s new-to-me artist. 

Giant Monsters on the Horizon, a duo out of St. Louis,  recently released a new album of dark-wave deliciousness, Live from Night City. The album was written during a dark time for the band and elements of despair can be experienced in their sound for sure. There’s an emptiness in tracks like “Oxygen,” and “Android Hellscape” that clearly resonates with all of us still sheltering in place. Through the synthesizers and soothing low-key vocals, you can find a welcome place to zone out. Night City, the setting of this collection of songs, is a stark and drastic place, but GMOTH does an admirable job of filling that space with energizing songs that make you recall why we need and crave music in our lives. 

“Tetra Chroma” and “Del Ctrl & Esc” are standout tracks that will engage your attention and have you up and dancing. The band has a Xymox feel with a side of Camouflage and the moody feel of current alternative bands like PVRIS. I’ll definitely be following them on Spotify for more. It was nice to see on their social media a strong activist presence including participation in fundraisers through Bandcamp. Live From Night City is an excellent collection of songs that fans of electronica and dark-wave will definitely dig. I wish them well with this latest release and their future endeavors. 

That’s it for this edition of Merrill’s Musical Musings. Feel free to check out my Rock ‘n’ Romance blog for more about my books and adventures. I also host other author guests talking about their novels in a feature called Music Behind The Story. Stay creepy, Horror Addicts! 

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Ro’s Recs for August

Ro’s Recs – Musical Departures

Greetings from Sweaty California! As I’m writing this I’m in major danger of melting. I hope you’re hanging in there and listening to some great music. Today I want to talk about bands that go rogue…and it works. I was a huge fan of MTV Unplugged from way back, and I admire when bands step away from their usual sound and take a chance, whether it’s a remix or a brand new sound. This pandemic has brought out a decidedly experimental side of many of my favorite artists. They’ve released songs that are outside their usual wheelhouse, and they are wickedly entertaining. Check out this list of recs and open your mind to some experimental sounds.

  1. Motionless in White released new versions of two of their songs. “Eternally Yours” and “Another Life” were two outstanding tracks from Disguise and these melodic versions are incredibly beautiful. Chris Motionless’s vocals are so vulnerable and ethereal. I love the songs in their original arrangements, but the fact that the band stepped out of their comfort zone and showed a different side to their music makes me love the songs even more. 
  2. Metallica was one of the first metal bands to perform with a symphony, which when you think about it, there’s not too much of a stretch between metal and symphonic music. There’s a similar passion and frenetic energy in both performances. So when Metallica joined the San Francisco Symphony again this year and released this version of expectations were high. I love the balance of quiet musings followed by growly declarations from Hetfield. It’s a moody tune that is expertly crafted by the masters of metal. We trust them to carry us through, and so when they diverge from their usual heavy path, we know they’re going to deliver the goods. The album comes out August 28th and I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of the album.
  3. Korn is no stranger to cover songs. One of my favorites they’ve done was “Word Up” from the 80s band Cameo. But this summer they blew me away with a cover of “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” featuring one of my absolute favorite artists, Yelawolf. The single was posted on Bandcamp as a fundraiser for AwakeningYouth.org—an organization that supports youth who have lost a parent to addiction or suicide—and a way to celebrate the life of the original singer, Charlie Daniels. You gotta give this classic tune a listen. Yelawolf and Jonathan Davis trading vocals on this tune gave me so many feels! And when you’re done, definitely take a deep dive into the music catalog from both Korn and Yelawolf, especially his video for “Shadows.” The song itself is a haunting childhood nightmare, but it’s also filmed at his childhood home. He had to trespass in the now-abandoned house to film.  You won’t be disappointed. 
  4. Corey Taylor, frontman of the legendary Slipknot and the hard-rocking Stone Sour, has released two singles from his upcoming solo album. The first two songs are complete departures from his previous music. “CMFT Must Be Stopped” is a rap-rock tune with guests Tech N9ne, who Taylor has previously collaborated with, and Kid Bookie, a London rapper who I’ll definitely be checking out more from. And for those who like to watch videos, you will be entertained by Corey’s wife’s dance troop (they like to play with fire) and several cameos from Corey’s friends. It’s a fun tune about his big mouth and bigger attitude. The tune “Black Eyes Blue” is a straight pop-rocker with a catchy riff and a feel-good melody. 
  5. Marilyn Manson has put out some incredible music over the past few years, but this new track, “We Are Chaos” is surprisingly full of 70s glam goodness along with Manson’s trademark dark lyrics. I’m looking forward to the rest of this album, which comes out later this year. 

That’s it for this month’s Ro’s Recs. I hope you find a new jam in this collection to help lift your spirits. Dark times are upon us and we need all of the mood boosters we can get. I’m happy to be your guide on a musical journey. If you love music and stories about music, my upcoming novel Brains, and Brawn: Summer of Hush Book Two is out August 24th and it’s my love letter to the years of Warped Tour music festivals. Check it out on Amazon if you’re looking for a pick-me-up romance. Take care of you and yours, comment and share some of your favorite musical departures from your favorite artists, and Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings and Ro’s Recs. 

Book Review: 324 Abercorn Street by Mark Allan Gunnells

 

Review by Stephanie Ellis

Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis: ‘Brad Storm doesn’t believe in ghosts, but moving into the house at 324 Abercorn just may change his mind.

Best-selling author Bradley Storm finally has enough money to buy and restore his dream home. Despite 324 Abercorn’s reputation as one of the most haunted houses in America, Bradley isn’t worried. He doesn’t believe in the supernatural. Then strange things begin to happen. Objects no longer where he left them. Phantom noises heard from empty rooms. Shadows glimpsed from the corner of his eye.

Is his house truly haunted, or is there something more sinister happening on the property?

With the help of Bradley’s new boyfriend and a few friends who are just as intrigued with the seemingly inexplicable occurrences surrounding the infamous house, they set out to find the truth of what stalks the halls at 324 Abercorn.

A feel-good haunted house story. Can there be such a thing? I never thought so until Crystal Lake Publishing produced this little gem.

When novelist Bradley Storm hits the big time, he finally buys his dream home, the reputedly haunted 324 Abercorn in Savannah. With a strong disbelief in the supernatural, he dismisses the little occurrences going on around him. Television turned on, door open – all can be explained away by logic. The ‘haunted’ element of his house is easily pushed to the back of his mind as he embarks on a relationship with artist and student, Tobias.

As their relationship develops against the warm Savannah backdrop, it feels nothing bad can happen – until it does. Strange visions start to affect him, changing his mind about the supernatural and causing him to doubt his own sanity. Yet he has good friends around him and they join in his search for the truth behind the house.

And this was where the story fell down a little for me. There was no tension between any of the main characters. The quartet of Brad, Tobias, Neisha from the Heritage Centre and Howard, Tobias’s housemate was a perfect circle of friendship, no undercurrent of conflict or hints at a hidden agenda. The reveal was clearly sign-posted very early on and the wrap-up at the end was too swift. This created a lack of tension and weakened any sense of horror, there was no sense of dread. It was this missing chill factor, which made it feel more like a romance with a touch of horror thrown in, that stopped me giving it the full 5 stars.

For me, this was very much a feel-good story, one to be read on a warm summer evening, sat on a terrace with a glass of wine in hand.

Book Review: Rabid by Kris Rimmer

A Review of Rabid by Kris Rimmer by Patricia Watson

Kris Rimmer’s Rabid is set in modern Mississippi. It opens with a violent, gruesome death that brings two brothers back together for a funeral. Their widowed mom sends her two city boys camping to share grief and renew their brotherly bonds.

Mortal dangers are everywhere during their trip. Adam, home for the funeral on college break, and Toy, not yet in high school, must rely only on childhood memories of their abusive alcoholic dad to survive. Plenty of bad luck, apparitions, and horrible events complicate every step of their adventure. A run-in with rabid creatures is only a part of their troubles.

The funeral, the wildlife encounters, and cave scenes gave a good creepy feel to the work. Mr. Rimmer has said in book blurbs he is a fan of Stephen King. His admiration for King shows in the American boyhood adventure turned bad aspects of this book and the internal monsters that haunt the characters.

The author did keep me turning pages with fingers crossed. His story had regular disastrous surprises, with nice dollops of gore to add to the misery. I would have enjoyed a bit more of the native humidity, and perhaps a few mosquitoes for local flavor. It is the deep South after all. This book is a short, easy read. I finished it one run. It’s an entertaining book to stow in your beach bag.

Merrill’s Musical Musings – Ro’s Recs July 2020

Ro’s Recs July 2020

Greetings and salutations HorrorAddicts! I want to talk about the end of the world today, but in the best sort of way…through music. Many artists over the years have written dystopian tunes and despite the morbidity, we all seem to love them. How many of us danced our high school days away singing “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” by R.E.M.? I think one of the things that makes us brothers and sisters in horror is that we love flirting with that edge of the unknown. So here are some of the best “the world is ending, so let’s rock” songs.

The first song on the list today actually inspired this post. Bring Me The Horizon is one of the most chameleon-esque bands in hard rock/metal today, and they’ve been hard at work during this shelter-in-place. You can follow their antics on their Instagram. The first single they’ve released is Parasite Eve and MAN is it creepy!

In the End by Black Veil Brides asks the question “Who will tell the story of our lives?” The album it comes from has a very apocalyptic aesthetic and is really one of their best pieces of work to date.

The End by the Doors: Because Jim Morrison is the Lizard King, he can do anything, and this song has haunted me since I first heard it as a teen. The Doors were really onto something back then and their music definitely inspires me. 

Everything Ends by Slipknot  Actually, a Slipknot concert would really be my choice of venues for the end of the world. There’s nothing more satisfying than a phenomenal metal show, and Slipknot are the masters. By the way, this song is the perfect antidote to your morning coffee on a day you really don’t want to go to work. Just saying.

This Is The End by The Ghost of Paul Revere I love this “Have a drink and a smoke and say fuck it all” kind of tune. I’ll definitely be checking out more music from this artist as I really dig the vibe. This is an apocalypse in a country dive bar someplace where it’s the last call and you’re nursing your whiskey because you don’t want it to end before the song is over.

The End of the World by The Cure It’s not doom and gloom without The Cure. Period. 

The End Begins by Korn Because Jonathan Davis is the perfect madman to lead us into the ether. 

Who Wants To Live Forever by Queen This song will forever make me cry because of The Highlander and because of Freddy. If you don’t cry listening to this…well…you might not have a heart. 

Ivy by The Amity Affliction. Because nothing says I love you like “we can watch the world burn.” This band is a huge inspiration for me, especially for my Warped Tour-themed Summer of Hush series—which will be re-releasing soon with a brand new novel, Brains, and Brawn—and I love the romance of equating doomsday with love. 

The End Of The World by Billie Eilish.  Billie Eilish has a horror addict streak in her, you can tell by her album cover. This song is eerie and so beautiful. Where would you choose to be?

It’s The End of the World by Islander https://youtu.be/AB-MjdvNK_c I know you’ve all heard the R.E.M. version, but I love Islander and I think everyone should love them too. Listen to “Darkness” and you’ll understand why. 

Preaching The End Of The World by Chris Cornell This song breaks my heart. I miss Chris. I hate it that he felt this way so long ago…but I also love the sentiment of sharing the end of the world with someone special.

To The End of the World by Alestorm  https://youtu.be/lBoFQ0yRSXc We need a pick me up at the end of this list and because you have to end an end of the world playlist with pirate metal, right? 

Here’s a Spotify playlist with all the songs for your listening pleasure. 

No, it’s not really the end of the world, but I know my fellow HorrorAddicts will agree that having the right soundtrack would make it pretty spectacular! So grab your favorite beverage, hug your loved ones, and hunker down with a great horror movie or horror read. If you’re into weird French SciFi, why not check out Blood Machines on Shudder? The music is pretty cool and it, uh, has some interesting visuals. That’s all I’ll say. Well, and apparently it was inspired by a French music group. I’m just saying, it’s out there, and not just outer space out there. And if you’ve got a favorite End Of The World song, be sure to send me your recs. 

Hugs and smoochies and Stay Tuned for More Merrill’s Musical Musings and Ro’s Recs… 

(Sidebar: We will make it through this. I have absolute faith and hope. If you’re feeling less than hopeful, then please reach out to someone, or if necessary, call someone 1-800-273-8255).

Merrill’s Musical Musings: My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult

Welcome to Merrill’s Musical Musings. It’s June, people, and that means it’s about time for us to celebrate the Summer Solstice. For some of us, this means hiding from sun and allergies and finding some new horror films or darker music to listen to, and since many of us are still sheltering-in-place, this month’s review comes at a great time. I know I’m getting a little bored with my current playlists. So, join me for something new from some old friends, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult. 

TKK are back with a super groovy offering that had me vibing from the get-go. There’s a little bit of everything here, and fans of industrial, lounge, and quirky throw-back music will all dig their latest album. Sinister Whisperz III is a series of unreleased remixes from their years (1997-2017) on the Rykodisc label.  

I recall the band’s early days and love that they were inspired from the start by those old VHS films us 80s kids rented from the corner store (in my case, daily). The band’s name was meant to be the title of a planned film project, but when their employers at Wax Trax records heard the tunes, they realized they’d found their calling in music. While my Mod friends and I were listening to Front 242 and Ministry, TKK was developing their own unique sound. Listening to them now takes me back to those nights we spent in local underaged clubs, as well as the times we were stuck hanging out at high school dances cringing at the terrible music they played. 

“Girl Without a Planet” and “Freaky Fever” are both smooth tunes that have a real 80s dance feel to them and they’re interspersed with harder tracks like “4 Blondes with Lobotomy Eyes” and “Fangs of Love” that remind me a bit of bands like Love and Rockets and Jene Loves Jezebel. I love the bits of dialogue from B-movies sprinkled on top of funky keyboards and synthesizers with an infectious dance beat. “Flesh Star” is a tune that would get any dance floor moving and I couldn’t sit still while listening to “Dirty Little Secrets.” There are plenty of other tracks on the album to get you out of your chair and having a good time. Just throw on your black club clothes with some Dr. Martens and slink around the house looking bored. You’ll feel so much better! 

Check out the latest from My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult and indulge in a bit of musical nostalgia, maybe work off some of that quarantine weight on an improvised dance floor while you’re at it. I know I need to get moving. Stay Tuned for more of Merrill’s Musical Musings and Ro’s Recs!

Book Review: The Dead Stage by Dan Weatherer

The Dead Stage by Dan Weatherer

 Reviewed by Willo Hausman

The Dead Stage by Dan Weatherer provides a basic description of what it is to write for the stage, followed by 16 of the author’s plays.  At the start, Dan provides us a glimpse into his own personal journey from penning movies to plays, as well as support and advice on how to make progress as a playwright. The book includes many easy-to-digest theater tips, mainly gleaned by interviews from individuals working in the industry.  These insightful contributors are involved in low-to-moderate budget theatre companies and they provide pertinent and passionate insight on how to follow your inspiration and get your creation up and running.

First up is Dan, an accomplished writer of poems, stories, films and yes, plays.  His many accolades and awards are mentioned at the end of the book.  Based in England, all the wisdom offered in The Dead Stage fits just as easily in any location.  Dan provides basic details on how to best get your work selected amongst many submissions.  He offers good points for a novice, encouraging the short and simple route, especially at the start.  Not too many characters and an easy set.

This clear wisdom is followed by valuable tidbits from various theater folk.  To quote a favorite few:

Matthew Spencer (ACTOR): Be brave!

Kate Danbury (Director of the London Horror Festival):  A director must be artistically creative, but a producer must be creatively strategic. And Kate has a taste for the macabre.  We like that!

Ellie Pitkin (THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF THE BLACKSHAW THEATRE, LONDON).  An aspect of comedy is important to her.  Best to use simple staging, as they’ve had to use unconventional spaces to put up performances.  Casting a celebrity helps get a new work into production.  With fringe theater (not mainstream) it’s easier if you have fewer actors in the cast.

Andrew Crane (BLACKSHAW THEATRE TECHNICIAN):  He likes to be challenged by complicated light and sound cues, but don’t have too high of an expectation on how they are executed.  Depends on the space. Small theaters can be limited in how much technical savvy they can provide.  The bigger spaces have more to play with and usually a higher ceiling, which means better lighting.

Jill Young (ACTOR/DRAMA TUTOR/DIRECTOR): She had an interesting take on teaching and the two important qualities of scripts to use as tools.  Either ‘complete imaginative fiction’ or ‘100% graspable fact’. With the first, students can learn to let their creative play side fly without restrictions.  The second enables them to become a specific character.

Tom Slatter (ACTOR): In terms of changing dialogue a director once told him (and this makes absolute sense): “If one actor struggles with the line, it’s the actor.  If a hundred actors struggle with the line, it’s the line”.

Almost all of the interviewees started out as actors and state that it’s challenging to get new plays read in the theater world, but it is doable. Dan says the easiest route is adaptations of famous (already proven) stories or ideas, but don’t give up on originals.  It is possible!  Keep your first plays simple and direct and not too high budget with crazy stunts that can’t be done in a smaller theater.  Once you are in the door and have a few pieces under your belt, you can explore more epic production styles and start using a few settings, with complicated expensive props and people flying through the air!

Dan’s sixteen stage plays complete The Dead Stage.  Most had a slant of the shadow side, and a touch of dark comedy, which I’m sure is amicable with this group. I will comment on a few of the pieces that initially stood out to me.

BEIGE

Dan’s favorite.  I liked it too.  A dark comedy.  A husband stabs his wife and then as he prepares to ‘off himself’ Samurai-Style to avoid prison, she begins talking from ‘beyond the grave’ and they continue the same sort of bickering they shared when she was alive.  Comes off as more amusing prattle than serious.  I could see this garnering laughs.

A QUESTION OF AUTHORSHIP

Four writers who have all been involved in various theories of who ‘really’ wrote the infamous Shakespeare plays meet up with Arthur Miller in Heaven, where he confronts them to get to the bottom of who really penned the plays.  One by one the writers are omitted from being a possibility till the real William Shakespeare is left.  I have always found all the controversy over these glorious plays a bit of a shamble; why not just give credit to the actual talented man who created them.  Huzzah!

CRIPPEN

A re-telling of a true-crime story.  I find the language stilted though the subject matter and characters are intriguing.  Belle, the actress, is so one-dimensionally mean.  A vain woman and a fun role for an actress to play since she’s so darn nasty. Anyone would want her murdered.  There’s a great creepy scene at the bathtub in this play.  I liked the silent scary visuals.  Marcie and Florie are two silly gabs; I like their gossipy in-tandem speaking style. A touch of comedy.  The play picks up a bit in the court scene finale as we learn interesting unknown aspects; otherwise it’s not my favorite, too solely literal, without much of a definite mood attached.

ELOISE

An old man bemoans the loss of his wife and while reminiscing decides to join her in the afterlife. A nicely direct and poignant piece.

KILLING GARY

A serial killer is interviewed a detective and reveals her strange motives.  Cute.

ONE FOR THE ROAD

A man at the end of this life converses with Death as he finishes this last drink, finding clarity with the inevitable.

FRIENDS LIKE US

A Halloween session with an Ouija Board between 4 friends stirs up a whole lot of drama without needing to contact spirits from the other realms.  Interesting tool to use for truth-telling and exposing secrets, which is the innate purpose of this long-standing ghostly tool.

All in all The Dead Stage is a great device to enlighten playwrights who are fresh to the business, containing good simple easy-to-absorb insight.  I’d only put 4 to 5 of the best plays in this volume though and print all 16 in their own separate book.

Book Review: Hallelujah by F.E. Feeley Jr. and Kim Fielding


Review by R.L. Merrill

Hallelujah is Hauntingly Poignant

Can you hear it?

Whispering in the dark.

Secrets only the dark knows.

Joseph Moore, choir director for the First Baptist Church of Lenora, Nebraska, has secrets of his own. Terrible, lonely secrets. One that involves natural human desire. One that calls forth powers he cannot begin to understand. Both with the potential to destroy him and those he loves.

Now the world is changing. The darkness, the shadows, the ghosts, are closing in—and Joseph and his lover, Kevin, are being stalked by a merciless demon, hell-bent on possession.

Can you hear it now?

There in the dark.

It’s whispering your name.

I’ll never listen to the song the book is named for the same again. Joseph is such a strong character, and he’s forced to deal with unspeakable tragedy after tragedy. As a choir director, Joseph hoped to live a life of service to the church, and what he got was so much darker. A demon is stalking him and others like him, and it will not stop until it’s snuffed out Joseph’s light.

Fielding and Feeley have created a world unlike anything I’ve read before, a world where a family descended from powerful beings must battle for the right to live and love. This is not your typical romance, nor is it your typical horror novel. Instead, it’s a story that crosses genres and digs deep into history and different cultures to bring forth a literary journey like none I’ve experienced. Fans of Stephen King’s Dead Zone and The Stand, as well as Rick R. Reed’s horror novels will love this original tale.

There are many versions of this song, but this one by Jeff Buckley is my favorite. The man has such a haunting voice, and his story is tragic. A life taken too soon. I find it an interesting parallel to the book. I hope you’ll give Hallelujah a chance. 


About the Authors:

Kim Fielding has migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States and currently lives in California. She’s a university professor who dreams of being able to travel and write full-time. She also dreams of having two perfectly-behaved children, a husband who isn’t obsessed with football, and a house that cleans itself. Some dreams are more easily obtained than others. Kim donates 100% of the royalties from her self-published stories and audiobooks to Doctors Without Borders.

F.E. Feeley Jr. is a believer in magic, in music, in literature, art, and those things that connect us all. Born in Detroit, Michigan, Feeley is a veteran of the United States Armed Services. Feeley has written eight novels in the past six years, including Memoirs of the Human Wraiths, Closer, When Heaven Strikes, The Color of Love, Borderland, and Hallelujah. Feeley has published a collection of Poetry in his book, Heaven Underneath the Sound of the World. Married to the love of his life, John, Frederick resides in Southeast Texas where they take care of their cat, Ms. Abigail Adams. 

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Ro’s Recs June 2020

June is the month we typically celebrate our LGBTQ community, Juneteenth, Father’s Day, Graduations, and the Summer Equinox. This year it’s been a time of reckoning in our nation. This month I want to spotlight Black artists that I love, as well as explore some I haven’t listened to before. As a result, this edition of Ro’s Recs is going to take a deep dive into some incredible offerings by Black artists. It’s important to remember that all of our popular music is influenced by Black music. Without Gospel, Soul and the Blues we would have no rock’n’roll, no hip-hop, and no pop music. So sit back, relax and enjoy some recs to start your summer…

Okay, maybe don’t relax, as this first one will scare the pants off you. As a special treat to my fellow HorrorAddicts, I HAVE to start out with this frenetically creepy band called…get ready…HO99O9. Yes, they are literally called Horror and they have created a blend of punk, electronic, hip-hop and metal with imagery that will make all you HorrorAddicts drool! Check out Street Power:

Their song “Plexiglass” is eerie goose-bumpery that you will love as well. I desperately wanted to go on Slipknot’s Knotfest cruise this summer and getting to see this band would have been EPIC. Alas, there’s no traveling in my near future. Sigh. 

Another artist I’ve recently discovered is Danny Denial from Seattle. His voice has a smooth quality to it that adds weight to his atmospheric indie-rock sound. “Am I Cool Enough For Your Love” and “I’m Not Your Type” are standout tracks. I found Danny Denial after reading this article. Check it out for more recommendations. 

One of my all-time favorite metal bands is Sevendust. Lead singer Lajon Witherspoon has one of the most incredible voices in rock and the band has created a solid sound over the years that is instantly recognizable and groove-worthy. Here’s one of my favorites. 

And I can’t leave Nonpoint off this list. Elias Soriano is an incredible vocalist and frontman and the band’s music has kept me company and inspired me through both good times and bad.

They are high on my bucket list to see in concert as every time I’ve had the opportunity, there’s been a cancellation or I’ve been sick. Someday! 

While watching footage from the recent #BlackLivesMatter protests, I heard a speech from a man called Killer Mike. I was moved by his words so I looked him up. I discovered that he was part of the group Run The Jewels, who were touring with a favorite, Rage Against The Machine, this year. I actually had tickets to see them and had planned to check them out before the world caught on fire back in March. They quickly became one of my repeat-plays on Spotify. I HIGHLY recommend your listen to all of RTJ 3 and RTJ 4 from start to finish!  This video has some cool imagery HorrorAddicts will appreciate. 

There are so many contemporary Black artists that should be on your must-listen list and I could go on forever. Perhaps I’ll have to post a follow-up to this list! In the meantime, remember…one of the most important ways we can support artists is by buying merch, streaming their music, and recommending them to friends. If there are other Black musicians you think I should check out, let me know ESPECIALLY if they are rock ‘n’rollers or have a horror influence! I’m here for it! Post a comment or hit me up at www.facebook.com/rlmerrillauthor and Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musings and Ro’s Recs! 

 

 

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Justin Symbol/ Candyman

 

Party songs for the end of the world?

Greetings and Salutations, Horror Addicts. When last we visited, the world was headed into a shelter-in-place that has lasted longer than many folks anticipated. While it’s been a mixed bag of despair and uncertainty, there have been glimmers of hope that I’ve been hanging on to, and of course, music has been there in new and exciting ways to ease my soul. I’ve found tunes for every mood and put together a few playlists that I’ll share some of on my next edition of Ro’s Recs. But this month I had a listen to Justin Symbol’s latest work and I gotta say, it’s pretty damn reflective of our current state of affairs. 

Justin Symbol’s opening track to the new album Candyman, “End Times,” sets listeners into an anarchist’s vibe for the end of the world, which might seem fitting to some right now. Often sounding like a Marilyn Manson of old, Symbol has girls “shaking their tits” in celebration of the apocalypse, and you know what? Why not? What are we supposed to do when it seems as though the sky is falling? Candyman contains some juvenile lyrics that are sprinkled with wit and overlaying horror-inspired effects and beats that sometimes miss their mark. At times the album feels like a promising industrial album with songs like “Prophets of Nothing” and “Lust.” These particular tunes feature engaging guitar tracks and lyrics that come close to being a snarky riff on life. ”Mothra” creates strong imagery with lyrics such as  “blackout the sky,” “sorting out the bodies” and “curl up inside a cocoon of flies,” but as the album continues, Symbol delves into extremely graphic sexual content that some may find offensive. If that’s your kink, you may feel right at home. Symbol straddles the line of rap and rock with interesting verse, intriguing riffs, and creepy atmospheric sounds. “The Devil You Know” was a standout for me. Give the album a listen and see if it’s your jam. You can find Justin Symbol on Spotify and Apple Music. 

That’s it for Merrill’s Musings this month. Be sure to check out my next Ro’s Recs, where I will share with you the best songs for surviving the shelter-in-place. Take care, be safe, and Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musings…

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Ro’s Recs May 2020

“There’s nothing on TV. I’ve got nothing to read. All the good snacks are gone. I’m BORED.”

Raise your hand if you’ve heard any of those sentiments during this stay-at-home time. Thankfully, my kids know better for the most part because I will either shove a book in their faces or give them chores to do. 

One of the things that have kept me sane while locked down is music, as usual. I’ve been having so much fun with the musicians that are putting themselves out there on social media with new projects, quarantine videos, and special interaction opportunities. On Instagram, I have notifications set up for artists like Tyler Glenn from the band Neon Trees (@tylerinacoma), and Franky Perez (@frankyperezofficial) who has performed with all kinds of folks including the symphonic metal band from Finland, Apocalyptica.

 Both of these artists frequently do acoustic performances on Instagram/IGTV that are tasty morsels. They keep me going when I need a pick me up.

Recording from home when your band is not with you can be a challenge, but several artists have done a great job. The first video I saw that really touched me was twenty-one pilots who put out a new song and video called “Level of Concern.”

 

While they’re not my usual level of heavy for music, I do admire them and I thought this was a super creative way to get around quarantine separation. Twelve Foot Ninja, a metal fusion band from Australia—they are brilliant and have a horror fan’s sense of humor for sure—and they took on the classic Stuck With You by Huey Lewis and the News

Stevic McKay did a Zoom interview with Huey Lewis too where they talked about their cover of the song and Huey was such a sweetheart

 

 I highly recommend you give both the video and the interview a watch, especially if you’re a fan of the film American Psycho. Papa Roach—yes they are still around and continue to put out phenomenal music—embraced the insanity of lockdown with kids and recorded this fantastic video for their latest hit “Feel Like Home”

 But the clincher came for Mother’s Day…Ice Nine Kills—the horror fanatics I have absolutely fallen in love with over the past year—did a parody cover of Fountains of Wayne’s “Stacy’s Mom” called “Jason’s Mom” and, well, you have to watch. Best Mother’s Day Gift!

Musicians have also taken to new platforms to engage with their fans. Twitch and Discord, which are usually populated by gamers, have become a place for musicians to stream the creation of new music as well as a place to meet up with other musicians and tell stories from days on the road, etc. Matt Heafy from Trivium, Brandon Saller from Atreyu, Shim Moore, and Rob Ortiz from Escape the Fate are a few that I’ve checked out and they’ve got interesting things going on. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can link your Twitch account and subscribe for free! 

There are plenty of ways to pass the time during this period of shelter-in-place, so tell your kids to quit bothering you so you can check out all this fun music stuff! And if your “kids” have four legs or if it’s actually your spouse, well, good luck. And if you would like to share your music finds during quarantine, I’d love to hear them! Also…I would love for you to follow me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/rlmerrillauthor) if you hang out over there, even if it means losing my current count…3,666 followers! How metal/horror is that?

 

Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musings…

 

Book Review: Seven Ghostly Spins by Patricia Bossano

Seven Ghostly Spins by Patricia Bossano
Reviewed by Emerian Rich

I met Patricia Bossano at the Berkley Book Fair and she impressed upon me she’s a bright, energetic author with loads of imagination. Her main book series, Faerie Legacy, features a teen girl living in the faerie realm. But I am here to talk about her ghost story book, Seven Ghostly Spins, which also includes one story by her daughter, Kelsey E. Gerard.

A collection of paranormal tales based on harrowing legends and nightmares, Seven Ghostly Spins reads more like a haunted travel book than a fiction book. For those of you who like realism in your ghost stories, you will enjoy the walk through seven worlds where humans aren’t quite sure if they are in the real world or dealing with something supernatural.

My favorite story in the book is “By the Iron Gate” which tells the story of a girl who—in the 70’s—has haunting dreams that are manifested by a real love story that took place on the same property in the early 1900’s. The description and way this story unfolds is so realistic, it had me wondering if some of the imaginings I have experienced were maybe just real event impressions from beyond.

The other stories included are:

Alison–The adage goes “no self-respecting theater house is without its ghost”
Peery’s Egyptian Theater; Ogden’s historic movie palace, joined the ranks in 1924.

She Caught a Ride–Gone but not Forgotten
Night after night, young Florence awaits a secret signal,

Abiku–In this paranormal thriller, a seventeen-year-old boy unwittingly summons a demon from across the sea, setting off a heart-stopping countdown into madness.

A Curse Lifted–Experience the power of a parting gift.

205 1/2 25th Street–A haunting encounter featuring the legendary Rosetta Duccini Davie; seductive madam of the most elegant brothel on Two-Bit Street in the mid 1940’s: The Rose Rooms.

Carolina Blue–Hundreds have heard the anguished scream or have seen the wisp of blue on the railroad tracks… only a precious few will overcome experiencing the lady’s haunting cries.

Several of the stories have a little blurb about the real place or ghost the story was based on so you may be able to visit or look more into the location. A couple of these tales, including “Allison,” are truly heartbreaking. Most of the stories revolve around teens, so that makes the book skew younger just by theme alone.

The majority of these stories will be too tame for the hard-core horror junkie, but if you are looking for a good gateway for your younger family members, are into real ghost stories, or maybe just want to read something light and creepy, this book is for you.

Merrill’s Musical Movie Review : Dark Roads 79

Dark Roads 79 – Selling Your Soul Gives Mixed Results

Dark Roads 79 takes rock ‘n’ roll mythology and applies it to a southern rock band at the end of a decade that saw the loss of many musical greats. Bobby Gray and his band Dark Roads are at the end of a good ride and are given one more chance to infuse their sound with life. A cabin in the woods could be the perfect setting to create a masterpiece, or it may well be their final resting place. Written and directed by Chase Smith, co-written by Richard Krevolin and produced by Jason Anderson, Dark Roads 79 is effective at suspense and the creation of mood and atmosphere, but somewhat weak with character development and motivation. As a total package, the film kept me engaged and entertained, but could have been so much more.

Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll are plentiful and the music hits the mark in this film, but the story in Dark Roads 79, which has so much potential, misses some chances to go deeper. I found myself wishing for more backstory on the relationships between the characters. One of the things we love about rock ‘n’ roll band mythos is the drama behind the music. Probably the best example was the hint at some history between Tyler and Eddie and Eddie’s girlfriend. A few dropped lines here and there to let us know more about each character’s motivation could have built a much tighter plot. As it was, we saw the bad sides of a bunch of hedonistic young folks and waited to learn their fate while being entertained by good tunes, some cool old-timey camera work, and split-screen psychedelic tricks that added to the eerie and menacing vibe of the film. You know it’s all going to end up badly for the competent and entertaining cast, and you are caught up in the ride to see just how bad it’s going to get. 

The most interesting character was Ian Cash, roadie and security for the band, who seems to have quite a past and a talent for singing, but we never learn any more than that. A seemingly flawed character, his interactions came the closest to revealing real character growth and I was cheering every time for just a little more. The driver cracked me up with his version of rock lore. And Grace gave me the creeps from the beginning. The film kept me guessing to the end, which makes it a success, and these bits of great characterization certainly helped. 

The backstory of the cabin was intriguing, and the caretaker provided an excellent foil to the band. I would have loved to know what the connection was with the history there and what was about to happen to the band. Instead, we got misogynistic rapey vibes, which were not necessary and detracted from my enjoyment of the film. Most of the sexual activity in the film, however, was used for the important purpose of moving the plot forward and establishing mistrust between the characters. 

Overall, Dark Roads 79 is an enjoyable film and I would recommend it to fans of Crossroads, American Satan, and Eddie and the Cruisers, which are all excellent flicks warning of the excesses of rock ‘n’ roll. Of course, they can warn us all they want, we still want to rock, and that’s what makes a movie like Dark Roads 79 a delight for music and horror fans alike.  

Thank you to Spirit World Productions for providing the screener. I look forward to checking out more of their films. 

Stay Tuned for more of Merrill’s Musical Musings…

 

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Spank The Nun

Spank the Nun 

Hello music lovers and greetings from sunny California. At least that’s one perk about living here during this crazy time when the only option I have for entertainment is my own backyard. I’ve been looking out my window at my car longingly for the past 18 days as our country experiences pandemic panic and potty paper paranoia. These are dark times, for sure, but one of the most important ways we survive the challenges life throws our way is through music and art. The music community has stepped up tremendously to meet the needs of their fans, and in return, their fans are giving back in new ways such as virtual tip jars on Venmo. As tours are canceled or postponed, artists are looking for new ways to raise funds for themselves and their crews as well as supporting efforts to combat the COVID19 virus. Livestreaming “living room concerts” has become the norm. Each day there seems to be a new artist participating. I enjoyed watching the Luck Reunion show on Twitch the first week we were home and I’ve even been participating in an online songwriting experiment with former Sick Puppies singer/songwriter Shimon Moore. Hear the fruits of our group’s labor here and support Shim’s page on Facebook. We gotta do whatever we can to stay sane during this unprecedented event.

 

“Here’s the chance to raise merry hell.” This month I’m reviewing industrial/electro darkwave artist Spank The Nun whose self-deprecating sense of humor is appreciated as we head into a new month of sheltering-in-place. The artist describes their music as “uneasy listening,” and when listing band members on their Facebook page responds with “Does it really matter?” You’re not getting uplifting tunes with this band, but the steady beat and the doom-filled lyrics are perfect for those days you need some dark background music to complete your, well, dark tasks. Hearing samples from favorites like the film Misery makes listening to their latest album, Initial Decay Control, a treat. I’m betting the artist was like that kid in high school I used to like sitting next to in the back of the room because they always had an odd and inappropriate commentary running for my twisted enjoyment. The sinister whisperings on tracks like “Rotting Meat” are creepy enough to make you look behind you while working alone in your home office. The song “Swallow” contains this quote, which I feel describes our current situation: “We all know when this ends, there will be no winners, only survivors.”  Spankthenun is an entertaining listen well suited for our peculiar predicament. 

 

Stay tuned for more of Merrill’s Musical Musings…

 

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Ro’s Recs April / In This Moment

Ro’s Recs April In This Moment Review 

What better way to spend our time on lockdown but by discovering new music? Artists all over the world have been doing live streams, living room concerts, and performing special acoustic tunes. I’ve found some amazing new artists like Tami Neilson, Devon Gilfillian, and Ida Mae as well as hearing some of my old favorites playing some incredible music like this collab between Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker covering Paramore’s Misery’s Business and Tyler Glenn from Neon Trees (http://www.instagram.com/tylerinacoma) doing his regular Songs from the Red Chair performances on his Instagram Live. Metallica is even streaming concert performances on YouTube and Facebook Monday nights. Let some good music into your lives and I promise it will make you feel better. 

Releasing a new piece of art during this unprecedented time is a scary proposition. I released a new book Friday, March 13th, just before most of California went into a mandatory shelter-in-place. Thankfully, my family is doing okay, but for musicians who have lost revenue from touring, releasing an album could be the only way for them to stay financially afloat. As artists, many of us are giving away our creations for free or at a discounted rate to keep shut-in folks entertained, but for musicians, losing money from canceled or postponed tours means taking a huge hit. SiriusXM is streaming FREE for this month, which is a HUGE opportunity for you to discover new music and I encourage you to get out there and support your favorite musicians however you can! Recommend their music, stream their albums on a platform like Spotify or Apple, and buy merch from their websites including CDs and vinyl if you have machines with which to play them. 

In This Moment, a phenomenal female-fronted metal band from Las Vegas, Nevada released their latest album Mother at the end of March and it is a deliciously decadent mix of original and cover songs. You’ve never heard “Fly Like An Eagle” performed quite so sensually as when Maria Brink stretches out those lyrics. Their last album, 2017’s Ritual, was filled with ruminations on witchcraft and dark elements, and that theme continues on the new record. Mother promises to be just as addictive as their previous material. Already I’m repeat-playing “Holy Man,” “God is She,” “Hunting Ground,” and the title track. So listen to the album, several times if you will, and then make sure you add a notification through Bandsintown or whatever source you get your live music recommendations from because you will NEED to see Maria Brink and Co. the next time they come through your town. They are one of the most exciting live acts on the road today. I’ve seen them at least three times and the theatrics Brink and her maidens bring to the stage, as well as the power and excellent musicianship the band exudes will provide a show like you’ve never seen before. Don’t believe me? Check out this live clip from the Loudwire Music Awards. HorrorAddicts, you will fall under the spell of In This Moment, I guarantee. 

That’s it for now, but I promise to bring you more of Ro’s Recs and reviews to keep your soul satisfied. Stay Tuned for more of Merrill’s Musical Musings… 

Merrill’s Musical Musings: The Music of Sharone

The Music of Sharone 

sharoneGreetings and welcome to another issue of Merrill’s Musical Musings. Today I’m checking out Denver Goth rocker Sharone. She started her career inspired by the haunting rock of Evanescence and has since created a sound that is unique. She’s opened for popular rock bands like Fuel, Saving Abel, Tantric, and Stitched Up Heart. Fans of bands like Nightwish and Lacuna Coil may enjoy her melodic tunes, which are full of deeply personal lyrics. Known for her energetic stage show, the artist experiments with different instrumentation and vocal styles and sounds creating a collection of stylistic songs. Her third album Reflection, which came out in December 2019, dances between gentle, mellow piano to hard-hitting and metal-infused beats that will catch the listener’s attention. “White Witch,” “Closer to Love,” and “Final Reflection” are high points on the album. Keep an eye on her social media for performances in the Denver area this spring. She’s working on new songs with her band and promises a great show.

 Social Links:

https://sharone-music.com         

https://www.facebook.com/sharone.official/      

https://mobile.twitter.com/sharone_music         

https://www.instagram.com/sharone_official/   

Download / Stream

https://music.apple.com/us/artist/sharone/1444696312

https://open.spotify.com/artist/3AmKAuGRZ8Ir8XTRl2IlXp

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Sharone&i=digital-music&search-type=ss&ref=ntt_srch_drd_B004RP63DW

https://play.google.com/store/music/artist/Sharone?id=Axh2g6cipumpvbu3cshwjqqtnva

 

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Ro’s Recs

Ro’s Recs

The Prince of Darkness—Ozzy Osbourne himself—released a phenomenal album at the end of February. Ordinary Man is Ozzy’s twelfth studio album since he left Black Sabbath in 1979 and embarked on a colorful solo career. Super producer Andrew Watt (Post Malone) helped Ozzy create a beautiful piece of music that has echoes of 70s glam rock, Sabbath-inspired metal, and even a Beatles-esque tune with legend Sir Elton John. Friends Slash, Duff McKagan (Guns ‘n’ Roses) and Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) as well as Post Malone, Travis Scott, Charlie Puth, and Tom Morello all make appearances on the heavy album that takes a lot of chances and yet still sounds like Ozzy perfection. Actor Jason Momoa even did a teaser video for release day. Ozzy has definitely been to hell and back, and with his recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, he’s still got stories to tell. I listened to an album release party on SiriusXM-Ozzy’s Boneyard with his pal Billy Morrison and Ozzy admitted that working with Andrew Watt saved his life as he went through the most difficult health crisis of his life. Let’s hope he’s well enough to gift us with more music in the coming years. Check out Ordinary Man, streaming on Spotify and other vendors.

That’s it for this month. Stay tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings… 

 Gargoyles a Review :  Bernie Casey’s Unsung Role 

Gargoyles : A Review or Bernie Casey’s Unsung Role

by James Goodridge    

Premiering as a television movie the evening of November 24, 1972, on the CBS Network Thursday Night Movies series, Gargoyles was amazing in that a generation of preteens have fond memories of having the bejeezus scared out of them back then.

Considering the glaring budget constraints that showed in the production, it is considered a frightful oldie but goodie. Directed by B.W.L. Norton, written by Elinor and Stephen Karpf, music by Robert Prince and doing the best he can, costume designer Tom Dawson the story is set in the American southwest.

Anthropologist/paleontologist Dr. Mercer Boley (Cornel Wilde of the cinematically provocative Naked Prey 1966) and his daughter Diana played by Jennifer Salt (Who would years later in 2011 would be a producer/showrunner for American Horror Story) are invited to Willie’s Museum run by Uncle Willie played by Woodrow Chambliss, (If you stood at the intersection of TVland and Metv and threw a rock you would hit a TV Western he was in. You have seen him on a dozen shows and never knew his name.)

A young Scott Glenn appears as dirt biker James Reeger. Low and behold Grayson Hall of Dark Shadows has a part as Mrs. Parks the Motel owner always with a glass of something in her hand, Dark Shadows had ended the year before in 1971 on ABC. 

Then you have Bernie Casey. Uncle Willie is incinerated after an attack on his museum during which the Boleys escape with the bones of a fellow gargoyle that’s when we first glimpse them. Their purpose: every 500 years they appear on the earth’s surface to hatch gargoyle eggs.

I must say I can’t remember when I first saw this movie and confess never paid attention to the opening or closing credits but loved whoever the actor was who portrayed “The Gargoyle” so it was a shock for me to find out on IMDb, that it was Casey.

 Bernie Casey’s (6/8/39 – 9/19/17) initial fame was as a high hurdler during the U.S. Olympic trials in 1960. Then as a wide receiver for the NFL’s L.A. Rams and finally the San Francisco 49ers from the mid-’60s. 

Catching the acting bug over the years he appeared in Hit Man (1971), Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde (1975), The Martian Chronicles (NBC 1980), Spies Like Us (1982) and Deep Space Nine season two, guest-starring as Calvin Hudson in “The Maquis” part one and two episodes just to name a few.

The subplot about a Gargoyle with a thirst for knowledge of the surface world to me is along with that 70’s feel it has is a good grindhouse gem to watch.

While Mr. Casey didn’t have what one would call range as an actor I would give it to him in Gargoyles in that under Mr. Dawson’s make up work he was able to give the character life.

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Cellmod Review

Merrill’s Musical Musings – Cellmod Review 

Greetings and salutations. Welcome to March! It’s nearly Spring, Daylight Savings Time is just around the corner, and in California, the trees are blooming, the sun is shining, and the primary election is happening soon.

Many things are afoot in Ro’s world and things are about to get hectic. I’ve got a new supernatural suspense novel—Healer—releasing on Friday, March 13th, and then I’m off to Nashville for the Book Lovers Con March 18-22.

I plan to do some music-related visits such as Third Man Records—Jack White’s record label and vinyl factory—and southern songwriter and alternative rapper Yelawolf’s Slumerican made flagship vintage clothing store and barbershop. I’m also going on a bus tour with a bunch of drunken friends where we’re supposedly getting some history of the town, but if you have suggestions of can’t-miss music locations—bonus points if they’re haunted—please leave them in the comments or hit me up at rlmerrillauthor@gmail.com or www.facebook.com/rlmerrillauthor. I’ll be posting pics on my author page as well as my Instagram @rlmerrillauthor and I’ll tag you if you leave me a suggestion. 

This month’s review is of EDM/Trance/Trip-Hop artist Cellmod’s new album The Dissident. According to his bio, “Cellmod was born to display an adaptation to his surrounding environment. The name itself signifies a desire to unify with the very roots of one’s physical being, or in simpler terms, Cellmod is taking it back to the vibe and pulse of the music.” I can definitely feel that vibe as I listen to standout tracks such as “Ransacked” and the naughty, old school sci-fi tinged “Harder Serum.” I can picture a woman with dark hair perched atop dramatic stilettos in a fitted pencil skirt and blazer as she walks with purpose down a stark white hallway, passing unmarked doors. The clack-clack of her heels is drowned out by the ominous sound of “The Machine” as she enters a laboratory where classified experiments are being done on unsuspecting young male subjects. Oh…did my imagination carry me away there for a minute? Fine. I will say that the track “Let Them Sleep” gives me a very Nine Inch Nails groove that I dig very much. If electronic music is your jam and you like to have some well-produced, good quality background music to do your…experiments to, Cellmod is your guy. Check out The Dissidents today!

Stay tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings… 

Book Review : Compression by Tim Cundle

 Compression, by Tim Cundle

Reviewed by Marie RavenSoul

Meet Flanagan, Elliot, Becky, Taylor, and Blake.

It is August 28, 1998, and Flanagan is woken up by his friend Elliot after having fallen asleep in the back seat of the car. They stop at a restaurant for coffee and discuss their plans as they head back to their small-town childhood home. After being away for ten years, they are returning for their high school reunion. Flanagan admits to wanting to visit Alison, the woman he has always loved but could never have. He mentions the dream. Elliot freaks out and tells him to never mention it again. 

As the story moves forward, Flanagan describes what it was like when he was young. When he mentions the “Black Flag tape that was eating the stereo from the inside,” I was reminded of my teenage years when my favourite album would get stuck in the tiny mechanisms of my Walkman. I would try to unravel it only to have it rip in the end. Having disdain for teachers and cops, he believes they only want compliance and order. Taking the blame for his friends, he often got arrested and went to jail. Punk rock was his favourite kind of music, and then lifestyle choices led to alcohol abuse, sex, and drugs. 

Education was of no interest to Flanagan, and all he wanted was to make his mark on the world, especially through his band, Crack Jester. He describes Elliot as a charming person who could say anything, and people would do what he asked of them. When he asked Flanagan about the old man on the beach, it riled him up, as it is the one thing they had agreed not to discuss. 

When they arrive at their destination, Flanagan gets a hotel room and is surprised by a visit from Becky, a friend from years ago. The questions she asks make him think about the life he has chosen for himself. She resents that he left home and that he has become a successful punk rock star, but when he is alone in his room, he contemplates the perks to his career, such as the four-poster bed, Jacuzzis, and the complimentary champagne and he feels like a fraud. He takes the heroin out of his bag and prepares it. As he gives a detailed account of injecting the drug, I feel like I am there with him, cringing as the needle pierces his skin. 

“Arranging a chair in front of the window so that I’d have a sea view, I tightened my belt into a tourniquet, sat down and pushed the needle in. The question of purity never even crossed my mind. Strength didn’t matter as long as the heroin hit my brain like an inbound freight train. Shit, even if I’d got a hot shot that would have been just fine with me. Over, finished, gone, done, out, without any hysteria. Pushing the plunger is part of the thrill, almost a lucky dip, you don’t know what you’re going to get and for a brief moment you’re aware of the boundary that stands between control and pleasure.” Pp 54

He returns to the cave. Taylor, who is now a police officer, steps out of the shadows and brings the past back to life. The two exchange a few words, and the tension between the old friends is palpable. A deed that they participated in as teenagers, along with the others, drove them apart, yet it will bind them together for the rest of their lives. 

Flanagan calls his manager and makes a career decision that affects Elliot. Then he gives away an item that has been an important part of his life for the past ten years. He knows that if he wants to make greater achievements, he must leave the past behind. This manner of thinking is tested at the reunion, as he is tempted by something that he has always wanted and must decide if he will partake. 

My favourite character is Flanagan. From the beginning, I was drawn into his mind. He was rough on the edges, and even though I felt sympathy for him most of the time, I wanted to throttle him for getting into certain situations and for bending his Will to Elliot’s. I like how he was never afraid to speak his mind and learned that being true to himself was crucial to being happy and successful.

Cundle has a great way with words. He is not afraid to deal with difficult topics such as cocaine and heroin use, pornography, violence, and unprotected sex. He uses description well so that the story comes alive, and the reader can picture what is happening. The dialogue is fast-paced and moves the story along, each character having a unique voice that the reader can identify. The story is told from Flanagan’s point of view and is very conversational as if he is in the room talking to you face to face. 

I enjoyed Compression very much. I had to keep reading as there was always a hint that something major was about to happen. If you like thrillers and intense character-driven stories, then this book might be of interest. 

Tim Cundle was born in Liverpool and is the creator of Mass Movement, a music and lifestyle fanzine. He has been a part of the road crew and a guitar technician for various punk bands in Canada and the United States. 

 

Black History Month : Black Devil From Hell / a Review

     Black Devil Doll From Hell or Chester Turners Revenge

  A Review by James Goodridge

“This is bad, very bad … but I love it,” I say to myself while clicking through a cornucopia of videos, reviews, soundtrack music, and other snippets, but not the full-length movie Black Devil Doll From Hell or BDDFH. Now I have a macabre love for B movies be it Sci-Fi or Horror the more absurd (see Scream Baby Scream 1969) or Grind House the better. With some low budget movies watching them you get a sense that they were made for the quick buck, but some have a feel that passion was injected into the movie kind of an Ed Wood radiance.

BDDFH was written, directed, music scored and produced by Chester Turner. Starring Shirley Jones, it was filmed in 1984 in Chicago for under $10,000 using a video camera, a VCR and a Casio organ for soundtrack music.

The ’80s were an era of mobile video freedom for people to create, a challenge to would-be amateur filmmakers. Mr. Turner took up the challenge. The plot surrounds Helen Black(Jones) a God-fearing woman who buys a three-foot doll with Rick James corn rolls from a strange gift shop, not aware that the doll is possessed by the devil. Later in the slow-paced movie, the doll comes to life and attacks her in the shower. For the rest of the movie, we’re tormented by devil doll’s old hustler voice harassing Helen as she has succumbed to his power, going on the prowl to pick up men for sexual gratification. Obie Dunson plays the Preacher in some scenes.

Years later, Turner said he stayed up three days and nights writing the script. Maybe I’m wrong because I had a hard time following parts of the movie and there is barely a plot. Now I must say that the doll itself is creepy, one of those old ventriloquist dummies with the huge eyes and to Turner’s credit you do get a visceral sense of unease.

The Casio droning on in the background makes you wish it would stop. Scenes lingering too long, stiff acting and bad lighting doom this labor of love Chester Turner produced. Selling the movie on VHS from the trunk of his car then making sales pitches in-person to video store owners generated limited profits for Turner and Jones (they were in a relationship at the time) and soon the movie was forgotten with Turner and Jones moving on to create Tales From the Quadead Zone (1987).

Over the decades,  social media has not been kind to BDDFH with would-be reviewers piling on with bad reviews. I came across one reviewer on YouTube using a racial slur when talking about Ms. Jones’s looks. But a documentary Adjust Your Tracking (2013) and a Daily Grind House article in 2013 revived interest in BDDFH. It is now the holy grail when it comes to VHS tape collectors with a tape selling between $ 419 to $1,000 online.  

Internet detective work helped me come across a Q & A segment at the 2013 Austin Film Society Festival featuring Turner and Jones. The movie now in cult status, Turner answered questions with humbleness and grace while Jones is reserved and matter of fact. Both feel vindicated, Turner still has the master copy and was redistributing it on DVD. In 2001

A non-related remake of BDDFH was released on DVD. A soft porn splatter movie mess, the best I can say about it is that… I’ll get back to you a few years from now maybe with some kind words.

At the end of the day Turner and Jones chased their dream with passion.

Black Horror Month : Sugar Hill/A Blacxploitation Gem

 

Sugar Hill: A Blaxploitation Gem

Review by Valjeanne Jeffers

Sugar Hill (1974) is a cult classic, a gem of the Blaxplotation era, and among a small cadre of flicks, such as Blacula, that combined horror with commentary on racism and oppression. Movies of the 1970s were resoundingly pro-black, and nothing if not conscious.

The movie begins with a Voudon dance performance, and an introduction to Diana “Sugar” Hill (Marki Bey), a photographer who is engaged to club owner, “Langston” (Larry Don Johnson). Unfortunately, a local gangster “Mr. Morgan,” (Robert Quarry) has his heart set on buying Langston’s popular Club Haiti. When Langston refuses to sell, Morgan sends his thugs to murder him. Sugar asks the matriarch of her family, “Mama Maitresse,” (Zara Cully) a Vodoun Priestess, to help her take revenge. After much pleading, Mama Maitresse agrees and calls upon the powerful Loa, Baron Samedi. Together Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colly), Sugar and an army of Zombies slaughter Sugar’s enemies.

Sugar is a sexy, charismatic heroine. The Baron himself is surprised by her boldness, “You’re not afraid of me!” It is this fearlessness that sways him to grant her wish for vengeance and place an army of zombies at her disposal. She is the original Blaxploitation feminist. Strong, and self-possessed: a butt-kicking mama, who is ready and willing to take care of business; even if it means spilling blood. Yet, as was often characteristic of 1970s movies, Sugar is all too willing to give her heart to the right man. When her former lover, appropriately named “Valentine” (Richard Lawson) gets too close to solving the murders, Sugar tells Baron Samedi, “Stop him but don’t kill him,” for she’s already falling back in love with him. 

This movie is rich with archetypes of the African Diaspora. Morgan and his cronies are virulent racists who throw around the word “coon,” and other racial slurs. His only black employee “Fabulous” (Charles Robinson) accepts their treatment with a tolerant grin; although ironically he is second-in-command to Morgan. Destroying Morgan and his men is a symbolic blow against oppression.

Sugar’s slain lover’s name, “Langston,” subtly alludes to the famed African American writer and poet, Langston Hughes. Baron Samedi is a powerful Voudon Loa, usually found at the crossroad between the worlds of the living and the dead, with a taste for tobacco and rum. In Sugar Hill, he’s artfully portrayed, right down to his cigar and top hat. Beside the Baron, stands Mama Maitresse. Mama Maitresse is over 100 years old. She depicts the honored elder: ancient and revered. The zombies Sugar commands, are actually slaves, who have been resurrected from the dead. There are repeated references to slavery throughout the movie. 

And Morgan’s men don’t just go after black folks. They bully and exploit anyone that stands in their way—black, white and Latina. Thus, Sugar Hill portrays a struggle between the powerful and powerless. During a scene when one of Morgan’s men extorts money from a group of seamen, “You’ll pay for your jobs,” he bellows, “or starve!” Baron Samedi stands nearby, looking none too pleased. Moments later, Sugar is there. “Hey!” she says, “you and friends killed my man! I’m passing sentence. And the sentence is death.” At her command, the zombies chop him up—with machetes no less.

Sugar Hill holds its own among the best Black Horror films of the70s, films like Blacula and Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde. The chemistry between the characters, excellent typecasting and acting, make thoroughly enjoyable viewing, even beside the slick special effects of the 21st century. Filmmakers of today could take a page or two from Sugar Hill, and others from the 1970s. Especially if they want to create a thriller with a message.  

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Valjeanne Jeffers is a graduate of Spelman College, a member of the Carolina African American Writer’s Collective, and the author of eight books. 

Valjeanne was featured in 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction. Her first novel, Immortal, is featured on the Invisible Universe Documentary time-line. Her stories have been published in Reflections Literary and Arts Magazine; Steamfunk!; Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology; Genesis Science Fiction Magazine; Griots II: Sisters of the Spear; Possibilities; and The City. Book I of The Switch II: Clockwork was nominated for the best ebook novella of 2013 (eFestival of Words), and her short story Awakening was published as a podcast by Far Fetched Fables. Preview or purchase Valjeanne’s novels at www.vjeffersandqveal.com

Black Horror Month : Warmth / An Unforgettable Journey

WARMTH by Sumiko Saulson

Review by Valjeanne Jeffers

In her third novel, Warmth, horror writer aficionado Sumiko Saulson weaves a supernatural labyrinth peopled with Afflicted beings or ghulah: Creatures who live by drinking the blood and eating the flesh of humans. The ghulah are intelligent meta-humans who go about their unusual lives … loving, eating, and always seeking warmth. For their transformation has rendered them unable to sustain body heat. And then there’s the second breed of preternatural creatures. The Dead: Lethal walking, breathing corpses with no other desire than to kill and eat. 

The heroine of Warmth, Leilana or, as she prefers to be called, Sera, is one of the Afflicted: A ghulah. Like all of her kind, she is not immortal but has an extraordinarily long life span. Sera was transformed and lost an eye when she was attacked by one of the Dead. And she takes great joy in hunting and killing these creatures… well aware of the dangers they pose for the world of the living. 

She looks like a young runaway, yet she is in reality centuries old, and she’s been pregnant since the Spanish Inquisition with a fetus that is also Afflicted. Yet Sera has no desire to be a mother and feels no maternal stirrings towards her unborn fetus— a child that will take centuries to grow to adulthood.  

The reader is first introduced to Leilana during the conquest of America, as she is thrust into the role of both rescuer and hunter. When a zombie attacks one of the men who has offered her shelter, thinking her to be an old woman, Sera quickly reveals herself to be a deadly supernatural being.

“She flew into the front door of the cottage, where the cause of Adolfo’s suffering became immediately apparent. The original Lazaro… the old gravedigger, had him pinned against the wall, and had bitten deeply into the flesh of his cheek, chewing it… eating it. Rotted clothes hung from the rail-thin frame of the Old Lazaro, and in places, purplish, bruised flesh showed through. The whites of his eyes had gone the cloudy yellow color of mucous. The ends of his fingers were caked with thick, wet grave dirt.

“I hate the Dead,” she hissed under her breath, running toward it. She shoved the sharpened end of her pike through the creature’s eye with such force that it went through the back of its skull, pinning it to the wall. A gelatinous mixture of curdled blood, vitreous humor and purulence issued from the ruptured visage, first slowly oozing, then gushing toward the floor.

Lifting the robe and the long skirts below it, she revealed her leg up to the knee—a small ax was strapped to the outside of her calf in a leather holster. She removed the weapon with a single graceful motion and shortly had it level to the creature’s neck.”

Six hundred years later, Sera is still living, still hunting… and still cold. But now she lives in a modern world: Full of new and lethal dangers. She has enemies. The most dangerous one a psychopathic ghula, whom she crossed paths with long ago. This maniac is convinced that Sera has stolen her baby from her womb, and is determined to reclaim the infant.  

Thus Warmth is a story that challenges the notions of womanhood and beauty. When Sera has the opportunity to have her scared face repaired, she decides to keep her visage as it is— scared though it may be. She cherishes her ruined face because it is the only way to preserve her cherished memories. 

When she looked in the mirror and saw her face, Sera remembered so many friends she’d had in her long past who were no longer with her. Perhaps even more so, she liked it because it was the only thing left in the world to remind her of the life she had before her Affliction—a short life, and difficult. It was gone now, faded into the pages of history.

Her marked face and her birth name were all she had left of it. 

Yet throughout her journey, we are reminded of just how beautiful Sera really is … once one looks beyond her face. This is a novel about becoming: Growing, and reinventing oneself when it’s necessary for survival. 

Saulson has spun a rich, multi-layered tale of both dark humor and nail-biting suspense. Along with the tough survivor Sera, we become acquainted with an entourage of characters; some human, some ghulah, and each with their own complicated, twisted lives. Among this cast is Sweet Melana, the brooding Larenzo, and S&M Master Fadriqueallies, foes. And all preparing for a war that may consume both the Afflicted and humankind alike. 

Saulson is a consummate horror writer, and in Warmth she has given us a horror novel that we will never forget.

Decade in review : A look back at 10 Years of HorrorAddicts.net

The Decade In Review

by Kate Nox

As we end our month of 10iversary celebration we offer a review of some of the content you have enjoyed and may want to take another look at.

Being a relatively new editor here at HorrorAddicts.net I find myself amazed at the scope of our horror blog. As a reader, you are part of a horror community from 192 countries around the world. From the United States to Togo, The United Kingdom to Antigua, Finland to Brazil,  readers are tuning in to check out what HorrorAddicts.net has to offer. On a regular basis, our staff reviews both blog statistics and your communications to make sure we are giving you what interests you most.  

At HorrorAddicts.net. We do our best to research and promote diverse and innovative voices. Among the most viewed entries of our past is an article entitled,  African American Horror Writers by David Watson. 5,123 of you enjoyed this feature.

We also try to bring you innovative content such as when we gave you the Next Great Horror Writer Contest and encouraged writers to advance their craft. You tuned in to read the author’s new material. Jonathan Fortin of El Cerrito, California was the contest winner and was awarded prizes including a  book contract from Crystal Lake Publishing. You were treated to all sorts of new reading experiences through the episodes of the contest.

One feature you have told us you really like are listicles. I’m with you on this. Give me a list comparing anything and I gotta read it! Among these, you enjoyed: Slasher Horror Books, and 1920’s Horror Books also written by David Watson.  

We are here to give authors for authors as well as readers. We are happy to share reviews and help authors get the word out about their books. You can always count on HorrorAddicts.net to give you book reviews such as those written by Chantal Boudreau on Arithmophobia by Ruschelle Dillon and by Stephanie Ellis on Ghost of Manor House by Matt Powers.

We often hear from our readers that one of the best things about our blog is finding and reading new authors. Sapphire Neal and Naching T. Kasa have done a great job of connecting us  with writers and personalities through their interview columns such as 13 Questions with Julie Hoverson and Chilling Chat: Episode 171 | Loren Rhoads

When you looked for the best in horror Movies you were directed to great film watching by Kristin Battestella and her Frightening Flix in Dracula 2000 and The Phantom of the Opera (2014).

For Indie Films you tuned into Crystal Connor and her Live Action Reviews such as the ones she did on  Welp and Never Tear Us Apart,

We gave you Extreme Transgressive Theatre like Salo (or The 120 Days of Sodom)  and The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

You enjoyed our coverage of the music scene in MUSIC REVIEW – Live show: Freakangel + Neonsol + Advance with Jeffery Kohld Kelly and with our new music feature like Merrill’s Musical Musings: Zwaremachine Review with R.L. Merrill.

We’ve had several writers who entertained you with Fiction Series.  Jesse Razorr gave you the frightening fairytale,   My Darling Dead. Russell Holbrook’s  Logbook of Terror travels kept you running in fear. Lionel Green continues to take us around the world through his investigations in THE BIGFOOT FILES and Kieran Judge always thrills with his inquiries into Odds and Dead Ends. 

Kenzie Kordic unnerved you in Kenzie’s Konspiracies  and D.J Pitsiladis kept you awake at night with his Nightmare Fuel

We also entertained in the Non-Media Areas of your life

We brought you cooking with Dan Shaurette in Morbid Meals We brought you Fashion advice from Mimielle who gave you My Melancholy Life. Kbatz gives you lots of haunting ideas for Krafts in her fun Kbatz Krafts Daphne Strasert brings you lots of spooky fun with her Ghastly Games

A few others I’d like to point out for their contributions to our decade of blogging are Christopher Fink writing as the Horror Seeker who gives us a variety of tales and information.  A.D. Vick has shared important information in articles such as The Passing of Sir Christopher Lee, and Cortney Mroch entertains us with Haunt Jaunts.

To take a look at any of the above, just click the link and enjoy. And, as always, please use the comment section to let us know what you like and to make suggestions for future blogging.

Review: Coven’s Hornbook by Frank Coffman

Review by Marie RavenSoul of The Coven’s Hornbook and Other Poems, by Frank Coffman

 

I HAD to read this book. The intriguing title drew me in like a moth to a flame. Knowing that within its pages were poems about the weird and supernatural made my dark heart leap with joy.

In his introduction, Koffman explains that the title was inspired by Leah Bodine Drake’s poetry collection A Hornbook for Witches. The preface is written by Donald Sidney-Fryer and the illustrations are by Yves Tourigny.

There are fifteen sections of the book, including Witchcraft and Warlockry, Sorcery and Summonings, and The Lycanthropicon: Werewolves and Their Ilk. The poems have numerous origins including Welsh, Spanish, Russian, and Korean. Many are sonnets, and others are long, randomly rhymed, and poetic narratives.

It begins with— A Meeting of the Coven.

       “Then, as the balefire glows

       And flames lick at the sky

       And embers crack and fly,

       A summoning is nigh!

       Soon, called forth by their cries,

       A Demon does arise.”

 The second poem called The Witches’ Sabbats has great meaning for me. I can picture the scene where the Witches are gathering in the forest to celebrate. The following lines gave me chills as they remind me of when I was blessed by Satan-Lucifer. 

       “A Circle round the central Fire as Demon’s called advance

        To join us—baptized in the light of Lucifer.”

Heritage: An Old Country Legend is a long poem. It tells the story of Caleb, his wife, and his children. How one-night Caleb’s wife went up to the graveyard to read poetry—or so she said. It became a regular occurrence until Caleb found her dead with the book, along with a note, by her side. Chilling events continued to happen to the family, making me read as fast as I could with anticipation.

Those Days in Salem Town is about the Salem Witch Trials. When accused of Witchcraft by young girls, members of the town were put on trial and then hanged. It is a compelling story and the following last lines are powerful.

       “But some few know the truth, 

        Fallen spellbound, enthralled.

        By the Dark One we’re called:

         And now—We rise!”

Legend: Archer Avenue, Chicago is a long poem and is about a man who sees a beautiful young girl, dressed in white, as he is driving down a long road. He takes her home, but when he returns to visit, he is in for a shock. The author uses description well and I loved how I could see the girl in her flowing white dress and her light coloured hair. It is the perfect ghost poem that also touches the heart.

I enjoyed Neophyte’s Lesson as it speaks of Baphomet, Crowley, black candles, and bloody letters. A story of a man who studied well-known occultists but got no results. Then when he began to practice, he got more than he bargained for. 

I love the poem Halloween. It has fun rhymes and is about goblins, warlocks, pumpkins, black cats, and spider webs. Children will find it enjoyable to read out loud, especially as part of their Halloween celebrations. 

Ring of Horror is a creepy poem which is one of the reasons why I like it. It makes me feel nostalgic as it reminds me of a circle of stones in a park that I visited a lot as a teenager. Just as in the poem, no one seemed to know how long the stones had been there, and it was rumoured that rituals took place there at night.

Nosferatu is about the vampire film with the same title. It describes Nosferatu in a compelling way to where you can picture his hairless head and pointed ears. He states:

       “This is a vampire from a different realm

       Than Stoker outlined on the classic page. 

       Though sepia black and white, in darkly contrast,

       The Mind’s Eye fills, with colourings of Horror

       At the creature’s form, indelibly to last—”

Another poem that I enjoyed was The Ways Poems Come to Me. It talks about how a poem is put together, beginning with the form in which the poem will be written in, parts of speech, verbs, nouns, what inspired it, and more. It is quite long, but it is worth the read. If you are a poet, then you will be able to identify. 

Great poems to read out loud are The Witches’ Rite at Beltane, The Fateful Flower, Vengeance, and At the Gravesite. The words rhyme in a way that makes them fun to say while adding unique expressions to each line.

A ‘Glossary of Forms’ gives detailed explanations of the many kinds of poetry forms that exist in this book. This includes the ‘Cynghanedd Sain,’ which is when two words in a line rhyme and the second rhymed word alliterates with the final word of the line. The Pantoum, which is a Malaysian form that I recently started using, is fun to write. It is a way to strongly express a feeling or idea as the second and fourth lines of each quatrain are repeated as the first and third lines of the next one. I appreciate all the effort that Coffman put into the glossary, and it will be something that I will return to often to assist with my poetry writing.

 An ‘Alphabetical Index of Titles,’ an ‘Acknowledgement—with Thanks,’ and a ‘Colophon’ concludes the book.

The only gripe that I have with the book is that there are quite a few stereotypical references to Satan and Demons. No, Witches and Satanists do not sacrifice babies nor do the Demons desire it. Unfortunately, these are common themes in horror, but I wish that people would stop using these old myths. 

Overall, this was a good book and I recommend it to those who love horror. If you know someone who doesn’t usually like poetry, you might want to use this book to spark their interest. I suggest taking your time reading this by enjoying one poem at a time, not rushing through the book like it’s a novel. 

Frank Coffman has published fiction and speculative poetry in numerous anthologies and magazines. His writing goes beyond the weird, supernatural, and horrific. He founded the Weird Poets Society Facebook group and is a member of the Horror Writers Association and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association. He is a retired professor of college Creative Writing, English, and Journalism.

Merril’s Musical Musings: Her Despair and Best of 2019

Her Despair and Best of 2019

Greetings and Salutations for a brand new year and decade that I am confident will be filled with amazing music. I’m Ro, your musical tour guide, and today I want to share with you some of my favorites from the past year and introduce you to a Goth rock outfit from the UK called Her Despair. Their music will take you right back to those 80s afternoons sitting in your bedroom listening to cassettes—or perhaps your vinyl collection—waiting for the night to fall and bring with it the creepy darkness where anything can happen and life is just a little more interesting.

Her Despair melds together sounds of Peter Murphy and Sisters of Mercy as well as current artists like Nightwish and HIM. Their latest release, Exorcisms of Eroticism, was released in summer 2019 and contains melodic jams like “Pandaemonium” and “The Exorcism,” which has an appropriately dark music video to go along with it. “In That Moment” is my favorite track on the EP. The haunting, romantic vocals dance over the dichotomy of the synthesizers and guitars, giving it a nostalgic sound, but you could also expect to hear it on a modern-day alternative rock station. “Like a Crucifixion” is another excellent example of their sound. A steady rock beat with powerful lyrics make for an enjoyable combination and will have you slipping into Her Despair like a comfortable pair of black fishnets…or a worn pair of Doc Martens. 

For more on Her Despair, check them out at the links below. 

The Exorcism” video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Clqrj6rftJA 

https://www.facebook.com/herdespair/

https://www.instagram.com/herdespairband/?hl=en

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVZhKFjVsq1Wpbruy-dryuw/featured

 

Ro’s Recs

Many great albums were released in 2019, and while I’m not a big list maker, I thought I’d share a few of them here. Some bands have been with us for decades like Slipknot and Korn and others were new to me. Bands like Papa Roach, Sleeping with Sirens, Volbeat, and Bring Me The Horizon took big risks on a new sound that paid off well. We lost Vinnie Paul from Hellyeah, but the band gave him a beautiful sendoff with Welcome Home. Motionless in White and New Year’s Day put out powerful albums that cemented their status in the rock community as artists that have fought long and hard to be there. Baroness returned from a harrowing tragedy to put out a strong album. I Prevail had a fairytale beginning with a cover of Taylor Swift and this year they’ve been nominated for a Grammy! And lastly, The Hu, Fever333 and Bad Wolves were all new bands to me that I am glad I took a chance on. I hope you will too. 

Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind

Bring Me The Horizon – Amo

Papa Roach – Who Do You Trust?

Hellyeah – Welcome Home

Motionless in White – Disguise

New Year’s Day – Unbreakable

Volbeat – Rewind, Replay, Rebound

Korn – The Nothing

The Hu – Gereg

Baroness – Gold and Grey

Bad Wolves – N.A.T.I.O.N.

Fever333 – Strength in Numb333rs

Sleeping With Sirens – How It Feels To Be Lost

I Prevail – Trauma 

There’s a wide variety on this list, a little something for everyone, so as we prepare for a new year of music, give some of these a listen.

What are you looking forward to in 2020? Leave a comment and let me know what music I should be looking out for in 2020. And with that, Stay Tuned for more of Merrill’s Musical Musings…

 

Book Review: A Single Light by Tosca Lee

A Single Light by Tosca Lee
Review by Stephanie Ellis

Rating: 4/5 stars

This book is the sequel to The Line Between

singlelightSix months after vanishing into an underground silo with sixty others, Wynter and Chase emerge to find the area abandoned. There is no sign of Noah and the rest of the group that was supposed to greet them when they emerged—the same people Wynter was counting on to help her locate the IV antibiotics her gravely ill friend, Julie, needs in order to live.

As the clock ticks down on Julie’s life, Wynter and Chase embark on a desperate search for medicine and answers. But what they find is not a nation on the cusp of recovery thanks to the promising new vaccine Wynter herself had a hand in creating, but one decimated by disease. What happened while they were underground?

With food and water in limited supply and their own survival in question, Chase and Wynter must venture further and further from the silo. Aided by an enigmatic mute named Otto, they come face-to-face with a society radically changed by a global pandemic, where communities scrabble to survive under rogue leaders and cities are war zones. As hope fades by the hour and Wynter learns the terrible truth of the last six months, she is called upon once again to help save the nation she no longer recognizes—a place so dark she’s no longer sure it can even survive.

The follow-up to The Line Between brings me the apocalyptic feeling that appeared to be slightly lacking in the first book and as a result, gave a more satisfying read in that respect. The book starts off with pretty much a recap of what had happened previously and so allows anyone who hasn’t read the first book to get to grips with the storyline. Unfortunately, if you have read the prequel, it does come across somewhat heavy-handed and I found it rather annoying as it took a while to move the story further along. Once the author had brought everyone ‘up to speed’ however, the story did move along quite nicely and became a book that I didn’t really want to put down.

The safe-haven Wynter and Chase found for themselves has become anything but. Accusations lead to life-or-death situations, and the once united community splinters and suspicion becomes rife as the clock counts down to ‘Open Day’ in an increasingly claustrophobic atmosphere. Even when the silo opens, nothing goes to plan and there follows a desperate race against time for Wynter to find the necessary medicine to save a close friend’s life. They travel through damaged townships and into dangerous cityscapes, discover the extent of hunger and lack of medication, and the spread of the disease wiping out the human race. Through all this, Wynter’s ability to trust those around her is challenged by an apparent betrayal and her relationship with Chase falters as a result. The book develops into a nicely-paced page-turner, keeping you going to see if Wynter has the happy ending you would like for her or not. As someone who generally backs off from books with a ‘romance’ element, this aspect was sufficiently well done not to make me cringe and kept me reading.

The only reason I did not give this book 5 stars, was the opening ‘catch up’ chapter.

This book is for you if you like an apocalyptic thriller with a dash of romance.

Book Review : Whisper Music (The Morrigan Canticles) by JBToner

Review by Jason Morrison

What can I say about Whisper Music  ( The Morrigan Canticles)? This book had everything you could ever enjoy:  buddy cops, ancient vampires, and a war against the forces of evil.

The book opens when Danyeala Morrigan, a young vampire given vastly superior powers by one of the last original vampires, is in an epic battle with the Virgin Mary, yes, the Virgin Mary, mother of Christ.

When Danyeala tastes the blood of Mary, she gains new powers and soon after begins to develop a change of heart, leading her into contact with two Boston cops. One is detective Harry Blake, the other a rookie detective named Danny Mcardle. The two are investigating a homicide victim whose spine was ripped out of his body. Soon after detective Blake and Danyeala cross paths, Blake finds out that vampires are real and a group of vampire hunters run by the Vatican, joins the story.

I really enjoyed this novel, one of my favorite things was the interaction between Blake and Mcardle, one being the older grizzled cop and the other a light-hearted jokester.

The author does a great job of describing scenes in wonderful detail, like how Danyeala must decide whether to embrace her vampire nature fully, or piece her humanity back together and salvage whatever good she has left in her. If you are not afraid of hardcore violence, lots of cursing, and non-sex sexuality then I would recommend this novel to you.

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Jason Morrison is a first time reviewer for HorrorAddicts.net.

Book Review : The Pale White by Chad Lutzke

Review by Marie RavenSoul
Spoiler alert: Some details may be revealed.

The Pale White, by Chad Lutzke

The story is told by Stacia, a seventeen-year-old girl held captive by a degenerate named Doc. Beautiful to the eye, his house is like a Victorian mansion, but something sinister lurks behind closed doors- the sex trafficking of young girls. 

She is not alone. 

There is nine-year-old Kammie, who loves plants and draws flowers on everything. Since the horrible night that Doc took her innocence, she has never spoken a word. 

The toughest of all three of them is Alex. She dresses in leather, fishnets, and short black skirts, giving her a goth-punk appearance. She believes she is a vampire and avoids light, even when it means her freedom.

As punishment, Doc starves them. This last time it was because Alex bit a client. She decides that it is time to follow through with their plan, which will bring them the freedom that they have wanted for so long.  

When they can finally leave their prison, the girls realize that they will no longer be together. So, instead, they make sandwiches as they try to obtain a sense of normalcy. It is quickly taken from them when there is a knock at the door. 

What happens next is terrifying. It seems as if the violence surrounding the girls will never end.

Flashbacks of previous traumatic events reveal clues as to why they behave the way they do. Alex’s viciousness is justified, and the reader can’t help but feel empathy towards the girls for the abuse they endured.

My favourite character is Stacia. She is compassionate, despite the horrible things she has been through. Before she was taken, she lived with an alcoholic mother and her lowlife boyfriend, and she questions whether she should go home or start a new life elsewhere. 

I like how the author used description to create a twisted atmosphere and induce emotion, but more detail throughout the story would have made it more powerful. The subject matter of the book makes it difficult to read in places as it deals with rape, violence, and psychological torture.

The ending came as a shock. I thought it was abrupt and had some unresolved issues. I am hoping a sequel will follow.

If you are a fan of dark tales with a lot of twists and turns, The Pale White is a book that you will want to crack open on a cold, wintery night. 

Chad Lutzke is the author of numerous books including The Same Deep Water as You, Wallflower, and Skullface Boy. He has written for various magazines such as Cemetery Dance, Rue Morgue, and Scream, and he has contributed articles, reviews, and artwork to the music and film scene. He lives in Battle Creek, Michigan with his wife and children.


Marie RavenSoul is a freelance writer and is the owner of the website In Satan’s Honour- Satanism and Demon Worship. She is the author of ‘At Satan’s Altar- A Collection of Prayers, Chants, Affirmations, Hymns, and Rituals.’

She is currently studying Creative Writing at the University of Toronto. Her other interests include painting, reading, photography, haunted dolls, The Tarot, and music.

Book Review: The Night Weaver by Monique Snyman

Review by Stephanie Ellis

Rating: 4/ 5 stars

‘SHADOW GROVE IS A PERFECTLY PLEASANT TOWN …

Shadow Grove isn’t a typical town. Bad things happen here. Children disappear, one after the other, and nobody is doing anything about it. Parents don’t grieve, missing posters don’t line the streets, and the sheriff seems unconcerned.

Seventeen-year-old Rachel Cleary lives on the outskirts of Shadow Grove, next to the creepy forest everyone pretends doesn’t exist. Usually, the forest is filled with an eerie calm, an unmistakable graveyard solemnity. But the trees have started whispering, forgotten creatures are stirring, and the nights feel darker than ever.

Something is stalking the residents of Shadow Grove, changing them into brain-dead caricatures of themselves. It’s up to Rachel to stop the devouring of her hometown before all is destroyed and everyone she loves is forever lost.’

When the nights begin to draw in early, a spooky read is a must and The Night Weaver does not disappoint. The main character, Rachel, is a terrific role model for young female readers, someone who is different but is strong enough to go her own way and pretty much not care what the ‘popular’ crowd say or do. No stranger to loss with the death of her best friend some years before and then the loss of her father, she has become fiercely independent, although sadly much of this is due to the emotional distance that has grown between Rachel and her mother as a result of the latter’s difficulty in dealing with her grief.

Whilst the rest of the town is strangely reluctant to explore the forest, Rachel is convinced that is where the children have gone. With the support of her neighbour’s grandson, the two cross the border into the woods and experience the ‘other world’ of the Fae. As Rachel fights to rescue the children, she becomes involved both with a Fae prince and with the very human Greg Pearson. The pacing is good and whilst it discusses Rachel’s relationship with her mother and her own memories of her father, it does not become mawkish and allows the magic of the story to keep the pages turning.

As someone who tends to avoid books featuring the Fae (usually because the author has made them too ‘sparkly’ or twee for me), I found this was a hugely entertaining YA romp with Snyman keeping the balance between darkness and romance perfectly. As a secondary school librarian, this is a book that may yet find its way onto my workplace shelves.

Merrill’s Musical Musings:Coyote Kid

 

Merrill’s Musical Musings with Coyote Kid

Greetings HorrorAddicts! November is the month of gratitude, and I’m sure we are all grateful for music. I’m ecstatic to be here with you to share a new album by Coyote Kid and to share some of my current musical musings and obsessions.

I’m utterly transfixed by this new album from Minneapolis-based Coyote Kid. I recently attended a writing workshop where the presenter talked about writing to your id, you know, that place where all of your happy meets. Upon first listening to their song “Strange Days,” my id perked up and listened greedily. Dark atmosphere, jangly guitars, a horn section, a male singer with a full, tortured voice that exudes emotion…Check, Check, Check! I hear a little Bad Things by Jace Everett, a little Big Wreck, a little Dick Dale and some Concrete Blonde. 

Some standouts on the album titled Skeleton Man include the title track, “Femme Fatale,” which has a Quentin Tarantino-esque music video with a beautiful woman and a vampiric car, and “Run.” The band describes their sound as cinematic and I concur. There are several moments on the album that would provide the perfect soundtrack to a film. I can see Antonio Banderas with his guitarra in a Robert Rodriguez film, or imagine a scene from the HBO show True Blood where creatures of the night stalk the unsuspecting folks in Bon Temps, Louisiana. 

You can find Coyote Kid at the following links and you can even become a patron on Patreon to unlock special content. 

http://coyotekidmusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/coyotekidofficial/    

https://twitter.com/coyotekidband

https://www.instagram.com/coyotekidofficial/

https://music.apple.com/us/album/femme-fatale-single/1468490521

https://open.spotify.com/artist/0MW6kFfsIdCMs4IF9WDAzb      

Ro’s Recs

September saw a slew of new releases from bands I’ve loved forever. One of the standouts was the latest from Italian metal band Lacuna Coil. Their latest album Black Anime is heavier than their previous release and full of fantastic tunes like “Layers of Time” and “Reckless,” but it’s the opener, “Anima Nera,” that has the witch in me chanting happily. Cristina Scabbia is a goddess and I urge you to give them a listen. Black Anime on Spotify

Hellyeah suffered a tremendous loss this past year with the death of beloved drummer Vinnie Paul, formerly of Pantera and Damageplan. The band soldiered on and released their album Welcome Home as a tribute to Vinnie. There are some massive grooves on this album such as “Oh My God” and “Boy” that will rip your guts out and stomp all over them and you’ll love every second of it. The track “333” will get you ready to jump up and get in the pit. There is so much raw energy in this album. Chad gray really went deep with the lyrics on this album and the anger and anguish are tangible. I know Vinnie would be proud. If you’re a new fan, get ready to fall in love. You can listen to Welcome Home on Spotify.

That’s it for November’s Merrill’s Musical Musings. I’d love to hear what you’re thankful for this month. Which band has your gratitude? Leave a comment or find me on social media: Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Stay Tuned for more Musings and Rock ‘n’ Romance…  

 

HA Movie Review: Crawl

Jaws meets Gatoroid in Alligator Eco-Terror Film Crawl

By Sumiko Saulson

Beautiful cinematography, over-the-top acting, and bad writing make the action-packed alligator horror-thriller Crawl seem like the bastard love-child of Steven Spielberg and Roger Corman.  Cormaneseque is an adjective coined to describe movies like the campy 2011 SyFy Made-For-TV Movie classic Mega Python vs. GatoroidCrawl manages to successfully blend the high-budget, high tension, fast-paced, action-packed jump scare a minute drama of eco-terror classics of the seventies like the 1975 Steven Spielberg classic Jaws with a decidedly Cormanesque plot.

Lush cinematographic values and convincing creature effects sell this frightening Florida monster masterpiece about giant, bloodthirsty, frighteningly coordinated packs of hungry gators hunting down college athlete Haley (Kaya Scodelario) and her backstage parent and semi-absentee father, Dave (Barry Pepper). While the special effects and camerawork are all on-point, they don’t completely make up for what the movie lacks in storyline and dialogue.

Dave tells his daughter, competitive swimmer Haley, she is an “apex predator, all the way.” The personal tagline resurfaces several times as she dives in and out of increasingly risky situations. Like her father, Haley is an impulsive risk-taker. That is why, when she finds out that Daddy has gone missing in the middle of a Category 5 hurricane, against all reason and sisterly advice, she runs right out there to save dear old Dad.

Haley finds Dad trapped in a flood-devastated basement with giant alligators circling. The basement area is called a crawlspace, and that, along with the creepy crawly critters that are snapping and biting at Dad, serves as inspiration for the title Crawl.

For about the first half an hour, this seems like a regular eco-terror film with normal alligators and everyday heroes. It’s just then that Haley, Dave, and the gators get progressively surreal and badass. At first, it’s just sort of Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in Speed badassery, with Haley being Reeves and dear old miraculously still not dead Dad Dave as the Sandra Bullock damsel in distress badass. 

At this point, Sugar, an adorable fluffy family dog played by Cso-Cso, joins the cast.  From here on out, the film becomes a tense contest to see if Haley, the clear star, can escape with Dave and Sugar. We also cringe and wait to see if this adorable pup Sugar or badass, yet Refrigerator-Girl-Vibe-Dad Dave will die in a bold sacrificial act. Unlike the adorable dog, Dave is picking up injuries like Carl on the Walking Dead. The addition of the family dog slightly reduces the Dad-is-doomed cadence of the whole production.

Spoiler Alert… there is a gas station/liquor store robbery occurring during the trapped in the basement crawlspace scene. Without getting into the fate of America’s Dumbest Criminals, let’s just say, there is a speed boat involved in the heist. During the scene where Haley literally outruns alligators to capture the boat, the film escalates into territory so improbable and badass it’s bad, like Jaws 3D. The Jaws 3D level jump-scare to insanely unlikely outrunning of apex predators ration increases exponentially.

 Then, at some point, cinematic magic occurs. The film achieves an off-the-wall, roller coaster ride of improbability for the remainder of the film of such epic proportions that it seems more like the Evil Dead franchise or House in the Woods than a serious horror film. And guess what? Crawl really works as a parody of every eco-terror action-adventure horror ever. At this point, it’s achieved true greatness, where even the preposterous parts are so bad they’re good.  It gets more and more over the top until the Starship Troopers like ending, where you will swear that Haley is a superhero of some kind who stands for apex predator superiority, American ingenuity, truth, justice, and the American Way. Is it pandering? Or is it brilliant satire?

I give it Four of Five Stars 

(If it’s pandering and Five out of Five, if it’s the brilliant satire it at times, appears to be)

 

Horror Seeker: Are You Scared? Top 5 Countdown

These days, it’s sad to say that horror has lost a few nuances in subtlety. While there are a few outliers, mostly those of the independent realm that still manage to terrify with atmosphere and story, the jump scare has no doubt taken the place of genuine creativity and effort to scare us. It is indeed a shame; while jump scares are nothing new, and when used appropriately they can be effective, it is but one tool, not the ONLY tool by any means. This over-reliance on the exhausted trope may have even left the average moviegoer numb and impatient to any sort of suspense building element a film might have to offer. So, I am here to remind you of, and hopefully share something new, the chill in your spine. That feeling that makes you check the windows twice at night, and make you second guess looking into the dark again. This is by no means a complete list, only a collection of some of my favorites. So, without further ado…

5: FRIDAY THE 13TH VIII – Jason Takes Manhattan

Arguably, the most questionable addition to this list hence why it comes in at number 5, Jason Takes Manhattan is regarded as one of the more discombobulated installments of the franchise, and for good reason. Taking Jason away from Crystal Lake might not have been the best of choices, but this deep into the story there might not have been much left to explore. So, why not give him a “proper” sendoff and bring Jason to the Big Apple? New York has always been the go to for any film/character in good standing.

Unfortunately, it didn’t really live up to the title. Spending only 36 minutes of an hour and forty run time in the big city, it was kind of a letdown, I think most would agree. It is well known that a number of scenes were cut, but it was not without its moments. One I think everyone remembers is Julius’s death – Jason’s one-punch knockout! But that was just a WOW moment, really.

I’d like to talk about one of the many times we see Jason as a boy, in this case, his ghost, played by Tim Murkovich. It is one of the many times boy-Jason makes an appearance, probably the most in any film, however, he hold a certain level of eeriness to him. Waterlogged, and soggy, Jason appears as a harbinger of doom of sorts, preceding Jason’s actual presence. Kind of like his force-ghost, if I can get away with that! But the moment that stands out is one that is thrust onto us nearly without warning. As our survivors (what’s left of them) drive madly down the alley trying to escape Jason, they, or rather our heroine Rennie, is confronted by the boy-ghost. It is not so much his presence, nor the scene, but rather the camera work/editing that sells this one.

The scene begins at a high pace as they drive off in a commandeered police cruiser after having narrowly escaped Jason’s grasp. Your heart is pumping and continues to increase as everyone in the car is screaming, panicking, lost in their own madness and terror, when suddenly Rennie barrels down the alley toward a waiting apparition, one that only she can see. The scene instantly cuts to her perspective; void of any sound except for the abusive drums as she grows closer. It then borrows a modified soundbite from Psycho, bringing us uncomfortably close to the boy’s deformed, patient stare. For that moment, he is looking at you – I mean YOU! And you can feel it. It only lasts a split second, blink and you’ll mercifully miss it, but for those who don’t, it is one of the few times you can actually feel his presence next to you. This is, of course, my experience. What’s yours?

4: CREEPSHOW II – The Hitchhiker

Creepshow, Tales from the Crypt, there’s nothing quite like it, is there? You don’t really see too much of the horror miniseries these days, but these tales are still worth their weight in blood. If you’re not familiar, I highly recommend them.

SPOILER WARNING just in case. In this particular story, our adulterous woman is in a hurry to get home to her husband, unaware of the lonely man thumbing for a ride on the side of the road; not that she’d have picked him up anyway. Her night takes a turn for the worse when she accidentally runs him down and leaves him for dead. It is here the horror truly begins, opening up what may very well be one of my worst nightmares.

While calming her nerves, she continues on, soon coming to a stop to further calm herself down. Here she notices a figure approaching; a broken stagger of a man, bloody, but alive? – it can’t be… It may have been her own eyes playing tricks on her, until the same hitchhiker then appears in her window, his mangled body leaning desperately in the car as he thanks her for the “ride”.

These films were definitely played up for exaggeration, being derived from the comics of the respective names, but it’s in this short’s persistence and focus that the horror works. The unrelenting vengeful force that just won’t die no matter what you do. No gun, or tactic, or car, in this case, will help you, as the hitchhiker is run over again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and… it goes on! Truly brutal, and in his frantic, almost spell-binding mantra we are taken for a horrifically graphic trip in its own cartoony, over the top way. Goes without saying, thanks for the ride, lady!

 

3: PUMPKINHEAD – Ed Harley meets Haggis the Witch

Haunting; if I had to put this scene in a word, it’s that. When Ed Harley’s boy is killed by some obnoxious teenagers, he seeks retribution through a local witch known for such malevolent things. We don’t know very much about Haggis (the witch), only that the locals are somewhat uneasy about her presence. They know that she’s capable of some terrifying acts; everyone has stories, some have even seen things, such as Ed Harley has when he was younger. It was the memory that had stuck with him, and the same that had brought him here.

The setting hits all the beats for what one might think of when picturing a witch’s home, minus the bubbling caldron. A lone decrepit house lost in the woods, off the grid, severely weathered. Inside, Haggis sits in front of a fire, looking as though she hasn’t moved in decades. Candles are lit all around, and numerous creatures populate the area; rats, spiders, snakes, even an owl, all of which are keeping a close eye on anyone who might enter.

The witch’s makeup and presence are one of the best I’ve ever seen on screen. It doesn’t try to reinvent the mythos; Haggis looks like any old-timey witch, but it’s the effort put into the roll that sells it so perfectly. Florence Schauffler was 68 years old at the time, but her appearance looked as though she were 680. We don’t know as her backstory is mostly left to the audience’s imagination. It is one of the few times where I clamor for a prequel. Who is this woman? Where did she come from? So many questions raised by this brief encounter.

It is a perfect depiction of the consequences when the need for revenge consumes you completely. Presenting itself almost as a fable parents might tell their kids; a cautionary tale on anger and vengeance. It is a hauntingly atmospheric scene, quiet and unnerving in the way it draws the air out of your lungs as even you are afraid to move, worried that Haggis might see.

 

2: PET SEMETARY – Zelda

This was a tough call, as this scene/character has bothered me my whole life. Anyone who has seen this movie and remembers the disturbing performance by Andrew Hubatsek who portrayed Rachel’s sister Zelda. Among many elements, I feel that the fact that Zelda was played by a man only added to the disturbing nature of the character, and the scenes she was in. Though not a monster, or demon of sorts, she is a ghoulish entity which the MicMac grounds use against Rachel, and it is terrifying!

Even to this day, I get chills when I so much as hear her (well, his) voice in my head. It’s one of two movies I have a hard time watching in the dark alone, and that’s saying something. Like many great scenes, it’s a perfect storm of performance, set up, atmosphere, and cinematography that make it work. I don’t know about anyone else, but I can never forget that twisted look; Zelda’s deformed frame writhing on the bed, misshapen and tortured by fate. Unfortunately for her, she was stricken with spinal meningitis which, in the film is exaggerated of course, but is cringing nonetheless.

Zelda is nothing but Rachel’s haunting memory of her departed sister, so she bares no harm other than what Rachel’s guilty conscious weighs on her. Once again, we as the viewer are brought uncomfortably close to her twisted form as Zelda continuously taunts Rachel with a promise of sorts. In a way, it seems like she’s hoping Rachel will suffer the same fate one day as penance for letting her die. The words are repeated again, and again – yelled in fact, like… I don’t even know what to compare it to! All I know is to this day; it still terrifies me to open a door to a bedroom I’m not familiar with. What’s in there? Is Zelda dead yet? Wondering if she’s going to run up to me screaming, “NEVER GET OUT OF BED AGAIN! NEVER GET OUT OF BED AGAIN!”

 

1: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE – Sally and Franklin

After Leatherface’s jarring debut on screen, having just killed three of Sally’s friends, she and her brother franklin are left to wait, and wonder what’s become of them. This final entry wins not for its monster, or blood and gore, but it’s prolonged suspense. The clip below is the best I could find, but the scene is another few minutes longer with Sally and Franklin desperately calling out for their friend Jerry before venturing into the darkened woods.

I go back to Alfred Hitchcock and his definition of suspense. There’s a difference between a bomb going off, and knowing the bomb will go off. Which is more suspenseful? It is the same here; we have already witnessed the horrors that befell Sally’s friends, and what awaits her and Franklin. We know they won’t escape, we know everyone’s dead, we know what is waiting in the dark – WE know! And that is the key element here. We, as the audience know what is to come, we just don’t know when, or how, and I think that is more terrifying than anything. The scare, or the pop if you will, is the catharsis of the moment, and the longer the suspense is, the more it is dragged out, the bigger the pay off. This scene accomplishes this very well!

From the beginning, we learn of Franklin’s condition. A helpless, scared invalid; burden, really, on the group that we struggle to feel sorry for. That is until we get a feel for his point of view. He feels sorry for himself, and it kind of sad to watch. Over time, you do feel bad and begin to empathize with him. Though not entirely idolized as a character, it is his fear you feel resonating from the screen. You can tell how scared he is, how desperately he just wants his friends to come back, and it only gets worse when he realizes the keys are gone, and that they can’t leave even if they wanted to.

The scene is beautifully scored with an ominous droning aura that sounds like it belongs in a cave. But it is looming horror, the pending nightmare that patiently, oh so patiently awaits them. Honk the horn all you like, scream your head off, wait until daylight if you make it that long. Hell, another thing this film does well, is it takes away the security of the light, as most of the horror happens during the day, so you don’t even have that to fall back on.

So many great moments and it bears repeating that I feel it’s a lost art. Subtlety has been forgotten in cinema, unfortunately. The sad thing is, a jump scare will always get a reaction no matter how prepared you think you are, but it’s only as scary as me screaming BOO in your ear when you’re not expecting it. Great for a laugh, but not for a scare, and certainly won’t stay with you as these scenes have done for me. What do you think? Share some of your favorites I may have overlooked! Thanks for reading!

This is The Horror Seeker

Book Review: The Line Between by Tosca Lee

The Line Between by Tosca Lee

Reviewed by Stephanie Ellis

4/5 stars

“In this frighteningly believable thriller from New York Times bestselling author and master storyteller Tosca Lee, an extinct disease re-emerges from the melting Alaskan permafrost and causes madness in its victims. For recent apocalyptic cult escapee Wynter Roth, it’s the end she’d always been told was coming.”

I jumped at the chance to read this book because of the word ‘apocalyptic’. I love doomsday type scenarios and as it was described as a thriller, it was something I felt I’d naturally go for. As I read on, however, I got the strongest sense that in truth this was really a YA romance set against an apocalyptic backdrop. Initially disappointed in that respect, I continued to read and make my judgment on it firstly as a story, and then as a YA book (as a librarian in a secondary school I read a lot of YA).

The cult of New Earth is a truly chilling place to be, where the leader, Magnus, appears to manipulate his followers with ease. Disposing of a first wife for Wynter’s sister, and then preparing to take Wynter herself as a second spouse, he appears cruel and even perverted. Wynter’s escape, or expulsion, is manipulated by her sister and initially, she is safe in the house of an old friend of her late mother’s. The growing dementia epidemic however soon undermines that feeling and she discovers Magnus had no small part to play in that. Lee paces the story well, interweaving present day with flashbacks but without confusing the reader. She brings out the angst and anxiety of a young woman undergoing extreme mental stress in a thoughtful manner without turning her into a lunatic. The twists and turns, of finding, and losing, friends and helpers on her journey to save the world, keep you turning the page. The ending is somewhat unsatisfactory as it is clearly set up for the follow-up, A Single Light. Having read the blurb for that, it appears to be more of the apocalyptic book I so wanted this to be. I look forward to reading this sequel.

Guest Blog: Review of The Witch by Ronald Hutton

The Witch Reviewed by John C Adams

This non-fiction book is subtitled ‘A History of Fear from Ancient Times to the Present’.

I first came across the author and historian Ronald Hutton fourteen years ago when he appeared as a guest in ‘Tales from the Green Valley’, a BBC TV show featuring a year-long project to re-establish a working Elizabethan farm in Wales using genuine techniques. He provided good-natured expert analysis of the Christmas traditions of the time, and it was apparent that he really knew his stuff.

Last year, I was delighted to receive a copy of this book as a birthday present from my teenage daughter (make of that what you will). I was intrigued when I realised that the author was the same expert on pagan custom and history I’d enjoyed watching a decade and a half earlier. The starting point in reading my daughter’s gift was therefore that Hutton would demonstrate the same thoroughness of expertise and knowledge here, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The book is divided into three sections – deep perspectives (on global, ancient and shamanic contexts in the history of witchcraft), continental perspectives (including the legacy of the Egyptians, the reception of witches in the Middle Ages and the early modern patchwork including the Shakespearean age) and, finally, a section on British perspectives on witches and their relationship with fairies, Celticity and animals.

It would probably be helpful for me to point out that Hutton’s book is a history of how witches (including shamans and service magicians, so the term here is used for both male and female practitioners) are perceived by the wider societies in which they reside, rather than a history of witchcraft itself. To that end, excellently researched and thoughtfully presented though it is, readers seeking a practical history of how witchcraft has been practised or even a how-to manual would be best advised to seek out other titles. On the other hand, as histories of witches and their treatment go, it is impeccably argued and detailed.

I’m a great believer in academics presenting their findings impartially and being careful to explain objectively the limitations of their sources, be honest about the extent of our current knowledge, and highlight areas where further research would help. This, as well as the diligence of decades of in-depth research, is where Hutton’s strength lies. He gets right down into the detail, lays it out and provides a justified conclusion, all in very cool, precise language which doesn’t force on the reader a particular point of view based on preconceived notions. Not all histories are created equal! Instead, Hutton goes where the facts take him and gives the reader space to reach their own conclusions as they make that journey with him.

For all the research and detail, this was far from being a dry read. It was fascinating and informative, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Enjoy!

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

John C Adams is a reviewer and writer of horror fiction. Souls for the Master is available for free on Smashwords and for 99p on Kindle.

http://johncadams.wix.com/johnadamssf

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Zwaremachine Review


Greetings Horror Addicts! I’ll be your new tour guide through the melodious and sometimes macabre world of music shared with HorrorAddicts.net for your greedy consumption. I’ve been a music fan my entire life, especially the metal variety, anything you can dance to and most places in between. In my day job, I educate America’s youth, sometimes even on the subject of music. I’m also a mom of two teenagers, both of whom are huge music fans, and at night, by the light of the full moon…I write stories full of hope, love and rock ‘n’ roll that often have some sort of tie-in to horror, the occult, monsters…you name it. I want to thank Emz for bringing me out of the darkness and into the…well, more darkness, but a different darkness, full of fellow music and horror lovers. 

This month we’re listening to an industrial band out of Minneapolis called Zwaremachine. Music that can take you away to another place is exciting and always worth a listen, and upon pressing play, Zwaremachine did just that. I immediately imagined myself dressed in black leather and chains walking into the depths of a seedy nightclub in a warehouse in the middle of a bleak urban landscape full of all the cool-kid creeps and crawlers. It was easy to picture a vampire having a sip from a willing patron at the bar, or a witch telling fortunes in a dimly lit corner. Bodies are moving in time to the driving beat, reaching for that climax where the DJ drops the bass when John Wick comes blasting through with machine gunners on his tail. Any music that can drop you into a scene like that and have you anxious to experience what’s next is a win in my book. 

Zwaremachine have been on tour in Europe and the Midwest this year. They are currently working on a special edition re-release of their 2018 album “Be a Light” with worldwide distribution. In September the band will be back in Europe on the “Elektro Tanz Tour” dates in Belgium and the Netherlands with Vuduvox(FR/BE). 

Zwaremachine will be performing as full line up with Mach Fox(vocals/synth), dbot(bass/vocals) and they have recruited Dutch percussionist Dein Offizier(drums) for these shows “to give the full impact of their minimal hypnotic approach to body music.” I highly recommend that if they play near where you are you give them a listen! I’m a huge proponent of attending live shows and supporting musicians, so check them out.

Fans of the Underworld or Blade series will most likely dig their sound. Their song “Remain Unseen” (especially the VUDUVOX Remix) is an ominous track that made me think of Nitzer Ebb and Rammstein. If industrial is your bag, check out Zwaremachine.

In preparation for writing this review, I got a kick out of reading this interview with their leader Mach Fox from the Horror Addicts archives. https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2018/10/12/terror-trax-zwaremachine/

If you want to hear more for yourself, check out the band at these sites:

WEBSITE:http://www.zwaremachine.band/

streaming/dl: https://zwaremachine.bandcamp.com/

ig/twitter: @zwaremachine

I’ll be back next time with more music reviews, but I’d like to end each post with one of Ro’s Recs (that’s me!). For my first recommendation, I have to give it up for Slipknot’s latest We Are Not Your Kind. This album has all the rage and hostility one expects from the Iowa band, but there’s a vulnerability and urgency in the lyrics that is a welcome surprise from these veteran metalheads. I was fortunate enough to see them on the opening night of the U.S. Knotfest Roadshow and I was elated to experience the new songs live. Highlights for me include Spiders (oh yeah, you’ll keep that piano riff in your head for a long time after) and Critical Darling and A Liar’s Funeral are phenomenally heavy. Check it out, let me know what you think. You can reply here or you can always find me on the socials @rlmerrillauthor or in my evil lair at www.rlmerrillauthor.com. I can’t wait to hear what you think of Zwaremachine and the new Slipknot. 

Stay Tuned for more of Merrill’s Music Musings on HorrorAddicts.net…

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: British Horror Documentaries!

British Horror Documentaries, Brilliant! By Kristin Battestella

This quartet of documentaries and informative programming has plagues, queens, holidays, and witches – all with a little across the pond flair.

The Black Death: The World’s Most Devastating Plague – Purdue Medieval Literature Professor Dorsey Armstrong hosts this 2016 twenty-four episode lecture series from The Great Courses Signature Channel, beginning with early feudal nobles versus peasants, religious society and church control, and urban growth in the medieval warm period before a changed Europe in 1348 with plague reducing the population from 150 million to 70 million. Onscreen maps, notations, and timelines supplement the disturbing first-hand accounts, despairing eye witness testimonies, and Old English translations of outbreak terrors – focusing on the human response to pestilence while dispelling misnomers on The Black Death’s name and symptoms. Some victims writhed in long-suffering agony while others died within a day, drowning in their own blood thanks to bubonic, septicemic, and pneumonic bacterium. Ebola virus comparisons are specific and gruesome alongside scientific theories on bacillus causes, tuberculosis similarities, Blue Sickness inconsistencies, and Anthrax possibilities. Prior Justinian outbreaks, Asian beginnings in Kaffa, and Italian trade route migration spread plague while fleas, rats, and gerbils transmission, weather patterns, and even extraterrestrial origins are debated. Entire villages were ravaged with hemorrhagic fever contributing to the scourge’s spread on poor, crowded, malnourished people fearing the judgment of God, wearing creepy masks, and carrying fragrant herbs to curb the smell of mass shallow graves and dog-mauled bodies. Despite illiteracy, wills and documentation accumulate – although journals have blank spaces and abrupt ends because the writers died. Vacancies increase while religious orders decrease since those ministering to the sick die, yet crime declines as thieves won’t even enter a wealthy but plagued home. Avignon pilgrimages bring devastation and Walking Dead comparisons as Florence’s valuable textiles are burned. Prostitutes are often cast out – not for transmission worries, but to purge sin from a city. Orphans and widows become dependent on the patriarchal society, and artistic guild become charitable necessities. Flagellant movements fill the religious gap while England’s unexposed island population leaves London with no place left to put the dead. When only the 103 heads of households are marked dead in the census, one can conservatively deduce the number of dead was probably quadruple that 103. In a town of 1,000, what if the average household number was seven? Ghost ships arrive in Norway, and grim reaper folklore expresses Scandinavian fears amid whispers of children being buried alive to appease angry gods. Primitive remedies and bloodletting rise, as do tales of monks and nuns going out in style with debauchery and hedonism or gasp, dancing in town-wide festivals. An entire episode is dedicated to antisemitism and Jewish persecutions, a depressing and violent response on top of the plague, and the callous church using the pestilence as an opportunity to remind people it was their sinful fault may have helped spur later reformations. Of course, lack of clergy meant the church accepted anyone for ordination, leaving priests who didn’t know what they were doing when the faithful public needed help most. Outside of nobles losing their privileged status, most classes were ironically better off post-plague with memento mori artwork and danse macabre murals flourishing amid literary masterpieces and dramatic analysis inspiring the early renaissance and the likes of Chaucer. Economic booms re-establish trade as the aristocracy marries into the merchant class and peasants revolt for more power, changing the world for centuries to come. While lengthy for the classroom itself, these half hours are jammed packed with information, documentation, and statistics keeping viewers curious to learn more. This is a fine accompaniment or a la carte for independent study – an academic approach rather than the in your face, sensationalized documentary formats permeating television today. The Great Courses Channel is worth the streaming add-on for a variety of informative videos, and this macabre selection is perfect for fans of horror history.

Mary Queen of Scots: The Red Queen – Scottish castles, ruinous abbeys, and highland scenery anchor this 2014 documentary on that other devout catholic Mary thorn in protestant Elizabeth’s side. The narration admits the similar names are confusing, but the voiceover meanders with unnecessary time on Mary’s parents James V and his French wife Mary of Guise amid Henry VIII marital turmoil, perilous successions, and religious switches. Opera arias interfere further as we stray into Mary Mary quite contrary rhymes, earlier Robert the Bruce connections, Tudor rivalries, French alliances, and the possible poisoning of infant Stuart sons before finally getting to Mary being crowned at nine months old in defiance of male inheritance laws. Rough Wooing tensions and early betrothal plans with Edward VI lead to isolation at Stirling Castle before a pleasant childhood at the French court, but a princess education and marriage to the Dauphin in 1558 ultimately send the young widow back to Scotland as regent in 1561. Catholic unrest always leaves Mary on unfriendly terms with Bess alongside John Knox reformations at home, misogynist rhetoric, and a nasty marriage to her first cousin Henry Stuart. The need for an heir, murdered lovers, adulterous pregnancies, revenge – loyal nobles take sides as the Catholic baptism of the future James VI divides public opinion. Men with syphilis, suspicious gunpowder accidents, marital traps, and final meetings with her year-old son begat possible kidnappings, a new marriage to the Earl of Bothwell, revolts, imprisonment at Loch Leven, abdication, and rumors of stillborn twins with unknown fathers. It might have been interesting to see scholars contrasting bad girl Mary with her marriages and male interference versus Elizabeth The Virgin Queen rather than the all over the place narrative. Bess holds Mary captive in various English castles for eighteen years until religious coups, forged letters, an absentee trial, and the final treasonous Babington Plot. Mary goes out in style with symbolic red despite her botched beheading, with an ironic final resting place at Westminster Abbey beside Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I. This rambling hour confuses itself and repeats anecdotes in what should have been a tighter, more informative focus. However, such superficial storyteller basics can actually be a good classroom compliment with additional materials.

Witches: A Century of Murder – Historian Suzannah Lipscomb hosts this two-part 2015 special chronicling the seventeenth century persecutions and torture run rampant as witchcraft hysteria spread from James I in the late fifteen hundreds through Charles I and the English Civil War. 1589 Europe has burn at the stake fever thanks to the Malleus Maleficarum belief that witches were in league with the devil, and contemporaneous sources, books, and confessions help recount violent techniques and sexual aspects that may not be classroom-friendly. Innocent birthmarks or moles on maids and midwives were used and misconstrued until naming names and pointing fingers snowballed into deplorable jail conditions, hangings, and conspiracy. Postulating on why the innocent would confess is addressed alongside the details from the North Berwick Witch Trials – including garroting and even the smell of burning human fat. James I’s own Daemonologie becomes a license to hunt witches as the 1645 then-normal rationale that witches have sex with the devil escalates to extreme Puritan paranoia. Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins takes the law into his own hands via body searches, sleep deprivation, and agonizing deaths while unknown medicinal ills or causes were conveniently mistaken as evidence for witchcraft accusations. Names and faces are put to the exorbitant number of accused while on location scenery from Scotland to Oxford, Essex, and Denmark add to the prison tours and suspenseful trial re-enactments. Here specific facts and detailed information happen early and often rather than any hollow paranormal herky-jerky in your face design. Community fears, social cleansing frenzy, and things done in the name of good and God against evil and the Devil at work accent the timeline of how and why this prosecution became persecution run amok. Instead of broad, repetitive sensationalism or the same old Salem talk, this is a mature and well presented narrative on the erroneous impetus of the witchcraft hysteria.

You Make the Call, Addicts!

Halloween: Feast of the Dying Sun – This recent documentary hour intends to set the holiday straight with the Celtic origins of season, adding sunsets, cemeteries, Samhain bonfires, and end of the harvest celebrations to the spooky voiceover for heaps of atmosphere. From Scottish identity guessing games and the belief that the dead visit the living to trick or treating as beggars pleading door to door and souling for small cakes, tales of how our Halloween customs came together are detailed with banshees, hidden fairylands, and ghost sightings. It’s great to see Druid practices, pre-Tolkien fantasy ideals, and Victorian fairy beliefs rooted in daily culture rather than Halloween as we know it as October 31 and done. Brief reenactments add creepy alongside authoritative, folklorist interviews, but the campfire storytelling narrative is often too abstract, meandering from one spooky specter to another with only vague, basic minutes on Celtic arrivals in Britain, early sacrificial offerings, standing stones, and ancient sites. The facts jump from 4,000-year-old yew trees to otherworldly portals and fairies capturing mortals for liberating dance rituals – crowding intriguing details on the special power of nine or magic number three and church absorption of pagan practices. The generic Celtic talk drifts away from Samhain specifically, as if today’s generation needs hand-holding explanations on witch hunts, the origins of bobbing for apples, and the medieval transition toward All Hallow’s Eve and All Saints Day. The rough timeline tosses in New World changes, Victorian gothic literature, and horror cinema fodder as we both laud Halloween with parades and an American commercial revival yet continue to misconstrue witchcraft and occult hallmarks of the season. This can be spooky fun for folks who don’t know a lot about the history of Halloween, however, it will be too swift and superficial for expert viewers. It’s easy to zone out thanks to the random storytelling style, and the intended pagan history would be better served with a longer or specific, multipart documentary. Except for some wanton fairy queen sexy talk, as is this is neat for a teen sleepover or party background where rather than attempted academic, the tall tales can be casual fun.

Book Review: A Winter Sleep by Greg F. Gifune

A Winter Sleep Author: Greg F Gifune
Reviewed by Ariel DaWintre

I liked this book it was easy to read and kept your interest. It had elements I love; winter, Eerie Hotel, and Crazy people. The story has Horror, Psychological Horror and just plain crazy. I kept thinking I had figured out this story then the author would change it up on me. When I got to the end I was still doubting what seemed to be the end wondering if there will be a sequel and he will explain it to me in an epilogue.  Then I was just, “Whoa okay that is just crazy,” and I don’t know if it was the story or me.

I loved the main character, Ben Hooper. I don’t want to give away too much and ruin the story but you get that he is going somewhere and through the story, you find out what happened and what he is doing. He ends up at an old Hotel called the Monarch, this hotel made me think of another famous hotel “The Overlook” and even the song, “Hotel California”.  He meets a group of strangers at this hotel and they have what appears to be nothing in common, but something is keeping them all there. In the story Ben’s past and present intermingle and you wonder what his future holds.

The story has all kinds of things going on and it keeps you engaged to the end. You get crazy, horror, ghost, spooky something for everyone. The real question is it real or all in Ben’s mind. I am still wondering! Thanks for a fun read. I might have to read it again!

Book Review: The Butcher’s Tale

Hello Addicts.

Imagine a future where people addicted to reliving other peoples’ memories they will give up everything for the experience. That is where former shock jock, Johnny C. Vid, finds himself at the beginning of The Butcher’s Tale by Nicholas Walls.

In the future, a new technology known as Vicarious Reality (VR for short) has become a popular past time.  It allows you to experience your greatest fantasies without actually doing them yourselves.  Even though it is someone else’s memories, you feel like it is happening to you.  The sights, the smells, the excitement, all feel like the real thing when it is nothing more than a replay piped through a physical connection in your brain.  That is where we find Johnny C. Vid, a former popular shock jock, turned unemployed and homeless VR addict.  So desperate for a fix, he goes to where his current supplier obtains his recordings in the lowest levels of the city. It is there that he finds a massive man wearing a pig mask hunting for people to torture.  It doesn’t take long for Johnny to find himself impaled on a meat hook, wishing for death.

The first half of this book was a good read for fans of slasher horror tales.  The amount of blood and violence is on par with what you’d find in a “Friday the 13th” or “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” movie.  Johnny also gives off serious Captain Ahab vibes as he remains focused only on his pursuit of destroying the man in the pig mask, whom he calls “The Butcher.”  The reason “The Butcher” tortures his prey is also clearly given: he too is a VR addict.  The difference? He rips the recordings from his victim’s minds so he can relive every juicy moment of pain, fear, and anguish.  For Johnny C. Vid, it’s not some noble quest to vanquish the demon but straight-up vengeance.

What took me out of the story was, after the midpoint, the narrative shifts from horror to space opera/spy thriller.  To me, it felt a bit disjointed after Johnny got his revenge, and the horror aspect ended.  Overall it is a good read, but only if you look at it as two books, an original and the sequel, for the price of one.

Until next time, Addicts!

D.J. Pitsiladis

Film Review: Scary Stories to be Told In The Dark | A story to be told!

It had been some time since I had read these books, and all the while it hadn’t clicked until I got home. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is an honorable adaptation of Alvin Schwartz collection of flash fiction tales, perfectly complimented by Stephen Gammell’s amazing artwork. While the stories themselves are simple enough, able to quench any horror fans quick fix for a chill, they are not without a sense of eeriness, and the transition to the big screen was very well done and deserving.Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

It is a refreshing tale, and a clever blend of the stories contained therein the trilogy Scary Stories. In my opinion, this is a great way to adapt an existing product. While the stories themselves are a series of flash fiction I’d liken to Goosebumps, they act like a bucket of ingredients for the filmmakers to dig in and see what mixes and what doesn’t. The canvas for the film is somewhat generic; though I wouldn’t call them the token group, they are relatively standard. The loner, the outcast, the bullies… the list is familiar, but they are excellent performances delivered by a budding cast with no real major star power to distract. Their talents are allowed to breathe and take hold on their own merit, which I enjoyed very much!

Creative is the keyword here, and this film certainly delivers with some interestingly creepy and cringe-worthy sequences. A few noteworthy mentions I must give are firstly to “Twisty” Troy James! Aptly named, as he took the contorting roll of the Jangly Man to an eye-opening performance! Hell, I wasn’t sure at the time of viewing if that was a person, but knowing that now, it was beyond impressive! The second goes to the segment in “The Red Roomwhich had me wanting to leave the theater. A rather disturbing creature that, well, hugs you to death, ha! You can find this creature in the third book, featured in “The Dream”. This scene was my favorite, well-paced and handled very well. I do wish the rest of the film was handled as such. Slow and quiet, building on the suspense rather than building up to the next jump scare. It got tired after the first few times.

These really are minor gripes that don’t hurt the film too much; it’s pretty clear that this film wasn’t meant to be anything to change the landscape of the genre, it is a perfect end of summer film. At an hour and fifty-one minutes, the pace moves right along feeling nicely wrapped up, at least for this one. No doubt there will be a sequel in the future, rightfully so as there’s so much more material to be mined within the books. I am looking forward to More Scary Stories! Check them out; which stories would you like to see featured in the sequel?

Until next time, this is The Horror Seeker! 

Book Review: Coyote Rage by Owl Goingback

5/5 stars

My first introduction to Owl Goingback’s writings was his collection Tribal Screams, which I loved. This book also contained a taster to Coyote Rage and I was pretty certain I would read the novel when it came out. Here I am, some months later and the book lies finished at my side. Goingback weave’s his story between the modern world and Native American mythology, creating a unique blend of fantasy and horror.

Kindle EditionAs the last human member of the Great Council of Galun’lati lives out his remaining days in a nursing home, Coyote hatches a plot to eliminate him and also the daughter who would take his place. He tells the other creatures it is time for those of ‘fur and feather’ to take back control of their world. His target, Luther Watie, evades him and so the hunt begins for both Watie and his daughter. Not all creatures are on Coyote’s side, man has some friends, in this instance Raven and Mouse, but are they enough? This is a wonderful tale of shape-shifting and magic and the prose is pure poetry when the story slips into the otherworld of Galun’lati. Owl Goingback is a writer of quality and one I know I will return to.

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Arkham Horror | Call of Cthulhu

Arkham Horror: Call of Cthulhu

Welcome to the town of Arkham where the year is 1926. Something sinister lurks in the shadows behind the speakeasies. Monsters have been popping up all over town and something ancient and evil is waiting to break through to our world. Only a handful of investigators stand in the way. They must risk their sanity and their lives to keep Arkham from falling into devastation.

Arkham Horror: Call of Cthulhu is a cooperative board game for 1-8 players and takes 2-4 hours to play. It’s extremely complex and is recommended that all players be 12+.

Game Play

The game begins with all players choosing a character. These characters come with skills and items that will help them to defeat the horrors that pop up throughout the game.

Each round, the characters move around Arkham, collecting items and clues to help them win. Beware, though, the monsters are also moving and each round brings the Ancient One closer to breaking through the barriers into our world. Characters must defeat the smaller monsters or risk being killed. This is accomplished by rolling dice—the number of dice depending on the character’s abilities and the strength of the monster.

As play progresses, portals to other dimensions open throughout the town of Arkham, allowing monsters to enter and wreak havoc. Players must go through these portals and survive the horrors on the other side in order to close them. If the players close enough portals before the Ancient One crosses into Arkham, they win. If not, they must defeat this monstrous abomination and somehow survive the process.Arkham Horror revised box.jpg

Game Experience

Holy hellspawn, this game is complicated. We spent almost as long reading the rules as we did playing for the first time.

The overall concept is straightforward: kill monsters and close portals before the Ancient One comes through. But how you do that is subject to hundreds of rules and strategies. Once you understand those, however, the game is fast paced and fun. Strategizing with your fellow players forms the main playtime of the game. The game isn’t pure strategy, as the players are subject to the randomness of die rolls and card draws.

The game pieces are well made and admiring the artistry of the cards is valuable all on its own. There are a lot of pieces to track, so be organized.

Arkham is a game with high replay value, making it well worth purchasing. Make sure you have others who are invested in playing as well, because complicated games aren’t for everyone. Take the time to read the rules thoroughly before you play and designate someone as the rule keeper so you can ask questions as they arise (and, boy, do they arise!).

Final Thoughts

For a faster, simpler version of Arkham Horror, look for Arkham Horror: The Card Game (which I previously reviewed). There is also an updated version, that I have not yet played.

I loved Arkham Horror. I’ve been wanting to play for a while and finally got the opportunity. I was hooked twenty minutes into play time. I’ll be buying this one for myself.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Tales from the Crypt Season 3

Tales from the Crypt Season Three Stands Out by Kristin Battestella

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Lifechanger

 

Plotline: A murderous shape shifter sheds blood to make things right with the woman he loves.

Who would like it: People who enjoyed movies like The Body Snatchers, The Hidden, The Fallen or about aliens taking over human bodies in general. 

High Points: I really enjoyed the subtle complexities that Lifechanger explored about what it is to love and be loved; and the sheer will to just survive. 

Complaints: N/A

Overall: Even though in my opinion this isn’t horror I still really enjoyed it.

Stars: 3

Where I watched it: VOD

 

***

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

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: The Tokoloshe…Where She Goes it Follows.

 

PlotlineBusi, a destitute woman with seriously repressed emotions, lands a job as a cleaner at a run down hospital in the heart of Johannesburg. Desperate for money so she can also relocate her younger sister, she learns to cope despite the predatory and corrupt hospital manager.

However, when Busi discovers an abandoned girl in the hospital, one who believes she’s tormented by supernatural forces, she must also face her own past demons in order to save the child from the monster that pursues them both relentlessly…

Who would like it: People who enjoy global folklore and mythology, foreign films and subtitled movies, movies with double meanings and a diverse cast of characters.

High Points: Very original story line with a parallel plot lines. Strong acting and a smart, resourceful female lead

Complaints: Half of the movie is spoken in English and the other in Xhosa (?) and there are no subtitles for the native language.

Overall: I really enjoyed this film and I like people looking for something a little different, something more in their horror entertainment will like it too.

Stars: 3 1/2 Stars

Where I watched it: Was provided a review link.

***

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 flyer 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!” 

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Book Review: Broken on the Inside by Phil Sloman

Broken on the Inside by Phil Sloman

4/5 stars!

Broken on the Inside (Black Shuck Books) is a collection of five very dark short stories by Phil Sloman. All start from a point of psychological turmoil, the mind building its own madness which then manifests into something physically and disturbingly real.

The lead story, “Broken on the Inside, is an example of the power of mind control and the unintended consequences of the manipulation of others, in this case murder. “Discomfort Food will probably put you off your burger and chips. “The Man Who Fed the Foxes and “There Was an Old Man (be warned, there are some gross moments!) are accounts of mental breakdown in the starkest detail whilst “Virtually Famous flips and distorts reality.

Yes, it is a small collection, but Broken on the Inside packs a big punch. Strong, powerful and wonderfully dark, this is high quality writing and I would happily recommend it to anyone and everyone. 

Book Review – Darker Days: A Collection of Dark Fiction by Kenneth W. Cain

Darker Days A Collection of Dark Fiction, by Kenneth Cain

I’ve always enjoyed reading a good scary tale, and in my opinion short stories make the best medium for leading the reader through the “valley of fear.” Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed many horror novels over the years, but my favorite stories have always been short ones. That’s largely because they, by necessity, get right to the point and waste no time leading the reader right smack dab into the middle of the monster’s den.

Darker Days, by Kenneth Cain, is a great collection of tales that any fan of horror fiction would enjoy. There’s something in this book for everyone. The subject matter of the tales therein includes ghosts, cosmic horror, zombies, vampires, weird creatures, aliens, kaiju, and demons. While there were stories I enjoyed more than others, there wasn’t a single dud in this collection.

As I read through Cain’s stories, I found myself enjoying his style of writing. He does a good job of describing the setting and action without a lot of needless exposition. One thing I’ve never cared for is when a writer drones on for two pages describing what could be summed up in two sentences, and Cain avoids that nicely.

Probably my favorite story in the collection is “By the Crescent Moon. This one tells the tale of Mike, who has just moved into a house in the North Carolina countryside. The story works for me in several ways. There’s the trope of the dark, foggy night, with something strange lurking out there. It ties in with folklore, especially Welsh legends that touched the New World. Throw in a creepy old woman who possesses knowledge of the legends and lore of the area, and who tries to warn Mike against venturing out into the hills on that foggy night, and you’ve got the setting for a really creepy tale. Of course, Mike shuns her advice and things go to hell fairly quickly. But hey, if people acted with good common sense and clear rational thought, there would be no scary story. There would just be the tale of the guy who heeded advice and went back home, locked the door, and went to bed.  And who wants to read that story?

All in all, Darker Days is a solid set of stories that should entertain most any horror enthusiast.  For my part, I look forward to reading more of Cain’s work.  Next time you’re looking for a good scary read, you won’t go wrong grabbing a copy of this book.

Book Review: Twerk by Isobel Blackthorn

Twerk by Isobel Blackthorn

Reviewed by Chantal Boudreau

When this title came up on the review list, I was more than a little intrigued.  Adding sexy to horror can make for an interesting mix.

I have to be honest–in the past when I’ve read horror with an erotic element, it tends to be on the vulgar side without stylistic sophistication, so I was pleased to see a writing style with this story that exceeded my expectations (Although it wasn’t exactly delicate in its approach and some of the “terminology” and metaphors made me chuckle.) It captures the pole dancing experience in great detail, giving it a sense of being tangible. It also carries the perspective over into the realm of social media–a reflection of real life.

I appreciated the descriptive imagery, covering multiple senses. It allows for a freer transition from the hot physicality of lust to the cold reality of death. I enjoyed the story and it kept my interest and attention, strong in most ways. If there was one weakness I would have to say it lay in the characterization. While I felt entrenched in the plot as I read, caught up in the gritty “behind the scenes” of the dancers, I didn’t feel equally invested in the characters. Character interaction and childhood stories helped with character development, but I was still missing a sense of connection. As the story spiraled to its violent conclusion, though, this didn’t seem to matter as much.

All in all, I would recommend this as a good read, four out of five stars, particularly if you have a yen to read something very dark and a little depraved.

Book Review: Cribbins by H. R. Dixon

Review: Cribbins by H. R. Dixon

Reviewed by Chantal Boudreau

Writing this review was a real struggle or me.  I usually don’t like to write reviews heavy on the negative, nor do I like sitting on the fence.  At the same time, I felt this book was worth talking about.  For all the negative, there is a great deal of positive to be mentioned as well.

I’ll address the cons up front since most of them are at the start of the book – I almost gave up reading in Chapter 2, but I would have missed out on the better parts that followed.

The first thing that struck me was that there was too much exposition in the opening chapter, to the point of being repetitive.  I think this was presented this way to bring focus to the protagonist’s, Sophie Harrington, medical predicament, but it didn’t work for me.  I found it actually detracted from the introduction of Sophie even though the idea was interesting.  Character development was far better in Chapter 2, exploring the Sophie’s background and her relationship with her family, but the pacing was slow and it was done at the expense of story development.  This picks up in Chapter 3.

Normally I give a few small editing issues a pass as long as the story is good, but there were enough editing issues in this book that I found it distracting and I have a fairly high tolerance.

The other thing that bothered me was contrasting language – lofty language in some places where simpler language would have worked better, followed soon after by slang which added a sense of discord, and accompanied by awkward metaphors.  It felt forced and I much preferred the parts later in the book where the writing felt more natural.

With those out of the way, here are the reasons you *should* read this book.

First of all, it has a really Interesting story concept.  A supernatural, malevolent neighbour who is the cause of the protagonist’s autoimmunity seemed refreshingly novel. It’s what intrigued me about the book, why I agreed to review it, and why I kept reading past Chapter 2.

Secondly, and one of the stronger points in its favour, this story has realistic, well-rounded characters.  Sophie, her parents, her daughter, her coworkers – they’re all perfectly believable and outside the expected stereotypes.

The author offers evocative description in places – I especially like the descriptions that were kept simple but really gave you a genuine feel for what was being described (the description of her parents, for example, or her cozy bed.).  Unlike that intended for exposition, the description intended for atmosphere was natural and relatable, and the story considerably better for it.

And the two points that would probably appeal most horror fans, the villain is effectively creepy, once he is introduced, and there is a good use of psychological horror rather than relying on gore.  Some scenes are quite claustrophobic, lending an effective sense of being followed and then trapped.  I can honestly say I was scared in places.

In conclusion, if you are willing to look past the flaws in the beginning, this is a story worth reading.  I’d rate in 2.5 stars with a strong leaning towards 3 or 4 later in the book.

Book Review: Tribal Screams

Tribal Screams by Owl Goingback (Independent Legions Publishing)

5/5 stars

I have never read anything by this author before but after reading this collection, that will almost certainly change. His stories span the centuries, from the arrival of Spanish conquistadors in America, to the days of the American Civil War, to Vietnam and the present. There are stories of Native American Indian beliefs and Voodoo magic, unwary pacts with the Devil and the consequences of lives ill-spent.

I enjoyed all the stories and had more-or-less decided to award the book 4/5 stars and then I read Grass Dancer, Goingback’s Nebula Award nomination. This is a story of two brothers from the Kiowa. One goes to fight in Vietnam, the other, only 11-years-old waits for him at home. Confined to a wheelchair, he is tasked with looking after Roger’s dance regalia. I am not giving any spoilers here, but the emotion that poured out of these pages towards the end of the story was powerful. I choked up then, and am doing so now as I think about it. Very few stories have this effect on me and shows how skilful the author is. It was this story that turned the collection into one worthy of 5 stars.

Another favourite, but one chosen because of its humour, is Animal Sounds. Snapping Turtle is a medicine man fearing his power is waning as the animals disappear and his people starve. A trip to the Spirit Mountain to discover the cause of their misfortune sees him encounter cannibal skeletons. The part where he persuades each skeleton to donate a leg so he make a ladder and they then have to spend their time hopping about was wonderful.

Want a ghost story? Look no further than Last Man In Line, where a fraternity initiation ceremony leads to an encounter with the ghosts of the past in Andersonville, site of Camp Sumpter, prison to forty thousand Union soldiers.

In addition to the short stories, Goingback includes the first four chapters of his novel Coyote Rage, which is due to be published in 2019. Coyote gets up to mischief on the Great Council, intending to remove its last remaining human member, a frail old man, Luther Watie, in order to restore the supremacy of the animal kingdom. Tracking the Cherokee down to an old people’s home, Coyote is recognised by Luther …

And that’s where Goingback left it. I look forward to reading the completed version when it comes out next year.

Owl Goingback is a skilful and accomplished storyteller, a true master of his art. I will most certainly be looking out for more of his work in future.