Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: The Giant

 

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

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

High Points:

Complaints:

Overall: This movie left a lot of unanswered questions

Stars: 2 1/2 Stars

Where I watched it: VOD

 

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

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

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

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

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

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

Book Review: Smithy by Amanda Desiree

Reviewed by Ariel DaWintre

Genre: Horror-paranormal

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

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

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

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Riot Legion

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

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

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

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


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

 

The Dead Lands : Directed by Tao Fraser

The Dead Lands – Directed (2014) by Tao Fraser 

Reviewed by Kate Nox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thumbs up on horror and realism!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: kjudgemental

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

Hello Addicts,

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J.

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Vexillary

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

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

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

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

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

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Held

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

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

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

Complaints: None!

Overall: Love it

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: Screener

 

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

 

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

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

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

Complaints: I don’t have any complaints

Overall: I enjoyed the heck out of this!

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: Netflix

 

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

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

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

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Dissonance

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

Complaints: None

Overall: I really enjoyed this super creepy little movie!

Stars: 3 1/2

Where I watched it: Sling

 

 

Book Review : Aleister Blake by Valentina Cano

Review by Matt Morovich

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

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

That said, this book, Aleister Blake

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

And that is not a bad thing in the slightest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Static – X

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: In The Earth

 

 

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

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

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

Complaints:

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

Stars: 4 1/2

Where I watched it: Screener

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Kindred

 

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

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

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

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

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

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: Shudder

 

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

Ro’s Recs – Vision Video

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

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

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

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

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

From The Vault: Midnight Syndicate’s Monsters of Legend

 

MOL

 

Reblogged from 12/14/2013

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

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

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

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

Midnight Syndicate

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

GROTESQUE: MONSTER STORIES 

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

Reviewed by Renata Pavrey

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

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

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

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

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

~Lee Murray

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

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

My rating of the book: 5/5

Renata Pavrey

March 2021


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

https://tomesandtales365.wordpress.com/Asian

 

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

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

by Rebecca Rowland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 



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

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Riot Legion

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

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

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

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


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

 

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

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

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/wdijwcommunity

https://twitter.com/horrorfreq

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

Hello Addicts,

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

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

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

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

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J. Pitsiladis

Book Review: Blackwater Val by William Gorman

Blackwater Val  by William Gorman
Reviewed by Ariel DaWintre

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

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

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

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

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Vexillary

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

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

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

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

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

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: The Vigil

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

The Vigil 

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

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

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

Complaints: None!

Overall: I LOVED IT!

Stars: 5 Stars!

Where I watched it: VOD

 

WOMEN WRITING HORROR: A Listicle of Women to Read

WOMEN WRITING HORROR by Renata Pavrey

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

  1. Agustina Maria Bazterrica – Tender is the Flesh

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

       2. Ally Blue – Down

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

       3. Alma Katsu – The Deep

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

       4. Cassandra Khaw – Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef

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

       5. Christina Henry – The Ghost Tree

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

       6. Christina Sng – Dreamscapes

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

       7. Elizabeth Kostova – The Historian

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

       8. Fernanda Melchor – Hurricane Season

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

       9. Francine Toon – Pine

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

       10. Gemma Amor – Dear Laura

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

       11.Jennifer Hillier – Wonderland

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

       12. Jennifer McMahon – Winter People

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

       13. Joyce Carol Oates – The Doll Master

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

       14. Kaaron Warren – Into Bones Like Oil

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

        15. Kathe Koja – The Cipher

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

        16. Laura Purcell – The Silent Companions

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

        17.  Laurel Hightower – Crossroads

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

        18. Lee Murray – Grotesque

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

        19. Lisa Kröger – Monster, She Wrote

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

        20. Lucy A. Snyder – Sparks and Shadows

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

        21. Mariana Enriquez – Things We Lost in the Fire

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

        22. Mariko Koike – The Graveyard Apartment

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

        23. Michelle Paver – Thin Air

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

        24. Nalo Hopkinson – Skin Folk

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

        25. Samanta Schweblin – Fever Dream

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

        26. Taeko Kono – Toddler Hunting

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

        27. Yoko Ogawa – Revenge

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

        28. Yrsa Sigurdardottir – I Remember You

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

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

  1. Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn – Black Cranes

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

       2. Aiki Flinthart – Relics, Wrecks, and Ruins

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

        3. Tricia Reeks – Meerkat Press

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

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

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Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Anything for Jackson

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

Anything for Jackson 

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

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

High Points: The strong storyline and original plot

Complaints: I don’t have any!

Overall: I super loved this movie!

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: Shudder

 

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

Book Review – REVENGE by Yoko Ogawa (Japanese)

(English translation by Stephen Snyder)

Review by Renata Parvey

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

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

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

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

My rating – 5/5 

Renata Pavrey ~ December 2020

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

Asian Horror Month: Lily Wong Books by Tori Eldridge

Review: Lily Wong Books by Tori Eldridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About Angela Yuriko Smith

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

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

Article by Kieran Judge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: kjudgemental

Asian Horror Month: Princess Resurrection by Yasunori Mitsunaga

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

Hiro

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

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

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

What you’ll find in Volume 1:princessr

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

What you’ll find in Volume 2:

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

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

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Dissonance

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

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

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

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Deathcember

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

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

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

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

Complaints: Nothing really

Overall: Highly recommend

Stars: 4 Stars

Where I watched it: Amazon Prime

 

Live Action Reviews! By Crystal Connor: May The Devil Take You, Too.

At 3:37 am on November 8th 2020, Crystal Connor, finally settled into her sleeping bag on the couch with snacks within reach and picked up her remote. The footage you are about to see chronicles the harrowing experience that her neighbors endured for hours as she screamed, cried, and shouted expletive obscenities at her television as she watched: May The Devil Take You, Too!

Viewer discretion Advised

Plotline: Two years after escaping from a demonic terror, Alfie and Nara try to continue their lives, but Alfie is still haunted by feelings of guilt and unnatural visions.

Who would like it: Everyone who loved the 1st movie, fans of occult films, possessions, gore hounds, Fx fans, and international horror movies

High Points:This was a really good sequel with a original story line from the 1st.

Complaints: None!

Overall: Love it…better than the 1st

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: Shudder

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 reviewing indie horror and science fiction films for HorrorAddicts she’s terrorizing her fans with new written horrors and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences.

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Static – X

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review: LeRoux Manor by Liz Butcher

I was drawn to LeRoux Manor by Liz Butcher with the promises of a spooky old house and possibly some ghosts. What I found was a spooky YA Thriller with so many different types of paranormal activity, I didn’t really know what was going on until the last moment and even now, I still have questions. Perhaps there will be a sequel. 

Camille is an Aussie teenager whose parents move her to their ancestral home in England during her most formative high school years. A bit of culture shock isn’t the biggest thing for her to deal with when it seems she’s moved into a haunted house. If not haunted, it does have some secrets to tell. 

LeRoux Manor is a legend in her new town, mostly known for a dinner party that went awry years ago. With the help of some new school friends and a crush named Lachlan, Camille pieces together parts of a puzzle in search of answers as to why her family wanted her parents to give her away and why she shares the birthday of an old ancestor who went missing and has never been found.

While reading, I did find myself wondering if Camille was crazy. Was she just imagining things, or was the house actually making her see things that weren’t there? Who is the woman in the woods she spies from her bedroom window? Why did Lachlan’s Uncle disappear after visiting the estate? What exactly is that weird being reaching out of the large wardrobe in her bedroom? Who’s the little kid skittering around the attic?

This book reads very YA, but for those of you who adore spooky houses like I do, you might not mind. For fans of The Haunting, The Woman in Black, and The Haunting of Bly Manor, you’ll be thrilled with spooky middle of the night snooping, phantom earthquakes, and creepy servants lurking about. With jump scares that would be more at home on film, I was only mildly caught off-guard in the beginning, but as the teen’s experience more and more strange occurrences on an all-night fear-fest, their fear becomes contagious like the scare you might have experienced at camp when someone told a ghost story around the campfire. 

Guest Blog: What’s your Jam? by Michael Fassbender

What’s Your Jam? By Michael Fassbender

Recently, I was browsing on Stuart Conover’s site, The Horror Tree, and I saw an interview with a publisher who got his start with a Punk magazine. While he’s branched out to the realm of fiction, the punk sensibility has never left him. Indeed, “punk” is the second adjective in the list of qualities he’s looking for in prospective stories. For those who have been a part of that scene, the punk sensibility remains an enduring part of their character. 

It’s a sensibility that resonates with many writers, as attested by the gamut of subgenres from Splatterpunk to Steampunk. It’s not one that resonates with me, however. I identify with a competing scene, Heavy Metal, and have done since I was in high school. Superficially, there are certain similarities: music that is played loud and features distorted guitars, and wardrobes that boast a lot of black T-shirts, but there aren’t too many common threads beyond these. 

As art forms, Punk and Metal are created very differently. In Punk, the medium is secondary to the message, and Punk Rock songs tend to be fast, energetic, and haphazard. The band is reminding you that they don’t take anything seriously, including themselves and their music. Metal bands are quite different; they may take nothing else in the world seriously, but they are fiercely earnest in their dedication to their craft. They are perfectionists in their technique, and for those unfamiliar with the genre, surprisingly sophisticated in their composition. Much of the Metal scene has been converging with classical music at least since Randy Rhoads recorded “Blizzard of Ozz” with Ozzy Osbourne in the early eighties. Doubters are urged to listen to string quartet or piano arrangements of Metal songs, such as Apocalyptica’s first two albums.

Both genres relish horror imagery. It just manifests itself differently. Punk horror art takes on a pop culture veneer, almost an Andy Warhol approach. Metal horror art favors the look of medieval woodcuts, Hieronymous Bosch paintings and Grand Guignol-style performance stills. Contrast the imagery of The Misfits and Mercyful Fate, and you’ll see what I mean. Each of these bands exemplifies the horror aesthetics of its team.

We generally don’t hear about a Metal sensibility in horror fiction. We don’t have Occultmetal or Possessionmetal subgenres in the community, but upon examination of my own habits as a writer, I see common threads with the musicians I champion. I share their perfectionist tendencies in terms of technique. Typos and faulty grammar vex me, unless they’re meant to appear in the story as a function of characterization. I was mortified recently when I discovered a continuity error in a story that had reached the final proofing stage. For the most part, I like to think that my stories are in good editorial shape when I present them to editors. Whether or not they resonate with the editor is another matter entirely.

It’s not just about the technique, either. I do take myself and my art seriously. I’d rather give my readers the chills than make them laugh — or score points in an imaginary debate. In terms of horror styles, I have a marked preference for supernatural horror, although this encompasses a number of subcategories, such as Lovecraftian, occult and mythological themes. The same preoccupations reign among many Metal acts, from Scandinavian Black Metal through retro acts like Blood Ceremony and Brimstone Coven. And in execution, I prefer to write my stories in earnest, not with irony. One annoyance I’ve had with the Lovecraftian community is the prevalence of tongue-in-cheek content. Overtly jokey stories and poems only serve to lighten the mood.

Metal and Punk are not the only musical in-groups with substantial linkage to horror. Goth is a third, and it carries its own sensibility to the same literary well. Of the three groups, the Goths probably feel the greatest affection for classic tropes like vampires and ghosts. The differences with Metal are more in the realm of nuance: Metalheads are more likely to present monsters as menacing, and Goths more as misunderstood. Goths are more likely to bask in the melancholy side of the spectrum, and Metalheads incline more to the macabre side. Nor should these three musical genres feel that they control horror imagery in music; other bands have swum the same waters, either intermittently or chronically. Stephen King is famous for interjecting his classic rock obsessions into his fiction.

Herein lies the significance of the exercise. Readers in general, and writers in particular, are likely to discern common threads in the literature that drives them, the films that excite them, and the music that drives them. While the linkage between books and movies is obvious, given the number of stories that came to the screen after success on the page, the relevance of musical taste can be just as significant, at least if the musical interest is a strong one. Horror writers can learn a great deal about themselves and what drives them if they stop to consider their musical tastes and examine their parallels in the fiction they love and the stories they produce.

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Michael Fassbender is a part-time writer in the Chicago area. His story “Inmate” appeared in Sanitarium Magazine in 2016; “The Cold Girl” appeared in Hypnos Magazine in 2016 and has resurfaced in October 2019 in a volume entitled Re-Haunts. “But Together We Are Strong” has appeared in the February 2020 issue of Horror Magazine, “Miroir de Vaugnac” found its place in Dark Divinations on May Day, and “Schattenlenker’s Hidden Treasure” was revealed in The Nightside Codex in August. This Halloween, “Old Growth” began spreading in Scary Stuff. You can read about more of his work on his website, michaeltfassbender.com.

Historian of Horror: Hot Town, Summer in the 60’s

On a regular basis when we were kids, my brother and I were shipped off from Nashville to visit our grandmothers and cousins for a few weeks every summer so our parents could get a well-deserved rest from our shenanigans. Today, I suspect that would be considered child abuse at best, given that we were ferried by either car or train to a small town in Northern Alabama in the days before the pervasive hum and whir of air conditioning could be heard everywhere. 

The funny thing is, I don’t remember the heat being all that oppressive. There were lots of electric fans, and open windows, and sleeping in upstairs bedrooms under thin sheets, while the distant sound of a train whistle carried us away with it into slumberland after long discussions about girls and Auburn football and whether or not it were possible to tip one of my uncle’s Black Angus bulls. It’s not, by the way, and given how much at least one of them resented the attempt, it’s a wonder any of us are still alive.

Good times.

Even better, for the voracious consumer of popular culture that I was even at the tender age of eleven, was that a marvelous new invention did arrive in Athens about 1969, one that would not make it to Nashville for another sixteen years. Nowadays, cable television is almost quaint, but in those halcyon days of three channels, it was a magic carpet ride that carried me for that brief, hot period beyond the Lawrence Welk schmaltz and Mike Douglas talking about God knows what with people you’d never heard of and soap operas that for some reason didn’t feature vampires, and all the other adult programming that pervaded the local airwaves of the tiny town to which we were remanded into durance vile for those few weeks.

I’m exaggerating, of course. We had lots of fun with the cousins, and occasionally with the kids who went to the Baptist and Methodist churches in which our grandmothers were virtually matriarchic figures. But there are times when you just want to turn on the TV, and it was in Athens that I first encountered What Lay Beyond.

Athens is about halfway between Nashville to the north and Birmingham to the south, and twenty miles west of Huntsville, which at the time had, I believe, one television station. If the weather conditions were just right, you could almost pick up a Nashville station and maybe two Birmingham stations, but you couldn’t count on it. Which is exactly why the first rudimentary cable system I encountered was in tiny Athens. Its original purpose was apparently to bring those distant network affiliates (and their commercials) out into the hinterlands.

I have no idea at this late date which of the ten buttons on my grandmother’s cable box I pressed to find the old horror pictures I was already enamored of, but I sure figured it out at the time. A few days into our enforced vacation, I had started missing the daily after-school movie, the Big Show on Channel Five from which I normally got my fix. When I discovered something close enough to it to serve in a pinch, I latched on to it. I remember seeing old-time movie star Jon Hall stomping around in a rubber suit in Monster in the Surf for the first time on whatever channel it was, along with the big-headed BEMs from Invasion of the Saucer Men and a string of pictures that were rather clumsily dubbed into English and with the credits in Spanish.   

I had never seen Mexican horror movies before. The Big Show was full of Universal monsters and Hammer horrors and Japanese behemoths stomping model cities flat, but nothing like this new thing I’d found. I don’t recall any specific titles from that summer more than fifty years ago, but I do remember that they were fun, and spooky, and some of them starred masked wrestlers. I was a big fan at that age of the local wrestlers who popped up on TV back home, Jacky Fargo and Tojo Yamamoto and that crowd, so I gleefully absorbed the adventures of Santo and the Blue Devil as they battled a variety of monsters and mad scientists that summer, while my grandmother was off working at the local newspaper where she was the society editor. I’m sure she would have disapproved, had she known. 

But isn’t that the best part?

The Mexican horror movies weren’t there on her cable box the next time I visited Athens. It was years before I saw any of them again. It took the internet to bring them back into view, and while I understand the draw those specific films must have had on my eleven year old mind, this much older geezer is looking for something a little more sophisticated. And, just as one should never judge classic North American films by, say, the Bowery Boys, one should look for a higher level of fright-inducing Mexican cinematics with an expectation that one would find it.

One did.

I will admit that, despite my early exposure to Mexican films, I am not yet as conversant with the national oeuvre as I am with, say, French or Japanese filmmaking. I suppose it does take a while to get all the way around the world and back close to home again in exploring world cinema, even with the wonders available online. I am of course familiar with the great films made by Spanish ex-patriot Luis Buñuel during his time in Mexico from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. The Exterminating Angel is the closest I can think of to Buñuel having made a genre film, but I’m not really sure it can be classified as a horror film. I might take a gander at it in this space down the road, anyhow, but for now, let’s look, as we would pretty much have to in regards to North American horror films, at the middle range of overall cinematic quality.

And there it is that we find a number of quite good Mexican horror films in the early 1960s, on a level with anything being done in the genre by Hollywood filmmakers such as Roger Corman or William Castle, if not, in some cases, better. (Notice how nimbly I wriggled out of including Psycho in that category? Hitchcock was a director on a par with Buñuel, and like the Spaniard, not really a horror director, per se, no matter how he might have dabbled in its pleasures.)

I will speak in future of Messers Corman and Castle. For now, let’s speak of la Llorona.

The Weeping Woman, in English. An old Mexican folktale about an abandoned mother who avenges the betrayal of her unfaithful husband/lover by murdering their children. She regrets her act when denied entry into Heaven, and is fated to roam the Earth in search of her dead children. Since they are beyond her reach, she seeks to replace them with the children of other mothers, with dire results all around. It’s one of those cautionary tales meant to keep the younguns of Mesoamerica in line. I have no data as to how well it works. What I do have is some Mexican-made films I want to have us all take a look at.

I’m not in this instance concerned with the numerous recent North American and Mesoamerican cinematic examinations, of varying quality, of the ancient legend. And by recent, I should point out that I mean anything since about 1980. When you get to my age, that’s when the cut-off date between old and new falls. Hell, I’m so old, cougars are barely legal.

Can I get a rimshot? No? Oh, well. Never mind.

I want to examine in this space three of the earliest films that were constructed around this legend – 1933’s La Llorona, 1960’s La Llorona, and 1963’s The Curse of the Crying Woman. There is one from 1947 I haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy of yet, La Herencia de la Llorona, but I hope to correct that oversight in the very near future. I expect I’ll address that one in a coda to a future column if you would all be so kind as to be patient with an auld phart.

The first la Llorona film, indeed the first Mexican horror film, was directed by Ramón Peón, one of roughly seventy films he made over a long career. La Llorona is not a bad film, but production-wise, about on a par with one of the better Hollywood Poverty Row studio films of its period. Some of this impression could be a simple lack of a good, restored copy, given that I’ve only been able to find a rather fuzzy presentation on YouTube, along with poorly synced subtitles to match. Maybe. The running time, like many of the la Llorona films of all periods, is taken up with an extensive flashback of the original legend as it unfolded in the late 16th Century. There is a second flashback to an even earlier, similar legend, that of la Malinche. She was the Aztec translator for and lover of Hernando Cortez, who also responded to being treated shabbily by killing the children she had borne the Conquistador almost a century before la Llorona began to weep. I’m not sure that segment adds to the overall quality of the film, but it does have some interest as a historical artifact. None of the other pictures I looked at for this column featured that older tale.

I think I might have just noticed a few eyes glaze over there a moment ago when I mentioned Poverty Row. My wife has been complaining for forty years now that I tend to throw out terms without always explaining them. I promise I will take a long, loving, terrified look at the old Hollywood studio system in the not-too-distant future, including what that phrase meant in the history of our genre. For now, you only need to know that Poverty Row was the collective noun for small, cheaply run and often fly-by-night independent studios mostly clustered along Gower Street in Hollywood that produced, at best, grade B movies. Westerns, serials, gangster pictures, and low-grade but often quite enjoyable horror pictures poured out of these movie mills, some shot in a matter of days on budgets that wouldn’t pay for a good used car today.

Moving on. That first La Llorona film has placed around the two flashbacks a contemporary story involving descendants of the original family, and the peril to the newest member, Juanito, on his fourth birthday. According to a legend related by the mother’s father, every first-born child in that line of descent disappeared on their fourth birthday, carried away by la Llorona. A mysterious, cloaked and masked figure lurks around the set, peering through secret panels and other such conventions of the Old Dark House sub-genre. It has comic relief, red herrings and all the trappings of better, and worse films. The climax reveals – Spoiler alert! – that it has been a trusted servant that has been possessed by the evil spirit of la Llorona. It had been she who was behind the several thwarted attempts to make away with the little boy.

As I stated above, not bad. Competently acted and directed, with a brisk but not rushed pace, it’s an enjoyable film of its period, with all the technical limitations inherent to that era. I just wish I could have found better subtitles, as my Spanish is not much better than at a ‘decipher-the-menu’ level. I suspect if I had been able to, I’d rate this one at C+. As it is, it’s a solid C.

The identically named version from 1960 is, structurally, very similar to the first film, but technically on a much higher level. I could easily see this coming from a North American studio of the caliber of Columbia or a second-tier Universal unit in that same time period. In fact, it reminds me, stylistically and technically, of one of the better William Castle vehicles, without the distracting gimmicks. A solid, well-made film, very enjoyable. I liked that the identity of la Llorona is made clear during her repeated attempts to do away with the child in this version. The build up of suspense for every attempt is handled with stylistic flair and subtle, gradual make-up effects at least as good as a contemporary Hollywood picture of its kind and time. B+

That leaves us with what is perhaps the most problematic of the films under consideration, The Curse of the Crying Woman, AKA La Maldición de la Llorona. Problematic in that it doesn’t exactly fit thematically with the others, being closer in tone and storyline to one of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allen Poe adaptations. Still, it’s quite an attractively mounted film, albeit in black-&-white rather than the color productions Corman was making by 1963. Otherwise, the influence is obvious. Its historical setting, in this case, the mid-to-late 19th Century, the mise en scene, the acting, are all seemingly in keeping with the style Corman had established north of the Rio Grande. And yet, its departures from the basic legend make it hard to judge as a la Llorona film. 

Oh, boy, I did it again, didn’t I? Mise en scene is, simply put, everything in a film or play that isn’t acting or dialogue. Costumes, set design, props, lighting, music, etc. Clear as mud? Moving on.

This time out, the spirit of la Llorona is lurking around an ancient house, waiting to displace the soul of her nearest available female descendant. At the exact moment of her twenty-fifth birthday, the latest in the line is fated to pull a spear out of what looks like a Medieval torture device known as a Catherine Wheel upon which the decayed corpse of the original la Llorona has been pinned since she was executed for her crimes. That will free the spirit of la Llorona to possess the young woman so she can carry on her demonic career. The somewhat convenient escape of the insane former owner of the crumbling house, up until the climax locked away in the bell tower, scotches the evil plans by strangling the villainous aunt so that the heroine can escape with her less-than-hypercompetent husband. 

Good, solid filmmaking of its kind and era. I rate it a B. 

I hope the populace doesn’t object to my comparing these efforts of the Mexican studios to the contemporary output of Hollywood. I’m making the perhaps unwarranted assumption that the majority of the folks likely to read this are more familiar with North American horror films, and that that familiarity might provide some context for fitting these three pictures into the overall history of the genre. If I’m incorrect, feel free to let me have it with both barrels in your comments. I’m a tough old codger. I can take it.

Until next time, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Union Kain

 

 

Greetings HorrorAddicts!

This month we’re listening to the metal band Union Kain. Hailing from Florida, the band put out a heavy album in 2020 titled Black Dawn. Lead singer Glazergirl is commanding as a Dilana-Esque vocalist and she’s backed by a talented group of musicians. The band’s sound is a combination of 80s era hard rock/heavy metal like early Motley Crue with a touch of Black Sabbath on tunes like “Black Dawn.” Glazergirl’s vocals would make Ronnie James Dio proud. There’s a theatricality to their sound that adds appeal. “Persistence” has a Pantera vibe and is a stand out track. The guitars on songs like “Your Own Kind” are impressive and would appeal to the more established members of the metal community.

Lyrically the band attempts to create somewhat of a concept album on Black Dawn, covering all of the wrongs in the world from Cain and Abel to today’s internet meme fascination. There are some production inconsistencies that can distract from the overall enjoyment of the album, but perhaps with personnel changes that were announced on the band’s website their next album will be even better. 

Overall, Union Kain has a sound that will appeal to old school metal fans and hard rockers alike. I wish them luck with their future endeavors. If you are in those categories, I encourage you to check them out. 

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

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

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Ro’s Recs October

Ro’s Recs October

Hey HorrorAddicts! I hope you all are staying safe and insane—I mean healthy—during these peculiar times, and I hope, like me, you are taking advantage of all the PHENOMENAL horror offerings this season! MAN! What a great time to be a horror fan! 

One of the best films I’ve watched recently is the Shudder film The Mortuary Collection, directed by Ryan Spindell and starring Clancy Brown. A nod to anthology films like Creepshow and Tales of the Crypt, The Mortuary Collection is at turns ominous, creepy, campy, and MAN does it ROCK! I found myself digging the music so much I whipped out the old iPhone and used Shazam! to try to find out who was responsible for these groovy tunes. Much to my chagrin, the tunes were nowhere to be found.

But thanks to my pal Google, I did a little more digging and I discovered the culprits: The Mondo Boys. This duo has been making music together since they were fifteen and are not only quite adept at creating hauntingly beautiful scores, but at writing “lyric-and-vocal” pieces as well.

For this film, they had the challenge of creating an Elfman-esque/Potter-ish score as well as tunes to go with different eras portrayed in the film. You had a Frat-boy-gone-bad tune in “Little Lover,” a funky throwback in “Suicide,” and the 60s reminiscent back-and-forth in “Find Me In The Fall” that suck you into the theme of that section of the film as though you’d switched on a radio station made of the exact ingredients necessary to evoke the desired emotion. You know it’s the perfect soundtrack when you’re pulling up iTunes or Spotify to download the songs. Ahem…Mondo Boys, if you’re reading, will you get right on that? In the meantime, you can stream the songs on their website.

So, the next time you’re watching a film and think “huh, I wonder who wrote that song? It’s perfect for this scene,” you just might discover that The Mondo Boys are responsible. You can find their website at https://www.mondoboys.com and I encourage you to check out their other projects. The Mortuary Collection is a great film. Check it out and I guarantee you that you’ll be smiling so wide your face will ache by the time it’s through!

That’s it for this month. Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings and Ro’s Recs…

Merrill’s Musical Musings – Isolation

Greetings and Salutations. I come to you from a very eerie sepia-toned day in September and bring some musical goodness to ease your troubled minds. I hope you, like me, are taking some solace in the fact that the most glorious time for all horror lovers looms near, and with it, may we embrace our darkness and all that is spooky and creepy. 

This month we are checking out the digital album Mechants by Isolation. Their experimental music, which you can find on Bandcamp, is a combination of an 80s horror soundtrack and a Roisin Murphy tune. According to their artist bio, Isolation project “is a soundtrack-based project that has been created by two UK-based collaborators. The style of music can range from horror, thriller, ambient, sci-fi, and more.” The artists state they are influenced by David Lynch films, and you can definitely pick up that vibe by listening. I tested out my new SkullCandy wireless headphones on this album and I couldn’t stand still. Instrumental music doesn’t always hold my attention, but these tracks make so many twists and turns that the listener wouldn’t necessarily expect and I found myself getting lost in the music. Standout tracks for me were “Never Knowing Napier,” the disturbing “Dr. Quinn,” and then the track “Edwards Arkham” had me feeling like the walls were closing in, very apropos of the isolation and claustrophobia of our quarantine times. Not all of the tracks had a consistent beat, but the music lends itself to modern dance choreography, film and TV soundtracks, and for the average listener, it makes a good accompaniment to your run/walk/workout. 

Ironically the cover art looks very much like the atmosphere outside my house today. It features a firelit sky in reds and oranges with deadened trees and smoke, which definitely reflects the many ways the world is on fire at the moment. I hope you’ll give this album a listen and pick it up if you’re so inclined. Bandcamp has been doing a great job supporting communities in need this summer and I love to see people support them in their endeavors. I think we’ll eventually see this duo doing scores for TV/Movies and I look forward to more of their work.

Thanks for joining me this month and Stay Tuned for Ro’s Recs coming soon. Enjoy the most wonderful time of the year…

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.