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Most people have a fair understanding of the classic slasher flick. Made popular by Halloween in 1978, with predecessors including The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Black Christmas, Psycho etc, the idea of killing people off one by one has been immortalised by the formulae refined by films of this type. However, the slasher film is very closely linked to the Giallo (roughly pronounced jea-low), a type of Italian film which was very popular in the sixties and seventies, and bred a slew of filmmakers still admired and imitated today. This article won’t be a comprehensive discussion of the Giallo, as I’m a fan of the genre and not a scholar of it, but it will hopefully provide an introduction to those not aware of it, and give you a couple of movies to add to the ‘to-be-watched’ list.
Originally, gialli were cheap crime paperbacks, a bit like pulp novels, that were printed by Mondadori and trademarked with an instantly recognisable yellow cover. Hence this gave birth to the term Giallo, meaning ‘yellow’. These were mostly translations of Agatha Christie, Edgar Lee Wallace, Arthur Conan Doyle, and other similar authors. It’s important to make a distinction between the types of crime fiction, however. Gialli focused more on the graphic violence and the sleuths, rather than gun-toting noir police work. As Gary Needham says:
The publication of gialli increased throughout the 1930s and 40s, however, the importation and translation of the 1940s “hard-boiled” detective fictions from the US were prohibited from publication outright by Mussolini on the grounds that their corrupting influence and glamorisation of crime would negatively influence “weak-minded” Italians. (Needham, 2002)
Despite some of the restrictions, the Italians began writing their own gialli, and the literature boomed in the ’30s and ’40s. By the late ’50s, it had started to make its way across to film. The main mastermind behind its initial translation to the screen was Mario Bava, a film legend in his own right. After all, it was his film, Black Sabbath, which gave the band their name, who helped invent and pioneer the Heavy Metal genre of music.
Though he made a splash in ’63 with his film The girl who knew too much, it was his 1964 film, Blood and Black Lace, which really kicked things off. Dispensing with the police-procedural elements of previous films, Bava upped the sex and violence, turning the stalking sequences into major set pieces in their own right. Despite being a financial failure at the time, it has gone on to be critically appreciated and influenced dozens of filmmakers after. It set the template of what was to come after. It also introduced the killer in a black coat with black gloves, very much like Jack the Ripper, which would be the usual getup for Giallo killers as time went on.
A few years later, the most influential Giallo filmmaker would take up the mantle. Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage incorporated a twisted, convoluted plotline with stunning visuals that earned him the nickname ‘the Italian Hitchcock.’ The film was an international success, and still has one of my personal favourite twists of all time. He followed this up with Four Flies on Grey Velvet a few years later, and then release one of his masterpieces in 1975, Profondo Rosso (Deep Red).
Around the early seventies, Sergio Martino also released films such as Torso, All the colours of the dark, and the incredibly titled, Your vice is a locked room and only I have the key. Lucio Fulci also breaks onto the scene here, directing films such as A lizard in a woman’s skin and Don’t torture a duckling in the early seventies. I’ve already written an article on Fulci here on HorrorAddicts.net, and I’ll include a link to that at the article’s end.
Because of their frequency of production and release at this time, gialli ended up like the Saw films did, with each film trying to out-do the previous in terms of twists and turns. I recall hearing Luigi Cozzi talk about this in relation to when he and Argento were batting around ideas for a film in which someone foresaw their death, then had to try and explain how it happened without psychic powers. The film, Profondo Rosso, was eventually made without Cozzi’s involvement, but he does own a horror memorabilia shop in Italy named after the film.
The gory death sequences continued throughout the seventies, continuing into Argento’s most famous film, Suspiria, which had a remake released last year. The brutal opening death scene with a body crashing through a stain glass window is as in horror history as Johnny Depp’s demise in the original Nightmare on Elm Street, and Goblin’s score for the film is something you find yourself humming walking down the street. Filled with vibrant colours and haunting imagery, it’s still shocking even today.
By the time the eighties came around, however, the Giallo was beginning to fade. Fulci’s return to the genre after doing his Gates of Hell trilogy were fairly laughable (Murder Rock is just funny, and there’s not a person in existence that can’t think of The New York Ripper without saying ‘quack’. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it and you’ll understand what I mean), and Argento has been making movies to this day, but nothing of any real note after the mid-eighties with Phenomena and Opera. The American slasher had taken the spotlight, and even that was, by the late eighties, beginning to run down its original formula.
These films are still influential, however. The film Abrakadabra, released last year by the Onetti Brothers, is a wonderful homage to the giallo, nailing everything from the groove-rock soundtrack to the quick zooms and grainy footage. Gialli are a wonderful time, those made around the late sixties/early seventies especially, as they have their own unique vibe, shooting style, and soundtracks. Unlike the slasher or the ghost story, it’s something that I highly doubt will ever make a proper return, but will stay immortalised as the brilliant pieces of cinema that they are. Sleazy, shocking, suspenseful; the Giallo is one of a kind.
-Article by Kieran Judge
FURTHER READING ON HORRORADDICTS.NET
A Nightmare on Elm Street. 1984. [Film] Directed by Wes Craven. United States of America: New Line Cinema.
Abrakadabra. 2018. [Film] Directed by Nicolas Onetti Luciano Onetti. Argentina/New Zealand: Black Mandala.
All the colours of the dark. 1972. [Film] Directed by Sergio Martino. Italy: Lea Film.
Black Christmas. 1974. [Film] Directed by Bob Clarke. Canada: Ambassador Films.
Black Sabbath. 1963. [Film] Directed by Mario Bava. Italy/France: Emmepi Cinematografica Societe.
Blood and Black Lace. 1964. [Film] Directed by Mario Bava. Italy: Emmepi.
Don’t Torture a Duckling. 1972. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: Medusa Produzione.
Four Flies on Grey Velvet. 1972. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: Seda Spettacoli.
Halloween. 1978. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Falcon International Productions.
Lizard in a Woman’s Skin. 1971. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: International Apollo Films.
Murder Rock. 1984. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: Scena Film.
Needham, G., 2002. Playing with genre: an introduction to the Italian Giallo. [Online]
Available at: http://www.kinoeye.org/02/11/needham11.php
[Accessed 20 07 2019].
Phenomena. 1985. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: DAC Film.
Profondo Rosso. 1975. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: Seta Spettacoli.
Psycho. 1960. [Film] Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. United States of America: Shamley Productions.
Saw. 2004. [Film] Directed by James Wan. USA: Twisted Pictures.
Suspiria. 1977. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: Seda Spettacoli.
Terror At The Opera. 1987. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: ADC Films.
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. 1970. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: CCC Filmkunst GmbH.
The New York Ripper. 1982. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: Fulvia Film.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown. 1976. [Film] Directed by Charles B. Pierce. USA: Charles B. Pierce Film Productions, Inc..
Torso. 1973. [Film] Directed by Sergio Martino. Italy: Compagnia Cinematografica Champion.
Your room is a locked vice and only I have the key. 1972. [Film] Directed by Sergio Martino. Italy: Luciano Martino.
Isobel Blackthorn is a prolific novelist of unique and engaging fiction. She writes dark psychological thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary and literary fiction. On the dark side are Twerk, The Cabin Sessions and The Legacy of Old Gran Parks. Her Canary Islands’ collection begins with “The Drago Tree” and includes “A Matter of Latitude” and “Clarissa’s Warning”. Her interest in the occult is explored in The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey, and the dark mystery A Perfect Square. Her short story, ‘Lacquer’, appears in the esteemed A Time for Violence anthology.
Isobel is a gracious and charming woman. We spoke of inspirations, influences, and surprising characters.
NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Isobel! Thank you for joining me today. Could you tell the Horror Addicts how old you were when you discovered horror?
IB: I discovered horror when I was sixteen and sat petrified in the movie theatre watching The Omen. Then came Rosemary’s Baby. I am not sure which was more terrifying. I could not bring myself to watch Carrie or The Exorcist. I was too easily spooked.
NTK: What author has influenced you most?
IB: Both King and Stoker were my early influences. Now I have been introduced to the novels of many horror authors, including the magnificent Sangré by Carlos Colón, a vampire tale like no other, and Return to Hiroshima by Bob van Laerhoven, which is as classy as noir thrillers get.
NTK: What inspired you to write The Cabin Sessions?
IB: The Cabin Sessions arose out of a combination of factors that were going on in my life at the time. That was how the book started out.
NTK: How much control do you exert over your characters? Do they have free will?
IB: As soon as I started writing The Cabin Sessions, a minor character stepped forward and took over the narrative. Nothing like that has happened to me as a writer before or since. It was a very dark and confronting process, giving her the freedom to express herself. I had my own internal horror story going on inside of me during the writing process as a result.
NTK: What is your creative process like? Do you outline before writing? Or do you just write as the mood strikes you?
IB: A little of both. I start out with an idea, which gradually gathers substance. I conjure a few characters, the setting, and the bones of a plot. Then, once I have enough, which usually takes a year, I start writing. I let the voice come, the narrator. Once I have the narrator, I write the first chapter and see where it takes me. Then, there is usually a bit of figuring out before I write the next few chapters. After that, I only plot when I have to. Sometimes I know the ending, sometimes I don’t.
NTK: Where do you find inspiration?
IB: I am inspired by everything. I follow my passion and it leads me all over the place. Every book I write is unique as a result. Horror is a vast genre and as soon as The Cabin Sessions came out and I tried to define it–it’s a dark psychological thriller–I began to explore all the other kinds of horror fiction out there and wondered where I was heading next. I decided I had an appetite for dark thrillers and as soon as I was introduced to Giallo, I was sold. My novel, Twerk, set in a Las Vegas strip club, draws on Giallo tropes.
NTK: What is the difference between a thriller and a horror story?
IB: A thriller follows certain rules and does not necessarily contain any horror tropes. Horror is all about the tropes. Horror is there to shock, to horrify, to revolt. Thrillers seek to thrill. I write dark thrillers and there is enough horror in them for all but the most hardline horror aficionados.
NTK: In your opinion, why do people enjoy horror? What attracts them to darkness?
IB: People like the adrenalin rush. It’s the same as a roller coaster. You are wobbly when you get off and kinda pleased it was over, then the rush fades out and you are in the queue for the next ride. It is very addictive.
NTK: What does the future hold for you? What do we have to look forward to?
IB: I have written three dark fiction novels and a few dark short stories. One has just come out in A Time for Violence, an anthology including shorts by Richard Chizmar and Max Allan Collins, Paul D. Brazill, Andrew Nette, Joe R. Lansdale, Elka Ray, and Tom Vater. My story, “Lacquer” forms the first chapter of a noir thriller set in San Francisco and Singapore.
I’ve also been shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge prose prize and my story will appear in the anthology.
NTK: Congratulations, Isobel! That’s awesome! Thank you so much for chatting with me.
IB: Thank you so much for this, Naching!
Why The Wicker Man Still Scares Us by Kieran Judge
Released in 1973, Robin Hardy’s British pagan horror movie takes a policeman (played by Edward Woodward) onto the Scottish island of Summerisle to investigate a girl’s disappearance. Despite a bad remake with Nicholas Cage, and a spiritual sequel that failed to impress, the original film still has the ability to deeply disturb on a strange, fundamental level. I’m going to outline why I think The Wicker Man, despite its age and lack of blood and monsters, still manages to thrill and scare today.
When Howie arrives on the island, you’re initially greeted by great aerial shots of the little plane flying past the rugged terrain of the island, merely a white speck against the blue ocean. For the rest of the film, Howie is completely removed from the traffic in the pre-credit scenes, away from the churches and the police stations (these scenes re-added in the director’s cut). As Martin-Jones writes of the film, ‘The wilds of Scotland are thus considered a potentially treacherous location where a more ‘primitive’ attitude to life and death persists and duplicity and double-cross are deadly commonplaces against which the unwitting outsider must guard.’ (Martin-Jones, 2009). We’re on our own now in a cut-throat world.
And you get this impression right from the start. Upon landing, Howie asks the townsfolk to send a dinghy out so that he might come ashore, and their reply is they can’t do so without permission. Even announcing himself as a policeman seems to have little to no effect. Not only is this an island from which one cannot easily escape except by plane, but it is an environment where the people are dismissive, if not yet overtly hostile. It’s going to be hard going at the very least to find our missing girl.
The more we explore the culture, trying to get to the very heart of the matter of the missing Rowan Morrison, the more we feel we are intruding too far into a completely different world. Their pagan rituals are everywhere, from the maypole dancing and education at the school, to the chocolates being sold in the local shops. The Christianity that Howie holds so dear to him, (the virtues that Edward Woodward says are the most important values to him of all, in the DVD’s video commentary (The Wicker Man, 1973)) are up against a brick wall that we slowly, horrifyingly, realise is actually a trap, ensnaring us. Kbatz has a great review of the film from a few years ago in which she discusses some of the conflicts between the different religions, and I highly recommend you go and read it if you haven’t already: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/kbatz-the-wicker-man/
Many people have commented on the music in the film, with the cast and crew on the DVD commentary saying that it fits the movie like a glove. I’ve known people to find the songs funny at times, which I think is telling in itself. It isn’t the usual score to a thriller film. Around 13 songs, based on traditional Scottish tunes and poems, form a surreal background to a completely alien world. It’s unnerving, and people trying to laugh it off may be a form of emotional relief
This also highlights that all of the people are genuinely enjoying the festivities. All of the townsfolk are smiling and treat Howie with the greatest of respect because, again referring to the audio commentary, they believe they are doing him the greatest service by plotting to make him a martyr. They believe they’re doing the right thing. And that’s one of the most terrifying things upon reflection, they believe in their hearts that they are rewarding him.
And then of course, for Howie, things go sour in the final act. Like the rotting apples and the crumbling churches, everything falls apart for the modern values of the western world embodied by our policeman. When he tries to leave he finds the plane broken and sabotaged, technology failing. Worshippers with animal masks watch on, and when Howie turns around they hide again. There’s a definite air of malice now, a concrete threat to Howie, and what was unease throughout the film suddenly becomes fear.
As we reach the climax of the film, we, like Howie, are clutching at straws. From feeling like the imposter in a strange land, Howie puts on the outfit of the fool and becomes the imposter. Now we’re in the very midst of the danger, aware that they intend a human sacrifice, and the very Christian policeman has to imitate the very thing that goes against his core values in order to carry out his job. The snapping hobby horse are the jaws of death. It’s a personal conflict of monumental importance, a moment where the personal micro tensions and the theological macro tensions come to fruition, and we have to hope that the man we follow will win out.
The entire parade is dragged out as long as possible for maximum tension. The scene with the sword dance in the stone circle is particularly tense, because for a moment we suddenly realise that there’s the possibility the worshippers know Howie is in the outfit. Thrust into the line, he has no but to go into the ring of swords and trust and hope his disguise holds out. With the chop! chop! chop! we have again a perverse soundtrack, substituting the war drums of conventional movie scores for a pagan call for death.
And then we arrive at the final scene. Howie is thrust into the Wicker Man, crying for his Lord, and we suddenly have to hope for the traditional horror movie to return. Horror films always save the protagonist, give us some kind of catharsis, but there’s nothing to be found here. The helicopter doesn’t arrive, rain doesn’t pour as an act of God and douse the flames licking at the wood, Howie doesn’t manage to escape and run to freedom. The cries for Jesus and the singing of traditional hymns are drowned out by the chanting ring of happy pagan faces as the head finally crumbles, burned to a crisp.
The Wicker Man takes our traditional western values and puts them into a world that has reverted to the past. The crusade Howie goes on fails to convert the islanders to the ‘modern’ ways of thinking. We leave the film having watched the protagonist having journeyed to a strange, unnervingly backward land and burned alive to appease ancient gods. We as an audience, his modern kin, have failed him. In a world of cut-and-paste zombie flicks, ghost girl movies, and lacklustre monster films, there’s just something about rustic terror of The Wicker Man that manages to unnerve. Everything comes together and culminates in a film that defies all the conventions, brings together the best cast and crew possible, and leaves the viewer having watched one of the most terrifying final scenes ever put to film.
Article by Kieran Judge
Follow Kieran on Twitter: KJudgeMental
Martin-Jones, D., 2009. Scotland global cinema: genres, modes and identities. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
The Wicker Man. 1973. [Film] Directed by Robin Hardy. UK: British Lion.
Though Flawed, Thriller’s Second Season Remains Frightful
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.
Moderator and horror author Brian McKinley is joined by science fiction writer William Gold, humorist Loretta Wish, mystery and thriller author J. Lauryl Jennings, dark fantasy author Kristin Battestella (yes that’s me! Your trusty Kbatz!), and urban fantasy storyteller Laura Kaighn for the Fiction and Genre Panel at the 3rd Indie Author Day hosted at the Heggan Library in Sewell, NJ.
You can see the entire 7 part video below or also view the Childrens and Non-Fiction Panel from the Indie Author Day. For more photos and author events, visit the South Jersey Writers Conference, Facebook Page.
The Horror Legacy of Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’
Agatha Christie probably isn’t a name you’d associate with horror. She was a crime author; the writer you snuggled up in the armchair with on a rainy afternoon for a good thriller with twists and turns. For the first two decades of her career, the famous detective with the little grey cells, Hercule Poirot, was her livelihood. And yet, in 1939, she unleashes And Then There Were None. This single novel redefined strategic, rhythmic, multiple murders in fiction and would come to change horror itself.
On the documentary The Thing: Terror Takes Shape, John Carpenter cites Christie’s novel as an influence on his adaptation of Campbell’s novella Who Goes There?. In the novella, dozens of scientists find an alien imitator in their midst which is ultimately defeated with only a few deaths. Carpenter’s The Thing is much bleaker, with just sixteen men left to fight and kill, and ultimately are left with two survivors and an uncertain future, desolate and alone.
Strangely, though a larger crowd might sound initially scarier, as they could be so many people, it is when there are fewer characters that the tension mounts. The walls have closed in. There aren’t seven rooms that a killer could be in; there’s only one. And, standing in the right place, you can be sure to see them. Carpenter reduces a few dozen characters to his sixteen, and Dame Christie had already done it with just ten.
Everything about the novel has the purpose of constricting the ten, subjecting them to as much pressure as possible, crushing them. The house is cut off from the rest of the world and those on the mainland have been told not to rescue them. We’re confined to the hallways of Soldier Island’s house, chasing shadows.
Added to this the dripping theme of guilt that Christie presents us with, permeating every sentence, every word of the novel, and we see that she is pressurizing the characters emotionally. The past catching up with them; they can’t escape the killer or their conscience.
But I’m not here to discuss the novel as a whole. What I want to bring to your attention is the legacy of its setup. Just look to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Though light-hearted, there are two episodes of the first series in which the S.O.S brigade are trapped on an island with a single house, in a storm, when a murder takes place. Suddenly everyone begins casting suspicions, doors are kept locked, shadows are seen outside. Though there is only a single murder, as opposed to the many in Christie’s novel, the setup is so similar it borders on parody.
To go even further, die-hard fans of horror-thrillers will remember the series Umineko no naku koro ni, or When The Seagulls Cry. Twenty people on an island in a storm being killed off systematically to appease an old legend. This direct homage is done not just because it’s a nice reference, but because the formula is so easy, simple, and effective. No communication to the outside world, trapped in one place, being killed off by a psychopath in the midst.
This claustrophobic killing rhythm has been replicated so many times now that it’s hard to think that it had an origin of some kind. And there were stories that used aspects of it before And Then There Were None, but none of them had the same impact.
Could you conceive of the modern slasher flick without some of the points mentioned? Could you imagine Alien if it was in a city with a nuke nearby? If the bridge in The Evil Dead were intact? Perhaps Saw II would be better if only two people died in that house? Maybe if the police didn’t keep them caged in the apartment, REC would have been vastly improved?
If you want maximum terror, you keep people confined. This isn’t just a claustrophobia thing; it’s the idea of escape. Freedom. You find what a character wants, and then take it away from them; it’s storytelling 101. In Scream, Sidney says that horror movies are just girls that ‘run up the stairs when they should be running out the front door, it’s insulting.’ But when the front door opens up to a cliff-face or the vacuum of space, there’s no option. We’re trapped. We are creatures constantly in need of control, and when we don’t have control of escape possibilities, we panic. We get scared.
Christie got the formula and nailed it. It hasn’t been beaten since. It’s the reason why The Mousetrap is the longest continuously-showing production of all time. It’s why Waters of Mars was one of the most terrifying episodes of Doctor Who in recent memory. It’s because it taps into our basic instincts and then removes them. We can’t fight and we can’t run. We can only try to survive and hope and pray. And anyway, as Leslie Vernon says, letting people escape ‘is really embarrassing.’ These killers aren’t going to let us off the island.
And Then There Were None is the perfect slasher prototype and should be revered and remembered as such. Agatha Christie wrote the essential horror blueprint. Fact.
Article by Kieran Judge
Alien. 1979. [Film] Directed by Ridley Scott. United States of America: Brandywine Productions.
Behind the mask: The rise of Leslie Vernon. 2006. [Film] Directed by Scott Glosserman. USA: Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Campbell, J. W., 2011. Who Goes There?. 1st ed. London: Gollancz.
Christie, A., 1952 – present. The Mousetrap. London: St. Martin’s Theatre.
Christie, A., 2015. And Then There Were None. London: HarperCollins.
Doctor Who – Waters Of Mars. 2009. [Film] Directed by Graeme Harper. United Kingdom: BBC.
John Carpenter’s The Thing. 1982. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Universal Studios.
REC. 2007. [Film] Directed by Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza. Spain: Filmax International.
Saw II. 2005. [Film] Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. USA: Twisted Pictures.
Scream. 1996. [Film] Directed by Wes Craven. United States: Dimension Films.
The Evil Dead. 1981. [Film] Directed by Sam Raimi. USA: Renaissance Pictures.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. 2006. [Film] Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara. Japan: Kyoto Animation.
The Thing: Terror Takes Shape. 1998. [Film] Directed by Michael Mattesino. United States Of America: Universal.
Umineko No Naku Koro Ni. 2009. [Film] Directed by Chiaki Kon. Japan: Studio Deen.
Happy Birthday Alfred Hitchcock!
Good Evening, Horror Addicts!
Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz here again with a video review breakdown on some of our Alfred Hitchcock Favorites! From The Lady Vanishes, Lifeboat, Notorious, and Spellbound to Psycho, Rear Window, Vertigo, and The Birds – if you haven’t seen one or two, here’s why you should!
By Horror Addicts, For Horror Addicts!
An Alfred Hitchcock Primer
by Kristin Battestella
Fans of old school thrillers young or old can earn their suspense credentials with these early Alfred Hitchcock nail biters.
The Lady Vanishes – Only one lovely train passenger has seen the titular dame, causing rail car mayhem for Margaret Lockwood (The Wicked Lady) and Michael Redgrave (Mourning Becomes Electra) in this 1938 mystery. Travel delays and assorted languages invoke the tourist hustle and bustle as our ensemble is humorously introduced – from the governess rambling about her past charges and country songs or dances to cranky Englishmen commandeering the phone just to ask the line from London for the cricket scores. All the rooms are let out in this hectic hotel save for the maid’s quarters, and she comes with the room, wink! The bellhop is trying not to look at the scandalous bare legs as our bachelorette orders caviar and champagne, but the men in bed together is gay in both senses of the word with jolly good innuendo. This quirky inn comforts the audience yet there are whispers of pretty American girls and the almighty dollar getting preferential treatment, newspaper sensationalism, and intensifying continental troubles. A hit on the head at the train station leads to a kaleidoscope of confusion, unfamiliar faces, magic tricks, and slight of hand illusion. Everyone’s interconnected – incognito affairs, musicians, a famous doctor, magicians, and foreign diplomats. Some genuinely don’t recall seeing the woman in question, but others have an ulterior motive for not wanting the train delayed, willful gaslighting compounded by lies, lawyers watching their own back, and that unreliable bump on the head. Tea in the dining car alone, suspicious wine glasses – complaints about non-English speakers, nationalism, political secrets, and conspiracies. Who’s really on who’s side? Train whistle harbingers pepper the constant hum of travel, matching the rail montages, impressive rear projection, and black and white photography. Despite the confined setting, the pace remains fittingly on the move with perilous comings and goings between cars. There are stoles and divine hats, too, but that giant monogram scarf looks more like a napkin stuck in her collar! Humorous bunging in the cargo with magician’s rabbits, trick boxes, false bottoms, and contortionists is good on its own, however, perhaps such fun should have happened earlier before the serious mystery escalates. There are some contrived leaps as well – it’s amazing how all the Englishmen can shoot to kill and do it so easily – and though not naming the enemy country is understandable thanks to political relevance then and now, the obligatory bad guys are just nondescript. Likewise, one can see why the sardonic comedy teams and shootouts were included, and Flightplan really steals from this right down to the writing on the foggy window. Fortunately, the ticking clock race to the border, wrong track turns, gunfire standoffs, and international chases roll on right up to the end. But seriously, what it is with Hitchcock and trains already?
Lifeboat – Journalist Tallulah Bankhead is stranded on the high seas with torpedoes, sunken ships, u-boats, and Nazis in this 1944 self-contained thriller nominated for Best Director, Story by John Steinbeck, and Black and White Cinematography. There’s no need to waste time on spectacle with the in media res sinking – flotsam and jetsam with everything from English playing cards to dead Germans heralds the nationalism and wartime grays to come amid damp passengers, dirty sailors, famous dames, mothers, babies, and injuries. Tallulah’s in furs, smoking a cigarette, and dictating what junk to bridge aboard, and despite the tiny boat space, multiple conversations happen fore and aft thanks to strategic intercutting between the immediate wounded and more self-absorbed survivors. Fog and windswept water sprays accent the superb rear projection, and the strategic filming captures everyone from all angles with foreground zooms and background silhouettes. Natural ocean sounds and the rocking of the ship, however, might make sensitive viewers seasick. There are numerous colloquialisms as well as accents and translations, but conversation is all we have – a stage-like talkative jam packed with insinuating layers, interrogations, and double meanings. Can you make your own law in open waters and toss the Nazi overboard? Everyone feels the need to establish who’s American, Christian, or had relatives in Czechoslovakia and France, and the black cook is surprised he’s included in all the decisions. It’s unfortunately expected that Canada Lee’s (Cry the Beloved Country) Joe is the least developed character, yet he’s also the most genuine person starboard. This is also a more diverse ensemble than often seen in today’s movies, and three women talk to each other about shell shock and lacking supplies but nobody knows the right prayers for a burial at sea. Cold, wet, sleepless individual vignettes allow the refreshingly flawed stranded to come clean, and at the time having a Nazi officer as a realistic character rather than an evil archetype was understandably controversial. Testy questions on who’s skipper, united sympathies, and diplomatic delegating drop the formalities, as after all “we’re all in the same boat.” However, information is not always forthcoming and no one knows the course to Bermuda – except Herr Kapitan. Can you trust his seamanship? A compass, typewriter, watches, diamond bracelets, brandy, and newspapers with Sir Alfred in the classifieds add tangibles and some humor alongside baseball talk, debate on the superior rowing capabilities of the Master Race, and other unexpected camaraderie, for “dying together is more personal than living together.” Repeated “Some of my best friends are…” quips also address differences as rambling on past regrets becomes veiled talk about shocking revelations and amputations. Lost material possessions give way to symbolic shoes, bare feet, shirtless men, and tattoos, but there’s time for intense poker, lipstick, and flirtation. Bermuda is the macguffin, and storms, hunger, delirium, suspicion, and men overboard get in the way of getting there. Rather than just special effects cool, wet and wild action heightens the internal boat suspense as beards grow and tables turn. They’re surrounded by undrinkable water, rain is precious, fishing bait is nonexistent, and sudden twists happen with nothing but a splash. Violent mutinies and shellfire are surprising to see in a forties movie, but Bankhead is a stunning, strong, sexy older woman able to be kissing or angry in the same scene – a multifaceted female role few and far between these days. Once stripped bare by the consequences of welcoming your enemy, do you accept your fate, continue to row, or laugh at the irony? Perhaps this warning against fatally lumping all together and the guilty lessons learned in such a no win situation can only be appreciated in retrospect, as this tale tries to see everything from both sides, remaining gripping from beginning to end with nothing but eight people in a boat in the middle of the ocean intensity. It makes one wonder why nowadays everything is so gosh darn bombastic.
Sabotage – Buzzing light bulbs go dark in this 1936 caper based on The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad – not to be confused with Hitchcock’s previous Secret Agent or later Saboteur. Whew! Crowds are both confused and giggling in this blackout, singing or arguing by candlelit and wanting their money back from the down picture show. Flashlights, the silhouetted skyline, shadow schemes, and askew camera angles add to the power tampering suspicion, and suspenseful notes follow our mysterious man in black as he returns home, washes his hands, and claims innocence – despite his neighbor’s claims to the contrary. He talks of money coming soon yet doesn’t want to draw attention to his cinema business, but the professional, public, and domestic are intertwined with families living above the bustling marketplace. Fine dresses, fedoras, and vintage cars add to the quaint, however no one is who they seem thanks to grocers with an angle, Scotland Yard whispering of trouble abroad, and shadowed men with their backs to the camera conversing over promised payments. The innocuous movies, aquarium, and pet shop host seemingly innocent ingredients used for making bombs, and onscreen days of the week lie in wait while the public is occupied by the picture show, hoodwinked by what’s in plain sight. Creepy packages, trick bird cages, and threatening “sleeping with the fishes” coded messages become a tongue in cheek nod to the nature of cinema and hidden observations as covers are blown and men scatter. Our wife is clueless abut her husband and oblivious to her family being used for information, creating an interesting dynamic for her between the handsome detective and a damn cold, cruel husband. Who are behind these plans and why? Despite several great sequences, convenient plot points leave too many unanswered questions. The busy start is rough around the edges, meandering for half the movie before becoming eerily provocative as a child delivers a fatal ticking package in the middle of the crowded market. We know the route and the time – delaying for street sales, demonstration detours, and interfering parades ups the suspense alongside traffic jams, stoplights, and montages featuring clock tower gears, dangerous flammable film, our innocuous brown papered package, and the puppy on the bus next to it! A clock on every street corner checks each five minutes passing amid town criers, newsboys, crescendos, and clues in the film canister that go for the big shocker while silent visuals bring the threats home to the dinner table. Although I don’t think today we’d have a cartoon singing “Who killed Cock Robin?” but that might just be me.
The 39 Steps – Like Maugham’s Ashenden stories, I wish there were more adaptations of the other Hannay books by John Buchan, not just numerous remakes stemming from this unfaithful but no less landmark 1935 picture with Robert Donat (Goodbye, Mr. Chips) joining our original icy blonde Carroll and all the Hitchcockian one can muster including the mistaken man, foreign intrigue, macguffin secrets, and budding romance. Cheeky dance halls host marriage jokes, brawls, chases, and gunshots with shadowed men in trench coats, pipes, and fedoras. Double decker buses, netted pillbox hats, stoles, and more period touches such as newspapers, lanterns, and milkmen contrast mysterious maps of Scotland, missing fingers, knives in the back, and a gal whose name depends on where she is and which country is the highest bidder. The mercenary espionage, air defense hush hush, and ticking clock is upfront in telling us what we need to know whilst also revealing a whole lot of eponymous nothing. Danger tops each scene thanks to suspicious phone booths, perilous bridges, and jealous husbands spotting those knowing glances across the dinner table during Grace. Police at the door and women both helpful or harmful compromise potentially rural calm – news travels fast and a spy must always be on the lookout. Whom do you trust when no one is who they seem? Lucky hymnal twists and false arrest turns escalate from one location to the next with ironic parades, impromptu speeches, cheering crowds, and charismatic escapes despite handcuffs, sheep, and romantic comedy tropes. Filming through doors, windows, and Art Deco lines accent the men in disguise, overheard rendezvous, and small hiking silhouettes against the pretty mountain peaks. Trains, airplanes, and rapid waters add speed to the pursuit. The superb cabin car photography and railroad scenery don’t need the in your face action awesome of today, for chitchatting folks reading the daily news is tense enough for the man who’s picture is beside the headlines. While some may find the look here rough around the edges or the plot points clichéd, many of our cinematic caper staples originate here. The full circle music, memories, and shootouts wink at the facade of it all, remaining impressive film making for the early sound era with great spy fun and adventure.
Press Release: J.D. Barker
J.D. Barker’s debut thriller THE FOURTH MONKEY, pitched as Se7en meets Silence of the Lambs – when a notorious serial killer is hit by a bus while delivering his signature message, a detective has days to locate the last victim using clues from the killer’s disturbing diary, at auction to CBS Films with Bill Todman, Marc Webb and Taylor Elmore attached, by Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency, Angela Cheng Caplan of Cheng Caplan Company Inc. and attorney Wayne Alexander.
“Brilliant. Complicated. Psychopath. This character is truly riveting.”
—Marc Webb, Director of The Amazing Spiderman, Gifted, & (500) Days of Summer
“Not since Hannibal Lecter had a friend for dinner has a serial killer been so skillfully rendered on the page.”
—Taylor Elmore, Writer/Producer of Justified and Limitless
“I am absolutely thrilled to be working with such a great team! This series couldn’t be in better hands.”
Learn more about THE FOURTH MONKEY, on sale 6/27/2017 worldwide!
Se7en meets The Silence of the Lambs in this dark and twisting novel from the author Jeffery Deaver called, “A talented writer with a delightfully devious mind.”
For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realize he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.
As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own.
With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.
Goodreads – Add to Want to Read
“Incredibly written, supremely creepy. I don’t say this lightly: J.D. Barker is a force to be reckoned with.”
– NY Times Bestselling Author, Tosca Lee
“Barker is a master wordsmith.”
– Editorial Review, AudioBookReviewer.com
– Editorial Review, Bookish
“It is clear Barker is a name to watch.”
– Editorial Review, The Horror Bookshelf
“A great stay-up-all-night spooky story.”
– Editorial Review, The Book’s The Thing
“This book gave me chills!”
– Editorial Review, The Word Smithe
“Five stars. Perfect.”
– Editorial Review, Confessions of a Reviewer
“Scary, exciting, fun in all the right ratios, Forsaken is the right kind of book for anyone who enjoys a racing heart and a pounding pulse.”
– #1 Bestselling Author, MichaelBrant Collins
“It’s a superlative read!”
– Author, Robin Spriggs
“Incredibly atmospheric and cinematic – it would make a fabulously creepy movie. .”
– Editorial Review, Lucy Literati
“Mr. Barker may have begun by following in the footsteps of such horror royalty as Stephen King, John Saul and Dean Koontz; but he has blazed a unique path of his own with FORSAKEN.”
– Editorial Review, Fresh Fiction
“This was hands down the best novel I’ve read this year. From the first page, to the very last. This novel had me in its hold. I couldn’t wait to turn the page, yet at the same time, I was terrified to. This book is littered with heart stopping OMG moments. Toward the end of the book, the last few chapters, I was on the edge of my seat. As if this book couldn’t get any better for me. It’s not just an awesome story, but it is beautifully written as well. The flow from the first word to the last is seamless. I just love this book. I can’t wait for the next book. Without a doubt, this book deserves five stars.”
– Editorial Review, Word Gurgle
“The plot is great. The action doesn’t slow down for a minute. I never really understood the term ‘Tension building up to a crescendo’ before, but now I do. The ending is brilliant.”
– Editorial Review, Cheryll is Writing
M.Christian Is Thrilled To Announce The Republication Of His Queer Erotic Horror/Sci-Fi/Thriller, Finger’s Breadth
ebook available now!
Trade paper coming soon!
Audiobook coming soon!
Page BreakFinger’s Breadth may well rank as one of the most psychologically astute erotic novels since Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs, and it deserves to be just as widely read.
–JKB, from the Circlet Press site
Erotic. Terrifying. Fascinating. Disturbing. Intriguing. Haunting … you have never read a book like Finger’s Breadth.
The cutter is haunting the streets of near-future San Francisco, drugging random queer men and amputating the tip of their little finger.
But so much worse than this brutality is how fear transforms the city, revealing the inescapable nature of society … and the darkest depths of human sexuality.
In a very special arrangement, M.Christian’s arousing, yet terrifying novel, is currently available as an ebook, and soon as a trade paperback edition, through Renaissance E Book’s Sizzler Editions imprint – and a special audio book edition will be available in a few months, through audible.com, courtesy of WordWooze Publishing!
Here’s what some people are saying about Finger’s Breadth:
“M.Christian has to be the most amazing writer I’ve ever read. He is a master manipulator with his words. You read his stories and begin to feel exactly what he wants you to feel – arousal, desire, anger, fear, hope. Readers find themselves surprised to feel this way, yet it is M.Christian’s way of pulling dormant and primal emotions out of you. And the crazy part is that you don’t mind embracing these perverse feelings as you are that pulled into the story. Not only does M.Christian push his characters in his stories to their limits, but he also pushes his readers minds to meet him in these faraway places.”
“It is not that hard to come up with an idea that can be turned into a horror story and that is why horror has been part of the folklore of America and why these stories are so popular on campouts as we sit around a campfire. To successfully do this, we need a combination of characters and plot but more important than all else is a novel way to relate the story. For me that is the definition of M.Christian. This book is unlike anything I have read before and I suspect that it will stay with me for quite a while.”
–Amos Lassen, reviewer
“Finger’s Breadth is a real wild ride, the sort of novel you turn to when the apocalyptic mayhem out your window gets dull, and you lust for something to remind you of what it’s like to live life at full-throttle. M.Christian sends the reader hurtling like a hockey puck through a world of crime, out-of-control passions, mutilation, and madness. Terms like noir and hardboiled don’t quite fit—this is more like ultraviolet, the invisible light that makes the scorpions glow in the dark.”
–Ernest Hogan, author of High Aztech
M.Christian has seen the future — and it is hardboiled! If you love crime stories — gay or otherwise — and you love science fiction, you will love Finger’s Breadth. No other storyteller nails it quite like M.Christian does. This is a real page-turner.
–Marilyn Jaye Lewis, author of Freak Parade
Finger’s Breadth is mesmeric storytelling, riveting in execution and appalling in implication. M.Christian’s tale of erotic terror in a near-future San Francisco is imagined so skillfully that it grabs the reader with its easy familiarity, then refuses to let go as it careens to its shocking yet completely believable conclusion. Evoking such Grand Masters as Armistead Maupin, Thomas Harris and Rod Serling while remaining strikingly original, Finger’s Breadth is Christian at the height of his considerable powers. Like Charon the ferryman, the author takes the reader down the dark rivers of human sexuality and shows us things that would normally never see the light of day. Ultimately the most compelling aspect of this fiction is how fascinatingly and terrifyingly plausible it is. Finger’s Breadth should come with a warning label: Read this before clubbing.
–Christopher Pierce, author of Rogue Slave
Sizzler Editions/Renaissance E Books
Trade paperback edition (coming soon)
Audiobook edition (on audible.com) from WordWooze Publishing (coming soon)
M.Christian is — among many things — an acknowledged master of erotica with more than 400 stories in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and many, many other anthologies, magazines, and Web sites.
He is the editor of 25 anthologies including the Best S/M Erotica series, The Burning Pen, Guilty Pleasures, The Mammoth Book of Future Cops and The Mammoth Book of Tales of the Road (with Maxim Jakubowksi) and Confessions, Garden of Perverse, and Amazons (with Sage Vivant) as well as many others.
He is the author of the collections Dirty Words, Speaking Parts, The Bachelor Machine, Licks & Promises, Filthy, Love Without Gun Control, Rude Mechanicals, Coming Together Presents M.Christian, Pornotopia, and How To Write And Sell Erotica; and the novels Running Dry, The Very Bloody Marys, Me2, Brushes, and Painted Doll. His Web site is www.mchristian.com.
Interested in reviewing Finger’s Breadth? Write M.Christian at email@example.com for a copy
Movie Review – The Guest (2014) HanWay Films, Snoot Entertainment
Starring: Dan Stevens, Sheila Kelley, Maika Monroe
The Peterson family is heartbroken and dealing with the loss of their son/brother who served in the military. When an unexpected man shows up and claims to be one of his close friends, there is some tension when the mother invites him to stay in the family’s home. There’s something off about this visitor..but what is it?
First, let me go into the soundtrack. The music used in this movie alone deserves 5 skulls. Hands down. I purchased it as soon as the movie ended.
The movie itself I’m giving 4 skulls. It was somewhat predictable and that’s the only reason I deducted from the five but otherwise, this movie had everything. And if you’re a fan of 90’s type, thriller movies? This will satisfy that itch that only us other 90’s thriller fan types will understand.
Dan Stevens, who plays “David” had this role down and the chemistry between him and the angsty teen sister was honed in and on target. I don’t want to give too much away about the movie, just add it to your “to be watched” list and do it! This is a definite must-see.
For not having one of the “powerhouse” names in either cast or production, this movie stuck it to them and ended up being in my “purchased” and not just “rented” collection.
What are your thoughts? Agree? Disagree?
Ghosts, Monsters, Aliens, and Other Dreadful and Dangerous Creatures: Why We Love Scary Stories
by Kerry Alan Denney
..and lions and tigers and bears, oh my! We may as well toss vampires, dragons, werewolves, demons, chimera, zombies, and shape-shifters in the mix too. Why do we love to tell scary stories? Better yet, why do we love to be scared by them? What’s with the rampant worldwide fascination with being creeped out, thrilled, frightened out of our wits, given nightmares, and being filled with dread of the unknown? It’s much more than just a pop culture phenomenon; it’s a timeless fascination with all things morbid and freakish that has been passed down from generation to generation ever since we lived in caves and gathered berries and hunted game for all our food.
Humans have been entranced by the unknown since ancient times when storytellers sat around campfires and mesmerized their captive audience with stories meant to frighten them. It’s in our basic nature, as irrefutable and irresistible as the urge to procreate. Here are a few of my own answers to the age-old question “Why do we love to be scared?”
Humans are naturally curious. As evidenced by mind-boggling advances in technology, we constantly strive to learn more about how our universe works. Only a few short years ago, the Hubble telescope took pictures of billions of galaxies never before seen and barely even imagined, proving the universe is far more vast than we can even comprehend. Dark matter and dark energy were only recently discovered, and quantum physicists are working overtime to unlock the nature of their previously hoarded secrets. Even the vacuum of space between the stars has a life of its own! We want to know more about the unknown, and learn the secrets of that which cannot be readily perceived with just our five senses. As Shakespeare so famously said, there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies. We want to open that locked door and get a peek inside to see what exists beyond.
We’re adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers. Anything that gets our blood pumping faster and our spines tingling with chills also gets our minds thinking harder. We constantly test the perceived limits of our abilities and awareness. Jules Verne wrote a wildly fictional story about a manned submersible craft, and someone decided to invent one. Wilbur and Orville Wright decided that man should be able to fly, and made it happen in 1903. U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager flew in the X-1 aircraft that broke the sound barrier in 1947. And despite the supposed mathematical impossibility, scientists, engineers, and physicists are constantly seeking to achieve faster-than-light travel. New species are being discovered every day, from the darkest, deepest fathoms of our oceans to the frozen wastelands of the Arctic. Maybe somewhere in our world there be dragons and monsters. Sometimes it seems we need only to imagine possibilities, and some intrepid explorers discover them or some amazing geniuses make them come true. Who knows what astounding discoveries or fantastic inventions may come next?
No other subject is more fascinating to the human mind than the possibility of some form of life after death. It’s the greatest, biggest secret we can imagine, and because of our natural curiosity, we seek to breach that barrier. From classic ancient literature to modern day fables, stories of an afterlife abound, with ghost stories at the top of the list. I even wrote a novel about the afterlife world, and am seeking to get it published. Some people spend their careers and even lifetimes trying to prove the existence of ghosts, because doing so would prove the irrefutable existence of an afterlife. It would not only change the world, it would also change the entire basic nature of humankind. Even life itself would forever after be perceived differently. Maybe, if we knew for a certainty that an afterlife existed and if we were lucky and smart as a species, we would even stop killing each other and embrace and cherish this too-brief existence we call “life.” If we did that, we might even wake up from the primitive, barbaric infancy of our evolution as a species and learn how to explore the universe together. Maybe not, but that is the nature of dreamers such as myself: In order to make the big dreams come true, we must dream big. And I freely and happily admit I’m one of the biggest dreamers of all.
Scaring each other is fun! That cannot be denied: the proof is all around us. Creating a story that fascinates and enthralls the masses for multiple generations is a hallmark lifetime achievement, a watershed accomplishment that leaves a legacy that survives well past the short lifetimes of their creators and endures beyond into that afterlife that so many of us spend our lives trying to prove exists. This is historically proven by the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, Dante Alighieri, Robert Louis Stevenson, and even by the fear-inducing classic paintings of the likes of Hieronymus Bosch, among countless others. And it’s a perfect example of how words have the power to outlive their creators and survive even the test of time, the legibility of the paper, or the decay of the computer files on which they’re originally written. What writer wouldn’t want to be remembered as the man or woman who nearly scared the world to death?
Finally, I’m going to use one of my own personal examples to answer the question. In a sci-fi/ horror novel I wrote—whose title is too cool to share until it’s published—one of my young protagonists named Cyndi, who writes monster stories, asks her friend Mick, another protagonist who takes her under his wing, “Who needs creepy stories when they’re happening all around you?” Here is Mick’s answer: “The world will always need stories. And people will always need to be scared, so they’re reminded of what’s precious. And be better prepared to fight to preserve it, when the time comes to stand or fall.”
And that, my friends, is why we’re so in love with scary stories, and having the dickens frightened out of us: They remind us of what’s precious, of everything in our lives that’s worth fighting for and preserving.
I’m happy to hear you share YOUR ideas and answers! Please feel free to post your replies in the comments section below this article. And keep your eyes peeled, your mind open, and your senses alert: you never know when the monsters may be coming for YOU!
Colleagues and readers alike have dubbed Kerry Alan Denney The Reality Bender. The multiple award-winning author of the post-apocalyptic sci-fi/ horror thriller JAGANNATH and the paranormal thriller SOULSNATCHER as well as six more novels and numerous short stories, Kerry blends elements of the supernatural, paranormal, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror in his work. With joy, malicious glee, and a touch of madness, he writes reality-bending thrillers—even when the voices don’t compel him to. His protagonists are his children, and he loves them as dearly as he despises his antagonists… even when he has to kill them.
At 1pm on Aug 30th , 2014, Crystal Connor, wrapped in a fleece blanket, with a giant mug of chicken noodle soup scrolled thru the movie menu, made a selection, picked up her remote and clicked play. For the next two hours her neighbors were subjected to screaming, crying, and expletive outburst…
This is the unedited journal chronicling the harrowing experience her neighbors were forced to endure as she watched, Jason Stone’s 2014 The Calling
Reader discretion is Advised
Entry 2: Seriously? You guys need help
Entry 3: Your way too trusting
Entry 4: You guys need help
Entry 5: No! Don’t even second guess yourself, that voice in your head is screaming for a reason
Entry 6: What are you doing?! Nobody knows where the fuck you are
Entry 7: Way to go, now none of that is inadmissible because you don’t have a warrant
Entry 8: Wait for back up!!!
Entry 9: Are you happy now.
Entry 10: There goes your pension
Entry 11: And your still drinking…yep that’s the best thing to do
Entry 12: Oh my fucking God you’re a goddamned priest! You fucking know better! How dare you allow something like this to happen. You fucked it up for everybody and for that you will burn!
Entry 13: For the love…
Entry 14: Whoa didn’t see that coming.
Entry 15: get up, get up, get up
Entry 16: No, what are you doing…run
Entry 17: I SAID RUN
Entry 18: Oh, Sweet Jesus save us all
Entry 19: I’m buying the book.
Plotline: Detective Hazel Micallef hasn’t had much to worry about in the sleepy town of Port Dundas until a string of gruesome murders in the surrounding countryside brings her face to face with a serial killer driven by a higher calling.
Scariness Factor: There were some really good suspenseful scenes, especially with the serial killer and the little girl (yikes)
Gross-out Factor: N/A
High Points: I really liked that the movie has mature cast and a plausible storyline, the group of five half naked highschool/college kids breaking into a building to play with a ouiji board gets old pretty quick. It didn’t end the way I thought it would so the fact that it wasn’t predictable is a huge plus for me. I loved the motivation of the killer, how he stages the bodies, and the dark tones of the religious undercurrent really helped build the suspense of the movie.
Complaints: My biggest complaint about this movie is the main character.
I’ve seen some reviews say that The Calling is a Fargo knockoff, it’s not. Both movies have a female cops in the lead role trying to solve a crime in the middle of the winter but that’s where the similarities stop. Police chief Marge Gunderson is a much stronger character than Detective Hazel Micallef.
The new trend seems to be that in order to have a ‘strong female lead’ she had to be damaged in some way in order to gain her strength, our Det. Micallef is a functioning drunk and addicted to pain killers. She’s rude, annoying, petty, and shallow and she is not fit for duty. Another thing that bothered me about her addiction is that everyone in the town knows about it but no one says or does anything, even after her impaired judgment endangered other officers. And if that’s not bad enough she’s driving around town like nobody’s business.
Overall: I think watching horror movies should be an ‘interactive’ activity (which is why I watch them alone) and the more I yell at the people on the screen the more fun I’m having. I’m a tough customer and I can be pretty unforgiving when it comes to the myopic way in which I prefer to be entertained. And even though The Calling had me screaming at the characters for almost the entire movie the character of Det. Micallef is too flawed to be believable.
There is so much depth to the religious back story and the motivation of killer but they just skim it because it’s a crime story with the focus on of Det. Micallef. I think it would have been much more frightening if it had been the other way around.
Stars: Even with my complaints The Calling is a descent chiller/thriller and I would recommend it so I am going to give it 3 stars
Where I watched it : Movies on demand
Washington State native Crystal Connor has been terrorizing readers since before Jr. high School and loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys, rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high heel shoes & unreasonably priced hang bags. She is also considering changing her professional title to ‘dramatization specialist’ because it’s so much more theatrical than being just a mere drama queen. Crystal’s latest projects can be found both on her blog and Facebook fan page at:
Suffer The Children by Craig DiLouie is a book that takes a look two of people’s worst fears. That being the death of your children and the end of life as we know it. The story starts simply enough by showing people dealing with the ups and downs of a normal life. Then the unthinkable happens, within a 24 hour period all children who have not reached puberty suddenly die. Doctors call the disease Herod’s Syndrome and there is no cure. As the world mourns the death of over a million children, they are shocked when the dead children start coming back to life.
The children return to their parents but they are not the same. They ask their parents for blood,scientists can’t explain it but the only way to keep the world’s children alive is to let them drink blood. When they do the children come back to life but only for a short time and each time they die and come back, they lose a little bit more of themselves. The question Suffer The Children asks is How far will a parent go to save their child?
That description of the book sold me, vampire children rising from the dead and their parents have to get them blood to drink, now that sounds like a great horror novel. This is not that kind of horror novel though, which leads me to my only complaint about the book. I would have liked to see a little more action and scary moments, but this is more of a character driven story. This book focuses on the psychological horror that parents go through when they lose a child and the science behind the disease that is causing all this to happen.
In Suffer The Children, blood is a high-priced commodity and desperate people will do anything to get it. Society is crumbling slowly and everyone feels it. One of my favorite scenes in this book was when a woman asks a priest to read a eulogy for her dead children. The priest tells her no, not because he is busy but because everything he ever believed was a lie and he doesn’t want to do a ceremony. He then says that he always liked the woman but can’t keep doing what he is doing. I loved how each character changes in the story.
Another example is when one woman blames herself for her son’s death and regrets that sometime she thought more of herself than her kid. She then does some disturbing things to make sure her son has the blood he needs. Another character named Doug goes from a caring father into a raging drunk when his kids die but when he finds out that his kids can be brought back, he gets the blood they need by becoming a criminal. Doug is kind of presented as being a villain of sorts in Suffer The Children but I found myself liking the character because I didn’t see him as bad. Doug was doing what he had to do to keep his kids alive because he looked at it as his purpose. Suffer The Children is a different type of apocalypse thriller and examines people’s worst fears on a personal level. I loved how the book ended and I’m hoping for a sequel.
Not often do you come across a novel that blends action, horror, science fiction, philosophy and politics but Jeff Carlson’s The Frozen Sky does it masterfully. The Frozen Sky was originally released as a novella but has now been expanded into a full novel which adds more characters, more action and more depth to the original story. Set in the distant future the governments of earth have sent several space probes to explore the galaxy and they have found that Europa may have simple life forms and other materials that can be used back home.
A group of archaeologists led by Alexis Vonderach are exploring Jupiter’s moon and the governments of the world are waiting to see what they will uncover. The crew finds more than they bargained for when they find hieroglyphs and other proof of life. Europa is indeed inhabited and the natives don’t like visitors.
The story begins with Alexis running for her life through frozen ravines and canyons of rock while being chased by creatures that resemble starfish. To make matters worse, her spacesuit has an artificial intelligence program that is malfunctioning and it has its own plans for handling the situation. Alexis is left with the decision to destroy the creatures that are pursuing her or communicate with them and hope they understand her. Help is on the way as other Earth ships arrive on Europa, but what are their plans for Europa’s inhabitants? Are the starfish type creatures more advanced then they seem and do they want to destroy us for invading their home?
There is a lot going on in The Frozen Sky and the story works on a lot of different levels. Science Fiction fans get a great description of life on Europa including how the creatures survive, how they communicate and how they changed through the years and you learn how humans advanced through the centuries. It works as an action novel as you hear about the battle between Earth and Europa. It works as a horror novel as the creatures have Alexis on the run with nowhere to go and the story gets philosophical as the humans debate whether they are doing the right thing on Europa. The Frozen Sky also works as a political thriller as it gets into how the governments make deals with each other for what they want out of Europa and how the humans on Europa try to talk them out of it.
You could tell Jeff Carlson did his homework on the recent findings about Europa and did a lot of research on what Europa is like. I loved how this alien world was described. I also liked how the aliens were presented in the story. At first you see them as monsters but you start to learn about the conditions that they live in and how it shaped what they are, you also discover that they are much more than they seem.
Another thing I like is how the mecha works to explore Europa and how the AI works to its own advantage. My favorite part was learning how Europa’s inhabitants evolved and seeing how they go from monsters to sympathetic creatures. You also see how the humans can become monsters and even in the future they’re dealing with a lot of the same issues that we deal with now. The Frozen Sky has something for everyone and is a great read no matter what genre of book that you like.
Within my remit for Horror Addicts, I take pride in bringing you the best of European and Extreme cinema – and so far I’ve tried to combine the two in every film. This time, I’m dropping the Extreme Cinema tag and will be showcasing a French film which disturbs not from pushing the boundaries of violence, taste and decency, but from building ultra-taut suspense and terror.
“Them” (or “Ils” as it is called in its native tongue) is a tense chiller directed by David Moreau and Xavier Palud. It is set in semi-rural Romania, where the protagonists Clementine and Lucas have relocated – she is teaching French in the local school and he is a writer. Presumably due to the favorable exchange rate between France and Romania, the couple have acquired a large old house in extensive grounds – and it is here that their horror is to take place.
“Them” is essentially a “home invasion” movie, but unlike other recent offerings in this sub-genre it is not a tale of thugs holding the innocent captive and torturing them. Instead, it is about the terror of being hunted and the fear of helplessness. It has a pounding sense of violation, and the shattering of sanctuary.
To make a film with the aspiration to truly scare takes a great deal of skill, and this prowess is successfully evident in “Them”. The viewer senses they are in the hands of craftsman from the beginning. The film opens to show a sequence which lets the viewer know what they are to be afraid of, and then takes a slow-burn approach to build the characters, the prey, layer by layer until we care sufficiently about what then happens to them. However, this isn’t laborious – too much characterization can be dull but here the pacing is timed perfectly.
Just as the viewers become acquainted with the couple, Clementine awakes to hear a strange noise outside their home. Lucas goes to investigate, and from here the film seeps into the nervous system with long, drawn out, suspense sequences where the protagonists are assailed in their vast home by unseen intruders.
A nightmarish atmosphere is created by the “cat and mouse” game which plays-out through attics, corridors and dusty, disused rooms. The highest praise is worthy of the directors for refusing to use cheap jump scares – not once is the audience conned by a phoney smash-cut. Instead a minimalist score of humming and repetitive bass notes combines with the eerie noises made by the attackers. We feel the fear of the hunted as they run and hide – desperately trying to stay unseen; but the things in their house are coming and they want the couple to know it! There are many of them and we are never quite sure what they are.
“Them” employs a lot of set pieces common to such movies: the scary phone call and the electricity getting cut, amongst others; but it does them so well and combines them with tricks of its own that it does not lessen the impact of the film.
The empty house provides a terrifying setting for events to unfold; even this factor is escalated with the rising tension as the pursuit spills into the grounds and through woodland, ultimately ending up in labyrinthine catacombs. The directors have a firm grip on base human fears such as claustrophobia, fear of the dark and the terror of being hunted; they conduct these with devastating precision.
The ending of the “Them” needed to be worthy of the tension built through the flawlessly short running time, and it honored the previous 70 minutes by not only being traumatic and harrowing but also by producing an image that verged on the artistic – one of those celluloid moments where the viewer is transcended from the fiction and feels the character as if they were really there. Purely as a visual it is on a par with the final shot of Leather Face in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”.
“Them” doesn’t cheat the viewer, and neither does it patronize with silly scares. It masterfully sculpts fear and inflicts dread with finely honed precision. Hitchcock would have been proud to make this film.
Excited for Horror Addicts 51: Thriller? I am…our featured author this episode is Jeff Carlson.
Jeff shared his thoughts on being back at Horror Addicts. “I love you guys! Rhonda Carpenter’s rendition of my vampire story “Caninus” ranks among my all-time favorite podcasts of my short fiction…“Monsters,” my story before that, earned Season One’s BEST IN BLOOD Listener’s Choice Award. If Horror Addicts had only come along sooner, you guys might have tipped the balance in my career. Instead of writing from dark sci fi thrillers, maybe I’d be a pure horror novelist! I grew up on a big dose of Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz. That’s who I first wanted to be until science fiction claimed my mind.”
The story Carlson will be sharing with us is titled Pattern Masters. “It’s among my first published stories and originally appeared in a semi-pro magazine called “Tales of the Unanticipated.” What’s unique about this piece is it’s something of a sister story to my short story “Meme.” That one is a sci fi mystery. “Pattern Masters” is more of an anti-social paranoic’s dream.”
“The two have nothing in common except that the inspiration for both came from the drug store where we used to drop off our film to have it developed…Yes, Dorothy, once upon a time people used FILM in their cameras, ha ha. And I always wondered what it was like to be the guy behind the counter who got to peek into so many passing lives.”
Readers, you may be familiar with Jeff’s “Plague Year trilogy.” Which includes the three novels Plague Year, Plague War, and Plague Zone. Carlson was kind enough to share with us a little information about the novels.
Plague Year: “Disturbing but fun. Ha ha. Plague Year is about a medical prototype nanotechnology that breaks loose before it’s ready. It’s designed to fight cancer. But what happens is it devours all warm-blooded life across the planet below 10,000 feet, where it self-destructs at low air densities due to a hypobaric fuse (sic). The only safe places on Earth are the Sierras, the Rockies, the Alps, Andes, Himalayas, and a few scattered bumps like Mt. Fuji and Kilimanjaro. Obviously there’s a strong science element, but talk about your basic horror story! There’s nothing in the highest mountains but ice and rock. No food. No buildings. No electricity. It’s the Donner Party everywhere. The shit hits the fan in a very big way and it was great fun to write. Cannibals. Civil war. Paratroopers in hazmat suits. Let the games begin.”
Plague War: “There are two tricks with any sequel. First, it has to work as a stand-alone for anyone who comes along and finds it first. Second, the stakes need to escalate — it has to be a “bigger” book than the original with new demands on the cast of characters. Given that in Plague Year there are five billion people dead and the world map is completely obliterated, outdoing myself was a challenge. Fortunately I have a taste for nuclear war, so top of the nano plague in Plague Year, Plague War features a limited first strike on North America and an invasion by hungry, desperate foreign armies.”
Plague Zone: “Same deal. How do you top an apocalyptic nano plague and World War III? Aha ha ha. Well, what if *our* scientists weren’t the *only* scientists who were working to turn off the nanotech? What if some of our enemies learned to harness that technology and developed a new plague — a mind plague that spread like wildfire through America’s survivors?”
In my opinion Jeff has the ultimate dream job…full time author. Of course, everything has it’s “ups and downs”.
“The main thing is it’s lonely work. I spend most of my time by myself in a room with a laptop listening to the voices in my head. That sounds like a joke, but it’s the first rule in [writing: Keep Butt In Chair.]”
According to Carlson, the hardest thing about being an author is patience. “The wheels in New York and L.A. turn veeeeeeery slowly, so patience and persistence are the watchwords of any pro.”
I was curious to find out what Jeff preferred to write…novels or short stories? “Short stories are fun to write *because* they’re short. Unfortunately, there’s no way to make a living on short fiction, and I have kids and a mortgage and a taste for things like sushi, DVDs, and ski tickets. At this point I’m barely writing a short story a year, usually in between novels. It’s a relief to bang through a project that only takes two or three weeks…But the truth is I prefer to *read* novels because they’re more involving, and I have to confess I prefer to *write* novels for the same reason. The long, deep haul of creating a full-length book is more gratifying in the end.”
His goals for the future is “[t]he total conquest of the New York Times bestseller list. Fat movie deals. You know, the usual. Bwah ha ha ha ha ha!!!!”
Here is a little info about Jeff you may have not known…
“I’m a zombie man. There’s something about the implacable, faceless, unstoppable mob that really gets my paranoia jumping. Even so-so zombie movies like the original Romero films are surprisingly powerful. What I mean is that some of the characters in Dawn and Day of the Dead are complete morons. They do stupid things just to get themselves in trouble. That’s bad, lazy writing. I prefer stories about smart people doing smart things… but even so, some of the scenes and personal drama in Day of the Dead are especially fascinating. I’ve always wanted to do an intelligent remake.”
“The remake of Dawn of the Dead was only partway more intelligent. There were still a lot of idiots doing idiotic things just to introduce tension to the plot. I’d rather root for someone with brains. My favorite zombie film remains the Dan O’Bannon-scripted Return of the Living Dead, which is the smartest zombie movie of all time except possibly for 28 Days Later. Great stuff.”
Carlson’s favorite scary story growing up was“Stephen King’s “The Long Walk.” If you haven’t read it, it’s an obscure, early novel and it’s lean, well-written and original. And very, very dark.”
And speaking of being scared, did you know that Jeff is afraid of heights? It’s actually a very common fear called Acrophobia.
Be sure to keep an eye open for Jeff’s up coming works. “These days I’m eyebrow-deep into my fourth solo novel, a big new high concept tech thriller that we’re excited about. I feel like it’s better than all three of the Plague novels put together, larger in scope, larger in character, more ambitious. I recently posted a sneak peek on my blog at http://www.jverse.com. There will be more of this soon — stuff like “deleted scenes” and other teasers. Come by and say hi!”
For more information about Jeff Carlson be sure to check out his website:
http://www.jverse.com – Come check it out! Readers can find free fiction, free audio, a zillion videos, contests, and more.