When you have a land dispute, it is often best to have an attorney help with the arbitration. What happens, however, when there are ancient shapeshifting clans whose blood feud goes back centuries involved? It is the dilemma a lawyer named Jon Doe faces in “Primal Real Estate” by Nicholas Walls.
Jon Doe is a freshly-minted Harvard graduate who landed a primo job right out of the gate working for a prestigious law firm. His first assignment is to arbitrate between the Senate – a clan of werewolves – and the Court of Raptors over who owns an important property. Soon, Jon discovers a secret plot involving a well-respected and connected individual to take over the disputed property and leave both houses out in the cold. Being new and expendable, he finds himself in a no-win situation. No matter which side he decides on, he will most certainly be killed by the other. Added to the peril is a group of renegade shifters who want to kill Marc and keep both sides from claiming the property. Helping Joe are Magda, a decorated Senate war veteran, Selina, a high-ranking member of the Court, and Marc, a vampire and Jon’s old roommate from college.
I liked this story. There is a mystery to solve and other ingredients you expect to find in a story about warring factions, which made it a fun tale to read. Unfortunately, I felt Jon Doe played the “fish out of the water in over his head” part well. However, I also found him to be nothing more than a frat boy who relies on others to help him out of the jam or to do the work for him. It was the supporting cast who felt more endearing. I plan on continuing the series to see how their tales play out. I give it a three out of five.
Valjeanne Jeffers is a speculative fiction writer, a Spelman College graduate, a member of the Horror Writers Association and the Carolina African America Writers’ Collective. She is the author of ten books, including her Immortal and her Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective series. Valjeanne has been published in numerous anthologies including: Steamfunk!:The Ringing Ear, Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler, Fitting In: Historical Accounts of Paranormal Subcultures, Sycorax’s Daughters, Black Magic Women, The Bright Empire, and, most recently, All the Songs We Sing, Bledrotica Volume I, and Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire.
Valjeanne is a talented and fascinating woman. We spoke of werewolves, vampires, and a special reveal for her readers.
NTK: Welcome back to Chilling Chat, Valjeanne! Thank you for joining us.
VJ: Thank you for having me.
NTK: What is your favorite horror movie?
VJ: Oh, wow. Tales from the Hood I.
NTK: What do you like best about that movie?
VJ: The storyline was fantastic, as was the acting, casting. David Allen Grier for example, who is usually known for comedic work did an excellent job portraying a violent abuser (“Monster.”)
Spike Lee placed a message in each story.
Also, Time After Time. It’s an outstanding portrayal of a battle between HG Wells and Jack the Ripper no less! Another wonderful movie about time travel—I’m kind of partial to it.
NTK: Oh, I love that movie! And Malcolm McDowell was terrific as Wells! What is your favorite horror TV show?
VJ:The Dragon Prince (Netflix). It’s billed as a fantasy show, but it definitely can also be described as horror. The Animation and storyline are excellent, and it has a diverse cast of both human and nonhuman characters.
NTK: What is your favorite horror novel and why?
VJ: I have so many! I’d like to pick two. The Talisman (Stephen King) is one of my early favorites. The way King flips between two timelines, and the journey and mission of the hero just reeled me in. And I know it inspired me to write about time travel. The second is Sleepy Willow’s Bonded Soul Book I by Dicey Grenor. This book is sexy, supernatural, and filled with creatures of the night—of all varieties.
NTK: The Talisman inspired you to write about Time Travel, where do you usually find inspiration?
VJ: From other authors, movies, TV shows. I don’t try to imitate anyone, but other authors, etc. inspire me. And of course, as writers, we’re always asking what if…
VJ: I’d been reading SF/Fantasy and horror for years, and werewolves were always one of my favorite supernatural breeds. And of course, watching movies, etc. werewolves were always one of my favorite types of supernatural beings. The idea kind of crept into my head of shifting timelines and a battle between good and evil werewolves who could be revolutionaries.
NTK: As a person of color, how has your experience been in the horror community? Good? Bad? Bit of Both?
VJ: Pretty good actually. Mind you when I first started writing I didn’t think of myself as a horror writer. Then, I met Sumiko Saulson who interviewed me for 100+Black Women in Horror because of my Immortal series! I was blown away…and very honored. That was the beginning of my Mona Livelong series.
NTK: Do you think more could be done in the horror community to embrace people of color?
VJ: I think that thus far the horror community has been very welcoming. The Horror Writers Association is a wonderful group, as is HorrorAddicts.net. I can only speak from my experience.
NTK: Glad to hear it! You mentioned Mona Livelong, who is a paranormal detective. What kind of research did you do for Mona?
VJ: I did a lot of research on Steampunk/Steamfunk. And actually, one of the authors who inspired me was Brandon Massey. I also did some research on Haitian Creole and the Cajun language and ways of speaking.
NTK: How has the pandemic affected your work? Have you been more productive? Less productive?
VJ: Pretty much the same, except I’ve decided that there won’t be any more in-person events until Covid-19 is behind us.
NTK: That is a very wise decision. You were one of the writers who contributed to SLAY. What was that experience like?
VJ: I loved it! It was the first time I set out to write a story about a traditional vampire who drinks blood. The vampires I usually write about are time vampires.
NTK: What does the future hold for you? What work do HorrorAddicts have to look forward to?
VJ: I just started working on Mona Livelong IV and it will be a crossover novel between Immortal and Mona Livelong! Yes, I let the cat out of the bag!
NTK: Oh, awesome! Thank you for revealing that on Chilling Chat! And thank you for chatting with me today. Valjeanne! As always, you are a terrific guest!
Revisiting Dark Shadows’ 1897 Storyline by Kristin Battestella
Let’s celebrate with Dark Shadows as we are so often wont to do! Though arriving in the middle of the macabre sixties soap opera, the 1897 storyline is the series’ longest time travel jaunt at 183 episodes. Its Victorian turn of the century vampires, werewolves, and panache make this plot the perfect place to sample what the eerie endurance of Dark Shadows is about as our company stock becomes all new characters for the period mayhem. Thanks to video releases and streaming options broken down into forty-episode seasonal Collections, viewers new or old can easily jump into this Dark Shadows breadth. Here’s a recap of said Collections covering the 1897 ghosts, secrets, and curses.
When the Ghost of Quentin Collins (David Selby) drives the entire Collins family from Collingwood, governess Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott) and her two possessed charges (David Henesy and Denise Nickerson) flee to the Old House as Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) and Dr. Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall) search for answers to rid them of the poltergeist and stop Chris Jennings’ (Don Briscoe) werewolf transformations. When Barnabas and Professor Stokes (Thayer David) discover Quentin’s I Ching wands, Barnabas uses them to will himself to the year 1897. Once in the past, he introduces himself to Judith Collins (Joan Bennett) and investigates Quentin’s secrets. Unfortunately, Barnabas harbors a secret of his own – he has been unchained from his coffin and is once again a vampire.
Collection 13 begins with Episode 696 from February 1969, just before the nineteenth-century switch, and concludes with a wallop for Number 735. Opening narrations get the viewer up to speed on the scandals and ancestral players after the Episode 701 transition, and the paranormal tricks work well with the soap opera mysteries. We’re like the newly arrived vampire Barnabas indeed – at the mercy of unfolding mysticism, scheming gypsies, heirs at each other’s throats, and missing wills. Why is the maid Beth Chavez still on at Collingwood if her mistress Jenny Collins has left? Where is Edward Collin’s wife Laura and what does she have to do with Quentin’s banishment? Why does governess Rachel Drummond see lights in the empty Tower room? Borrowing from classic literature on Dark Shadows is apparent with this Jane Eyre symbolism, yet the familiar gothic tropes anchor the spooky changeover. Iconic Dark Shadows music accentuates the shockers, and Robert Cobert’s morose motifs and creepy cues help build character suspense. Scary shadows, fake cobwebs, spotlights, darkness, and candle effects invoke careful mood and ominous set design even as Dark Shadows remains notorious for its fly-by-night production cheapness. Thankfully, the antiques, colorful frocks, microphone shadows, and set bloopers alike set off the quality storytelling keeping us on the edge of our seats with illicit twists, fiery whodunits, and Martinique zombies. Episode 705 has a sweet, fatal climax, and plenty of red herrings and tower mysteries makes for some great undead kickers and fainting frights – especially Episode 723.
The mysterious Laura Collins (Diana Millay) returns to Collinwood determined to take her children Jamison (David Henesy) and Nora (Denise Nickerson) away from Reverend Trask’s (Jerry Lacey) strict boarding school. Her former lover Quentin Collins, however, has other occult plans for her. Barnabas Collins also battles Laura with the help of gypsies Magda (Grayson Hall) and Sandor (Thayer David). Unfortunately, his unraveling of Quentin’s secrets has deadly consequences, and Barnabas must help family matriarch Judith in the 1897 past to save the Collins’ 1969 future.
Dark Shadows adds even more supernatural elan with children in peril in Episode 736 and wolfy foreplay thru 775. The 1897 action interweaves bizarre dreams and eerie prophecies as the ensemble tackles several well balanced plots at once. Unlike slow soaps, something happens each episode with real-time half-hour pacing. First time viewers are treated to surprise connections and cliffhangers regarding the murders, blackmail, and poisons. Certainly, there are melodramatic hysterics, but the lycanthrope suspense, meddling witches, and phoenix – yes a phoenix – storylines remain unique. The impish Quentin is oh so suave, calculating, and full of love to hate charm as he causes trouble in every way possible. Paranormal layers populate Dark Shadows with bats, doppelgangers, Egyptian motifs, and psychic torment. Cool crypts, wolf howls, and chilling knocks at the door invoke atmosphere while the wobbly Styrofoam tombstones and visible boom mikes are drinking game-worthy. Poor Barnabas Collins, stuck in a foreign time and dealing with ghosts, wolf investigations, and vampire victims all at the same time. His flub, “My cousin, Uncle Jeremiah…” is certainly understandable! We can laugh and forgive such same day tape mistakes because Dark Shadows comes together so effectively – creating intense, ambitious daytime action with complex characters to match.
While werewolf Quentin Collins and Magda the gypsy who cursed him seek a cure for his lycanthropy, time-traveling cousin and vampire Barnabas Collins tries to keep their paranormal secrets from fellow family members Edward (Louis Edmunds) and the newly married Judith Collins Trask. Corrupt Reverend Trask has all but taken over the Collinwood estate and soon seeks to cleanse the family of its evils once the mysterious Count Petofi (Thayer David) and his magical cohorts come to town.
After nearing over 100 hundred episodes in the 1897 storyline, Dark Shadows lends itself a hand by adding even more vengeful ghosts, gypsy curses, and freaky talismans to the gothic storytelling. 1969 names and plots are mentioned to remind the audience of this 1897 excursion’s original purpose, but the time travel troubles, shockingly bloody vampires, and expanding werewolf yarns lead to a zany off-screen shootout and elaborate action sequences. Character shakeups and spooky developments keep the paranormal fresh; no player is superfluous as each wrench contributes to the complex immediacy amid witches, zombies, and disembodied hands. Steamy dream sequences, psychics, and undead secrets come to a head as disposable policemen, jailed werewolves, and possessions provide tension and suspense. Manipulated wives mix with supernatural causes, and the infamously inaccurate Collins Family History book means anything can happen. The Picture of Dorian Gray twists delight along with a crazy finale in Episode 816. Of course, that monkey’s paw style hand leads to some wildly bad makeup and pasty skin effects that are actually ghoulishly fitting, and the black and white kinescope versions of Episodes 797 and 813 are more disturbing thanks to chilling séances and ghostly overlays. When the panning cameras, zooms, booming screams, coffin creaks, slamming doors, fog machines, and lights out cooperate, it’s the exclamation on all the fearful gothic mood. Certainly, the gypsy material here is stereotypical and cliché. For some audiences, Dark Shadows may seem comical in its juicy horror camp. However, today many shows seem to easily unravel with less material over shorter amounts of time. There’s even been a small Victorian cum steampunk resurgence onscreen, but Dark Shadows has been doing this kind of entertainment all along.
Vampire Barnabas Collins is re-entombed in his coffin by the warlock Count Petofi who is intent on escaping 1897 by traveling to the future with werewolf Quentin Collins. Unfortunately, the witch Angelique (Lara Parker) has marital plans for Quentin, leaving the possessed Charity Trask (Nancy Barrett), jealous maid Beth Chavez (Terry Crawford), and painter Charles Delaware Tate’s (Roger Davis) perfect woman come to life Amanda Harris (Donna McKechnie) with brokenhearted, violent, and trigger happy threats.
1969 time travel goals lay the 1897 exit groundwork as skeletons, full moons, gunpoint confrontations, and confessions spearhead the intersecting supernatural tangents, unreliable I Ching attempts, and astral projections gone awry. The vampires, vendettas, paradoxes, and possessions are no longer secret thanks to prophetic harbingers and fatal deadlines. Hooded executioners provide suspense and vicious murders push the daytime television envelope while deceptive visions create an eerie mix of who is who, past or present, and living or dead. Vampires can’t help against unique spells during daylight nor is the werewolf available during the full moon. Characters learn of their own suicides from their future ghosts as villainous malice and emotional anchors swell with sword-wielding terror. Spectral toppers, paranormal visuals, and dark romanticism balance the traditional two-shot soap opera conversations. Although the performances are sincere and earnest, the cast tries not to laugh over crazy dialogue, infamous flubs, and teleprompter glances. Enemies sit together over brandy, waiting for who will blink first before the witch hypnotizes a man to put the pistol to his temple. That’s Twisted! Hidden letters written in 1897 are read in 1969 just in the nick of time – bringing the ominous facts full circle with bloody bright red flashbacks, cyanide, and jealous women. Redemptions and rejections lead to dying for love morose, and mystical bargains trap the afflicted via voodoo effigies, shackles, or black magic. Episode 839 would seem to resolve this fatal past with all is well second chances but the lycanthrope troubles and bodily possessions then and now linger. Stolen portraits, magic rings, late messages, and all aboard whistles add to the diabolical in Episode 850, and unknown prices must be paid. On Dark Shadows, most characters accept the fantastic rather than balk. However, no one ever really escapes from Collinsport.
Barnabas Collins travels from 1897 back to 1796 with Countess Kitty Soames, the reincarnation of his beloved Josette DuPres (Kathryn Leigh Scott) after seemingly defeating the vile Count Petofi – who has switched bodies with the now immortal Quentin Collins in order to travel to 1969. Unfortunately, ancient Leviathan interference and an evil antique shop run by the enthralled Megan Todd (Marcia Wallace) upset numerous events past and present for Dr. Julia Hoffman and the rest of Collinsport.
Body swaps, mistaken identity, and abused I Ching hexagrams open Episode 858 amid bitter marriages, magical portraits, and blackmail. Enemies become allies as characters must prove who they are thanks to skeleton keys, psychic visions, and mystical ruses. Inner monologues matching the real person in the wrong body curb confusion as well as garner sympathy while buried alive threats and haunted punishments result in kidnappings and failed rituals. Dubious lawyers and lookalike vampire encounters ramp up the scares in Episode 868 as suspicious relatives and antagonizing ministers plot with buried suitcases and decoy burglaries. Will power over evil, cliffside desperation, and deadly shockers in Episode 876 up the intensity before 879 adds double-crosses, stranglers, poison, and fresh cement. Climatic scandals keep the paranoia and graveyard chases on track as victims must stay awake lest spells overtake them. Green screen mistakes and innate camera flaws may make the magentas look garish, however, the distorted hues are terribly effective for gaslight ambiance and ghostly overlays. Cursed people are packing, gold diggers are making plans – there’s a sense that 1897 is a wrap and 1969 is imminent thanks to psychedelic dreams, astral interference, and time travel technicalities. Unfortunately, the fiery 1897 finale fumbles thanks to a shoehorned in 1796 detour before the much maligned leviathan storyline with its naga lockets and necronomicons. After three odd colonial episodes, the vampire brides and meddling witches are also left hanging for torches and snake altars before the return to 1969 in Episode 888. It’s a big WTF that today would have audiences immediately tuning out and complaining on Twitter. If Dark Shadows had directly taken the I Ching back to 1969 and then revealed the unusual Lovecraft-inspired leviathan abstracts as a subplot to what happens with our 1897 immortals; the ancient rituals and cult incantations might have been received differently. A lot happens on Collection 17, but Dark Shadows has plenty of juicy left to come, and the 1897 escapade remains perfect for a spooky marathon.
Christie Crapeticio, known as “EmoWeasel,” is a San Francisco-based illustrator who draws comics, children’s books, horror art, and pattern designs. She went to the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. While attending school, she studied comic book art and children’s books.
EmoWeasel has been busy since we last spoke. Here’s what she’s been up to.
NTK: Welcome back to Chilling Chat, EmoWeasel! I hear you have a new comic series. What is it about?
EW: The comic series is called Demon Eye. It is a war fantasy. Here is the small elevator pitch:
Cirsto is forced to return home from a war she created. Once home she gets to see her old friends and family and is reminded of who she has truly failed. They all hope they can get back to where they were, but Cirsto knows she can’t be what she was. Haunted by her past actions she knows she can never be the friend they once loved.
Now Cirsto must readapt to the old ways of life while being plagued by what she has become.
NTK: Who are the main characters?
EW: The main character is named Cirsto. She is a wolf-demon from the Clover pack. The other supporting main characters are Garien, Panda, Alek, and Jay. They are all humans.
NTK: What inspired this new series?
EW: This has been a dream project of mine since I was 13, so it’s been a project I’ve been working on literally half my life.
While growing up I never had a lot of friends, so I loved to either watch cartoons and stuff and that always sparked stories in my head.
One day when I was in middle school, I saw a show called Naruto and I just fell in love with it! I started to watch it and read it and almost studied it. And after seeing the show and loving how it was built, I decided to finally put my overactive mind into use and start building my own story!
Working on Demon Eye has been one of my biggest drives to follow my art dreams. It’s because of the comic that I went to school, the Academy of Art University, here in San Francisco.
NTK: Where can Horror Addicts find it?
EW: Currently it is on Tapas.io, WEBTOONS, and my art Facebook page (@EmoWeasel). But it is getting printed into a comic book now! The book was supposed to be out on November 26, but due to printing problems, it will be available in my Etsy shop, Square shop, and Book shop on December 26. It will also be available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble on January 26. (keeping the 26 theme for all the months.) (Laughs.)
It should be available for preorder on Etsy and Square around the beginning of December. For the preorders, you can get some special stuff! Like a signed book, two special dye cut stickers and a print! These specials will only be available for preorders.
NTK: You also have a new podcast. What’s it called and what’s it about?
EW: The podcast is a spooky! It is done like the old radio shows back in the day. It is called Koszmar, and it is a dream project by the creator, in both senses because she’s wanted to make this come true and it’s based off a nightmare she had.
“In this story, we join a Detective, a washed-up recovering drunk who is transferred to Shaker Heights to work on a string of murder cases to find the culprit. As the Detective draws the strings together, he’s haunted by a past he cannot shake. Will he survive the nightmare? Join us on our journey with the Detective to try and solve the riddle behind the Widow’s Creek Lullaby.”
NTK: Where can Horror Addicts find it?
EW: It is on Spotify, apple music, and most podcast platforms.
NTK: What does the future hold? What new projects are on the horizon?
EW: So much is happening while nothing is happening at the same time. (Laughs.) I will be doing some fun short comics soon. One of the comics I will be doing is actually based off the podcast, so viewers will soon get to see the true horror that is the story.
Besides comics I am working my butt off the get my online stores looking pretty and also, I hope to finally get my art classes up and running. I will be doing comic classes, of course, and some fun crayon craft classes.
NTK: Thank you for joining us, EmoWeasel! It’s a pleasure as always!
EW: You’re welcome!
Addicts, you can find EmoWeasel on Facebook, and Instagram. Discover her work on her Etsy page. You can pre-order Demon Eye at her Etsy and Square sites. The book will be available December 26, 2020.
Mexican and Spanish Vampires, Oh My! By Kristin Battestella
The Bloody Vampire– The English version of this black and white 1962 Mexican import El Vampire Sangriento opens with eerie slow motion, silent carriages, tolling bells, howling wolves, and creepy forests to set the macabre mood. The candles, Old World Feeling, secret crypts, great architecture, and period costumes counter the almost comically out of place and unmatched dubbing, but there are some eerie good effects, thankfully. Fun Bats, zooms, and coffins mask the fact that once again, there isn’t much of the titular blood. However, the religious arias are a bit out of place and too reverent for the subject. Likewise, some of the sound effects are more fifties UFOs than scary. Fortunately, a few corsets and kinky bedroom threats accent the household violence, vampy bitch slaps, and whips. Although, I’ve never heard a vampire tell his victim/bride to put some clothes on before! It might have been neat to see a South American set tale rather than the standard Eastern European mold, but the English translations add to the gothic horror homage. Count Frankenhausen has a maid named Hildegard “The servants must call me Frau” and a daughter Bronehilda at his cave the “Haunted Hacienda.” Yes, and did I mention that “Vampirina” is the blood of a vampire? The English track is tough to hear, and it’s all back and forth wooden exposition on deadly flower roots, grave robbings, early autopsies, science versus death, vampire mythos, and secret vampire hunting family histories. It might be a dry translation or stilted from the innate Espanol, but at least this isn’t in the over the top telenovela styling we expect today. The pace does pick up for the last half hour, and once you’re past the niche logistics and morbid humor, then this is a good little hour and a half.
Crypt of the Living Dead – There’s isn’t a lot of information available on this black and white 1973 tale also known by the wonderfully bad title Hannah, Queen of the Vampires. Andrew Prine (V) looks so young and the architecture and medieval religious designs are well done, yes. But sadly, the drab, colorless photography hampers the fun, gothic atmosphere. Was this later day black and white filming done by production plan or necessity? The editing is also either very poor or there has been some unfortunate film damage, and the plot is a little slow and silent to start, with too many setups and tough to hear dialogue when we do have it. The nighttime action is almost impossible to see as well, and the frantic camerawork and extreme close ups make what should be straightforward scares somewhat confusing. All this production doom and gloom and yet the script and cast actually aren’t that bad. The music and eerie effects are sinister enough, and there’s a historical spin on the then-contemporary skepticism and ethical debates. Die-hard vamp fans looking to have a fun nighttime viewing will enjoy this. However, the finale is a bit overlong and repetitive for horror lay folk, and those low budget values will hinder the natural fears and good scares for today’s more visually treated audiences.
The Vampire – With such a confusingly plain title, I had to look up this 1957 Mexican horror El Vampiro starring Abel Salazar and German Rubles to make sure I hadn’t already seen it. Fortunately, there’s no mistaking the foggy villa courtyards, Gothic Victorian interiors, hypnotic eyes, and fangs afoot here. This original tale gets right to the screams and neck nibbles, and the black and white patina perfectly matches the don’t go out after sunset warnings. Even the fake bat doesn’t feel hokey amid the fifties train and ingenue in white visiting her sick spinster aunt. The boxes of soil from Hungary, suspicious cape-wearing count, and carriage at the crossroads may seem Stoker-esque to start, however there are some undead surprises – and an older aunt who remains young and reflection-less but thinks all this vampire talk is ridiculous. Torches and tolling bells invoke some medieval funerary alongside crypts, superstitions, and fearful folk crossing themselves. The recently late are buried with crucifix in hand while creepy crescendos accent the phantom ladies in black about the cemetery. Ghostly effects, well-framed shadows, and spooky lighting schemes heighten the ruinous haciendas as well as the suspenseful count and his then-shocking vampire bites – sudden falling books or slamming doors also help build the dangerous mood unlike today’s fake out jump scares. Rather than detract from the horror, just the right amount of humor and a whiff of romance accent the fine dialogue – although despite DVD commentaries and a variety of caption or audio options, the English subtitles don’t exactly match the español. Secret passages, dusty books, and otherworldly singing provide more flavor for a wild finale combining stakes, sunlight, and fire. To be sure, this toothy little number wins with heaps of atmosphere.
The Vampire’s Coffin – Salazar and company returned for this 1958 sequel aka El Ataud del Vampiro, and the two pictures can be found together on the generically named The Vampire Collection set for more howling cemeteries, grave robbers, and disturbed vampire tombs. Of course, it’s amazingly easy for two men to remove such heavy headstones and take a giant coffin to the local hospital for a scientific study, but hey, me want that sweet fifties Hearst! Skeletal reflections, giant wooden stakes – the Gothic creepy moves into unexplained science territory but the old-fashioned hospital retains a gray, mod feeling with scared kids and a cross above the bed. What can modern medicine do compared to a determined monster? Sharp shadows and dark angles add Expressionism accents while staircases and noir pursuits akin a Val Lewton aesthetic. Although a missing vampire about the ward could be laughable, spooky effects, a dark cape, and hypnotized victims add macabre. There is, however, a lacking finesse here thanks to a busy narrative crowded with swanky theater glamour and gruesome wax museum hideouts. Disbelieving medical directors, ritzy routines, and torture devices are all well and good on their own, but one moody, fully embraced locale would have been better. Convenience and poorly choreographed fights aside, the fun finale packs in plenty of rituals, chases, and guillotines, as you do. Ironically, it feels like pieces of this film are borrowed in more recent cliché horror, and despite a general bloodlessness and try hard approach, bared fangs and la Sangre talk keep up the theme.
The Vampire’s Night Orgy – Spanish director Leon Klimovsky (The Dracula Saga) uses an unusual widescreen format for this hour and twenty minutes from 1974. The color is very washed out, too, and unfortunately, the picture is often too dark or tough to see. Like most of the foreign or obscure horror of this era, there are edited versions and lost prints, and some scenes are regrettably dated and look the likes of seventies porn. Thankfully, those are about the only problems here. Crazy funerals, wild music, and a nutty countess add to the demented ambiance of ticking clocks, creaking doors, and spooky sound effects. The dubbing is actually in sync and performed well, too, with a few words of un-translated Spanish adding to the Euro flavor. From the interesting premise – an en-route house staff’s bus breaks down in a seemingly abandoned town that really has an all too generous blood drinking population – to a bit of kink, nudity, and cannibalism, the screams and foreboding build up are solid. Sure, most of the men look the same with huge mustaches and I’ll be damn, there isn’t a lot of blood to be seen. However, the child actors aren’t annoying, and the vampire violence is well played. One by one, victims are taken down in fast, almost gang rape terror, and the chase finale and twist ending earn top marks. Though in serious need of a restoration and some may have trouble getting past the dated look, this is a nice little scary movie.
The Werewolf vs the Vampire Woman – Never ever do an autopsy on a supposed werewolf on a moonlit night! Just one of the many warnings from this 1971 Spanish treat, the fifth in the loose Waldemar Daninsky series from writer and star Paul Naschy. Director Leon Klimovsky tackles then-contemporary disbelieving science versus superstition with good screams, fun growls and fangs, zoom attacks, and slow motion eerie. There’s a good quality of blood, too, and a twisted medieval flashback establishes the satanic ritual roots. Of course, the nighttime photography is almost impossible to see, and the handheld forest camera action is poor. The werewolf makeup and effects may be a bit hokey but considering the low budget foreign production, they suffice. The flowing fashions and happy vamps running thru the glen can seem more like Frodo Lives hippie, I know. However, it is nonetheless very unnerving and effective. Actually, the pop references in the dialogue – such as man walking on the moon, James Bond, and the obligatory “Dracula! Ha ha.” – feels more dated amid the fine gothic history and Euro-style. A touch of lingerie, bloody shackles, and crazy girl on girl suggestion keep the run of the mill acting and yell at the TV moments bemusing. Cap this eighty plus minutes with unusual monster relationships and cool mod clothes and you have a picture that’s a cut above the standard dollar bin foreign horror. Naturally, multiple video releases, unavailable uncut editions, international reissues, and title changes can make pursuing Naschy’s horror repertoire extremely frustrating. For fans of retro Euro-horror, however, this is worth the hunt.
Tales from the Crypt Season 4 Continues the Scary Quality
by Kristin Battestella
Summer of 92’s fourteen episode Season Four of Tales from the Crypt once again sources the titular comics alongsideCrime Suspense Stories, Haunt of Fear, and Vault of Horror for more choice frights, spooky guests, and cheeky thrills.
Director Tom Hanks cameos along with fellow The ‘burbs alum Henry Gibson and boxer cum grave digger Sugar Ray Leonard in the “None but the Lonely Heart” premiere as Treat Williams (Everwood) endures the old lady lipstick before a little poison and another funeral. Killing rich dames is good business, but he needs one more gal to make his fortune before his past comes back to haunt him. Unfortunately, anyone wise to the fatal gigolo might have his head smashed into the television or tie stuck in the paper shredder. Our Crypt Keeper host, meanwhile, is a ‘boo it yourselfer’ hitting his thumb with the hammer and building a swing set so he can ‘hang around’ for “This’ll Kill Ya” with scientists Dylan McDermott (Olympus Has Fallen) and Sonia Braga (The Rookie). Medicine bottles, insulin injections, long legs, and dead bodies in the trunk don’t mix! These radical experiments aren’t ready for human trials, but love triangles and mixing business with pleasure make for unreliable antidotes, erroneous injections, and steamy bad habits. Zooms, neon flashes, and rapid montages add to the virus paranoia, patient delirium, boils, and oozing skin. Although the initial edgy music and badass language fall flat to start director William Friedkin’s (The Exorcist) “On a Deadman’s Chest,” C.K. does his Elvis impersonation amid the heavy metal arguing and groupies in leather. Tia Carrere (Wayne’s World) is the new bride coming between the band, but freaky snake tattoos lead to a magical artist who says he can solve our musician’s problems. There’s more graphic sex and nudity this half-hour, and the old fashioned needling and talk of putting what’s on the inside on the flesh set off the voodoo-esque parlor as the music tensions spiral out of control with fatal bathtubs and gory skin peels. I dare say, there are also some slightly homoerotic themes, too, with mesmerizing snakes, a woman coming between men, a man unable to escape who he really is, and body dysmorphia horror. Likewise, older actress Mimi Rogers (Ginger Snaps) is being replaced by her younger, willing roommate Kathy Ireland (Alien from L.A.) for the behind the scenes meta of “Beauty Rest” with ‘Ball Buster’ perfume commercials and little creaky push-ups from the Crypt Keeper. The seductive, sassy start turns into pageant rivalries and poisoned cookies as the ladies argue whether sleeping to the top or killing to get ahead is worse – but the unusual contest questions and the secret winnings remind the ladies that it’s really what’s inside that counts. Shady landlord rocker Meatloaf pressures restaurant owner Christopher Reeve (Somewhere in Time) in “What’s Cookin’,” however bus boy Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club) has some new barbecue recipes for the bodies hanging in the freezer. Local cop Art LaFleur (House Hunting) also develops a taste for flame broiled flesh at the booming steakhouse, and the superior turnabout is set off with red lighting, sizzling grills, and all the expected puns from our host.
Bad ratings and the threat of cancellation thanks to shock jock Robert Patrick (Terminator 2) leads shrink radio host David Warner (Wallander) to make an on-air visit with frequent caller Zelda Rubenstein (Teen Witch) in “The New Arrival.” His The Art of Ignoring Your Child book, however, doesn’t help the screaming girl thanks to the masks and booby traps in this spooky manor with dark stairs and a dangerous attic. Not to mention the attacker points of view, deadly twists, and ceiling fan mishaps. C. Keep is looking for a home on ‘derange’ marked ‘souled’ in “Maniac at Large,” but meek Blythe Danner (Huff) doesn’t feel safe in her library thanks to trouble causing ruffians and newspaper reports of a serial killer on the loose. Creepy music by Bill Conti (North and South) adds to the unease as late night cataloging and book piles in the basement build paranoia. Suspense editing and strategic lighting escalate the alarms, knives, vandalism, and possible intruders as the headline hype spirals out of control. Producer Joel Silver directs the memorable “Split Personality” as Joe Pesci (Goodfellas) romances twins by pretending he is also a set of twins where one always has to be away on business. Split-screen camera work and intercut conversations accent the double talk, but these possessive ladies are not to be taken advantage of by anyone. Everything has to be fifty-fifty, and despite swanky tunes and casino style, the luck is going to run out on this con thanks to Tales from the Crypt’s unforgettable brand of saucy, graphic, and cheeky. The Crypt Keeper has some therapy on the rack to open “Strung Along” because he’s ‘a little stiff every day,’ but recovering puppeteer Donald O’Connor (There’s No Business Like Show Business) is nostalgic for his old black and white kids show. Heart attacks and sentiment, unfortunately, clash with his younger, bikini clad wife. His creepy clown marionette also seems to have a life of his own, and increasingly dark designs set off the affairs, love letters, and shocking betrayals before the full moon of “Werewolf Concerto.” Chanting music and infrared animal perspectives add to the chases, howls, and hairy attackers as sexy guest Beverly D’Angelo (National Lampoon’s Vacation) is trapped in a hotel with wolf hunter Timothy Dalton (Penny Dreadful) amid piano compositions, double-crosses, and gunpoint standoffs. The werewolf revelations and race to beat the moonrise are superb, surprises again combining for some of Tales from the Crypt’s best winks, scares, and star power. The wilderness solitude for Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) and the late Margot Kidder (Black Christmas) in the“Curiosity Killed” finale only acerbates the marital insults. However, their fellow campers have a special tonic that might curb the catty aging. Excellent interplay and fountain of youth sympathy build to the inevitable topper with night-blooming jasmine, bugs, graves, moonlight madness, disturbing gore, and all the irony to match.
Unfortunately, Tales from the Crypt does briefly sag midseason with the double-dealings, blackmail, and swindling resets of “Seance.” The candles, incantations, and Old World atmosphere of the psychic parlor are just a smokescreen for mid-century hustles and colloquial put-ons with Ben Cross (Dark Shadows) and even Crypt Keeper Investigations doing a Sam Spade spoof with ‘No headstone left unturned.’ The noir aestheticlooks great, but this is another typical crime plot with lawyers, money, and a tacked on supernatural bookend. Our Keeper’s wearing adorable little chaps and a cowboy hat as Tales from the Crypt producer Richard Donner directs “Showdown.” Sunsets, haze, bleak shadows, and dry orange vistas add a surreal, hellish look to the horses and gunslingers. There are quickdraws, snake oil tonics, and ghosts in the saloon, but this non-linear tale is dark and tough to see with a distorted passage of time and too much confusion about what should be an interesting question on who’s dead or alive. The pace both drags over nothing yet maybe it’s also a story worthy of more than a half-hour. Star power is also surprisingly lacking, however, the next episode “King of the Road” has Brad Pitt (The Counselor), hot rods, and disturbing street racing collisions yet also misses the mark. Even the Keeper is too busy doing ‘A Midsummer Night’s Scream’ instead. Both these episodes come from original scripts with loose ties to a Two-Fisted Tales movie adaptation, and the hooking up with the cop’s daughter, blackmail, kidnapping, and spiders in the mailbox are pointless torment. Cool veneer, music montage filler – it’s scarier that there are no English subtitles on the bare bones Season Four DVD set!
Thankfully, the full opening intro once again plays with each Tales from the Crypt episode, and macabre soul that I am, I love studying it for home décor ideas. Word processors, big old retro televisions, vintage cameras, video dating services, and VHS stuck in the VCR add to the mod eighties style, all-white designs, and old lady mauve. Older blue nighttime lighting invokes the cemetery mood, and purple hues or Art Deco black and white tones create flavor with very little. Forties styles, long stem cigarettes, and big hats go far while fire, candles, and thunderstorms provide atmosphere regardless of setting. Bright luxuries contrast the dark dated nineties clubs, but there are still high-waisted jeans and the occasional shoulder pads on the ladies alongside the lingering one giant earring trend and big blowout hairstyles. The language and gore are also a little tame to start the season – perhaps the producers were already thinking of the future syndication reruns beyond HBO. However, black lingerie, thongs, nudity, and further saucy actions are still somewhat risque. Jump cuts and repeat zooms both cover production corners as well as build onscreen intense while heart pulsing rhythms and sound effects accent the bloody prosthetics and horror makeup. Several practical monster effects remain surprisingly good, and creepy old homes, dangerous antiques, and spooky staircases join the slimy recently deceased or skeletons from the grave.
There are a few slip-ups in this short but otherwise choice season. However, once again Tales from the Crypt turns out a fun little marathon with Season Four’s campy chills and scary stars making for some of the series’ best.
Bad, Bad Dog: Full Eclipse and Howling II: Your Sister is A Werewolf
By Kristin Battestella
Somehow, I managed to stumble upon not one, but two questionable tales of wolfdom- the 1985 sequel Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf and the 1993 HBO original movie Full Eclipse. Ruh-roh!
LA detective Max Dire (Mario Van Peebles) loses his wife and his partner and can’t quite deal. Fortunately, new special officer Adam Garou (Bruce Payne) invites Max to join his exclusive criminal task force- composed of other quality, but struggling cops like Casey Spencer (Patsy Kensit) who take the law into their own hands. The team injects themselves with a special serum designed by Garou, giving them superior prowess against the crime on the street…and a few werewolf tendencies.
Director Anthony Hickox (Waxwork) and writers Michael Reaves (Gargoyles, Smurfs) and Richard Christian Matheson’s (The A-Team, and yes, son of Richard Matheson) standard, undeveloped cop story has its share of script issues as it weakly deals with all the typical detective traumas like alcohol, empty marriages, and corruption. More repeating clichés and meandering plots waste far too much time for a 90-minute movie. Worse still, Full Eclipse never decides whether it’s a cop movie or a horror film- this wolf unit is supposed to be so total justice and badass, but the entire idea is just too preposterous even for fantasy. The dark realism attempt comes across as totally hokey, and a lot of the poor design work is too dark and tough to see anyway. Though dated by the nineties fashions, the lingering low budget feelings and mismashed plots are worse than any of the old motifs. ‘Looks old’ you can forgive if the tale holds up, but this nineties badass isn’t really that badass at all thanks to too much useless, bad action and slow motion police work. And all this is before all the cheesy werewolf mess! There’s simply not enough mystery or scares to accept the crappy effects, wolverine like wolf claws, and cops suited up like cannibal superheroes.
Fans of Mario Van Peebles, thankfully, can find a few things to enjoy in Full Eclipse. Granted, Peebles (Damages, All My Children, New Jack City, Heartbreak Ridge, Posse, Solo, I’ll stop) is kind of just being himself as always, but it’s juicy, cocky, and fun to watch as expected. Likewise, Bruce Payne (Highlander: Endgame) is freaky fun. The script and goofy wolf serum plot don’t serve him well, but some might enjoy his violent creepy, disturbing as that it is. Unfortunately, it’s Patsy Kensit (Emmerdale, Lethal Weapon 2, music chick and rocker wife) who drops the ball most in Full Eclipse. Yes, there’s plenty of nineties rowdy English rose pretty, but she’s also pretty obvious and absolutely unbelievable as a cop- much less an action hero with hairy secrets or a meaty attitude. Actually, there’s no chemistry among the cast, and Full Eclipse isn’t nearly as sexy as it could have been. And that ‘love scene’ between Kensit and MVP is just pathetic. I’ve never seen people bump and grind whilst being so far away from each other!
Likewise, fans of that horror titan himself, Christopher Lee, can attempt the badly bizarre novelty of Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf. But of course, Sir Christopher’s voice is great as always- and I do so love the way he insistently repeats that subtitle! He certainly looks the classy werewolf hunter, or excuse me, the ‘occult investigator’. Big C always comes to play even in a bad, bad movie such as this, but the classy older Lee going for those funky white sunglasses and red leather jacket for some undercover eighties clubbing is just….no. In some scenes, it’s like there’s Christopher Lee, and then there’s everyone else- and to top it off, he has the Holy Grail in his wolf arsenal. I kid you not. Lee’s Occult expert Stefan must convince reporter Jenny (Annie McEnroe) and Ben White (Reb Brown, Captain America) that his sister- the reporter Karen White from the 1981 film The Howling– is now a werewolf needing to be staked in her crypt. To stop all the virile werewolves from rising with the full moon, the trio must travel to Transylvania and destroy the ancient wolf queen Stirba (Sybil Danning) before she makes hairy werewolf love in a spectacular eighties light show. I repeat, I kid you not.
Truly, this cast is so, so bad (I made a mistake when I typed my notes and wrote ‘sos’ bad, as in ‘S.O.S’, wow!) Annie McEnroe (Beetlejuice) is a totally unrealistic and mousy reporter with pathetic delivery. In her scenes with Lee, it feels like he would have been better off talking to a wall because it is that one-sided of a conversation. None of it sounds right, especially the bad howling during the weird wolf sex. While I love the idea of a sexy and badass black wolf chick stealing the show, Marsha Hunt (Dracula A.D. 1972) isn’t given the proper treatment. Her makeup and over the top wolf plots are too eighties to be sexy, and the full doggy getup ends up looking more like a drag queen. It’s an utter injustice for what could have been hot hot hot. Thankfully, Sybil Danning (Amazon Women on the Moon) is totally fetching despite that scary and violent leather bodysuit. The incredibly weak script gives her nothing to say but growls and gibberish- was that aged 10 millennia did you say, really? Danning looks perfectly perky and kinky in her prime, but if only we could have seen more of her and Lee together in something more Hammer juicy. Alas, instead we get the very disturbing Little Person Werewolf Hunter Jiri Krytinar (Amadeus), who unfortunately gets his brain imploded by Stirba before turning Don’t Look Now. Ouch.
This utterly preposterous story from director Phillippe Mora (A Breed Apart) twists source novelist Gary Brandner’s mythos and also goes by Howling II: Stirba- Werewolf Bitch. Well, I may as well stop reviewing right there, for there isn’t anything major wolfy or bitchy here. This 1985 sequel is a far cry from its cult treat predecessor, with nasty werewolf implications that don’t go far enough and awkward, reaching ties to the original film. Too many changes to the werewolf essentials almost turn Howling II into a vampire move. These Transylvania wolves are immune to silver and can only be stopped by titanium stakes through the heart. Every eighties horror shtick possible is used – fire magic wolves get their powers binded by Big Christopher in what is a completely random and unfulfilling attempt at sexy horror and wolf comedy. Everything about Howling II is mistaken, from the bad, unnecessary eighties music over taking everything to the low of the lowest budget 1985 design. The punk teen Euro wolfy fashions, horrible lycan effects, awful zooms, and disastrous attempts at what you don’t see horror- really; these werewolves toss crates to ensnare their victims! Likewise, they themselves are caught in some bad action scenes and get captured with fishing nets!
I’m harsh, yes, but Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf and Full Eclipse can be entertaining believe it or not- if you really, really like bad wolfy movies or are seriously jonesing over the leading men. It’s ironic because Mario Van Peebles and Christopher Lee are probably as far from each other in the leading man spectrum as you could get, but both deserve to be in a quality wolf horror movie. Nonetheless, their fans can still have fun here. However, if you are a highbrow fright connoisseur and expect some sense of credibility or logic in your lycan films, then move along doggie.
The Howling is a horror franchise that doesn’t get a lot of respect. It started with a trilogy of novels by Gary Brandner which was made into a movie in 1981. From there the movie had seven sequels plus a reboot that is coming out soon. The Howling doesn’t get a lot of attention because some of the sequels weren’t very good but it has its fans and now The Howling has become a comic series distributed by Space Goat publishing.
I recently received a copy of issue 2 of The Howling written by Micky Neilson with art by Jason Johnson and Milen Parvanov. The story is simple enough, we have Chris Halloran who is seeking redemption but is threatened by a conspiracy of epic proportions and we have Marsha Quist who is on a blood soaked quest to find the mysterious Hand of Akkara. This comic series is a direct sequel of the first Howling movie and takes place a few weeks later with the same characters.
If you are a fan of the original movie, you will love this series. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the movie but the first issue of the comic gives you a recap and in this second issue we get into the conspiracy to keep Karen’s transformation into a wolf on live tv from getting any more attention than it has already gotten. This comic is like a trip down memory lane, being a fan of the first movie it was fun remembering it and seeing where this new story was going to go. The art here is excellent showing some great action scenes with a female werewolf doing battle with some armed gunmen. If you like werewolves, conspiracies and reliving a classic movie series then give The Howling series a try.
Thirty years ago a new progressive rock band exploded onto the music scene called The Yellow Kings. The band was made up of 4 teenagers with big dreams who released an ep and toured America, eventually landing a record contract. Along the way, they meet a young woman named Camilla who has an odd influence on the band. After their first tour, The Yellow Kings went out to Los Angeles to record their first album, a concept album called The Final Reconciliation. Little did they know it would be their last album and very few people would ever hear it.
The album was shelved after The Yellow Kings put on an album release party in an L.A. nightclub where they planned to play the full album for the first time. The concert ended in a disaster which killed almost 200 people and left only one band member alive. For the first time since that fatal night, The Yellow Kings lead guitarist and sole survivor Aiden Cross has agreed to be interviewed about the events leading up to that tragic night.
The Final Reconciliation by Todd Keisling is inspired by Robert W. Chamber’s “The King in Yellow.” Written in 1895 it was also the inspiration behind some of H.P. Lovecraft’s work. In the 1895 story, it was a play that if read brings madness to the people reading it. In this story if you listen to the full album it creates chaos. I wasn’t familiar with the source material but loved how it was presented in this book. The idea of a heavy metal album opening a portal to another world and making people go crazy is a great concept.
This cosmic horror novella is more than just a new twist on old mythology, though, it’s also the story of kids from a working class background achieving their dreams and worst nightmares at the same time. One of my favorite parts of this book was when three members of the band return to their hometown from their first tour and you see the background they come from. They don’t get a warm welcome, their parents don’t understand the bands need to follow their passion instead of working a blue collar job. In a short time, The Yellow Kings achieve a high level of success before it all comes crashing down. You know early on that it’s all going to end in disaster, which leads me to what I didn’t like about the story. You knew what was going to happen from the beginning, it’s just a question of how we’re going to get to the final result.
The Final Reconciliation is a great little horror tale that mixes music, mythology and a coming of age story all into one. The description of The Yellow Kings kingdom comes to life brilliantly and the final scenes in the Nightclub disaster were wonderfully grotesque. Todd Keisling does an excellent job of setting a mood of dread and keeping it going throughout the book. I think most of all I loved the concept of a progressive rock album being the key to a world of terror. If you are familiar with the Cthulhu mythos you shouldn’t pass up this book.
Skin Deep/Ordinary Monsters by Frank Martin is a different kind of horror book. It includes two stand alone pulp fiction style horror novellas and a comic. The first story is called Skin Deep “A Vampire Story Of Love.” The story centers around a girl named Laura who is a track and field star in high school, rebelling against her parents. She sneaks into bars and complains that her parents pushed her into track, but her attitude becomes a big problem when she meets a Cajun vampire who teaches her a lesson in love she won’t forget.
Skin Deep is the kind of story that comes to mind for me when I think of pulp fiction. It’s a simple story with simple characters and its a lot of fun when the vampire shows himself. The beginning is boring but as the story moves along it gets better. I loved the vampire and the final gory scenes in the story are excellent. Skin Deep is a story that has its flaws, such as parents that Laura thinks are overbearing but in reality come across as non caring, until the end. Laura also has a sister named Jessica who has a story that is never fully explained. That being said the scenes with the vampire in it make this story worth it and we even get a nice message about not having to live the role that people expect of you.
The second story is called Ordinary Monsters and is about two teenage best friends whose friendship is put to the ultimate test when an old family secret is revealed. This is an excellent werewolf story which touches on such subjects as the Nazi concentration camps, dealing with anger and how far loyalty will go. I love the scenes from the werewolves point of view and the description of the change from human to werewolf was brilliant. This story represents why werewolves have always been my favorite monster. It’s all about a person dealing with an inner rage that they have no control over, this book is worth your time for this story alone.
Skin Deep/Ordinary Monsters also includes a beautifully illustrated comic that tells the story of a werewolf and vampire doing battle during World War 2. I felt both of these stories got off to a slow start and had the feel that they were coming from a first time writer, but both got better as the monster was introduced into the story. This book is a fun read that fans of a good monster story will love and with cover art like that, who can resist.
Who needs to go on vacation when these rural horrors and at home perils are more than enough fright?
Bug – Retro telephone rings, an isolated and rundown motel, and blue neon lighting establish the would be rock bottom for beat up, lonely, straggly haired waitress Ashley Judd (Double Jeopardy)in this 2006 psychological scare directed by William Friedkin (The Exorcist).Unfortunately the solitary drinking, drug use, and one sided phone conversations become much worse thanks to the enigmatic and awkward Michael Shannon (Take Shelter)and his forthright perceptions on crickets and conspiracies. The smoke detector, a pizza delivery – even the disappearance of Agnes’ son years prior is newly suspect. Violent, intrusive ex-husband Harry Connick Jr. (Copycat)is equally solid thanks to meaty one-on-one dialogues, masculine tensions, and terse back and forth exchanges. There’s exposition, sure, but these conversations realistically rely more on past emotions and mistakes the characters already know. This is a messed up, small, and sad little world with more pronounced accents for the Oklahoma setting and a one room design that looks ten years older anchoring the dramatic first hour as the creepy crawlies, military history, and medical paranoia increase. Just because one can’t see the infestations that doesn’t mean they aren’t there, right? People flipping out over bugs invisible to the audience can be unintentionally humorous, granted. However, the well edited camera cuts and movements within the tiny stage space ala the Tracy Letts (Killer Joe) source play accentuate the increasingly crazy theories and jumping to conclusions extremes – which are in turn ridiculous and unbelievable. Even if there is a grain of truth impetus and misplaced maternal instincts realized too late, sparse uses of bite marks, blood, plastics, tin foil, and bug lights – as in dozens of bug lights and wall to wall tin foil shiny – isolate our lead pair within their conspiracy together. The zapper glow adds a surreal, padded room reflection where homemade madness trades one type of abuse and insanity for another. Let’s pull out our own teeth because the government put bugs in our fillings! Okay! This is not scare a minute slasher dicing horror as some viewers would expect but rather a freaky thinking person’s examination of mind and body fears and inside and out delusions all done without CGI and $250 million hyperbole. As to the slightly confusing post credit clips, I suspect the first is where Agnes’ mental breakdown began and the second is when her delusion passes the point of no return. Of course, I could be wrong, as it probably wasn’t the smartest idea to watch this particular movie while I had a hives breakout!
Housebound – This 2014 New Zealand import isn’t as financially strapped as other low budget terrors, but this horror comedy does have plenty of old fashioned basement trappings, ominous neighbors, potential paranormal activity, unexplained voices, and one eerie abode with a bad history. Accents and place names might be tough for some and viewers have seen this type of isolated or laid up and monitored scary previously. Fortunately, the titular punishment leads to some new crazy versus supernatural spins along with lovely outdoor photography, old time radios, dated computers, dial up modems, tape recorders, Polaroids, and gasp corded phones. Shrewd exposition – calling into a paranormal radio show to tell an encounter – compliments the quick newspaper research, and a well designed lighting scheme with noir smoke, darkness, solitary lamps, and an aged, golden patina adds atmosphere. Is this merely clutter, leftover antiques, attic access, creaking doors, or something sinister? Clueless parents may seem annoying to start, but we come around to our bad girl with a ‘tude emo lead as the activity escalates. Though there are a few jump scares, this is not akin to today’s paranormal reality series or shock and awe shenanigans. The comedy is not gross out, laugh out loud either, but rather a generational quirky, kooky household objects, and battling bemusements – old toys are both creepy yet humorous. Disbelieving authorities, surprising movements, and other unexpected interference keep the eponymous limits from becoming stagnant as more pieces are added to the mystery. This puzzle is not in your face horror, but the majorly upticked final half hour puts everything perfectly on its ear and will have the audience holding its breath. And let me reiterate, there is no, repeat, no reason for a forthcoming stateside remake!
Late Phases – A pleasant, mature ensemble including Ethan Embry (Can’t Hardly Wait),Tina Louise (Gilligan’s Island),Karen Lyn Gorney (Saturday Night Fever),Dana Ashbrook (Twin Peaks),Tom Noonan (The Monster Squad),and Lance Guest (The Last Starfighter)battle the werewolves afoot as blind veteran Nick Damici (We Are What We Are)moves to a fishy retirement community in this 2014 tale. Headstone shopping, senior discounts – it’s expensive to die, and such issues acerbate the grief, discomfort, and difficulty adjusting to new surroundings nevermind ominous hooded visitors, suspicious animal attacks, or finding a gunsmith to make silver bullets no questions asked. Cranky encounters with nosy old ladies build humor and drama, investing the audience with a likable protagonist and quips about old people all smelling the same before dog door scares, shadows at the window, and werewolves breaking and entering. Granted, some will be put off by the hokey wolf suit. However, darkness, smart camera angles, and suspenseful canine versus lycanthrope action hide most of the monster design while good gore, echoes on the fallen telephone, and violent sounds on the other side of the wall add fear. Monthly preparations mount as neighborhood clues and a keen sense of smell could identify the wolfy during the countdown till the next full moon. The cops may be tired of answering elderly calls and family ditches their defenseless parents, but those left behind must grapple with religious redemption, Vietnam fallout, and haunting sacrifices – familiar topics not often discussed in horror. Yes, there are some flaws here with confusing logistics, poor editing, and weak effects. Fortunately, this grown up Silver Bullet andendearing last hurrah makes its scares and emotions felt with horror and mystery amid a refreshing real world honesty.
Red State– This 2011 eighty-eight minutes establishes its small town mood quickly with bigoted protests, homophobia, and rebelling against redneck Middle America ignorance and hypocrisy. The too chill classroom and modern teens are however immediately annoying – three dudes spewing gay slurs and lame, compensating gang bang talk deserve what comes to them and the audience never has a reason to care. There are smartphones and porn sites, but mullets, back road car crashes, a trailer in the woods, cages, and sex being the devil’s business comments forebode a rural horror potential that instead gives way to misused hymns and Biblical quotes in uncomfortable cult dressings. Disturbing family congregation cheers and askew, from below camera angles are meant to reflect this warped, but the gross, in real time sermon steers the picture into heavy handed commentary. The first five minutes were already unnecessary and I really wanted to skip over this icky segment and turn the movie off all together in the first half hour. If I wanted to get disgusted by corrupt shit, I’d watch the news. Every fifteen minutes viewers are continually betrayed with a pulling the rug out bait and switch combining for some kind of clunky horror FBI raid meets zealot save the children siege. I see why stars like John Goodman and Melissa Leo were interested in the subject matter, but there’s no finesse in the attempted statements or falling flat scares. Hate crimes and horror really don’t mix. Trying to be witty dialogue ends up as corny misses – and I love Kevin Smith’s humor in Clerks and social winks in Dogma.Once again, a one and the same writer/director really should have had another person tell him you can’t squeeze a bigoted drama horror movie political action film together and expect something fulfilling. While I applaud the edgy approach and true indie notion of for the people by the people film making, the self promotional on demand distribution and lack of recognition here is not surprising. Not only does this toss in every taboo possible, but the wanna be shrewd controversial never makes up its messy mind.
Here are but a few early film frights to catch your tongue!
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – Sleepwalking, hypnosis, and a demented carnival atmosphere are just the beginning for this influential 1920 paragon. From the German intertitles complete with a madcap, unreliable narrator font to the eerie, off key merry go round score, the distorted perceptions and exaggerated visuals force the viewer to pay attention. Green patinas, teal evening scenes, golden up close shots, and opening and closing irises layer on the dream like retelling alongside askew, Expressionist angles and a stage like design – a play within a play to which we the audience are willingly privy. Contrasting triangles, shadows, lighting, and more surreal architecture parallel the lacking reality, for there is no external frame of reference and forced perspectives belie a fun house whimsy. The actors, makeup, and abstract period styles are fittingly macabre, and the stilted contortionist movements evoke a poetic but unsettling ballet where a misused seemingly innocent, forgotten pawn needlessly dies once his job no longer computes. Though very indicative of its early interwar time, this remains immediately progressive – man is misled, controlled, even compliant in his misdeeds but not willing to be responsible for his actions when it is easier to be led astray and defer your killing hand to the orchestrating puppeteer. Do we not let popcorn entertainment and social media dictate our needs because someone somewhere told us so? Are we living in a fantasy if we think otherwise? Maybe so. The mass sheep consequences are indeed frightening, and some may find it tough to view this picture objectively knowing the catastrophic calamities to come. The appropriately named Cesare, deadly predictions, a perceived loved triangle, escalating murders, and crazy case connections twist and turn while satirical police sit on high up stools like toy soldiers waiting to be told what to do – like us in our 9 to 5 cubicles. Ignorance is bliss, and that is mighty scary. This is must see genre at its finest thanks to heaps of real world fears and social commentary for horror fans and classroom studies.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – This 1920 John Barrymore silent classic still looks good, with fine style and design and eerie organ music to match. There’s a lovely level of atmosphere for a spooky event- project this baby on some creepy cloth and you’re set! Granted, it’s a little slow to start and long for a silent film at 80 minutes. The presentation itself is almost Victorian in establishing the parlor goodness before its hint of pre-code sauce- the dance and proposition of Nita Naldi (The Ten Commandments). The posturing and makeup for Hyde may seem hokey, there isn’t that much of a visual difference compared to today’s high tech effects transformations. Nonetheless, Barrymore (Don Juan) sells the depravity without over exaggerating as the era often dictates, and the result is quite timeless. There aren’t many title cards, either. As the film progresses, the good and evil torment steadily increases thanks to the freaky pictures and creepy performance. A must see.
Fall of the House of Usher – This very early 1928 silent adaptation of Poe’s macabre tale is only 13 minutes. There are no inter cards to read, nor what we would call dialogue. The fashions are decidedly Roaring instead of Victorian, too. The visuals are so out there-even nonsensical-that it’s almost tough to see Edgar in any of it. Nonetheless, this moody piece is perfectly disturbed with great, haunting organ music and eerie, distorted photography. It’s trippy, unexpected, and a little scary. This is another one of those old films that makes for a great demented projection during a spooky party or ghoulish gallery presentation. Though not for everyone, anyone who is a fan of early film experimentation or audiences who just like weird shows should definitely check this out.
Faust – This 1926 F. W. Murnau biggie waxes on all the good and evil one can muster thanks to its Old World appeal, supernatural surreal, and timeless story. Familiar strings and sweeping orchestration ground the Expressionist horror framework with frenetic ills or melodic tender as needed while stunning images of angels both light and dark are fittingly disproportionate with oversized wings. So maybe the mounted skeletons may seem hokey, but the smoke and mirrors, creepy eyes, and evil horns make for superb overlays and superimposed shadows. Why do we toy with spectacular effects when each frame here is like a seamless painting – unlike contemporary, noticeably shoddy CGI. Ghoulish makeup, severe looks done with very little, dark hoods, rays of light, and religious iconography loom large, telling the tale with symbolic light and dark objects dueling for our attention – just like the delicate titular ballet. The battle for one man’s soul is set amid our earthly plague fears, and despite the torment and somewhat odd, dragging domestic humor, the acting is not over the top but subdued for the weighty subject. This macabre is closer to the past than the present, setting off the repentance questions and plague as divine retribution debate. His Old Testament gives no answer, and evil enters in on Faust’s doubts, trading decadence with quills to sign in blood, hourglass measures, alchemy, superimposed flames, and mystical books to match the thee and thou spells. Our deceiving little old man becomes more traditionally devilish looking with each lavish temptation, duplicitous with his immediate tricks of pleasure and unfulfilling youthful elixirs that cannot be sustained. Could you do good with such power? Flight and winds show not how high one goes but how far we will fall, and despite a somewhat overlong hour and forty minute full length edition, the grim sense of dread here snowballs as the looming evil drapes the bedchamber within his robes. Will innocence and love triumph and restore the divine? This stunning attention to detail not only makes me want to tackle Goethe again, but shows what can be done when time is taken to ensure a picture lasts 90 years rather than be a consumed and quickly forgotten 90 minutes. The multiple versions and assorted video reissues will bother completists, but we’re lucky to have these copies at all and horror fans and film students must see this still influential morality play.
The Hands of Orlac – Art and music meet the grotesque for this 1924 tale of pleas, surgeries, and will power. Precious few newspaper clippings and streamlined, made to look old intertitles accent the ominous locomotives, vintage vehicles, smoke stacks, and well done but no less hectic disaster filmmaking before the macabre executions and madcap medicine. Doctors in white coats with terrible news, a saintly woman in white, bleak black trees against the clouded white sky – rather than our beloved silver screen, the picture here is truly a black and white negative with bright, symbolic domestic scenes and nighttime outdoor filming. Overwhelming buildings loom tall, and the sharp, gothic arches of a sinister father’s house reflect his uncaring. Eerie superimposed faces, phantom feelings, and impatience to remove the bandages build toward the eponymous hysterics, but the simple agony of handwriting changes and crooked hands so skilled with a killer blade but unable to master the piano wonderfully increase the torment and self doubt. Is it the mind doing these fatal repeats or the appendages themselves taking over? The full near two hour restored version feels somewhat overlong, with melodramatic scenes and unnecessary transitions interfering with the anguish. At times, contrived fingerprint exposition and solving the crime clichés pull the rug out from under the horrific hands possibilities, but fortunately, the blackmail, murder investigation, and bittersweet love anchors the monstrous appendage swapping. Where today we would have all kinds of bent, hairy, or special effects to hit the viewer over the head with how evil these hands should be, it’s amazing how these wicked hands psyching out our pianist don’t look evil per se but actually fairly normal. With our contemporary pick and choose genetics and scientific advancements, the concept of these influential limbs out for themselves is perhaps more disturbing. Could you loose your art and livelihood when calamity takes your hands or would you use extreme science to restore your limbs, accepting the inadvertent trade of music for something more barbarous? This is an excellent must see both for the ghastly what ifs and the inner turmoil at work.
The Unknown – Lon Chaney (The Phantom of the Opera) and Joan Crawford (Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?) star in this short but memorable 1927 silent from writer and director Tod Browning. Similar to Browning’s Freaks in many ways, the grotesque yet tender and sympathetic love triangle here is fast paced and well edited with intense twists and a great, revitalized score. Sure, it may be a Leap of Faith in taking Chaney as armless and the carnival set-ups are hokey- but trust me. There’s no over the top acting, only perfect expressions and emotions all around. Crawford looks dynamite, too, with great eyes and readable lips that don’t need inter titles. It’s not all Chaney’s footwork and bravo to his double Paul Desmuke; their combination is strangely delightful to watch. It’s probably a tough concept for some contemporary, effects-obsessed audiences to comprehend, but hearing or reading words aren’t required for the viewer to receive the trauma here. Yes, some of the essential plot points are fairly obvious today. However, the performances keep it splendid nonetheless. This hour is by necessity of the silent style yet also very modern in its own way. It’s definitely a must see for classic fans, lovers of the cast, and film makers or would be actors- who should definitely take a lesson on the big reveal here!
Wolf Blood – This 1925 silent hour plus is the earliest remaining onscreen lycanthrope picture, complete with Canadian flavor, old fashioned logging, spooky forestry, railroads, and jealous love triangles to match the desperate titular transfusion and its would be consequences. A befitting green hue graces the outdoor scenes while standard black and white reflects the bleak interiors and golden tints accentuate the high society parties. The focus is blurry at times, the print understandably jumps, and the music is surprisingly loud. However, the rounded iris close ups add a dreamlike quality, and the vintage jazz tunes and period fashions are a real treat. If you’re looking for a time capsule logging documentary, this is it! Flirtations, camp injuries, company rivalries, drunken dangers, and medical debates give the first half of the picture a purely dramatic pace, but the wolfy fears, mob mentality, and deadly possibilities build in the latter half. Fantastic medicine, superstitious leaps, dreams of becoming the wolf – this isn’t a werewolf film as we know it but the key pieces are here. How fast people turn on you once you have wolf’s blood! The wolf footage is also quite nice, with what looks like real mixed wolf or husky dogs. No, there is no werewolf transformation and it’s all a bit of a fake out in that regard, but the community fears and early man versus beast melodrama is still fun to see.
You might think that Cheyenne O’ Cuinn has an easy life but nothing can be further from the truth. She may be beautiful, have a successful career as a computer programmer and her own virtual reality game that she designed but she is also a vampire. Not too long ago she found out that mythological creatures were real and many of them were playing her game, ExsanguiNation. Since she found this out, her life has changed drastically and now she has three tasks ahead of her.
She has to Rescue her sister from cannibalistic vampires, eliminate the villain who threatens her family and hunt down the man who tried to kill her. You think you have it rough? Think again. Luckily she’s not alone, she has a vampire, a werewolf and a dragon along to help her. This may seem like a situation out of her video game but the threat is real and she can’t get a do over if she fails.
Obfuscate by Killion Slade is like a supernatural pulp fiction monster mash-up on steroids. Dragons, vampires, werewolves, wendigos, black-eyed children and merfolk, Obfuscate has all these and more. This is the second book in the World Of Blood series but it does work as a stand alone novel. When you start to read this book, the best thing to do is to just sit back and enjoy the ride. The story moves along at a frantic pace and goes back and forth from being scary and serious to being ridiculous and bizarre. Which is a good combination to have in an action packed story. One scene towards the beginning of the book was a total surprise to me.
What I liked most about the book is the amount of mythical creatures that are in it and are presented as real. There is one scene in a hospital where a character describes the island where a rescue attempt took place as Lord Of The Rings because of all the trolls and elves on it. The fact that you know that anything is possible in Obfuscate makes it a more entertaining read. Another thing I liked was that all the main characters were a different creature, they all take on human forms at different times and they all work well together. I think it would be fun to see a stand alone story with Torchy the dragon. World Of Blood is a universe where lots of good stories can be told. Also on a smaller note I liked that this book has a reference section at the end that lists songs, videos, movies and places that inspired the book.
Obfuscate has a little bit of everything: “Romance, action and more mythological creatures then I’ve seen in any other novel, this is one fun thrill ride. I loved how it opens on an island of cannibalistic vampires and goes to several other locations before it’s done. Obfuscate is like a video game in book form. This book isn’t meant to make you think, its meant to be a fun read and it is just that.It’s a lot of fun with some memorable characters thrown in and I’m already looking forward to the next installment in this series.
Interview With Sean Young, Author of Blood Of Socorro County
For season 11 of the HorrorAddicts.net podcast, we will once again feature an 11 episode audio drama. Our latest ongoing story started in episode 124 of the podcast and is called Blood Of Socorro County. The play is written by Sean Young, who in the past, has participated in our annual Masters Of The Macabre contest. I asked Sean a few questions about his new drama and here is what he had to say:
What is the plot of Blood of Socorro County?
The story follows a couple of different subplots, but the main plot covers the attempt of an ancient werewolf who escaped persecution in Europe to re-establish a new clan in the relatively lawless area of Socorro County, (the Southwestern part of New Mexico). New Mexico was still a Territory at this time, and is one of the wildest areas of the old west.
What was the inspiration behind it?
I always liked the Old West, and spooky stories of the Old West are the coolest. I work at Knott’s Berry Farm, a few miles away from Disneyland in Southern California. Allow me to digress for a moment and explain a bit about Knott’s Berry Farm for the benefit of those not from the Southern California area. It is the first Theme Park in America, and still going strong after 75 years. Walter Knott and his wife Cordelia started a berry farm in 1920, and was the birthplace of the Boysenberry. They opened a chicken dinner restaurant in 1934, to help make ends meet during the Depression. The restaurant became a huge success, and lines for the restaurant were literally 4-6 hours long in some cases, like on Sundays. Walter, ever the entrepreneur, decided to pursue a dream project of his; to create his own Ghost Town, complete with authentic buildings, maze-like streets and cowboys and Native Americans to populate it. The Ghost Town was based loosely on the real ghost town of Calico, off the I-15 on the way to Las Vegas. Over the decades they added rides and other themed areas. I grew up in the area, and often visited it as a child and throughout my adult life. I think my love for the Old West came from going to that park.
My inspiration for Blood of Socorro County is two-fold. Firstly, I work in the Entertainment department in Ghost Town, at the attractions Panning for Gold, the Jail, (voicing the feller in the jail named Sad Eye Joe) and the Western Trails Museum. The Western Trails Museum has an amazing collection of everything from the Old West, Mining, and Pioneering days. We have authentic guns, tools, rock specimens, saddles, bits, spurs, clothes; if it came from c.1850-1900 we probably have it. Being surrounded all day by the gravitas of history kinda rubs off on a feller. Seeing a real McCoy Colt Dragoon, Winchester M73, and an 1875 Colt Single Action Army Civilian Model (a.k.a. the Peacemaker) hanging on the wall, you can’t help wondering what stories they would or could tell if only they spoke.
Secondly, Knott’s also claims to have the first Halloween event, called Halloween Haunt and changes its name to Knott’s Scary Farm. This event is awesome, and I’ve been going to it off and on for over 30 years, as well as working 7 of the more recent ones. The last two years, I worked as an outlaw cowboy in a fantastic walk through maze called The Gunslinger’s Grave. The 2015 version of the story featured werewolves, skinwalkers and us Red Hand Gang outlaws, scaring the living bejesus out of the people who come through. Werewolf Cowboys? Hmm…
When is Blood of Socorro County set?
1885. The famed Lincoln County Wars had pretty much just burned themselves out with the death of Billy the Kid in 1881, so I thought it would be interesting to have that as a rich, local background to draw on. (Maybe a Zombie Billy the Kid?)
Why did you choose the setting?
The American Old West has always been a popular subject matter. It was an era of explosive growth, unregulated conflict, and a vision of prosperity and a bright future that has generally not been seen since. (Unless of course, you were on the losing end like Mexico and the Native Americans). Plus, it was a flash in the pan. In the brief span of merely 50 years, there were multiple Gold and Silver strikes, one of the most catastrophic Civil Wars fought with the most terrible weapons the world had ever seen, and what was the frontier between Missouri and the West Coast became settled and a Transcontinental railroad connecting it to the Old States back east. Such an area of conflict and change has always sparked the American sentiments of progress, self-reliance, and independence, transforming this country, for better or for worse into the United Stated of America that we know today.
How many episodes will there be?
There will be Eleven episodes all told. The first few will introduce most of the main characters, and then it all hits the fan in the last 3-4.
Who are some of the people involved in the production?
Everyone, other than myself and some of my family who appear in the show had all answered my casting calls from a few different internet sites. So far, I have lined up, in no particular order: Sean Wisner, Steven Leonard, Justin Fife, Steve White, Jeff Moon, and Megan Kelly. There will be a few more characters and voices to come in future episodes.
Production-wise, I wrote, did a few voices, and produced the whole thing. It’s nice to have Creative Commons websites to get music and SFX from, otherwise, there’d be a lot more folly editing going on!
How long does it take to produce an episode?
For me the writing probably takes the longest part, at least it seems like it. Each episode is only about 4 pages long, which equates out to about 6 minutes per show, and I can get one of those done in just a few hours, if I’ve already worked out most of the scene. Some of the other episodes, like episode 7 right now, have gone through some, “How the hell do I get from A to B moments”, but the rest should be finished shortly.
On the Audio end, it probably takes longer, but it seems shorter. I love editing and balancing and fiddling with stuff, a carryover from my Film School days. Of course, doing the VO parts takes a while, not too long, but finding the right take and getting it to feel right takes time. But when it all comes together, with music and SFX and the right dialogue, I still geek out over it. With all of the SFX, music and dialogue having been ready before I started to put it all together, Episode One maybe took 4-5 hours of fiddling.
Can you tell us about skeleton productions?
Skeleton Productions is kind of a joke name that I started back in Film school for my movie credits. It started out as Skeleton Films, and then was Skeleton Games for some computer games and board games I produced, and now Skeleton Productions just kinda stuck for the audio work I’ve done. Under that title, I have done The Epic Adventurers, a show that is a tongue-in-check high fantasy tale incorporating many jokes and funny bits from decades of playing Dungeons and Dragons and World of Warcraft. I also competed in the Master of the Macabre contest last year, with a short Audio Drama called “Hungry as Hell”, which featured a nuclear apocalypse, ghouls set to devour the entire dead population of the Earth, and a sassy-ass Devil.
What are some of your inspirations?
Other than the exhaustively aforementioned Westerns, Sci-Fi, Horror, and Fantasy are the main genres I like. Authors I dig are, again in no particular order: Robert Heinlein, Alan Dean Foster, Isaac Azimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clark, (Ya know, the ABC guys) J.R.R. Tolkien, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, Clive Barker, many, many more, but those are the ones I geek out about the most. I also owe a huge debt to Dungeons and Dragons, which made me think of EVERYTHING as a scene in an adventure.
Where can we find your work online?
Most of my stuff is, and will be posted on Skeleton Productions. The Epic Adventurers! is also on YouTube, but there are about 3,000 other things with a similar name. Other notable acting roles I did are for MILLY FOSTER, MACABRE INVESTIGATOR: Ep 2 “Games People Play”, where I got to play a killer who murders people over board games, (tee hee!) and a Federation starship captain in Star Trek – Tales from the Border Episode 1 – One World’s Monsters, Part 1 on YouTube.
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This week’s Nightmare Fuel takes a look at werewolves. We all know the legends, people cursed or blessed with the ability to change into a wolf every full moon. They are portrayed as heroes, villains, victims and heartthrobs in books, television, and movies. What if there is more to them than just what we see and read? What if they, in fact, actually existed?
In 1936, Mark Schackelman was driving on a highway in Wisconsin that ran past a believed Native American burial ground when he saw someone digging and pulled over for a peek. He described what he saw that day as a large man covered in hair with long limbs, opposable thumbs, and a face that was a cross between a dog and ape. This modern day sighting ended up being the first of many in the same general area, with the majority occurring along Bray Road. This creature is known by some as The Dogman, but most people refer to it as the Beast of Bray Road. Sightings of these creatures are not limited to just Wisconsin, having also been reported in Minnesota, California, Pennsylvania, and Illinois among other states.
Do werewolves exist, or are they all mistaken identity or hysteria? With reports of these creatures as recent as 2014 and the amount of animal species still being discovered, who is to say? The next time you hear an animal in the backyard messing with your trash cans or scratching at the door, be sure to flash a light outside first. It may be your dog asking to be let in or a hungry raccoon, but, then again, it might just be something larger and more frightening.
Some small towns are friendly while others hold dark secrets. The Australian town of Tillbrook has been home of the Dervish Carnival for over 100 years but several of the townspeople are afraid to visit it. The people who run it aren’t human and aren’t friendly. The carnival is one of the outback’s best kept secrets but that will soon change when journalist David Hampden receives an anonymous letter about the carnival.
David is down on his luck and he sees this carnival as a throwback to a simpler time and a story about it may be his ticket to rebuilding his career. He takes along his brother Paul, an unemployed photographer who has nothing going for him. Both Paul and David are hoping for a lot from this trip but and they get more than they bargained for.
Carnies by Martin Livings is a roller coaster ride, it starts with a slow crawl uphill, it hits that first drop and the wild ride begins. We start with a story about two brothers who have a strained relationship and horrible home lives. From there the story expands, we hear more about their background and get into the mythology and secrets of the carnival. Carnies seems like a simple story in the beginning but gets more complex as it moves along.
Martin makes you care about Paul and David. David is the older more responsible brother and for a major part of his life he had the task of raising his younger brother Paul. They both resent each other but at the same time they love each other. They show this by looking out for each other when things at the carnival go bad.
The thing I liked best about this book was the way it’s told. You get lured into a false sense of security thinking that nothing scary is going to happen. Even when they first get to the carnival nothing happens but the tension builds as you see some of the oddities in the freak show and realize that this carnival doesn’t rely on special effects. It’s almost like reading two books, the first half you get to know the brothers and in the second half you see them go through dramatic changes and watch them try to survive in a battle of good versus evil.
Where the first half of Carnies is dedicated to building tension, the second half is like a blood bath. There are two great battle sequences that are shocking and violent. There are also a couple of death scenes that after a slow start remind you that this is a horror novel. The best part is the characters. I liked how one of the scariest looking creatures in this book isn’t really that horrifying. Also I liked how one of the Carnies tries to manipulate everything to her life advantage and just about destroys the carnival in the process. Yet she still comes across as a sympathetic caring person.
Carnies is the perfect horror novel. All of the characters have their good sides and bad sides. In the beginning you think you know who the bad guys are going to be but then you see that all of the characters are shades of grey and they change throughout the story. To me a horror novel only works if it gives you characters that you want to see survive and Carnies does just that.
Esmeralda The Great Once Lived Here
by David Watson
This is the end. She saw it coming but no one believed her, they never did. She lived at the amusement park for seven years and was always happy there. Her name was Esmeralda The Great and she told fortunes but no one believed them. They thought it was just for fun but Esmeralda told the truth. She knew what the future held and could tell you what you should do.
No one believed in her abilities, no one except Xander the magician who owned the small amusement park on the ocean. He saw the truth in Lita and renamed her Esmeralda and gave Lita her first real job. Esmeralda loved her work, everyone who came to the amusement park was always nice and she had many friends. People listened to her tell what the future held for them, but they dismissed it as cheap fun.
A few months ago her readings changed, she saw no future for anyone. She saw hair covered creatures with fangs ripping people to shreds and feasting on their body parts. She heard the screams but there was nothing she could do. She told people what she saw but they all laughed. Even Xander said she was working too hard and needed a vacation.
She started to believe them, but one night death came to her amusement park on the ocean. Their eyes were blood-red, they smelled like rotting flesh and they were so fast no one knew what hit them. There were so many, no one at the amusement park could escape, except Esmeralda. She fled to an old underground bomb shelter in the park and stayed there for days or maybe months.
She didn’t want to leave the shelter but she was lonely and out of food, she really had no choice. The amusement park is a different place now. Its quiet and the weeds are getting long. There is dried blood on the pavement and a horrible smell still hangs in the air. This is no happy place anymore, it’s a place of death and now its time for Esmeralda to move on.
The streets are quiet but Esmeralda knows there are still people out there. She can feel them and they’re in danger. She will find a way to help and restore her happy home. Once she finds out what happened she will rebuild and her amusement park on the ocean will live again.
Hello Horror Addicts, please join me in welcoming our featured author for episode 101, Ann Wilkes.
When asked how she felt about being on the show Ann replied, “I’m thrilled, naturally. Emerian has a top-notch site. It’s an honor.”
She has submitted to HA twice a flash fiction piece, as well as her audio story for the podcast. “My stories often have a sociological or even first contact bent to them. I have a hard time getting really hard with my science, though, going more for drama and humor. My stories are always character driven.”
Ann’s work is available in both in print and electronic format. “I have stories in anthologies that are available electronically, as well as archived flash fiction in various places, such as Every Day Fiction.”
As “a journalist, copywriter and entrepreneur by day and a dance teacher and dancer by night,” it’s surprising that she has any free time to write her stories. I also wondered how her “day job” played a part in her writing.
“Only as far as time commitments. Until you’ve “landed,” you can’t sit down and write a story to pay the bills. The stories come when they come and money follows when it follows. It’s not a guaranteed paycheck, so it’s hard for me to make myself write new stories, when writing ad copy or working on the dance site will give me more instant renumeration. Those are the ugly facts about the writing life I’m afraid.”
I was curious as always to see what had initially dragged Ann into the horror fandom. “The fast-paced action and the psychological thrillers. The creepy ones that you chew on for days and the adrenaline rush of the chase scenes.” Ann finds herself drawn werewolves and claims them to be her favorite horror monster. “They can be normal for the most part, but can’t let anyone get too close to them and discover their true nature. They are like Jekyll and Hyde, only they have a set schedule for their alter egos. But then they have to deal with the aftermath of their rampages. And the guilt. They’re both tormented and tormenter. They are driven by intelligence only until the moon is full, when they act only on animal instinct.”
Did you know that Ann often has dreams in which she is escapes the bogey man? “They are scary, yet empowering, because I always get away.” Another little known fact about Ann, is that she is “distantly related to the famous train/bank robbers, the Younger Brothers, who rode with Jesse James.” She also wanted to note that “it was the Younger Brothers gang, not the Jesse James gang.”
For the future, Ann has a couple of projects in mind and in the works. “I would like to create a collection of speculative fiction stories all relating to or about elephants and partner with an elephant sanctuary to market it as a fundraiser for the sanctuary and get a wider audience for the stories.”
“I’m shopping a few stories around that I have high hopes for. In one, In my psychological thriller set in space, I invented a sport.
“In another, there are monsters from the future, which are transported to our present instead of our past, as punishment for political crimes. The damage that ensues, with these huge rhinoceros-like creatures landing in a small Pacific Northwest town, is devastating compared to what would have happened if they were warped back to the dino-age as planned. It’s important to note that they arrive extremely hungry.
“Another involves a water world where the humans’ hosts are dying. They live on leviathans in a symbiotic relationship. There are symbiotes in the monster story, too. I guess I was going through a phase.”
For more information about Ann Wilkes, visit her website: annwilkes.com. “There’s nothing new about my website. All my energy has been going into a new venture that is rather off-topic. I just launched Sonoma County Dance Beat (socodancebeat.com) at the end of March.”
In the world of an online role-playing game anything can happen and for Cheyenne O’Cuinn, a Halloween Scream Park adventure is about to become a supernatural reality. Cheyenne is given the task to watch, record and study fear. Her job is to find out what causes people to run screaming out of haunted attractions while peeing their pants. The three O’Cuinn sisters know horror, they live for horror trivia, and have developed a horror themed online role-playing game called ExanguiNation.
Things are not going well for the O’Cuinn family, while at the theme park, two of the sisters have been kidnapped by vampires to breed warmongering dhampires and its up to Cheyenne to save them. To do that, she has to play the game and solve riddles or her sister’s body parts will be mailed to her one by one.
Cheyenne is not alone though, she has a dragon, werewolf and a vampire to help her. She also has a virtual lover who has secrets of his own. Can their love survive? Who can Cheyenne trust in this virtual world and can the vampire apocalypse be stopped? Find out the answer to all of these questions in Killion Slade’s Exsanguinate.
When I first heard about Exsanguinate I was excited. I always like to read books that create their own mythology and combines it with reality. This one goes one step further, adding a virtual computerized world to the mix which happens to be more real than anyone knew. Part of this story takes place in a virtual world and the book includes links that go to extended animated scenes on the book’s website or if you buy the print book it has a code you can enter. I thought this was a great idea that added a lot to the book, it was like looking at special features on a blu ray movie.
Killion Slade takes the mythology of vampires, werewolves and dragons and changes it just enough to make everything fresh and original. One of my favorite scenes was when four of the characters go into a supermarket that is geared towards supernatural beings. The supermarket is cleverly disguised as an old warehouse and it has supplies for witches, blood donors for vampires, spas, restaurants, and items for creatures that no one knew existed.
Another thing I liked in this book was how it blends humor and horror. There was one funny moment where a vampire stakes a human and talks about selling humans on a stick at the state fair. I also liked when the werewolf in the story is eating bacon flavored dog treats, much to the disgust of a vampire. Exsanguinate has some great moments of horror as well. The description of the room where human women are impregnated and give birth to dhampires (a human, vampire hybrid) is chilling. Another scene is when one of the characters battles a rogue vampire in a Halloween haunted house. This scene was great because at first you’re not sure if its real or not.
Exsanguinate flawlessly blends horror, fantasy, romance, action and humor into one entertaining read. This book has it all and fans of all genres will enjoy it. This is the beginning of an epic series that has a lot of different types of creatures to work with.
Well, well. What better way to usher in the Dog Star than by releasing our inner lycanthrope viewing pleasures?
Viewer’s Best Friend
Brotherhood of the Wolf – Yes, the dubbing and/or subtitles in this 2001 French action/horror/period Le Pacte Des Loups will automatically turn off some folks. However, the voiceovers and onscreen readings aren’t hokey at all, and the internal narration helps instead of hinders here. On form stars Vincent Cassel (Eastern Promises) and Monica Bellucci (Under Suspicion) do their own English tracks, and director Christophe Gans (Silent Hill) smartly filmed with little close ups to ease the dub matchings. Beautiful landscapes and photography, lush interiors and costumes add more than enough visual spice; the atmosphere, period music, and candlelight do wonders. The hearsay and speculation builds delightfully along with the mix of American Indian natural beliefs versus French hypocrisy and politics of the time. Though there is a serious overuse of slow motion stylings, 18th century mullets, and too out of place Fu fight choreography, the nudity and brothel scenes do serve a purpose. True it’s not full on horror, uber scary, or that gory. There’s actually little wolfness in the first hour, the beast CGI is iffy, the 2 and ½ hour runtime is a little long, and though both are well done, the period mystery and supernatural cult action are a little inconsistent with each other. Nevertheless, it’s all damn entertaining for a foreign action/horror/period film. Who knew?
Curse of the Werewolf – Oft Hammer director Terence Fisher (Horror of Dracula) helms this 1961 Spanish styled wolfy starring a creepy but tragically tormented Oliver Reed (Gladiator), the caring Clifford Evans (The Kiss of the Vampire), and the sad but buxom Yvonne Romain (Circus of Horrors). As usual, the Spanish portrayals are somewhat stereotypical or plainly English barely disguised as Spanish. The plot is quite slow to start as well, with plenty of boobs, nasty nobles, injustice, murder, and illicit pregnancies all before we get to the titular plight. Yes, what we get is dang good; it just seems as if we restart 3 times before finally getting to where the film is going. Thankfully, the 18th century style, costumes, and carriages look sweet and colorful. All the expected horror smoke, mirrors, and perfectly cued music and thunderclaps do their part. The notion of a cursed child battling for his youth against a wolfish soul is also unique- none of this modern rugged and roguish teen dream business. Religious subtext and medieval fears also add an extra dimension and it all makes we wish Hammer had done more werewolf pictures.
Dog Soldiers – I love this 2002 wolf warfare treat from writer and director Neil Marshall (The Descent, Centurion). Kevin McKidd (Rome), Liam Cunningham (Hunger), and Sean Pertwee (Cold Feet) are delightfully good fun along with the well-paced but no less intense action and slow-brewed but no less scary horror. There’s lovely photography-both confined, claustrophobic interior camerawork and wide scoping vista displays- to balance the horror siege and guerilla action style. It’s all natural, too- not over saturated with digital designs. Though perhaps subpar compared to the fancy effects we expect, the wolfy styles are also sweet. Marshall leaves no time for big 3D panoramic wolf risings when the intimate fighting is on. Why should he? The peril gets across better when you don’t immediately see the werewolves in all their glory, and the paranoia and performance play is allowed the spotlight instead. The humorous nods to the audience, thick accents, harsh language, Brit slang, and disturbingly good gore might be bothersome to some. However, there’s much more good to be had here than any such American hang-ups. Even knowing what happens, this movie gets me every time- and it looks great on blu ray, too.
She Wolf of London – This 1946 short has a would be were-lady running amok in turn of the century England- and yes, it still looks good! All the hallmarks are here: the disbelieving law, legends of cursed parentage, great button up rigidity hiding the doggy truth. June Lockhart (Lost in Space) is our lovely distressing damsel-or is she? However, it’s Sara Haden (Andy Hardy) as her Aunt Martha that’s so juicy, jealous lesbian-esque, and just a bit too wicked stepmother to really be so kind. The dialogue is perhaps too mid century for the onscreen action and it’s all probably too angry chick and not meant for male fans. Although I suspect that was the point; I never saw a werewolf wear such great frocks and veils! It’s interesting that we don’t see the lycan hysteria as in today’s films- it’s all mostly off-screen attacks and fear of the beast that drives the suspense. Yes, there’s more obvious mystery fun than true horror. However, the plot is tight and nicely paced, the silver palette crisp, and the angled and crooked photography atmospheric. Beat that!
Werewolf Hunter – Subtitled The Legend of Romasanta stateside, this2004 Spanish production boasts a nice cast, smart editing, and lovely 1851 style and decoration. Sinister as always Julian Sands (Warlock, A Room with a View) is his usual sexy and scary self, of course. The suspense and mystery are well paced; the intercutting between wolf attacks, various points of view, and investigative tactics add uniqueness compared to the typical American herky-jerky contemporary filmmaking. There’s a great wolf to human transformation, too, and a good dose of implied kink with nudity, naturally. Tension, scares, disturbing deaths and horror despite no seriously overwhelming gore- even if this isn’t truly a 100% werewolf film, everything’s done right here. After seeing this and Agora, I don’t know why we aren’t receiving more films via Spain.
Werewolf of London –Universal’s 1935 lycanthropy tale stars Henry Hull (Lifeboat) as our tormented scientist turned wolfy. Yes, it’s a bit heavy handed on the ‘good Christian England’ versus these exotic evil afflictions and abominations! The Tibet action is a little stereotypical and ill made, and the wolf makeup is not as good looking today. Thankfully, the scares and screams shine through. The premise is still intriguing, and other onscreen laboratory tricks and period décor look smashing. The women are perhaps too thirties and in some scenes downright annoying for modern viewers, but again, the juicy moral anguish wins. Sure, it is probably too Jekyll and Hyde, but so what? The examination of man against beast and science versus morality works 75 years on. Who’d need CGI if we could still make gems like this?
Be Leary of thy Neighbor’s Pet
Red Riding Hood – The fine cast in this 2011 thriller meets fairytale- Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia!), Gary Oldman (Bram Stoker’s Dracula), Virginia Madsen (Candyman) and Julia Christie (Don’t Look Now)- overall aren’t too bad. I dare say the classy elder players are even on form and beyond. The photography also looks perfect, with rustic medieval village designs and lovely snowbound mountainscapes. It was fun to guess at director Catherine Hardwicke’s (Twilight, big surprise) wolf mystery, suspect and identify the townsfolk, and call all the obvious red herrings whilst keeping in mind all the standard “What big eyes you have…” staples. Unfortunately, this entire wolf teen dream triangle in the middle ages ala Twilight thing is getting waaayyyy old. Snoozer boys, blurry action bam boom werewolf designs, and a dumb ending stemming directly from this Twihard mess not only taints the tale but undoes all the positives for audiences who don’t want to be fed more googley eyes. The Company of Wolves was better.
Van Helsing (2004) – Fans of Hugh Jackman (X-Men), Kate Bekinsale (Underworld), and David Wenham (Lord of the Rings) can enjoy parts of this vampire, wolf, and other random monster menagerie from writer and director Stephen Sommers’ (’99 The Mummy good, good Lord no G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra). Tragically, the rest of this overly CGI mess looks like someone forgot to clean the crap out of the cage. What could have been something morally dark, seriously scary, and religiously anchored in the spirit of the Universal Monster predecessors is instead dumbed down to vampire eggs, fake flying chicks, bad accents, and worse jokes. I can’t believe they thought this was going to be a franchise. What’s ever scarier: I attempted to read the novelization. Shudder. Stick with Dracula: Dead and Loving It if you want camp.
It seems that lately I have come across a lot of books that have combined mystery and horror. Mostly they are centered around a detective that has supernatural powers. For example Jim Butcher has written 13 novels based on wizard detective Harry Dresden. There is also the Shannon Delaney paranormal mystery series by Elizabeth Eagan-Cox. The book I want to talk about here, follows the adventures of vampire detective Felix Gomex in Werewolf Smackdown by Mario Acevedo.
A high powered werewolf Attorney named Eric Bourbon wants to hire Felix to come to Charelston North Carolina to kill his rival, another werewolf by the name of Randolph Calhoun. Felix refuses, but now someone is trying to kill him and it looks like he is now in the middle of a werewolf war weather he likes it or not. To complicate matters further, Felix’s ex-girlfriend is working for Randolph Calhoun. Also a vampire gangster named Gullah Gullah is trying to keep Felix away from the werewolves because he believes vampires should not meddle in werewolf affairs, but he may have a large stake in the battle for the top werewolf in Charelston.
Werewolf Smackdown is basically a detective novel with some horror elements mixed in. I originally bought it because I like werewolves, also I liked the title and the cover art. I guess I should learn to never judge a book by its cover, because the book was not what I expected. I didn’t realize that this was book 5 in a series of vampire detective novels. All of the books are self contained stories but this book referred to a lot of things that happened in previous novels and I was a little lost at times. I was also expecting a horror novel or at least a book with a lot of humor and didn’t get it.
This book wasn’t all bad though, the action picks up in the second half of the book. I really liked the character of Gullah Gullah, he was kind of like a vampire pimp and hard core gangster rolled into one. Also there is a scene in the book where the werewolves are having a convention and play Nintendo Rock Band. One group of werewolves have vampire detective Felix Gomez sing lead on Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London. This leads to a big brawl and riot that was the best scene in the book. Towards the end of the book there is a ceremony to decide the future of the werewolves in Charleston which I liked as well. Weather you like it or not depends on what your expecting. If you wanted a bloody horror novel then this book might leave you wanting more, but if you want a decent mystery you might enjoy it.
Also because episode 69 of Horror Addicts was about the present, I wanted to talk about a couple of other books that have just recently been released. The first book is The Asylum For Wayward Girls by Emily Autumn. This is a semi-autobiographical novel by Emily Autumn where she describes the horror of living in an insane asylum in the Victorian era. Emily tells stories of diabolical doctors, blood sucking leeches, talking plague rats and parallel dimensions. This book is complete with hand written memoirs, craft patterns and paintings. Reviews that I read described it as a well researched historical horror story. At points it is disturbing and at times the story is beautiful and moving as a girl who once tried to commit suicide finds out she is a much tougher person then she thought possible. Emily Autumn has been mentioned on the show before, if you want to learn more about her check out Emilieautumn.com.
Also just released in July is Found In Blood by Maurice Lawless. The story follows an exorcist named Nelson Kirch who has the ability to see demons and look into other unholy realms. Nelson is called in to help the police solve a series of murders where the victims were left with strange symbols burned into their flesh. Nelson soon finds out that the symbols could be part of an ancient pact that threatens to bring unseen horrors into our world.
A boy is about to go from a young boy to a young man as he approaches that lucky first teen year of thirteen. Well, in actuality there is a reason that the number thirteen is seen as an unlucky number and this young boy, Timothy, is about to find out why as that magical day approaches.
The film Skinwalkers introduces us to a Native American myth were people have the ability to take the form of an animal. The Native Americans saw this gift as a great prize, but as any gift, it holds a dark side. Those who choose to eat the flesh and thirst for blood crave power. There are others who just suffer with the curse and they want the curse end.
Skinwalkers follows the urgency of a band of werewolves lead by the evil Varek who are trying to find and kill Timothy. They are thwarted on this campaign by Timothy’s Uncle Jonas and a loyal band of friends and family. The problem is that neither Timothy or his mother, Rachel, have any idea what is going on and why the evil werewolves want Timothy.
So, what makes Timothy so special? Well, it is the fact that Timothy is a half breed as his father was a Skinwalker and his mother was a normal woman. This is the reason that Uncle Jonas and friends will give their life to protect Timothy and his mother. The problem is that they have kept Timothy’s secret from his mother as well.
As his thirteenth birthday approaches, the moon begins to turn red as the prophecy of old is becomes true. Timothy is stricken with sickness due to this change approaching and those around him have to be more and more careful about ensuring they are well tied down at night. Varek and his band however, are on a murderous rampage trying to find the boy and upon learning his location, do not hesitate to ride into town.
There are some moments of humor and loss through this film and there is a great shoot out scene that takes place in a small town. Afterall, who cannot help but love it when an elderly woman picks a gun out of her purse and starts tossing lead around. You just have to laugh at scenes such as this and hopefully you will.
The look of the werewolves was assisted by the makeup of Stan Winston Studios which many horror fans should know. Winston’s creature affects have been seen horror films such as, Lake Placid, Wrong Turn, Aliens, and many other films. Thus, the werewolves in the film are primarily real makeup affects and less dependent on CGI. This helps add some realism to the film that will draw the viewer in. The larger use of CGI was in the background looks of the film especially in the red moon that becomes very prevalent as Timothy gets closer to his birthday.
The actors aren’t well-known to many, but there are some great performances. Many will recognize Rhona Mitra (Rachel) who was in the last Underwold movie and Doomsday. Elias Koteas (Uncle Jonas) has been in many horror films as well.
There is another way to look at the films central plot. It may not just be a tale of people searching for a boy, but a tale of brother versus brother. This type of plot has been seen in literature and film for decades and to find out who the brothers are, you will need to watch the film.