Latinx Month: FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ, The Witch’s Mirror

By Kristin Battestella

The Witch’s Mirror – Oft spooky actor Abel Salazar (The Curse of the Crying Woman) produced this black and white 1962 Mexican horror treat with Isabela Corona (A Man of Principle) as a creepy housekeeper amid the excellent smoke and mirrors and titular visual effects. From a macabre prologue and illustrations to Victorian mood, candles, and rituals, El Espejo de la Bruja has it all – love triangles, jerky husbands, revenge, betrayals, grave robbing, and ghoulish medicine. The plot is at once standard yet also nonsensical thanks to all the sorcery, implausible surgeries, ghosts, fire, even catalepsy all building in over the top, soap opera-esque twists. The sets are perhaps simplistic or small scale with only interior filming, but this scary, play-like atmosphere is enough thanks to wonderful shadows, gothic décor, and freaky, sinister music. Several language and subtitle options are available along with the feature and commentary on the DVD as well – not that any of the dubbing, subtitles, or original Spanish completely matches. The audio is also messed up in some spots, but the script is fun and full of cultish summonings and medical fantasies. Maybe this one will have too much happening for some viewers, as every horror treatise is thrown at the screen here. However, this is a swift, entertaining 75 minutes nonetheless and it doesn’t let up until the end.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Death Becomes Her

Deliciously Dark Death Becomes Her gets Better with Age

by Kristin Battestella

Mad?”

Hel!”

Writer Helen Sharp’s (Goldie Hawn) plastic surgeon fiance Ernest Menville (Bruce Willis) thinks Helen’s childhood friend Madeline Ashton (Meryl Streep) is an amazing starlet. Madeline has stolen Helen’s beaus previously and does so again, but fourteen years later, Helen achieves her revenge by looking stunning and wooing Ernest into her killer plans. Madeline will do whatever she can to compete – including visiting the mysterious Lisle von Rhoman (Isabella Rosselini) for a youthful elixir. Unfortunately, the costly potion leads to bodily disasters if you don’t take care of your beauty, and unlike these desperate ladies trying to stay forever young, the 1992 dark comedy Death Becomes Her only gets better with age.

Director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) and writers Martin Donovan (Apartment Zero) and David Koepp (War of the Worlds) open the surprisingly PG-13 Death Becomes Her with 1978 not so well received ritzy as Playbills are tossed aside and stage glory turns sour thanks to show within in a show awkward performances, bad choreography, caricatures on youth, and phony songs about you. Flirtatious winks, polite shade, through the teeth comebacks, and backhanded compliments are played straight as your frienemy steals your man, and Death Becomes Her wastes no time with backstabbing wedding bells and revenge decades in the planning leading to book party invitations and who’s looking swell versus who’s looking worse for the wear changes. The man looming above the frame is reflected in the mirror behind the woman – reverse revealing the personal disconnect as each says things they don’t mean alongside more symbolism and aggressive gestures. Hellish characters and murderous plans are both deliberate and measured yet flippant and off the cuff, as our plastic surgeon is dismissed as a ghoul for not healing but indulging vanity even in death. More quirky visuals layer the Hollywood commentary – what’s with that guy upside on the wheel at the spa? – and reflective camera shots create viewer double take. What if we did look twice and really paid attention beyond face value then what would we see? Death Becomes Her winks at the secret opportunities available to the elite behind closed doors amid insular they know that we know that they know that we know flattery. Confidence only comes with beauty, and the camera’s distorted angles and askew perceptions reiterate this frame of mind as wide shots have the face in the center but the subject at hand in the background. With such in camera staging, one need not resort to fast-paced editing later to compensate and piece together wit or tension because the bags full of makeup, screams overseeing oneself in the mirror without said makeup, and fake tears sprayed in the eyes while practicing crocodile speeches – in the mirror framed by defaced pictures of her obsession – speak for themselves. One woman equals sex while another demeans flaccid, and cuckold phrases reiterate the servile men and obedient dogs as demented one liners, frantic questions, and disturbing calm lead to top of the stairs teetering and the not so dead rising behind one’s back. Formaldehyde is bought in bulk on top of jokes on doing something “funny” with a dead wife and “It’s alive” homages. Eternal youth potions await in a scary, humbling castle where newcomers tiptoe so their heels don’t echo on the floor before sampling this hush-hush, ageless elixir to prove its price. Snake charmers admit the forever young will look suspicious if they don’t disappear, and Death Becomes Her is likewise self-aware of how lacking in self-awareness its desperate characters are when not heeding knives or warnings to preserve the facade. Women who for decades purposely inflict pain without actually harming each other let all the violence out and apologize – tag teaming the man they were fighting over because they need him to maintain their seemingly miraculous vitality forever. Twisted dream sequences, wide lenses, and zooms accentuate the preposterously clever scheme of tranquilizers on the wine glass and finishing dinner before planting the body in a car going off Mulholland Drive as quips about divorce in California, never seeing a neighbor in Los Angeles, and those with no talent for poverty orchestrating murder escalate the satire with handy hardware, bloody bodies in the lily pond, and a hole in the stomach big enough to right see through you.

Everything has to be taut and perfect for Madeline Ashton, and only Meryl Streep (She-Devil) can play a bad actress obsessed with wrinkles without winking and scene chewing for the camera. Madeline strikes the right pose, plumps the bosom, and remains pampered even if she hasn’t worked in some time and is no longer the breadwinner. In order to hide her impoverished past, she must show up Helen at all times and mere makeup won’t do. Despite her fame and wealth, Madeline’s ugliness shows in her mistreatment of the maid or any pretty supple ingenue. When rejected by her younger lover for not considering how he feels, she blames him for making her feel cheap. Even if the spa refuses to do a traumatic plasma treatment, Madeline demands the procedure money is no object because she fears younger women must be laughing at her. She’s shocked at Helen’s transformation and makes excuses about feeling terrible at having happiness at Helen’s expense, but Madeline doesn’t feel that terrible and she’s not really happy. Fortunately, her shady zingers return with her beauty, but Madeline says what she shouldn’t, leading to scary body bags and uncomfortable realizations – although she enjoys having no pulse because nobody can play dead better than she can. Goldie Hawn’s (Overboard) Helen is initially a shy and quiet writer compared to her old school rival Madeline, dowdy and twisting her handkerchief rather than expressing her anger. She warns Ernest that Madeline only wants him because she has him. Madeline has stolen men from Helen before and she wants Ernest to pass her Madeline Ashton test, but when he does not, Helen becomes a gluttonous cat lady obsessed with rewinding Madeline’s onscreen strangulation. Upon eviction, she ruins her therapy group by talking about Madeline before overcoming her outlook by vowing revenge and looking dynamite while doing it. Literary success follows, and Helen lies to Madeline’s face about never blaming her, kissing her cheek as she pits Madeline and Ernest against each other. Now a vivacious vixen, Helen claims sisterhood while plotting with her man – embodying the shade, deception, and fierce competition of the woman scorned even if she doesn’t really want Ernest anymore. She just wants to take him from Madeline and use him for her fatal revenge, and both ladies willingly become a Hollywood type of vampire, consuming the essence of a man for their own youthful survival. What does their undead beauty contest get them? Each other, stuck forever in an “I paint your ass, you paint mine” begrudging.

Ernest Menville was once a famous plastic surgeon, but now Bruce Willis’ (Color of Night) doctor is a postmortem fixer for the Hollywood dead between breakfast bloody marys. Life with Madeline hasn’t worked out, and she’s reviled by his bottom feeder, drinking himself to death existence. When complimented for his mortuary work, Ernest admits the secret weapon for coloring dead skin is spray paint, but he knows it isn’t real work and would sell his soul to really operate again. He argues with Madeline about who ruined whom and won’t take jokes about his clients being stiffer. Though unhappy, wishing to divorce, and easily swept up when Helen comes on to him with sexy words, Ernest is reluctant to go along with her plans, for he takes the change in Madeline’s temperature, pulse, and hair – because that’s what men notice – as a miracle. Ernest gains confidence despite his fear over what he has done, wanting to make Madeline his masterpiece, painting her and carefully mixing the turpentine. He won’t be rushed when her eyes must have artistic balance! Ernest will fix them and then go, but when the ladies need touch-ups, his sudden backbone becomes a problem. Death Becomes Her’s few daylight scenes are about Ernest realizing what took him so long to leave. He was willing to keep his marital promise in spite of the suffering and humiliation, but his obligations are fulfilled in her death do us part. The camera at the not all that it seems spa has to be switched off before Isabella Rosellini’s (Merlin) Lisle von Rhoman can be mentioned, but the million dollar price tag for her mysterious potion is relative to such elite clientele. Her stunning beauty and barely there clothes make it easy to soft sell her elixir – Lisle is sweet when charming a guest, telling them to follow spring and summer but avoid autumn and winters however she’s sassy when ordering her Tom, Dick, and Harry henchmen and intimating with her deceptions. She knows why her clients come to see her, for they are scared of themselves, their bodies, the lengths they go to in maintaining their secrets, and their inevitable failure. Life is cruel, taking away vitality only to replace it with decay, so we want to believe her sweet talking promise to defy natural and endorse the check despite her dominance. The camera heightens Lisle’s look fair and feei  foul with carefully orchestrated poses and frames. She’s centered perfectly in each shot with daggers, Dobermans, and amulets. Lisle crosses her legs in her throne chair and says “thank you” when someone exclaims about God, but her seductive wraps and high collared, witchy robes suggest an underlying evil. After imploring our plastic surgeon to now take the youth and beauty he gave to others for himself, Lisle’s full menace is revealed when he questions her on the nightmarish consequences of immortality. Of course, there’s a wink to Rosellini’s casting because she looks so much like her mother, and bemusing not so dead cameos include James Dean, Jim Morrison, Elvis, and Marilyn alongside appearances by Mrs. Zemeckis Mary Ellen Trainor (Tales from the Crypt) and poor doctor with a heart condition Sydney Pollock (Three Days of the Condor).

The naughty but sinister, frenetic strings of Alan Silvestri’s (Predator) theme set the mood for Death Becomes Her amid a dash of jazz, disco beats, and campy cues. Boas and colorful stage backdrops in the opening sequence establish an over the top, garish, tacky and lamé atmosphere before static on the old television, retro patterns, and poor clutter contrast the massive Beverly Hill mansion with gated entries, a grand staircase, hefty doors, and heaps of marble. The made to look ugly, old, and desperate makeup and bodily transformations are well done amid tears and soggy rain making a woman look worse before bemusing good skin versus bad skin comparisons and boob lifts. That pretty left hand with the giant rock ring is always prominently displayed! Subtle nudity is also reflected through windows and doors as supple butt shots provide curves to the sagging and wrinkles. The square nineties blazers and low buttons add masculine angles for the women, however low cut cleavage, deep blouses, and lace invoke feminine symbolism along with thigh-high slits, Egyptian life giving motifs, and our glowing pink potion. Death Becomes Her abounds with mirrors everywhere – frames within frames via television screens, snapshots, and gold portraits pepper every scene. Clever reflections, shadows, and silhouettes do double duty while red stands for passion, black for suspicion, and white for innocence as dramatic overhead drops, balcony dangles, thunder, and shotgun blasts apply terror in the killing scenes. Neck snaps, stairway rolls, holes in the gut, and backwards results are as disturbing as the decision to kill. Sure, some of the bumbling bodies and squashed heads may look poor now, but that also keeps them funny, and there are more intriguing or random visual gags to catch our eye – the doctor throwing away his stethoscope when he can’t get a heartbeat, the yuppie tennis couple with the bruised elbows, those weird ass gliding nuns. The pink pastels and green palm trees in the eighties upscale buildings are perfectly gaudy now, but the blue lighting, black marble, and arrows pointing to the morgue mirror how the characters are inevitably walking towards death. Michelangelo motifs and pools of water could be symbolic life renewals as one tries to escape the locked doors, gilded elevators, grand arches, maze like spires, and those ever present mirrors but Death Becomes Her’s beauty goes from svelte to garish with vampire pale, white out eyes, pasty skin, and gross peeling.

One may love or hate Death Becomes Her but there is no in between and it takes multiple viewings to study the dual nuances, comedic layers, and dark subtleties. Questions on immortality – or at least looking immortal – deepen the commentary on beauty and why women compete to look so enchanting even if it kills them. Today’s dark comedies often feel crass or too disturbing, but the great cast keeps Death Becomes Her mature with a tongue in cheek that doesn’t have to berate the obvious. While not in your face horror, the choice macabre moments and increasingly bleak palette illume our dread and fear of old age. We can laugh at the sardonic winks even as Death Becomes Her calls out Hollywood then and hello look at us on the ‘gram now, remaining delicious because its satire is unfortunately more applicable than ever.

Do you remember where you parked the car?”

For more Horror Comedies, revisit:

The Addams Family Season 1

The Munsters Season 1

Bell, Book, and Candle

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Scary Waters!

Ahoy, Scary Waters Ahead! By Kristin Battestella

Grab the life jackets for this damp list of warped psychology, island mayhem, and beastly sea life…

Seance on a Wet Afternoon – Oscar nominated medium Kim Stanley (The Right Stuff) and her husband Richard Attenborough (The Great Escape) star in this moody black and white 1964 British two hours based on the Mark McShane novel. Shadows, candles, weeping ladies in pearls, and whispering circles set the tone immediately alongside classy contemporary touches such as driving goggles, sidecars, phonographs, and old fashioned, cluttered interiors – it’s sixties, but with a faux Victorian mysticism. The lady of the house is domineering, claiming her plans have the blessing to do what needs to be done, yet she wishes she were normal instead of channeling sorrow and makes her weak, complacent husband do the dirty work. Is she crazy or is something paranormal at work? Talk of a mysterious, maybe ghostly, maybe imagined “Arthur,” peepholes, boarded up windows, school bells, and gaslighting actions make the audience take notice. There is a lot of talking set in the few rooms of a creepy, oppressive house, however, the unreliable mindset hooks the audience without insulting us. Dangerous drives, escalating music, and camera zooms accent any slip-up and or the chance for things go wrong while the editing of a ransom note is almost humorous in its casual word choices and disturbing calculations on this “borrowing” plan. Viewers both understand and like these perpetrators – they are at one strong enough to pull this off yet incredibly vulnerable and taking tremendous risks. However, we are also disgusted by their hospital ruses and psychic ploys even if we feel sorry for the villains, victims, and agree with a rightfully skeptical father and suspicious law enforcement. Tensions escalate along with the crimes – what was once such a perfect plan orchestrated by an unstable wife is now we, we, we intense and ready to snap with the heat showing as sweat on everyone’s brow. Layered tours and intercut chases up the nail-biting twists as one séance too many might unravel this chance to be famous by solving your own crime. Well acted intensity and warped grief make this taut little thriller perfect for a rainy day.

Triangle– Black Death director Christopher Smith creates a great mind-bending and smartly head-scratching ride in this watery 2009 Bermuda triangle thriller.  There are a few scares, but the within-storytelling and multi-level camera work develop more of a thinking viewer’s Twilight Zone heavy before full-on gore or modern slasher horror.  A decrepit and sinister ship, carefully placed mirrors, dual appearances and deceptions, and altered audience perceptions layer the plotting and paths for desperate mother Melissa George (Turistas). Though it boy Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games) is iffy, his role is relatively small. Hefty concepts, time twists, and intelligent debate outshine any small scale productions here, too.  I’d like to say more, but I don’t want to spoil anything!

Writers Retreat Novelists face their fears in more ways than one at this 2015 island workshop with high tide isolation and no internet or cell phones. Awkward book signings, contract deadlines, angry agents, dead vermin, and highway mishaps assure this meeting is off on the wrong foot for our introverted strangers. There’s one emergency landline, and the ice breaker exercises, manuscript focus, and writing discussions are more like therapy for this diverse group. Writers are weird by nature, however some are more pretentious than others, rolling their eyes and creating tension over what they consider hack manuscripts if the wounded amateur is upset by their critique. Staring at the blank laptop screen, long hand journaling, inspirational photography, and subjects going off by themselves provide withdrawn writing routines but the notebooks, clicking keys, and angelic, panning montages make it seem like we’re witnessing something mystical in action when writing is a lot more complicated than that. Brief sentences read aloud reveal much about these characters in need of validation, for a few aren’t even writing at all before sudden disappearances, red herrings, and inside/outside, voyeuristic camera framing to match the lurking men, misogynistic threats, and gory evidence. Private moments away from the workshop make the viewer pay attention to the individual prejudices, flirtations, preferences, drinking, history, and self-harm. Everyone has their issues, but is anyone willing to kill for the ‘write what you know’ experience? Mysteries and relative truths escalate into horror with hammers to the head, stabbings, and rap tap tapping on the windows let in for some slicing and dicing. Vomiting, blood, pointing fingers, and power outages accent the writing angles and slasher styles as deliberate reveals, torture instruments laid out in the kitchen, eyeballs on the platter, and a glass of wine provide scene-chewing villainy. Unfortunately, the intriguing, sophisticated start does devolve in one fell swoop with haphazard running around, dead body shocks, and knockouts or tie-ups that happen too easy. There’s no one by one crafty kill or time for our intelligent writers to piece the crimes together – or not reveal what they know because that nugget would be a great piece for their manuscript. Creative corkscrew uses, torture porn, and one on one gruesome go on too long, unraveling with loud boo crescendos for every hit, stab, and plunge making an injury seem so severe before the victim inexplicably comes back for more. Although the final act and the predictable bookends deserved more polish, this is worth the late-night look for both writers and horror fans.

And Some More Terribly Wet Fun

Creature from the Haunted Sea – Oh, Roger Corman, you’re killing me with this 1961 horror comedy remake of Beast from Haunted Cave! The black and white Beatnik opening chase looks like the Beastie Boys “Sabotage” music video.  The sound, music, bad narration, iffy Spanish, and worse dialogue are very poorly mixed. The poor acting, over the top spy and noir spoof vibes come off all wrong, and the animated credits are downright corny.  I think I get what Corman was trying to do, but the confusing Cuban plot with Beetles and Winnebagos on the chase is too low budget college-kids-with-a-camera. Who’s in charge on this boating escapade- military Cubans? Gold digging Americans? Monsters? Murderers? The singing, crappy spies, a guy who speaks in animal sounds- this is just a really surprising mess. I mean, somebody gets hit with a fish!

Phantom from 10,000 Leagues – Yes, the titular beasty from this 1955 proto-AIP science fiction feature looks completely hokey. It’s tough to tell who is who at the start, and slow talking scenes with poor acting and wooden romances damage the entertaining pace and humor from the action sequences. The weak, simplistic science is also laughable today, and they even pronounce it Mu-tant with a long A! Nighttime footage is tough to see, and the hour and twenty here seems too long. How many times can the same guy go diving for this monster? Fortunately, the drowning scenes and underwater photography look decent with good music and suspense pacing to match.  One can enjoy both the period expectation and/or guffaw over the corny at the same time. This one feels good for a fun night in theme with other sea creature features, but perhaps it is just too flawed to completely enjoy on its own. 

More Nature Viewing Perils include:

Witches and Bayous

Summer Vampires

Island of Doctor Moreau

Did I Meet Millicent Washburn Shinn? By Kate Nox

Millicent Washburn Shinn was the first woman to be awarded a Ph.D from the University of California at Berkeley.  She was an author and poet who took over editorship of Bret Harte’s Overland Monthly, a magazine about California. She also won renown as a psychologist in publishing her Biography of a Baby, from her research on the systematic development of an infant.

And she died of heart failure on August 13, 1940, 12 years and six days before I was born.

So how, you ask, might I have made her acquaintance?

As a program director and chaperone for a group of senior citizens, I made a lot of trips to interesting places. But the day I believe I met Millicent was one I will never forget.

This visit to the historical Shinn home in Fremont, California started like any other. The docent greeted us at the door and led us on a tour of the 1870 Victorian style house. Having finished the tour of the main floor, the docent led us up a narrow stairway to the second floor.

As was my practice, I allowed all the seniors to precede up the stairs and into the room because I was younger and more able to hear the docent’s spiel from outside the room. I then let the seniors exit the room and entered myself to see what they had just viewed and heard about.

The first room at the top of the stairs was your average farmhouse room, pretty stark and nothing very remarkable, except for some clothing hanging on the inside of an open closet door. Because I often work with costumes, I take every opportunity to educate myself on the correctness of what people wore in any time period.

I approached the closet and as I rounded the end of the bed, I got the impression someone was following me. My heart lept inside my chest. In my mind I viewed a young woman in a black dress. I knew when I turned around she would be there, but there was no one.

I shrugged my shoulders and continued forward thinking to examine the buttons on the first dress. Suddenly, I could not breathe. Not outloud, but in my brain I heard a female voice shouting emphatically,  “Get out! Get out! Get out!”  I left the bedroom quickly without looking back, knowing I would be in danger if I did not.

I didn’t want to frighten the members of the tour group, so I fell in behind them and waited until the tour guide had invited them to explore the upstairs library on their own. I then took her aside and asked if there had been unusual occurrences in the house?

She smiled and asked me if I felt something. I relayed to her that I felt a presence warning me to leave the closet area. She then told me she knew I would feel something when she saw me coming up the stairs.

“Some people are just more sensitive, I could see it in your face.”  She went on to say, workers preparing the house for viewing had several experiences of hearing someone upstairs while they were all working downstairs, but when they went up to check, they found no one there.

One day, after locking up the house, some of the workmen were walking to the parking lot together and heard pounding. Looking up at the window on the second floor, they saw a young girl inside the house. Deciding a child had gotten into the house, two of the workers went back into the house to get her out and send her home before leaving for the night. They spent quite a bit of time calling out and looking into every closet and room but found no child in the house. They felt it was the ghost of a small girl who had fallen from an attic window and died.

Others had felt something in that front bedroom–though not necessarily a young woman’s presence as I had felt and many photographers had found strange orb-like figures in their pictures of the house and grounds.

The docent showed me a clock on a shelf in the front hall near the door. The clock was one which needed wound with a key kept on a shelf inside its cabinet. She said that every day as they left the house, staff made sure to wind the clock, check the time, and latch the cabinet. On numerous mornings when coming back into the house, they found the cabinet standing open and the time changed on the clock.

Needless to say, none of her stories made me feel very comfortable or gave me the desire to return, but I have often wondered who the woman whose presence I felt so frighteningly might have been.

Recently, I decided to write about my experience and visited several websites to reacquaint myself with the layout of the house and remember the significance of the family who had lived there. It was then that I learned about Millicent.

After having pursued her education, worked with early childhood development, and the magazine, she returned home and — as the only female child, took on the societal norms of the times. She bore responsibility to take care of her invalid mother, the household, and to help care for her brother’s children.

Some writers I found espoused the opinion that she did so grudgingly, and may have felt trapped, leaving me to wonder if that was the reason for the anger when I wandered too far into the room?

In the actual history of the family, there are no reports of her begrudging her life on the family farm. I imagine she felt protective over her mother, the children, and the house. Did she see me as one of the children foraging too far into the room and become afraid I might wake her ailing mother? Or had she simply grown tired of people poking about the place and, since I was alone, decided to make her point?

Whatever the reason, and whether or not it was indeed Millicent, or another woman of the past, the message was quite clear and I made up my mind then and there never to visit again for fear of further frightening encounters that might not end well for me!

____________________________________________________________________________

If you would like to take your chance at an encounter,  you may visit the Shinn Historical Park and Arboretum

1251 Peralta Blvd (28.80 mi) Fremont, CA 94536.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Perilous Weather!

Perilous Weather and Viewing! By Kristin Battestella

Lighting, mountains, bears, and storms – some of these horror movies are just as dangerous as the dark skies onscreen!

A Lonely Place to Die – Beautiful but perilous vistas, thunder, and misty but dangerous mountains – a risky place to whip out the camera! – open this 2011 hikers meet kidnappers parable starring Melissa George (Triangle), Alec Newman (Dune), and Ed Speleers (Downton Abbey). Eagles and aerial views quickly degrade into mistakes, hanging frights, and upside down frames. Ropes, gear, risk – people cause disaster among the otherwise still, respected beauty where they aren’t supposed to be resulting in cuts, scrapes, and falls. Weather interferes with their plans to climb the next killer facade but wishing one could paint the lovely forest and rocky scenery uncovers mysterious echoes from an ominous pipe and a trapped little girl. The hikers split up – several take the longer, safer route back to the nearby town – however there’s a more difficult path called Devil’s Drop that one couple brave climbing to reach help faster. Unfortunately, short ropes and sabotaged equipment create shocking drops and fatal cliffs. They aren’t wearing helmets so we can see the heroics, but no gloves against the sharp rocks, rough trees, and burning ropes, well that’s as dumb as not having a satellite phone. Unnecessary fake out dreams, annoying shaky cams, and distorted points of view detract from both the natural scary and the mystery of who else may be out there – fear on people’s faces is always more powerful than effects created for the audience. Guys with guns encountering more crazed men all in black with yet more kidnappers in pursuit also break the isolated situation too early. Unknowns snipers would better layer the environmental fears, raging river perils, terrain chases, and gunshots. Attacks from an unseen culprit are much more terrifying than knowing what poor shots they are even up close and with scopes. Injuries, screams, thuds, and broken limbs provide real menace, and we really shouldn’t have met the killers until they are over the victims asking them how much the price of their nobility hurts or what good compassion did for them today. Although double-crossing criminals playing the mysteries too soon compromises the good scares and surprise fatalities, fiery sunset festivals progress the mountain isolation to a ritual village suspicious. Fireworks and parades mingle with hog masks and alley chases – again suggesting people are where they shouldn’t be as the hiking dangers become congested public confrontations. While the crooks’ conspiracies get a tad ridiculous when innocent bystanders are killed in plain sight, this is a unique natural horrors cum kidnapping thriller remaining tense and entertaining despite some of those shout at the TV flaws.

You Make the Call, Addicts!

Dead of Winter – Lovely snow-tipped trees, mountains, and chilly rivers begat hiking perils, rock tumbles, ropes cut, snowy crashes, and hungry wolves in this 2014 Canadian geocaching terror. Of course, there are bus driving montages, DUI histories, annoying music, getting gas in middle of nowhere clichés, and ridiculously hammy dialogue like “Is your cock ever soft?” “Only in your mommy!” WTF. One jerk films everybody in a camcorder point of view even as they clearly all have chips on their shoulders, but the sardonic documentation is forgotten as we quickly meet the cliché, overly excited nerds, angry lesbians, and the dude bros who want to watch amid nighttime scenery, windshield wipers, and the increasingly icy road. Although people are bundled up for this snowy treasure hunt, their faces are still Hollywood exposed as the teams run to and fro in the woods following creepy clues in a kind of humorous montage before no phone signals, a bus that won’t start, garroting logger cables, and explosions. If they’re stranded two hundred miles and at least four days walk from anywhere, why doesn’t anyone stay near the fiery bus for heat and signal fires? Everyone continues following the increasingly bizarre geocache reveals such as a gun with no bullets and a stopwatch promising screams in ninety seconds despite falling snow showers, waterfalls, and damaged bridges. One dumb ass know it all thinks a creaking old wood bridge with over a foot of snow on top the buckling boards is safe so they all go for it because he says there’s a quarry shortcut and a convenient cabin nearby, too. Somebody has to take a dump in the snow, it’s obvious who’s going to die next – cough one lesbian and the black guy cough – and the hip acting hampers the finger-pointing group divisions. Thanks to the straightforward rather than herky-jerky filming, we can see the bloody hangings, torn limbs, and splatter gore, but arrows and crossfire reveal the killer far too soon when a movie about a treasure hunt shouldn’t give up its reward until the end. Head scratching cutaways, airplane rescue fake-outs, and whining about missing pizza further break audience immersion as no one complains about blisters, cold, or frostbite on their gloveless hands. No one is tired – least of all the driver who drove all night and then drank all day who says he’ll stay up on watch while the others sleep. They didn’t follow the river but are later glad to have handy flashlights and booze to drink as they joke about eating the tubby jerk first rather than addressing any real cannibalism horror. Jealously, one person that is not so mysteriously absent, a knife plus a pen and suddenly anybody can do an instant tracheotomy – it takes an hour for someone to realize this was planned revenge thanks to some prior competition because geocaching is a mad competitive and dangerous sport! The riddles and underground hideouts run out of steam with sagging contrivances and overlong, predictable explanations. This is watchable with entertaining horror moments, however the cliché points and outlandish but wait there’s more on and on will become too laughable for some. Our survivors may have beaten the horror hunt, but everyone apparently forgets they’re still stranded in the wilderness before the fade to black. Oops.

One to Skip

Backcountry – From packing in the parking garage and highway traffic jams to embarrassing sing a longs and a Cosmo quiz for relationship backstory, this 2014 Canadian survival thriller from writer and director Adam MacDonald (Pyewacket) has plenty of cliches for this city couple in the woods. Sunlit smiles, peaceful canoe pretty, and happy hiking montages can’t belie the ominous when the audience enters in with full knowledge of the impending horror. At the country rest stop, a ranger warns them of bad weather and closed, out of season trails, however our big man insists he doesn’t need medical kits or a map. He ignores minor injuries, mocks his inexperienced girlfriend’s preparations, leaves his ax behind, and lights a fire before leaving it to go skinny dipping. Not only do these actions completely contradict everything Survivorman taught us, but these people also don’t know they are in a scary movie. A sudden stranger at their campsite creates obvious jealousy and inferiority complexes but weird accents, racist questions, contrived dialogue, and stereotypical characterizations interfere with the attempted tension. Fortunately, askew angles on the trail, going off the path doubts, isolated nature sounds, and lookalike trees invoke better suspense as the camera blurs and pans with confusion or pain thanks to disgusting toenail gore. Up close views inside the cramped, not so safe tent build fear alongside snapping branches and bear footprints, but of course this guy doesn’t believe the supposedly overreacting woman who wants to go home when she hears something amiss. No dumbass, it isn’t acorns falling on the outside of the tent, and you should have never taken her phone and left it in the car! It takes a half hour for the innate wilderness horrors to get going, but the suspense is continually interrupted by the obnoxious behavior – wasting water, blaming her for their situation when it is clearly his fault, and her apologizing after confessing he is a loser just trying to impress her. Why couldn’t they have gone on an easier hike when she never wanted to go in the first place? Proposal excuses aren’t enough when you continually ignore dead carcasses nearby and claim it was just a raccoon that ate your food. Drinking the mini champagne bottles is not going to help their situation! Despite well-done heartbeats, ringing in the ears, and tumbling down the ravine camera views, there’s simply not enough character development and story here to sustain the wait for the superbly bloody, frenetic bear attacks in the finale. Gore, scares, screams, growls, and maulings fall prey to a just missed ’em helicopter rescue opportunity as our final girl inexplicably becomes an expert runner, rock climber, and field medic before pretty deer and dumb luck save the day. Is this uplifting music and girl power ending just a dream of what she wishes happens because otherwise, it is ridiculously unlikely. Where Pyewacket expressly defies the horror tropes checklist, this does nothing but adhere to it – becoming only worth watching if you want to yell at the people or fast forward to see them get what they deserve. ¯\_()_/¯ The bear isn’t the villain, human superiority is!

Camp Country

Stormswept – Grand columns, bayou scenery, candles, thunder, ghostly gusts, and possessions start this almost seventies feeling 1995 romp starring Kathleen Kinmont (Renegade) amid realtors avoiding a house of horrors disclosure and muddy accidents. The chandeliers and staircase grandeur can also be seen in North and Southbut there are spiders, covered furniture, and flashes of past boobs, blood, and some kind of skeleton dildo thingie. Saucy paintings abound, naughty books contain graphic ejaculation or cunnilingus art, and red four-poster beds await. This is obviously low budget Skinemax style – so despite the eerie atmosphere, some scary filming, ominous silhouettes in rain slickers, and frightful reflections in the window, one can’t tell if everyone is going to die or have sex, probably both. Four women and two men are Marilyn Chambers numbers! It takes too long for the crew to get stranded at the plantation, but the film within a film chases feature girls in white shirts and no bras while playing into girl on girl fantasies with let’s get off your wet clothes talk and accidental towel drops. I laughed out loud at that, I really did! Although the dated midriffs, acid wash jeans, giant old portable phone, and faxed paperwork are bemusing, most of the sexual dialogue is uncomfortable. The men say once a guy has sex with another man he’s a homosexual but it’s okay for the women to experiment for them as it doesn’t make them lesbians. Truth or dare demands the women kiss, word association games start with “pink” – it’s disturbing the way actor turned luxury rehab guru Justin Carroll’s director character has these women trapped, doing what he wants and not caring if anyone is upset by the sex chats. Whooshing storm effects live up to title and there’s a torture history binding everyone to the house, but not much sense is made of this evil spirit driving one and all to sex and kill. The overlong wet dream confessions and lez be friends scenes embrace the step above soft core rather than exceed that lower rung with the horror. I almost wish this could be redone to be more quality. Hidden people in the basement, secret diaries, murders – but our actress has never had an orgasm and it’s more important for the manipulative director to hypnotize her into touching herself in front of everyone like Showgirls thrashing in the pool. She recalls painful abuse and incest memories, but he tells her she need not be guilty over masturbating with her brother and can go ahead and have her ultimate sexual fantasy about Alex Trebek. O_o o_O I thought this was supposed to be a horror movie! While terribly laughable and base level entertaining, I just… insert Nathan Fillion confused gif here. Is there even a saucy ghost or is this what happens when you lock messy horny people in the house on a stormy night?

Revisit More Dangerous Weather Viewing:

Water Perils

Witches and Bayous

Forest Frights

Haunt Jaunts : Ghoulish Goodies Mystery Boxes

Satisfy Your Dark Craving for Specialized Spooky Gifts

What tickles your ghoulish fancy? Witches? Halloween? Killer clowns? Horror movie villains? Just something gothic in general? Imagine receiving a mystery box in the mail from a company called Ghoulish Goodies filled with creeptastic themed items.

Well, you don’t need to imagine it. The company really exists. They specialize in crafting mystery boxes filled with “the most ghastly and gruesome goodies to soothe your black heart and satisfy your dark soul.”

Ghoulish Goodies has themed boxes of all kinds. It’s a mystery exactly what’s in each one, but they’re filled with things like candy, trinkets and individually wrapped gifts –in custom made paper.

Kevin, the company’s owner and Head Ghoul, attempts to capture the magic, mystery and excitement of Christmas morning and Halloween night.

I think he nails it.

I gifted a Haunt Jaunts reader a Budget Black Cat box as part of a contest. Here’s what she wrote to me after receiving it:

It was the best present I got in 58 years.

Here’s what she wrote to Ghoulish Goodies:

I was amazed at all the surprises that were in the box. It was opened and i saw cobwebs and spiders. Then all the goodies were wrapped up nicely. Lots of black cats that were stuffed and glass. Pencil cases, lots of candy, more bugs. My cats are enjoying those. Stickers, and many more items. I was very pleased with all my things.

Other reviews left on Ghoulish Goodies Facebook page reflect the same sentiment:

From Christina M.

One of my best friends bought me a custom made box of “all things gore” for my birthday. It was seriously one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. Lots of things to open. It was so fun to see what was inside! My friend also got an “Exorcist” themed box for her husband. I watched him open it and it was equally as fun as the one I got! 10/10 would recommend. A lot of work, thought, and care are reflected in each of these boxes. Because of this gift, Ghoulish Goodies has a new customer

From Kimchi A.

Talk about presentation, personalization and the best bang for your buck you could ever hope to find, The Exorcist deluxe box was an absolute treasure trove! For the collector, there wasn’t anything left out. Pictures, posters, postcards, memorabilia, toys and rarities in personalized wrapping paper. All this surrounded by Red Hots and Hot Tamales candy boxes, complete with Exorcist lip balm (Lick me! The power of chap compels you!) and a single solitary can of split pea soup. Out of 5 stars, you get 666 for this effort!! HIGHLY recommended!

From Amber S.

Received my box today, I loved it “alot”. It was fun and was one of the best mystery boxes I Received so far. I mostly loved how everything was individually wrapped, but could have done better without the candy. Also i know it’s always random stuff in the boxes but if a pop figure is in one of these boxes please make sure to be careful with the pop boxs because it did have some damage. Overall I loved the box and I WILL BE GETTING MORE.

Christmas has passed but Valentine’s Day is coming. And yep. Ghoulish Goodies offers Bleeding Hearts boxes in their Holiday Themed Mystery Boxes section.

But of course you can send any type of box any time you want, no holiday or special occasion needed. You can even treat yo’ self!

They have three tiers of box types to choose from:

  1. Budget Boxes for $69.99
  2. Biggie Boxes for $110
  3. Deluxe Boxes for $159.99

The more you spend, the bigger the box and the more impressive the goodies inside. All prices include shipping.

For More Info

Visit Ghoulish Goodies: http://www.ghoulishgoodies.net/

Disclaimer: This was not a paid endorsement, but I am friends with the company’s owner. I really believe in him and the passion he pours into putting his boxes together. People don’t take the time to gift people gifts like this anymore with all the wrapping and thoughtfulness. I think that’s why his boxes make such a huge impact when they’re opened.

 

A Bloody Valentine Event – Colorado Springs Women Writers, HWA

On Friday, February 14, 2020, the satellite chapter of HWAColorado will be hosting A Bloody Valentine event to celebrate #WomeninHorrorMonth.

This event will be held at:

Cottonwood Center for the Arts

427 E Colorado Ave, Colorado Springs
Maps and Directions

7p-10 pm.

Doors open at 6:30 pm.

This event is free and open to the public.

Food and beverages will be available for purchase.

Fiction is the focus in the main gallery with live and pre-recorded readings by L. C. Barlow, J. A. Campbell, Hillary Dodge, Angie Hodapp, Kate Jonez, Gwendolyn Kiste, DeAnna Knippling, Shannon Lawrence, b.e. Scully, Angie Sylvaine, Sarah Read, and Mercedes Murdock Yardley. In the upstairs theater, the program includes poetry readings from Linda D. Addison, Andrea Blythe, Marge Simon, and Stephanie M. Wytovich. There will also be an academic segment featuring “Mapping the Collective Body of Frankenstein’s Brides” by Carina Bissett, a reading by academic Alex Scully from the anthology Birthing Monsters: Frankenstein’s Cabinet of Curiosities and Cruelties, an excerpt from Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson, and a presentation by the Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference co-chair Michele Brittany. Additional programming upstairs is still being finalized.

We have secured more than thirty-five signed books by award-winning authors and editors nationwide to give away as door prizes. In addition to signed editions featuring all of the presenting authors and academics, a selection of other books collected so far include Uncommon Miracles by Julie C. Day, The Monstrous Feminine: Dark Tales of Dangerous Women published by Scary Dairy Press, Deadmen Walking and Death Doesn’t Bargain by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, The Manufacturer of Sorrow by Michelle Scalise, Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma, The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith, Creatures of Will and Temper by Molly Tanzer, and The Line-up: 20 Provocative Women Writers, edited by Richard Thomas. Other authors and publishers who have committed to sending signed books include Hex Publishers, Lisa Morton, and Jeani Reactor at The Horror ‘Zine. The support for this event has been fabulous, and we’ve been receiving new signed books by authors each week.

To stay updated on this event, please consider Liking our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/HWAColoSpgs/) and following us on Twitter (https://twitter.com/CosHorror).

A Bloody Valentine Event – Colorado Springs Women Writers, HWA

On Friday, February 14, 2020, the satellite chapter of HWAColorado will be hosting A Bloody Valentine event to celebrate #WomeninHorrorMonth.

This event will be held at:

Cottonwood Center for the Arts

427 E Colorado Ave, Colorado Springs
Maps and Directions

7p-10 pm.

Doors open at 6:30 pm.

This event is free and open to the public.

Food and beverages will be available for purchase.

Fiction is the focus in the main gallery with live and pre-recorded readings by L. C. Barlow, J. A. Campbell, Hillary Dodge, Angie Hodapp, Kate Jonez, Gwendolyn Kiste, DeAnna Knippling, Shannon Lawrence, b.e. Scully, Angie Sylvaine, Sarah Read, and Mercedes Murdock Yardley. In the upstairs theater, the program includes poetry readings from Linda D. Addison, Andrea Blythe, Marge Simon, and Stephanie M. Wytovich. There will also be an academic segment featuring “Mapping the Collective Body of Frankenstein’s Brides” by Carina Bissett, a reading by academic Alex Scully from the anthology Birthing Monsters: Frankenstein’s Cabinet of Curiosities and Cruelties, an excerpt from Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson, and a presentation by the Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference co-chair Michele Brittany. Additional programming upstairs is still being finalized.

We have secured more than thirty-five signed books by award-winning authors and editors nationwide to give away as door prizes. In addition to signed editions featuring all of the presenting authors and academics, a selection of other books collected so far include Uncommon Miracles by Julie C. Day, The Monstrous Feminine: Dark Tales of Dangerous Women published by Scary Dairy Press, Deadmen Walking and Death Doesn’t Bargain by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, The Manufacturer of Sorrow by Michelle Scalise, Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma, The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith, Creatures of Will and Temper by Molly Tanzer, and The Line-up: 20 Provocative Women Writers, edited by Richard Thomas. Other authors and publishers who have committed to sending signed books include Hex Publishers, Lisa Morton, and Jeani Reactor at The Horror ‘Zine. The support for this event has been fabulous, and we’ve been receiving new signed books by authors each week.

To stay updated on this event, please consider Liking our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/HWAColoSpgs/) and following us on Twitter (https://twitter.com/CosHorror).

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Haunting Ladies!

Haunting Ladies Good and Bad by Kristin Battestella

Despite some of the famous names involved, these household horrors and haunting dames are good, bad, and ugly…

House Hunting – A low priced, seventy-acre foreclosure is too good to be true for two families in this 2013 mind-bender starring Marc Singer (The Beastmaster). Rather than a scenic credits montage, the obligatory drive to the horrors is a claustrophobic car conversation between a young wife and the unheard step-daughter. Shrewd editing places the divided family each in their own frame, and our second trio also argue over a teen son on crutches and a grumpy dad rightfully asking what the catch is on this dream property with automated sales pitches in every room. Surprise accidents, hidden guns, tongues cut out, crazy people on the road, and disappearing figures in the woods pack seven different characters into the SUV, but all the country drives lead back to this house. What choice do they have but to stay inside by the ready fireplace? Flashlights, hooded shadows in the corners, just enough canned food for all – the families stick together in one room but cigarette smoking, hooting owls outside, and chills in the air add tense while a bloody ax and a straight razor foreshadow worse. The men take watches but one woman wants to get to work on Monday while the other is almost happy to be there and clean the house. Can they wait for help to arrive? Instead of any transition, the screen simply moves to “One Month Later” with piled cans, smelly clothes, and nobody sleeping. Household papers reveal those responsible for the foreclosure are closer than they think, but they’re trapped in this routine, strained by violent visions and hazy apparitions. Is it really ghosts or cabin fever? If one family stays, will the house let the others leave? Finger-pointing, blame, and distrust mount amid suicides and new assaults. Of course, the metaphors on being trapped by one’s own consequences and reliving past mistakes aren’t super deep and the atmosphere falls apart in real-world logic. Why does no one do what the real estate recordings say? Have they no pen or paper to recount events? Why don’t they hunt for more food? This is a little weird with some trite points, unexplained red herrings, and an unclear frame – problems from a lone writer/director with no secondary eye to see the personal family connections through without changing the rules for the finale. Fortunately, the supernatural elements aren’t flashy, in your face shocks, and the plain fade-ins mirror the monotony, freeing the eerie to develop with meta jigsaw puzzles, doppelgangers, us versus them threats, injuries, and standoffs. Are they getting what they deserve? Will the house let them apologize and escape? The clues are there, but selfish bitterness and vengeance prevent one and all from seeing the answers. While slow for those expecting a formulaic slasher, this festival find remains unusual and thought provoking.  I Didn’t Think it was *that* Bad

Cold Creek Manor – New York skylines, business flights, morning rushes, and scary accidents lead to a perilous country renovation for Dennis Quaid (Innerspace), Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct), Kristen Stewart (Twilight), Stephen Dorff (Blade), Juliette Lewis (Strange Days), and Christopher Plummer (Somewhere in Time) in this 2003 thriller from director Mike Figgis (Stormy Monday). The prologue, drive to the scares, and less than friendly redneck rest stops are just a few of the usual horror staples for our pretty rich white city folk. However, there is a high-end style with a great brick manor, overgrown charm, and unusual slaughter tools amid the spiderwebs, children’s clothes left behind, vintage family portraits, and saucy Polaroids. Older cell phones and flip cameras feel more rural than dated, and overhead camera angles, closeup shots, in and out of focus usage, slow zooms, and pans in the stairwell add chills. Intercut conversations also build community tension with chats in a booth versus whispers at the bar revealing the small town connections as uncouth relatives insist there are no hard feelings over the foreclosure sale. The trailer park naughty, shirtless handyman steamy, and mano y mano contests, however, are weak try hards alongside several unnecessary characters compromising what should be taut isolation. Snakes – and I do mean snakes for those terrified of them – nursing home nasty old men, skull bashing and devil’s throat dialogue, and tavern violence accent the backwoods car chases, animals in peril, and buried evidence as storms approach. Rather than in your face hectic loudness, the most frightening scenes here are the quiet chills, but of course, nobody pays attention to the son who’s holding all the information needed and being upfront about the real estate deal would have saved everyone a lot of trouble. The evasive camera and poor editing are used to distract from confusing logistics, and drinking or affairs contrivances are planted to deflect from the wealthy people claiming they have no resources to leave before the weak rooftop standoff. This tries to be sophisticated and had the pieces to be better but fails in putting together a steamy, fatal, cerebral thriller. Ironically this derivative is better than the recent trite scares shilled out, and if you go in expecting the standard house horrors, this can still be bemusing.  But Skip

House of Bones – The 1951 baseball nostalgia opening this 2010 ghost hunters yarn starring Charisma Carpenter (Buffy) is totally The Sandlot complete with a chubby redhead hitting dad’s Babe Ruth autographed baseball over the ominous fence. Technicalities drag the arrivals as dude bros in a van with the latest gear are sure to announce themselves as the cameraman, the host, and the producer. Slow-motion strobe and in your face television credits for the internal paranormal program parody such series while playing into all they do with annoying crescendos, false jumps, and cheesy bumpers. Every horror moment has to be a bad effect – a glance at gross apple worms has to be some herky-jerky strobe when exploring the cluttered old house, skulls behind the plaster, roaches, suspicious ectoplasm, and disappearing assistants better build the eerie atmosphere. Black and white camera screens, creepy radios, and EVPs accent the attic artifacts and bloody toes yet the modern filming is too fast with no time for the haunted house mood or psychic sensations. The unlikable crew remain jerks trying to turn throwing up hair, shadows caught on camera, disturbing phone calls, and impaled police into a reality show angle rather than taking the danger seriously. Trying to be both a debunking paranormal show and a horror movie at the same time doesn’t quite succeed when the out of place humor and handheld camera sarcasm jar with the scary glass mishaps and arms coming through the walls. The television production asinine should have been dropped sooner so all can fear this alive house that feeds on blood and plays psychological tricks with vintage visuals, power outages, mirror images, and gear hazards. However, the find the blueprints plan of action is silly – an overly serious and contrived resolution meandering with a thin script and useless psychic before running out of steam. While fine for a late night millennial audience, this ultimately has very little haunted house merit.  And Avoid

Winchester – Hammering sounds, lantern light, staircases, tolling bells, and dark corridors accent this 2018 tale of the famed mystery mansion starring Helen Mirren (The Tempest) as Sarah Winchester. Period patinas, maze-like designs, carriages, and cluttered libraries add mood, however creepy kid warnings and opium stupors contribute to an unnecessary opening twenty minutes. The Winchester company lawyer wants a doctor to assess the titular widow’s state of mind – an unwelcoming, typical start with men hiring other men to outwit a woman in a superfluous modern script that does everything but focus on the eponymous subject. Jump scares and crescendos compromise subtle winds and ghostly movements, and the bright picture and special effects editing feel too contemporary. One and all talk about the construction oddities, spiritualism, and the reclusive Widow Winchester’s grief, but it’s too much telling instead of seeing her unreliability and the potentially paranormal. Eerie sounds from the call pipe system are an excuse for ill-advised exploring, dreams, and more disjointed flashes. Quiet overhead scene transitions and meandering tours of the house have no room to create atmosphere because there must be a back and forth mirror fake out – it’s a bathroom scare at the ye olde washstand! One can tell this was written and directed by men, for even as a trio there are no checks or balance on how to tell a women’s horror story. We don’t know her internal or external torment over this spiritual construction as the creepy veils, automatic writing, and supernaturally received architectural plans are too few and far between, and the audience remains at arms length through the keyhole rather than inside with the ghostly connections. Why isn’t the possessed kid with the potato sack on his head who’s jumping off the roof and shooting at the old lady removed from the house? Why should the spirits leave her family alone when the Mrs. begs them to when the script hasn’t given them or us any reason to listen to her? The backward perspective here puts viewers in a skeptical, debunking mindset, leaving the picture with something to prove and audiences looking for the fright around the corner – creating predictable haunts rather than period simmer. Though capable of a one-woman show, Mirren is a mere MacGuffin as old newspapers, flashback splices, and physical bullets bring down one disgruntled ghost as if that’s supposed to stop the silly whooshes, earthquake rattling, and exaggerated construction destruction. Maybe the ghostly shocks and turn of the century accents are fine for a spooky midnight movie. However, the historically diverging and problematic constructs here shift a unique, one of a kind women’s story in an amazing setting into a pedestrian, nonsensical copycat horror movie about a man facing his own ghosts. Good grief.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: British Horror Documentaries!

British Horror Documentaries, Brilliant! By Kristin Battestella

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

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

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

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

You Make the Call, Addicts!

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

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Jean Rollin Saucy!

 

A Saucy Jean Rollin Primer by Kristin Battestella

French director Jean Rollin’s horror films have any and all manner of vampires, witches, subtitles, boobs, and saucy. What’s not to love?

Fascination– Writer and director Jean Rollin uses eerie zooms and haunting camera speeds to provide wonderful turn of the century style and Old World feelings for this 1979 French saucy. Phonographs and period music, ominous sounds, flowing white frocks, frilly lace, feathered hats, graceful mannerisms, candles, decorated interiors, natural visuals, and a great castle locale contrast the morbid slaughterhouse, vivid red colors, blood, rogue, symbolic lips, scythes, black robes, and blonde/brunette or good girl/bad girl expectations. Talk about a sexy grim reaper! It does help to know your français, sure, but the fine performances and talk of death taking the form of seduction add extra panache and gothic allure even amid any translation discrepancies on the available English subtitles.

The laid back mood may be tough for modern American audiences, but the curious characters and simmering atmosphere is soon set with crimes, betrayal, and a siege situation – not to mention how the boobs are out early and often. We’re immediately intrigued in how one man is going to survive being locked in a house with blonde Brigitte Lahaie (I as in Icarus) and brunette Franca Mai (Zig Zag Story), let alone five more cultish women and a blindfold! Though there’s a lot of skin and tender kissing, the saucy scenes may also be a whole lot of nothing for those who are expecting more full-on porn. This pretty Victorian via seventies French lesbianism won’t be for everyone but the kinky sucks the viewer in for the disturbingly delightful fashions, sinister switch, and sophisticated chic.

Lips of Blood – French Director Jean Rollin gets right to the mausoleums, Winnebagoes, shrouded bodies, coffins, and rituals in this more upscale than his usual 1975 tale. A somber score, beautiful but spooky memories, and a mysterious woman in white are immediately eerie while a colorful, swanky party and retro fashions create drama and a sophisticated foundation. Blocked childhoods, an overprotective mother, and castle ruins may be real or imagined add to the secret cemetery passages, hidden tunnels, and questions regarding perfume, scent, and memory. Naturally, there’s nudity both male and female complete with a bonus photography session, seventies bush, and masturbation. However, the saucy isn’t as rampant here, and this has a more put together story compared to Rollin’s usually thin plotlines. Although there is a bit of walking around filler, blue street lights and a moonlight ambiance anchor the after hours aquarium pursuits with an abandoned about the city feeling – there’s a dead body in the water fountain and The Shiver of the Vampires is playing at the late night movies, too. Mysterious men follow on the subway while bells, alarms, abductions, and straight jackets intensify the bats, toothy vampire nurses, and undead who help one and hinder or kill another. Phone the mayor the hungry, naked, vampire chicks are loose so gather the staking posse! Though rushed in the end, the unique finale is well edited with an interesting mix of doubt, mystery, character drama, and a sexy creepy. Who’s the worse villain – entombed vamp ladies or the village torch mob? And who knew coffins would float so well? Did we know this?


The Nude Vampire – Hooded rituals in science labs make for some unique disrobings, blood vials, and colorful beakers to start this 1970 French saucy from writer and director Jean Rollin. Although I could do without some of the now tame but up close, lingering nipple shots and overlong gyrating and dancing – continental seventies staples though they are – the black and white noir mood is well lit with candles and torchlight alongside striking red, purple, orange, and pretty people treating the eye. The interracial nudity is also surprising for the time, and the seemingly suave, exclusive clubs veil more kinky, sinister, creepy animal masks, and dangerous gunplay. There isn’t a lot of gore or blood, however, a simmering string score, evening streetlights, and cobblestone streets invoke an Old World mood to anchor the rare blood disorders, cult rites, and disturbing deaths. Unfortunately, the production is somewhat small scale and not as lavish as viewers might expect with minimal locales and poor editing. This picture is quiet, slow at times, even boring when precious minutes are wasted on meaningless walking here and there or out there plot exposition that feels tossed in after the fact. Thankfully, there are some great stairs, columns, and marble to up the decadent atmosphere, and the overall sense of bizarre helps the undercooked statements regarding immortality, blood possibilities, man’s stupidity, and the superstition versus science comeuppance. The story could have been better, but this is a fun viewing and we’re not really meant to notice the thin plot over all the titular shapely now are we? 

 

Requiem for a Vampire – Clown costumes, shootouts, daring car chases, and dangerous roads lead this 1971 Jean Rollin juicy before two chicks on a motorcycle roam the countryside leaving dead bodies and torched cars in their wake. The spoken English track and Anglo subtitles don’t match, however, there is hardly any dialogue until the latter half of the picture when we finally find out what’s afoot. Some may dislike this silent style, but grave diggers and thunder create an intriguing, off-kilter spooky atmosphere. Scares, screaming ladies – we don’t know the details but we’re on their side as rituals and titular bloodlines escalate. Of course, colorful castles and seemingly hospitable cults providing purple furs on the bed for some lesbian touchy feelys add to the bushy babes and bemusing euro shtick. Granted, the first half-hour could be tighter, and the bare-bones plot should have gotten to the naughty sooner rather than all that running here and there. The sexual statements are iffy as well, even erroneous, for one wants to be a vampire/lesbian while the other doesn’t want to be and gets a man instead – having sex with a woman still means you are a virgin and can still claim to a man that you haven’t made real love yet! Some saucy scenes are also more graphic than others are, with uncomfortable to watch slaves in chains and more violence against women. I’m not sure about the oral sex bat (um, yeah) but the good old toothy bites mixing supernatural pain and pleasure are nicer than the rough stuff. Bright outdoor photography, pleasant landscapes, sad but eerie abandoned buildings, silhouettes, and well lit candlelight patina with gruesome green and creepy crimsons accent the dark graveyards and frightening dungeon traps, too. Once you get passed some pacing flaws and the uneven smexy, this is a fine looking and bizarrely entertaining vampire ode.

The Shiver of the Vampires – Pallbearers and a black and white graveside set the 1971 Jean Rollin mood before colorful castle ruins, overgrown greenery, and edgy music both embrace the heady and keep the medieval flair with torches, goblets, and candelabras. Howling winds, red lighting, and askew camera angles accent torture chambers and sacrifices, creating a surreal dreamscape with saucy vamps in ye olde but tie-dye dresses. The bride in white contrasts those mourning in black while gruesome skulls belie the cathedral architecture, canopy beds, and rustic yet cozy fireplaces. She’s too distraught for the marital bed – but our bride strips downs when a hippie woman humorously pops out of the grandfather clock and they lez be friends no questions asked. Sheer clothing doesn’t cover the perky naughty bits, so they need all those furs to keep those caressing ladies warm. That poor lonely groom gets left out in the cold! More camera panning, vampire opportunists stepping in and out of the frame, and overhead shots parallel the us versus them debates and whirlwind talk of undead religions and vampire persecutions. Although flashbacks add to the dreamy tone, they also confuse the wild library scene and talk of past crusades, former vampire slayers, and predestined deadly fates. But hey, killer nipple spikes! Yes, the premise is thin with strung together coming to and going fro or looking cool, meandering scenes. Rather than one vampire perspective or the young couple viewpoint, the focus constantly resets. Who’s dead? Who’s alive? Who’s undead? Rival vampire hierarchies at first seem tempting, but twists and true colors ultimately show. Granted, you can say that if you’ve seen one Rolling vampire movie, you’ve seen them all. However, had there been seriously proper writing, The Nude Vampire, Shiver of the Vampires, and Requiem for a Vampire could have been a fine trilogy. Fortunately, the nicer production values keep this bizarre romp brimming with an Avante Garde but no less creepy atmosphere.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Witches and Bayous, Oh My!

 

Witches and Bayous, Oh My! By Kristin Battestella

This trio of somewhat obscure retro pictures has the spooky mood, atmospheric locales, and bemusing magic needed for a little late night enchantment.

Mark of the Witch – A noose, mud, frock coats, and ye olde speaketh set the scene for this 1970 tale of 300-year-old witches and revenge on a Texas college campus, oh yes. Certainly, there are bemusing production values – false eyelashes on the witch, modern dental work seen in her over exaggerated delivery, more bad acting, and super windblown curses amid lengthy filler credits, off-key folk tunes, uneven sound, and cutting corners close camera work that’s just too up close. Fortunately, more natural conversations are casual fun alongside occult books, superstition and psychology studies, and ‘spook seminars’ recounting how those who exorcised and persecuted witches ended up suffering horribly themselves. Not to mention there’s a professor descended of those originally cursed who knows more than he’s saying. Colorful fashions, pigtails, and cigarettes add nostalgia as far out dudes play the sitar and ask hip chicks about their zodiac signs. Palm readings and Ouija boards lead to messing with a black magic tome and laughing at spells with belladonna and bat’s wings. They can substitute some dried rosemary for the fresh sprig in the recipe, right? Invocations, witch’s runes, candles, and wine goblets create an eerie ritual mood along with storms, possessions, and high priestess warnings. Things get slow when the embodied witch learns about our world – the telephone and coffee percolator are explained before campus tours and unnecessary music montages. And look at those classic station wagon ambulances! The men argue about ordering more books so they can learn how to excise the witch’s spirit from the coed, but she’s getting down with the fiery spells, demon summonings, and luring boys to the grove at midnight for some satanic saucy. Again, some action is laughable thanks to bizarre, poorly edited make out scenes and a certain tame to the potions, pompous explanations, repetitive rites, and psychedelic light show driving out of the evil spirit. There isn’t a whole lot to the actual revenge, yet eerie sound effects keep the cackling, daggers, and automatic writing interesting. This could have been totally terrible but the good premise doesn’t go far enough, either. Though neither stellar nor scary, this is both bemusing and creepy for a late night viewing if you can take the bad with the good.

Necromancy – Orson Welles (Chimes at Midnight) and Pamela Franklin (Satan’s School for Girls) star in this 1972 oddity also later known as The Witching with varying editing and runtimes. Hospital room scares and dead baby traumas restart the tale several times when an unsettled bedroom says everything needed before the husband’s job transfer to an isolated town called Lilith. His new boss is occult-obsessed and insists his dead son is only resting, but our wife doesn’t believe in life for a life rituals reviving the dead. The town name, however, gives her the creeps – as does talk of her having potential gifts thanks to being born with a veil. Although the outdoor filming is super bright, retro phones and a packed station wagon add to the desert drives, dangerous curves, and explosive accidents. A doll from the wreckage has fingernail clippings in its pocket O_o and the sense of bizarre increases with nearby funerals, dead children in coffins, burning at the stake flashes, disappearances, and tombstones. Older, castle-like décor – trophy heads, demonic imagery, magic tomes – pepper the spooky Victorian homes alongside women both seventies carefree yet medieval inspired with old fashioned names. There are however no children in town, pregnant women have to leave, and our couple moves into the same place as the recently, mysteriously departed. These devil worshiping townsfolk in white robes prefer hiding in the past with time stopped and have no interest in the present thanks to goblets filled with bitter red liquid, astrology, ESP, and tarot. It’s awkward when you invite someone new to a party and ask them to join your coven! Mismatched fade-ins, crosscuts, zooms, and askew angles accent the hazy rituals, devilish lovers, and brief nudity. However, such editing both adds to the eerie and allows for more weird while making it look like creepy, lecherous, self-proclaimed magician Welles filmed his asides separately. He’s upfront about the occult, terrifying yet luring the Mrs. as the messy visions, wolves, and injuries increase. Freaky basements, rats, seduction, voodoo dolls, dead bodies, bats – is what she’s seeing real? Have any of these encounters actually happened? Despite shades of The Wicker Man foreshadowing, it takes a bit too long to get a clue even as the poison mushrooms, skeletons, and rituals gone wrong become more bizarre. Fortunately, there are some fun twists to keep the somewhat obvious and slightly nonsensical warped entertaining. Season of the Witch – A spring thaw reflects the cold marriage and empty nest that drives housewife Jan White (Touch Me Not) to witchcraft in this 1973 feminist leaning thriller from George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead). Repressed dreams with through the peephole distortions, cages, and dual mirror reflections match subtle wedding ring moments and not so subtle slasher style violence. There’s a lingering sexual guilt, a her fault, asking for it societal mentality festering because women weren’t supposed to talk to or about their slap happy husbands much less get their kit off and question sense of worth after motherhood. These upscale housewives are trophies gussied up just to drink – but our Joan lets her hair down, goes for a tarot reading, admits her fears and sexual curiosities. Moans and naughty innuendo add to a sensuous, pretty in its own way seventies color with patterns, fringe fashions, and bright makeup. The psychoanalysis is of the time, as are dated ladies gossip and erroneous witchcraft clichés – buy a how-to book and a silver chalice and boom you have empowered yourself scandalous! Although some obnoxious acting and muddled meta conversation is poor, there is a teatime frankness on the emerging seventies lifestyles and well put occult discussions countering the stereotypes. It’s an interesting culture clash when these still fifties-esque hypocrites want to be the seventies kids doing grass. If the MILF wants kicks and it’s a joke to the stud, who is using whom? Neither the extreme repression or the escalating wanton is healthy, nor is replacing a crap marriage for the latest risque, dangerous vogue. Yes, this is a desperately bare production, and cheap editing leaves the ninety-minute version looking more like leftovers than a polished film. Fortunately, the bizarre accents the changing women’s attitudes and sexy, suspenseful encapsulation of the era. Instead of today’s curious young thang, the realistic cast delivers some fine feminine nuggets here. But really, the character’s name is “Joanie” Mitchell? Hehehe.

 

The Witchmaker – The picture may be a little flat for this 1969 slow burn also called The Legend of Witch Hollow, but vintage swamp scenery, moody moss, weeping willows, shallow boats, and Louisiana cemeteries set off the bayou murders. Mellow music and swimming babes in white lingerie begat violent kills with ritual symbols, dripping blood, binding ropes, upside down hangings, and slit throats. The disturbing is done with very little, but eight women have been killed in last two years, thus intriguing a parapsychologist investigator and his team of sensitives, psychic students, and skeptical magazine writers. It’s $21 for their three boat trips, supplies, and six people renting the no phone cabin for five days – I’ll take it! Old townsfolk fear the culprits are immortal witches who need blood to stay young and warn the guests of snakes, quicksand, and gator-filled marshes. Early electrical equipment, radios, and technical talk on waves and magnetic fields balance the somewhat dry acting and thin dialogue as more bikini clad psychic women rub on the sunscreen while our ominous warlock watches. Although the nudity is relatively discreet with the skimpy suggestion doing more, the maniacal laughter and slow motion running while clutching the boobies is a bit hokey. Thankfully, lanterns, hidden rooms beneath the floor, underground tunnels, and satanic rituals sell the macabre. Crones with gross teeth and dominant spells must recruit these psychics to the coven for invigorating body and soul trades as the scientific talk gives way to candles, seances, chanting, and fog. Green lighting, red sheer dresses, and skimpy blue nighties are colorful spots among ominous witnessing, creepy statues, torches, and demonic altars. The investigating team buries victims amid out of control powers, hypnosis, and screams while the witches enjoy a little necking, decoy dames, knives, and fiery brandings. Granted, the male investigators are limp leads, just the facts fifties cops out of place compared to the ladies feeling more of the sixties Hammer lite. A third woman does nothing before being used as bait in the men’s plan which goes awry of course. The raising of the coven is more entertaining – all kinds witches, warlocks, cool cats, and unique characters manifest for some wine, feasting, and whips for good measure. The red smoke, music, dancing, romance, and chases lead to a blood pact or two before one final romp in the mud. Overall, this remains tame, and the plot should have gotten to the more interesting coven action in the latter half sooner. However, the unpolished aesthetics and retro feeling keep this late night drive-in eerie fun.

#HOWConference – Last chance to chat?

 

Join us tonight
Thursday, February 28
for our LAST CHANCE CHAT
Live on ShoutBox Chat
9 pm pacific / 12 mid eastern

You can still chat with HorrorAddicts.net year-round by…

Joining our FB group

Women Writer’s Group

Following us on Twitter

Subscribing to our blog

Listen to our podcast on iTunes

Hope to see you tonight!

And if you’ve missed any of our awesome articles/panel discussions, check out:

Scare Yourself and Your Readers – Dina Leacock

How to Make Your Horror Tourniquet Tight – Laura Perkins

The Embodiment of YA Horror – Laura Perkins

Gary Frank Author Interview

Overlooked Elements of Promotion – Loren Rhoads

Christine Norris Author Interview

Brainstorming 101 – Laura Kaighn

Brian McKinley Author Interview

Importance of Networking – Ilene Schneider

Of course, our HorrorAddicts.net staff has come through with several horror articles and general writing tips, too:

Submitting Your Short Story – Naching Kassa

Self-Publishing Checklist for Newbies – Emerian Rich

How Not to End a Sentence with a Preposition – Kristin Battestella

Getting Out and Staying Out of the Slushpile – Emerian Rich

Vampires versus Vampires – Kristin Battestella

Baby Steps for New Authors – Emerian Rich

There’s just so much to see and do out HOW! We’ve already decided to keep using the Forum and the ShoutBox Chat for more HorrorAddicts.net perks and events! Browse our Online Conference today, tomorrow, at your own pace anytime – and be sure to tell us What You Think of HOW!

#HOWConference – Welcome Our Guest Authors!

 

 

The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference has several workshops, videos, and inspirations from locals near and far! Here’s a list featuring some of our Guest Authors:

 

Scare Yourself and Your Readers – Dina Leacock

How to Make Your Horror Tourniquet Tight – Laura Perkins

The Embodiment of YA Horror – Laura Perkins

Gary Frank Author Interview

Overlooked Elements of Promotion – Loren Rhoads

Christine Norris Author Interview

Brainstorming 101 – Laura Kaighn

Brian McKinley Author Interview

Importance of Networking – Ilene Schneider

 

Of course, our HorrorAddicts.net staff has come through with several horror articles and general writing tips, too:

 

Submitting Your Short Story – Naching Kassa

Self-Publishing Checklist for Newbies – Emerian Rich

How Not to End a Sentence with a Preposition – Kristin Battestella

Getting Out and Staying Out of the Slushpile – Emerian Rich

Vampires versus Vampires – Kristin Battestella

Baby Steps for New Authors – Emerian Rich

 

There’s just so much to see and do out HOW! We’ve already decided to keep using the Forum and the ShoutBox Chat for more HorrorAddicts.net perks and events! Browse our Online Conference today, tomorrow, at your own pace anytime – and be sure to tell us What You Think of HOW!

 

 

HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference: Chat Transcripts!

 

Did you ever want to start a podcast but don’t know how?

Do you want to submit material but don’t know what the editor wants?

Never fear! At The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference, our Podcast Hostess Emerian Rich and our Head of Publishing Naching T. Kassa have answered your questions in two live chat sessions via our HOW Forum.

 

Missed the chats, did you say? HOW Con has you covered once again with our chat transcripts! Emerian discusses podcasting, publishing, and the changing trends in horror while Naching, editor of the upcoming Dark Divinations anthology, shares insights on the submission process and the Next Great Horror Writer Contest.

Both transcripts can be found in HOW’s Horror Workshop section alongside more articles and tips from authors including Dina Leacock and Mercy Hollow and video interviews with witch author J.L. Brown and vampire writer Brian McKinley. There’s so much to see and read at HOW!

 

 

HOWConference: Live Chats!

The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference is offering Several Live Chat Events with our Publishers, Editors, and Staff. Join us at HOW to ask Your Questions!

Sunday, February 24
CHAT with AN EDITOR!

Sunday February 24 4 p.m. Pacific/ 7 p.m. Eastern Naching T. Kassa, Horror Addicts.net Publisher and Dark Divinations anthology Editor will be chatting with HOW!
Naching is a wife, mother, horror writer, and Head of HorrorAddicts.net Publishing. She’s created 17 short stories, two novellas, a poem, and co-created two children. She lives in Eastern Washington State with Dan Kassa, her husband and biggest supporter. Naching is a member of the Horror Writers Association and a contributor to the Demonic Visions series. She took second place in Horroraddicts.net’s Next Great Horror Writer Contest and one of her poems was included in The Horror Writers Association’s Poetry Showcase Vol. IV.

 

To chat with Naching, join us in the Shoutbox at the bottom of the #HOWConference Front page. If you have a question for Naching, post a “?” comment during the chat hour and the moderator will call on you.

Monday February 25 we are having not
One but TWO Live Chats at HOW!

First on Monday February 25 10 a.m. Pacific / 1 p.m. Eastern join Emerian Rich, HorrorAddicts.net Publisher & Podcast Hostess for Publishing 101

Creator and Horror Hostess of HorrorAddicts.net Publishing Emerian Rich created HorrorAddicts.net as a place for horror addicts, by horror addicts, glorifying every aspect of the horror lifestyle. Emerian is the author of Night’s Knights Vampire Series, the Sweet Dreams Novel Series, and has been involved in dozens of podcast and story projects. She was the editor of the horror ‘zine DarkLives for ten years starting in the mid-nineties. To find out more about Emerian, visit her site at: emzbox.com

Next we are having an Evening Welcome Party!

Monday February 25 8 p.m. Eastern / 5 p.m. Pacific it’s a Shout Box Welcome Night Party with Kristin Battestella, Dark Fantasy author and HorrorAddicts.net Staff Writer. Yes, Yours Truly!

When other kids were playing with dolls and teddy bears, this South Jersey born and bred addict KBatz was watching Price, Lee, Hitchcock, Dark Shadows, Alien, anything and everything in analysis of what was scary and why. Be it vamps, scares, or weres, you name it-freaky or macabre and she is there-regardless of how you pronounce macabre. For more bent paranormal fiction and horror film, television, and literature reviews, find Kbatz’ insanity on the web at: vampfam.blogspot.com

Can’t Wait to See You at HOW!

 

Horror Addicts Online Writers Conference – A HOW How-to Video!

 

Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz answers Your Questions about the HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference and explains some of the Forum Technology and Live Events happening at HOW.

 

 

Join us February 24-28 for Writing Workshops, Author Videos, Publisher Chats, and More. It’s Free to sign up and So Easy you can do it in your Purple Peter Cushing PJs – say that Three Times Fast!

 

See YOU at the Conference!

 

HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference: http://horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net/

HOW Facebook Event Page

Fiction and Genre Panel – 3rd Indie Author Day Event

Moderator and horror author Brian McKinley is joined by science fiction writer William Gold, humorist Loretta Wish, mystery and thriller author J. Lauryl Jennings, dark fantasy author Kristin Battestella (yes that’s me! Your trusty Kbatz!), and urban fantasy storyteller Laura Kaighn for the Fiction and Genre Panel at the 3rd Indie Author Day hosted at the Heggan Library in Sewell, NJ.

You can see the entire 7 part video below or also view the Childrens and Non-Fiction Panel from the Indie Author Day.  For more photos and author events, visit the South Jersey Writers Conference, Facebook Page.

 

 

 

Classic Horror Summer Reading – A Video Recommendation

 

Hello, Horror Addicts! Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz here again on video, braving the sunshine poolside to chat about why you should be revisiting some Classic Horror Reads this Summer!

 

Press play for some thoughts on Dracula, Anne Rice, Shakespeare, Stephen King, The Bronte Sisters, and more!

Don’t forget you can be part of the conversation – By Horror Addicts, for Horror Addicts! – on our Facebook Group. Tell us what kind of videos, media, and Horror coverage you’d like to see and what scary stories you’re reading!

Author Interviews at the Mount Holly Book Fair Part 2

 

Witches, Time Travel, and Shapeshifters!

 

Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz was on the windy scene April 29, 2018 at the Mount Holly Book Fair to interview several Local Horror Authors…

 

Author JL Brown talks about her book The Burning Arbor, witches, tarot, and magic on and off the page. For more visit https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJLBrown/

 

 

Author Gary Frank talks about his book Forever will you Suffer, short fiction versus novels, time travel, the business of writing, and horror. For more visit http://authorgaryfrank.com/

 

 

Native American Storyteller Laura Kaign chats about her Earth Child series, science fiction, natural versus supernatural, dreams, YA, and storytelling. For more visit http://ladyhawkestorytelling.com

 

 

Special Thanks to the Mill Race Arts & Preservation for hosting The Mount Holly Book Fair.

 

Stayed tuned to HorrorAddicts.net for more Author Interviews and let us know what kind of video/media content you would like to see!

Author Interviews at The Mount Holly Book Fair Part 1

Vampires, Magic, and Steampunk!

 

Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz was on the windy scene April 29, 2018 at the Mount Holly Book Fair to interview several Local Horror Authors…

 

Author Brian McKinley chats about his Ancient Blood series, vampires past and present, psychological horror, thrillers, Hitchcock, and zombies. For more visit http://www.brianmckinleyauthor.com/

 

 

Author Char Webster talks about her Gifted Series and The Runes Universe, paranormal, magic powers, and marketing. For more visit http://www.charwebsterauthor.com/

 

 

Author Christine Norris talks about her Athena series, Middle Grade Fantasy, mythology, Young Adult versus New Adult, Magic, and Steampunk. For more visit https://www.facebook.com/AuthorChristineNorris

 

Special Thanks to the Mill Race Arts & Preservation for hosting The Mount Holly Book Fair.

 

Stayed tuned to HorrorAddicts.net for more Author Interviews and let us know what kind of video/media content you would like to see!

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Mirrors and Superstitions!

 

Mirrors and Superstitions!

By Kristin Battestella

I don’t know about you but I won’t purchase a second hand mirror thanks to these reflective frights!

Dark Mirror I stumbled upon this 2007 thriller late one night on IFC and enjoyed the unique aspects here. It’s so nice to see a non-blonde or idiot buxom pretty perfect lead in Lisa Vidal (New York Undercover). An ethic mom with issues like sneaking a smoke, possible marriage trouble, unemployment, and creepy neighbors- we haven’t seen the likes of this realistic well-roundedness in a horror film in sometime. The intriguing twists on cameras, mirrors, flashes, glass, and illusions are well done- not overly excessive but better than other similar films like Mirrors and Shutter.  Even Feng Shui gets involved in the twisted mythos here. The spooky L.A. house design also has some non-Sunny SoCal flaws, complete with hidden objects, altered reflections, deadly history, deceiving twists and turns and an unreliable narrator hosting the entire picture. What exactly are we seeing? What is real and what isn’t? Some of the storyline is a little confusing, and not all the acting is stellar, but the freshness here is entertaining and thoughtful throughout.

Mirror Mirror – Ironic country music and frightful orchestration accent the bloody period introduction of this 1990 teen creeper. Yes, that’s a generic title complete with a barebones DVD and no subtitles, but the spooky mix of antiques, hats, and shoulder pads make for a gothic mid century meets eighties style. Like dentistry, the innately eerie mirror aspects pack on the macabre along with blue lighting, distorted demonic voices, gruesome dreams, and bugs laying on the atmosphere. The 30-year-old looking teens in too much denim are mostly tolerable thanks to relatable new kid in town outsider feelings and feminine spins. Rainbow Harvest (Old Enough) is perhaps too wannabe Lydia from Beetlejuice and there is no sign of authority or investigation whatsoever, but the dark tone, a bemusing Yvonne De Carlo (The Munsters) handling the research, and the neurotic Karen Black (Burnt Offerings) make up any difference. This is a solid R, but the blood, nudity, water frights, and dog harm are done smartly without being excessive. The familiar Carrie, Teen Witch, and The Craft designs will be obvious to horror viewers, but it’s a fun 90 minutes of out of touch parents and teachers, high school cliques, and escalating creepy crimes. The titular evil from the other side takes hold for a wild finish – but never, ever put your hand down that garbage disposal, ever!

Oculus – Family scares, guns, and glowing eyes creepy get right to it as siblings are trying to both remember and forget their past tragedy in this 2013 mindbender full of askew dreams, unreliable memories, statues covered in sheets, and one cursed antique mirror. I would have preferred leads older than their early twenties – clearly appealing to the young it crowd – and despite an understandable awkward or instability, Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Brenton Thwaites (Gods of Egypt) are too wooden at times. Fortunately, the more mature Katee Sackoff (Battlestar Galatica) and Rory Cochrane (Empire Records) and child support Annalise Basso (The Red Road) and Garrett Ryan (Dark House) do better. The non-linear past and present retelling, however, is confusing – the parallel plots aren’t quite clear until the paranormal investigation brings everything together in one location with elaborate equipment, carefully orchestrated timers, and fail safes for a night of ghostly activity. The video documentation makes for smart exposition at the expense of a larger cast or showing the accursed historical events – replacing the tried and true research montage for today’s audiences without resorting to the found footage gimmick. There are no in your face camera effects or zooms with booming music when the frightful appears, and the viewer is allowed to speculate on the seen or unseen reflections, there or maybe not whispering, and distorted blink and you miss them doppelgangers. Is there a psychological explanation or is this all supernatural? Although the recollections or flashbacks of the crisscrossing events should have been more polished – are we watching two, four, or six people as this battle replays itself? – the paranoia builds in both time frames with canine trauma and alternating suspense. Yes, there are Insidious similarities, the product placement and brand name dropping feels unnecessary, and the uneven plot merge cheats in its reflection on the warped or evil influences at work. The finale falters slightly as well, however, there is a quality discussion about the titular manipulation, and the time here remains entertaining as household horrors intensify. WWE Studios, who knew?

The Witch’s Mirror – Oft spooky actor Abel Salazar (The Curse of the Crying Woman) produced this black and white 1962 Mexican horror treat with Isabela Corona (A Man of Principle) as a creepy housekeeper amid the excellent smoke and mirrors and titular visual effects. From a macabre prologue and illustrations to Victorian mood, candles, and rituals, El Espejo de la Bruja has it all – love triangles, jerky husbands, revenge, betrayals, grave robbing, and ghoulish medicine. The plot is at once standard yet also nonsensical thanks to all the sorcery, implausible surgeries, ghosts, fire, even catalepsy all building in over the top, soap opera-esque twists. The sets are perhaps simplistic or small scale with only interior filming, but this scary, play-like atmosphere is enough thanks to wonderful shadows, gothic décor, and freaky, sinister music. Several language and subtitle options are available along with the feature and commentary on the DVD as well – not that any of the dubbing, subtitles, or original Spanish completely matches. The audio is also messed up in some spots, but the script is fun and full of cultish summonings and medical fantasies. Maybe this one will have too much happening for some viewers, as every horror treatise is thrown at the screen here. However, this is a swift, entertaining 75 minutes nonetheless and it doesn’t let up until the end.

You Make the Call, Addicts!

Doppelganger – The opening Drew Barrymore suckling scene feels a little too carried over from Poison Ivy, but the follow up blood and screams with mom Jaid Barrymore add to the 1993 kitschy. The very dated style, light LA grunge feeling, and passé cast are way over the top, and vampire lovers are removed from an onscreen script rather than a shoehorned in plot necessity like today. Thankfully, Sally Kellerman (M*A*S*H) is bemusing and so is the “Hey, it’s Danny Trejo!” moment, but seriously, George Newbern (actually the Adventures in Babysitting guy) isn’t Paul Rudd? Sadly, the slow motion soft core wanna-be shots don’t work until more blood and creepy aspects enter in- symbolic windows bursting open and yes, growling winds just make things laughable. It’s all too quick to get to the sex and titillation- casual lesbian on the dance floor motifs and forced use of the word ‘twat’ feel more awkward than cool.  The scares are obvious, and poor music choices, sound mixing, and bad dialogue re-dubs don’t help as Barrymore comes off more like a PMS queen or mental bitch rather than an innocent girl with a slutty, killer lookalike. Though the plot itself is too thin, things becomes more interesting when the murder investigation raises a few questions. Unfortunately, even the FBI agent (Dan Shor aka Billy the Kid from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) lays the smack on really thick! Barrymore doesn’t have a full command on the dry dialogue scenes, either. However, despite the baby doll dresses and old lady headscarf, teen Drew is looking flawless. I’m sure there’s a male audience that can have fun with that, the unintentional camp, and the cheap entertainment value here- except for the finale. Good Lord, what happened there?!

Black Women in Horror: Fierce. Fearless. Female. by Tabitha Thompson

Fierce. Fearless. Female.

by Tabitha Thompson

The very first horror movie I saw was Maniac Cop when I was five years old. Since then, horror has always fascinated me. As the years went on, I found writing to be a great outlet for emotions and devoured writers such as Stephen King, Edward Lee, Edgar Allan Poe, and Jack Ketchum. But one day as I was looking through books at my local library for something new, an author caught my eye, her name was L.A.Banks. Reading her novels Minion and The Awakening, I fell in love with her writing style and how she incorporated dark fiction and horror into her work. She was the first black female that I’ve read who had an Anne Rice feel to her work, while her characters were relatable and interesting. Followed by Toni Morrison and her novel Beloved, I immediately became inspired by these women who were not just great dark fiction/horror writers, but who were also black.

Although I’ve never relished on the fact that I’m a black female writing horror, it felt good that there were women out there like me writing a genre that I loved. In the following years, I’ve also discovered Linda Addison, Pheare Alexander, Sumiko Saulson, and Jemiah Jefferson, and it was gratifying and inspiring. Since I was a teen, I’ve always loved the notion of doing and becoming something different, and horror was something that had turned from fascination to a passion and ended up becoming home for me. Being a black woman writing horror fiction is both an interesting and inspiring path that I wouldn’t trade for the world, I never thought that my writing would take me from my notebooks to being in an anthology that includes such creative women that are just like me. Women can already write horror, so it’s now time that us black women have a bigger platform, so we could tell the beautiful, scary stories that I know for a fact we can write. After all, we are fierce, fearless, and female.


Born in South Florida, Tabitha Thompson always had her roots set deep into telling stories from an early age, including a love for writing stories but at 16, she began writing horror and hasn’t stopped since. Her first short story “Heading West,” was picked up by Sirens Call Publications in 2013 for their online magazine issue #12 Dead And Dying. “West Nile” was released in 2014 also with Sirens Call Publications for their issue #16 Apocalyptic Fiction. For the past few years since
then, she has released several horror short stories and flash fiction. Tabitha Thompson is also the author of “Decency Defiled,” featured in Rejected For Content 6: Workplace Relations, and “Alternative™,” featured in the anthology Black Magic Woman. As long as she has coffee, metal, a pencil, and paper, there will always be some new stories to tell.

Book Review: Black Magic Women

Black Magic Women : Review of an Anthology of Horror

by James Goodridge

Mystical is how I like to label profound work and that’s how I label the work between the covers of Black Magic Women: Terrifying Tales by Scary Sisters, an anthology of well-crafted horror stories by a congress of well-established and up and coming group of women of color.

In recent years there has been a emergence or reemergence of black speculative fiction parallel to the Afro-futurist movement (I took the red pill and have been a creative member since 2013). This anthology will for years to come, be an important must-have book documenting the era.

A labor of love, the anthology is edited and curated by Sumiko Saulson and proof read by Jessica Glanville with contributions by: Valjeanne Jeffers, Kamika Aziza, Crystal Connor, Dicey Grenor, Nina Polina, Nuzo Onoh, Delizhia Jenkins, LH Moore, Kenya Moss-Dyme, Lori Titus, Kai Leakes, Rhonda Jackson Joesph, Cinseare S., Tabitha Thompson, Nicole Given Kurtz, Alledria Hurt, and Kenesha Williams. These women give you a buffet of different writing styles.

In the black community we have a saying that most people have heard and it applies to the contributors: “These ladies can burn!” True horror fans can appreciate horror in all its forms and sub genres. The horrific rush from a movie, web series, or television show. The straining of your hearing at the purported sound of a ghost caught on tape. The widening or squinting of your eyes at a just read gory part of a novel, anthology, or graphic novel. I’m a squinter, and this anthology didn’t fail in that department.

I’ll put it this way, there are no weak links in this anthology. I will not spoil things by going through all of the stories in the anthology, but I will comment on a few.

Valjeanne Jeffers “The Lost Ones” is a Werewolf/Love story/Crime noir story laced with Steam Punk/Funk set in an alternate time line United States, the progressive North America at odds with the conservative True America . The passion between characters Namia and Miles makes for a great read.

Kamika Aziza’s “Trisha & Peter” is a wonderful short story about two people forming bonds while fighting off swarms of bodies aka zombies. The child Trisha has to grow up fast and finds a mentor in Peter.

“Sweet Justice” by Kenesha Williams finds paranormal investigator Maisha Star on the trail of a serial killer and receives help from beyond the grave with a splendid plot twist at the end.

This anthology is an automatic read more than once gem released by Mocha Memoirs Press. Enjoy!


 jamesgoodridge headshot

Born and raised in the Bronx, James is new to writing speculative fiction. After ten years as an artist representative and paralegal James decided in 2013 to make a better commitment to writing.Currently, he is writing a series of short “Twilight Zone” inspired stories from the world of art, (The Artwork) and a diesel/punkfunk saga (Madison Cavendish/Seneca Sue Mystic Detectives) with the goal of producing compelling stories

Press Release: WiHM, Massive Blood Drive

From the Twisted Twins Productions Press Release:

It’s Women in Horror Month and that brings with it not only numerous celebrations of equality, but our MASSIVE Blood Drive! Yes, you can’t think horror without thinking blood so we took it upon ourselves to make the world aware of the very dire need for donors. Now in it’s 9th year, we decided to kick things up a notch by featuring 30 filmmaking teams from around the world and release a new Blood Services PSA for 30 days!

DISCLAIMER: This IS Horror, boys and grrls, so SOME of these do have VERY naughty content. Blood. Gore. EXTREME gore. Disturbing situations. Nudity. Sexual situations. Violence. Language.

If you are SENSITIVE to this kind of content, be a mature human being and just don’t watch. No need to spoil the fun for us fellow weirdos. We’re not hurting anyone. It just REALLY looks like we are 😉

Now, on with the show!!

 Presenting: “Be A Hero” by Vanessa Ionta Wright

Check it out here:

ABOUT THE ARTIST:

Vanessa Ionta Wright is a filmmaker based in Atlanta, GA. She is the co-owner of Above the Line Artistry (www.abovethelineartistry.com) as well as the co-founder and Festival Director of the Women in Horror Film Festival (www.WIHFF.com).  Vanessa collaborated with Samantha Kolesnik, Mark Simon (One Missed Call), David Irwin (House of 1000 Corpses) and Josh Oliver (Oculus) on Rainy Season, based on the story by Stephen King.  Vanessa has also directed the short film I Baked Him a Cake and a PSA for the WiHM9 Massive Blood Drive.  Vanessa graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Video Production & Film. She is a lifelong fan of cinema, most especially the horror genre. She enjoys punctuality, scary movies, a quick wit, sandwiches, the music of Michael Jackson, Halloween & Bacon Jam. She does not enjoy bugs, clowns, perpetual lateness, mean people, oppression, laziness, running more than 3 miles or curved walls.

ARTIST’S STATEMENT:

I was really honored to be invited to create a PSA for the WiHM Massive Blood Drive.  This is a brilliant idea to blend the world of horror filmmaking with such an important cause.  I think it’s easy to take our blood for granted.  It is crucial to donate.  I hear people say all the time “I wish I could do something to help” and this is probably the most simple and effective means of helping others.  Giving your blood will save lives and I am so grateful to be a part of such an amazing cause.  The theme this year of Be a Hero is so appropriate, because when you give blood, when you save a life, you become a hero.

Full cast & crew can be found on IMDb at: Cast of Be a Hero: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt7568800/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

Look for a NEW WiHM Massive Blood Drive PSA every day with the last one appearing on March 1st.

For more on Women In Horror Month check out the official site at: http://www.womeninhorrormonth. com/

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: I Married a Witch

I Married a Witch a Trickster Delight

By Kristin Battestella

 

While many adore the subsequent Bell Book and Candle or Bewitched, have had Peek A Boo hairstyles, or even know of Veronica Lake thanks to her sexy Oscar winning look-alike Kim Basinger in L.A. Confidential; it seems not many today appreciate the 1942 magical romp that started it all, I Married a Witch.

Burned at the Salem Witch Trials thanks to the testimony of Jonathan Wooley (Frederic March), Jennifer (Veronica Lake) curses Wooley and all his male descendents to be unlucky in love. Centuries later when lightning strikes a tree and frees their spirits, Jennifer and her father Daniel (Cecil Kellaway) continue to interfere with politician Wallace Wooley (also March), his campaign for governor, and his impending marriage to socialite Estelle Masterson (Susan Hayward). Jennifer plans to make Wally fall in love with her just to ruin him. Unfortunately, when she is injured, Wally mistakenly gives her the love potion she intended for him. Now that she’s in love with a mortal, Daniel disastrously interferes on his daughter’s behalf. Jennifer, however, has bigger plans now: using witchcraft to save Wally’s campaign.

 

I’ll get the bit of the bad out of the way first, for only the dated production here hinders I Married a Witch. The black and white looks somewhat unrestored, dark and tough to see sometimes. The historical montage opening the film also has poor period stylings or seems quick and on the cheap. Modern audiences might also be a little lost on some of the thirties mannerisms and dialogue, and the sound is often tough to hear. While kids might enjoy this partial inspiration for the television series Bewitched, viewers with short attention spans might groan at early scenes with only smoke, fire, and old speaketh voiceovers. However, having said all that, the light-hearted comedy and hijinks of love story from director Rene Clair (The Flame of New Orleans, And Then There Were None) and writers Robert Pirosh (Combat!) and Marc Connelly (Captain Courageous) win with magical charm and innocent fun.

Well then, let’s talk about that peek a boo queen herself, Veronica Lake. Although the diminutive star of Sullivan’s Travels and This Gun for Hire doesn’t actually appear for the first fifteen minutes, we like the off-screen witch Jennifer when we hear of her fun curses. Despite her initial vengeance and maliciousness, we enjoy her vocal tricks and thus are thrilled when we finally do get so see those famous blonde tresses. Lake may seem a one trick pretty, but her witchy ways are delightful and her comedic dialogue is right on time. Though the pair seem visually at odds and she spends most of the time being carried by March; Lake has the sardonic match and onscreen weight to be a 290-year-old witch testing Wallys’ heart. Jennifer’s supposed to be bad, purely a spiteful witch causing love trouble for the sake of a long ago wrong, yet she’s whimsical and adorable all the same. Likewise, Oscar winner Frederic March (Best Years of Our Lives, Death of a Salesman, The Desperate Hours) proves he’s more than the straight, heavy, and serious dramatic leading man we so often enjoy. Wally’s wedding day hysterics are almost side splitting- caught in a repeatedly false starting ceremony and running ragged over two women! March would be the exceptional straight man indeed- if not for his perfect balance of witty, proper performance and humorous presence.

 

While Lake’s luster may have fallen over the decades, the budding and future Best Actress Susan Hayward (I Want to Live, Reap the Wild Wind) is wonderful as the snotty socialite set to marry Wally. Any other time, we’d love to pedestal Hayward, but in I Married a Witch, the audience can’t help but appreciate her bearing the brunt of Jennifer’s tricks. Dads Cecil Kellaway (The Postman Always Rings Twice) and Robert Warwick’s (The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex) J.B. Masterson are also great fun as the at odds parents who similarly enough have their daughters- and thus their own- best interests at heart. Classic fashion and style lends a wonderful visual support, too. Not to be outdone by slim cut suits or tilted fedoras, the pre-war ladies’ costumes here are glorious. The lengthy gowns and puffy sleeves just add an extra touch of class not often found in today’s recreations. I Married a Witch was contemporary at the time, but now it is a wonderful period piece to us with great music, sweet looking cars, and great old houses. Sure, some of the flying brooms and objects moving by themselves look hokey, but most of the smoke and mirror effects are simplistically good. Thanks to a fine story and great performances, fancy effects aren’t required to suspend the belief needed for I Married a Witch.

Fans of the old school cast, classic films aficionados, or families looking for some wholesome witchy fun can certainly find a short 80 minutes for I Married a Witch. Naturally, it is full of pre-war magical innocence rather than proper Wicca motifs, but again, the delight here wins against any datedness of the time.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: SCHOOLGIRLS AND FAMILY FEARS!

 

School Girls and Family Fears!

By Kristin Battestella

 

Back to school season can’t save these recent or retro kids, teachers, and families from the macabre at home!

 

The FallingGame of Thrones‘ Maisie Williams leads a group of hysterical English schoolgirls in this 2014 period mystery complete with creepy folk tunes, beautiful landscapes, and old time school bells. The similarities with Picnic at Hanging Rock are also apparent with latent BFFs, a budding blonde, the awkward brunette, the chubby girl playing an instrument, and a science girl in glasses. They sit outside with umbrellas with their pretty teacher, swans, and stopped watches while resentful older crones roll their eyes, and its discomforting to see virgin girls in pigtails discuss orgasms and solving one’s pregnancy problems via spells, knitting needles, and a medical book – with icky tips from your brother, too. Maisie’s Lydia talks sophisticated but remains a little girl hiding in a nursery cupboard perhaps unaware of why she wants her pretty friend to herself. She browbeats her smoking, washed up mother – the unrecognizable Maxine Peake (Silk) – and is too full of herself to consider her mother’s reasons. There should have been more of the adult perspectives bolstering the school and religious structure against the natural, tree loving girls growing up too soon. These teens are trying to be shocking, rebellious, and acting out vicariously – regrets, sexual activity, unhealthy obsessions, and experimentation escalate into fainting fits and faux orgasmic hysteria. Unfortunately, unnecessary music video styled transitions, subliminal strobe inserts, and modern meta interference detract from the repression and grief while external music and spinning cameras make the fainting spells laughable. Did they practice falling? How many flopping on the floor takes were there? Characters calmly step over the girls on the floor, and bemusing “thud” closed captioning accents Lydia’s falling and taking everything off the table with her. The middle aged women have a good laugh over these young kids thinking they are older and misunderstood, and faculty debates on science and attention seeking are much better – are the occult, local lay lines, nearby supernatural trees to blame? Do you ostracize one or hospitalize the entire class? Faking or follower questions layer the second half alongside school consequences, perception versus reality, lesbian whispers, and sexual violence. Although the medical testings feel glossed over, the intercut eye twitching, body language, and question and answer psychiatry suggest more – as do other shockers dropped in the last ten minutes. Writer and director Carol Morley’s (Dreams of a Life) long form narrative does get away from itself, and this try hard can’t always be taken seriously. However, this tale both glorifies femininity and vilifies budding women and the spinster the way society both pedestals and shames, adding enough food for thought to some of the inadvertent chuckles.

 

Goodnight Mommy – Lullabies and divine outdoor locations quickly turn ominous with dark caves, deep lakes, nearby cemeteries, and underground tombs accenting this 2014 Austrian psychological scare featuring twin boys and a mother under wraps. Despite the bunk beds, wise viewers will of course immediately wonder if there are really two sons – one always hides or jumps out while the other calls, and their mother only acknowledges one boy amid talk of an accident and a separation. Mirrors, windows, blurred portraits, and odd artwork embellish their cool mod home, and eerie visuals heighten the freaky surgery bandages, prying peering, twisted dreams, and creepy bugs. Close the blinds, no visitors, total quiet – the twins become increasingly suspicious when such strict recovery rules and more unusual behaviors don’t compare to sing-a-longs and loving tapes made pre-surgery. Naturally, English audiences have to pay attention due to the German dialogue and subtitles, however viewers must also watch for silent moments and visual clues as this TV host mom’s obsession with her surgery results increases and the boys’ talking back turns into some rough encounters. The sons research videos online and find strange photos while hidden baby monitors and timer tick tocks up the suspense. Who’s right? Who’s overreacting? What if we could see things from the opposite point of view? They want proof she is their mother and contact the local priest, but these seemingly innocent boys play some gruesome games, too. The situation becomes more and more claustrophobic, becoming trapped indoors and locked in one room with homemade defenses and cringe-worthy torture done with something as simple as the magnify glass with sunlight trick. The audience is swayed with evidence one way before being presented with new unreliability, familial violence, and pyromaniac tendencies in a fiery topper. At times, this feels more like a sad drama than a horror movie and some elements might have needed a bit more clarification. However, the horrible stuff herein and debating on the what ifs lasts long after the viewing, and this is a fine isolated tale using slight of hand power of suggestion for its slow burn unraveling.

 

The Hearse – Divorced teacher Trish Van Devere (The Changeling) deals with nosy realtor Joseph Cotten (Citizen Kane) not to mention ominous headlights, dark roads, phantom winds, visions in the mirror, and a freaky uniformed chauffeur in this 1980 spooky. There is an initial proto-Lifetime movie feeling and the picturesque Golden Gate Bridge vistas remain just another driving to the horrors montage as our jittery dame heads to the recently bequeathed home of her late aunt for the summer. The Blackford neighbors, however, are unwelcoming gossips, and the minister says any standoffishness must be her imagination. Of course, her shorts are very short and despite a flirtatious sheriff, cat calls while jogging, and compliments about the resemblance to her aunt, all the men must help her roadside and make women driving jokes while doing so. Those trees just jump out into the road! Thanks to whispers of past pacts with Satan, they don’t expect her to stick around long, either. The then-edgy music knows when to be quiet, adding to the isolation, crickets, and woman alone creepy. Covered antiques, leftover fashions, period pictures, and attic relics invoke a museum mood – an intrusion by the living justifying the faulty electric, slamming doors, creaking stairs, rattling pipes, and ghostly faces in the window. A music box plays on its own while a mysterious necklace, ironic radio sermons, and the titular highway pursuits escalate along with footsteps, intruders, and shattering glass. The tracking camera pans about the house in an ambiguous move that’s both for effect and someone – or something – approaching. Likewise, reading the diary of her devil worshiping aunt alongside a new whirlwind but suspicious romance creates dual suspense – which can certainly be said for that Hearse when it pulls up to the front porch and opens its back door. The black vehicle, white nightgown, and choice reds increase with candles, coffins, and funerary dreams. Pills and long cigarette drags visualize nerves amid bridge accidents, disappearing bodies, rowdy town vandals, and gaslighting decoys. The solo reading aloud and talking to oneself scenes will be slow to some viewers, and at times the car action is hokey. The mystery can be obvious – it feels like we’ve seen this plot before – yet the story isn’t always clear with low, double talk dialogue. However, it’s easy to suspect what is real with interesting twists in the final act, and the adult cast is pleasing. Well done clues keep the guessing fun, and several genuine jump moments make for a spirited midnight viewing.

 

 

The House on Sorority Row – Pranks and murders on campus, oh my! This 1983 cult slasher opens with a risky pregnancy, pulsing heartbeats, and emergency scalpels before trading the stormy past and blue patinas for some sunny eighties happiness. Everything is so young, beautiful, and babealicious when you graduate from college! It’s still fun to see retro cars or rad vans, huge cameras, records, waterbeds, fluorescent fashions, and colorful wallpaper – though there’s too much teal and pink for my tastes. Coiffed older women also look quite forties with floppy satin bow shirts and stockings, visually creating a generational divide to represent the living in the past mentalities or old fashioned thinking – they’ll be no goodbye parties, beer, or horny and useless frat boys in this house! While there is no chubby gal with glasses, there are some ugly guys used for humor and splatter, and in true eighties horror movie requirement, there is a girl too old to be in pigtails alongside the sex and boobs. Why don’t these graduated girls just leave instead of pranking the old lady that wants them to abide the rules of her house? Not to mention they are some pretty poor party hosts – one should always wait to kill somebody till after the festivities so arriving guest don’t interfere in your getting rid of the body blundering. Creaking rocking chairs, nursery rhyme music, creepy jester dolls, and a nasty looking cane perfect for bludgeoning accent the good girl versus bad girl slaps, gun play, and deserved turnabouts. Granted, there are some chuckles thanks to stupid actions, some identity of the murderer obviousness, and an overall tameness on what is now a cliché genre formula. Perhaps the one by one kills are predictable – there’s a dame alone in the dark basement, because, of course – however the suspense, shadows, and unseen killer editing are well done. The primary location intensifies the bathroom traps, warped mothering, and well paced pursuits while surprise color, angles, and apparitions add to the solid final act. Although the gore isn’t elaborate for the sake of it, there are some bloody, creative moments, and this fun, half a million dollar ninety minutes does everything it sets out to do without resorting to today’s in your face spectacle.

 

Orphan – Grieving couple Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring) and Peter Sarsgaard (Flightplan) adopt the precocious Isabelle Fuhrman (The Hunger Games) in this 2009 thriller with bloody pregnancy gone wrong dreams, snowy landscapes, a frozen lake, isolated woods, tree house perils, and mod cabin architecture. These yuppies eat off square plates, but nun C.C.H. Pounder (The Shield) is stereotypically reduced with the same old black person in horror sage and sacrifice treatment. Other trite genre elements such as evil foreigners, the internet research montage, useless police, and false jumps complete with the cliché medicine cabinet mirror ruse are lame and unnecessary – as are the dated Guitar Hero moments and a jealous son with a porn magazine stash like it is 1999. The twisted horror suspense builds just fine with realistic threats and mature family drama amid the escalating child shocks. The Sign Language and silent subtitles create a sense of calm and innocence for the youngest deaf daughter, contrasting her mother’s drinking temptations as the old fashioned dressing Esther says everything their parents want to hear. She wants to sleep next to her new daddy, and the couple is intimately interrupted with who’s watching photography and peering perspectives – not to mention that is some luxury playground equipment with crazy bone-cracking injuries! There’s Russian roulette, razor blades, vice grips, vehicular close calls, and fiery accidents. The adoption history doesn’t add up and the children are clearly terrified by their titular sister, but of course dad doesn’t believe his wife’s theory that Esther is at fault. Do you confront your new daughter or take her to a therapist? At times, the adults act stupid just to put the kids in peril, and these two hours feel a little long – how many disasters are going to happen before someone gets a clue? This isn’t as psychological as it could be, dropping its uniqueness for a standard house siege and apparently leaving more pushing the envelope elements on the page to play it safe. However, the female familial roles are an interesting study with surprises and an unexpected reveal. Choice gunshots and broken glass accent the silence and maze interiors, using the home, weapons, and weather for full effect. Though partly typical and not scary, the dramatic interplay, thriller tension, and wild performances give the audience a yell at television good time.

 

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Brimstone

 

Brimstone a Disturbing yet Must See Parable

by Kristin Battestella

 

I want to write an entire opus on the 2017 European co-production Brimstone, starring Guy Pearce as a hellbent minister and Dakota Fanning as Liz, the mute midwife afraid of him. The layered statements from writer and director Martin Koolhoven (Schnitzel Paradise) are heavy handed and uncomfortable – many may find Brimstone at best over long at two and a half hours plus and at worst, the picture will be trigger inducing to sensitive audiences. However, with those caveats said, I don’t really want to summarize much else nor especially spoil this western thriller, as it is best to go into this must see genre bending parable cold.

The bleak narration and biblically steeped onscreen chapter titles hit home the seasoned frontier, rough childbirth, and rustic farms. The white church and cross atop the steeple stand out as a sense of order amid the natural wilds, and sermons warn of false prophets, wolves among the sheep, and hellish retributions worse than one can imagine for those who stray into lawlessness. Breach births mean choosing between the mother or the child, creating an ostracizing, easy to manipulate divide. Is such a delivery up to God or the midwife’s fault? Whispers of evil doing can quickly sway a community to fear and violence. Fiery calls for retribution and paying for one’s sins add to the fear and grief of an unbaptized stillborn not finding salvation. Reverse persecution is disguised as divine, and the wolf in sheep’s clothing is almost the devil himself indeed. Why be afraid of a reverend and not welcome him into your home? The foul afoot need not be said, and Brimstone doesn’t underestimate the audience, letting the drama play out with gruesome animal paybacks, abductions, and torturous injuries. The simmering suspiciousness allows the audience a sense of stillness, time to focus on the characters while the iconography builds suspense. The man in black before the burning building or dragging a girl in white through the mud and calling her unclean are allowed to speak for themselves. Brimstone uses a western setting of creepy brothels, servitude, and no justice for working women to tell a medieval morality play – an already damned purgatory epic a la Justine’s virtues made vice with shootouts, dead horses, and all the abuses we can infer. Brimstone’s pursuits may be taking place in an abstract limbo, beyond time and space with different girls who are one and the same, perpetually chased by the same terror with precious few other devil or angel on the shoulder characters. The out of order segments change the settings as they advance the tale, behaving more like acts themselves where the audience is at first unsure if this is what happened before or what comes next. Brimstone keeps viewers interested enough to see how the vignettes tie together; we trust the unique constructs are part of the juxtaposition highlighting how the code of the brothel and the rules of the fanatical minister aren’t very different and both inescapable can even be one and the same. Obey the nastiness of the patriarchal for body and soul or you are guilty and will be punished. Whatever the origin of her sinful behavior, a girl should be ashamed – it’s her fault that menstruation makes her Little Red Riding Hood fair game. Once there is blood there is no innocence, and the vicious cycle continues with twisted irony, fateful orchestrations, and sins that cannot be out run. We’d like to think this was just how it was ye olde back then, but not much has changed has it?

Many actors today simply would not take such a role, but Guy Pearce puts on an incredible presentation in Brimstone as this extremely unlikable manipulator. Our foreboding minister justifies his grooming righteousness with warped scripture, remaining nameless beyond his title or fatherly names – respected monikers advantageously misused along with creepy chapter and verse and touchy feely, uncomfortable familiarity. He knows when Liz is hiding near him and taunts her on how she as such a terrible murderess can sleep at night. This minister has come to punish her and will use her husband and daughter to do it. He immediately expresses a shuddering attachment to her little girl, and after initially claiming his actions are of God, this minister festers into an unstoppable, almost immortal embodiment of the sins made flesh carrying him. Hellbent and beyond salvation, this Big Bad Wolf howls and embraces his brutal scourge. I’m not often disappointed in Pearce’s work despite learning early on thanks to superior quality like The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, L.A. Confidential, and Memento (For shame on those who discovered Memento and Christopher Nolan so late, and why is Snowy River: The McGregor Saga still not properly available in the U.S.?) However, this may be his darkest, finest performance, and it’s surprising no awards followed. Likewise, Dakota Fanning (The Secret Life of Bees) looks the pioneer part. She’s kind in an unforgiving landscape, mute and disliking guns, but strong and we immediately root for her survival at every struggle, be it a neighbor’s cold shoulder or a freezing last stand. There’s never a doubt that she’s in the right, doing what she has to do – her lack of a heard voice lets her actions speak louder than words. Emilia Jones (Utopia) as the younger Joanna is also a spirited girl who learns of her own strengths the hard way. Despite all the abuse and persecution in Brimstone, these ladies are not victims. The Minister believes a woman can’t out run what a man has in mind for her and she will pay the price for her resistance, but Joanna flees to the frontier for her freedom. She continues to outrun evil in all its disguises whether it is a losing battle or not, and Liz repeatedly take matters into her own hands, refusing to surrender regardless of all that’s taken from her.

The ensemble behind the leads in Brimstone really is a supporting cast helping or hindering, well-intentioned or misused, stepping stones and catalysts. Carice van Houten’s sorrowful mother and helpless wife Anna is completely relatable. The audience wants to protect her from her husband or see her stand up and do something for Joanna, but her weakling mother who can’t do anything contrasts the strong woman alone daughter we see later. This minister’s wife won’t do her wifely duty, thus she needs to be gagged in an iron mask for not holding her tongue and whipped until she can gain the Lord’s favor. Hers is a pathetic existence, and this bittersweet role is the complete opposite of Van Houten’s Game of Thrones ruthless. Fellow Thrones star Kit Harrington is also featured in Brimstone for Chapter Three – perhaps mostly for the financing incentives and audience appeal after several casting changes – for his accent is terrible and he looks a little too pretty boy modern rather than a gritty cowboy. Although we don’t doubt his anti-hero outlaw’s earnest or sincerity toward Joanna, his masculine intrusion is the first of many would be hopeful sparks used against her. Fortunately, Carla Juri (Wetlands, but more importantly, the gal plays ice hockey!) is a fun and feisty prostitute when it comes to the disagreeable male clientele. She’s tender with Joanna, and they plan to leave together as mail order brides after one too many pimp abuses. Viewers hope for their escape from the cathouse – even if we know better. The leaning toward lez be friends because of male hatred innuendo and sacrificial BFF turns may be slightly cliché, but the ladies are likable and charming with turn about twists right up to the end.

 

Brimstone is visually aware of its bleak tale, contrasting the gunfire, outhouses, hangings, and blood on snow with birds chirping, hymns, and the sunshine. Fine cinematography accents the international locations with overhead angles and camera work that knows when to move but also how to be still and let the action happen. The sign language, costuming, horses, and wagons add authenticity, and the color schemes don’t feel digital or over saturated. The natural outdoor palette and interior patinas reflect the chapters being told – a rustic harvest autumn, the hot summer and barren saloons, the budding fertile spring of a New World congregation, and a frigid, snowy twilight with cleansing water bookends. Ironically, Brimstone was shot in relatively chronological order with Three first, then Two, and later chapters One and Four, and the impressive looking blu-ray release includes lengthy behind the scenes interviews and detailed sit downs with numerous cast and crew members. Brimstone is recognizable as a western yet when and where it takes place isn’t definitive. There are no cowboys in white hats or other familiar archetypes, only a desolate mood and lawless atmosphere that doesn’t shy away from the period brutality. While not horror per se, Brimstone has many horrific scenes to match its warped attitudes, telling its difficult to watch tale in its own time with no genre limit to stop it from going too far – a refreshing lack of cinema restraint which again, for many audiences, will cross the line. Brimstone is difficult to watch, yet there’s little vulgarity, no unnecessary visuals, and no major nudity. Corsets and pantaloons invoke enough saucy, leaving the story and characters to tell the numbing brutality instead of today’s desensitizing flash in the pan in your face style. However, I must say I don’t think I’ve ever seen that kind of… um… creative… use of intestines in a movie, ever.

So many Hollywood movies go through the motions, and Brimstone’s negative stateside reviews may be because American audiences aren’t accustomed to this kind of hardcore storytelling. Period piece horror dramas transcending genre like Brimstone such as Bone Tomahawk and The Witch are being made, however, their statement-making frights inexplicably remain elusive festival finds outside mainstream release. Spoilers aside, I didn’t cover all the details here simply because I didn’t take many review notes. I was too busy paying attention to the not for the faint of heart as Brimstone strips the viewer mentally and emotionally with its offensive no holds barred. Maybe rather than shying away from the viewing conversation, we should be embracing a quality motion picture that wouldn’t be any good if it didn’t push us to our limits as Brimstone does.

 

Kbatz: Witches of East End Season 1

Frightening Flix

 

Witches of East End’s Season 1 is Too Muddled

by Kristin Battestella

 

Based upon the novels by Melissa de la Cruz, the late Lifetime series Witches of East End had plenty of magical potential. Unfortunately, this ten episode debut falters in balancing its bewitching tales and romantic plotlines, resulting in perhaps too many growing pains.

Artist Joanna Beauchamp (Julia Ormond) is surprised to see her wildcat sister Wendy (Madchen Amick) after a century apart – for unbeknownst to Joanna’s daughters Ingrid (Rachel Boston) and Freya (Jenna Dewan Tatum), they are a family of exiled and cursed witches. The immortal Joanna is doomed to see her daughters continuously born, grow up, and die, and this time she has steered the bookish Ingrid and romantic Freya away from their dangerous magical abilities in hopes of giving them a fuller, longer life. An old enemy, however, is after Joanna, taking on her lookalike form or shifting into other guises as needed to threaten the Beauchamps and interfere with Freya’s impending wedding to Dr. Dash Gardiner (Eric Winter). While her future mother-in-law Penelope (Virginia Madsen) is slowly warming to Freya, Dash’s wayward brother Killian (Daniel Di Tomasso) makes for a much more steamy adversary to the nuptials.

Glitz, glamour, saucy dreams, and ominous rituals in the garden open Witches of East End, and the “Pilot” moves quickly with fast talking folks and one blink and you miss it spooky incident after another. There’s a lot of house history and paranormal exposition shoehorned in the first ten minutes alone – making it tough to appreciate the morphing red flowers, poofing photographs, doppelgangers, pentagrams, and murder afoot. Did I mention the trite love triangle also being introduced? Witches of East End has much to digest, and although based upon its own book series, comparisons between Witches of Eastwick, Charmed, and Practical Magic are understandably apparent due to this initial patchwork and too similar feeling. Fortunately, Victorian flashbacks and glimpses into the twenties anchor past pain and fate coming to catch the titular ladies – unique tales that might have set Witches of East End further apart from those aforementioned comparables had it been set as a period piece. While it’s nice to have all age appropriate adults and realistic looking dark haired ladies instead of cliché teen bimbos, the enemy evil is told about more than it is actually seen, strong women are always being attacked by icky men, and attempts to be self aware about such cliches end up playing into that very same old. Witches of East End takes too long to get rolling, superficial threats are too easily resolved, and hello look at that shoddy police work. Thankfully, the intercut spell editing and smaller threats in “Marilyn Fenwick, R.I.P.” tie into the intriguing premise’s overall revenge and magical consequences. The sardonic comedy and rules of being a witch remain fun while serious conversations on whether magic is a gift or nothing but problems add drama. Rather than speedy shockers, time is taken with magic training and spell practice in “Today I am a Witch.” More sepia flashbacks and a long list of enemies shape the storylines while magical mistakes, face to face confrontations, and debate on whether these potions and powers should be used for protection and defense or the offensive help Witches of East End get a foot on the right moonlit path.

Fun guest stars, more sinister, and villainous history further up the conflict, surprises, and retribution in “A Few Good Talismen,” and the rules of the realm are established in “Electric Avenue” thanks to ghosts, legal tricks, and courtroom encounters. Witches of East End over relies on fast talking delivery and conveniently mentioned witchcraft information after the fact – we are told about more spells being done that we don’t get to see. However, when action actually happens, it is entertaining and weighted with supernatural arguments. Is the witchcraft right and justified in one scenario and wrong in another? Unfortunately, the pretty people making moon eyes in the pool in “Potentia Noctis” detract from the historical nuggets, turn of the century saucy, and spell casting magical brownies. The period apothecary, rival magics, multilevel spells, and mansion tunnels are top notch, again making one wonder why Witches of East End didn’t just dance the dance and begin with all this quality past beguine. The zombie resurrections and good girls gone bad consequences in “Unburied” are also hampered by the intercut romantic scenes. Yes, the magical hair pulling torture is kind of hokey, but the deadly high stakes is just a bit more important than love la dee da. New character dynamics and more evil shapeshifter meaty end up uneven or stretched thin because this need for dreamy keeps undercutting the magical ruses, occult research, fantastical dangers, and titular charms in “Snake Eyes.”

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Whoa, whoa, spoiler alert! Forget the love triangle soapy, the Beauchamps come from Asgard, can never go home, and more family has been left behind – and all this news is dropped with a mere two episodes left in the First Season. Say what? Knowing this information makes Witches of East End a lot more interesting, even as we again wonder why the series didn’t shoot out the gate with this enchanting who, why, and how it effects the present family. Any and all fantastical dalliances could have come through the town portal for our learning to be witches to wrangle each week and we got sweet nothings at the local pub instead? It’s great to see the sisters going head to head and banging up the house, too – even if the animated laundry is laughable. “A Parching Imbued” has the supernatural feeling Witches of East End needs with the eponymous gals in white robes on the beach casting spells while the evil shifter interferes directly with counter magic. Doppelgangers walk down the street, powers are lost, and conflicts arise over surprise character twists. Granted again the evil torture chamber looks more like an industrial art museum display, but deaths, harbingers of doom, and threats both mortal and magical disrupt the wedding preparations in the “Oh, What a World!” finale. Why ruin all the Asgard answers, bad omens, and major dramatic developments with too many sappy montages and pop songs? I’m ready for the verbal bitch slaps and magic battles! Although the easy, rushed resolution leaves Witches of East End on a cliffhanger and the San Francisco flashback shows the audience the tavern with magic cocktails we already know, the connection to present truths create some much needed character changes to up the ante for Season Two.

Thanks to the lovely at any age and foxy but poised Julia Ormond (Legends of the Fall), the viewer immediately likes immortal witch and mother Joanna Beauchamp. She’s trying to keep her daughters safe due to a horrible curse and that live forever quality doesn’t mean that enemies aren’t out to test her immortality. Ormond’s accent is an odd mix of toned down British and put on American, which may bother some, but it can also be excused thanks to her long lived times – there’s certainly some fun Latin and doppelganger mayhem to chew on, too. Despite her continuously telling lies and withholding information, we don’t blame Joanna for hiding the witchy ways in order to save this generation. Everything she does is to protect her daughters, to give them normal lives, and help them realize being a witch isn’t their be all end all. Witches of East End’s uneven focus between the ensemble love and Joanna’s ongoing enemy plot wavers too much – sometimes we don’t see our star very much from episode to episode. However, the backstory and family revelations late in the season add new spins. Joanna has her own moments of happiness amid the dangerous, and her second love interest should have been recurring all along gosh darn it. It’s amazing to see a strong, mature, and classy lady working to keep her family together. Joanna admits she can’t deal with her history and magic on her own, and her coming round to magic uses, accepting her past, and embracing her power gives Witches of East End a positive anchor.

It’s unfortunate that Rachel Boston’s (American Dreams) Ingrid is always siding with Wendy while Freya is most often with Joanna, as these limited pairings inhibit plot variety and keep critical information from all the players – who often behave more like four women in separate events rather than a core family. Unless you read some of the series’ apocrypha, the audience doesn’t get all the details, such as Ingrid being the older sister. Her level headed skepticism and slightly awkward but honest chemistry is a welcome change of pace early on Witches of East End, however her uber shrew detesting of Meg Ryan and Katherine Heigl movies is too textbook on the nose and used more to differentiate her from her dreamy lovestruck sister than develop her own personality. Ingrid is a realistic student of history and witchcraft that suddenly jumps the gun and writes spells because she’s really powerful with a saucy evil past and not just a shy librarian after all. From episode to episode Ingrid is either awed, wide eyed, whoopsie surprised, and scared of her magical mantle or being selfish and stupid with serious life and death spells. It’s great to see when her magic gets out of hand with erroneous consequences, but the character is made smart and stupid at the same time and too often caught in over her head whilst we are also repeatedly being told she is the good one. Which is it?

Likewise, Jenna Dewan Tatum’s (Step Up) wishy washy romantically confused shtick gets old fast, and I wish I could skip over her ‘he’s oh so dreamy’ scenes. We don’t know anything about Freya except how she is torn between two men. Even when she finds out she is a witch, she turns princess and doesn’t want to get her hands dirty with spells – only to be angry later when her powers don’t work. Why couldn’t the love triangle plot be developed later once Freya knows who she is and has accepted her powers? Instead she always needs to be saved by one of her men. Meh. This same old melodrama wastes time Witches of East End doesn’t have to spare, and honestly, I would rather have seen only one daughter in a learning to be a witch plot with more focus on the elder sisters. Isn’t Freya too old to be this juvenile? She learns of her magic history but would rather talk about boys, and she’s a bartender who’s good at potions, ba dum tish! I’m not opposed to Gothic love triangles done right in paranormal fantasies. However, I do expect to know something more about an allegedly strong woman – an immortal witch from Asgard no less – before knowing who she’s boinking as though the boinking is the most important thing about her. As if!

Thankfully, Madchen Amick (Twin Peaks), is a feline delight for Witches of East End as Joanna’s wild sister Wendy. She has nine lives to live and now in her slightly mature age uses her experience to protect her family. Wendy is self aware, sarcastic, and educates her nieces on good magic just as much as she imparts don’t be like her reckless wisdom. Of course, that’s not to say she doesn’t get up to wrong doing spells and danger, but Wendy remains a positive sounding board. Some of her plots do move too fast – they use up her lives quickly and swoop in a love interest, too. However, some of the speedy exposition works when Wendy is dropping witty asides and one line adventures about being widowed, married, divorced again, or eaten by a crocodile. Her knowing how to fix or undo a spell is also a convenient dues ex machina used too many times on Witches of East End, but the sisterly pros and cons are well done with both Wendy or Joanna each being short sighted at times in their magical knowledge or uses. Where Joanna seeks to motherly protect, Wendy would rather empower her nieces. Is one way better than the other or can both styles strengthen the family? Amick is a fun counter balance whose personality doesn’t change from week to week – unlike the under utilized Virginia Madsen (Candyman) as Freya’s snotty future mother-in-law Penelope. It takes half the season for what we already suspect of Penelope to come to light, making for another missed opportunity that Witches of East End should have indulged from day one.

Dimension also comes too late for Eric Winter (The Ugly Truth) as Freya’s fiance Dash. Why couldn’t he have been a doctor first and foremost instead of one half of a limp couple? Scenes with science investigation to counter magic end up going nowhere, and time focusing solely on the brotherly rivalry is so slow compared to the rapid witch pacing. We can see man pain anywhere, and Witches of East End could have at least completed the trifecta and had Canadian Italian model Donald Di Tomasso play hockey instead of serving up the same old dark, mysterious, music, and motorcycle Killian brooding. The series continually falls back on this teen wannabe bedroom ho hum, and such glaring plots don’t belong on what’s supposed to be a sophisticated, women-oriented supernatural show. Fortunately, familiar guests including Matt Frewer (Max Headroom), Joel Gretsch (The 4400), Jason George (Grey’s Anatomy), and Freddie Prinze, Jr. (Scooby Doo) add mature, supporting sensibilities to Witches of East End. It is, however, disappointing to see the charming Tom Lenk (Buffy) and Kellee Stewart (My Boys) typically typecast as the gay and black best friends, respectively. Tiya Sircar (The Internship) as Amy also starts with medical intelligence and character strengths, but is ultimately made stupid with Witches of East End once again wasting better, progressive plot opportunities and giving both its interracial and mixed couples ill fates. Tsk tsk. All these independent, confident chicks and ensemble support possibilities, yet it appears the only purpose of Witches of East End’s unfocused storytelling is to toss every woman a man. Bechdel test my foot – when we do get all the lady librarians, doctors, immortals, and witches together they still end up talking about men!

Witches of East End has a fitting mood with black cats, bewitching eyes, skeleton keys, Latin curses, and a pink Victorian house that belies the spooky within its quaint. Books, photographs, ominous lighting, small period piece doses, and freaky bathtubs should be used even more for a slow burn atmosphere, yet once again I come back to the faulty execution at work. Witches of East End could have been styled as several television movies or at least had a feature length pilot episode, however the ridiculous playing at double speed opening title card is a lighting bolt blink and bam indicative of how by the pants these 42 minutes or less episodes were steered. The witch effects and magical movements are cheap and quick, as if making them one second longer would cost too much. Trite ‘if this were a movie, this would be the part where happens!’ dialogue doesn’t excuse borrowed ideas – like the trapped in the painting plot lifted from The Witches. Cell phones and modern lingo are intrusive, and unlike The Witches of Eastwick, everything in Witches of East End feels lighthearted, too soft with little edge or dark style. Cursing and some near nudity amid brief 1906 orgies are fine, but such saucy is also an obvious, late in the hour desperate move – and something turn of the century should not be montaged with contemporary pop music! Witches of East End never fully establishes its titular setting, and we know almost nothing about the town’s size, how many shops there are, or what the main street layout may be. Are there no nosy neighbors to spy on these backyard spells? Is the Beauchamp name beloved or notorious in the community? Viewers don’t find out the town is shrouded on a map and secretly famed for its occult history or hiding a gosh darn gateway to Asgard until it is too late. Good job, everyone!

If you are familiar with other magical material, Witches of East End will be very derivative. Some audiences may like that whimsical comfort, readers of the series especially I imagine, but that unfulfilled basic may be disappointing for others. Undivided viewing attention is needed for this incredibly fast moving design, and a marathon session is a must to both keep up with the fast moving plots or exposition dumping and breeze over the spinning tires romance. The steamy attempts may cater to the Lifetime audience but such trite strays too far into soap opera over the top at the expense of the unique core potential. All that should have happened to start Witches of East End comes in the second half of the season, with numerous writers and directors falling flat over a backward execution – which is surprising since there is a literary source. Though Witches of East End is certainly watchable for paranormal light fans looking for a streaming weekend or ladies growing out of Charmed, the weekly witchy, immortal trials, and magical tribulations feel like they should be bigger somehow – leaving this debut with more than its fair share of flaws muddling the magic.

 

You Have To Make Up Your Mind

SerialScribbler

As a publisher, I see this every day. People making excuses for not writing.

“I’m very busy.”
“I have kids.”
“I have a full-time job and go to school.

Stop.

No, seriously. Stop. If you have time to post status updates, and catch up on DVR’ed shows and/or movies, you have time to write. I challenge you today to find out how many minutes you spend posting, typing statuses and how many words you’ve typed in the Facebook (or other social media) vortex.

Is that number over ten? You have time.

Are you watching at least one show a night? You have time to write.

Are you vegging out doing nothing for thirty minutes a night? You have time to write.

The real question is, “Is writing a priority to you?”  That’s where you need to make up your mind. Writing takes hard work, dedication, and commitment. There’s no boss over your head most of the time making sure you’re not slacking off. You have to be in it, every spare moment that you have. If you can DVR a show and catch up with it at night or for a few hours on the weekend, you have time to commit, you just aren’t doing so.

If you sit down to write and someone can talk you out of it, you’re not committed to it. They don’t believe it’s a priority because you haven’t set the standard or the boundaries.

Writers that are serious about their craft do not allow interruptions. Friends and family will learn that it’s “Do Not Disturb” time and eventually, you will have time to write.

Recently, with my publishing company we held a meeting and discussed what our slogan for the month would be. We chose, “Are you all in?”

Well, are you?

Wicked Women Writer’s Challenge 2015 – LAST CHANCE!

www980120

HorrorAddicts.net is proud to announce the

REMINDER!
Wicked Women Writer’s Challenge 2015

is now open for registration!

Who Will Be…. MOST WICKED?

 

THEME: This year’s theme is “Tarot Card Audiodrama.*” This year we’re pushing the challenge to the next level by asking participants to write an audiodrama revolving around one of the tarot cards from the Major Arcana. Who will find justice in a horror world of zombies or werewolves? Will your story include Death in all his sexy glory or will the Empress use her skills to tame the beasts of the underworld? It’s all up to you!

Every contestant will be given:
*A tarot card from the Major Arcana
*A supernatural/evil being
And every audio must include:
*At least two different reader voices in their production.

To register now, fill out the registration form here:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FJRKL5F

You will receive your specialized contest items and being to create a fantastical, horror-filled, terrifying audiodrama for the listeners of HorrorAddicts.net to enjoy.

Sign up by April 13th, 2015. The sooner you sign up, the more time you have to prepare.

*Note: The Wicked Women Writer’s Challenge and the Master of Macabre Contest share a theme this year “Tarot Card Audiodrama”, but they will still be aired and judged separately.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~FURTHER DETAILS~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SPECS:

  • As a contestant, you will write and record a horror story, fitting the theme and incorporating your extra elements. The style should be decidedly audiodrama, meaning music, sound effects, and two or more voices should be incorporated.
  • Audio mp3 and text will be due to horroraddicts@gmail.com by May 13th, 2015, 11:59 pm PST. Contestants will then be narrowed down to 5 semi-finalists. Those 5 authors will go on to compete for the final prize of being “Most Wicked 2015”.
  • The audio can be no longer than 10 minutes.
  • The text can be no longer than 3000 words, but may be submitted either in story or script format. Usually 1000 words=10 mins, we are giving you 2000 extra words for stage direction.
  • You may have someone else record your story for you, but it must still include 2 voices and none of the HorrorAddicts.net staff or previous winners may help you.
  • You may not compete if you have won the “Master of Macabre” or “Most Wicked” awards before. You CAN compete if you have submitted in the past but did not win the final award.

 

VOTING CHANGES SINCE LAST YEAR:

There will be a 3-part voting system.

  • 1/3 of the vote will still be the voters emailing in.
  • 1/3 of the vote will be judged on podcast quality and will be judged by seasoned podcasters.
  • 1/3 of the vote will be judged on writing quality and will be judged by seasoned writers.
  • These 3 sections will be added together for a final score
  • The winner will be honored with the coveted title, “Most Wicked 2015”.

 

Dates to know in 2015:
April 13th – Registration closes
May 13th – Audio and text are due.
Week of May 25th – finalists will be announced
June 27th – Audio airs (text will begin posting near this date)
June 27th – Voting starts
July 27th – Voting ends
August 22nd – Winners will be announced on the HorrorAddicts.net show.

 

Questions should be addressed to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject CONTEST QUESTION.

Wicked Women Writer’s Challenge 2015

www980120

HorrorAddicts.net is proud to announce the

Wicked Women Writer’s Challenge 2015

is now open for registration!

Who Will Be…. MOST WICKED?

 

THEME: This year’s theme is “Tarot Card Audiodrama.*” This year we’re pushing the challenge to the next level by asking participants to write an audiodrama revolving around one of the tarot cards from the Major Arcana. Who will find justice in a horror world of zombies or werewolves? Will your story include Death in all his sexy glory or will the Empress use her skills to tame the beasts of the underworld? It’s all up to you!

Every contestant will be given:
*A tarot card from the Major Arcana
*A supernatural/evil being
And every audio must include:
*At least two different reader voices in their production.

To register now, fill out the registration form here:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FJRKL5F

You will receive your specialized contest items and being to create a fantastical, horror-filled, terrifying audiodrama for the listeners of HorrorAddicts.net to enjoy.

Sign up by April 13th, 2015. The sooner you sign up, the more time you have to prepare.

*Note: The Wicked Women Writer’s Challenge and the Master of Macabre Contest share a theme this year “Tarot Card Audiodrama”, but they will still be aired and judged separately.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~FURTHER DETAILS~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SPECS:

  • As a contestant, you will write and record a horror story, fitting the theme and incorporating your extra elements. The style should be decidedly audiodrama, meaning music, sound effects, and two or more voices should be incorporated.
  • Audio mp3 and text will be due to horroraddicts@gmail.com by May 13th, 2015, 11:59 pm PST. Contestants will then be narrowed down to 5 semi-finalists. Those 5 authors will go on to compete for the final prize of being “Most Wicked 2015”.
  • The audio can be no longer than 10 minutes.
  • The text can be no longer than 3000 words, but may be submitted either in story or script format. Usually 1000 words=10 mins, we are giving you 2000 extra words for stage direction.
  • You may have someone else record your story for you, but it must still include 2 voices and none of the HorrorAddicts.net staff or previous winners may help you.
  • You may not compete if you have won the “Master of Macabre” or “Most Wicked” awards before. You CAN compete if you have submitted in the past but did not win the final award.

 

VOTING CHANGES SINCE LAST YEAR:

There will be a 3-part voting system.

  • 1/3 of the vote will still be the voters emailing in.
  • 1/3 of the vote will be judged on podcast quality and will be judged by seasoned podcasters.
  • 1/3 of the vote will be judged on writing quality and will be judged by seasoned writers.
  • These 3 sections will be added together for a final score
  • The winner will be honored with the coveted title, “Most Wicked 2015”.

 

Dates to know in 2015:
April 13th – Registration closes
May 13th – Audio and text are due.
Week of May 25th – finalists will be announced
June 27th – Audio airs (text will begin posting near this date)
June 27th – Voting starts
July 27th – Voting ends
August 22nd – Winners will be announced on the HorrorAddicts.net show.

 

Questions should be addressed to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject CONTEST QUESTION.

WWW Challenge Story #5: Merry Go When

Merry Go When by Tonia Brown
Beast: Horse… (Any equine incarnation)
Location: Kentucky
Blessing: Time Displacement Device
Curse: Chrononaut’s Ague

*~*Judging panel has not altered/edited this text.*~*
*~*Text is posted as sent by the author.*~*

Merry Go When

By Tonia Brown

 

Father had the carousel brought in special, all the way from Germany. The purchase was the result of a successful auction, in which he claimed to have outbid at least one hundred other buyers from all over the world. Why he wanted the thing was quite beyond me. My father wasn’t normally given to such childish proclivity, which made the purchase seem all the more out of place. Thankfully, he hid the thing in the garden behind our Kentucky home, where one had to travel down the field and past a small copse of trees in order to find it.

A few days after he had it in place, I inquired about the carousel’s state of being, to which my father sharply assured me it was none of my concern and commanded me not to revisit the matter. He surprised me with his gruff tone and unexpected anger. I hadn’t heard him use such a voice since mother left him for a much younger man.

Father never quite recovered from her abandonment.

The night after his outburst, I awoke to sudden movements just outside our quiet home. I stepped to the window, pulling aside the curtain and peering into the moonlit yard beyond, where a strange sight greeted me. The shadowy form of my father making his way to the garden in the middle of the night.

At first I thought he had taken to somnambulism, and I decided to go after him. I caught up with him just before he reached the carousel and I called out his name. My father turned to me with his mouth agape, as if shocked by my intrusion. This softened into a look of uneasy embarrassment. I demanded to know what was going on. With an unusual candor, he took my hand in his own and explained that the carousel was special. It was said to possess certain rejuvenating powers. That according to legend, the machine acted as a kind of time displacement device, removing years off of one’s life, and restoring the rider to an unbelievable degree of youth. He called it a blessing. A gift from God.

I couldn’t believe what my father was driving at. He was so desperate to be young again, he had fallen for a childish fairy tale. Some outlandish occult legend. To make matters worse, I knew it was all in an attempt to win back my mother’s heart. I begged my father to leave off this odd behavior and return with me to the house at once. He grew angry at me, pushed me aside and stormed off toward the carousel, hell bent on proving his words.

Even by moonlight, the machine was a breathtaking work of art. A large affair, at least thirty feet across, the carousel consisted of an intricately woven pattern of wrought iron, wood and brass. To the left of the entry ramp there extended an arm from the base of the thing, reaching away from the platform then doubling back once more toward the carousel proper; a delivery system equipped with brass rings, ready for the grasping. There were thirteen horses in all, each as large as a real stallion, and each bound by a post that ran the length from the roof to the floor, spearing each animal through their back.

I spied my father inside of the inner ring, manning the console. At his attention, the carousel sprang to life and light. The horses set into an up and down motion as the platform began a slow and steady rotation. This movement was accompanied by a cheery calliope played by an organ hidden somewhere about the mechanism.

My father stepped onto the moving stage, mounted one of the rising and falling steeds, and settled into place. Though he did so with the same aloof severity he reserved for business matters and other affairs of import. He didn’t smile, didn’t speak, didn’t seem to enjoy himself at all. He just held onto the steed and remained silent, as if concentrating on something other than the experience of the ride.

As the carousel turned, the platform spun faster and faster, and I began to grow concerned about my father’s safety. The music rose in pitch, to match the quicker rotations, driving into a wild orgy of wheezes and strained notes. And the horses … I know how this sounds, but the horses came alive! Their nostrils flared and steamed, heavy with breath. They kicked out, bucking against their poles, chomping at their bits and tossing their feral heads. Without warning, my father reached out and in a blur of motion, snatched one of the brass rings from the holder near the ramp.

At this the music lifted into a single, high pitched note, screaming into the wild night. The horses changed with this shriek, melting into nightmarish black steeds, each with matching crimson eyes, gnashing fangs and whipping forked tongues. They roared out, as one, in a single identical note as loud and chilling as the screaming music. I was filled with an utter dread for my father’s life, one that said should those beasts break free from this carousel, the town below our home would suffer in the most horrid of ways.

As the unnatural horses howled and bucked, the carousel’s lights grew to a blinding degree, and I had to shield my eyes.

When I was able to look again, the light dimmed and faded, and the carousel slowed to an eventual halt. The horses were normal once more, both stationary and plain. There was no sign of my father. I called out his name and searched about, worried that he had been flung from his demonic mount in the frenzy of the ride. Instead of my father’s voice, I heard the low croaking growl of something inhuman. I froze in place, worried some wild animal had been attracted by father’s carousel, and was now poised to attack.

In the thin moonlight, a creature emerged from behind the very horse my father had chosen as his mount. It crouched, at almost half my height, and was covered in a dark, leathery skin. Its mouth was stuffed with twisted, yellowing fangs, and nearly bisected its face with an abnormal width. The unholy thing clambered up to squat on the horse, looking out over the garden with wide glassy eyes that rested upon the top of its head. It grabbed at the air with wretched webbed paws and let out another soft, weird croak.

I screamed. I couldn’t help it.

Of course once I did, the thing whipped about to face me, that large, fang filled mouth snapping closed with a resounding click. It then lunged for me, leaping down from the carousel horse and almost atop me. It reached out for me, clawing the emptiness between us. I backed up a few nervous steps then took off in a run, heading for the safety of the house. Thankfully, the beast was slow, hopping in stunted bursts as if it had forgotten how to move its own webbed feet. Once I reached the house, I locked and barred the door, and headed immediately for father’s study, seeking father’s elephant gun—the single weapon he held onto from his younger, more adventurous days.

The beast was not far behind me, and began to scratch and beat on the front door. I loaded father’s gun, returned to the foyer, took aim for the front door, and fired. The door splintered into fragments as the shot tore the wood apart. With the blast of the weapon, the clawing and banging ceased. I switched on the electric porch light and stepped up, peering beyond the ruined wood to find my prey in a slump at bottom step. I reloaded the gun and, holding it before me, I stepped through the ruined door and made my way down the stairs, intending to finish the beast once and for all.

As I approached the creature, it gave a pained croak and flopped onto its back. With the added illumination of the porch light burning behind us, I was able to see the creature’s eyes more clearly. I gazed into those oversized orbs when a strange sensation befell me. I clearly recognized the beast’s eyes as my own kin. But how? Answer my silent question, the beast relaxed a webbed hand, and from it rolled a brass ring, spinning across the pavement between us until it came to rest at my feet.

It was then I understood what had happened.

Father was wrong. The carousel wasn’t a blessing. The machine, this time displacement device, did exactly as the legends proposed it would. It had displaced time from my father, only, it took too much. An unbelievable degree of youth, indeed! He thought he would step off the carousel a young man, but instead, in some kind of weird time traveling side effect, a type of crononaut’s ague, he came back a de-evolved monster.

A monster I had just slain.

With tear filled eyes, I lowered myself to his side, cradled my dying father’s head in my lap, and held him to me as he shuddered and exhaled his last breath.

************************
To vote for this story in the 2014 Wicked Women’s Writing Challenge, send an e-mail to horroraddicts@gmail.com
Voting ends: July 28th, 2014

WWW Challenge Story #4: What Happens In Vegas

What Happens In Vegas by Lindsey Goddard
Beast: Rabbit
Location: Magic Act in Vegas
Blessing: Mirrors
Curse: Jealous Magician gone MAD!!!

 

*~*Judging panel has not altered/edited this text.*~*
*~*Text is posted as sent by the author.*~*

What Happens In Vegas

Lindsey Beth Goddard

Vivica tapped her six inch stilettos on the floor and waited for her cue to enter stage left. Her chest heaved in her sequin push-up top, and she fanned herself with both hands. Calm down, she thought, before your eyeliner runs and you turn into the world’s sexiest raccoon.

 

Stage fright was something Vivica had never experienced. She always said her nerves were stronger than steel; they were titanium. But you shouldn’t have done it. It’s a dirty trick, and it’s going to blow up in your face.

 

She watched Harvey on stage as a Burmese python slithered up the sleeve of his tux. It reappeared, center stage, in a cloud of confetti and smoke, and the crowd cheered. Vivica frowned as Harvey’s words from last night replayed in her mind. She remembered the way he had scowled at her, had moved so close to her face that she could feel his drunken body heat. “If I catch you flirting with another man again,” he had hissed through fetid whiskey breath, “I’ll feed that goddamn rabbit of yours to the snake.”

 

He smiled on stage. He turned to the crowd with a dramatic sweep of his arms. “For the next bit of madness, I’ll need some assistance,” he bellowed. “She’s hypnotic. She’s erotic. She’s not afraid of the blade! Please welcome… Ms. Vivica.”

 

Vivica entered the spotlight with a seductive swagger. She stepped over to a large wooden structure. It was circular, painted red and white like a huge target. She pressed her back against the wood. Harvey tightened her restraints.

 

He stepped back, took aim, and within seconds knives whizzed through the air, stabbing an outline of her body in the wood. Thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk. A blade struck the board mere inches from her face. She gritted her teeth. I’m getting too old for this.

 

The show dragged on and on, until finally the moment arrived. The hat trick. Harvey loved his tired old hat trick. “An homage to the ancestors of magic”, he called it.

 

There was a secret compartment in the table below his hat. That’s where Abra Cadabra was supposed to be waiting. Sweet, fluffy little Abra Cadabra, the bunny Harvey had threatened to kill just one night before. Vivica smirked.

 

He plunged his hand into the hat and felt around for the rabbit. He froze. A look somewhere between pain and horror crossed his features. His eyes grew wide, and he let out a scream so loud that it made Vivica cringe. He writhed and tried to pull away, but something yanked his arm deeper.

 

Vivica knew the rabbit would bite. That was the whole point of the prank—to startle Harvey, to deliver a blow to his pride in front of a huge audience. But this? Something wasn’t right. Harvey was in too much pain.

 

He freed his hand from the hole, and the fat, hideous rabbit dangled there, its yellow teeth buried deep between his knuckles. Blood and foamy saliva moistened its face. The hat was stuck between Harvey’s elbow and the frothing little beast. It made it difficult for him to get a good view of his predator.

 

But Vivica could see it. She gulped. What exactly was she seeing?

 

Triple the size of Abra, this rabbit’s beady red eyes were slanted, its hackles raised. Its sharp claws sliced the air. Harvey gripped its plump body with his free hand and attempted to squeeze the life out of the critter as it mangled his knuckles, whipping its mangy head back and forth.

 

It opened its bloody maw and chomped down, severing fingers. Blood squirted from the amputated digits. The theater filled with screams. It spat the fingers out and lunged forward, ripping into Harvey’s arm. Tears of pain welled in his eyes. Blood coated his shirt.

 

He reared back and flung the rabbit to the floor. It growled, exposing a mouth full of fangs. It hopped over to him and used its claws to scurry up the fabric of his pants. He tried desperately to kick it off, doing a one-legged dance with his mutilated hand tucked under his armpit. It scrambled across his chest. Its face hovered just over the pulse at his jugular.

 

Vivica ran to him. A scream of agony echoed through the sound system from a nearby microphone as the creature tore into his neck. He fell to his knees, ripping the little monster from his throat with both hands as crimson gore soaked its fur. Harvey’s fingers went limp and he dropped it.

 

Vivica’s shadow fell over the rabbit. It glared at her, yellow teeth bared. She lifted a slender leg and stomped down with all her might, driving the thin metal of her stiletto heel through the top of the rabbit’s skull with a wet crunch. The rabbit’s paws twitched as she removed the metallic heel from its brain. With one last feeble kick, it stopped moving.

 

She dropped to the floor beside Harvey. Blood spilled from his neck. It soaked her knees and pooled around them as memories of last night washed over her. The strange man’s words… “I have the perfect rabbit for you,” he had said. His eyes shined like obsidian in the dim track lighting of the hotel bar. “An extremely rare breed. One that will teach old Harvey a lesson.”

 

“I’m sorry. I’m not following. W-what do you mean?”

 

His teeth seemed too large when he smiled. “He deserves a little payback, don’t you think?”

 

“For… for what?”

 

“For what? Why, for threatening to feed your pet rabbit to his snake. And in public. I imagine he’s even worse when you two are alone.”

 

She had nodded. He’d certainly hit the nail on the head there. She felt odd opening up to a stranger this way, but she nodded all the same.

 

Harvey had embarrassed her, that was true. This was a business meeting, nothing more. The man she sat with at the lobby bar was a dealer of rare animals. Vivica had been hoping to retire Abra Cadabra and introduce a more exotic rabbit to the act.

 

But Harvey had come through the hotel and spotted them at the bar together. He’d made a scene, made accusations. As if she were the unfaithful one! Ha! She knew about Harvey’s indiscretions in the matters of monogamy. Still, he always found a way to point the finger at her.

 

“I’ve got a rabbit that is very different from the rest.” He flashed that peculiar smile again, all tooth and no lip. “She’s a biter. Positively vicious.You won’t need to handle her, of course. I’ll take care of everything.” He winked. “Just imagine, if you will, the great and powerful Harvey, humiliated by a rabbit!”

 

Why had she agreed to such a reckless prank? The memory pained her now.

 

The spotlights dimmed as crew members trickled out from backstage. The audience fell silent.  Harvey’s body convulsed against the floor. His eyes rolled back in his head.

 

The color drained from Harvey’s face, and his movements slowed to a stop. One last, shaky breath left his lungs. And then, Harvey started to change…

 

Thick fur sprouted from his skin. It covered his neck, his cheeks, his nose—every part of him. His missing fingers grew back. Then all ten digits fused together into a disturbing human-like paw. Curved claws grew from the tips. His ears grew, too, rising up from his head, and he rolled to the side, coughing, sprinkling the floor with human teeth. Saliva glistened on his freshly grown fangs.

 

She scrambled back and rose to her feet just as Harvey sprang to his. Well, it was really more of a hop than anything. He tracked her with his beady red eyes. His still-human lips curled into a sneer beneath thick fur, and she could see the sharp points of his teeth.

 

She removed her high heels and prepared to run. He lunged at her, but she managed to sidestep him and bolt in the other direction.

 

Her bare feet slid in a river of blood. Blood from when Harvey had died. Time seemed to slow down as she fell, and all she could think was: He did die. I saw it with my own eyes. He did. The Harvey I know is long gone.

 

She hit the ground, flipped over, saw him closing in.

 

Beside her was a table with a mirror affixed to the front. On any other night, the mirror was just another prop used for an optical illusion. But tonight, it was a godsend.

 

She tightened her grip on the stiletto shoe in her hand and smashed the metal heel into the glass—once, twice, three times. It shattered. She selected a long, jagged piece, squeezing it so hard that it sliced into her palm. Blood trickled down her wrist as he fell onto her, straddled her, opened his mouth wide, ready to rip her throat out.

 

She stabbed the piece of glass into the side of his head directly below his giant ears. It sliced into his temple. Blood rained down on her face. The glass maimed her hand, but she kept on pushing, driving the shard deeper and deeper into his head, until his clawed paws loosened their grip and Harvey’s mutated body slumped to the side.

 

She crawled away from the monster that had once been Harvey. Trembling and hysterical, she cried on stage before an audience of horrified faces. And in that sea of faces, for the briefest of moments, she could swear she glimpsed a familiar one. His eyes so dark they glimmered black. A toothy grin, too big for his head. She was certain he’d been there… smiling.

 ************************
To vote for this story in the 2014 Wicked Women’s Writing Challenge, send an e-mail to horroraddicts@gmail.com
Voting ends: July 28th, 2014

WWW Challenge Story #3: The Gray Girl

The Gray Girl by Stephanie Lenz
Beast: Goat
Location: Mardi Gras
Blessing: Gris-gris
Curse: Your cocktail has been spiked with a voodoo potion!

*~*Judging panel has not altered/edited this text.*~*
*~*Text is posted as sent by the author.*~*

“The Gray Girl”

Stephanie Lenz

 Mardi Gras, 1981

Since her mother’s disappearance, Maia had been drawn to the old St Louis cemetery. Mardi Gras made people careless so she had hope. Locked again but at its base, just inside the gate, she found a palm-sized rag doll. It smelled of lavender and she hugged it to her face. Attached to its dress was a note with words Maia couldn’t read.

Inside, a yellowish curtain of light seemed to cut the cemetery in half. A woman walking through the graveyard caught Maia’s eye. Not a ghost. Maia couldn’t see ghosts. Just people and their colors. She was as real as Maia herself and she glowed faint violet. The woman smiled, took three steps, and disappeared into the light.

In the morning, Maia found a woman sweeping beads, paper, and broken glass into Bourbon Street. She held up the doll and asked for help. The woman fingered the note, then wrapped an arm around the child and invited her inside. She made Maia a sweet cherry-almond drink that drew the damp from her bones, then made a telephone call that began, “Queen, I have a kid for you.” She smiled and draped cheap purple beads around Maia’s neck, adding, “Hold tight to that gris-gris, girl.”

“Gray girl?” Maia pulled at a goat’s hair poking through the fabric.

August 2005

The child had been curled in the corner of Queen Clémence’s shop since Giles had brought her the day before. No magic, real or imagined, could get her to speak, move, or take a sip of water.

“I can’t leave the Quarter,” Maia said, sipping a beer and leaning on the register counter, her bronzed arms glistening with sweat and work.

“Maia, it’s mandatory this time.”

“And the police,” she replied, pointing at his badge, “are trying to turn me into a babysitter. That is not what I do.”

He leaned forward. “I know what you do. That’s why I brought her here.”

Maia looked down toward the girl, barefoot with the dampness of the Ninth Ward still up to the knees of her pants. “What color was that man? The policeman who just left. Not his skin. His other color.”

The little girl allowed her eyes to meet Maia’s. “Purple.”

“I thought he was more of a pinkish-purple.”

The child unfolded and curled her legs alongside her body like a mermaid’s tail.

“He told me your name is Espie.”

“You’re purple too.”

Maia held up a finger, then opened the purse with the strap that she wore across her chest. Removing the doll, she asked, “Do you know what this is?”

The little girl’s eyes opened wide. “My dolls are all at home. Under the water. With my grandmamma.”

“Have you ever made a gris-gris?”

“Grandmamma says voodoo comes from the devil.”

Maia offered her hand as Espie stood. “Did she show you how to keep him away?”

Mardi Gras, 2014

“Goat Herder, wasn’t it?”

“You remembered.” She accepted the cocktail Hunt delivered to her, jostled by tourists spilling beer on her emerald green Tulane t-shirt.

He watched as she drank. “My, my, Maia. We never thought we’d get you.”

The potion he’d mixed into her cocktail rushed under Maia’s skin. Her protections, her memories, her training, as impossible to grasp as handfuls of water. His aura dissolved from pink to dusty orange.

She spotted this year’s kid on the other side of the club, his gris-gris bag knotted through a belt loop, as he sipped beer from a plastic gold cup. He’d gone from red to purple, the strongest aura Maia could sense. Hunt couldn’t see him. She’d done her job.

“Clémence’s hand-raised kid. Savior of the goats without horns.” Hunt ran his hands over her shivering flesh. He kissed her neck and whispered. “I’ll drain your mind before I’ll drain your blood. The meat,” he said with a squeeze, “is least of what I want. I might spare your precious Quarter for the year if you give yourself – all of yourself – to me, ma biche.”

As he spoke, Maia’s fingers searched her purse for her own red satin bag filled with herbs, cemetery dirt, and goat hair. She found it. He couldn’t see her or feel her but it was only temporary magic, a few minutes at best. She ran toward Basin Street, darting through the crowds to St. Louis #1.

As the night’s last tour group filtered past, carelessly dropping bits of stolen brick, Maia slipped through the gates, clutching the gris-gris with both hands over her pounding heart. The darkness rose like water.

“Voilà,” Hunt’s voice echoed off the marble and brick. “Maia Gray, Protector of Goats.”

Maia positioned herself carefully. The old border of the Vieux Carré ran right through St. Louis #1, soft, yellow, and pulsing. She took a step backward. The other colors of her world faded into gray.

Hunt picked plaster from a whitewashed tomb. “I have a lot to repay you for. Twenty-five years of hornless goats we didn’t get, plus that kid you kept as a souvenir from the Feast of Katrina. We’re hungry and we’re inviting you to the table, ma biche.”

Another step backward. Her dark curls lifted in a low breeze.

He recognized what she was doing. “You made a vow, Protector. You can’t leave The Quarter.”

“You’re right. I’ll never leave it.”

“You knew. You knew what I was gonna do, didn’t you? How long have you known?”

“All eight years.”

He nodded. “You drank it of your own free will. You know who I am, what I want. There’s nothing to save you from me now. Nothing to save the Quarter. Nothing to save your precious ‘kids.’ Let me feast on your fear, Maia.”

She dropped the gris-gris.

His eyes followed it, then fell on her face. His expression changed. The shadows around him swirled and rose like smoke. “No fear. How are you unafraid? For yourself. For the Quart… Another Protector? Th-that’s impossible! Tell me!”

Au revoir.”

His scream caught in his throat as Maia took her final step backward and disappeared.

Hunt de Chèvre had promised he would deliver The Protector, that they would finally devour her – body and soul. Instead, they would starve. He waved a hand in front of the cemetery gates to open them. He didn’t see the orange sparks that flew from his hand.

The young woman sitting cross-legged on a low tomb did see. She’d always seen the colors. Grandmamma had told her it was a curse. Miss Maia showed her it was a blessing. Maia had also taught that those with this blessing were called by the Quarter to protect the innocent. Otherwise they – prey and Protector alike – would become “hornless goats,” sacrificed and consumed by de Chèvre and his followers. The final lesson had been how to dissolve into the Quarter if, by time or by trickery, your powers grew too weak to protect anyone, including yourself.

She carried two gris-gris in her bag: the one she’d made with Maia and the one Maia had given her. The Gray Girl, she’d called it.

Esperanza slid along Bourbon Street like sap over bark. She hooked a finger through a set of discarded purple throw beads, looped the beads around her neck, and let the Quarter lead its Protector into its heart.

************************
To vote for this story in the 2014 Wicked Women’s Writing Challenge, send an e-mail to horroraddicts@gmail.com
Voting ends: July 28th, 2014

WWW Challenge Story #2: An Appetite for Trouble

An Appetite For Trouble by Chantal Boudreau
Beast: Monkey
Location: A Jungle Temple
Blessing: Candy Bar
Curse: Cannibals!

*~*Judging panel has not altered/edited this text.*~*
*~*Text is posted as sent by the author.*~*

An Appetite for Trouble

                When Doctor Toyin Katabe, professor of anthropology, had been preparing for a journey to examine a potential find in the jungles of East Africa, the association awarding her the research funding had insisted she not go alone.  It didn’t matter that she had originally come from that area and was familiar with the language and customs there.  It also didn’t matter that she had been studying ancient cannibalistic civilizations since completing her masters three decades before.  Despite the fact that she was perfectly healthy, far fitter than the average woman her age and stronger too, they had insisted she take a graduate student along with her, and preferably one who was both young and male.

While not surprised that the old-fashioned, old-money codgers who chaired the association had placed such foolish demands upon her, Doctor Katabe had still been insulted.  She had always been perfectly capable of taking care of herself while on these outings.  Extinct ancient tribes hardly posed a threat to the living.  Insects were a much bigger danger, so unless a grad student was intending to follow her around with a giant flyswatter, she didn’t need him for protection.

Besides, Toyin knew her away around a jungle and had a talent with handling wild animals.  She even owned a trained monkey, Bobo, as a pet.  More than a pet really – she considered Bobo a service animal because he could do things for her she couldn’t manage for herself.  He could scale heights or squeeze into tight spots to retrieve things for her, and he had a few other special tricks he could perform with the right incentive.  As far as she was concerned, he was better than any graduate student playing assistant.  And while she might welcome human companionship while searching for evidence of Neolithic cannibals in Europe or South America, she preferred to visit her home turf alone.

At least, this is how she had felt initially, before it had turned out that the extinct ancient tribe of cannibals hadn’t been quite so extinct after all.  Doctor Katabe and her six-foot-two twenty-something chaperone, Derek, had been searching through the aged evidence of ritualistic cannibalism – cannibalism similar to that of the Mangbetu tribe that had brought them to the Congo Basin in the first place – when they were ambushed.  The swarm of mostly-naked jungle natives that surrounded and seized them had painted faces and wore jewellery made from carved pieces of cranial bones.   It reminded Toyin of a scene out of an old adventure serial.

Derek had tried to fight but was quickly overcome.  Toyin had known better.  She would wait until the odds lay more in her favour.  That way, unlike Derek, she was conscious when they bound her arms.  She could bunch her muscles as much as possible to allow some slack when she relaxed them later.  It might provide her with the opportunity to escape when they were paying less attention.

Along with being taken by surprise and frightened by the cannibals aggressive swarming, Doctor Katabe also suffered the disappointment of watching Bobo scramble screaming into the jungle.  His loss was more grievous than watching Derek succumb to a well-placed blow to the head.  She had never counted on any real help from the grad student anyway.  He was there merely as a watchdog for the privileged old men who had funded her trip to prove to their cronies they supported education and the exploration of different cultures, like good gentleman should.  Bobo, on the other hand, was her right arm.  Without him, her chances of escape dropped to almost zero.

Now, captured and held in their secluded village, Doctor Katabe had to admit that taking Derek along had been worth it after all.  The cannibals had taken one look at his youthful form and brawn and decided to eat the grad student first.  In their place, Toyin likely would have made the same choice.  One look at her silvering hair, lean muscle and wrinkling dark skin, and she would have assumed such a person would make for a tough and stringy meal, like chewing old leather.

She had been forced to watch as Derek had begged for his life, the young man in tears as they had prepared him for decapitation with a well-balanced blade that resembled the Ngombe cult weapons.  Toyin didn’t see the point to grovelling.  If she ended up at a place past any hope of escape, she would accept her fate with dignity.  Why get upset when death was inevitable?

But she wasn’t there yet – she still had hope despite watching blood gush from the place where Derek’s severed head had once rested and his brawny form twitch in its death throes.  She had time too, the lost tribe still full after cooking and devouring her grad student.  She only prayed Bobo would make an appearance before it was her turn.  If he did, she might not end up serving as the second course.

Doctor Katabe was depending on Bobo to follow the tasty trail she had left him while on route to the secluded tribal village.  Knowing Bobo’s affinity for sweets, the anthropologist had secured a small bag of stuffed figs from a vendor outside her hotel, which she kept in her pocket as rewards for the monkey.  She also had a chocolate bar secured in her shirt flap, but that needed to be saved for emergencies only.  With her hands only loosely bound in front of her, she had managed to ease the figs one by one out of her pocket and drop them along the way.  As long as Bobo’s appetite for treats drove him forward, he would reach her eventually. Toyin was relying on that.

In the meantime, she had been worrying at the ties that bound her wrists and she was close to the point where she would be able to free her hand to use as she pleased.  She would need that free hand when Bobo arrived, in order to reach the chocolate bar in her possession.  Her fate would be decided in that one moment: would she be liberated or would she be lunch?  She certainly was aiming for the former rather than the latter.

Toyin had been pretending to sleep on the mat they had laid out for her, still struggling with her bonds, when she heard the first delightful signs of that Bobo had arrived, making curious little noises from the shelter of the trees.  His arrival happily coincided with the somewhat painful removal of one hand from the ties.  She smiled inwardly.  The cannibals had no idea she was about unleash her worst weapon upon them.

Unbeknownst to the cannibals, the anthropologist truly had trained her monkey to protect her with the right prompts and the right incentives.  Fortunately for Doctor Katabe, Bobo would do anything for chocolate, including attacking people upon her command.

“Chocolate, Bobo – chocolate,” she whispered, sliding the candy bar from her shirt flap.  It was squishy, melted from the heat, but the monkey wouldn’t care.  Toyin tore the oozy packaging in two, passing one to Bobo who had emerged from the shadows of the trees with his mistress’s tempting summons.  She returned the other half to its original location.  “You know what you need to do for the rest of it,” she told Bobo as he sucked the last of the brown, sugary sludge from his half of the wrapper.

The next few seconds that followed were pure chaos, when Bobo’s shrill shrieks attracted the cannibals.  Once they came into view, he set upon them as if rabid, leaping upon heads, scratching at faces and biting at ears, gouging at eyes and clawing at scalps.  Multiple attempts were made to grab at him, but he was more agile than those who sought to snatch him up. Soon cries of agony and blood from the rending of flesh added to the pandemonium.  Toyin took the opportunity to free her ankles from their ties, while her captors were fully distracted by Bobo’s rampage.  After a few hearty rubs to restore some feeling to her numb legs and feet, she lurched away from her mat and sprinted off into the jungle.

Her flight was hurried and haphazard, trying to put as much distance between her and the cannibal village before they noticed she was gone.  The adrenaline generated by the memory of what had happened to Derek kept her running long after she normally would have succumbed to fatigue.  When she finally did slide to a shaky stop, she had to count herself lucky for not tripping on some root or stone in her path, or impaling herself on some unfortunately-placed tree branch.  She could no longer hear Bobo’s enraged hoots or the cannibals’ shouts of distress.  Either they had managed to subdue him, drive him off, or Toyin had succeeded in running far enough that they were all now out of earshot.

She hoped Bobo had survived unscathed and had made his own escape.  If so, she would definitely see him again.  He would most certainly track her by scent, demanding the remains of his prize once he had found her.  Doctor Katabe, in the meantime, would rest as best she could until morning, when she would reorient herself using the rising sun and make her way back to base camp and then the hotel.  She had gathered more than enough data by that point to consider her venture into the Congo Basin a successful one.

Toyin realized, as she settled down into the greenery to relax under the moonlight, that her stomach was grumbling.  She hadn’t eaten in over a day, the cannibals having only provided her with water to drink.  For the briefest moment she contemplated devouring the second half of the gooey chocolate bar resting securely in her shirt flap.  She reminded herself that it would be far better not to, despite the temptation.  The melted candy would only dampen her hunger temporarily.  After the crash from the sugar high, she would feel far worse.

And then there was Bobo. If and when he returned to her, she could only imagine how he would react to the fact that she had robbed him of the other promised half of his reward.  His response to her would likely be more violent than his attack upon the cannibals.  Toyin didn’t want to risk that, not when her monkey had such an appetite for trouble.

With that in mind, she left the chocolate bar where it was. She’d rather not invite that kind of pain.

Closing her eyes, with the vague chance of sleep, Doctor Katabe prayed that no other denizens in the area would also decide she looked and smelled like lunch.  She had had enough of playing potential snack for a lifetime.

****************

To vote for this story in the 2014 Wicked Women’s Writing Challenge, send an e-mail to horroraddicts@gmail.com
Voting ends: July 28th, 2014

 

WWW Challenge Story #1: Photo Finish

Photo Finish by D.M. Slate
Beast: Dragon
Location: A Japanese Night Club
Blessing: Hairspray
Curse: Hallucinations

*~*Judging panel has not altered/edited this text.*~*
*~*Text is posted as sent by the author.*~*

 

Photo Finish

By D.M. Slate

Liza steps out of the cab, closing the door behind her.  She shields her eyes from the sun, looking up at the sky scrapers that line both sides of the busy street.  The over-cluttering of Japan’s rich, vibrant colored signs makes her smile.

Tossing her silky blonde locks over her shoulder, Liza straightens her shirt and heads for the front doors.  Her photo shoot today is on the top floor – at the White Serpent night club.  She enters the elevator, taking a deep breath as it begins to move.  Today is Liza’s first time working with Chuu, the photographer, and her stomach jitters with nervousness.  Being a petite blonde American has made modeling work easy to find in Japan, but learning the language has been a much harder task.

The elevator comes to a stop, and as the doors open Liza’s breathe catches in her throat.  The White Serpent’s décor is stunning.  Glowing chandeliers of red, blue and purple dangle from the ceiling, accenting the sleek white chairs, booths and couches that line the hard-wood floor.  A massive sculpture of a white dragon slithers around the chandeliers from one corner of the night club to the other.  To the south, a wall of windows provides a penthouse view of the bustling city below.

A man steps out from behind the bar and the movement catches her eye.  She hadn’t seen him standing there, silently observing her.  She smiles, raising a hand in a typical American greeting, before catching herself in mid-motion.  Pulling the hand down, she gives a proper bow, instead.

Chuu approaches, speaking a mouthful of words that Liza can’t decipher.  She’s taken aback by his appearance.  Dressed in noting but black, his tall slender form seems to float across the floor toward her.  His goth-like attire is complete with a sliver-link chain that hangs around his neck, and a head full of spikey black hair.  When he comes to a stop next to her, Liza notices the eye liner that accentuates his almond shaped eyes.

Agitated with her lack of verbal response, he sneers at her.  She rattles off the only greeting she knows in Japanese, which does little to win Chuu’s approval.  He spins on the heel of his boot, walking away.  Liza timidly scurries after him.  The photographer retrieves an outfit off of the bar and hands it to her, pointing her in the direction of the women’s restroom.

Once inside the bathroom, Liza lets out a deep breath, trying to calm herself.  Scoffing at the clothes, Liza shakes her head as she changes into the skimpy pleather outfit.  A cross between animee design and sexy-school girl attire – the mid-drift top, short skirt and knee-high socks seem to be essential items in most of her Japanese shoots.  And today, a pair of six-inch spiked heels completes the outlandish outfit.

Liza gives the shoes a trial run in the bathroom, terrified to trip and fall in front of Chuu.  Satisfied that she’s stable enough on them, she stuffs her clothes down into her massive purse and slings the bag over her shoulder.  Taking one last glance in the mirror, Liza digs down into the purse retrieving a bottle of hairspray.  Giving her hair a final spritz, she drops the bottle back into her bag and exits the restroom.

The club has taken on a new life and her eyes sparkle with wonderment.  Fog machines pump thick plumes of smoke out from the ceiling, filling the room in cloud of white.  A fan blows lightly against a wall of various colored silks, and the materials dances in the breeze.

The lighting equipment for the photo shoot is set up next to the silk wall, so Liza saunters in that direction, looking around for Chuu.

She gasps in surprise when he steps out from behind a pillar wearing a red dragon mask.  Covering his entire head, the large dragon-shaped mask seems unproportionate to his thin body, and Liza wonders how he’s able to bear its weight.  Seemingly unaffected by the mask, Chuu points toward the couch by the silk wall.  Liza approaches it, leaning lightly on the arm of the couch in one of her typical model poses.  Chuu begins to snap photos, holding the camera up to the eye piece of the dragon mask.  The lamps pop with a flash of light with each photo that is taken.

Ignoring the strangeness of the situation, Liza concentrates on posing for the photos.  Feeling light-headed and dizzy, she leans her full weight onto the couch.  The camera continues to click, and the lights continue to flash brightly before her eyes.  The bulbs seem to stay illuminated longer now, and Liza finds herself staring at the lamps, drawn to them.  Her mind is wandering, and before long, she forgets why she’s even at the nightclub.  Looking down at clothing her mind spins in confusion.

With each inhale of the drugged fog, Liza slips further and further from consciousness.  Chuu places the camera on a tripod, setting it on auto-click.  He disappears into the cloud of smoke and the camera continues snap photos.  By the time he returns, Liza has slumped to a seated position on the couch, staring blankly ahead in a drugged stupor.

Her eyes follow the movement of his large butterfly blades as he swings them from side to side.  The twelve inch knives are curved – slender at the bottom, wide at the end – and he holds one in each hand.  Fog dissipates and swirls around his crimson dragon mask as he slices the daggers through the air.  Liza’s transfixed, unable to look away.  With each swing of the blades her eyes hallucinate.  Tracers following the curving arches of the knives transform into fluttering wings on the sides of this red dragon beast.

Liza’s brain never processes danger, until the first slice tears through her flesh.  The razor-thin dagger bites into her pale white skin, gouging a deep cut into her thigh.  Blood sprays through the air, and the butterfly blades continue to swing.

Scrambling away from the monster, screaming, Liza sprints toward the elevator.  The spike of her heel tilts to the side, twisting her fragile ankle.  She crumbles to the floor, crawling on her hands and knees, trying to escape.  Another swing of the knife slices her lower back, sending her flailing to the floor.  Liza’s hand snags the strap of her purse, and her fingers clamp down around it.  She pulls the bag toward her, reaching for her phone.

The fatal slash of the blade penetrates the back of Liza’s neck, severing her spinal cord.  Gasping for breath, her brain slowly begins to misfire.

Chuu reaches down grabbing Liza by her feet, pulling her body back across the floor.  Reaching the couch, her rolls her onto her back, looking down into her dying eyes.  Picking her slender body up with ease, Chuu places her on the couch, in a sitting position.  Blood pours from the back of her neck, cascading over her shoulders and trickling down the front of her body.

The red dragon yanks the purse from Liza’s death-grip, not wanting it to tarnish his perfect photo shoot.  The camera continues to snap on auto, click, click, click. Chuu marvels at the perfection of the scene he’s created.

He tosses Liza’s purse carelessly aside.  The hairspray bottle rolls slowly out of the bag into the fog, but Chuu doesn’t notice.  Brandishing a blade in each hand, he swings the butterfly knives again, triumphantly.

Side-stepping out of the camera’s frame, Chuu’s foot lands awkwardly on the hairspray bottle.  Thrown off balance, his arms flail through the air as he trips, and falls.  The razor-sharp blade pierces the soft flesh of his lower back, skewering his internal organs, before exiting his stomach.

Impaled on his own blade, Chuu struggles to breath.  The mask falls from his head and his wide, dying eyes stare up into the fog.  Blood trickles from the corner of his mouth with every laborious exhale.

All the while the camera continues to snap on auto, click, click, click to capture the glorious photo finish.

************************
To vote for this story in the 2014 Wicked Women’s Writing Challenge, send an e-mail to horroraddicts@gmail.com
Voting ends: July 28th, 2014

Wicked Women Writers Challenge 2014

www9801202014 Wicked Women Writer Challenge – 

Welcome to the 6th annual Wicked Women Writers Challenge
Hosted by HorrorAddicts.net

The audio for these stories will post by Saturday June 28th. The text versions will run June 29th-July 3rd. Subscribe to this blog so we can alert you with they post.

Beauty and

the Beast

WWW2014promo

Premise: There is something both fearsome and attractive in a wild thing, be it man or beast. From creature legends told around ancient campfires, to modern tales of King Kong and cryptozoology, critters have always captured our darkest imagination. Five finalists have created stories based on this premise and with challenges that were randomly selected. Each challenger received: 1. Location 2. Blessing – Helpful Item 3. Curse – An untimely disability 4. Beast

Your task as a listener is to listen to each story (or read it on the blog) and then vote for who you think is the Most Wicked for 2014 by sending an email to: HorrorAddicts@gmail.com

In your email please include the challenger’s name or story tile and why you liked it best. One lucky voter will win a  HorrorAddicts.net prize pack!

Challengers

DM Slate

Photo Finish by D.M. Slate
Beast: Dragon
Location: A Japanese Night Club
Blessing: Hairspray
Curse: Hallucinations

Danyelle (aka D.M. Slate) resides in Colorado. She attended college at the University of Northern Colorado and completed a business degree, and now works as a financial analyst. She’s married to her high school sweet-heart, and together they have a young daughter and son. To find out more, go to http://www.dm-slate.com

ChantalAn Appetite For Trouble by Chantal Boudreau
Beast: Monkey
Location: A Jungle Temple
Blessing: Candy Bar
Curse: Cannibals!

Chantal Boudreau is an accountant by day and an author/illustrator during evenings and weekends, who lives by the ocean in beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada with her husband and two children. In addition to being a CMA-MBA, she has a BA with a major in English from Dalhousie University. A member of the Horror Writers Association, she writes and illustrates horror, dark fantasy and fantasy and has had several of her stories published in a variety of horror anthologies, online journals and magazines. Fervor, her debut novel, a dystopian science fantasy tale, was released in March of 2011 by May December Publications, followed by its sequels, Elevation, Transcendence and Providence. Magic University, the first in her fantasy series, Masters & Renegades, made its appearance in September 2011 followed by Casualties of War in 2012 and Prisoners of Fate, in 2013. Find out more at: http://chantellyb.wordpress.com

stephanieThe Grey Girl by Stephanie Lenz
Beast: Goat
Location: Mardi Gras
Blessing: Gris-gris
Curse: Your cocktail has been spiked with a voodoo potion!

Stephanie Lenz writes mainstream and genre fiction in western Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband, daughter, son, cat, and two dogs. She has a degree in creative writing from Florida State and edits Toasted Cheese, where she created and co-judges the annual “Dead of Winter” horror contest. Some of her southern gothic fiction has appeared in Quantum Muse, The Journal of the Blue Planet, and the anthology Harlan County Horrors. Find out more at: piggyhawk.net

LindseyGoddardWhat Happens In Vegas by Lindsey Goddard
Beast: Rabbit
Location: Magic Act in Vegas
Blessing: Mirrors
Curse: Jealous Magician gone MAD!!!

Lindsey Beth Goddard’s stories have appeared in anthologies such as Mistresses Of The Macabre, Fresh Fear: Contemporary Horror, Axes Of Evil, and Bleed. She lives in the suburbs of St. Louis, MO. When she’s not writing, she enjoys interviewing fellow authors, playing with her children, and plotting ways to take over the world. www.lindseybethgoddard.com

ToniaBrownMerry Go When by Tonia Brown
Beast: Horse… (Any equine incarnation)
Location: Kentucky
Blessing: Time Displacement Device
Curse: Chrononaut’s Ague

Tonia Brown is a Southern author with a penchant for Victorian dead things. She writes in many genres from horror to humor to erotica to steampunk. When not writing she raises unicorns and fights crime with her husband under the code names Dr. Weird and his sexy sidekick Butternut. To find out more, go to: http://thebackseatwriter.blogspot.com/

Good Luck

Ladies!

Bodycounters.com Tallys the Dead!

Kbatz is tallying the dead tonight with the gals from Bodycounters.com!


First and foremost, how did the Body Counters come about in 2006?

Stacey and Dana were trying to get over some bad breakups and looking for ways to distract ourselves. We spent a lot of time drinking beer and watching movies together and since we didn’t want to see any romances or love stories we gravitated towards movies where a lot of people die. It was cathartic and helped heal our broken hearts, filling them with a love for counting bodies.

 

When did you envision that this could be such a wild website with your own merchandise and appearances at shows like Monster Mania?

 

At first we just kept the list on a piece of paper but as it started to grow longer than one page we realized that we needed to share this information with the rest of the world. Dana had a little experience with web design so we bought the domain bodycounters.com and put the list up there for everyone to see. It was a few years before we added merchandise and started going to conventions like Monster Mania.


How did the rules come about?

The rules developed over time. At first we didn’t have a rule about every body counting and only counted the humans, but the more movies we watched the more discussions we had about what should count and what shouldn’t.

 

You encourage fans to ‘harass’ and contest your tabulations. Do people really complain, argue, and give you a tough time? Or are they all in the fun with the rules and counting?

Some people do complain and argue, but we encourage that because we welcome the feedback. Sometimes a fan will come up with a question we hadn’t thought of before or find a loophole in a rule that makes us go back and redo a count. Most people are very much in the spirit of it and all about the fun and try to stick to the rules. We love all our fans, even the ones that harass us!

 

You have a certain amount of snark on your website but your counts and statistics are very detailed and organized in searchable databases, tables with voting options. Are the wit and methodical just part of your personalities or does the subject matter simply require the right amount of humor and precision?

It’s probably a little of both. That is definitely our personalities shining through in the comments and “awards” we give out to certain movies, and keep in mind this was just on a piece of paper in the beginning and just our own inside jokes. When you’ve watched over 1,500 movies with this level of attention to detail, you also start to notice how little things like lighting and music can make a big difference. And while we do like to have our fun and keep rule #10 enforced, we are also very serious about accuracy and making sure our counts stay true to all the other 9 rules.

first con 

Viewers would presume that you are counting deaths in horror movies or looking for a lot of blood and bodies, but you review all genres of films with as little as no deaths or one or two bodies as well as tally apocalyptic deaths. How do you decide what movies to watch? What kind of body count do your prefer most?

 

We try to let the fans decide what movies we watch for the most part. The to-do list on our page has voting buttons so we know what bodycounts everyone wants to see next. We also get a lot of suggestions at Monster Mania every year.

Our favorite kind of bodycount is one that has all of these things: a romance we can’t handle, a renegade cop who plays by his own rules, a crazy/drunk old man who warns everyone but no one listens to him, a gratuitous shower scene, and of course it needs to have at least one body!

 

How does the Samuel Jackson motherfucker counting fall under the body counting rules?

When Snakes on a Plane was getting all kinds of hype on the internet before its release, we loved how the fake trailers people made on the internet actually changed the future of the movie. Someone made a trailer where Sam Jackson said “I’m sick of these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane” and the response from the internet was unbelievable. The movie producers pulled Sam Jackson back in to re-shoot that scene because it wasn’t really from the movie but they knew everyone would be disappointed if their favorite line from the FAKE trailer wasn’t in the real movie. This movie was our 100th bodycount (which seemed like a huge milestone at the time, now look at us), and we had a big party to celebrate. We thought it would be fun to also count the motherfuckers from Samuel L. Jackson in addition to counting the bodies, and another statistic was born.

 

You’ve done body counts for 1,500 films.  Do you ever get tired of tallying the dead people, pets, and planets? Can Bodycounters.com go on indefinitely?

 

No, we will never get tired of it! It has completely changed the way we watch movies. There is a steady stream of new movies getting made all the time, and we feel like we haven’t even put a dent in the total film universe even though we have counted more than 1,500 movies. If we ever do find that we run out of movies to count maybe we’ll consider TV shows…

 

Thanks for chatting with Horror Addicts.net! Where can fellow counters find you online?

bodycounters.com

facebook.com/buddybodybags

twitter.com/bodycounters

 

Wicked Women Writers Challenge 2014

Beauty & the Beast Wicked Women Writers Challenge 2014

Who Will It Be?  2014 Most Wicked

2014 Theme: Beauty & the Beast

Premise: There is something both fearsome and attractive in a wild thing, be it man or beast. From creature legends told around ancient campfires, to modern tales of King Kong and crypto zoology, critters have always captured our darkest imagination. Get your Beast on.

Challenge: Create a 10 minute horror podcast that contains four story elements, plus your written story. Registration closes 4-13-14. Audio and text are due on 5-13-14.

Story Elements: Each of our Wicked Belles will be assigned a location, a blessing, a curse … and a Beast. Your story must include a lady in peril and these four elements:

Location:  Anywhere in the world is fair game. A private zoo? A Japanese Nightclub? Kindergarten Show ‘N’ Tell? You are the game. We’ll give you the board.

Blessing:  A helpful item to tame the danger in your tale. We couldn’t have you stalked by a Werewolf without at least giving you a silver locket to melt down. Use your item wisely, Wicked. Even a trivial thing can save your life.

Curse:  An untimely disability. You can’t skip through this one without feeling a bite of a fang on your ass. The Norns can be quite evil with this element.

Beast:  Beasts will be drawn from the 12 animal signs of the Chinese zodiac: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, or Pig. The Beast may be a main character in your story, or may be represented in other creative ways… a tattoo? An advertising logo? A supernatural brute? Freak of nature? You name it, as long as you include it. Any genre of horror is welcome, but this ain’t Lassie, my Wickeds. Not unless she rips out your throat!

Dates to Remember:
Contest Opens –  March 4, 2014
Registration Closes – April 13, 2014
Audio & Text Due  – May 13, 2014
Elimination Round to 5 Wickeds – May 24, 2014
Voting Begins June 13, 2014
Voting Ends July 28, 2014
2014 Winner Announced August 23, 2014

WARNING: The Norns are majorly p.m.s.ing this year. This challenge involves shotgun-quick writing & recording skills. The squeamish need not apply!

If you would like to compete, send an e-mail to: Horroraddicts@gmail.com –We’ll send you the complete set of rules and assign your story elements. Remember, the sooner you respond, the more time you’ll have to write and produce your podcast.

GOOD LUCK, MY WICKED, AND MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOR!

Maggie Fiske - Most Wicked 2013

Margaret Fiske, our 2013 Wicked Women Writer Winner, will contact you for further challenge details and timeline. Deadline to enter the 2014 Wicked Woman Writer Challenge is April 13, 2014.

Please note: The earlier you enter the challenge, the longer you’ll have to prepare, write, edit, and produce your contest entry before the deadline. Contest slots fill up fast!

The Sirens Call – Issue #13 – Women in Horror

Free Women in Horror Fiction!

Sirens Call Publications is pleased to announce the release of the 13th issue of The Sirens Call celebrating women in horror and Women in Horror Recognition Month!

Packed full with fiction, poetry and photography by Dark Angel Photography, the 168 page issue also features an interview with Angie Gallow, author of The Coven. If you’re interested in giving it a read and supporting all of the wonderfully talented women who contributed their work, you can download it for FREE!

The Sirens Call – Issue #13 – Women in Horror (Second Annual Edition)

2014_February_ezine_cover_V5

WWW Contestant 13: Amy K. Marshall

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Wicked Women Writers Challenge.
This text is presented as is, from the author, with no editing.
Contestants should be judged on text, audio, and use of the challenge items listed. Please read the bottom of this post for voting instructions. Audio is playing at HorrorAddicts.net, #94.

Amy K. Marshall – Paternoster

Disaster – Loss of all fuel sources

Location – elevator

Helpful Item – Swiss army survival knife

Disability – sprained swollen ankle

*******

 

Amy K Marshall

Paternoster

 

 

My name is Lily…

It’s been three days since the world went Dark. At least … I think it’s been three days. It’s been two days since I last heard a human voice. At least…I think it’s been two days. The last voice I heard was Perttu’s voice.  He called to me from the 4th floor landing. He never liked elevators and he hated this Paternoster with an irrational vengeance. Yeah. Irrational. Not from where I’m sitting now. Nothing irrational about that now…

It’s Dark. It’s mostly silent. There were people in the elevator’s other cars. I remember people hopping on and off. I remember my car shifting and swaying…. Don’t know what a Paternoster is?

It’s Europe’s Death Elevator.

It’s also the quickest way up to the 6th floor—that’s where Dr. Mikkel  Akselson has his neuro-opthamology lab.  But that’s a million miles away now…

You stand there … watching… the cars rise without stopping. There are two lights on the floor … they blink … red – red – red – GREEN – red – red – red – GREEN. You see, when it’s GREEN, that’s when it’s safe to hop into the car. It doesn’t wait for you, though. It just keeps moving.  It’s like one of those rotating filing cabinets … only this one is for people .. for bodies … now, I’m sure it’s for the dead…

It was evening … and the lobby was crowded. People were happy, talking, laughing … it was nearly the week-end, and, well, I was looking forward to time away from Copenhagen with Mikkel. Just Mikkel and me.

I hate this elevator. I was too lazy to take the stairs.

Red – red – red – GREEN.

Too late.

I hear unflattering things behind me in Danish. I know they’re unflattering because Mikkel and Perttu and I got drunk one evening and they decided I needed to learn how to swear in Danish.

Det passer sgu ikke! Means that’s not bloody true.

Jeg er ligeglad … that’s a good one because it means I don’t care.

Hold kaeft! That means shut up … I think. They laughed quite a bit over that one…

Det er sgu rigtigt! That means I’ll be damned

I’ll be damned. Sure as hell … I’ll be damned…

Red – red –red – Green!

A hand in my back shoved me forward.

OW!

Dit rovhul!

I hope I said that correctly.

I hit the back of the car and turn – I see their smirks as the car moves upward.

Upwards.

There’s no top to the car. I see the chain mechanism.

I rise.

The floors slide by. On the third floor, a red-haired young man starts to step in, but pulls back.

I rise.

Getting on is one thing.

Getting off is another.

Fifth floor.

“This, you must see…” I hear Mikkel’s voice slide through my brain. I can feel his hand on my arm. He smiles, and I’m lost in his eyes. I’m such a sucker for eyes. “Up and over—“

His gaze holds mine as we clear the 6th floor.

What the hell –

I’ve forgotten to get off!

The car rocks up and over the top of the mechanism. A large flywheel slips and spins, cranking the car around.

Get off on 6, you idiot …

“I’ve saved the best for last.”

What the hell is going on? I can still hear him. I think.

I miss 6.

I slide to 5.

To  4.

The young man on 3 is gone.

Two.

One.

“Into the darkness…”

I hold my breath.

We slid beneath the ground floor. Red signs slide by…they’re in Danish.

Mikkel’s breath is warm against my cheek as he leans closer in the darkness. “Keep Standing.”

“Pardon?” I breathe, my knees weakening.

Did I mention that Dr. Akselson is something you wouldn’t think of pushing out of bed?

“It’s what the sign says,” he replies.

“Oh…”

Deeper.

Darker.

We pass across the bottom of the mechanism.

We rise into light.

“I enjoy the darkness,” he says, his accent thickening. “Peaceful…like the grave.”

“Pardon?”

“No, no … I’m not saying it right.” He smiles.”My English.”

My Danish sucks, so what can I say about his English?

I’m lost in thought.

Third floor.

The red-haired young man is back. He doesn’t move. He just…watches. I feel his eyes follow me up.

Remember to get off on 6.

What the –

What the hell was that?

Hello?

Hello?

In those first moments, I strained my ears. I couldn’t hear anything. They rang with the remembered grinding of the Paternoster. The reverberated the bang of its stopping.

Hello?

I could hear others in other cars saying the same.

I changed tack.

I’m here! Are you there? Are you okay? What’s happened?

But … they’re all speaking Danish. No one answered me. Well, no one answered me so I could understand.

It won’t be long.

Hours passed.

Long hours passed.

This is crap—waiting for a rescue.

I rummage through my bum bag (that’s a fanny pack for you Americans) and come up with

A Swiss Army Knife.

WWMD?

What Would Macgyver do?

Better yet, what would Macgyver’s writers do?

Two blades … a corkscrew…and me without a bottle of wine … that saw that really isn’t a saw. Two screwdrivers, a way to pry open a beer, tweezers, and a toothpick.

Just.

Brilliant.

Keep Standing.

Screw that.

I slumped to the floor, flipping the blade open and closed. Open and closed. Open and closed.

Red – red- red- GREEN

But…there’s no light.

Open and closed. Open and closed open and –

That’s when I heard Perttu.

Hey, Lily! You okay?

I press my back against the back of the car and get to my feet.

Perttu?

How the hell does he know I’m here?

Stay put, Lil! I’ll get you out!

I hear him stagger away.

I mean … I listen to him …. Stagger…

What the hell is going on?

Then … there’s nothing.

It doesn’t occur to me that there’s nothing.

No one.

Only silence.

Open and closed open and closed open and –

What the hell was that?

The elevator starting up?

Closed and open –

Yeah … the elevator. It’s resetting or something…

What the –

SCREAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Uff! Ow! Som’bitch!

(sobs) My ankle.

Som’BITCH! My ANKLE!

There was something there! In the dark! On 3!

It was … him… I swear … that guy … that red-haired guy was on 3!

Hey!

Hey!

Can you hear me? Can you hear –

(growl)

(heavy breathing) What the –

Shhhh…… shhh….  (heavy breathing)

There’s something out there –

Where is it?

I scrabble against the floor.

It’s only a Swiss Army Knife, but – what the HELL is that SOUND??

Those are … footsteps…

Oh … my God ..

Mikkel … Perttu … what the hell is this?

I’ve gotta get out of here.

But my ankle … Shit …

Ow …  maybe if I –

(loud thump)

Oh … my God …

It’s dark. I press back against the side of the car. It’s dark. I can’t see it and it can’t see me…right? Right??

(low growl)

Right … right … shhhh…..

Maybe if I just –

(attack sound)

SCREAM!!!!

Get off! Get off! Help! Help!

Perttu! Perttu!

(heavy breathing) … no way …

Ew… is it? I mean … it’s not dead. I don’t think it’s dead…

Oh … my God … is it dead?

What is it?

(low growl)

Oh my God, it’s NOT dead!

It will be now –

(heavy hit)

(sawing)

I don’t know what it is… it’s not…human. It doesn’t look human at all. But, I’ll bet there are more of them.

I know what to do

(sawing)

It’s what I did.

The only thing I could think of to do.

(sawing)

“What did you do?”

“Pardon?”

“What did you do?”

(sawing)

I cut the skin off it. Carefully of course. It skinned like a rabbit. Like a little coat. One incision around the neck, and then I unzipped it. The guts made the floor slippery, but that was okay. Make it smell like a kill. Maybe that would keep them away. Or attract them.

Have you ever tried to skin something big with a Swiss Army Knife?

Sucks. Let me tell you.

Thank God I had a decent edge on that blade.

“What did you do?”

I ate part of it. I mean, three days is a long time, and it didn’t taste particularly rancid. I mean. I was still fresh.

And then, I wore its skin.

You see… that was the trick to getting out.

There were more of them. I tucked its skin around me. I cut away its face and wore it like a mask.

The Paternoster has no top.

Three days I waited … and then the thing got a little wormy, but my ankle felt like it could support some weight … so I tucked the skin around me and climbed out. It took a little balance on top of the car, but I’d cut away its claws and used them like pitons – you know, like mountain climbers use.

I climbed until I got to the ground floor.

There were bodies everywhere … but there were no creatures. Just…bodies. I saw the remains of the two guys who pushed me onto the Paternoster. I felt bad, ‘cause they’d saved my life.

It was night. A stinking night. And I walked out into it and –

And –

And –

“And?”

I noticed how the skin looked different.

“In the moonlight?”

“I don’t think moonlight had anything to do with it.”

“What do you think?”

“The air was clearer.”

“Indeed.”

“Can I see Mikkel now? I want to see him now.”

“You’ve seen him for days.”

 

It was later that I found Mikkel’s notes … his research had taken the darkest of turns before it became Night. Neuro-opthamology includes the study of reactive chemicals that can fool the brain into believing in hallucinations. He found the perfect dose.

“I got the idea from a book on Lily’s shelf,” he had written. “It was all about things underground and the dark … and monsters … and the monstrous dark. Perttu doesn’t believe such a random test is a good idea, but the chemical is only slightly reactive in the quantities I proposed. A slight hallucination for test subjects in the Paternoster. They are in a contained space. We can keep them in the cars for up to an hour. We can play at an elevator malfunction.”

What could possibly go wrong…?

*******

To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: WWW. Voting ends October 7th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.

WWW Contestant 12: Sumiko Saulson

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Wicked Women Writers Challenge.
This text is presented as is, from the author, with no editing.
Contestants should be judged on text, audio, and use of the challenge items listed. Please read the bottom of this post for voting instructions. Audio is playing at HorrorAddicts.net, #94.

Sumiko Saulson – A Birthday Present

Disaster –  Sinkholes

Location – Bowling Alley/ Pool Hall Bar

Helpful Item – Cue Stick

Disability – Lost Glasses

*******

The Birthday Present

By Sumiko Saulson

 

The high, thin whine of easy-listening music slid into the room through the high-mounted ancient speakers of Sheckley’s Rock and Bowl, adding to the creepy jaundiced ambiance of the place provided courtesy of it’s filthy, yellowed neon lights. It was a bowling alley and pool house, and I was pretty sure that it hadn’t been rocking since the 1950s. It smelled like stale corndogs, damp drywall with molds growing somewhere deep in it’s innards, and the occasional loaded diaper that the visitors on family day casually tossed into one of the beige bodied and red-lidded plastic trash bins in the bowling area instead of in the bathroom where they belonged.

I was sitting in the corner seat, smashed between my aunt and my mother, waiting for my turn. Squishing my toes up and down in the stiff-soled, tacky tri-toned rented bowling shoes, I silently contemplated the various fungi that were undoubtedly living within. I wondered whether or not my black cotton business socks would provide a thick enough barrier to prevent the athlete’s foot fungus from creeping forth and latching onto the sensitive skin in between my toes? The medicated powder I’d liberally doused the innards with before slipping on the hot and sweaty size sevens probably wasn’t enough. I was busy contemplating the animated mushrooms from my old Super Mario Brother’s video game dancing around in my shoe when my mom jabbed me in the shoulder with her long, sharp fingernail.

“Ouch!” I cried out.

“Don’t be such a baby,” my mom said between loud smacks of her sugar free chewing gum. She always seemed to use the nail file to rub each fingernail into an evil inverted v-shape, as if she were expecting to engage in a catfight to the death momentarily. “Your turn, Minnie,” she said sourly. The muscles under her foundation-caked face twitched angrily. I jumped up and moved for the ball, eager to avoid an untimely slap to the face by the maternal claws of doom.

Mom was a pretty fifty-eight year old woman under her too-thick Maybelline, and when I was a little thing everyone said I looked just like her. Well, I wasn’t a little thing anymore. Now, I was an acne-covered, overweight teenager with hot-comb burned overly straightened hay hair and coke-bottle glasses. My brother and sisters were grown now, and I was the last one left in the home… maybe that’s why mom was making such a big deal about my sweet-sixteen party. I don’t think she truly understood my age, that I was nearly a woman now. I wanted to do something cool for my birthday, like go to a concert, but no, instead I had to be stuck down here on Family Discount Bowling Night with a bunch of families with their funky rug rats howling in the background.

I felt a migraine coming on.

Mama had invited everyone up here to Sheckley’s Rock and Bowl, “everyone” being my twenty-two year old brother Joe, my twenty-four year old twin sisters Alicia and Felicia, and my oldest sister Angelyne, who was twenty-eight and had a nine year old daughter, Tammyline, my mother’s first and only grandchild. The other girls were from momma’s first marriage to Darnel, a serviceman who died in the war. Little Joe was the son of her second husband, Big Joe, a much older man who died of a heart attack before I was born. Big Joe was my daddy, too… on paper, but by now I was old enough know better. No pregnancy lasted fourteen months, at least no human one. One thing was for sure: no one was expecting me, what with momma being over forty and daddy being under dirt on the day I was born.

The whole lot of siblings, aunties, uncles and cousins began a round of distracting applause as I stood up and brushed the popcorn off of my hand-me-down Applebottom jeans. My momma might be skinny, like I used to be back when she gave me the nickname “Minnie” after that Austin Powers sidekick mini-me, because I was supposed to be a mini her, but I wasn’t anymore, and neither were my aunts. We weren’t mini anything. As I stood, I inhaled the deep aroma of stale popcorn, body odor, and sewage-tainted trashcan water that was the perfume of Sheckley’s Rock & Bowl.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Gary, the boy from my P.E. class who always tried to talk to me. “You sure run fast for a girl your size,” she remembered him saying last Tuesday, as he made steady eye contact my cleavage squished below the XXL school issue gym tank v-neck. It turned out he worked at Sheckley’s concession stand. He was staring right at my booty as I walked towards the ball rack. I didn’t really like him, but I liked the attention, and I admit that I was swishing my butt a little as I walked over to select my favorite bubble-gum colored bowling ball, the one with the sparkles in it.

I walked up to the bowling alley with my pretty pink bowling ball shining like the best oversized rubber bouncing ball ever, the hot overhead bowling alley lights gleaming reflectively from the glitter embedded inside. I imagined myself walking in slow motion, hair bouncing and curves flashing in the spotlight like a plus sized beauty queen, a model, maybe Queen Latifah. I was really feeling myself when I tossed that ball on the aisle…

Maybe that’s why I was so horrified when I heard the loud “carrack!” sound.

I reached around with both my hands, grabbing my backside, feeling around for what must have been a rip in the seat of my pants, but I couldn’t feel anything. My face burned hot with embarrassment. A strange aroma of swampy water and sulfur filled the air. If it wasn’t a tear, maybe I’d farted?

It was just then that the bottom of the aisles began to crack and twist. My ball bounced hard up and down as the lane writhed like a snake. A crack down the center of it began to expand, until suddenly a sinkhole dropped open right in the middle of it. My ball rolled forward undeterred until it dropped, suddenly, into the ground. Two equal sized holes opened up in the adjoining lanes, and it looked like a pool ball falling into the center pocket of the table as it when sliding down into the hole. Smoke rolled out of the holes like a thick, putrid, stinking fog. That’s when the screaming started.

Sinkholes were opening up all over Sheckley’s. The elderly lady the next lane over was just standing there with her fingers still in her bowling ball hole, purple polyester pantsuit flapping in the reeking breeze when a hole opened up right under her feet, and she dropped down into the ground. Was it my imagination, or had the stinking steam emissions belching forth from the pit melted the flesh off her contorted face in the moments just prior to her sudden sinking?

I was still staring at the puddle of pink and purple putrescence that used to be Alice Worthington of the Little Old Ladies Bowling League when my aunt Janice came barreling past me with such force that when she knocked into my arm, it sent me spinning, and my glasses flew off my face in the general direction of the terrible pit of stench. My eyes are very bad, without my glasses I am so nearsighted that I am legally blind, and a sense of sinking dread came over me, as I determined that I was totally screwed.

Everything went into soft-focus all of the sudden, like a really cheesy romantic film, only one that was loaded with carnage and death. I could hear the mothers with their hordes of infants screaming in and wailing in unison. Fear seemed to be the equalizer for all ages and genders, because one man’s scream blended in with the howling of his infant in perfect, hellish harmony. As blind as I was, I could still see the sinkhole that my ball had fallen into stretching and expanding, so that it joined with the two on either side of it and stretched across three lanes. I was sure it was big enough to swallow a car by now. I turned around and ran for the door.

I couldn’t see very well, but that wasn’t going to stop me. I just kept racing forward in the general direction of the mass of bodies that was flooding towards the door. I was about to pass the bathroom when a weird, scaly hand grabbed my arm.

“Stop, Damiana,” the commanding voice uttered.

I blinked rapidly. Damiana was my name, but no one called me Damiana. Everyone called me Minnie. My mom tried to make out like Minnie was an appropriate way to shorten my name… Damiana, Miana, Minnie, but we all knew that it was the mini-me thing.

“I am your father,” it announced, and the tone of voice was not even remotely reassuring. I looked on in horror as a sinkhole appeared before me – right in front of the door – and swallowed up the crowed of neighbors, strangers, and relatives who were busily shoving and jostling towards the exit. They fell like dominoes into this latest opening, and I stood there feeling my jaw drop, helplessly aghast at this latest happening. My favorite aunt Meredith was clutching at the edge of the abyss before me, her shrill screams echoing against the roof of the bowling alley. I watch in horror as the acidic fog escaped the pit and melted the flesh off of her grasping knuckles. Liquefied meat and skin slid off the bones and sinew, and soon only a skeletal hand remained, identifiable only by her distinctive turquoise birthstone ring. I felt hot tears gushing from my eyes as I stood there, frozen.

Everyone else with a punk-assed absentee father was frustrated because daddy wouldn’t send child support checks and the kids were in hand-me downs, but not me. No, that wasn’t bad enough for me. Me, I had to have a dad who would melt aunt Meredith like an ice cream cone in a microwave. Who wants a daddy like that?

At last, the screams subsided.

“Let me go!” I yelled, jerking my body ineffectually against the iron grip of the claw. I began kicking against the thing’s knee, but it didn’t do any good. I felt its steely hand begin to forcibly turn me to face it. I twisted my body the other way, but it did no good. Soon, I was looking through bleary eyes at the fuzzy face of what appeared to be a lion’s face with curved antlers.

It starred deeply into my eyes and whispered, “see…”

Suddenly, I was able to see perfectly, as if I had on the world’s best pair of lightweight contact lenses. Why on why did I have to start seeing perfectly when there was nothing to look at except for this horrible mess? Everywhere, I saw the fleshy molten body meats pulsating at the edges of the sinkholes like the bowling alley had just turned into the nastiest pockmarked face you could possibly imagine. Bodily fluids were flying out of the holes like pus from a really nasty zit. I couldn’t help myself. I vomited all over my so-called father.

“All of this will be yours,” he shouted, gesturing with his free hand at the bowling alley wasteland. Now that I could see better, his crinkled face looked less like a cat, and more like some kind of hairless pug dog with twisting horns that looked like that one time when Grandma Louise decided to stop clipping her finger and toenails and they grew out and got all twisted and bent. It really looked like crap, man, her hands and feet were a hot mess, but no one could tell her anything… all brittle and yellowed and broken. This guy’s horns were that skuzzy.

“I don’t want it,” I spat back at him. “You can keep your hell bowling alley.”

That’s when I spotted it. In a corner, untouched by the many sinkholes, there was Goofy Gary from my physical education class, that guy who kept trying to keep up with me when Mr. Fields had us running circles around the track. He was standing on a pool table, trying to avoid the horrible flesh-eating fart juicy smoke.

He grabbed a pool cue off the nearby wall and looked at me and cried out, “Here Minnie! Catch!” I reached up in the air and grabbed the stick. With all of my might, I slammed it through that demon’s big orange cat eye. A horrible stew of blood and pus-like yellow crud came sliding down the pool cue as I forced the stick through his skull and watched it pop out the back of his head.

“Nooooooo!!!!” It screamed as it dropped my body and fell to the floor. As the life oozed from its body, my lousy eyesight began to return. Whatever magic trick it used to improve my vision was fading along with its life. The sinkholes began to shrink, and suck the fog back into the ground with them.

I suppose it was all over. But nothing would ever, ever be the same.

As Gary and I limped out of the bowling alley, we saw the evidence that disaster that had happened not just in the bowling alley.  It was all around us. Partially devoured cars protruded from the ground out of spots where the sinkholes used to be.

Gary turned to look at me. It was a serious look, a deep look.

“Let me help you,” he said. “You have a little something on your face.”

I smiled a little. He had something in his hands. He looked so cute as he unfolded my glasses and grinned sheepishly as he slid them across my nose.

“Thank you,” I said. Goofy Gary was kind of cute when you took a good look at him. Especially right now, when he was looking so shy and sweet.

“Wait a minute,” I said, snapping my fingers. “I forgot something.”

That was when Gary’s head exploded. I guess I shouldn’t have snapped my fingers just then… when I looked at my hand, where the nasty yellow eye go had touched it, it was kind of bubbling and writhing where the fluids were sinking deep into my flesh. My eyes began to grow bleary, and once again I couldn’t see. I thought it was because I was crying at first, but I was wrong. Finally, I understood that it was my glasses that were making my vision blur – I didn’t need them anymore.

I took them in my hand, and flung them on the ground.

It seemed that my birth father had a present to give me for my sweet sixteen, and he was going to give it to me whether I wanted it or not, no matter what. I looked around at all of the carnage and blood, which was all that remained of my past and the family I knew, and I began to sob in earnest.

I didn’t know what the future held. I didn’t even know who I really was. I only knew one thing… that party really sucked.

*******

To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: WWW. Voting ends October 7th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.

WWW Contestant 11: Maggie Fiske

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Wicked Women Writers Challenge.
This text is presented as is, from the author, with no editing.
Contestants should be judged on text, audio, and use of the challenge items listed. Please read the bottom of this post for voting instructions. Audio is playing at HorrorAddicts.net, #94.

Maggie Fiske – A Quarrel for Jimmy Lee Killscrow

Disaster –  Solar Flares/ or Gamma Rays

Location – Hunting in the Mountains

Helpful Item – Crossbow

Disability – Hungover

*******

 

“A Quarrel for Jimmy-Lee Killscrow”…                by Margaret Fiske

 

“That’s him,” says Detective Baxter.  He points at a white speck nestled in the BitterrootMountains and holds binoculars up to my face.  All I see is a beat-to-hell camper among the pines.  A bearded man with hippy hair steps into view.  It’s Jimmy-Lee Killscrow, the devil who left me for dead out in the sticks when I was 15.  Now he’s a Lumber-Christ in flannel.  I’m disarmed.  How can Iow HHow can I  kill Jesus?

 

Baxter tries to talk me out of this vendetta.  He says, “Just head back to Bozeman before the solar storm hits tonight, Claudine.”

 

I scoff.  “Baxter, after Y2K and 12-21-12, who listens to that disaster crap?”

 

He doesn’t get it.  The only way to stop Killscrow is to kill that bastard before he beats me to the deathblow.  I knee open the Jeep door and push my crossbow pack out onto the road.

 

“Stay in one piece,” he says, and skins out of there quick with his money.

 

My name is Claudine Archer, but nobody remembers that.  I’m just that hitchhiker that got her arms chopped off.  ¯ ¯

 

By the time I hike to Jimmy-Lee’s camper there’s a high sickle moon reaping the Montana starfield.  I set up Stakeout at the mouth of a small cave near the camper to scout his movements tonight.  He’ll die in the sun tomorrow so he can see my hook squeeze the bow trigger.

 

I watched Killscrow gun his pickup down the dirt road at 7 p.m. sharp.  According to Baxter’s notes, he’s gone bar hopping in Lolo Springs, where he’ll pass out redemption tracts to barflies and save his own soul from sobriety.  I’ve got time to kill.

 

Wind cuts through my fleece poncho, making my teeth clack.  I stashed a bottle of Cuervo to celebrate Jimmy-Lee’s demise, but decide to drink it now.  I tuck the tequila under my armpit and twist off the cap with my molars.

 

Liquor lets the memories slink back easily…

 

I endured nineteen surgeries.  When the stumps finally healed, I was fit with battery-powered myo-electric prosthetics which transmit electrical impulses from my muscles to open or close the metal hooks.  These can openers scare the bejeezus out of little kids and potential suitors.

 

Amputation forces you to relearn how to be an adult.  So I compensate for my loss of hands with other body parts.  Lips, hips and toe tips all become my grip.  I retrained my muscles to perform both with and without prosthetics.

 

I’m messed up on the inside too.  Migraines, vertigo, nightmares, panic attacks, –sucks to be me.  But I also grew strong, and athletic in ways I never dreamt.  I have the flexibility of a Cirque du Soleil acrobat, and moxie that puts Miss Congeniality to shame.  Call me handicapped and I’ll kick you in the teeth.

 

My arms are buried in an unmarked grave in Boise that was a secret between me and the gravediggers.  Every anniversary I bring them sunflowers.  Last summer, there was a nasty present.  A pair of chopsticks stuck in the dirt.  My inner killer grabbed the wheel.

 

I blew the last of my donation money on 3 things: An Excalibur Phoenix crossbow, tattoos, and Detective Baxter.

 

I chose the crossbow because it’s my legacy. With a surname like Archer, bows flow in my blood.  I became a self­-taught arbalist.

 

When the skeptical sporting goods clerk asked what I plan to hunt with the bow, I told him, “Jackass,” and dry-popped the trigger at his heart.  Then for many moons I practiced kill shots on thawed turkeys in the backyard.  I turned Katniss.

 

For my full sleeve, black wing tattoos I commissioned Karasu Ono, the cutting-edge tattoo artisan in Spokane.  I asked her to transform me into the Angel of Death.  Her jeweler’s loupe goggles captured every minute detail.  Each shiny 3-D Photoreal feather scalloped like a hand of rummy.  Badass! ¯¯

 

My phone chimes midnight.  Time to check armaments.  I tune the tension on the Phoenix to deadly perfection.  I inspect the fletching on a dozen four-headed arrows, which are aptly called quarrels.  The quarrel flies with a wicked little twist which can drill a half-dollar sized hole clean through a body.  All my quarrels bear an icon of Venus de Milo etched on the shaft.

 

Tonight, Venus and I are vigilantes on a vigil.  The Aurora Borealis simmers up North, just like in the summer of ’77…        ¯

 

He picked me up outside Pocatello, hitchhiking to Yellowstone just for kicks.  Too young to drive, too dumb to realize a killer can drive a yellow Pontiac with a Mormon Youth Camp bumper sticker.  He was clean-cut, with gentle eyes and a cardigan.  Who’s afraid of Mr. Rogers’ dorkier cousin?

 

I barely shut the door when he said, “Meet Jesus,” and a claw hammer cracked my cranium.

 

Time telescoped when he dragged me into the trees.  5 chops with a hand axe hacked-off my arms at the elbow.  Pain jolted me into another dimension.  He left me to bleed-out.

 

Somehow, I picked myself up out of the ditch to cheat death.  I remember laughter behind me.  There was a small murder of crows skipping through my blood puddles.  I raised my arms to mimic wings.  It staunched the blood flow as I staggered toward the light of the living.  ¯

 

Whew!  I’m feeling all flushed from cocktails and flashbacks, so I strip down to my tank top.  I want wind on my shoulders.  And behold, the solar storm strikes.

 

The sky ignites in swirling acid green flames bright enough to read the warning to pregnant women on the tequila label.  Lolo Springs falls dark.   Northern Lights curl in a tsunami of electrons that charge the air.  I wobble to my feet in awe. Spec-(hic)-tacular.

 

Suddenly, the sky fills with chirping shadows.  A vortex of panicked bats descends on the cave to roost.  I dart, skid on gravel, tumble into a starless pit. ¯¯

 

I wake to sunlight hammering my eyelids.  I feel like I faceplanted a speeding beer truck.  Hands down, this is the evilest PMSing stepmother of all hangovers.  I can vaguely tell that my drunken ass fell into the cave and that there’s a junk refrigerator and some bald tires around me.  I try to sit up, but the pain… oooooh!

 

“Ahhhh,” somebody echoes.  I freeze.  A chorus of groaning surrounds me and I realize the nauseating truth.  There’s at least a dozen girls like me, all missing body parts.  Girls that didn’t get away.

 

It’s zombie apocalypse.  I’m at ground zero in Killscrow’s body dump in his grotto of Slain Angels.  Pink rags shuffle backwards on beef jerky legs in the shadows.  They’re still hitchhiking.

 

I feel the tug of someone braiding my hair and smell her rancid pork chop breath.  I turn.  Half her face is tomahawked.  She hisses.  A buffet line of maggots wriggles in her tongue stub.  I puke Cuervo till my ribs ache. The girls scuffle toward me, drawn toward the light of the living.  I back away, but bump into an unstable Frigidaire that thunders end over end down the rocks, making a godawful racket.

 

They surround me with blind cavefish eyes.  I frantically search for a weapon and spot my bow and a pair of quarrels strewn beside a torso in a Cheap Trick t-shirt writhing in the dirt.  As I scoop up the bow, she chomps at my hooks.  Only 2 quarrels.  A quarrel for Jimmy-Lee Killscrow and one left to take out 12 zombies if they queue up ear to ear.

 

Outside, the camper door slams.  Jesus is risen.  He yells.  ““Hey!  Who’s up there?”  I must become bait to lure him into a deathtrap.  I cry out, “Help!  Help me!”  He snickers.  “Hold on, lady.  I’ll get you !”

 

The cadaverettes advance.  I plead to them. “Remember who you were!  Remember what he did to you!”

 

Killscrow enters the cave, waving an axe.  He hesitates as he spies his resurrected victims.  “You ladies should’ve stayed dead!” he roars and splits a one-armed girl like a winter cornhusk.

 

I cock the bow, but something’s wrong.  I can’t grasp the trigger.  Solar flares fried the batteries in my arms!  “It’s o.k.,” I think.  I can still launch the shot by pulling the claw back with my whole shoulder.  But the Phoenix feels clumsy.  I miss.  Damn!

 

He’s cocky now.  “What’s wrong, Claudine?  Need a hand?

 

No!  I can compensate.  I wriggle out of the arm straps… heel peel off boots and socks… grasp the last quarrel between my toes.  He brags,  ““I’ll chop your head off this time.  Keep it in the freezer for a lonely night.”

 

The Angel of Death rises up inside me.  I spread my wings in challenge.  Killscrow can’t take his eyes off my tattoos. I flex, I feint.  I punt his balls deep into his end zone.  The axe fumbles as he buckles forward.

 

I tell him, “Meet Satan,” and lift the quarrel to my mouth with my foot.  With clenched teeth, I lunge into the face of my nightmare.  I jab Venus de Milo into his gentle blue iris.  A geyser of blood and eyeball juice pops as it sinks into the socket till it hits skullcap.  Bull’s-eye.

 

He yanks out the quarrel skewering a chunk of cerebellum kabob along with it.  For a second he does a freaky little grand mal jig.

 

“Brains!” croaks a dead chick.  The pack pounces.  There’s still enough kick left in Jimmy-Lee for him to realize that he’s dying piece by piece by piece.  The Angels feast.  ¯¯

 

I scramble out of the cave, soaring with joy, for I have no more quarrels.  I embrace the sweet pain of life with phantom limbs.  Every bruising stone underfoot gives me wings.

 

I am the crow he could not kill.  ¯¯

 

You just heard “A Quarrel for Jimmy-Lee Killscrow” by Margaret Fiske, part of the 2013 Wicked Women Writers Challenge.  Please vote for my podcast by sending an e-mail to horroraddicts@gmail.com.

*******

To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: WWW. Voting ends October 7th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.

WWW Contestant 10: R. L. Weston

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Wicked Women Writers Challenge.
This text is presented as is, from the author, with no editing.
Contestants should be judged on text, audio, and use of the challenge items listed. Please read the bottom of this post for voting instructions. Audio is playing at HorrorAddicts.net, #94.

RL Weston – Drug Z

Disaster –  Dirty Bombs

Location – Zumba Class

Helpful Item – Workout Towel

Disability – Children Left Alone in gym daycare

*******

Drug Z

By: R.L. Weston

“With more on the string of explosions laced with Drug Z, a terrifying hybrid of Bath Salts and Krokodil, we have Pat Cheney, Government Defense Strategist and Hal Corp CEO.”

A cold chill ran down Alice’s spine as Pat Cheney’s face flashed onto the screens of the televisions suspended above the row of ellipticals on the north side of the gym. Alice knew he couldn’t see her making her way toward her covert meeting before Zumba class, but her pace quickened all the same.

“We will not tolerate these terrorists in our midst,” the bronzer caked on Pat’s face couldn’t completely hide the grey, reptilian coldness of his countenance. “The use of dirty bombs by the Liberty Militia will be met with the use of extreme force by Hal Corp’s Defense Team. Citizens are urged to come forward with any information that will lead to the arrest of these fugitives.”

Alice’s Zumba class was a cover for a small cell of the Liberty Militia, a group opposing Hal Corp’s slow but deliberate takeover of government and their violent, fascist attacks on citizens. Members of the Liberty Militia had been victims in every dirty bomb attack to date and now Hal Corp was trying to frame them as suicide bombers.

“Sorry I was late,” Alice said as she greeted the half-dozen other members of her group. “I was held up at one of Hal Corp’s checkpoints. I was sweating bullets when they opened my gym bag.”

Alice handed the CD marked “Zumba Mix” over to Carol. “Big Ugly is out there on every T.V. screen spouting his lies again. Hopefully this will be what we need to hack his system and get some evidence on our side.”

“This has all the new codes on it?” Carol asked.

“Yep.”

“And they didn’t touch it when they searched your bag?”

“No. You think I would have come here if they had?” The energy in the room felt more nervous than usual. “What’s got everyone so rattled today?”

Carol glanced at Jan. “Jan’s husband was detained today.”

Jan stared at the floor, tears welling in her eyes, and fidgeted with the hem of her t-shirt. “They didn’t find much on him. He had a few posters hidden behind the lining of his briefcase, but, it’s enough.”

“Hey, it’s going to be O.K.” Carol wrapped her arms around Jan as Jan sobbed harder. “We’re going to get him out of there.”

Jan shook her head, backed out of Carol’s arms, and gave a quick look to the clock on the wall, “I need to go. Visiting hours start in twenty minutes.”

The group watched Jan as she left. Carol waited until Jan had shut the door behind her.

“O.K., we need to make this quick because we only have a couple minutes before the rest of the class starts showing up.”

“I’m surprised they aren’t here already.” Alice looked out the windows and her eyes fixed on Jan, across the gym at the daycare center, checking her children out for the day.

“The dirty bomb attacks are becoming more frequent,” Carol began. “We can’t start carrying gasmasks because that would be too conspicuous. But, if you can fold up some fabric, moisten it, and hold it over your face and nose it can keep you from breathing in large amounts of Drug Z until help arrives.”

“Hey, she left her bag.” Taylor, a tall blond woman, grabbed Jan’s bag and held it up to Alice who was closest to the door. Alice didn’t respond.

“What is Jan doing with all the kids? Where’s the sitter?” Alice took a few steps toward the windows. The entire gym was empty. “Where’s everyone?”

Jan led the children through the front door. She didn’t look back before closing the door and running down the hall.

Alice turned to Taylor, “What’s in the–“

A small, distinct beep interrupted Alice’s question.

 

Alice felt like she’d been tossed into a cement mixer set on high. Her ears were ringing and she felt blood dripping down her earlobes. The side of her head and face throbbed where she’d been thrown against the door. The tight pain in her lungs reminded her of the danger still posed by Drug Z. Alice held her breath and reached for the towel that had been blown off her shoulder.

She still needed water. Alice tried to stand and retrieve some from the drinking fountain next to the door but the change in elevation made her vomit all over her towel. Alice lay in front of the door and pressed the vomit soaked towel to her mouth and nose. This was no time to be picky about liquids.

The wall of windows still stood, but each of the panes was riddled with cracks and sprayed with blood. Six motionless bodies lay strewn about the blast radius. Taylor was missing both her arms and most of the front side of her body.  Carol lay against the equipment locker with her spine twisted at an impossible angle. Bits of skin and hair were plastered to the walls and floor.

Alice fought the urge to lower her hand from her makeshift mask and just go to sleep. Her eyes kept trying to close until she noticed movement on the other side of the room. Carol was trying to sit up. When that didn’t work, she rolled over onto her stomach.

“Carol!” Alice could feel her mouth move but she couldn’t hear a thing; coupled with the pain in her chest and lungs, she couldn’t tell if she was screaming or whispering. “Are you ok?”

Carol didn’t respond. Instead, Carol pulled herself over to where Taylor’s body lay twitching and took a big bite out ofTaylor’s thigh.

That’s when Alice did the unthinkable. She passed out.

 

Alice woke to the sensation of being pushed across the floor. Someone was opening the door behind her. Her makeshift, puke-stained mask had fallen away from her face and every inch of her skin burned with an unbearable itch. One black-booted foot casually bumped the back of her head as its owner shuffled farther into the room.

Alice opened her eyes. Carol was only a foot away now, dragging her limp legs behind her; her dead eyes on the open door and the man who’d just stepped inside. Two of the others had woken and were finishing off Taylor’s body.

The black-booted man gave the door another push and Alice took the opportunity to roll onto her belly and push her face against her towel. The man stepped forward and stuck the barrel of his AR-15 against the flaking flesh of Carol’s forehead.

“Sorry, babe, the handicapped need not apply.” The black-booted man pulled the trigger and Carol’s head hit the floor with a wet thunk. “Quick, grab the other two; they’ve got some work to do.”

Alice’s head swam in a fog between fear and hunger as she watched six men in riot gear struggle to wrangle her former comrades. Her thoughts came to her in rudimentary words and crude images. Food. Streets. Terror. Plan.

The black-booted man watched his teammates drag Alice’s friends out the front door then lifted the mask of his helmet and took one last look at the room. As he turned to leave, Alice looped her towel around his ankle and pulled. The man managed a surprised grunt before his teeth smashed against the drinking fountain and he fell onto his back against the doorframe.

The pain and nausea were gone and Alice was on him in an instant. The black-booted man tried to shoot but she was too close and he was too scared. The bullet barely grazed Alice’s temple as she leaned in close and bit his lips right off his face.

*******

To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: WWW. Voting ends October 7th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.

WWW Contestant 9: Julianne Snow

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Wicked Women Writers Challenge.
This text is presented as is, from the author, with no editing.
Contestants should be judged on text, audio, and use of the challenge items listed. Please read the bottom of this post for voting instructions. Audio is playing at HorrorAddicts.net, #94.

Julianne Snow – Not All Jacks are Created Equal

Disaster –  Super Volcano

Location – Commuter Train

Helpful Item – Bottle of Jack Daniels

Disability – Naked

*******

 Not All Jacks Are Created Equal…

Julianne Snow

Why won’t this idiot get off of me? As I pushed him forcefully back, I felt the cool rush of air enter the space between our bodies. Like I actually cared if he was done or not!

I have to admit I was extremely exasperated by this point. Surely this asshat had felt the jolt like I had? I know my butt was the one on the edge of the sink, but how could he have not? It shook the entire train or at least I assumed it had given that all the cars were connected.

I need this fucker to get off of me so I can get dressed and figure out what is going on. I hope we didn’t hit another careless pedestrian… That was when he hit me. While I was shocked by the violence, I wasn’t truly surprised by it either. I didn’t know this jerk apart from the small moments we’d shared across the aisle from each other for the past six months. His name was Jack, he was gorgeous and I was single; sometimes things happen.

And it had happened today on our ride home. How I got myself into these situations was always beyond me, but I have to live up to the fact that I attract trouble.

The knock of his fist dazed me long enough for him to gather my clothes and duck out of the tiny bathroom we had shared for the short moments of our tryst.

Fuck! My clothes! What the fuck was I going to do now with nothing to wear?

At least the idiot hadn’t taken my purse or tote bag. That was something to be thankful for, right? Pulling out the bottle of Jack I’d purchased before getting on the train that evening, I took a long swill and as it burned down the back of my throat, it reminded me that life had the knack for kicking me in the face when I least expected it.

How the fuck am I going to get off this train unnoticed now? I was talking to myself, swallowing more of the amber alcohol than I probably should have given the circumstances. But then, what the fuck did I care? Some asshole had just punched me in the face and stolen my clothes. And I had been wearing my favourite dress too! A vintage Diane von Furstenberg I’d found for a steal in a charity shop a few years ago.

I took another long swallow and returned the cap to the bottle before sliding it back into my bag. It was time to face the rest of the train in all of my naked glory. Hopefully someone would be nice enough to offer me their jacket…

Who the fuck am I kidding? No one is going to offer me anything. I was talking to myself again but the action of it helped calm me down a bit. At least I still have my shoes…

I started to laugh heartily. Here I was, standing naked in a tiny bathroom on my way home thinking life was looking up because I still had my shoes. At least I hadn’t lost my sense of humour – yet.

The train rocked with another jolt and through the door I heard panic begin to spread. It was an odd mix of raised voices and shouts of disbelief. What the hell was going on out there?

Gathering my wits about me, I opened the door to the bathroom, grateful that it swung inward and peeked around its edge. I could see people trying to run down the small passageway in both directions, having to slow down just enough to let each other pass. Their faces betrayed a growing sense of panic and it frightened me. Had something really terrible happened?

My brain ran through all kinds of scenarios, but I quickly discarded most of them as completely stupid. Whatever it was couldn’t be so bad; we were still moving.

The force of the full stop threw me forward into the sink’s metal edge with enough force to leave a welt. The door swung free and slapped me on the ass, propelling me further against the sink and plastering my face against the grimy mirror.

I heard the screaming clearly now without the sound of the wheels on the rails in the background. Did I just hear what I think I heard?

A volcano?

I pried myself away from my own reflection and grabbed my purse and bag. Holding each of them in the best semblance of modesty I could attain, I cautiously inched out into the passageway.

Fairly soon my attempts at modesty were forgotten as I fought to hold onto my belongings amidst the rush of people. The doors to the cars had opened and people were fleeing the sanctity of the train in increasing numbers.

Not knowing what was going on and not trusting my ears since the idea of a volcano was pure lunacy, I fought the throngs of panicked people to an empty bank of seats. I wanted to sit down for a moment and shuffle through the information being thrust at me from all directions. It crossed my mind I should exit the train as well, but the cool temperature of the fall evening kept me inside – at least for the moment.

As I sat there, collecting my thoughts and watching the people run in the direction we had been travelling from, I couldn’t help but wonder why. What had spooked them all so much?

I heard a rumble in the background, but assumed it was a natural occurrence – something I hadn’t heard over the din of the train in the 6 years I had been riding it during my commute.

Then it hit me—maybe the train was on fire! That would explain the jolts I’d experienced while in the bathroom and even the noise I heard now. There must have been an explosion in one of the forward cars and here I lingered in the false sanctity of the train like an idiot.

Feeling the panic grow in my stomach, I made for the exit, believing I only had moments to escape. There were still people fleeing from the forward cars of the train, but none of them spared my nakedness a second glance.

As I stepped down from the car, thinking the drop was awfully far given the fact the train was not at a station with a platform, I stole a look toward the front of the train. The sight stopped me cold.

Those screams of panic and disbelief I had heard were not wrong. A volcano was erupting in close proximity to the train. The sight was astounding.

In an instant, I felt the heat of the event against my skin. I witnessed the flakes of ash as they floated to the ground. It was a mother-fucking volcano and it was erupting only a few miles from where I stood.

My nakedness now felt like a serious disadvantage – how would I protect my delicate skin from the heat and the ash that fell? What about burning embers? I couldn’t even think as more people ran by me, one of them crashing into me, propelling me backward against the bottom step I had just hopped down from.

I heard the crack as much as I felt it. Pain radiated up my back and into my brain while numbness permeated through my legs. I looked down and saw the odd angle created by my left leg as I slid to the ground in a heap. The resulting pop shook my body for the briefest of moments.

Fuck! It was the only word that fit the circumstances. I couldn’t feel my legs and my back hurt more than my last Brazilian wax.

No one noticed me on the ground in their haste to flee and I didn’t shout my insistence they see me either. I was going to die in that spot, dressed in the suit God had given me and there was nothing I could do.

Except drink of course. Opening the tote I had gingerly protected in the fall, I withdrew the cool bottle of Jack Daniels. Unscrewing the cap, I raised the bottle to my lips and let the fire spread through my stomach.

With a massive expulsion of ash and smoke, the volcano burped flames skyward. Rivers of red began to stream down the sides of the mountain, flowing freely and consuming whatever they touched.

The screams of those bolting dulled as they concentrating on escape and I was left in the relative quiet of the natural disaster. The lava flowed faster than I could have imagined and within short minutes it had reached the front of the train.

Molten rock met the metal in a fight to the death, the train easily losing the battle, shifting slightly in its tracks. With no means of escape, or the time to finish the bottle, I drank as much as I could before hot tears welled in my eyes.

The first kiss of scorching lava sent knives of pain along my nerves but they soon burned away as my skin succumbed. I remember feeling the pain and wishing my body would just give out, but it wasn’t going to be that easy. I watched in slow motion as the molten rock covered my body, eating away my flesh and melting my bones. Knowing I only had time for one last sip, I took it as the meat of my forearm seared, then separated from the bone. The weight of the bottle proved too much and it dragged my arm into the sea of death surrounding me. In that moment, it was over. My death wasn’t much more than the melting away of skin and bones until nothing remained.

Had anyone mentioned death on a volcano’s terms would help me in the afterlife, I would have laughed at them. But to be honest, burning alive has made dealing with the heat and humidity of Hell slightly easier to tolerate…

*******

To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: WWW. Voting ends October 7th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.

WWW Contestant 8: Rebecca Snow

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Wicked Women Writers Challenge.
This text is presented as is, from the author, with no editing.
Contestants should be judged on text, audio, and use of the challenge items listed. Please read the bottom of this post for voting instructions. Audio is playing at HorrorAddicts.net, #94.

Rebecca Snow

Disaster – Bio- Terrorism

Location – Golf Course

Helpful Item – Scissors

Disability – No Medicine

*******

 

Hazard

Rebecca Snow

The vines peeked over the sills of Meadow Haven Golf Course’s club house and wound their way toward the shingled roof.

“What do you think it is,” Megan asked.  She stood before the picture window and watched the rapid growth while trying to ignore the creepy feeling that her body was being scrutinized.

“Maybe some scientist seeded the clouds with Miracle Grow.  That powdery, green rain got on everything.”  Carl leaned on the counter and dragged his sweaty hands across the glass case as he let his gaze roam Megan’s backside.  “I’ll have to scrub the stuff off my car.  How much would it take for you to do that wearing a white t-shirt?”

Megan cringed.  “The treasury hasn’t made enough yet.”  She turned to face the leering young man.  “You drive the Hummer, right?”

Carl licked his lips and nodded.

“You’ll have to find it first before you can wash it.”  She motioned with her thumb toward the lot before pulling her sweater tighter around her shoulders.  “Looks like the weeds are hungry.”

With perfect timing, glass popped and metal twisted as the runaway foliage crushed a vehicle that had been parked illegally in the handicapped spot.  Carl jumped the counter and pressed his face against the window, his nose smashed like a four year old’s looking into a toy store.

“Aw, man!”  He banged on the pane with his fists.  “Somebody’s gonna have to pay for that.”

“I’m sure your daddy will be able to afford the repairs.”  Megan slid behind the counter and tapped her fingertips on the greasy glass.

Carl’s shoulders tensed.  Megan counted several breaths before she saw him relax.  Spinning in a precision move she was sure he’d learned from his stint in military school, he turned.  A sneer spread across his face.

“And why do you say that?” he asked, taking a single step toward her.

Megan shrugged and dropped to retrieve the glass cleaner and a wad of paper towels from the lower cabinet.  When she stood, Carl was pressed against the opposite side of the counter, his eyebrows pulled together in a scowl.  Megan flinched and sprayed a stream of vinegar scented cleaner on the handprints.  She mopped the towels through the spatter of particles, accomplishing little more than spreading the grime into circular smears.

“I asked you a question,” Carl shouted, grabbing her wrist.  “Why do you think my father would pay for my car?”

Megan twisted free and pulled open a drawer.  She grabbed a pair of scissors and spun, the blades nicking her skin as she pointed them toward Carl’s approaching form.

“Because he paid for…your get out of jail free card when you…put Mandy in a coma.”  Megan wheezed through her own snarl.

What passed for a smile in a back alley spread across Carl’s face.  He took a single step toward Megan.  She backed away from him and skittered around the counter.

“The cops didn’t have any evidence to link me to that.”

“You asked her out…that morning.  She told me, and she’d called me…when you picked her up.”

He took another step forward, his lips pulled together in a thin line.  He stared wide doe eyes at her.

“I never made it to her house.”  Carl tilted his head and mewled.  “My car wouldn’t start.”

Megan glanced over her shoulder as the room darkened.  The vegetation shaded the windows like blinds.  She caught a glimpse of Carl’s flattened ride before the green leaves blocked the entire scene.

“Liar,” she hissed and threw herself into the front door.  She pressed with all her weight as the overgrown branches blocked her way.  “Stay away…from me.”

Carl strode across the room.  As he reached for her, the door gave way and Megan stumbled onto the moss-padded sidewalk.

“Come back here,” Carl called as he sprinted to the door.

Megan kicked at the winding vines and ran, only turning when she heard Carl scream.  Threads of honeysuckle wound around his wrists and ankles and lifted him into the air.  He shrieked twice before an arm popped loose.  His body flopped like a ragdoll when the creepers dropped him to the ground.  She didn’t know if he was dead or just unconscious.  A strand of thorny rosebush coiled through his blood and into his hair.  Megan bolted toward the course.

The manicured lawn had grown to her waist.  Tendrils of long grass tickled her ankles and thighs as she lurched through them.  She dove into one of the larger sand traps.  In the relative safety of the hazard, she tried to comprehend her surroundings.  The rough that ringed the course had become a jungle.  The trees had grown to resemble the Redwoods Megan remembered from her trip to California.  The vines that hung from them could have supported Tarzan and his whole family without complaint.  A few dandelions at the edge of the lawn dwarfed several overturned golf carts as the mountain laurel’s massive blossoms crushed the canopies.

The grass continued to stretch toward the ever-diminishing sunlight.  Several blades braved the sand bunker and touched Megan’s knee.  She wheezed, opened the scissors, and snipped.  The stems recoiled, neon green oozed from the wounds as their amputated ends browned in the sand.  Megan retreated to the center of her oasis and dropped to her knees.  Distant screams echoed through the lush woodlands that had been city streets that morning.  A stray wind murmured through the dense leaves.

Megan rasped in a breath of air and patted her shorts’ pockets.  Her inhaler had been in her purse under the counter.  She stood and peered over the waves of tall grass.  What she could see of the clubhouse reminded her of the old paper route and the abandoned houses that had been swallowed by Kudzu years before she was born.  A tendril of lawn brushed her ear.  Her inhalation burned in her lungs.

“Get away,” she coughed.  She snapped the scissors closed around the shaft of green.  The wounded shoot pulled back into the thickening wall of meadow.

A pop sounded overhead.  A flash of orange glow lit up the postage stamp patch of sky left in her line of sight.  A deepening green fog sifted through the air around her.  The plant life twitched like a waking baby.  Vines and branches seemed to inhale the hazy mist.  Megan’s chest tightened.

She gasped and toppled to the sand.  Her hands dug through lintless pockets.  All hope for an overlooked inhaler died.  Pulling her knees up to her chest, she rested her head on them and tried to focus on her breathing.

A slender arm of foliage caressed her neck.  Megan hiccupped a gasp and shot to her feet.  She clamped the clippers around the slithering frond and squeezed.  She sawed with the little shears until the ragged remains retreated.  A dot-to-dot pattern bloomed in front of her.  She watched as the black spots morphed into a Rorschach configuration. Rubbing her eyes with the heels of her hands, she blinked most of the spots away, but her clouded vision remained.

Sinking onto the sand, Megan tried to catch her breath as she felt two more weeds stroke her legs.  She crushed both of the invaders with the dulling, metallic blades and rolled on her side.  The edge of the hazard seemed to be holding back most of the plant life.

Her neck tingled as though she were being watched.  She turned her head.  An endless wall of vegetal arms waited.  She swatted at the encroaching shoots with one hand and clutched her chest with the other.  As she gasped to fill her lungs, a vine wound around her ankle.  She heard the foliage whispering before the blotchy patch of sky went dark.

*******

To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: WWW. Voting ends October 7th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.

WWW Contestant 7: Anastasia Marie Robinson

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Wicked Women Writers Challenge.
This text is presented as is, from the author, with no editing.
Contestants should be judged on text, audio, and use of the challenge items listed. Please read the bottom of this post for voting instructions. Audio is playing at HorrorAddicts.net, #94.

Anastasia Robinson – Motherhood

Disaster –  BUGS!

Location – Circus

Helpful Item – Backpack

Disability – Small child or baby to care for

*******

 

Motherhood

by Marie Robinson

 

Well aren’t I just pathetic?” Sable thought as she slithered through the hordes of couples. There weren’t just couples—there were parents pulling along tearful toddlers and packs of chattering preteens—but surely Sable was the only one at the carnival by herself.

What was the occasion for the festivities anyway? Sable searched for an explanation in the tattered, faded banners and in the flashing marquees, but she found none. However, she did find something that caught her eye. Through the revolving rusty beams of the Ferris wheel she spied a wooden sign painted red with bold black letters. It read, “Oddities”.

I suppose ‘Freak Show’ isn’t politically correct these days,” Sable thought to herself as she headed down the narrow alley over which the sign hung.

A muddy, hay-strewn aisle was lined by fluttering red and white tents. As Sable gingerly pulled open one of the tent flaps she saw that it was populated by under a dozen people crowded around a figure perched on a stool. It was a man, who Sable guessed to be around sixty years of age, though it was hard to tell since seemingly every inch of his skin was covered in tattoos. He was naked from the waist up—his baggy skin sporting a rainbow of ink, its color worn by the sun.

Sable shook off a strange ominous feeling that followed her as she backed out the door of the tent and moved on to the next one. Inside this tent there was a small, circular stage with a ring of men gathered around, their eyes set hungrily upon a woman who danced on the stage. Given that she was only clad in a sheer, black lace bra and a thong, you could see nearly all of her ivory-skinned, voluptuous body. Her hair hung in inky black curls, her pouting lips painted red; she looked weary, and with closed eyes she appeared as though she could be dancing in her sleep.

As she twirled around, her arms stretched lazily above her head, Sable stifled a gasp with the palm of her hand. At the bottom of the woman’s spine, just above her soft, round bottom there sprouted a long, flesh-colored protrusion. It was stiff and thin, and hung down to her thighs—a tail.

Sable turned and tried to leave as quickly but politely as possible. “One more and then I’m out of here,” Sable thought, her morbid curiosity getting the better of her. She pushed into the next tent; this one was packed full of people crowded around a stage similar to the one in the last.

A wiry man loomed above them, and before him on the stage was the most horrid creature Sable had ever seen. Standing about three feet tall, Sable could not decide if it more resembled a slug or a maggot. The skin—slimy, milky, and somewhat translucent—was stretched tightly over the fat being; the pulsing veins and organs seemed as though they would tear right through and flood forth onto the audience. Two rows of sharp, needle-like digits flexed down the length of its body and it appeared to have no eyes or mouth.

“Now, keep your distance, folks,” sang the announcer. “This here is a new, unidentified species and we haven’t the slightest inclination as to its nature. Hell, we don’t even know what it eats! Could be you if you don’t back up, sir!”

The announcer jabbed a man in the chest with his cane that pressed himself up against the stage.

“This gorgeous feller was discovered in a barn in Iowa—the farmer who found him claims the creature came from outer space! I don’t have a better guess—do you? Hey, buddy, back up!”

The same man in the crowd was stepping closer again; he reached a hand up toward the thing. A low hissing issued from the bug and where before there appeared only tight skin, a small hole had opened. It continued to gape wider, revealing a round mouth lined with small, jagged teeth.

“Good God, get back!”

But before the inquisitive man could stumble backwards the creature sprang upon him. The thin, sharp legs of the beast imbedded themselves in the man’s sides, and the mouth closed around his face. While the man writhed in agony under the monster’s firm hold, a cream-colored, curved stinger grew from its abdomen. The dripping end disappeared into the man’s stomach with a cruel jab. The man collapsed to the floor, the creature still holding tight to him.

Sable jumped as a bullet ripped through the beast. The announcer was now toting a shotgun; he fired another bullet into the bug as it leapt from the corpse towards him.

The monster fell dead in a bloody pulp at the announcer’s feet.

On the ground, the man’s corpse was violently twitching and thick black liquid oozed from his gory wound. With a sick explosion, insects the length of a forearm came crawling from his chest. They were smaller versions of their mother, and the color of ink. They moved quickly along the ground and each sought out a pair of legs to scurry up to repeat the same grotesque process, plunging their stingers into the bellies of the awestruck crowd.

Sable stumbled backward, too horrified to scream while the announcer kept firing away at the beasts until a horde of them crawled upon the stage and overtook him; he disappeared in a seething black mass.

Sable’s stifled scream finally ripped from her throat as something bumped against the back of her legs. She whirled around, her heart frozen by the notion that it could be one of those ravenous insects. What she found, however, was somehow more disturbing.

It was a stroller with a silent, sleeping infant in tow. Sable searched the crowd wildly for the parents, but everyone within the tent was lying dead or violated, and the few that remained alive were fleeing.

Sable paused for a moment of trepidation. She knew next to nothing about how to care for a child, especially one that wasn’t even hers! Then again, she couldn’t just leave an infant to be massacred by these monsters…

Noticing a slit in the tent, Sable grabbed hold of the stroller’s handles and quickly wheeled the baby toward it. The opening led them to an aisle of abandoned ticket booths. Screams mixed with the maddening calliope.

She looked down at the child and felt a rush of panic, wondering what she had gotten herself into—but an unexpected feeling of courage drowned out the uncertainty. She would not abandon this baby.

Looking over the stroller, Sable noticed a backpack shoved into a compartment above the wheels. When she retrieved it she found that it wasn’t very heavy and seemingly only contained a few articles. She unzipped the backpack and rifled through, pulling out each object her hand found to examine it.

Within she found a bottle, half-filled with formula, a pack of diapers and wipes, a can of bug-spray—

Why not?” Sable thought and doused herself with the stuff. She rounded the front of the stroller and knelt before the baby. Pressing a palm softly over the child’s closed eyes, she sprayed a layer of insect repellent on the baby’s smooth, mahogany skin. The baby’s peaceful face immediately crinkled as the pungent mist rained over it and the eyes fluttered open.

Tears welled in the almond orbs and small, choking cries sputtered from the infant’s mouth.

Sable’s chest tightened as the cries turned to wailing. She shushed the baby, wordlessly begging it to stop, but she was helpless. She lifted her gaze over the stroller and saw one of the black insects—already twice the size it had started at—slither out from the tent. It knew where they were and began twisting toward them on dozens of clicking legs.

Sable felt her insides contracting in terror but managed to snatch up the backpack and feel blindly inside for something—anything—to save them. Frustrated, unable to recognize any of the objects within by touch alone she overturned the backpack and dumped it onto the ground. She was pleasantly surprised when a handgun fell from the bag into the dust.

With no time to think Sable picked it up, cocked it and fired at the monster. She hit it—and the bug flew onto its back, long body flailing as liquid leaked from it, until it finally curled up and froze into a lifeless ball.

An exasperated laugh of disbelief escaped Sable’s mouth as she lowered the gun and whirled around, shoving the firearm down into the backpack.

“Let’s get out of here,” Sable wheezed through her burning chest. Pushing the stroller she blocked out the sounds and sights of chaos all around her. The horrible orchestra that was created by screaming, crying, ripping, shredding, mixed with the maniacal calliope turned into a dull fuzz in her ears. The collapsed tents, broken windows, dilapidated structures and blazing fires were unseen by her; Sable had eyes only for her destination—the Ferris wheel.

Somehow they made it there alive. The operator was surely long gone; the Ferris wheel spun in a slow, continuous ring. Sable swung the strap of the backpack over one shoulder and picked up the baby, whose little face was beat red and covered in tears.

Two corpses occupied the first carriage that drifted by—a teenage couple whose stomachs were savagely torn open. Sable gagged, took a deep breath, and waited for the next carriage. It was empty; she scrambled into it, keeping a hold of the baby as it screamed in her ear.

As they were lifted up towards the sky Sable rummaged through the backpack, searching with a clawed hand until her grasp claimed a pacifier. She popped it in the baby’s mouth, silencing its piercing cries. Sable peered down into the child’s eyes, which were wells that never seemed to dry; she suddenly felt a calm, a warmth, a peace.

“I don’t know your name,” she said softly. “I don’t even know if you are a boy or a girl yet. But I promise, I’ll keep you safe.”

She hugged the child tight to her, and just as they were perched on the peak of the arc the carriage stopped and the whole carnival plunged into darkness, leaving them nestled up in the stars.

*******

To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: WWW. Voting ends October 7th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.

WWW Contestant 6: Rebekah Webb

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Wicked Women Writers Challenge.
This text is presented as is, from the author, with no editing.
Contestants should be judged on text, audio, and use of the challenge items listed. Please read the bottom of this post for voting instructions. Audio is playing at HorrorAddicts.net, #94.

Rebekah Webb – Prey

Disaster –  Super Virus

Location – Restaurant

Helpful Item –  Baseball Bat

Disability – Allergic reaction

*******

 Prey

By Rebekah Webb

The woman crept up to the window, looking through grimy glass to the scene inside. Several people huddled together, surrounded by overturned tables and chairs, forming a barrier like circled wagons, though the tables were too short to be of any real use.

The building used to be a restaurant, a small café filled with the smells  of cooking food and sounds of clinking glasses and idle chatter. She remembered how it used to look, with warm sunlight pouring into the windows, falling onto the soft navy blue walls and pale brown tables, glinting off the polished metal counter in the back and  closed in glass cases with their assortment of sweets and breads.

Now, the glass was streaked with grime, so thick that some parts were black. Thick wooden boards covered the windows, leaving small grime covered spaces for the sun to force its way through, giving the café a dim lighting, like an old church or crypt. The counter was no longer polished, but scratched and dented, the glass cases cracked and filled with dried out crumbs. The only sounds were the soft frightened breathing and hushed conversation of the people in the center of the table and chair fort. The only smells were the sweet tang of their body odor. The woman breathed it in and let it hang on the back of her tongue, tasting the fear that came off each one of them in waves.

She moved closer to the small space of dirty glass between the boards and watched the group, their whispers clear in her ears as if they were being shouted.

There were four of them, two women, one man and a child, a little boy about the age of five. One woman had long light hair, with pale skin and pale clothing. The other had dark hair and dark clothing, possibly deep blue or black. It was hard to tell through the dim light and grime. The man had a ring of long unkempt hair around his head, the top smooth and barren, giving him the look of a candle that had started to melt at the top.

“We can’t stay here,” he said, his voice rising slightly but still staying a whisper. He clutched a dirty hat in his hands and twisted it around as he spoke. “It’s not safe.”

The pale haired woman shook her head. She had the small boy in her lap and stroked his hair absently. He leaned against her with his eyes closed, sleeping the peaceful sleep that adults were no longer capable of doing. Their sleep was always rushed, tiny slips of unconsciousness filled with movement and screams.

“We have nowhere else to go,” she said. “The roads are crawling with those things. We were lucky to make it here. There’s food in the kitchen and boards on the windows. We’ll be safe here for a few days, at least.”

“A few days?” the man roared in his whisper. “They’ll be all over us in a few days.” He removed one hand from his hat and waved it around the room. “Just look around. Where are the people who boarded up those windows? It wasn’t very safe for them.”

The pale haired woman frowned and kept stroking the hair of the young child. “Those windows are still boarded, aren’t they? If something happened to the people before, there would be signs of a struggle. This place is untouched. Hell, even the display case was still plugged in.”

“What about the counter?” the man asked. “It looked like someone used it for target practice! With their feet and fists.”

“I highly doubt a pack of those things rushed in, attacked the counter and rushed out again, leaving everything else untouched.” The pale haired woman looked over at the counter. “Vandals, most likely, dumb kids having a laugh before all this happened.”

“I still think we shouldn’t stay too long,” the man said. He stopped twisting the hat, but still clutched it tightly between his fingers. “Those things are bound to come here sooner or later.”

“And we’ll be gone before they do,” the pale haired woman said. “A few days to rest up and then we’ll head off again.”

“You guys are missing the most important point of all,” the dark haired woman suddenly said, the first words she had spoken all night. They both turned to look at her.

“What’s that?” the pale haired woman asked.

“That no matter where we go, they’ll find us,” she said. “Eventually, we’ll run out of places to run to. It doesn’t matter if we stay here for a night, a few days or a few years. They’ll get us in the end.”

The other two didn’t respond and the room grew silent, with only their frightened breathing filling the air. The woman outside smiled and backed away from the window. She crept around to the back of the café and pulled a small key from her pocket. The key fit into the back door and it opened silently on oiled hinges. She slipped into the kitchen and walked across the empty space and over to the door leading to the main room.

She took a deep breath and breathed in the scent of her prey, before bursting in on them with a wild cry. She easily leapt over the protective barrier and landed smoothly on the other side. The people stood up and shouted to each other, the pale haired woman still clutching the now sobbing child in her arms.

They man and dark haired woman rushed at her, swinging a baseball bat and thick piece of rusted pipe. The woman pulled both weapons from their hands and watched as they both stumbled, the sudden exertion causing their limbs to lock up. It didn’t her long to snap their necks or toss them out of the flimsy circle of tables and chairs. The pale haired woman was still standing, but the panic was sending her limbs into the same weakness as the other two. She went down on one knee and pushed herself away, clutching the boy with shaking arms that slowly fell down to her sides.

“Leave us alone,” she pleaded, her voice rising into a scream. “I  don’t know if you can understand me, but please, at least spare my child.”

The woman laughed. “I can understand you perfectly,” she said, as she grabbed to small child. “And I will spare your child.” She sunk her teeth into the boy’s arm and tossed him aside, then kicked the woman in the head, collapsing her skull like an egg.

She left the wailing child on the floor and went about her business, picking up the chairs and tables and setting them back into position. Then she walked into the kitchen and unlocked a small trap door, revealing a stash of food. She pulled armfuls out and restocked the refrigerator, filling it with temping morsels of bread, meat and jars of condiments, each laced with special chemicals crafted to absorb into the bodies of those who ate it, gestating for hours before causing an allergic reaction like the toxin of a snake, their own pumping hearts locking their limbs and making them easier to kill.

She walked back into the main room and admired her handy work, smiling at her carefully set trap. She didn’t have to roam the roads or work in a pack like some sort of animal. Most of her kind didn’t. Those were distractions, scouts sent out to drive prey to carefully maintained traps. This was her duck blind, her tiger pit. The humans underestimated her kind, seeing them as mindless, feral animals. That made them easy prey.

The woman looked over at the boy, who had started to froth at the mouth, the virus inside her now coursing through his veins. In a few minutes, he would be like her, stronger, faster and smarter. She would share her meal with him and then teach him how to join in on the hunt, a new ally to help corral the wandering prey, carefully guided and maintained like deer in season, to fill her kind’s bellies for years to come.

*******

To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: WWW. Voting ends October 7th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.

WWW Contestant 5: Chantal Noordeloos

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Wicked Women Writers Challenge.
This text is presented as is, from the author, with no editing.
Contestants should be judged on text, audio, and use of the challenge items listed. Please read the bottom of this post for voting instructions. Audio is playing at HorrorAddicts.net, #94.

Chantal Noordeloos – Out of a Storm

Disaster –  Super Storm

Location – Haunted Hotel

Helpful Item – Rope

Disability – All Alone

******* 

Out of the Storm

By Chantal Noordeloos

 

It all starts with darkness and my ears ringing. Where am I?

I know my eyes are open and for a moment I feel panic slide its cold, clammy fingers from my stomach to my throat, but then I realise I can see light in the distance. Need to remember.

The ringing in my ear seems louder now. No, not ringing.  It is the storm. I remember the storm, but through a sea of cotton that seems to have replaced my brain.

The dark is disorienting, and I use the cold concrete ground as a bearing. My palms stick to the chilling surface, and I almost scream as the side of my hand brushes against something that feels like hair or fur. Carefully I let my fingers explore, curiosity stronger than fear.

A rope.

It pricks my fingers slightly, little bristles piercing the skin of my palm. My hand grips it, finding comfort in its presence. I can tie myself down when the storm comes. It’s a ridiculous thought, but somehow I know that the rope is important.

I sit up, tucking my feet under my skirt, and my right hand, cold from the concrete, rubs the bottom of my nose. I feel so alone. There was a storm, and I had to run. I had to find safety, and I came here… where is here?

Images trickle back into my mind, thick and distorted, a story told in fragments. I’m watching the news that talks of the storm. There is no alarm at first, it is far away, in countries that I couldn’t even point out on a map. At first there is indifference, but as the death toll rises, there is pity. Pity turns to fear when the reports change. The storm is not letting up, it is growing, mutating. Like a living monster, it devours everything in its path. People are frightened, this storm is unlike any other. People give the storm a face, a name; Ouranos. The greek personification of the heavens, the god who ate his children. This storm, this mythical being, is eating us.

It leaves nothing in its wake, nothing but remains of the world as we once knew. People flood the streets with signs declaring that the end of the world is upon us. Some turn to god, different gods, but the intention is the same. Some turn to the government, or to science. But nothing matters, there is nothing that can protect us. This storm, it finds us in our hiding places and rips up all our defences.

I watched the images of a brave camera man’s last moments. The winds on the screen dragged trees out of the ground by their roots and tossed them around. We watched in silent horror. But there was more, a darkness in the storm. Something kept me hypnotised, through the screen I could see tenebrous pulsating in the depths of the storm, I can see the monster within. It would come for me, it would come for my body and my soul. The camera fades from chaotic images to black, as the man working it is sucked up by the storm.

We needed to run. The little wooden house in the little wooden neighbourhood could not withstand this monster of a storm. It would devour us. Body and soul.

My mother does not want to go to the shelters. They are too cramped, too many people seek refuge. There is one other option, one place no one from our neighbourhood would dare to hide….

I know where I am. The realisation sends electrical tingles to run up to my skull.

I know why it is so dark. I am in a basement, in the basement of the local hotel. The storm hit unexpected, it spread through the world like a raging cancer. Mutating and multiplying in size, and we ran into the only place we could think. We ran to the haunted hotel.

The place I feared most as a child. In the fifties one of the guests was responsible for the murder of seventeen guests. The hotel never lived down the reputation, and like the seventeen guests, the hotel died a slow and agonizing death. The owner, a man driven mad by the incident, hung himself from the chandelier.

As children we would dare each other to enter the dark building. I never did, convinced that this place would hold my soul a prisoner. My father called me sensitive, the other children called me cowardly, but I knew there was something about this place. Just as I know there is something about the storm.

If only I could remember getting here. It’s so dark and I don’t know where my parents are. The darkness prevents me from calling out. There is a slight sound, like a squeak that causes me to move. I fear what I can’t see. Far away I see a sliver of light. It must be a door, or perhaps shutters of a window. I stand up, waving my hands in front of my body to protect myself from invisible obstacles. My hair brushes lightly against something that is above me. It could be anything, a lamp, a spiderweb. I am too afraid to touch it, this time fear wins. It gnaws at my stomach.

The light comes from a little crack in a window shutter. It takes a lot of effort for me to open it. The strength seems to have left my fingers and hands and I tear the wood away with sheer willpower. Light pours in, blinding me. Through a small basement window I can see the world outside being consumed by chaos. I can see it now, Ouranos, I can see it for what it really is. A great big creature, a God. It smashes the houses, breaks the trees into kindling. Its great big translucent hands, shaped as dark storm clouds, pick up humanity and sucks the flesh of their bones, the souls from their vessels. It eats all, cars sticking from its grotesque mouth. All but this hotel. This haunted hotel. It’s different.

Then I remember. The fear and sorrow of watching my mother die, consumed by the storm. Seeing my father being torn limb from limb. I remember it all now. It wasn’t my parents who wanted to come here… it was my choice.

I turn around, with an agonizing slowness, my hands clutching the rope so tightly that the material bites in my palms. There is something behind me I need to see, but part of me isn’t ready. It takes all the courage I have to let my gaze slip from the floor to the ceiling. There, hanging from a rope, dangles a body.

The face is contorted, a black tongue protrudes from swollen lips. The tips of the naked toes point down to the floor. Tears run from my eyes.

It’s me.

Outside the storm rages. It eats all that is alive, swallowing it whole. It will destroy the living, but it can’t reach the dead. It cannot obliterate me as it does all else. I will continue to exist in this ethereal form.  Here, in this building that traps souls, I am safe from the storm out there. Here I am a survivor.

The end

This has been an audio podcast recording of the “Out of the Storm” written and performed by Chantal Noordeloos. If you enjoyed this story you can vote for Chantal to win the 2013 Wicked Women Writers Challenge at horroraddicts@gmail.com

Please share this recording with friends.

If you are interested in other works by Chantal Noordeloos please go to http://www.chantal noordeloos.info Thank you for listening and we hope you enjoyed this audio recording.

*******

To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: WWW. Voting ends October 7th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.