Category Archives: Uncategorized

31 Days of Halloween (2019): Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Before there was Cabin in the Woods, there was Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. Both films take place in a world where horror is real, albeit not necessarily in the way the horror movies make it out to be. And both are fantastic.

Leslie Vernon starts out as a mockumentary. During a brief intro scene, we learn that in this world, Michael Myers, Freddie Kruger, and Jason Vorhees are all real, legendary killers. And Leslie Vernon wants to be the next in that illustrious line. To make his legend even more spectacular, he invites a documentary crew along with him, showing them the behind the scenes of how these killers do it, the tricks of the trade, and the planning a good killing spree requires. But as the appointed night draws near, it’s possible everything is not as it seems.

I’d heard about Leslie Vernon for years, but it was only this Halloween season that I finally got around to watching it. I’d been missing out, and the horror mockumentaries and self-aware horror movies of the past decade clearly owe a debt to what was, at the time, a pretty unique idea. Leslie Vernon starts off a little awkward, and it takes a while for it to find its footing. But when it does, the movie simply launches into orbit. There’s a point, definitive and obvious, where the movie transitions from the documentary style to traditional horror. It’s brilliant and perfect and I loved ever minute of it.

These kind of movies aren’t for everyone. But if you are one of those people who loved Scream and What We Do in the Shadows and Cabin in the Woods, The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a no brainer. And what better time to check it out than this Halloween?

4.5 Stars

Viewed on Shudder streaming.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

31 Days of Halloween (2019): The Best Opening Lines in Horror

A great first line can make a book, and the inability to come up with one has stopped more than a few writers from every getting on with the rest of the story. Here, I present to you some of my favorites (and some of them are more like first paragraphs). Leave yours in the comments.

I am a watchdog. My name is Snuff. — A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny

So intent was Frank upon solving the puzzle of Lemarchand’s box that he didn’t hear the great bell begin to ring. — The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker

The tower, which was not supposed to be there, plunges into the earth in a place just before the black pine forest begins to give way to swamp and then the reeds and wind-gnarled trees of the marsh flats. — Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

Solving the following riddle will reveal the awful secret behind the universe, assuming you do not go utterly mad in the attempt. If you already happen to know the awful secret behind the universe, feel free to skip ahead. — John Dies at the End by David Wong.

On those cloudy days, Robert Neville was never sure when sunset came, and sometimes they were in the streets before he could get back. — I am Legend by Richard Matheson

Don’t call me Abraham: call me Abe. — The Fisherman  by John Langan

Nobody was really surprised when it happened, not really, not at the subconscious level where savage things grow. — Carrie by Stephen King

Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places. For them are the catacombs of Ptolemais, and the carven mausolea of the nightmare countries. They climb to the moonlit towers of ruined Rhine castles, and falter down black cobwebbed steps beneath the scattered stones of forgotten cities in Asia. The haunted wood and the desolate mountain are their shrines, and they linger around the sinister monoliths on uninhabited islands. But the true epicure in the terrible, to whom a new thrill of unutterable ghastliness is the chief end and justification of existence, esteems most of all the ancient, lonely farmhouses of backwoods New England; for there the dark elements of strength, solitude, grotesqueness, and ignorance combine to form the perfection of the hideous. — The Picture in the House by H.P. Lovecraft

A considerable number of hunting parties were out that year without finding so much as a fresh trail; for the moose were uncommonly shy, and the various Nimrods returned to the bosoms of their respective families with the best excuses the facts of their imaginations could suggest. — The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood

You could argue–as I have more than enough times, as part of my Film History lecture–that, no matter its actual narrative content, every movie is a ghost story. — Experimental Film by Gemma Files

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone. — The Haunting of Hill House  by Shirley Jackson

This is not for you. — House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

31 Days of Halloween (2019): Best Lovecraftian Movies

Lovecraft has inspired artists for generations, but he’s yet to inspire any truly great films. Well, that’s not entirely true. Sure, there are no big budget blockbusters dedicated to Cthulhu, but if you know where to look, there are some real gems. Here, I’ve brought together four you may or may not have heard of.

Reanimator

OK, you almost certainly have heard about this one. Stuart Gordon’s Reanimator remains the best known, most beloved of the movies inspired by the old gentleman of Providence. More funny than it is scary and with iconic performances by Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, if you haven’t seen it, what are you waiting on?

The Call of Cthulhu

It’s crazy to think that the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society started off because some guys who loved Lovecraft got together on a whim and started acting out his stories. One of their first great productions was a 1920s style silent version of Lovecraft’s most famous work, and it is great. Even if Hollywood did try, the probably wouldn’t make a better version of Call than this.

The Whisperer in Darkness

The HPLHS didn’t rest on their laurels, though. They continue to churn out high quality products inspired by Lovecraft at a dizzying pace. From radio programs to rock operas to underwear, they have it all. But The Whisperer in Darkness is one of their best. This time, the company went with a full-length feature film. Black and white and set in the thirties, the movie is faithful to the original story and well worth the watch.

Dreams in the Witch House

A few years ago, Showtime gathered some of the greatest horror directors of all time and gave them an hour to do whatever they wanted. The result were some of the greatest short(ish) horror films ever made. John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns and the incomparable Takashi Miike’s Imprint–so disturbing Showtime wouldn’t even run it–were my favorites. But one of the best films was done by Stuart Gordon–Dreams in the Witch House. Witch House is not the best of Lovecraft’s work, but the film version changed my perspective on the underappreciated story. Now, it’s nothing compared to the epic rock opera put out by HPLHS, but it’s a good place to start.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

31 Days of Halloween (2019): Lovecraft and Ancient Aliens

The following was first published in Dark Discoveries magazine.

Let’s set the scene. Archaeologists, stumbling through an unknown jungle, come upon a lost city of great antiquity. It’s complexity and size seems beyond the capability of the local peoples, and carved into its sides are ancient glyphs. Their meaning cannot be precisely discerned, but they seem to hint at gods who descended from the stars and built the city. Not only that, but they left a promise to return one day, when the time is right.

giorgiotsoukalos
I’m not saying it’s aliens…

Now the question: H.P. Lovecraft story? Or an episode of the History Channel’s hit show, Ancient Aliens? Not an easy question, is it?

If you’re not sure of the answer, don’t feel too bad. The similarities between the Cthulhu mythos and the Ancient Astronaut Theory are so strong as to defy mere coincidence.

That’s the position taken at least by Jason Colavito in his scholarly work, The Cult of Alien Gods: H.P. Lovecraft and Extraterrestrial Pop Culture. Colavito offers an engrossing, if thoroughly skeptical, history of what has come to be known as the Ancient Alien or Ancient Astronaut Theory. For those unfamiliar with the cable program and the works of theorists like Erich Anton Paul von Däniken and Zecharia Sitchin, the Ancient Alien Theory posits that deep in the shrouded mist of our planet’s distant past, Earth was visited by extraterrestrials. The details can vary depending on who’s telling the story, but these ETs played a significant role in mankind’s development. Some adherents claim that human beings are a creation of an advanced race whose mastery of genetic engineering allowed them to create homo sapiens out of some lower form of life. Essentially, it’s Intelligent Design with aliens instead of God, or the plot of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

That’s the most extreme view. The slightly less all-encompassing—but still pretty extreme in of itself—tack is that these creatures found primitive man at some very early stage of civilization. Following the maxim that any sufficiently advanced technology appears to be magic, these primitive peoples took alien visitors for gods, basing all of the world’s mythologies on their visitations. As a corollary, the aliens acted in the role of Prometheus, giving unto early man knowledge that should have taken centuries or even thousands of years to develop. In this way, aliens were directly responsible for the construction of many of the world’s wonders. And when they left, they promised that one day they would return.

giorgiotsoukalos
But it’s aliens.

That’s the Ancient Alien Theory in a nutshell, and Colavito’s recitation of it adds little to what we already know. But Colavito goes well beyond simply describing the views of others. Instead, he digs beneath those views to find their underpinnings, developing a fascinating theory of his own, particularly for any fan of weird fiction. The Ancient Alien Theory isn’t grounded in archaeological anomalies or seemingly impossible cities or monuments. For Colavito, the entire Ancient Alien craze has none other than H.P. Lovecraft to thank for its creation.

I’ll let you read Colavito’s book and examine the evidence, but I’ll tell you that it is quite convincing. Nevertheless, his is a bold claim, and an ironic one, too. Lovecraft was, if nothing else, a dedicated materialist and rationalist. The kind of pseudoscience that the Ancient Alien Theory relies on would have struck him as nothing less than silly. Mystical dream quests, ancient beings from the stars, and tomes of magical incantations were useful plot devices for fiction, but to believe they could be real? Not Lovecraft.

But while Lovecraft might have scoffed at the claims of Giorgio Tsoukalos, were he alive today, we can be sure that they would find their way into his fiction. Whatever the truth of Colavito’s thesis and whatever one believes about the truth or absurdity of the Ancient Alien Theory, there can be little doubt that Lovecraft and weird fiction in general have long capitalized on the notion that there is something beyond our world and that at some point we have been visited by creatures from beyond the stars. One of the most famous passages from Lovecraft’s seminal “The Call of Cthulhu” so perfectly encapsulates the Ancient Astronaut Theory that it is little wonder Colavito and others trace that theory back to Lovecraft.

Old Castro remembered bits of hideous legend that paled the speculations of theosophists and made man and the world seem recent and transient indeed. There had been aeons when other Things ruled on the earth, and They had had great cities. Remains of Them, he said the deathless Chinamen had told him, were still to be found as Cyclopean stones on islands in the Pacific. They all died vast epochs of time before men came, but there were arts which could revive Them when the stars had come round again to the right positions in the cycle of eternity. They had, indeed, come themselves from the stars, and brought Their images with Them.

Lovecraft goes on to speak of great Cthulhu himself, explaining that he had also come from the stars, to rule the earth. But at some point in the distant past, things went wrong. Lovecraft never explains how or why the Great Old Ones lost dominion over the earth, but lose it they did. Locked in the dark places of this world, on the highest mountains and in the deepest canyons, or simply far beneath the waves, they await the moment of their return.

This is the central idea at the heart of all of Lovecraft’s best and most sophisticated stories. Not only ancient visits, but something left behind. Something that could invade the dreams of men, that defied the settled expectations of life, the truth of which would drive men mad were it known. He revisits this motif again and again, from “The Nameless City” to “The Shadow out of Time.” Something has been here before. And always the promise of return.

The casual observer might think that it is on this point of “return” where Lovecraft and the Ancient Alien Theorists would go their separate ways. After all, the former believe extraterrestrials to be benevolent beings, while the Great Old Ones of Lovecraft care nothing for mankind and will likely wipe us from the face of the earth as an afterthought. This view is widely accepted dogma by Lovecraft aficionados, but interestingly, that’s not exactly how Lovecraft paints it. In “The Call of Cthulhu,” he writes of the Great Old Ones return,

That cult would never die till the stars came right again, and the secret priests would take great Cthulhu from His tomb to revive His subjects and resume His rule of earth. The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and reveling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom. Meanwhile the cult, by appropriate rites, must keep alive the memory of those ancient ways and shadow forth the prophecy of their return.

That’s actually not all that different from what Ancient Alien Theorists claim will happen when the extraterrestrials return. It’s darker and more violent—Lovecraft was a horror writer after all—but let’s break down the basic components. The ETs won’t return until mankind becomes like them, perhaps achieving a technological level where they would be viewed as simply more advanced rather than gods. They will then teach mankind new things that heretofore could not have been imagined, ushering in a new age.

Call it fact or accept it as fiction, but it’s hard not to see the connections. And one wonders why mankind is so drawn to this notion of an outside power, meddling in our affairs, bringing us towards the light, or threatening our destruction.

Maybe Lovecraft was more right than he ever could have known.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

31 Days of Halloween (2019): Songs about Vampires

Of all the classic horror monsters, I’ve got to think that vampires are the most popular. They’re sexy, they live for ever, they sparkle in the sunlight, what more could you want, right? So maybe it’s not surprising that they have inspired a number of popular songs. Here are some of the best.

“If We Were Vampires” by Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell is the greatest working song smith today not named Bob Dylan, and it’s little surprise that he’d take the notion of vampires and turn it into a ballad that can strike you at the core of your being. Lots of people write great songs about falling in love, but great songs about what it’s like to be in a relationship with the love of your life are few and far between.

“Fresh Blood” by Eels

Less romantic but more traditionally vampiric, “Fresh Blood” is one of those songs that will have you howling at the moon. Wait…

Bela Lugosi’s Dead by Bauhaus

If you don’t know Bauhaus, you are missing out. Now’s your chance to get to know them.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

31 Days of Halloween (2019): Brandon Lawson

If you know me, you know I’m obsessed with missing persons. The idea that people can simply disappear off the face of the earth in this day and age terrifies me. But no disappearance haunts me more than that of Brandon Lawson.

On August 8, 2013, at around midnight, Brandon Lawson left the home he shared with his girlfriend to drive to his father’s house. He’d had an argument with her, possibly over his drug use. Although sporadic, he had taken meth that day. Whatever the cause of the fight, he struck off into the Texas night in his pickup truck, driving through a desolate wilderness on the road to his father’s home. At some point on that road, he ran out of gas. Brandon called his brother and asked him to bring a can of gas.

When his brother reached Brandon’s truck, he found it empty and deserted. At the same time, a police officer arrived coming from the other direction, having been called as a result of a trucker’s police complaint about the abandoned vehicle. Brandon’s brother was reticent to give the police officer too much information; Brandon had a warrant out for his arrest. But what is brother knew for sure is that he didn’t see his brother on the road as he approached, and the police officer hadn’t seen him either. Little did he know that he would never see Brandon again. No one would, and he is missing to this very day.

His brother also didn’t know that sometime after Brandon called him to bring a can of gas, he called someone else–he called 911.

The call is below. I have listened to it a hundred times. You will listen to it a hundred times. It will drive you mad listening to it, trying to understand what is happening, trying to figure out what doom befell Brandon. Listen to the call, and comment below.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

31 Days of Horror (2019): The Dyatlov Pass Incident

Normally on this page we look to horror that entertains. But today and tomorrow, I’ll be delving into true horror, into some of the greatest mysteries yet to be solved. This one you may have heard of, but I bet the one you see tomorrow will surprise you.

On February 2, 1959, in the midst of a blizzard and sub-zero temperatures, nine experienced hikers cut through their own tent pitched on the side of a mountain and fled into the darkness. Half dressed, they made their way down the slope of the mountain called Kholat Syakhl—which according to some shaky translations means Mountain of the Dead.* Reaching the tree line, they cut down branches to start a fire. Here, two of them, Gregory Krivonischenko and Yury Doroshenko, died from exposure. Three others, Rusteem Slobodin, Zina Kolmogorova, and the group’s leader, Igor Dyatlov, attempted to head back to the tent, perhaps to gather needed clothing and supplies. One by one they collapsed in the snow, never to rise. Four others—Nicholas Thibeaux, Ludimila Dubinina, Alex Kolevatov and Semyon Zolotaryov—were found months later, buried under more than ten feet of snow. Their deaths were the most mysterious of all.

They had obviously lived longer than the rest of their companions, as they had scavenged some of their clothing. Nicholas’s skull was shattered, broken in so many places that he would not have been able to move. Ludimila and Semyon’s chests were crushed with a force the medical examiner would describe as consistent with being hit by a car. Kolevatov died of hypothermia, though strangely, he was found with his jacket unzipped and his nose broken.

That’s the shortest possible intro I can give you into the mystery that has become known as the Dyatlov Pass Incident. Books have been written about it; entire websites have been dedicated to it. There’s no way I can cover everything you would need or want to know about this case. If you want to dive into the mystery headfirst, check out this site. It has original documentation and discussion of the various theories about what exactly happened on that night.

Here’s a map that will help you visualize the series of events.

dyatlov-pass-map-03

It’s in Russian, but it’s pretty self-explanatory. You see the tent on the side of the slope. You see the footprints of the 9 going away from the tent and down to the forest where they built a fire. One thing that is not obvious to those who do not know the story is the yellow image on the bottom right. That is a storage area the campers set up the morning before they died. It contained extra firewood, clothing, and food.

The existence of that cache of supplies probably answers one question–where the campers were going. It is likely the case that after they left the tent, they lost their bearings in the blizzard and went the wrong direction. By the time they realized their mistake, it was too late to change course.

But why did they leave the tent in the first place? Why didn’t they take a moment to put on more clothes before venturing into subzero temperatures? They are often described as fleeing in terror, but the footprints they left behind show an orderly descent down the mountain, not a chaotic flight. But there is one image that simply blows my mind, that makes me wonder just what in the world was going on.

I have linked to that image below. I warn you, the image is quite graphic. It is a picture of Semyon Zolotaryov taken the day his body was found, many months after he died. Take a look at what is around his neck. It’s a camera. A camera! Why in the world does he have it? Adding to the mystery, he was found with a pen in one hand and a notebook in the other. But unfortunately, he hadn’t written anything.

Here’s the photo.

I just can’t get past it. Whatever you think happened here–whether it was an avalanche (unlikely), the fear of an avalanche (more likely), escaped prisoners, Mansi warriors, or KGB assassins, if something happened that would scare 9 experienced hikers into abandoning the safety of their tent and rushing out into the cold, why would you leave warm clothes behind but grab a camera?

I don’t know that we will ever have the answer to what happened on that mountain, but I’m convinced the key lies with Zolotaryov’s camera. The film inside was badly damaged. The pictures recovered from the camera can be viewed at the bottom of this page.

Maybe there was something in the sky that night, something Zolotaryov was trying to capture on film. Maybe what ever that was, a missile, a plane, or something more extraordinary, that was the thing that made the campers leave their tent and rush to their death.

So what do you think? What’s your theory? What happened on that mountain side all those years ago? Let me know in the comments.

*It probably actually means Dead Mountain, as in, a mountain on which nothing grows. But that’s not creepy enough.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

31 Days of Halloween (2019): My Horror Fan Theories

Horror rarely plays it straight. Few genres lend themselves to allegory, to hidden meanings, to twists than horror. But sometimes, hidden meanings are unintentional, and if we are so inclined, we can see our favorite stories in a new way entirely. Consider the following.

The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix) is really about mold toxicity.

Netflix’s excellent The Haunting of Hill House is easily one of the best things to happen to horror in the last decade. Brilliantly acted, exquisitely shot, beautifully written, there’s little that matches it in horror on the screen today. But what if Hill House isn’t haunted at all? At least, by nothing unnatural? It’s right in front of our face.

Stuff like this kills the resale value.

Just look at the walls of the Red Room. They are covered in toxic black mold. And don’t take my word for it–removing the mold is a key plot point of episode 7.

Now here’s the thing about mold; sure it can kill you, but it can drive you crazy, too. What are some of the symptoms? Confusion, difficulty concentrating, disorientation, memory loss, mood swings, irritability, aggression, and yes, hallucinations. In other words, every single thing we see during the series. And the longer you stay in it, the worse it gets. It’s not as sexy as a house that devours souls, but still pretty terrifying if you think about it.

Nancy in A Nightmare on Elm Street has suffered a psychotic break.

I’m on record for my love of A Nightmare on Elm Street, but what if the whole thing is in Nancy’s head?

So, are they supposed to look like a couple here, or what?

A Nightmare on Elm Street leaves something to be desired when explaining what’s going on. Why is this happening now? What gives Freddy the power to enter people’s dreams? And why just Nancy’s friends? Weren’t there other people involved in Freddy’s murder?

None of this hurts the movie, and if anything, too many people feel the need these days to explain every little thing that’s going on in their movies, books, or whatnot. But it does open up some possibilities.

Given what we know, there’s really only one thing that makes sense–this is all part of Nancy’s psychotic breakdown. She’s in a padded room somewhere, experiencing a megalomaniacal fantasy, one where a boogeyman from the neighborhood–legends of which we know are whispered by little girls playing jump rope–has come back to target her and her friends. But only she can overcome him. Only she can defeat him. She is the hero of her own story.

A Head Full of Ghosts is about an actual possession.

The last couple posts have been about debunking the horror of the story, but with A Head Full of Ghosts, we have a chance to do the opposite.

It took me forever to realize this shot is sideways.

What if Marjorie really was possessed, and what if that possession passed on to Merry when she died? What if everything Merry has told us in the book, at least everything that happened after the spirit was driven from Marjorie, is a lie? After all, it gets awfully cold in that coffee shop there at the end. Could that be the demon, stealing the energy from the room, and inadvertently revealing itself?

True, I’ve pretty much rejected this supposition in the past, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t so…

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

31 Days of Halloween (2019): Masters of Short Horror

Few genres lend themselves more to the short form than horror. The novel may provide a broader canvas on which to paint a story, but the short form allows for scares that are more intense, more concentrated, and more likely to frighten. Maybe it’s that maintaining tone and atmosphere is harder over a hundred pages than over ten. Maybe it’s that familiarity breeds contempt. Better to get in and get out and not think about things too much. Whatever the case, whether it’s Blackwood or Poe or Lovecraft or even modern masters like King, the best horror often comes in bite-sized chunks.

With that in mind, below are three authors of short horror out there today that I admire. I wish I could write like these guys. (Though if you want to check out my own short fiction, pick up The Fiddle is the Devil’s Instrument.)

36530066

Ronald Malfi

I haven’t been shy about my love for Ronald Malfi. His novels are tremendous, and if you haven’t read December Park, do yourself a favor and buy it. But his short fiction is out of this world. The Mourning House is one of the best pieces of fiction I’ve ever read, long, short, or in between. Now Malfi is out with a collection that you won’t put down once you pick it up. Check out We Should Have Left Well Enough Alone.

Laird Barron

61rnaxisajl-_sx331_bo1204203200_

A rock star in the horror community–particularly with those who have a penchant for Lovecraft–Barron can be a challenge for those who are unfamiliar with his unique style.

But if you stick with it, Barron gets in your bones, and you begin to see things in a different light. Darkness creeps into your nightmares and sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s real and what is illusion. But in the end it does not matter, for the same beautiful thing awaits us all.

J.R. Hamantaschen

81kvua2tzdl

Forget that he’s named after a cookie, Hamantaschen is a master of short-form horror. Probably one of the lesser known names on this list, his You Shall Never Know Security is stunning. It’s one of the books that I still find myself thinking about on occasion, years after I last put it down. He’s second collection, With a Voice that is Often Still Confused But is Becoming Ever Louder and Clearer, was equally powerful. Now Hamantaschen is out with a new book, A Deep Horror That Was Very Nearly Awe, that is terrific. Check him out, and let me know what you think in the comments. 



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

31 Days of Halloween (2019): Horror Books…For Kids!

As I explained earlier in the month, I just had a baby. And that’s got me thinking more about horror books written specifically for children. And being a horror author, I’ve received quite a few as gifts in recent days. Here are three I recommend, particularly to anyone looking to raise a little Lovecraftian.

C is for Cthulhu by Jason Ciaramella and Greg Murphy

One of the first things you teach your children is their ABCs, but what if your kids can’t tell the difference between C and Z? Then C is for Cthulhu is for you. Written by Jason Ciaramella with beautiful illustrations by Greg Murphy, this book will be a hit in any household.

H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon for Beginning Readers by R.J. Ivankovic

“Dagon” was the first story by Lovecraft I ever read. If I’d had this book when I was a kid, it could have been the first story of any kind I ever read. Illustrated and told in a style reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, Dagon is a great way to introduce your kids to the cosmic horror of H.P. Lovecraft.

H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu for Beginning Readers by R.J. Ivankovic

Without question, the very best of these Lovecraftian kids books is Ivankovic’s treatment of “The Call of Cthulhu.” Also done in a Seussian style, Ivankovic manages to capture the original feeling of dread that pervades Lovecraft’s work–all in a sing-song rhyme and with child-friendly illustrations. A can’t miss.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

31 Days of Halloween (2019): The Abyssal Plain: The R’lyeh Cycle

You don’t have to tell me–I’ve been absent from the horror scene lately. I’m not the fastest writer in any event, but the past couple of years have really been tough. But not completely unproductive. A few years ago, the great William Holloway (the best horror writer you probably haven’t heard of) approached me about editing a shared-world anthology. He had this idea about a post-apocalyptic world in which the Old Ones were on the verge of returning. I read the description he had written and I was hooked.

The book is called The Abyssal Plain: The R’lyeh Cycle, and it is dropping in late November. I think you’ll like it.

Here’s the back cover copy. Check back periodically for updates.

They called it the Event.
 
The Event changed everything. The earthquakes came first, including the Big One, shattering the Pacific Rim and plunging the world into chaos. Then the seas came, the skies opened, and the never-ending rain began. But as bad as that was, there was something worse.
 
The Rising had begun.
 
A lone man who abandoned the world for his addictions searches a waterlogged Austin for something, anything to cling to. Little does he know that something else searches for him.  
 
In the Sonoran Desert, the downtrodden of the world search for a better life north of the border, only to see the desert become an ocean: an ocean that takes life and gives death.
 
In the woods of Alabama, survivors escape to Fort Resistance, but soon discover that it isn’t just the horrors of the deep places of the world that they need to fear; but rather a new and more deadly pestilence that has grown in their own ranks.
 
In England, it’s too late to fight, and all that’s left is to survive. One man reaches for his own humanity, but what to do when humanity is an endangered species?
 
And in the Pacific, He is rising.

In The Abyssal Plain: The R’lyeh Cycle, authors William Holloway, Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason, Brett J. Talley, and Rich Hawkins have created a timely and uniquely modern reimagining of the Cthulhu Mythos.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

31 Days of Halloween (2019): Songs about Serial Killers

Murder ballads have always been a thing. We’ve always been obsessed by the monsters that walk among us, not long in tooth and claw like the beasts in a fairy tale, but all the more terrifying. Because they are real, and they exist, and any of us could be their victims. Is it any surprise that these beasts would inspire stories? Movies? And yes, songs? Here are some of the best murder ballads about serial killers.

John Wayne Gacy by Sufjan Stevens

It’s weird to say you have a “favorite” serial killer, but Gacy is mine. It’s the clown thing, which is so insanely creepy as to defy being real.

Possum Kingdom by The Toadies

You may not know this is a song about a serial killer, but it is. Listen to the lyrics.

Black River Killer by Blitzen Trapper

A murder ballad in the old school style, Black River Killer tells quite the tale.

What’s He Building by Tom Waits

This song is not actually about a serial killer…or is it? The paranoia of the narrator is creepy enough, but maybe not as creepy as the goings on of the person he is watching.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

31 Days of Halloween (2019): The Best Scenes in Horror Movie History Part II

And now five more of the best scenes in horror. Enjoy!

Dawn of the Dead (2004) — The World Ends

One of the best remakes ever–and that’s saying a lot considering the source material–Dawn of the Dead also has one of the best scenes of any zombie film. Most zombie movies, for whatever reason, don’t show the fall. The pick up sometime later. But this movie managed to capture exactly what it might be like to wake up on the last day of civilization.

The Babadook — Dook, Dook, Dook

I loved The Babadook, and I think a big reason is this scene. It starts so innocently, and yet it gets under your skin, unnerving you, making you think you something is watching over your shoulder. And maybe it is.

Sinister — The Lawnmower Scene

Sinister is an underappreciated horror movie in my view. But I don’t know anyone who didn’t appreciate this scene. Perhaps the single greatest jump scare out there. Turn the lights down and the volume up.

Army of Darkness –Hail to the King, Baby

Most horror movies sputter to their conclusion. Not Army of Darkness. It ends with one of the single greatest scenes in all of horror history. I can quote the whole thing. Who can’t though?

A Nightmare on Elm Street — Falling Asleep in Class

This is, without a doubt, my favorite scene in all of horror. It’s perfect. Perfectly written. Perfectly acted. And it sums up everything that A Nightmare on Elm Street is about. (As an aside, Nightmare is my favorite horror movie.



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

31 Days of Halloween (2019): The Best Scenes in Horror Movie History, Part I

Today, I want to share with you some of my favorite horror movie scenes. I don’t know about you, but a good horror scene makes me positively giddy. Like, laugh out loud, smile like a madman, giddy. Am I the only one? No? Yes? Anyway, here we go. Let me know your favorites in the comments.

Oh, and P.S., in the tradition of all great horror, this post will have a sequel. Come back tomorrow for Part II, where I reveal my favorite horror scene of all time.

Suspiria — A Beautiful Death

From the finest Italian horror movie ever made comes this gem. Occurring about five minutes into the film, it sets the scene for what’s coming.

Insidious — Tiptoe Through the Tulips

This scene is everything that quiet horror should be. An ordinary day, a record player (always creepy), no reason to think anything is going to happen. But if you are watching, you’ll spy something out of place early on in the scene. I love this scene, and I get chills every time I watch it.

The Shining — Come Play With Us

This one is almost cheating, but man is it good.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night — The Record Scene

Another scene involving a record player, but very different. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is one of the most visually stunning horror films ever shot, and this scene might be its most beautiful.

Hellraiser — Demons to Some, Angels to Others

The best scene in one of the best horror movies ever made, here we meet the Cenobites in all their glory. I’ll always believe that this scene and our desire to see more, learn more, and know more about the Cenobites spawned the countless Hellraiser sequels. After all, they have such sights to show us.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

31 Days of Halloween (2019): 1st Summoning

There are few movies that have had more of a obvious impact on the horror genre than The Blair Witch Project. After its release, found footage became so prevalent as to be cliche, and there was a disco-level backlash against it in the years that followed. But it’s still around, and while big budget horror has gone back to a more traditional format, independent horror continues to rely heavily on the technique. So we come to 1st Summoning.

1st Summoning follows the Blair Witch setup all most too closely. Four amateur filmmakers strike off to a small town in the mountains of Arkansas to investigate a local legend. The story goes that an abandoned warehouse is the site of occult practices going back decades. But as they investigate, they discover that there may be more to the legend than they first believed, and that all of their immortal souls are in danger.

The Blair Witch comparisons are impossible to ignore in this movie. Whether it’s traipsing through the woods, discovering occult items that shouldn’t be there, or just filming when no one else would film, 1st Summoning hasn’t strayed far from the formula. But the movie also suffers from the comparison. The acting is not as good, and at times it’s downright bad. The sound is terrible. Often it’s impossible to make out what anyone is saying. Not that you always want to. The dialogue often feels false and forced. Whereas Blair Witch relied on spontaneous, natural dialogue to advance what was a bare-bones plot, 1st Summoning has a much more complicated story to tell. And in doing so, it overreaches.

Which is not to say that the movie has no redeeming qualities. It has some legitimately creepy moments. When one of our filmmakers investigates a church at night, the tension is real. Right up to the point where it takes it one step too far.

1st Summoning is not a bad movie if you’re looking for something to watch on a October evening. Just don’t expect too much you haven’t seen before, and seen done better.

2.5 Stars

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized