Review: Overlord

Sometimes you just want a movie that does what it does and does it well. Overlord is one of those movies.

Overlord begins the day before the invasion of Nazi Germany by the Allied Expeditionary Forces. Our heroes are members of the 101st Airborne, and they’re on a plane ready to jump behind enemy territory to prepare the ground for invasion. They must destroy a radio tower, and if they don’t, the allied air force will be unable to take control of the skies. But when the team reach their target, they find a Nazi lab bent on building super soldiers who will win the war for Germany—whatever the cost.

Overlord is tense from the word go, setting the stage for what is to come by a thrilling segment where allied planes are maneuvering through enemy flack so thick you can’t believe any of them can make it. When the team reaches the ground, the tension doesn’t let up. The SS soldiers who are running the research station—and providing unwilling test subjects from the local populace—make delightfully unambiguously evil villains. Being unambiguously evil is the only thing Nazis are good for, and the filmmakers use them to full effect.

Overlord is far from a perfect movie. If you let yourself think about it for too long—more than a couple minutes, actually—you’ll note some glaring anachronisms and some plot threads that are never tied together. Still, this is a solid horror flick, good for more than a few scares. Well worth the viewing.

4 Stars

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Review: The Meg

We’re in the midst of a horror renaissance, and in the last several years, dozens of new classics of the genre have hit theaters. With so many to pick from, I recently decided to choose…The Meg.

People love a good shark movie. Jaws is a classic. Deep Blue Sea isn’t perfect, but it has some incredible moments. And there’s always Sharknado. I-V. Meg won’t be joining that list.

Jonas (I wish they’d just gone full own and called him Jonah) is a rescue diver who experienced something he couldn’t explain in a deep-sea dive to save the crew of a submarine. He lost two members of his team, and for the last five years, he’s lived in self-imposed exile in Thailand, drinking Chang beer and pretty much having a good time wallowing in his own misery. He’s supposed to be washed up and tortured, but Jason Statham plays the character like he plays all his roles—tough guy with the heart of gold, quick with a one-liner and always willing to save the day. When a deep sea research team, led by his ex-wife, experiences trouble exploring a heretofore unknown part of the ocean, he rides in to save the day. This is much to the chagrin of the doctor on the research station, the same doctor who declared him unfit to dive after the last tragedy. Oh, and the doctor also happened to be on the submarine Jonas saved five years before. The coincidences are just amazing. Anyway, the research group is led by a father and daughter team, and the billionaire who finances their research. When it becomes clear that a megalodon is on the loose, they must figure out a way to stop it.

There’s a lot going on in Meg, too much. The doctor storyline plays out pretty quickly and seems unnecessary. As does the ex-wife storyline. You might expect them to get back together, but the whole notion of these two ever having been a couple in the first place is utterly implausible. Instead, Jonas is interested in the daughter of the father-daughter team. They have no chemistry, whatsoever. Meanwhile, most of the tension is generated by people doing really, really dumb things. How many times do people have to fall off the back of a boat before they stop standing on the edge of it, or, I don’t know, holding on? And man, does this movie drag on. It’s at least twenty minutes longer than it should be. At least.

Meg works best, when it works at all, as a comedy. If it embraced it fully, it would probably be at least arguably worth your time. But it doesn’t, and it’s clear the actors don’t take it all that seriously. Or at least, I hope they don’t take it seriously. Otherwise, I fear for their careers.

Here’s the thing—if you love shark movies, need to see them all, and you have absolutely nothing else to do with your time, Meg is moderately entertaining. Moderately.

2 Stars

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The Kirlian Frequency

Go watch it on Netflix. Go watch it now.

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A Head Full of Ghosts, Revisited

A reader named Stephanie sent me an email about my earlier post on A Head Full of Ghosts, and I found it so interesting I thought I’d post it and my answer here. Warning: Major Spoilers ahead. If you haven’t read the book, don’t read the question. Once you do, leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

Here’s the question.

If Marjorie has access to the poison, why didn’t she just poison the family herself? She knew Merry wouldn’t eat the tomato sauce, so she could have quietly added the poison to the sauce without involving Merry at all. Especially since one theory is Marjorie truly cared for Merry and was attempting to spare her life. I do not see much kindness in tricking Merry and thus having her live with the potential guilt and trauma. What are your thoughts?

This is an excellent question that I never really considered. It’s possible that I enjoyed the ending so much that I never thought about it. But looking back, why did Marjorie do that? There’s a couple possible answers I can think of. One is superficial, while the other fits more squarely in the narrative.

  1. It’s just an homage to We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

Ghosts is full of homages to other horror novels, none more obvious than Merry being named after Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood from We Have Always Lived in the Castle. And if it wasn’t obvious, it becomes so when Merry poisons her family, just as Merricat did in Castle. Under this theory, she doesn’t do it for any particular reason; it just made for a handy homage and shocking ending. Like I said, superficial, but certainly possible. Theory 2 is more satisfying, albeit much darker.

2. Because Marjorie is filled with hate for everyone, including Merry.

Whether Marjorie is possessed by a demon or a paranoid schizophrenic, she’s been through hell and is filled with anger and hate. Her father allowed the most traumatic time of her life to be televised for the world to see. Her mother abandoned her and let it happen. That explains why she kills them, but why put Merry in the middle of it?

Because, deep down, Merry was the person she despised the most.

Oh there was some conflict, and we see that in the confused and inconsistent way that Marjorie treats Merry. But at the end of the day, Marjorie subjected Merry to some of the worst of her psychotic episodes. And why not? Merry was normal. She wasn’t troubled. She was fine. Is it any surprise that Marjorie’s envy would get the best of her? And that it would drive her to the ultimate act of revenge? If Marjorie could never be normal and well-adjusted, if she could never be happy and untroubled, then she was going to make damn sure that neither could Merry.

And I would say she succeeded.

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When Veronica hit Netflix, it did so with quite the buzz, with some people asking if it was the scariest movie of all time. FoxNews reported that it was so scary, people were turning it off half-way through. So of course, I had to see it.

I finally got around to watching it, and you’ll be shocked to learn that it doesn’t quite live up to expectations.

Veronica begins with the police responding to a 911 call. We hear the call (or should I say we read it as the whole movie is in Spanish). Whatever the police find is horrifying, but we don’t find out immediately what that is. Instead, we are taken back in time three days. It seems our eponymous lead character has decided to hold a séance–on the day of an eclipse, no less. We learn later that she is something of an expert on the occult, although, spoiler alert!, she doesn’t actually read the instructions on how to conduct a séance, leading to a few problems down the road. Now something is hunting her, and her family.

Veronica does many things well. It’s beautifully shot—check out the scene where everyone is moving backward—and well-acted, even by the children. The practical effects are well done, and the suspense is built nicely over the course of the movie. It drags a bit in the beginning, but as the movie goes along, it gets better and better. And to top it off, it’s based on a true story.

Is Veronica the scariest movie ever? That would be a big fat no, and I can offer you some proof. The movie’s director, Paco Plaza, also directed the terrifying REC. Not only is Veronica not the scariest movie ever, it’s not even Plaza’s scariest.

But that’s no reason not to watch it. Please do, but do so with your expectations properly calibrated. And if you are going to use a Ouija board, read the instructions first, OK?

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A Different Kind of Horror: 3 Netflix Documentaries

Hello all. Apologies for the delay between posts. I’ve had a busy couple months. First the holidays and then a trip to central and eastern Europe–lots of potential stories there–along with a move can take up most of your time. I’ve also been working on the sequel to That Which Should Not Be and He Who Walks in Shadow. By all rights, that book should have been done a year ago, but I ran into a bit of a wall that I only really broke through in Bratislava. So yay to Slovakia, right?

Anyway, if you know me at all you know that I’m a sucker for documentaries. Good thing we are in a bit of a documentary golden age, with Netflix leading the way. Out now are three documentaries, all horrific in their own way, that I want you to go check out. The first is

Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes

Ted Bundy is the all-American psychopath. Suave, intelligent, and yes, some would say attractive, Bundy set the stereotype for the murdering psychotic who feels no remorse and no emotion. Just as disturbed as Dahmer or Gacy, Bundy hid that madness behind a telegenic, engaging personality that made him all the more dangerous. In this documentary, Netflix tells the story of Bundy’s multi-state murder spree with an assist from Bundy himself. Historic footage is overlaid with Bundy’s voice, narrating the story as it goes along. There may be times you even start to buy some of Bundy’s BS. But then you see his eyes, those awful, soulless eyes. The documentary also serves as a strong argument for the death penalty, at least in extreme circumstances like these, and demonstrates that defense attorneys truly believe that no one should be found guilty of anything.

Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened

Now for something completely different though perhaps equally insane, albeit with no body count (by the grace of God). Fyre tells the story of the infamous Fyre Festival, that absolute disaster of a music festival that unfolded in the Bahamas in the spring of 2017. More than anything, the Fyre documentary encompasses the notion of magical thinking, the idea that things will just work out, somehow, and everything will be fine, even without a plan or any conceivable path to success. The film interviews many of the people involved behind the scenes of the disaster, and everyone of them says, at least once, that they just kept doing what they were doing and hoped it would be OK. Why would it work out? Well it’s a mystery. The only guy who seemed interested in solving problems was the random pilot who got fired for suggesting they would need a lot of toilets. Another thing that struck me is how everyone in film kept referring to a mysterious “they” or “them” that were responsible for everything going wrong at the festival. Obviously Billy McFarland deserves much of the blame, but so do the people on our screens, people who consistently enabled him for the same reason he kept the fraud going–money.

Murder Mountain

Murder Mountain is a documentary that enlightened me to something I had no idea existed–Humboldt County, California, a county in rebellion against all forms of government where apparently a large portion of the nation’s marijuana is grown. Alongside do-gooder hippies are the more ruthless and cutthroat growers, those who stay on the black market even as legalization spreads. These hard core drug traffickers act like it, and because of their actions, the number of people missing in Humboldt County is far higher than the norm. The documentary focuses on one missing person in particular, and how the locals handled the situation when the sheriff’s office seemed uninterested. And by the way, if there’s one group of people who stumbled into the viral villain of the month category, it’s the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office. I assume that as more people see Murder Mountain, you’ll be hearing a lot more about them as well.

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Review: The Rib From Which I Remake the World

I bought this book because of the title. Period. Covers are great, and I’ve made more than one purchase based on them, but what I really love is a good title. True, it’s not the most scientific way to choose what you are going to read, but I find it about as effective as reading reviews. And usually it works out. But sadly, this time I was disappointed. 

The Rib From Which I Remake the World has an interesting premise competently executed. First, the synopsis. 

In a small, rural Arkansas town in the midst of World War II, hotel house detective George “Jojo” Walker wearily maintains the status quo in the wake of personal devastation. That status quo is disrupted when a hygiene picture roadshow rolls into town with a controversial program on display and curious motives in mind. What begins with a gruesome and impossible murder soon spirals into hallucinatory waking nightmares for Jojo—nightmares that converge with his reality and dredge up his painful, secret past. Black magic and a terrifying Luciferian carnival boil up to a surreal finale for the town of Litchfield, when truth itself unfurls and Jojo Walker is forced to face his own identity in ways he could never have expected.

Sound interesting, right? And it is. The small town has everything one would expect a small town to have in the 40s. A soda shop, a movie palace, an over-zealous church body. It’s sufficiently Arkansas, with the latent racism and the overwhelming heat. The heat is particularly well done. You can feel it as if you were there. 

And those are all good things. But something’s missing, and I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. I didn’t really enjoy this book. Oh, I finished it, without trouble or complaint. I was moderately interested to find out what was going to happen. So why didn’t it come together? I don’t know. I can’t really say. 

It’s as if the book just never got its feet underneath it. Some of that was poor editing. I’m not talking typos; I don’t care about those. But there’s a strange part in the middle of the book where the two main characters have the same plot developing conversations–complete with repeated surprise at certain revelations–in two successive sections. It’s so bizarre and off-putting that I considered it possible that it was just part of the book, another symptom of the weirdness of the situation. But I don’t think so. It’s also strange that a major plot point–one of the characters breaking her ankle–is essentially forgotten as soon as it become convenient to do so. At one point, she is laying in a ditch unable to move. At another, she is running down the street. 

I really don’t know what to say about Rib. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. At the end of the day, I can’t recommend it, but I won’t tell you to steer clear.

I know–this review is pretty much worthless. At the end of the day, you’ll just have to decide whether the title is worth giving it a shot. 

3 Stars

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Free Music Friday: Right Now by HAIM

Bringing back one of my favorite things about the site–Free Music Friday. For this week,  enjoy “Right Now” by HAIM. I love in-studio videos, and this is one of the best. Wait for the drums at the end. Fantastic.

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Halloween (2018) and More Thoughts on Sabrina

I had the opportunity to catch the latest Halloween movie and I have to say it lived up to the hype. The decision to set the film immediately after the first was, in my estimation, a brilliant one.


It’s interesting to think about that decision and what it means for fans of the series. It’s as if Halloween occupies multiple worlds in some multiverse. In one, the series essentially ended with Halloween H20 when Laurie Strode chopped off Michael’s head. (I choose to believe that Halloween: Resurrection exists in no universe). The other drops all the baggage altogether and supposes that Michael was taken into custody at the end of the original movie and has been in an insane asylum ever since. Laurie went on with her life, of course, but was forever scared. And she has been waiting and preparing for the day that Michael comes home.

Halloween (2018), of course, isn’t Halloween. Nothing could be. Halloween broke barriers and broke the mold. I can only imagine what seeing it in theaters must have been like, just as I can only imagine what it must have been like to see Star Wars for the first time. But this is a triumph. Watch it, and watch for all the call backs and hat tips spread throughout. It’s a joy.


I finally got around to watching the third episode of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. It was better, but still below the potential of the show. The show is just so trite, so contrived. For a show where the hero is a member of the devil’s own personal coven, you’d think things would be less black and white. And yet, ever character is a caricature, every plot outside of the main one utterly conventional.

For example, Harvey, Sabrina’s boyfriend, has a father who wants him to follow him into the mines and give up his silly dream of being an artist, and of course he expresses this view in the harshest way possible. He’s presented as a tyrant, true to stereotype. Then there’s the c-plot involving the close-minded, ultra-conservative, anti-woman principal’s decision to ban certain books from the library. Our heroes manage to get the school board to reconsider this decision, but it will take three months. Then we find out one of the characters, the one that most wants to read the books, has ocular degeneration and will be rendered blind…in three months.

Of course.

Episode Three was good enough for me to continue on into the show, but I’m concerned that the fundamental laziness at the heart of the series won’t go away anytime soon. And that’s a shame and an opportunity wasted. It could have been so much better.

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Bits and Pieces

October is over. The long, cold winter has begun. It’s always a sad time for me, leaving the Halloween season behind. And lately that has essentially meant the shuttering of this website. I enjoy 31 Days of Halloween quite a bit, but doing 31 blog posts in 31 days is no easy feat. For a lot of blogs, that approaches a year’s production all by itself. This year, I’m going to try to be better. We’ll see. For now, some short thoughts.

mv5botqymdywndmyov5bml5banbnxkftztgwmjm4ntiznjm-_v1_I started watching the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix recently. I’m only a couple episodes in but I gotta say, so far I’m disappointed. The characters are either unlikable or so poorly developed that they are little more than cardboard cutouts. There’s no real narrative flow at all, and the division between the mortal world and the witching world is jarring. Harvey is awful, just awful, as are the rest of Sabrina’s mortal friends. The main story line in the mortal world to this point is so trite, so cliche as to be eye-rollingly bad. Far more compelling is what’s going on in the witching world, but we keep getting yanked out of that in favor of whatever is going on at the local high school.

Fortunately, there is hope things will get better. The show is from the creators of the CW’s Riverdale, a shockingly good teenage drama with more than a little bit of a horrific undercurrent. Seriously, Riverdale must be the foggiest city in America. And there is a rich vein of horror to mine in Sabrina. That’s part of the problem, as the creators have attempted to ram too much information and plot into the first few episodes.

It’s probably a little unfair of me to criticize the show so early on, and I am reserving judgment. But things need to improve, and fast, or Sabrina will be a massive disappointment.

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Happy Halloween!

The day is here, the day we’ve all been waiting for. I wish you and the ones you love a Happy Halloween. Have fun, but beware the shadows!

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31 Days of Halloween (2018): Best First Scenes in Horror

Happy All Hallows Eve Eve!

We’ve talked about how the first line of novel can set the stage for everything that follows. The same is true of the first scene of a movie. Below are some of my favorites. Sometimes, the first scene is the best part of the movie. That includes our first entry, Ghost Ship.

Ghost Ship

Ghost Ship is an entirely forgettable movie with a cool premise and an awesome first scene. Watch it below. Skip the rest.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

A scene that announced to the world that this was a different kind of horror movie. It has stood the test of time.

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Technically this is the second scene, and it’s a shame, too. I’d like to include the first 10 minutes or so along with this scene, as the juxtaposition between everyday work and everyday family life and what is about to happen is stunning.


Scream is a horror classic, reinvigorating a slasher genre that had grown stale. Its best scene is probably its first, and even if you haven’t seen the movie, you probably recognize the iconic opening.

It Follows

Sometimes it is the not knowing what in the world is going on that makes an opening scene so powerful. That’s what we have here in the wonderful beginning to It Follows.


Not much happens in this first scene from the classic Suspiria, and the death scene that follows I discussed earlier in my best scenes in horror. But the way this scene sets the stage for all that is to follow. The wind, the storm, and that score. Man.


You can’t talk iconic opening scenes without mentioning this one. It requires no introduction.

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31 Days of Halloween (2018): 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.


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.


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.


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31 Days of Halloween (2018): The Haunting of Hill House

Today’s post is a simple one. It is an admonition. If you haven’t seen The Haunting of Hill House, go watch it. Right now. Put down the computer or the cell phone–unless that’s how you watch Netflix–and go. Then come back and talk to me.


You’ve certainly heard of The Haunting of Hill House. It is a phenomenon, and I anticipate it will only get bigger. And as is always the case with anything good that happens to the horror community (see every horror blockbuster slandered as “not really horror”), some people are badmouthing it. It’s not enough like the book (and?). It’s not scary enough (really?). There’s too much icky character development (sigh). Do me a favor.

Ignore the noise.

Yes, The Haunting of Hill House is not a straight interpretation of the excellent novel. Instead, it takes its inspiration from the book, faithfully creating a story that is true to both the spirit and the letter of Jackson’s work. In fact, one could imagine this story happening either before or after the events of the novel.

But honestly, who cares? At the end of the day, The Haunting of Hill House is another highlight in this golden age of horror, and a scary one at that. Do yourself a favor. Don’t miss it

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31 Days of Horror (2018): The Dyatlov Pass Incident

Today let’s do something different. Today, let’s talk about some real life horror.

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.


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.


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