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Creature Features in Review: Gremlins (1984)

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There are only three rules.

Any time a character is told something like that in the movie, it’s pretty much always a recipe for disaster. It’s right up there along with, here take this ancient book but don’t ever read anything out of it. It’s pretty much a guarantee that no matter what, something is going to go wrong and it’s going to be because somebody didn’t follow the rules.

This isn’t exactly a new narrative device. We are all pretty familiar with it, but I identify one movie as being the original, the best and shining example of this type of story.  Continue Reading

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Creature Features in Review: Day of the Animals (1977)

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The Seventies were packed to the brim with animal attack movies. Name your critter. Snakes, bears, earthworms; all creatures, great and small, had their own chance at cinematic revenge against the human race for mucking up the environment. Film lovers had a tendency to root for the animals, which was justified. We were destroying the planet with Aqua Net fumes and pollution. We were killing ourselves, never mind the woodland creatures around us. Hell, the Cuyahoga River caught fire and the response from those responsible was a resounding, “Well, that’s weird.” The eco-horror genre was always meant to hammer out a warning about the dangers of botching the biosphere. However, using just one kind of animal wasn’t hitting a wide enough audience. If you lived in a high-rise, then you weren’t going to be too worried about chemically imbalanced grizzly bears mauling you on the eightieth floor on your way home after work.  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: Trollhunter (2010)

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Like the slasher sub-genre of the late 70s and early 1980s, the found footage style was a formula that required little expenditure for vast returns. 1999’s The Blair Witch brought the fledgling sub-genre to the attention of the mainstream, and importantly, to film producers.  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: Spring (2014)

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What is the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime love worth? Is it worth the embrace of a monster, or death? SPRING is not just any monster movie, no typical vampires or werewolves here. What remains is the inescapable drive for connection that goes beyond emotional need.

SPRING, directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Morehead and written by Benson, is the story of Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci,) a young man who has just lost his mother and his job. His life has been on hold, taking care of his dying mother and his father who has also passed. He is an adult orphan, alone in the world with no direction. He makes an impulsive decision to head to Italy, a trip he and his father always talked about. He arrives with no clear idea of what he is looking to find.  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: Swamp Thing (1982)

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Swamp Thing

Starring:  Ray Wise; Adrienne Barbeau;

Louis Jordan; Dick Durock

Written and Directed by Wes Craven

One of the great joys of being a cinephile is that moment when an entertaining film quietly emerges as a great one.  In Wes Craven’s 1982 cinematic adaptation of the classic DC comic Swamp Thing,  that moment occurs about a half an hour into the proceedings.  More on that in a moment.  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

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The Blob, but with clowns. That will get you close to understanding what this film has in store if you haven’t seen it yet, but it doesn’t quite cover it. In fact, despite the Chiodo brothers’ stated intent to pay homage to The Blob, as well as the 50s alien invasion film in general, chalking it up to a simple homage would be a disservice. Killer Klowns from Outer Space is such a great movie in so many ways, but one of its most important features is its originality.  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: Castle Freak (1995)

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Today’s offering borderlines what we’d define as a “creature feature.” The monster isn’t some radiated beast nor is it (he) cosmic or multidimensional. Castle Freak is without a shadow of a doubt human. Not subhuman nor extraordinary. He’s not unkillable (such as Jason or Freddy) or super strong. But I wouldn’t categorize Castle Freak as a slasher or serial killer or mass murderer either. In fact, when researching some info on Castle Freak I was shocked to find that it was labeled as a mystery slasher film. I think perhaps that’s because the people doing the “labeling” didn’t understand what it was they were looking at. The “monster” in Castle Freak isn’t out for revenge or to score a high kill count, in fact, there’s not a heck of a lot of death in this movie, not if it were indeed a slasher flick. No. Castle Freak isn’t a slasher, its a creature feature, and I’ll tell you why…  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: Species (1995)

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We’re back with a brand new review for our soon to be concluded “In Review” series, Creature Features. We put the monsters on hold last month for Fright Fest as the zombie horde took center stage. But as the saying goes, the show must go on. And what an odd 90s movie to begin our trek. Species as I an recall was among those last great VHS rentals at Blockbuster. I remember really liking it back then because of…well…the nudity. Seriously, come on, its a super hot alien hybrid looking for a man to mate with. Of course, this was teenager me thinking about few things other than boobs. As a great disappointment (I’m sure) few things have changed. Still…as an adult now enjoying the boobs is honestly highly important, but perhaps there’s something else going on behind the film. We all know what hormones does to a teenage boy, but what about the ladies? Species makes me wonder, the way it was written, is it perhaps allegory for femininity gone wild?  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)

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Francine Parker: They’re still here. 
Stephen: They’re after us. They know we’re still in here. 
Peter: They’re after the place. They don’t know why; they just remember. Remember that they want to be in here. 
Francine Parker: What the hell are they? 
Peter: They’re us, that’s all, when there’s no more room in hell. 
Stephen: What? 
Peter: Something my granddad used to tell us. You know Macumba? Vodou. My granddad was a priest in Trinidad. He used to tell us, “When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth.” 

Dawn of the Dead is among many things a very quotable movie. The scene above is probably everyone’s favorite, and for some there are more selective scenes to nibble on. Scientists arguing on what remains of the news broadcast. The SWAT incursion of the Philadelphia apartment building. The refueling scene, the dock scene, the shopping montage. The raiders and ensuing firefight. There are plenty. And if you were to ask me, I can’t really say if I personally have an all-time favorite scene, I mean let’s be honest here, there are so many to choose from. From the very beginning, Dawn of the Dead lures you in and keeps your attention rooted into the story. The pacing couldn’t be more perfect.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Burial Ground, The Nights of Terror (1981)

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Zombie fans come from every walk of life and every zombie fan has their own tastes when it comes to zombie movies. In fact, you could say that there are even sub-genres within the sub-genre of flesh eaters. Just this month alone during this year’s Fright Fest we have seen a wide variety of zombie flicks (saving the best for last, which will be tomorrows review). The only sub-genre within the sub-genre we did not allow into the mix were voodoo curses and “anger” viruses, like 28 Days Later which is not technically a “zombie” movie at all, just like The Crazies were not zombies, they’re “mad, insane, and otherwise still living.” Feeling very much like a bouncer at some classy (or not so classy actually) nightclub, we’ve allowed in a certain clientele. “Are you dead and are you eating the flesh of the living? Yes. Okay. You’re cool, come on in.” That’s right folks, we’ve got standards at this joint.

Be that as it may, even folks who consider themselves “fans” of flesh eating walking corpses are not necessarily all that well versed when it comes to the cabinet of zombie movies. Nowadays I’d say that’s a fair statement given the popularity of The Walking Dead and Z-Nation (not sure if that’s still popular, but I tossed it up anyway). There are some zombie fans who watch TWD and that’s about all she wrote. And there are others who delve into the Romero films, such as Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, and I shall’t not name that dreadfully last one made. And some Romero fans haven’t even seen all the named and unnamed movies. And then there are the truly indoctrinated flesh eating fan, those who’ve peered into the depths of foreign film and came back to tell the tale. You think only the Americans have zombies in the bag, well…you are sadly mistaken. As Winston Zeddmore so aptly put it, “I have seen shit that’ll turn you white!”  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Land of the Dead (2005)

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In 2005, my interest in the undead had officially been reclassified as ‘Mildly Addicted’, due in no small part to the Romero trinity of Night, Dawn and Day. By now I had branched out, and was working my way through any zombie film I could get my distended claws into. Then the news broke that Romero was making a new zombie film, Land of the Dead. To say I was a little excited would be an understatement. I remember watching it at the time and whilst I enjoyed it, it was not a patch on the originals, or most of the films I had been watching during that period.

So, looking at it objectively now and giving it another (overdue) viewing, has my opinion changed? Well…get comfortable, and I’ll begin.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: [REC] (2007)

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[REC] (2007)

Directors: Jaume BalagueróPaco Plaza

Writers: Jaume Balagueró (screenplay), Luiso Berdejo

Release Date: 23 November 2007 (Spain)

Since its release back in 2007, REC has since become something of a modern horror classic, and is no doubt destined to be in the pantheon of greats in the many years to come. Like it’s found footage forebear The Blair Witch Project it elevates its limitations to enormous strengths – creating a building and palpable tension throughout that will have you creeping closer, and closer to the edge of your seat as it reaches its horrifying conclusion.

Co-written and directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, REC presents itself as ‘real’ footage recorded when a local TV reporter Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman Pablo (Pablo Rosso) cover a fire crew about their day-to-day lives, and join them when they respond to a vague emergency call about an elderly lady in a local apartment building.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Train to Busan (2016)

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Let me start off by saying that the film cover for “Train to Busan” is so eye-catching that it made me want to watch it, even if it is a zombie movie. I wanted it NOT to be a zombie movie, because frankly, I hate zombie movies. I love trains though, and couple that with a thriller or horror movie, you’ve enticed me right there. I was happy to sign up for another year of this October Fright Fest and review a film, but silly me, I thought it would be something classic. I freaked out after I signed up, when Thomas, the host, said the theme was zombies. CRAP! What kind of zombie movie am I going to be able to watch? The only one I had seen before was “World War Z,” which wasn’t bad, but it may have been the eye candy.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Invisible Invaders (1959)

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From another planet comes the Invisible Invaders!

How can you stop what you don’t see?

The dead will destroy all the living!

The living dead threaten all life on earth!

I know, Invisible Invaders? you say. Aliens, you must be joking. Certainly, Tommy, anything Romero-esque would be post 1968 and here you have a review for Fright Fest: Zombies with a film released back in 1959. What gives? Well, I’ll tell you. Yes, the rules still apply, though truth be told this one does kinda skirt the line a bit. The reason I wanted to include Invisible Invaders is due to the ambiance of the film and how obscure it has become in recent years despite its obviously forgotten importance to the history of zombie lore. As per the “rules” and as per the formula of Romero films, the zombies or ghouls or walking dead are not living persons controlled through magic or voodoo, though I do enjoy that variation, it doesn’t quite fit within the spectrum of Romeroism. The rule is simple enough, a person dies, they get up and attack the living, that living person dies and they get up and attack the living, etc. etc.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004)

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I love horror movies. I love zombie movies. But more specifically, I love one very specific part.

I love the beginnings of zombie movies.

I love the inherent sense of dread at what we all know is coming. If the sequencing is done right, it’s a thrill to watch, with a few disparate, seemingly unconnected events and soon enough, it’s all going to shit. It’s quick. It’s brutal. It’s total. And best of all, you are never told why it is happening.

Zombies have often been painted as a metaphorical criticism of our own over-consumerism but I think it also functions as a demonstration of our own existential shelf life. That at any given moment, anything can turn on us and bring about a cruel and uncaring demise. The frailty of our own condition is really highlighted in the terrifying opening moments of any great zombie film.
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Fright Fest: Zombieland (2009)

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Zombieland: The Best Zombie Movie

Yep, you read that right—it is my assertion that Zombieland represents the best the genre has to offer. And yes, I will present proof of my claims. But first, the synopsis.

When we meet our intrepid main character, Columbus (survivors go by place names rather than their actual names), we’re post zombie apocalypse. Columbus devises a list of rules to remain un-undead, which becomes a running joke throughout the movie (i.e. Rule # 31: Check the back seat; and my favorite, Rule # 17: Don’t be a hero—which changes into “Be a hero” by the third act. But I digress.). He meets up with another survivor, Tallahassee, who is on a quest for Twinkies (priorities, man).  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Diary of the Dead (2008)

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Where will you be when the world ends? When it comes to apocalyptic movies, the beginning has always been my favorite part. Sure, its fun to see the aftermath, what the world looks like when the dust settles, but what I find absolutely intriguing is what happens in those defining moments when normalcy if flipped on its head. This is a huge reason why I’ve always enjoyed George A. Romero’s films. Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead (arguably) are about how the world ends in the moment. Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead are films about how people are doing after-the-fact. Good movies, but they’re missing that special punch. The defining factor which begs the question: What will you do when the world ends?  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Dead & Buried (1981)

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The Art of Death in Dead and Buried

What if someone’s arrogance took the act of dying to the extreme for artistic purposes? This is the cornerstone of Gary Sherman’s Dead and Buried, written by the team of Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett (though apparently O’Bannon’s writing efforts had been edited out) based upon the Chelsea Quinn Yarbro novel.

The story takes place in mythical Potters Bluff, Rhode Island – one of those out-of-the-way seaside communities where everything appears to be quaint, but what happens at night or behind closed doors is a different kind “The Twilight Zone” story. Daniel Gillis (James Forentino) happens to be the local sheriff investigating bizarre murders that seemingly spring out of nowhere, and William G. Dobbs (Jack Albertson), the town’s old-time undertaker who can’t even speak until a Big Band tune ends, helps in providing clues left behind by the bodies of the recently departed. But Sheriff Gillis is having a hard time navigating the evidence that may prove the involvement of his neighbors as well as his wife, Janet (Melody Anderson).  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: City of the Living Dead (1980)

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Don’t you hate it when a zombie pulls your brain out the back of your head and squishes it between his fingers like Gak? Are you curious what that would look like? Give the first installment of Lucio Fulci’s Gates of Hell trilogy, City of the Living Dead, about sixty minutes of your time, and you can see for yourself.

The film opens with a séance, during which a psychic, Mary, envisions the suicide of a priest and the subsequent rise of the dead. She gets fairly riled, foams at the mouth, and dies. Only she’s not dead and is almost buried alive but for the intervention of a dashing reporter, Peter, who nearly brains her with a pickaxe in the process of removing her from the casket. It turns out that by committing suicide, the priest of her vision has opened a gateway to Hell in a town called Dunwich. Mary and Peter team up to find the town and close the gate before All Saints Day, when the dead will rise.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974)

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Which is better: walking zombies or running zombies? What about the 28 Units of Time series? Do you consider the monsters to be zombies or ragers? These are the two biggest arguments among horror folk about zombie flicks, but I would like to introduce another, for I am a rabble-rouser.

While George Romero invented the modern zombie film in 1968, he also reduced the genre down into a formula ten years later with Dawn of the Dead. The suburban apocalypse, leaving small pockets of survivors, some of whom retain their basic humanity while others revert to savagery and animalistic behaviors. Meanwhile, the rank and file of the undead grows with each passing moment, spreading through cities and towns. In one case, Lucio Fulci’s Zombi, the dead are seen walking over the Brooklyn Bridge, an obscene rag-tag army staggering their way through the five boroughs.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Nightmare City (1980)

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Nightmare City

Director: Umberto Lenzi

Also Known As: City of the Walking Dead

Runtime: 

Are you bored of zombies yet? I am. I am thoroughly fed up of them. Sick to death. If a zombie horde wanted to kill us, they could just wander around and re-enact parts of 90% of the zombie films released in the last 10 years. We’d die of brain fatigue, being forced to watch the same troupes re-trod time and time and time again. I’m not saying all new zombie material is terrible, it’s just that the sub-genre is so flooded it’s harder to find.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972)

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[ SPOIL-O-RAMA, GUYS—DON’T CRY ABOUT IT—HAVE FUN WITH IT… ]

I’d been meaning to check these films out on my own for a while and had a set in my amazon wishlist waiting and ready when I saw this title in the list of choices of films to review. I called dibs and went immediately to amazon to grab this. So, just so I’m clear on what I’m working with, the set I now have is the Blue Underground set of all four Blind Dead films (and that Ghost Galleon that popped off its holder in transit better be watchable when I get to it…) and there is a decent amount of conflicting information (hence, the 1971/2 up top). This film is generally referred to as Tombs of the Blind Dead, but the disc in this set has two versions of the film—the first one I watched, La Noche Del Terror Ciego (The Night of the Blind Terror) is the original Spanish/Portuguese production title and cut; and The Blind Dead. Nowhere in the actual video material does it say the title I’ve always heard this film given, other than the box. Also, on the box it says it came out in 1971, but most other places say 1972.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Day of the Dead (1985)

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Day of the Dead is the third installment of the ‘Dead’ series from the late, great George A. Romero, and the final movie in what many consider the ‘original Dead trilogy’. It is, in every way, a masterpiece.

As the second sequel to Night of the Living Dead and part of a series, it is the perfect final third act. As a standalone horror movie, it is fantastic. As a zombie movie, it is divine. The special effects alone set this movie apart from most others, rivaled only by those in John Carpenter’s The Thing and Ridley Scott’s Alien (and okay, maybe also Tremors, directed by Ron Underwood).  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Night of the Living Dead (1990)

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What? Were you expecting a Friday the 13th Jason Voorhees review? Keeping with tradition, with Part 3 playing in the background, I’ll do my best and not yarn too much over the movie I give credit as starting my entire fascination with not just horror, but zombies too. No, not Friday the 13th Part 3, come on people, stick with the program. I’m talking Night of the Living Dead. Imagine, if you will, that you’re a twelve year old boy and you have a big sister who by all accounts ought to be hanging out with her much more mature friends but instead decides to watch movies with you. That was me. And while not every Friday (because my sister did have a life), but on most Friday nights we would have a Friday Movie Night. I’m talking pizza, popcorn, soda, candy, and whatever other junk we decided to indulge ourselves with. We’d order Pizza Hut and drive down to the local video store (Blockbuster) and rent whatever we wanted. While I cannot recall every movie night, I certainly recall the night my sister rented Night of the Living DeadContinue Reading

Fright Fest: Shock Waves (1977)

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Shock Waves (1977)

[85 minutes. PG. Director: Ken Wiederhorn]

(It’s 40 years old, but I’ll give a SPOILER WARNING anyway)

There are literal and figurative streams of consciousness at work in Shock Waves, Ken Wiederhorn’s most well-remembered film.

It’s not a great film – at least not as great as my childhood mind remembers – but makeup designer Alan Ormsby’s suggestion on the Blu-ray commentary track, that the film is possessed of a “dreamlike quality” is not inaccurate. And that’s arguably where it acquires its power.

It’s a film that takes place primarily on water, with the midsection set in an abandoned hotel on a desert island.

There are scenes where characters paddle toward escape – through narrow, knotted thickets; through shallow ocean waters on the way out to sea – and don’t say much. They don’t need to, really – they know their situation is inexplicable and absurd, so what’s the sense in fevered rationalizations? By the end, the lone survivor of the ordeal, Rose (Brooke Adams) has been rendered catatonic by what she’s seen, reduced to writing gibberish in a journal.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Night of the Comet (1984)

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I’ve often written or talked about the first ever zombie film I saw, the eponymous Dawn of the Dead, by the legend that was, George A. Romero. The second was Return of the Living Dead II, the line, “His brains, they smell so spicy,” still sticks firmly in my head. The third, though unknown to me at the time, would probably have as big an impact as the first. It was Night of the Comet.

The film is basically a 50s/60s B-Movie, made in the eighties. It has a cheesy voice-over at the beginning which would not be out of place in Invasion of the Bodysnatchers or War of the Worlds. The setup is remarkably similar to Day of the Triffids. A once in a lifetime meteor shower promises an amazing light display, so the entire world and their dog hold street parties to have a few beers and take in the sights. Unfortunately, thanks to the heavy handed introduction, we learn that this very comet also made an appearance just as the dinosaurs disappeared.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: DEAD SNOW (2009)

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The first time I saw the trailer for Dead Snow, I knew I wanted to watch the movie. It looked fun, exciting, and familiar. When I finally watched the movie, I wasn’t disappointed. By the end, I was giddy. Dead Snow had all the horror elements in it that I enjoy: carnage, blood and guts, and a super cool villain. As an added bonus, it also had humor.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Fido (2006)

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What’s Wrong, Boy? Is Timmy Being Eaten Alive?

What if Lassie hadn’t been man’s best friend but instead, a flesh eating zombie? In this post zombie apocalyptic world, director Andrew Currie, re-imagines not zombies, but society’s place for them. “Fido” tells a campy tale about a family needing to fit into suburban life in an over-the-top 1950’s satire.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Zombi (1979)

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George Romero is the father of the zombie movie, but Fulci’s ZOMBI takes the monster to it’s most gruesome level. ZOMBI is glorious with scene after scene of rotting, putrid flesh being ripped off, and pumping blood geysers. And, of course, there’s the shark vs. zombie scene. This film is all about imagery.

ZOMBI  is also known as ZOMBI 2, without Fulci’s consent. It was called that not because it’s a sequel, but to cash in on Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD, released a year earlier. The closing scenes filmed in New York, with the radio voice over, were added because of the earlier film. It was originally released with an X rating, and later labeled “a video nasty” in 1984 by the Video Recording Act.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: The Video Dead (1987)

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The Video Dead

Director/writer: Robert Scott

1 Hr 30 mins.

Release Date: November 1987

An unlabeled crate from an unknown source is delivered to a house in the woods. The homeowner unwisely accepts the delivery, only to discover it contains a TV set that starts spewing giggling zombies all over the place. When a new family moves into the now-abandoned house, the son discovers the haunted television and is soon told what he needs to do to send the zombies back where they belong. Knowing and doing, however, are two very different things, and the zombies are not likely to go quietly. 

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Fright Fest: PLANET TERROR (2007)

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One of the best things about the Zompoc sub-genre is how widely diverse it is. You can go old school with some classic black and white voodoo hexes, such as White Zombie, I Walked with a Zombie, or The Plague of the Zombies, to name a few. There are the comedies, such as Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland or Return of the Living Dead. And there are the more serious minded zombie movies such as the works of the late great George A. Romero and all those wonderfully directed Italian zombie flicks (a good number of which will be reviewed during this year’s Fright Fest). But then you’ve got those Zompocs that are a bit harder to classify. Take for instance today’s morsel, PLANET TERROR. Upon my first screening it was hard to understand where this movie was coming from and where it was taking me. I mean, was it satire? Not completely. Was it serious? Not entirely. Was it expressionist, like those gritty foreign-made horror flicks? Not absolutely. Well, for crying out loud, what precisely is PLANET TERROR?  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Dead Alive/Brain Dead (1992)

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The most brutal lawn mower ever filmed: Deal Alive.

When I was a child I watched the original Night of the Living Dead one Fourth of July and totally regretted it. We parked out in the desert to watch the fireworks show taking place over at a local high school, something I usually enjoyed, but I couldn’t help but cower in fear wondering if a pack of flesh eating zombies were going to come eat my entire family. For years after that I shied away from watching zombie flicks because they scared the shit out of me. When I became a teenager I decided to stop being a wussy and began educating myself in the world of the walking dead.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Return of the Living Dead (1985)

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Return of the Living Dead

by D. S. Ullery

Released August 16,1985.

Screenplay by Dan O’Bannon

Story by John Russo, Rudy Ricci and Russell Streine.

Directed by Dan O’Bannon

Starring Clu Gulager; Thom Matthews; James Karen; Don Calfa

There’s a moment about midway through Return of the Living Dead wherein several humans (who are  trapped inside of a funeral parlor as waves of zombies run rampant outside)  tie the writhing half-corpse of a long dead woman to an embalming table.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

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Though zombie is never said in Night of the Living Dead, this 1968 horror film set the standard for all following zombie films: radiation raises the ghouls (as they’re called in the film) to life (though, as of this film, radiation as a cause is only speculation), they move in a slow, plodding manner, they eat the flesh of the living, and the people they kill turn into zombies.

What makes George A. Romero’s Dead films so important, though, isn’t the thrills and chills they provide, as generous as that providing assuredly is. It’s the social and political commentary, hidden beneath the piles of corpses, that distinguishes him from his imitators. The following is my interpretation of that commentary, a theme of mindless, pitiless killing, and a killing not limited to what the zombies commit, by the way.  Continue Reading

Interviews In The Machine : Amy Cross

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I love discovering new authors. In this craft that I have devoted so much of my life to, it is a thrill to find artists out there who are like-minded and to see their approach and their process. My introduction to the work of Amy Cross came via her book, The Farm. I was immediately attracted to the great cover and as it was posted as free at the time, I had no reason not to try it. And when I finally got around to checking it out, I was instantly impressed at the quality of her prose. The story was intriguing and paced perfectly. The characters were sympathetic and dynamic and the book had just the right balance of atmosphere and elements that were more extreme.  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: Gremlins 2 (1990)

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This essay contains spoilers for, and assumes prior knowledge of, Gremlins and Gremlins 2. If you don’t want to be spoiled, go watch the films first. So, I’ve written about Gremlins < http://gingernutsofhorror.com/my-life-in-horror/someday-you-may-be-ready > elsewhere. It’s one of the most popular things I’ve ever written online, at least in terms of number of views, which is both gratifying and mystifying. And I feel like I should start by stating the obvious – it doesn’t need a sequel. There’s nothing significant left hanging in terms of plot or character resolution that needed another movie to explore. The movie is, in Aristotelian terms, a complete action. The most you can say in defense of any proposed sequel is that the first movie leaves the door open, what with Gizmo still being alive at the end, but that’s a long way from having a sequel be either needed or, necessarily, desirable.  Continue Reading

IT (2017) – A Review

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I’m going to start with my immediate reaction to the movie, literally as I walk out of the theater. This was possibly one of my favorite adaptations of a full-length Stephen King novel. Any time you are dealing with Stephen King’s style of storytelling in particular and considering the extreme length of many of his books there is often quite a bit lost in translation when it makes the full transition to the screen. But in this case, while there certainly were plenty of changes made to the story, I thought they really nailed the heart of the book and brought IT to life.  Continue Reading

Kong: Skull Island (2017) REVIEW

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Okay, seriously…have you seen the new Kong? For starters though, i’ll admit it is kinda strange taking on a creature feature review outside of the Creature Features in Review series. However, as I had the gumption to finally watch the latest of Kong movies, Kong: Skull Island, I felt compelled to write down some of my thoughts regarding said movie. There are no spoilers here, per say. Kong holds not mystery that hasn’t already been shown in the many previews and trailers that came out prior to the movie’s release. So, I don’t feel bad talking about it.  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: Dark Was The Night (2014)

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[99 minutes. Unrated. Director: Jack Heller]

It exists, has always existed, but feels increasingly harder to find these days, especially in the horror genre.

No, I’m not talking about Bigfoot or the Fouke Monster or the Wendigo.

I’m talking about something that’s harder to pin down; something that is, more often than not, maddeningly subjective. Something that comes with a storyteller’s approach to horror.

That “something” is sincerityContinue Reading

It (2017): SPOILERS

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WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.

If you’re still reading this than I can safely assume you’ve taken some time to go see the latest of Stephen King novel to movie adaptations, It. This week on Machine Mean has been an It-palooza. With our very own Chad Clark bringing you a review of the novel in a three part series, including that very scandalous scene from the book, you know the one. And Chad and I both tackled a review of the original made-for-TV film from 1990. What better way to end the week than with a review on the new addition?  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review : It (1990)

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Chad’s take on It.

In 1990, the world of Stephen King expanded even more as ABC aired a miniseries adaptation of his legendary book, IT. The movie would span across two parts and feature a large ensemble cast, the same group of characters, both as children and as adults. The success or failure of the film aside, Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise has gone down as one of the more brilliant portrayals of a Stephen King character, alongside Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrence and Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes.

We find ourselves now in the year 2017, on the brink of a new film adaptation, this time set for a theatrical release as opposed to television. And while the original miniseries continues to have legs in terms of the fans, as the years go on, it seems to take more of a turn towards being mocked and criticized as a joke and a failure, a betrayal of source material which I concede is likely King’s greatest book.  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: Humanoids from the Deep (1980)

[ BIG SPOILERS—like, skip-to-the-number-score-if-you’re-actually-worried level spoilers ]

 Okay, two things right out of the gate: this movie is terrible… but I’m going to explain to you why I feel (if you enjoy a certain level of badbad = goodgood) you should still watch it.

Also, it’s basically about mutant fish people raping women (when they aren’t killing everyone else to get to that) but seeing as how I highly doubt there are going to be humanoid fish people waddling out of the sea and actually raping anyone anytime soon, I’m not going to address that further in any serious way after this intro. I also won’t make a joke out of it, though, and you can call me what you like for that.  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: Arachnophobia (1990)

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Arachnophobia is the most utterly terrifying film I have ever seen. I’ve seen, read, and written vomit-inducingly horrific things, but there’s only one thing that scares the absolute shit out of me— spiders. I was nine when this film premiered and, up until now, that’s the last time I watched it. Like the main character of the film, Dr. Ross Jennings, I am an arachnophobe (a person with an abnormal fear of spiders). Also like Dr. Jennings, my phobia was solidified by a traumatic early childhood experience (and many thereafter).

Flashback to the late 1980s: my brother Tommy and I were peering over the basement railings of our grandparent’s newly built house. We spied a black, circular, baseball-sized mass at the landing of the second flight of basement steps. Curious and eager to explore, we rushed down to the first landing to get a closer look. It appeared to be a giant rubber Halloween prop spider. Figuring our grandpa was playing a prank on us and eager to use the prop for our own nefarious devices, we rushed forward to grab it.  Continue Reading

Lovecraft Country: book in review

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The critically acclaimed cult novelist makes visceral the terrors of life in Jim Crow America and its lingering effects in this brilliant and wondrous work of the imagination that melds historical fiction, pulp noir, and Lovecraftian horror and fantasy.

Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, 22-year-old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite—heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus’s ancestors—they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: The Mist (2007)

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When I first heard of the film “The Mist” I knew nothing about it other than – a mist descends on a town and, hidden within the murkiness, there are… Things. Nasty things that kill people. I couldn’t help but laugh and shake my head. Just what the film industry needed, another knock-off film. I mean, we’ve seen this back in the eighties with John Carpenter’s “The Fog”. Not entirely sure we needed another film with a similar concept. But, then, I heard more about the film. Directed by Frank Darabont, he who made “The Green Mile”, “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Walking Dead”. I’m a fan. Then I saw it was based on the work of Stephen King. Now, I’m not a fan of King because – for me – I find the books a bit too wordy to read (I have a short attention… oh look, a penny). That being said, I do like the ideas he has.  Then, of course, there was the cast list: Thomas Jane (in my eyes an under-rated actor) and several folk from “The Walking Dead” (Carol, Dale, Andrea… Was Frank doing a test run with the actors before hiring them for The WD?). What the hell, there was enough there for me to give it a go and – you know what – I’m glad I did.  Continue Reading

A new era at Machine Mean

D3You may have noticed that a new name has been added to the banner of the Machine Mean site. I thought this would be as good a time as any to introduce myself. My name is Chad Clark, indie author of horror and science fiction. I have accepted the gracious invitation from the talented Mr. Flowers to join on as a partner on the Machine Mean blog.

I have been writing for most of my life, a passion which was forged in the incredible popular culture of the 1980’s. Whether it was the magic of Spielberg and Lucas or the grit of Stephen King and George Romero, I was quickly hooked on the art of storytelling. I was an avid reader from an early age and was fortunate enough to have parents who were willing to give me room to explore the areas that interested me.

After high school and as I got into college, I took some time away from writing as my Yesterday, When We Diedpassions went elsewhere. As was likely inevitable though, I found my way back to books, both to read and to write. After re-dedicating myself to the craft, I would have the honor to publish my first book in 2014, a collection of shorter stories titled, Borrowed Time : And Other Tales.

In 2013, I also launched my first blog, The Baked Scribe. The blog would start with featuring new short stories every week and as it grew, would also add essays on the craft of writing as well as book reviews. The Baked Scribe would last for several years and total two hundred stories before closing its doors earlier this year. In addition to my initial book, I have published a novel, Behind Our Walls, two novellas, Down The Beaten Path and Yesterday, When We Died and two collections of flash fiction, A Shade For Every Season and Two Bells At Dawn (due to be released on July 26). My short stories have been featured in various anthologies as well as on Amazon. In 2016, I also took on a position as a reviewer for the book blog, Confessions Of A Reviewer.

So that brings us to Machine Mean.

What will I be doing for the site? In addition to coverassisting Thomas with some behind the scenes stuff, I will be posting book reviews every other Wednesday. On the off weeks, I will post a piece of original short fiction. These will be either new stories or will be classic issues brought back from the Baked Scribe. I will also be sharing posts from my other online project, Tracing The Trails, an examination of the works of Stephen King as I read every one of his books in order and review each one along the way.

I am looking forward to this opportunity to work with Thomas on the site and to bring youChad more of the great content you have come to expect. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or comments. If you are interested in seeing more of my work, you can click here to check out my official website and here for my Amazon author page. You can also follow me on Facebook. Look for the page for Chad A. Clark.

Thanks for your attention and for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here!

Creature Features in Review: Piranha (1978)

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I remember back in the late eighties, a school friend of mine let me borrow a pirate VHS tape he had.  He wanted to borrow my copy of Robocop and so was offering his tape in exchange.  I loved horror as a kid (no shocker there) and back in the days before people really paid attention to the certification in shops etc., I used to frequent my local newsagent to rent videos (for a whopping 50p a go!) which going by the often gory and bloody cover art I was far too young to be watching. Nonetheless, I rented video nasties without issue and so at that point I had seen a lot of films already, but the two on this tape were new to me, even if initially I thought it was a single film.

Piranha slugs? Never heard of it,’ I said, looking at the handwritten scrawl on the label.  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: The Stuff (1985)

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Tonight’s showing has to be one of the strangest selections within the sub-genre Creature Features. And it because it technically is very much a creature feature, its makes the very in your face metaphor all the more brilliant. Of course, I’m talking about The Stuff. Filmed with a 50’s sci fi B-movie in mind and with voice-overs worse than a Kung movie, we’re guided through a fairly simply story structure with a much complex core. Its a creature flick that begs the question, if we are consumers of the creature are we not in fact monsters ourselves? The Stuff, for all purposes, has lasted the test of time and remains one of the best 1980’s anti-consumerist flick. If you haven’t seen the movie, check out a trailer on YouTube and give it a chance. I’m not promising you’ll like it, The Stuff will require some patience, but if you’re a fan of horrible 80’s horror, or horrible horror in general, you might just enjoy yourself.

Are you eating it…or is it eating you? During the summer of 1985, director Larry Cohen introduced America to the discovery of a mysterious, yet delicious, white gooey treat. Found by a group of miners bubbling up from the earth, the Stuff quickly sweeps across the nation. Soon after, conglomerates pick up the Stuff and break record sales. Former FBI agent Mo Rutherford remarks, with some disbelief, that folks are willing to stand in line at two in the morning, just to buy some Stuff.  Another protagonist, a young boy  named Jason, refuses to eat the Stuff as he watches his family become addicted, turning into mindless drones– craving nothing to eat but the Stuff. In one of the oddest scenes (yes, there are a few) Jason is forced to watch his family slowly slip away from rationality and into…something else entirely. When an attempt to fool his folks into thinking he’s eaten some of the Stuff fails, Jason scarcely escapes, his father yelling out in the middle of the street, chasing after him, “It’s good for us, Jason…it kills the bad things inside us.”

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What…you’ve never heard of this movie, The Stuff? I’m not shocked; unless you’re a connoisseur (see what I did there?) of obscure horror, The Stuff is by far one of the most obscure-ee horror movies I’ve ever seen. This very low-budget does take on, as other classic horror flicks such as Dawn of the Dead (78), American consumerism and consumption during the 1980’s. Some of the other films during this era, and some of my personal favorites of glorified 80’s consumerism, include Evil Dead 2, Friday the 13th part 8, and Videodrome.

Film critic Brian Dillard had this to say regarding The Stuff:

“…another 1980’s horror flick… mixed wit and gore with anti-consumerist ideology. On the surface, The Stuff is just an exploitation flick — a jumble of The Blob [and] Invasion of the Body Snatchers… full of amateurish special effects and hammy performances.”

If that’s what’s on the surface of the movie, cheesy effects and a hammy attempt at saying something, is there anything beneath? I’d point out all the random commercials that pop up during the movie which I think are brilliant parodies to everyday life. It almost calls out the audience (we) and asks if we can tell the difference. Are we that conformed to commercials that even fake ones seem real to us? This aspect really reminds of the appeal in Invasion of the Body Snatches, more especially the 1978 version as it focused more on the characters and their doppelgangers. Its about paranoia, almost, and The Stuff really brings that paranoia into focus. Can we trust anyone to be objective regarding a product that they are bought into? Can we trust a representative or legislator to be unbiased toward a private sector entity when (s)he get’s campaign donations from private corporations? Not to get political, but…have we become like Jason, being told to “eat it” because its good for us?

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As the movie comes to an end, following the efforts of a few good men and women, and a boy, the public becomes aware of the vile intentions of the conglomerates pushing the fluffy white alien goo. People “wake up” and see how The Stuff is actually a living thing. Yet, as the credits roll, we (the audience) are left with the feeling that the profligate has been set back up as the company executives comment that “the Stuff seeps out from many places in the ground.” We are given a true nihilistic ending as anyone can get, that there will always be more Stuff.

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If you’re screening The Stuff for the first time, it will time some getting used to the low quality in which the film was shot, unless you are already a member of the 80s splatter zombie corp and uber-obscure VHS demon flick rentals from Italy club. If that’s the case, then the low budget shouldn’t throw you off. The story is there if you’re willing to follow it. Low budget doesn’t necessarily mean low quality. Just look at Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead as an example of how low budget films can become The Stuff of legend (oh man, I kill myself). 

My Rating: 4 out of 5

Thomas S. Flowers creates character-driven stories of dark fiction ranging from Shakespearean gore feasts to paranormal thrillers. Residing in the swamps of Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter, his debut novel, Reinheit, was published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein, Apocalypse Meow, Lanmò, The Hobbsburg Horror, and FEAST. His veteran focused paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Series, including Dwelling, Emerging, Conceiving, and Converging, are published with Limitless Publishing, LLC. In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served three tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston-Clear Lake with a Bachelors in History. He blogs at machinemean[dot]org, where he reviews movies and books and hosts a gambit of guest writers who discuss a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics. You can follow Thomas at a safe distance by joining his author newsletter at http://goo.gl/2CozdE.

Revenge is a dish best served with BBQ!

Now Coming to You in Atomic Soundwaves from Space!

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I got my first taste in publishing when I was in high school. Some short story of which I have long since forgotten the title for and have long since misplaced the letter of authentication. Given my moody teenagerism, it was probably something dark and depressing. It would be another 15 years before I’d publish again. In 2014, I put out my second short story, Hobo, and followed it closely with Are You Hungry, Dear?, and then released my first novel, Reinheit. In that very short span of time, I’ve been able to launch 4 more novels in a continuing series called The Subdue Series (Dwelling, Emerging, Conceiving, and Converging), 2 solo shorts, contributed to 7 published anthologies (the 8th to be published later this year), including a serial short story exclusive to the 13: An Anthology of Horror and Dark Fiction series, my first collection called The Hobbsburg Horror, AND 2 novellas,  Lanmò and Feast.  That’s what? Some 20 published works, most of which are shorts. I’d say I was simply prolific, but I know more authors that do way more than my meager sum.

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No, the aim (for me) cannot be about out producing the competition. I’d go nuts trying to keep up. What I can aim to do is provide quality entertainment in the vein of horrifying reads. I want to tell stories, plain and simple. I don’t want to out do anyone. I want to tell tales and get them out there to be read. Easy enough, right? What’s interesting, in this current era we find ourselves, is the constant development of technology that allows schmoes like me to publish our works. Amazon wasn’t around when I was a grump moody teenager. Self publishing was unaffordable. And traditional publishing took knowing someone who knew someone who knew someone. If you didn’t have that connection to your father’s brother’s uncle’s cousin’s former roommate, you were SOL. And the BIG 5? Forgetaboutit.

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But now? Man, the entire system has expanded exponentially. With the development of eBooks (and its popularity) which later gave rise to print on demand (I use CreateSpace), publishing became insignificant. Not to belittle it, just that anyone can and many do. In fact, its not uncommon to stroll into a cyber writers group and read at least a dozen complaints about how saturated the market is. Its a favorite word to toss around that makes you sound more knowledgeable than what you really are. Saturated. Saturated. Saturated. Martha. Martha. Martha. And its true, the market IS super saturated. Personally though, I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. Now readers have more of what they want. They have options outside of what they thought they could only get from the BIG 5.

But there’s a trick.

You cannot just put something out there and expect readers to flock to you. That’s just insane. Unless you have a known name, readers are not going to flock to you. Connections help; making connections is even better. What I’ve found most appealing with how this publishing world has evolved is how much of a community it has become. Embrace it. There will be some who try to take advantage. Don’t let a few turds keep you from making lasting connections. If people are willing to not only share your stuff, but also interact and maybe even give advise, those are the connections worth holding on to.

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Experiment. 

Experimenting with marketing can lead to surprising results. Ever heard the phrase, “Put your money were your mouth is?” The same applies to marketing your wares. I think “nut up or shut up” also applies, but its a tad cruder to tell your 80 year old grandma who wants to self-pub her book of recipes. In lieu, sometimes you gotta take a risk. Just don’t bet the farm. Play it smart, ask and listen to those connections, share what has worked or hasn’t worked. A word to the wise, among small press folk, BookBub is a known book promoter that lives by the slogan, money well spent.

 

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Above all this noise, the most important thing publishing schmoes can do is keep writing, keep publishing, keep moving forward. And if you want those quality stories to reach more readers, you need to be willing to adapt to new technology. Last year, I was introduced to a little thing called Audiobooks. This is not new, per say. The spirit of audiobooks has been around a long time, back in the land before TVs and cable networks. Audio entertainment is not a new idea, but the tech behind it has come a long way since The Shadow and Little Orphan Annie broadcasted to delighted listeners gathered around a cherry red cabinet Philco radio. Cassette tapes came, followed by CDs. Nowadays, we’ve got digital recordings. At first, it was new and I didn’t want anything to do with it. I turned my nose up at it. But then Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) made everything so bloody simple its almost scary. I jumped in and released 4 titles on ACX last year and have released 2 titles thus far in 2017.

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The idea here isn’t that your putting out even more stories (though you ought to be working on that). The idea is to use the technology available in order to put your work on as many platforms as possible so you can reach readers on the format that suits them best. And you’d be surprised. Audio is a expanding market for books. And the more this tech develops, the more affordable it becomes. Readers are now listeners, tuning in while driving to or from work or school. City and urban consumers plugged into YOUR book from their phones or tablets while they ride the train or bus or even airplane. Times are a-changing, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing unless we let it, right?

Thomas S. Flowers is known for his character-driven stories of dark fiction ranging from Shakespearean gore feasts to paranormal thrillers. Residing in the swamps of Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter, his debut novel, Reinheit, was published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein, Apocalypse Meow, Lanmò, The Hobbsburg Horror, and FEAST. His veteran focused paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Series, including Dwelling, Emerging, Conceiving, and Converging, are published with Limitless Publishing, LLC. In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served three tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston-Clear Lake with a Bachelors in History. He blogs at machinemean[dot]org, where he reviews movies and books and hosts a gambit of guest writers who discuss a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics. You can follow Thomas by joining his author newsletter at http://goo.gl/2CozdE.

Now Available for YOUR earbuds!!!

The Hobbsburg Horror Audiobook

Creature Features in Review: Aliens (1986)

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Yes children, take a seat and I’ll begin the tale. Once upon a time, in the land called 1980s, there was a director who was known as the King of Killer Sequels. Now, whether these James Cameron directed killer sequels are actually better than the originals is hotly debated. The sequels we’re talking about include, Terminator 2 (on this one he topped his own original), Piranha 2: The Spawning (one up-ing Joe Dante’s original with flying killer fish), Rambo: First Blood part 2 (while not technically in the directors chair, he contributed to the screenplay), and…Aliens. Truth be told, when it comes to killer sequels, there is really only one film in which I adore more than the original, and that’s Empire Strikes Back. Not many sequels, in my mind, out shine the original. Some would disagree, I’m sure. T2 was a massive success, after all. And as our guest contributor will most likely discuss, Aliens became more iconic than the Ridley Scott original Alien. Even among dedicated horror fanatics. So, it begs the question, what really made Aliens so good?

ALIENS: THEY MOSTLY COME AT NIGHT…MOSTLY

By: Israel Finn

After a very long nap (57 years, to be exact) Lieutenant Ripley (portrayed by the inimitable Sigourney Weaver) and her faithful cat, Jonesy, are discovered by a deep space salvage crew. Upon awakening from hibernation, the corporation that owned the Nostromo, the space barge Ripley destroyed in the first film, informs her that they have lost contact with a colony of terraformers on LV426. They plan to send a company of marines to investigate and would like her to go along as a consultant. There’s just one problem: LV426 is the very planet where Ripley and crew first met, then were ravaged by, the xenomorphs. Ripley at first adamantly refuses to return to the planet, citing her nightmare encounter there. But it’s clear that the corporation is skeptical about her description of the aliens and why she destroyed the Nostromo and its valuable payload. At last she agrees to go, with the stipulation that they are going there to destroy the creatures, and not to study them.

NUKE IT FROM SPACE. IT’S THE ONLY WAY TO BE SURE.

As they approach the planet, Ripley finds herself among of a company of marines that has little respect for her. It’s not because she’s a woman–the pilot and one of the grunts are also female, and command respect. It’s because they believe her to be inexperienced and of little value to the mission. When one of the crew wonders aloud why “Snow White” is accompanying them, the answer is, “She saw an alien once.”

When they land on the planet and enter the compound, the group discovers a little girl, nicknamed Newt, who Ripley takes under her wing. But the rest of the colony seem to be missing. That is, until the entire community is located in a single isolated section of the complex. The team investigates and finds the entire colony, or what’s left of them, cocooned by the xenomorphs. Aroused by their presence, one of the colonists awakens and begs to be killed before a “newborn” alien bursts through her chest. Things then begin to quickly fall apart when several of the marines are taken by the creatures.

The rest of the team decides to get the hell out of Dodge and obliterate the complex from above but, as fate would have it, their ride off the rock crashes when one of the “bugs” slaughters the pilot, leaving them trapped.

GAME OVER, MAN! GAME OVER!

We lost Bill Paxton on February 25th, 2017. I loved him in Tombstone, Apollo 13, A Simple Plan, and Frailty (which he directed). But I adored him in Aliens. He played the whiny, cowardly, comic relief, Private William Hudson, the thorn in everyone’s side once the shit earnestly hit the fan. And the movie would not have been the same without him.

Private Hudson has to be coerced and cajoled into every action, but he manages to hold it together while newly-in-charge Corporal Hicks, played by Michael Biehn (The Terminator, Tombstone, The Abyss) orders Bishop the android, played by Lance Henriksen (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Terminator, Alien 3) to leave the relative safety of the compound and remote connect the colonists’ ship.

Meantime, Carter Burke, a corporation lackey, portrayed by Paul Reiser (Bye Bye Love, Funny People, Mad About You), hatches a plot to trap Ripley (with Newt in tow) inside the med lab with a couple of the face-huggers. His plan is to have one of the little buggers “impregnate” someone so that he can get an alien past security back on earth. His motivation? What else: money and career advancement. But his scheme is thwarted by the intrepid marines.

By this time, all hell is breaking loose as the aliens infiltrate the team’s weak fortress. There are more deaths, a couple of daring rescues, and an epic final battle between Ripley and the queen mother of the xenomorphs.

TO SUM UP

This is an exceptional film by a legendary director, James Cameron (The Terminator, The Abyss, Titanic, Avatar), and some might even say it’s superior to the first. It casts a derisive eye at corporate greed, looks at love and loyalty, and reminds us that Mankind may not be at the head of the table after all, but may in fact be on the menu.

And it does all this while entertaining the hell out of us and scaring the pants off of us. Win win.

Israel Finn is a horror, dark fantasy, and speculative fiction writer, and a winner of the 80th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Story Competition. He’s had a life-long love affair with books, and was weaned on authors like Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Arthur C. Clarke and H.G. Wells. Books were always strewn everywhere about the big white house in the Midwest where he grew up. He loves literary works (Dickens and Twain, for instance), but his main fascination lies in the fantastic and the macabre, probably because he was so heavily exposed to it early on. Later he discovered Stephen King, Robert McCammon, Dean Koontz, Dan Simmons, Ramsey Campbell, and F. Paul Wilson, as well as several others, and the die was indelibly cast. He’s been a factory worker, a delivery driver, a singer/songwriter in several rock bands, and a sailor, among other things. But throughout he’s always maintained his love of storytelling. Right now you can find Israel in southern California.

Don’t forget to pickup Finn’s horrific collection Dreaming at the Top of my Lungs on Amazon for $2.99!!!

Dreaming At the Top of My Lungs: A Horror Collection by [Finn, Israel]

 

Holiday Spirit, by Chad A. Clark

Holiday Spirit

It was possible that the boozy Christmas Eve dinner he had just put back was causing this, but at that moment, “the ghost” was the best he could come up with to describe the apparition that now stood in front of him. It was a young woman, maybe in her early twenties, wearing a white dress. The fabric looked old, worn and frayed in several places as it fluttered in the cold night breeze. Her skin was the palest he had ever seen, verging on a translucence that was frightening and yet somehow, intriguing.

Crayson stepped forward and put a hand out, for what exactly? Not a handshake to be sure, those hands didn’t even look solid. It wasn’t like the girl had something to give him. He lowered the hand back to his side, raised it again after it occurred to him that he was being rude, and then dropped it, again, because he couldn’t ignore the chills that were gripping him by the spine.

The long walk home from his parents’ house had led him past this alley at just the right time to find this woman, as if she had been waiting for him. He looked at the dark curls of her hair with the red ribbons and in a flash of memory, he knew where he had seen her. The near car accident from a week ago. The taxi swerving recklessly into the opposing lane and this woman had been driving the other car, the one who had almost been hit. Everything had seemed fine but not long after, he had spotted an ambulance tearing off in the same direction she had been driving, so maybe something had happened.

Why was she staring at him like that? What did she want? How was he supposed to help, because after all, he felt confident that help was what she desperately hoped for.

He put his hand out again, still unsure what he was offering, but this time, she moved closer to him. She didn’t walk up to him, but rather, seemed to slide forward on the back of a breeze. He felt a coolness creeping into him as she drew close and lifted up a hand of her own to caress his. This was going in a direction that he had not expected, but he still felt completely safe with her, not mistrusting her intentions at all.

Her hand came up to stroke the back of his neck, and with the slightest force applied, drew his face down to hers for a kiss. The feel of her lips was of cool, moist skin, there one moment, gone the next and immediately there again. Her breath was like wafts of air from a freezer as she let it out into his mouth and, as the kiss grew deeper and her tongue slid ever so slightly against his, he felt a shudder and warmth that started in his groin and radiated outward to the end of each fingertip and toe.

The kiss finally broke, and he looked down at her. Tears were rolling down her cheeks, but he didn’t think they were brought on by sadness. He placed his hands on the cool elusiveness of her exposed arms and pulled her up against him.

The clatter of a garbage can lid drew his attention from her as the sound of laughter scoured away the moment they had just shared. Three kids, teenagers at most, were making their way down the alley towards them, pointing, with cackling laughter that made him grit his teeth in anger.

“Look at this.” The one who seemed to be the leader was wearing a brown bombardier’s jacket, several sizes too large for him. The other two were wearing faded jean jackets and had a look about them that suggested that there were very few things that they ever did without a “by-your-leave” from their fearless leader. As such, they both laughed a little louder than necessary.

“Look at this,” he repeated himself. “Where the fuck did you wander in from? Didn’t care for the opera me good sirs?” The last sentence was delivered in a stereotypical British accent that made them seem somehow more menacing. “I think you should be givings us your money. Alls of it if you please.”

It was on the tip of his tongue to tell them to wait, that he would get his wallet out and give them whatever they wanted. The tip of his tongue was as far as that sentiment advanced before chaos exploded and suddenly, he could barely track anything that was happening.

The alley was filled with the echoes of a shrieking cry that brought to his mind’s eye the wraiths of Tolkien, cutting through his train of thought like a blade. He knelt down and clutched at the sides of his head, trying to blot out the sound. The first of the three kids, jean jacket number one probably got off the easiest. In one moment, his head was ripped straight off and hurled out into the street. The body continued walking away for several steps before collapsing. Jean jacket number two started to run and was lifted up off his feet. Crayson winced at the sounds of his screams as he was beat against the buildings, swung violently from side to side until there was little left to drop into a bloody heap on the ground.

The leader, Mr. Bombardier himself, screeched like a child half his age, and collapsed, as close to the fetal position as someone of his size could manage. He swung through the air around him with one clenched fist but, all it served to do was provide a target, as the arm was quickly severed at the elbow. He screamed, and continued waving the arm around, now spraying blood all around him. The invisible force lifted him up to his feet and one by one, his limbs were plucked off, like the wing off a chicken.

Crayson felt an icy breeze from behind him and turned to look again into the woman’s revitalized eyes that blazed with new life, new warmth. He took her into his arms and resisted the urge to turn his head to look over the grisly carnage left behind by his guardian, his love. He held her close, and felt her arms sliding around to his back, caressing him with cold hands that he couldn’t help but think would be the hands that would eventually pull him down into the deep abyss of infinity that he would share with her forever.

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

 

Guilting The Masses, A Holiday Short

guilting the masses

Katie turned the car onto the main drag, cursing again as the wheels slipped on the ice. Why the city couldn’t get the roads cleared faster than this was a mystery to her. What the hell were her taxes paying for anyway? And of course the asshole behind her in the puke-green Honda wouldn’t give her any room, tailgating so close, she could read the digits on the fuzzy dice hanging from the guy’s mirror.

Her paycheck was too small again. How was she supposed to keep her head above water with these shitty wages? It was the holidays, things were supposed to be easier. All she felt was more annoyed at what she saw as cheer and joy on display from people who were as fake as her knock-off handbag.

The brakes skidded as she slammed on the pedal for the fourth straight red light. Apparently the city couldn’t time the stop lights worth a damn either. Moments like this made her think more seriously about taking the bus, but why suffer the indignity?

At the fifth straight barely-missed green light, she stopped and the sight of the man on the corner halted her, mid-thought.

He stood there in a threadbare dinner jacket that looked like it had been out of style for about 20 years. His pants were torn in several places and the snow looked like it had completely saturated his thin Converse sneakers.

Well, she wasn’t standing out there, at least. She was in a warm car, coming from a warm house going to a job that at least paid her a little. It was Christmas. She rolled the window down and handed over a twenty, just before the light turned green and she drove on with her life, the frustrations at least temporarily quieted by her freshly bolstered self-worth.

* * *

Randall watched the lady’s car pull away and he stuck the twenty into his pocket. That brought his total for the day to just over five hundred dollars, which would be more than enough for a hotel room and a massage. Maybe even a nice steak dinner too.

He made more money scamming these suckers than he ever had at his job. And he didn’t have to pay taxes. He loved the holidays.

Seven more days until Christmas. He might even bring in a couple more grand before St. Nick came down on his sleigh. He looked up in time to see the crowd of carolers crowded in front of the drugstore. No way he wanted to get too close to that group so he quickly turned down the alley.

He was lost inside of his own cleverness, so far gone, that it was too late when he heard the crunch of snow under someone’s feet. Before he could even step out of the way, the box cutter was pressed to his throat and the gnarled, tobacco stained fingers shook excitedly as they dipped in for his wallet.

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

 

Sealed, Delivered, A Fictional Short

Sealed Delivered

The only reason he had come to the house was to deliver the pizza. But from the moment he buzzed, and the door opened, he knew that he was in for a lot more. Whatever the argument that the woman had just finished with the boyfriend or the husband or the girlfriend or whomever, the result was her standing here on the threshold wearing the moist tracks of tears, and barely more than a suggestive smile.

Timmy had immediately averted his gaze, suddenly fascinated by the crown molding and the color of the drapes. She was asking him something about accepting special gratuities. He tried to focus on what it would feel like to have a knife driven into him at Jenna’s hands if she ever heard about this incident.

“It’s…” his voice was lost in a volley of coughing and he took another run at it. “It’s $17.95 ma’am.”

“But you need my coupon,” she said, running a hand down the front of her shirt, conveniently unbuttoned. She slid her hand to one side, revealing the swell of one breast. “I think I’ve got it here under my—”

“Nope, I’m good.” Timmy let out an abrupt laugh that sounded fake, even to him. “I don’t need your coupon, I’ll take your word for it.”

She looked down at herself, underneath the tails of the shirt that revealed the micro-thin underwear that she was wearing. “My wallet is all the way over there on the table by the phone. Take whatever you think is fair.”

Timmy contemplated paying for the pizza himself, just to get the hell out of there, but ended up lurching into the room and grabbing the wallet. He was looking through the bills when suddenly her hand reached around from behind him, caressing softly and moving for a vacation down south. Timmy groaned and turned, finding himself thrust into a clumsy embrace. The hands that he had raised to push her away had ended up cupping the least opportune place on her body while her lips were suddenly on his and her hands were fumbling with the elastic band of his shorts.

“What in the blue fuck is going on here?” the authoritative tone of the police officer that was evidently also her husband, brought a high pitched shriek to Timmy’s voice and he pushed her away. She tumbled backwards over the coffee table and fell roughly to the ground. To his dismay, she was now screaming at her husband to help her. All she wanted was a pizza and thank God, he had come home, just in time to save her. Timmy froze over her prone body, vaguely aware that her purse was now clutched tightly in his grip. The sight of the officer reaching for his pepper spray broke him out of his stupor and he fled towards the back door.

When he hit the yard, the husband hadn’t taken pursuit yet. Timmy dove into the gigantic play house that the man had probably built himself for his kids. He slammed the door shut behind him and looked around at the plastic tea set that he had knocked askew.

Outside he heard the husband raging obscenities and throwing lawn ornaments. It went on for some time, but eventually, the sound began to fade and Timmy started to feel like maybe it was safe.

Then he heard gravel crunching, followed by the sound of all things, a light tapping on the front door of the playhouse. Timmy’s voice went up several more octaves as the only words he could think to say spilled out.

“Not without a warrant!”

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

 

Stephen King : Reflections On It All

final1So now the pressure is fully on my shoulders. The whole point of this project has been to read the works of Stephen King and reflect somehow on how his writing style has progressed and changed over the decades. I don’t know if I’m capable of providing the big fireworks display finale that completely draws it all together in one shocking climax, but I will present what thoughts I have, in as organized a manner as is possible for a brain as small as mine.

I have been a fan of Stephen King since I was in grade school. And I will be the first to admit that there were probably a number of titles that I probably should have been kept away from at that age, but I had been reading passionately for quite some time when I picked up my first Stephen King book and fortunately for me I had parents who supported and trusted my development. I don’t think you can accurately make any single across-the-board statement when it comes to what your kids should or shouldn’t be allowed to read. I think that is a an incredibly personal question that parents must deal with and I think a lot of that depends on the specific child and their situation as well.

It’s also possible that my reading of Stephen King at a fairly young age was facilitated somewhat by the fact that he was such a huge 11.22.63phenomenon at the time. That’s not to say that he isn’t a big name now but I would argue that in the late 80s and early 90s, when I was in junior high and high school, Stephen King was much more of a buzzword and culturally relevant then he is now, necessarily. In 2017, I see the popularity of King largely as a continuation of that era when he was a massive figure on the landscape of popular culture. I recall even my grade school having some Stephen King books in their library. There was a series of posters from that era that schools often had on display, featuring various celebrities promoting books and libraries. And one of those posters featured none other than Stephen King, with the caption “Stephen King for America’s libraries”. I would be willing to bet you’d be hard-pressed to find a Stephen King book in as many grade school libraries nowadays.

So the point I’m trying to make with this is that obviously I have been a fan of King for a long time. And the argument certainly could be made that my nostalgia for these books of my childhood is driving my continued interest and passion for his work. But what I find is that over the course of my life, I keep coming back to his books, not because I need that remembrance of something that was important when I was a child, but rather that I continue to find things to like in his writing regardless of what age I am at.

I see Stephen King’s career as going through several distinct phases. And please remember that as you read this, I am in no way Duma Key Featureconnected to anyone in the King family. This is not intended to be a definitive psychological workup of Stephen King. These are just the superficial observations of one lowly outsider.

Early on, I see King going through pretty much every phase other authors go through at the start of their career. In other words, how the hell do I get my work noticed amongst this mountain of other literature? It really feels like you against the world. And for as many challenges as authors face today, I suspect that this was no easier for writers in the mid seventies.

Imagine this problem, amplified by the fact that, pre-Internet, people were much more isolated from others who might be of like mind. It isn’t like Stephen King could just log onto Facebook and start networking with all of his author friends from around the world. At that time, I can easily imagine writers suffering alone with their typewriter, feeling like they’re off on a siege that no one can help with or really truly understand.

As such, it’s interesting to look at books he published primarily during this period of his career. Books like Carrie, Salems Lot, The Shining, the Dead Zone and Firestarter. Interesting in that, in pretty much all of these stories, we see younger characters who, eitherDome 4 through some ability or knowledge or life experience, have been isolated from the rest of the world, left to fend for themselves in fear from forces they don’t really understand or comprehend. Is it possible that the lives of Carrie White, Ben Mears, Stu Redmam, Johnny Smith and Charlie McGee were heightened metaphors of certain aspects of King’s life? Again, I have no idea. But it’s hard to not see these experiences as an unconscious reflection of the struggles and fear involved with striking out into a new profession, with an extremely low probability of success and feeling completely alone in the world.

Another factor we know Stephen King’s life to be plagued by was the real world demon of addiction. Too many people are taken apart and left for dead by this monster that cares not for who you are, where you come from, how much money you have or how good of a person you are. Addiction only fulfills its purpose. It destroys and it kills.

As such, I can’t help but take note of the fact that so many of his books during the eighties deal with similarly powerful and implacable monsters. The Man In Black, Pennywise, Christine, the dark forces in Pet Semetary, Cujo and Annie Wilkes (who King himself has stated is basically a metaphor for cocaine).

It goes without saying that this aspect of his life’s story came with The Dark Tower 5a happy ending, thanks to the intervention at the hands of his family. But there had to have been a period where this ending was by no means assured. I would imagine that there are as many people (if not more) who fail to get off of drugs as succeed, and the route to victory goes straight through a personal hell that few of us can really understand.

I see King’s book, The Dark Half, as the definitive fault line between the phases of his life, pre and post-sobor. First of all, the book was angry. Much more in tone than anything I can think of reading before that. George Stark’s actions are violent and brutal and I thought for King, much more graphic than most of his previous writings. And let’s not ignore the fact that in this book, a novelist is literally being hunted by an aspect of himself. And this is a theme he seemed invested in as it would show itself again in his novella, Secret Window, Secret Garden.

The next book that would follow, Four Past Midnight would have a similarly dark and intense tone to it and for me, it seemed like everything related to his addictions seemed to culminate with Needful Things. It was a book he labeled as being “The Last Castle Rock Story”, almost as if he was trying to metaphorically move on from a phase of his life as well as literally. And I think it’s no coincidence that Leland Gaunt could fairly be categorized as the world’s original drug dealer. And what ultimately happens to him? He’s defeated, but in a way that we also know he’s still lurking out there, taking in new victims and readying for a fresh round of mayham.

I can imagine that for years leading up to this point, Stephen King had dealt with the frustration of being boxed in with people’s expectations. Fans don’t always react well when artists try new things. Green MileStephen King is the master of horror, right? I have read an account that on some level, in addition to drugs, Annie Wilkes also represented King’s feelings of being held hostage by his genre.

I bring this up here because the nineties would come to represent a major departure for King from his tried and true subject matters, into other genres and other ideas. It’s a time period that a lot of his fans identify as being when they began to lose interest in his books.

I’ve wondered at times what might have happened differently with King’s career if he had stuck it out with what he had done before and I have to admit that I think it likely could have ended up exactly the same. He was trying to keep his books fresh and unique. For some, that succeeded and for others it was a failure. But I think that even if he had gone in the other direction and stuck with pure horror, it’s just as likely that the accusations leveled would be that the nineties were a bland recitation of the eighties. Ultimately, there are just some people who can’t be satisfied and I think if anyone understands that, it’s Stephen King.

And I will be the first to admit that many of King’s books in the nineties and beyond came off as flat and unexciting for me. I’ve discussed this point thoughout many of the individual reviews but I don’t think being critical of his work makes you less worthy as a fan. I’ve never held to the notion that you have to love every thing an artist produces in order to call yourself a “true” fan.

Following his victory over addiction as well as his near fatal accident, I think King gave himself more permission to write the kind of books he wanted, as opposed to falling in line with the kinds of bazaarstories that would be expected from the “king of horror”.

And I suppose I should address the elephant in the room, the one combined work that spans across most of his career.

The Dark Tower.

This series was a huge part of my life and the constant waiting for the next volume made the new books that much sweeter when they came out. This has been defined and accepted by the fans as Stephen King’s most important work and the super-fans out there never seem to grow tired of drawing connections from one character in this book to another character in the next. For me, I tend to keep the scope of the Dark Tower books more limited than many.  For me, The Dark Tower is about telling a great epic and I don’t worry myself with endless theorizing on subjects that I don’t feel are really supported by the book. So with a few exceptions, I see the stories in the Dark Tower as self-contained. Whether they are intertwined with all of his books or not, it doesn’t really matter to me. For me, its just a great series of books.

What can I say overall about the “King legacy”? Being totally honest, I think I’d say that if Dolores Claiborne had been King’s first book instead of somewhere in the middle, our view on him now would Bag Of Bones 1be quite different. I’ve heard it said that the success of his later books was at least somewhat built on the back of a phenomenally incredible decade and a half of writing, early on. I think it’s a fair criticism. And I don’t mean that in an entitled sense of, “How dare you stop writing what I want?” or from a place of, “Stephen King really lost his edge.”

Starting in the seventies and going into the eighties, Stephen King had one of the most prolific stretches of time that I think we have seen from any popular authors. There were years when he would publish multiple titles, each one being good enough to make a career on, individually. This was a rare example I think where you had a string of books that were both incredibly successful and incredibly good. And besides the books, billions of dollars in box office revenue has been spawned by material he wrote during that time.

That isn’t a pace that you maintain. That isn’t something you just keep up, indefinitely. Artists that are in that mode seem to go one of two ways. Either you slowly burn out or you detonate in spectacular fashion. And the latter was nearly what we ended up with.

So, is it possible that later readers of his books were more lenient in their criticism because of how much they loved his earlier books? As someone who likes to see himself as honest, I have to acknowledge that as a possibility.

It is also worth taking consideration of the fact that moving into the nineties and the new millennium, the horror genre definitely saw a dip in the popularity it enjoyed in the eighties. As such, a new Stephen King book would be received with much less fanfare in 1997 or inneedful-things-1 2005 than it would have in 1984. Is it also possible that King used this to his advantage? Slipping in under cover of darkness in order to write the kind of stories he wanted? Again, I have to admit this is also a possibility. Between his trip to rehab and his near fatal accident some ten years later, I could completely understand how King could have come out with a new fervor for life, with a renewed determination to not let readers’ expectations steer the ship quite as much.

Do I think that Stephen King is less of a writer because he has the luxury of having his books classified as bestsellers before they even come out? I do not. Because the way I look at it, if he had succumbed to his addictions and was lost to the world in 1988, I think he still would have gone down in history as this generation’s Poe. So the qualitative analysis of all his work after that point doesn’t diminish that status in my eyes.

For me, the power of King’s stories has always been in his characters and I don’t think that aspect has diminished over the years. I’m finding myself as compelled by characters like Bill Hodges, Big Jim Rennie and Jake Epping as I was with Roland Deschain, Richie wastelands2Tozier and Louis Creed. The stories themselves might not always be up to par, but the essential building blocks have been consistently strong. I think this is the main thing that has kept me coming back and feeling drawn to his books.

I think of Stephen King in a similar way as I think about the Beatles. I’ve always held the belief that there is at least one Beatles song for everyone. In similar fashion, I think there is at least one Stephen King book for everyone. At this point, his writing has become so diverse and varied, there’s likely something there even for people who claim to not like him. And also like the Beatles, you may not like him but if you’re a fan of the horror genre, chances are pretty good the authors you do love wouldn’t be who they are without Stephen King. Speaking as a writer I can definitely state that I owe a lot of what I am now to his works.

As artists grow more popular and more of a fixture on the landscape of popular culture, there is a natural pushback, a need by some to tear that artist apart. There are plenty of detractors of Stephen King but I truly believe that in a hundred or so years, people will be looking back on him in the same way they now do Poe or Lovecraft.

There was something under the surface of King’s writing that I was drawn to at a fairly young age. Something about the stories that Idarkhalf3 couldn’t deny or turn away from. And even today, after so many books under his belt, I still find the unconscious push to read onward.

I feel like I’m getting to the limit of what will likely be the patience of those reading this. So in the spirit of some closing thoughts, allow me just a few paragraphs more.

Growing up from a passionate fan of Stephen King as a youth and into adulthood, I turned my back on him, secure in my own superficial conclusion that he had simply lost his touch. That there would be no more new Stephen King books out there for me to enjoy. I closed myself off from that experience and I shut the door to that stage of my life.

Doing this project has really opened my eyes to the fact that while Stephen King has obviously changed as a writer over the years, as have I as a reader, there are still plenty of books throughout the later decades of his career that I have loved.

The main difference I would identify between the first half of his career and the second is that I think his books started in about the mid-misery2nineties to feel more standalone. The references were still there but when I read the classic titles of the seventies and eighties, I had much more of a sense of an overall, unified narrative universe. And I’m guilty of projecting here again but this progression makes sense to me.

I could see a writer in his younger years being more enthusiastic about the creation of an overreaching fictional universe in which to place his books, drawing connective threads between them like a spider’s web. Then, as that writer gets older and experiences multiple life threatening transitions, maybe there is more of an urge to simply write the book and move on. After all, when you’ve likely made more money than you could ever spend in your life, why not scale things down and actually enjoy what has been gained from your hard work?

Rediscovering my love for Stephen King’s books has helped me also rediscover my love for reading in general. So I thought that this project was a perfect way to pay tribute to that. Stephen King certainly has his detractors and I am not interested in swaying them. This has been about my journey and my love for this author. Reading his workthe_stand_uncut growing up was likely one of the best internships a budding author could have partaken in. So to say I am grateful doesn’t come even close to touching the reality.

Do I love all the books of Stephen King?

No.

But I sure do love a lot of them.

In parting, I wanted to make sure I extended my thanks to you for sticking through this with me. Anyone who has been here, dropping in to check out the reviews over the years, thank you. Your support and interest has been appreciated. This was a labor of love, one I am happy to have seen through in its entirety and for how it has actually deepened my appreciation for King’s writing overall. So it is with a great deal of happiness that I am able to say this to you, one last time.

My name is Chad Clark and I am proud to be a Constant Reader.

 

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

First Meetings, by Chad A. Clark

first meetings

Before the crew had even finished the landing sequence, the delegation of Khaln’aari had emerged from the forest to greet them. Captain Altranor led them down the ramp to meet the party with the crew already in full dress uniform. Theirs was one of the first crews to come to the planet, and it lifted their spirits to find such a warm reception.

The digital network that was streamed through their comm badges was able, albeit slowly, to translate what the Khaln’aari were saying. Before long, the formalities of the reception had lessened somewhat to a more comfortable familiarity. They exchanged gifts, the Captain giving the Khaln’aari a glass figurine of Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom. The Khaln’aari had given each of the crew necklaces of tiny, but intricately sculpted pieces of brawn’dak stone.

The two groups entertained each other at the reception site with traditional myths native to each others’ cultures. They traded the stories, back and forth, until the sun was starting to set beyond the southern horizon.

The food was by far, the highlight of the evening.

Being nighttime hunters, the Khaln’aari allowed several members of the crew, including the Captain to join them on that evening’s excursion. The crew had been able to achieve several kills, even though all they saw of the animals were dark shapes running through the trees. The Khaln’aari had several dozen kills, and they sent the younger hunters of the tribe to collect the bodies and clean them for the feast.

Hours later at dinner, the servers brought out pots, steaming from within. The stews, all different, were served to everyone, dark and rich, with the most moist, and flavorful meat any of them had ever eaten. The over-sized glasses of blood-red wine went straight through them, and soon, most were seeing the table through an unsteady haze of pre-intoxication.

The Captain stood to toast the hospitality of their hosts and to thank the Khaln’aari for the feast.

There was a tittering of laughter in response to the toast and for the first time, the Captain looked uncertain. The leader of the Khaln’aari rose and spoke loudly for quite some time, the rest of his delegation chuckling as he went on. It took a minute before the neural network was able to fully translate what was being said, and another minute before the implication of his statement set in.

“That is precisely what the last group of humans who visited here said. I know that you believe you were the first to set foot here, as did they. You were incorrect in that assumption, as were they. They enjoyed their meals as well, that is, before they knew what they were eating, or rather, who they were eating. As great as their anger was at being tricked into hunting their own kind, the humans who had visited here before them, it paled in comparison to the revelation that it was those fellow travelers who they had been dining on.”

The crew all pushed back from the table, meaning to stand, reaching for weapons that the Captain had not let them bring for fear of offending the Khaln’aari. Before they could even rise to their feet, guards stepped forward out of the shadows and held them down in their chairs. The Captain stood frozen in place, unable to move or react. The leader spoke one last time, “I wonder,” he said as he lifted a glass, “how the next crew will feel about hunting you. Do you think they will enjoy the food?”

 

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

Tracing Trails : Carrie, Revisited

 

Carrie PrimaryReturning to this book after having gone through King’s entire catalog, I think a part of me was expecting to notice a really stark contrast in style and prose from one to the next. It was for this reason that I thought re-reading Carrie would be a poignant way to end this project, returning back to where I started. I’ve read Carrie several times but I was eager to see what I would think of it, given this new context.

I think what I found most interesting was that in terms of the prose itself, I don’t know if I can notice a huge difference in his style. The content of the books themselves, sure. There is a difference but the tone of the writing still feels like King. He has always seemed to have a solid, blue collar understanding of people across the entire spectrum. I think it’s one thing that has always attracted me to his books. That even though he’s a famous, rich author, I’ve always gotten the feeling from his writing that he would also be the kind of guy I could be comfortable just hanging out with. He’s never put off an air to me of snobbery or judgment and I think that can be seen in the sympathetic treatment in his books of all his characters, heroes and villains alike.

There is one aspect to King’s earlier books that I was happy to return to. If I had to characterize the vibe of King’s recent work it would be that they all feel very polished and composed. I don’t mean that in a bad way but I often feel like I’m reading a fairly standardCarrie 5 thriller formula. He does it well and there are still some moments here and there that show the classic King intensity but by and large, the books feel more on the safe side than I recall from his earlier work. Coming back to Carrie, I loved how danger had returned. His early books often had a feel of gritty B horror films and they could be brutal. No one was safe in a Stephen King book. And that hasn’t completely vanished from the landscape of his fiction but it was what I fell in love with in the early days of his career and reading Carrie again was a reminder for me.

I couldn’t help but feel the sharp edge underneath the narrative. With King’s recent books, while there are moments that are gripping, underneath it all is the sense that things are going to turn out okay, for the most part. This was never an aspect of his earlier work and I don’t know if that has to do with where he was in his life and his overall outlook. It goes without saying that as you age, that nihilistic streak tends to diminish as families grow and priorities change. Did King’s view on his own life affect his writing and the overall themes of his books? There’s no way to know for sure, obviously, but it was a thought I found running around as I went back to Carrie. Throughout Carrie 1the book, King interlaces the narrative with excerpts from books and interviews, all retrospective accounts looking back on some horrible event that we, as the reader, are about to bear witness to ourselves. It is an amazingly effective means of foreshadowing and injects a feeling of dread into the entire book that I think is incredibly evocative of King’s earlier books.

With On Writing, King put forward the notion that in all books, villains should be treated like real people. No one actually sees themselves as an archetype and are instead the star of their own story. We often fall into the trap of seeing everyone in context with the protagonist, as if the other characters in the story were nothing but pieces of furniture, only there to serve the needs of someone else. With Carrie, King manages to make all the characters complex, whether they be good and bad. And what I find most effective is that most of the characters have good and bad aspects. This isn’t just incredibly good characters being persecuted by incredibly bad characters. And in a brilliant twist as the story goes on, I found that the hero was edging close to being a monster while the monsters were Carrie 4actually shifting back to being sympathetic victims.

The morality of Carrie as a character and what she does is something that has held this book high in my regard over the years. I think it’s an interesting question to ponder, whether or not acts of such violence we see here could ever be justified. Can a person be pushed so far in the process of bullying that literally all bets are off and any kind of response is okay? Or is it that, by allowing herself to lash out at the people she had been hurt by, did Carrie become just as reprehensible as the rest?

I have always seen Carrie’s mother as the real monster of this story, the one who led her daughter to this mental place where an act like this could be conceivable. As a parent myself, it was hard to see a child treated so badly by a parent, to see the life she was subjected to. But then again, is it also possible that Margaret White could be redeemed in what she does? Is it possible she was more aware of Carrie’s latent abilities and acted the way she did because she recognized the inherent danger present in her daughter?Carrie 1

They are all interesting questions to pose and that I think were effectively laid out within the covers of this book. It was a piece of literary work that launched a career of more best sellers than I could keep track of. I’ve moved carefully through every book of Stephen King’s and returning now, to this first one, I feel reinforced more than ever that I chose wisely in selecting Stephen King as my favorite author.

My name is Chad Clark and I am proud to be a Constant Reader.

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

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