Your source for retro horror movie and book reviews

Latest

Fright Fest 2019: The Video Dead (1987)

videodeadposter

Directed By: Robert Scott (Ratdog)

Starring: Roxanna Augesen, Rocky Duvall, and Sam David McClelland

Released By: Interstate 5 Productions and Embassy Home Entertainment

Release Year: 1987

Review by: Andy Taylor

Synopsis: “A family takes delivery of a new television set, unaware that it is the gateway by which killer zombies enter the world” -IMDb.

A movie about the living dead coming out of someone’s television is a movie that screams for a good tagline, and there’s so many that could have been picked. Do you know what they used? “The living dead are here, and they’re lusting for blood…yours.” That’s so bad. I would have used something that focused more on the television instead, something like “Didn’t your parents tell you television was bad for your health…” or “Don’t get too close to this T.V., it bites” but no, they just had to make it about the zombies. I can understand them wanting to focus on the walking dead, but the problem is their chosen tagline implies that the zombies actually want blood, and that’s not really the case. Continue Reading…if you dare!

Fright Fest 2019:The Faculty (1998)

thefacultyposter

Directed By: Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Till Dawn, Desperado)

Starring: Jordana Brewster (Fast and the Furious Series), Clea DuVall (Carnivale, Identity), Louis Harris (Dead Like Me, Severance), Josh Harnett (30 Days of Night, Bunraku), Shawn Hatosy (Alpha Dog, The Lazarus Project), Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings, Sin City) Robert Patrick (Terminator 2, From Dusk Till Dawn 2), Famke Janssen (X-Men, GoldenEye), Piper Laurie (Carrie, Twin Peaks), Bebe Neuwirth (Cheers, Jumanji), Daniel Von Bargen (Lord of Illusion, Super Troopers), Jon Stewart (Former Daily Show Host), and Selma Hayek (Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn)

Written By; David Wechter (Penn & Teller’s Bullshit), Bruce Kimmel, and Kevin Williamson (Scream Film Series, Cursed)

Release Year: 1998

Review by: Andy Taylor Continue Reading…if you dare!

Fright Fest 2019: LIFE (2017)

[ STARTS WITH A SPOILER AND NEVER LOOKS BACK *THE CROWD REJOICES* ] 

1 (1)

Have you ever seen that episode of Cowboy Bebop in which Spike leaves a lobster in the Bebop’s backup refrigerator for a super long time, birthing a small, amorphous creature that hunts the crew of bounty hunters (or “cowboys” in the show, shucks howdy!), spearing them with something from its body that knocks them out and incapacitates them? Yeah, this movie is like an expensive, pretty, gorier, and over-serious version of that. I have a feeling I’m not the first to make this comparison, but either way it fits. Something about the way the creature is handled and how it moves and hides and the camerawork when it’s near.

It could also be said that the Cowboy Bebop episode I’m referring to is itself an homage to Alien (ha! I’m only two paragraphs in and I found a way to bring up Alien—my obsession is nearing its final, truest form….), which itself was a transcendent evolution of earlier Sci-Fi/Horror film tropes and themes. So, at this point, all SF/H films (especially those set in a ship in space, on other planets, etc.) could be said to lead back to Alien as being a major influence. Or at least the general framework and approach set up by that film. And as I’ve said before in earlier ramblings and quoting others, the biomech humanoid creature in Alien that hunts the crew could just as easily be a vampire in a castle or Dracula specifically on his trip to London on the Demeter (as I quoted Valaquen of the Strange Shapes Alien franchise blog stating earlier in my Planet of the Vampires review), when boiled down to asymmetrical survival horror by an unknowable creature. Everything old is new again. Continue Reading…if you dare!

Fright Fest 2019: 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

10cloverfield

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg

Written by Josh Campbell and Matthew Stuecken

Starring: John Goodman, Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr

A Review-ish by Feind Gottes

The Gist: After a car accident Michelle is rescued by Howard and taken to his bunker. When she regains consciousness Howard informs her that aliens have attacked Earth poisoning the air outside so the bunker is the only safe place. Eventually she meets Emmet also taking up shelter in Howard’s bunker and learn that inside the bunker is just as scary as outside. 

My Review-ish: For those who aren’t aware 10 Cloverfield Lane is a sequel to JJ Abrams cult classic Cloverfield (2008). However, it isn’t the sort of sequel anyone is used to seeing. It’s more of a sister film or companion film rather than an actual sequel. This is a concept I think is pretty damn cool. Also, since I’m not really a fan of Cloverfield I’m happy this sequel is a completely different type of film. Where Cloverfield is basically a found-footage type of film, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a full on psychological thriller and one of the best ever at that. Now I have a couple issues with this movie that I’ll get to at the end but for now let’s concentrate on the positives.  Continue Reading…if you dare!

Fright Fest 2019: Dark City (1998)

DarkCity4Dark City is a film that manages to get just a little more complex and interesting with each time I watch it. It’s one of the more unique and engaging sci-fi films to come out of my early adult years and is one that I am happy to have had the chance to enjoy.

The premise of the film is one that has been done in some form again and again over the years. A man (John Murdoch) wakes up in a bathtub with no memory of who he is or how he got there. There is a dead body in the room and he has blood on him. Everything that follows is a gradual unraveling of this mystery we have been presented with. And as with any mystery, the key is obviously how well done and satisfying the payoff is at the end. Do we walk away satisfied or disappointed?

The idea behind the film is that a giant experiment is taking place, with some kind of species holding mankind hostage. Each night, they cause things in the world to come crashing to a halt and in this seemingly infinite length of unaware inactivity, they begin changing things. Buildings sprout up that weren’t there before. People are moved around like chess pieces, to different houses and different families. A poor couple discussing their day over dinner may blink away and come back to consciousness now in an opulent home, having the same conversation but now in the lifestyle of the rich. How people react to these changes is what our overseers are most interested in, evidently.

Some may feel the urge to compare this to The Matrix and while I can see a connection on a superficial level, it really is comparing apples and oranges. Dark City may have the basic notion of people leading false lives, against their will and without their knowledge, but the concept is so much more rich and interesting than just that.

As Murdoch proves immune to the technology of these aliens, we are left to watch him stumbling about the landscape, trying to remember his past in a world of people who can’t remember anything. I felt the tragic notes of the story much more acutely this time around. That I find myself as well at a point in my life where all I want to do is seek out and take hold of all the things that are now behind me.

William Hurt has grown to become one of my all time favorite actors. He just has this soft-spoken ability to fully inhabit the skin of a character and bring them to life in a way many are unable to. In this DarkCity2film, we see him as a police detective, trying futilely to solve a series of homicides, which John Murdoch might be guilty of, clearly having only a limited picture of what is happening in the city around him. He’s also trying to unravel the crazed rantings of his former partner, trying in vain to get a grip on the mindset of someone who has no grip on anything. He can sense that something is wrong in the city. But how can you explore an answer when you don’t yet really have a question? In a way, he is searching for deeper answers on an unconscious level, just as much as John Murdoch is consciously seeking them out.

There’s this odd contrast. Visually, the movie is stunning to watch. All the beautiful city skylines and landscapes and the fact that nearly the entire movie is at night makes it feel almost like a black and white picture. But the lighting and visuals and performances from the cast also lends an incredible melancholy feel. You find yourself observing these people trying to live out their lives, but who are unable to do so, as they end each day being reset by some higher power they are unaware of and don’t understand. They have no concept of what is happening to them and instead seem to exist in this perpetual fog of a semi-depressive state, as the same scenes in their lives are played out, again and again.

One of the most poignant moments in the film for me was when Murdoch tracks down his uncle, who raised him from a child. One question Murdoch seems obsessed with is in finding out how to get to Shell Beach. He is overloaded with memories of a childhood there but despite seeming to know what Shell Beach is, no one he asks is able to tall him how to actually get there. His uncle tries to help Murdoch with his memory issues by showing him some slides from his childhood. But when Murdoch starts to ask his uncle some basic questions, everything just falls apart.

He tries to get at his uncle’s specific memories but finds that those specifics have been long since replaced by generalities, like an intricate ink sketch had been replaced with a basic painting of broad brush strokes. For me, it was a poignant metaphor for getting older, something I think I appreciate more than I did when I was twenty. Our pasts are robbed from us, a little more each day. The person I was twenty years ago has essentially ceased to exist and there’s nothing I can do to bring him back. It was this feeling that struck me most acutely as I re-watched Dark City. Every day, the people of this city are robbed of their lives, wiped clean and then shoved back into those lives, still having to function as if DarkCity3nothing had happened. And while on a conscious level, nobody seems aware of their experiences, it seems like behind the vacant gazes of so many characters, they’re all somehow existentially aware of everything they are going through. And the tragedy of this is brought into full form under the constant blanket of cold, dark skies.

Dark City is a special film, full of phenomenal performances. This is one of my favorite pre-Jack Bauer roles from Kiefer Sutherland. I’ve already mentioned William Hurt. Rufus Sewell is spot on as the lead role and the criminally under-recognized Jennifer Connelly puts in a phenomenal performance. And yes, the portrayal of the aliens can be a little on the cheesy side, especially with their names like Mr. Book or Mr. Hand, Mr. Wall and so forth. But the costume and makeup of the creatures was so well done that I’m willing to overlook that aspect.

So many movies anymore are entertaining but they don’t stay with you. There has been a certain amount of drama recently over remarks Martin Scorcese made about not liking superhero films. And while I do find the Marvel movies entertaining, I have to admit that I don’t think he’s wrong. I go to an Avengers film, have a great time and then barely ever think about the movie again after leaving the theater. I rarely have any desire to watch them again. With movies like Dark City, I find it gets into my head. And despite having seen it again and again, I can still find reasons to enjoy it, even though it’s the DarkCity5fifth or sixth time I’ve seen it. It’s a style of movie-making that I wish would become more financially viable anymore. Let movies become the landscapes of dreams again and not just plugging in a basic visual formula.

But I digress.

Dark City for me is a story about a man trying to find himself in a society where there is nothing left to be found. It’s about how powerful our innate drive to discover truth can be, no matter how heavily it might be shrouded and inaccessible to us. It’s a reminder that we might be lost to each other, we might be lost to ourselves, but sometimes there still remains that tiniest of tethers, that cord of truth and experience that can return us to what once was. We just need to learn how to operate the mechanisms within ourselves.

To find our own Shell Beach.

Who knows who might be waiting for you there?

 

D3mini

Chad A. Clark is an author of dark-leaning fiction, born and raised in the middle of the United States. His road began in Illinois, along the banks of the Mississippi and from there he moved to Iowa, where he has lived ever since. From an early age, he was brined in the glory that is science fiction and horror, from the fantastical of George Lucas, Gene Roddenberry and Steven Spielberg to the dark and gritty tales of Stephen King and George Romero. The way from there to here has been littered with no shortage of books and movies, all of which have and continue to inform his narrative style to this day. Chad has written horror, science fiction and non-fiction. He has been published by Crystal Lake Publishing, Dark Minds Press, Shadow Work Publishing, Sirens Call Publications and EyeCue Productions and his books have received critical praise from the Ginger Nuts of Horror, Ink Heist, Confessions of a Reviewer, Horror DNA and This is Horror. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

Fright Fest 2019: Annihilation (2018)

Image result for annihilation 2018

Directed by: Alex Garland

Adapted for the Screen by: Alex Garland, based on the novel by: Jeff VanderMeer

Starring: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Oscar Isaac and Tessa Thompson

Released: February 2018 (USA)

A Review-ish by: Feind Gottes

The Gist: A biologist’s husband returns one year after leaving on a Top Secret mission but is not the same man who left. Government officials take the couple into custody where the biologist learns of a mysterious zone her husband was sent to explore and returned as the sole survivor. In order to find out what happened to her husband the biologist enters the zone with a team of her own where no one knows what they will find.  Continue Reading…if you dare!

Fright Fest 2019: Phantasm (1979)

phantasmposter

Directed by: Don Coscarelli

Written by: Don Coscarelli

Starring: A. Michael Baldwin, Bill Thronbury, Reggie Bannister, Kathy Lester, and Angus Scrimm, et. al.

Released: March 1979

Review by:  Thomas S. Flowers

Synopsis: “A teenage boy and his friends face off against a mysterious grave robber known only as the Tall Man, who keeps a lethal arsenal of terrible weapons with him” -IMDb.

When thinking about cosmic horror one begins to formulate a list of criteria on how to judge what exactly is “cosmic horror.” Immediately the name H.P. Lovecraft will surface. In fact, most of how we understand “cosmic horror” is from his collected works. The emphasis typically negates shock horror or gore horror in favor for fear of the unknown. The phenomena we are confronted with goes beyond our comprehension. The word cosmic here then implies that the confrontation in the story extends beyond our narrow human understanding and stretches into a “cosmic significance,” that is, otherworldly. Phantasm (1979), while categorized as more of a fantasy horror, actually represents aspects one would find in a traditional cosmic horror tale, such as an antagonist that could only be describes as simply otherworldly, a story driven by madness, a nightmarish dreamscape, and of course, most importantly, fear of the unknown. Continue Reading…if you dare!

Fright Fest 2019: Cloverfield (2008)

CloverfieldCloverfield is a title that seems to be quite divisive among film lovers. You either love it or you join up with the masses that have elected to turn it into an object of scorn and mockery. Despite the success of films like this and the Blair Witch Project, found footage films has become a genre that I’ve seen frequently falling into the crosshairs of critics. Either for the vomit-inducing lack of a good steady shot or for the absurdity in the logic of the premise, that a person fleeing for their life would none-the-less do so while carrying a camera and dropping one-liners the entire time.

I really do get it. I can see how people could see found footage as little more than a gimmick to publicize the film. That the credibility you think you’re gaining with a low budget film such as this can sometimes be seen as an excuse for not investing time in the writing and production quality of the product.

That’s all fine and I can’t say that I have any logical grounds to counter the argument. Although I do suspect that making a movie appear so casual and haphazard takes more effort than the average person would be willing to admit. Still, I get it. It doesn’t make sense that anyone would be clutching to a camera, filming every horrid thing they’re going through. Anyone with an ounce of sense in their head would toss the camera to the side and buy themselves that much more speed to maybe get away with their life.

The thing is, these movies, even more than the rest, aren’t about capturing the height of realism and credibility. Movies are all about the illusion of the storytelling. It’s a lesson we should have learned long ago in the earliest days of our childhood, going to the theater to see jedis clashing lightsabers or to see talking cars or pirates in outer space. Enjoying movies is about enjoying that magic.

Now I’m not saying that at the crusty old age I’ve gotten to, I’m still sitting in the theater, glowing in the magic of the cinema. But I think I’m still capable of leaving a certain amount of my disbelief at the door and allowing myself to sit back, relax and just enjoy a story, even though it might not be realistic. Not for nothing, but if you’re looking for realism in a movie about a skyscraper-sized monster rising from the depths of the ocean, you might be in the wrong store.

Cloverfield is a fun movie. And while that may make the more refined of us turn their nose up at the notion, for Cloverfield2me, finding that thrill of excitement while watching a movie is all about chasing down those childhood experiences.

I’ve loved monster movies for a long time and what I love about this film is that it shows us what the story might look like if it was from the perspective of one of those countless screaming victims, running through the streets, looking for safety. There isn’t a booming narrative voice in this and there was only one recognizable face in the cast, although you had to be paying attention to catch him.

What the camera serves in this movie is to put us into the story as a character, sprinting in this insane race to try and survive in the face of total destruction. It was a nicely conceived and executed notion. And while very little is explained, I felt that for the kind of movie it was, this worked perfectly. We knew no more than the characters being hunted down and for me it made the experience all the more frightening and fast-paced.

I also liked the device of the occasional interludes inserted in the movie, (ostensibly bits of recordings on the tape) of two of the main characters sharing an afternoon together.

Cloverfield3The way this is introduced is as follows. At a party, one of the characters is handed a camera and asked to film people at the event. Assuming he is supposed to use the tape already in the machine, he does so, not realizing that he is taping over the old content. So after long stretches of death and destruction, the film will cut back to what was on it originally, an afternoon at Coney Island with two people in love. And again, it makes no sense that the footage would be there. It should all be erased and gone. But for the purposes of the film, it provides some moments of levity between the characters and highlights the tragedy of events unfolding.

Cloverfield was a stunning movie experience. It was loud and fast and took no prisoners. The experiences of these characters is terrifying and the frantic nature of this chain of events is expertly laid out for you. If you can turn down the volume on your adult side and just sit back, you could really enjoy this. Let the visuals wash over you and buckle up for a bumpy ride.

If you want to watch a movie where the army guy and the scientist brilliantly save the day and vanquish the monster, you should give this one a pass. But if you might enjoy seeing a group of characters dumped into a situation where they are suddenly fighting for their lives with little chance of seeing the dawn, this movie might just be the one for you.

D3mini

Chad A. Clark is an author of dark-leaning fiction, born and raised in the middle of the United States. His road began in Illinois, along the banks of the Mississippi and from there he moved to Iowa, where he has lived ever since. From an early age, he was brined in the glory that is science fiction and horror, from the fantastical of George Lucas, Gene Roddenberry and Steven Spielberg to the dark and gritty tales of Stephen King and George Romero. The way from there to here has been littered with no shortage of books and movies, all of which have and continue to inform his narrative style to this day. Chad has written horror, science fiction and non-fiction. He has been published by Crystal Lake Publishing, Dark Minds Press, Shadow Work Publishing, Sirens Call Publications and EyeCue Productions and his books have received critical praise from the Ginger Nuts of Horror, Ink Heist, Confessions of a Reviewer, Horror DNA and This is Horror. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

Fright Fest 2019: The Void (2017)

thevoidposter

Directed by: Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski

Written by: Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski

Starring: Aaron Poole, Kenneth Welsh, Daniel Fathers, et. al.

Released: April 2017

Review by: Jeffery X. Martin

Synopsis: “Shortly after delivering a patient to an understaffed hospital, a police officer experiences strange and violent occurrences seemingly linked to a group of mysterious hooded figures” -IMDb.

Close your eyes for a moment. It’s okay. Trust me on this. Just shut your eyes. Now, envision tentacles. I know. Weird, right? But for a few seconds, allow yourself to think about tentacles.  Continue Reading…if you dare!

Fright Fest 2019: They Live (1988)

Related image

Starring: Roddy Piper, Meg Foster, Keith David, Peter Jason, and Larry Franco

Written By: John Carpenter (as Frank Armitage)

Directed By: John Carpenter

Review by: Joshua Macmillan

Synopsis: Nada, a wanderer without any meaning in his life discovers a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see the world the way it truly is. As he walks the streets of LA, he begins to notice that all media and governments are comprised of aliens intending on keeping all of the population subdued so they can dominate the world. 

When I sat down to watch They Live for this review, it was the first time I was actually taking the time to see this film. I of course had heard of it, and had been told numerous times that I needed to check it out. I am a huge John Carpenter fan, mostly due to Halloween, The Thing, and Christine. Those were the films from Carpenter that I grew up on. This one has been on my “to be watched” list for quite a long time and thanks to Machine Mean, I finally forced myself to sit down and watch it. Unfortunately, it really did feel like a chore to sit through this film.  Continue Reading…if you dare!

Fright Fest 2019: Event Horizon (1997)

EHThis is not the first time I have reviewed this movie. In fact, it isn’t the first time I have reviewed this movie for this site. But it happened to come up as relevant to the theme for this month and all I could think was, “I couldn’t just recycle the old review, could I? That wouldn’t be right.”

There are certain plot formulas that will win me over, just for coming into the room and saying, “hello”. And one such formula is that of the ghost ship, especially if you add in a kind of cautionary angle. The ship had gone off on some kind of exploratory mission, was never heard from again and then, decades later just shows up, abandoned. I love the inherent darkness and peril that hovers just outside the borders of those stories and the first time you read or watch something like that, you spend most of your time clenching, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Now if you were to make that concept into a sci-fi movie, there’s going to be little chance I won’t like it. You’d have to try pretty hard to turn me away.

Enter into the conversation, Event Horizon.

So maybe you shouldn’t give this review any weight because the person writing it isn’t coming from an impartial point of view. Maybe I should adopt a more discerning eye for the more important flaws of a movie and be willing to put my feelings aside in the essential dissection of the mechanics of a film in review.

Maybe there’s some value to that point but I’m not doing it. Sorry.

I mean, not really but you know what I mean.

The premise of the movie is (as ideal for horror) simple and effective. Sam Neil plays Dr. William Weir, a man who is in mourning for the death of his wife and in the midst of this is called to duty in the investigation of an exploratory vessel he helped design, years ago. The Event Horizon, created for deep space exploration, has suddenly reappeared after vanishing without a trace and with no explanation.

A salvage crew led by Captain Miller (played by the outstanding Laurence Fishburne) has been scrambled to go to the ship and Weir has been tasked to accompany them, as an expert on its technology.Film and Television

What happened to the Event Horizon? Where has it been all this time? Why has it come back? What happened to the crew? All questions that will need to be answered in the course of their mission. And after a quick introduction to our cast of characters, the story is moving full speed. What I think the film uses most effectively is that of isolation and foreboding. As soon as the ship catches up to the Event Horizon and boards her, you have a sense of something dark about the ship and that Weir knows something that he isn’t sharing with the rest of the crew. All of this unfolds nicely as most everyone starts to come unhinged and eventually they are trapped on the Event Horizon.

As the ship’s creator, Weir seems to be especially affected by the ship as his recent emotional traumas are exploited to bring him around to a rapidly descending path into madness.

For me, Event Horizon is all about the claustrophobia you manage to feel within the immense vastness of space. Every scene is oozing tension with the mystery of what might be lurking around the corner and what entity may have returned as a part of this cursed ship. You spend most of the film bracing yourself for coming upon the brutal end that you know most of these characters are destined for.

There is a certain mythology around this film on the subject of the infamous director’s cut. Evidently there was quite a bit of footage in the film that was removed as it was thought too disturbing and considering what did end EH2up in the final product, I can only imagine what that would entail. However, while footage like this would normally be reserved for an eventual re-release as a blu-ray collector’s edition, that footage has sadly been lost forever as it was evidently exposed as a result of being improperly archived. For some reason, for me this gives the film a little extra bit of aura, somewhat along the lines of all the mysterious problems that existed on the set of The Exorcist. After being simply missing for years, the lost footage from Event Horizon was found in a Transylvanian salt mine. That in and of itself is begging to have a book written about it.

Event Horizon is a beautifully shot film with fantastic atmosphere and tension. I love all the scenes on the ship with thunder rumbling outside even though it makes no fracking sense that they would be able to hear thunder while in orbit. After all, in space no one can hear…well you get the point. Still, I love it. Maybe I’m being suckered into the fly trap of the film’s superficiality but I don’t care. It’s a movie I love to watch and I would place it on a level as being a later generation’s version of Hellraiser, another favorite of mine.

Sometimes things that we think are lost come back. And sometimes they bring friends. Check this film out and you can see a pretty good example of this.

 

D3mini

Chad A. Clark is an author of dark-leaning fiction, born and raised in the middle of the United States. His road began in Illinois, along the banks of the Mississippi and from there he moved to Iowa, where he has lived ever since. From an early age, he was brined in the glory that is science fiction and horror, from the fantastical of George Lucas, Gene Roddenberry and Steven Spielberg to the dark and gritty tales of Stephen King and George Romero. The way from there to here has been littered with no shortage of books and movies, all of which have and continue to inform his narrative style to this day. Chad has written horror, science fiction and non-fiction. He has been published by Crystal Lake Publishing, Dark Minds Press, Shadow Work Publishing, Sirens Call Publications and EyeCue Productions and his books have received critical praise from the Ginger Nuts of Horror, Ink Heist, Confessions of a Reviewer, Horror DNA and This is Horror. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

Fright Fest 2019: DOOM (2005)

Related image

Directed by: Andrzej Bartkowiak

Writers: Dave Callaham, Wesley Strick, et. al.

Starring: Karl Urban, Rosamund Pike, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, et al.

Released: October 2005

Review by:  Jonny Numb (aka Jon Weidler)

“Didn’t you just greenlight another movie based on a VIDEOGAME?!” – Cecil B. Demented

The bane of PC/videogame adaptations – outside of the creative stigma that puts most critics on the offensive from the start – can be attributed to one simple fact: you’re taking an active medium and stripping away a level of engagement that adds to the visceral experience of playing. And when you think about it that way, it really makes the adaptation feel like an exercise in futility, no matter how high the budget or how skilled the crew. Why bother? Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2019: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Image result for 2001 space odyssey 1968

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Writers: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke

Starring: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, et. al.

Released: May 1968

Article “Analysis of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ written by: Mawr Gorshin. Originally published on MawrGorshin.com.

2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 science fiction movie produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick and written by him and Arthur C. Clarke. The film is often said to be based on Clarke’s short story, “The Sentinel,” but this is a gross oversimplification, as only a small moment in the film parallels the story, and even that part is radically rewritten. The actual literary equivalent of the film is the novel credited only to Clarke, but cowritten by Kubrick. Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2019: Hellraiser (1987) & Hellbound (1988)

Related image

Hellraiser: 1987

Written and Directed by: Clive Barker

Starring: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, and Doug Bradley, et. al.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II: 1988

Directed by: Tony Randel

Written by: Peter Atkins/Story by Clive Barker

Starring: Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Kenneth Cranham, Doug Bradley, Barbie Wilde, Nicholas Vince, et. al.

Review by: D. S. Ullery

You’ll notice I’ve opted to combine my analysis of the first two films in the long running Hellraiser series into one long piece, as opposed to separating them into two articles. No, I’m not being lazy (well, maybe a little). This is actually a conscientious decision, arising from my opinion that the first two chapters of the saga inspired by Clive Barker’s novella The Hellbound Heart are so inexorably intertwined they essentially function as two halves of the same, epic film. I’ve opted to approach my review accordingly.  Continue Reading…if you dare!

Fright Fest 2019: Phantoms (1998)

phantomsposter

Directed By: Joanna Going (Kingdom, Keys to Tulsa), Rose McGowan (Scream, Planet Terror), Ben Affleck (The Accountant, Gone Girl), Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Nicky Katt (Suburbia, Dazed and Confused), and Peter O’Toole (Lawrence of Arabia, The Lion in Winter)

Starring: Joe Chappelle (Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers, Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula)

Written By: Dean R. Koontz (Odd Thomas, Watchers)

Release Year: 1998

Review By: Andy Taylor

I’ve never been good at letting certain inaccuracies go when it comes to cinema. I say certain because it seems to be entirely arbitrary whether an inaccuracy is going to bother me or if I’ll be able to let it go. I couldn’t care less how comic book accurate the costumes were in any superhero movie despite being into comic books since I was a child, but when the elephants don’t end up trampling the town at the end of the Disney movie The Jungle Book, a movie made for children, I’m bothered. The thousand and one scientific inaccuracies of any Star Trek show don’t pose any problem for me, but when the Klingons say “Qapla”, which easily translates to victory, and the universal translator doesn’t do the job it does for nearly every other Klingon word, I’m bothered. I’ve watched Braveheart multiple times with no problems whatsoever despite it being as historically accurate as Marvel 1602, but when American Horror Story started with the whole Roanoke thing, I seethed inside. Continue Reading…if you dare!

Fright Fest 2019: Hellboy (2004)

hellboyposter

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Adapted for the Screen by Guillermo del Toro and Peter Briggs with consultation from Hellboy creator Mike Mignola 

Starring: Ron Perlman, Doug Jones, Selma Blair, Rupert Evans and John Hurt

A Review-ish by Feind Gottes

The Gist: At the end of WWII Professor “Broom” leads a platoon to thwart Nazi attempts to open a portal to another dimension unleashing ancient evil. Instead Hellboy enters our world raised by Broom to fight evil. When Rasputin returns from the dead Hellboy must choose between mankind and his destiny as the harbinger of hell.  Continue Reading…if you dare!

Fright Fest 2019: The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

Image result for cloverfield paradox

Director: Julius Onah

Writers: Oren Uziel

Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Daniel Bruhl, John Ortiz, et. al.

Released: Feb 2018 (Netflix)

Review by: Duncan Bradshaw

There’s one thing you can say with certainty about the (current) trilogy of Cloverfield films; they aren’t trying to copy each other. So far, we’ve had found footage and monsters in Cloverfield, with human ‘monsters’ and the claustrophobia of 10 Cloverfield Lane. I’m not going into my thoughts in those films, because people have beaten me to them already! Read the last couple of days reviews right here and here if you missed them. I will say this though, I enjoyed both of them. Continue Reading…if you dare!

Fright Fest 2019: The Endless (2017)

theendlessposter

Directed by: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead

Writers: Justin Benson

Starring: Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson, Callie Hernandez, et. al.

Released: April 2017 (Tribeca Film Festival)

Review By: Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

Synopsis: “As kids, they escaped a UFO death cult. Now, two adult brothers seek answers after an old videotape surfaces and brings them back to where they began” -IMDb.

“The Endless” (2017) has been a movie I’ve heard great things about since its availability, so it had been on my list for a while now to check out. It’s fast become a classic watch with many people recommending it on social media. I love horror and sci-fi and fantasy meshed together, and I think you get a taste of all three here, primarily because you can’t tangibly see the entity that creates the tension in the film. However, it’s categorized as an American science fiction film. Another reason the idea of this movie appealed to me is of course the cult aspect. And I am all for a good cult. Continue Reading…if you dare!

Fright Fest 2019: UZUMAKI (2000)

Image result for UZUMAKI (SPIRAL) (2000)

Director: Higuchinsky

Writers: Junji Ito, Kengo Kaji

Starring: Eriko Hatsune, Fhi Fan, Hinako Saeki, et. al.

Release date: February 2000

Review by:  Kim McDonald

Synopsis: “The inhabitants of a small Japanese town become increasingly obsessed with and tormented by spirals” -IMDb.

I find the idea of being driven by compulsive thoughts particularly disturbing. Horror Manga writer, Junji Ito has based a great deal of his work around compulsion. Higuchinsky’s film, UZUMAKI, is based on Ito’s manga of the same name.  It tells the story of Kirie (Eriko Hitsume) and her boyfriend Suichi (Fhi Fan) as they try to figure out the weird obsession with spirals tormenting everyone in their small town.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2019: The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Image result for cabin in the woods 2011

Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, and Bradley Whitford.

Written By: Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard

Directed By: Drew Goddard

Review by: Joshua Macmillan

Synopsis: A group of five friends head out for a weekend trip to a remote cabin in the woods. Once there, the group begins to act strangely, taking on the tropes of modern slasher teens. One by one, the friends begin to die, leading to the discovery of the truth behind the remote cabin. 

At first glance, The Cabin in the Woods appears to be a generic slasher. The trailer, from my initial memories of seeing the film marketed seemed to focus on just about every horror film cliche you could possibly think of. I pegged this film as a flop and only went to see it in the theaters for something to do. I had just moved to the area I currently live in and didn’t know the area or people all that well. Needless to say, my first impulse for something fun to do was to go check out one of the local theaters. The Cabin in the Woods was playing so I figured, “What the hell?” I was taken by surprise. The film is filled to the brim, overflowing in all honesty with every cliche but the spin that Goddard and Whedon put on it sunk it’s claws into me and dragged me along for a truly fun and entertaining celebration and deconstruction of the genre we are all so fond of! Continue Reading…if you dare!

Fright Fest 2019: Sphere (1998)

sphereposter

Directed by: Barry Levinson

Writers: Michael Crichton (novel), Kurt Wimmer (screenplay), et. al.

Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Coyote, Liev Schreiber, Queen Latifah, Huey Lewis (as the helicopter pilot), et. al.

Released: February 1998

Article: “SPHERE, MOTHAFUCKA!” by Michelle Garza

Sphere was released on February 13, 1998, which happens to be my birthday, and for a large budgeted flick it didn’t too well in the box office which is slightly baffling to me because upon watching it I thought it was a good movie. It had definite horror elements to it which pleased me and a cast of well-known stars such as Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, and Samuel L. Jackson for me to berate while they proceeded to make typical horror movie mistakes. The plot was criticized for not being original but I dug it, it certainly wasn’t new territory to tread but they did a good job bringing it to life. Imagine an alien craft being discovered on the sea floor, and a group is assembled to investigate its origins and reason as to why it is there, shit goes terribly wrong and all hell breaks loose.  Continue Reading…if you dare!

Fright Fest 2019: In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

Image result for in the mouth of madness

Directed By: John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing, Prince of Darkness)

Starring: Sam Neill (Event Horizon, Jurassic Park), Jurgen Prochnow (Dune, Das Boot), and Julie Carmen (Fright Night Part 2, Kiss Me a Killer)

Written By: Michael De Luca (Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Judge Dredd)

Release Year: 1994

Review by: Andy Taylor

I’ve always loved the title In the Mouth of the Madness. In fact, I loved it so much, I adopted the name for family get togethers years ago because if anything will bring you to the brink of madness, family will be that thing. With that being the case, it’s no wonder I’ve watched the tale of Sutter Cane’s madness inducing stories several times, but it wasn’t until deciding to review it that I learned something new, and I love learning new things. Looking into the film’s production, I discovered that In the Mouth of Madness is part of a trilogy of sorts that includes The Thing and Prince of Darkness. John Carpenter called these three films his “Apocalypse Trilogy”. My apologies if I’m just learning something that most people already know, but discovering this little factoid actually added an extra level of enjoyment for me, and that enjoyment extended to re-watching the other two as well. I’ve always thought they had a similar theme, so it made for a nice surprise to know they were meant that way. So how does this film stack up against its thematic brothers? Let’s find out. Continue Reading…if you dare!

Fright Fest 2019: From Beyond (1986)

thebeyondposter

Director: Stuart Gordon

Writers: H.P. Lovecraft (short story), Brian Yuzna (screenplay), Dennis Paoli, Stuart Gordon

Starring: Jeffery Combs, Barbara Crampton, Ted Sorel, Ken Foree, et. al.

Release date: October 1986

Article: “Is that a Pineal Gland in Your Head, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?” by William D. Prystauk (aka Billy Crash)

Beginning of Beyond

Following his breakthrough film Re-Animator, which also thrust stars Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton into the horror slimelight, director Stuart Gordon unleashed From Beyond to the big screen in 1986.

Based on HP Lovecraft’s short story of the same name, From Beyond explores another mad scientist venture. Dr. Pretorius (Ted Sorel), named after the egomaniacal lunatic scientist from Bride of Frankenstein, has developed the “Resonator” with his assistant, Crawford Tillinghast (Combs). This time, the desire is not to re-animate the dead, but to dive deeper into human consciousness and stimulate one’s sixth sense. Continue Reading…if you dare!

Fright Fest 2019: The Mist (2007)

themistposter

Directed by: Frank Darabont

Writers: Frank Darabont (screenplay), Stephen King (novel_

Starring: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, William Sadler, Jeffery DeMunn, et. al.

Release date: November 2007

Article: The Mist (2007) – a meditation on a prophecy, by Kit Power.

This conversation assumes you’ve seen the movie, and indeed read the King novella, The Mist. Also, The Dead Zone. Here be spoilers.

 So, I’ve already written about this movie. A couple of years back, on the occasion of King’s 70th birthday, the British Film Institute (BFI) ran a King season, screening adaptations both celebrated (The Shining, Carrie) and obscure (The Night Flyer). Whilst finances prohibited me from going to see everything I wanted (in particular, a chance to see Maximum Overdrive on the big screen – I love it but, let’s face it, it’s pretty bad) I did, after some deliberation, decide to add tickets to the black and white screening of The Mist to my purchase of Carrie/The Shining double bill on Imax. I could just afford it, and I wanted to see something I hadn’t seen. Continue Reading…if you dare!

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: It Follows (2014)

Image result for it follows 2014

Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe, and Bailey Spry.

Written & Directed By: David Robert Mitchell

Synopsis: After a sexual encounter, a young woman learns that she is being pursued by a supernatural entity.

Review by: Joshua Macmillan

One of the most discussed films of the past decade is It Follows. A low-budget independent feature that took the Cannes Film Festival by storm. After it’s premier, the film had everyone talking and from the word of mouth alone, my interest was piqued. I do want to say now though that the film is WAY over-hyped. Not in a bad way or anything, I feel like the reputation of the film may hurt it as the film ages, much like the aging of The Exorcist has unfortunately lessened the horrific impact that the film initially had on its audiences. This film isn’t The Exorcist, nor is it anything we have really seen before. Continue Reading

Reviews In The Machine : City of the Flesh Eaters (2019)

City of the Flesh EatersGrowing up, zombie movies were something that really fueled my love for the horror genre. They scared all holy hell out of me and I think the main reason was the implacability and inevitable nihilistic doom to which the movies all seemed to portend. A zombie by itself might pose no threat. But bring on a herd of the shambling monsters and your odds were a lot worse. Add the fact that as the movie goes on, there just seems to be more and more of the things and the outlook is bleak, indeed.

This was the benchmark I used as I began to develop my own sensibilities in crafting horror and it is something I will always be grateful for.

So reading this series from Thomas Flowers I find myself appreciative on several levels. First, it returns the zombie genre back to those days I remember from so long ago but as a bonus, he has also grounded these stories heavily in the eighties. Doing so only helps me feel an even stronger connection as the books have now become tied up in my own fuzzy, happy memories of times gone by.

This series, currently standing at two books, began with Island of the Flesh Eaters. And as the VHS video tape-style cover and title would suggest, this is one story that goes after you from page one, taking little time for fluff or ceremony. You are thrust into the story along with all the gore and glory you would expect. It’s a quick read and well worth your time.

Just last month, we got the next book in the series, City of the Flesh Eaters. And what I think works most effectively here, besides the writing, is the fact that while it exists as a sequel, it runs more concurrently to the events from book one and as a result, the two books could be theoretically read in any order. It’s something that can be hard to pull off but Flowers has done a good job in this effort.

The book follows a format of moving the camera around between a group of characters, giving individual chapters to specific people. The story-lines don’t all occur necessarily at the same time and while it can be jarring to jump from one character to the next and back again, I think this feeling is actually important to the experience of the book. After all, isn’t disorientation exactly what the characters are experiencing themselves?

As would be expected, this story moves along quickly and as the reader, I was waiting for everyone to be brought together and the point where the book would become unified and moving in the same direction. And then, in one brilliant, extended chapter, Flowers takes hold of the different threads of the plot, brings them all together and makes them one with a heavy piece of twine wrapped tightly around everything. It is a plot that is deceptively complex, fooling you with how simple it seems. It is a project that requires organization, even being of shorter length and again, Flowers has proven up to the task of keeping a lot of narrative organized and up in the air.

If you cut your teeth on the glory of eighties horror, this is a book that you should check out. While store-bought nostalgia has become more of the norm anymore, this one feels quite different, coming from the creative mind of someone who has a clear love for that time and for the culture which came out of it. Reading this as well as his Planet of the Dead series gives me little glimpses into what it is I love about zombie movies in the first place. Do yourself a favor and dive in today.

D3mini

Chad A. Clark is an author of dark-leaning fiction, born and raised in the middle of the United States. His road began in Illinois, along the banks of the Mississippi and from there he moved to Iowa, where he has lived ever since. From an early age, he was brined in the glory that is science fiction and horror, from the fantastical of George Lucas, Gene Roddenberry and Steven Spielberg to the dark and gritty tales of Stephen King and George Romero. The way from there to here has been littered with no shortage of books and movies, all of which have and continue to inform his narrative style to this day. Chad has written horror, science fiction and non-fiction. He has been published by Crystal Lake Publishing, Dark Minds Press, Shadow Work Publishing, Sirens Call Publications and EyeCue Productions and his books have received critical praise from the Ginger Nuts of Horror, Ink Heist, Confessions of a Reviewer, Horror DNA and This is Horror. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Ghostbusters (1984)

ghostbusters-movie-poster-1020549030

Genuinely, how the hell can you review a film like Ghostbusters? It would be akin to asking me to review the original Star Wars trilogy. *Spoiler alert* – I’m a fan. Anyway, I was seven years old when Ghostbusters was released, and with three television channels, and no regular paper being delivered to our home, it was bordering on a miracle how we found out about any film de jour. But when me and my brother saw the trailer for it on telly, we were agog. When it came out in the cinema, we badgered our parents for weeks until they finally relented.

Our dad had taken us to see Return of the Jedi at the cinema the year before, but nothing could prepare us for what we saw when we turned the corner to the cinema. The queue went round the building. How long it took to get in, I have no idea, but we did, despite my mum having to gain some patience. Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Others (2001)

Related image

Director: Alejandro Amenabar

Writer: Alejandro Amenabar

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston, Fionnula Flanagan

Released: August 2001

Film Review By: Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

Sometimes the world of the living gets mixed up with the world of the dead.” – Mrs. Mills

The Others (2001) is a more mainstream gothic film that was popular most likely at the time it released because 1) Nicole Kidman 2) because films like this were popular at the time (The Sixth Sense came out with a splash in 1999). It debuted at number four at the box office and climbed to number two. However, it’s lasting popularity I think is that it’s also actually an incredible movie and has a shocking twist. It being good is validated by its twenty-nine award wins and fifty-two nominations, including Kidman for a Golden Globe.  Continue Reading

Walking In Memory, by Chad A. Clark

walking in memory

The plane set down in New Orleans in a pouring rain. He stepped out of the terminal, his bright red alligator boots crunching down on broken glass. He raised up a hand, clutching a pack of cigarettes, as he waved for the next cab.

He walked down Bourbon Street, glancing up at the balconies, and remembering how her hair had flowed in the breeze as they pelted the Mardi Gras crowds with peanuts. He took long drags from the cigarette, the smoke rising up to mingle with the banners and elaborate flower arrangements that lined the street.

The coffee shop where he had met her was still there, now sandwiched between trendy chain restaurants. The ragged poster of Louis Armstrong still stood guard over the patrons, partaking in burnt espresso and stale sandwiches. He had never cared for the place, but the essence of her still lingered there and who was he to fight the pull of tradition?

On the next corner, as he tried to fight the taste of caffeinated memories, the smell of catfish frying wafted down from the balcony above, and he could make out the sound of someone inside, banging on an old piano. It was the same corner he had walked past with her, the preacher standing on his apple crate, reaching out to the crowd, reaching out for him.

She had always loved the city, the people and the music, the food and festivals. Loved the smell of spice in the air, and nights spent trudging through the worst parts of town to find restaurants hidden behind heavy metal doors. He was often surprised that they hadn’t needed a password, just to get in.

She had always been there next to him on these trips, here in the city and beyond. She was supposed to stay there, always at his side. Now the only presence he felt around him was the weight of absence.

So, hours after his informal walking tour, he blinked and found himself on the bed of a hotel room. He reached across to return the now empty bottle of gin next to the empty bottle of scotch. Satisfied that he had finished both, he reached to the table on the other side of the bed, took hold of the tiny prescription bottle and laid back, steeling himself against the imminent comfort of the outstretched shades of eternity.

 

Read more short stories like this in Chad A. Clark’s collections, A Shade For Every Season and Two Bells At Dawn.

D3mini

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

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: House on Haunted Hill (1999)

househllposter

[House on Haunted Hill, release 1999; 93 minutes. R. Director: William Malone; Review by: Jon Weidler]

Remember the early days of the Internet, when most websites were primitive displays of text punctuated by the occasional jpeg? And then, how someone had the ingenious idea of message boards, which took the conversation out of the privacy of IM windows and into a virtual town square, where the opinions of others could be lauded or flogged by the majority? (Hey, all trolls emerge from some birth canal.)

Anyway: I was an active participant in the anonymous hate-fests that swirled around Amazon and IMDb. The only equivalent to commiserating with some virtual person on something you loved, was dragging something you hated for all online eyes to see. Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Ju-On The Grudge (2002)

Image result for Ju-on: The Grudge—2002

When is comes to paranormal and supernatural flicks, and among those foreign in origin, there are few selections better than Ju-On: The Grudge. This movie became a kind of renaissance for me. I’ve dabbled in foreign horror films before, such as the likes of Amando de Ossorio, Dario Argento, and Lucio Fulci to name a few. Mostly all European horror. Those were the classics though. End of the world zombish supernatural and entertainingly dubbed in English. And then came my experience with the Ju-on series. It was around 2004. I was in the Army and on my second deployment to Iraq. And to help pass the time when we weren’t out on mission, a bunch of us would buy bootleg DVDs from a local Hajji on base. One of us (I can’t recall who) bought a DVD with the entire series of Ju-On movies on it. One day we watch them all. And let me tell you, even on that tiny screen, huddled together with a bunch of badass fellow soldiers, I still got freaked out. I was instantly sold on Japanese horror. Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Insidious (2011)

Image result for insidious 2010

Director: James Wan

Writer: Leigh Whannell

Stars: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, et. al.

Synopsis: “A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further.”

Release date: April 2011

Review by: Jonathan Butcher

Throughout its first half, Insidious is a wonderfully unnerving tale about a peculiar type of haunting. Then at some point along the way it becomes a goofy, balls-to-the-wall ghost train ride, complete with wacky gas-mask set pieces and a villain who is basically Darth Maul on hooves.

After the appearance of a menacing hag in the first 30 seconds, the opening credits prime you for watching scenes a little more closely than you might have otherwise. The credits roll to the sound of tense, minimalist strings played over disorienting pans of a large house. In some – or perhaps all – of the brief camera shots, something unsettling is taking place. A ghoulish face appears in a mirror. A chair is moved by an unseen force. A picture frame shifts of its own volition. And with that, the scene is set for a genuinely masterful build-up of tension, caused on some level by the creeping suspicion that unsettling things are taking place right under your, and the characters’, noses. Continue Reading

Reviews in the Machine : The Cold, by Rich Hawkins

The ColdIt’s been a long held fact that you can’t judge a book from its cover. I would disagree with this notion from time to time but the relevance to this discussion is the incredible cover art that perfectly sets the mood for this book. This cover looks like the book was published, ready for John Carpenter to come swooping in to do the film adaptation. And in all seriousness, if this book makes it into the right hands, I can only hope that that adaptation becomes a reality.

I have been a fan of Rich Hawkins from the early days of the Last Plague. He has taken his books in any number of different directions but what I constantly find myself drawn to as a unifying factor in his books is a profoundly ingrained and yet beautiful sense of bleak darkness. There’s an almost nihilistic drive to the writing that, while sad on the surface is also compelling enough to keep me turning the pages and pulling me through the story.

The Cold starts abruptly and while many would call for more information and context, I think this works better. Rich is superb at putting the reader into the story, along with the characters. The book opens on a train and we have about that much time to acclimate before things kick off. It begins to snow and the train stops, stranding the passengers. And hidden within the misty snow and driving wind are creatures that are powerful and terrifying.

I hate retreating back to the tried and true catch phrases like, “Truly no one is safe in…” But in this case, I can say with total accuracy that no one is safe in a Rich Hawkins book. As our characters do what they can to make their way across this nightmarish landscape, new people are quickly introduced. And just as quickly, they are obliterated out of the story in spectacular fashion.

And while you aren’t given a ton of back-story up front, I felt like the protagonist managed to grow in my mind as the book wound its way to the gripping finale. Rich does a great job keeping with what you know and mixing all of that into a great tale, even when there’s more still yet to come.

Rich has some of the most vivid and visually creative descriptions I think I’ve read in some time. So while the book could be seen as maybe a touch plot-heavy, I find that the plot is so great I just don’t care that much. The book could have been twice as long and I would have happily gone along for the entire ride. A meal as good as this one, you don’t never want it to end.

We live in a world in which every day, people seem to be a little bit angrier. For whatever reason, so many people seem all the more invested in finding reasons to take issue with each other. And I’m not putting down the more politically inclined of our society or those who speak up in favor of those who can’t speak for themselves. But there’s no reason why that has to completely take over our lives. It’s also refreshing to be able to pick up a book and take in a really great story. This is a frightening tale that is paced brilliantly and leaves you wanting to immediately know when the next Rich Hawkins book is going to finally hit the shelves.

Or at least wondering when John Carpenter is going to get around to doing an adaptation of this book.

 

D3mini

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

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Final Destination (2000)

Image result for final destination

Director: James Wong

Writers: Glen Morgan, James Wong

Stars: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith, Seann William Scott, Tony Todd, et. al.

Release Date: March 2000

Article: What If Death Has A Design?

Review by: Kit Power

[The following essay assumes you’ve seen the film Final Destination, and contains comprehensive spoilers.]

 In the early 2000’s, I was bascially out of the horror scene. I wasn’t watching horror movies, and most of my reading was crime fiction – Kellerman, Leonard, Ellroy. My spare time was almost entirely absorbed by a combinaiton of internet poker and my band, Capo Jr, who I confidently predicted would be headlining Glastonbury and/or Download in a year or two. It hadn’t been a conscious choice – I wasn’t ‘off’ horror ,or anything like that – it was more just how things played out, that’s all. Neutral drift. The life thing that happens when you’re making other plans. Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural In Review : Drag Me To Hell (2009)

DragMe1

Drag Me To Hell is a film that I enjoyed when it first came out but with so much time having passed since, for the purposes of this review I thought I should re-watch it. And what I found was that I wasn’t enjoying it as much the second time around. And this could be a simple case of a movie not holding up as well for multiple viewings but I tried to mull it over and decide what exactly about it bothered me this time, as opposed to when I first saw it.

And in the end, I think what I can come up with is that this is the kind of movie that is going to depend a lot on what you’re expecting to see as you walk through the door. What style of horror are you expecting and how well does it hold up under those expectations?

Looking at this as a straight horror film, I felt like it came up quite short in the end. And it’s more than just the acting not being great or the cringe-worthy lines of dialog, the likes of, “I beat you, you old bitch” or “That’s the last of my hair you ever get!” For me, it goes down to how the premise of the movie itself is executed, pardon the pun.

Now don’t misunderstand me, I love a good story involving a curse. But in this case, I kind of felt like the movie just goes through the motions of establishing said curse.

The movie opens on a young couple rushing to the aid of a medium. Their son has been marked and made the target for a powerful demon. He has been hearing voices following an incident in which he stole a necklace from a group of gypsies. Always gypsies, right? The parents tried to return the necklace but to no avail. And in the course DragMe4of the attempted séance, a demon attacks and takes the boy, dooming him to an apparent eternity of suffering.

Right off the bat, I have a problem.

Give me a moment and I’ll come back to explain.

Flash forward some thirty years later and we are with our protagonist, Christine. Christine is a loan officer at a bank who is competing with a sniveling coworker for a promotion and things aren’t looking good for her. On this day, an elderly woman comes to the bank because her home is about to be repossessed. She pleads for leniency, despite already having gotten multiple extensions. Christine goes to her boss who implies pretty strongly that if she hopes for this promotion, she should turn this woman away. But of course it’s her choice.

Christine rejects the woman’s plea for help and in the course of her desperation, she makes somewhat of a scene in the bank, begging on her knees and in the course of a mildly physical confrontation where they kind of get tangled up in each other, Christine calls security, having the woman kicked out. She leaves, scolding Christine for shaming her and I’m pretty sure you can guess where the story goes from there.

My problem is at the point where it seems like these people drop a curse on someone in the blink of an eye. And while I get that the point is to generate sympathy for the characters, it goes so far as to make the gypsies in the movie just seem like unreasonable assholes. Look at something like Stephen King’s Thinner. In this story, you have a main character who is in an equally sympathetic situation but at least there’s the other side of the coin where you realize he could have been responsible for a death. He is being punished for an act that most of us would consider equally horrible. There’s a balance.

DragMe5In this? A child is dammed to eternal suffering in hell? For stealing a necklace? That they tried to give back? Could Christine have given the woman a break and given her another extension? Sure. But is it really her fault that the loan is so far behind? Should she be cursed to her own eternity in hell for something like this?

The responses seem all out of proportion with the crime. At some point, you would think that the demon these people are calling up would be like, “Hey, could you stop summoning me every time the checkout clerk at Costco is mean to you?”

I know, I’m taking this aspect of the plot too seriously as obviously this is just intended as a mechanism to put the protagonist into a situation of peril. I just thought they could have done a better job making the main character a bit less sympathetic while still preserving the overall tragedy of the notion of a curse.

All of that aside, I do have to acknowledge some of the better parts of the movie and there are some fantastic moments of gross gore in all of its horrific glory. There are any number of scenes involving the main character and dead bodies and fluids expelling that are pure gold for their entertainment value.

And that brings me to the other side of this coin and what I think settles my mind in terms of seeing the reaction to this movie as being so linked with the attitude you have going in.

I mean, who is this that we are talking about, anyway? Sam Raimi has certainly established himself as a name when it comes to epic, splatter-tastic cult horror films. I mean, that’s what he’s known for AFTER consideration of his epic cameo appearance in Spies Like Us. From the opening moments of Drag Me To Hell when the retro logo for Universal crawls onto the screen, I should have been expecting a throwback to a fantastic era of horror when the experience was just as much about calling friends over right before you ordered the pizza and began stacking up the VHS tapes.

These were not high-brow movies, meant to be taken seriously. This isn’t an experience that is necessarily going to dragme3-e1564170900329.jpgleave you enlightened and more mature. None of it is really meant to be taken on an intellectual level.

Looking through that lens allows me to relax a bit and take in the absurdities of the film as just part of the ride.

The moment of the movie where I think it all crystallized for me had to be the goat sequence. If you aren’t familiar, basically the plan that is hatched by the medium that Christine goes to for help is to summon this demon, trap it within the body of a goat and then kill the goat. Sure, nothing could go wrong. Anyway, the moment when the animatronic goat becomes possessed is one of the more hysterical sequences I think I have seen in any kind of a film, be it horror or comedy or whatever else. How can you not love a movie that has the guts to create a scene as over the top as that?

So I guess my overall diagnosis of the film and how I reacted to it is that I think maybe Raimi was hedging his bets a little too much. The film kind of dips its toes into both sides of the fence but doesn’t seem to commit to one or the other. I think this either needed to be a serious horror film or he had to flip all caution into the wind and go totally over the top. A lot of the movie feels like it’s kind of stutter-stepping in that direction without having the conviction to just do it.

What I’m saying is that if we had slapped on a little more cheese, we might be talking about this film, right alongside the likes of The Evil Dead.

D3mini

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?”

 

 

Read more short stories like this in Chad A. Clark’s collections, A Shade For Every Season and Two Bells At Dawn.

D3mini

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

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Suspiria (1977)

suspiria

Director: Dario Argento

Writers: Dario Argento, Daria Nicolodi

Starring: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci

Release Date: 12 August 1977

Country: Italy

Review By: Jeffery X. Martin

Synopsis: Suzy Bannion travels to Germany to perfect her ballet skills. She arrives at the Tanz dance academy in the pouring rain and is refused admission after another woman is seen fleeing the school. She returns the next morning and this time is let in. She learns that the young woman she saw fleeing the previous evening, Pat Hingle, has been found dead. Strange things soon begin to occur. Suzy becomes ill and is put on a special diet; the school becomes infested with maggots; odd sounds abound; and Daniel, the pianist, is killed by his own dog. A bit of research indicates that the ballet school was once a witches’ coven – and as Suzy learns, still is.

The 1977 film, Suspiria, didn’t turn me into a horror fan. It was the trailer. I was eight years old when I saw it for the first time, and I was immediately repulsed and fascinated. The title font that looked like pulsating flesh. That ominous voiceover. And what the hell was a suspiria? Was it a musical instrument? Could I buy one? Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Halloween III Season of the Witch (1982)

Related image

Directed By: Tommy Lee Wallace (Fright Night Part 2, Vampires: Los Muertos)

Starring: Tom Atkins (Night of the Creeps, The Fog), Stacey Nelkin (Yellowbeard, Get Crazy), and Dan O’Herlihy (The Last Star Fighter, Twin Peaks)

Written: Tommy Lee Wallace (Amityville 2: The Possession, It), John Carpenter (Escape from New York, The Fog), Nigel Kneale (Quatermass and the Pit, The Abominable Snowman)

Release Year: 1982

Review By: Andy Taylor

Halloween has always been my favorite time of year, and one of my favorite aspects of the holiday are the costumes, specifically the masks. Every year on November 2nd, I go to whatever Halloween superstore is in the area and purchase a discount mask because I am far too cheap to pay full price. This strategy has netted me a great collection of creepy, humorous, or disgusting Halloween masks. I’ve got cinematic favorites, scary monsters, and twisted psychos galore, and yet my creepiest mask by far is a large, rubber judge mask that seems to scare everyone who has seen it, judges being terrifying enough without having warped, elongated faces. One mask I’ve never been able to get, and one I would love to own, is the pumpkin mask they put out as promotion for the release of Halloween 3: Season of the Witch. They do have recreations you can get for around a hundred dollars, but if I’m paying that much for a pumpkin mask, it better have a real piece of Stonehenge in it like the ones in the film. My face might get melted off and some nasty creepy-crawlies might come pouring out of my head, but at least I’ll die a horrifyingly memorable death. Though I’m not sure Doctor Challis or the victims of Silver Shamrock would agree with the sentiment. Continue Reading

Reviews In The Machine : Compliance (2012)

Compliance1Compliance is a movie that I watched ages ago, back in the days of old of Netflix and bright red envelopes. But the movie recently popped up again on my Amazon prime list so I thought it would be worth paying it a revisit.

Compliance isn’t a horror movie necessarily. It doesn’t have monsters or the supernatural or any kind of ghoulish threat to our main characters. However, the experience of the protagonist in this movie definitely crosses over the border into what anyone in their right  mind would consider to be horrific. It’s the kind of story that shines a disturbing light on how easy it can be to get people of strong moral character to do the most depraved and horrible things.

The film is based on actual events which maddeningly could be accurately be described as a series of phone pranks. For the most part the basic details were the same. An individual calls in to a restaurant claiming to be a police officer. He tells the manager that he has just taken a complaint from a customer who claims that a cashier from the restaurant has stolen money from her purse. And because there isn’t an officer available to come to the restaurant, he needs the manager to pull the employee aside, detain her and go through her belongings to try and find this money. Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Fog (1980)

Image result for the fog 1980

Directed by: John Carpenter

Written by: John Carpenter, Debra Hill

Starring: Adrenne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Hal Holbrook, Tom Atkins, Janet Leigh, Et al.

Release date: 8 February 1980

Review by: Thomas S. Flowers

For me, the intrinsic appeal of ghost stories is the tale. Sitting around a campfire, sharing a ditty about life, death, and the thereafter typically involving some crime, something that went wrong, some singular cataclysmic event in which something horrible happened that over the years formed into the story. Said story exists both to scare (entertain) and to give warning. Beware the house on Redwood Street, inside its dilapidated walls a horror awaits those foolish enough to enter its haunted halls, etc. etc. In the macabre 1980 masterpiece The Fog, John Carpenter does just that. Using a traditional Gothic atmosphere, he creates a tale, campfire and all, warning the younger generation of the sins the past. Greed. Hate. Betrayal. And murder have stained the lineage of the small California coastal town of Antonio Bay. But as the idealistic community prepares to celebrate their centenary strange things begin to occur and a foreboding blue fog spreads toward the shores. Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Amityville Horror (1979)

amityvilleposter

The Amityville Horror (1979)

A Review-ish by: Feind Gottes

Directed by Stuart Rosenberg

Adapted for the screen by Sandor Stern from the book by Jay Anson

Starring: James Brolin, Margot Kidder and Rod Steiger

The Gist: Come on, even non-horror fans know this one! The Lutz family buys a new home on Long Island (Amityville), NY where a young man killed his entire family about a year prior. Evil abounds and 28 days later the Lutz family run for the hills never to return to the home themselves ever.

My Review-ish: Now if you’re a horror fan and you do not know the basic story of The Amityville Horror I have to assume you’re very young, like under 5 or something, or you aren’t actually a horror fan in which case… WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE??? Due to that fact this review isn’t so much a review as it will be a personal story. Don’t worry I’ll keep it short but I should tell you this film is one of the most important horror films to me personally. Now I’ll move on to some facts then we’ll have a little fun, ‘kay?  Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review” The Changeling (1980)

Image result for the changeling

The Changeling

Release date: March 1980

Director: Peter Medak

Staring: George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Melvyn Douglas

Synopsis: “A man staying at a secluded historical mansion finds himself being haunted by the presence of a spectre.”

Review: “The Changeling: Why Do You Remain?” by William D. Prystauk (aka Billy Crash)

Haunted House

Tales of haunted houses trace their eerie legacy back to Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto in 1764 to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher from 1845, and beyond. As horror goes, nothing seems to be creepier than having one’s own home become a threat. The sanctuary turns against its owner and the protective womb of wood and stone may become a tomb. Continue Reading

Saugus Falls, an excerpt, by Chad A. Clark

creative-writing-landing

A few months ago, I began writing what I thought was going to be a short story. As I got into it, however, I realized that this was likely going to end up being a full novel. For posterity and maybe to motivate myself, I am sharing the first chapter with you now, in all it’s rough-draftiness-glory. I’ve done very little to this, keeping it pretty close to how it sprang out of my mind. I’ve given it a quick read to make it (hopefully) not completely embarrassing. Still, it’s a project that I’ve been intrigued to see what direction it’s going in. Check it out, I hope you enjoy it. It will be some time before this project sees the light of day but it’s from here that it begins.

Nolan picked up the battered Zippo from the gravel. He took note of his fingers trembling as he wiped the greasy leavings of blood from the tarnished metal. The thing was frail-looking, despite the breadth of time and destruction that it had borne witness to. He wondered at how many fire-fights it had gone through, tucked away in his grandfather’s uniform as he struggled to find warmth in the Ardennes Forest. A battered landscape long since given itself up to the cold of empty death.

Now the thing was no better than a token for drunk rednecks to go bare-knuckles over in the parking lot of a bar that looked like it only served as the last stop before the end of the line. He hawked up the gunk in his throat and spit, feeling something dislodge in the process and watched detachedly as a tooth skittered off towards the sewer. Considering how much the side of his face still burned from where the guy had put the pool que, one tooth was probably getting off easy.

Maybe it was time to call it quits on this town. Put boots to that dusty Iowa road and depart for yet one more point B. It was a bit far to the next town but he could always get a good start now, thumbing his way for the rest. Someone would be willing to pick him up and toss him a ride. Even if it was in the flatbed of a pickup that wheezed and groaned, like it was on the verge of giving up the ghosts. He just had to be patient and put himself in the right position to catch a ride. Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Exorcist III (1990)

exorcist3

Legion: The Exorcist III

Release Date: August 17 1990

Starring: George C. Scott, Brad Dourif, Ed Flanders, Jason Miller, Nicol Williamson.

Written and Directed by: William Peter Blatty, based on his novel Legion.

Review by: D. S. Ullery

I have a list I’ve compiled over the years consisting of movies I feel were grotesquely underappreciated in their initial release. Not too long ago, readers read an earlier piece I wrote about one such title – the late Tobe Hooper’s fantastic science fiction horror opus Lifeforce (you can read that article here)

The film I’m discussing today isn’t merely on that list, it holds the top spot. The Exorcist III  (originally titled Legion: The Exorcist III after the novel it’s based on, but shortened to just The Exorcist III on screen and in later promotional materials) is the definitive example of a sequel hampered by both the poor reputation of an immediate predecessor (which this film thankfully ignores entirely) and a cinematic climate that didn’t really have much room for this sort of film at the time. In a bit, I’ll break down some of the specific reasons why I regard this film not only as an equal to the original but a masterpiece in its own right. Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Hereditary (2018)

Related image

The ideal of motherhood is often posited as the pedestal upon which society is built. Mothers are supposed to be the ones who protect us, civilize us. Women are expected to flow gracefully into the role of motherhood with full acceptance and wisdom. Fear or resentment are taboos women are expected to repress. The theme of the perversion of motherhood is a popular one in horror, and is a central theme of writer and director Ari Aster’s HEREDITARY.

Even stripped of all supernatural elements, HEREDITARY is a devastating film about a family destroyed by secrets and mental illness. The death of Annie’s (Toni Collette) mother, after a long illness, serves as a catalyst for the family’s final breakdown. They are also attacked by some bizarre force they are powerless against. Annie, her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne,) son Peter (Alex Wolff) and daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro,) all seem disoriented and disheveled, pulled along like the puppets Charlie is constantly making. Annie’s mother was very manipulative, especially of Charlie, who tells Annie, “She wanted me to be a boy.” She also asks who’s going to take care of her after Annie dies. Continue Reading

Reviews in the Machine : Frankenstein Theory, by Jack Wallen

Frankenstein TheoreyAt some point, author Jack Wallen made the decision to climb the literary mountain and write his own interpretation of one of the classics, Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein. And as we currently sit in the era of the reboot and the remake, I think it would be totally understandable if the reflexive reaction to something like this would be to dismiss. To bemoan the general lack of originality and new ideas that are popular culture seems unable to produce anymore.
However, knowing Jack’s work and him personally, I knew him to not be the kind of writer to simply take on any easy gimmick as a way of bringing in readers. I know how devoted of a storyteller he is and as I allowed the idea to fairly percolate in my head, I had to acknowledge that for as much as I like the original Frankenstein, it certainly isn’t without its faults and flaws.
I actually have just re-read Frankenstein this year as I had purchased it for someone as a gift. And as I was reading it, I couldn’t help but wonder where exactly my enjoyment of the story was coming from. There were several junctures where I had to acknowledge that my reaction was stemming from the fact that on an intellectual level I simply knew what was going on in the story. I couldn’t say that I was reacting to the inherent quality of the prose itself. And I think that raises the question which is important for a lot of literature of time periods which are lost to us. How much of our enjoyment of the writing is coming from the actual words from that author and how much is coming from the fact that we are so intimately familiar with the raw details of the plot? Is it possible that these books have been talked over so many times in so many literature classes that we now almost read them on autopilot?
Mary Shelley wrote a classic of modern genre literature. It has hints of science fiction and horror and while people commonly misunderstand who in the story Frankenstein actually is, this book did launch an entire franchise of content in our pop culture. However, I do have some issues in the way in which she chose to deliver the story.
The nested doll style of the plot, along with the heavily epistolary nature of the story makes me as the reader feel cut off from the heart of what is going on. At the outset of the book, the story is centered around the captain of a scientific expedition, writing letters back home to his wife. In his letters, he details an encounter with another scientist by the name of Victor Frankenstein. Frankenstein proceeds to tell this captain an extremely detailed story in his own right, shifting the story to another voice. And at the peak of the story’s narrative complexity, the voice of the narrative shifts again to that of Frankenstein’s creation. If you’re keeping track, this  becomes the voice of the monster, told by Frankenstein to the Captain who then retells it all it in his letter to his wife. At some point you start to wonder how it is that so many people have such a crystal clear recollection of every word spoken to them over the course of their life.
And I get it. I understand that a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is required. After all we are talking about a book in which the dead are brought back to life. Still, my point stands that while I enjoy the novel a great deal, there is plenty which can be built upon and expanded and maybe done with a little bit more clarity. And what I think Wallen has done here so effectively with Frankenstein Theory is to take some of the concepts which Shelly flirts with and makes them much more evident and impactful on the page.
According to Wallen, this book began as a short story intended to be somewhat of a backstory for Victor Frankenstein. And as short stories often seem to do, it ended up growing and expanding from there. So another strength of Frankenstein Theory is that the doctor himself feels like a more fleshed out and rounded character, as opposed to merely an obligatory piece who is there to tell his story.
For me, what made Frankenstein Theory stand out was in the way that it made the issues presented in Mary Shelley‘s book more accessible. And I don’t mean that in a lazy sense of “I just don’t want to deal with the mental strain of disentangling Shelly’s prose.” For me, this book manages to make the morality of the story the centerpiece, as opposed to an aspect which has to be explained and talked over before you really get the significance of what’s going on.

And Don’t get me wrong, the language of Mary Shelley is beautiful and it is a book I enjoy a great deal. It’s just that, generationally we are so far removed from that period of time and that language.  It’s overly simplistic to accuse a lack of intellect when people have a hard time engaging with classic literature. It’s simply that for many, the process of engaging with a voice so far removed from us just isn’t worth the pay-off of what we get in the narrative. And for as simple as I’m sure many would dismiss books of our current era, I have to think that a hundred years from now, readers would have just as much trouble trying to  get at the heart of what was being written. The key I see to my enjoyment of this book is how it manages to dust off the power of Shelly’s work and make it feel less like a literary artifact.

Because of the immediacy of events, Wallen is able to plunge the reader into the moral spectacle that Shelley only seems to wink at. That as the book moves forward, the monster becomes progressively more human while Dr. Frankenstein becomes more and more inhuman. To me, this is the core power of Frankenstein. Not stumbling, green monsters, but how the rational pursuits of an intellectual mind can reveal the real monsters hiding within. And this is a point beautifully laid out in Frankenstein Theory. I, for one, am excited to read more in this series.

D3mini

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

Interviews in the Machine : Jack Wallen

Jack WallenTune in tomorrow for our review of Jack Wallen’s latest book, Frankenstein Theory. For now, check out this interview we conducted with him as well.

MM : Tell us a little about yourself and what put you on the road to being an author.

JW :I spent the first 30 years of my adult life as a professional actor. I was on the road, traveling across the country, from gig to gig, and finally landed at my current home state, where I performed for one of the largest theater for young audiences in America. During my ten years as a resident actor there, I realized that Actor’s Equity Association’s retirement plan was, in a word, sad. When that hit home, I knew I had to find something that could serve as a retirement.

Flash backward to graduate school (go, Purdue!) and I had a very tight-knit group of friends who played a lot of role playing games. We spent an entire year playing Vampire: The Masquerade. I became so connected with the character I played, I decided I wanted to continue his story. After leaving Purdue, I had no one around me to play with (sad panda), so I decided the best way to keep that character in my mind was to write out his story.

Turns out, I actually had a knack for verbiage. That story never saw the light of day (although I do still have the manuscript), but it kicked off my love for writing.

MM: How would you characterize your writing? Genre? Ideal audience?

JW: To sum up my writing is tough, because I write in so many genres. I tend to allow the Universe to instruct me what to write next, so I never know what genre I’ll be playing in. Outside of that, my writing tends to be intellectual and lyrical. I’ve always felt, as a writer, words are my tool to convey plot, character, relationship, ambiance, mood, style, rhythm … and so much more. And so, I use those words as a composer uses notes, a painter uses paint, or a sculptor uses a chisel and clay. To me, it’s artistic expression on a high level.

MM: A number of your books have connections with music. The Kitty in a Casket series as well as Punk Ass Punk. Music certainly plays a central role in Frankenstein Theory. How does your background as a musician and an actor inform your writing?

JW: It’s one of the things I hold most dear, as it helps me to understand things like point/counterpoint and rhythm. As an artist, one of the things I talk about a lot (when I teach) is a bit of music theory call non-harmonic tones. These are tones which color melody as it passes from phrase to phrase. It’s a bit of a stretch to use it with the written word, but there are ways – as in transitions from beat to beat, or scene to scene. Being able to blend those moments together with tension or resolution really brings the writing to a new level. Those “passing tones” help the characters to navigate the waters of plot with grace, precision, empathy, pain, wit … you name it. Outside of that rather esoteric notion, the use of rhythm is incredibly important to my writing. When I see paragraph after paragraph written as big blocks of text, I immediately see a writer who has no sense or understanding of the role rhythm in the written word. Most humans don’t speak or think in that manner … they think in spurts and sputters, intermixed with long, drawn-out thoughts. Writing should reflect that type of rhythm.

MM: I’m old enough that I can still just remember the end of the era when going to the movies was more of an event, almost on level with going to the theater. I see the Universal Monster Franchise as a great symbol of that era. What drew you to these stories?

JW: First of all, I adore those old black and white films. When I was a child, my favorite memories are watching the horror films of old. I couldn’t get enough of B-Horror and B-Scifi. I think there’s this layer of innocence to those films that allowed people to be so much more frightened of the unknown. These films brought to the celluloid table something no one had ever before seen, so even the original Frankenstein was able to frighten them to nearly fainting. Today, we’ve pretty much witnessed every possible horror and calamity that there is to behold, so there is no longer such thing as innocence in the cinema. The same thing holds true with books.

MM: How did Frankenstein Theory come to be, specifically?

JW: It actually started out as a short story. A gent reached out to me, saying he was going to be doing an anthology of short stories, based on the Universal Monsters. He gave me Frankenstein, and I decided to do a sort of prequel to the film … a sort of “What happened to lead up to Victor reanimating a human?”  After submitting the short story, the gent had to abandon the project (for reasons unknown). I loved the story so much, I decided it needed to be fleshed out. That led to me taking on the story with the twist found in Frankenstein Theory.

MM: You seem to engage much more directly the contrast between Dr. Frankenstein and his monster. How the morality of the Doctor seems to decrease as the morality of his creation seems to increase. Is this something that was on your mind as you wrote?

JW: Yes. One of the biggest themes in all of my horror writing is turning the mirror back on humankind, to illustrate how, left unchecked, we are the most horrific monster of all time. So I spend a lot of time in much of my work on that theme. Why? It serves as a way to help remind readers that we are only a twitch away from the monstrous … so keep yourself in check. Without keeping tabs on our morality, the human condition wants to spiral down into a rather dark abyss. It is that dance, I find, where so much horror gold can be mined.

MM: There is such a disconnect between Mary Shelly’s book and the way the monster is represented in the films that followed. Have you ever wondered how point A led to point B in this case?

JW: At the time, Hollywood believed Shelly’s book to be too intellectual for the standard audience. They couldn’t offer up a “monster” who was not only intelligent, but worthy of sympathy. The “monster” in the book speaks with an eloquence we don’t find in most villains (save for the likes of Hannibal Lecter).  There is no way Hollywood could have placed the burden of sympathy on a character like the “monster” and turn the protagonist into a villain. In the book, the monster says “I am content to reason with you. I am malicious because I am miserable. Am I not shunned and hated by all mankind? You, my creator, would tear me to pieces and triumph; remember that, and tell me why I should pity man more than he pities me?” That is far too moralistically confusing for audiences of the period. Because of that, Hollywood opted to strip the monster of eloquence and make him hideous.

MM: Can we expect more from you in this series?

JW: Yes. I am about to release “Dracula Theory”, which does the same thing (for similar reasons) that I did with “Frankenstein Theory”. I also plan on continuing the series with the rest of the Universal Monsters and beyond. I love writing these types of period horror, because their tapestries are so rich and lush.

MM: The landscape out there for authors seems to experience constant tectonic shifts. What advice would you have for authors who are trying to get noticed?

JW: Patience, patience, patience. Back in 2014, it was reported that a new book went live on Amazon every five minutes. I would imagine that number to be exponentially higher now (more like 100+ every five minutes). That translates to a very large number of new books every day, which (in turn) translates to it being harder and harder (with each passing day) for authors to be seen. That means you have to work … hard. At what? Your craft. Make it your goal that the book you’re working on now is better than the book you previously finished. Never. Stop. Pushing. Yourself. Also, don’t adhere to someone’s advice as though it were gospel. Why? Just because it worked for them, doesn’t mean it will work for you. I have witnessed so many authors fail, simply because they were trying to recreate what succeeded for another. Pave your own way. Know the rules, break the rules, make your own rules. I’ve pretty much lived and died by that mantra, and it pays off.

The beat I march to is my own. Find yours and make it something glorious.

MM: Is there anything coming up for you on the horizon that you would like to share?

JW: As I mentioned, I have “Dracula Theory”, which is my take on Bram Stoker’s fabulous tale. My version is in the same period, but flips the whole narrative on its head. Besides that, I’m working on my first romance novel, called “Beautiful Complication”. This is far from a standard romance, so expect the unexpected. Beyond those two pieces, I have a “to be written” file that’s massive, so there’s never a lack for ideas.

Paranormal & Supernatural In Review : The Exorcist (1973)

Exorcist1
What can I really say about a movie that has had so much expressed about it already? It’s a classic film, regardless of how much of a horror fan you are and there have been countless films and books inspired by it.
I came to this movie at some point during college in the late nineties. I’m not old enough to have seen it upon its original release but I did see it in the theater in 1998 when the remastered, extended version was released to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of its creation. It’s a monumental film, one that has been deeply influential for me.
I think one aspect that rings so loudly for me is the tragic implacability of the thing. In a similar fashion to Jaws, once you’ve found yourself in the crosshairs of the monster, there’s very little you can do to save yourself and more importantly, there was very little you did to put yourself there in the first place. Having this horrific string of events happening to this sweet, innocent-looking girl heightens the overall tragedy.
And on this point, I really have to pass along my compliments to the parents of star, Exorcist2Linda Blair. For as much drive as there must be to find roles for your working-actor child, I have to think there must have been a great deal of hesitation and stress over their daughter being in this film. And also credit to the production team as well as director William Friedkin for coming up with ways to do the heavier scenes without having to involve Blair but also for bringing the material to a more simple level that she could understand and engage with. It’s difficult to get the frightening performance out of a child that you need without at the same time setting that kid up for some future therapy bills.
This was also one of the first films I was aware of that really flexed its marketing muscle to its full potential. Some early trailers for the film utilize a string of animated still shots along with some heavily accented strobe effects, the point being to heighten the discomfort of the viewer. This feeling can of course only serve to keep the film present in the mind until the inevitable moment when you finally break down and watch the movie. There were also a lot of news reports detailing how people were fleeing the theater in search of the nearest chapel. Add to this all the stories of the production being cursed and the number of people involved with the film that died. I don’t know how much, if any of this is credible. But what I do know is that it all lends a disturbing atmosphere to the film before you’ve even watched the opening scene.
Speaking more to the urban legends around the film, I’ve never really believed that the production was cursed, although it does make for a good story. Frankly, I’ve always suspected this was created as another facet of the guerrilla marketing of the film. Max von Sydow has spoken on the issue and I agree 100% with his take, that any time you have a production that drags out as long as the Exorcist, there are bound to be more deaths and mishaps.

I do believe this film is an example, not unlike Apocalypse Now, of a director becoming consumed by a project. I have no idea if Friedkin had a Coppola level breakdown, but from what the cast has had to say, he became quite invested in the success of the film. In one heightened incident, after extensive takes of not getting the emotional performance he wanted from an actor, he proceeded to slap him before a take. In the scene, as the priest delivers the last rites, you can see his hand shaking. This wasn’t a result of just his acting craft.

Say what you will about Friedkin’s tactics and behavior, but he managed to take this book and turn it into one of the greatest horror movies of all time. It is a tour de force that employs brilliant suggestion and foreshadowing that leads up to a terrifying confrontation.

Exorcist3I think what I love the most about the Exorcist is that it refuses to comply with easy explanations and it doesn’t simply feed you backstory or information. Somehow, this young girl finds herself possessed by some kind of an entity and over the course of the film, the heroes wage a battle against it on several different philosophical fronts. Why does it happen? What does it want? We don’t know. The movie lends itself to your speculation. I am in total agreement with Friedkin that the Exorcist is the kind of film where you take from it what you bring in. If you believe that the world is a dark and evil place, then you’ll get confirmation of  this. But the movie also supports the notion that there are forces for good that struggle on our behalf. It’s a movie that, despite all the horrific things that happen, there is also some good for you to take hold of.

I read Blatty’s novel recently and found it excellent as well. There isn’t a ton that strays from the film and I think it pays testament to how effective of an adaptation Friedkin managed to put together.  The Exorcist fires on all levels and if by some chance you haven’t seen it, you should make all efforts to rectify that oversight as soon as possible.

D3mini

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

For Walls Do Crumble, by Chad A. Clark : Chapter One

For Walls Do Crumble2

In one week, the final chapter in Chad A. Clark’s apocalyptic trilogy will be released. It’s now available for pre-order. Are you curious? Interested in checking it out and don’t want to wait? Machine Mean has for you an exclusive look at the first chapter. Enjoy, and please considering pre-ordering, via the link at the end of this piece.

-1-

 

The dime was what first caught her attention.

As she walked along the street, Roxie caught a flash from the corner of her eye, glancing to her right to see sunlight reflecting off the small piece of metal on the ground. She slowed and veered towards the coin, bending down to pick it up. As she did so, her feet absurdly tangled and her balance began to slip. With a mocking laugh from within, she realized that there would be no way to prevent this as she held out her hands to try and brace herself, with nothing but open air to stop her. Two pedestrians offered their help in the form of deftly stepping out of the way when she fell, grunting as her shoulder hit the ground and possibly in an unconscious attempt to escape from reality, she allowed her momentum to carry her on as she rolled between two newspaper machines.

The world erupted in bright white light.

Roxie squeezed her eyes shut, putting her arms up over her head as a blast of heat flowed over her. There seemed to be a collective outcry as the ground shook, glass breaking all around. Car horns seemed to go off all at once, only to be immediately silenced as if from some higher power and above, tendrils of darkness stretched out into the sky.

“What the fuck?” She looked at the blood on the pavement, rubbing the side of her head at the unexpected warmth. It was like an oven door had been opened next to her head.

It took a moment for her to register the screams.

Ten feet away, two people were on the ground, kneeling and shrieking in clear agony. One woman had clamped hands to her face, blood seeping through clutching fingers. The other was trying to rise to his feet, blinking with bloodshot eyes, looking like they couldn’t draw a focus, screaming as he did so.

“I can’t see! Someone please help me, I can’t see!”

And as she looked up and down the street, there was more of the same. Either prone bodies littered across the ground or people doubled over in pain and confusion. She looked up to City Hall when her breath caught at the sight of the clouds roiling up into the rapidly darkening sky. There was no denying the sight of the mushroom cloud, something she had only previously seen in documentary footage.

“Fuck.”

The muttered protest was all she could think to do as she averted her gaze from the explosion, thinking of all the people around her who had evidently lost their vision. They writhed on the ground everywhere, plunged into their own pain and confusion. An odor of something burning was in the air and all she could wonder at was how she had managed to avoid being hurt herself. How she had the luck to not be looking into the sky when the detonation had happened. There were more vibrations under her feet and part of her wondered how long it would be before the ground itself split open.

“Hey!” The voice came from behind her as a hand landed firmly on her shoulder to drag her to the ground.

“What…what the hell are you—”

“Shut up and follow me. There isn’t time!” The tall, reedy man darted off through the crowd and as she struggled to keep up, she pulled up at the sight of him pulling on a manhole cover, stepping onto the ladder below. She detected a foul odor as she stepped closer, watching him descend. He snapped at her again, his tone leaving no room for debate. “Come on, we don’t have a lot of time!”

She shook her head at the insanity that somehow, climbing into the sewer with this stranger was almost more crazy than what she had just witnessed. The crashing report of a car colliding with a signpost across the street snapped her back to reality and she stepped onto the ladder.

“Who are you, do you know what’s—” Her question died on her lips as she stepped off the ladder and found her new friend stripping off his clothes and dropping them onto the concrete next to them. “What…the hell are you doing?” she asked him.

He shrugged as he continued to undress. “You know what that was, right? That was a nuclear explosion. That means your clothes are contaminated. You got to get them off. Careful not to get them in the water, though.”

Roxie glanced at the wide, man-made stream flowing past in the trench. She wanted to protest as every instinct screamed how insane it was to simply strip in the presence of this man. Still, if what he said was true, she had to do it. Pulling her clothes off, she looked over as he stood there, down to his bare ass and glancing off to the side as if he was trying not to watch.

“All of it,” he said, almost sounding apologetic. Roxie slipped out of her underwear and added it to the pile. Reaching down, he added her clothes to his but as he turned she had a sudden thought.

“Wait!” she cried out. He paused and turned back, clearly agitated, one foot already on the ladder. “Wait, my keys are in my pants pocket.”

He snorted and shook his head. “Kid, you aren’t going to be driving anywhere anytime soon.”

“No, you don’t understand, the key-chain!”

He reached into the pockets until he found the keys and held them up, looking but clearly not understanding.

“The key-chain!” she repeated. “That’s a picture of me and my brother. Please, I can’t lose that. Please give them back.”

He let out a slow breath before nodding and tossing them to her. She had a brief, terrified vision of missing and watching them slide into the water but she managed to catch them cleanly, clutching them to her chest while he scampered up the ladder. He threw the clothes up and out, coming back down after he had disposed of them.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’ve got clothes where we’re going.”

“Christ,” Roxie muttered to herself. The guy acted like he hadn’t heard, leading her down the walkway along the water. At some point, he bent down and picked an object up off the ground. She heard a clicking sound and light emerged from the flashlight he now held. After what seemed like an eternity and as the echoing sounds of explosions above began to fade, he stopped abruptly and reached for a ladder. Her mouth gaped open as he stepped down and began towards the water.

“Don’t worry, it’s only about four feet deep and the current isn’t that strong. Just keep close to the side.”

“You want me to—”

“Come on! I promise we can talk all this over but we need to get to a safer place. Please just shut up and—”

“Okay! I’m coming, for fuck’s sake. Just hold on.”

The water was surprisingly cold as she eased into it. It came nearly up to her armpits but the foothold underneath was more secure than she had been expecting and it was relatively easy to move along the wall without losing control. From above, there were occasional tremors, followed by a shower of dust. All she could cling to was the hope that at any moment she would wake up, having had the most surreal dream.

“Come on. In here.” He stopped and turned into what looked like a small alcove. She could see the top of what looked like an arch of some kind but it seemed to be a solid wall, inset somewhat from the main tunnel.

“Okay,” he said, turning to her. “This is the point you’re going to have the hardest time with and I need you to trust me. Take my hand. Now what we’re going to be doing is going underwater and swimming straight ahead. I know it sounds crazy but just close your eyes, take in a deep breath and stay with me, all right?”

Roxie barely had time to nod before the light clicked off and they were going down. The water swirled up above her as they submerged and the world took on a tinny, hollow echo. They swam forward but the wall she had expected to find before them wasn’t there. Instead, they swam through a secondary tunnel that had been obscured by the water level. She had the vague thought that she wished he had told her how far it was going to be but they were already angling up.

As they broke the surface, she coughed out the moisture that had managed to seep in, looking up into the chamber they had just entered. The water went another ten feet before reaching a dead end. The room itself was shaped like an over-sized horseshoe, with the water at the center. At the very end, another ladder took them up to the platform, at least ten feet above.

“Wait for a minute,” he said as he climbed out of the water. He moved away, out of sight for a moment before returning with a towel, holding it up for her as she climbed. He averted his gaze as she wrapped it around herself and pointed off towards one of the walls. “There’s some clothes over there you can choose from. Sorry I don’t have more but it’s better than nothing.”

Roxie wasn’t interested in clothes, though. She looked around the chamber, seeing that there was no way in or out, other than the submerged tunnel they had just swam in through.

“What is this place?” she asked.

He shrugged in response. “I don’t really know. I found it about a year ago.”

“And you…you’ve been living down here?”

He smiled for the first time. “Beats the alternative at the moment, doesn’t it?”

“So…what the hell just happened? What are we going to do down here? Where are we…” She trailed off as she began to feel her breath running short. The questions flew into her head too quickly to articulate them.

“Let’s take that slowly and start simple, okay? I’m Jeff. What’s your name?”

“Roxie. I…why did you help me?”

It was the only question she could phrase from the stew of confusion brewing within her.

“Honestly, I don’t really know. Everything happened so fast but you had been lucky enough to not be looking into the blast and I…whoa, easy there!”

Before she could speak, she threw up what was left in her stomach, feeling her eyes dropping shut and the last sensation she could mark before darkness rushed in was pitching forward into his outstretched arms.

Click HERE to preorder today!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Prince of Darkness (1987)

Image result for prince of darkness 1987

Directed By: John Carpenter (Halloween, Escape from New York)

Starring: Donald Pleasence (Halloween Franchise, Phenomena), Victor Wong (Tremors, Big Trouble in Little China), Dennis Dun (Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Emperor), Lisa Blount (Chrystal, An Officer and a Gentleman), and Jameson Parker (The Bell Jar, Jackals)

Written By: John Carpenter (They Live, The Fog)

Release Year: 1987

Review By: Andy Taylor

As the son of a preacher-man, it should surprise no one that I’ve always had a strong interest in religion. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and so many others have long fascinated me, ever since I found reading the Bible, the only reading material available during church, to be more interesting than listening to the sermons. I might not prescribe to any particular one, though what my beliefs are remain immaterial to this review, but I’ve read most of the different religion’s main holy books to sate my curiosity, finding each one to be a fascinating look at how early humans tried to explain the world around them. Another big interest of mine is science. I might not understand a lot of it, but I love how science continues to delve the depths of our universe for answers we’ve been asking as a species for thousands of years. In some cases, both science and religion can be blended together, though many times the two are diametrically opposed, and this can make blending them effectively a difficult task. Thankfully, John Carpenter seems to have those same interests, and being the talented writer that he is, did a good job mixing the two into a strange, but fascinating tale, even if it does suffer from a couple of issues. Before we get to that, let’s look at the weird tale of Liquid Satan. Continue Reading

Writing Scared

Blurring Lines Between Nightmares & Reality

The Bloody Book Blogger

#SupportIndieHorror

Live. Laugh. Scream.

The works of horror author Thomas S. Flowers

Hunter Shea

The Official Website of Horror Writer Hunter Shea

bloodshotbooks

READ UNTIL YOU BLEED!

The Horror Bookshelf

A blog dedicated to Dark Fiction

kitpowerwriter

Displacement activity is still activity: Writing about writing

Into The Macabre

Horror Book Reviews

Infinite Ocean

Mawr Gorshin's mind-expanding writing.