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[REVIEW] Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2018)

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What’s the worst that can happen? That is what I had said last night before renting the yet to be released remake of George A. Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD (1985). Deep down, I knew…I knew it wasn’t going to be good, and yet there I was, pushing select and paying $6 despite my better judgement. I try to be fair. I know I am very particular about zombie movies. Deep prejudices, you might say. Being a Romero-purist makes it really hard to get into anything other than Romero. I understand that the late great grandfather of the zombie genre wasn’t perfect, we need only look at Survival of the Dead to realize that, but still…there has to be something. Story. Acting. Gore. The trifecta, no, the algorithm to making a solid zombie movie. So, did Day of the Dead: Bloodline make the cut?  Continue Reading

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We did it AND other thoughts on 2017

This final wrap up post for 2017 isn’t about one individual or even two, this is about our collective achievement. Machine Mean may have started with one nerdy guy talking about horror, history, politics, and whatever else crossed his mind, but it has GROWN way beyond that. From guest posts and interviews to a full on partnership between myself and Chad Clark, we have watched this little horror movie and book review site flourish. In 2017, we had over 17,000 readers, leaving over 200 comments, drawn in from all over the world–predominately in the United States, the UK, Canada, and France. Our most popular post was Chad’s article The Dark Tower And Toxicity in Modern Nerd Culture, ringing in nearly 2,000 reads. In 2017, we posted 137 articles totally nearly 190,000 words. But we couldn’t have done this alone. We’ve had a lot of help from some 31 really awesome contributors.  Continue Reading

Thomas’s Top Reads: 2017

Now, I’ve never claimed to be a world champ reader. Truth is, i’m probably the world’s slowest reader. I have no shame at being slow, at least i’m reading, right? Any how. As we near the end of 2017, I thought it would be fun to share some of the books I’ve read throughout the year, not including some titles such as Salem’s Lot that I re-read every year. Being a fan of both fiction and non-fiction/history, you ought to find a great assortment here to look through. I’ve been trying to be more diverse in the genres I digest. Maybe that can be a goal for 2018, to read more of everything, not just horror. I’ll also include a short review of each book from myself. Well then, lets get this started shall we?  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: The Toxic Avenger (1984)

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The eighties were weird time in cinematic history. Teenage werewolves who’ve found the need to fit in and become all-star athletes, a transgender serial killer who has a disdain for camping and boating, lastly, a man wearing a fedora who finds enjoyment by tormenting teens through their dreams, a weird time for films. And if you could take one of those films and use it to describe the cinema from that particular era—The Toxic Avenger, would be your best bet.

A lot of questions can be raised, in regards, to what makes The Toxic Avenger a great movie. Is it the story? No.  Is it the special effects that will make Predator shake in shame? Not necessarily.  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: The Relic (1997)

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I was a freshman in college when The Relic came out, and I remember sitting in the theater with my friends watching the film.  I have a special place in my heart for creature features.  I just love how creative and awesome some of the creatures turn out to be.  I’m a huge fan of creatures created by Stan Winston, so I just had to see this film.

The Relic is still one of my all-time favorite creature features.  Apparently my memory was a bit hazy and I didn’t remember that the audience saw as much of the creature as they did.  I remember it being shown in bits in pieces in the dark, but it gets shown in all its glory—albeit in the dark, but that just adds to its awesomeness.  It deserves its time on the screen.  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: Gremlins (1984)

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There are only three rules.

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

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

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

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

Creature Features in Review: Trollhunter (2010)

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

Creature Features in Review: Spring (2014)

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

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

Creature Features in Review: Swamp Thing (1982)

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Swamp Thing

Starring:  Ray Wise; Adrienne Barbeau;

Louis Jordan; Dick Durock

Written and Directed by Wes Craven

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

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

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

Creature Features in Review: Castle Freak (1995)

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

Creature Features in Review: Species (1995)

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

Fright Fest: DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)

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

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

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

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

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

Fright Fest: Land of the Dead (2005)

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

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

Fright Fest: [REC] (2007)

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[REC] (2007)

Directors: Jaume BalagueróPaco Plaza

Writers: Jaume Balagueró (screenplay), Luiso Berdejo

Release Date: 23 November 2007 (Spain)

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

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

Fright Fest: Train to Busan (2016)

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

Fright Fest: Invisible Invaders (1959)

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From another planet comes the Invisible Invaders!

How can you stop what you don’t see?

The dead will destroy all the living!

The living dead threaten all life on earth!

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

Fright Fest: DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004)

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

I love the beginnings of zombie movies.

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

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

Fright Fest: Zombieland (2009)

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Zombieland: The Best Zombie Movie

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

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

Fright Fest: Diary of the Dead (2008)

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

Fright Fest: Dead & Buried (1981)

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The Art of Death in Dead and Buried

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

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

Fright Fest: City of the Living Dead (1980)

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

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

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

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

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

Fright Fest: Nightmare City (1980)

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Nightmare City

Director: Umberto Lenzi

Also Known As: City of the Walking Dead

Runtime: 

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

Fright Fest: Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972)

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

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

Fright Fest: Day of the Dead (1985)

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

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

Fright Fest: Night of the Living Dead (1990)

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

Fright Fest: Shock Waves (1977)

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Shock Waves (1977)

[85 minutes. PG. Director: Ken Wiederhorn]

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

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

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

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

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

Fright Fest: Night of the Comet (1984)

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

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

Fright Fest: DEAD SNOW (2009)

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

Fright Fest: Fido (2006)

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

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

Fright Fest: Zombi (1979)

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

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

Fright Fest: The Video Dead (1987)

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The Video Dead

Director/writer: Robert Scott

1 Hr 30 mins.

Release Date: November 1987

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

Continue Reading

Fright Fest: PLANET TERROR (2007)

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

Fright Fest: Dead Alive/Brain Dead (1992)

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The most brutal lawn mower ever filmed: Deal Alive.

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

Fright Fest: Return of the Living Dead (1985)

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Return of the Living Dead

by D. S. Ullery

Released August 16,1985.

Screenplay by Dan O’Bannon

Story by John Russo, Rudy Ricci and Russell Streine.

Directed by Dan O’Bannon

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

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

Fright Fest: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

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

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

Interviews In The Machine : Amy Cross

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

Creature Features in Review: Gremlins 2 (1990)

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

IT (2017) – A Review

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

Kong: Skull Island (2017) REVIEW

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

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

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[99 minutes. Unrated. Director: Jack Heller]

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

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

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

That “something” is sincerityContinue Reading

It (2017): SPOILERS

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WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.

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

Creature Features in Review : It (1990)

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Chad’s take on It.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creature Features in Review: Arachnophobia (1990)

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

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

Lovecraft Country: book in review

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

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

Creature Features in Review: The Mist (2007)

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

Reviews In The Machine : Dark Frontiers, part one of two

Dark FrontiersI love westerns. I love horror. And frankly, when those two things manage to come together I think great things can happen. Look at the landscape of a great western story. You have a barren and hostile terrain, where death lurks around every corner. You have people struggling to survive in a world they don’t completely understand. It’s about striking out, exploring and breaking out onto new ground.

With those parameters in mind, it’s easy to see how naturally the horror genre fits in alongside it. All the elements needed for great horror come gift wrapped in the western genre so all that’s required is a great author to pull it off.

Cue Benedict Jones, please.

Mulligan’s Idol is the first of two novellas found in the book Dark Frontiers. It tells the story of Pedro Mulligan, a man who is drawn into a mysterious expedition due to his unique knowledge of the area in question. The journey will take them through hostile territory, into even more dangerous areas and for reasons that Mulligan is only barely aware of at first.

What I thought came through the strongest in this was the strength of the characters. Mulligan himself is a great protagonist but the supporting cast around him is fantastic as well. Pretty much every major character proves to have much more depth and texture than they seem to have at first and this only serves to enhance the power of the story. You could certainly make the argument that on some level, the characters in this are fairly representative of certain archetypes. I, however, have always been of the opinion that pretty much everything can be argued as being derivative or archetypal, it just becomes a convenient weapon when people want to criticize a thing. It’s more important to actually look at those specific elements and see how they are being used.

This story is exciting. It’s also bleak and brutal. There’s despair and fear and complexity here and that is what lifts the book up above any superficial complaints that might be levied against it. Ingredients in and of themselves may have the potential to be bland but when they are put into the proper hands, the execution makes everything sing.

The novella length of this story is also perfect for me. I don’t know if it’s my essential existential angst driving my reading preferences now but I just don’t have the patience for long books that I once had. Mulligan’s Idol is just right. Establish the premise and get to the point. Speaking as an writer myself, I find brevity to be a valuable trait and goal in story telling. In a world that’s overfilled with distractions, I don’t want to have to ask you for too much of your attention, just enough.

I found the title of the story to be kind of fascinating and I have no idea if this was by design or if it was coincidental. I don’t know how extensively this is used in the U.K. but in the states, a “mulligan” is basically a do-over. You’re playing golf and you shank it into the trees? Declare a mulligan and take another shot.

The reason I find this intriguing in this context is that (in the story) I often felt like there were undercurrents of redemption or second chances or getting what you think you are deserved. I felt this with a number of the characters so I found myself frequently coming back to the title and wondering if maybe there was a hidden message intended there.

I said at the start that I love westerns, although most of what I have ingested has been on film. And I say this, fully cognizant of how western stories are often guilty of distorting somewhat what life really was like then. It’s hard to be so far separated by time and distance and to tell a story that is historically accurate and an entertaining read. But frankly, I think that if an accurate understanding of humanity during a specific time period is your goal, there are far more academically inclined texts which are there for the reading. I have never taken novels or film to be historical documents but I also thought Jones did a good job putting in the extra time and effort to give this book a feeling of authenticity. Historical fiction is something I could never do, as I lack the patience and will power you really need in order to get that work done. So just add that to the list of reasons I have to show the love and respect for this book.

The point of all this is basic and simple. The pursuit of treasure and riches may be foolhardy. But there is plenty to be found within the confines of this story. And the best part is that with as good as this is, it only represents half of the book it appeared in.

A do-over on this one will not be necessary for Benedict Jones.

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If you’re already sold on the experience that is Dark Frontiers, follow the links for either US or UK and pick up a copy today. Otherwise, tune in next week as we shine the spotlight on Anthony Watson as well as his contribution to 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

Interviews In The Machine : Benedict Jones

Dark FrontiersAt Machine Mean for the next two weeks, we will be conducting a discussion of the book, Dark Frontiers, volume one. This book is a pair of novellas, brought to you by authors, Benedict Jones and Anthony Watson. Both are Westerns put through a heavily horror-influenced filter.

This week, we will be focusing on the first of the two stories, titled Mulligan’s Idol. Today, we will be shining a spotlight on author Benedict Jones and tomorrow we will offer up our review of the book itself. Next week, the focus will shift over to Anthony Watson.

My introduction to Benedict Jones came in the form of his novella, Slaughter Beach. I think he has a great style and a knack for visual description and narrative pacing. Take a load off and check it out as a great artist breaks down his own craft!

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MACHINE MEAN : First of all, thank you for taking time to answer some questions for us. Why don’t we start with a little about you and what led you to this craft of writing?

Benedict Jones : Well, I’m Benedict J Jones and I’m a thirty seven year old writer from south east London. I’ve been getting published for about a decade now and mainly write in the genres f horror, crime and the western.

I think it was creating worlds that drew me into writing. That was something I had always Ben 4done since I was small – creating stories and the worlds in which they occur. I’d always been a voracious reader and I’ve written stories for as long as I can remember, although I didn’t really get serious about them till a bit more recently.

MM : Who are some of your main influences?

B: My influences are quite broad and seem to change and expand constantly.

For my horror stuff I’d have to cite Barker, King, Lovecraft, and Poe as well as authors like Adam Nevill who is producing some amazing stuff, Gary McMahon, Mike Mignola, and a tonne of others.

Crime; Chester Himes, Phillip Kerr, George Pelecanos, Donald Ray Pollack, Frank Bill, Ray Banks and Ken Bruen.

In regards to westerns I’m a big fan of Larry McMurtry, Cormac McCarthy and Elmore Leonard.

As well as that I read a lot of history books, plays and non-genre stuff.

MM : This is not your only foray into Westerns. Tell us a little about your other works.

B : I’ve been working on various horror-westerns, and a few “straight” ones, for the last few years. I had some early ones published on The Western Online and by The Big Adios (before it closed). Dark Minds Press collected ten of the horror westerns in my collection “Ride the Dark Country”.

I have a couple of recurring characters who appear in some of the westerns. There’s “Tomahawk Val”, a mountain man/trapper in the “Jeremiah Johnson” vein, who has appeared in a few shorts (“King of the Hill” and “A Merry Christmas in Hell”), and Gatlin aka The Exile who is an ex-Confederate soldier wandering around in Mexico and getting involved in strangeness (“The Arroyo of the Worm” and “The Brides of El Somberon”). I like the idea of these characters being on a kind of occult odyssey through the old west.

The collection itself was a nice canvas for some of the stuff that was already published as well as a raft of newer, unpublished, stories. There’s giant worms and mad monks, demons, cursed meteorites, the Wendigo, wolf-men, secret cults, blazing six-guns and sturdy pioneers.

MM : Personally, I think that horror and westerns make for great companions. There’s great potential for stories about isolation and of the unknown. Why do you think we don’t see more of it?

B : I’d agree with that very much. There is quite a bit out there both in book and film but the problem is finding the good stuff! I think one of the problems with it is genre labelling – whether people want to call it weird-westerns, steampunk, horror or western can mean that it can be difficult to find exactly what it is you like. For a long time I tended to categorise mine as “weird-westerns” but I’ve dropped that now and just describe them as horror stories set in the Old West.

I think that the genres merge really well – like you said, the isolation is there already and it isn’t a huge leap to add horror to that, whether of the supernatural or more natural variety.

MM : Tell us about Charlie Bars.

B : Charlie Bars is three time ex-con from south east London who has ended up working as a private investigator. The stories run through an absolute range being on the whole hardboiled neo-noir but several of them have occult undertones. He’s a violent man but does operate to his own “code” in terms of right and wrong. There’s rarely a happy or even neat ending to the stories.

Charlie first appeared in a short story called “Real Estate” in, the now defunct, Out of the Gutter magazine. From there I wrote a novella which ended up being called “Skewered” and formed the foundation for a collection released by Crime Wave press (“Skewered and Other London Cruelties”) and that was followed up by the novels “Pennies for Charon” and “The Devil’s Brew” along with a further handful of short stories.

He’s a character that allows me to explore a lot of different things and while the stories do tend to be crime I can slip in a smattering of “otherness” when the fancy takes me.

MM : Turning to Dark Frontiers, what can you tell us about Mulligan’s Idol? How did this story come about?

B : “Mulligan’s Idol” is set in the New Mexico Badlands at the outbreak of the American civil war. It is the story of a washed-up surveyor named Pedro Mulligan who is coerced by a gang of mercenaries to take them to a section of desert he surveyed a decade earlier. They are looking for the town of “Worship” and an ancient treasure they believe lies there.

Strangely, it started with the end… A whole portion of the end sequence, along with Mulligan, came to me fully formed one day while I was sitting at work. I scribbled down some notes and over the months after added to it until I had a vague story that I was happy with. Oddly, for me anyway, a lot of the characters in it had direct comparisons from the screen; Mulligan was always meant to be Mitchum, Baron is John Saxon, Frog – Dennis Hopper… It’s one of the few stories that I have written that has been like that, seeing the characters as actors rather than just how they appear in my head.

MM : How do you go about preparing a story set in a historical time period? Is there anything you try to do or avoid in creating a story and characters that feel authentic but are also accessible for a modern audience?

B : Well, I always want it to be as accurate as I can make it (even if there are demonic cults and creatures of the night…). I think research is key, really knowing the era that you are writing about and being able to slip in little details. I’ve always thought that the author should know a lot about the “world” they are writing in but that the reader doesn’t need to know all that. The small details you can add help to build the world and you don’t need big “info-dumps” to explain it to the reader.

Language can be hard – especially the dialogue – as you want to catch the way people spoke at the time but I think too much can be off putting. I’ve recently been playing with doing some Elizabethan horror and it’s really interesting to try and work out how to present the language. I read Anthony Burgess’s “A Dead Man in Deptford” and that is written very much in the language of the time, I loved it but not sure I could replicate it and then just after that I read Bernard Cornwell’s “Of Fools and Mortals” which employs dialogue of the time but the rest written in a more “modern” style. It’s really interesting to compare and contrast the different styles in which we can bring the worlds of the past to life.

MM : Do you see yourself returning to this story?

B : I’ll certainly be writing stories in the same milieu but whether the idol or any of the characters will return I couldn’t say for certain. You never know I may bring the idol into the modern world!

MM : What does the future bring for Benedict Jones?

B : 2018 will hopefully see the publication of the third Charlie Bars novel as well as a WW2-horror novella that I’m really excited about (but can’t say much more on that at present).

As well as that, Anthony Watson and I are hoping to get “Dark Frontiers volume 2” finished and there’s a bigger project that we are working on – historical horror again but I won’t say more than that at the moment.

I also have a few short stories already slated for publication with a few different publishers.

Lots of things on the go but I’d rather be busy than have nothing happening!

 

Thanks again to Benedict Jones for giving us some of his time! Make sure you check out our review of his half of this book as well as next week, when we dive into the mind and art of Anthony Watson. In the meantime, click here to see more of Benedict Jones.

Baykok, by Chad A. Clark

Baykok

Shaw looked up from the fire and the smells of his cooking dinner towards the sound coming from the tree line. It could have been a deer stepping on dead branches, but from the echo, it had sounded like bones popping. He shook his head and went back to tending the fire. The shitty job back in Detroit was supposed to be the source of his stress, not this place. His hunting and camping trips up here to the upper peninsula were supposed to be the remedy. Still, he had been uneasy these last few nights, some instinct in the back of his mind feeling restless, telling him that somehow he was becoming the hunted.

His head shot up at the new sound that erupted, this time that of footsteps marching out from the trees and he jumped up at the sight.

“What the Christ?” he yelled as he stood, nearly tripping over the log he had been sitting on and began looking around for his rifle.

From the light of the fire, he could see the thing striding towards him. It looked like one of the model skeletons from high school science rooms, but with ragged strips of sinewy flesh hanging off of it, eyes blazing with a red light that hurt to look at.

Shaw had his hands around the stock of the gun, but the thing had already produced a bow and drew it back. He could see no arrow notched, but when the bowstring snapped, he felt the burning impact in his shoulder and was thrown to the ground. Burning that started in his shoulder, spread to the rest of his body, and in a blink of a moment, he was lying on his back, completely immobilized. He tried to move, to struggle and get away, but no part of his body responded to the commands.

He was being thrown down next to the fire, on his back. He could see everything around him and feel what was happening, but was lost inside himself, unable to articulate anything, even in his mind. He saw the animate corpse produce a long, silver dagger, and in a moment of unadulterated pain, the thing stabbed and sliced down his midsection. As his consciousness dwindled, he was ushered off by the moist sounds of something off in the dark chewing, food being sloppily and greedily consumed.

* * *

It had been campers who brought the man in. He had come stumbling out of the woods, delirious and raving about a skeleton attacking him, and while he was clearly sick, barely able to stand under his own power, the doctors could not figure out what was wrong. John Doe lingered under intensive care for several hours while they conducted tests and ran out their best guesses but, in the end, they were unable to save him.

It wasn’t until during the autopsy that they finally found the large rock that had been placed inside of him, precisely where his liver should have been.

For more short fiction, check out Chad’s books : A SHADE FOR EVERY SEASON (available in paperback, eBook and audiobook) and TWO BELLS AT DAWN (available in paperback and eBook)

 

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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

Ala, by Chad A. Clark

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The ship was bathed in blood.

At least, that was what it looked like, from across the twenty feet that separated the two vessels as they passed each other. Gavin leaned over the side rail and tried to get the attention of the one person on the other ship that he could see. The man was crouched down on his knees on the deck, rocking back and forth, screaming incomprehensibly.

“Eli, what the hell is he saying?”

Eli was staring at the man, mouthing the words silently as if he was trying to figure that out himself. He shook his head as he answered. “Something about a snake. A snake with wings in…in the clouds?”

Gavin looked back at the plume of cloud cover that swooped down across the water towards them. The sight of the sudden, impenetrable clouds was unsettling enough, but add to that the image of the vessel coming forth from those clouds transporting such human carnage.

“Maybe we should turn—”

“Too late.”

Gavin looked back at Eli and saw the man now standing completely erect, his arms hanging limply at his sides, staring up at the sky with his mouth hanging open.

“Eli? What’s wrong?”

His friend dropped his head back down to look at Gavin, who took an immediate step back. Eli’s eyes had glazed over and all he could see was the whites, with bright lines of veins cutting across the surface.

“I shall have you now.” Eli’s voice had taken on a modulated tone, sounding almost female to him. Gavin turned back towards the bow and saw the clouds rushing in to overtake them. In an instant, they were engulfed in swirling, gray smoke. A black shape passed overhead, so close that a hot breeze trailing behind knocked them off their feet.

The boat floated through smoke, endlessly, until finally it broke through into what must have been the center of the cloud, a patch of raging sea underneath a bubble of otherwise clear sky. Thunder crashed from the cloud and flashes of static electricity rippled from within as well. Gavin heard a sound and looked up, slack jawed as the dark shape flew out from the cloud cover and could be seen clearly for the first time.

“Snake? That’s a God dammed dragon.”

The inconceivable sight of the winged beast bearing down on them caused some of the men to jump overboard, screaming frantically. One by one, the demon plucked them out of the water, showering the boat with blood as it bit down on its victims.

“Too late for you to turn back now.” The voice of whatever was possessing Eli spoke one more time before his head was twisted violently, by the unseen force that had taken hold. Gavin could hear the bones cracking from where he was standing, and watched as the body of his best friend fell limply to the deck.

He looked around him as his crew started to be taken from the ship and the blood began to rain down in heavier torrents. He heard the shrieking cries and looked up into the visage of hunger and desire on the face of the thing as it swooped down on him, flesh torn, and pain, followed not quickly enough by eternal night.

For more short fiction, check out Chad’s books : A SHADE FOR EVERY SEASON (available in paperback, eBook and audiobook) and TWO BELLS AT DAWN (available in paperback and eBook)

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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

A Shade For Every Season, A Short Fiction

a shade for every season

The end began with the fight.

She had screamed at him so loudly that he had actually thought one of her pupils were going to pop. The vase she had been so happy to buy, now became the missile hurled at him to shatter against the china cabinet. He had left the house wondering if he even truly wanted to come back.

The fight consumed every thought as he sat behind the wheel, driving but not really seeing. He looked down at the passenger seat for a moment when the sound of brakes and horns snapped him back to attention, and as he jerked the wheel, his fleeting thoughts were of how the median looked. It stretched away from him as if being pulled by a rubber band and the world around him slowed to a near-halt. He looked around, wondering if the car was spinning or if it was just him. His stomach felt like it was turning upside down as he felt a dull impact to the back of his head and the world blinked away.

He looked around and instead of the car, found himself suspended amidst a swirling mass of gray clouds. They roiled around in all directions, occasional flashes of light so brilliant as to leave harsh after images in his eyes. He felt the tremor of a massive explosion and pulled away instinctively.

In the blink of an eye he was standing in a long hallway. There was a dull illumination about everything, everywhere he looked but he could not detect any actual source of the light. The hallway seemed to stretch out away from him into infinity, with occasional doors marking either side.

He was still taking in the surroundings, trying to understand how he had come to this place when he noticed the child standing next to him. The face looked so familiar as he looked down at it. As he scrambled for a mental foothold, the child gazed up at him as if waiting for the answer to an unspoken question. He couldn’t understand why he felt so familiar until the realization flooded in.

The child was him.

The child-version of himself reached up and held out his hand, waiting patiently. It was impossible to accept what he was looking at but there were so many pictures lying around their parents’ house, it would be hard not to recognize his own face, even at such a young age. It was him in every way, greeting himself as a seven year old guide waiting to take him…where exactly? Jacob reached out and took the tiny hand in his and together, the two began walking down the hall. To their left and right, the doorways began to open and his child companion stopped at each, clearly expecting him to look within.

In one room, he saw himself as a teenager, hunting for the first time with his uncle. He was reaching down to lift a baby rabbit up out of a nest, looking around to see if anyone was watching before taking hold and twisting the head until the neck broke. The next room contained the college version of himself, in bed with the waitress from the restaurant he had met during his part time job. She sat atop him, already taking him into her as she was removing her bra, moving onto him as she took his hands to place them onto her breasts. In another room he saw himself at the age of ten, at his grandfather’s funeral. The scenes jumped back and forth, displaying moments that he remembered vividly and yet had given almost no thought to since.

The tiny hand that was once his own gripped him suddenly and he saw that they had reached the end of the hallway. Jacob looked down into his own face and watched as the child that once was him slowly began to dissipate, vanish away from reality. He looked up, now standing at the base of a staircase leading into darkness. The world felt like it was wobbling around him as he took one unsteady step forward. The stairs were solid underneath him so he followed that first step with a second, and then a third.

The room he stepped up into was an empty hospital room. There were no windows or doors, just equipment unused inside a sterile operating theater. He turned to look over his shoulder and saw that the stairs were now gone. When he turned back he saw that a patient was now strapped down to the exam table, which was tilted up to an almost entirely upright position. Even with all of the blood and damage to the patient’s face, he could still recognize what he was looking at.

The patient on the bed was him, like looking into a distorted reflection. This version of himself on the bed looked like he had been badly beaten, with bruises, cuts and lacerations all over his body. Immediately, his body began to sear with pain and the details of the car accident began to come back to him. Fresh wounds appeared on the injured version of himself, cuts opened up on the arms and face, causing blood to start flowing freely. He remembered the shattering glass, the sensation of being thrown forward. This was what he must look like, a three dimensional mirror on the table. As he stepped forward for a closer look, his mangled self opened his eyes and spoke to him softly.

“What you were is gone forever. What you will be is never known and what you are is not long for this world.”

Jacob shook his head, “I don’t understand what you mean.” He tried to ask for more but the injured version of himself had already drifted into a state of unawareness, looking blankly off into the open space of the room. A repetitive beeping had started to fill his head, starting slowly and now reaching a manically frantic pace. He felt sweat beading up on his forehead and looked around the room, not understanding where he was or what was happening. If these shades of himself were supposed to be functioning as guides of a sort, they had yet to explain to him what he was doing in this place or where they were taking him.

There was a deep vibration that he felt, not from the walls or the floor, but from within himself. He looked up and saw that the hospital bed was now gone, replaced by a simple wooden ladder, going up towards a ceiling that had now become, impossibly, hundreds of yards away. He took hold of the rungs and began to climb, white knuckling as he was buffeted by increasingly powerful blasts of hot wind. The ladder swayed from side to side, and the muscles in his legs were twitching, either from fear or fatigue.

The ground below him had long since vanished into a swirl of dense fog when his head ran up against something solid. He looked up but found that he was still staring up into open space with no sign of whatever barrier he had just encountered. His hand shook badly as he reached out and could definitely feel the solid surface. It gave slightly as he applied pressure, making him think about trap doors leading up into attics and crawl spaces. He pushed upwards and first heard a skree that could have been the sound of rusty hinges followed by the heavy sound of a door falling open. Where blue sky had once been above him, there was now a portal leading into darkness amongst the clouds. Jacob climbed up and pulled himself through.

The ladder dissolved from under his grip and out of instinct, he grabbed futilely at thin air and screamed even after his brain had registered that he was standing on solid ground. He was on the roof of a building of skyscraper height, looking out into gray horizons. An old man stood by the ledge, gesturing for him to come over. Jacob couldn’t help but scrutinize him as he approached. Could this also be him? A version of himself that was yet to come?

The man gestured towards a coin operated set of binoculars mounted into the stone ledge and handed Jacob a brilliantly gilded golden token. Jacob inserted the coin and peered through the eye holes.

The world was engulfed in flames.

Everywhere he looked, all there was to see were towering plumes of smoke and flame, waves of heat he could feel even from such a great distance. He pulled back and looked at the geriatric reflection of himself but the only response he got was a shrug and a turn of the head, to gaze off into the horizon.

“I don’t understand!” Jacob yelled again. His older self pointed at the binoculars and handed him another coin. He looked again but this time saw an expanse of the most beautiful valley he had ever laid eyes on, grass so green and waters so blue that it almost hurt to look upon them. He could see fish in the lake, birds in the trees, deer in the field.

Then, like a photo negative exposed to heat, the image in front of him started to curl in from the edges, blistered and begin to burn until again he was looking out upon a maelstrom of fire.

Three versions of himself he had seen. His past, his present and this. “Is that supposed to be my future?” Jacob asked, “Is that what you’ve been showing me? Some kind of a warning?”

He looked up, and now saw all three versions of himself staring back; the child, the accident victim and the senior citizen. As they stared him down, their hands came up slowly to take hold of each other and in one last flash of blinding light he was suddenly looking at a perfect mirror image of himself.

Again, the sound of hospital monitors filled his head. He could also hear the sound of distant chatter, like doctors and nurses in an operating room. In that moment, the only thing he cared about was getting back into the life he did not realize until now, how much he wanted. He could never return to the past, his expectations of what his life should have been and his fears of what was yet to come. He needed to leave it all behind so that he could truly live his life within each moment.

He looked down from the rooftop, thinking idly that it sometimes took rising up above things to be able to look down and take perspective.

He stepped up onto the ledge in a sudden moment of inspiration and looked down into the billowing storm clouds below. Jacob stepped off the edge.

Hot screaming air rushed past him as he fell, headfirst into a swirling mass where no light entered. Then, after an eternity of a moment he found himself rushing down into a luminescent ocean of stars and light that grew only brighter.

His eyes snapped open in time for him to jerk the steering wheel and apply the brakes. He pulled to the left and was able to get the car stopped as the truck barreled past him, nearly clipping him in the process. A few more seconds and he would have planted the front end of his car into that median.

Jacob shook his head and looked into the rear view mirror, scanning traffic for an opening and smiling ever so slightly, either from the elation of still being alive or from the ever elusive understanding of what really was important to him in the one life he had been lucky enough to be blessed with. He resumed his path, spirit renewed in the foundry of second chances.

 

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

Chad’s Top Reads From 2017

This has been a busy year of books for me. Kicking things into high gear in order to finish my project on Stephen King has led to a grand total in the neighborhood of a hundred and eighty books. With this number in mind, even considering that many of those books were quite short, I feared it would prove to be too daunting of a task to choose a handful from such great work.

Still, just because a decision is hard doesn’t mean that we should shy away from it. After all, the artists who really went above and beyond in order to produce great work deserve recognition.

So, with that said, on with the show.

51FIqcijNALWhat Good Girls Do

I’m not sure if a book has ever affected me as much as this. And if that isn’t warning enough, this book should not be taken on lightly. This story is dark. It’s disturbing. It’s graphic. It’s unexpected, unyielding and tragic.
The structure of the narrative is brilliant, jumping back and forth between the two primary characters. This device is nothing new but the stark difference between the two voices drove the story to a level of greatness. More often than not, characters in a book just end up being varied articulations of the author’s own voice. The brilliance of this book is that you feel like you are visiting with two wildly different, fully formed individuals.
The magnificent reality of this book is that it forces you to confront the possibility that, while there are horrific deeds, with the exception of a few background characters, there might not be any monsters in this book.

 

I Was Jack The Ripper51uQ3iwdiUL

Historical fiction is hard to pull off and do it well. It isn’t enough to throw in a few “thee”s and “thou”s, maybe with a reference to a horse and buggy. It’s a fine line but it’s the difference between reading something that feels like it is in the period in question and the stuff that just feels like the literary equivalent of cosplay.
Jack The Ripper is one of the most infamous criminal cases in history and Michael Bray’s investment in the subject is clear in the book he produced. My favorite aspect of this book was how he took various theories that have been proposed over the year and used them to create a fascinating version of Jack The Ripper as a character.
This is fiction, obviously. But it’s still very entertaining. And again, take caution when reading this. There are a number of scenes of a highly graphic and disturbing nature.
**EDITOR’S NOTE – Keep an eye on this space for a more extensive review of I Was Jack The Ripper as well as an exclusive interview with author, Michael Bray.

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61VUf01a8CL._SY346_Feast

Whenever I hear about the idea of a modern retelling of Shakespeare, it’s hard to take it too seriously. Often, I feel like authors are name-dropping in order to trick an entire fan base to come in through the door.
Despite that misgiving, this is a great story. Inspired by Titus Andronicus, this starts fast and only manages to pick up the pace and the impact. And just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, you’re proven horribly wrong.
While definitely disturbing, especially towards the end, the texture and depth to the characters drew me through in fine form.
And while I was dismayed to see that one of the more reprehensible characters in this is named Chad, I suppose I can forgive Flowers. All in the course of a good book.

 

 

Naming The Bones35678047

 I’ve ridden on the London Underground a number of times as well as the Paris Metro. Being down on those station platforms can be either a cluster of massive crowds or it can be a haunted ledge, peeking out into the dark and waiting for what train will come. It’s the perfect breeding ground for fantastic horror atmosphere so I was pretty much sold on this book as soon as I read the description.
Laura’s prose is firing on all cylinders here. On one hand, she tells a fantastic narrative of a character who has been haunted and plagued by a traumatic event. Having also read a short story of hers from the Black Room Manuscripts, I have found that she excels at putting human emotional depth onto the page, not an easy task, especially for a shorter story length. She also infuses this with a fantastic amount of dark underpinnings to the world of this tale. The description is spot on. The pace of the narrative and the characters driving the story are top notch. And what I really appreciated is that there wasn’t an effort made to overly explain or justify the supernatural elements of the story. Speaking personally, I find it more frightening and effective to be dropped into the nightmare of the experience, rather than to be given a narrative roadmap.
So yourself  favor and check out this book. It’s the kind of a story that is built around elements that will feel familiar but at the same time by an author that makes it uniquely hers.

 

513nSlMFOpLForest Underground

Forest Underground is a stunning debut from an author who we all should be paying close attention to in the years to come. The prose is tight and the characters shine. The mystery and intrigue of the book is powerful and the twists are effective without being overstated in a way that can become cliche.
This is a great example of a story in which you can never really trust who you are listening to and where your information is coming from. Is this simply a story about a traumatized character who has suppressed some horrible memory from her past? Or is there something darker and more sinister going on?
There is an element of fairy tales to this story but done in a way that is much more fresh and original than we have gotten over the years. In the landscape follolwing Once Upon A Time and the various cinematic re-imaginings of the classics, the notion of taking a dark spin on a fairy tale has been somewhat eye-roll producing for me. But this story, like the twists in the plot, takes the approach of winking at the references and allusions without smacking you over the head with an Acme brand anvil.
This novella is truly one of a kind, originally conceived and brutal as it is beautifully written. Lydian Faust has easily made the leap onto my “must-buy” list of authors.

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

 

204,203,200_A Tear In The Veil

Every now and then, you get to read a book that is so unique, it becomes something that only that author could ever produce. A book with so much depth and so many clues and hints and winks that you could turn around and start over upon finishing, reading the book again and again, each time getting a whole new experience.

I was drawn in by how intriguing the description of the story was. What kept me in was how the narrative continued to surprise me and keep me on my toes. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said it, I think I would have to read this several times before I really felt like I was on top of it.

I also loved how dynamic the setting was. I’ve never been to San Francisco in my life but having read this book, I almost feel like I have. The use of the city is quite vivid in its description and I thought it added great texture to an already great book.

If you’re willing to be taken on a ride, take the keys and give this one a go.

 

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Quiet PlacesQuiet-Places-front-cover-515x800

Jasper Bark definitely has a knack for taking a story that is crazy bananas and bringing it down to a level that is engaging and captivating. This is a story that is steeped in the atmosphere of folklore and mythology, of the mysteriously supernatural history of a small town.

I was most captivated by the structure of the story, mostly because there was no rational reason why it should have worked. there were so many flashbacks, it was almost like I was reading the story in reverse. But somehow, this nested doll method of telling the story manages to work. More often than not, I would have likely given up on a story like this but Jasper’s prose and story building kept me interested and it all wound back to a conclusion that was powerful and gripping.

 

 

29228115The Dark Roads

This was a phenomenal apocalyptic tale with an impressive level of attention to technical detail. I don’t think I have ever read anything that dealt so thoroughly with the practical realities of living in an environmentally ravaged planet. It was the perfect mixture of technical detail and real human experience.
Anyone can write a book set on a devastated landscape. It takes skill on an entire different level to actually think about what the experience of living on that landscape would be like. Lemmons actually forces us to confront this space and live with it for the course of the entire book. I, for one am glad I made the journey.

 

 

Favorite Short Story Collection

 

Things We Leave Behind51JkTNIkrAL

I was definitely impressed with this collection. I don’t want that to sound like I was surprised as I have been a fan of both Mark West as well as Dark Minds Press for some time now. Still, this was a really fun read and the stories were varied in a satisfying way but while still maintaining some common atmosphere and emotions.

If there is anything I have learned about Mark’s style is that looking across the board at works like Drive or The Factory, he is a master of establishing genuinely creepy atmosphere. Whether he is writing about monsters of a human or supernatural nature, he manages to infuse his stories with a sense of dread that is somehow both foreboding and beautiful. The craft and storytelling in this book is outstanding. Often I find collections to be somewhat of an emotional slog, having to transition so quickly from one story to the next. When it is done right, however, I rarely feel this way and in this case it was definitely done right.

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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

 

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