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Posts tagged “horror stories

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review : THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (1986)


Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: A favorite in Slaughter town

As little girls our mother allowed us to watch the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre, being all of maybe nine years old we were terrified (and, yes, probably too young to watch it but our mom’s awesome like that). The thoughts of some psycho cannibal family living in an old farm house in Texas, hacking unsuspecting people to death and then consuming them definitely reached a higher level on the horror meter than some of the classics we had been previously exposed to and yet there was an element to it that really drew us in. That man behind the skin mask, not speaking a word yet saying so much to us, he won our hearts forever.

Flash forward a few years when we are on the cusp of becoming teenagers, the precious years when other girls are like totally concerned with regular girl things like makeup and stylish clothing, it was then that the young Sisters of Slaughter were reintroduced to a certain family of cannibals in the form of a sequel, a horror comedy that helped shape their twisted senses of humor, one that is celebrated in Slaughter Town like a national holiday.  Continue Reading


Book Featurette: Behind Our Walls


The world has fallen to ash.

Governments have collapsed, police and armies no longer exist and the people of the world have been left behind to fend for themselves in the midst of escalating violence and nuclear fallout.

One community of survivors find each other, come together and try to rebuild, to start over. Confronting the threats from without and within, they do everything necessary to find the only thing left, the most scarce resource of all.


What readers are saying about Behind Our Walls:

“I read Chad A. Clark’s short story collection, Borrowed Time, a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. So, when I learned that he was expanding one of those stories into a novel, I was excited to get to read it. You don’t need to have read the short story first, and the story is included at the end of the novel, since the novel is a sort of prequel to that story, laying out the what happened before ‘Tomorrow’s Memory.’ Behind Our Walls is a unique take on post-apocalyptic fiction. There are no zombies, no dictatorships, no aliens. The threats are not external and easy to unite against. The world has simply fallen apart and we are watching it reform around Sophie, our young protagonist. Many of the themes popular in post-apocalyptic fiction are present here–extreme situations bringing out the worst and best in people, trust as a limited commodity, resource management for survival. But I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel before that focused on “what happens now” so fully. Backstories and causes of the downfall of the world take a serious backseat to grappling with how society will reform in the new reality. The novel begins with Sophie on the run in the company of her parents, her sister Corrine, her sister’s fiance Adam, and a man named Rowen. Without getting too spoilery, I think it safe to tell you that they meet other travelers and that people are lost, new alliances are made, and betrayals happen. I was engaged by the story and cared about the characters throughout. There good tension and suspense regarding what decisions different characters might make and what struggles they would face. I recommend the book for those who enjoy post-apocalyptic or survival stories but are looking for something a little different in that genre.” – Samantha Dunaway Bryant

“An excellent debut novel by Chad A. Clark for fans of postapocalyptic fiction. The characters and their actions are believable and each is well-defined. Behind Our Walls is a quick read and does what most excellent stories do — leaves you wanting more. Looking forward to future works from Mr. Clark.” -Amazon Reviewer

“I would say that the story has a young adult feel to it, but be warned there are some dark moments, albeit not so explicitly described as to make this 18+ (in my view). As a self-published work the formatting sometimes reveals the odd typo, but nothing too numerous or jarring to shake the reader out of the story. I would recommend this book to those who love post-apocalyptic scenarios but are looking for rich character interaction as opposed to violent gore or horror elements. It was an engaging read and I think we’re going to be seeing some more first class output from Chad Clark in the future.” -Amazon Reviewer

“The interesting thing about post-apocalyptic fiction is that it becomes a sort of character study. You’d think we’d want to know more about “how” the world ends, a virus, flesh-eating zombies, alien invasion the likes of War of the Worlds, something. But sometimes, the best apocalyptic stories are stories about us. Stories about what we do when faced with uncertainty. When the warm fuzzy blanket of banality falls to a cold stone floor, what will you do? This is my first foray into the mind of Chad A. Clark, and it won’t be my last. The work here was very daring. While most writers focus on the Hollywood action of ‘how-it-all-happened,’ Clark focuses on ‘what to do we do now?’ Now that the wall has fallen, do we rebuild another? I find it interesting that while most would indeed write a book with a modern definition of ‘apocalypse,’ being the end of the world, humanity, etc. etc., instead, Clark gives us a story that defines the original Greek definition of ‘apocalypse,’ which means a disclosure of knowledge, an unveiling, a revelation. And he presents his revelation in a tradition mode of storytelling, delivering both suspense and drama, around the family unit.” -Thomas S. Flowers (me)

You can get your copy of Behind Our Walls for the low-low price of $0.99!!!



Chad Clark is a frequent flyer here on Machine Mean. He has reviewed for us before with commentary on House of Dracula (1945) and House of 1000 Corpses. Mr. Clark is a midwestern author of horror and science fiction. His artistic roots can be traced back to the golden era of horror literature, Stephen King, and Robert McCammon being large influences. His love for horror began as well in the classic horror franchises of the eighties. He resides in Iowa with his wife and two sons. Clark’s debut novel, Borrowed Time, was published in 2014. His second novel, A Shade for Every Season was released in 2015, and in 2016 Clark published Behind Our Walls, a dark look at the human condition set in a post-apocalyptic world. His latest book, Down the Beaten Path, released in September 2016. You can keep up with all of Mr. Clark’s works by following him on Amazon here.


Hellish Interviews: w/ Duncan Ralston

Adding to the already growing list of differing topics covered with Machine Mean, we’re adding something new! Hellish Interviews is as it says, interviews with hellish authors of the dark and unusual. Interviewing is something I’ve wanted to dip my toes in for some time,especially among horror writers. From my experience, horror writers tend to be the most normal people imaginable, which is odd compared to the macabre twisted things they write about. Getting to know writers better is interesting on more then one level. There are things we all can agree on, to a degree, and some be probably will disagree, and then there of tidbits of information ultimately new and exciting, which is what the act of discover is, is it not?

Joining me today is horror author Duncan Ralston. Duncan was born in Toronto sometime during the year 1976. He lives with his girlfriend and their dog where he writes dark fiction about the things that frighten, sicken, and delight him. In addition to his twisted short stories found in GRISTLE & BONE and the newly released THE BLACK ROOM MANUSCRIPTS, his debut novel, SALVAGE, will haunt various booksellers later this year.

Duncan Ralston

Machine Mean: So, Duncan. You’ve got a horror anthology that recently came out with Booktrope: Forsaken. What drew you into penning this anthology? Did you have any favorite anthologies that inspired this work?

Duncan Ralston:  I’ve always had a deep love of short stories. I started with the Alfred Hitchcock Presents books, moved on to Stephen King’s Night Shift and Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. Now I’m reading a lot of Harlan Ellison shorts, Ramsey Campbell’s, and some small press crime and horror anthologies. Short stories are the bastard children of the literary world, but with horror and crime, they are often better than novels. To maintain a consistent level of horror and/or suspense throughout a novel can be difficult. Short horror cuts right to the quick. It doesn’t mess around. It makes its point and then it gets the hell out.

MM: If you had to put a label on your “writing voice,” what would that label be?

DR: The Darkest Place of All is the Human Heart. Short and sweet, huh?

MM: Absolutely! Thinking about your inspirations, if you could pick one famous author, dead or alive, to review your work, who would that be? Why?

DR:  No question, Stephen King. I love a lot of authors from many genres, but King was my inspiration. And he was never afraid to call himself a horror writer, unlike some, as if the term itself is distasteful, and the genre should be looked down upon. Plus, he’s proven that horror isn’t just myths and monsters with stories like Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, The Body, Roadwork (one of my all-time favorites, written as Richard Bachman), etc.

MM: Great answer! I’m a total freak about King as well. And I love the way he blends normality into these classic monster motifs. Speaking of which, what horror mythology would you consider focusing on most for your next anthology? Werewolf’s, swamp creatures, vampires, mad scientists, aliens, mummies, ghosts, or zombies, or any combination of the above?

DR: My next collection (I’ve already been gathering up some stories for it, but I won’t be putting it together for a while) will focus more on human monsters, the darkness within the psyche. Serial killers, crimes of passion, cults, crimes “against nature,” and against humanity.

MM: On the subject of anthologies, do you have a favorite film or television anthology?

DR:  Of all time? Probably The Twilight Zone. I just loved how it often took real world issues and gave them a dark twist. I know the plots seem a little hackneyed nowadays, following a pretty standard formula. But the formula is virtually perfect, so why mess with it? I’ve got a a novelette out (How to Kill a Celebrity) that’s inspired heavily by The Twilight Zone. It was fun to write. I love when stories surprise me, when I’m not sure exactly what’s going to happen, and I was surprised by how it turned out. I hope other people feel the same.

I love anthology horror, though. Kolchak, American Horror Story, Masters of Horror, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Amazing Stories, Tales from the Crypt, Tales from the Darkside. There’s just so much you can do with anthology TV that you can’t with episodic. They’re the short stories of television.

MM: I couldn’t agree more. Love me some classic Twilight Zone! And I pretty much grew up ingesting Tales from the Crypt. So, I’ve heard you’ve got a full length novel coming out later this year? Salvage, right? Could you tell us a little bit about the book? What are some of the main themes?

DRSalvage is a novel about a man struggling with depression after the death of his little sister. His depression leads him to follow in her footsteps to the lake where she’d drowned, Chapel Lake: a valley flooded for a hydroelectric dam, with the ruins of a town below the water. The further he looks into her drowning, the more he believes foul play might have been involved. But he also starts to think the lake itself might be haunted. Depression, lost memories, childhood trauma and religious zealotry feature heavily.

MM: What inspired you to tackle the subject matter in Salvage? Would it be fair to say that faith, religion, and spirituality have deep roots in Salvage? Do you have any life experiences that helped you tap into the themes?

DR: My own memories of early childhood are very spotty, and I often wondered why that was, if other people’s memories of their own childhoods were mostly a mystery. One thing I do remember is a time when I was about three or four, my mother was invited to what turned out to be a sort of hippie Sufi commune, unbeknownst to her, and she brought me and my brothers along. It was a lot of holding hands and chanting, and since we didn’t go to church, it was my first experience with religion. It wasn’t exactly what I would call a fun time, but I think it’s the root of my interest in cults. Not that it was a cult, necessarily; I’m not even sure how faithful it was to the Sufism (which I believe is a sort of mystical offshoot of Islam, like what Kabbalah is to Judaism), since I was about three or four years old. I’ve always been interested in fringe groups, and atypical religions. Jim Jones, the Heaven’s Gate cult, David Koresh, Charlie Manson. The Svengali archetype is fascinating to me. I’m curious what makes intelligent, rational people follow maniacs to their deaths?

Plus, I’ve always wanted to write about God and religion in a horror story. It’s often used as a crutch to solve problems in horror (or used to be, like using the cross against vampires), and I thought it might be interesting to deal with it head-on, but without the Satanic overtones of most horror stories that deal with religion.

MM: How do you feel about your main character? The transitions? Are they a sympathetic character? Pitiful? Strong? or Despised?

DR: Owen Saddler starts out on shaky ground. He’s deeply depressed, but it hasn’t really occurred to him it could be a problem. He doesn’t much like the world around him. He’s in a downward spiral. I’ve been there myself, and it’s not a good place to be. After his younger sister drowns, he really feels he has nothing to keep him afloat–so to speak–aside from throwing himself into work. When his partner suggests he takes time off to grieve, instead of grieving (which he doesn’t want to do), he turns his sister’s death into mystery to solve. So in the beginning he’s possibly delusional, heading down a dangerous path, but he believes it’s the path to healing.

MM: During the process of telling a story, many writers tend to favor some of their characters over others, who would you think is your least favorite character? Why?

DR: None of them! Okay, I guess if I have to pick, it’d be Howard Lansall, Sr. He’s the sort of sad sack drunk who seems interesting at first, but you’d hate to meet at a bar. Gabbing your ear off, and complaining about his life, so drunk he doesn’t know he’s repeating himself.

MM: Why is water such a large focus in the book?

DR: Water heavily featured in my childhood. I grew up near a lake. I used to spend hours playing in the water, entire summers at another lake up north. I used to have dreams about draining the lake and finding treasures, hidden caverns, lost ruins. It’s also a nice metaphor for the subconscious, and buried memories, which is a big part of the book.

MM: Thanks for telling us a bit about your upcoming debut novel, SALVAGE. When can we expect to see its release?

DR: I’m hoping to see it released before Halloween, most likely late-October.

MM: Before we end this hellish interview, do you have any other projects you’re willing to discuss?

DR: ‘m percolating a thriller about a couple undergoing an unusual form of therapy, while I write my next novel. The blurb for this one is TOP SECRET, but I think it would be safe to reveal that it’s all about ghosts.

MM: Okay, last question. If you could create your own horror anthology on TV, what would that look like and why?

DR: There’s a lot of untapped talent in the indie author world. We had Masters of Horror (and it was mediocre, at best), so why not Indies of Horror?

And while it’s not technically an anthology, I’ve written a pilot for a series about the town of Dark Pines from “Beware of Dog” in Gristle & Bone. It’s about a small town psychiatrist dealing with inner monsters gone very bad.
MM: Okay! Thanks Duncan for stopping by and giving us our first author interview. I wish you all the best with your release of GRISTLE & BONE with Booktrope and the upcoming novel, SALVAGE.
DR: THANKS, THOMAS! Great questions!
And there we have it folks! I want to thank Duncan Ralston for taking the time to answer my questions. Hopefully i didn’t make things too hard on him! If you want to keep up with Duncan, check out his website here. You can purchase his book, GRISTLE & BONE, here. Duncan is also hosting a giveaway contest for GRISTLE & BONE. If you want to enter for a chance to win a free copy, follow this link. Duncan also has a short story that will be published in a newly minted horror anthology, THE BLACK ROOM MANUSCRIPTS, available here for purchase.