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Universal Monsters in Review: Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man (1943)

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Looking back on the start of this series, I’m wishing we’d done these reviews in chronological order instead of random selections. Tracking the progression of certain characters now that we’re in our twilight hours of Universal Monsters in Review, it is becoming quite difficult. Considering especially Frankenstein’s monster, which has already appeared on film four times since the original 1931 fright flick. AND, ole Frank-in-monster has also changed hands twice already, from the granddaddy, Boris Karloff (who defined the role as Monster), to Lon Chaney Jr. (who played the Monster in Ghost of Frankenstein) and now with Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man, and the more questionable of choices for Universal Studios, Bela Lugosi. Later on, Glenn Strange will also don the endless hours of makeup and prosthetics in future Frankenstein movies. As for the Wolf Man, his progression is much easier to follow. In fact, Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man is considered to be a direct sequel from the original 1941 The Wolf Man. It ALL can get rather confusing. Oh well. What is done is done. Perhaps moving forward in our discussion here, we should consider Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man has not a direct sequel from Ghost of Frankenstein, but rather, a sequel for The Wolf Man.  And besides, most of these movies are basically stories in and of themselves, holding only quasi connections to the originals. As I will be your host for the evening, shall we begin our review?

Here’s a synopsis so that we’re all on the same page:

Larry Talbot’s (Lon Chaney Jr.) grave is being robbed, but strangely, despite the passing of four years since the events of The Wolf Man, his body is remarkably preserved. And covered with blooms of Wolfs Bane. The grave robbers soon realize that perhaps Mr. Talbot is not as dead as they originally believed. The next scene, we find Larry in an asylum, recovering from an operation performed by good natured yet strictly scientific Dr. Mannering (Patric Knowles). Inspector Owen (Dennis Hoey) finds him there, too, wanting to question him about a recent spate of murders. Talbot escapes and finds Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya), the old gypsy woman who knows his secret: that when the moon is full, he changes to a uncontrollable werewolf. She travels with him to locate the one man who can help him to die – Dr. Frankenstein. The brilliant doctor proves to be dead himself, but they do find Frankenstein’s daughter, Baroness Elsa Frankenstein (Ilona Massey). Talbot begs her for her father’s papers containing the secrets of life and death. She doesn’t have them, so he goes to the ruins of the Frankenstein castle to find them himself. There he finds the Monster (Bela Lugosi), whom he chips out of a block of ice. Dr. Mannering eventually catches up with him only to become tempted to to use Frankenstein’s old equipment to fully power the monster.

Before this series, in the long ago, before I had ever dreamed of becoming a published author and creating my own tales of fright, Frankenstein meets the Wolfman was the first Universal Monster movie I had seen. I’d watched bits and pieces of the other movies before, scenes made infamous and those that became direct inspirations for other movies that I had watched. But this one, this was the first. Gathered together with a group of buds for a “guys movie night.” The host’s dogs, Bear and Willie, begging at our feet and scheming for morsels of popcorn. Displayed on the big screen of some monstrous TV birthed from the late 90s, my eyes beheld for the first time, in its completion, a Universal Monster movie. Later on, inspired by this film, would go on to watch The Wolf Man, and then later Dracula and Frankenstein, and so on and so on. There is not much that I remember from that first screening, only that it did ignited a desire to see the others, to return to the past of cinematography. And my History in Film classes in college certainly helped with that desire too. Going back and watching the movie again, for this review, after consuming most of the others, all of the originals, the story played out a little more defined in my mind. And at bottom, I have to say, this is not a Frankenstein movie, at all. This is a Wolf Man movie. And it is a movie about certain ideals and the dangers of obsessive behavior and mob mentality.

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The story focuses almost/nay exclusively on Larry Talbot’s quest for an end to his life. The movie opens at the Talbot crypt four years after the events of the original Wolf Man film. And Larry is still somehow alive, though seriously injured. The place on his skull where his father had struck him with the silver cane is fractured. Next, we see Larry’s collapsed body being discovered by police and ushered quickly to the hospital. The doctor, a very scientific minded Dr. Mannering, is shocked at how fast Larry recovers from his surgery. Its all very supernatural. Keep that word in mind while watching this movie. Screen writer, Curt Siodmak, the creator of The Wolf Man character, is taking us on a journey in which the ideals of supernaturalism and science (logic) will clash, head to head. I found it somewhat thought provoking that Larry is completely obsessed with ending his life and that the monster, representing science, is a misunderstood creature…well, until the end in which he becomes an unstoppable machine. There’s a quote from Siodmak that I used in my debut novel, Reinheit, it goes, “You’ll find superstition a contagious thing. Some people let it get the better of them.” And while watching Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man, you get a sense of what he’s saying. The villagers on the stage of this idyllic Germanic town, full of song, wine, and good cheer, also harbor anger and resentment, not just to the Frankenstein name, but also strangers and gypsies, mostly fueled by antagonists who insight the rage of the community by reminding them of the injustices that had transpired in the past. Is all this starting to sound familiar? Considering Curt Siodmak was a Jew escaping the growing threat of Nazi Germany, it ought to sound familiar.

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The deeper meaning in Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man is commendable, but there are still some unresolved issues with the movie itself. I felt like the entire movie was brilliantly set up and had a wonderful progression as we followed Larry on his quest toward suicide. The end felt tacked on. Dr. Mannering’s character did not feel fully vetted nor relatable. His motivation seemed very sudden. From wanting to take Larry back to the hospital to becoming obsessed with seeing how powerful he could make the monster. Everything until then was golden. And like with most Universal films of this era, the final scene was very abrupt. With the manic villager blowing up the dam, releasing the river, destroying Castle Frankenstein, along with the Wolf Man and monster, and the town itself, presumably, all happens within a span of 60 seconds. Boom. Boom. The End.

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Judging the film as a whole, yes,while Mannering’s character did feel very unbelievable regarding “re-charging” the monster, and with the ending being rushed to its final conclusion, the other meanings are hard to dismiss, how our obsessions, be it science or superstition, will ultimately destroy us in the end. Its a powerful message, especially when considering the history of the screen writer and the decade in which the film was made. Looking at the film as a direct sequel to The Wolf Man, Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man was an excellent continuation in the story, introducing new branches to the werewolf mythos. The casting couldn’t have been more perfect. Except for perhaps Bela Lugosi as the monster. To me, despite trying very hard to be a dim witted creature, he still sounded too suave. Watching Bela as Frankenstein’s monster was too disconnecting and his mannerisms seemed desperate to separate himself from his more iconic role as Dracula. Honestly, some actors just aren’t built to play certain roles. One could surmise the same about Chaney and how he should never have played the Mummy. My favorites for the film were Maria Ouspenskaya, who was was once again wonderful, as was Lon Chaney, likewise at his best as the very tragic and sad Larry Talbot, both utterly magnetizing and wonderfully depressing.

My rating: 4/5 

Tommy Author Picture - Monsters
Thomas S. Flowers is the published author of several character driven stories of dark fiction. He resides in Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter. He is published with The Sinister Horror Company’s horror anthology The Black Room Manuscripts. His debut novel, Reinheit, is published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein. His new series, The Subdue Series, both Dwelling and Emerging, are published with Limitless Publishing, LLC. In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served for seven years, with three tours serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston Clear Lake with a BA in History. He blogs at machinemean[dot]org, where he does author interviews and reviews on a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics.
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what the heck is EMERGING (Subdue Book 2)?

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With the recent release of Emerging, book 2 in The Subdue Series, I thought it would be a nifty idea to talk a little bit about what the book is about. Nearly a year ago, I dreamed up this magnum opus of sorts for what I deemed to be a telling of “my war experience.” But not just my own experience, my inference of war and what it can do to people, how war changes people as traumatic experiences typically do. When I had finished, I ended up with a massive 150,000 or so manuscript. Initially, I wanted to keep the series together as one book. I had shopped the book around to several publishers. Without turning this into some long publishing story, suffice to say I had stumbled upon Limitless Publishing, LLC, through a writer resource page. I heard back from LP about a month after submitting my book. And…not to brag or anything; they loved the story. The only problem was that it was too long. Most publishing houses, if not all, try to keep books to a 100K maximum. This has nothing really to do with the author in so much as it has to do with marketing/publication costs. If you’re a big time writer, like Stephen King, you can write whatever or however long you want! For me, I had to go smaller. Instead of deleting parts in the book, I agreed to turn Subdue into a series, thus Dwelling (book 1) and Emerging (book 2) were born. As luck would have it, Subdue had a natural split in the middle of the story. Book 1 (Dwelling) was a character focus book, where I spent most of my time letting my readers get to know the characters and their wounds and motivation, if any. And because there are four central protagonists, I pretty much needed to take up an entire book just to talk about them! So, if Dwelling is a character focused story, what’s Emerging about?

Great question!

Emerging is a situational focused story. With Dwelling you were able to get to know the cast; with Emerging you’ll get to see what happens to them. Characterization is still key. With anything I write, I focus on characters. I believe, as I was brought up reading the likes of King and Barker and Bradbury, if you can create believable characters and make people care about them, you’ll create one hell of a book. Even if what happens is totally implausible. So long as the characters are human being, as in real humanity motivational type stuff, everything else is fair game. The Subdue Series is fictional, paranormal, perhaps maybe even a little horrific, or dear me, do I even suggest…literary? I’d like to think so. But I’ll let me readers be the judge of that! Because book 2 is situationally driven, the pace I think is faster. The book is longer, but I doubt it feel that way. Or at least not in my own head.

As Dwelling ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, Emerging picks up a few months after the events at the end in book 1. Without spoiling anything, I can say that a majority of the focus is with the house in Jotham and the characters interaction with the house that drive the plot in this second Subdue book. I’ve received some positive comments regarding some of the “flashback” characters. Don’t worry, Augustus and the Fetcher family make a minor appearance in the continuation. Questions about the house are answered, to a degree. Some mysteries are better left unsaid. You might also catch a Lovecraftian vibe in book 2. As with situation, I delved a bit more in mythology creation and mood. For those readers who’ve read Dwelling and have commented on how much you have come to love those characters, I cannot promise not to break your heart. As with life and war, some damages are unchangeable.  There is an apparent theme about suicide, and I hope as you read you find some of those motivations or justifications. I’ll say nothing more on the subject.

Yes. Emerging was equally hard to write. Both books were. But aren’t the best stories worth sharing difficult to write? Consider H.P. Lovecraft’s short story, “The Outsider,” as a superb self-examination of personal fears and anxieties of how the “outside” world sees us. Or consider up and coming author Duncan Ralston’s debut novel, “Salvage,” a classic ghost story that doubles as an examination of depression and overcoming fears of not only our place in society, but of our past. Or even Clive Barker’s excellent novella, “Cabal,” where he talked thru mythos, his fears of how society views and too often mistreats homosexuality as some monstrous thing. I’m not saying mine is as good as these, but I think it fits within the same category. Below you’ll find some more info about Emerging, including Synopsis and purchase (wink wink) links.

EMERGING by Thomas S. Flowers | @machinemeannow

Publisher: Limitless Publishing | @limitlessbooks

Subdue Series, Book #2

Release Date: Dec. 15, 2015

= = SYNOPSIS = =

Traumatized by war, friends gather for a reluctant reunion…

A historic house in Jotham, Texas harbors a malevolent force, and as her fear grows, widow Maggie Smith pleads with three lifelong friends to gather in her home. But will their presence combat the darkness…or feed it?

Minister Jake Williams fears Maggie has had a breakdown…

Feeling he has no choice, Jake locates the other intended guest, Bobby Weeks, who agrees to go with him but struggles with keeping his lycanthropic curse hidden.

Jonathan Steele, a wounded veteran battling PTSD, arrives with his disgruntled wife. After drinking too much at dinner, Jonathan insults the homeless Bobby, and Bobby is missing from the house the next morning.

The dark past of Maggie’s home awakens in the present…

Jake, whose faith is in doubt, confides in a local priest while he and Jonathan search for Bobby, and Ricky’s ghost makes another visit to Jonathan, causing him to become fixated on saving Maggie from the evil that surrounds her.

As the danger intensifies, trust is elusive, and betrayal is certain…

Maggie might be lost, Bobby confronts a terrible choice, and Jake and Jonathan fight to save them all—before they become more victims of the horror emerging beneath the deadly house in Jotham.

= = #OneClick = =

KINDLE: http://amzn.to/1Ov63qK

Check out book 1 in the Subdue Series, DWELLING: http://amzn.to/1Ov68Ld


Insidious: Chapter 3 in review

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The simple fact that I have to write this disclaimer is a testament to how uber-critical we horror proprietors can get. We get caught up in the haves and haves not’s, the that’s and this’, we forget how to unplug and enjoy a movie on the sole basis of watching a movie. Our brains are at a constant state of flux. And we judge everything. Actor performance. Dialogue. Setting. Mood. Plot. Storytelling. And of course, meaning. While all these are important, I fear we’ve allowed the benchmarks of our business to eclipse the most important aspect…entertainment. There are some movies that are pointless to pick apart because they’re not movies with great plot or have terrible actors or more often terrible scripts. Some require such a single scoring method. Some simply beg the question: Was the movie entertaining? And thus we must answer. Yes or No. You can keep your own opinion on the subject. If a movie is in a series, especially, you may regard with disdain without ever having watched it, stating, “Ugh, I hate that series.” And this is okay. Its your opinion, isn’t it?

I am not innocent of these charges. I’ve been there, said that. For example, a buddy of mine asked if I wanted to go see this new Vin Diesel flicks, The Last Witch Hunter. I impudently turned him down, saying something akin to, “ugh, that movie looks lame. Its going to be awful.” I made this assumption without ever stepping into the theater. Why? Well…its a reasonable assumption, right? Judging from the previews, it looked kinda stinkerish, correct? Maybe so, maybe the acting would be terrible. Maybe the plot would be silly. Maybe the dialogue would feel cheesy. Maybe…  there’s lots of them. But what about the most important aspects…? Was the movie entertaining? I wouldn’t know, and never will, unless I watched it.

If we want to judge a movie, we must first watch it, then judge.

What does all this have to do with my review for Insidious? Well, I’ll tell you. Over the weekend, I stopped by our local Redbox to pick up Pitch Perfect 2 for the wife. Lo and behold, Insidious: Chapter 3 was available as well. At first, I scoffed at the idea. “Horror series’ are lame,” and all that. But then I got to thinking…”why not?” It only added $0.50 cents to my cost. Why not? And I’m glad I got it. Because even having already judged the movie because its part of a series, and most horror series’ are lame, I found Insidious: Chapter 3 to be…what’s that magic word…? Oh yes. Entertaining. Sure…the character relations got a little sloppy, at the beginning. The relationship between father and daughter seemed catawampus, at best. Was there an over abundance of “jump scares?” Sure. Maybe they could have dialed those back a nudge. But the movie was highly entertaining. How entertaining you ask? Well, while screening the movie, I never once opened my tablet to check Facebook. Boom. That’s how entertaining it was. Enough to keep my attention, despite whatever short coming it had.

Here’s a quick fire synopsis:

When teenager Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) senses that her late mother is trying to contact her, she seeks help from gifted psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye). However, Elise’s tragic past makes her reluctant to use her abilities. After Quinn is attacked by a malevolent entity, her father (Dermot Mulroney) pleads with Elise for help. With support from two parapsychologists, Elise ventures deep into The Further — where she finds a powerful demon with an insatiable craving for human souls.

And there you have it…

Simple.

AND we can dig a little deeper, if we want. We’ve already established the flick was entertaining enough to garner our short attention span. What else was there? Well, the movie seemed to focus a lot on the loss of loved ones. Not only did character Quinn lose her mother, to cancer I think. But psychic Elise also lost her husband (suicide). And not just her, but a well known neighbor had also passed away too (unknown causes) and we get to watch the uncomfortable “gee, wiz, sorry to hear about your loss. If you need anything, anything at all, please don’t hesitate” conversation between the bereaved and clumsy father, Sean Brenner. To say that Insidious: Chapter 3 dealt with the meaning of loss and separation and coping with death would be an understatement. Following the plot felt like strolling down the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) in one form or another, between all the characters, not just Quinn and Elise. Besides the expectant “jump scares” that accompany such as movie, the mood and tension was very well tuned. It started in slow and then built from there. The tar footprints were a lovely touch. And the fact that, given this is a series, the story moved away from the “dream walkers” to something more akin to possession and…looking for the right word here…hmm…the closest I have is paranormal slasher. Kinda like “It Follows,” but better. The “demon” doesn’t want to enter the world of the living, according to Elise. It wants to take souls back with it to its own world, back into the darkness, or as they coin, The Further, which I find to be even more creepy than the plain Jane possession. To be possessed seems short term. You’ll either be saved or die, in which case you will likely be free, assuming as much anyhow. With the “paranormal slasher,” you’re not just possessed, but you’re also possessed, forced to kill yourself,  and then stolen for eternity to this dark nightmarish underworld.  For me, thanks in part to my oh so lovely fundamental religious upbringing, the “eternal punishment” aspect sets the creep factor pretty high!

Insidious: Chapter 3 may seem like a flick unworthy of your time. But I hope my review here has changed your mind on this. It was a great break from the previous storytelling, whilst keeping true to its shared universe. And I think “paranormal slasher” is a budding horror sub-genre that needs farther exploring. While we most certainly can nit-pick at the things the movie suffers from, Insidious: Chapter 3 was still highly entertaining movie. And in the end, isn’t that what truly matters?

My Review: 4/5


From Combat Veteran to Horror Writer

Before we get into this, there is a quote from Michael Herr in his book, Dispatches, that I’d like to share. It’s a long quote, so bear with me. Herr says:

“I keep thinking about all the kids who got wiped out by seventeen years of war movies before coming to Vietnam to get wiped out for good. You don’t know what a media freak is until you’ve seen the way a few of those grunts would run around during a fight when they knew that there was a television crew nearby; they were actually making war movies in their heads, doing little guts-and-glory Leatherneck tap dances under fire, getting their pimples shot off for the networks. They were insane, but the war hadn’t done that to them. Most combat troops stopped thinking of the war as an adventure after their first few firefights, but there were always the ones who couldn’t let that go, these few who were up there doing numbers for the cameras… We’d all seen too many movies, stayed too long in Television City, years of media glut had made certain connections difficult” (Dispatches, 1977).

My reasoning for sharing this quote from Herr is because, in more ways than one, his voice sums up my own feelings regarding my experiences in the Iraq War, OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom for those in the know), and writing/living with those memories today. Allow me to explain.

There seems to be a surge of “war stories” finding their way into the media nowadays. I’m in no way saying this is a bad thing; I wish there were more veteran writers. However, I have to be somewhat suspicious when I see books marketed as “another action-packed heroic tale of contemporary military service.” Such as from a Navy Seal’s perspective or some high ranked officer sharing their “retelling” of command with low fidelity storytelling. I’m not trying to be quip here, nor am I trying to call out any one individual. What I am trying to call out is similar to what Herr stated in the quote shared above. There seems to be this carnivorous appetite for war stories, but not war as it really is, rather war from a heroic narrative, or worse, war stories where soldiers are nothing more than pawns in a Mad Hatter’s political chess game. I feel these kinds of stories are for people who do not have a genuine interest in the reality of war from the perspective of, say, Joe-Shmoe from Littlerock, Arkansas. These kinds of stories are for people who want to be entertained, not enlighten to the cruel banality of combat.

For a long time, I didn’t write much about anything. A few poems, here and there, but nothing I was willing to share with anyone, under any circumstance. Well…except for maybe in death, if I was dead then I guess I couldn’t really do much about someone reading my work, could I?

iraq me 2003

I signed up for the U.S. Army in Sept 2001 and was honorably discharged in February 2008. Roughly seven years of service, including three tours in Iraq, 2003-2004, 2004-2005, and finally 2006-2007. The last tour was probably the hardest, not only was my deployment extended for the great 2007 Iraq War troop surge (Operation Arrowhead, I think), but I took more hits than in any of my previous two tours, and on top of that, I had someone other than my parents waiting for me at home. My wife and I had just met a few months before I deployed. She stayed with me the entire deployment. We wrote dozens of letters to each other, we chatted on the phone and on the internet, and that’s if circumstances made it possible. She supported me, with more than just care packages, but by giving me focus, reminding me that I was more than just a soldier. Being away from her was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Let me say, I don’t mean to sound callous towards my parents, I love my parents very much, but with my wife it was different. For the first time, I couldn’t imagine myself dying and not being afraid. Not just for the circumstance (bodily suffering) but for the recompense of leaving her behind (emotional suffering). I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to be robbed of this imagined life we could’ve had together. I didn’t want to lose that. And I didn’t want her to suffer for my loss.

 

In 2008, after being pushed by family to get into college, I finally agreed. I’m glad I did. College helped with more than just furthering my career. Slowly, through the course from 2008-2014, I began to open up. I didn’t really want to at first, again, back to the “glamorization of war,” I feared any attempt to recount my experience would be a cheapening of it, a cheapening of other veteran’s experiences by attempting to sell my own. I didn’t want to do that, but I felt drawn to write something.

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My first attempt was during a creative writing class into my second semester at San Jacinto Community College. The assignment was to write a short narrative story. I wrote, “There will be Ghosts,” which was my ode to both my experiences and the Tom Cruise Vietnam movie, “Born on the Fourth of July.” From there I dove head first into fiction-writing. I began a little science-fiction piece which never came to fruition, and probably never will. I consider these first works to be a learning curve, not something I’d want to see published. A dabbling, if you will, in the creative cosmos, finding my voice and all that fun stuff. When I left community college to enter the university (University of Houston-Clear Lake), I had to put my fictional writing on the back burner and focus almost exclusively on my history studies. While this may seem like a setback, I do not see it that way. In fact, I believe these two years of hardnosed historical study gave me an element lacking in my previous fictional-writing attempts. Dedicating myself to my studies gave me a depth I wouldn’t have been able to include in my work otherwise. My studies focused on 20th century Germany, namely the Weimar Republic and Nazi eras. I also took  Vietnam War history classes, Texas history, and the Civil Rights Movement, each class taught from the ground-up. This is a somewhat relative new way of teaching history. Traditionally, history is taught from the top, that is, from famous generals and presidents or other such impressive folk. From the bottom-up, history is taught from the Joe-Shmoe perspective, the everyday lives of everyday people. It was fantastic. A new way of looking at our world and the people that fill it by giving them relevance. In 2014 I graduated from the University of Houston-Clear Lake with a Bachelor of Arts in History…now what?

 

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Suddenly I found this huge pocket of empty space. My mandatory studies were over with nothing to keep my mind focused on. I decided to get back to fictional writing no longer for term papers, but something that would keep my mind busy, keep me sane, and present a challenge. I wrote two short stories soon after graduating. “Hobo: a horror short story,” and “Are you hungry, dear?” Both are of the horror genre. And before you ask, “why horror,” let me be brief and just say that I’ve always been a fan of horror and dark fiction, ever since my big sister let me watch “Night of the Living Dead” one Friday night. And even before then, I read Goosebumps and then grew into Stephen King. It made sense for me to gravitate to the genre that I felt more comfortable in. And besides, horror gives us the most honest and straightforward media for social commentary…sometimes we need that ugly non-decorum. And Hobo was as direct a social commentary piece I’ve ever written. Through storytelling, I discussed this growing issue with perspectives and homelessness and then threw that into a gory tale of cannibalism. Perhaps over-the-top…but it was fun to write! “Are you hungry, dear?” I was thinking about this problem with identity, are we who we are because of what we have done in the past, or can we be better. This, of course, was told in thru a story basically about a witch who performs a dark ritual on a pizza!

While these shorts were fun, they also gave me some traction toward my first full-length book, Reinheit.

Reinheit was published originally under Booktrope’s horror imprint Forsaken, and now currently resides with Shadow Work Publishing, was, to be frank, the most serious thing I’ve ever written, other than my wedding vows. But let me be clear, this was not my “Iraq War” piece, though, as a writer you have to draw emotion from somewhere, and it would seem a lot of my emotion still streams from my experiences in Iraq. I think some of that bled into Reinheit. As for the story, I tapped into my history studies and focused on Nazi Germany. I didn’t want this to be just a historical fiction piece, I wanted to say something about some of the issues going on in 2014, in the media, and on social websites, such as Facebook. The total disregard for looking at people as simply that, people. Reinheit drew from real history, but the story was really about the here and now. A school teacher dealing with an abusive husband, an SS officer pushing himself to carry out his ghastly orders, a thug of a husband who views the world from a very narrow hall, an old man looking for redemption, and of course, a curious armchair with a very dark purpose.

While penning Reinheit, I was able to develop my, what authors call, “writers voice.” When you read a lot, which is a must if you want to write, you kind of take on the voice of the authors you are reading. You need to write to chisel away all those voices, and hopefully find your own in the process. I think this is intended to be an ongoing thing. The more you chisel, the more defined your voice becomes, until maybe reaching some point when your aged and withered and giving lectures to a new generation of writers. Obviously, I haven’t reached this milestone yet. I’m still having fun with it. So, yes, writing Reinheit helped define my own voice and gave me the necessary encouragement to take the next step, writing my “war story.”

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Again, I couldn’t write something heroic, though I know a lot of whom I consider to be heroic. I didn’t want to pass the war off as some grand adventure. I wanted to rip the decorum off war, the shininess of it. I wanted to bring audiences into the preverbal trenches of “All Quiet on the Western Front.” I wanted to bring an air of hardnosed poetry as Philip Larkin had done for his own generation with his masterpiece, “MCMXIV.” And above all this, I wanted to be direct and honest, no matter how difficult or depressing that may be. Even for myself, rehashing brutal memories. With my pile of one-subject notebooks (yes, I write everything longhand before MS Word), a set out on this endeavor. What I had titled Subdue was inked in about nine months, from paper to MS Word, and has recently been picked up by my new publisher. I cannot go into too many details about the book just yet, but I can say that within those pages are real, raw, and utterly difficult subjects. While hopefully still entertaining, because of the relationships between the characters, it was not written to entertain, it was written to discuss the reality of war and living with the memory of war, I wanted to talk about PTSD, anger, war-guilt, and suicide because these are discussions that need to happen by getting away from the myth of superman and disconnect of high-adventure combat by focusing on the naked ugliness of it and how we can live with those memories through expression…and the sad gut punching fact that many cannot live with the memories of war…

While there will always be “those” books that do not give much substance to the echoes of war, I’ve been seeing more and more veteran writers coming forward from the trenches, unabashed by unrepentant honesty. BRAVO! There was a recent Vanity Fair article called, “The Words of War” that included a few of these up and coming writers of poetry, novels, and screenplays. I felt encouraged reading it. Seeing fellow veterans picking up the pen and expressing themselves. I’m proud to be part of this “Lost Generation,” for as Elliot Ackerman, one of the veteran writers mentioned above, puts it, “it might have been better to be part of the ‘Lost Generation’ than the lost part of a generation.”

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Thomas S. Flowers is the published author of several character driven stories of dark fiction. He resides in Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter. He is published with The Sinister Horror Company’s horror anthology The Black Room Manuscripts. His debut novel,Reinheit, is published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein and Lanmò His paranormal/miltary series, The Subdue Books, including both Dwelling and Emerging, are published with Limitless Publishing, LLC. In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served for seven years, with three tours serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston Clear Lake with a BA in History. He blogs at machinemean[dot]org, where he does author interviews and reviews on a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics.

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Horrors Top Ten Martyrs

There are certain things you come to expect when you watch horror. Characters are typically isolated in remote areas, cornered in buildings or rooftops, and even sometimes sent off to unworldly places, far far away from the land of rationality. Audiences love seeing characters dealing with tuff situations because its entertaining, and sure, we’re twisted, but its a part of why horror is fun; environments are the foundation of suspense. Another aspect common in horror are character tropes, such as: jocks, deviants, stoner, promiscuous, doubting Thomasknow-it-all, curious, investigatory, überpious, bigots, pranksters, nerds, and (sadly too often killed) not-the-white-guy. Out of these familiar character tropes, heroes tend to emerge; however, heroes in horror are not the same as heroes in action films, comedies, or dramas…well…sometimes dramas. The heroes in horror often become the martyrs in horror. These aren’t the characters who end their life because they simply cannot go on, such as when  Dr. Jenner & Jacqui, during The Walking Dead’s season one finale, decide to allow the CDC’s safety protocol system to detonate the building with them inside. No, these martyrs of horror sacrifice themselves for some “greater good,” that helps, in some way, the surviving characters. These martyrs of macabre are as close to saints as horror movies can get. The following are my top ten horror movie heroes turned martyr!!

10. Michael (Dawn of the Dead, 2004):

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Michael was without a doubt one of the most selfless characters through the entire film. Not surprisingly, when we find that our hero was bitten during the armored escape, in his attempt to save Ana, he casts the remaining survivors and stays behind  as an army of undead feverishly search for a way unto the docks. Michael is a typical type of martyr in a zombie movie, but it doesn’t make it any less a tear jerking moment for cinema.

9. Gorman & Vasquez (Aliens, 1986):

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When Burke’s betrayal hits its cataclysmic conclusion, more than half of the Colonial Marines sent to planet LV-426 were put in a serious pickle, and for more than a few, it was “game over, man.” The last marines to go were Gorman and Vasquez, who, as the remaining survivors were crawling through the colony complex air ducts, became trapped. Instead of going out by being impregnated by some facehugger or simply being thrashed by the aliens themselves, Gordon & Vasquez, hand-in-hand, detonate a grenade. Arguably, one could say this was a similar situation mentioned above with The Walking Dead; however, Gordon and Vasquez were not suicidal, these marines knew they had run out of options and if they we’re going out, they were going to take as many of the aliens out along with them, semper fi!

8. Childs, MacReady, Garry, & Nauls (The Thing, 1982):

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For the remaining survivors of the American Antarctic Research Station, when Blair is MIA, the last one who could be infected, things become a bit precarious. The Thing plans on going back on ice until rescue comes. Knowing this, the guys decide to burn down the camp, in hopes of destroying the Thing. With sub-freezing temperatures, they know this is a death sentence and still willingly go out and set the complex ablaze. In the end, only MacReady and Childs remain alive to watch the camp burn and while the flames flicker, you can’t help but feel some glimmer of hope for humanity. In the face of death, these men’s sacrifice to keep the alien from reaching a larger population was beyond the call of duty.

7. Sheriff Eben Oleson (30 Days of Night, 2007):

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When the sun is due to rise at the end of the polar-night cycle, the vampires, wanting to remove all evidence of their month long buffet , and to kill any remaining survivors still in hiding, decide to burn down the sleepy town of Barrow, Alaska. Sheriff Eben Oleson knows he cannot face them as a blue collared mortal and injects himself with some vamp blood and faces off with the vampire ring-leader, Marlow. With surprise on his side, the good sheriff wins the fight and the remaining vampires flee. Knowing what he has become, Eben decides to stick around and watch the sunrise with his estranged wife, Stella, sacrificing himself to keep the town safe from…himself.

6. Capt. Miller (Event Horizon, 1997):

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When the rescue vessel Lewis and Clark is dispatched to answer a distress signal received from the Event Horizon, an experimental ship with a gravity drive which generates an artificial black hole and then uses said gravitational power to bridge two points in spacetime(makes sense, right?), they soon after discover that the Event Horizon has been to another (not so sunny) dimension. In the face of horrible hallucinations coming from the Horizons core (gravity drive engine thingy) and Dr. Weir (the ships creator) completely out of his gourde, Captain Miller decides to detonate the Event Horizon and use the forward section of the ship as a lifeboat. During the conflict with two very unpleasant manifestations, Miller is forced to set off the explosions while still on the rear end of the ship. As the near end (ha!) of the ship floats away, the gravity drive activates, sending Miller and his nightmare friends back, assumingly, to hell. 

5. Karen White (The Howling, 1981):

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After burning an entire Colony of werewolf’s to the ground, the traumatized news anchor decides to warn the world of these creatures existence. Surprising everyone in studio, Karen decides to “turn,” having been bitten during her Colony burning exploits, and subsequently shot live on television. Differing from the way Sheriff Oleson went out, Karen uses her death as a warning to the greater world, giving some kind of meaning to her demise. Unfortunately, people are great deniers and ignore her stunt, rationalizing the transformation as a stunning special effect.

4. Dean Winchester (Supernatural Season 3 finale):

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Obviously, Supernatural is not a horror movie, but the sheer sacrifice of character Dean Winchester has moved me to ignore such litigation’s. At the conclusion of Season Two, Dean had sold his soul to a Crossroads demon in order to bring his brother Sam back from the dead. The Winchester’s are no strangers to self-sacrifice, but Deans event seemed so much more epic. As Season Three drew to a close, when Sam and Dean attempt to take out Lilith, Dean’s “time” runs out and a hellhound tears him to shreds. The scene closes with a frightened and distraught Dean hooked on chains in hell. Normally, i’d stick to my horror movie formula, but, as far as television goes, this was one of the most disturbing episodes i’ve ever seen!

3. John Constantine (Constantine, 2005):

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Failing to prevent Gabriel from using Angela in unleashing the son of Lucifer on earth himself, John, knowing his soul is the one soul on earth the devil would collect himself (long story), he decides to slit his wrists. Bleeding out, an overjoyed Lucifer arrives. John tells the king of hell about his sons exploits and the devil, grudgingly offers John an “extension.” John refuses and asks the devil to release the soul of Angela’s sister from the pit instead. Lucifer happily agrees, but as he attempts to drag John to hell, Constantine begins to float upward toward heaven. Lucifer ends up, having run out of options, restoring Johns life to give him ample time to make more mistakes that could send him to hell. Constantine is a catch-22 martyr because, in the end, he survived. However, for a time, he was technically dead and gave up his “free pass” to save the soul of his friend.

2. David Allen (Evil Dead, 2013):

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Davids loyalty to his sister was definitely put to the test in this remote little cabin in the woods. After childhood friend Eric unleashed a forest demon, who ended up possessing Mia, Davids sister, the survivors discover the only way to stop the nightmare is to kill the demons host. In the end, David finds a way to kill the demon and save the life of his sister. Unfortunately, there are corpses-a-plenty for the hellbound heart to possess and David, in an act of love, decides to set the cabin ablaze with the demon and himself trapped inside, because nothing says: “I’m sorry I let you turn into a junky,” like burning yourself alive. I’m sure his screams will have no ill-effect on Mia’s future recovery.

1. Father Damien Karras (The Exorcist, 1973):

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After Father Merrin fails to expel a demon from sweet Regan and dies from a “heart attack” during the exorcism, its up to Father Damien to save the sweet innocent girl and send the demon back to hell. Fighting the possessed Regan, Damien implores the demon to enter him instead of remaining in the child. The demon agrees, but while Damien is still, somewhat, in control of his own actions, he throws himself out the window, falling down several flights of stone stairs and breaking his neck in the process, sacrificing himself to save a girl he hardly knew.

 

Honorable Mention. Theodore Douglas (aka. T-Dog, The Walking Dead, season 3):

You have to wonder how T-Dog survived as long as he did, considering his clumsy and non-commonsense nature. However, he was always well intentioned and looked out for the other survivors in the group. Several times he could have ducked out and left, but decided to stay and fight. In the end, even this muscular fellow couldn’t withstand the power of a zombie bite. But he refused to go out as just another victim and so, sacrificed his life to save Carol… For his actions, giving himself to be eaten alive, Theodore most certainly earns honorable mention.