As part of the Monster Men podcast, I’ve gotten to interview great writers and super interesting peeps over the past 4 years. This time around, I think Jack and I have topped ourselves. We interview Daniel Rumanos – illusionist, paranormal investigator and debunker, member of the Dracula Society, writer for Honeysuckle Magazine and a man cloaked in as much mystery as he is controversy. As I said in the interview, he probably has the coolest business card of anyone we’ve ever met.
So strap yourselves in as we delve into the world of magic, ghosts and vampires….
One of the best parts of doing this blog the past 5 years has been the people I’ve met (both online and in person) who share the same passion for all things horror and monsters and insane. Today I present a great article by a returning guest to the blog and chain, Spencer Blohm, this time to talk about his 5 fave monster movies from the 80s. I saw them all in the theater when they came out and ended up buying them on VHS a few years later. Wish I had a damn VCR to watch them now!
The eighties. What a crazy time period, in the most general terms. In terms of horror? There was no other decade like it. Filmmakers took elements of classic Universal monster films and threw them into a centrifuge with the raunch and gore of H.G. Lewis style exploitation.
Here’s a look at some notable titles.
- Deadly Friend
Although best known for A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream, Wes Craven is the man behind some of the strangest horror films ever made. One that gets overlooked is Deadly Friend, which stars Kristy Swanson (who you may recognize from the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Swanson plays a young woman who dies and is resurrected by her nerdy neighbor, who is also an amature roboticist. But wouldn’t you know it, she glitches out from time to time, and has these sporadic impulses to kill. Still not sold? The movie can be summarized by the following three words: “decapitation by basketball.”
- The Beast Within
Loosely based on Edward Levy’s eponymous novel, this film takes many of the conventions of lycanthrope films and places the story in a small southern town. A young woman is impregnated by a giant cicada monster. The woman bears a child named Michael, who appears to be normal until his 17th birthday, when he begins to slowly transform into a cicada beast himself. The film’s high point (or nadir, depending on who you talk to) is the film’s outrageous transformation sequence. Seeing is believing. The script was written by Tom Holland, who would go on to script and direct Child’s Play.
- Killer Klowns From Outer Space
You could say that the story is a tad thin, but that confuses the point. This is what happens when special effects artists decide to direct films — the emphasis is placed entirely on visual trickery. The Chiodo Brothers directed this self-aware horror comedy, wherein a gang of killer clowns descend upon a small American town. What the film lacks in nuanced dialogue or character development, it makes up for with highly imaginative sequences (including the scene where we see the interior of their spaceship…the clowns hibernate in pods of cotton candy). There was also the memorable theme song provided by California punk band The Dickies.
There is a legion of “Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers” living beneath the city streets of New York. Legions of subterranean homeless people have come into contact with chemical waste, thus rendering them a bunch C.H.U.D.s. THe most memorable aspect of the film are the rather poorly constructed, fanged puppet heads. The film has been showcased pretty frequently on Robert Rodriguez’s El Rey Network (details about where you can watch it here) and stop by your local swap meet to find 70+ copies of the film on VHS.
You may know Stan Winston as the special effects wizard behind blockbusters such as Terminator and Jurassic Park. This was one of Winston’s only outings as director.The film centers around a grieving father in Appalachia whose son is killed in a vehicular accident by a group of reckless teenagers. The father goes to summon “Pumpkinhead,” a demon who lives in under a pumpkin patch. Not the smartest script in the world, but the effects are second to none. It’s the epitome of bad, special effects heavy, eighties horror films.
Yes, I’m diving back into the cryptid pool this September, this time training my sights on The Dover Demon, a bizarre creature spotted in a small Massachusetts town in the late 70s. The cover art was done by Kelly Martin and she knocked it out of the park. Pretty damn creepy.
I’d heard a little bit about this alien-looking creature, but didn’t get a true education on the legend until I met Loren Coleman on a trip to his International Cryptozoology Museum. In fact, the book is dedicated to Loren, who urged me to make the demon the star of my next show. And let me tell you right here, there’s more to this story, both the true accounts and my twisted take on them, than what you may think looking at the cover. This little cryptid defies classification. Gray aliens can kiss this beastie’s ass.
So, what’s it all about Alfie?
The Dover Demon is real…and it has returned.
In 1977, Sam Brogna and his friends came upon a terrifying, alien creature on a deserted country road. What they witnessed was so bizarre, so chilling, they swore their silence, their lives forever changed. Decades later, the town of Dover is hit by a massive blizzard. Sam’s son, Nicky, is drawn to search for the infamous cryptid, only to disappear into the bowels of a secret underground lair. The Dover Demon is more than they could have believed, and deadly. These creatures are not alone, and their desires cannot be stopped. Can Sam and his reunited friends battle a race of creatures so powerful, so sinister, that human history has been shaped by their secretive presence?
I know we have a whole summer between now and its release, but I had to share this cover. And if you’re in the Portland, Maine area on vacation, stop by the Cryptozoology Museum to check out the Dover Demon display. I promise, there will be no probing.
I have to admit, my fascination with witches has extended to Witchy-Poo from Bugs Bunny, Hocus Pocus and the TV show, Charmed, mostly because it had Alyssa Milano.
When it came to witches in horror fiction, I hadn’t even dipped my toes in the water until I read Brian Moreland’s THE WITCHING HOUSE, which was so good, I knew in an instant I was hooked on a sub genre. It came just in time, because I was getting pretty damn bored with vampires and zombies.
So imagine my delight when I found out that fellow Samhainer, Catherine Cavendish, came out with her own witch’s brew of horror, THE PENDLE CURSE. It only took two pages for me to realize I was in the capable hands of someone who is at the top of their game, and with that, I settled in for one of the best novels of this very young year.
Four hundred years ago, ten convicted witches were hanged on Gallows Hill. Now they are back…for vengeance.
Laura Phillips’s grief at her husband’s sudden death shows no sign of passing. Even sleep brings her no peace. She experiences vivid, disturbing dreams of a dark, brooding hill, and a man—somehow out of time—who seems to know her. She discovers that the place she has dreamed about exists. Pendle Hill. And she knows she must go there.
But as soon as she arrives, the dream becomes a nightmare. She is caught up in a web of witchcraft and evil…and a curse that will not die.
As someone who has a chronically ill wife, my biggest fear is losing her. So right away, I’m completely sympathetic to Laura, a woman trying to cope with the loss of her husband. There’s a little touch of a ghost story here, too, just enough to make you wonder what’s coming next and to feel her pain and curiosity about the strange things happening in her home.
Cavendish expertly takes us on a ride between past and present as Laura is cast under the spell of the Pendle Curse. A simple trip to get away from things and heal turns into an absolute nightmare. She does a fantastic job creating what could have been cookie cutter characters into fully fleshed out human beings with strengths and faults that make you love them one minute and hate them the next. I literally had no idea what was going to happen, and for someone who knows how the sausage is made, this is high praise indeed.
Now, the witches in The Pendle Curse aren’t sporting warts or riding around on brooms, but they are terrifying in their own right. And there’s a little something extra within these pages for fans of classic VC Andrews yarns. I’m not giving away any spoilers, because you have to get the book and read it yourself.
Catherine Cavendish is now on my top 10 list. I give it 5 out of 5 brooms!
I’ve never been a big fan of Women In Horror Month, and for a very good reason. If you love horror, every month should and can be filled with great books by great writers who just happen to be women. True, horror is a male dominated genre, but you don’t have to look hard or far to find plenty of tales penned by the fairer sex that are just as good if not better than what the male chimps dream up. Just off the top of my head, I’m thinking of some of today’s best in the genre like Mary Sangiovanni, Kelli Owen, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Sephera Giron, Melanie Tem, Catherine Cavendish (who I’ll post about next week), and Kathe Koja. That’s literally the work of about 5 seconds.
Well, you can add one more to the list – J.H. Moncrieff. I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of her debut horror novella, THE BEAR WHO WOULDN’T LEAVE, part of Samhain horror’s Childhood Fears series. I was never a teddy bear kid. I did have a three foot tall Bugs Bunny that I literally dragged around everywhere until every stitch came undone. Bugs wasn’t scary at all, even though I watched him daily shoot people with cannons and guns and drop them off cliffs.
The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave is about a disturbing teddy bear named Edgar (right there, you know this plushie just ain’t right) given to young Josh by his bastard of a step-father. When I first saw the title, I thought of the John Belushi SNL skit, The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave, about a piggish house guest that way overstays his welcome. That skit was as funny as Moncrieff’s tale is chilling.
Sometimes evil looks like a fuzzy teddy bear.
Still grieving the untimely death of his dad, ten-year-old Josh Leary is reluctant to accept a well-worn stuffed teddy bear from his new stepfather. He soon learns he was right to be wary. Edgar is no ordinary toy…and he doesn’t like being rejected. When Josh banishes him to the closet, terrible things begin to happen.
Desperate to be rid of the bear, Josh engages the help of a friend. As the boys’ efforts rebound on them with horrifying results, Josh is forced to accept the truth—Edgar will always get even.
I have to tell you, I had a total blast reading this book. At times brutal, especially with the portrayal of a child terrified and abused by his step-father, and his mother’s inability to stop it, once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. Edgar is one freaky teddy bear. I mean, just look at the cover above. You sure as hell don’t want that glaring at you all night. What makes things even worse for Josh is the sense of isolation. Sure, he has a friend that helps him out, but what he needs is an adult to swoop in and save him from this nightmare. It’s that sense of desperation, paired with a killer bear that recalls the glory days of Child’s Play, that makes this a hell of a read.
J.H. Moncrieff has arrived! And I’m so glad she’s part of the Samhain family.
There’s even a trailer for the book if I haven’t convinced you to pick up a copy. Watch it and keep your eyes on that giant bear your man gave you for Valentine’s Day. It just may be out to kill you!
File this one under “How didn’t I think of this first?” Keith Rommel’s latest book. THE DEVIL TREE, is a story so strange and compelling, I can’t believe it flew under my radar! Thankfully, the true story has gotten the full horror treatment by a master at the top of his game.
I mean, Jeez, the name alone is worth the price of admission (or Ebook/print). The fact that the actual tree still stands in Port St. Lucie, Florida, the scars of its sordid history visible on its bark, makes this tale all the more chilling.
Over the past couple of years, Keith Rommel has become a true friend – a friend I’m envious of because he can walk to Mets spring training games. Yes, I can drive 20 minutes to CitiField to see them during the regular season and playoffs (fingers crossed), but spring training is something special. Kinda like Keith, and just like The Devil Tree.
Based on the Port St. Lucie Legend …
Back in the 1970s, a series of bizarre incidents occurred at what has since been known as “The Devil Tree.” Beneath this ancient denizen, evil was wrought by a sick serial killer, calling upon forces most evil and dark. People were hung there … and bodies buried there … exhumed by the police. Overcome by superstition, some tried to cut down the tree, to no avail. Since then, it has stood in a remote section of a local park — left to its own devices — quiet in its eerie repose — until now!
Best-selling psychological-thriller author Keith Rommel has imagined the whole tale anew. He’s brought the tree to life and retold the tale with gory detail only possible in a fiction novel. Action-packed, with spine-tingling detail, this thriller is beyond parallel in the ground it uncovers … one author’s explanation of what may have really been said — what may have really happened — under Port St. Lucie’s “Devil Tree.”
Now, I’ve talked to Keith about the writing of this book. Basically, it was like a fever that came over him, and the only prescription was….not more cowbell…but to write until his fingers bled. In just a few weeks, he wove a fictional story around the tapestry of truth, plucking the most sinister aspects of what happened at the Devil Tree and amping up the scares. This is his most visceral book to date, a departure from his previous work, and he nails it.He even includes pictures taken of the tree in its current state. To me, the scariest stories are always the one that contain a kernel of truth. This one has enough kernels to send tiny demons dancing up your spine.
What happens at The Devil Tree is not for the faint of heart. Read the book, then visit the old, twisted tree if you can find it. Just don’t try to bring harm to the tree, and cleanse yourself in holy water when you’re done.
Visit Keith Rommel’s website to learn more and order your copy today!
I know it’s still months away, but I wanted to let you all know that I’ll be at the SCARES THAT CARE WEEKEND in Williamsburg, VA July 24-26th. This is the second annual con and if it’s anything like the first, it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun.
Those who attend get first crack at my summer release, TORTURES OF THE DAMNED, a few days before it hits stores nationwide. Of course, I’ll have all my books on hand. There will be author readings (and the high strangeness that I do for mine), panel discussions and more. I’ll also be joined by fellow Samhainers Jonathan Janz and I hear Kristopher Rufty and Ron Malfi. Oh, and there’s also this little known writer called Brian Keene that will be there as well. I hear he’s written some cool zombie books.
Check out this pic of me on the website that makes me look like one tired, long-faced bastard.
I promise, I’m waaaay more alive than that in person. Get your tickets and make your reservations and head on down. I had an amazing time last year. Odds are, if you stop by my table, we’ll be sharing some brews.
It seems like it’s been decades since I was this thrilled by a horror movie. And when I sit back and think about it, 30 years is about how long I’ve been waiting for a movie like It Follows. Maybe it’s because the movie has a whole late 70s, early 80s vibe, taking me back to the time when I was young and enthralled by the movies of John Carpenter and George Romero. In fact, there are so many elements of It Follows that remind me of Halloween, yet with an entirely unique story and feel, that I felt like a teen again, experiencing a whole new world of horror at its best.
Here’s the story – Jay (played by Maika Monroe, who was just in the horror/thriller The Guest) is a kind of directionless girl living in the suburbs of Detroit. She has a tight group of friends (her sister, Paul who was her first kiss and also kissed her sister when they were younger, and Yara, a girl who spends all her time reading ebooks on a pink clam shell) who just hang out with no real aspirations or parental supervision. We only see Jay’s mother from side angles, and when we do, there’s always booze nearby, so we get the feeling that this generation has been left to themselves.
Jay is dating a guy she met outside the neighborhood. He takes her out one night and they make good use of the back seat of his car.As she’s basking in the afterglow, he chloroforms her, straps her to a wheelchair and has her sit in an abandoned building, waiting for a spirit to begin stalking them. He explains that by having sex, he’s transferred a curse to her. She will be followed by a spirit that can look like anyone until she passes it to someone else. If she gets caught before she does, the spirit will kill her and in turn, kill him.
The rest of the movie is spent with Jay running from the shape shifting spirits. They walk slow, but they also never, ever stop following you. She can drive far to buy some time, but the spirits will always catch up with her. There’s never really a moment of full rest, and you can feel the desperation with each frame. Her friends stick by her, but even they can’t help much because they can’t see what Jay can and no one knows how to stop it.
Now for the look of the movie. All of the cars in It Follows are hulking behemoth’s from the 70’s/80’s. From the decor of the houses, to landline phones and even the way people dress, you’d swear the movie was set in 1979. The only connection to modern times is Yara’s e-reader. Viewers are shown the absolute depression of Detroit, with rows of abandoned, crumbling homes. I feel the director chose to stop technology and fashion right when Detroit was beginning to falter, capturing the final heyday of a city in amber.
The opening sequence of It Follows is the best I’ve seen since Halloween. The score is absolutely chilling. I went out and bought it an hour after I saw the movie. It’s part of a new wave of horror movies using synth soundtracks, just like they did back in the day, to set your nerves on edge.
We all know that horror movies have long conveyed that premarital sex leads to very bad things. I can think of no worse consequence than the curse bestowed on Jay in It Follows.
And yes, I’m going to come right out and say this is an instant classic. For my money, it’s the best horror movie I’ve seen since Carpenter’s The Thing. I get the sneaking suspicion that writer/director David Robert Mitchell is as much a Carpenter fan as I am, because he’s created something that can proudly sit alongside the master’s best works.
A huge thanks to author Matt Manochio who boldly explored the world of marketing and selling his book and lived to tell the tale…and provide invaluable information!
Originally posted on Scary Funny:
How many books do I need to sell to make a bestsellers list?
Every author at some point has Googled a variation of that question. Because let’s face it: most of us want to see our name on The New York Times bestsellers list right above or below whichever 50 Shades book is befouling that list, and there’s no shame in admitting that. (Yes, technically it would be nice to be #1, but you’ve got to start somewhere.)
So how do I get on the bestsellers list without cashing out my 401k and buying 9,000 copies of my book? (I read somewhere that 9,000 is the number of books you’d need to sell in a week to get on the NYT list. Whether that’s true, I have no idea. God bless what you read on the Internet.)
My point is you need people to buy your book. And for a…
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