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R.I.P. Stuart Gordon – King of the 80s Video Store

Man, as if all this craziness with coronavirus (and the possibly more dangerous reaction to it) wasn’t enough, did we really have to lose a horror legend? News that Stuart Gordon suddenly passed away was a total shock. I have to admit, it rocked me. Let’s be glad Dr. West wasn’t around to revive him. That would not have gone well. (And no, not too soon! Gordon had a wicked sense of humor, as anyone one who has watched his movies can see.)

When I think back to the glory days of the video store in the 80s and 90s, the films of Stuart Gordon loom large. Some of my favorite discoveries on VHS were products of his warped imagination. I read Lovecraft as a teen, but I never truly enjoyed his stories until Stuart Gordon made his, most times, loose interpretations. Who knew they could be so…sexy?

He wasn’t afraid to inject his tales of terror with dark humor (Dr. West battling a reanimated feline), sex (Barbara Crampton in full S&M gear), gore (the feasting creature locked in the dungeon) or even utter sweetness (a little girl befriending a man who is just a kid at heart). Above all, he brought Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton into our lives. For that, I would never be able to thank him enough.

I’ve been spending the week going back and enjoying Gordon’s filmography. Below are my top 5 in order. Step away from the anxiety for a spell and lose yourself in some trailers. If you haven’t seen any of them, shame on you! If you’re a fan like me, which ones are your favorites?

 

#5 – DAGON

 

#4 – CASTLE FREAK

 

#3 – DOLLS

 

#2 – RE-ANIMATOR

 

#1 – FROM BEYOND

Horror Double Features For Social Distancing

The coronavirus has really turned things upside down. I have to tell you, I really miss going to my local Alamo theater a couple of times a week and watching old and new horror movies. I miss seeing all those familiar faces and just having a good time together.

I’m sure most of you are home and wondering what the hell you’re going to do to fill your days and nights. I’m here to help you by curating fun double features that you can watch online. Give them a gander and post your comments here so we can all interact without the fear of catching something.

I happened to suggest this one on the recent Final Guys and felt it’s perfect to kick thing off.

GRABBERS

grabbers

This was the strangest St. Patrick’s Day ever. No bars. Nor parade. Nuthin. To get a flavor for the special day, my family watched the Irish horror flick, GRABBERS. A monster crashes into the sea around an island in Ireland. The tentacled beastie does have one weakness – it doesn’t like to eat people who are drunk! So the townspeople gather in the pub to drink their faces off while under attack. One of my favorite modern monster movies, Grabbers should be watched while sipping whisky.

It also has the most succinct and accurate synopsis ever –

“A small town must stay drunk in order to fight back an alien attack.”

You can watch Grabbers on Hulu or Amazon Prime.

THE HOST

host

Now let’s head over to South Korea for another killer sea creature that will make your heart race and give you a jump scare or two. Although it came out 14 years ago, the CGI here is excellent and the solid performances will suck you right in. It would be a dream to see the baddie in The Host battle it out with the Grabbers. Heads will fly…literally!

“On 09 February 2000, the American military base of Yongson releases toxic chemicals in the drain to the Han River under the direct order of an arrogant coroner. Six years later, a mutant squid monster emerges from Seoul’s Han River and focuses its attention on attacking people.”

You can watch The Host on Amazon. 

Everything Is Cancelled! Time To Crush The TBR Pile.

You know things are taken to a whole other level when all sports are cancelled. We’re talking billion dollar industries, canned for the foreseeable future. Wow. I mean, if was told to quarantine myself, I was looking forward to afternoons watching the Mets spring training games.

For better or for worse, whether the chain of reactions are rational or ill-advised, this is the way the world is going to be now. I’ve washed my hands raw (because I work with the public and don’t want to bring anything home to 3 of the 4 high risk people in the family), tapped elbows and now am locked in an office as we practice some heavy duty social distancing. It’s all a very good excuse to ignore people, especially the ass wads who try to ruin your day.

Our favorite movie theater just closed for the next few weeks. The St. fucking Patrick’s Day parade is kaput. I’m sure the bars will be temporarily shuttered by next week. We need to learn how to make our own toilet paper if we’re ever going to carry on.

The Shea lair s stocked up on beer and wine. And whisky. And peanuts. Plus a smattering of other food stuffs. Is there anything else we’d need?

Through all of the madness, I see this as an opportunity. For some, it’s a golden chance to stay home with no pressure to go out and do a thing, veg on the couch and watch TV until their eyes bleed.

Me? I’m looking forward to catching up on my reading. Oh, and writing. Started a new book and I can really put a dent in it this weekend.

Here are some of the books I’m hoping to dive into as coronavirus drags on. What’s in your TBR pile?

unexplained

three chords

shriek

rise

borne

con season

Die Kreatur, Die!!!

Wow, the German title of my novel, CREATURE, sounds so much more sinister in German. Of course, everything sounds a tad more menacing in German. I say this from experience. One of my grandfather’s was German and if he ever wanted to give me a little jolt of fear, he’s whip out a German line or two. Or sing. Dear God, the singing!

I think I’ve made grandpa one proud angel in Himmel with the German translation of Die Kreatur!

Creature Germany

Now, I’m not sure how many of my Hellions speak and/or read German, but if you’re one of them, I hope you enjoy my first translation. And hey, it already has 2 sternebewertungens! That’s more sternebewertungens than I ever thought I’d have.

Calm Down and Drink Corona Beer

I’m looking at this post as a kind of PSA, an urge to get folks to take a deep breath and stop spiraling into panic and madness over the Coronavirus. Just think, we’ve lost trillions of dollars here in the US stock market over 2 deaths. That’s right, as of today, we have 2 deaths in the US. More diabetics have died from toe infections in the past week.

Detail of lined up Corona beer bottles seen on the store

If the Coronavirus was put here on Earth as a kind of intelligence test, we’ve failed. When people are not buying Corona beer out of fear, well, we’ve lost.

Did you know that there have been over 4,000 death from the common flu in the US this year alone? The good old flu has a just over 5% mortality rate here in the country with the best access to medical care in the world. The Coronavirus has a 2.3 (and that’s rounding it up!) mortality rate. Don’t believe me? Click here to see the website that is tracking all of the madness. 

We can’t compare ourselves with other countries that don’t have our healthcare underpinnings. Sick people come here when hope is running out, not the other way around. Trust me, I know. With a handicapped wife who has been given last rites twice in her life, only to keep the fuck on trucking, we’re well versed in where to get the best treatment. In China, where the virus has hit the hardest, the mortality rate is 3.6%. Again, less than the flu in the US. And do you think communist China has healthcare than even deserves to stand in the same room as the US? If you do, you need to get back to school.

Nothing makes me angrier than blind hysteria, especially in a time when cold hard facts are at your fingertips! Does critical thinking exist anymore? Or are we just programmed to react to anything spoonfed to us by a corrupt, fear-mongering media? What I’ve witnessed here in New York over the past few weeks has left me shaking my head. What’s really behind this beating of the drum?

And now it’s being politicized. I saw a commercial for Mike Bloomberg last night extolling how the current administration has bungled the Coronovirus and only Mike can save us. Hey, moron, by the time you’d win, according to you, we’ll all be dead anyway. Have fun running an empty country. This kind of fear mongering should get people thrown in jail, just as you would a person yelling ‘fire!’ in a packed movie theater.

You can’t find hand sanitizer on store shelves (or plastic bags now that the ban is in effect in NY. Imagine if plastic bags were the cure to Coronavirus?). I see people stockpiling food and water and talking of self quarantines, even if they’ve been working from home since the so-called outbreak began and haven’t so much as walked by another human being. Hell, I want to quarantine myself if it means I get to not go to work for a couple of weeks and binge on horror movies and books. Hmm, maybe in that sense, the panic does have a silver lining. A nice two week vacation. Two weeks of sipping on cold Coronas.

Maybe you think this whole post sounds harsh and I’m a cruel, uncaring person. Truth is, I do care. Mental health is as important as physical health. And right now, the head ain’t right. It’s listening to voices and losing the plot.

My advice. CALM…THE FUCK…DOWN. Please. Look at the facts and think!

Oh, but always wash your hands. Because if you get the flu, you really have something to worry about.

Or again, you get to stay home for a few days and catch up on that TBR pile.

Women in Horror Month – 10 New Queens of Horror

Did you know there are other horror writers of the stronger and fairer sex than Anne Rice, V.C Andrews and Shirley Jackson? Two of the three have long since stepped off this mortal coil, yet they seem to garner the most attention, even on a special month like this.

Stephen King may be the king of horror, but every king needs a queen.

For those who don’t wade too deep into the genre pool, I have something to tell you. There are more brilliant women penning horror fiction than ever. In fact, there are so many, we may not see a need for WIHM in the near future because every month will be a celebration for all those who write scary stories.

My job today is to list some of the best and brightest horror scribes working today, along with a new and rising star. Please click the links with their names to explore their incredible worlds. You’ll thank me later.

I’m going to kick things off with one of my personal favorites. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge fan of J.H. Moncrieff. I simply love her books and as amazing as she is as a writer, she’s an even better human being. We’ve had her on our Monster Men podcast a couple of times so she could talk about her exploration of haunted Poveglia Islandand a trip to Dracula’s castle and Romania’s haunted forest. I’ve read and adored every one of her books. Her latest, Those Who Came Before, published by Flame Tree Press (yep, we’re joined at the hip), is a must read.

 

Those who came before

Hopping over to the other side of the pond is another Flame Tree Press rock star, Catherine Cavendish. If you love ghost stories with a gothic yet modern flare, you are in for a treat. She has a formidable library of books to explore, so shine up your glasses and fluff up your comfy reading chair.

I first came to know Somer Canon when I read Vicky Beautiful a few years ago. Call me hooked! Follow her on Instagram and she’ll make you envious of the cocktails she’s mixing up. Read her books and sip her beverages and you’ll be in reader heaven.

I’d been hearing a lot of chatter online about this debut author and her compelling book. To honor WIHM, I purchased Whispers in the Dark by Laurel Hightower. Damn, this is one addictive read. I’m halfway through and hooked like a hungry trout. I expect many, many more good books to come.

whispers in the dark

I would be remiss if I neglected to add the always cool, Kelli Owen. If you’re not reading Kelli,  you’re doing yourself a disservice. And you’ll fail my horror 101 class (you know, when I teach it some day). As my buddy and reviewer Shane Keene would say, you best unfuck yourself and read her stuff, pronto.

In my mind, I can’t talk about Kelli without automatically going to Mary Sangiovanni. What I remember most about Mary is the time at Horrorfind many moons ago when she was so kind to my little girls who were a little overwhelmed by the crazies who attend horror cons. Such a sweet person, with a very disturbing imagination! A perfect combo.

One of my favorite coming of age horror books was penned by Pamela Morris. Talk about someone who deserves to stand up and get noticed. She’s a little shy, so I need you to read her books and do some shouting out for her!

witches backbone

Talk about buzz, whenever Ania Ahlborn puts out a new book, the bees starting going cray-cray. She has a legion of followers for a damn good reason. Best part is, you can find her books in just about any bookstore (if they still exist by you).

K.S. Merbeth is a writing road warrior. At least her books make you feel like you’re living in the barren, ugly world of Mad Max. I devoured Bite and Raid and I’m ready for more!

Rounding out our top ten list in no order whatsoever is Kritin Dearborn. Man do I dig her books…and her killer bats tattoo! I still plan to copy it some day. Everything she’s written has been aces. Discover her for yourself.

sacrifice island

 

Top 13 Horror Movies of 2019

Happy New Year, my hellions! I hope you all survived the holidays with your gray matter intact. With the start of the new year comes the obligatory list of horror movie badassery. The genre has been on a roll lately and I was hoping to close out the decade with a bang. Alas, that wasn’t so. I was genuinely worried that I wouldn’t find 13 good flix to put on my list. Thank Cthulu (and a case of the Christmas cruds) that I had some downtime to search desperately for any and all horror movies and my new Roku to help me watch them. So, let’s get on with it, shall we? And as always, I’ve provided trailers to get your motors humming.

#13 – SWEETHEART

This little number dropped on Netflix just in time to make the 2019 cut. It was The Creature From the Dessert Island and I dug the hell out of it. A girl washes up on a beautiful, remote island, only to find out there is a killer sea creature that comes ashore each night looking for fresh (or even dead) meat. Two gills up!

 

#12 – US

Yes, I know Jordan Peele is the second coming of John Carpenter, Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling all rolled into one. Us is a slick flick with some great performances and real laugh out loud moments. But once I tugged on the story’s thread, the whole thing just fell apart for me. It gets on the list for its quality. Just don’t spend any time trying to figure out the logic of it all.

 

#11 – PIERCING

What a hella weird movie. Just what the doctor ordered on a cold and dark December night. A man decides he absolutely must kill a hooker and gets a hotel room ready for the dirty deed. Only the lady of the evening is nothing he was expecting. The city is comprised of models and you never get a sense of time and place. It’s a freaking fever dream that would give David Lynch or David Cronenberg a right stiffie. Mia Wasikowska is outstanding.

 

#10 – SATANIC PANIC

Pretty pizza delivery girl goes to the very wrong house and gets mixed up in a night of sacrifice at a suburban cult. All I can say is that this is a blast. Zippy, bloody, funny as hell, because that’s where these soccer moms and dads want to party. Rebecca Romjin as the cult leader is just killer bee. One of my favorite horror comedies, for sure.

 

#9 – ZOMBIELAND 2

I had zero expectations for this one, especially since it’s been 10 years and an Oscar win since the first. But damn was I wrong. What makes these movies is the chemistry between our 4 survivors: Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin. I’ll be the first to say the zombie genre should have its head cut off, but then this comes along and forces me to eat some crow (brains). Now I actually want a third helping!

 

#8 – HARPOON

Three old friends take a trip to the sea and end up murderlizing each other in my biggest surprise of the year. The budget here is small, but the writing and acting are large. It’s plain fun in the sun with a dash of backstabbing brutality and cannibalism??? You have to see it to believe it.

 

#7 – CRAWL

A full on b-grade monster movie that gets a wide theatrical release? Shit yeah! Director Alexandre Aja drops a father and daughter into the eye of the storm where they are trapped in their rapidly flooding house filled with and surrounded by hungry alligators. Way better than it should be, Crawl is a throwback flick that’s only missing Ray Miland or Doug McClure. A must see.

 

#6 – THE NIGHTINGALE

In all honesty, this is the best movie I saw all year. It’s technically not a horror movie, though some things happen here that step well beyond anything Jason Voorhees has ever done. A woman with nothing left to lose tracks down the British soldiers who waster her family in 1825 Tasmania. Not for the faint of heart, this will both depress the heck out of you and lift you up.

 

#5 – MIDSOMMER

The second cult movie on the list, Ari Aster has done it again with his follow up to Hereditary. This is one long, trippy movie with an ending that will leave you speechless. Aster’s artistry flows from the veins of Kubrick and can be thoroughly enjoyed with no sound at all. He’s definitely working out some issues about pain and loss through his movies. This was also the year of looong horror movies (I’m talking to you, It 2) and the director’s cut of Midsommer is over three hours long! Worth every minute.

 

#4 – TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID

This Mexican import grabbed me by the feels and kicked the ever-loving shit out of them. A band of orphaned children in a town run by a drug cartel are hounded by cartel killers. I haven’t had a movie affect me emotionally like this in a long time. It’s part fairy tale, part way-too-real and wholly unique and amazing.

 

#3 – VILLAINS

I’ll bet dollars to donuts most of you haven’t even heard of this one. I was lucky enough to catch it in the theater during it’s 3 day run. Starring Maika Monroe (It Follows) and Bill Skarsgard (Pennywise), this is instantly my favorite home invasion movie. A bumbling couple break into the home of 50s-looking homicidal maniacs. This is one I will own and watch every single year until I drop dead from too much horror.

 

#2 – READY OR NOT

Hands down, the most fun I had at the movies all year. Samara Weaving is cementing herself as the IT GIRL, knocking it out of the park in this satire about rich asswads who sell their souls for fortune and fame. I laughed so hard my jaw hurt. The kills are great and the ending is sheer perfection. Not one missed note. When I walked out of the theater, I said nothing was going to knock this from my number one spot. And then came…

 

#1 – DOCTOR SLEEP

I have no idea how Mike Flanagan pulled this one off. He had to make a movie that was a sequel to the movie, The Shining, as well as the book, and the follow up book, Doctor Sleep. This is the kind of stuff that needs to be studied in film school. It gives you all the nostalgia you have for The Overlook and adds a new chapter to the tale of Danny Torrance that is simply mind blowing. The movie itself is gorgeous to look at and the performances by Ewan McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson are spot on. This is a sweeping epic that you rarely see in horror and it’s a shame the opinions of boneheaded critics kept people from going to see it. I’m absolutely gobsmacked (love that word) by what Flanagan accomplished here and will be adding it to the steady rotation. I could write a book on all the things that make this great, but I’ll spare you all.

Perfect Christmas Gift Ideas for Horror Lovers

If you’re lucky enough to have a horror hound on your Christmas list this year, it can be fun as hell looking for the perfect gift. I mean, who else is going to go ga-ga over some gore-splattered gee-gaw?

We may, at first, seem easy to please, but with so many sub-genres and purveyors of horror themed gifts and collectibles, it can also be pretty daunting. For example, your sister-in-law might dig the paranormal. OK, normies dump that into the old horror chum bucket. That doesn’t mean she’ll appreciate torture porn like a Blu-ray of Hostel just because it was sitting there in the horror section. Hell, you may trigger the poor girl and then you have to find her a safe space to recover.

Horror is the one and only genre with millions, and I mean millions, of market and specialty-made items just begging for your bucks. It’s hard to navigate your way through the noise.

Have no fear, I have a list of one-stop shop ideas that will satisfy every single horror hop head on your list. So get your credit cards ready. You’re going to make someone very happy under the tree and you don’t even need to leave your seat.

MOVIES

I’ve been to more horror conventions than I can count and the one thing that unifies every black-shirted attendee is horror movies. When people peruse my books, half will inevitably ask, “Is this a movie?” With so may flicks out there, how do you choose the best one to buy? You don’t. Why not just get them a whole slew of movies? Give them a gift subscription to Shudder, the horror streaming service that also personally curates horror movie selections for its members. I can’t live without Shudder. Best of all, it’s inexpensive. You can get a year’s membership for just under $50.

shudder

 

FOR THE READERS

It would be too easy to say just buy all of MY books. Better yet, how about a subscription to what I consider the best horror magazine around, Rue Morgue? Within its glossy pages you’ll get new and old movie reviews, interviews, exposes on important horror moments, book and audio reviews, commentary from some of the best and most entertaining minds in the genre, and even monthly unique collectible ideas. If it’s horror, it’s in Rue Morgue, a mag that covers every aspect of the genre we love most.

rue morgue mag

 

CLOTHES AND APPAREL

Just like with movies, there’s an avalanche of horror apparel out there in web land. I always go to Fright Rags for quality products with some of the best original artwork out there. They have the most bitchin’ T-shirts around, focusing on specific movies like Halloween 3, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist, Army of Darkness, Predator and so much more. Fright Rags also creates killer socks, pins and hats. Again, if you don’t know specifically what your horror-loving bestie wants, get them a gift card! They’ll quickly get addicted like me and have an entire wardrobe of Fright Rags shirts.

fright rags

COLLECTIBLES/TOYS

The POP! horror action figures have been a huge hit with the convention crowds for years now. I think every horror fan I know has at least one. My desk has a collection of the cute mini maniacs staring at me as I write this. I have Jason, Michael, Leatherface, Pinhead and the Creature from the Black Lagoon surrounding me. And that’s just a small portion of the little bastards lurking in my room. Pops will definitely put a smile on someone’s face, especially if you can get the one missing from their collection. Make someone’s holiday for under $20. You can’t beat that.

pop shining

New Release Day – SLASH Is Here!

I think this may be my longest wait between new book releases. The Wraith has been hounding me lately, asking, “When’s the book coming out?” Well, not so much in words. More like threatening gestures with various sharp and blunt instruments.

Well Wraith old boy, the wait is over. SLASH has arrived.

3D SLASH

 

If you’re a fan of 80’s slashers like I am, this one is written just for you, a gory love letter to unstoppable killers, victims making dumb ass decisions and an exploration of the final girl phenomenon. With Slash, I’ve created a new, bad ass motor scooter named The Wraith that I think might give Jason and Michael a run for their money. He’s big and bad and silent and pretty inventive when it comes to laying waste to anyone in his path. And man, does he have a wicked origin story.

Here’s a little about the book –

Five years after Ashley King survived the infamous Resort Massacre, she’s found hanging in her basement by her fiancé, Todd Matthews. She left behind clues as to what really happened that night, clues that may reveal the identity of the killer the press has called The Wraith. With the help of his friends, Todd goes back to the crumbling Hayden Resort, a death-tinged ruin in the Catskills Mountains. What they find is a haunted history that’s been lying in wait for a fresh set of victims. The Wraith is back, and he’s nothing what they expected.

Side note. I named the abandoned resort The Hayden because as I was writing that section of the book, I overheard a story about Hayden Panettiere on the TV in the next room. Now you know how writer’s sausage is made.

SLASH was just listed as a novel to embrace the scary season by Kirkus. (see the list here)

And to get you all in a slasher state of mind, read my SLASHER PERSONALITY TEST over at Inkheist and see what kind of slasher would best chase you down and ruin your day. Are you more of a Leprechaun or a Jason? Lucky charms vs lucky machete.

Then hop on over to my Video Visions column at Cemetery Dance Online and check out my latest on THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE where I drill deep into uncharted slasher territory. If you haven’t seen this one yet, rush over to Amazon and feast your eyeballs.

VideoVisions CD logo

Most of all, The Wraith and I would love you to read SLASH. It’s available in ebook, paperback, hardcover and audiobook. We need to make this a bestseller, or else The Wraith is going to take it out on me! Please, help!

BUY THE BOOK HERE

New Ghost Anthology – MIDNIGHT IN THE GRAVEYARD

As my Scottish friend used to say, I’m quite chuffed to announce that I have a story in the new ghost anthology, MIDNIGHT IN THE GRAVEYARD, on sale starting today. Better yet, my tale features the return of Jessica Backman and her beau, Eddie Home! Even better, the star of the anthology is the one and only Robert McCammon. Whew!

midnight graveyard

 

Midnight. Some call it the witching hour. Others call it the devil’s hour. Here in the graveyard, midnight is a very special time. It is a time when ghostly spirits are at their strongest, when the veil between our world and theirs is at its thinnest. Legend has it, that while most of the world is asleep, the lack of prayers allow the spirits to communicate under the cover of darkness, among the headstones, their whispers rustling in the leaves of the old oak trees. But if you’re here in the graveyard, you can tell yourself it’s just the wind, that the moonlight is playing tricks on your eyes, that it’s only the swirling mist you see. But when you hear the graveyard gate clang shut, the dead have something to say. Here are their stories…

Can’t think of a better time of year to come get your ghost on! So bop on over to Amazon and grab your copy today so you can read it under the covers by jack-o-lantern light.

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