Those of you who know me know I’m not a vampire guy. I leave that for my comrade in Monster Men arms, Jack Campisi. But when I was asked to write an essay about an offbeat vampire movie, I was actually excited. My initial thought was to wax poetic about The Hunger, starring David Bowie and Susan Sarandon. Alas, someone had already taken it. (By the way, some other vampire movies I dig are Rabid, Near Dark and Let The Right One In)
Luckily, no one had snagged my actual vamp favorite, The Vampire Lovers, starring the lovely Ingrid Pitt. I recently took my daughter to see it in 35MM at the Alamo and she loved it, too. Chip off the old beast.
Well, if you’re a lover of vampires in cinema, you’ll definitely want to check out STRANGE BLOOD.
STRANGE BLOOD contains my ‘insightful’ essay on The Vampire Lovers and 70 other off the beaten track vampire flicks. Here’s a little on the book:
This is an overview of the most offbeat and underrated vampire movies spanning nine decades and 23 countries.
Strange Blood encompasses well-known hits as well as obscurities that differ from your standard fang fare by turning genre conventions on their head. Here, vampires come in the form of cars, pets, aliens, mechanical objects, gorillas, or floating heads. And when they do look like a demonic monster or an aristocratic Count or Countess, they break the mold in terms of imagery, style, or setting. Leading horror writers, filmmakers, actors, distributors, academics, and programmers present their favorite vampire films through in-depth essays, providing background information, analysis, and trivia regarding the various films. Some of these stories are hilarious, some are terrifying, some are touching, and some are just plain weird. Not all of these movies line up with the critical consensus, yet they have one thing in common: they are unlike anything you’ve ever seen in the world of vampires. Just when you thought that the children of the night had become a tired trope, it turns out they have quite a diverse inventory after all.
That synopsis have your blood running? Then pick up Strange Blood today!
It’s Sunday morning at 9:00 and I’m already tired. But no matter how tired I feel, this old man is not taking a nap. I’ll be going at it full force until my head hits the pillow. Why? Because I want to…and maybe a lot of ‘because I have to’.
I may have written and published over 25 books, but that doesn’t mean I get to coast. No way. Not until Stephen King and I can trade investment secrets. Writing, or better yet finding time to do it, hasn’t gotten any easier. Like most scribblers, I have a day job. At age 50, I embarked on a totally new career, shucking 20 years of experience and clout to do something I would enjoy. The day job takes up about 11-12 hours of my day, Tuesday through Saturday. It’s mentally and physically demanding. People half my age bail when the going gets rough here. Oh, and I get to work on Saturdays for the first time since I was a stock boy in Gristedes supermarket back in 1990. Yay me for missing out on a lot of fun.
Because I get home later than ever now, I had to adjust when I write. Fortunately for me, my ability to sleep in was broken long ago by my children (who are now adults). So instead of writing a night, which I did for almost two decades, I’ve had to retrain myself to become an early morning writer. It wasn’t easy, but I knew if I didn’t push myself, I would miss every deadline, both professional and personal. And I had to learn to write in bed so as not to clunk around the house and disturb everyone.
On workdays, I wake up, write and answer emails and do a little marketing for two hours. Then it’s time to get ready for work and head off to my one hour commute.
What about weekends? Take today for an example. It’s a gray Sunday, my first day off. What do I do? Wake up at 5:30am. I watched an episode of Mars on National Geographic because I want to write about the series. I then read for thirty minutes, a little for pleasure and a little for work. The sink was full of dishes so I cleaned them and started a load of laundry. I cleaned the bathroom and saw the toaster oven was in need of some TLC, too. We’re (finally!) shooting new episodes of Monster Men today, so I put together a list of things to do for one of the episodes. Now it’s time to write on the old blog and chain, get in at least 1,000 words on my new book, SLASH, and prep the house, aka – the set – for Monster Men. We’ll record for several hours, watch a movie and then I’ll be hosting a live viewing party of THANKSKILLING with my special hellions on Patreon. By the time that’s over, I’ll be in bed, dead to the world until tomorrow before dawn.
Within all of this craziness, I’ll be with my family, the most important people in my life. Those of you who follow this blog know my wife is disabled. When I was writing CREATURE, she was sick with pneumonia. Cut to a year and three months later and she’s still not over it. In fact, we’re waiting for the CDC to deliver special medication formulated just for her, as her compromised immune system just can’t do the work it needs to do. Being with her and my girls is crucial, which is another reason why I write when they’re asleep. When I get home from work, it’s dark out and I’m tired as hell. Better to spend that time recharging the love battery by hanging out with them.
I can attest, spinning these plates does not get easier as you get older. Some days, it sucks. It sucks real hard. But I love my family and I love writing, and heck, I even like my job, so for me, there is no other choice. Whenever I’m about to bitch and whine about doing something I hate or dread doing, I think of this : If I was laid up in a hospital bed right now and unable to ever be healthy or get up again, I’d trade everything for a chance to do that thing I think I don’t want to do. Would I rather go food shopping in a packed supermarket than have terminal cancer? If the answer is shit yeah, it’s time to shut up and tarry on.
Despite all of this, don’t feel like you have to tackle the world each and every day. Carve out time, even if it’s only ten minutes, to recharge. Meditate, read, do air guitar in your car to Metallica, make a dump cake. Find your zen. Watching the laundry spin is a personal favorite. Kinda like watching the flames dance in a fire.
I have big ideas and projects for 2019, as I’m sure you do as well. Now’s the perfect time to plan and figure out how to make them happen, and the best time to do so. It ain’t easy. But neither is Sister Mary Margaret Bernadette. There is one vital thing that nun knows how to do – get into a habit.
What new habits or changes to existing ones do you need to hit your goals? What is the one thing you want to accomplish in the next year? What are you major stumbling blocks? We can kick some ass if we decide to kick it together. Spill the beans right here, tell the world and make yourself accountable. It does wonders.
As convenient as all of the streaming options are, I still miss my weekend visits to the video store. I miss the sights and smells, the community and the free popcorn. I miss holding a potential rental in my hand, that tactile connection you made as you browsed the aisles. I miss staff picks from people I knew (as opposed to algorithms today).
I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not alone.
If you’re like me, you might get a kick out of my latest Video Visions post over at Cemetery Dance. Sure, I miss video stores. But I’m one of the arrows that pierced their hearts and stole their souls. To find out why, you can read I KILLED THE VIDEO STORE, right here.
If reading’s not your thing, not to worry! The Monster Men dedicated a whole episode to browsing those video store aisles way back in 2013. The sentiment has only gotten stronger with the passing of the years. And I still have that bucket hat.
Do you feel the same? What do you miss the most? Let’s all have a communal love-in about our favorite video stores.
We recently interviewed Lyle Blackburn on the Monster Men to discuss his new movie, Boggy Creek Monster, and book, Monstro Bizzaro. If you’re obsessed with cryptids like I am, Lyle is one of the best investigators in the field today. His previous books, The Beast of Boggy Creek and Lizard Man have prominent positions on my bookshelf.
When all was said and done, I realized I still had a few more questions I’d wanted to ask. So, here is the original video interview along with the bonus questions Lyle was kind enough to answer. Now let’s go squatchin!
We’re very much alike in that we grew up fascinated by tales of Bigfoot and other creatures (as well as a fondness for The Creature from the Black Lagoon!). How did you take the leap from being a rocker in Ghoultown to cryptid reporter?
LB : In addition to being a musician, I’ve always worked as a writer. Among other things, I wrote for a rock magazine and then for Rue Morgue (www.rue-morgue.com) as their cryptozoology-meets-horror columnist. I’ve always wanted to write a book, so I decided to take some time off from the band to pursue that. I ended up choosing one of my favorite subjects, The Legend of Boggy Creek. Once I started investigating these sort of cryptid cases and writing the books, I really enjoyed it so I continued. I always thought the job of a professional writer sounded boring, but this brought me to interesting places and I met interesting people as part of the writing process – not to mention it involved my fascination with cryptids. My band Ghoultown still plays and records, but we don’t tour like we used to.
One of the best things you bring to the field of cryptozoology is your straightforward, journalistic approach to researching and educating people about creatures like the Boggy Creek Monster and the Lizard Man of Bishopville. You report the stories and the facts as they are without dramatization for the sake of titillating your readers. What made you decide to go in this direction and do you think the field needs more level headed reporting so it can be taken more seriously by the mainstream media and public?
LB: I think these stories are fascinating unto themselves without trying to sway people toward a certain point of view. I just tell the story, report the facts, and let whatever evidence speak for itself. I like to take the reader along as I investigate and give them credit to make up their own mind.
Who are some of your biggest influences and why?
LB: As far as writing and cryptozoology, I would say John Green and Loren Coleman. Green always had a level-headed approach to Sasquatch research and presented the stories in an engaging way. He also paid attention to details and getting the facts correct as best he could. Coleman, of course, paved the way for the modern cryptozoology researcher and has investigated so many of the seminal cases. Many times as I’m doing research, when I trace an investigation back to its original source, Coleman was there first. I’m honored that he wrote the Foreword for my first book, The Beast of Boggy Creek. It’s like having one of your heroes endorse your efforts. So cool.
Out of all the photographic and video evidence for Bigfoot, which to you is the most compelling evidence that it is real? And with just about everyone having a camera/videocam in their pockets, why aren’t we getting more solid evidence? Could it be we are but because it’s so easy to fake now, the real deal might be hiding in plain sight?
LB: To me, the footprints represent the most compelling evidence. Examples such as the Elkins Creek cast from Georgia stand out, especially when I’ve been able to interview the police officer who originally discovered the track.
As far as all the photos and videos, it’s really hard to discern between what might be real and what is a possible case of pareidolia or just outright fake. All the blurry shots don’t do us any good. We need something much clearer in this day and age, and even that is suspect since modern technology allows for such amazing CGI. Most people do carry a smart phone camera these days, but the lack of a clear photo shouldn’t be used as a basis to completely rule out the possibility of these creatures. Chance encounters typically last only a few moments, making it hard to pull out a phone, open the camera app, aim, and take a photo.
I’m sure you’ve heard the Sierra Bigfoot recordings taken back in the 70s. What are your thoughts on it and other similar recordings? Most of them are downright chilling.
LB: They’re definitely creepy and very compelling. In my opinion the Sierra Sounds are legit. And if it’s not a hoax, then that leaves very few possibilities beyond an undiscovered creature such as Bigfoot. I’ve heard recordings from other places which sound very similar; sent to me by credible individuals. They just don’t sound like any known animal.
Do you have any plans to investigate the Skunk Ape in Florida? I have the Fate Magazine with the famous Skunk Ape picture on the cover and keep waiting for someone to hunker down and do some serious research in that corner of the country.
LB: Earlier this year I visited the Ocala National Forest in Florida where there’s been a good amount of Skunk Ape sightings over the years. This was part of the research for my upcoming book, “Beyond Boggy Creek: In Search of the Southern Sasquatch” in which I document the history of Bigfoot sightings all over the Southern U.S. I dedicate an entire chapter of the book to the Skunk Ape, although there’s so much to this cryptid’s history and so many sightings, that I could write an entire book on it. Perhaps in the future.
Follow Lyle Blackburn at http://www.lyleblackburn.com
In the mood for a good cryptid book? Check these out…
If you haven’t watched Stranger Things on Netflix yet, step away from the blog and binge. The 8 part series is a love letter to scifi and horror from the 70s and early 80s, with splashes of Spielberg (Close Encounters, Goonies), John Carpenter (The Thing) and Sam Raimi (Evil Dead). The Monster Men devoted an entire episode to wax poetic about the show and point out all the little homages sprinkled throughout the series. I compared it to finding the little bits in Mad Magazine’s margins. There are spoilers, but we throw up a warning before we dive really deep.
We also have some new headshots. Well, an improvement on our old headshot. Which one do you like best? I’ll pick a random response to win a signed copy of The Dover Demon, which is apropos when talking about Stranger Things.
Witches are in the air lately. Well, not exactly on broomsticks, but there have been some high quality witch stories already this year, which gets me to wondering if 2016 will be the season of the witch. The luster of zombies has been rotting for a few years now, and it doesn’t look like vampires or werewolves are doing much to take the top slot.
The new Dark Horse comic, Harrow County, is the best horror comic I’ve read in years. Witches abound in this turn of the 20th Century gothic tale. With creepy, sometimes disturbing imagery and masterful storytelling, it’s one you can’t afford to miss. Just look at the cover of volume 1 (collecting the first 4 issues). That’s the skin of a dead boy who can talk. And he’s one of the good guys!
Also, now available for purchase, is the movie The Witch. It’s firmly on my list of top movies of 2016. Atmospheric, isolated, threaded with creeping dread, this independent flick lived up to the hype. The Monster Men give it a quick review without any spoilers. Check it out this weekend if you can.
With episode #100 right around the corner (and weeks later, I think I’m still recovering from the celebration), I thought it would be great to share the top viewed episodes with you, as a way to look back at our golden oldies.
First up is our field trip to the haunted Union Cemetery, home of the fabled ghost of the white lady. We caught something chilling on EVP that day. Filmed in 2013, it has over 7,00 views and counting. Which means we really need to get out more and show you some of the stranger places in the NY tri-state area!
Next up is an episode that took us completely by surprise. Remember the show Ghost Mine on Syfy? Well, our episode on that show has not only garnered over 5,000 views, but also put us in touch with several members of the cast. That first season was one of my favorite ghost shows of all time.
This next episode was a bit of a coup for us. We interviewed Lyle Blackburn, TV personality and author who specializes in cryptids, specifically the beast of Boggy Creak and the Lizard Man. He’s a man after my own heart, having the biggest collection of Creature of the Black Lagoon memorabilia I’ve ever seen!
Jack and I talking about the good old days of discovering new horror movie gems at the video store is probably our favorite of all time, and tons of viewers agree. Take a walk down memory lane, and wish like we do that Netflix and On Demand never came along.
And last but not least, perhaps our funniest episode is the great monster wine taste test! This is the reason why I drink beer. I hope you’ve enjoyed these past 5 years as much as we have. There’s a hell of a lot more to come!