Film Review: The Funhouse Massacre

The Funhouse Massacre Poster

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is a fun watch. It’s got a lot to offer horror fans – gore, laughs, murderous maniacs, inventive kills, boobs, and clowns. It also has something for haunt fans and in particular Greater Cincinnati haunt fans as our area’s Land of Illusion is featured prominently.  The film begins at the Statesville Asylum, where the warden (Robert Englund) is attempting to convince a journalist that she shouldn’t write about this place and it’s five very horrifying inmates. He reasons that society is better off without these freaks, and if you can’t kill ‘em, you might as well lock them up. These homicidal maniacs – a wicked wrestler, cannibal chef, deranged dentist, twisted taxidermist (Clint Howard), and a charismatic cult leader (Jere Burns) – manage to break free thanks to our cult leader’s equally monstrous daughter. They head to the Land of Illusion Haunted Scream Park, where the haunted mazes are inspired by the legends of their crimes and atrocities. It’s Halloween night, and the crowds come in droves for scares…that end up being all too real.

DSC_3461Our protagonists are friends and co-workers from a local diner that head to the haunt after work. There’s a side plot that intersects our main set of characters featuring the local sheriff and her stereotypically bumbling deputy. The actors do a solid job with the comedy and the horror, balancing some really ridiculous moments. And when I say ridiculous, I mean ridiculously funny or not very anatomically correct, but it’s all good. The cameos are great and exciting for genre fans, or fans of Reno 911.

My only problem with the movie was the Stitch Face Killer. How in the hell did her make-up stay put in that one scene I won’t describe because I don’t want to spoil anything, but you’ll see what I mean?

I highly recommend The Funhouse Massacre. It’s a great popcorn movie, perfect for a night with friends. I think I’ll be adding it to my Halloween rotation.

**** / *****

The Funhouse Massacre-date-Medium

TITLE: The Funhouse Massacre
DIRECTOR: Andy Palmer
CAST: Robert Englund, Jere Burns, Scottie Thompson, Clint Howard, Courtney Gains
SYNOPSIS: On Halloween night, a gruesome group of the United States’ most notorious and colorful serial killers escape from Statesville Asylum and descend on a giant funhouse whose theme is based on their different reigns of terror. The only people left to stop them are a rag tag group of college kids, a clueless Deputy and the local Sheriff, who seems to have a strange attachment to the leader of this gaggle of maniacs, the silver tongued devil, Manny the Prophet.
GENRE: Horror
DISTRIBUTOR: Petri Entertainment

Film Review: Condemned

As someone who once briefly contemplated moving into a condemned building to live in Manhattan the recent straight to DVD release Condemned was already ahead of the game based on the premise alone. That combined with a robust cast of “oh yeah! That guy!” I was primed to love this movie. Unfortunately I did not. Fortunately, I also did not hate it. Let’s take a deeper look.

Ronen Rubinstein as Dante in the horror film “CONDEMNED” an RLJ Entertainment release. Photo credit: Paul Sarkis.
Ronen Rubinstein as Dante in the horror film “CONDEMNED” an RLJ Entertainment release. Photo credit: Paul Sarkis.

The story begins when a beautiful slacker, played by the up and coming teen heart throb Ronen Rubinstein, invites his equally beautiful girlfriend, played by an amalgam of all the brothers from the 90s pop band Hansen, to flee her abusive parents and come stay with him and all of his junky friends in an abandoned building in the West Village in Manhattan. I know you’re thinking “but, Fozzie. That sounds like the start of every successful power couple I’ve ever heard of. What could possibly go wrong?” As it turns out, a lot. For starters everyone who lives in the building has their personal demons and they insist on flushing those problems down the drain. In one apartment an abusive Rabbi flushes his transsexual hooker/girlfriend’s pills down the drain while in another a drug dealer/restaurateur spills his leftover Junk in the bathtub. One resident on the ground floor is the first recipient of this vile concoction and does nothing but sit on the toilet and cry while listening to Christmas music. Think Martha Stewart on New Year’s Day. It seems the combination of all the various flotsam and jetsam flushed down the drain has coalesced into a powerful drug that not only causes violent delusions but also causes really gross boils to break out all over the recipient’s body.

Dylan Penn as Maya in the horror film “CONDEMNED” an RLJ Entertainment release. Photo credit: Paul Sarkis.
Dylan Penn as Maya in the horror film “CONDEMNED” an RLJ Entertainment release. Photo credit: Paul Sarkis.

Our main power couple, Dante and Maya (heretofore refered to as Mante), are blissfully unaware of the growing infection spreading through the building as they begin making a home in the squat. When the owner of the building locks the door and is quickly accidentally killed, all hell breaks loose. Residents begin lashing out at each other violently and gruesomely as Mante become caught in the middle. They must successfully avoid being killed and infected while trying to find a way out of the building.

Honor Titus as Loki in the horror film “CONDEMNED” an RLJ Entertainment release. Photo credit: Paul Sarkis.
Honor Titus as Loki in the horror film “CONDEMNED” an RLJ Entertainment release. Photo credit: Paul Sarkis.

To borrow a format from friend of the blog, Deadly Dolls….

The good: You can tell that all of the actors in the film are professionals. Some you will recognize, such as Johnny Messner who plays a sadomasochistic leather daddy to his muscle bear slave. Others are newcomers but are obviously destined for fame, like the aforementioned Rubinstein. Either way everyone in the film is giving it their all and not one disappoints. The acting complements the writing, which is on point and at times really funny. Additionally the film is both a scathing indictment of the gentrification of Manhattan and a sobering view of the rose colored past that people tend to sweeten.

The bad: The nihilism of junky life is not something I can connect with. I would honestly rather be in a zombie apocalypse than a crack house so this movie is essentially my worst nightmare. And not in a way that I enjoy seeing on screen. Also if you’ve ever seen a movie I bet you can guess how this one ends.

The ugly: All of it. From the strung out drug addicts to the pus filled boils to the junky lifestyle everything in the film is simply gross. That’s not to say that it’s not enjoyable. If you can get past the putrescence there’s a fair amount of good film here as well as a lot of likable actors. Even if this film did not hit the mark I see a lot of promise in the cast as well as the director.

Final grade,  **/*****


RELEASE DATE:  November 13, 2015

DIRECTOR:  Eli Morgan Gesner

WRITER: Eli Morgan Gesner

CAST:  Dylan Penn, Ronen Rubinstein, Lydia Hearst, Jon Abrahams, Honor Titus, Genevieve Hudson-Price

SYNOPSIS: Fed up with her parents’ bickering, poor-little-rich-girl Maya (Dylan Penn) moves in with her boyfriend who is squatting in an old, condemned building on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. With neighbors that are meth heads, junkies and degenerates, this depraved hell hole is even more toxic than it appears: After a virus born from their combined noxious waste and garbage infects the building’s residents, one by one, they succumb to a terrifying pathogen that turns them into bloodthirsty, rampaging killers and transforms their building into a savage slaughterhouse.

GENRE: Horror

DISTRIBUTOR:  RLJ Entertainment

Flash Fiction: Settling A Debt

















Lewis Marlowe avoided the Sunset Saloon whenever he could.

For one thing, he wasn’t entirely wild about the idea of there being a “saloon” in his town, given that it was already something of a relic of the Old West. Several years ago, Glandon, Wyo. had been on the list of abandoned ghost towns of the semi-mythical “Old West,” and the attention it gained as a result led to its rebirth as a functional town. Lewis had moved there because, as it happened, he owned some old family land on the outskirts. But living in a former ghost town was trouble enough without its saloon re-opening. It was basically a tourist attraction.

Lewis also disliked the Sunset Saloon because of its namesake. The back of the building was positioned facing a wide open plain that stretched out to the west. There was also a small graveyard in the back of the saloon, and it was said that the place got its name from the effect that the setting sun had on the stones. Rumor had it the light of the sunset at dusk would be blocked by the gravestones, casting little figures of shadows against the back wall of the saloon. Those who fancied the label “ghost town” more literally believed that as the shadows were cast, the spirits of those buried populated the saloon. Needless to say, this only added to the tourism appeal of the establishment. Lewis had never bothered to see how the shadows actually looked before dark.

Another reason to steer clear of the saloon was that Lewis just didn’t really see the point of it. Anyone who attended and wasn’t just a passing tourist usually did so for two reasons: to drink, and to gamble. And Lewis preferred to engage in both activities at home. He was a solitary drinker, and while he—like everyone else in Glandon—gambled, he preferred to do so online. In spite of himself, he’d even found a platform with a video blackjack option that invoked the Old West spirit, and found it a little more satisfying than stepping out into the actual Old West. You know, the one that had been rebuilt just steps outside his home. A case of his beverage of choice and some online card playing made for just a fine night, as far as Lewis was concerned.

But above all else, Lewis avoided the Sunset Saloon because every time he was there, he became the subject of unwanted attention. The thing was, half of those gravestones in the backyard of the place were there because of his own great-great-grandfather… allegedly. The story was that in one of the earliest noteworthy poker games ever played, this ancestor of his (Sylvester Marlowe, if the records had it right) had gotten deep into a hand without enough silver to back up his bets. Rather than accepting a debt to a group of men no one wanted to be indebted to, Sylvester Marlowe had gone for his revolver and started shooting. Six men died—two by the bullets of old Marlowe, and the rest when the barkeep lifted his shotgun from beneath the counter to defend his establishment.

It wasn’t long after this incident that Glandon had been abandoned as settlers pushed farther west, but somehow or other the history had been dug up. The name “Marlowe” was here and there throughout the town, ready and waiting to lend its reputation to Lewis when he moved in. It wasn’t that anyone held the actions of a crazed old prospector from 150 years ago against him; if anything, Lewis was treated like the smallest town in Wyoming’s only celebrity. But there was something disconcerting about every eye in a room following you because your great-great-grandfather murdered people in the same room.

Despite all this, Lewis was not one to turn down free money, and that’s exactly what led him back to the Sunset Saloon for the first time in a number of years. He’d been sleeping soundly one Friday night in the small but comfortable home he built on his family’s land, when a small thudding sound woke him up. It wasn’t unusual, really. Glandon was built into nature more than in place of it, and as a result there were often little critters making the rounds in the dead of night, uninhibited by the relatively small human population. But something about the sound had been a little bit different, and it prompted Lewis to get out of bed and have a look around. Nothing inside seemed out of the ordinary, but when he opened the front door he found a note attached. It wasn’t taped there, but nailed right onto the door, the way it might have been in the town’s previous, more primitive life. The note was folded in half, and something was fastened to its center.

Lewis tore it free of the nail curiously and unfolded it. Stuck to the bottom half on the indie was a single poker chip, worth $500 and kept in place by a dab of dried wax. Whoever had left this here had a real appreciation of history, or else simply didn’t have tape on hand. The top half of the inside of the note had a tiny, scrawled message:

“Dearest Mr. Marlowe – I’ve noticed your name here and there about town, and had this chip left over from a poker game. As it happens the Sunset Saloon is holding a $500 buy-in game tomorrow (Saturday) evening, and I have to be on my way out of town. I won this chip myself out of sheer blind luck, so it felt only appropriate to put it toward further luck, rather than cash it out. Yours sincerely, A Passing Tourist.”

Lewis frowned. That was about as weird as it got. Who the hell would choose not to collect cash for a $500 chip because it had been won with luck? Weren’t all poker chips won at least in part because of luck? Either way, the chip was undeniably legitimate, and he pocketed it and went inside and back to sleep. It had been a bizarre disturbance, but you didn’t live in a ghost town without developing a high tolerance for nonsense.

The next night, Lewis had a few drinks at home and made his way over to the Sunset Saloon, determined to do what he could with the $500 chip and be done with it. Again, he wasn’t one to refuse money, and it wasn’t as if he was scared of the saloon—he just didn’t have any interest in it.

“Evening, Mr. Marlowe,” said Cole Watford, the resident barkeep. Watford, like half the rest of the town, seemed hellbent on preserving its Old West atmosphere, and did so by styling himself as closely as he could after the Marlboro men. Lewis had tried telling him once that one of those very men had once died in Wyoming, but Watford had merely shrugged and lit up another cigarette. Safety be damned, this was the Old West.

“Hey, Cole,” Lewis called back. “Got a little bit of fortune last night. A self-described ‘passing tourist’ left this on my door and said there’s a $500 game tonight. That true?”

Cole squinted at the chip, and for a brief moment he seemed to smirk. But then he cleared his throat and said, “Well, I’ll be damned, that is a stroke of fortune, Mr. Marlowe. Reckon that chip might’ve done your family more good some hundred ‘fifty years ago, ain’t that right?” He chuckled at his own obvious joke. “Yeah, there’s a big buy-in tonight. Back room, they’ll be startin’ up soon. Want a mug?”

Lewis nodded, took his beer and headed into the back room. He didn’t see or hear Cole Watford emerge from behind the bar counter to block the main door.

The poker table in the back room had a single lantern hanging over it and its own bar counter in the back, as well as its own bathroom. No one was seated at the table, though cards were already dealt and chips were already on the table. A light was on under the bathroom door, and two men were behind the bar counter—Simon Wells, and Martin Hawthorne, both of whom Lewis knew from around town. They nodded at him and continued with their conversation, and Lewis took a seat at the table.

“So, uh…. Who all’s playing? We got a dealer or what?” Lewis asked, a little puzzled by the apparent lack of interest in the game. Neither Simon nor Martin answered him, and whoever was in the bathroom didn’t come out. Lewis looked toward the bar. “Hey. Simon, Martin… what’s the deal, fellas, are we playing poker? We waiting for more people?” Again, neither of them answered. But Simon shook his sleeve up and looked down at his watch. He glanced meaningfully at Martin, and then over at Lewis.

“Almost sundown, Lewis,” he said in a voice that was far from friendly. “It’s nothing personal you know.”

“What’s that?” Lewis asked, frowning.

“They make the invites. We just help round up the players,” Simon added. “Good luck, partner. I wouldn’t bluff too much.”

Martin knelt down and Lewis could hear the sound of a creaking hatch opening up behind the bar. Martin disappeared, and Simon tipped his cap at Lewis and followed. It looked like a popular game night charade, with someone pretending to climb down stairs behind a couch, only Lewis could hear the echo of footfalls on cellar steps. In fact, he could hear them from more than one place—the bathroom light had gone out, and it seemed that however had been in there had also had a secret staircase to disappear with.

“Hey, what the hell are you talking about, Simon!?” Lewis called out, annoyed. “Who makes the invites?”

“Almost sundown, Mr. Marlowe…” Simon called again, his voice a little more distant, before the latch behind the bar counter thudded shut. Lewis was alone in the back room, and looked around him expecting some sort of joke. He set his $500 chip on the table and glanced at the setup: five hands dealt, besides his own.

Then the room went dim. Three of four candles in the lantern above the table blew out inexplicably, and Lewis swept his gaze around looking to see if a door had opened. Then he saw them: five smudges, growing darker and more defined against the back wall of the saloon. The sunset shadows, making their impression. Only Lewis shook his head and realized he shouldn’t be able to see them from the inside of the room. That wasn’t how shadows worked.

Seconds later they’d disappeared, and Lewis let out his breath, sitting back in his chair and deciding he’d imagined it. Damn town playing its ghostly tricks again. But then he reached for his chip, ready to collect it back and leave the tavern, and he saw that the other five hands of cards at the table had been picked up. Each hand hung suspended in space at its place in the table, held up by invisible hands. A cold voice slithered through the air from directly across the table.

“You owe us a debt, Mr. Marlowe.”

Flash Fiction: Lily’s Prayers

Dan found the diary with little flowers and butterflies on the cover under Lily’s pillow. He felt a twinge of guilt as he sat on her bed and flipped through the pages but he wanted to know what she found important enough to write down and hide. It couldn’t be that exciting, she was only eight years old.

He stopped at a random page and read.

lily quote 1-01-01
Dan smiled. The next several entries were all similar. He was ready to slip the notebook back where he’d found it when he came across something quite different.

It was a drawing. A mad cluster of red scribbles. Long stick-like arms reached out from the edges and at its center  a yawning  black mouth  filled with long, sharp teeth that spiraled endlessly inward. She had drawn herself into the picture, smiling, wearing her striped shirt and purple shorts. She was holding one of the thing’s crooked hands. Beneath it she’d written:

lily quote 2-01

Dan looked out into the living room. All was quiet. He looked back at the drawing and frowned. Something about the dark crawls of wax made him uneasy. It was like a scab come to life. Kids drew all sorts of strange things; monsters, fairies, unicorns. They carried on conversations with imaginary friends. Had parties with stuffed animals and held funerals for dead birds. They were weird and you couldn’t take anything they did too seriously. Still, the reference to God was new. They weren’t a religious family. They didn’t even own a bible. He knew that she’d picked up the habit of saying her prayers at night from her cousins, but he’d always thought it was just so she could keep the lights on a little longer. He’d never stopped to wonder who she was praying to.

He shook his head and continued flipping through the diary. The next few pages were more observations and doodles. Then he turned to the entry for Saturday, September 9th.

lily quote 3-01

Below this she’d drawn a picture of her face, blue with a huge drooping frown. Dan’s mind reeled as he pictured his eight year old daughter spying on Charlotte and him in the bedroom. He felt sick. Worse, he felt guilty. He wanted to put the diary aside, but of course, he couldn’t.

lily quote 4-01

Dan looked around the room. He never really noticed Lily’s things but he knew that her dolls were usually posed around the big dollhouse in the corner. The dollhouse was there, but the dolls weren’t. He read on.

lily quote 5-01

  The sound of the front door was very loud in the silent house. Dan’s chest tightened. “Lily?” He turned the page, standing as he read.

lily quote 6-01

“Sweetie, come here please.” Dan’s voice cracked.

lily quote 7-01

He suddenly wanted out of the room. He tried to move but couldn’t. His right foot seemed stuck to the floor. He looked down. Long, slim fingers were curled around his ankle. They were attached to a hand that had snaked out from beneath the bed. Before he had a chance to scream, his foot was yanked out from under him. He crashed to the floor pounding his fists and kicking his free leg. Another arm, thin but powerfully muscled, slithered out from beneath the comforter and grabbed his flailing foot. Another grabbed at his armpit and another still came out and covered his mouth. They all began pulling at once, dragging him into the darkness under Lily’s bed. In those last moments before he was swallowed up, Dan looked to the bedroom doorway and


Freddy’s Favorite Things: Bleeding Critic

Freddy's Favorite Things sq

Just in case you’ve never heard of it, “Oprah’s Favorite Things was an annual segment that appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show from the 1990s to 2010, with a one-year hiatus in 2009. In the segment, which was typically aired during the holiday season and inspired by the song “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, Winfrey shared products with her audience that she felt were noteworthy or that would make a great gift. In addition, the audience members that were present during the taping of the episode receive items from that year’s list for free.” (source: Wikipedia…cut and paste because I’m too lazy to type out an explanation of OFT).

Well, I have some Favorite Things too! There’re so many of them in fact, that I could fill a book. I don’t have a book to fill, but I do have this blog so I’m going to start sharing my favorite things with you. Some will be lifelong favorites; while others will be great stuff that I’m just discovering. And while, unlike Oprah, I don’t have the means to place all of my tangible favorites beneath your seat for you to rapturously discover after reading, I hope that you will seek out Freddy’s Favorite Things.

My newest Favorite Thing is a website unlike anything I’ve seen. I’ve been feeling social, so I’ve been reaching out to like-minded folks and horror fans on Twitter. One of the people that I’ve met is Bleeding Critic. He’s a mysterious character. He presents an anonymous presence, his face hidden beneath a very unsettling clown mask. I’m not scared or intimidated by clowns, but Bleeding Critic has a frightening onscreen countenance.

Bleeding Critic’s ABOUT page at his site simply reads: “My name is Bleeding Critic. I wear the mask to really scare people. I’m a horror film critic and an author of disturbing stories. Once I’m in your skull I ain’t leaving.”

Bleeding Critic landing page

The video content is where the site really shines. The best critics inject their personality into their critical writing and discussion. Bleeding Critic seems like he may just be dangerous if you were alone in the room with him. That’s not to say that he isn’t charming because he really is. His voice is at once menacing and soothing (sort of like an English Keith Morrison). His words seem carefully chosen and his criticisms are works of art in and of themselves. Visually, Bleeding Critic goes beyond the typical talking head style YouTube criticism. He creates scenes that immerse the viewer more deeply into whatever it is that is rattling around in that clown brain of his.

Bleeding Critic horror memoriesI was honored to be invited to contribute to Bleeding Critic’s site this week. He asked that I send a video about one of my most disturbing Horror Memories (you can see my video after the break below).

So, my first Favorite Thing to be featured on the blog at is a horror site run by a possibly evil English clown. I love it because it’s unique. Bleeding Critic got me excited about the creative possibilities in film and literary criticism. I mean, aren’t most critics creatives at heart too?


Podcast Series Theme: Horror Westerns

horror western

horror western“The funeral procession made their way out of town and up the slight incline towards the boneyard. The boy’s father, older brother, uncle and two cousins lugged his casket, faces cast downward. The preacher clutched his bible and hummed Amazing Grace. The womenfolk wept and the menfolk clutched their hats tightly against their chests . Dusk fell, turning the sky a deep, dark blue. Wooden crosses and name markers rose up to greet them as they made their way to the open grave, dug that very afternoon. The wasting-away disease that took the boy had worked fast, bringing him down in less than two days.

The pallbearers set the coffin down beside the grave and began tying on the lowering ropes. The boy’s mother wailed with anguish and was answered by the lonely screech of a nightbird. The preacher began his holy rolling, spinning yarns about pearly gates, still waters and eternal life in heaven. He told them the boy would be reborn in the blood of Christ and would rise to claim his unending reward.

He wasn’t wrong either. It just happened a lot quicker than anyone expected.

With shadows sweeping across the low hill, a knocking sound came from inside the coffin. It was faint at first but quickly became a frantic pounding.

“Oh dear Jesus we’re buryin’ my Henry alive!” The boy’s father fumbled at the latches on the casket while the townsfolk moaned and muttered, closing in around him. He couldn’t get them open so one of the boy’s brother’s grabbed up a rock and bludgeoned the latches till they broke. The moment the latches fell off the coffin lid flew open and the tiny figure of the boy sprang up from his silk-lined repose like a wildcat. He seemed very spry for someone who’d been shut up in a wooden box for most of the day. He surveyed the surprised funeral-goers with eyes that glittered red. He looked the same as always, small and comely in his best Sunday suit, but there was nothing of Henry in that animal grin. His skin shone white like marble and his teeth had grown long and sharp, glinting in the blossoming starlight. Before anyone could react, the boy spun and battened on to his brother Milt, sinking his new choppers into the other boy’s neck. Henry murmured with hideous pleasure as he milked blood from his brother’s jugular. Everyone watched in stunned horror, all mouths agape. Then a voice from the back of the procession called out.

“Back away from it.” It was the long tall stranger who’d taken up residence above the Yellow Dog Saloon. He’d pulled a six shooter from the holster tied down at his hip and pointed it at the tiny feeding figure. “I got silver bullets in this ’cause I thought somethin’ like this might happen…


Howdy Pard’ner

Stories of the “wild west” are a uniquely American phenomenon. Other countries and cultures have stories that stem from the development of their society but something about the expansion from one end of our continent to the other seemed to catch on, even while it was still happening. The western territories weren’t even all states when Wild West shows began popping up and travelling the country, spinning tales of gunfights, brawls, savage natives and pretty saloon girls. Brave sheriffs and cruel bandits became the new knights and ogres. Western fiction sprang up quickly and blossomed in the 1920’s and 30’s. It was helped along by the new method of storytelling–the movies and was a well established genre by the 1940’s with recognizable tropes and archetypes. We all knew the good guy wears a white hat, the bad guy wears a black hat and robs stagecoaches and trains, and Injuns (sorry Louis) could be either noble, or murderous, depending on the teller of the tale. Even now the west seems more exotic to most Americans than any other part of the country (except for maybe the deep, swampy south, butjoe lansdale good that often gets lumped in with western folklore anyway). The wildlife there is more dangerous and plentiful. Rattlesnakes, wolves, bears, tarantulas and scorpions all can kill you. There are less people and a lot more open space meaning that if something happens to you out there–you’re on your own. No one may find out what happened to you. You could meet a bad end and your body might just moulder to bones without anyone ever finding out. The characters of western fiction and folklore are larger and wilder. The women could hold their own in a fight, the men were stoic and all could shoot with pinpoint accuracy. The drunks were hilarious and full of wisdom. It was and still is a rich tapestry for writers to pull from. It is as strong a concept as sci-fi, romance or war stories with its own boxed set of terrain and player pieces (to use a tabletop gaming metaphor).

Which is maybe why it took so long for it to  cross pollinate with the equally well established horror genre.

When Worlds Collide

Of course since people started telling tall tales about the west there were a few spook stories thrown in there. Some of them were based on truth; the terrifying reality that food was no guarantee and sometimes people had been forced into eating each other (the Donner Party, whether exaggerated or not, is still the gold standard for American cannibals and the Native American Wendigo legend was born to help starving tribes rationalize their own need to turn to the practice when winters turned harsh) was fodder for both Yellow journalism and the penny dreadfuls. There were tales of ghost towns–places that had sprung up during gold and silver rushes and then dried up as quickly as the ore was hauled out–haunted by the uneasy spirits of gunfighters who’d perished out in the dusty streets. Still, the horror genre and the western genre didn’t get tossed together into a truly delicious and sought-after salad until relatively recently.

In the sixties there was the television show The Wild, Wild, West, which did combine some sci-fi/horror elements. This show is probably one of the earliest examples of Steampunk which is a breeding ground for horror westerns, though  of a very specific kind with very specific set pieces. There were also some kind of silly western/horror crossover movies around that time: Billy the Kid vs. Dracula, Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, and there were a couple of others that kind of straddled the line (most notably the American Clint Eastwood western High Plains Drifter) but it really wasn’t until the seventies that the two worlds collided and became their own legitimate subgenre.

It was DC’s comics series weird westernWeird Western Tales that gave birth to the term “weird west” and many of the best stories of its kind are still found in comics. Probably because comics, with their blend of images and words lend themselves to more gonzo storytelling and can go places that in prose fiction and films come across as silly, where in comics it can still feel genuine. In the nineties Joe R. Lansdale really helped define the Weird West movement with a number  off novels and short stories (including one  of my all time favorite shorts, Across the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks which can be found in the original “Book of the Dead” zombie anthology). Other writers began expanding the ideas, relishing playing in a sandbox that included gunslingers and vampires. Speaking of gunslingers, Stephen King himself turned the western mythology on its head blending it with both horror, sci fi AND Arthurian heroic fantasy in his “Dark Tower” series. The Deadlands roleplaying system refined it even more giving roleplayers a world to run around in and more fiction was created in that universe.

Part of what makes horror and westerns such great bedfellows is the mysterious nature of the American frontier. You have a huge, unknown landscape filled with who knows what, and you can put anything you want there. Monsters, ghosts, zombies–and face them off with the character types we associate with the western. What’s more hardcore than the idea of the Man with No Name firing his Smith and Wesson at a rampaging werewolf? What’s more seductive than the idea of hot, sexy saloon girls (aka prostitutes) who are also vampires (just think of Salma Hayek as Satanica Panemonio insalma vampire From Dusk till Dawn and you’ll probably say, “nothing.”)? The legends and folklore of Native Americans are also rich veins full of monsters, demons and  spirits. The possibilities are endless for creating badass horror adventures.

I could go on and on listing all the great horror fiction (including my own novella, The Blessed Resurrection) and movies but I’ll let you discover them on your own. It’s a genre I can’t get enough of and I’m very excited for us to be discussing it this month on Night of the Living Podcast. So put on your Stetson, load up your Colt with silver bullets, grab your best girl and lets ride into the sunset because, who knows what’s shambling along behind us from out of the dark canyons where the wind howls and the sun never shines.

Related Links:

Freddy’s review of Bone Tomahawk at Night of the Living Podcast the Blog!

Freddy’s interview with writer/director S. Craig Zahler

Louis’ interview with actor Sid Haig

Podcast Episode 433 – Phobia and Bone Tomahawk, featuring Bone Tomahawk Producer Jon D Wagner

Podcast Episode 434 – Djinn and Exit Humanity