They’re baaaaaaack….

From the press release:

KINCAID, KENTUCKY, June 22, 2017 – Aviron Pictures and The Fyzz Facility Pictures announced today that principal photography on STRANGERS, a horror film inspired by the 2008 smash hit THE STRANGERS, has begun in Northern Kentucky. The film is directed by Johannes Roberts (47 METERS DOWN) from a script written by Bryan Bertino (THE STRANGERS) and Ben Ketai (THE FOREST). The film stars Emmy Award® nominated Christina Hendricks (“MAD MEN”), Martin Henderson (THE RING), Bailee Madison (“ONCE UPON A TIME”) and Lewis Pullman (AFTERMATH). The Fyzz Facility’s James Harris, Mark Lane, Wayne Marc Godfrey and Robert Jones will produce. The Fyzz are also fully financing. Intrepid Pictures’ Trevor Macy, who produced THE STRANGERS, will serve as Executive Producer. Jon D. Wagner serves as line producer. BLOOM is handling international sales.

In STRANGERS, a family’s road trip takes a dangerous turn when they arrive at a secluded mobile home park to stay with some relatives and find it mysteriously deserted. Under the cover of darkness, three masked psychopaths pay them a visit to test the family’s every limit as they struggle to survive.

“I’m honored to get to bring a fresh perspective to the terrifying concept depicted in THE STRANGERS, this time with a whole family in isolation fighting together for survival,” says director Roberts. “We’re excited to bring our masked villains to a whole new generation and hope that fans of the original will welcome seeing them terrorize unsuspecting innocents once again – but this time in a trailer park.”

Joining Roberts on the film is director of photography Ryan Samul (COLD IN JULY), production designer Freddy Waff (BONE TOMAHAWK) and costume designer Carla Shivener (“CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR”).

Johannes Roberts is repped by CAA.

Film Review – SiREN

Image from the horror thriller film “SiREN” a Chiller Films release. Photo courtesy of Chiller Films.
Image from the horror thriller film “SiREN” a Chiller Films release. Photo courtesy of Chiller Films.

LISTEN to Freddy’s interview with star Hannah Fierman here.

SiREN is a very fun monster movie based on the short “Amateur Night” from V/H/S. In this feature length version, director Gregg Bishop takes the simple idea of the wolf in sheep’s clothing and adds a whole slew of hints at a much larger world full of mystical adventure and threats. Hannah Fierman returns as “Lily” the sweetheart of a monster who has big eyes and bigger teeth. Justin Welborn (The Signal) really shines as the villain of the story, the human/inhuman trafficker “Mr. Nyx.” Nyx runs an anything goes Eyes Wide Shut style club in a mansion in the middle of the woods of the southern town of Garden City. When groom to be “Jonah” rolls in with his groomsmen to celebrate his bachelor party, the excrement makes physical contact with a hydro-electric powered oscillating air current distribution device.

Stephen Caudill as Sheriff Boone from the horror thriller film “SiREN” a Chiller Films release. Photo courtesy of Chiller Films.
Stephen Caudill as Sheriff Boone from the horror thriller film “SiREN” a Chiller Films release. Photo courtesy of Chiller Films.

At first, the foursome of the groom and his men come off as templates of The Hangover gang, but the writers manage to give them a little more depth as the story progresses. All of our leading men turn in solidly charming performances. It doesn’t hurt that the creators of SiREN don’t settle for a simple douchebags in peril storyline. They give what could otherwise be a forgettable film an edge by including a veritable Star Wars Cantina of supporting creatures and weird patrons at Nyx’s club. Brittany S. Hall as “Ash” is a particular standout. The reveal of her character’s special talent suggests a magical world supporting the action of our immediate scenario.

Hannah Fierman as Lily in the horror thriller film “SiREN” a Chiller Films release. Photo courtesy of Chiller Films.
Hannah Fierman as Lily in the horror thriller film “SiREN” a Chiller Films release. Photo courtesy of Chiller Films.

SiREN has a magical quality that makes it a worthwhile offering. The visual effects are good and the action sequences are exciting and creatively composed. Bishop’s previous (and first) feature Dance of the Dead (2008) was a blast and SiREN has really whetted my appetite for what he’ll do next.






siren_chiller_films_1620x2400TITLE: SiREN

IN THEATERS:  December 2, 2016

ON VOD, DIGITAL HD AND DVD: December 6, 2016

DIRECTOR:  Gregg Bishop

WRITERS:  Based on a short by David Bruckner.  Written by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski

CAST:  Chase Williamson, Justin Welborn, Michael Aaron Milligan, Hayes Mercure, Randy McDowell, Hannah Fierman

SYNOPSIS: SiREN is a horror-thriller about Jonah, an apprehensive groom-to-be whose bachelor party turns into a nightmare when he frees a seemingly innocent victimized girl locked up in a supernatural sex club. Her ruthless handler and proprietor of the sex club will stop at nothing to re-capture his prize. Jonah struggles to rescue the girl only to discover it is he who needs to be rescued as he comes to the realization that she is a dangerous fabled predator who has chosen him as her mate.

GENRE: Horror, Thriller

DISTRIBUTOR: Chiller Films

Film Review – Los Parecidos (The Similars)

115In Los Parecidos (The Similars) writer/director Isaac Ezban has created a loving tribute to the horror and sci-fi masterpieces of 1960s TV and film. The setup will be familiar to anyone who has ever seen an episode of “The Twilight Zone”. Onscreen text establishes that it’s October 2, 1968 as a rainstorm wails outside a remote bus station. A male actor delivers a voiceover narration in a clipped baritone in the sale of Rod Serling introducing one of the story’s ancillary characters “Martin”. Martin works the ticket counter and reads nudie magazines and listens to the radio to pass the time. A young man with shaggy hair and one hell of a beard “Ulises” is frantically trying to get to Mexico City as his wife is in labor in a hospital there. A young woman fleeing her abusive husband arrives; she too is trying to get to Mexico City to escape her abuser. An indigenous woman (possibly Mayan or Aztec) is also in the station. She is agitated and seems to be praying or performing some sort of religious rite in the corner. Meanwhile, as other characters arrive at the station, something truly bizarre begins to unfold as Martin spontaneously grows a beard and starts to morph into Ulises’ twin. From this point, paranoia and fear take over the proceedings as our stranded cast of characters try to deduce what is going on and who is responsible for it.4-copy

Fans of “The Twilight Zone” will appreciate The Similars. The vignetted photography and use of filters create a vintage look and Edy Lan’s musical score is a perfect homage to the work of Bernard Herrmann. This film really feels like a lost episode of the TV series that inspired it. Like Serling, Ezban works some political and classist themes into his story that add complexity and depth to what could otherwise be a bizarre black comedy. This film is a must see for fans of vintage sci-fi and horror and hopefully the beginning of a resurgence of this style of storytelling.


the-similars-poster04THE SIMILARS (“LOS PARECIDOS”) – XLrator Media
VOD DATE: November 15, 2016
iTunes & Digital  November 22, 2016
DIRECTED BY: Isaac Ezban
CAST: Gustavo Sánchez Parra, Cassandra Ciangherotti, Fernando Becerril, Humberto Busto
SYNOPSIS: On the rainy night of October 2, 1968, eight people waiting in a remote bus station for a bus heading to Mexico City start experiencing a strange phenomenon. Threatened by paranoia and fear, the strangers show the best and worst of themselves as they try to unravel the mysterious condition that is invading each of them like a virus.

Interview with Nick Jongerius – director of THE WINDMILL

Nick Jongerius
Nick Jongerius
FREDDY: Thanks for answering our questions. I really enjoyed The Windmill!

NICK JONGERIUS: Thank you very much! Really appreciate the attention and hopefully I’ve answered your questions to your satisfaction.

F: Besides the climax of 1931’s Frankenstein, I can’t think of a windmill being an important set piece in a horror film. You’ve built an entire film around one. Why?

NJ: Hahaha. There is a small part for a windmill in Sleepy Hollow, but I guess you are right. I think windmills have followed me my whole life. I was born on a street called the Saw Windmill street, which was near an old creepy windmill. Where I live now there are a lot of windmills too. They kind of creep me out, because they stand tall in the field and have no windows. If a swinging blade hits you, you will likely die. I really liked the idea of this thing that creeps me to be the arena for my feature debut.

F: The Windmill successfully blends classic tropes of slasher films, “The Twilight Zone,” and traditional ghost stories and legends. I feel like the “dark and stormy night” style of storytelling is in short supply these days, so what inspired you to bring it back?

NJ: Thanks. I hear what you are saying and I agree. Chris Mitchell (screenwriter) and I really love the old Amicus movies and Agatha Christie. These stories in which strangers get stuck with one another and once the shit hits they realize they have something in common. In that sense this film is definitely a throwback to these old movies. I like characters who are outspoken and differ from each other. It gives tension in a group and the horror elements change the dynamics constantly. The film is also an homage to old Grimm Fairytales. I really like horror films with lots of fantasy elements in them. For me realistic horror is hard to watch (and to make). I like the work of Guillermo del Toro or Tim Burton where you know the horror is contained in this unrealistic but interesting world.

F: This is the first English language film that you’ve directed (the rest were Dutch). Why did you choose to work in English for The Windmill?

NJ: It is really hard to make a horror film in the Netherlands. There is just not enough interest in them. People here tend to dislike horror films set in their own language. It might have something to do with the fact that we as Dutch are really down to earth and not too superstitious about ghosts, fantasy or anything of the sort. We produced Frankenstein’s Army and saw the potential of getting interesting concepts made in English, which opens up the world as your market.

F: You’ve assembled an outstanding cast in The Windmill. This isn’t necessarily true of most slashers, and I really appreciate the push back against the dumbing down of the genre that you and filmmakers like you are making by taking the process seriously. When so many production companies see horror film projects as a means to a quick ROI, why is good casting so important?

NJ: Well, I really appreciate it. I worked really hard on getting the cast right. I spend a lot of my time on set with the actors. It was key for me that the performances were at their highest level. I had such an amazing cast who gave so much and brought so much to the table. It’s really hard for actors to play in a horror film. So much is created afterwards in sound design, editing, etc. An actor really needs to trust a director on a project like this. In the casting process I really went for performance above anything. I also assembled the team like a football coach. It needed to be a team. Individual performance is nothing if you as an actor are not a team player. Acting is about reacting, and you can only do that if your fellow actor is willing to help you during a scene. We talked a lot and had extensive talks as a group and me with the actors individually.

F: Do you believe in the devil, and if so what sort of deal would you like to make with him?

NJ: I’m a big fan of Stephen King and I learned though his books that you should never make deals with shady people. It will always backfire.

F: What three adjectives would the cast and crew of The Windmill use to describe you?

NJ: Oofff. That’s a good one. I guess a lot was probably done behind my back 😉 but I would say: demanding, intense and a little strange.

F: What would you love to find laying around on a movie set?

NJ: A suitcase filled with non-traceable money.

F: What onset disaster has ever happened to you?

NJ: On this film every kill scene was an onset disaster. I got a lot of grey hairs from making them. This was because we had everything against us… remote locations, everything needed to be in-camera and it was all set at night. In the end I love every scene and I think our SFX team Rob’s Prop Shop did an amazing job.

F: What are the most important qualities in a screenplay?

NJ: All the clichés… great characters, interesting story arcs, but the most important thing I guess is that you as a director have to fall in love with it. You have to be willing to defend it ’til the death.

F: Remakes of horror and sci-fi films are big business and often draw a whole new generation to classic stories. If you were asked to direct a remake of a horror or sci-fi film, which would you choose and why?

NJ: Scanners. I just love that movie and think that with the right approach it could have potential for a remake. There are so many story elements in it that could click with a future audience.

F: What is your most memorable experience working in TV or film?

NJ: Apart from this film I worked on a Dutch youth drama series where an adopted girl on high school hears that she needs to leave the country because of regulations. We follow her on her last days at school and eventually she leaves. It was based on a true story and the episodes got immense response. It was heartbreaking and one of the things I’m still very proud of.

F: What’s the strangest project that you’ve ever worked on?

NJ: I did a commercial for a pizza brand where we literally took a whole day of shooting for two shots of people driving a car. The script was bad, the client was constantly on our case and it rained the entire day while it needed to be sunny. It was not a good day.

F: What’s the funniest advice your filmmaking mentor ever gave you?

NJ: I wish I met a funny filmmaking mentor. They are all so serious here in Holland!

Thank you so much to Nick Jongerius for answering all of our questions! You can read my review of The Windmill here.

Film Review: The Windmill

Image from the horror film “THE WINDMILL” an XLrator Media release. Photo courtesy of XLrator Media.
Image from the horror film “THE WINDMILL” an XLrator Media release. Photo courtesy of XLrator Media.

The Windmill is a slasher film and a spooky supernatural tale in the tradition of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and countless campfire tales. The film is very good and certain to please a wide variety of horror fans. It’s gruesome and gory, yet restrained when it benefits the eerie atmosphere. The acting is top shelf too, featuring the always expert Noah Taylor (“Game of Thrones”, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as the troubled doctor Nicholas and Charlotte Beaumont (“Broadchurch”, Jupiter Ascending) in the lead role of Jennifer. Jennifer is an Australian fugitive on the run in Amsterdam. She ends up with Nicholas and a diverse cast of characters on a tour bus in the back country of Holland. When their bus breaks down near a dilapidated ancient windmill, all hell breaks loose and the passengers begin to disappear one by one as is the tradition of any good slasher film.

(L-R) Bart Klever as Abe, Fiona Hampton as Ruby, Adam Thomas Wright as Curt, Patrick Baladi as Douglas, Charlotte Beaumont as Jennifer, and Noah Taylor as Nicholas in the horror film “THE WINDMILL” an XLrator Media release. Photo courtesy of XLrator Media.
(L-R) Bart Klever as Abe, Fiona Hampton as Ruby, Adam Thomas Wright as Curt, Patrick Baladi as Douglas, Charlotte Beaumont as Jennifer, and Noah Taylor as Nicholas in the horror film “THE WINDMILL” an XLrator Media release. Photo courtesy of XLrator Media.

What sets The Windmill apart from most slashers is the care taken in creating atmosphere. Who knew Holland’s countryside could be so ghostly and weird? The surroundings are evocative of sets from classic monster movies, but with enough grimy realism to make them worthy of being inhabited by modern characters. The story is given some additional depth by implementing the classic Serling-esque trope of anti-heroes as acceptable targets for supernatural punishment/redemption. Our protagonists all have checkered pasts that ultimately led them to the windmill. This trope can be tired and cliche in the wrong hands, but director Nick Jongerius makes it work. The backstories are presented in a variety of ways, and I was curious to learn more about each character as their individual stories unfolded. None of it played as filler; all of it made each character more absorbing than the typical victim in a “dead teenager movie”. The diverse cast and care in craft make The Windmill a cut above most recent horror releases.

You can read my interview with director Nick Jongerius here.

Kenan Raven as The Miller in the horror film “THE WINDMILL” an XLrator Media release. Photo courtesy of XLrator Media
Kenan Raven as The Miller in the horror film “THE WINDMILL” an XLrator Media release. Photo courtesy of XLrator Media



THE WINDMILL IN THEATERS: October 28, 2016 AVAILABLE ON VOD AND ITUNES: October 25, 2016 DIRECTED BY: Nick Jongerius WRITTEN BY: Nick Jongerius, Chris W. Mitchell, Suzy Quid CAST: Charlotte Beaumont, Bart Klever, Patrick Baladi, Ben Batt, Fiona Hampton, Tanroh Ishida, Adam Thomas Wright and Noah Taylor SYNOPSIS: A group of unsuspecting tourists awaken a mysterious evil while on a trip through the Dutch countryside.


Five Best Horror Flicks Featuring Games

Video games and movies have always had a bit of a tenuous relationship—video games and horror movies even more so. While they’ve definitely been done with varying degrees of success, there are plenty of horror flicks that have either based their plots or their kills around a variety of games. Here are five horror movies that have called it “game over” for their characters.


Somehow David Cronenberg was able to take his trademark body horror and apply it to the video game world. In ExistenZ, Jennifer Jason Leigh is a VR game designer that creates games for grotesque bio-organic consoles known as “game pods.” She goes on the lam with a security guard (Jude Law) as they try to escape the assassins of a rival company in a world where you can never quite tell what’s real. Equal parts Videodrome and Mulholland Drive, ExistenZ is definitely one of the weirder entries in Cronenberg’s filmography, but it remains an overlooked classic of modern technological horror that has been called “a game culture masterpiece.”

Wishmaster 2

Wishmaster 2 is an almost impressively bad straight-to-video sequel for the 1997 film Wishmaster. The plot doesn’t make any sense and the acting is positively terrible, but we’d be lying if we said that it didn’t include some innovative kill scenes. While the movie doesn’t actively revolve around games, it uses a casino to great effect as the evil Djinn sets up shop collecting souls by granting the wishes of casino patrons in horrifyingly misconstrued ways. Among these is a hilarious CG roulette wheel that sprouts blades and becomes a spinning wheel of death. There are also slot machines that deliver their payouts through the bodies of their players. The use of a real-life casino is a novel and unique setting, especially now when gaming scares are typically found online with horror based slot-themes based on scary supernatural creatures. The original Wishmaster was produced by Wes Craven and became sort of a cult classic of low-budget bad horror movies. But Wishmaster 2? It managed to top the original with terrible special effects and even worse acting, making it a must-see for B-horror aficionados.

Hellraiser: Hellworld

The eighth installment came at a time when most had pretty much given up on the series, but this straight-to-video release offers a somewhat new take on the Cenobite lore. This 2005 movie revolves around a group of kids that become obsessed with a game based on the actual Hellraiser series called Hellworld in a very meta self-referencing plot device. Sadly, the video game is barely featured, because most of the movie takes place at a party that’s a real-life meetup of players for the game where they’re set upon by the Cenobites. This one is for Clive Barker completists only.

Stay Alive

2006’s Stay Alive functions on the basic idea of a video game where if you die in the game, you die in real life. Admirably, the movie sticks to its guns and spends much of its time in the fictional game and features kill scenes about as good as a PG-13 film can offer. There are some surprising actors in this including Frankie Muniz from Malcolm in the Middle and Adam Goldberg, most recently seen in the first season of FX’s series adaptation of Fargo. Bonus points to Stay Alive for naming its main character “Loomis” in a clear reference to the character from Halloween.

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare

Like Wishmaster 2, this movie didn’t so much revolve around games as it happened to use them well in its set pieces. By this point in the franchise, Freddy had become much more of a punchline, reveling in over-the-top slapstick and a ton of terrible one liners. There’s a reason that it’s widely considered the worst in the franchise, but there’s still lots to love, including some hilarious kills. One of the best remembered scenes from Final Nightmare is definitely the death of Spencer (Breckin Meyer). Played out in a 16-bit style video game, Freddy antagonizes his victim through the game from the comfort of a chair with a game controller. And, of course, he utters equally awful and classic lines like “Now I’m playing with power!” and “I beat my high score.” The entire sequence is downright hysterical and that alone makes Final Nightmare worth a look.

Surveillance and Privacy Horrors in 13 Cameras


Your home is meant to be a safe haven, protecting you from the dangers of the outside world. However, with today’s technology, home invaders can easily find ways to break in without actually breaking in. The 2015 film, 13 Cameras, shows us how the horrors of a home invasion can be made real through simple video surveillance.


In 13 Cameras, a creepy and sweaty landlord, Gerald, played by Neville Archambault, fixes up a starter home and installs tiny hidden cameras around the house, from the shower to the bedroom and even inside the toilet bowl. He rents this house out to a newlywed and young couple, Ryan and Claire (P.J. McCabe and Brianne Moncrief, respectively) and parents-to-be. Gerald constantly watches and gawks at the couple through his television screens as they go about their daily lives, and we experience the creeping horror of 24/7 video surveillance as it invades the spaces we consider to be most private.


There have actually been multiple real-life accounts of non-consenting video surveillance, of course. In August of 2015, a couple in Toronto found themselves victims to this very crime. While watching Netflix, their webcam was hacked and they were sent intimate pictures of themselves in the following days. Any wireless device can easily and unknowingly be hacked and used against you. However, 13 Cameras offers a new perspective on a different threat. Although not exactly common, landlords spying on tenants can be a real and plausible threat – something that can even happen to you.


Writer and director, Victor Zarcoff, does a great job of displaying the right amount of found footage, making sure not to overuse this format throughout the film. The film succeeds in this format, avoiding full Paranormal Activity style and opting for a sense of voyeurism through Gerald’s point of view. Archambault plays a terrific creepy and ominous landlord with his various mannerisms, such as his heavy breathing and sparse dialogue. It is also worth noting that McCabe and Moncrief play a believable couple going through the motions of becoming a family. Despite the actors’ noteworthy performances, the film itself seems to lose its plot towards the finale.


Nevertheless, 13 Cameras’ overarching message seems to be clear for any audience. In the modern world of today, technology plays an important part of our daily lives. However, there are always those who use technology for much more threatening reasons and it’s important to be aware of the lengths someone will go to in order to invade your privacy. If you have a security system it’s always smart to avoid reusing passwords, or using strong password generators like this site suggests, plus keeping your system software up to date and being aware of the cameras on your electronics, such as on your phone or laptop, in order to safeguard against malicious intruders.


Gerald is a huge example of a threat you can’t see and it is important to be aware of sure-fire ways to protect yourself against an invasion of privacy in your own home. When Gerald is shopping for cameras, the store clerk rambles on about how tiny cameras can be nowadays, illustrating how easy it can be for someone to spy on you. So, be careful the next time you’re watching Netflix or deciding to rent a place to live. You never know who may be watching.


Film Review: Bleed

Sarah (Chelsey Crisp, “Fresh Off the Boat”) and Matt (Michael Steger, “90210”) have moved into a big house in the country. Sarah is pregnant and the couple hopes to raise their new family away from the city. They’ve invited their friends Bree and Dave out to the new house to celebrate. Sarah’s estranged twin brother Eric and his girlfriend Skye crash the housewarming party, and they convince the group to spend the evening ghost hunting in the nearby ruins of a burned-out prison.

Michael Steger and Chelsey Crisp in Bleed
Michael Steger and Chelsey Crisp in Bleed

Bleed is the first feature film from writer/director Tripp Rhame (also a first for co-writer Ben Jacoby). The filmmakers were wise to surround themselves with veteran actors who do a good job of bringing to life an otherwise middling screenplay. Crisp and cast elevate a run of the mill straight-to-video offering to something better; a film that successfully creates a spooky remote atmosphere. In the first act, Sarah has a blow out on a lonely country road and a squirrelly small-town deputy comes along to help her change her tire. Actor Mark Ashworth plays the deputy and his performance is a stand out. I would have really enjoyed seeing much more of him and was disappointed that he didn’t have a larger role to play.

Much of the film features subtle makeup effects that work beautifully, without drawing too much attention to them. The digital visual effects, however, cheapened some scenes they were intended to enhance. These moments weren’t terrible or jarring, but some unneeded bigger visual moments were attempted that didn’t particularly benefit the end product. Bleed shines more during its more atmospheric and simpler moments. The film’s runtime is only 80 minutes, yet it drags a little in places. Bleed is an above average ghost story thanks to its cast and overall emphasis on creating a realistic environment populated by believable characters.

*** / *****

Bleed Poster


Distributor: Gravitas Ventures

Theatrical & VOD Release: March 25, 2016

Directed by: Tripp Rhame

Written by: Ben Jacoby

Starring: Riley Smith, Chelsey Crisp, Michael Steger, Lyndon Smith, Brittany Ishibashi, Elimu Nelson

Running Time: 80 minutes

Rating: Not Rated








Synopsis: It seemed perfect – a new house, a new marriage, a child soon to be born. But when Sarah and Matt invite their friends to celebrate, the situation turns deadly as they enter a burned-out prison on a ghost hunt. As the six friends encounter horrors of this world and beyond, no one is safe – not even the unborn.


Where did Cloverfield Come From? And Where is it Going?

By Jason “Fozzie” Nelson


clover 1 pic pngLast month the film 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi was released to middling reviews and minimal box office. While the film itself holds very little interest to horror fans specifically a trailer attached to the film has fans buzzing, including, and possibly most of all, yours truly. The trailer shows a trio of people living in a subterranean bunker and entertaining themselves with games and music. Slowly the music becomes more sinister as we discover that the female of the trio is being held against her will and attempts an escape. When she finally reaches the door to freedom we are shown that the world isn’t as she suspected and something horrible has befallen the earth. Certainly an interesting concept but the most interesting thing of all was when the title appeared first displaying the word we have all been waiting to see again nigh on 8 years, Cloverfield before the rest of the title comes into view displaying the film’s full title, 10 Cloverfield Lane, at which point the Internet went INSANE!

While little is known about the new film’s connection to the 2008 juggernaut about a giant creature rampaging through Manhattan, one thing is certain: Internet sleuths are hot on the case to find out more. Luckily we won’t have to wait too long since the film is scheduled for release on March 11th of this year. There is a lot to investigate and deduce from the short trailer, and some viral marketing to parse through, but let’s put that aside for the moment and talk about the film that started it all to understand the origin of the monster, affectionately referred to as Clovie by those in the know.

The writer of Cloverfield, Drew Goddard, explicitly stated in a USA Today interview that the origins of the creature clover 2 pic
are left intentionally vague in the film itself. “Our movie doesn’t have the scientist in the white lab coat who shows up and explains things like that. We don’t have that scene.” While the film does not give much insight into where the creature came from the viral marketing for the film laid it all out for us if you’re willing to use your imagination and spend hours in the deep web pouring over clues. The best way to begin this series of Cloverfield blog entries would be to lay out all we know about where the creature came from.

clover 3 picA lot of fans will point to the scene toward the end of the movie where the main characters of Rob and Beth are riding the N train to Coney Island, a scene which takes place months before Clovie’s attack. When Rob points his camera toward the water eagle-eyed viewers have pointed out that you can see something fall from the sky and splash into the water leading many to suspect that this is the scene of Clovie falling to earth. However, closer inspection of the online evidence leads us to believe that Rob has merely, and very serendipitously, captured the falling of a piece of satellite debris which led to Clovie being woken up from a very long slumber. JJ Abrams once stated in an interview that Clovie is a baby who’s been “down there in the water for thousands and thousands of years.” This may sound like an oxymoron (how can a baby be thousands of years old?) but let’s go with the idea that the creature lied dormant all of that time and merely awoke for the first time when the satellitclover 4 pice disturbed it.

Another fan theory based on viral videos is that the Tagurato Corporation awoke the creature with deep sea drilling while looking for seabed nectar which can only be obtained at the depths of the ocean floor.
Cloverfield begins with a going away party for Rob who has taken a position in Japan with the Tagurato Corporation. Rob’s brother, Jason, can be seen wearing a Slusho! shirt at the party which is a director’s trademark which has appeared in nearly every JJ Abrams property since Alias. Various internet sleuths have determined that the parent company that makes Slusho! is Tagurato and the secret ingredient in beverage is seabed nectar.

clover 5 picIn the viral videos on (password: jllovesth) Rob’s friend Jamie Lascano, last seen in the film asleep on the couch at Rob’s party, makes a series of videos to send to her boyfriend who is working with TIDO group in Japan to “save the world.” In one of the videos Jamie receives a package from Teddy containing an odd substance in a plastic bag with a note that says “refrigerate immediately. Do not eat.” We can assume the contents are either a dead dove or more likely the precious seabed nectar. When Jamie rebelliously eats some of the powder she begins acting erratic and hyper which may have led to the eventual crash at Rob’s party. In the same video Jamie plays a panicked audio message from Teddy stating that Tagurato corporation “…either found something or created something….” Indicating that Clovie may very well have been created in a laboratory or possibly discovered during their drilling expeditions and imprisoned. Additional evidence in a manga which was released shortly after the film’s success shows a large boat with Tagurato printed on the side pulling a mysterious object. At the end of the manga we see menacing eyes peering from above the water behind the boat leading us to believe that the corporation may have brought Clovie to the shores of the US.

One final, and most terrifying video, shows alleged news footage of a Tagurato oil rig suddenly and inexplicably collapsing into the water. The large dark shape beneath the water’s surface is said to be an oil leak but you and I both know that the shape is actually Clovie wreaking havoc as Clovie is wont to do. Farther into the clip we see debris flying from the water as the distinct Clovie roar can be heard.
clover 6 picHowever Clovie came to be is still a matter of intense and hotly contested internet debate. One thing is certain however, the creature is virtually indestructible and more than capable of shaking a deep underground bunker like we see happen in the new trailer. Additionally the military crew in the 2008 film can be seen wearing HAZMAT suits and distinctly mention a fear of contamination, which would possibly drive doomsday survivalist underground. Whether the two films are directly linked or not is yet to be seen but I can assure you, gentle listener, that I will keep you updated with all of the information I find.clover 1 pic

Interview with Peter Winther – director of PAINKILLERS

image source: IMDB
image source: IMDB
Peter Winther is the director of the upcoming sci-fi action thriller Painkillers. “Painkillers tells the story of a squad of marines sent on a classified mission deep in the war-torn mountains of Afghanistan, but when they find the mysterious item they were sent for… it’s not what they were expecting. The next thing they know, Major Cafferty (Penikett) and the surviving squad members wake-up in a military medical facility with no memory of what happened or even who they are. Using an experimental drug, doctors try to “reboot” the soldiers’ memories, but one by one they fall prey to bizarre hallucinations and homicidal fits of rage. Only through snatches of resurfacing memories does Cafferty begin to question the true motives of the hospital staff and discover the shocking, deadly reality behind the otherworldly artifact they found.” had the opportunity to ask Mr. Winther a few questions about Painkillers and his life in the movie industry Enjoy!

NOTLP: What attracted you to Painkillers?

PW: I love Science Fiction as an entertaining genre to reflect issues that affect our society today. The themes of our origins on the grand level and a tale of redemption on the personal level attracted me to Painkillers.

NOTLP: What three adjectives would the cast and crew of Painkillers use to describe you?

PW: Brilliant, Handsome, Humble.

NOTLP: One of your early jobs was as an Associate Producer on Roland Emmerich’s 1994 sci-fi action adventure Stargate. I saw some of that project’s DNA in Painkillers. Were you conscious of the similarities when you were making the film?

PW: Every film you make affects the ones you will make. Roland has been a great friend and mentor to me so certain aspects of his style have rubbed off on me. Things like composition and how he is excellent at leading the cast and crew into battle are aspects I admire the most about him. As far as story similarities, I don’t see any. I suppose there is certainly a similar sense of wonder about what is discovered though for sure.

So was I conscious of the similarities? Not at all. Sub-Consciously? Maybe.

NOTLP: Do you have a personal interest in military and government conspiracy theories?

PW: I do like a good conspiracy from time to time. I think we all do. It’s always fun to explore the great “what ifs”. Like they say, it’s not a conspiracy if it’s TRUE!

NOTLP: What would you love to find laying around on a movie set?

PW: If there was a physical aspect of TIME. I would love to find that as we never have enough time to shoot.

NOTLP: What onset disaster has ever happened to you?

PW: The first one that comes to mind was on Stargate, going back to that. There is a scene where all the bedouins come over the sand dunes at the end to fight the aliens. We were shooting in Yuma, Arizona where they have these amazing sand dunes. They shot all the Jabba the Hut scenes there for Return of the Jedi. We had spent a lot of time and energy keeping this one area of sand dunes clear of any vehicles or people so that they would be pristine of footprints or tire tracks. This was an alien planet after all. So the big scene arrives. The dunes are clean. We have one take at this as 1000 extras. actors and stunt people are about to defend the dune. 6 cameras are placed. Action is called. Our actor who is leading them into battle races toward the main camera straight ahead of him as directed.

However for some reason, ALL the extras didn’t follow him. They went a sharp right. They were told to run to the camera, but the only camera they could see from their starting place is to the right!

Now we were faced with a torn up sand dune. So while Roland went off to shoot some other things, we all grabbed brooms to sweep the footprints away as back then the tech wasn’t there to digitally remove the footprints. But we came back end of day and got it done.

NOTLP: What are the most important qualities in a screenplay?

PW: For me its creating the emotional arcs of the characters. With that, hand in hand, comes the structure. But if you don’t create enticing characters, you can’t attract top talent to play the roles and consequently get the film financed.

NOTLP: Remakes of horror and sci-fi films are big business and often draw a whole new generation to classic stories. If you were asked to direct a remake of a horror or sci-fi film, which would you choose and why?

PW: We were actually talking about this the other day. The one that came to mind then was the Dennis Quaid film DREAMSCAPE. I think we could knock that one out of the park now.

NOTLP: What is your most memorable experience working in TV or film?

PW: Independence Day was a huge experience for me obviously. But I think the most memorable to me was my first movie. Straight out of college, in fact I didn’t even attend graduation to work on it, I worked on a film called THE GOOD MOTHER that starred Diane Keaton and Liam Neeson. I started as a PA, but then the director asked for me to be his assistant on the film. The director happened to be Leonard Nimoy. Not only did I learn alot from him about directing, about how you need the courage to make choices and lead from the front and so on. However, he also taught me about being a good person. He knew everyone’s name from PA to lead actor. He treated everyone with respect and listened to all ideas. He was simply a great man and I’ll never forget my time with him.

NOTLP: What’s the funniest advice your filmmaking mentor ever gave you?

PW: Dean Devlin is a great mentor of mine and he’s also quite hilarious. I remember one day coming into his office on one of the films we did together. I would tend to come to him when I felt something was going wrong and had to vent. This day in particular I was wearing shorts due to the heat and what I had to say was quite helpful toward the project. So after that Dean said I should always wear shorts when I have something important to say as then he would know it actually was important. That turned into a running gag over the years. I kept a pair of shorts handy at all times and would put them on when ever I had to make a point. No matter where we were. =)



Film Review: MARTYRS (2016)

Tribute or Triumph: A Review of the Film MARTYRS (2016)

What happens after we die? Is there such a thing as an unwilling martyr? Is the suffering of the flesh a skill set, something that transcends this world  and could set one apart from humanity?

(L-R) Director Kevin Goetz, Director Michael Goetz and Troian Bellisario as Lucie in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
(L-R) Director Kevin Goetz, Director Michael Goetz and Troian Bellisario as Lucie in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

How far would you be willing to go to find answers to life’s great mysteries? Would you kill? Would you torture? These are some of the questions that MARTYRS (Blumhouse Productions, The Safran Company, and Temple Hill Entertainment) asks – and wants you to ask yourself. But before you can begin to answer, there are other questions that should be considered.

Did they need to remake the film in the first place? Were they able to add something to the conversation as opposed to just asking it again in English? The question of what purpose a remake serves is not an easy one to answer. Remakes are a lot like cover songs; they’re done out of love. But are you making it your own or is it simply a copy?

In making a remake, the choices shrink, thus making those small decisions magnified and more important. Do you “re-interpret” the melody, structure, etc; do you change the style completely and turn a punk song country? Or do you do your damnedest to be faithful to the original, an homage, a tribute of devotion?

(L-R) Ever Prishkulnik as young Lucie and Elyse Cole as young Anna in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
(L-R) Ever Prishkulnik as young Lucie and Elyse Cole as young Anna in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

If you change nothing, you risk having fans of the original decry that the decision to remake it was pointless. If you change everything, fans of the original will say it doesn’t remain “true” enough to the source material. It’s a no-win situation. The only solution is perhaps to ignore what anyone who has seen the original would want/think – an impossibility of course as one would have to assume that the principle decision makers would all have seen the original before signing off on a remake, and they would certainly have their own opinions on what should be done.

Does MARTYRS go the route of re-interpretation or cover song, of inspired adaptation or architectural blueprint, of victim or martyr?

Let me start by saying that in many ways I wish I had not seen the original French version first. I believe I would have enjoyed the American remake more and be less-inclined to judge it based on its decisions. Unfortunately, it is a remake, and as such, it has to be judged as a remake. How it compares and what choices it makes are ultimately what will determine much of its value and interest. It can never be a standalone experience in the grand scheme of things.

(L-R) Troian Bellisario as Lucie and Bailey Noble as Anna in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
(L-R) Troian Bellisario as Lucie and Bailey Noble as Anna in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

And ultimately, MARTYRS is a slick production. The visuals and sound are strong. The directing (Kevin Goetz and Michael Goetz) is not poor – I may quibble with some of the decisions, like lighting such a dark story so brightly and presenting such grim and stained characters so cleanly, but overall, the scene to scene machinations are solid. The acting is fine, and when not delivering exposition-heavy dialogue or reacting too strongly to convey emotions that should have been better balanced by other factors (lighting, makeup, etc), when allowed to lose themselves in the story and characters, the actors (especially Troian Bellisario, Kate Burton, and Bailey Noble) are believable and help carry the weight of a difficult film.

But back to my initial foray – what kind of remake is MARTYRS? A risky one. And a safe one. It accepts the challenge of walking the line between faithful homage, presenting the first half of the film in a not entirely shot-for-shot of the original but pretty close fashion (outside of some unnecessary additional  exposition-driven dialogue, presumably to help less savvy American audience understand what is very literally and specifically going on). In the second half, there are many changes. And I would say many of them are successful – and even those that weren’t as successful are interesting.

Bailey Noble as Anna in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Bailey Noble as Anna in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Troian Bellisario as Lucie in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Troian Bellisario as Lucie in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.








I don’t want to give too much away, but the largest non-plot related decision was to make the character of Ann (Bailey Noble) more passive. Throughout the movie, I thought this was a mistake, but the work that was done in conjunction with some of the larger changes, ultimately led to a satisfying ending for her character. Truth be told, I found myself wishing they had done more to be different. Given themselves more freedom to stray. The strongest moments were in the differences. In the scenes that paralleled the original, the film was unable to live up to the darkness and despair that inspired it, evoking but providing mere echoes of the greatest strength of the French version – the haunting, nearly visceral feel of the suffering. It is clear that this has been done intentionally, reducing the violence for a more mainstream audience. Fans of the original will no doubt hate them for this more polished and neutered vision.

Troian Bellisario as Lucie in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Troian Bellisario as Lucie in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

But, I feel that first time viewers will appreciate much of what has been done. It has a stronger thriller spine and provides a more American and Hollywood ‘happy’ ending. For the weekend, escapist moviegoer, this is a film that will in many ways be more satisfactory than the original. For purists, and for those that have seen the original, it will likely be difficult to accept. But if you can look beyond the scenes that are pale comparisons and ignore the moments that force explanation of theme and purpose, I think you’ll find enough to justify a remake. And that is no small achievement.

Troian Bellisario as Lucie in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Troian Bellisario as Lucie in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

So – does it survive? Do the sacrifices transcend? Does MARTYRS do what it must to provide answers? It’s difficult to say. This viewer found the remake to be more victim than martyr. It offers a glimpse, but I do not believe it truly sees beyond what was offered up in the original. As a result, unfortunately, there are just too many shortcomings for me to rate this as 4 stars. But I would remiss if I did not note that it is a very strong 3.

*** / *****




**MARTYRS is a retelling of the French 2008 horror cult film written and directed by Pascal Laugier. This MARTYRS film’s screenplay was written by Mark L. Smith who is also the co-writer of THE REVENANT screenplay along with Alejandro González Iñárritu which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy.**

IN THEATERS & DIGITAL HD: January 22, 2016
VOD RELEASE DATE: February 2, 2016
DIRECTORS: Kevin and Michael Goetz
WRITER:  Mark L. Smith
CAST: Troian Bellisario, Bailey Noble, Kate Burton
SYNOPSIS: Ten-year-old Lucie flees from the isolated warehouse where she has been held prisoner. Deeply traumatized, she is plagued by awful night terrors at the orphanage that takes her in. Her only comfort comes from Anna, a girl her own age. Nearly a decade later and still haunted by demons, Lucie finally tracks down the family that tortured her. As she and Anna move closer to the agonizing truth, they find themselves trapped in a nightmare – if they cannot escape, a martyr’s fate awaits them…
GENRE: Action, Horror
DISTRIBUTOR: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Interview with Tahmoh Penikett – star of PAINKILLERS

Tahmoh Penikett. image source: IMDB
Tahmoh Penikett. image source: IMDB
Tahmoh Penikett is the star of the upcoming sci-fi action thriller Painkillers. “Painkillers tells the story of a squad of marines sent on a classified mission deep in the war-torn mountains of Afghanistan, but when they find the mysterious item they were sent for… it’s not what they were expecting. The next thing they know, Major Cafferty (Penikett) and the surviving squad members wake-up in a military medical facility with no memory of what happened or even who they are. Using an experimental drug, doctors try to “reboot” the soldiers’ memories, but one by one they fall prey to bizarre hallucinations and homicidal fits of rage. Only through snatches of resurfacing memories does Cafferty begin to question the true motives of the hospital staff and discover the shocking, deadly reality behind the otherworldly artifact they found.”Penikett is also know for his work on the TV series “Battlestar Galactica,” “Supernatural,” and many others. had the opportunity to ask Mr. Penikett a few questions about Painkillers and his life in the movie and television industry. Enjoy!

NOTLP: How were you cast as Major Cafferty in Painkillers?

TP: Got a phone call from my agent that the director and producer, Peter Winther wanted to discuss a project with me. I read the script, liked it, we had a Skype conversation where I shared my thoughts on it and we signed not soon after.

I also suggested some casting ideas, one of which they were actually able to cast, Colm Feore as Doctor Troutman. He’s an amazing actor and i’ve always been a huge fan. I can’t tell you how excited I was to work with the man.

NOTLP: What three adjectives would the cast and crew of Painkillers use to describe you?

TP: Cold blooded! Hangry! Disruptive!

NOTLP: You’ve made a career of playing characters at the center or periphery of vast conspiracies. Has this made you paranoid?

TP: Paranoid? Who said i’m paranoid?! Oh.. I see your game. You work for them, don’t you?! Of course you do.. So, for the record, I Tahmoh Penikett have nothing to be paranoid about. Dec. 15th, 2015. 1:33 PM.

Joking aside, I of course I have some paranoia. Anyone living in the Western world who doesn’t in this day and age is likely living in a bubble. We’ve quickly gone from the suggestion of an App having access to our private photos, text, emails and even our phone conversations being widely considered a huge invasion of privacy and an illegal act, to now blindly accepting that this is a normal part of having a phone and living in the digital age. If the fact that anything you type, any photo you take, any correspondence you have in confidence can in theory be accessed by a god dam flashlight application you’ve downloaded, means that we shouldn’t have some level of paranoia , I don’t know what does.

Have you heard about the Dollhouse?

NOTLP: I’ve heard that you’re into Muay Thai. Have you ever had to use these skills to defend yourself in the real world?

TP: Yes. Yes.

NOTLP: What would you love to find laying around on a movie set?

TP: Ninja weapons to attack the producers and cast with.. but like, child friendly ones, so one really gets hurt. BUT, i’ll have everyone soon looking over their shoulder for surprise Ninja throwing star attacks, or Nunchucks attacks to their cabbage!

NOTLP: What onset disaster has ever happened to you?

TP: I don’t know about disaster, but we did stop shooting Dollhouse one day and quickly cleared the studio because of a strong earthquake tremor. I’ve also unfortunately heard about loved ones passing while working.

NOTLP: What’s the scariest movie of all time?

TP: The Exorcist. Without a doubt.

NOTLP: What are the most important qualities in a role?

TP: For me, I want to challenge myself as an artist. Meaning, i’m trying to take roles that scare me. But, foremost I need to understand the characters story that i’m potentially going to take on. I want to understand what drives this character in the story.

NOTLP: If you could play any role from horror or sci-fi literature, comics or film, what role would you choose and why?

TP: Roy Batty in Blade Runner, of course. Because it’s the most bad ass role ever in all of time. I don’t in anyway think I could ever do better than the amazing Rutger, he was absolutely brilliant, but damn would I love a crack at it!

NOTLP: What’s the funniest advice your acting mentor ever gave you?

TP: Hmm.. I once was in a hot, sweaty, cramped room in the dead of summer with forty other eager drama students, patiently waiting for a very well respected, veteran actor who was going to speak to us about the craft. He was over an hour late., but finally arrived with a cocktail in hand, three sheets to the wind, smoke in his mouth, and every bit the cool ass actor we expected him to be. We all wiped the sweat from our brows and excitedly focused in for the experienced wisdom he was about to gift us all with. To summarize, the most memorable thing he said was, “it’s all bullshit. Just remember, it’s all bullshit. The whole f-ing thing. Bullshit.’ There was about 45 minutes of this and then it was done. Not exactly what we were hoping for, but definitely unforgettable.

NOTLP: What’s your favorite line of dialogue (yours or anyone else’s from any film, TV show, etc)?

TP: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain… Time to die. or  It’s too bad she won’t live! But then again, who does?”

NOTLP: We asked our readers/listeners what questions they would like us to ask and these are the two big ones.

NOTLP Listeners: Is the set of the television series “Supernatural” as fun as it looks?

TP: Yup. It is. The cast and crew have a well oiled machine, obviously. Jared, Jensen and Misha really set the vibe though with their funny and light on set attitudes. But, they’re always professional when the camera is rolling and they knock it out like the pros they are.

NOTLP Listeners: Were you satisfied with the conclusion of “Battlestar Galactica?”

TP:  Satisfied. Yes, very. Do I think it could have possibly gone on for a season or two more, potentially yes. But, it was Ron Moore’s creation and his to conclude when he saw fit.



Horror Movie Survival: What to Take?

I was recently asked by Man Crates what would be the essential things I would want with me were I to find myself in a horror film. They’re a company that creates awesome gifts for men packaged in wooden crates opened with a crowbar; they wanted to know how I’d fill a crate to survive the whole movie.  It seems difficult, since the horror genre is so varied.  Wooden stakes would seem like a pretty good choice if you found yourself dealing with vampires, but what if you gather your wooden stakes only to find yourself in a werewolf movie, or a slasher?

This would be one's first thought.
This would be one’s first thought.

Depending on the vampire movie, wooden stakes may not even do you any good.  Ideally, you want something that’s easy to carry, lightweight, and can help you in the most situations.  Something that is an “I win” button against a particular type of monster that may be chasing you is putting all of your eggs in one basket, and that’s flirting with disaster.  So, the first question is:  Do you want to fight back or run away?

A weapon was my first thought.  You can only run in the movies for so long before whatever it is catches up to you.  Even previously drowned kids drowned and turned into lumbering psychopaths seem to have the speed of a cheetah when the cameras aren’t watching.  Eventually, you’re going to have to face that thing down.  Guns are right out.  Not only do you have to deal with the fact that ammo runs out at the worst possible time, many of the monsters you may face shrug them off.  If you’ve brought your Glock in the hopes of getting yourself out of the situation, you better hope that what you face is an ordinary human, zombies, or a werewolf (assuming you have access to silver).  Sharp things seem the next best choice, but swords and axes can too easily get stuck in whatever you hit, especially if they’re soft targets.  Bring that axe home in the killer’s shoulder, and suddenly you’ve given the guy a free axe.  If you go for a weapon, might I recommend the humble baseball bat?  It’s lightweight, strong, easily modifiable (Nails on the end for a sharp punch, sharpen the whole thing for a stake, burn a cross on the end for pesky devils), and it’s extremely plentiful, at least in the States.  A crowbar or wrench may have more utility outside of fighting for your life, but tools are heavy and awkward.  Additionally, you run the risk of damaging it caving in skulls, then you might as well have picked up a random chunk of metal in the beginning.  However, a weapon isn’t my final decision in this survival exercise.

Some sort of armor might be in order.  Running is less of an issue if whatever’s chasing you can’t hurt you.  A bulletproof vest wouldn’t be ideal, as you never see guns in a horror movie used effectively and Kevlar does nothing to stop knives and other sharp objects.  On the other hand, anything that’s going to stop sharp objects is rigid and bulky, and will only slow you down.  If Mike Myers has all the time in the world to suss out where you have a weak spot while you waddle, penguin-like away, you have failed at your task.  What you’d want would have to be homemade, rigid plastic plates to cover the obvious vitals (heart, neck, groin), with a helmet to match.  It wouldn’t stop everything, however.  The big bad could throw you from a height, or hit you with a blunt object.  Maybe he read my first paragraph and brought a nice solid bat.  This wasn’t my choice either, and as you can see, it really shouldn’t be anybody’s choice.  Not getting hit in the first place is the only effective defense for the threats we may face.

Surprisingly useful if dealing with monsters...
Surprisingly useful if dealing with monsters…

Attack and defense will not serve us in this situation, at least not the general attack and defense items we have discussed.  I would pick one of two other things to take with me in this excursion in the films I watch.  The first, and more obvious of the two, is knowledge.  More importantly, I would want a way of doing research, such as ready access to the internet.  Every monster has a weakness, be it some object, a person, or maybe a certain word.  Unfortunately, it can and will be different depending on the beast in question, and even the sequel in question.  You want a way to figure out what’s the winning play here.  Abraham van Helsing was not some square-jawed meathead who charged into confrontations with whatever he had on hand.  He was a scientist who studied the signs of his prey and the methods to stop them.  Armed with the means to find the path out of my situation, I can set out to escape.  If I can just have a handy book detailing all of the major players in horror, a genre Monster Manual if you will, all the better.

Barring that, I would want charisma.  Strange, but remember we are not in a horror scenario, we are in a horror movie.  I know I am not making it to the end, likely.  I am, after all, male and they don’t call them Final Girls for nothing.  However, I am playing out my life for the audience, and if they like me, the audience will compel the scriptwriter to keep me around.  With a little bit of leadership, or maybe just all around likeability, I could last quite a bit into the film.  Maybe I could be one of the rare few, the boyfriend who makes it to the end.  I’ll likely be taken out in a stinger mid-credits, but it’s as wonderful a life as any could ask for in this situation.  What do you think?

Damaged Hearing: To Avoid Fainting

A sound collage from the DAMAGED Hearing 2006 Halloween Special, utilizing musical loops, movie clips, soundboards, sound effects, high frequencies and low pitches, backwards masking, and villainous unmasking. Constructed by Louis Fowler and recorded live on the air at KRFC Studios on October 31st, 2006.

Film Review: Some Kind of Hate

Lincoln Taggert (Ronen Rubinstein) is a teen who is tormented by his classmates and his father (Andrew Bryniarski). One day he lashes out against one of the bullies at school injuring him, so Lincoln is sent to a camp for troubled teens. Lincoln makes fast friends with a fellow outcast named Isaac (Spencer Breslin, yes Abigail’s older brother) and an attractive young lady named Kaitlin (Grace Phipps). That’s pretty much where the good times end for Lincoln as he is swiftly targeted by the camp’s bullies led by the preppy and arrogant Willie (Maestro Harrell). Enter Moira (Sierra McCormick), a vengeful ghost that Lincoln inadvertently summons when he wishes all of his tormentors dead. What follows is sort of like if Moaning Myrtle killed Draco Malfoy and his friends on behalf of Harry Potter and Co.

Ronan Rubinstein, Grace Phipps, and Spencer Breslin lead the cast.
Ronan Rubinstein, Grace Phipps, and Spencer Breslin lead the cast.

First-time director Adam Egypt Mortimer does a competent job presenting the screenplay that he wrote with co-writer Brian DeLeeuw. My blood boiled as I watched Lincoln pushed around by all of the assholes in his life and I wanted to them reap the whirlwind as much as the character probably did. Ronan Rubinstein really sells the tortured teen bit during the first act of the film. His performance succeeds in bringing the audience on as an ally. It’s when the stakes are raised and the supernatural elements are trotted out at the end of the second act that we see cracks in the facade. When gravitas is called for in some of the dialogue driven scenes, Rubinstein’s delivery plays comically understated. This could be a deliberate choice, but it doesn’t jive too well with the film’s otherwise heavy subject matter. That said, Rubinstein is a striking screen presence that reminded me a bit of a young John Travolta.

Sierra McCormick and Grace Phipps having a cutting session.
Sierra McCormick and Grace Phipps having a cutting session.

Grace Phipps as bad girl Kaitlin also delivers a good if somewhat uneven performance. I was reminded of Harrison Ford’s famous quote about George Lucas’ screenplay for the first Star Wars movie: “George, you can type this shit, but you can’t say it!” Some of the scenarios that Phipps is tasked with playing out are very challenging and hard to take seriously. It’s a rock and a hard place situation for the actors. When Lincoln and Kaitlin discover that a ghost is killing their classmates they seem nonplussed. A bigger reaction might have been better since the “big scream” moment has become somewhat of a horror movie cliche. The alternative that the filmmakers chose feels a little weird and underplayed.

Some Kind of Hate shines as a technical craftwork. The films palette is green, yellow, dark blue, and black shot in what looks like natural lighting. I’m becoming a fan of the work of cinematographer Benji Bakshi. His work on Some Kind of Hate and this year’s standout western picture Bone Tomahawk hint at Bakshi becoming a go to for classically styled camerawork. As an auditory viewer myself, I really appreciated the sound design of Some Kind of Hate. The camp’s setting feels immersive. The sounds of the terrain and the nighttime chirping of crickets eases the viewer into a sort of hypnotic state and opens the senses to what’s coming next. The setting feels as remote and as dangerous as Friday the 13th’s Camp Crystal Lake.

Some Kind of Hate is a fresh take on an often retreaded ghost story. The performances are good and the visual effects and technical work are solid. The film would have benefited from some dialogue workshopping and a little more “showing-not-telling” filmmaking. The cinematography is top shelf and cast are all very watchable. Simply put, its an above average ghost story.




DIRECTOR:  Adam Egypt Mortimer

WRITER:  Adam Egypt Mortimer and Brian DeLeeuw

CAST: Ronen Rubinstein, Grace Phipps, Sierra McCormick, Spencer Breslin, Michael Polish

SYNOPSIS:  Relentless bullying has turned Lincoln’s life into a nightmare. But he soon learns the true meaning of terror when he is sent to a remote school for troubled teens and the harassment starts all over again. Only this time, someone is watching – a teenage girl named Moira who was driven to suicide by vicious bullying years ago. When Lincoln accidentally summons Moira from the grave, he unleashes a vengeful and unstoppable force on a mission of blood-soaked revenge. Hell on earth has a new meaning in this gruesome shocker “guaranteed to please any and every type of horror fan” (Fangoria)

GENRE:  Horror, Thriller, Troubled Youth, Teenagers, Teen Terror, Teen, Ghosts.

DISTRIBUTOR:  RLJ Entertainment



Film Review: Krampus

The holiday season is generally seen as the most magical time of the year, but not all of that magic is seen as good magic. In ancient European folklore, particularly German and Austro-Bavarian Alpine folklore, the horned-devil known as “Krampus” is the darker magical counterpart to St. Nicholas. While St. Nick rewards the good children with gifts and treats, Krampus is said to punish naughty children and take them back to his underworld – and this holiday season, the Christmas villain took the the screen once again in the not exactly self-titled movie, Krampus.


In this movie telling, the premise varies slightly from the original folklore legend in that the creature comes to punish not only misbehaving children, but anyone who has lost the Christmas spirit – children and adults alike, no one is safe from the Krampus. Summoned initially by a child who has become disillusioned with Christmas, the demon of the movie also seemingly grants one wish for that child, albeit in a very twisted way.


Directed by Michael Dougherty of Trick ‘r Treat fame, the movie stars Adam Scott and Toni Collette as parents Tom and Sarah Engel, Emjay Anthony as Max Engel, and Krista Stadler as the German grandmother Omi Engel. When Max loses his Christmas spirit due to the particularly horrible behavior of his cousins and their visiting family, he unwittingly summons the spirit of Krampus. What ensues is part horror, comedy and redemption story reminiscent of A Christmas Carol – and at one point, Omi explains the “Krampus” legend and describes her own personal experience with the demon during her childhood.

As the movie progresses, the initially disparate members of this dysfunctional extended family find they have to work together if they are to survive the onslaught of Krampus and his minions. They are still picked off one by one until only Max is left to face Krampus alone. He reiterates that he only wished that Christmas could be like it used to be before Krampus throws him into the fiery pit after his other family members.


The final scene in which everyone is somehow returned to the hearth on Christmas morning is open to much interpretation. The family seems to have learned to appreciate each other and rediscovered the Christmas spirit, but the darker presence of Krampus still looms over the scene via his apparently viewing it through one of his many snow globes. Not entirely a cut and dry story and up for much discussion, the two most prominent theories are that Krampus either uses the snow globe as some sort of crystal ball, and the family has been returned from the dead after redeeming themselves as per Max’s wish, or the family is truly dead and trapped in the snow globe for all eternity.


Critic and audience reviews have been mixed, with most coming in as middle-of-the-road, calling the movie overdone in many ways and drawing parallels to movies such as Gremlins and A Christmas Carol. In many ways, critics have said the movie tries too hard to be funny, horrifying, and warm and fuzzy, all at the same time. Described as borrowing creature elements from such as Gremlins, Christmas spirit morals from A Christmas Carol, and dysfunctional family elements from the likes of Home Alone and A Christmas Vacation, this Krampus retelling is seen as trying too hard to roll several themes and genres into one movie, with limited success.


This isn’t the first film adaptation of the German folklore, though. Recently, the story of Krampus has become more commercialized and mainstream, and this year alone can be seen in various film adaptations of the legend including Krampus: The Reckoning (streaming info) and A Christmas Horror Story (more info). All hold an entertainment value key to horror fans during the feel-good holiday season but in the end, Krampus,  although considered entertaining, is unfortunately just another one of the pack. However, with the recently renewed interest in the creature from the folklore, it may yet have a place in the variety of darker Christmas cult classics for years to come.

Did You Lock the Door? 7 Terrifying Home Invasion Movies

The Strangers

It’s the time of year when the weather gets colder, the leaves change color, and horror films bound across your cable channels each and every night leading up to the 31st. Horror films have us gripping the edge of our seats at the best of times, but never more so than during Halloween. In honor of this spooky holiday, we’re detouring into the particularly devious sub-genre of home invasion horror – films that play on our deepest fear of never feeling safe again even in our own houses.

Funny Games

Funny Games (2007)

Two young, seemingly wholesome, boy-next-door types turn out to be psychopathic killers playing sadistic games on vacationing families. These games are played according to a strict and preordained set of rules that end with the deaths of their victims before a predetermined deadline. This film adds an artistic and sometimes literary twist as it utilizes the “breaking of the fourth wall” effect since the killers acknowledge an outside audience (us) and even “rewind” the action when one of their victims is perceived to be acting outside the rules of the game.

Panic Room

Panic Room (2002)

A recently divorced mother, Meg Altman played by Jodie Foster, and diabetic daughter (Kristen Stewart) take refuge in a panic room built into their recently purchased Manhattan brownstone when three men break in to steal several million dollars’ worth of bonds. This story was inspired by the vast amount of news on panic rooms at the time and was praised for its portrayal of feminism and diabetes. In retrospect, Meg probably could have taken advantage of their high tech security system as the thieves broke into their house with incredible ease.

You're Next

You’re Next (2011)

You may never be comfortable attending a family reunion again after seeing this gem. A father, mother, adult children and their significant others all gather at a vacation home for the reunion, but find themselves being picked off one by one by attackers in animal face masks. While one of the guests, Erin, reveals serious survival skills, she somehow fails to utilize them to ensure the house’s security before the mayhem starts and only locks all doors and windows after the intruders have already infiltrated the place.


The Strangers

The Strangers (2008)

This is likely the most chilling of the movies on this list due to its claim of being based on a true story. A couple return from a wedding to a remote vacation house in the middle of the night, only to be terrorized by three strangers in various masks throughout the remainder of the night. Again, much of their troubles could’ve been avoided with a little common sense and security, like locking the doors and windows and making sure cell phones are charged before they’re needed. Of course, if the victims did all of that, we wouldn’t have this movie to enjoy.


Inside (2007)

A newly widowed and very pregnant woman is stalked and attacked by a deranged psychopath intent on taking the unborn baby for her own. Once again, although the attacker is first seen outside of the house, the soon-to-be mother apparently fails to lock her door before retiring for the night. Not only that, but now finding herself completely alone and about to give birth to a newborn, you’d think she would’ve considered taking extra precautions to help protect her from home intruders – particularly since the police in this film are portrayed as particularly inept as well.

The Purge

The Purge (2013)

This is the only film on this list with a futuristic plot, telling of an America riddled with crime and unemployment. The government’s answer to this situation is to have an annual 12-hour period known as “The Purge,” during which all crime becomes legal. The film is as much psychological thriller as horror, with characters questioning their morality and humanity in a world temporarily devoid of consequences for crimes. It has spawned two sequels, with the third coming this summer.

When a Stranger Calls

When A Stranger Calls (1979)

This classic urban-legend based story tells of a babysitter, Jill Johnson, being terrorized over the phone by a killer who is already inside the house and has murdered the children. Although it seems this was an isolated incident, we come back to Jill seven years later as she is once again receiving threatening phone calls from the same unknown stranger. Though with the caller ID we have today, it seems as though this premise would most likely be impossible.

In the event you seek something more than simple hack and slash classics, take your fear factor to the next level with these home-invasion horror films. Just make sure you’ve locked all the doors and drawn all the drapes first.

Film Review: A Christmas Horror Story

A Christmas Horror Story
ROB ARCHER (Kick-Ass 2, Bulletproof Monk) as “Krampus”

A young family deals with their son’s sudden strange behavior after a visit to a secluded Christmas tree field. Students film a documentary in an abandoned building where unsolved murders occurred. A prodigal nephew goes to a country manor to beg money from a wealthy aunt, only to put his entire family in danger of being slaughtered by Krampus. All this plays out, while Santa deals with a zombie elf outbreak in the toy shop. Interwoven throughout the action are scenes of William Shatner doing his Shatner thing in all of its hypnotic glory.

Fans of the Ginger Snaps films will be happy to return to the little town of Bailey Downs in the new anthology feature A Christmas Horror Story. The film opens on a computer generated North Pole (one of Christmas’ few weaknesses is this cheap looking fractal landscape and architectural animation). A wounded, battle-ready Santa Claus stands in the reindeer stable, chest heaving, a bleeding claw wound on his face. The structure is under siege from an unseen force banging at the doors. Bright white light shines through the widening gap in the doors as whatever waits outside tries to get in. The film cuts to 12 hours earlier and DJ Dangerous Dan (William Shatner) is broadcasting from a lonely radio station on Christmas Eve. It’s just Dan and his Scrooge-esque producer, Norman. Visibly disgusted by Dan’s Christmas cheer, Norman storms out of the station, DJ Dan tells listeners that Norman is on his way to the Bailey Downs Mall for a radio remote broadcast.

Adrian Holmes and Oluniké Adeliyi
Adrian Holmes and Oluniké Adeliyi

The film is cleverly constructed. The Dangerous Dan scenes seem, at first, to serve as a classic horror anthology wraparound. However, in A Christmas Horror Story, it dawns on the viewer that characters crossover into each others’ storylines. Other than the gonzo segments featuring Santa’s bloody battle with undead elves at the North Pole, the tone is consistently spooky and dark throughout. The four concurrent and interconnected stories somehow lead to Santa’s predicament in the stable from the film’s opening. The Santa segment feels like a square peg in a round hole until it is brilliantly linked to the overall story at the film’s climax.

A Christmas Horror Story is a cut above most good horror movies of late. The CG North Pole that opens the film is quickly forgiven because the storyteller’s resources were devoted to loftier ends. Care was taken to serve the style, tone and story and to bring out the best in the cast. Oluniké Adeliyi gives the standout performance as the tormented mother of a little boy who acts strangely after disappearing at a family outing. Adeliyi is one of the most riveting and watchable actors that I’ve seen in a genre film in years. The entire cast treats the material with a reverence that is missing from most contemporary horror films. Their focus elevates A Christmas Horror Story, and guarantees that viewings will be an annual tradition by many horror fans. After all, Christmas and horror stories go together like chocolate and peanut butter.


FINAL RATING: ****/*****

A Christmas Horror Story




DIRECTOR:  Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, Brett Sullivan

WRITERS: James Kee, Sarah Larsen, Doug Taylor, Pascal Trottier

CAST:  William Shatner, George Buza, Rob Archer

SYNOPSIS:  Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy, peace and goodwill. But for some folks in the small town of Bailey Downs, it turns into something much less festive.  When Krampus – the anti-Santa who punishes the naughty children – is summoned by a young boy, everyone’s fight for survival begins.

GENRE:  Horror

DISTRIBUTOR:  RLJ Entertainment

Film Review: Crimson Peak

cpeakpostergoodI just got back from watching Guillermo Del Toro’s newest film, Crimson Peak, and holy balls was it a doozy. Doozy in a good way? Was it doozy like, “Oh Jesus that was a doozy!” (followed by a derisive eye roll). Well, read on MacDuff, read on.

Just the Facts Ma’am:

Crimson Peak is basically, When Edith Met Thomas. It starts off in turn-of-the-century Buffalo, NY. Edith (played by the radiant Mia Wasikowska) is a headstrong young woman; an aspiring writer who models herself after Mary Shelley, and prefers to write ghost stories over love stories. Her father is a wealthy, self-made man whose business involves the design and construction of buildings. Thusly, we meet Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston, smoldering as ever). He’s a baronet with a small landholding in England who has invented a machine that will mine clay for bricks more efficiently. He only has a model version and has come to ask Edith’s father and his associates to invest in his idea. Edith’s dad doesn’t like the looks of this kid one bit and is really not loving how much attention Sharpe is paying his daughter. He’d like to see her get cozy with the nice young Opthamologist, Dr. McMichaels (Charlie Hunnam, less hammy than in Pacific Rim) but Edith has got the puppy-dog eyes for Thomas. miahouseThe young baronet and his sister are being hosted by a number of families who are impressed with the idea of actual European aristocracy but Edith’s dad just isn’t having it. Plots unfold, this and that happens and eventually Thomas and Edith wind up married and heading across the sea to England to live in the crumbling family Manor, Allerdale Hall, also known as Crimson Peak because of the way the red clay stains the snow. Did I mention there are ghosts popping up here and there to bedevil Edith’s sleep? There are. To reveal any more would be spoiling which I will not do, but suffice it to say, shit gets spooky.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly:

This movie was beautiful. Rich, vibrant colors, detailed period costuming, epic set design, this movie had all of that. The atmosphere in the disintegrating Allerdale Hall was so Castle Dracula, oppressive and full of shadowy corners, nooks and crannies. You could spend days exploring that house. A lot of the Del Toro stylistic staples are here; stuff falling through the air, hanging in it (snow, dust, moths etc), red on tomhiddwhite, ooey-gooey scare effects, scenes expanding and contracting from or into shadows. These are all on display and, as always, add to the grandiosity and fantasy/fable flavor of the proceedings.

That’s just the surface stuff though. This is a gothic mystery/ghost/romance and so the story isn’t so twisty or mind blowing that you’ll slap your hand to your forehead but it does keep you guessing till it decides to give you the whole picture. Nonetheless it is a gripping story that takes its time in the telling but is never boring. This was a really gripping, emotional movie and when it was over I felt like I’d been holding my breath for the last twenty minutes or so. The performances were all high caliber, everyone was all in for the old style speech-patterns and the chemistry was great. Massive credit to Jessica Chastain who plays Thomas’s sister Lucille. She stole the show for me in a few places and had me captivated anytime she was on screen.

I can’t think of anything negative to say about Crimson Peak. I’m not a critic who watches a movie looking for flaws. If they are egregious enough for me to notice then they jump out. If nothing jumps out or I don’t just think, “huh, that could’ve been a little better,” then I don’t go poking around for something to bitch about.


Recommend or Rectify:

Obviously my last statement probably clued you in that this would be a recommend for me. HUGE recommend. See it in the theater so you can really get the lush feel of the whole thing. You want to be surrounded by this movie, immersed, almost drowned in it. I can’t say enough good things about this movie. After having seen this, I now want Guillermo Del Toro to remake all the Universal Monster movies (with Tom Hiddleston as Dracula for sure—he’d make a great Dracula) and I’m sure he wants to do that too and will attach himself to each one only to end up having to drop out. Ah well, like the Stones say, you can’t always get what you want. Five stars to this film says I.


Kelley Kombrinck

Night of the Living Podcast

—–In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds – and remembers.

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Writers: Guillermo del ToroMatthew Robbins

Stars: Mia WasikowskaJessica ChastainTom Hiddleston

Release Date: 16 October 2015 (USA)

Production Co: Legendary Pictures



Film Review: Hellions

I have an awful memory, and I often find myself asking my husband or friends if I liked a movie I saw if some time has passed. So now I tweet my movie feelings almost immediately after watching so I have that record for myself later on.  This was my tweet after Hellions:

Hellions PosterHellions has a great concept – it’s Halloween night and our protagonist is a teenage girl facing an unexpected pregnancy in a fun, creepy town protected by Sheriff Robert Patrick. Teen mom is home alone waiting for her boyfriend when a bunch of spooky, silent kids start ringing the doorbell for candy. But they aren’t really kids and they don’t want candy. Things get muddy from there. Our teen mom is trapped in the house fighting off the spooky not-kids and the audience is treated to some bizarre voiceovers and hallucinations and some very pretty lighting filters, but it doesn’t really boil down to much I could understand. Clearly the spooky not-kids want Teen Mom’s baby, but why is not adequately explained. And what they are isn’t clear either. But they look great. Visually, Hellions is neat. Story-wise, I just wasn’t sure it was what I wanted it to be. It was confusing.

Final Rating: ** / *****



VOD AND iTUNES: September 18, 2015

DIRECTED BY: Bruce McDonald

CAST: Chloe Rose, Robert Patrick, Rossif Sutherland

SYNOPSIS: A teenager must survive a Halloween night from Hell when malevolent trick-or-treaters come knocking at her door.

GENRE: Horror

RUNTIME:  80 minutes

RATING: Not Rated


Film Review: Uncanny

From Ian Holm’s portrayal of Ashe in Alien to Brent Spiner’s Data in Star Trek, our fascination with realistic Artificial Intelligence has evolved over time. The premise is certainly not a new one, but it still touches us at a primal level: What does it mean to be human? The old adage of “if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck…” is ultimately one of identity and identification. If it looks human and acts human, well… That’s a question that has tripped us up for decades.

UNCANNY_DVD_HIC UNCANNY is the story of a gifted young scientist, David (Mark Webber), who has spent the last 10 years of his life willingly locked away in a Tony Stark-esque candyland with state of the art technology creating the most realistic artificial intelligence the world has ever seen: Adam (David Clayton Rogers). Funded by the mysterious Mr. Castle (Rainn Wilson), all’s well in this little tech Biodome until Joy (Lucy Griffiths), the reporter brought in to do a story on Adam, arrives. Emotions flare and tensions rise as a male robot with developing human emotions, an emotionally stunted male scientist, and a techno-obsessed former-roboticist female reporter are in close proximity for a week.

UNCANNY is, at its core, a good story and a solid premise. The filming and visuals are executed well, and the acting is solid. The limited cast does an admirable job of dealing with the cumbersome dialogue, which follows the tradition of Star Trek with its pseudo-science technological banter. The ambient audio seems to fade in and out oddly for much of the film, which is slightly distracting but remains a mild nuisance at worst. By and large, it is a polished production speaking to the talents of those involved.

Without giving too much away (as ultimately it is a film dependent on intrigue), this movie is designed for one purpose, one specific moment. “Deception by design” is the tagline, and UNCANNY is more committed to deceiving the audience than remaining true to its intriguing premise. It explores the well-trod sci-fi ground of existence. It at times pushes for something akin to an answer to the question of illusion. However, it too often relies upon all-too-familiar and expected tropes – chess, eastern philosophy/religion – without delving much deeper.

But as we all know, an illusion is only as good as the illusionist. The relationship is built on trust and a suspension of disbelief. And this is where UNCANNY falters. The film remains so faithful to performing its trick, sacrificing everything to convince the audience of the illusion it is creating, that it fails its characters and the basic logic of its premise. The trust is broken at the expense of the gimmick. But is the trick any good? Is the illusion worth seeing even for that brief moment where belief was as of yet no consequence?

In short, yes. For many viewers, this film will be an entertaining and worthwhile experience. Once. And once you’ve seen the trick, you will either forget it, or if you decide to delve deeper, you will see the strings, the manipulations, the forced falseness of the reality. It is a strong idea that has been stretched too thin.

Characters are setup to be more interesting, to have depth, but they never reach their promise. Potential foils – a tech-loving woman that has lived a life of rich experiences but regrets leaving the field of robotics is forced into close proximity with a man that has barely experienced life and has given his humanity to developing artificial intelligence – are thrown into an unnatural love story rather than given room to explore their issues.

One has lived, one has barely left the apartment. But what is life, what does it mean to create? If you believe in the illusion, does that make it real? UNCANNY dances around the question. Hints of answers on the periphery seemingly ignored for the sake of cheap parlor tricks meant to distract (or show off an intelligence that fails to live up to its own expectations) rather than enlighten.

UNCANNY provides for an enjoyable evening, with solid acting, good visuals, and an interesting premise. It’s not as clever as it thinks, but it raises enough questions to be of interest and is not without intelligence. If the film were more honest with itself and the audience (and treated its characters more fairly), UNCANNY would have been rather impressive. Ultimately, one can’t help but feel that it would have made an excellent short. As a feature, it has value but does not merit more than one viewing.

*** / *****

DIRECTOR: Matthew Leutwyler
WRITER:  Shahin Chandrasoma
CAST: Mark Webber, Lucy Griffiths, David Clayton Rogers, and Rainn Wilson
SYNOPSIS: For ten years, inventor David Kressen has lived in seclusion with his inventions, including Adam, a robot with incredible lifelike human qualities. When reporter Joy Andrews is given access to their unconventional facility, she is alternately repelled and attracted to the scientist and his creation. But as Adam exhibits emergent behavior of anger and jealousy towards her, she finds herself increasingly entangled in a web of deception where no one’s motives are easily decipherable.
GENRE: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Thriller, Drama, Science/Technology, Robots/Androids, Feature Film
DISTRIBUTOR:  RLJ Entertainment


Film Review: Turbo Kid

Munro Chambers as The Kid
Munro Chambers as The Kid

The Kid (Munro Chambers) is a late-teenage/early twenty-something orphan living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Many viewers will be reminded of locations from the Mad Max films, but for me it was more like the characters from those films transported to the barren Earth of Pixar’s Wall-E. In fact, The Kid hordes artifacts from a forgotten era. He listens to pop music on a Walkman cassette player. He rides around the deserted landscape on a BMX fixed gear bike (in this case, it seems that the world ended sometime in the 1980s). The Kid scavenges the sites of the old civilization and survives by exchanging some of what he finds there for clean drinking water in town. During one of his excursions, he meets a quirky young lady named Apple (Laurence Leboeuf) and they become traveling companions. The Kid and Apple face off against villainous Zeus (Michael Ironside) and his band of armored jerks.

I’m a little late to the game with this one. I had recently posted a review of Tales of Halloween, a film that I really enjoyed. One of the producers of that film, Shaked Berenson, sent me Turbo Kid because I had mentioned that I had missed the screening of the film at the most recent HorrorHound Weekend Film Festival, and he thought that I would enjoy it. Shaked was absolutely right to be proud of Turbo Kid!

It started as “T for Turbo,” a short submitted to Drafthouse Films’ ABCs of Death contest (it came in 3rd place in the T category). The writing/directing team of François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell (AKA The Roadkill Superstars) expanded their five minute short into a 90 minute feature film. Often when a short is expanded to feature length it feels padded or forced, but Turbo Kid takes all of the extreme fun and over-the-top moments from “T for Turbo” and fills in the gaps with a great retro sci-fi adventure story and lots of heart.

Laurence Leboeuf as Apple
Laurence Leboeuf as Apple

Laurence Leboeuf is a little grating at first in the role of The Kid’s traveling companion Apple (note that the irritating performance is appropriate for this character. The Kid doesn’t like her at first either), but by the third act I was in love with her. Michael Ironside is perfectly cast as the villain Zeus.

Michael Ironside as Zeus
Michael Ironside as Zeus

Hats off to Costume Designer Eric Poirier. Turbo Kid features some of the most distinctive costumes that I’ve seen in recent memory and includes nods to everything from Mad Max, to Indiana Jones, to BMX. Turbo Kid uses bright primary colors to make their characters pop against the earthen tones of the landscape.

The children of the Eighties should really enjoy Turbo Kid. It’s a feature length rocket of action movie nostalgia. Strap on your helmet, mount your trusty BMX and peddle like Lord Humungus and the Dogs of War are chasing you to your closest screening or VOD outlet.


Turbo Kid photos: Sébastien Raymond. seb©
Turbo Kid
photos: Sébastien Raymond. seb©






WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: Anouk Whissell, François Simard, Yoann-Karl Whissell

CAST: Aaron Jeffery, Laurence Leboeuf, Michael Ironside, Munro Chambers

GENRE(S): Action/Adventure

PRODUCER(S): Anne-Marie Gélinas, Ant Timpson, Benoit Beaulieu, Tim Riley, Shaked Berenson, Jason Eisner, Patrick Ewald, Jean-François Ferland, Catherine Nadeau, Matt Noonan, Michael Patz, Stephanie Trepanier

DISTRIBUTOR: Epic Pictures


Film Review: The Visit

the visit posterSo, I think most of us are aware of M. Night Shyamalan’s record when it comes to writing/directing satisfying movies. Started off super strong right out of the gates (The Sixth Sense), stayed strong with his sophomore effort (Unbreakable), lost a little traction with a few silly ideas but basically kept us interested and scared with his third (Signs), jumped the shark with his whole “I have to have a crazy plot twist” compulsion with the fourth one (The Village) and kind of slid downhill from there for the next few (to be fair–I’ve actually heard some positive feedback on Lady in the Water since some time has passed but I’ve never actually seen it and can’t comment). We weren’t sure if he could do it again and everyone was bummed at the potential that seemed to have just dissipated into nothingness after those early knockouts.

It seemed like things were turning around a little bit with his mostly well-received television project “Wayward Pines,” but a TV show is not the same as a movie, you have more time to develop a story and characters, and unravel a mystery. With The Visit, we were going to see if he could come back from the atrocities that were The Happening and The Last Airbender. Did he manage to put those behind him?

Oh yeah. Shit yeah. In spades.

Just the Facts Ma’am:

The Visit is the story of two children whose mother is estranged from her parents (their grandparents). When those grandparents write and ask for a week to spend with the kids, she allows them to go so she can enjoy a much needed cruise with her new-ish boyfriend. The kids have never met their grandparents and they’re excited to get to know them. They catch a train out to the lonely house in the country where their mom grew up and are met by the old folks at the train station.thevisit kids

Once back at the house, Nana and Pop-Pop’s behavior starts to become concerning to the two kids (a teenage girl and her 12 or 13 year old brother–who is a charming smart aleck). The grandparents’ moods seem to swing, gently at first–but increasingly further and further away from normal as the week wears on. Soon enough, their behavior gets downright disturbing and possibly even dangerous. Skype calls between the kids and their mom, doesn’t seem to yield much relief as she just assures them it’s just old people being eccentric. The girl, who is filming all of this as a documentary for her mom, hoping for a reconciliation between said mother and grandparents, keeps shooting everything and we are treated to a blossoming nightmare.

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly:

I really liked pretty much everything about this movie.

The story is told through the documentary, as a found footage film (which is a subgenre that works for me), but without most of the shaky cam that less experienced and confident film makers sometimes use to mask flaws or create tension with perceived confusion. Here, the footage is clear and bright, very rarely grainy and very rarely shaky. We see everything that we’re meant to see and it puts together this growing picture of what’s really happening
visit sad grammaand it’s scary as hell.

The reason it is so scary is because, as we all say ad nauseam, if we don’t care about the characters we’re not scared. In this film we really do care about the two kids and it’s a real credit to the actors playing them. The girl never feels like a mopey, Bella Swann type teenage angst monger. She has some reason to be, but she really tries to be upbeat and positive. We get to learn some of her internal struggles later and that’s handled deftly, both by Shyamalan and by the kids (Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould). They feel very natural and have great brother/sister chemistry and when events start suggesting they might be in grave danger, we are worried for them.

Massive props also must be given to the grandparents (Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie)visitgrampaax who go balls to the wall and hold nothing back. Their performances at times teeter on silly but, for me, that’s what ups the terrifying. Sometimes silly outrageous behavior is a sign of a frighteningly fractured mind and even though you laugh, it’s a nervous laugh because you don’t know when that dog is gonna stop playing and bite your fingers off.

All of the cast was great including the always solid Kathryn Hahn as the kids’ mother. The location was also very remote and spooky making you feel the kids’ isolation and total lack of control. The house was both gorgeous and creepy like any good haunted house should be (haunted by ghosts? Not telling, but it felt like a haunted house either way).

I really have no complaints about this movie. If you put a gun to my head and forced me to find something to critique it’s that the very ending might have gone to an unnecessary place. There were two places where it felt like the story ended and the first one might have been better to just end with but honestly, I don’t think the ending really hurt the movie, I’m just saying that if Night had gone with the earlier end point and left it there, it would’ve worked just as well, maybe a smidge better.

Recommend or Rectify:

This is a HUGE recommend for me. I thought it was scary, I was on the edge of my seat. There was humor but it was not a horror comedy (two friends of mine told me, before I went to see it, that it was a comedy as much as horror and I absolutely disagree with this one thousand percent). A really big return for M. Night Shyamalan, I hope he realizes with this one that he doesn’t have to throw mind bending twists at us to keep us coming back–just give us characters we care about and a cool, scary story. I can’t wait to see this one again.



Kelley Kombrinck

Night of the Living Podcast


A single mother finds that things in her family’s life go very wrong after her two young children visit their grandparents.

Director:M. Night Shyamalan

Writer:M. Night Shyamalan (screenplay)

Stars:Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan

Production Co:Blinding Edge Pictures, Blumhouse Productions

Release Date: 11 September 2015 (USA)


Film Review: Pay the Ghost

Pay the Ghost
Pay the Ghost
Oscar® winner Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas) stars in this intense and chilling thriller about one man’s desperate search for his missing child.

Pay the Ghost was released in the wrong decade; the film belongs in the year 1973. It would fit nicely into a triple feature between Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man and Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. In fact, Pay the Ghost blends elements from both of those films. The desperate cat and mouse chase of a lost child spotted here and there in the big city with a sprinkling of pagan mysticism for flavor. Based on Tim Lebbon’s short story of the same name, Pay the Ghost is the story of New York City literature professor Mike Lawford (Nicolas Cage) and his wife Kristen (Sarah Wayne Callies). There is a scene in the first act where Professor Lawford lectures a classroom full of college students on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s poem Erlkönig.” Let me refresh your memory if it’s been awhile since you’ve read this poem in one of those public domain Halloween story collections. Here’s a quote:

“My son, wherefore seek’st thou thy face thus to hide?”

“Look, father, the Erl-King is close by our side!

Dost see not the Erl-King, with crown and with train?”

“My son, ’tis the mist rising over the plain.”

The recital of this poem by our hero blatantly foreshadows the events about to play out onscreen. The professor’s son Charlie starts having strange visions of a vulture and a shadow figure lurking just outside his bedroom window. Then, on Halloween night Charlie is kidnapped during the annual street parade.

Nearly a year later, just days before Halloween, we see our desperate dad stapling missing person posters with Charlie’s face on them all over New York City (in the film, Toronto, Canada stands in for NYC and it’s pretty convincing). Now, he’s teaching his class Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” another story that reflects plot points from the film (mysterious disappearances and shadowy figures of legend). Kristen and Mike’s marriage has fallen to pieces because she blames Mike for Charlie’s disappearance. The cops don’t have any leads. Worst of all, Mike has started to have strange visions of his own, including seeing Charlie on the streets of New York wearing the same costume as when he disappeared (not unlike the red coated phantom that tormented Donald Sutherland in Don’t Look Now).

As Mike begins to dig deeper into the cause of his son’s disappearance, the film becomes less grounded in reality and muddied by competing B-lines. I was reminded why Nicolas Cage was a star during the first act of the film (he delivered some genuinely tortured moments), only to be reminded in the third why he’s become somewhat of an oddity in modern film. He has some weird line readings here and there, but for the majority of the film his performance is solid and grounded. Sarah Wayne Callies can always be counted on to emotionally anchor a scene and she does so expertly throughout. Visually, Pay the Ghost is a mixed bag. Corny CGI pops up during some climactic moments, but much of the practical work and photography is top shelf. I would recommend this film to fans of old school Celtic Paganism films, but don’t count on the same satisfying climax that many of those classics gave us. Pay the Ghost sort of screws the pooch when it comes to an artfully rendered conclusion.

FINAL RATING: *** / *****


From the press release:

PAY THE GHOST – RLJ Entertainment

IN THEATERS, VOD, AND iTUNES: September 25, 2015


CAST: Nicolas Cage, Sarah Wayne Callies

SYNOPSIS: Oscar® winner Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas) stars in this intense and chilling thriller about one man’s desperate search for his missing child. One year after his young son disappeared during a Halloween carnival, Mike Lawford (Cage) is haunted by eerie images and terrifying messages he can’t explain. Together with his estranged wife (Sarah Wayne Callies, The Walking Dead), he will stop at nothing to unravel the mystery and find their son—and, in doing so, he unearths a legend that refuses to remain buried in the past.

GENRE: Thriller, Action

RUNTIME:  94 minutes

RATING: Not rated

DISTRIBUTOR: RLJ Entertainment


The Underappreciated Monsters of 80’s Horror


The 80’s gave us so much: a hole in the Ozone Layer (no doubt a byproduct of excessive Aqua Net abuses), hair bands (see that last one), and the confidence to “just say no” to drugs and alcohol. But even if you are too young to have lived through this memorable decade, there are other ways to immerse yourself in the wonder of the 1980’s.

Many have forgotten that this era was also the decade that gave us some of the best horror characters ever committed to celluloid. Forgotten freaks, ghosts and ghoulies abound, ready for you to return to their particularly wacky breed of terror.

Let’s talk a walk back down memory lane to the days of Reaganomics, the Walkman, and some truly awesome movie monsters!



The directorial debut of celebrated special effects wizard Stan Winston, Pumpkinhead has established itself as a cult favorite in the years since its 1988 release. The film follows a man named Tom Harley who, with the help of a local witch, resurrects the corpse of the deformed Pumpkinhead to avenge the death of his son at the hands of some teenagers. The catch is that as Pumpkinhead gradually starts to pick off the teens and kills them, Tom sees all the murders in his mind, as if he was there. He soon experiences remorse and disgust at what he’s done and tries to get the witch to reverse it before it’s too late. The body count rises and the camp in rich in this horror film perfect for those spooky autumn months.



This 1984 film plays on a few popular urban legends, namely the “monsters living in the sewers” of New York City rumor and the subsequent potential for toxic waste-created creatures. This being the 80’s, things are pushed to excess – and we meet a unique social strata of “Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers”. The C.H.U.D.s live in the sewers of NYC and have been eating the homeless. Despite having full knowledge of this uncomfortable fact, the authorities have been trying to keep it covered it up.  But they’ve soon got a major problem on their hands: the C.H.U.D.s food source (street people) has been depleted, and they must come to the surface for more food. The film, which is being run on the El Rey network this month (check here for details), is a far fetched, delightfully cheesy look back at how far horror has come as a genre in recent years. If you find yourself hungry for more C.H.U.D. after the movie fear not, as there was a sequel: 1989’s C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D.



When Jonathan Graves discovers his late father’s occult collection after moving into his old house, he makes the grave mistake of trying use this dark paraphernalia to imbue himself with supernatural powers. As so often is the case when playing with demonic spirits, this has unintended and unfortunate consequences. The result is an invasion of the house by Gremlin-esque “Ghoulies”. As the tiny terrors reap havoc on the house Graves and his girlfriend must fight for their lives. Like many 80’s films, this spawned a franchise that includes Ghoulies II, Ghoulies Go to College and Ghoulies IV, all equally bad yet so, so good.


The Deadly Spawn

In another tried-and-true premise, this 1983 film focuses on an alien invasion following a meteor strike near the central family’s home. Unbeknownst to the members of the household, the alien is living in the basement, picking off family members one by one and spawning off dozens of smaller offspring. As the tadpole-like creatures start to leave the basement a particularly eventful (and unintentionally hilarious) scene occurs during a luncheon gone horribly, horribly wrong. Soon enough the entire town is aware of this evasion and prepares to go to battle, but how can one fight something you know nothing about?

Of course, the freaks in these films are likely in the wheelhouse of any true horror aficionado, but for those who haven’t had a chance to see these gifts of 80’s special effects they are certainly worth the effort. These films, along with so many more from the decade, harken back to the times of low production values and high camp, in the best way possible. They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore…


Film Review: Bone Tomahawk

Russell, Wilson, Jenkins and Fox saddled up.
Russell, Wilson, Jenkins and Fox saddled up.

Bone Tomahawk is a traditional western to its core. The archetypes and themes are all present: bandits, savage natives, a virtuous sheriff, his loyal backup deputy, a stalwart cowboy, a fancy gentleman and a damsel in distress. Hell, there’s even a tired old drunk piano player in the town’s only saloon, with the unmistakable character actor James Tolkan (Back to the Future Trilogy, Top Gun) cleverly cast as a cameo in that classically styled role.

David Arquette and Sid Haig play a couple of dimwitted bandits.
David Arquette and Sid Haig play a couple of dimwitted bandits.

The film opens on a familiar western setting, a dusty, scrubby landscape, mountains in the distance in the mid to late Nineteenth Century. It’s a casual scene of brutal violence wrought on a sleeping man by a pair of bandits played by horror fan favorites Sid Haig and David Arquette. The scene plays out realistically, very much how one would expect these sort of situations unfolded in the American Western frontier. The action is elevated by stylized and poetic dialogue. These bandits may be monstrously callous, but they are endearing presences. One of these bandits wanders into Sheriff Hunt’s town (Kurt Russell). The town is so small, that a stranger in their midst seems immediately suspicious. The Sheriff injures the bandit during his arrest and the town medic Samantha O’Dwyer (Lili Simmons) is called in to tend to him overnight in his cell. Come morning, Samantha, the bandit, and the sheriff’s young deputy are missing. An arrow is found in the jail that a local native recognizes as belonging to a tribe of dangerous of troglodytes (cave dwellers). The Sheriff and Samantha’s husband Arthur (Patrick Wilson), a cowboy with a badly injured leg, set out into the mountains on a rescue mission. An Indian-hating gunman named John Brooder (Matthew Fox) and Sheriff Hunt’s childlike backup deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins) come along; Brooder to kill Indians, Chicory out of blind loyalty and admiration for the Sheriff.

Richard Jenkins stealing a scene as Chicory, Sheriff Hunt's backup deputy.
Richard Jenkins stealing a scene as Chicory, Sheriff Hunt’s backup deputy.

The film is simply shot. The lighting is dark and natural looking. There is very little musical score, and the combination of the straightforward cinematography and natural soundscapes make the experience an immersive one. Like the greatest films, there comes a moment very early in the picture when you forget that you’re watching well known actors play out a fiction. The characters’ lives seem to genuinely be in peril at every turn, and by the time the third act begins your heart is thumping and you’re biting your nails.

Lili Simmons as Samantha O'Dwyer tending to her injured husband Arthur (Patrick Wilson).
Lili Simmons as Samantha O’Dwyer tending to her injured husband Arthur (Patrick Wilson).

The real star of the film is S. Craig Zahler’s dialogue. Simple three to five word phrases that move the story along do-si-do with longer poetic monologues that reveal insights into the themes of the film and into the characters themselves. There are some exchanges mostly with Richard Jenkins’ character that serve as classically styled mild comic relief. In one scene Jenkins enters the jail and says “tea smells gruesome.” The Sheriff replies “it’s soup.” Fans of the films of Joel and Ethan Coen will recognize a kindred style here.

So, is Bone Tomahawk a western or is it a horror movie? It’s both and it’s a masterpiece of both genres. Mature horror fans often complain that the genre has devolved into mindless characters droning along through plots that serve essentially as a conveyance to the meat grinder. How often do we find ourselves talking about how we fell in love with the protagonist of the latest found footage film? Do you even remember their names or motivations, or do you just remember how they bought the farm in dramatic or gory fashion? Much like Psycho, Jaws, Deliverance or Alien, the audience gets to spend much of the film getting to know the endangered principals. We love these men and we want to see them make it out the other end of the valley in one piece. The horror comes into play when it dawns on you that they all won’t, and boy is it effective.


NOTE: you can listen to my interview with writer/director S. Craig Zahler here.

DIRECTOR:  S. Craig Zahler
WRITER:  S. Craig Zahler
CAST: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, Lili Simmons, David Arquette, Sid Haig
SYNOPSIS:  When a group of cannibal savages kidnaps settlers from the small town of Bright Hope, an unlikely team of gunslingers, led by Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell), sets out to bring them home. But their enemy is more ruthless than anyone could have imagined, putting their mission – and survival itself – in serious jeopardy. Kurt Russell (The Hateful Eight, Tombstone) leads an all-star cast, including Patrick Wilson (Insidious), Matthew Fox (“Lost”) and Richard Jenkins (The Cabin in the Woods) in this gritty, action-packed thriller chronicling a terrifying rescue mission in the Old West. 
GENRE:  Western, Action
DISTRIBUTOR:  RLJ Entertainment

Related Links:

Kelley’s essay on the Western Horror Theme 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

Best Zombie Movies You’ve Never Seen – Italy Edition

Hell of the Living Dead

When George Romero released his cult classic Night of the Living Dead in 1968, he unleashed hordes of copycat movies throughout the ’70s and ’80s. Italy was home to many of these copycat zombie films which have since become cult classics themselves.

Hell of the Living Dead

Released in 1980, Hell of the Living Dead is widely considered a direct Dawn of the Dead clone. A team of soldiers have been sent to the top secret chemical jungle research facility Hope Center #1 after losing all communications. This is presumably due to a terrorist attack. The team quickly realizes they must survive the wild jungle which is full of undead monsters. Hell of the Living Dead is known for having large portions of stock footage from a the film La Vallée used throughout in a seemingly botched attempt to save money. This helps the plot be almost impossible to follow.

The House by the Cemetery

The first of three classic films from director and writer Lucio Fulci. Fulci is known for his low-budget, horror knock-off films which helped establish the Italian horror film industry. House by the Cemetery is not so much of a direct clone of a Romero flick, but a mash-up of several horror classics. A family moves into a home after being warned by a girl from a photograph to stay away. The previous occupants had been murdered in an apparent murder suicide. Eventually the family learns dark secrets are locked in the cellar.

City of the Living Dead

The second Lucio Fulci film on the list and the first in the unofficial Gates of Hell trilogy. The trilogy also includes The Beyondand ends with House by the Cemetery many of which are now being re aired on the El Rey network (click here for more info). City is chock-full of the blood and gore that Fulci is known for, but the story is less convoluted than some of his other work. A gate to Hell has opened, and it is up to a reporter and psychic medium to stop the undead from invading Earth.

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie

In many zombie films, the source that is reanimating the dead is never fully explained, if it is ever explained at all. In this classic, it is a radioactive machine meant to kill insects that is the trigger for mayhem. A step before its time, this environmentalist statement sets this film slightly above the rest of the Italian horde. The radioactive bug killer is stumbled upon by an antique shop owner and woman he meets along the way. As the undead attack, these two are framed for the murders and must fight to save themselves.

Zombi 2

The third and most famous film from Lucio Fulci on the list is also the number one film. Zombi 2 has achieved extreme cult status for many reasons, but it is most notably recognized for its special effects and extreme gore content. Some countries even went so far as to condemn and ban it. In one famous scene, a zombie faces off against a shark. This underwater fight scene has become so famous worldwide that it has sparked band names, inspired songs and other filmmakers. The story centers around a group of strangers that become stranded on an island inhabited by the undead.

While many of these zombie films are considered cheesy rip-offs, many of them have garnered a great deal of respect on their own merit. Any fan of the genre would be doing themselves a disservice by not seeing these films.


Film Review: The Invoking 2

Last night was Friday, and Friday nights are my time to stay up late after everyone else has gone to bed, and watch my stories. My scary stories. So on this Friday evening I popped in “The Invoking 2” from RLJ Entertainment, which was just released on the sixth of this month. Did I enjoy it? Did it make me angry and want to rant and rave? Was I indifferent? Read on, readers…read on and see.


First things first. “The Invoking 2” is the nominal sequel to 2013’s “The Invoking.” I say nominal because the original was a standalone film, while part 2 is an anthology movie. However, I did note a couple of moments in part 2 that hearken back to the plot of the first so there is a tenuous connection and if you’re a diehard fan of the first, it’s probably kind of fun to see them and go, “Hey! That’s just like in the first!” Being an anthology film, there were several directors, one for each of the 6 sequences; Jamie DeWolf, Jay Holben, Corey Norman, Adam O’Brien and Patrick Rea. As I said, this was put out by RLJ Entertainment and Ruthless Pictures and Andrew Fleming, Jessica Frastus and Chara Victoria Gannett (amongst others).


So yes, I did enjoy this movie. It was a pleasant surprise. As you regular listeners may know from
many of my Straight to Video Russian Roulette reviews, I’m not easy to please. All too often I get frustrated at obnoxious characters and shitty writing. This one hit me in the right place. I enjoy a good anthology movie because I like tight, concise little stories (which is why I read more horror anthologies than novels as well). This movie hadsix segments each featuring different characters experiencing different paranormal events (though there does seem to be a through line that is telegraphed by a particular sound effect).

The stories had a very urban myth/campfire feel to them and that appeals to me. They’ll feel familiar to you and some people might feel like they’re not breaking any new ground. That’s true, the movie isn’t going to flip your brain over and give it a good brain-butt pounding but they handle these tropes well. There’s a reason we return to “the road ghost” story, “the abandoned mental hospital,” “bumps in your otherwise empty house,” “cabin in the woods,” etc. It’s because they’re potent themes and we want to go back to them over and over again. What I like about this movie is that it strips those themes down to their bare essentials and fills out the parts that each story is meant for. For example, my favorite segment deals with an abandoned psychiatric hospital, which we have gotten a glut of in the past few years (American Horror Story: INVOKING-2_STILL5Asylum, Session 9, Stonehearst Asylum, Exeter, Greystone Park, Grave Encounters–the last one being the only one I liked). We all know the details: It has a sketchy past filled with atrocities, awful living conditions and medical staff taking advantage of forgotten, mentally broken patients, leaving the place full of uneasy spirits. It’s fertile ground for terror. The essence of this story archetype is showing off the artifacts left littering the darkened halls in the present that evoke the nasty events of the past. The viewer is supposed to see those rusting wheelchairs and gurneys and imagine the poor souls being wheeled through the hospital, howling their delusions to cold, clinical ears. We’re supposed tINVOKING-2_STILL6o see the rooms with maybe a bedframe left in it, maybe writing still on the wall and contemplate the patient who rotted away their mad existence there. Then we’re supposed to think about the people walking through that abandoned place and worry about their safety from whatever ghosts might haunt the place. It’s all about atmosphere and this little story hits all the right notes. Yeah, I knew what was coming but I enjoyed settling into the scenario. Like a haunted house at Halloween. I enjoyed being toured through the place and hearing the yarn spun out for me and when it reached its climax I was like, “Mmm, yep, they got it.”

I appreciated how seriously the writers and directors took the project. It wasn’t played for cheese factor. The characters, while not overburdened with a ton of fleshing out, were all relatable enough to be our stand ins as they navigated through each tale. The acting was handled well and the writing and dialogue were solid. It looked good, and they seemed to use their budget wisely, especially in terms of the locations they chose. All the directors did a good job of building dread and then popping the bubble at the end. These were like little spooky candies that you suck on, relishing the flavor, until you get to the gooey, bl
ood soaked center.


So this is a definite recommend for me. Especially if you’re looking for something spooky to watch, maybe for your Halloween movie marathon. It’s not going to throw any real curves at you but it will feel comfortably creepy and fun. I don’t have a rating system (because I’m not that kind of reviewer) but just saying I liked it should be enough for you to say, “Oh, damn, it must be good then” BUT for those who like a star system, I give it 3 out of 5. Go check it out!




Kelley Kombrinck

Night of the Living Podcast

twitter: @notlp


DIRECTED BY:  Jamie DeWolf, Jay Holben, Corey Norman, Adam O’Brien, Patrick Rea, Jamie Root
WRITERS: Trevor Botkin, Jamie DeWolf, Jay Holben, Julien Maisonneuve, Corey Norman, Haley Norman, Patrick Rea, Jamie Root, Dave Shepherd
CAST: Allen Lowman,  Andrew Fleming, Meghan McNicol, Chara Gannett, Jessica Fratus
SYNOPSIS:  Although hundreds of disturbing paranormal events occur every year, most of these chilling encounters go unreported… until now. Bear witness as hapless victims experience the unspeakable terror of confronting demonic forces, murderous poltergeists and other evil entities that are dead set on claiming their souls. Descend into an abyss of waking nightmares as these bloodthirsty, malevolent spirits seek to possess their prey and drag them—kicking and screaming—to hell.
GENRE: Horror
DISTRIBUTOR:  RLJ Entertainment

Happy Bloody Valentine’s Day!

V Day horror

Valentine’s Day has become a commercialized romantic explosion of hearts, teddy bears, and chocolates. The commercials on TV become increasingly sappy and cringe inducing for those who are more cynical about this time of year, and the onslaught of romantic comedies airing on TV is enough to drive even the most rational person a bit crazy. So, for those who are simply fed up with the holiday, or those who want to go off the beaten path to celebrate it (as you may have done for Christmas), why not celebrate another love in your life: horror films? Here are a few scary flicks, with just the right amount of romance, to get your blood pumping this Valentine’s Day.


This 2009 Korean horror film has frightened audiences from Seoul to Dallas with its unique style of horror. Written, directed and produced by Park Chan-wook, the film follows  Sang-hyun, a Catholic priest who, during a failed medical experiment, becomes a vampire. After a failed attempt to kill himself upon discovering his thirst for human blood he resorts to stealing blood transfusion packs from the hospital he volunteers at. He is a transformed man and Tae-ju, a wife of one of his friends, finds herself drawn to him and the two begin an affair. Things take a dark(er) turn when, instead of running away together, Tae-ju suggest they simply kill her husband.

Warm Bodies

Following a zombie apocalypse, a zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult) encounters a mortal, Julie (Theresa Palmer) while she’s outside of her human compound searching for medical supplies. After killing her boyfriend and eating his brain, R is filled with memories and thoughts of Julie from her boyfriend’s brain and rescues her from other zombies. R is confronted for the first time since he became a zombie with human emotions and feelings towards Julie. However these emotions make him vulnerable to attack from the Boneys, a group of skeletal zombies who prey on anything with a heartbeat. The couple must fight for their lives and figure out a highly unconventional relationship in this offbeat romance.

The Birds

One of the classic films by award winning and iconic director Alfred Hitchcock, The Birds starts off innocently enough. The film’s two central characters, Melanie Daniels (famously played by Tippi Hedren) and Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), meet at a bird shop and begin dating. The romance, however, quickly takes a back seat to the strange events happening in San Francisco. Bird attacks become increasingly common and the two lovers are forced to fight for their lives from aerial attacks. Despite being 50 years old the film is easily found through platforms like DirecTV and Netflix.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

A classic in the vampire genre long before the teens from Twilight sullied its reputation, Dracula is another gem, this time from Francis Ford Coppola. Based on Bram Stoker’s famous novel, the film follows Dracula (played by Gary Oldman) from the moment when he denounces God and first becomes a vampire in 1462, to 1897, when he encounters Mina (Winona Ryder), a woman he’s sure is the reincarnation of his deceased wife. Things take a turn for the worse when, after a friend of Mila’s is attacked, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing discovers there is a vampire in their midst and sets out to kill him.

Only Lovers Left Alive

This dark film about a married couple who happen to be vampires has breathed new life into the beaten-to-a-pulp vampire genre. Starring the incredible duo of Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as Adam and Eve, the couple is increasingly disillusioned by the state of the world and forced to live off “pure” blood provided to them by drug-dealers due to the toxic lifestyles of the current human population. When they couple reunites after a period apart Eve discovers Adam’s desire to kill himself. Then, Eve’s little sister Ava comes to visit from L.A. and things quickly go even further south.


Film Review: Tales of Halloween

Barry Bostwick in TALES OF HALLOWEEN
Barry Bostwick in TALES OF HALLOWEEN

The October Society is a brain trust of some of the best talents working in horror cinema today. 11 directors (Darren Lynn Bousman, Axelle Carolyn, Adam Gierasch, Andrew Kasch, Neil Marshall, Lucky McKee, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Ryan Schifrin, John Skipp, and Paul Solet) cram 10 short films into a 90 minute feature all set in a single suburb on a very exceptional Halloween night. All this action is wrapped in the warm familiar voice of Adriene Barbeau slinking across the airwaves of the local radio station. The narration is a loving homage to her character Stevie Wayne from John Carpenter’s 1980 classic The Fog. Another horror anthology film released earlier this season A Christmas Horror Story (read my review of that film here) also features a DJ character (William Shatner) as the narrator. I’d would be remiss to accuse either team of filmmakers of aping the other, as the two films work nicely together as a double feature. Its almost as if this was a deliberate plan of the teams behind both films.

Tales has a little something for everyone. There are folkloric stories, gore, laughs, and an adorable little alien that takes a slasher story in a much unexpected direction. The cast is chock full of talented and familiar genre actors; also, cameos from four of the great directors of 80s horror are sprinkled throughout. Whether intended or not, there is a definite feeling of some sort of passing of the torch here. These legends (I’m not naming them here because it’s more fun for the viewer to be surprised) seem to be comfortably playing along with the younger filmmakers who’ve taken on the mantel(s) of a horror luminary.

Alex Essoe in TALES OF HALLOWEEN "Grim Grinning Ghost"
Alex Essoe in TALES OF HALLOWEEN “Grim Grinning Ghost”
TALES OF HALLOWEEN has some great visual moments
TALES OF HALLOWEEN has some great visual moments








The filmmakers have stuffed 20 pounds of metaphorical Halloween candy in a 10 pound bag. This didn’t bother me, but some viewers may feel that the film drags a bit in spots ironically because so much is going on at once. It’s sort of like a weird anthology film version of the law of diminishing returns. However, it’s a very minor criticism as the film is a joy to watch. Every frame seems to ooze with authenticity and passion for horror movies and the Halloween holiday. Tales of Halloween is a must see for fans of classic style short form horror.

FINAL RATING: ****/*****





DIRECTORS:  David Parker, Darren Lynn Bousman, Adam Gierasch, Axelle Carolyn, Lucky McKee, Paul Solet, John Skipp & Andrew Kasch (co-directing a vignette), Mike Mendez, Ryan Schifrin, Neil Marshall

WRITERS: David Parker, Clint Sears, Greg Commons, Axelle Carolyn, Lucky McKee, Molly Millions, John Skipp, Andrew Kasch, Mike Mendez, Ryan Schifrin, Neil Marshall

CAST: Pat Healy, Barry Bostwick, Noah Segan, Booboo Stewart, Greg Grunberg, Clare Kramer, Alex Essoe, Lin Shaye, Dana Gould, James Duval, Elissa Dowling, Grace Phipps, Pollyana McIntosh, Marc Senter, Tiffany Shepis, John F. Beach, Trent Haaga, Casey Ruggieri, Kristina Klebe, Cerina Vincent, John Savage, Keir Gilchrist, Nick Principe, Amanda Moyer, Jennifer Wenger, Sam Witwer, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Ben Woolf, Caroline Williams, Robert Rusler, Cameron Easton, Austin Falk, Madison Iseman, Daniel Dimaggio, Natalie Castillo, Ben Stillwell and Hunter Smit

SYNOPSIS: Ten stories from horror’s top directors. Ghosts, ghouls, monsters, and the devil delight in terrorizing unsuspecting residents of a suburban neighborhood on Halloween night. This creepy anthology combines classic Halloween tales with the stuff of nightmares.

GENRE:  Horror

DISTRIBUTOR: Epic Pictures

Film Review: Shivers Down Your Spine

Shivers Down Your Spine
All Jeff wanted was a frozen pizza. What he got instead was a delivery…of terror!

Shivers Down Your Spine is a 125 minute horror-comedy anthology feature film cobbled together from three previously released short films (plus seven new shorts) from Dead Lantern Pictures. Directed by Mathew Kister and written by several contributing writers including Tony Crumpton, Lisa Kovanda, and Chuck Mittan, the feature is clearly a labor of love. The shorts were created over the course of four years filming in Kister’s home state of Nebraska. Nine shorts are interwoven by a tenth titled “Out of the Lamp.” In this wraparound tale, Jeff (played by Steve Eaton) goes to retrieve a freshly microwaved frozen pizza only to find an oil lamp that has magically appeared in its place. Jeff rubs the lamp, and voila! Out pops a topless genie named Sabihah (portrayed by Megan Shepherd). In the opening sequence, the joke is that Jeff is offended by Sabihah’s immodesty, but his delivery comes off mean spirited. Once this bumpy introduction and the standard genie agreement is laid out for the audience, much in the style of Arabian Nights, Jeff wishes for Sabihah to tell him a series of horror stories. When we return to Jeff and Sabihah between the shorts, Jeff will often break the fourth wall and address the audience directly. Jeff makes some self-effacing jokes about the quality of the shorts included in the feature. I appreciated this as a viewer. In the realm of micro-budget horror films, if the filmmaker is not a miracle worker or a rare genius, it’s nice to know that they’re in on the jokes and don’t take their project so seriously.

By 2015 standards, any film made for less than $25,000 is considered a “micro budget” film. Per the filmmaker, Shivers Down Your Spine was made for $750. My phone cost more than the budget for this film. That said, Kister and company made good use of the money. Often the old indie filmmaker adage about keeping your ambition in check when working on a low or micro budget project squashes cash poor filmmakers’ creativity. This attitude frequently leads to a slew of bargain basement slasher and backyard zombie films. Shivers is neither or these. It has many clever moments, lots of style and competent filmmaking techniques are on display throughout. The humor is often crass or juvenile, so the film isn’t for everyone but the teen and young at heart crowd will enjoy it.

As Jules Winnfeld said to Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction, “Personality goes a long way.” Shivers Down Your Spine has tons of personality. The fun that the filmmakers had making it shows onscreen and this sense of fun obliges the viewer to forgive the more amateurish elements. Horror-comedies don’t lend themselves to a 90+ minute runtime, so Shivers Down Your Spine would have benefited from some cuts; however, it was a fun and memorable film. I can see myself revisiting some of the shorts individually, but I don’t necessarily recommend it as a feature film. Highlights include the performances of Eric Moyer and Michelle Schrage as a quirky couple in “Birthday Dinner” and the faux 80s VHS style and comic and bizarre performances in “A Christmas Horror Story” (not to be confused with another recent feature length anthology film with the same title).

FINAL RATING: *** / *****


From the press release:

SHIVERS DOWN YOUR SPINE – Dead Lantern Pictures


ON DISC: October 23, 24, and 25, 2015 at Minneapolis Crypticon (at the company’s booth)

DIRECTED BY: Mathew Kister

CAST: Jenny Chambers, Genevieve Schmidt, Tina Schmidt, Dailen Cowden, Christina Olson, Mark Popejoy, Will Griffey, Jazmyne Van Houten, Jim Brodhagen, Cody McDowell, Chianna, Julia Farrell, Steve Eaton, Megan Shepherd, Danielle Brookshire, Kevin Casey, Rose Johnson, Ali Aguilar, T.J. Roe, Eric Moyer, Michelle Schrage, Kevin Casey, Jesse Hapke, Taylor Melone.

SYNOPSIS: All Jeff wanted was a frozen pizza. What he got instead was a delivery…of terror!  Jeff is just an average dude with average needs and tonight all he wants is a piping hot microwave pizza. But when he nukes his pepperoni pie, he ends up biting off more than he can chew. Instead of his dinner, he discovers a mysterious lamp, home to to the voluptuous primeval temptress, Sabiah, who offers him three wishes. Rather than fame and fortune, Jeff demands to be told tales of terror and he’s about to find out that sometimes the most horrific thing you can get…is exactly what you wished for. Ten terrifying tales each more demented than the last unfold over the course of one nail-biting night as Sabiah says “open sesame” to the

Darkest caverns of your soul. These ten macabre tales will give you…..SHIVERS DOWN YOUR SPINE!”

GENRE: Horror, Comedy

RUNTIME:  124 minutes

RATING: Not rated



A Hint at Big Scares to Come

Director Michael G Kehoe accepting his award for Best Short Film at the Los Angeles Art-House Film Festival

Sometimes one can infer a great deal from a brief introduction. My brief introduction to filmmaker Michael  G. Kehoe was his short film “Hush.” Kehoe has had a long an interesting relationship with Hollywood filmmaking, going from Sylvester Stallone’s assistant during the filming of Rocky IV to creating a short that was an Official Selection for the Sundance Film Festival in 1994 (“Second Dance”), forming his own production company (Taughannock Entertainment), and producing and directing a number of other projects in the interim.

All this brings us to “Hush.” This very brief, but very effective horror short has been making the rounds on the film festival circuit all year long. I couldn’t make it to one of the festival screenings, so the director sent me a copy to watch in my home. With the lights off and the sound up, I settled in for what turned out to be six minutes of the most atmospheric and stylish horror filmmaking that I’ve seen in years. It’s all the more impressive in that it was filmed in under eleven hours with only a flashlight for lighting. “Hush” is the horror film equivalent of what foodies call “the perfect bite.” It’s a tiny sample of a larger piece that leaves you dying to see more. I hope to see much more from this filmmaker because Michael G. Kehoe has a firm grip on what makes for compelling visuals and for what’s really scary. If you would like to see “Hush,” it will be screening at the Catalina Film Festival September 24-27 (you can check the “Hush’s” Official Site for future screening dates).

Watch this space for more.

Film Review: In the Dark

Ready for action! (Clay Brocker, Katie Groshong)

It seems that anthology horror films are making a comeback, and I for one am thrilled about it. I’m thrilled not only because I prefer my horror stories in bite-sized chunks but because a majority of the anthology films that I’ve seen in recent years have been great entertainment. I’ve really enjoyed watching filmmakers try to one-up Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat and the found footage V/H/S series of films.

Unlike Trick r Treat (a film made for an estimated $12m budget), In the Dark was self financed by creators Chris St. Croix and David Buchert. The film was shot in Nashville, TN using local talent and whatever sets and resources the team could scare up. The final product is surprisingly stylized and cohesive. The film opens with a traditional wraparound story. A pair of dangerous women are on the run. They’ve got a severed hand on ice in a cooler that they’re delivering to a mysterious character named Salazar. The ladies are hiding out in a sketchy motel and they find a mysterious bag full of VHS tapes. They decide to kill time by watching the videos, and so the three short films that make up the anthology are presented in this familiar fashion. Some viewers may take issue with the similarity in presentation to another horror anthology feature called V/H/S, but I say that if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. The presentation works for this film and it doesn’t hurt that In the Dark doesn’t present any of its stories in a found footage format. It differentiates itself from V/H/S by creating three traditionally cinematic, rather than Cinéma vérité horror tales.

The creature comes to life!
The creature comes to life!

The film feels like a series of homages to some contemporary classic horror features. The wraparound’s musical score is a synth heavy dirge in the style of John Carpenter. The first short titled “The Keeper” has a grungy 90s vibe sort of like The Crow. The set is what I imagine the backstage area at a Criss Angel magic show looks like. The filthy posh Hot Topic-y loft is the lair of a terrible foursome of criminals who receive a visit from a mysterious stranger who drastically changes the course of their evening. Despite the hard rock look of this installment, it is tastefully scored with a string heavy track. This choice added some class to the bloody, violent and bare breasted goings on.

A killer is out for revenge!
A killer is out for revenge!

The second story titled “Dummy” plays more like an homage to the stalk and slash films of the 80s and 90s with a little bit of Saw thrown in for good measure. The masked killer in this segment plays strikingly onscreen thanks to a very memorable mask created for the film.

Marvin (Justin Hand) is a bloody mess
Marvin (Justin Hand) is a bloody mess

The third story titled “To Be Loved” is my favorite of the four. I’m not sure if this was intended by the filmmaker, but this one plays like a tribute to the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessen, Amelie) with just enough Cronenberg-style gross out gags to make it icky. The performances aren’t as natural as those of Jeunet’s casts, but they are very good. Justin Hand as Marvin plays up his character’s desperate loneliness convincingly and comically. Jayne Salters brings the menace as the voice of an anthropomorphic flesh eating VCR. This segment’s Little Shop of Horrors vibe is hard not to love.

Sister assassins make their last stand (Natalie Ruffino, Grace Kelly Mason)
Sister assassins make their last stand (Natalie Ruffino, Grace Kelly Mason)

The wraparound tale’s conclusion is rushed, but satisfying. The climax feels retconned from the disparate pieces of the other three tales. I didn’t dislike the ending, but I feel like I would have been more pleased with a conclusion that addressed the motel assassins’ dilemma more directly.

In the Dark frequently feels padded. Many scenes and some entire sequences are unneeded to move the individual tales along. However, its unfair to fault a self-financed/self-produced/self-edited film for being a little padded. Indie filmmakers often find it hard to “kill their babies” during the editing process. With rare exception, slash and burn editing is not the usual approach for labors of love as every frame of film feels precious to the creator of the raw source material. That said, the diversity of style of filmmaking presented throughout make In the Dark a very impressive effort for a small DIY crew.

FINAL RATING: ***/*****


In the Dark



DIRECTORS: David Buchert and Chris St.Croix

WRITERS: David Buchert and Chris St.Croix

CAST:  Natalie Ruffino, Kelly Mason, Alonzo Mosley, Clay Brocker, Emily Byrd, Katie Groshong, Tristan Jackson, Jordan Stephens, Adam Sanner, Scott Aaker, Olivia Bishop, Leslie Mills, Cooper Guy, Gary Willis, Matt Rosenbaum, Jon Lundberg, Deanna Ramsey, William Harrison, Chase Brown, Luke Phillips, Andria Armstrong, Jennifer Spriggs, Savannah Somerville, Christina Greer, Jace Gray, Jackson Gray, Spencer Barnabee, Justin Hand, Shellie White, Jayne Salters, Vince Cusomato, Wendy Keeling, Shannon Beals, Raven Bryant, Leah Fincher, Judy Jackson, Marcus Gammon, Josh Sadowski, Chris Cavolo, Chris Carson, Peter Jude.

SYNOPSIS:  IN THE DARK tells the tale of two female assassins hiding out in a rundown motel who discover a bag of unmarked videotapes. With each tape they play, they are drawn deeper into a twisted world where anything can happen. After allowing a mysterious stranger into their underground lair, a gang of murderers fight for their lives against a giant, sin-slaying creature from hell. A masked axe wielding maniac plays a deadly game of cat and mouse with a family in an abandoned mental hospital as revenge for their past crimes. And, when a desperate and lonely man is promised true love by the most unlikely matchmaker ever, he finds that his desire comes at a bloody price. Written and directed by Chris St. Croix and David Buchert and with its genre bending combination of action, horror and dark comedy, IN THE DARK is sure to deliver a slice of gory fun to audiences this Halloween season. The film stars a large ensemble cast including Katie Groshong (Jug Face), Shellie White (Make-out With Violence) and William Harrison (Lawless) and features Special Creature Effects by Rick Prince of Syfy Channel’s Face Off series.

GENRE:  Horror

DISTRIBUTOR:  Gravitas Ventures

Film Review: REEL

The rise of user-created content on sites such as YouTube and Vimeo has created new paradigms for aspiring filmmakers and content creators.  The film REEL takes some of these to heart, and while problematic in spots, actually makes them work for the film in others.  It creates an experience that, while suffering from a lack of direction, shows promise in what the filmmaker can produce in the future.

The victim of our tale...
The victim of our tale…

Directed and written by Chris Goodwin, the conceit of the movie is the killer, known as slashervictim666, is making a film detailing the life and story of one of their victims, Todd Smith (played by Mike Estes).  Todd is a horror movie fan whose story is told by clips from his vlogs posted on YouTube.  He is a vlogger of the first generation from that site:  His entries are unedited and full of personal details further content creators are loath to bring up about themselves.  The primary subjects of his entries are twofold.  He focuses mainly on the strained relationship between him and his family, especially his brother.  There is also an aside about his attempt and failure to create an indie horror film known as Cannibal Kitchen.  A short amount of time is taken for the narrator to describe his family, a twisted family of killers who film their victims.  Their strange tale of incest and murder is put in almost as an aside, as if the entire entry should be prefaced with an “oh, by the way…”  Todd is on a crusade to prove the infidelity of his brother’s wife, which draws him into the trap for the gruesome finale.

The film seems mostly improvised, and this largely works in the film’s favor.  Todd is not a well-spoken protagonist.  He falls over his words occasionally, and is prone to throwing out insults that make no sense or are as mean to himself as the person he’s insulting.  His acting in his film-within-a-film is off the wall.  However, it lends an air of believability to his character you don’t often see in these films.  He comes off as one of any number of actual vloggers on countless sites.  It was a rare time I saw a twenty something guy in a film that actually resembles the twenty something guys I knew when I was younger.  I applaud for Mr. Estes for his authenticity.

Scenes consist of Todd’s and the killer’s recordings.

Where this improvisational style breaks down is the big finish.  The film culminates in an intense, long (about 15 min by my count) torture/murder scene by the killer documentarian and his friends.  It is this scene where the improvisational nature is most obvious.  The killers taunt and make jokes throughout the process, and the effect is jarring.  Maybe it’s prejudices built up by years of watching genre films, but the killers did not seem like the serial murderers I was led to expect.  It felt like the worst fraternity hazing prank devised.  I was half expecting the police to raid the scene, only to be met with cries of “It was just a prank, bro!”  The entire scene was advertised to me as possibly too intense, and it certainly was a masterpiece of practical effects, but the dialog pulled me out of any fear I might have experienced.  Next time, keep it simple and quiet, boys.

My only other issue is with a little fat in the script that should be cut.  For people looking for a little blood and guts or to see the spectacle advertised, you’re going to have to wait.  You are going to wait a good while.  Some of what you see is important to explain the character and the trap he falls into.  The conflict with his brother is what really drives the story, and Mr. Goodwin and Mr. Estes do a fine job of conveying even subtle details of that relationship.  However, the Cannibal Kitchen thread goes nowhere.  It seems to serve no purpose to the story, other than to reaffirm Todd Smith’s love of the horror genre, or perhaps show his ironic need to be famous.  However, it’s not necessary to the story being told.  Todd’s obsessive desire to share every detail of his life is proof enough of his desire to become famous.  On the other hand, the story of Slashervictim666’s family is told mostly through text on screen.  I wanted more of what is happening with them.  I wanted to know why the killer picked Todd specifically.  What was up with the footage at the beginning of the film?  The Director’s eye should shift focus a little away from Todd, and to this mysterious killer.

All in all, it is an innovative attempt at doing something fresh with the genre, a sort of Tony and Tina’s Wedding for the horror crowd.  The improv work just plays better with the character who’s supposed to be an ordinary guy.  That’s not to say that there isn’t promise in this work, as Mr. Goodwin does some interesting things with the found footage narrative, and some of the problems are more his inexperience with the format than any flaw in his style.  As it stands, you shouldn’t regret giving it a look, just don’t feel like you’re missing anything vital if you get up in the middle to grab a snack or use the restroom.

*** /*****

Film can be streamed for free at the Hidden Horizons site.

Film Review: Wrecker

Wrecker is essentially Duel. IMDB says Wrecker is a Duel remake, but I’m not so sure IMDB should be trusted. Wrecker certainly feels like Duel, with a nearly identical plot and even some look-a-like shots. It’s very possible this movie was intended as a remake.

emily and leslieEmily and Lesley are on their way to a super fun party with boys, booze, and marijuana somewhere down a very long stretch of desolate, two-lane highway. Emily’s driving her very nice, very sexy red Mustang GT. They end up behind a slow-moving tow truck, chugging up an incline. The sexy Mustang passes the truck quite easily, and the ladies are again on their way at well over the speed limit.

But it seems they passed a very touchy trucker. The truck shows up over and over again to harass our young women, who don’t handle it well. Wrecker is a string of tense cat and mouse scenes. It’s a bit unbelievable that an old, heavy tow truck somehow seems to keep up with – and at times overtakes  – a brand new Mustang GT along a twisty highway. While that defies logic, the movie does mostly maintain a sense of dread throughout. If you’ve ever been on a road trip, traveling through corn and cow country, you’ll appreciate the predicament Emily and Lesley have found themselves in.

Wrecker takes place almost entirely on the road, with a few brief pit stops for gas and food. The extended road visuals are really nice, with very effective use of the light at sunset and sunrise. And Anna Hutchinson and Andrea Whitburn, as Emily and Rachel respectively, have friendly chemistry. I’d say overall Wrecker is a fun watch, with minor instances of plot drag, and offers great car porn, if you’re into that sort of thing.


DIRECTOR: Micheal Bafaro
SCREENPLAY BY:  Micheal Bafaro
CAST: Anna Hutchison, Drea Whitburn
SYNOPSIS:  Best friends Emily and Lesley go on a road trip to the desert. When Emily decides to get off the highway and take a “short cut,” they become the target of a relentless and psychotic trucker who forces them to play a deadly game of cat and mouse.
GENRE: Action/ Thriller/ Horror

Energy Crisis, Climate Change & Mutants: Oh My! – The Best of Eco-Horror


Humans have had a long and complicated relationship with our planet. Ancient civilizations were so frightened of bad weather they sacrificed each other to ensure the proper amount of rain. Today, have our own way of expressing our planet based angst – through films that ask “what if?” about various environmental disasters. After all, as much as nature gives, it can also take, and there has been no serial killer more prolific than mother nature. We’ve messed with the planet pretty significantly – climate change is real and worsening – so maybe it’s right that we’re afraid of these unavoidable consequences. Here are  six films that show just how scary it can really get when mother nature lashes out.



Them! (1954)

With an ensemble cast that included James Whitmore and Joan Weldon, this particular horror movie focuses on the havoc nuclear testing can cause. Specifically, one of the ickiest possible consequences – giant mutant bugs. If that’s not enough to get you to turn off a few extra lights, and keep your waste to a minimum…nothing is. While the heroes eventually prevail with the help of flame throwers and guns, the film reflected the era’s fear of nuclear weapons and their unintended side effects.



Soylent Green (1972)

Despite being filmed 40 years ago, Soylent Green deals with many environmental issues still at play today including overpopulation and pollution. Charlton Heston and Leigh Taylor-Young are inhabitants of a nightmare version of NYC, where homelessness and poverty are even more rampant than in reality and food is running out. The wealthy class is hoarding resources for themselves, while the lower classes rely on ‘Soylent Green’, supposedly made of seaweed, for protein. The horrifying twist ending – Soylent Green is made from human remains – is an extreme but not impossible result of an overburdened society that has destroyed the planet for its own greed.



Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)

The ever-wonderful William Shatner and Tiffany Bolling star in this terrifying arachnid tale. Once again, people have brought the horror on themselves, this time by over spraying pesticides and depriving the spiders of their natural prey and habitat. Since the tarantulas can’t get enough food in the wild, they attack the townsfolk instead. Yet another reminder to respect the animals we share a planet with, instead of trying to hog the whole pie for ourselves.



Prophecy (1979)

Robert Foxworth and Talia Shire take the lead in this 1979 film about the dangers of unchecked pollution. The culprit here is a paper mill that is polluting the nearby river and the affected animal is a bear, and it is not happy. After a murderous rampage that includes at least one decapitation, the protagonists are able to escape with their lives. However, while they were able to kill the original mutant bear, danger still lurks in the forest as other animals are affected by the pollution in the water.



C.H.U.D. (1984)

We really need to watch out for pollution. Not only does it mutate bears and bugs, but it also mutates homeless people who have to sleep in radioactive sludge. And if there is one thing we know about anybody or anything that has been mutated, it’s that they will have a taste for human flesh. The lucky people who get to try to solve the mystery of the mutant underground dwellers in this case are John Heard, Daniel Stern and Christopher Curry. Though by the end they prevail against the mutated humans, the film reflects both the fear of corporate greed and the effects of pollution.


the day after tomrrow


The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

Global warming reaches a tipping point in this apocalyptic drama starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Dennis Quaid. Icebergs are melting, the weather is out of control, and most of the United States is either flooding, freezing, or both. Quaid is a scientist that has been sounding the alarm bell for a while only to be ignored by the government. The scariest thing about this movie is how grounded it is in reality. The floods likely won’t be quite as sudden or dramatic in real life, but they are certainly on the horizon if we don’t get our act together.


In fact all these movies, however exaggerated they may be, serve as warnings of what may truly come to pass. It may not be mutant bears that kills us, but global warming and pollution are a real danger we are facing. It’s a danger we are blindly creating despite knowing better – Vectren Energy recently reported 87% of carbon dioxide emissions are a direct result of human activity, significantly contributing to climate change. It’s fun to watch these scary movies, but if we don’t start taking their lessons seriously, we may be living in a ecological horror story of our own not too far into the future!


Podcast Series Theme: Horror anime

Giant Robots and race cars, oh my

If there is anything that has brought the cultures of the East and West together, it is anime.  The Japanese, inspired by our own animators, sought to create shows and films that had depth of character and explored more mature themes, not only sex and violence, but pain and loss.  For American kids growing up in the 90’s, it gave us the animated shows we loved as children, only growing up with us, and speaking to our experience and tastes even as they changed.  These days, the influence is felt on both sides.  John Lasseter of Pixar has cited Hiyao Miazaki as one of his influences, and other seek to remake classics like Akira.  In Japan, animators draw on both the cinematic techniques of our luminaries and the stories we tell ourselves.  This was not instantaneous, however.  The arrival of anime on our shores is a story of decades, of dedication, of piracy, and of art.

Anime as we know it began with a man named Osamu Tezuka.  While other animators made children’s fare, inspired by Walt Disney’s work, Osamu combined that with a love of French New Wave cinema to create a story of a robot boy, Tetsuwan Atomu.  Made in the likeness of his creator’s son, he is rejected because he will not grow.  He finds a

It all started so innocently...
It all started so innocently…
caring home and he works to defend a society that rejects him.  It brought Japanese cultural issues to a medium unused to them, and it worked beautifully.  An American producer, Fred Ladd, became enamored with the show and thought it could work on American shores.  It was polished, sold to NBC, and after syndication the western world was introduced to Astro Boy.  Thus, the First Wave began.

Other shows followed suit, America was introduced to Gigantor, Eight Man, and Marine Boy.  The expanding role of television in the household helps these stories take hold.  This first wave peaks with the most famous show, Speed Racer.  This tale of a daring racecar driver and his family is eaten up by young boys everywhere during the Sixties.  Little girls also had a favorite in Kimba the White Lion, a show that you may have heard of for a completely different reason.

Anime’s impact on our culture slowed in the 70’s.  A newfound love of sci-fi due to properties like Star Trek and Star Wars brought us Star Blazers and Battle of the Planets.  However, interest from networks dwindled.  Shows had to be heavily edited not only for content (Anime at this point had no issues depicting violence or even death in their stories), but also to create a greater cultural relevance for Americans.  Fans, however, persisted.  They sought out the original runs, unedited by western networks.  They subtitles works themselves, at times simply providing scripts that could be downloaded or purchased and then read while you watched.  Shows were copied and passed around from person to person.

Animation creates new opportunities in storytelling.
Animation creates new opportunities in storytelling.
Anime continued as an underground culture until the early nineties.  In Japan, anime had suffused every genre.  There were animated action films, romantic comedies, period dramas, and even horror.  Additionally, the advent of the VCR created the OAV, or Original Anime Video.  This Japanese version of direct-to-video served a different purpose than in the states.  While straight-to-video is usually the home of low budget fare, the Japanese saw it as an opportunity to explore stories and themes that would not be accepted from television or film.  This explosion of media created three stories that would start the Second Wave of fandom and cement anime’s place in our culture, Robotech, Akira, and finally Sailor Moon.  Soon other shows like Dragonball Z and Pokemon followed suit.  Western studios began to collaborate and now each side feels the influence of the other.

The Medium is the Message

Anime works well for horror partially for the same reason books work well, or film, or even podcasts.  Animation is a format for telling stories, and all stories can be told through it.  The Japanese abandoned long ago Walt’s idea that cartoon were only for kids.  They can make you laugh, they can make you rage against an injustice.  I have long said that anyone that didn’t think a cartoon could make them cry should watch Grave of the Fireflies.  Of course, in this day and age there are several features that could do the same, but anime even involved emotion where western animation feared to go, like fear, revulsion, and dread.  Believing that this medium was valid for anything, everything was shown.  You can find tense psychological thrillers, and you can find buckets of blood and gore.  Both of these extremes are going to be explored this month.  That said, anime has its beautifully crafted masterpieces, and shameless cash-ins.  It has art, and shameless excuses to show tits or sell toys.  It is, after all, a medium, not a story in and of itself.

Animation is especially suited to particular genres, horror included.  The imagination is closer to free in the

Our own stories are taken, and seen in new light.
Our own stories are taken, and seen in new light.
animated realm.  While conventional cinema is limited at least by the abilities of practical effects artists and the endurance of its actors, animation can surpass those.  Make a killer who moves through the truly surreal landscape of a dream (yes, I know, Nightmare on Elm Street and Cell.  Watch Paprika and tell me there’s not a difference).  Make a boy, burdened by his new psychic abilities, grow like a tumor to the size of a stadium.  The only limit is your artistic skill and time.  Movies are coming closer with CGI, but the only way they will truly match it is to just become animation.  This unleashing of the imagination can also unleash the nightmares that dwell on the fringes of that imagination.  I hope this will inspire you to explore those fringes with us.

More on the podcast in the following episodes…

Anime Teaser
Episode 437 – Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend

Episode 438 – Perfect Blue

Episode 439 – Shiki

Insidious Aside: Best Horror Franchises

Insidious 3

Coming off a strong box office opening, Insidious 3 has propelled the Insidious franchise onto the top of the list for most successful American horror franchises. While the films are well made, they owe a great deal of their success to ideas that have been borrowed from older, more progressive horror franchises, namely Poltergeist. Of course, there’s the sour truth that the Insidious franchise really isn’t that good and the news that it’s now the top grossing horror franchise of all time struck me a shocking and appalling.

Thinking back to some of the other, more notable, horror franchises there are many that deserve the type of attention Insidious has gotten. Granted, some of these franchises lost their polish through excessive sequels which majorly missed the mark, but surely they should be considered the better horror franchises over the new king of the genre.

Night of the Living Dead

Night of the Living Dead

Writer/director George Romero became the undisputed king of zombie horror with his series of seven films about walking corpses who feast on human flesh. Zombie horror has since become a hugely successful and nearly ubiquitous product, but what sets Romero apart from his imitators is his ability to use zombies as a vehicle for social commentary. Some examples are his critique of commercialism in Dawn of the Dead and the exploration of class disparity in Land of the Dead. The series inspired countless other filmmakers and the parody take on many of it’s themes; Sam Raimi’s The Evil Deadwhich is now being aired on the El Rey network, (check here for listings), became a cult horror/comedy franchise in its own right.



Legendary cult director John Carpenter created a new template for the slasher film genre with this 1978 classic about an escaped mental patient who terrorizes an Illinois suburb. The movie spawned nine sequels and was notable for its lack of blood and gore, relying instead on atmosphere and a slowly building sense of dread to create tension. Modern horror fans will likely appreciate the way Rob Zombie’s remake and its sequel crank up contemporary shock tactics to update the franchise for a new generation. Of course, Hollywood isn’t done with the franchise yet, as another film dubbed a “recalibration” of the original film, is supposedly in pre-production.

A Nightmare on Elm St

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Freddy Kruger became a household name after Wes Craven’s 1984 slasher pic put a new spin on the genre – a killer who stalks teens in the world of dreams. Robert Englund’s performance as Kruger through nine films is alternately maniacal, sadistic, and hilarious, a creepy and effective portrayal of a child murderer. Most of the sequels struggled to receive the same praise as the original, although 1994’s Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is notable for its use of metafiction, in which Craven and Englund play themselves and discover that Kruger’s evil is contained by the films themselves. It was also one of the few series that made the leap over to television with the short lived TV series Freddy’s Nightmares, which ran only from 1988 to 1990.

The Exorcist

The Exorcist

William Friedkin’s supernatural horror, released in 1973, lives up to its reputation as one of the most grotesque and horrifying pictures of all time. The series, which totals five films, features such notable actors as Ellen Burstyn, George C. Scott, Max von Sydow, James Earl Jones, and Stellan Skarsgard. These films set the mold for demonic possession in cinema, influencing notable modern horror movies like Evil Dead, Insidious and The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Produced on a budget of less than $300,000 and inspired by the actions of real life serial killer Ed Gein, this cult classic from director Tobe Hooper gave birth to the slasher film craze of the 70’s and 80’s. The iconic villain Leatherface, a chainsaw wielding hulk in a mask made from human skin, is the focal point of all seven films in the series, which concern the capture and mutilation of young people traveling through rural Texas. The highlight of the franchise is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, which stands out due to a great Dennis Hopper performance and over the top gore effects by horror legend Tom Savini.

Insidious has earned its place at the top of the box office charts with high production values, a great performance by Lin Shaye, and strong direction from horror veterans James Wan and Leigh Whannell. For horror buffs, though, these older, more revered franchises demand a look for their ingenuity and lasting impact on the genre.

Film Review: The Funhouse Massacre

The Funhouse Massacre Poster

kFJcc5-XsxfWiqtfWsI-j22WF3cndBTbnF08EFxfxXgThe Funhouse Massacre
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

From Leatherface to Norman Bates: Films Inspired by Ed Gein

Ed Gein

Once you’ve seen them, the images never leave you. Who can take a shower in a motel room without thinking of Psycho? Or the scenes from The Silence of the Lambs where “Buffalo Bill” torments his abductee in the well? Or the infamous scene from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre where Leatherface hangs a woman on a meathook…

The basis for all of these characters was a real life psychotic character that even the great Alfred Hitchcock himself could invent: Ed Gein, of Plainfield, Wisconsin. He was a hermit, murderer, and grave robber who essentially established the basis for the fabled  crazed, backwoods hick, who is completely cut-off from mainstream society, and likes to play with dead things.

In 1957, police drove up to Ed’s old, desolate farmhouse, suspecting he might have had something to do with the disappearance of the local hardware store owner. They didn’t find Ed right away, but they did find a body … and various parts of other bodies. The mother of one of the deputies was hanging upside down from one of the beams. Her head was missing. Nearby was a bowl made out of a human skull. A box contained four human noses and a heart. Their last discovery was a suit made entirely of human skin. More female parts confirmed the fact that Ed Gein was a killer, and a ghastly one at that.

Gein had been psychologically abused by an alcoholic father who passed away during Gein’s youth, and a mother who was a religious zealot, who demonized his sexuality and poisoned her son’s perception of women.

Novelist Robert Bloch was living in Wisconsin at the time of Gein’s arrest, and was inspired to pen the novel Psycho, which provided the basis for the Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name, which hit theaters in 1960. The Gein cased served as a source of inspiration for a slew of horror films — some have all but fallen off of the face of the earth, while others are regarded as among the best horror films ever made.

While The Texas Chainsaw Massacre became an enormous hit,there was another film released that same year, entitled Deranged (1974), which offered a more direct telling of Gein’s story. In Deranged, rural farmer Ezra Cobb (Roberts Blossom), is so obsessed with his mother that he preserves her corpse after death. Not wanting her to be lonely, he murders other women and then stuffs them to keep her company. The film is notable as one of Tom Savini’s earliest outings as a special effects artist on a feature length film. It was a film that had largely fallen into obscurity, but it’s enjoying a new wave of popularity among horror fanatics thanks to television screenings on the new El Rey grindhouse/horror network, streaming options on certain websites (click here for more information), and the recently released “double feature” DVD by Midnite Media which pairs the film with Kevin Connor’s Motel Hell (1980).

One of the things that distinguishes Motel Hell is that it approaches the subject in a more tongue-in-cheek fashion.The film features Rory Calhoun as Farmer Vincent, the evil “agriculturalist”/hotel owner who smokes meats, which are said to be the best tasting around. The meat, as you may have guessed, is human skin.  Vincent catches victims, buries them up to the neck in the secret garden, cuts their vocal cords so they don’t shout, and then feeds them until it is harvest time.

Horrible, ghastly, demented may be words that apply to all these films, but they have provided sick filmmakers with a wealth of content for decades. And with the slew of recent remakes of hixploitation classics, including The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it doesn’t appear that Gein’s legacy is going to die any time soon.

Exploring “These Lonely Places”

Exploring ‘These Lonely Places”

by Tony Hicks

Filmmaker and storyteller Guillermo Del Toro has referred to monsters, in multiple interviews, as ‘great symbols of power’ BookCover6x9_BW_240typelayerssecondary updated– and they are. Within the context of a story, a specific moment, at a special place or certain time, monsters can symbolize a great many other things as well; the things we love, the things we fear, the things we want. In “These Lonely Places,” the first collection by R.K. Kombrinck, our own Kelley explores the implications of several different beings – ghosts, devils, cryptids, and other, more nameless horrors – upon the lives of very real people. These points of intervention, wherein mythic, arcane forces collide with those of the typical human experience, are the Lonely Places in question, where ‘people seldom venture, and the living feel unwelcome.’

The very first story, the shortest in the book, is the efficient “Late Night Laundry.” In less than 500 words, several motifs are established and, more-or-less, maintained throughout the course of the book. One is Mr. Kombrinck’s inclination to twist a mundane situation into an impossibly horrific one, often with a breathless enthusiasm for bombarding his characters with nightmares made flesh. Another motif, on the other hand, is a strong sense of restraint, as well as a deft handle on the powers of suggestion. Kelley seems to have a rather precise idea of what he wants to shove into the spotlight, and exactly what he chooses to stay hidden from the reader. These are crucial decisions for a writer (horror or otherwise) to make, and Kelley is skilled at selecting the best strategy for his desired effect.

The second entry is “The 16th Floor,” a good story that serves well to open the first half of the collection. Sort of like “Office Space”-meets-Lovecraft, it centers on the abandoned floor of an office building in which an ancient evil seemingly lurks. There are no heroes in “These Lonely Places” – Kelley inhabits his stories with endearingly damaged folks, some worse off than others. Scott, the protagonist of this story, is no exception. There is never really any hope that Scott can ‘win,’ or defeat the thing that prowls the 16th floor. This sense of nihilism, which pervades the entire book in varying degrees, is largely what creates the Lovecraft-vibe (aside from a few overt and stylistic references to Howard’s stories, in the form of a certain few cursed artifacts).

Next are “Fishing Hole” and “The Visitor,” two monster-in-the-woods stories that complement each other nicely, and put Kelley’s most obvious goal on full display: to fucking scare you. Evident in these stories, as well as several later ones, is the impression of a writer with a finely-tuned sense of terror, one keen to avoid the perceived transgressions of other modern horror writers – to keep it simple, to keep it scary. It’s effective, and it works. “Fishing Hole” lacks the nuances that begin to develop in the second half of the book, but stands as one of its strongest stories regardless. “The Visitor” is all about execution – take a horror staple, polish it up, and make it shine again. It’s a spooky tale that relies on dread of the inevitability first, and the monster second.

“Mrs. Lumley’s Masks” is an anomaly, as it strays away completely from the supernatural horror fuelling the collection and focuses entirely on a weirdly old-school brand of human cruelty and mean-spiritedness. What really makes it work is the avoidance of any ‘on-screen’ horror; the really awful stuff isn’t part of the story at all, merely suggested. This pre-occupation with ‘spookiness’ feels like an extremely conscious decision, and I’m personally thankful for it.

The final entry in what I like to think of as the book’s ‘A Side’ (sort of arbitrarily, but not without reason) is “On Powdered Wings.” Again, this is a really simple story that reads like the logical progression of a very disturbing ‘what-if’ scenario. To be clear, when I say ‘simple,’ I’m referring to the plot itself, which is fairly basic; a man succumbs to the antagonistic attention of several hundred spiteful moths, for no identifiable reason, and thus begins a swift descent into madness. (This is at least the second story, possibly the third, in which moths play a noticeable role as portents of doom.) The details are really what throw this story into high gear: the moralistic intent, and repercussions, of the characters is vital to the progression of the plot, leading to a morally unsettling ending that speaks more to the fears of personal agenda in the modern world than, well, bugs. I also extracted from this story a very cynical meditation on the consequences of self-pity and inaction, and how easy it is to destroy yourself when hope is nothing but a glint fading fast on the horizon.

I identify this as the turning point of “These Lonely Places” because, although the second half of the book stays true to the first in spirit, the inclusion of sinister undertones regarding true life experiences, independent from the fantasy aspects of the plot(s), becomes more frequent, more apparent, and far more unnerving. No story illustrates this more appropriately than the next story, titled “Giant.”

“Giant” is the first story in the book to focus specifically on adolescent characters, two brothers who venture into an abandoned and dilapidated building to uncover a hellish suburban nightmare. The boys are painfully well-drawn, such that when the truly fantastic elements of the story come into play, they’re woven seamlessly into two ostensibly very real lives. It’s entirely convincing, harrowing, and scary. Again, the terror lies not in the monster (at this point in the book, it would be unfathomable to not face a monster), but in the unflinching impossibility of the scenario, the total embrace of a nightmare reality in white-picket fence setting. The clincher lies in the struggle against this terror, and an ending that any fan of horror can intimately relate to; an ever-so-brief reflection on the genre’s abilities to both repulse and fascinate, even seduce, the lizard-brain inside us all that craves such violent interventions. The ending is perfectly analogous to the horror genre’s basic appeal, and struck a very personal chord in me.

“Simulacrum” is a twisted vignette that details a very unlikely (although apparently efficient) revenge plot. It has a certain campfire-tale vibe that gels strangely well with the extreme nature of the content, and is probably one of the only stories presented here that might be construed as having a ‘happy’ ending (as well as a very filmic use of a great Stranglers song). Hot on its heels is “Flood Photos,” a touching story that, on its surface, is simply about a tense encounter with a very unpleasant urban legend; however, it’s very clearly about the significance of stories, shared memories with the ones you love, and what’s left behind when the ones you love are gone forever. Dangerous creatures are easily declawed when side-by-side with the insistent, mindless cruelty that Death can come to represent, and most of us would probably take a battle with the paranormal over one you have no hope of winning. No contest. (As a side-note, this story reminded me a bit of Robert R. McCammon’s “Boy’s Life,” a sprawling novel in which the main character faces a threat similar to the one in “Flood Photos.” The mental comparison led me to thinking, fondly, about how greatly the emotional emphasis of a story matters, regardless of plot – that’s the point of it all, no?)

Next is “Trailer Trash,” an ambitious story that, despite excellent writing and a tangible sense of dread, is hampered by characters that feel inauthentic and slightly unrealistic. Without having those characters to firmly anchor the reality of the story, the jarr
ing reveal of the climax doesn’t make quite the impact it deserves. This is one of the more pleasingly ambiguous stories, however, and I sense a small nod to old Howard Lovecraft. The description of the blasphemies depicted near the end is somehow abundant, yet tastefully fleeting. It’s probably the most evil thing revealed up to this point in the collection – at least, until “Celaeno.”

I’m quite sure that “Celaeno” is the meanest, most deliciously gruesome tale here. The overall sentiment is nihilistic and, again, quite Lovecraftian; in essence, sometimes the universe fucks you, and if you’re lucky, you’ll die. It’s a real uneasy read, and as bad as the monster is (and itcelaenocoverkindle’s pretty goddamn bad), even more brutal is the characters’ inability to save themselves or each other. Redemption is rendered painfully futile by man’s lethal inaction and deceptively crippling psychological weakness – and if the antagonist itself isn’t straight-up Lovecraft, than the hopelessness sure as hell is.

Rounding out “These Lonely Places” are three of the book’s best stories, a real wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am of a closer. First up is “Unremembered,” which I like to think is a spiritual (perhaps literal) sequel to “Late Night Laundry.” This story details the experiences of a twenty-something ‘loser’ – I use the term affectionately – working the graveyard shift at a late-night liquor store. The meat of the plot involves two restless spirits haunting the outskirts of the store, bolstered by a disturbing subplot involving his sick mother, as well as the all-too-real drudgery associated with working a shit job – with or without dead people trying to get you. “Unremembered” features Kelley’s best, most lucid writing so far, a style clearly informed prominently by a love of film. Every story in the collection contains certain filmic qualities, but this one in particular is very cinematic in its pacing, and in the explosive, frankly awesome, climax. It’s also a thoughtful rumination, like “Flood Photos,” on the significance of memory, of the impact you have (or don’t have) on other people. Flawed perception is a major theme here as well, and bleeds into every facet of the story; what something ‘looks like’ has no bearing on reality. Dead or alive, man or monster, exists somewhere else entirely. The dread of not being seen for who or what you are, of being trapped, neglected or hurt based on the faulty perception of others, is what brings this story to life.

Then comes “Last Night at the Red Carpet Inn,” a short, sad story full of restraint, hardened by two truly endearing characters. This is redcarpetcoverprobably the most emotional story of the bunch, only utilizing the horror of the ending to frame a tragic, and hugely relatable, message about regret and, again, inaction. Genre trappings are often useful, sometimes seemingly necessary, for rendering the worst, most senseless aspects of the human experience comprehensible. Handled artfully, the crudeness of the genre can be used, instead of as a crutch, as a tool for crafting something far more honest, far more human, than the sum of its parts might suggest. Sentimentality is a criminally overlooked ingredient in horror fiction, and here it’s used to great effect, employed to highlight something singularly horrific: the dreadful notion of simply not knowing – not knowing what might have been, not knowing if, somewhere else far away, you might have found happiness.

Finally, we have something truly ambitious, “The Boy from Deleary Park.” By far the most unconventional tale of “These Lonely Places,” this story reads like an entry in the “Borderlands” series of anthologies, and is enormously illustrative of R.K. Kombrinck’s growth as a writer (and all the more exciting because of it). “The Boy…” brings us back to the lives of two children; one an outcast, the other (more problematically) simply an outsider. A friendship is sought after, with unfortunate results. I’ve tried my best to not seriously spoil any of these stories, but I’m especially wary of this one. It’s so unpredictably weird, so ‘out-there’ in comparison with the rest of the book that I can’t imagine a better story to end on. The writing is perfectly descriptive, and the characters – one lonely young boy in particular – are completely compelling. Kelley manages to strike a fine balance between fantasy and terror, neither outweighing the other. It’s a great amalgamation of bizarre, disparate elements, strengthened by a genuinely chilling ending.

Obviously, I was highly impressed with this collection; I was taken by the flawed, occasionally despicable characters, the great attention to detail, and, in the end, a finely-honed and consistent approach to horror valiantly put to practice on the written page. A very clear philosophy of the genre belies the tales in “These Lonely Places,” and perhaps what’s most fun to see, great storytelling aside, is the visible growth of an artist working with passion and imagination – and that’s a beautiful thing.

Whether it’s “Rosemary’s Baby” or “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” horror fiction is an art form. Many people, fans and critics of the genre alike, seem wary of attaching that sort of label to ‘horror,’ to scrutinize it in that way, but I don’t see how there’s any avoiding it – or why you would want to. I read this book because the genre resonates with me on an unshakable level, and if you’re reading this, it probably resonates with you as well. We want to be afraid because there’s honesty in fear; it’s part of our lives all the time. Stories like these help us understand ourselves, understand that we don’t want to be forgotten, that we want to love and be loved, that we’ll die for each other if we  need to. Monsters inhabit dark places, lonely places… But so do people – and sometimes, we need art – we need stories – to find our way out.

The Nightmare Playbook – Five Fearful Horror Tropes

Generic, textbook plots are often overplayed in large Hollywood horror films. Easily recognizable tropes are ones that we can predict simply from the title of the movie or within the first few minutes of the film. Typically, there are a few graphic torture scenes – with the pretty girl surviving, of course – someone possessed by a demonic spirit, or maybe a few zombies, all documented on a shaky handheld camera. Many horror movies all run down familiar paths at one point or another. Despite their similarities, they manage to keep attracting diverse audiences worldwide. Why do we keep returning to scary movies, even if we can predict their outcome?

These films give us a safe space in which to explore some of our darker fears and fantasies – just as romantic dreams might come true in a harmless rom-com, our nightmares need a place to play as well. Thus, the horror industry was born.

Let’s explore 5 common themes that run through the genre.

Explicit Graphic Death/Torture Scenes

Midnight Meat Train Massacre

Many horror aficionados choose to watch these types of films simply for their graphic depiction of death and torture scenes. There’s nothing quite like seeing someone cut off their own foot, like Dr. Gordon must do in the original Saw, and of course the campy, we-know-this-is-too-much films like The Midnight Meat Trainor Cannibal Holocaust. These films test us, daring viewers to look upon and enjoy some of the worst acts humanity is capable of. Gory and fleshy, they exploit our revulsions and feed upon our darkest voyeuristic desires.

The Pretty Girl Survives, or, “The Final Girl”


More than just an overplayed cliche, this trope comments on depictions of women both in horror and within Hollywood more broadly. Typical of “slasher” films where characters are knocked off one by one, in “final girl” films it is always the purest, prettiest female character who survives the terror that drives the film. This theme is played out in famous films such as  Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Scream to only name a few. In the first Friday the 13th film, it’s Alice Hardy who lives, in part 2, Ginny Fields survives, etc and so on. A very specific type of heroine, she is a cocktail of resourcefulness, a virginal quality, and intelligence, capable of outwitting the monster and outlasting all of her friends.

Demonic Possession


Another theme that permeates the genre is that of “demonic” or evil possession. Think The Exorcist and The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Inevitably similar in plot, each film offers it’s own spin on the concept of evil occupying the soul of an otherwise harmless (occasionally religious) person. For example, The Exorcism of Emily Rosefocuses on the death of a young girl who had an exorcism performed on her by Father Moore, following the devil’s takeover of her body. The Exorcist does not deal with the death of a child, but rather a mother attempting to bring her child back from demonic possession through exorcisms. Eternally popular, it’s doubtful that audiences will ever tire of imagining the sensational terror of experiencing pure evil within themselves.

The Living Dead


While the concept of the “undead” has long been a trope in scary stories, they have recently experienced a resurgence in popularity. This has led to a wide range of television shows and movies utilizing the overplayed “living dead” theme. Some movies that take on the zombie apocalypse theme include the classic Night of the Living Dead, which, despite being made nearly 50 years ago, can still be watched for free on YouTube or on many local satellite TV channels. 28 Days Later, a more recent “zombie” flick, depicts aftermath of “The Rage Virus”, an infection that spreads quickly and causes zombie-like results. One of the most memorable scenes in 28 Days Later is when a London courier who had previously been struck by a car, awakens in the hospital only to find it trashed without a living soul anywhere in sight. Many movies have followed this same general theme, giving us an idea as to what the world might look like if a zombie apocalypse was to occur.

A Pseudo “Documentary” Angle


The “documentary”- esque horror movie is one that we all know well. Some great examples of these include Paranormal Activity and perhaps most famously, The Blair Witch Project. Despite being cast and scripted, they are made to appear as though they are actually documentaries being shot in real time. We assume the director’s intent lies with the fact that reality is more fearsome than fiction – if it happened to someone else, it could just as easily happen to you, too.


Holiday Movies For Horror Fans

The holiday season may be one of joy, but it can also bring on some sadness for horror fans who are gifted earlier in the year during the month of October, when the spirit of Halloween results in endless horror movie marathons on TV and new releases in the theater. As soon as the 31st passes, the stores are transformed. Skeletons are swapped for Santas, and the chances of catching anything on TV that doesn’t involve yuletide cheer is slim to none. If you’re one who can’t get enough horror and blood all year long but still want to embrace the season, check out these films that take the two most different holidays of the year and merge them into your idea of the best type of Christmas movie.


They’re cute, fluffy, and bloodthirsty. When a boy becomes the owner of a pair of strange, Furby-like creatures known as Gremlins, he doesn’t follow the care instructions and winds up with a group of murderous little animals who transform into demon-like monsters at night. The 1984 horror comedy starring Zach Galligan has been making fans cringe and laugh for over two decades now.

Jack Frost

No, not that Jack Frost, the overly sappy story of a boy’s dead father coming back as a snowman. This version (which came out a year earlier) features a freak accident that takes a notorious serial killer being transported to execution and turns him into a vicious abominable snowman. As bodies begin to pile up in a series of strange, winter-themed murders, the sheriff who locked the criminal away to begin with makes it his mission to put an end to the madness before anyone else dies. It’s a dark and sinister twist on that beloved figure synonymous with winter fun.

Santa’s Slay

A millennium has passed since a lost bet with an angel resulted in a demon becoming Santa Claus (played by Bill Goldberg), condemned to spread gifts and cheer to children all around the world. Now that the bet is off, he’s fed up with the holly jolly vibe of the Christmas season and is ready to return to his Hellish roots in this 2004 film starring Emilie de Ravin, Douglas Smith, and Fran Drescher.

The Children

In late December, two families meet at an upscale English estate to celebrate the holidays together, but instead of late night parties and Christmas carols, they’re faced with a strange disease that has infected all the children and turned them into heartless, psychotic killers. The film has received positive reviews all around, being praised for its entertainment as well as fear-inducing factor.

The Shining

The iconic Jack Nicholson film isn’t just one of the best horror meets holiday films; it’s regarded as one of the top horror thrillers of our time. In the film based on the book by Stephen King, Nicholson plays the role of a man suffering from writer’s block who takes his family to an isolated winter retreat in Colorado. His son (Danny Lloyd), who begins to suffer from psychic premonitions, is forced to watch as his father unravels from a stressed author into a homicidal maniac bent on killing his family.

All of the above films are perfect for any horror fan looking for a way to merge their love of suspense into the Christmas season. Luckily for you many of the films are available on demand through providers like DirecTV and iTunes, so grab your glass of eggnog, curl up on the couch, and get cozy for some horrific holiday fun…just maybe wait until the kids have gone to bed.


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Queen of the Wolves: A Tale told in Parts by R.k.Kombrinck

Freaky Style by Victor Castillo

Queen of the Wolves

By R.k.Kombrinck

Chapter One

Shelley put her arm around Stephen’s waist as they stood leaning against the car in the driveway. He felt her grab onto his back belt loop and they both gazed up at the house. She rested her head against his arm and sighed.


Stephen smiled and kissed the top of her head. “You sure you wouldn’t have preferred a nice, doublewide trailer? Thirty-grand and we could drive it anywhere we wanted.”

She tapped his chest affectionately. “Please don’t ruin this moment.”

He squeezed her tightly and nodded. They watched the sun set behind the newly built home. Golden light flared around the peaked roof like a halo and cast the front yard into a cool, comforting pool of shadow. It felt like a dream. With his wife beside him and a warm, almost-summer breeze blowing against his face, Stephen thought he might never stop smiling. Then he heard a brittle voice call out from behind them and his smile vanished.

“Hello? Hey there.”

 A small woman in a tank top and capris was scurrying up the sidewalk towards them. Her eyes were hidden behind giant, round-framed sunglasses. She may have been thirty, or forty, it was hard to say, but she was well built with pretty chestnut colored hair and smooth white skin. Gliding along beside her was a little girl. Like the woman whose hand she clung to, the girl’s age was hard to pinpoint. She was tall enough to be a third or fourth grader, but something in her eyes made her seem younger. Maybe it was the way she searched the clouds as they walked, oblivious to everything else around her. They stepped into the yard, facing Stephen and Shelley and the woman pushed her sunglasses to the top of her head.

“Howdy neighbors!” Her voice was low but still managed to be strident somehow. Stephen was immediately put off but he smiled anyway as she introduced herself. “ I’m Alicia Schilling and this is my daughter Rita. We live three houses down.” As soon as she was mentioned, Rita dropped her mother’s hand and sat down in the cool grass, tugging at a dandelion between her splayed feet.

“Hey, how you doing? I’m Stephen and this is my wife, Lachelle.”

Shelley reached out her hand to the woman. “Hi, you can call me Shelley.”

Alicia shook Shelley’s hand and examined her face. “Lachelle. That sounds like a black name.”

Stephen didn’t look at Shelley, but he knew that the smile had frozen hard on her face as it had his. Alicia sensed their discomfort and went on cheerfully.

“Oh, it’s okay, there’s a couple of ‘em living on the street. Fine people. Really well spoken. I think he’s a teacher or something.”

Shelley coughed into her hand and tugged hard at Stephen’s belt loop and he looked down at the little girl on his lawn as a means of escape.

“So Rita. Did you know there’s a song named after you?”

The girl looked up at him and smiled sweetly. She had her mother’s hair, though longer and less processed, and icy blue eyes. “There is?”

“Yep, ‘Lovely Rita, Meter Maid.’ It’s by an old group called the Beatles.”

The little girl rolled her eyes amiably. “I know who the Beatles are silly. They sing, ‘Yellow Submarine.’ I don’t know the my-name song though.”

Stephen chuckled. “Well, I’ve got it on a record somewhere in a box in the house. When I find it, you’ll have to come by and listen to it with us.”

Alicia nodded, her sunglasses swaying atop her head. “Oh yeah, that sounds great. Rita loves music.” She looked down at her child with mock exasperation. “I’ve tried to get her to listen to the girly dance songs I like. You know, whatever’s popular, but she only likes that old stuff.” She sighed. “She’s my little fuddy-duddy.”

“Funny-dunny!” Rita called out in a high, nasally voice before melting into a fit of giggles.

There was a pause then, and several seconds of silence spun out between the adults while Rita chattered away to herself on the ground. Finally, Shelley stretched and gestured towards the house. “Well, it was great meeting you guys. We’ve got a lot of unpacking to do though, so. . .”

Stephen jumped in. “Yeah, thanks for coming over to welcome us. Feels good knowing we’ve got such nice neighbors.” He looked at the little girl and found her staring intently at their house. He followed her gaze, thinking she saw a bird or a squirrel up by the garage but there was nothing. “And Rita, you’re welcome to come and listen to the Beatles or the Rolling Stones or the Monkees any time you want. Me and Shelley like those old songs too.”

Rita popped up from the ground and stood beside her mother. “Mommy, can I?”

Alicia took the girl’s hand and smiled indulgently. “Definitely. So long as Stephen and Lachelle say you can.” She looked to Stephen and Shelley and winked. “Careful guys, I may just leave her with you and run away to Barbados with some hot young stud.”

Rita’s face went dark. “Mommy, no! With Daddy.”

Alicia’s grin dried up at the mention of Rita’s father. “Hush.” She dropped her glasses back down over her eyes (Stephen thought they made her look like The Fly) and stepped back onto the sidewalk. “Well, you two have a good night. Don’t work too hard unpacking, and feel free to stop by if you ever need anything.” She pointed to a large house with a tall hedge running along the property line a few hundred feet away. “Or if you just feel like visiting.”

“We will.” Shelley waved and smiled as Alicia and Rita turned and walked away. “See you guys later.” She favored Stephen with raised eyebrows. He knew she’d have a lot to say about Alicia Schilling once they were back inside the house. They had made it almost to their door when Alicia’s quiet, grating voice floated back at them from a ways up the street.

“Hey! Your house is a Wagner-Klein, isn’t it?” She was standing in front of her own house, her hand on one slim hip while Rita looked on with solemn eyes. “Most of the houses back here are theirs.”

Stephen answered. “Yeah, they drew it up, contracted it, everything. Even did some interior stuff. Carpet and what not.”

Alicia made her way back, stopping halfway between their homes. “Who designed it? The house I mean.”

“His name was Hari something. Hari Ka—na. . .Ka—ni. . .”

“Kaniyar.” Shelley finished for Stephen as he kept trying to pronounce their architect’s name.

Alicia made a sour face. “The Indian boy?”

Shelley’s voice was clipped. “Yeah, he was Indian.”

“We met with him three years ago when we thought about building a place over in Delhi. I didn’t like him, he was strange.” Alicia inclined her head towards Stephen and Shelley’s house. “That explains all the weird little designs along the top of your back porch.

There was a twitch at the corner of Stephen’s mouth. When had she been in the back yard?  He felt Shelley’s elbow dig back into his gut and she called back in a bright, false voice.

“Yeah, well. We’ve gotta get back in there. Seeya!”

Alicia looked at them a moment longer, unsure, and then her face rearranged itself into a similarly false smile. She waved and headed back to her own house without another word.

Shelley leaned back against Stephen, her head resting on his chest. “Jesus, Steve.”

He nodded, squeezing her arm. “I know, come on, let’s get inside.” They slipped quietly into the silence of their new house and the sun, without anyone outside to watch it, decided to give up the ghost and set.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

Stephen dragged himself up the carpeted stairs, a heavy box marked, “misc” hugged to his chest. He was out of breath and sweating. He stopped at the top and set the box on the second floor landing. The set of pull down steps that led to the attic hung open in the middle of the hallway. He could hear the scraping of boxes being shoved around on the hardwood floor up there and then Shelley’s voice floated down to him.

“You alright?”

“Yes.”  He leaned against the banister. “I’ll be there in a sec. This box is just heavy.”

She laughed. “I got your records up here on my own. Don’t talk about heavy. I’m a teeny-tiny girl.”

“Yeah, a teeny-tiny girl with a black girl’s name. Probably makes you tougher.”

A moment later Shelley’s face peeked down at him from the trap door. “Oh my God! What was that all about?”

Stephen shrugged. “I don’t know. The brochure didn’t say anything about casual racists.” With a grunt he hefted his box and headed up into the attic.

The room was large with heavy beams crisscrossed below the angled ceiling. A small triangular window looked out the back and over the top of the covered porch. The whole space smelled of freshly oiled wood. A few large boxes had been stacked along the wall while still more were scattered throughout the middle. Shelley knelt beside an open box marked, “books,” idly flipping through its contents.

“Seriously, that was awful. She doesn’t even know us and she’s comfortable talking to us like that?” She looked up at Stephen. “Think about what she must be like when she’s with her like-minded, WASP’y book club or whatever it is she has.”

“Yeah.” Stephen set his box down and slid it across the floor to the wall. He turned and sat down on it. “It seemed like there might be something with her and the husband too.”

“Of course there was. They can’t be a stereotypical suburban family in a stereotypical, cookie-cutter suburban neighborhood like this without an impending divorce. Question is, which one of them is having the affair?”

Stephen made a face. “Hey! We live in this cookie-cutter neighborhood now. Should I start worrying?”

Shelley pushed the box of books against the wall and moved over to him on her knees. She wrapped her arms around his waist and looked into his eyes, smiling. “No. Because we’re better people than they are.” She laughed,  delicious sound, and kissed him deeply. She sat back on her haunches, her cheeks flushed. “Don’t you agree?”

“Yeah, definitely we’re better. Obviously. I liked the kid though. She seemed sweet.”

Shelley nodded as she began pulling her sweaty T-shirt over her head. She dropped it to the floor and reached behind her back. “Yes, she was very nice.” She stripped away her bra, revealing plump breasts capped with hard, pink nipples. “But enough about the neighbors. I suddenly feel like christening the house.” She moved back into Stephen’s lap, her hands twining behind his neck. Stephen slid his fingers down along her bare back, sighing.

“We christened it the night we got the keys. Remember?”

Shelley undid his belt and nodded, licking her lips. “Yep, but not the attic.”

Stephen leaned back and let her unsnap his jeans and pull his zipper down. “You’re right. I forgot. Please proceed.” He hoisted himself up long enough to slide his pants down and then knelt on the floor beside her. He began kissing her neck, his warm lips and tongue exploring the hollow of her throat. He felt her hand slip up along his thigh and he moaned softly. “Oh yeah, that’s it hon, keep going. Keep doing. . .” His voice trailed off as he looked over her shoulder. His eyes widened with shock and his stiffening cock went limp in his wife’s hand. She looked at him, alarmed and spun around to see what had upset him. A startled gasp escaped her as she followed his gaze.

They were both gawking at the set of steps at the back of the room. At the top of the steps was a door, hanging slightly ajar.

“Stephen?” Shelley’s voice trembled and she covered her naked breasts with her left arm.

“I see it too, Shell, I see it too.”

Neither the steps, nor the door had been a part of the room thirty seconds before. They had just suddenly appeared, as if from nothing.

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©2013 by R.k.Kombrinck.

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R.k.Kombrinck is a writer and artist who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and two sons.  He is a founding cast-member of the popular horror podcast “Night of the Living Podcast.”  He enjoys iced-tea (unsweet) and genuinely believes in Sasquatch.

You can find his work online HERE

Mr. Flyspeck (a flash piece)

(This is the flash story that I won the Pseudopod Flash Contest III with. 500 words to woo a group of hardened horror readers and get their votes. Hope you like it as well as they did. Sometime in late fall/early winter, maybe the first of the year, this will appear as an audio podcast at Hephoto by Jixarad over there to check out a ton of great horror shorts and flashes read by their talented voice performers)


Mr. Flyspeck

by R.k.Kombrinck

Celia stood in the foyer, looking up the staircase. Her grandfather’s house was quiet. Empty. Sunlight spilled through tall windows, and shadows couldn’t find a foothold. It was bright and familiar but she didn’t want to be there. Not alone.

“Hello?” She felt stupid calling out. Grandpa’s nursing home needed his insurance papers. It would only take a few minutes to find them. They were in his room somewhere, in a box. There was no reason to think about anything unpleasant. But she did. She thought of the attic. The creaky wooden stairs that dropped out of the ceiling. The huge, wooden wraparound desk  against the wall. The bitter taste of pills on her tongue. The ambulance ride.

She thought of Mr. Flyspeck.

She’d been six years old, exploring the attic, looking for old toys. She’d heard a voice and looked up. She hadn’t been afraid, only curious and surprised. Something was sitting on the desk. It looked like a rat, or mouse. Three feet tall with orange fur and wild eyes. She remembered how it smiled at her. How it spoke.

He called himself Mr. Flyspeck. They talked about her mommy and her brothers, her grandma and grandpa. He said he lived inside the walls and could walk through closed doors. He liked to watch her sleep and take her baths. Then he told her about the pills on Grandma’s nightstand downstairs. If she ate them all, she’d be able to walk through walls and doors, like him. She thanked him for such a wonderful idea and headed to her grandparents’ room. She’d gobbled half the bottle before her brother walked in and caught her. She didn’t remember the emergency room or having her stomach pumped, but she did remember her mother’s tears shining red and blue in the spinning ambulance lights.

Grownup Celia pushed away the murky images. She stepped into Grandpa’s room and opened his closet. There were boxes sitting in the shadows. She sifted through them, not finding the papers she needed. She looked up, frustrated, and saw a large, fireproof case huddled in the back corner. She crawled over and pulled it towards her. She lifted the lid and screamed, jumping backwards, colliding with the wall. Lying in the case, smiling up at her, was Mr. Flyspeck.

When she’d caught her breath, Celia leaned forward and gingerly lifted the lid again. There he was, not moving or speaking. With a sudden bloom of understanding, she could see what her childhood self had not.  Mr. Flyspeck was a puppet. Her mind reeled. *Why was this in her grandfather’s closet?* She studied its rodent face. It reminded her of Grandpa.   A thought blossomed within her. An *awful* thought. Suddenly its familiar smile filled her with a terrified rage. She started shaking it violently, screaming.

“Talk to me, damn you! Be alive! You’re not a puppet! You’re not him! You were never him!” But Mr. Flyspeck said nothing and after awhile, Celia began to cry.

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©2013 by R.k.Kombrinck.

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R.k.Kombrinck is a writer and artist who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and two sons.  He is a founding cast-member of the popular horror podcast “Night of the Living Podcast.”  He enjoys iced-tea (unsweet) and genuinely believes in Sasquatch.

You can find his work online HERE


Who decides what horror is?

I just got back from the most recent “Horrorhound Weekend” horror cryptkeeperconvention in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, where many castmembers from AMC’s “The Walking Dead” were in attendance. Because that show is very popular, even amongst people who don’t typically consider themselves “horror fans” the convention had a lot more “mainstream” (read: normies) visitors than ever before. Because of this, many of the fans who’ve been coming for years and are a part of the horror community felt like their sanctum had been infiltrated. This caused somewhat of a backlash against the “Walking Dead” cast within the comment threads of many a Facebook group and it led to a lot of comments about how, “The Walking Dead isn’t even real horror,” and “real horror fans” don’t like it.

Stop right there.

Let me dust my shoulders off.

First off, yeah it is. It absolutely is horror. The definition of “horror” is:

  1. An intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust.
  2. A thing causing such a feeling.

And I would say that the events portrayed on that show meet those requirements. After all, if George A. Romero’s “Dead” series is horror, why wouldn’t this be? Because a lot of the stories deal with the human drama that occurs within an apocalypse scenario that involves zombies as much as the zombies themselves? Give me a fucking break. The original “Dawn of the Dead” had so much downtime with the characters goofing around the mall, sleeping, talking, blah blah blah, that the same could easily be said for it. In fact, good ol’ George has said endlessly that it’s the human story within the zombie framework that he’s really interested in. Those are the stories he wants to tell. Someone even said, “Well, it’s not horror, it’s sci fi/fantasy…” Shut up. Why are we splitting hairs? It’s so fucking silly that it hardly bears thinking about. But I am thinking about it because I don’t like being told what things are by people who aren’t the definition police, which brings me to my next point.

Don’t tell me what is and is not horror, and don’t tell me I’m not a “real” fan if I like certain things.

I’ve been in love with this genre for nearly my whole life. Thirty years, since I was six years old. I’ve seen countless movies, read novel after novel, collected the comics, written in the genre myself, done horror themed artwork and have wallowed in every aspect of it ad nauseum. I’m on a weekly show where I discuss this shit with my other horror-nerd friends. I know what I’m talking about. I AM a fan of “The Walking Dead” both the comic and the series. I find it frightening, dramatic, well written, well acted and as good as anything else. So to the definition police, write me a ticket for, “Not being a true fan of horror.” Then go fuck yourself. People can like what they like. Just because you (again, I’m speaking to the people who feel they speak for the genre and its community here) don’t like it and think that only slashers, or only French revisionist horror, or only atmospheric supernatural fare, or only exploitation/grindhouse is the “real deal” don’t make it so. I hate “Twilight.” Hell, most of us do, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who are horror fans who also, inexplicably, enjoy it. You can’t tell them they’re not real fans and, as much as I hate to say it, you can’t say it’s not horror. It’s very light, admittedly, but vampires and werewolves equal horror. They just do. Get over it, get over yourself. Same goes for “The Walking Dead” or anything else that has the elements that we think of as horror. Things can be more than that, they can be sci-fi/fantasy or urban gothic or Southern fried nightmare but so long as they’ve got a monster, or a ghost, a zombie or a serial killer hacking people up in disturbing ways…it counts.

I just wish I understood where those people get off telling others what is and isn’t horror. What qualifies them? If you’re one of these people, tell me, what makes you more qualified than me to decide? I’m not saying you have to like the show. I’m not saying you shouldn’t express the opinion that you think it’s shit, or overwrought, or a soap opera or whatever it is you don’t like about it. I think you SHOULD express those opinions, but don’t try to say that it’s not horror. Or that anything else isn’t. Things are what they are. You don’t have to like it. I hate those stupid “Hatchet” movies (I do like director Adam Green though…”Frozen” was great) but I would never say that people weren’t real fans for liking them even though there aren’t any supernatural elements in it.

All I’m saying is, quit trying to tell me what is and is not horror. Have I driven this home yet?

From Next Door (flash piece)

 From Next Door

from next doorby R.k.Kombrinck

Lynn woke to Pepper’s tongue on her face. The dog needed out. With a groan, she sat up, glancing at the clock on the stand; 2:45 a.m. Beside her, Abbie pretended to sleep, ignoring the situation. The dog never bothered her. It was frustrating.

“Okay, okay, I’m coming.” Lynn stood and followed Pepper out into the house. She didn’t need any lights, she’d made this trip a thousand times. She opened the back door and watched the dog run out into the moonlight. A breeze blew in and she shivered, willing Pepper to hurry.

Instead, the dog stood in the middle of the yard, facing the neighbor’s house. She laid her ears back and growled, deep in her throat. Lynn leaned out to see what had her riled up.

Standing at the fence between their houses was a shadowy figure. A short, female shape in a housecoat that Lynn recognized. It was Mrs. Rafkin, from next door. Except it wasn’t. Couldn’t be. Mrs. Rafkin had passed away three weeks earlier. Lynn and Abbie had gone to the service, bringing a small but lovely bouquet for the family.

Lynn squinted. She rubbed her eyes. The figure remained. She couldn’t see Mrs. Rafkin’s face but her shape was unmistakable. She’d hung laundry on a line out there every day, chatting with the girls as they tinkered in their flower garden or played with Pepper.

Don’t be stupid. She chided herself. It’s just a weird shadow, or a bush. Except there were no bushes along the fence and nothing she could think of that would cast such an odd shadow. It could only be a person, but obviously not the deceased Mrs. Rafkin. She considered calling out, then thought better of it. She whispered hoarsely out the door.

“Pepper, come on.” The dog whined and trotted back inside. Lynn lingered a moment longer, straining to see the details of the person’s face. As she watched, the figure raised its hand and waved to her, very slowly. A chill slid down her naked back and her heartbeat quickened. She slammed the door and took a step back. She was breathing heavy. She locked up and hurried back to the bedroom, shutting the door behind her. She climbed into bed and scootched as close to Abbie as she could.

Abbie raised her head. “You’re freezing.”

“Did Mrs. Rafkin have a sister? A twin maybe?”

“What?” Abbie flipped around to face Lynn. “Why?”

Suddenly, Pepper whined, scratching to be let in. Lynn whimpered. “Can you please let her in?”

Abbie sighed, throwing the covers aside. “You’re being weird.” She stood, walking around the corner of the bed and then stopped abruptly. “Oh never mind. She’s right. . .” She looked up at the door, where the scratching continued from the other side. “. . . here.” She looked to Lynn. “Why did you ask about Mrs. Rafkin?”

Then a low, gravelly voice called from outside the door. “Girrrrrrls. . .” The knob turned and the door opened.

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©2013 by R.k.Kombrinck.

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R.k.Kombrinck is a writer and artist who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and two sons.  He is a founding cast-member of the popular horror podcast “Night of the Living Podcast.”  He enjoys iced-tea (unsweet) and genuinely believes in Sasquatch.

You can find his work online HERE

R.I.P. Richard Matheson

R.I.P. Richard Matheson

by R.k.KombrinckRichard Matheson

Without Richard Matheson, there would be no “There’s a creature out on the wing of the plane!” Without Richard Matheson, there would be no X-Files. Without Richard Matheson there would be no Night of the Living Dead and that means there might not be this entire zombie apocalypse culture that we enjoy as horror fans today.

“I Am Legend,” is a simple idea with a nifty twist. If you’ve never read it, I’m kind of spoiling it here (and please do not judge it based on its film adaptations—“The Last Man on Earth” is the best of them but “Omega Man” and Will Smith’s “I Am Legend” stray far from the source). Go out and get it. It’s the tale of a world overrun with the undead—not flesh eating zombies but rather, vampires. The vampires are not the gothic, Dracula types that had come before, they were your friends and neighbors. They’d lost a lot of what made them who they’d been and were sort of sluggish and dumb. Matheson took the idea that, the way vampires multiply, they could eventually overtake the world. He goes on to wonder, what if you were a lone survivor, maybe THE lone survivor, of this scenario. How would you spend your days and your terrifying nights? How would you avoid the creatures that surrounded you? It was the first really modern look at vampires and updated the creatures accordingly, blending science with folklore. There was still the sexual undertones, the females positioning their bodies outside Neville’s door to try and lure him out…Neville, getting an erotic thrill from dispatching the female monsters…it retained much of the classic trappings; garlic, crosses, daylight—and turned them on their heads. He followed the idea to its only logical conclusion, not forcing the narrative to go somewhere convenient, and we are the beneficiaries of this nightmare. This is the book that inspired George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead,” (he says himself that he basically “ripped it off,” though that’s a stretch, he certainly took it in his own direction). He turned the vampires into thoughtless, flesh eating corpses, risen from the grave to hunt the living and overrun the world and with that film and concept a much bigger landscape of horror was born. Now, zombies are part of or pop culture consciousness and everyone knows what that apocalypse will look like. It’s a scary book with a great ending, I highly, highly recommend it.

Richard Matheson is as responsible for that, if not more, than Romero.

Of course, he gave us a lot more than “I Am Legend.” He penned, “The Shrinking Man,” “Hell House,” “A Stir of Echoes,” and “What Dreams May Come,” all of which have been adapted to film. He wrote a ton of “Twilight Zone,” episodes, he wrote for “Star Trek,” and he wrote the story that became Steven Spielberg’s first major gig, “Duel.” He also wrote the teleplay to the original, “Night Stalker” TV movie, which returned to vampire territory—this time playing the vampire as a sort of serial killer—and introduced us to the great, rumpled reporter, Carl Kolchak. A TV series was born out of that TV movie, “Kolchak: The Night Stalker,” in which Darren McGavin’s Kolchak wound up on the trail of a different monster each week. “X-Files,” creator, Chris Carter has stated this as the inspiration for his own “monster of the week,” show. There was a lot of other TV writing as well as novels, short stories and nonfiction too. He kept writing up through 2012, still going strong.

Richard Matheson died today at the age of 87. According to his daughter, he was surrounded by loved ones. We lost one of the great ones. He will be missed.

New listeners, wondering what’s up? Stop here for a sec.

Hey guys, thanks for stopping by. If you’re new (which seeing how the title of this post is directed at new listeners, I’m assuming you are) then let me first give you a high-five for making the right choice. *high fives* And now, I’ll break down the show a little bit for you, so you know what you’re in for. How's my makeup?

Night of the Living Podcast (the NOTLP) is a weekly show where we, the crew (Amy, Andy, Chiz, Erica, Freddy and Kelley) discuss various horror themed shit. Three shows a month are dedicated strictly to movies and each of these episodes consists of two segments. “Straight to Video Russian Roulette” is where a random crew member is assigned a film that was released direct to DVD or streaming (maybe it had a VERY limited run at conventions or festivals) and they let you know if it sucked or was good. The “Main Attraction” is where we talk about a movie that we all watched and we dissect it and give it a good once over. We don’t overshine it but it gets a good polish. We’re not journalists or actual critics, we just know what the fuck we do and don’t like (sometimes).

Then, once a month is our “Listener Feedback/Miscellaneous Debris” episode. In this episode we read your emails, play your voicemails (we love hearing your melodious voices) and we do a bit of genre news. This is also the episode where we do whatever else we want. There’s a segment called, “The Book Coroner” where we autopsy some horror lit, and there’s “Andy’s Porner” where Andy breaks down some horror themed porn for you to let you know if its worth a jerk/diddle. Anything else we feel like talking about, video games, comics, etc. gets thrown in here. If you’d like to check out a sample of what kinds of things to expect, you can download our “First-Timer-Primer” right HERE.

And that’s about it. Feel free to browse through all of our old eps if you like what you hear. They go back to episode 75. For episodes 1-74 you can obtain an archive DVD for a donation of $10. Thanks and have a good time!

Haunted Tour of Cincinnati

I’m into freaky paranormal stuff. –

If you’ve listened to Episode 343, you know that recently Freddy and I went on a ghost tour in Cincinnati. And you know that we have vastly different approaches to ghost stuff – I believe and he’s a total skeptic. We’re a regular buddy cop show on Fox.

Our tour guide was Dan Smith of Haunted Cincinnati Tours. Dan has also written two ghostly guides – Ghosts of Bobby Mackey’s Music World and Ghosts of Cincinnati: The Dark Side of the Queen City. Dan was a great storyteller, prepping us as we drove to each new location.

Our tour began at the Taft Museum of Art in Downtown Cincinnati. There have been sightings of a woman in pink said to be Annie Taft, William Howard Taft’s sister-in-law. Not much happened at this location. We wandered around outside the gates and stared at the building and lawn. So is it haunted? No ghosts waved at me from the windows, so I have to say no for now.

Taft Museum
Pretty. No ghosts 😦


We headed to Eden Park next. This drive had my favorite story. George Remus was a Prohibition bootlegger and Imogene was his loyal wife…until she wasn’t. George asked her to get “close” to a prohibition agent after he was sent to jail, which she did. Real close. Imogene and the agent ran off together with George’s money. Later, after George was released, he got his revenge by shooting Imogene to death in public, after a car chase, at Eden Park. He was acquitted by reason of insanity. And now park visitors claim they see a woman in black haunting the area around the gazebo…Imogene. I took a ton of pictures at this location and one turned out interestingly. But after some googling, I’m thinking what I see to the right in the picture below  was a sign’s reflection. Or it’s a ghost. It’s way more fun to go with the supernatural explanation though.

Eden Park
Mysterious figure to the right? Or a sign’s reflection? Or Tweedle Dee out for a night stroll?
Where Imogene Died
This is where Imogene was shot to death by her husband, George.











Next up was an abandoned school in Walnut Hills. According to Dan, the school was home to a ghost named Walt. I like guys named Walt generally – Walt Disney, Walt from Lost, Walt Whitman. But Dan warned us that this Walt had a filthy mouth. When we got to the school, we broke out the Spirit Box in the gym. Most questions we asked of Walt were answered with “leave” or “bishop” or “bye.” I guess Walt sensed there were ladies present and kept the sailor mouth to a minimum. The school didn’t yield any concrete evidence either – unless you buy into the spirit box. I think it sounds like a neat idea, but live, in person, it just didn’t seem like anything to me.

Where Walt, the sassiest ghost, lives.
Where Walt, the sassiest ghost, lives.


Our next stop was Music Hall, which was actually built on top of an old Potters Field. There are thousands of bodies under the building – with no way to determine who they were. There wasn’t much ghostly activity that night, so there really isn’t much to report. We wandered around outside the entrance, never going inside, getting strange looks from the old white people leaving the symphony.

And finally, we made it to our last stop, the one that had me very nervous and excited – Bobby Mackey’s. If you have watched any ghost hunting or ghost documentary type shows ever, you’ve probably heard of Bobby Mackey’s, the haunted nightclub in Wilder, KY. Dan’s story during the drive, of accidentally allowing a demonic presence of some sort into his life after a visit, was creepy as shit. We were warned to not taunt anything or engage with it or believe anything it said or showed us. If we did, we could potentially invite evil into our lives. It sounds real dumb as a I type, but it was super effective in the moment. We entered the basement of the honky tonk – we never actually saw the bar area – but that night it was hopping and it felt like the rickety building might collapse in on itself. We saw the gate to hell, the wall of faces, the dressing rooms near where Johanna committed suicide…all of the hot spots. I can’t say I found any evidence or felt anything paranormal, but the history of the place – real or not – is enough to get the imagination going. And I don’t think I brought anything evil home, although I did find a ton of bird shit on my car today and maybe that’s a sign from a demonic presence…inhabiting a very sick bird.


Bobby Mackey's
I felt chills here. It was the douche chills when I remembered that the Ghost Adventures crew had been here.
Dressing Room
A dressing room “backstage” at Bobby Mackey’s. Very creepy after hearing the story of Johanna’s suicide.
The Gateway to Hell at Bobby Mackey's. A hole in the floor, basically.
The Gateway to Hell at Bobby Mackey’s. A hole in the floor, basically.











So we didn’t find any conclusive evidence on our tour. I wasn’t really expecting to. I did learn a ton about the Greater Cincinnati area and it’s ghosts. Every city has them, but I’m partial to ours. They like to haunt interesting and beautiful places. That’s smart of Cincy’s ghosts. Hanging out at a mobile home park or mall for eternity doesn’t sound like fun.

The Smiler: Prologue

This is the seven page prologue to a webcomic I was planning on putting out back in 2010-2011. I may eventually revisit it, but doing the writing, penciling, digital cleanup and coloring all by myself at this level of detail was overwhelming and it got scrapped. It’s kinda cool though. Some of you may have seen these before. Some not. Hope you think it’s cool.

thesmiler cover









The Smiler Group Pinup

Introducing Kids to Having Fun with Horror

I don’t have children, but if I did, I’d give them to Jason “Fozzie” Nelson to raise as his own because that shit looks like a hassle. Who is Jason “Fozzie” Nelson, you ask? He’s a personal friend of mine and one of’s new writers. You can read something that he wrote for a grown up audience here. Fozzie isn’t all scary tram monsters, though. In fact, he is a big cuddly guy who can make his friends feel like the most important people in the world. When we told Fozzie that two of our podcasters (Mike and Erica Chiseck) were expecting their first child, he responded by writing a book. Anyone who knows the Chisecks knows that their child will be introduced to wild fantasy stories early in her life. The idea of the book was to help Mike and Erica explain to their little girl that the monsters and villains in these stories are only make believe. The book doesn’t encourage something as irresponsible as screening The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for your two-year old. Think more vampires, ghosts, and goblins. Andy Kahl’s unique illustrations reminded me of Eric Carle’s children’s classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Fozzie has titled the book Big Scary Make Believe Land and it’s now available for your Kindle on Amazon.

* * * * *

Freddy Morris is a founding member and co-producer (with wife Amy Morris) of Night of the Living Podcast. He has written for his high school and college newspapers, HorrorHound Magazine, and from time to time, writes lewd graffiti on bathroom stall doors and angry letters to the editor at Cat Fancy. Freddy also hosts and produces the film history and appreciation podcast, FilmMad Society. He lives in a tiny house in Cincinnati, Ohio.

#HeyNOTLP Presents: Back To School, Horror Style


Once a month, we (or YOU) ask the blogging staff here at NOTLP a survey question. This being September, time of 5-Star Notebook sales at Staples and increased vodka consumption in faculty lounges, we have no choice but to wonder:

What’s your favorite horror film for back-to-school season?

back to school

Emily Intravia

Between the dilemma of what to wear and fear of strict teacher assignments, the first day of school was always a source of stress growing up, but I can now comfort myself knowing that things could  have been worse. As a graduate of the class of 2000, I never had to deal with all the horrors that apparently came just one year before: gang  warfare, corporal punishment, murderous robots, and Stacy Keach’s  mullet. I’m speaking, of course, about Mark L. Lester’s pseudo sequel to his gritty and fabulous Class of 1984, the then-futuristic Class of 1999. I may have had nightmares about physics tests and cursed my marching band uniform, but when I think of what could have been my fate–Pam Grier as an evil cyborg chemistry teacher, constant rape-threat, being spanked in front of my peers–I’ll make sure to really live it up at my next reunion.

class of 1999

Kelley Kombrinck

Mine is John Carpenter’s Halloween. Quite a bit of it takes place at the girls’ school. There’s all that great autumnal imagery. Blowing leaves. Early dusk. Sweaters. It just always reminds me that, “back to school” time is also, “try not to get murdered” time.

halloween girls

Robert Best

Fall is my favorite time of year, so It’s hard to beat Halloween for atmosphere and overall greatness. I think that Trick R Treat also deserves to become a fall classic.

trick r treat


This might be the toughest question yet, as I can easily answer with a large number of movies, most of which would fall under the Slasher category. With that said, my decision came down to the film I believe best conveys high school/teen angst, which left me with two films: Ginger Snaps and 1986’s Trick or Treat. Now, seeing as I was a “headbanger” who grew up in the ‘80s who never felt the joys of menstruation, my final choice had to be the film I could best relate to, so Trick or Treat it is.

trick r treat

What makes Trick or Treat such a great high school horror movie is the way it captures the heartache that some teenagers face in high school. In this instance, Eddie “Ragman” Weinbauer is the lone metalhead in his school, which results in him being the target of constant bullying and rejection from girls. Eddie’s a loner, whose only solace can be found in the one place where he is not judged for being different; a place where he can be surrounded by those who appreciate him for who he is. And that place is his poster covered bedroom where escape comes at the needle point of a record player.


While I was an outsider type in my youthful years, I was lucky enough to not have had to deal with the shit that Eddie has to deal with in Trick or Treat because, well, I was basically awesome. However, as amazing as I was, I was certainly an angsty teenager who thought that any little thing such as a girl not liking me (WHORE!), or my favorite band breaking up was going to result in the world erupting into flames. And the best way for me to deal with ridiculous thoughts was to emotionally rock out to some pajama jammy-jams in my poster covered bedroom, just like Eddie.


Trick or Treat seems to understand what it’s like being a teenage metalhead in the 1980s as well as any film ever has. However, this understanding transcends its time period and musical genre, as anyone who has ever felt rejected for being different can and will relate to what Eddie goes through in Trick or Treat.

t or t

Freddy Morris

Back to school was always an exciting but stressful time for me. No film really captured the uncertainty of what lay ahead each September more than Tobe Hooper’s 1986 remake of Invaders From Mars. I was about the same age as the film’s hero when I saw it. The idea that David’s neighbors, teachers and even his parents were being controlled by aliens made me feel hopeless and alone. The film’s bleak ending fed many of my childhood nightmares. School was often a familiar place, but sometimes it could be as strange and hostile place. Invaders really expressed this sensation well.

invaders from mars

Got picks of your own? Share  them in our comments section, and don’t forget to ask us YOUR questions via Twitter with the hashtag #heyNOTLP

Short Story: “See Ellie Learn”

 See Ellie Learn

Robert R Best

"See Ellie Learn" by Robert R. Best


Ellie shook excess water from her hands as she stepped back from the sink. The kitchen of her student apartment was small, but got the job done. Ellie was 19 and scared to be alone in the big world of college. But her parents had insisted it was time for her to get out of the house and learn.

She wasn’t completely alone, she reasoned. She had a few friends. She had Trina, her roommate. Things were looking up. She enjoyed learning.

A slight moan came down the hall. Followed by a tiny ripping sound. That bothered Ellie a bit, but not enough to hurry.

Her eye fell on the phone hanging from the wall. A small answering machine sat on a stool beneath it, the wires wound around the legs of the stool. The machine was Trina’s, provided by Trina’s mother, but both girls used it.

A red light flashed in the corner of the machine. Ellie frowned, considering ignoring it. She’d broken several of her parents’ answering machines while growing up. She didn’t want to upset her roommate. She stared a moment longer, then walked briskly over to the stool.

Continue reading “Short Story: “See Ellie Learn””

I Remember Coffee (a flash piece)

  I Remembcoffeeer Coffee

by R.k.Kombrinck

I remember coffee.

I used to need two cups every morning, just to wake up. Now, I hardly sleep. They’re always banging on the walls, the doors, the boards nailed over the windows. If the noise doesn’t keep you awake, the smell will. You’d think after awhile you’d get used to it. You don’t. It just gets worse. Stronger. You’ve smelled rotten meat before. Just imagine being buried under it 24 hours a day for seven months.

We used to leave sometimes, to scrounge for food and supplies. But it wasn’t long before there were too many of them shambling around out there, grabbing at you. Biting. We lost nine people, including Carrie, before we realized it was too dangerous to leave.

God! I would give anything for a cup of that shitty instant coffee she used to make. I thought it tasted like garbage. Now that I’ve eaten actual garbage . . . and rat and. . .well, never mind. Let’s just say I miss my morning coffee. I’d give about anything for one more cup. One more sip.

Sounds like Michael and Brad just took Lindsay in the other room. I won’t tell you what goes on in there. After a month or two, boredom makes people dangerous and strange. She hasn’t fought back or cried in a long time. Not since Del, Mike B. and Clutch died. And by, “died” I mean, were killed. By the rest of us. Now she only has to deal with two guys taking her in the room, and we have enough spoiling meat to last us a while longer.

Carrie thought this thing would blow over. She was an optimist. In the mornings, before this all started she’d say, “Wake up, it’s gonna be a beautiful day,” even when it wasn’t. I was always such a grump before I’d had my coffee. She held on to her hope till the moment they tore her guts out in the alley behind the grocery store. I tried to go back and help her. Clutch dragged me back to our building. Saved my life. Just writing that sentence makes me want to laugh. When I think about the way things are out there and the way they are in here . . . not much difference anymore, really. I guess I’m actually glad that Carrie isn’t here to see this. I miss her though. I wish it would’ve been me. In this world that’s a very selfish thought to have.

Well, if anyone finds this letter, I hope it means that the living survived the hungry dead. Maybe you’re reading this over a cup of coffee. I doubt it. Carrie was the optimist, not me. I’m going to go downstairs, while the others are busy, and pry the boards and nails away from the door and open it. If somebody’s going to eat me, I think I’d rather it be the monsters outside rather than the ones  in here with me.

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©2013 by R.k.Kombrinck.

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R.k.Kombrinck is a writer and artist who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and two sons.  He is a founding cast-member of the popular horror podcast “Night of the Living Podcast.”  He enjoys iced-tea (unsweet) and genuinely believes in Sasquatch.

You can find his work online HERE




NOTLP & Friends do a little ghost huntin’

Ash Cave during the day. When things are a 1000% less spooky.
Ash Cave during the day. When things are a 1000% less spooky.

We recently had the pleasure of experiencing one of the world’s most spectacular places – Ash Cave at Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio – at night. It was truly one of the spookiest experiences I have ever had. Did I see a ghost? No, but I believe I heard one. Did my friend Kelley speak with the dead Native American Chieftains buried there? Maybe, the dowsing rods were a little confusing. Did we get to play with a Geiger counter? Fuck yeah. Did we generally freak ourselves out? You betcha.

We met the park’s naturalist, Pat Quackenbush, at the entrance at sunset. He set the scene for us with a couple of ghost stories from the area. And then we were lead down the trail that leads to the cave…in the near absolute dark…with no lights…as Pat continued with the ghost stories sprinkled with facts about the area. I stayed in the back of the line of people with Kelley as we walked along. We had both read the story in Pat and his wife Jannette’s book, Haunted Hocking, of a woman in white who is rumored to peek out from the trees lining the path, scaring the crap out of stragglers. So Kelley was intentionally straggling, and I was just stupidly along for the ride.

How stupid? Find out by clicking here

Look Back in Horror: There is No Escape!

The-Boogens-PosterDon’t worry; this column isn’t going to be about introspective navel-gazing. Okay, maybe a little. But humor me and I’ll humor you. Mainly, we’re going to look at where modern me developed an obsession with things that go bump in the night.

It was January of 1977 and folks in the Hoosier state were stranded indoors because of the blizzard raging outside. On the 22nd, at 5:06pm, I came kicking and screaming into this world and I haven’t shut up since. I’m now 36 and like most people wonder how I get here. Here being all the pieces of the puzzle that make me who I am.

Since discovering NOTLP, I’ve thought of the crew as kindred spirits. They grew up in the Midwest too, just a little over an hour from where I did. I’ve always just assumed that our childhood was shaped by some of the same touchstones and experiences. Continue reading “Look Back in Horror: There is No Escape!”

#HeyNOTLP Presents: Our Favorite Movie Theater Moment


Every month, we (or YOU) ask the blogging staff here at NOTLP a survey question. Since the weather outside is frightful, we’re taking our seats in a nice air conditioned movie theater for this:


What is your favorite cinematic experience?


Emily Intravia

It’s hard to believe that I never saw an official Friday the 13th film  in the theater until Jason started Shocker-ing small towners. Since my  memories of Jason Goes To Hell: The (Not At All) Final Friday are hazily clouded with images of question marks regarding Mr. Voorhees’ newfound  psychic powers and extended family, I’ll have to go with 2003’s opening  night festivities for Freddy vs. Jason. I wasn’t drunk, but it was clear that a good 75% of the rest of the sold-out Long Island audience had  most certainly enjoyed the kind of campfire festivities that would  render them easy pickings at Camp Crystal Lake (this was confirmed  halfway through the movie when half a bottle of Jack Daniels rolled down the angled floor and hit my foot). I’ll never argue that Ronny Yu’s mash-up is a GOOD movie per say, but unlike say, A Nightmare On Elm St. 5, Freddy vs. Jason was affectionately made to please its franchises’ fans. When you add a packed house of Friday night ticketbuyers, what you get is pure joy: screams of fear, hoots for gratuitous nudity, aww yeahs for drug use, boo yahs (seriously) for the death of Kelly Rowland. Had that same audience surrounded me for a viewing of Breaking the Waves or Hamlet, I would’ve been furious. But amid the bad pot jokes onscreen, the strained puns juicily delivered by Robert Englund, and the consistently dumb decisions made by its characters, Freddy vs. Jason got the exact crowd one needed to truly enjoy what it had to offer.


Freddy Morris

Before I started pursuing girls in earnest, my biggest thrill in life was going to see a scary movie without adult supervision. In 1993 I was 15 years old. I was working at a Wendy’s, and I was spending all of my meager pay on grunge albums and tickets to movies at the Super Saver Cinemas in Forest Fair Mall. My friend Matt (formerly of Night of the Living Podcast) was 13 and his parents had a strict rule: they followed the MPAA PG-13 guideline to the letter. When Matt turned 13, it was a big deal because now he could see PG-13 movies. My parents were more relaxed about this sort of thing. I was allowed to watch whatever I wanted my whole life, so when Matt’s mom began to cut the apron strings I was really excited to share the world of onscreen shocks and gore with him. Matt’s mom was the best. She would drive us to the now mostly dead mall, and Matt and I would have hours to ourselves. We’d play Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat in the mall’s arcade and we’d buy cheap movie tickets. We would tell Matt’s mom that we were seeing movies like The Mighty Ducks or Home Alone 2, but we were really sneaking into Reservoir Dogs, Dr. Giggles, and Candyman. It was this last one, Candyman, that really had an impact. This one was intense. We were in a mostly empty theater. As the tension would build onscreen, I could sense that Matt wasn’t moving. When I looked at him, he was staring at the screen, glassy eyed. Petrified. He was pushing himself into his seat as if he could push hard enough to push his way out of the theater entirely. I feel like I witnessed a rite of passage for Matt that day. That night we stayed up torturing each other by saying “Candyman” in the mirror. In the film, if you say his name five times, he appears and guts you. Despite being a couple of smart boys on the verge of becoming men, neither of us had the balls to make it to five. Not then, not ever.


Mike Guendelsberger

Hands down, it was The Blair Witch Project. I realize that a lot of people hate this movie and find it completely unscary, but I thought it was brilliant. I missed the initial run of it, so when I saw it I was in one of those cheaper theaters with sticky floors and outdated, geometric patterned seats. There were only a handful of people in the theater. No one talked during the entire thing and when I walked out, I kept looking back over my shoulder. Even at dinner later on, I kept looking out the window, expecting something to scratch at the dark window beside me. I’d never experienced that before–that lingering feeling of dread and concern–and I don’t think I’ve experienced it since.

blair witch

Kelley Kombrinck

Mine is very sentimental. I’ve had a lot of good theater-going experiences with horror movies, no really REALLY bad ones, but the one that means the most to me was when my father, who was laid off at the time, took me to see Godzilla 1985, when I was 8 years old. Godzilla was a big part of my young life. One could say I was obsessed. I would watch the Godzilla movies on WXIX on Saturday afternoons with my arms around my Godzilla and my Rodan toys as if they were stuffed animals. My dad enjoyed the big atomic lizard too and when Godzilla 1985 was released, he promised to take me. My mom hated (and still hates) those kinds of movies so it was just me and him. It was a stormy day and as we watched, thunder boomed outside and I could almost imagine it was the footsteps of Godzilla himself come to stomp the theater flat. We had the place to ourselves and it was a lot of fun watching the giant sea-louse at the beginning try to kill that guy on the boat…watching Godzilla’s fury tear through Tokyo again and even the tacked on Raymond Burr subplot that mirrored the original Godzilla. My dad did this with me frequently (the last movie I ever got to watch with my dad at the theater was Peter Jackson’s King Kong. Kind of ironic and it was also a great time), taking me to see Harry and the Hendersons, The Great Mouse Detective, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, et, al, but it was Godzilla 1985 that I remember the most clearly and with the most fondness. He really knew how to make this kid’s day.



I’ve had my fair share of memorable theatrical experiences with horror films throughout my life, with each one being special for their own specific reasons, but the one theater experience that has left me with the fondest of memories was watching Wes Craven’s Scream for the first time.

I recall seeing a number of TV spots for Wes Craven’s latest foray into horror, but despite being a big fan of much of his previous work, I was not at all impressed with what these TV spots were showing me. In fact, Scream was little more than an uninteresting droplet in the sea of horror, so I think it’s fair to say that my expectations were quite low.

Regardless, due to some divine intervention, I found myself sitting in a theater seat on opening night, and the film I had no interest in seeing opened with a sequence that, for the first time in many years, had me sitting on the edge of my seat. I was completely and totally engulfed by what was transpiring on screen as Casey Becker became the target of a sadistically clever murderer that the world would soon come to know as Ghostface.

The opening to Scream left me, and the rest of the audience alike, in a state of utter shock. What appeared onscreen in the opening moments could not have been expected by any audience member, and the fashion in which it all came together was nothing short of terrifying. I was left with a feeling that I hadn’t felt in many years with a horror film, and that was a feeling of uncertainty, a feeling of despair, and a feeling of fear. Most importantly, however, I was left with a feeling of happiness, because all of those collective emotions are what I hope to achieve whenever I sit back to watch a horror film.



Share your own beloved cinema moments in the comments below, and don’t forget to ask us your questions for future columns over at Twitter with the hashtag #HeyNOTLP.

Just remember to kindly turn your cell phone before the previews.


Short Story: “Giggles”


by Jeremy C. Shipp

Joan says that some people have skeletons in their closets, but she has a clown in her attic. I take this as some sort of weird metaphor until she leads me up into her attic and I see him. He has hair made of what looks like pink insulation. His face is covered with white spiderwebs, and he has black widows for eyes. His teeth are long rusty nails.

I smile. “Where did you get this thing?”

The statue, or what I thought was a statue, takes a step forward on wooden legs.

“I am not a thing,” the thing growls.

I know this is just one of Joan’s sick jokes, but I can’t help standing there, frozen with fear like an idiot.

Joan squeezes my hand. “It’d probably be best if you didn’t say anything. At least, not for a while. You need to learn the rules first.”

Her words pass through my head, and I try to grasp at them, but I don’t catch a single one.

“I know this is weird, honey,” she says. “But you need to try to stay calm. Giggles can smell fear, and he doesn’t like it.”

“It smells of feet,” the clown says, his voice like the creaking of a door.

Joan’s never gone to so much trouble to freak me out before. I feel sick to my stomach with dread, but even more than that, I feel flattered that Joan took the time to set up such an elaborate scene for me.

“You’ve outdone yourself,” I say. I try to laugh, but it comes out a croak. “Seriously, where did you get this thing? Don’t tell me you built it yourself.”

“I am not a thing!” the clown roars.

And a moment later, he’s standing right in front of me with his wooden fingers wrapped around my throat. The clown’s barely touching me, and I know this is just part of the hoax, but I feel like kicking this monstrosity and running downstairs. But of course I don’t. I don’t want to disappoint Joan.

Joan sighs. “Let him go, Giggles.”

The clown releases my throat and backs away.

“I was serious about you not talking for now, hon,” Joan says. “Giggles is virtually harmless in his current state, but his state could change if you keep insulting him. I probably should have explained all the rules to you before bringing you up here. I guess I didn’t think you would take me seriously until you saw him. Anyway, rule number one. Don’t insult Giggles. Rule number two. When we’re up here, there’s no talking politics or religion. We need to keep the conversation light and positive. Stress-free.  Rule number three. If all else fails, smash a pie in your face. Works like magic.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” I say.

Joan frowns. “I wouldn’t recommend cursing unless you’re doing it for comic effect. We don’t want to upset Giggles. If he loses control, the whole of civilization could be in danger.”

I smile. “This is fucked up, even for you.”

She sighs. “This isn’t a joke, Mark. I’m baring a part of me that I’ve never shown to anyone outside of my family. You could at least try to take me seriously. Can you try?”


The clown turns to Joan. “I tire of all this melodrama.”

Joan walks over to a cheap foldout table to my right. She sprays whipped cream into an aluminum pie pan, and then she smashes the prop pie in her face.

The clown chuckles.

“That should hold him for a while,” Joan says, wiping her face off with a towel. “I‘ve been standing in the shop all day. Giggles, you don’t mind if we sit on your couch for a while, do you?”

“Go ahead,” the clown creaks.

When I walk past the monster, he stares at me with his arms crossed over his chest. The sight of him makes me shudder. His proportions are strange, and I don’t see any conceivable way that this could be a man in a costume. He must be some kind of robot.

Joan leads me to the opposite end of the attic, where we sit on a hideous daisy-print couch. The couch faces a pyramid of televisions.

“Giggles watches a lot of TV, huh?” I say, smiling.

“In a manner of speaking,” Joan says. “But let’s forget about the televisions for now. We can discuss that later.” She takes my hands and looks me in the eyes. She looks like she’s about to cry.

“What’s wrong?” I say.

“I don’t know. I guess I’m afraid that once you learn my true purpose, you’ll get weirded out, or you’ll be disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of what I do, but it’s not normal. I know you’re not a judgmental person, but you are traditional in a lot of ways. I can give you a semi-regular life, but only semi. I can never go on vacations. I can’t even leave the house for more than five hours or so at a time. And if we have children, we’ll have to choose one of them to take my burden. That won’t be easy. None of it will be easy.”

Joan hardly ever cries, but right now, I watch her wipe away a tear.

Maybe this whole clown thing is more than an elaborate prank. Maybe in her own strange way, Joan is trying to open herself up to me.

I put my arm around her. “I hate to tell you this, Joanie. But the fact that you’re not normal comes as absolutely no surprise to me. You’re a weird lady, and I love that about you. So if you have something strange to tell me, just tell me. I’m a barrel of ears right now.”

My girlfriend smiles a little. After staring at the blank televisions for a while, she faces me and says, “I’m an entertainer. My calling in life is to entertain Giggles and keep him pacified. If he becomes too distraught, his consciousness could break free of the attic, and he could cause a lot of damage. Deep down, Giggles is a good person and he doesn’t want to wreak havoc on the world. But he has some self-control issues.”

“So…you’re saying you want to become an actor?”

Joan sighs. “This isn’t about what I want, Mark. This is about what I am. I’m an entertainer with a capital ‘e.’ I’m one of the protectors of the planet, just like parents and my grandparents and my great-grandparents. I know we’ve talked about the possibility of us getting married. You need to know that if that happens, you won’t just be married to an Entertainer, you’ll become one too. You’ll gain a divine calling, but you’ll lose things too. Things you’ll never get back.” She looks down at her hands on her lap. “Maybe I should have told you all this back when we first started dating. But…I guess I was being selfish. I didn’t think you’d give us a chance if you knew the truth. I’m sorry that I kept this from you.”

I don’t understand what the fuck Joan is talking about, but at this point, it doesn’t really matter. She seems sincerely worried about our relationship, and I don’t want her to worry.

I kiss her forehead.

“Is that all you wanted to tell me?” I say.

“Almost,” she says. “I’ll tell you the rest later. So you don’t hate me?”

I laugh. “I don’t hate you.”

That night, we eat spaghetti and we watch Arrested Development, and I keep waiting for her to explain to me what the prank meant. But she doesn’t bring up the clown at all.

In my dreams that night, I’m up in the attic, sitting on that ugly daisy-print couch. I’m not worried about running into that clown, because I get the feeling that he’s downstairs with Joan. I think she mentioned that the two of them would be cooking breakfast for me. Joan’s a good cook, but I’m afraid that the clown might put spiders in my food. Nevertheless, I’ll eat whatever they make me. I don’t want to be rude. For now, I’m supposed to stay up here and keep an eye out for criminals. Recently, someone has been stealing televisions from various attics in the neighborhood, so we have to take shifts guarding the TVs up here. It’s boring sitting up here alone, so I try all the different remote controls on my lap, but none of them work. The televisions continue sleeping. When I look into the darkness of the screen right in front of me, I expect to see my reflection. Instead, I see a void.

The void reaches out at me and fills the entire room. I know I should feel freaked out at this point. I’m not. I should head downstairs and ask Joan for help. I don’t. Instead, I sit there in the dark, waiting.

After a few moments of silence and stillness, two cold hands grasp my shoulders.

“Is that you?” I say.

“Who else would it be?” Joan says. She sounds a little distant and choppy, like her voice is being played on a cheap voice recorder. That disturbs me, of course, but when she starts massaging my bare shoulders, I put the strangeness of her voice out of my mind. Right now, I should just enjoy this. It is my birthday, after all.

Joan massages me so hard that her thumbs penetrate my flesh. I can feel her caressing my bones. I groan. She giggles.

“What’s so funny?” I say.

She laughs again, and she doesn’t sound like Joan at all anymore.

When the void disappears and the lights return, I turn around, half-expecting to find the clown standing behind me.

But it’s only Joan.

“You have magic fingers,” I say.

“That’s what they tell me,” she says.

“They who?”

“They, the guys I’m banging when you’re playing video games.”

Joan smiles, and her teeth are long rusty nails.

“What happened to you?” I say.

When she opens her mouth to respond, all that comes out is a green balloon.

“Fuck,” I say. I reach down for my phone so that I can call the hospital, but I’m completely naked.

I need to go downstairs. I can’t move.

The balloons in Joan’s body grow, and she gets bigger and bigger. I hope to God that she doesn’t pop.

The next morning, I wake up to find my blankets drenched with sweat. I know that I had a nightmare, but I can’t remember much of it. I think me and Joan were having sex, and I think the clown was there. I remember his teeth.

When Joan’s out for her morning jog, I climb into the attic and I find the clown propped against the wall near the couch. I approach it. I press my hand against its wooden torso. I study the face closely. Those spiders certainly look real. When I touch one of them, the black widow falls to the floor.

“Why did you remove my eye?” the clown says.

“Shit,” I say, backing away. “Sorry.” Immediately I feel like an idiot for apologizing to a robot, or whatever it is.

“Your apology means nothing to me, human. Tell me a joke, a good joke, and I will forgive your insolence.”

Once again, I feel the urge to kick the monstrosity and run downstairs. “You’re the clown. Why don’t you tell me a joke?”

“I am not a clown! I am burdened to take this form only because Joan’s great-great-grandmother cursed me. She was a powerful witch.”

“Ah, of course.”

The clown sighs. “I did not want to kill her, but she angered me so. I wish we could have had more time together.”

At this point, a black widow climbs up the clown’s face and replaces the missing eye.

“I feel melancholy,” the clown says. “Perform for me a silly dance, and be quick about it, mortal.”

Without responding to the ridiculous request, I head downstairs and find Joan in the kitchen, scrambling some eggs.

I massage her shoulders for a while.

“Thank you,” she says. “No wonder they call you Magic Fingers down at the bathhouse.”

“Shut up.”

We sit and start on our eggs.

“So what is he, really?” I say. “The clown.”

“Oh, he’s not a clown,” Joan says. “He’s a…well, it’s a little hard to explain. Do you know anything about naiads, dryads, creatures like that?”


“Well, that’s what he’s like. His presence exists in the attic, and in a sense, he is the attic. You might say he’s a corporeal spiritual being.”

I laugh.

Joan frowns. “Why do you always do that?”

“What?” I say, and I take another bite of eggs.

“Whenever I try to tell you something serious, you laugh at me.”

“That’s not true.”

“Well, I shouldn’t have said that you do it all the time. But you do it sometimes. Sometimes, when I’m talking, you act like everything’s a big joke. Like last week, when I told you I was thinking of voting Republican this year. You laughed in my face.”

I sigh. “I laughed because you’re the most liberal person I know. And I laughed because when you said you might vote Republican, your tone was sarcastic. I honestly thought you were joking.”

“Well, I wasn’t. Look, honey. All I’m saying is that I want you to take me more seriously.”

“I will, and I do. But how am I supposed to know when you’re being serious if you don’t sound serious?”

“OK, maybe that’s something I need to work on. But if I tell you that I’m serious about something, can you make an extra effort to take me seriously?”


That night, Joan asks me to follow her into the attic. I have a headache, and I’m not in the mood for more of this clown shit, but I go with her anyway. Hopefully this will be the last performance of this strange little play of hers.

In the attic, Joan pours salt on the floor, drawing a picture of a chubby two-headed dog.

“Stand on that,” Joan says. “Just don’t step on the eye.”

To be honest, I’m a little annoyed at Joan for taking this hoax so far, but I am impressed at her creativity.

I step on the salt dog.

Joan stands beside me, and holds my hand. “Honey, I know you’re having a hard time accepting the truth. So…I thought that seeing a regenesis might help.” She faces the clown. “Whenever you’re ready, Giggles.”

“I have changed my mind,” the clown says. “I will destroy myself, but only if you throw a pie in the man’s face.”

Joan sighs. “That wasn’t part of the deal, Giggles. Mark hasn’t taken the oath. He has no obligation to serve you.”

“I am not asking for an oath,” the clown says. “I am asking for one pie.”

“Mark isn’t an Entertainer.”

“And yet a pie in his face would entertain me.”

“If it’ll get things moving, go ahead and pie me,” I say. “I don’t mind.”

“Then we have a deal,” Giggles says.

At this point, the clown-bot races across the room and drops down into the hole in the floor.

“Is that what you wanted to show me?” I say.

“No,” Joan says. “Stay on the symbol.”

After a few moments of silence and stillness, a section of the floor erupts into a column of shattered wood. The wood twirls a few feet in front of me like a miniature tornado. Bits of insulation bursts from the walls and collides with the swirling splinters. Spiderwebs drift from above like tiny parachutes and enter the chaotic column. I feel myself taking a step backwards, but Joan grabs me and holds me in place. She squeezes my hand so hard it hurts.

The tornado spins faster and faster, sending multicolored embers in every direction. I hold my hand to my face to protect myself, but none of the sparks seem to touch me.

Once the pandemonium subsides, Giggles appears a few feet in front of me, as if formed from the swirling splinters and spiderwebs.

“It’s safe to get off the symbol now,” Joan says.

I study the clown in front of me. He looks almost like the one from before, only this one has daddy longlegs for eyes, and his proportions seem different. I’m not sure how Joan orchestrated the tornado, but I’m definitely impressed.

“How did you manage that?” I say.

“Like I said, Giggles is one with the attic,” Joan says. “Once his body left the attic, it became inanimate, and another body had to form in its place. What you saw was his regenesis.”


At this point, Joan smashes a whipped cream pie in my face.

The clown chuckles.

In my dreams that night, I’m up in the attic, sitting on a grotesque spider-print couch.  It’s a little unsettling how the spiders crawl around. Then again, they’re trapped in the fabric, so there’s no real reason for me to move.  I try the different remote controls on my lap, and finally one of them works. The televisions turn on. On one of the screens, the clown beats Joan with a rubber chicken. On another screen, the clown throws a flaming pie at Joan’s face. On another, Giggles sits on her and sprays seltzer water down her throat.

I need to go downstairs. I can’t move.

All that I can manage is to press my finger against the remote. I’m hoping that this action will deactivate the televisions, but instead the TVs only grow larger, and a laugh track plays in my mind. The voices sound a little distant and choppy. I can feel spiders crawling on my face.

“Stop it!” I say, to the voices and spiders and the clown.

They don’t stop.

“Help me,” Joan says, on every screen, simultaneously.

I hope to God I can save at least one of them. Who am I going to marry if I don’t?

The next morning, I wake up to my heart racing. I know that I had a nightmare, but I can’t remember many of the details. I think me and Joan were sitting on a couch, watching some horror movie. Or was it a comedy? I remember laughter.

After Joan returns from her morning jog, she tells me she knows I’m having a hard time believing in Giggles. She tells me to take apart the clown’s body and see for myself that it’s not a machine or a puppet or a costume. She doesn’t give me the new body in the attic, but the old body that dropped out of the attic last night.

To be honest, I am a little curious about the clown’s inner workings. So I drag the robot into the backyard. I consider all my options, but in the end I decide to smash the monstrosity with my mallet. Every time the metal collides with the clown, I feel an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. A strange thought erupts in my mind. The thought that this clown deserves to be punished for what he’s done.

After I finish demolishing the body, I search through the remains. All I find is wood and nails and insulation. There is no machinery. No computer chips. While I was asleep last night, Joan must have replaced the robotic clown with this simple wooden one. I have to hand it to her. When she dedicates herself to a hoax, she goes all out.

I laugh.

I leave the obliterated clown where it is and return to the house. I make us some French toast.

When Joan returns from her jog, she kisses me twice.

“You’re in a good mood,” I say.

“French toast will do that,” she says.

We sit and eat and smile.

Joan glances at her watch. “Shit, I have to go.”

“Have fun at work,” I say. “Here’s hoping Charles won’t be such a bastard today.”

“Oh, he will be. But I’ve learned how to avoid internalizing his bitchiness and blaming myself. You see, I’ve been cheating on you with this self-help guru. He’s helped me a lot with this stuff.”

I grin. “Shut up.”

My girlfriend eats her French toast, and after a while, her smile becomes a frown.

“What’s wrong?” I say.

Joan stares at her food. “I haven’t told you everything yet. I mean, about Giggles. I’ve done something, Mark, and you’re not going to like it.”

“Maybe I’ll surprise you.”

“You won’t. I sort of…deceived you.”

“In what way?”

She lifts her fork and sets it down again. “I don’t want to tell you and then have to leave for work. Can I tell you tonight? You want to meet back here?”


Joan kisses my cheek and bikes to the office, which is only a couple blocks from her house.

While I’m getting ready for work, all I can think about is that stupid clown. I know he isn’t real, but nevertheless, he’s important somehow. Maybe to Joan, the clown represents a wedge between me and her. I feel as if we’re drifting apart, and I don’t know why.

Joan jokes around about cheating on me. But maybe it’s not a joke. Maybe she’s cheating on me with a clown, or maybe she just feels like a fool for sabotaging our relationship.

Whatever’s going on, I need to cut through all the clown bullshit and get to the truth of the matter. I’m tired of being played with.

Before I need to head off to work, I go up into the attic and sit on that atrocious couch. I don’t know why exactly, but I feel drawn to the pyramid of televisions. Have I been dreaming about these TVs? Maybe they can give me some answers.

“I did not give you permission to sit on my couch,” the clown says, standing to my left.

I ignore him and look around for a remote. There isn’t one.

“You have to turn them on manually,” Giggles says. “Allow me.”

The clown moves faster than I would think possible. After a second, all of the screens are on, and Giggles is sitting beside me.

I study the pyramid.

What the fuck?

On one of the screens, I see Joan’s kitchen. On another screen, the living room. On another, the bedroom.

I haven’t noticed any cameras in Joan’s house. They must be hidden. But why?

“I can imagine your surprise,” Giggles says. “You humans are private creatures. You like to keep your most intimate thoughts and deeds hidden from all but your dearest kinsfolk. And of course there are some thoughts and deeds that you attempt to hide, even from yourselves. To think that I have been watching you must disturb you.”

I stare at the clown. His spiderweb face trembles in the breeze from the open window. I don’t know why, but Giggles seems almost real to me right now. Maybe it’s the thought of him sitting up here, watching me and Joan go about our lives together. I hate him.

“You are likely worried that I watch you as you are having sex,” the clown says. “I witnessed this act only once, and let me assure you that I do not find your lovemaking to be the least bit entertaining.”

I stand. I need to get out of here. If I stay much longer, I’m afraid I’ll lose my grasp on reality.

“You would be a fool not to forgive Joan,” Giggles says. “I have spent many years under her care, and for a human she is quite compassionate and just. She set up these televisions for your benefit. She had no desire to hurt you. I am sure of that.”

I head downstairs and drive to work, hoping that by surrounding myself with normal life, I’ll be able to think normal thoughts again. But I don’t. I know that only an idiot would feel anger toward an inanimate object. I can’t help it. I despise the clown for witnessing my most intimate moments, and I’m angry at Joan for letting that happen.

After work, I return to Joan’s house. She’s prepared a nice dinner for two of us with eggplant parmesan and candles and daisies and Enya. As soon as I see and hear all this, most of my irrational anger about the clown disappears.

“Very romantic,” I say.

“I learned from the best,” Joan says. “Not you, obviously.”

I grin. “Shut up.”

“Before we sit, would you care for some before-dinner nuts?” She holds out a can of nuts that is obviously full of fake snakes.

“You really expect me to fall for this?”

“Well, you’re not the sharpest spork in the cabinet.”

“I don’t think people keep sporks in cabinets.”

“That just proves how little you know about the world, honey.”

I open the can, and a snake peeks his head out.

“Shit!” I say, dropping the can.

The serpent slithered across the carpet. Joan carefully picks up the black and yellow creature. She laughs.

“Nice one,” I say, and I mean it.

“I liked the part when you screamed like a little girl,” she says.

“Shut up.”

I want to enjoy this moment as I’ve enjoyed all of Joan’s little pranks, but my mind keeps focusing on the clown. Is he up there right now watching us? Is he laughing?

And then an even more disturbing thought erupts into my mind.

“All these pranks,” I say. “You don’t do them because you want to. You do them because you have to. They’re all for the clown.”

Joan’s smile fades. “You know about the cameras?”

“How much of what I know about you is just an act?”

“It’s not like that, Mark.” She stares down at the squirming snake in her hands. “I love joking around with you. The only reason I installed the cameras is because I wanted to spend more time with you. I thought if we could entertain him from anywhere in the house, then I wouldn’t have to spend so much time in the attic. I didn’t want my duty to interrupt our lives.”

“You should have told me.”

“I know. I know that. And I feel horrible. I’m sorry, Mark.”

I don’t respond.

Joan carries the snake into the other room, and she comes back crying. Seeing her sad usually breaks my heart, but right now her tears just make me angrier. She should be comforting me.

I sit and eat in silence.

Joan tells me about her misadventures with Charles at work. I smile a couple times and speak a few words, but that’s all.

Hours later, we’re sitting on the couch in the living room, and Joan says, “Are you coming to bed?”

“Not yet,” I say.

She kisses me and heads upstairs to the bedroom.

I know that I’m probably going insane, but I’m truly starting to believe that the clown in real. What I saw in the attic last night with the tornado of wood was beyond amazing. There’s no way Joan could have orchestrated that.

Maybe there is some magical creature watching me at this moment, laughing at me. If it wasn’t for that stupid clown, Joan and I would be upstairs cuddling right now.

Enough whining. If there’s a problem, I just need to fix it.

I enter the attic and connect a DVD player to one of the televisions. I put disc one of the Monty Python box set into the player. I press play.

“Come here,” I say. “Watch this.”

Giggles sits beside me and stares at the screen, tilting his head to the side.

I sigh. “So you’ll laugh at a pie in the face, but Python doesn’t even make you smirk? What’s wrong with you?”

Giggles faces me. “Joan has spoken to me of these python men, and I am sure that they are talented in the ways of buffoonery. However, their humor passes through me without touching my spirit. My being cannot connect with anyone who exists outside of this house. That is why Entertainers are necessary to keep me pacified.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

The clown shrugs.

I should’ve known that solving Joan’s problem wouldn’t be so easy.

Joan feels some sense of obligation to keep this clown entertained, but she shouldn’t have to sacrifice any of her time and energy for this freak. It’s just not right.

In my dreams that night, I’m up in the attic, sitting on a couch. I try to sit up, but the couch is coated with spiderwebs, and I’m stuck. I hear whispering voices behind me.

“Joan?” I say. “Is that you?”

At this point, all of the televisions turn on. One one of the screens, Joan massages the clown’s shoulders in the kitchen. On another screen, she rubs the clown’s oversized feet in the living room. On another, she kisses him on the lips in the bedroom.

I need to go downstairs and stop them. I can’t move.

Behind me, the whispering evolves into laughing. Then the laughing evolves into moaning.

“Stop it!” I say.

They don’t stop.

I can feel spiders crawling on my legs, my arms, my face.

On the television screens, all of the Joans begin to remove their clothing. I try to turn my head. But instead of moving my body, I move the entire couch. The couch spins around and faces away from the TVs.

Now I’m watching as Joan and Giggles writhe together on the floor. They whisper. They giggle. They groan.

When Joan stands up, the clown is gone, because she’s taken him inside of her.

Joan approaches me with outstretched arms. Splinters erupt from her chest. Spiders crawl out of her nostrils. Her eyes grow fuzzy and pink like insulation.

She smiles at me, and I hope to God she doesn’t want to absorb me too.

The next morning, I wake up with my heart pounding and my chest aching. I know that I had a nightmare, but I can’t remember all the details. I think me and the clown were sitting on the couch, watching Monty Python. No. That actually happened, last night. Didn’t it?

After Joan returns from her morning jog, I serve her an omelette.

She takes a bite. “This is eggcellent.”

I smile a little, but I’m not in the mood for puns this morning. “Let’s say you’re right about Giggles. Let’s say he’s some kind of weird creature and your family’s been entertaining him for generations. Why keep the tradition going?”

“I do it because I have to, Mark. Like I already told you, if I don’t keep Giggles pacified, his presence could expand beyond the attic. And if that happens, the entire world could be in danger.”

“But how do you know that? What makes you think that Giggles is so powerful?”

“It’s written in the books. I can show them to you if you—”

“And who wrote those books?”

“My ancestors.”

“And how do you know that what they wrote is true?”

“It is true.” Joan presses her hand against her chest. “It’s one of those things you can feel in your soul.”

“I don’t feel it in my soul.”

“You’re not an Entertainer.”

I take a bite of eggs. “I know you were raised to fear Giggles, but let’s try to think about this rationally. It’s absolutely absurd to think that some freaky clown made of wood and spiders could be any sort of threat to the civilized world.”

Joan sighs. “You think that because you’ve only seen Giggles in his passive form. When he loses control, his powers grow.”

“Have you ever actually seen that happen?”


“I didn’t think so.”

Joan stabs her omlette with her fork. “Look, honey. I know you mean well. You want my life to be less complicated, but life is complicated. You’re going to have to trust me when it comes to Giggles. I’m no witch, but I can sense his power in my dreams.”

I want to tell Joan that dreams don’t mean anything, but I’m tired of arguing. And I get the feeling that there’s no way I’m going to win this argument. Joan can be so stubborn sometimes.

The only way I’m going to convince her that the clown isn’t dangerous is if I prove it to her.

Later that day, when Joan’s out walking the dog, I enter the attic, dragging my mallet behind me. I sit next to clown on the couch. “She hates you, you know.”

“Who?” the clown says.

“Joan. Sometimes, when we’re in bed together, she tells me how much she despises you. She resents you for taking up so much of her time. She can’t travel because of you. She can’t even get a full-time job.”

Giggles frowns. “Joan has never shared such feelings with me.”

“Of course not. She’s scared of you.”

“She has no reason to fear me. I am her friend.”

I laugh. “Joan would never be friends with a thing like you.”

The clown touches his hand to his wooden chest. “I am feeling wrong. Make a silly face for me, mortal. Be quick about it.”

At this point, I grab my mallet and hit the clown over and over.

Soon, the tornado of splinters appears in the center of the room. Multicolored sparks fly in every direction. They burn my flesh.

As soon as the clown’s new body appears, I smash that one too.

“Stop this at once,” Giggles says. “Joan cares for you. I do not wish to harm you.”

Another body appears, and I try to attack that one, but it’s much bigger than the last. And it seems to be a lot stronger. With the swipe of his arm, the clown easily knocks the mallet out of my hands.

“Do a funny jig,” the clown says, and the spiders of his eyes wave their front legs at me. “Tell a joke. Please.”

I don’t move or speak.

After a few moments of silence and stillness, the attic shakes. Stacks of boxes tumble and the pyramid of televisions crashes to the floor. The clown screeches like an owl. Then he runs and jumps and breaks through the closed window.

I expect another splinter tornado to appear, but the attic remains quiet.

Maybe I killed the freak.

Right after that thought flashes in my mind, I hear a chorus of screams and clashes from outside.

When I look out the broken window, I see him.

His body consists of sedans and minivans and lawnmowers. His hair is a crimson tree. His teeth are enormous shards of broken glass. He has asphalt eyes and a face that’s made up of human heads. To the right of the clown’s nose, I see Joan’s screaming face.


I race over to the cheap foldout table, and I spray whipped cream into an aluminum pie pan. I run back to the broken window.

“Giggles!” I say.

As soon as the gigantic clown looks at me, I smash the pie in my face.

“It is much too late for that,” the clown thunders.

And when he laughs, the world goes dark.

* * * * *

For more twisted tales like this one, check out ATTIC CLOWNS.

Jeremy C. Shipp is the Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of Cursed, Vacation, and Sheep and Wolves. His shorter tales have appeared or are forthcoming in over 60 publications, the likes of Cemetery Dance, ChiZine, Apex Magazine, Withersin, and Shroud Magazine. Jeremy enjoys living in Southern California in a moderately haunted Victorian farmhouse called Rose Cottage. He lives there with a couple of pygmy tigers and a legion of yard gnomes. The gnomes like him. The clowns living in his attic–-not so much. His online home is

Feel free to contact Jeremy via email at: chrismatrix(at)yahoo(dot)com

Winning Story – “Pockets” by Harper Hull

The 5 finalists for NOTLP’s Flash Horror Contest:

Bottom Up Rot by Jody Sollazzo

The Projectionist Dreams by Shenoa Carroll-Bradd

Pockets by Harper Hull

Severance by Marshall Edwards

Taste by Ben Sharp

And now, the winning story:

POCKETS by Harper Hull

Tilly stood on the highest of the wet, green hills and looked out across the lake, her mouth down-turned and her brow furrowed. He was supposed to be here by now. He usually was. As she scanned the still waters Tilly stuck out her bottom lip and blew the hair off her face but it just fell back across her eyes, making her even more grumpy-faced. She hoped beyond hope that the familiar yellow glow of da’s helmet lamp would suddenly appear way down in the lake and get brighter and brighter as he approached the surface; there was nothing. He wouldn’t be waving to her tonight, flashing his smile and beckoning her to come on in. It seemed to Tilly that everyone hated her this evening.

It was her ma who had finally convinced her that she needed to be with her da.

“Tilly, you little idiot, get to your room and stay there!” her mother had shouted at her earlier that day after an incident involving a spilled milk bottle.

Tilly had cried and yelled back that she wished she was with her father instead, that he would be nice to her, as she stormed up the stairs and slammed her bedroom door. Her mother had wept a little as she mopped up the mess on the floor, also wishing that Tilly’s father was still around.

As the sun began to set and dusk quickly unfurled across the peaks and valleys of North Wales the little girl stared into the lake and, as usual, let the shapes and lines of the buildings beneath the water form slowly, knitting together corner by corner, shingle and cobble, until she could visualize the drowned village in its entirety. She could see the dark rise of the church tower, the slanted roof of the pub on the corner where her da had apparently spent so much time, the little school-house that her own ma had attended when she was just a child. Off to the north end of the lake loomed the dam, high and white against the speckled, out of focus twilight sky.

Tilly tried to imagine the village as it was before the flooding, before the dam, when it was still alive and loud and full of people. It had been before her time; she’d lived all of her seven years in the new coalmining town.

No-one lived in the old village anymore, except for her da.

He was down there, whistling a tune as he wandered the wet, empty streets in his big brown boots and shiny lamp helmet, black dust covering his face and making his teeth look extra white when he smiled up through the water at her. He wanted her to join him, she knew; he’d look after her properly, not like her ma who was always angry or sad or both. Always going on about the ‘black lung’ and ‘no compensation’ she was or, worse recently, talking about moving away, into England. Away from da! Tilly wouldn’t let that happen.

She’d made her decision that afternoon, after the milk accident, and had stuffed her little backpack with everything she thought she’d need. Her favourite book – the story of a Princess who was rescued from an island of dragons by a handsome Prince – was at the very bottom. Clean socks, her purple toothbrush, a photograph of herself as a baby with both ma and da that she’d sneaked from the sideboard and some chocolate as she imagined there was no chocolate where she was going and her da would have missed it. She’d also rummaged in her ma’s knicker drawer as she knew that was where she kept a lot of da’s old things. His stiff, black leather wallet had been in there and she’d found a small piece of paper folded up and pushed deep inside one of the pocketed creases. Two lines had been handwritten on it with a name printed underneath – Dylan Thomas – and she’d taken that too as it had felt like something that meant a lot to her father. Tilly was good at reading and although the words hadn’t made sense – ‘raging against night and not going gently’ – she had sensed something in them none the less. Da would appreciate having it back.

Now, impatient, wearing her bright yellow Wellington boots and with her orange raincoat buttoned up tight, she pulled the oily hood up over her head and tied the cords taut before she walked down the hill.

At the edge of the lake she had a brilliant idea and, kneeling down, started to push the biggest pieces of stone she could find into her pockets, filling them all up until she struggled to stand upright again. Tilly thought this was a wonderful plan; since it didn’t seem that her da would be waiting for her in the water to lead her down to her new home she’d just have to improvise. She imagined how surprised and proud he’d be when she dropped down into the sunken village and surprised him with a hug and a kiss.

Moving slowly because of the new weight Tilly sloshed forwards into the cold water, gasped at the icy shock, yet continued to move out into the lake towards the deepest part, despite her stiffening legs and arms, where she could float down to the old village and live happily, whistling and skipping and laughing with her da holding her hand beside her and never shouting at her for dropping bottles of milk by accident. The chill water filled her open mouth and made her teeth sparkle.

As night hid the flooded valley under its black weight not even a small, white, sightless fish swam amongst the ruins.

R.I.P. Ray Harryhausen

We lost one of our own today. A pioneer and himself a fanboy. Ray Harryhausen,Ray Harryhausen world class stop motion animator died today at the age of 92.

I’m not going to go into all the wiki of Ray’s life. It’s all there if you want to look up the who’s, when’s and how’s of his life and I encourage you to do so. Instead, I’m just going to tell you what he meant to me. As an impressionable young weirdo, nothing was more interesting or important to me than monsters. Especially big, giant marauding beasts and dinosaurs. And like many of you, I spent many a Saturday afternoon in front of the TV watching old monster movies. The man who made the best monsters for those movies was Ray Harryhausen. I saw the “Sinbad” movies he worked on as well as “Octopus” and “20 Million Miles to Earth” but it was “The Valley of Gwanji”, a movie that combined two things I loved–cowboys and dinosaurs–that really fired my imagination and kept me grinning from ear to ear. I didn’t need great acting or even much of a story, so long as a movie had monsters that convinced me and Ray’s always did. In fact, I can go from watching “Jurassic Park” and “Lord of the Rings” to watching “Valley of Gwanji” and Ray’s monsters still convince me.

Many of you are familiar with stop motion animation, I’m sure, but for those who might not be I want to give you an idea of what he did. In a typical movie there are between 24 and 30 Frames for every second of film shot. That’s at least 24 little adjustments Ray Harryhausen had to make just to create one second of action. Now think about something like the scene from “One Million B.C.” where the pteranodon is trying to feed the lady to its babies. There were probably three wing flaps per second…that’s 72 adjustments for just a couple of wing flaps that had to be set up and shot. Think about how frustrated you get when you type a few paragraphs, forget to save them and then lose them. Now imagine what it must’ve been like to lose, as Harryhausen inevitably did, a few minutes of film here or there. It would’ve consisted of weeks worth of painstaking work. That’s how you know he loved his job. It required an amazing amount of patience, endurance and precision in addition to outrageous imagination and profound insight into movement, anatomy and life.

Ray Harryhausen got into animation because he was a childhood fan of the work on “King Kong.” Just like many of us who choose creative livelihoods, he was also a massive fan, inspired by the work of others. He had many imitators but no one could breathe magic into those stop motion models the way he did. Every eye roll, facial expression…the fluidity of a tail twitch or the way a monster twiddled its fingers…that’s where his genius lay. He always made a believer out of me and he still does. Below is a four minute compilation of every (so it says) creature that Harryhausen ever animated for film. Give it a watch and see if he doesn’t make a believer out of you too. You will be missed Ray. Sleep well.


*   *   *   *   *   *   *

R.k.Kombrinck is a writer and artist who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and two sons.  He is a founding cast-member of the popular horror podcast “Night of the Living Podcast.”  He enjoys iced-tea (unsweet) and genuinely believes in Sasquatch.

You can find his work online HERE


The Small Scream: Amy talks genre TV

Small Scream

I like to watch TV. I’m going to attempt to say things here every so often that relate to the genre stuff currently on TV. I won’t do this as well as the professionals. For that, you need to listen to Big Red Podcast. And I don’t have fancy cable, so no Dexter for me until DVD. And I find True Blood ridiculous and no thank you.

And real quick, before we get into this…I was just thinking about The River the other day. Anyone remember that from last summer, the found footage show from Oren Peli? Sure, it had flaws, but it was fun. I wish it wasn’t cancelled. Watch it on Hulu if you’re so inclined. It goes to show you that genre TV is often an experiment and sometimes those experiments go kablooey. Sometimes it’s sad and sometimes it’s for the best, but it’s good to have networks out there giving it a go again even if these new “experiments” are really just rehashing old material.

Ok, so I’ve been watching Hannibal and Bates Motel. Good enough shows, Hannibal being the better of the two at the moment. As a non-DVR haver, I’m watching online and usually on a week or two delay. So I’m not completely caught up, but that doesn’t stop me from completely judging the shows based on what I’ve seen.

More this way Couch Potatoes

Short Story: “Ockham’s Razor”


Dani sat uncomfortably across from her date wishing that she were anywhere else in the world. She wished that she were somewhere quieter; somewhere she didn’t have to wear a ridiculous skirt and make-up. Anywhere it wasn’t over 90 degrees in the evening. It had been a long time since she had been on a date, a first date anyway, but she was sure that guys liked it when you listened to their stories and laughed at their jokes. It was hard to focus. She wanted to not only listen to her date, but to care about what he had to say.

She had met Carl on a dating website and after much encouragement from friends to “get back out there” she had agreed to go out for drinks. Only drinks.

“Hey, you wanna get out of here?” Carl asked softly, leaning in and placing his hand on her knee.

Dani’s body tensed. She did want to get out of there but she knew in her heart that she was in no place emotionally to “get out of here” with any guy.

Dani quickly moved her knee, tucking both legs under the small table. “It’s actually a little late for me.”

“But the night is young,” he said playfully.

“Well I’m not. If I don’t get my full eight hours of sleep, I can’t function. It’s a sign of getting old.”

“Your profile said you’re twenty-six. Did you fudge the numbers a little?”

Dani smiled. “No I actually am twenty-six, but a very old twenty-six. I’m usually in bed by this time; face cream on and curlers in my hair,” she said with a smile.

“Do you have one of those diving bell night gowns that buttons all the way up to your chin?”

“Fresh!” she said coyly as she playfully smacked his shoulder.

Good banter, she thought. She certainly appreciated the verbal foreplay but knew that it was time to go home alone. “OK, I really need to go now if I want to catch the Tram.”

“At least let me drive you to the station. I’m parked in the garage next door.”

“Thanks but I need the fresh air. These drinks are going right to my head.” She stood to leave and felt more lightheaded than expected and felt like she was walking on a trampoline. Surprised by how intensely the two mixed drinks had affected her she realized that she hadn’t eaten, only a quick snack of shrimp crackers at home while she dressed. The vodka on her empty stomach must have been a bit more than her petite body could handle.

As she swayed she felt Carl’s hands around her waist guiding her through the crowd. Her mind drifted as she reveled in the sensation of a man’s strong hands on her body.

Through the haze, she thought she spotted her ex, Andy. She had broken up with Andy only a month prior when she realized that he was not ready for a relationship and most likely would never be. Their relationship had stagnated after 2 years and upon confronting Andy about their future Danie had realized it was best to part ways before she let him hurt her down the road. As she took another step, guided by Carl, she realized that Andy wasn’t a trick of her mind but a real-life fresh hell that she was slowly walking toward. Before she could avoid him, Andy looked up and locked eyes with her and smiled.

Dani attempted to smile casually, but she was unable to control her features. Sending a conscious direction to her facial muscles, “smile damn you!” she thought as Andy stepped away from his friend and took the five steps to be face to face with her.

“What are you doing here?” he asked with a knowing smile. He knew that large clubs with loud music had never been her scene.

“Of all the bars in all the world,” Dani slurred.

Andy smiled awkwardly. “I was just talking about you earlier tonight. We went and saw that new Meryl Streep movie, and I mentioned how much you love her.”

“I still do,” Dani said. Before she could say anything else, a young lady sidled up next to Andy, wrapped her arm around the small of his back, and whispered in his ear before laughing wildly.

Andy smiled and motioned to Dani. “Vickie, this is Dani. She’s the one I told you about.”

“What have you been telling this whore of a skank about me?” Dani thought.

“This is Vickie.”

Dani extended her hand noticing it felt amazingly heavy. Vickie shook it with one solid pump. Dani cringed silently as she felt Vickie’s ice cold hand–like grasping a rubber glove filled with icy twigs.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Dani said politely before losing her balance and falling against Carl.

Andy’s furrowed his brow. “You OK?” he asked.

Before she could respond, Carl spoke. “Hi, I’m Carl, Dani’s boyfriend.” Dani smiled. Her knight in shining armor had come to her rescue, saving her from embarrassment. “Dani and I have been celebrating tonight. I’m going to take her home now, but it was a pleasure meeting both of you.” Carl shook both Andy and Vickie’s hands before turning and quickly guiding Dani out of the bar.

* * * * * * * *

Dani’s legs were like limp pasta. Her head was a boulder threatening to roll off down the slopes of her body at any moment. She was disoriented from the drinks and seeing Andy with another woman had drained her will to move or to speak. She blacked out.   Continue reading “Short Story: “Ockham’s Razor””

#HeyNOTLP Presents: Horror On the Seas!

sharky shark

Welcome to the first installment of HeyNOTLP!, a monthly column wherein we (or you) ask a question to be answered by your very own merry staff of bloggers. Play along with your own answers in the comments section and send us questions for future columns over at Twitter with the hashtag #heyNOTLP.

HeyNOTLPBonus points if you rock that hairstyle

Today’s question is inspired by the apparent fact that June is National Seafood Month in the United States. The natural question for horror bloggers then follows: what terrifying water creature, real or fictional, makes you want to move as far away from the ocean as earthly possible?

Let’s turn it over to the crew:

Freddy Morris

Y’all know me. Know how I earn a livin’. I’ll piss my pants at the first sight of a great white. I’ll stop whimperin’ an’ screamin’, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pizzeria chasin’ calzones and hoagies. This shark, swallow you whole. Little shakin’, little tenderizin’, an’ down you go. Did I say piss my pants? I meant shit my pants wholesale. And I’ll do it quick. And it’s not gonna be pleasant. So, I guess I’ll find an apartment inland for $600.00; maybe $300.00 if I can find a roommate. Yep, I’d say for $300.00 we can get a refrigerator, cable, the whole damn thing.

Freddy's shark

Robert R. Best

Jellyfish. I know, but I saw something on TV about them when I was a kid and became convinced that one would sting me and poison me to death.

Robert's Jellyfish

Emily Intravia

Ariel was an idiot. I’ll never argue that point. A pretty idiot with a fabulous fiery mane, yes, but an idiot nonetheless. Sure, with his ebony hair and ocean blue eyes, Prince Eric had a certain Clive Owen dreamboat quality, but aside from being rich and having an awesome dog, he was hardly worth abandoning your own loving family, musically gifted seafood friends, and ability to swim with more skill than Michael Phelps after ballet lessons. The Little Mermaid made a stupid, stupid choice  in signing away her fins for a silent courtship, but that doesn’t make  Ursula the Sea Witch (and aunt of our ‘heroine’) any less scary. Like a loan shark at a cabaret or a credit card company in spandex, Ursula preys upon those who want something: more muscles, a slimmer waist, two legs, and so on. She draws up official paperwork and doesn’t even play the ‘too good to be true’ card. Your terms are set, the penalty is previewed, but as soon as it looks like you’ll come through with payback, the overweight octopus breaks out the magic and makes it impossible to make good on your wager. Not only do you have to give back that fabulous six-pack, but you’re also stuck as withering armless  seaweed. Forever.

Urusla's victims

Kelley Kombrinck

Spider crabs give me the jeebs. They’re basically giant, armored spiders that live in the water. Worst part is, they can live a good while on the land. I would hate to see one scuttling along a lonely patch of scrub along the shoreline, hunting.

Kelley's spider crabs


Recently I was walking in the park with my boyfriend and looked out over the bridge. I said “I know it probably won’t happen but what would we do if we looked out over that bridge and saw Cloverfield attacking the city?” George said we should go to the innermost room in our apartment building and wait it out. I said I think we would be safer in the open because Cloverfield could easily knock our building and we’d be SPOILERS! smooshed to death like Rob and Beth at the end of the movie. George said we can’t be outside because that’s where the back monsters (otherwise known as SEATs, which stands for “Something Else, Also Terrible” as described by Hud). So basically there’s nowhere safe when a Cloverfield attacks that is why he is my favorite, and most terrifying, sea monster ever.


Tony Wilson

Two things prevent me from going into the ocean. One, I’m a pale white geek who instantly burns in sunlight and turns into Lobster Boy. Two, the imminent threat of Deep Ones. There are some folks out there who think The Shadow Over Innsmouth was just a story. It was a warning! You’ve likely seen people with the Innsmouth taint and had no idea you were in danger. Watch out for their bulging eyes, small ears, and chins so small they’re like an afterthought. Weird homeless guy downtown? Nope – Deep One Hybrid waiting to fully transform and go live with the others in an underwater city.

Deep Ones

Jeremy C. Shipp

More than any other beast of the sea, I fear the clown fish. And I’m not talking about those cute little guys from Finding Nemo. I’m talking about that polka-dotted leviathan who chortles in the deepest abyss of the ocean. Every year clowns all over the world travel to the coast without knowing why they’re doing so. And once they’re far enough out in the water, they cut off their faces. The clown fish collects these faces in a large fleshy sack. And using a sticky secretion, he attaches the faces to his own grinning visage. Also, starfish kind of give me the creeps.

clown fish in dots

Mike Guendelsberger

It’s a toss up between Jaws or The Creature from the Black Lagoon.  In the first instance, that bastard hated Sea World.  In 3D!  And what kind of creature hates Sea World?  And in the latter case, those dead eyes and fish gills just creep me out.  Any time someone tells me they have webbed toes, I immediately picture the Creature.

The Creature


While not quite a sea creature by definition, any water based location where kids are swimming is a good reason for me to stay far away. Why, you might ask? Because, quite simply, you know one (or more) of them bastards is peeing their pants, and I’d prefer to not have any part of my body be engulfed in the urine of some gross, snot-lipped kid. No amount of chlorine can scrub that nastiness away, unless, of course, you counteract their urine with a pee barrier of your own. Yeah, that’s still pretty gross, but at least it’s your own piss. I’m also deathly afraid of sharks.

public pool danger

So what say you, dear readers and fellow waterphobes? Share your fears in the non-peed-in-water that is our comments section and don’t forget to submit your own question for a future column via Twitter with the hashtag #heyNOTLP.

Kings Island Halloween Haunt


At Kings Island’s Halloween Haunt even the shrimp cocktail is haunted.


It’s October. That means ladies are getting excited about wearing stylish boots and eating chili, and horror fans are getting all atwitter for their local haunted attractions. So, the NOTLP Crew pulled on their boots, ate some chili and headed out to Kings Island’s Halloween Haunt. Every Friday and Saturday night in October the Mason, Ohio amusement park made famous for the one-third replica of the Eiffel Tower at its hub and the legendary wooden roller coaster “The Beast” plays home to twelve haunts and two stage shows. Visiting Kings Island is always a good time, but it’s even better when there are parades of whackos in great costumes and makeup startling the guests on International Street.

Hello there.
The rope drop experience is full of scary folks like this creeping up on you while you wait in line.

Our visit to the park happened to coincide with one of the nastiest extended downpours that Mason has seen in a long time, so the outdoor haunts were understandably closed. Of the indoor haunts there was one standout. The new haunt “Board to Death” is one of the more clever attractions that I’ve seen. Each room is themed after a board game. The visitor is accosted by little people dressed as Mr. Monopoly and the angry spirits of sailors who died when you “saaaaaank their battleshiiiiiiip.” I don’t want to spoil anything, so do yourself a favor and be sure to visit this haunt!

Freddy (L) and Mike (R) enjoying a brief reprieve from the rain.

As for this year’s stage entertainment, stop by the Kings Island Theater to see Ed Alonzo’s Psycho Circus of Magic and Mayhem 2 (and if you’re asking yourself why the name Ed Alonzo sounds familiar, just look at the image we’ve Saved below and it should ring a Bell). Ed Alonzo’s magic show is dirty and a little offensive, but in a fun vaudevillian way. His tricks are expertly executed and sometimes pay off with some pretty wonderful toilet humor so I consider his show a must see.

I'm so excited!
“Call me ‘preppy’ again and I’ll saw you in half.”

We didn’t see the other stage show, Hot Blooded, this year because of the rain. However, we’ve seen it before. When we saw Hot Blooded on a previous visit to the park, we had a great time tittering at its corny setup. It’s a sexy vampire story set to awkwardly covered rock songs.  The dancing is fun and the costumes are sexy so it’s worth checking out. Just don’t expect  Jersey Boys.

The NOTLP Crew wholeheartedly agrees that Kings Island’s Halloween Haunt is worth your hard earned Halloween dollars and worth the drive for anyone in the tri-state area. Friday Night Haunt admission tickets are available online for $26.99, Saturday all day & night are $32.99, and the park also offers a Fright Lane upgrade that allows you front of the line access for an additional charge. The Fright Lane upgrade can really be worth it if you value your time as the lines for the haunts can get very long. The park offers other combos that include a meal and discounts. Go to for more information.

The NOTLP Crew would like to thank Kings Island’s Public Relations Area Manager Don Helbig for inviting us to this year’s RIP Party Media Event.

Alright, alright, alright.
FUN FACT: Woody Harrelson and Carmen Electra worked at Kings Island in high school.
Are those painted on?
FUN FACT: In 1972 The Partridge Family filmed an episode called “I Left My Heart in Cincinnati” in the park. Foreground: David Cassidy’s buns. Background: a one-third scale replica of the Eiffel Tower.


Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!
FUN FACT:  The year after The Partridge Family filmed there, The Brady Bunch filmed “The Cincinnati Kids” episode where Greg almost becomes a furry and Mike loses some important architectural plans because Jan is so stupid.




That Psycho Has Been Part of My Life for a Long, Long Time

Before Night of the Living Podcast, a band called Draggin’ Ass Jones was a huge part of my life. I was one of five twenty-something guys who gigged, recorded a studio album, and generally cultivated one of five distinct views of what our band was and what I hoped it to be. I have a big special place in my heart for these guys, but like many indie contenders (“contendies?”) I got tired and decided to try something new. As anyone who is a longtime listener to the show knows, that’s where Night of the Living Podcast came into my life.

I’ve decided to share one of our songs here (see the YouTube video embedded below). I’ve been watching the new series “Bates Motel” on A&E, and revisiting the character of Norman Bates reminded me of the song. I was thinking about Norman Bates when I wrote the song. It’s been nearly eleven years since this recording was made. So much about my life has changed, but my fascination with this character is the same today as was then.

* * * * *

Freddy Morris is a founding member and co-producer (with wife Amy Morris) of Night of the Living Podcast. He has written for his high school and college newspapers, HorrorHound Magazineand from time to time, writes lewd graffiti on bathroom stall doors and angry letters to the editor at Cat Fancy. Freddy also hosts and produces the film history and appreciation podcast, FilmMad Society. He lives in a tiny house in Cincinnati, Ohio.

#HeyNOTLP Presents: An American Horror Question

Welcome once again to the monthly installment of HeyNOTLP, wherein we gather up a few willing bloggers and ask them all the same horror-related question. Ask your own with the Twitter hashtag #heyNOTLP, preferably in your most flirtatious social media voice.


And now for July’s question:


Break out the sparklers and bite into a hot dog! It’s Independence Day over in the U.S., leaving us this question to ponder: in your opinion, what film, television show or novel in the horror genre best represents the idea of America?

Andy Hung

Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s final episodes. People from all races, nationalities, sexes, abilities and even species coming together for a common good. It is the idea that the United States is a melting pot that always resonates with me. USA! USA!

Buffy & the Potentials

Emily Intravia

While I imagine every nation has its own image of the girl next door, I’d like to think Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door is a little less universal. The title itself is clearly designed to summon an all-American image we’re all familiar with, an innocent crush on the perfect neighbor. Both Ketchum’s novel and Gregory Wilson’s film adaptation work hard to first capture the universal (or at least, national) fixtures of a childhood summer. Catching bugs, riding bikes, seeing your street from a different view on the annual carnival’s ferris wheel…all part of any suburban kid’s typical July. Of course, this being Jack Ketchum, that small-town nostalgia is quickly soured by the evils of man (and woman)kind, as that perfect girl next door is brutally tortured and degraded inside an otherwise insignificant home in anytown, USA. From the Charles Manson and Elvis obsessed villain of The Lost to the damaged mind of a Vietnam vet in Cover, Ketchum’s work is always infused by a twisted, fascinating, and unflinching sense of Americana.

The Girl Next Door

Freddy Morris

Nothing says America quite like Stephen King’s Silver Bullet. For hot dogs’ sake, the main characters are named Jane and Marty Coslaw, and if that doesn’t sound like “coleslaw” (the most American salad), I’ll eat the feather in my cap.


Silver Bullet has it all: decapitated railroad workers, a Christian lady so upset about being pregnant out of wedlock that she’s willing to OD (only to be eaten, ironically by her reverend, instead), a drunken abusive father who loves watching pro-wrestling and drinking domestic beer. Those are just the characters from the first act!  The residents of Tarker’s Mills exercise their Second Amendment rights and take to the woods with rifles, pistols and a baseball bat named “The Peacemaker” after Marty’s best friend is torn to pieces while flying his kite at night in the park. Marty and his Uncle Red bet baseball cards in their poker game, a currency that only an American kid really understands the value of. Marty defends himself from a werewolf by using illegal fireworks. Boom. What’s more American than that I ask you?  When Uncle Red has to make an excuse to the gunsmith as to why he’s melting down Jane’s silver crucifix to craft a silver bullet, he tells him that Marty just “discovered the Lone Ranger.” This film bleeds red, white and blue. When the kids and Red need to get the parents out of the house so that they can set their trap for Reverend Werewolf, they send them to New York. The ruse is that it’s a vacation that Red won from Publisher’s Clearinghouse. All this proves that it would be impossible to retell this story in Russian. Finally, an 11 year old boy defends his home from an intruder by shooting said intruder with his uncle’s .44 magnum revolver. ‘merica. Yep.

Silver Bullet

Mike Guendelsberger

For me, it’s a toss-up between Night of the Living Dead and its first sequel, Dawn of the Dead.  In the first, you have racial tension destroying the fabric of seven strangers who are trying to wage a war against the undead.  And in the latter, consumerism and overpowering desire to acquire “stuff” can’t be stopped by death.


Kelley Kombrinck

For me, Tobe Hooper’s original, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a horror film that oozes America. First of all, a state of the Union is mentioned in the title, so, there’s that. I could go into the well-worn ideas about allegories to Vietnam and Watergate but that’s all boring. It’s the girls in halters and short-shorts. It’s the redneck, roadside bbq joint. It’s the dusty Southwestern landscape. The idea of teenagers off on an adventure through the backwoods. Those kids were basically the Scooby gang (van and all) and there’s even a man in a mask at the end (anybody ever mention the Scooby-Doo allegory? I’m on to something.) The opening scene with the crowd at the cemetery somehow reminds me of excited picnic goers. It could almost be the 4th of July on the Bicentennial. Also, its (as we all know) very loosely based on Ed Gein, an American psycho, so. . .America!



There are numerous horror films that capture America in one way or another, but the one that immediately comes to mind for me is Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm.

With its quaint ambiance and wide open roads, Phantasm’s small Western town setting evokes a deep sense of Americana. The safe and inviting setting perfectly captures America during a very different time. It’s a snapshot of an era where every home had a fireplace with a rifle above it and a freshly cooked apple pie cooling off on a windowsill, just waiting to be devoured by a couple of young boys after a day spent earning youthful battle wounds and grass stains while out playing with their friends.

What’s interesting about the America that is represented in Phantasm is that it’s very much an honest (albeit fantastical) one in that there is a hidden darkness that simmers just below the surface. The Norman Rockwell image of a perfect America really only exists in the skewed memories of nostalgic adults who, as children, grew up unaware of (or repressed) the varying levels of darkness that surrounded so many seemingly perfect families in small towns across the country. It’s a fantasy; an America that exists because it’s an America that many people want to exist. But unfortunately, however, there is evil lurking just below the surface, and the evil in Phantasm is represented by vicious dwarves, flying spheres and a supernatural undertaker known only as The Tall Man.


Randy Katzen

Skipp & Spector’s novel The Bridge isn’t their greatest book, but it represents my view of where America is at currently. There are 3 storylines – The first is about a prominent local businessman dumping toxic waste. The second is about a renegade reporter trying to uncover the truth. The final is about a Hazmat captain and his girlfriend.  We’re piling up toxic goop everywhere. There’s no heroes to speak of and most everybody gets fouled by nastiness before it’s over. Sentient toxic sludge FTW! ‘Murrica, Fuck Yeah!

the bridge


Sad to see no love for Uncle Sam? Think we missed your favorite slasher? Tell us your picks in the comments section, and don’t forget to ask us your questions for a future column with the Twitter hashtag #heyNOTLP.

Look Back in Horror: Nightmare Theater

sammyterryIf The Boogens would make me hide behind the couch, there was one show that could coax me back out – Nightmare Theater.

The show started in 1962, well before I was born, when Indiana station WTTV purchased the rights to broadcast the now legendary Shock Theater package. The package consisted of 52 classic horror films, such as Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolf Man, released for TV showings, from Universal Studios. The show aired on Friday nights at 11:00 pm and following the trend started by other stations across the country, featured a horror host that introduced the movies and appeared during commercial breaks. WTTV producer, director, performer, host of the three-hour morning talk show “Coffee With Carter”, and general Jack-of-all-trades Bob Carter was tasked by the station with leading the charge.

The crew scrambled to put a show together over two frantic weeks. They didn’t even have basic promotional images to work with. “We went down to the Indianapolis Library and cut out pictures of the “Wolfman”, “Frankenstein”, and “Dracula” from the movies. The library has some ‘holey’ books there and they aren’t Bibles. I know because we put the holes in them,” Bob recalled.


Just so they would have something to share with the sponsor footing the bill for the show, Bob recorded a few audio promotions, doing a spooky voice that would later be played over still images. When the sponsor heard these bits, he declared, “That’s the guy I want to introduce my commercials.” He insisted that the station use Bob himself for their regular host of Nightmare Theater. Now the onus was on the small crew to put a live character in front the camera.

During a brainstorming session, Bob came up with the name “Sammy Terry”. “Say it fast and it sounds like cemetery.” Next, they needed a costume. The wife of the salesman who brokered the sponsorship deal used some black material to fashion a cowl for “Sammy” to wear. The rest of the costume was created with a black windbreaker worn backwards, yellow dishwashing gloves with veins drawn on them, and a skull necklace. The skull like makeup and an ominous laugh completed the character.

The staff cobbled together a basic set that had Sammy seated with his legs under a coffee table to create the illusion of him sitting up in a coffin. The first couple of shows were completely adlibbed. “While the movies were on, we would be sitting around the studio deciding what we were going to do next,” Bob laughed. It wasn’t until later that the crew starting writing actual scripts and using cue cards. Sadly, from my research, it doesn’t sound like any of these early episodes were preserved outside of a few still promo photos.

The show quickly evolved, adding a haunted castle dungeon set and a real coffin for Sammy to rise out of. The costume and makeup got an upgrade as well. By the time the show was broadcast in color, Sammy Terry wore a crimson cowl and cape over his black clothes. His face had a ghoulish green cast to it that looked horrific when lit from below. The opening segment featured a worrying bell ringing twelve times while the camera slowly panned over the image of a castle down to the graveyard that lay next to it. “Ghost Girl”, as she was known to fans, faded into view holding a flickering candle melted onto the top of a skull. “In the dead of night, when the moon is high, and the ill winds blow, and the banshees cry, and the moonlight casts an unearthly glow…arise my love, with tales of woe,” she whispered.

George the Spider

The punster needed a straight man to play off of and so “George” the rubber spider would descend from the ceiling to give Sammy someone to talk to besides the audience at home. (George was voiced by another familiar WTTV personality, “Cowboy Bob”, recording his bits and playing them backwards and sped up.) Another little known role played by Cowboy Bob was the white chair that Sammy Terry sat in when he read fan mail. You read that right – the chair. They would throw a white sheet over Bob (or sometimes Sammy’s real life son Mark) who was sitting on a smaller chair. The actor playing the chair held up a wooden T-bar for the chair back that would slowly rock back and forth while the mail was read.

Sammy and Ghoulsby at the the Indy 500

My memories are from the episodes broadcast in the 80’s when the show featured occasional guest segments to promote events around town and characters like “Ghoulsby” the butler. Ghoulsby was a regular who appeared in a zombie mask, communicated in grunts, and hopped around a lot. I remember Sammy also had a skull that he talked to that he called, amazingly enough, “Skull”. “Bob” from The Dresden Files would be so jealous. Another regular gag was Sammy’s enjoyment of his favorite beverage, a “Type O” cocktail. He would hold out a mug that looked like the head of Frankenstein’s Monster and the red liquid would pour down from above or out of thin air courtesy of a visual effect.

Sammy Terry’s Nightmare Theater ran from 1962 until 1989 with a short hiatus toward the end of the 70s. The show touched multiple generations as parents who grew up watching the show passed that experience on to their children. As a kid growing up in Indiana, you were aware of Sammy Terry even if you hadn’t seen the show with your own eyes. My family talked about the show and how long it had been around. There was a shared experience of hearing that creepy laugh for the first time.

Combined with Scooby Doo, Sammy was a great introduction to horror for me as a little kid. Here was this ghoul in a crypt showing horror movies, but he’s also friends with a talking rubber spider. The host tells scary stories, but he also makes bad puns. He’s showing horror movies, but nothing really super scary. These dichotomies helped ease an impressionable audience into horror films, like learning to swim by starting out in the shallow end of the pool.

sammy02I have many fond memories of Sammy Terry. The first time I saw Phantasm, one of my personal favorites, was when it was broadcast on Nightmare Theater. I was 10 and had been devouring the Three Investigators novels over that summer. I was flipping through the TV Guide (we actually had a printed book with listings back in those days) to see what Sammy was showing that Friday night. It was a movie called Phantasm with a description that said: “Three youths investigate mysterious goings on at a mortuary.” I was a bit optimistic in thinking, “Holy shit! They made a Three Investigators movie back in 1979 and no one told me? Awesome!” I didn’t get to see “Jupiter Jones”, “Pete Crenshaw”, and “Bob Andrews”, but I did watch a flick that blew my 10 year old mind.

Like many horror enthusiasts, I enjoy meeting some of our TV and film favorites just to offer my thanks in person. In 2009, I finally had the opportunity to meet Bob Carter, the original Sammy Terry. He was the guest of honor at Paranormal Fest in Columbus, Indiana’s Historic Crump Theatre.

A large crowd of fans, young and old, showed up to see him. He showed some old clips of the show and told some campfire tales, which was great to experience with a group like that. After story time, everyone was invited up onto the stage for autographs and to see props from the show like the coffin and the castle painting featured in the opening.

tony_and_sammyI can’t explain how excited I was to finally shake his hand and say, “Thank you for giving me nightmares as a kid. You’re one of the people that made me who I am today – a mostly well-adjusted adult who loves scary movies.” I’m not one to really get sentimental, but I suppose that’s exactly what that moment was. Here was a direct link to my childhood, when life was a whole lot simpler. This was someone who stirred up my imagination when I was 5 and it hasn’t settled down since. I was probably just another face in the crowd that day to him, but for me it was more than another check-mark on the bucket list.

Bob is in his 80s now and has since retired. In 2010, his son Mark took over the role. Mark has been very active making appearances at conventions, Indiana events, and even as a character in a comic book. There have been a few recent Sammy Terry specials on TV with Mark playing the role, but no plans yet for a weekly show. You can visit him online at and on Facebook.

2012 marked the 50th anniversary of the character and Sammy Terry is still a well-known piece of local history. Not bad for a guy who started out in a backwards windbreaker and a coffee table for a coffin. I’m sure George would agree. Until we meet again, as Sammy would say, many pleasant nightmares.

Short Story: “Camp”


by Jeremy C. Shipp

(originally published in ChiZine and SHEEP AND WOLVES)

My muscles tighten. My teeth clench. My irritable bowel is seriously pissed off.

I’m no good at sitting.

“Hold it together,” my dad tells me. Not physically here, of course, but why would that stop him? Hold it together–that’s easy for him to say. He’s made of steel bars and rivets and bolts. Me, I’m held together with Elmer’s glue and pushpins and chewing gum.

Memories vibrate. They fall and crack open.

A few years ago I shit my pants on this very same two and a half hour bus ride. With liquid crap trickling down my legs, I stumbled toward the bus driver. In tears. In shame.

I begged him to take me home, but he said, “Sit down!”

I told him that I was sick, and he laughed at me and said, “No kidding,” but I won’t shit my pants this time. Even if I do, I’ll handle it. I’m bigger and stronger and smarter than I used to be. My dad made sure of that.

Continue reading “Short Story: “Camp””