Posts Tagged ‘entertainment’

Well, you know the drill by now. I’ve made it to the third round, the “Conjure Round,” of The Face of Horror Contest. The question is, will I survive to the next one?

So, if you’re unaware, I’ve been participating in The Face of Horror, a contest for horror fans where the winner will get a walk-on role in an indie horror movie and a photo shoot with Kane Hodder in Rue Morgue magazine (among other things). And as of tonight, I’ve cleared the second round, thanks to everyone casting free daily votes and even buying extra votes for me.*

Now we’re onto the third round, the Conjure Round, which goes on till September 29th. To stay in the competition, I have to stay in the Top 10 in my group. Currently, I’m averaging between 10th and 12th place most days, and at the time I’m posting, I’m 13th. I want to think that’s lucky rather than unlucky.

Anyway, you’ve all been really amazing for me these past couple of weeks. I’ve been able to stay in the contest and make it as far as I have because of you. However, I need your help to continue in it and make it to the next round. Only ten people in my group are going to go onto the next round. So please continue voting every day and (if you feel comfortable doing so) buying votes for me. With your action, I could not just make it to the next round, but maybe even win this thing.

That being said, if I don’t win, it’s not the worst thing that could happen to me. I’ve already benefited greatly from your support since the contest began. Still, I would like to see how long we can keep this going for. Maybe all the way to a photo shoot with Kane Hodder, the only actor to play Jason Voorhees more than once? I would love that.

Anyway, I’ll include the link for the contest below, my Followers of Fear. Keep on voting, spreading the word about the contest, and helping me in every way you can. And, until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

Face of Horror — Rami Ungar

*Paid for votes go to support the Andrew McDonough B Positive Foundation, which provides funding for research into pediatric cancers.

That Which Cannot Be Undone. Cover by Greg Chapman. Hopefully to be in bookstores everywhere.

Run for the hills! Hide in your basements! Sound the trumpets of doom! That Which Cannot Be Undone is now set to preorder!

So, if you’re not aware, some of my Ohio horror writer friends and I started a press last year with the goal of releasing a horror anthology highlighting both Ohio horror and Ohio horror writers. “That Which Cannot Be Undone” is the result of that goal, as well as countless hours of meetings, hard work, rallying, writing, and, of course, the pledges of many supporters on Kickstarter.

And, as of this morning, the ebook is available for preorder on Amazon, with a release date of October 11th.

Here’s the blurb from the back cover:

Beneath Ohio’s congenial midwestern facade lies a dark underbelly of urban legends, cursed sites, and unseen terrors. From a woman drawn to an underwater town haunted by its last resident to a killer desperately seeking to experience new life through the teeth of his victims, these eighteen stories all take place in the Buckeye State, some drawn from already-known accounts of strangeness and infamous settings, others completely the author’s invention.

Edited by Bram Stoker Award-winner Jess Landry, That Which Cannot Be Undone features works from new and established voices in horror, including Bram Stoker Award-winners Gary A. Braunbeck, Tim Waggoner, Lucy A. Snyder, Gwendolyn Kiste, and Kealan Patrick Burke, and New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Megan Hart.

it also includes a story by this guy named…Rami Ungar. Hmmm, I don’t know him. Do you? And is he any good?

Jokes aside, I can’t tell you how excited we are for everyone to read this anthology. It was one thing just to imagine this book coming out, especially as we were looking for ways to make the pandemic go by faster. But then talk turned into research, research turned into decisions, decisions turned into, plans turned into starting a business, the business made more plans, those plans led to the cooperation of several writers, an editor, and a Kickstarter campaign! The Kickstarter campaign surpassed its goal, authors starting submitting their stories, we hired an amazing cover artist who produced a terrifying cover, our editor Jess Landry helped us polish up our stories, and now we have the book ready to release! And very soon, many of you will be reading it.

Down below is the link to preorder the ebook (sadly, Amazon makes it so we can’t offer a preorder for the paperback just yet). I hope you’ll preorder a copy or purchase it when it’s out. And for those of you whose pledges include a copy or two of the book, don’t worry; we’re working hard to ensure you get your copies as soon as possible.

Either way, we hope you’ll read the anthology, enjoy it, and leave a review to let us know what you thought. Reviews are huge boosts for these books and help them find new readers, so we appreciate every review left for us.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I can tell you, October is going to be an exciting month, and not just for all the usual reasons. I look forward to celebrating all the events that are to come.

Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and 42 days till Halloween!

That Which Cannot Be Undone: Amazon

If you’ve been with me a while now, you know I’ve become a fan of The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers. First published in 1895, the important stories in the collection (and the best ones) revolve around a play called The King in Yellow, which is so twisted that reading it can drive you mad (or make you a slave to the titular entity, if you believe he’s real). The collection has proved influential and has been touted as a classic by many horror writers, including HP Lovecraft, as well as being partially integrated into the latter’s Cthulhu Mythos.

I read the collection after hearing about it last year, and since then, I’ve become a little obsessed. I bought my own copy of the collection, I wrote a short story called “The Dedication of the High Priestess” that combines the character and the lore with ballet (this story will be narrated on the Tales to Terrify podcast some time before the year is out), I created some AI art of the figure, and now, I am the King in Yellow. For Halloween, at least.

What do you think? I went with something more simplistic than I originally planned (big white gloves, an ornate crown resembling antlers and tree branches), and boiled it down to a robed figure with a mask. However, that’s basically the things that most people agree upon when it comes to the character’s appearance, so it works. And I even got a photo of me holding my copy of the collection like it’s the play itself. I think that’s a nice touch.

Credit for the photos go to my sister, Adi, by the way. She did a great job taking the photos this afternoon.

Anyway, I look forward to wearing this costume to events like A Night of Horror at the Bexley Public Library and the Local Author Book Fair at the Licking County Library, as well as hopefully to a party or two (my exact plans for Halloween are still up in the air). And even if people don’t know who the character is, this might get them to read the collection, or at least look him up. But hopefully the former, because it makes for some great Halloween reading.

Speaking of which, if you’re looking for something spooky to reading this Halloween season, might I recommend some of my books? I have four books out now and they’ve all been received well. Some readers have even found them quite terrifying. I’ll include a quick summary of the stories and links to check them out below.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you liked my Halloween costume. But tell me, what are you planning to dress up as this Halloween season? Do you have any big plans? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares and only 43 days till All Hallows Eve!

The Pure World Comes: A maid goes to work for a mad scientist and gets wrapped up in his experiments. Terror ensues. Gothic horror novel. Very Frankenstein meets Crimson Peak.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo, Goodreads, Audible, Chirp, BingeBooks, LIbro.Fm, Storytel, Google Play

Rose: A young woman gets turned into a plant/human hybrid (and that’s just the start of her problems). Fantasy-horror. Very Kafkaesque and has a lot of Japanese mythology mixed in.
Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible, B&N

Snake: A serial killer hunts mobsters in New York City. Who is he and why is he killing? Slasher horror. Think John Wick, Taken and Friday the 13th got smooshed into a horror novel.
Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones: Five creepy tales from my early writing and publishing career that will entertain as well as scare you. They’re weird, eerie and a lot of fun. You know, like their author.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

You like the graphic? It’s based on the one for the official contest. I hope they don’t sue me for that.

If you’re reading this, then that means I made it to the second round–the “Gauntlet Round”–of the Face of Horror contest. And I have to thank all of you for that.

So if you’re not sure what I’m talking about, The Face of Horror is a contest I’m participating in. At the end of the contest, the winner will get a walk-on role in an indie horror film and a photo shoot with Kane freaking Hodder in Rue Morgue magazine, among other things. The first round, the “Child’s Play” round, began on September 6th and ended just a little while ago. Participants advance when people either cast a free daily vote or buy extra votes (portion of proceeds go to pediatric cancer research) for their favorite candidate.

And the fact that I made it past the first round means that you all kept coming back to vote for me over these past several days. I cannot thank you enough for that. It means a lot to me that you would go to these lengths, revisiting my original blog post and my profile page on the contest site every day to vote for me. You kept me in the Top 20 participants in my group, and that means the world to me.

However, now that I’m in the Gauntlet Round, things will be a little tricky. Like I said at the beginning, I don’t expect to win this contest. I’ll be happy if I make it a couple of rounds and get some side exposure or other benefits from it. However, I would like to see if we can keep the momentum up, so I’m asking you to keep voting throughout the Gauntlet Round, which lasts from September 15th to September 22nd. If I manage to stay in the Top 15, I’ll move onto the third round. If I don’t…well, it was fun while it lasted.

Either way though, I plan to give this all I got. So please continue to cast your votes everyday for me, and buy extra if you feel comfortable doing so. With any luck, I’ll continue to stay in the running and maybe meet some new readers that way.

Face of Horror — Rami Ungar

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll probably be back in a few days with a post for the Halloween season. Until then, good night, pleasant nightmares, and 45 days and 1 hour till Halloween at the time this post is released!

Well, I have to start this post off with some bad news: I will not be at the Ohio Author Spotlight Event being held by the Pickerington Public Library in Pickerington, Ohio. I’ll get into why in a bit. Stick around, because you’ll want to read on, even if you don’t live anywhere near Ohio.

The good news is, the Bexley Public Library will be hosting another Night of Horror with me and my fellow members of the Ohio chapter of the Horror Writers Association, or HWA Ohio. We’ll be doing readings and selling books at the Bexley Public Library in Bexley, Ohio on Monday, October 3rd from 7-8 PM. The featured authors’ list is still being finalized, but I’ll be there, you can count on that.

And on October 15th, I’ll be at the Licking County Public Library for their Local Author Festival. The fair will be from 10:30 AM to 2 PM at the Licking County Public Library in Newark, Ohio. This year, the library is doing quite a bit to draw in bigger crowds than last year, so hopefully plenty of people show up.

If any of you are in Ohio during those dates, please stop by to say hello. I would be happy to see you, provided you’re not a murderous stalker or just any form of stalker, and I would gladly sign a book for you. And if any other events pop up, I will let you know.

And while this is not an event, you all know that I’m competing in the Face of Horror contest. The first round of the contest ends Friday, September 15th, at which point the Top 20 of each group will move onto the next round. I don’t expect to win, though I would love to meet Kane Hodder and have a walk-on role in an indie horror movie, among other things. But I would like to make it to the next round, and I need your help to do that. Every day, you get one free vote, so please cast your votes using the link below. Or you can buy extra votes (portion of proceeds goes to charity).

Whatever you choose, thank you for your support these past several days. Because you keep coming back and casting your votes, I’ve been able to stay in the rankings in my group and might just make it to the next round. I hope you’ll continue to support me as I work hard and try to make the most of this opportunity for my writing career. Who knows? I may even win.

Face of Horror — Rami Ungar

Finally, why am I not going to the Pickerington Public Library this weekend? Well, that’s because Mystics and Marvels this past weekend was a huge success! I sold all but two copies of The Pure World Comes, which is more than I’ve ever sold at any other event, and earned more than at any other convention I’ve been to. My fellow authors at the HWA Ohio table also sold plenty of books, which definitely made all the work this past weekend worth it. We’ve already put a deposit down on a booth for next year, and we’re planning on bringing more authors with us next year so we all can reach even more readers.

This and other recent events make me think that, even though I’m so busy lately that I often don’t have time to write, that I’m on the path I’m meant to be on right now. It’s like the universe or God or whatever is moving me towards some new chapter of my writing career, and I can’t wait to see what unfolds in that chapter. Maybe more writing time? One can only hope.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll end this by posting photos from Mystics and Marvels. I’ll probably be back soon, so keep an eye out. And in the meantime, good night, pleasant nightmares, and 47 days till Halloween!

From left to right: Matt Betts, me, Sarah Hans, and Anton Cancre
This is my new author photo.
Definitely one of the most elaborate costumes I saw at the fair, if not the most elaborate: the Skull Bear!
No joke, that is a genuine wolf! Not a dark furred German Shepherd, a real wolf!
A medium made this portrait for me using pastels. Apparently he’s one of my spirit guides, and an English soldier from the Battle of Agincourt who might be my ancestor.
Another great costume, but it was difficult to communicate with this person due to the mask.
You would not believe what it took to get that photo taken.

With books like A Head Full of Ghosts, The Cabin at the End of the World and Survivor Song (which I still say would make a great stage musical), The Pallbearers Club by Paul Tremblay has been one of the most anticipated novels of 2022. I got my copy almost as soon as it came out, but because my life has been busy lately, I only just finished the book today. So now, as I feel obligated to do, I’m writing my review.

The Pallbearers Club follows a man who calls himself (or the version of himself in the novel/memoir he is narrating) Art Barbara. Seeking to pad out his college applications, Art starts the Pallbearers Club, a volunteer club where members show up to funerals for the homeless and lonely, and then carry them out to the hearse (because who wants no one to show up to their funeral?). At one of these funerals, Art meets Mercy Brown, a strange college girl who both opens up Art’s world and sets him on a path that will affect him through his adulthood. And maybe even beyond.

For starters, the novel is creative in its presentation. It’s written primarily by Art on a computer, while Mercy’s red-inked, handwritten notes speckle the margins and bookend each chapter. It allows you to learn a lot about each character, who are both somewhat unreliable narrators for each their own reasons, and there’s a lot of reflections on topics like memory and identity. It also makes me wonder what the audio book is like, because Mercy’s notes are a big part of each chapter. Does her narrator interrupt the text every now and again?

I also like how Art uses unusual adjectives while he writes, and the best parts of the novels are probably the sections set in Art’s teenage years during the late 80s. You really get to know and like the characters the best at that point, and it’s among the best examples of 80s nostalgia I’ve come across.

That being said, there’s a lot about this novel that rubbed me the wrong way. My biggest issue is the story, or almost lack of one. Art spends a lot of time going through the major points of his life, especially where Mercy is part of his life, but it becomes a slog because he hits you over the head at times with how little self-esteem and how much self-loathing he has. It’s okay early in the book, because he’s a teenager and those are always difficult times and Mercy is at least opening up his world. But after graduation, Art seems intent on just making you hate him as much as possible.

Which might be okay if Mercy or the plot helped balance the story out, but they don’t. Even with her notes, Mercy’s so intent on being edgy and mysterious that we really don’t get to know the real her, and it makes it hard to see her as a character and more as a mystery. Again, fine early in the book, but after a while, we get tired of it.

There’s also not a lot happening in the book. At least, not as far as horror novels go. The New England vampire lore is part of the story, but not in a significant way like I’d expected. It becomes more like a background theme, kind of a parallel about aging, health problems, and our own anxieties and delusions are like vampires on us and we wonder where in the hell they come from. Which is fine, if the story is interesting or the the lore is utilized in the right way.

The Pallbearers Club didn’t do it in the right way. I feel like it was trying to go for what Revival by Stephen King did, which was show how a single man affected the life of an aging rocker throughout his life while mixing in the supernatural. But while it tries, it doesn’t succeed.

And this isn’t something I’ll deduct points for, but why pick on Def Leppard in the early parts of the story? That band is a big part of why I love 80s music, how dare you!

I normally like Paul Tremblay’s work, but on a scale of 1 to 5, I’m going to give The Pallbearers Club a 2. The way it’s written is creative and the initial chapters are great, but annoying characters and an unimpressive plot just stakes it through the heart.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. My next read will be The Devil Takes You Home by Gabino Iglesias, while my next review will likely be Tales My Grandmother Told Me by Heather Miller (read an advanced copy). You’ll know my thoughts on both in time.

Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and 49 days till Halloween.

55 days till Halloween! Who’s excited?

You’re probably wondering what this is about. Well, a little while ago I heard about a contest for horror fans called the Face of Horror. What’s it about? Well, various horror fans and creators sign up to show that they are the greatest horror fans there are. The Face of Horror, if you will. And over the coming days, you’ll be able to vote for the candidate of your choice.

Guess who signed up as a contestant?

That’s right, me. I mean, can you blame me? And what happens if I actually win? Well, I’ll earn $13,000; get to stay in Buffalo Bill’s house from Silence in the Lambs for two nights (apparently it’s a real place in Pennsylvania); a walk-on role in the next movie of the director running the contest, Jim Vendiola; and a photo shoot with Kane Hodder, the only actor to play Jason Voorhees more than once, let alone four times, in Rue Morgue magazine! And all I need is your votes.

Now, I know you guys don’t owe me a thing and there’s no reason for any of you to help me. However, even if I don’t win, this could be a good opportunity for me. By participating, I might get even just a little bit of exposure, which may help me find some new readers. And if I end up winning, this could be a huge boost to my career! I could end up meeting all sorts of new people and followers through this contest.

Plus, you would have my gratitude in helping me move forward through the contest and hopefully furthering my career.

So, how do you vote? Click on the highlighted link below, and it’ll take you to my profile. You can cast one free vote per day during the contest, and can purchase additional votes (a portion of proceeds from purchased votes going to the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, which funds pediatric cancer research and financial assistance for families of patients). All you need is a Facebook account and/or a valid credit/debit card (especially if you intend to purchase more votes).

Anyway, this post being out means that the contest has begun, and the first round will go until September 15th. That’s at least ten chances for each person to vote. I hope you’ll consider voting and helping me out with moving onto the next round. Who knows? You may end up helping me further my dreams by leaps and bounds just with your support.

The Face of Horror — Rami Ungar


One more thing: I’ll be at the Mystics and Marvels fair on Saturday and Sunday, September 10th and 11th, from 11 AM – 6 PM, at the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Hilliard, Ohio. This is a really cool convention with Tarot readers and fortune tellers, stones and crystals sellers, and, of course, authors. I’ll be at the chapter for the Ohio chapter of the Horror Writers Association, HWA Ohio, so stop by if you can. You can check out more information at the website here.

And on Saturday, September 17th, the Pickerington Public Library is holding an Author Spotlight Event for Ohio authors at their location in Pickerington, Ohio from 10 AM – 2 PM. I will be signing and selling books at a spooktacular table, so I hope you’ll stop by and say hello.

And if you can’t make it to either event but would still like to support me (in addition to voting, of course), you can always check out one of my books and let me know what you think when you read it. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback and it helps me in the long run. I’ll include links below.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll check in again soon. So until next time, happy voting and pleasant nightmares!

The Pure World Comes: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo, Goodreads, Audible, Chirp, BingeBooks, LIbro.Fm, Storytel

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible, B&N

Snake: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

The Quiet Game: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

I got to know Heather Miller earlier this year, and I saw from the get-go that she was passionate about horror. In fact, she’s become well-known in the horror community as a horror reader and reviewer, to the point where she gets through multiple books a year and posts her thoughts on them. I considered it a true honor when she gave The Pure World Comes a four-star review.

I also learned that Heather is a writer as well, and that she had a book coming out. I not only volunteered to be an early reader (my review will be out later this month), but to interview her for my blog. So, sitting with me here today to discuss her upcoming collection, Tales My Grandmother Told Me, is Heather Miller.

Rami Ungar: Welcome to the blog, Heather. Tell us about Tales My Grandmother Told Me and some of the stories inside.

Heather Miller: Tales is a collection based on old stories and songs my grandmother used to tell and sing.  These stories are family heirlooms in a way, part of our oral history. In the book you’ll find stories of both supernatural and entirely man-made horror, you’ll find stories which are based on real events and stories which are clearly made up.  You might even find a bit of humor.

RU: What was the impetus for this collection? And was it difficult to turn those tales and songs into stories?

HM: I’ve always had it in the back of my mind to take Grandma’s stories and share them with the world.  I chose to do this collection at this particular time because my mother was in failing health and I wanted her to see our family’s stories go out into the world before she died.  Unfortunately, she passed away recently and never got to see the final copy, but she read the stories as I wrote them and knew the book was coming out.

I really didn’t find it difficult to turn the old tales into stories.  These are stories which have been percolating in my brain since childhood, so when I sat down to write, they just flowed out of me.  Some were certainly easier than others.  One in particular gave me trouble as it was one I remembered only vaguely.  But honestly, I had a lot of fun taking the old tales and twisting them around a bit, adding to them, making them my own while still honoring the old storytelling tradition of my grandmother.

RU: Did you have a particular audience in mind when you wrote the collection? Were you hoping to pass these stories to your children like your grandmother passed them onto you?

HM: The great thing about this collection is that these stories are unnerving enough to give an adult the creeps, but also perfectly suitable for older children to read.  There’s nothing in this book (aside from horror) that would be considered too “adult” for kids.  While this is certainly not a children’s book, or even Young Adult, I think these are easily stories that adults could read with their kids, if those kids like a good scare.

RU: What are some other works you’ve written? And do you have anything else coming out?

HM: I have a novella out, called Knock Knock.  It’s a modern Gothic ghost story.  Also I have stories coming out in a couple of anthologies later this year: my story “The Far Field” is part of the book These Lingering Shadows (Last Waltz Press), and my story “Baba Yaga in Repose” is in the book Into the Forest: Tales of the Baba Yaga (Black Spot Books).

RU: In addition to writing horror, you also regularly read and review horror from a variety of authors. In fact, you’ve gained a reputation as a discerning horror reviewer. How does that make you feel? Is that something you set out to do?

HM: Honestly, I just like to talk about books.  I never dreamed when I first started my Bookstagram account that just a couple of years later, publishers would be sending me books like crazy and authors would wait anxiously to hear what I had to say about their writing.  It feels good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also sort of weird to me still.  I’m just a girl who likes to read, likes to be scared, and likes to tell other people when I find a good book.  I also have come to love the literary horror community.  They are the most amazing people.

RU: What is it about horror that draws you in? And are there any particular kinds of horror stories or genres that you gravitate to the most?

HM: I’ve always loved horror.  Even as a small child, reading picture books, I was drawn to horror elements.  It could be June and I’d still go straight to the Halloween books section when we visited the library.  If a book had witches or ghosts or creepy monsters, I wanted it.  As I grew older, I discovered adult horror and delved right in.  I think I like horror because it is such an escape.  It’s fantastical because these things will never really happen but it’s so exciting to lose yourself in that world of suspended disbelief for a while.  And who wouldn’t want to live in a world where ghosts and witches and vampires are real?

I will read almost any kind of horror as long as it’s well-written, but my deepest love will always be for the old-fashioned kind of horror, the Gothics (original and modern).  A heroine finding her inner strength while battling evil in a haunted house will never get old to me.

RU: I hear that. Now, what is some advice you would give to other authors, regardless of background or experience?

Tales My Grandmother Told Me, out September 27th.

HM: Good readers make good writers.  Read like crazy.

Don’t be afraid to write what makes you happy.  You don’t have to write a certain way or in a certain sub-genre (or NOT write a certain way or avoid a certain sub-genre) just because it’s the current trend. Whatever you write, if well-written, will find it’s audience.

Find your voice.  Find your brand.  Know yourself and let that bleed into your work.

Kill your darlings but pay your editors.

RU: All good pieces of advice. Finally, if you were stuck on a desert island for a little while and could only bring three books with you, which books would they be?

HM: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, and The Collected Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

RU: Excellent choices. Well, thank you for joining me on the blog, Heather. Good luck with the release of Tales My Grandmother Told Me.

If you would like to check out Tales My Grandmother Told Me, you can find it available for preorder from most retailers and will release September 27th. And if you would like to connect/learn more about Heather Miller, you can find her on her website, Heather Miller Horror, as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you’ll check out Tales My Grandmother Told Me once it releases (as well as my review once it’s out). Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and 58 days till Halloween!

Hello, Followers of Fear. There are sixty days till Halloween. What have you done to prepare?

Artwork produced by artificial intelligence, or AI art, has become kind of a thing as the technology has advanced. In fact, some months back, there was an app that became a fad for horror writers to generate images and even book covers. And earlier this week, John Oliver featured it on his TV show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Here’s the video, if you’re interested. It’s hysterical.

John Oliver’s wife and children must have such a blast telling people who don’t know who he is what he does for a living. “Oh, my husband/dad? He sexually harasses Adam Driver and marries cabbages on TV once a week.”

Anyway, it got me interested enough to want to play around with AI art, so I made an account with one of the recommended companies, Midjourney, and went to work. The results were not only fascinating, but gave me some thoughts on the nascent AI art industry.

First, here are some of my successes. As it turns out, Midjourney’s AI program does very well with Lovecraftian/cosmic horror entities. For example, here’s Cthulhu destroying Las Vegas because I’m not a big Vegas fan (though under the right circumstances I’d visit again).

Then, in order, we have Yog-Sothoth, Shub-niggurath, Nyarlathotep, Azathoth, two pictures of the Deep Ones, the Color from Outer Space, and the King in Yellow.

And portraits of famous people tended to go well with the program. Here are Stephen King, Anne Rice, and HP Lovecraft, three of my biggest influences as a writer, as well as one of Lizzie Borden with an axe. Because why not?

And because I love ballet and try to put dancers in my stories when I can, I made a series of ballet posts, with their titles in the captions.

Dancer and Wolf on the lake
The Little Ballerina Ghost
Dancer in the Egyptian Temple
Dancers on a Moonlit Beach
Little Dancers Running from Lava
Little Dancer and Anubis

Pretty cool, right? Most of them look really good. However, those were success stories, like I said. Here’s what happened when I tried to create Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th films.

Yeah, I know. None of those come close to looking like Jason! He’s arguably more famous than Cthulhu, but these were the results. And then there was my attempt at Freddy Kreuger from A Nightmare on Elm Street. Oy freaking vey!

Yeah, who is that? Not Freddy Kreuger, who is definitely more famous than Cthulhu! Honestly, it looks more like my conception of Leland Gaunt, the antagonist from Needful Things by Stephen King. How could the AI get our favorite subconscious serial killer so wrong?

And those are just a few examples. I went through several failures trying to get anywhere close to a specific idea or image, only to give up when I realized the program just couldn’t create it. I couldn’t even create a decent Sailor Moon or an accurate tiger image, and both those prompts have enough references out there that they should have been easy to create something accurate.

Even some of the successes took a lot of work and experimentation, such as The King in Yellow or Little Dancer and Anubis. I won’t even go into detail about how hard it was to get a good Alice in Wonderland pic that wasn’t too trippy. I mean, I know the source material is plenty weird, but not all art based on it has to be super-surreal!

And while I call some of them successes, they aren’t perfect. You can especially see it in the ballerina series, where features like the head and limbs look odd or bent in ways you wouldn’t see on a normal dancer or a Degas painting. Only the tutus and bodices come out well. The rest of their bodies can be a mixed bag.

It kind of reminds me of that scene in 1986’s The Fly, where Jeff Goldblum puts steak through the teleporter and it comes out tasting weird. He figures out that the computer hasn’t learned how to move organic materials, and is instead creating an interpretation or bad imitation of what it thinks steak is. That’s what we have here: the AI has learned how to mimic and create, but it’s still leagues away from making certain things.

And honestly, I’m glad. Art is art because there’s someone behind it with a vision or a passion. You can program a computer to recreate famous art pieces or original pieces, including Batman comics and scripts or horror screenplays. And the computer might even do a good job at times. But there won’t be any passion or soul behind it. Art is art because we’re putting our love and soul into our creations.

And getting to work with a creator? That’s even more special. Believe me, I’ve done it before, and it’s amazing to see your vision come to life with their help. Especially when working on art pieces like book covers. That truly is something special.

That being said, I can see AI-generated art being used for cheap book covers as the technology improves, and the services of artists becoming more expensive. This could especially apply for small presses or independent publishers who need to lower costs while maximizing profits. The only time publishers may use a real artist is if the author is big enough to warrant it.

Hopefully that doesn’t happen, because it would mean we wouldn’t get to see some really amazing collaborations. So, for the meantime, I’ll stop with the AI art (I’ve scratched that itch and I don’t want to pay a subscription for Midjourney, anyway), and continue supporting the artists who create amazing art. Especially horror art.

And now, here are some more pieces I created. Except for a few I’m waiting to reveal till the time is right, here are my other successes. You can ask what was going through my mind when I created these in the comments below. Enjoy, and until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

Vampire Mothers and Child
Jump Rope with a Ghost
Jack the Ripper in an Alley
Flaming Giraffe #1
Flaming Giraffe #2
The Necronomicon
Bunny Girl and Hammer
Spooky Alice in Wonderland
My favorite films surrounding my remote control.

You know, this may not be the biggest issue in my life. And it may not be the meaningful thing I could write about on this blog. But you know, it’s something I find myself pondering from time to time. What do my Top 6 Favorite Horror Movies say about me and my interests?

(It used to be 7, but I realized while making my list that while I enjoyed the film, it wasn’t something I would gladly watch again and again and again, just say the word go. Also, my tastes change over time, so this list could look very different in ten or even five years, as well as grow or shrink.)

But what does it say about me that I enjoy these particular films? What about them draws me to them? I tried to figure it out by listing them and then listing what I liked about them. Here are the films in question:

Perfect Blue (1997)
Based on the novel by Yoshikazu Takeuchi and directed by Satoshi Kon, Mima Kirigoe is a J-Pop idol who is forced by her agency to transition into acting. This and a violent stalker sends Mima into a violent psychological down-spiral, one which may very well claim her life.

  • One of the few good examples of anime horror I’ve come across in my life. The art style is also excellent, where characters and scenes are animated with a sense of realism rather than the usual anime exaggerations. This gives the horror a certain sense of realism that you wouldn’t normally find in anime.
  • The movie works to make you question, along with Mima, every moment of reality. What is real, what isn’t, what’s a dream, what’s part of Mima’s TV drama and what’s her actual life. It’s all up for debate throughout the movie, with the use of color, quiet scenes vs acting and dancing scenes, and repetition of events making you feel the disorientation Mima feels. All leading up to a final third with a horrific twist.

Color Out of Space (2020)
Starring Nicholas Cage and based on the novella by HP Lovecraft (one of my favorites by him, BTW), a meteor falls in a small West Virginia farm, giving off an odd color that can’t really be categorized. Soon after, strange events start happening on the farm, changing the plant life, the family, and reality itself. All leading to a devastating conclusion.

  • Ask most film critics, it’s one of the best HP Lovecraft/Lovecraftian horror adaptations ever made.
  • The film’s very misleading, at first playing up Cage’s penchant for odd acting and adding in plenty of comedy. Later on, however, Cage’s performance goes from funny to sinister, and the humor vanishes as the number of scary events occur and build, filling with you with dread.
  • The mix of practical effects and CGI is well done, with the latter only being employed as absolutely needed and the former being used enough to make fans of The Thing proud. This allows for the final scenes to be really horrifying, even when chock-full of CGI.
  • Just watch the cutting board and alpacas in the barn scenes. You’ll be scarred for life.

Overlord (2018)
During the D-Day invasion, a small troop of American soldiers sneak into a French town to take out the Nazi’s radio tower, preventing the Nazis from calling for help. What follows is a harrowing ride through hell as the team confronts not just Nazis and the horrors of war, but deadly experiments that may end up changing the tide of the war.

  • Despite being a “Nazi zombie” film, which is usually silly or played for laughs, this film plays it much more seriously. The zombies are almost a secondary feature of the film. The real emphasis is on how war scars and changes you, how horrible the drive to win can make a person, and how war brings out the depravity in all of us. When the zombies are on screen, they’re used sparingly, only to heighten the horror and the stakes.
  • During the scenes where the protagonist explores the laboratory, the emphasis on mood and atmosphere creates a powerful dread of what’s around every corner, under every sheet. If you’ve ever seen or played the game Outlast, it often feels like you’re in the middle of that game, and that is a terrifying thought to have.

Sleepaway Camp (1983)
As a young girl, Angela sees her father and brother killed in an accident on a lake adjacent to Camp Arawak. Years later as a teen, Angela and her cousin Ricky go as campers, only for a strange series of deaths to ruin the summer fun. And in the center of it all, Angela seems to be a fixture.

Who else had their mind blown by this moment in the film?
  • This is a rather unique 80’s slasher. For one thing, the campers are all played by actual teens and tweens, rather than adults pretending to be teens. Coupled with the teens language and behavior, it often reminds me of my own camping days, except less Jewish and more murder-y.
  • There are also prolonged periods between (admittedly inventive) kills, which allows you to really get to know the characters and remind you that these are just kids. This makes each instance of death even more shocking and brutal than it would be if they were in your face one after the other.
  • The twist in this movie is rather famous and forces the viewer to recontextualize everything in a new light. I won’t say what happens, but ooh boy, it’s not the sort of thing you could do today. I’d be interested to see how a remake handles this twist and reworks it for a modern audience. Also, I wish there was a novelization for this movie, because it would be great.

The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
A medical student is filming a documentary about an older woman’s battle with dementia. While out at her country home, however, it becomes increasingly clear that this woman is dealing with something else besides dementia: a dark presence has come for Deborah Logan, and it’ll use her to accomplish its sinister goals.

  • Both a found footage and a possession movie, the take on the latter is very unique, both in the victim of possession and who/what is doing the possessing. However, since this is a film about a woman with dementia, it misleads you at first so that you don’t know if what you’re experiencing is really supernatural at first. And when it becomes clear that something supernatural is happening, it becomes both terrifying and tragic.
  • Did I mention this film is terrifying? Not just for anyone whose relatives have experienced dementia (and I’ve heard from people that that’s a form of terror in and of itself), but just as a horror movie it is terrifying. From dark and claustrophobic scenes in an abandoned mine to strange happenings in the house and one bloody scene that freaked me the hell out, this is not a film you want to watch with the lights out.

Prince of Darkness (1987)
A Catholic priest discovers an ancient artifact in the basement of an abandoned church that points to the fulfillment of an obscure end-of-world prophecy. Needing to prove it to the world, the priest enlists the help of several prominent professors from a local university and their grad/PhD students to help quantify this strange, evil miracle. As you can guess, shit really hits the fan.

  • One of John Carpenter’s lesser known masterpieces (which I think is a damn shame), the film has a unique take on God and Satan that feels more at home in a UFO cult, but works really well here. It also has some interesting ideas and themes to explore, such as the nature of evil, the relationship between religion and science, and even an allegory for the AIDS epidemic, which was at a peak when this film was made.
  • Also, while not the scariest thing ever, it is pretty damn creepy and has some truly great moments of horror.

So, there you go. These are my favorite horror films right now. And I struggle to find a unifying theme about why I elevate them above all others. Half of them are from the last decade, two from the 1980s, and one from the 1990s. They all place a lot of emphasis on psychological horror, but how and how much varies from film to film. Only two of them are adaptations of anything. No similar genres, directors or writers, different themes are explored in each one, and I own copies of all of them on DVD or Blu-Ray.

Maybe it’s just that they stick in my head more than others, or that they impressed me in some way that other horror films haven’t. Perhaps they’re the kind of stories I wish I’d wrote, or I like thinking of what I’d do with the material. Wait, no, it’s not that. I think that with every horror film.

If nothing else, I’ll be able to discuss films like Perfect Blue and Prince of Darkness with more people.

Well, maybe you’ll help me find some insight. If nothing else, there’s a chance you’ll be curious enough to see these films if you haven’t watched them before, or give them another watch if you have. You may even notice something I don’t.

You may even make some of them part of your Halloween watchlist this year (63 days till Halloween at the time of this writing). And if you do, I also recommend adding Carnival of Souls (1962), Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), As Above, So Below (2014), The Void (2017), both versions of The Fly (1958 and 1986), the 2013 remake of Carrie, It (2017), and Freaky (2020). All make great additions to your Halloween viewing lineup. Not to mention all the movies coming out starting next month. I’m getting chills just thinking about it!

Anyway, this has been a long post and it’s getting late. I’m going to end it here and call it a night. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night and pleasant nightmares!

What are your thoughts on these films? Did you notice anything I didn’t? What are your favorite horror films that you recommend to everyone?