Posts Tagged ‘films’

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.

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?

Photo by Pedro Figueras on Pexels.com

I’ve heard this term thrown about a few times since January, first in the new Scream movie and most recently in an analysis of a horror film on YouTube. “Elevated horror.” And the speakers, whether in in the Scream movie or in the YouTube video, made it sound like it’s a recognized subgenre of horror with its own staple of tropes and trappings. Like slasher and its killers and gore, or Gothic with its ancient, diseased settings and corrupting influence.

The thing is, it isn’t. Elevated horror isn’t an actual subgenre of horror. I’ve consulted with dozens of writers on this (thank you, Twitter and the Horror Writers Association Facebook group) and it’s not a subgenre. It seems like a subgenre of horror at first glance when you look at works referred to elevated horror. In movies, films referred to as elevated horror include The Witch, Babadook, It Follows and Get Out, among others: they’re horror stories that focus more on probing psychological drama, characters and metaphor than blood and gore or supernatural horrors. Often, there’s a powerful social commentary being presented through the narrative, such as Get Out‘s commentary on race.

In terms of literature, “elevated horror” might have all of these as well as flowery language. It might be almost called “literary horror,” because there’s an emphasis on wording the story nicely and making it just too dark to be called “literary fiction.” Examples include The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers, Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, The Deep by Alma Katsu, and A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill.

And, most importantly, “elevated horror” can sometimes cross over into other genres, such as thriller, literary, or even comedy.

Can you really say The Witch and Get Out belong in the same subgenre?

Sounds like a subgenre, doesn’t it? But it’s not. The works called elevated horror are all as different from each other as roses are to tulips are to primulas. All flowers, but all different kinds of flowers. Let me explain: The King in Yellow and The Deep are cosmic horror mixed with deep psychological themes, The Witch is some cross between folk, religious and historical horror, and Get Out‘s searing satire makes it borderline horror-comedy. In fact, it was nominated at the Golden Globes under categories for comedies or musicals!

Yet all of them are given the designation of elevated horror. So, if it isn’t a subgenre, what is it?

The conclusion I’ve come to after speaking to numerous other writers is that elevated horror is actually horror films taking place in elevators.

Just kidding, that’s elevator horror, and the only example of that I can think of is 2010’s Devil.

No, “elevated horror” is a marketing term. And like all marketing terms, it’s directed towards a specific audience. Who is this target audience? It’s people who normally wouldn’t check out horror because they fear it’s low class, dangerous, or degenerate. They may want to check out horror or be curious, but the stigma still attached to the genre keeps them from doing so. Either that, or they won’t check it out unless a work is given a specific designation.

Calling something “elevated horror” is basically saying, “This isn’t like other horror stories, where half-naked teens are voyeuristically killed with tons of blood and gore, or where supernatural entities menace children in sewers. No, it has nuance and social commentary! There’s psychology and drama and fleshed out characters! You can be respectable while enjoying this!”

In other words, it’s another way of something is high-brow. “There are no explosions and superheroes here. No aliens or elves. No star-crossed lovers up against the odds. Only real people having real life situations, or real people in situations that are absurd but it’s okay, because it says something important about society.”

I almost wish it was a subgenre. I might have found a home for my ballerina-meets-the-King-in-Yellow story already (still working on that, give it time).

Pinhead may not be from an elevated franchise, but that doesn’t make him or Hellraiser any less awesome.

And the problem with this marketing term is it’s misleading. By calling certain movies or books “elevated horror,” it’s labeling all other horror as “trash,” or at the very least “common.” Either way, the designation puts other horror stories down. And that’s a shame, because there’s such good horror out there. Dark Harvest, Kill Creek and Salem’s Lot aren’t high brow, but they’re great stories that thrill and can leave their readers up late into the night. Same with The Thing or the Hellraiser franchise: they may never win Oscars, but goddamn are they scary, and the latter has led to one of the most memorable characters in the slasher genre.

I’m not trying to put down the term. I’m just saying we should understand what it means, both for works designated as such and those that aren’t. And if it lets you enjoy horror, great. Just make sure to check out works that aren’t “elevated” and whose creators don’t really think or care if their work is called that.

Personally, I can see some of my work being called elevated, but I’ll just say that I was trying to write a fun story and wanted others to enjoy it as well.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. After getting my thoughts on this topic out, I’m off to dream of beasties and ghosts. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

Photo by Pedro Figueras on Pexels.com

For those of you who have been following me for a while, every now and then I post about haunted locations I want to visit before I become a ghost myself (because if I get the chance, I probably will become one). Over the past several years, I’ve been lucky enough to visit some of the places I want to visit (in the case of the Ohio State Reformatory, multiple times). My most recent visit was to Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada, and boy, did I experience some stuff (click here to read more about that).

However, as many as I manage to visit every year, several more always pop up on my lists. So that I have a record of the new places I want to visit, as well as the places some of you will now know to avoid from here on out, here’s my latest list of haunted locations! Prepare to be scared.

Great Saltair Pavilion, Salt Lake City, Utah

There have actually been several Saltair pavilions near the Salt Lake outside Salt Lake City, Utah and they’ve been resorts, amusement parks, concert venues, and dance palaces. Saltair II was even a set piece in the 1962 horror movie Carnival of Souls (which I highly recommend). Currently, only one, Saltair III, is standing, and it’s said that the building houses quite a few spirits. Some of which sometimes get violent when a concert is held in the building.

Both for the history and the hauntings, I want to go.

The Hinsdale House, Hinsdale, New York

I think this is a house my sister told me about. Anyway, the house has quite the history. According to legend, a family moved into the house in the 1970s and came into contact with numerous spirits. And some of these spirits were apparently not very friendly, as a priest from a local Catholic university had to stop by and perform exorcisms several times. Eventually the family moved out, and it went through several hands before the current owner, who turned it into an investigative hot spot.

I wonder who I know in the New York area who would want to join me there?

Virginia City, Nevada

This town was a real Wild West town, and many of the buildings in its historic district are from the 1860s and 70s. Several have been or are being converted into museums, as well as hotels, restaurants, saloons, and more. And from what I understand, quite a few cemeteries and mines from the era as well. And apparently, the majority of them are haunted! To the point you could probably spend a month there and still find new locations to investigate! Um, count me in!

Marietta, Ohio

This is another city I’ve heard has plenty of haunted locations, including the Anchorage Mansion, the Blennerhassett Island and Mansion, the Blennerhassett Regional History Museum, and the Lafayette Hotel, among others. Luckily, I’ll be visiting at least one of the locations at the end of the month for the Hidden Marietta Paranormal Expo, so maybe I can stay in a haunted room the night before and experience something spooky.

The Mark Twain House, Hartford, Connecticut

This historic Victorian mansion was the home of Samuel Clemens, AKA Mark Twain, and his family for nearly 17 years. Today the house is a museum open for tours, educational institute, and (at least before the pandemic) a place for writers’ retreats and weekends. And it might be the home to a few spirits, including the spirit of the great writer himself.

The house of a writer that’s also haunted by said writer? When can I stop by?!

Mary King’s Close, Edinburgh, Scotland

A “close” is a Scottish term for an alleyway, and they’re usually named after a famous occupant. In this case, Mary King’s Close is named after the 17th century merchant Mary King. A century after her death, however, the close was built over for the creation of the Royal Exchange. For centuries, it’s been rumored to be haunted, and since it’s been opened and excavated, those stories have only continued. Is it maybe hallucinogenic gases from a nearby bog? Or is there something still living there, in a sense? I want to find out.

Windsor Castle, England

One of the homes of the British royal family, all sorts of spirits are said to haunt that place! King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Queen Victoria, and quite a few more. I doubt the Queen or her family would let any ghost hunting team, let alone me, but it’s fun to dream. And it would be fun just to go. Who knows? Something could happen if I went on a tour!

Eloise Asylum, Westland, Michigan

Pretty sure one of my uncles told me about this one. Just not sure which one. Anyway, located about 30 miles outside Detroit, the Eloise Asylum was originally a poor house before becoming a hospital and insane asylum. It operated for nearly a hundred years and was a massive complex. Today, only a couple buildings still stand, but those that do, as well as a nearby cemetery, are reputed to be heavily haunted. The building is home to regular ghost investigations, as well as haunted attractions during October.

Ah, the number of excuses to visit my relatives in Detroit keep building up.

Punderson Manor, Punderson State Park, Ohio

This giant Tudor-style manor has been a resort since the 1950s and is a scenic place to get away from the world. You can hike, swim, fish, canoe and kayak, sleep, and relax. At least, if the ghosts don’t bug you. Apparently there are spirits who mess around with the staff and guests every now and then. Laughter is heard, objects moved without reason, lights flicker, and apparently terrifying apparitions show up. But if you ignore all that, it could make for a nice weekend getaway.

Hmm…my dad and stepmom live near there. Maybe I can convince them to stop by with me if I sell them on the weekend away from it all.

The Buxton Inn, Granville, Ohio

My most recent discovery is actually a short drive from me. This beautiful colonial house was opened in 1812 and has plenty of history and stories to match its beauty. That, and possibly a few spirits. Orbs, phantom footsteps, a ghost cat, and a “Blue Lady” in room 9 are among the hauntings reported. It sounds like the perfect place for me to hang out this upcoming Halloween…as well as maybe to tell a story at.


Well, that’s my latest list. If I visit any of these locations in the near future, I’ll be sure to let you know. Especially if I experience any activity. But tell me, Followers of Fear, have you been to any of these locations? What were your experiences? Where would you like to go? And which would you absolutely avoid at all costs? Let’s discuss.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

Everyone probably knows Scooby Doo. That dog and his human friends have been solving mysteries and getting into hijinks since my parents were small. However, what most people don’t know is of the other dog dealing with ghosts and ghoulies, Courage the Cowardly Dog. This series aired during the late 90s and early 2000s, and followed a little dog named Courage living on a farm in Nowhere, Kansas with his kindhearted, elderly Scottish owner Muriel and her crotchety husband Eustace Bagg. There, Courage would be forced to fight supernatural, paranormal, and sometimes just weird threats to his home. It was dark, surreal and a ton of fun.

And someone at Warner Bros. had the genius idea that, since Scooby-Doo and Courage the Cowardly Dog have certain similarities, why not have them crossover? Thus came about Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog. And fans of both series have been wondering since: is this movie as genius as the idea?

As someone who has been looking forward to this film as much as Halloween Kills, I can confirm it is.

Straight Outta Nowhere starts with Scooby and the gang finishing off a mystery in Kansas when Scooby hears an odd sound and feels an overwhelming compulsion to find the source. This leads him to run off to Nowhere, home to the highest number of strange occurrences in the world, and meets Courage. The two dogs quickly become friends, which is good because giant cicadas have risen up and are attacking people! And surprisingly, this isn’t a normal Tuesday for Nowhere.

There’s a lot to like about this film. The animation styles for Scooby Doo and Courage are highly different, but the animators managed to synthesize them into something that works. Not only that, but the writing is really good and the characters play off each other very well (it’s cute how much Muriel and Velma become besties within five seconds). It also feels like the Courage TV show I remember as a kid, with random monsters unrelated to the main plot showing up at random to menace the cast. Having the Scooby gang trying to logic this stuff out when logic clearly has no place in this story adds a bit of hilarity to the story as well.

Add in all sorts of Easter eggs from the original TV series (haunted mattress for the win!), references to Monty Python and Young Frankenstein, a decent explanation for why Nowhere is so weird without overtaking the actual plot and characters, and some stellar writing, and you’ve got a great movie here.

That being said, it’s not perfect. I would have liked to see some more of the minor characters from Courage the Cowardly Dog, such as the psychic chihuahua and Dr. Vindaloo. And for some reason, Eustace is given a hip-hop number, to which I say, “Why?”

However, all in all, Straight Outta Nowhere is a great mashup of these two shows and will delight fans of both franchises. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.5. It’s hilarious, delightful, and might end up in my DVD collection someday.

It’s certainly better than Scooby Doo and the Curse of the 13th Ghost, anyway. That was a big middle finger to fans of the TV show it’s based on and misunderstands what made The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo good. It’s basically the Friday the 13th remake of Scooby-Doo. Yes, I trashed the Friday the 13th remake again! Bite me, MIchael Bay!

Read the book by Max Booth III last month. Finally got to see the movie, the screenplay of which was penned by Booth as well and which was directed by Sean King O’Grady, this evening. Let’s get reviewing.

As I said, We Need to Do Something is based on the novel by Max Booth III and follows Melissa and her family as they pile into the master bathroom during a violent storm (no basement). However, they soon find themselves trapped in that bathroom with no way to get out, and it’s unlikely anyone’s coming for them. Hunger, fear and their own dysfunction soon lead to tension, terror and their own personal ride to Hell.

Okay, first off, the bathroom in the movie is both bigger and tackier than the one I had in my head. Seriously, there’s plenty of space, but has that bathroom not been remodeled since the 1970s?

Enough silliness. Onto the actual review.

The film was made during the height of the pandemic and O’Grady said that the movie and current events sort of mirrored and mimicked each other. And you can see it in the film: all four of the main cast are trapped inside a small space due to events in the outside world and can’t leave. They grate on each other rather quickly and events make things worse and worse. Add in some crazy, ambiguous happenings to heighten the atmosphere and the situation further deteriorating, and it makes for a great analogue to the pandemic.

Not only that, but the ambiguity in the novel is translated very well into the film. It’s more heavily implied that what’s happening outside the bathroom (which we never see) might actually be real rather than a side effect of cabin fever or anything. But it’s still quite mysterious and leaves you with just as many questions as the novel did.

Finally, the cast does a great job as their characters. As Melissa, Sierra McCormick is brimming with hurt and pathos, while Vinessa Shaw (Allison in Hocus Pocus, if you can believe it) does a great job as the mother tired of living a friction-filled marriage. And while Pat Healy’s take on dad Robert is written the tiniest bit more sympathetic than in the book, he still comes across as a mega asshole you love to hate.

Oh, and guess what? Ozzy Osbourne is apparently in the film. I’ll let you guess which character he is.

On the downside, the flashbacks with Melissa and her girlfriend Amy do feel kind of lacking without a lot of the context the novel gave them. While the score reminds me of the best of Colin Stetson’s work, it does have a few moments where it doesn’t work too well with what’s occurring in the movie. And in certain moments, the snake does look laughably fake.

But all in all, this is a great translation of the novel to the screen. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give We Need to Do Something a 4.5 out of 5. If you can’t make it to a theater playing it, you can find it on YouTube, Apple TV and Amazon, among other sites, so go give it a watch. You’ll be reminded that, as bad as your pandemic experience with your family has been these 19 months, at least you weren’t trapped like these guys!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Tomorrow I get to work on new stories, but right now, I’m going to hit the proverbial hay. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

I first heard of this film earlier this year. And I heard a lot of back and forth on it. Some people loved it, other people hated it. It got a terrible response when it was released. However, there’s a cult following around it, and I recently found it on HBO Max. So, unsure of what I was getting into, I watched it.

Based on the graphic novel from Boom Studios (which I may need to read now), The Empty Man follows James Lasombra, a former cop with a past. When his friend’s daughter Amanda goes missing and the police show little interest in finding her, he does some investigating himself. This leads him not only to a strange cult with connections to a spirit in Bhutan, but to a rabbit hole that will not only change him, but the world.

Well, that was something else. And I have to say, I’m glad I watched it.

For one thing, the main part of the film is very atmospheric. There’s this somber air around the whole film which pairs well with the story and the characters. Add in some decent jump scares and some even better creepy sequences, and you actually have a film that’s hard to look away from. I especially like the sequences involving the cult, which is just freaky as all get out. Especially that bonfire scene.

Oh, and the sequences with the titular Empty Man is quite creepy to watch when they’re onscreen.

That being said, it’s not perfect. The main issue is the film’s opening. Remember two paragraphs ago where I said “main film?” The first twenty minutes are kind of a prologue to the rest of the movie, but it feels like its own short film rather than part of a cohesive story. And I’m sure the difference between those first twenty minutes and the rest of the film is part of why this film got negative reviews after its release.

In addition, there were never any moments where I felt a huge surge of terror; Lasombra’s personal trauma is supposed to be very important but is only really explored near the end of the film when its impact on the audience won’t be that strong; and I’m sure there are people who won’t like the final twist, or get the philosophical mumbo-jumbo from the cult.

That last part wasn’t a big turn off for me, but I can see it being a turn off for others.

All in all, though, I can see how The Empty Man could receive a cult following and has been doing so much better since being released to streaming and home media. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give it a 4.2. It’s strange, creepy and compelling. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think you should check it out and find out if it’s yours.

Don’t let nothing stop you from watching it.*

*That makes plenty of sense if you’ve seen the movie.

It’s a James Wan horror film. He’s the guy behind Saw, Insidious and the Conjuring films. Nuff said.

Malignant follows Madison Mitchell, a woman who becomes connected to several murders in the Seattle area, starting when her abusive husband is murdered by a mysterious intruder. Not only that, but Madison becomes witness to the murders in dreams, committed by a mysterious figure named Gabriel. As the police attempt to figure out the connection, Madison’s sister learns a secret from the former’s past. A rather disturbing and deadly secret.

This film started out rather slow and kinda typical for an average horror film, but it got better with time. And honestly, it was really interesting.

Malignant is rather atypical of a horror film. James Wan made it more of a giallo film, which is an Italian genre mixing mystery-thriller with suspense and horror (they were quite influential on slashers). The result is a mostly well-done balance between a crazy crime thriller and a strange horror film, especially in scenes like in the Seattle Underground. And the final reveal is rather ingenious, with some very nice body horror that made me shout in my own living room in shock.

Also, what a film score! It was kind of all over the place, but it was still interesting to listen to.

However, the film’s first twenty minutes or so did feel a little cliched and below-average for a horror film. And the ending was kind of a let down for me. Something much darker would’ve worked better for me. And they do bring down the film’s score for me.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give Malignant a 3.4. Yeah, there’s a lot of interesting stuff in the film, and ooh, that twist! What an image! I’m going to dream of that for years. However, there’s a lot that could have been improved or done differently. If you want to watch it, go ahead. It’s in theaters and on HBO Max. Still, it’s not the best thing I’ve seen this year. Not by far.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m going to bed so I can hang with friends and maybe do some editing tomorrow. Good night, and pleasant nightmares!

I saw a few trailers for this film, but wasn’t sure what to expect. Still, the premise sounded interesting, so I went to check it out. And that’s my intro.

Directed by David Bruckner and starring Rebecca Hall, The Night House follows Beth, a teacher whose husband committed suicide recently. As she tries to handle day-to-day activities, she finds out that her husband kept things from her. He may have had a secret life full of darkness. And as supernatural events happen around her, Beth begins to discover that something dark has come for her. And it can be found in a reversed replica of her and her husband’s lakehouse across the lake from them.

The first two thirds of The Night House were really good. Rebecca Hall does an excellent job playing a woman grappling with grief and the senselessness of her husband’s death. There’s a genuine atmosphere of unease that starts fairly quickly and keeps building throughout most of the film. A lot of this is done through what’s not seen as much as what is seen, and that proves to be really effective. Add in how skillfully they pull back the layers surrounding the husband, making him seem more and more complicated and twisted with every reveal, and some genuinely terrifying special effects, and you’ve got yourself a horror movie.

I will say, however, that the final reveal didn’t land very well with me and affected how I liked the final act. I think if they changed a few things, it would have kept up the terror of the film and made it a more effective reveal. As it was, however, it wasn’t as powerful or as terrifying. I respect what they were trying to do, especially as it ties into the film’s themes of grief and loss. I just wish they’d approached it in a way that kept the film as scary as it was for the first two-thirds.

All in all, I’m giving The Night House a 3.9 out of 5. As I said, if the final reveal was more to my taste, it would’ve been a better movie and gotten a higher score. Still, the first two-thirds are very scary, so I’d recommend it just to see that.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be back before too long, believe me. For now though, it’s late and I need to sleep if I’m to do anything this weekend. So, until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

Remember Five Nights at Freddy’s? Well, if you don’t, Five Night’s at Freddy’s, or FNAF for short, is a video game franchise that was pretty popular in the mid-2010’s. The games revolve around surviving the night, usually at a haunted Chuck E. Cheese knockoff, while fending off killer animatronics. The unique and simple gameplay, combined with the dense lore revealed in the games, made it pretty popular for a while. There have even been in-universe novels (all of which I reviewed) and a movie has been in development hell since 2015.

And in the meantime, a couple of other films have been released that use the same concept but are just different enough to avoid IP problems. Thus, we get Willy’s Wonderland, which fills the gap for animatronic carnage horror films FNAF leaves quite well.

Starring (and produced by) Nicholas Cage, the film follows Cage as a mysterious drifter who gets stuck in the tiny town of Hayesville after a car accident. To pay for repairs, he accepts an overnight cleaning job at Willy’s Wonderland, an abandoned family entertainment center complete with giant, creepy electronics and a bloody history. What he’s not told is that the animatronics are alive and murderous. Thus begins a standoff between the eight deadly robots and the drifter. One that will be more explosive than anyone expects.

I’ll say this, these new slasher horror-comedies can be quite surprising. And if films like Happy Death Day, Freaky, and Willy’s Wonderland are the beginning of a new trend in horror, I hope it doesn’t get old too fast.

This film is a bonkers fun time! I think my favorite part is Cage’s unnamed character, who’s kind of a riff on Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name. He’s always got this sour look on his face, and his silence, addiction to energy soda, and routine make him nigh inscrutable. I also enjoyed the animatronics, which were visually interesting, moved well and were in the right area of the uncanny valley to be both funny and creepy. Add in some stellar action scenes and a good balance between the humor and horror elements and you have a really fun time.

I do have some complaints, however. For one thing, some of the slasher tropes felt kind of shoehorned in because they were expected. You would think this long after the slasher boom, even fictional teens would know not to do some of that dumb shit in a situation right out of a horror film. Speaking of which, several of the teen characters are not at all interesting or sympathetic. Honestly, one or two came off as detestable. Which might have been the point, given which tropes they engaged in, but I really could have done without that aspect of the film.

All in all, though, Willy’s Wonderland is a fun, bloody good time that will leave you amused and wanting more. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give it an even 4. A sequel or prequel is supposedly in the works, and I would love that. You could have a whole trilogy around Cage’s character getting into horror movie shenanigans. It would be hilarious and you could come up with so many inventive ways for him to get into scrapes with monsters or bad guys.

And in the meantime, if you want some FNAF movie goodness and can’t wait for that film to be made,* go check out Willy’s Wonderland.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope the next post isn’t a review (though I guarantee nothing). Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

*Assuming it gets made. Supposedly a script was approved and filming was supposed to begin this spring, but nothing happened and we haven’t had any updates in a while. Between that and the franchise having passed peak popularity, I feel like even if the film gets made, it’s going to face the same issues Slender Man’s film did. Namely that it was too late and there wasn’t enough interest, to say nothing of the quality (see my scathing review here).