Posts Tagged ‘Halloween season’

Today, I saw a full Halloween display in a supermarket. You know what that means. As of today, the Halloween season has officially begun! That’s right, it’s here! Break out the candy, dress up as something scary, carve up your pumpkins, and decorate your house like the Addams are coming to visit! Who cares if there’s a pandemic right now? We can still celebrate the season.

That being said, you’re probably wondering to yourself, what horror films should I watch this year? I’m sure plenty of you will be watching classics and beloved staples of horror/the season. Believe me, I will be too. But there are a bunch of films that don’t get as much love as they should. So I’ve come up with 11 films I feel would make great viewing for this year. Why 11? Because THERE’S SOMETHING WITH FANGS BEHIND YOU!

Anyway, on with the list. And in no particular order, might I add.

11. Overlord

A team of American soldiers parachute into Nazi-controlled France hours before D-Day to take down an operations center inside a church. However, the church is also being used to perform inhuman experiments in life after death. And if the soldiers don’t do something, the fate of the world might be at stake.

Whenever somebody talks about Nazi zombies, it’s usually in humorous terms. That, and the trailers for this film were all over the place, so nobody was really sure what audience this film was meant for. Horror? Action? War? Which is a shame, because Overlord is one of the best horror films I’ve ever seen. Its sets are atmospheric, the zombies are only used enough to be scary, and there’s an emphasis on psychological and war horror rather than guts and gore (though there’s plenty of that).

Make sure to check Overlord out. You won’t regret adding it to your watchlist.

10. As Above, So Below

An archaeologist leads a team into the Paris catacombs to find an ancient artifact. However, they stumble upon a gateway to hell, where their worst fears and guilt are used against them.

Coming out at the tail end of the found footage craze, this film was lost among audiences who were tired of shaky cameras and home video-style films. However, it’s found new life on home media, and it’s not hard to see why. The film takes advantage of its setting to deliver a claustrophobic and unnerving atmosphere. Not only that, but there’s a philosophical bent to the film that I spent discussing with friends for about an hour after we saw the film. It’s not everyday you meet a horror film that makes you think.

9. Carrie (2013)

I know the original Carrie is beloved, but I’ve always preferred the remake with Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore. Not only are the special effects much better, but none of the strange editing (like that infamous fast forward) and odd creative choices are present. For example, in the original, when Carrie starts her revenge, the students start panicking because the doors won’t open. Yeah, nothing overtly psychic has happened yet, just the doors won’t open. And yet everyone is screaming in terror. Whereas in the remake, the progression from students laughing at Carrie to screaming in fear is much more natural and believable. And Julianne Moore’s interpretation of Margaret White gets her crazy factor across way more than any actress before her. Those factors are why I prefer this version of Carrie, and why I’m recommending it for this Halloween.

8. Underwater

This came out earlier this year and didn’t receive that much fanfare. That being said, it’s become something of a hidden gem within horror. It’s a pretty compelling disaster flick set in an underwater base, with a Lovecraftian twist about halfway through. While it’s not as effective as scaring people as Hereditary or as memorable as 2017’s IT, it’s still a film I recommend you see.

7. Annihilation

Based on the book by Jeff Vandermeer, Annihilation follows a team of scientists into the Shimmer, a strange zone on the West Coast where nature mutates and changes, and perhaps our own selves are at risk of changing. It’s a creepy film with a great group of female leads, as well as a Lovecraftian angle in its approach to body horror and the final twists. In the end, you may have more questions than when you started, but you’ll enjoy the thrill ride along the way. As well as the dark truth hidden in the conclusion.

6. The House of the Devil

A film made to look like it came right out of the 1980s, House of the Devil follows a college student taking on a babysitting job, only to find something very dark at the heart of her assignment. You’d never guess it was filmed in 2009. Also, it’s damn hard to look away. A supernatural slow burn that lures you in and ends up surprising you with how terrifying it can be. I’m sad that it’s flown under the radar so much, but that’s why I’m happy to post about it and recommend it this Halloween season.

5. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Based on the graphic novel by Allen Moore, several of the greatest figures from 19th century literature come together to stop a terrorist from causing WWI fifteen years early. It didn’t do as well in theaters, but it’s become rather beloved since it came out on video. Action and horror, intrigue and steampunk/Victorian aesthetics. I swear, if this came out today rather than in the early 2000s, it might be something of a hit (though I do admit, its slow moments do bring down the film a bit).

Hell, my siblings and I nearly had a fist fight over our mom’s DVD copy when she was downsizing, we loved it that much. And half my sisters don’t even like horror! Given that, shouldn’t you check it out?

4. Van Helsing

Bram Stoker’s vampire hunter is reimagined as a badass monster hunter played by Hugh Jackman, going up against Dracula as the latter tries to bring a terrible plan to fruition.

A lot of people give this film flack, but I love it. It’s a great action-horror flick along the lines of the previous entry, and was one of my favorites as a teenager. It may be over the top, but if you’re looking for popcorn horror at its best, you could do a lot worse than Van Helsing.

3. Devil

Five people get on an elevator, only for them to get stuck and picked off by a supernatural entity. The devil has come for sinners, and it’s not going to stop till it has all of them.

This was originally supposed to be part of a trilogy, but M. Night Shamaylan, who directed the first film, was unable to follow it up. That being said, I find this film to be creepy and a lot of fun to watch. It takes an interesting concept and adds a time-is-running-out element to it. I loved it when I first saw it, and I still kind of like it. Maybe you will too.

2. The Reaping

A professional debunker of miracles is called to a small town in Louisiana when a little girl is accused of killing her brother and bringing the ten plagues upon the town. There, she finds a Satanic cult devoted to bringing about the end of the world, and this girl may be the vehicle to do so.

The mystery of the film isn’t that hard to figure out, but the film has its moments and its got some great performances from Hillary Swank, AnnaSophia Robb, and Idris Elba before he was famous. Plus, when you reach the end of the film and realize the final twist, 2020 as a whole makes a lot more sense (you’ll have to watch the film to get what I mean).

1. Clown

Released three years before 2017’s IT, Clown follows a man who puts on a clown suit he finds for his child’s birthday. However, what he doesn’t know is that the suit is cursed, and is slowly transforming him into a child-eating monster. This is a bloody and terrifying monster movie with lots of effective body horror, and I’m honestly surprised more people haven’t heard of it. Hence why I’m recommending it here.

 

That wraps up my list. I hope it gave you some ideas of what to check out this year. But tell me, what are you planning on watching this Halloween season? Any other films I missed that should be on this list? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and no opening doors to Hell without me there. I make it a lot more fun.

I first read the source material by authors Richard and Billy Chizmar in the Dark Tides Charity Anthology (which I highly recommend and not just because proceeds go to charity) back in April. I found it terrifying, psychologically thrilling. I even expressed on Twitter that I thought it might make a good movie, though I doubted one would be made right after the release of The Lighthouse. Then about a month or two ago, I found out a movie had not only been made, but would be coming out on September 1st. I had some free time, so I rented it off YouTube and sat down to check it out.

Widow’s Point follows Thomas Livingston, an author and paranormal investigator who is doing an investigation of the infamous Widow’s Point lighthouse in Harper’s Cove, Maine. The lighthouse has witnessed numerous murders and suicides over the years, making many speculate it’s haunted. Livingston and his crew arrive to stay the weekend and hopefully make some quick cash. Too bad he’s going to get so much more.

I feel like I was watching a Stephen King miniseries or TV movie from the 1990s, with a bit of classic Doctor Who serials. Yeah, on the surface it does seem a bit hokey and amateurish, and the one or two special effects are laughable. But it’s a lot of fun to watch, and I keep smiling when I think of the film and my experience watching it. Also, since all of the actors were unknown to me and looked like people I might see on the street, it gave the film a weird sort of plausibility. Like, this could happen to average joes. Add in a little suspension of disbelief, and you can believe in the story.

On top of that, there were some scary moments. Particularly when Livingston, played by Craig Sheffer,* is undergoing psychological stress and his mind is really beginning to snap. Those moments gave me some chills, I’ll tell you. And a lot of attention is paid to historical detail with flashback scenes detailing the lighthouse’s history, which I loved as a fan of history.

But there are things I didn’t care for. Like I said, the special effects were laughable, and I disliked how the filmmakers tried to give an explanation to the lighthouse’s evil, rather than leaving it mysterious like in the original short story. Sometimes less is more, and it certainly would have been more here.

All in all though, Widow’s Point is a nice guilty pleasure horror movie to start the Halloween season with. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 3.5. It probably won’t make you shit your pants in terror, but it’s entertaining and will scratch that horror itch. It’s on DVD and streaming sites, so give it a go if you’re interested.

 

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to work on one of my own stories. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

*By the way, I want this guy to narrate an audio book of one of my stories someday.

The New Mutants. The last film in the Fox X-Men movies and promising in the trailer to be a horror film set in a comic book universe. Originally supposed to be the second to last, but its release date was pushed back several times over the past two years. Released this weekend after the latest delay due to COVID-19. I went today to see it, the first movie I’ve seen in a theater in months.

Let me tell you how it ranked as an X-Men movie, a superhero film, and a horror film.

The New Mutants takes place at a facility for young mutants whose abilities have led to deaths: Dani Moonstar, whose abilities are as yet unclarified; Rahne Sinclair, who transforms into a wolf; Sam Guthrie, who can fly at jet speeds; Illyana Rasputin, who has sorcery powers (lucky girl); and Bobby de Costa, who can manifest solar energy. They are watched over by Dr. Reyes, a mutant with barrier abilities who says she’s helping the teens get their powers under control. However, as odd events occur around the facility, it becomes apparent that not all is as it seems. They’ll have to band together to find the truth and defeat the evil menacing them.

I’ll start my review by saying this: while this may be advertised as a horror film in a comic book universe, that’s not true. At some level during the creation of this film, someone (probably 20th Century Studios’ execs) didn’t want the film to lean too far into the horror elements. Despite proving time and time again that comic book/superhero movies have the ability to tell mature stories, they’re still considered films for children and families, and too much horror will alienate families from theaters. That’s why, in general, there are very few horror films in comic book/superhero universes (and not all of them good).

Which is why, as a horror film, The New Mutants sucks. While the trailer promised us plenty of horror, there’s very little attempt to actually scare us. No atmosphere, tension or jump scares, and what scary imagery we get is done mainly through CGI. And as you know, if you’re not careful about it or rely too much on the CGI, it actually makes the film less scary. It’d be more accurate to call The New Mutants a comic book film with a couple of horror elements.

And as far as X-Men and superhero films go, this is average at best. The character building needed for a superhero film is minimal at best (and is most lacking in Bobby de Costa’s character), the one action sequence is not as spectacular as it could be, and the final showdown ends anticlimactically. It’s not as bad as the worse of the X-Men films or of superhero films in general, but it still leaves a lot to be desired.

Was there anything I liked? Well, Rahne and Dani, played by Maisie Williams and Blu Hunt respectively, have a romantic relationship that’s pretty cute to watch. It’s nice to see two broken people fall genuinely in love without their own fears or toxic personality traits getting in the way. And I think this counts as the first superhero film with openly LGBT superheroes, let alone LGBT superheroes in a relationship. Props.

While the characters don’t have that much development, their actors do a great job bringing those characters to life. The setting, while cliche, is constructed very well. And the CGI for the superpowers is done very well.

All told though, The New Mutants is a film confused about what it wants to be, and it shows in how poor this film was. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving this one a 2.5. All told, not worth the wait for it to come out, let alone the trip to the theater.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If anyone needs me, I’ll be working on a list of horror films to watch this Halloween season and probably watching a good superhero film, namely Black Panther (rest in peace, Chadwick Boseman). Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

From left to right: Anton Cancre, Tim McWhorter, myself, and Lucy Snyder.

So as many of you are aware, this past Thursday I attended an event with other members of the Ohio Chapter of the Ohio Writers Association. And let me tell you, it was a lot of fun.

First, the Bexley Public Library were great to have as hosts.* They were so enthusiastic and went out of their way to make sure everyone was comfortable and that the space looked great. And hoo boy, what a space! Their Quiet Reading Room looks like what you would expect a room in a historic library to look like. Bookcases lining the walls with big tombs, fancy light fixtures, a fancy carpet. I almost expected to see an elderly British man with a pipe sitting in an armchair reading a newspaper!

And the event itself was a lot of fun. Excluding the library staff, there were about ten or twelve people who showed up, which is good for a niche genre like horror fiction. Plus there were the other authors: Anton Cancre, who was at the reading in Cincinnati a couple weekends ago; Lucy Snyder, who has been Bram Stoker-nominated for her work; and Tim McWhorter, who recently went down to a haunted bridge tunnel in Ohio for an event. I’m not jealous at all.

Anyway, for those of you who weren’t able to attend, Anton was able to film the event via Facebook Live, and then uploaded it onto YouTube today. I’ve embedded the video below. And yes, that is me as undead Alexander Hamilton and Anton in a lovely Renaissance dress. What can we say? It was a Halloween reading. And yes, that was me blowing an Aztec death whistle once or twice. What can I say? It’s a great prop for opportunities like this.

Overall, the event was a lot of fun. We had a great time reading, the attendees asked some great questions, and we may have a few new fans. And the library staff enjoyed having us as well. It made both parties want to do it again some day. Which might happen. I’m not saying it will, but there has been discussions of possible dates. So who knows what might happen?

Anyway, I just wanted to post about this and let everyone know what a blast it was. And thanks to everyone who was able to show. It means a lot that you came.

Anyway, that’s all for now. My sleep schedule is a little off, owing to the fact that I slept fifteen hours straight and didn’t wake up till three in the afternoon. So I’m going to do a little late night writing. Wish me luck on a new short story. And until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

*For those of you unaware, Bexley is a small neighborhood in the middle of my home city of Columbus. Just thought I’d mention it.

As it’s the most wonderful time of the year (and remember, I have a good argument for that), I thought I would show off this year’s Halloween costume. Especially since I really like this one and think it’s going to be quite the hit.

So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, let me present this year’s Halloween costume: undead Alexander Hamilton!

🎵 “Alexander Hamilton. My name is Alexander Hamilton. And there’s a million things I haven’t done.🎵… because Aaron Burr shot me in 1804. The asshole.”

What do you think? I got the idea for it after seeing Hamilton earlier this year and having my mind blown by it. Of course, I put in a special Rami Ungar twist.

I will be wearing it tonight at the reading at the Bexley Public Library (which, if you can stop by, please do), and at any other events I can. Hopefully people like it (and maybe help me film a short video while I’m wearing it).

And while we’re on the topic, what are you wearing this Halloween? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now. I have a busy day ahead of me, so until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Something weird has been happening this week. Weirder than usual, anyway. On Monday, I came home and found my Alice du Maurin Pullip doll in the hallway of my building. As if it were waiting for me. As far as I could tell, no one had been in my apartment, so nobody could have moved her.

This is the photograph I took of the incident.

Then on Tuesday, I found her in the stairwell. Again, there was no sign my apartment had been entered without my knowledge.

And then today, she was waiting for me again! This time with her little arm up, as if welcoming me home.

By this time, I was getting a little annoyed and a little freaked, and resolved to hide a security camera in my room, where I keep my doll collection. I was going to catch whoever was moving my Alice du Maurin around.

But first I was going to take a nap. I replaced the doll in the cabinet and went to sleep.

When I woke up though, I found this staring at me from the foot of my bed, with the cabinet door wide open behind her.

And I swear, I heard a voice whisper, “Why aren’t you writing a new story?!”

Happy Halloween.

At seventy-two, King has told people he only intends to retire “when God tells me to.” Given his latest book, a 557-page science-thriller, I doubt God will be giving him that message anytime soon. And if he keeps writing stories like The Institute, I’m completely fine with that. Especially if I can eventually get on his radar someday.

The Institute centers on Luke Ellis, a twelve-year-old prodigy who is planning on going to Boston for college in the fall. He also has some telekinetic abilities, though he can’t do more than move an empty pizza pan when he’s excited. Still, that’s enough to put him on the radar of The Institute, a shadowy facility in the backwoods of Maine. His parents are murdered, and he is spirited away, used in experiments that are supposed to enhance the psychic abilities he and other kids and teens have. And as time goes on, Luke not only gets a better idea of what sort of things they’re doing at the Institute, but realizes with growing anxiety that he has to get away. Before he is changed permanently. At least, changed more than he already has been.

What makes this story so scary, even though it’s more science-thriller than science-horror, is its plausibility. You can totally imagine a shadowy government or shadow government organization kidnapping kids and using them for their own ends.* There are a lot of comments on or callbacks to the Nazi experiments on concentration camp victims, and as a WWII/Holocaust scholar, those comments are extremely warranted.

Aside from that, this book is good. The characters feel real, and the Institute is well thought out, adding to the feeling you could see some of this stuff happening. Luke is a likable protagonist, smart but not arrogant about it (in fact, he worries a lot about being too arrogant with his intellect), polite, and eager to help his friends. Likewise, the staff of the Institute feel real as well, particularly how they can do what they do and think of the kids as less-than-human.

As for the Institute, it’s big and is usually good at keeping the kids within the boundaries of the facility, but it also has its issues such as faulty equipment and staff rivalries, which makes it feel real. It could almost feel like your own workplace. Just evil and incredibly cruel.

Of course, the story isn’t totally perfect. I’m not going to fault it due to the fact that it’s not one of King’s terror-inducing stories like IT, we all know he’s great at writing more than horror. Nor am I going to fault the book due to the return of psychic powers. After all, stories where psychic abilities feature prominently, like Carrie and The Shining, are why King is a household name today. But I will admit the ending does feel a little expository and may not give everyone the sense of satisfaction people are looking for. That is a criticism I’m comfortable making.

However, on the whole The Institute is a strong entry into the Stephen King bibliography, a slow-burn that will leave you uncomfortable and yet unable to put the book down. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.2. Whether you’re using your mind or your hands, I recommend lifting up a copy and giving it a read this Halloween season.

And that reminds me, welcome to October! As a horror writer, I’ll have plenty to share with you during the most wonderful time of the year (and yes, it is the most wonderful time of the year. Read this post if you don’t believe me). We’ll have reviews, writing updates, discussions of horror, and possibly a demonic summoning. Look forward to it, my Followers of Fear. And until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*Just so you know, I’m not going to directly comment on any parallels between this novel and current events, though plenty of people, including King himself, have done that already. My current job makes doing so difficult. If I ever get the opportunity to write full-time, that’ll change. In the meantime though, I’ll just keep my mouth shut and stick to reviewing stories on their own merits.

It’s hard to believe we’re in the second half of August, and October (AKA the Halloween season, AKA the most wonderful time of the year), is right around the corner. Soon, we’re going to have to get ready for witches and goblins and more candy than is probably healthy. But before we go into all that (as well as some of what I have planned for that month), I have to mark a milestone. That’s right, my novel Rose has been out for two whole months!

So for those of you who know, Rose is a fantasy-horror novel I wrote as a college thesis project. The novel follows a young woman named Rose Taggert who awakens with the past two years missing from her memories. She quickly undergoes a terrifying transformation into a plant-like creature, which begins a saga to ensure her survival as she realizes people in her life are hiding dark secrets from her.

It took a lot of work, about seven drafts, and more than a few anxiety attacks, but after five years, Rose was released on June 21st, 2019. And I’m proud to say that it’s been doing well. Everyone I’ve talked to who’s read it seems to like it, or at the very least, not hate it. Just this past Sunday, for example, I received two new reviews of Rose, each from very different reviewers. For example, The first came from Angela Yuriko Smith, editor of S’pace and Time Magazine, who shared her thoughts on her personal website (which apparently she read the same week she put in a garden. Now that’s synergy!). The other came from Elle Turnpitt of Dead Head Reviews, who found it terrifying and gave the novel as a whole a 4 out of 5.  Nice stuff.

Me at the reading on Sunday. Yes, I am wearing a black cloak. Does that surprise you at all?

Also on Sunday, I had my very first solo author reading* at Brothers Drake Meadery in Columbus. I’ve loved that place since my college years, and I was super excited to have my reading there (plus, the mead!). A small but very enthusiastic crowd showed up for the reading, only three of whom were related to me, and they liked what they heard. After the reading, they asked me a lot of questions (my favorite was if I’m a LARPer–I wish I had the time for that!) and a few people even bought signed copies. It was an amazing experience, one I hope to do again with them someday.

Did I mention the owners of Brothers Drake messaged me on Instagram today to let me know they’re reading it? I’m really excited to hear what they think.

Anyway, if any of this has made you curious about Rose, I’ll leave the links below so you can check it out, read some of the other reviews people have left, and then decide to get a copy. And if you do get one, please let me know what you think. Positive or negative, email or online review, I love feedback and it helps me out in the long run.

The table featuring the copies of “Rose,” which I enjoyed signing books and talking to people at.

Oh, and before I forget, I’ll be at the Bexley Local Author Festival at the Bexley Public Library on Sunday, August 25th, in Bexley, Ohio. I’ll be selling and signing copies of Rose, taking photographs, and probably not sacrificing the lives of the innocent in order to start a terrifying plague. Hope to see you there if you can make it. And if you can’t, I’ll likely be blogging about it, so you can read that. Should be a good time.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I have to torture the souls of famous personages from history who were secretly serial killers (you’ll never guess which American Founding Father is among that group) and then work on a possession story before heading to bed. Until next time, happy reading and pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

*Sort of. I had one in college in my dorm, but given that I bribed or blackmailed most of the five people who showed up and it didn’t really result in any sales of The Quiet Game, I’m not sure it counts anymore.