Posts Tagged ‘Lovecraftian horror’

It’s been a double-dose of Anthony Mackie today. I watched the latest episode of Falcon & Winter Soldier on Disney+, and then I got to see this film on Netflix. I would have seen it when it came out, but the pandemic kind of screwed with those plans. Anyway, better late than never.

Taking place in New Orleans,* Synchronic stars Anthony Mackie as Steve Denube, a paramedic who starts encountering some strange cases while out on the job. People are being found, injured, dying or dead with mysterious injuries and causes, and Steve traces it to a new street drug called Synchronic. Turns out Synchronic is a drug that allows people to travel through time. And when someone important to Steve goes missing, he decides to use Synchronic to do some good.

So before I tell you what I thought of this film, let me just state that this film is by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, the team behind the body-horror romance Spring and the Lovecraftian horror film The Endless. And I’ve started to notice a pattern with the films they make: while strange shit is part of their films, it’s not the focus like strange shit is the focus of mine. Really, the strange in their stories is a tool to tell very human stories. Stories of love, identity, loss, belonging, and purpose, among other things. Synchronic is no different.

All that being said, I really enjoyed this film.

First off, it’s a really well-told story. if at times really difficult to watch. At first things are really trippy, but then you start watching and things start making sense. From there, things go from just trippy to being a very human story about purpose in life. And as the story unfolds and you start to understand more what’s happening, it not only enhances the story, but enhances what our protagonist is going through.

Of course, the cast does a great job at giving this story its weight. Anthony Mackie is a great dramatic actor who can really pull off these weighty roles, and it’s his prowess as an actor that, at times, makes Synchronic such a hard film to watch at times. Like I said, human story with strange shit as a tool to drive the story.

Finally, the special effects and the sets were really well done. Because it’s a movie involving a literal time travel drug, it leads to some interesting locales, and each one is brought to life so well. You find yourself totally believing that the science-y bits could happen, helped by the fact that some of the theoretical physics stuff employed in the story sounds real, or real enough to give the strange stuff an air of credibility. And the attention to detail for the historical settings really makes you think you’re looking at real places in the past (sometimes uncomfortably so).

There were a couple of things I didn’t care for, however. One is that there’s occasional flashbacks to what should be a traumatic moment for Steve, but it’s so sparingly used and Steve seems so unaffected by it, I wonder if it was worth having in the final film. That, and there were a few moments focusing on Steve’s best friend Dennis and his wife that I felt could have been cut. It’s illustrative for their characters, but they don’t really add that much to the story or to Dennis or Steve’s journey.

All in all, though, Synchronic is a brilliantly told science horror film that brings an emotional punch to its timey-wimey concept. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.8. If you have Netflix, get on there and give it a watch. You’ll likely find it time well spent.

*Which I will be visiting later this year if all goes well.

I read the book back in 2018 and loved it (would have done a review, but I think by that point it had been out a while). I was excited when I heard that it was getting a show…and then sad when I heard it would be on HBO. However, now I have HBO Max, so I was able to watch the show. Which I finished watching today. As I’m obligated to do, I’m writing a review.

Based on the novel by Matt Ruff, Lovecraft Country follows Atticus Freeman, a black soldier living in 1950s America who returns home to Chicago after receiving a mysterious letter from his estranged father Montrose, stating he is in Arkham, Massachusetts, a location from the works of HP Lovecraft. Turns out, it’s actually a secret community called Ardham, but that doesn’t change how fantastical life gets for Atticus. Pretty soon, his life starts to resemble a Lovecraft story, involving secret societies of sorcerers and magic, ancient history, and entities that defy reality and biology. And it may end up putting Atticus and his whole family in danger.

So, it would be more fair to say this is a variation on the novel’s story than a direct adaptation. The first season acknowledges the concept of a multiverse and uses that to explain the changes from the novel. Some of these changes are minor–some names or genders are changed, roles are reduced or expanded, etc. Others are good, such as the expansion of Montrose’s character to be a meaningful exploration of a man with a troubled past still effecting his present. And others just made me scratch my head.

An example of this would be the creation of the character Ji-ah, a character from Atticus’s past who knows more than she lets on. On the one hand, I get why they added her and they tried to make her inclusion into the story important to the plot. At the same time, I feel like this whole character’s reason was diversity for diversity’s sake, which is an odd choice considering the show.

As for the rest of Lovecraft Country, it was great for the most part. The writing in even the dullest episodes was superb, and the actors were awesome. There were several scary moments, such as the events of the first two episodes and episode eight. The exploration of racism in America was powerfully done as well, drawing many parallels between events then and now (and making me want to know more about the Tulsa race riots. I do not remember learning about that in school).

If you haven’t checked out the novel, that’s also worth the read.

However, there were some downsides. The actress playing the villainess, Abbey Lee, played her role so emotionlessly I wondered if she couldn’t get into her character’s head, let alone play her convincingly. A lot of the music choices were modern rap or music from well past the 1950s, which honestly felt out of place in a historical fantasy-horror piece. And there were a few episodes where things kind of dragged for me.

Like the novel, Lovecraft Country the TV series isn’t perfect, but there’s plenty there to enjoy and make the watch worth it. You’re going to get different things from each iteration of the story, so it’s up to you which one you prefer.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give the first season of Lovecraft Country a 3.7. Combining horror, magic, heavy themes and great characterization, it’s worth the hype I heard. A second season may be in the works, but until we get confirmation one way or another, there’s still plenty of time to check it out. Get on HBO Max if you can and prepare for a powerful experience.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to work on stories I doubt will ever get their own adaptations (though it can’t hurt to try). Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

I first heard about this film last month, described as The Call of Cthulhu meets small Norwegian island and with Barbara Crampton of Re-Animator and Chopping Mall fame heavily featured in the marketing. The trailer looked cool, so I mentioned it in a post about cosmic horror becoming popular, and patiently waited for it to come out. I watched it evening, so obviously I have to write a review about it.

Based on a short story by Paul Kane* and influenced by the works of HP Lovecraft, Sacrifice follows Isaac Jorgstadt and his pregnant wife Emma as they return to the tiny Norwegian island where he lived until he was a child and his mother took him to America. As his mother has recently passed, Isaac now owns the home and has come to see if he can sell it. However, between the townsfolk’s bewildering behavior, unearthed family secrets, and strange dreams, Isaac and Emma find themselves in the crosshairs of a powerful cult worshipping an ancient and terrible god.

Pandemic or no pandemic, I think we can call this the first good horror film of 2021.

First off, the movie was really well done. The strange behavior of the townsfolk adds to this feeling of unreality in the story, which is heightened by frightening imagery and occurrences. The tension between Isaac, who becomes more and more enchanted by the island, and Emma, who is just freaked out, compounds the uneasiness we feel. And the slow-burn nature of the story ramps up in just the right way in the third act.

I also like the way HP Lovecraft’s work is incorporated into the story. Images and statues of Cthulhu–or as he’s known in the movie, “The Slumbering One”–abounds; Isaac’s name in America is Pickman, a reference to Pickman’s Model; dreams play a prominent role in the film; and of course, we get the occasional tentacles. You really enjoy stumbling across all these references and being like, “I get that!”

I always enjoy when cosmic horror is incorporated well into a non-Cthulhu Mythos film.

Excluding Barbara Crampton’s attempt at a Norwegian accent and one line that could be misconstrued as offensive to certain belief systems,** I only had one problem with the film. During the climax, the ending was epic and scary, and then that final shot felt…anticlimatic. I would have liked to see a shot of the Slumbering One or his tentacles or something. Just something more Lovecraftian and scary to end the movie with. Is that too much to ask?

All in all, though, this was a creepy and enjoyable ride. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.1 As of right now, it’s only available from iTunes, but I say it’s worth the cost to check out.† Especially if you can pair it with some good calamari.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to birth my own nightmares. Until next time, pleasant nightmares (or as they say in the film, “dream well”).

*Whose work I need to check out.

**That better have been a put down on female genital mutilation and not on bris milah or similar rituals, I’m just saying.

†Hopefully you have an easier time playing the movie than I did. Still not sure if that was my iTunes player or my computer, but I had so many issues with the streaming.

I looked for a cosmic horror GIF, and this was my favorite.

Cosmic horror is everywhere these days. Since HP Lovecraft first kicked off the subgenre in the early half of the 20th century, it’s spread from pulp magazines to all corners of horror literature, to table-top roleplaying games and video games. And while cosmic horror has been in the movies and on TV sporadically since the 1960s, in the past couple of years we’ve seen a glut of it on those mediums: Annihilation, Stranger Things, The Color Out of Space, Underwater, Lovecraft Country (which I’ll be watching soon now that I have HBO Max), The Endless, and most recently, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina‘s fourth season (though not very well).

And there are more on the way. Just today, I heard about a new film called Sacrifice coming out next month that has Lovecraftian themes (click here to check out the trailer). Sometime this year, the long-awaited anime adaptation of Uzumaki by Junji Ito is supposed to air. Richard Stanley, the director of Color Out of Space, hopes to do a trilogy of films based off Lovecraft’s work.

And there’s a lot more that I probably don’t know about. Plus new games, novels and short stories, comics, manga and anime, poems and art! Cosmic horror is kinda going mainstream right now. Or as mainstream as horror can get.

Color Out of Space was awesome. And we may have more like it in the future.

The question is, why now? Why is this particular subgenre only now just getting mainstream acceptance? Why the sudden enthusiasm?

I think there are a few reasons. One is time and a devoted fanbase. Cosmic horror, as I said, originally came from pulp magazines with very small circulation. However, the fans who enjoyed the stories of Lovecraft and those who played in his world–what would later be known as the Cthulhu Mythos–preserved and kept the stories going even after the deaths of the magazines and of Lovecraft. Through hard work and advocacy, more fans found cosmic horror and found themselves drawn to the stories. Then as now, fans would then tell other fans, or create their own work based on these stories, which has a looping effect of creating more fans through exposure. So, it may have taken time, but cosmic horror has been able to spread with patience and the love of many who follow it.

Almost sounds like cosmic horror is an eldritch deity in and of itself, doesn’t it? I find that hilariously appropriate.

Another factor at play, I believe, is that modern audiences are more receptive to that kind of horror than they have been in the past. Like I said, it’s taken time for cosmic horror to penetrate the public consciousness, and so for many people, cosmic horror may be a nice change of pace from the usual horror fare. We’ve seen plenty of haunted house stories, slashers, and sequels and ripoffs of possession or ghost stories. Those elements are not normally part of cosmic horror. In fact, it could be a breath of fresh air for audiences.

And finally, while cosmic horror normally deals with ancient, otherworldly gods and terrible secrets, it’s a great place to talk about modern issues. Granted, horror has always been a place to explore our everyday fears and anxieties, but cosmic horror, through the perspectives and interactions of its human characters against these terrors, can do it in a unique way. Lovecraft Country uses cosmic horror to explore racism, which both was part of the genre’s start and which is a current problem today.

Is it too much too hope that one of those works might be a kickass, terrifying adaptation of Hellstar Remina by Junji Ito?

And I wrote a novella, What Errour Awoke, that combined elements of cosmic horror with the current pandemic to explore the fear with the latter. And yes, I still hope to get that published.

So, with all these factors, can we expect more cosmic horror in the near future? I think so. Maybe not in huge numbers from the movie industry, as cosmic horror tends to have a spotty track record there.* But certainly in other mediums. Horror-themed TV has been booming, so we’ll likely see plenty of shows exploring those themes in the future. Comics and manga have always loved cosmic horror. And, of course, we’ll likely see many, many new books or short stories in that vein.**

So long as they’re made with lots of love, both for the subgenre and for the projects themselves, rather than for the money, I look forward to it.

Are you a fan of cosmic horror? Are you enjoying the wave of new works in the subgenre? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

*While they were well-received by critics and moviegoers, Annihilation and Underwater underperformed at the box office, and Color Out of Space only had a limited theater release.

**Hopefully, I’ll be able to add to this. I’ve a few cosmic horror ideas waiting to be written. I’d love to share them with you all someday.

This story is set in the Cthulhu Mythos (and may or may not involve the big tentacled guy. I aim to keep you guessing).

Well, this has been a productive day. Today I finished a new story!

“What Errour Awoke” is a story set in the Cthulhu Mythos.* The story follows Taylor Molton-Reed, a graduate student at my alma mater, Ohio State. One day, while teaching a class on the famous British poem The Faerie Queene, the description of one of the monsters in the poem awakens repressed memories in one of his students of a certain Great Old One (I’ll let you guess which one until you actually read the story). The student later relates to Taylor what he remembered, beginning a chain of events involving this particular eldritch monster and its plans for the people of this world.

This story was actually inspired by my own studies in college. I read the Faerie Queene‘s first book in one of my British literature courses, and remembered one of the monsters in it quite particularly. Years later, after I’d gotten deep into Lovecraft’s canon and became familiar with many of the entities in the story, I found myself thinking back on that monster and thinking to myself, “Hey, wait a minute! That sounds a lot like such-and-such entity!” Thus the idea for this story was birthed.

I had a lot of fun writing this story. For one thing, it’s set right in the Cthulhu Mythos, and there’s a certain thrill for me when it comes to writing stories set in that world (possibly because I’m an entity right out of that world?). For another, the majority of it takes place during our current pandemic. so it was cathartic to write about. I’ve compared the coronavirus to a Lovecraftian entity in the past, so writing about it in a Cthulhu Mythos story felt especially apropos. And finally, I had a lot of fun applying something other than the writing courses from my English major to a story, and modeling certain parts of the story after the first book of Faerie Queene.

In fact, I liked this story so much, I decided to put this into that collection of short stories I’ve been working on and switch out one of the weaker stories in it. That’s how much I loved it, and how confident I am readers will enjoy it.

Now, for the stats on the story. “What Errour Awoke” totaled out to 63 pages and 17,880 words, the last 13 pages and 3,880 words written over the course of this afternoon and evening (yeah, I went on one hell of a writing binge). This puts it at a novelette, so I’m two for two on getting at least one short(er) story done per month for the rest of 2020. Hopefully I can keep that up with the next story, which I’ll likely finish in May.

Speaking of which, what’s next? Well, I’ll be reaching out to some writers I know who may be able to give me some valuable feedback on how to edit “What Errour Awoke.” And while they’re doing that, I’ll be starting work on the last story for that collection, a novelette or novella set in my beloved Victorian England. Believe me, it’s going to be a strange one. A wonderfully strange one.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. There’s a late Shabbat dinner and an Avengers movie calling my name. Until next time, Shabbat Shalom, stay safe, be healthy, and pleasant nightmares.

*Which means, if my parents ever read this story, they’re not going to get any of the references and think I made up more than I did for this story.

For the past week, I’ve been working hard on a new story, the majority of which takes place during our current crisis. You know the one I’m talking about. And you know what? It’s been cathartic to write about.

I’ve said before that writing can be very good for your mental health. Recently, I posted my thoughts about the COVID-19 pandemic and it made me feel a hundred times better about the whole situation. In fact, lately I’ve felt like a million bucks. Still, I do feel the occasional twinge of worry or other negative emotions when I consider all we’re going through.

So these past two nights, when I’ve written my protagonist’s reactions to the pandemic and how it’s affecting him mentally and emotionally, as well as recounting how he and others treat the crisis, it was kind of freeing. Like I was channeling not just my own feelings, but the feelings of other people in this situation.

I’ve heard a lot of people, both in and outside of the horror genre, as well as people who don’t write, saying that there’s going to be a lot of new fiction based on this crisis. If I’m any indication, we’ll be seeing that fiction coming out sooner rather than later. Maybe within the next few months. And I think we’re going to see that, for the majority of these authors, setting a story during the COVID-19 crisis is their way of processing their feelings and what they or others were going through.

What sort of stories we’ll get from this crisis, I’m not sure. I feel like a lot of them will just use the crisis as a backdrop, similar to how The Deep by Alma Katsu uses the Titanic and its sister ship the Britannic as backdrops for a ghost story (see my review here of that book here). In my case, I’m writing a Lovecraftian horror story, which makes sense because I see the virus as almost a Lovecraftian antagonist a la Nyarlathotep, and the pandemic acts as a sort of base for the terror and paranoia that my characters will feel later in the story.

I have a few other predictions. In terms of romance stories, we’ll see stories about people falling in love from afar due to social distancing, or falling in love due to being stuck in the same area together. We may also get a lot of new Gothic horror stories. Why do I say that? Because since people started sequestering themselves in their home, my article on Gothic horror has been seeing huge spikes in views. Makes sense, I suppose: as much as people love their homes, even being cooped up 24/7 in the best homes can be taxing. And since Gothic horror stories tend to focus mainly on houses as the source of the horror, people are either reminding themselves that their home isn’t so bad as being stuck in The Overlook, or they’re planning on channeling their frustration into stories about homes as a source of horror.

Perhaps writing about this virus can help relieve stress over it as well.

Whatever stories result, I highly encourage authors to write their stories about the coronavirus. Especially if the story helps you process what you’re going through right now. Even if you’re not an author, writing your feelings down can be therapeutic, so go ahead and write whatever you feel. Doesn’t have to be deep or poetic, just as long as it gets your feelings out in a healthy way.

Doing so may not alleviate the crisis or all the problems the crisis is causing to pop up, but at least you’ll feel better for the activity.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you’re staying safe and healthy and are doing well. And if you need a pick-me-up, here’s the link to a cute video of foxes laughing and getting cuddles to make you smile.

Until next time, Shabbat Shalom and pleasant nightmares!

I had a revelation recently. No, not the kind that inspires texts that are the basis for entire religions. I had that already, and you do not want to know what information was imparted to me. No, it’s about Lovecraftian fiction.

Now, the common image among people, readers and writers, of Lovecraftian fiction is Cthulhu or any other Great Old One/Elder God/giant terrifying monster from the deep sea/outer space/alternate dimension. And that’s not wrong. From stories like The Dunwich Horror to the recent science-horror film Underwater, big monsters are a major part of the story and, along with the mind-bending insanity and dark truths they represent, are the main source of horror.

But it’s recently come to my attention that Lovecraftian horror stories are about more than just the monsters. Sometimes, it’s about psychological horror. Sometimes, you can have an effective scary story by not showing the monster, but by instead relegating the monsters to mere glimpses or suggestions and focusing on the characters’ reactions. And if done right, it can lead to some compelling horror.

There are actually plenty of stories like this. And if you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably run into plenty of them. The Call of Cthulhu, for example. Being by Howard Phillips himself, it’s obviously Lovecraftian, but have you ever noticed that we never really see Cthulhu? Think about it. The closest we ever get to seeing the High Priest of the Great Old Ones himself is through the eyes of a Scandinavian sailor’s diary. The narrator only sees drawings and statues of him.

And yet we’re scared, because the very idea of what we glean from these diary recordings is of a worldwide cult, one devoted to a very real god. One that will use humans as its pawns so that, when it finally arises, it’s in prime condition to take over our world. And the cult will do away with anyone who gets in their master’s way.

And while that’s a great example, there’s plenty more where that came from. Last year’s film The Lighthouse (see my review here) was Lovecraftian with a capital L, but we barely saw any of the marine monstrosities supposedly behind the horrors occurring on the island. And what we did see, we weren’t sure if they were real (within the film, anyway). Are they monsters, or are they just the manifestations of two men on an isolated island having a breakdown? Or maybe it’s a bit of both. It’s hard to tell.

A great example of this Lovecraftian psychological horror, 2019’s The Lighthouse.

And not just The Lighthouse. Stephen King’s novella N is told from the POV of people who all claim to be guardians of a circle of stones. If they don’t perform certain rituals, the stones will become a portal for terrible monsters. We never see these monsters though, and it’s possible that all the characters are suffering from a shared delusion. Or is it something more?

And in the novel I’m reading now (I hope to finish it and have the review up tomorrow or Thursday), there’s a Lovecraftian undertone, but the focus is on the characters and how they’re dealing with all the lies and hidden secrets swirling around them.

Or maybe that’s not a Lovecraftian undertone, but some other supernatural undertone. I’ll let you know when I finish the novel.

Anyway, it’s a good thing I’ve noticed that. The story I’m trying to write next is going to be heading into that psychological/Lovecraftian territory, so hopefully I can do a good job of it. And even if I don’t, it’ll at least be good practice.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to bed. I hope you’re not going stir-crazy while social distancing yourselves. If you want, we can talk in the comments for a bit.

Anyway, until next time, pleasant nightmares!

It’s been a while since I’ve done any sort of tag, so I saw this on my friend Kat Impossible’s blog and I was like, “Sounds like fun.” And while I’m not sure I believe in “perfection,” I tried to come up with stories that come close to that in my personal opinion. Most of these titles are from the horror genre, but I do add some from other genres and even a few other mediums (I can be a rule breaker when I want to be). With that in mind, let us begin the Perfect Book Tag.

THE PERFECT GENRE

(pick a book that perfectly represents the genre)

I had a hard time choosing on this, between what could be considered a quintessential horror novel, and what could be the most terrifying novel (AKA the “perfect” horror novel). In the end, I wanted to include the quintessential novel elsewhere, and I hate repeating myself, so I decided on the most terrifying novel I’ve ever read, The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. Honestly, this novel’s show of brutality, the ease in which regular people can be persuaded to commit acts of evil and the graphic descriptions of torture and cruelty were enough to make me put the book down at times just so I could process what I was reading and get control of my dread. If you want perfect horror, this might be close enough.

Just don’t blame me if this gives you an upset stomach or nightmares. Trust me, it’s a tough one to get through.

THE PERFECT SETTING

(pick a book that takes place in a perfect place)

Again, I’m not sure if there’s anything considered “perfect” in entertainment, let alone a perfect setting. However, as far as I’m concerned, this might come damn close. The Doctor Who universe has every sort of setting imaginable. From futuristic cityscapes, to the distant past, and even our own modern times, you can find aliens, historical personages, gods and demons, magic (sort of) and science, friends and enemies, and even new universes or pocket universes! It’s an endlessly adaptable setting, and that’s why it’s my choice for perfect setting.

Also, I know it’s a TV show and the books are expanded universe and semi-canonical at best, but like I said, I like to break the rules.

 

THE PERFECT MAIN CHARACTER

(pick the perfect main character)

For this one, I didn’t pick perfect as in “they’re the best at everything and never have to improve. The story is just a way for the reader to fawn over how amazing the characters are.” Those are known as Mary Sues and Gary Sues, and most writers learn to stop creating them when trying to write compelling stories. Instead, I picked examples of characters I like to work with the most: women/girls who don’t start out as protagonist material, but as time goes on they grow into their heroine roles. Sailor Moon and Buffy are two great examples of those characters, as well as the reason I love that character type.

Neither Buffy Summers nor Sailor Moon started out as heroes who were thrilled with their roles. They just wanted to be normal girls, not burdened down with these destinies to save humanity from evil. But over time, as they get stronger and build their support networks, they become stronger, able to defy evil and inspire everyone around them and everyone watching them, regardless of age or gender. It’s part of the reason why these characters have endured over thirty years after their debuts, and part of the reason why I am who I am today.

 

THE PERFECT BEST FRIEND

(loyal and supportive, pick a character that you think is the best friend ever)

 

This one was easy. She’s smart, kind, brave, and is willing to point out when you’re wrong or doing something stupid. And she’s willing to stand up for the oppressed when no one else will, including many of the oppressed. She can be a bit stubborn, and at times she loses sight of reality when it comes to studies or other things she deems important. But honestly, Hermione Granger would make a great best bud.

 

THE PERFECT LOVE INTEREST

(pick a character you think would be an amazing romantic partner)

Let me level with you all. I may be bisexual, but I’m aromantic, so I don’t really feel romantic attraction to anyone. Sexual, definitely, but I have trouble imagining myself wanting to be tied to someone like a partner or lover. And since I don’t feel like telling the world about a character I may find sexy, I’ll just leave this one blank. Sorry if you really wanted to know what my type was or wanted to set me up with someone you know. You can’t change someone’s nature that easily.

 

THE PERFECT VILLAIN

(pick a character with the most sinister mind)

Remember that quintessential horror novel I mentioned as a contender for Perfect Genre? Yeah, IT was the runner-up. But in terms of villains, Pennywise is the ultimate, hence why he’s here. Honestly, he’s a perfect mix of both the human villain and the supernatural. He understands human fears and motivations, is a master manipulator and knows just how to get under our skin and either terrify us into a stupor or make us his pawn. At the same time, he’s this giant cosmic entity from beyond the universe, a thing we can only grasp as orange lights known as The Deadlights. His motivations aren’t born from hatred or greed or any human desire, but from the need to feed and eventually the need to procreate. It’s just another show of his Otherworldly nature.

And let’s face it, he’s devious! It takes a special sort of evil to enjoy being an evil clown 24/7, and Pennywise does it better than the Joker. Yeah, you read that right. What are you going to do about it?

 

THE PERFECT FAMILY

(pick the perfect bookish family)

Well, they’re not from any books, at least not originally, but the Addams Family would be my perfect fictional family. You can guess why.

 

THE PERFECT ANIMAL OR PET

(pick a pet or fantastic animal you need to see on a book)

Although I’m against the breeding of white tigers (they’re a genetic abnormality and breeding them leaves the tigers with all sorts of genetic problems), White Blaze from the anime Ronin Warriors is a creature I always wanted. He’s a tiger and deadly towards his enemies, but he’s smart, kind and good with people. You could honestly have him babysit your kids, he’s that good. And in a fight against evil, you couldn’t ask for a better animal partner.

In fact, White Blaze might be part of the reason why tigers are my favorite animal. And it’s not hard to see why.

 

THE PERFECT PLOT TWIST

(pick a book with the best plot twist)

I won’t say what it was. But it left me reeling. Took me half the next chapter to realize the author was serious and wasn’t pulling my leg. Still the hardest a twist in a novel has ever hit me.

 

THE PERFECT TROPE

(pick that trope you would add to your own book without thinking)

Let’s face it, I love a cosmic horror twist. The idea of an entity that defies human conception, to the point it can drive us mad, excites me as a horror writer to no end.

 

THE PERFECT COVER

(pick a cover you would want on your own book)

I want a cover similar to this on one of my books someday. Either that, or something that disturbs just to look at it.

 

THE PERFECT ENDING

(pick a book that has the perfect ending)

My favorite endings in horror have the horror continuing on long after the heroes appear to have won. So if I have to pick one that’s a good example, I think I’ll go with Needful Things by Stephen King. Great book with an enigmatic and terrifying antagonist. If you haven’t read it yet and you have a stomach for horror, you might want to change that sooner rather than later.

 

I TAG THEE:

  • Priscilla Bettis
  • Iseult Murphy
  • Joleene Naylor
  • Ruth Ann Nordin
  • Matt Williams
  • YOU!!! (If you want to)

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Tomorrow, I finally start that essay, and then I start on a new short story. But in the meantime, what did you think of my choices? Any of them resonate with you? Let’s talk in the comments.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

2020 has gotten off to a rocky start, to put it mildly. Threat of war with Iran, fires in Australia, and now the coronavirus, or COVID-19, has gone from an abstract threat we nervously made jokes about to a terrifying pandemic. It’s caused a lot of anxiety and terrified reactions, with people rushing to the store to grab supplies, turning to every supposed cure or preventive measure out there, and being afraid to go outside their homes.

And I know, the last thing you want to see is me talking about the virus. But you have to understand: I’m doing this for me. As many of you know, I have an anxiety disorder. And as much as I keep an upbeat attitude, wonder what everyone needs that much toilet paper for, and what we’re going to get for April (I’m hoping Cthulhu rises up from the Pacific), I have been feeling anxious over this virus. So anxious, in fact, that last night, instead of editing a short story like I’d meant to, I ended up binge-watching an entire series of anime till two in the morning. Escapism!

So what’s a guy to do? Well, in my case, I have to exorcise myself. Not literally, that’s a Friday night thing. No, I need to get my feelings out on COVID-19. Because I conquer what scares me, and in this case, this is how I do it.

Strap in, kids. This might be a long one.

My thoughts

What are my thoughts on this pandemic? Well, it’s almost Lovecraftian in how it’s inserted itself into our lives. First it’s this abstract and undefinable threat that we can’t imagine touching our lives. We even laugh at it. But pretty quickly, it becomes this thing that could not only affect us, but kill us. And our own species–loved ones, coworkers, the passerby on the street–are how it extends its invisible tentacles into the world.

The only thing to do is isolate ourselves, but that’s scary in and of itself. Even our most curmudgeonly need human contact of some sort. Can we survive without that human contact? And then there’s the economic toll, as people who rely on their jobs find themselves out of work or unable to make ends meet, relying on their dwindling savings to get by. It’ll be worse in more expensive cities to live in.

This pandemic can be likened to a Lovecraftian entity. And it’s just as ugly.

And depending on where you live, your leaders may be doing a great job at fending off the horror, or an inept one.

This may be the closest we get to actually experiencing a Great Old One invading our reality. And God, is it terrifying.

Good thing I have my collection of HP Lovecraft stories, plus four or five cosmic horror films on DVD and Blu-Ray in my collection. They’ll make great therapy. I should also see the movie Contagion again. It practically predicted this entire pandemic, so it’s worth another watch.

Anyway, there is a silver lining (and no, not the silver solution that con artist preacher is selling! That’s more likely to lead to heavy metal poisoning, the prick). Unlike Cthulhu or Nyarlathotep, there is a way to fight against this monster. As hard as it is, social distancing can limit infection and prevent further cases. So does extensive handwashing (no duh!) and other hygiene practices. And to avoid fake cures, keep this in mind: make sure to check with reputable sources like the CDC or National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. And if you don’t trust bureaucrats, remember this rule: if it sounds miraculous or too good to be true, IT PROBABLY IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE!!!! Any fix to a medical problem always required hard work to achieve. Even aspirin took forty years to get from the labs to the pharmacy. Don’t go for the quick “cure” just because it seems Heaven-sent.

This virus is going to change things, and possibly have lasting effects on society. I hope that it teaches people to at least be more considerate of others. Because right now, that’s what we need to do in order to make it out of this pandemic with a minimal death toll.

Speaking of considerate…

Support your authors if possible

As I said, this pandemic is effecting a lot of people’s jobs and livelihoods. This includes authors. They rely on bookstores, conventions and in-person events to sell their books and support themselves. Those places are either closing down or cancelling, which is huge slash in revenue. I’m extremely lucky, even if I don’t write full-time: my job allows me to make a good living and put away savings. Other writers aren’t so lucky. This virus is going to bite into them pretty deeply.

Care about authors? Consider supporting their work during these difficult times, if you’re able.

Now, I’m aware not everyone can do this, and I completely understand and sympathize. However, if you are in a position to help your fellow writers, please do so. Buy copies of their books in your favorite format, tell people about their work in reviews or tweets or whatever. Especially if you enjoy their work. It might be small gestures, but for the writers you’ll be helping, it’ll mean the moon and stars.

And it will give us time to come up with some decent stories involving COVID-19. I’ve already had one or two.

Final thoughts

Thanks for reading this post. I needed to get this off my chest. And I think, once I’ve taken care of myself a bit, I’ll be able to get back to writing and scaring people like I normally do. As for the rest of you, remember that everyone else is in the same boat as you. They’re as scared as you, but they can also be as brave as you. And if you’re a Follower of Fear, you’re likely very brave.

This too shall pass. And we’ll make it pass faster by keeping each other safe.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to set up and test my at-home workstation. Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and REMEMBER, SWALLOWING OR GARGLING BLEACH IS GOING TO KILL YOU! Why would you think it would help you? It’s corrosive!

You know, when the trailers for this film hit, the response was pretty lackluster. “Oh, it’s got Kristen Stewart in it and it’s a disaster film about an underwater sea base that’s about to be destroyed. They have to find a way to survive. Whoop-dee-freaking-do!” But then word among the horror community started saying…positive things. And later rewatches of the trailer made it look cool. So I decided to see it, though I couldn’t do so till this weekend because I was sick last weekend.

Underwater follows six workers on an underwater sea base seven miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, drilling for resources to bring above. However, a mysterious quake causes major damage to the base, meaning they have to navigate the failing base and find a way back to the surface or die. But there’s something else down there with them. And it’s not going to stop till they’re all dead.

I’ve heard a lot of comparisons to John Carpenter’s The Thing and Alien with this film, and I have to say, not only are the comparisons apt, they’re justified.

One of Underwater’s strengths is how it creates its atmosphere. Soon after the movie starts, we’re thrust into the destruction as we watch a residential section of the base succumb to water pressure and shifting earth. From there, we’re right in the middle of the action as the characters have to navigate dark and narrow passages filled with water and debris. And while the situation itself is urgent, the movie takes its time, allowing us to get to know these characters as well as building a feeling of tension and encroaching doom. Realistic sets and dirty water further the feeling of claustrophobia and the horrific death just beyond the walls. Somehow, that tension is kept up even when the characters are walking across the open seafloor in suits. Probably because those suits are a thin barrier between life and death as well. Add in some well-placed jumpscares that are never excessive, and it’s damn tense.

As for the creature or creatures in this film, they are the fun innovation that change this film from just another disaster film to a Lovecraftian horror fest. Their reveal is very slow, and even when fully revealed, the darkness of the sea leaves them with a bit of mystery. Fans of certain HP Lovecraft stories will recognize the creatures. Whether you do or don’t, however, there’s no denying how scary and deadly these creatures are, and they make the film worthwhile.

As for the characters, they’re serviceable for this film. For once, Kristen Stewart’s deadpan expression works pretty well with her character Norah Price, who defines herself as a cynic trying to get by. TJ Miller as weird, funny guy Paul does okay jokes. He and the character Rodrigo, played by Mamoudou Athie, both enjoy anime. Other than that, you can’t say much about these characters, but for the purposes of Underwater, that’s just fine.

That being said, the film does have its issues. There are a few moments where the tension reaches a lull, and during those moments I felt restless and a little sleepy (though that might be because I had to wake up earlier than planned this morning). And I would have liked to see what life on the base is like on a normal day. You know, when it’s not in danger of flooding and crumpling into dust. We only get a minute and a half of seeing the pre-destruction base at the beginning of the film, and that’s mostly filled by Stewart monologuing and saving a daddy long-legs from a sink.

Altogether though, Underwater is a tense, Lovecraftian thrill ride, a modern-day The Thing, almost.* On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4. If you have a chance, go to the theater and prepare to dive into a world of terror. Most likely, you’ll find yourself pleasantly entertained, and more than a little scared.

*And not just in quality. The Thing actually did poorly with critics and at the box office after its release. It didn’t become a classic until it hit home video. I have a feeling Underwater will go through a similar process, though I would like as many people to see it in theaters as possible.