Posts Tagged ‘serial killers’

I recently was able to watch the new Netflix true-crime docuseries “The Sons of Sam.” For those of you who haven’t seen it, the docuseries follows how a man named Maury Terry became convinced in the wake of the arrest, conviction, and incarceration of David Berkowitz, AKA the Son of Sam Killer, that Berkowitz didn’t commit all the murders and was in fact part of a Satanic cult. Berkowitz himself claimed to be part of such a cult, naming the sons of Sam Carr, the man who owned the demon dog (and who, by the way, were both dead and unable to defend themselves at the time of the allegations), as members.

Now, I’m not here to argue whether or not Berkowitz was the lone killer. Most historians and investigators agree anyway that the claims of a cult are unlikely for a number of reasons. Berkowitz himself has been diagnosed as antisocial and seems to enjoy the attention, so he would say anything to stay in the spotlight/keep up the image he’s built for himself since first getting arrested.

What I’m here to talk about is the true horror of the docuseries. It’s not how terrifying Berkowitz and his crimes were, though that is scary too. Nor is it the idea of a nationwide Satanic cult that Berkowitz may have been part of (and which, given how often it keeps cropping up in American history, feels more silly than scary nowadays). It’s the price of obsession. Of becoming so sure of an idea or a hidden truth, that you look for anything that could be considered evidence and end up linking things that might not be evidence at all. You may even lose sight of objective reality and the truth, as well as the respect of your peers and relationships with your loved ones, just to find what you are looking for.

The doucseries revolves around the conspiracy theory that David Berkowitz did not commit the Son of Sam murders alone.

And quite often, what you’ve been looking for has been right in front of you all along. You just refused to see it.

We see this play out with Maurice Terry in “Sons of Sam.” After Berkowitz is arrested and sent to jail, Terry believes that Berkowitz may not have committed all the murders or acted alone because most of the police sketches don’t resemble him or because one or two people saw Berkowitz far from the site of a Son of Sam murder minutes before it happened. Rather than chalking it up to disguises, the noted unreliability of police sketches, or that all these sightings took place at night under low visibility settings, Terry believes there may have been multiple people involved in the shootings.

This leads to him looking into Berkowitz’s hometown and alleged Satanic rituals occurring near Berkowitz’s home, which leads to conversations with people who claim to have belonged to the cult or know people who were, including the Carr brothers mentioned above. He goes on to link the Manson murders, the murder of a woman at Stanford University, and the deaths of a billionaire and a filmmaker to the cult, the last two being members who were allegedly killed to silence them.

And sometimes it seems convincing. Mutilated German shepherds were found in the park near Berkowitz’s home, as well as Satanic graffiti. Charles Manson was likely influenced by belief systems such as Christianity, Satanism, and Scientology, just to name a few. Some of the people who knew or met the Carr brothers say they were interested in the occult and at least one of them was afraid of being followed. And Berkowitz, as we stated above, has said he was part of a cult, though he refuses to name names other than the dead.

The problem is, none of these can be definitively proven as being Satanic. Yes, dogs were mutilated near the park, but there’s no way to prove that it was Satanic or Berkowitz was linked. Satanic graffiti can be found all over the place (I saw plenty in the college bathrooms at Ohio State), and doesn’t mean Satanists are at work. Manson and his followers never claimed to be linked to any other group, though they’ve at times claimed that Manson was God, Jesus and the Devil all at once. The Carr brothers aren’t around to defend themselves, and we don’t have enough information to know if they suffered from mental illness or if their alleged interest in the occult was serious. A couple of the murdered people Terry linked to the cult have since been solved and have mundane, if horrible, explanations.

And Berkowitz, as noted, is likely a psychopath who enjoys the attention. He would say anything if it keeps him in the spotlight.

The horror of consipracy theories is that, while they seem plausible and preferable, they hide the truth and can destroy so much in the lives of believers.

We especially see this in the interviews Terry has with Berkowitz. A lot of the questions Terry asks Berkowitz seem leading, and he seems less concerned with getting to the truth than with confirming what he already believes. Berkowitz himself doesn’t give any new information that can be investigated, like a name for an active member of the cult or where proof like member logs or photographs can be found. But Terry believes it, because he wants to believe.

And that’s the horror. Terry has woven a spider web of possible links and maybe connections around himself. And it’s so tightly and thickly woven with “facts” that he’s unable to see anything that might disprove this theories. He, and those who believe like him, only see the idea of the cult that they say committed the Son of Sam murders. In the process, Terry drives away many people close to him, ruins his credibility as a journalist, and suffers from health issues while searching for his truth. And in the end, he dies still pursuing his truth.

It’s unfortunately an all-too common story. Since time immemorial, mankind has spun spiderwebs of conspiracy theories around themselves and others, refusing to see the truth because it doesn’t fit with their worldview or beliefs. In the US alone, we’ve seen it time and time again with a variety of boogeymen and alleged cover ups. Since 1692, the idea of Satanists operating in the US has been especially prevalent, most recently gaining new life in the 1980s with the Satanic Panic (which Terry unintentionally contributed to trying to convince people of his beliefs) and with today’s QAnon conspiracy.

The result is not just the actual truth being ignored or denied by many people. It can lead to lost relationships, ordinary people being misled, the ruination of reputations, laws being broken, and day-to-day life being severely disrupted. Occasionally, lives are even lost.

And all because someone sees something, may not like or understand what it means, and an alternative presents itself that seems to make more sense. To an outsider, it can seem impossible and extraordinary when so many different and unrelated people, events or things are connected or enlisted to “support” the central idea of the theory. But to the believer, it’s all so simple, and if the connections out of left field help to make the core idea make sense or more believable, or if powerful figures back it up for whatever reason, all the better.

It’s preferable to admitting that a sick and twisted individual work alone and takes lives for their own sheer pleasure. Or that some people have never liked a former President because of what he said/stood for and enough came out and voted against him to keep him from a second term. Or that horrible stuff happens, and there isn’t some grand, simple, good-vs-evil reason behind it.

And to admitting you might’ve been fooled and gone through so much just to be wrong.


If you want to check out “The Sons of Sam” docuseries on Netflix, by all means go ahead. I’m not saying you shouldn’t. Just go in with quite a bit of salt. It may make what you’re watching feel more psychologically difficult, because it’ll feel like you’re watching someone fall down a bottomless pit of conspiracy and experiencing the fallout of it. But it’s a fascinating watch nonetheless, and it might deepen your understanding of the allure and journey into conspiracy.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Thanks for reading through my entire TED talk. I just wanted to discuss what I’d watched and how it made me feel. I had no idea it would get this long. Hopefully, I made it interesting enough.

Anyway, I plan to have a shorter but just as exciting post out before too long. Until then, you know me. I’ll be busy writing stories and trying to find them homes, as well as experiencing (and in some cases, causing) all the terrifying phenomena I can. Should be fun.

Also, ParaPsyCon is only two weeks away. This is the biggest convention of authors, ghost hunters, mediums, psychics and more around, and it’ll be held on May 22nd and 23rd at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, OH. Cost of admission is just purchasing a self-guided tour of the former prison, about $25. I’ll be there as well, so I hope you’ll stop by and say hi. You can get more information by checking out the website here.

Until next time, Followers of Fear, stay safe, have a good weekend, and pleasant nightmares.

Me and my roommate Jonesy in my old apartment.

Funny story: earlier this week, I found out I lost some weight, even though I hadn’t expected it (if anything, I thought I gained). I’m talking to my dad about it and say, “I’ve no idea what happened. I’ll have to watch my weight carefully for a while. Make sure I’m not going through something like out of Stephen King’s Thinner.”

My dad has never read a Stephen King novel in his life. His response was, “…okay.”

Me: “Trust me, it did not end well for the guy suddenly losing weight in that book.”

And if you count that as a spoiler, remember that book is nine years older than me. What were you doing these past thirty-seven years?

Okay, onto the meat of this post. The audience on this blog has been growing by leaps and bound lately. So first off, hi everyone. Thank you for joining the Followers of Fear. We don’t (normally) sacrifice members and there are hidden benefits to joining. Namely you’ll likely survive when I start the Apocalypse. Maybe.

Second, since there are so many of you, I thought you should know something about me and my works. First off, me: I’m a novelist from Ohio specializing in horror and dark fantasy. I like reading and writing, anime and horror movies, and being an unabashed eccentric. I also have three books and a short story on e-book available right now, so if you don’t mind (and if it doesn’t make you want to unfollow me), I’d like to tell you about those books. You know, in case you’re interested.

I won’t mention the e-book, though. I did that last post.

The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones

In his publishing debut, Rami Ungar brings us five terrifying stories of darkness in magic. You can experience the strange visions of a man battling sex addiction in “Addict”. Or feel the wrath of an enraged dybbuk in “Samson Weiss’s Curse”. Face your fears in Gene Adkin’s Murder House in “I’m Going To Be The Next James Bond” and then journey with a young autistic “In The Lady Ogre’s Den”. But most of all, prepare to play the most insidious game of all: The Quiet Game.

My second foray into self-publishing. While a lot of these stories aren’t as scary or as well-polished as some of my later work, I think they’re still enjoyable to a degree. Plus, I had a lot of fun writing these stories. Give it a shot if you’re interested.

Available on Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

Snake

How far will you go for love and revenge? When a young man’s girlfriend is kidnapped by the powerful Camerlengo Family, he becomes the Snake, a serial killer who takes his methods from the worst of the Russian mafia. Tracking down members of the Camerlengo Family one by one for clues, the Snake will go to any lengths to see the love of his life again…even if it means becoming a worse monster than any of the monsters he is hunting.

A homage to my burgeoning love to slashers, too many James Patterson novels, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, this was another one I had fun with. It’s also, too date, my longest book, over 100,00 words! And yet, people still find it a quick read. Must be the fast pace. Anyway, check it out if you like unusual tales about serial killers in your diet.

Available on AmazonCreatespace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

Rose

Rose Taggert awakens in a greenhouse with no clear memory of the past two years and, to her horror, finds her body transformed into an unrecognizable form.
Paris Kuyper has convinced Rose that they are lovers, and as Paris could not bear for her to die, he has used an ancient and dark magic to save her from certain death.
But the dark magic Paris has used comes at a price. A price which a terrible demon is determined to extract from Rose.
As Rose struggles to understand what is happening to her, she must navigate Paris’s lies and secrets; secrets that Paris will do anything to protect.

I wrote this novel back in my last year of college as my thesis. It took five years, and more rewrites than I care to remember, but the novel was accepted by Castrum Press, my first novel with a publisher (and hopefully not the last). And you know what? Nearly two years later, it only just got its first one-star review! Yeah, that’s a record (and something I hold as a badge of pride). I think that makes it worth a try, don’t you?

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible


So, those are my published works. And I hope to follow them up with plenty more. And while I work on those, I hope you’ll consider not only checking out these stories, but letting me know what you think once you’ve read them. I love getting reader feedback, no matter what that feedback is, and it helps me out in the long run.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m off to get a lot of sleep. Followers of Fear, stay safe, have a great weekend, and pleasant nightmares!

I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about this film. It’s from the same director as the Happy Death Day films and has a talented cast. Plus, the trailer looked great. Even my dad, who is never interested in horror that I haven’t personally written, was interested in it! So, while the theaters are still open, I went to go and see it.

A horror-comedy mashup of Freaky Friday and the Friday the 13th films, Freaky follows Millie Kessler, a quiet teenage girl whose life was already difficult. But then the Blissfield Butcher, a local serial killer, goes after her. What happens next causes Millie to magically switch bodies with the Butcher. So now, while stuck in the body of a middle-aged murderer, she must figure out a way to get her body back before the Butcher uses it to massacre everyone she knows and loves.

This film is bloody bonkers fun!

I think the film’s strongest point are its main players. Vince Vaughn has a history with comedies, and he does a great job pretending to be teenage girl stuck in the body of a serial killer. It’s crazy how believable he is! Kathryn Newton, who’s had roles in Supernatural and Detective Pikachu, is essentially playing three different girls: shy girl, serial killer pretending to be a shy girl, and badass girl. It’s really cool to see her with that range.

In fact, the whole cast is great. They all have a great chemistry and even the least developed characters are quite likable thanks to their actors. Though I enjoyed seeing some of the assholes get their just desserts.

And from that, let’s move onto the horror. Well, I wasn’t exactly terrified. There’s not much atmosphere, and most of the scares come from jumpscares. That being said, there are quite a few inventive kills that I liked, and the more slasher-y bits of the film were a lot of fun. And in the slasher genre, if you can’t be scary, then being fun is a good second.

As for the comedy, it was kind of hit-or-miss. Most of the misses came from swearing and dirty humor, which I’ve come to think of as scraping the bottom of the barrel. “Ooh, we’re saying bad words and making references to a natural part of the human experience that society gets really uptight about! We’re so funny and edgy!”

Moments like this, where Vaughn makes the most of the premise, are where the humor shines.

The really funny parts come from Vince Vaughn making the most of his character’s situation. The theater was in hysterics whenever Vaughn was commenting on the oddities of being a man, or getting into situations where, out of context, would look totally crazy. There’s a scene involving Vaughn and the love interest in the back of the car that had me laughing so hard, my glasses fogged up (I was wearing a mask)!

Of course, Freaky isn’t perfect. As I said, the film has some misses in the humor department. Also, the method by which the characters magically switch bodies is oddly specific and leaves a lot of questions. Maybe they’re planning on answering those in a theoretical sequel (because of course that’s always a consideration with movies these days), but with just one film, it makes me raise an eyebrow.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Freaky a 4.5. It’s a fun slasher film that makes the most out of its concept and has some good laughs. Even those who don’t like horror-comedies or horror in general should enjoy themselves.

Speaking of which, Abba: if you go see this film, give me a call afterwards and let me know what you think. I’m very curious to hear what you think.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to sleep and then work on my various projects. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

The Shanley Hotel in Napanoch, New York, one of the haunted locations I want to visit.

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written one of these posts. And for those of you who don’t know, I keep a rather extensive list of places purported to be haunted that I want to visit someday, and I’ve been lucky enough to visit a few of them, such as the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast and the Paris catacombs. I’ve even been to the Ohio State Reformatory twice (and if it weren’t for this damned coronavirus, I’d have been there this past weekend for a convention).

And as of last month, I’ve finally come up with enough additions to that list to warrant another one of these posts. So if you’d like to know what places I could possibly visit in the future to look for ghosts, or you want to know some places to avoid in the future, please read below. And you can check out the first three in this series here, here and also here.

And don’t worry. The places on these lists may be haunted, but the posts themselves aren’t. I think.

Drovers Inn, Loch Lomond, Scotland

Head out to rural Scotland, and you’ll find an old, historic house on the north end of Loch Lomond. In addition to being a working hotel, the house also features good food, live music, and more than a few ghosts. Guests have reported flickering lights in midair, a ghost girl in a pink dress showing up in a photograph, the ghost of an angry cattle driver, and a family who died in a snowstorm looking for shelter, among others.

One room, please!

The Shanley Hotel, Napanoch, New York

Yeah, you’re going to be seeing a lot of hotels, motels, and inns on this list. Almost like these places attract spirits for some reason.

Anyway, the Shanley Hotel is a beautiful, three-floored bed and breakfast located in the northern area of New York. Built in 1845 as a hotel, it has gone under many names, but has always been known for an elite clientele and even has been an active bordello at times (scandalous!), and was a site active for bootlegging during Prohibition. To this day, there are many spirits who still haunt the house, including a few children of the previous owners who died young, one of the bootleggers, a cat that died, and perhaps even a few of the bordello women.

Supposedly this place is so haunted, you need to sign a waiver and pay a handsome fee to stay there. But like that is enough to scare me off. Nope, I’m in, and I’ll take anyone who’s brave enough with me.

Wolf’s Creek Inn, Wolf Creek, Oregon

The oldest still-running inn in the Pacific Northwest, this beautiful building features lovely rooms, a restaurant, and more than a few ghosts hiding within its walls. It’s been featured on paranormal shows like Ghost Adventures, and advertises ghost hunts and paranormal tours on its website. If you ask me, it sounds like a good excuse to go out west further west than I’ve ever gone before.

RMS Queen Mary, Long Beach, California

The Queen Mary is a former British ocean liner that first set sail in 1936. It briefly saw use as a troopship, ferrying soldiers to the war. Afterwards, it became a passenger ship and traveled across the Atlantic Ocean until the 1960s. It was retired in 1967, and has been moored in Long Beach, California ever since. It has since become a tourist attraction, and there have been rumors of hauntings ever since, including shadow figures and one room where the ghost of a murdered passenger still hangs around.

Normally I’m not one for cruise ships, but I’d make an exception for this lovely lady.

Hell’s Bridge, Algoma Township, Michigan

If you go into central Michigan, and then into the woods, you’ll find an old, metal bridge spanning a narrow river. It looks unassuming, at least in the day time, but at night it looks rather eerie. Especially when you learn about the legend surrounding the bridge. Supposedly during the 1800s, a serial killer named Elias Friske murdered several children and threw their bodies into the river off a stone bridge. When the bodies were finally found and Friske identified as the killer, he claimed the devil had told him to kill those kids before he was lynched by the locals.

While there are no records of Friske or these supposed crimes, at least none that I could find, the area where the stone bridge was and where the metal bridge now stands has gained a reputation. Supposedly, if you stand on the bridge at night, you’ll spot the spirits of Friske or the children he killed, and perhaps even the forces that he claimed influence him to kill. I’d check it out if I had the chance.

Wisner Bridge, Chardon Township, Ohio

Yeah, there’s a few bridges on this list as well. Another haunted location in Ohio I need to visit, the Wisner Bridge was a Crybaby Bridge, or a bridge where the spirits of dead children can supposedly be heard crying. In this case, the Wisner Bridge supposedly was haunted by spirits of melon heads, diminutive humanoids with bulbous heads in American folklore. While the legends vary from state to state, in Ohio it’s believed the melon heads were orphans who were experimented on by a sadistic doctor, either causing or worsening their appearance. They later killed the doctor, burned down the orphanage, and retreated to the woods near the bridge to live in the wild.

Today the bridge itself is gone, having been torn down in 2013. However, locals still report hearing crying babies at the site where the bridge stood. Whether or not you believe the urban legends, this might be a place for me to check out.

Gold Brook Covered Bridge, Stowe, Vermont

A wooden bridge that has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, this bridge is also known as Emily’s Bridge, owing to the legend surrounding it. While stories vary, most of them agree that a young woman named Emily was supposed to get married or elope, and when her lover never showed, she died on or by the bridge. There’s no evidence Emily existed and the legend first popped up in 1968, after a student wrote a paper about how they used an Ouija board and made contact with a spirit named Emily.

Since then, many people using Ouija boards and other devices to contact the dead have supposedly come into contact with Emily and learned her story. Even stranger, many people passing over the bridge have been touched or scratched by her, whether on foot or in their cars. Is Emily the spirit of a real person? The result of overactive imaginations? Or did belief in her bring a spirit into existence, one that took on Emily’s identity to answer the demand to see her? I want to go and find out!

Franklin Castle, Cleveland, Ohio

Another Ohio location, the Franklin Castle is an old Victorian manor with a reputation. Its original owners, the Tiedermann family, suffered several deaths while they lived there, including four of their children, and there were rumors of horrific crimes within its walls. Since then, the house has changed hands several times, and several of its past owners and residents have reported hauntings. One family even performed exorcisms in the house before moving out. And in 1975, human bones were found on the property, though there is evidence to suggest they may have been planted.

The good news is, my dad lives up in Cleveland, so there’s a good chance I’ll visit this house the next time I visit my dad. The bad news is, the house is privately owned and there’s very little chance the current owners will let me in. Still, I can at least drive by and take photos. And who knows? Perhaps someone living there will allow me in. Whether that someone is living or not, however, is up for debate.

LaLurie Mansion, New Orleans, Louisiana

Fans of American Horror Story will know Delphine LaLurie as the sadistic southern slave-owner who took pleasure from torturing her slaves. What they may not know is that the house featured in the show was not her actual house. Or that her real house is still standing in New Orleans, and that it may have a few spirits living in it. Supposedly there have been moans heard from the room where the slaves were kept and the sounds of footsteps at night. When the building was an African-American girls’ school, many of the children there reported being attacked by a mysterious woman, and when the building was converted into apartments, one resident was found murdered after claiming a demon was after him.

Sadly, today the house is privately owned and the current owners show no interest in having investigations conducted in the home. So, like the details of LaLurie’s life and the full extent of her crimes, we may never have the full truth. However, ghost tours passing by the house occasionally have encounters of the weird kind. And I would be happy just to have that.

Cecil Hotel, Los Angeles, California

Speaking of American Horror Story, the Cecil Hotel was another inspiration for the fifth season, Hotel. Originally a luxury hotel for businessmen and travelers, after the 1940s the hotel became a home for transients as the neighborhood took a dive. Even before that, though, the hotel had been known for murders and suicides. Other violent and illicit activities occurred there over the years, and the hotel was a temporary home for serial killers Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger. In 2013, a Canadian student was found dead and naked in the water tank on the roof. Footage was found of the student acting erratically, poking in and out of and hiding in an elevator hours before her death. The footage is, to say the least, unsettling.

While the hotel has since been renamed the Stay on Main and is trying to gain back its reputation as a luxury destination, the building cannot escape its reputation of sinister and violent occurrences. And perhaps, if I were to check in, I would find some guests that had never checked out.

 

There you go. Ten more haunted or strange locations I’d like to visit after this pandemic has run its course. But tell me, have you been to any of these places? Do you want to go to any of them? Maybe with me? And what haunted places have you been to that I haven’t named? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my  Followers of Fear. I’ll be busy writing this week, so hopefully I get plenty done. And in the meantime, you can still order signed copies of Rose by sending me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. Until next time, stay safe, be healthy and pleasant nightmares.

Season 9 of American Horror Story decided to get on the 1980s nostalgia train and create its own love letter to the decade which produced my favorite music, particularly to the slasher films that came out during that decade. And the very first episode made sure to saturate us with bright colors, crazy hair, a fun playlist, a murder story told around a campfire that turns out to be true. It was both a homage and a satire that I enjoyed. And I was interested to see what the rest of the season would be like.

Turns out, AHS: 1984 decided to spend the next couple episodes playing up the slasher tropes, and then turn EVERYTHING on its head for the rest.

And that’s one of this season’s strengths. For the most part, the show knew how to give us everything we expected in the first couple of episodes, especially when it came to 80’s culture, and then found ways to make our jaws drop. Characters whom we thought were good people turned out to be bad and vice versa, the cause of all the horrors is first one person, and then another, and now we don’t know what to think.

Oh, and I love all the references to famous slasher films, especially the references to the original Friday the 13th film in episode 8.

I also really liked the characters, especially the three lead females. Brooke, played by Emma Roberts, turned out to be a surprisingly strong protagonist who developed very well over the course of the season. Leslie Grossman’s Margaret was a blast to watch once you found her hidden depths. And oh God, did I love Billie Lourd as Montana. I swear, Lourd can change characters and personalities and be totally unrecognizable in each incarnation, and that’s especially true with Montana.

Of course, our serial killers were great as well. John Carroll Lynch’s Benjamin Richter, aka serial killer Mr. Jingles, went from a rather one-dimensional slasher killer to a very sympathetic character. Zach Villa as Richard Ramirez was petrifying! I would not want to meet him in a dark alley! And oh, it was nice to see Dylan McDermott on the show again!

That being said, there were some issues with this season. 1984‘s final episode opted for flashbacks to tell the ending events of the main conflict of the season, and while that worked well in season 2 for the most part, it kinda fell flat like it did in season 5. When we already have an idea of how it’s going to shake out and is over-reliant on flashbacks, it can take some of the tension out of the story. Not to mention that I felt the show didn’t give Brooke the ending she deserved. And don’t get me started on the plot hole the last episode opened up with Richard Ramirez! All I’m saying is, they better fix that in a future season, or this is going to be a never-ending gripe among fans of the series.

I want Zach Villa as Richard Ramirez back, and not just because he’s freaking terrifying!

Oh, one more thing: the make-up used to make Donna and Brooke look older did not work at all! We could all tell they were waking make-up!

But all in all, this was a solid enough season, and it delivered on the promise to make the season a standout on the 80’s nostalgia that is so rife in our pop culture these days. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving American Horror Story: 1984 a 4.2 out of 5. A bloody, tension-filled season with twists to make your mouth drop and characters to draw you in and keep you watching. Get your shoulder pads and leg warmers and get ready to dive right in.

You’ll enjoy it more than the Friday the 13th remake. And no, I’m NEVER letting that go! Not until we get a better movie anyway.

Anyway, looking forward to season 10, whatever that is. I’m still hoping for an academy or orphanage setting. Maybe some references to J-Horror or K-Horror or some Lovecraftian elements too. And a fixed plothole from 1984 might be nice. Hey, a guy can hope, right?

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

I listened to The Stranger Beside Me by true crime writer Ann Rule, who actually knew Ted Bundy, on audio book to prepare for this movie (and that’s the extent to my knowledge of Bundy). In the days leading up to this film’s release on Netflix, I was excited to see this adaptation. Nearly thirty years after the man’s death, would this film, along with the Netflix documentary (I know, I need to watch it, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet), introduce a new generation to the shocking murders of Ted Bundy?

Well, I went in expecting a different kind of movie, but I came out satisfied with what I got.

Based on the memoir The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy by his real-life girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer (known as Liz Kendall in the film and Meg Anders in The Stranger Beside Me), Extremely Wicked follows the romance of Bundy and Kloepfer, how they got together, how Bundy’s arrest in Utah, his two escape attempts in Colorado, his final trial in Florida, during which he marries one of his groupies but (seemingly) still has feelings for Liz, and finally his execution in Florida.

I think what I like the most about this film is its star-studded cast. Everyone embodies their characters so well. Zac Efron as Bundy comes across as a sympathetic, lovestruck man who finds his life falling to pieces around him and the one good thing in it drifting away, while Lily Collins as Liz Kendall does a great job as a woman who put so much into her relationship with this seemingly-perfect man, only to grapple with his crimes. John Malkovich as Judge Edward Cowart did the man an honor, combining the judge’s Southern gentility with his own deadpan acting method (finally, a film from this year that doesn’t waste the guy’s talent). And Jim Parsons made me forget at certain moments that I was watching Sheldon Cooper. I actually had to watch the scene where he delivers his opening remarks as prosecutor Larry Simpson twice, it was so chilling. Parsons could lead a legal drama now that The Big Bang Theory is done.

I also like how the film balances a romantic storyline with what is mostly a courtroom drama. Unlike other films, Extremely Wicked doesn’t go to great lengths to show Bundy’s depravity or murders, but instead hints and flits around it until the final scene of the film. Its focus is showing how the ongoing legal saga affects Bundy and Kloepfer’s relationship and vice versa, as well as the psychological toll on Bundy. The director knew what they were going for with this film, and in that aspect it succeeded.

If I have one gripe with this film, it’s that romanticizes Bundy a little too much. Bundy’s always had a number of female fans who find him attractive despite what he’s done.* Even actors portraying him have awakened the wrong kind of fascination in teenage and young women (Ann Rule relates some of the phone calls she got after The Deliberate Stranger with Mark Harmon aired in 1986 in her book). Zac Efron is a very handsome actor, no doubt of that, and in the interest of focusing on his romance and courtroom battles, Extremely Wicked glosses over the evil in its title and makes Bundy out to be more of a sweet, hurt man than a calculating serial killer. And I’m not sure that was the best decision.

I also would’ve liked to see Ann Rule make an appearance in the film, but I think I can live without that.

On the whole, I give Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile a score of 4 out of 5. While its POV Is slightly skewed, its an entrancing thriller that draws you into the story and the bloodless battle occurring on screen. Take a look, and prepare yourself for a ride.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope to have one or two more posts out before the weekend is done.

In the meantime, I’m still looking for advanced readers for my upcoming fantasy-horror novel, Rose, about a young woman who starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). In exchange for an early electronic copy, all I ask is you read it and consider posting a review after the release. Anyone interested should send me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*The scientific name for attraction to dangerous partners, by the way, is called hybristophilia. Theories to how it arises range from evolutionary desires for strong and capable partners to romantic notions of wanting to change/help a damaged partner to wanting fame or even just knowing the partner is stuck in a jail cell and won’t go anywhere. The more you know.

Big news, my Followers of Fear! On August 2nd, I will have reached five years of blogging! Yeah, five years. This blog (and the wonderful people who follow it, thank you very much for sticking with me through thick and thin) has been with me through four years of college, numerous articles on Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors, two visits to Europe, one-and-a-half internships, a very long period of unemployment, four published books (plus three at various stages of the editing/compilation process), too many short stories to count, a couple of which were published in some magazines and two anthologies, and a weird period of my life where I hunted down a serial killer while consulting with and developing an unusual relationship with another serial killer.

Oh wait, that’s the plot of Silence of the Lambs. Never mind.

Anyway, in honor of the big day, I will be doing a few things differently (and I don’t mean buying myself a cake in honor of the day, though that might happen as well). For one, I will be doing a Q&A, with questions provided by you, the readers. If there are any burning questions you’ve wanted to ask me, you can ask those in the comments up until July 31st, and I will answer them.

However, if you ask me to tell you where I live, or if I will marry you, I will have to decline on both counts. Sorry obsessives, I don’t want to end up in a real life version of Misery or Yandere Simulator.

Also, if you want to know what scares me, I’ll tell you right now: the Alvin and the Chipmunks cartoon from the 1980’s. I’m pretty sure the chipmunks from that show are actually the result of a strange genetic mutation, either from nuclear fallout or genetic engineering, and the males in that species all have some deformity in their middles that prevent them from wearing anything but long muumuus. Why else do the Chipettes get actual clothes but the title characters don’t?

I’m also terrified of large spiders. Tiny ones, I can deal with. However, if I can make out individual features on its face or it looks like it could easily stretch across the palm of my hand, I will scream like a little girl. It’s happened before.

I also want to hear feedback from you, dear readers. What do you think I’m doing right as a writer and a blogger? Anything I can improve upon? What posts do you prefer from me? Tell me in the comments below, so I can make Rami Ungar the Writer an even better blog.

Another reason to look forward to the big day, I’m going to be doing a giveaway on August 2nd in honor of the big occasion. I will be giving away an autographed copy one of my books (your choice of which one), that I will send to the winner after winning. I’ll give the full details on the day of the anniversary, so if you want to participate, check in on August 2nd. I’ll announce the winner in a subsequent blog post.

Oh, and one more note: I’ve got a couple of interviews coming up. One is with a blog I discovered through my friend Joleene Naylor, who will be releasing an interview soon. The other is actually a podcast. I’ll be rejoining my friend and colleague Dellani Oakes on her podcast, Red River Online Radio (links to follow soon) to talk books, authors, and maybe reading an excerpt from Video Rage. Get excited!

Alright, gotta go. I’m looking forward to hearing your questions and feedback, and I’m especially looking forward to celebrating this big milestone with you. Let’s have a good time on the second, shall we?

Until next time, my Followers of Fear!

Cover of Snake by Rami Ungar

As I mentioned before, today is my twenty-third birthday. Wow, twenty-three. Technically, I’m still pretty young, but I feel old. I’m already paying bills and rent on my own apartment and starting a job. Ah, adulting. How you make me feel older than I am.

And as I mentioned in my last post, it’s also been two years since I published Snake, my second novel. This book, which was inspired by movies like Taken and eighties slasher films, as well as all the suspense novels I read in my first year or two of college, is the story of a serial killer who goes after members of a powerful New York mafia family, and the reasons why he does this.

It’s definitely one of my more “what the fuck?”-worthy stories, as well as one of the ones I had the most fun writing. At the time I wrote it, I just wanted to create a very thrilling, violent story involving a serial killer whom people would find themselves cheering for (like I said, “what the fuck?”-worthy). I did a lot of research into serial killers and psychopaths, even consulting with a forensic psychiatrist who helped me figure out what an actual criminal profiler would say about the crimes, as well as a lot of rewrites and reworking of the plot. The end result was one hell of a bloody, exciting thriller-horror novel.

True, there are some things I would’ve changed in the final product if I could go back (technically I could, but I don’t do rewrites after publication unless absolutely necessary), but yeah, it’s a good novel. And that’s not just my own ego telling me that. Here are some reviews, a few of which are by friends and other authors [WARNING! Some of these reviews do contain spoilers. Please be advised]:

Well, I took yet another vacation where I made my family “just wait until I finish this chapter.” This page-turning read was another great effort by Rami. He is not afraid to take risks in plot twists and turns, character development and he takes the reader on quite the journey in this book. So looking forward to his next creation!

–Michele K

This book is another awesome creation by Rami. This book is scary and brings the reader to the depths of how evil the human character can be and how anyone can be driven to commit acts of torture. The author does a wonderful job of developing the plot and characters and there are certainly twists and turns. I highly recommend reading this book if you love a good frightening thrill.

–ENJ

Rami Ungar makes a promise to (the reader) in all his writings: he WILL scare you, and if he does “his job is done.” Snake will scare you. I am a huge Stephen King fan, so this should give you some idea of my tolerance level for gore, death and mayhem – I was scared. Rami takes you into places you would never have believed possible, and manages to pull his hero (and eventually his heroine) out of them against all odds. If you like to be scared. If you LOVE to be scared. You should read this book.

–Angela Misri, author of No Matter How Improbable

I really enjoyed this book. When I selected “dark” for the mood, it was almost a toss up with suspenseful. You knew early on who the mafia killer was, but the question of how he was going to find his girlfriend and rescue her was suspenseful. I ended up choosing “dark” because of the level of violence our main character used in getting to the girlfriend. But he was a complex character. Even though he definitely had the dark side to him, there was a surprisingly good side to him, too. You don’t really see this until later on in the book. So early on, you might think this is an unredeemable character. But one of the most intriguing characters are those who aren’t what they initially seem, and for this reason, I enjoyed this character. The pacing was just right. It wasn’t rushed, and in no way did I ever feel it dragged, which is awesome for a book that was over 500 pages in paperback.

–Ruth Ann Nordin, author of The Mistaken Mail Order Bride

I guess people really like it. Which is good, because I have plans to someday write a sequel. I just have too much right now to devote time to one. Though considering the experience I had with the first book, I’d probably have a blast getting the second one written and going back down that creepy-as-hell rabbit hole.

So if you would like to read Snake and see if it’s as good and as scary as these lovely reviewers have made it out to be, I’ll include the links below. And if you do decide to read the book, please let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love feedback from readers (and it makes me a better writer to boot).

That’s all for now. I’m off to have birthday celebrations with my family. I’ll see you around, my Followers of Fear. Have a great weekend.

Snake: AmazonCreatespace, Barnes & Noble,iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

I found this on Netflix, and after I saw it got good reviews online, I decided to check it out. And I think I got what I asked for with a series called Slasher.

Now, a little background. Slasher is a Canadian-American TV series partially inspired by American Horror Story (and believe me, it shows), as well as Agatha Christie novels and classic slasher movies. The production company’s plan with this show is to do it anthology style with a new story every year, possibly with a similar cast each season (see? The AHS influence shows). The first season’s story follows Sarah Bennett (Kate McGrath), as she and her husband Dylan (Brandon Jay McLaren) move into the house where her parents were brutally murdered by a man dressed like a medieval executioner back in 1988. In traditional slasher fashion, someone copying the original killer’s MO starts killing people, and Sarah finds herself forced to work with the original killer (Patrick Garrow) to figure out who the new killer is.

So how does it stack up?

Well, the first season does have a bunch of problems. The biggest problem is that it’s really derivative. Like I said, you can see the inspiration from AHS. In fact, it feels like an AHS knockoff, and not exactly a stellar one. The killer is also very derivative, his whole MO a ripoff of the movie Se7en with every victim being killed because they committed one of the Seven Deadly Sins. And the killer’s design? It actually reminds me of the protagonist of my novel Snake. I’m actually wondering if that’s not a coincidence! There’s also a character that I’m told is similar to one iconic character from Twin Peaks, an incompetent police department out of just about every film ever, and a few other things I can’t mention without spoiling the story.

Did anyone ever tell you that you look like a character I created this one time?

Another problem is the protagonist, and the actress who plays her. Kate McGrath’s acting in this series is wooden and emotionless, to the point where I want to pull out my phone and find something a bit more animated. Not to mention McGrath’s Irish accent breaks through her attempts at whatever the Canadian equivalent of the General American accent is. As for her character, I find it hard to sympathize or connect with her. I get that her parents were brutally murdered, and that she’s got more than a few reasons to investigate these murders, but other than that there’s not much to her character besides her ability to make and act on connections the police can’t. She feels more like a construct or an idea of what the final girl in slasher stories can be than a real person.

So with all that, is there anything positive about Slasher? Actually, quite a bit.

For one thing, it’s interesting. Fault it for how derivative it is and for the wooden lead, but the show’s writers know how to set up an interesting story. Every character has secrets, and it’s fun to watch those secrets get opened up and divulged to the other characters and the audience. You’re also kept guessing on who the killer is until the final reveal, and there are a bunch of other twists that keep the story feeling fresh and exciting. And there are scenes that are both heartwarming and heart-wrenching. There was one scene in the seventh episode that particularly got to me, and the way it was done was just so artful and well-done. So despite it’s derivative nature, it’s good to see that they can keep an audience interested in the story. Especially an audience that goes through a lot of trash trying to find gold and therefore knows all the cliches.

And while the lead isn’t that great, some of the other characters are just a lot of fun. Dylan Bennett has an interesting character arc in relation to his job as a journalist, the events unfolding around him, and their effects on his marriage. And Christopher Jacot as gay real estate agent Robin is always a blast to have on screen. I think I fell a little in love with his character. Patick Garrow’s incarcerated killer Tom Winston is surprisingly likable and sympathetic. And Dean McDermott as Police Chief Iain Vaughn is also a nasty character I love to hate, and the twist his character takes in the show is thrilling, to say the least.

And this is just a small thing that I really liked, but there’s an interracial couple in this story that’s actually somewhat functional and doesn’t make race the focus of their drama. Whenever I see interracial relationships on American television, it’s always portrayed as something filled with drama, and the race thing comes up in a big way at least once. There’s none of that here. Even better, it’s a black man and a white woman. I’ve seen the reverse a couple of times on TV, but this might be the first time I’ve seen it in any medium. Props to the show for portraying diverse backgrounds and experiences and not making it a huge deal. That’s still something others are having trouble with, as the fact that I’m pointing it out makes evident.

So what’s my final verdict of Slasher? Well, I think a 3.0 out of 5 seems right. Yes, it’s not the best horror show out there, nor is it the best attempt to turn a slasher into a TV series (*cough* Scream was awesome, and I’m so excited for season 2 *cough*), but it keeps your attention and has more than a few things going for it. Assuming there’s a second season (no word at this time if there will be one), there’s a good chance that the people behind the show will learn from the problems of the first season and fix them for the next one.

Oh, and for those of you who’ve seen AHS: Hotel, you may notice more than a few similarities between this show and that season, enough to make you wonder if there was plagiarism involved. Turns out, both shows’ stories were conceived and filmed around the same time. It’s just that one aired after the other. It’s a weird coincidence, but a totally innocent one.

I reviewed the premiere episode, and I reviewed the previous two seasons after the season finales. I’m reviewing this season, and speculating on the sixth season. And here’s what I have to say: Hotel has replaced Asylum as my favorite season of American Horror Story. And given my high standards, that means something.

Honestly, it’s hard to pin down a favorite part or moment to Hotel, so I’ll try to get in as much as possible. First, there’s the story. With AHS, it’s really hard to pin down where the story will go or how things will play out, who will live or die at the end (though I kind of saw how the first season was going to end at a certain point), and Hotel continues that, keeping me guessing right up until the last episode. I couldn’t even tell who the Ten Commandments Killer was until the show decided to scream it at us right before John Lowe finds out, at which point I was like, “I should’ve seen that twist coming! They’re really that good.” Not only that, but the writers manage to keep things interesting even in slower moments. Okay, not all the slower moments, there were a few moments in some early episodes where I got a little bored with the pace, but other than that, the writers told the story well, kept our interest, and even scared us a bit.

The show also managed to get across its main theme to us the viewers very well. Whereas Freak Show hit us over the head with its theme of “the other”, this year’s theme, “addiction” is given to us with a bit more finesse. Yes, there are lots of shots of needles and all that, but you also see it in the interaction of the characters, how certain characters cling to each other like a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean, and how other characters act as merciless and heartless as drug dealers to the people who need them. Besides the actual shots of heroin, the closest they ever get with giving us the addiction theme overtly is in episode 6, where one character reams out another about how she uses men, but that’s it. You really get multiple layers of the theme throughout the season, all done with a skill and complexity that I hope I can someday do with my stories.

Absolutely loved this character.

And then there are the characters. Oh my God, these characters are just so great. My favorite is Evan Peters as James Patrick March, the Hotel Cortez’s founder. He’s such a fun character, like a twisted, murderous Walt Disney, and he steals every scene he’s in. Not only that, but Peters looks like he’s having so much fun every time he’s on screen. Not surprising, considering this is such a different role than anything he’s handled on the show (or maybe in anything he’s ever been in). I also adored Lady Gaga as the Countess. I’ve said it a million times by now, but you forget that you’re watching Lady Gaga when she’s on that screen. She becomes her character, and it’s a magical spell that doesn’t break after the credits roll. I really hope she comes back next season, because she is so talented and fun to watch.

The rest of the cast is also a ton of fun. Denis O’Hare as transgender Liz Taylor is just divine, and totally a woman I would invite out with me on a night of wild partying. Wes Bentley (call me!) does a great job embodying John Lowe, who is a little flat as a character until the big twist about him is revealed, and then he’s just amazing fun. And the hotel itself is a character all on its own (how can it not be, when the word”Hotel” is part of the title?), with the most beautiful sets and an atmosphere all its own. It’s like meeting someone at a party, someone with looks and personality that everyone is drawn to, but if you get too close you see an all-consuming darkness.

Okay, that’s a good description of a lot of serial killers, but you get the idea. I like the hotel. The one character I disliked was Dr. Alex Lowe. Now her actress, Chloe Sevigny, was in Asylum as Shelley the nymphomaniac, and she had such a personality in that season, but here she plays her character like she’s bored most of the time. I know she’s going for frustration and depression at life’s injustices, but it feels more like boredom here. So yeah, not a fan of Alex.

I do have some complaints about this season, as much as I did love it. One was that the entity of the Addiction Demon was so underutilized in the story that if you got rid of it the entire season would be unaffected. I mean really, that thing was scary, so why wasn’t it used more? Not enough actors to play it? Too much time in the make-up chair?

I also could have used a bit more Finn Wittrock in the show (please marry me). I mean he’s such a great actor, he played two separate characters in the same season, and I was willing to forgive him for a bad accent on one of them. But hey, that might just be my problem. I do like handsome actors. Hopefully he’s around a lot next season.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving American Horror Story: Hotel a 4.9 out of 5. It’s near perfect as a season as AHS has produced yet, and I cannot wait to see how they try to top it next season.

Seriously hope she’s coming back!

And speaking of next season, what could it be? We’ve had Murder House, Asylum, Coven, Freak Show, and Hotel. Where could they go next? If I were a betting man (and I only occasionally buy lottery tickets), I’d say we might see something set at a private school. Schools are great places to portray a horror story, a lot of the regular actors look like they could be high schoolers, and I could imagine Gaga, who may come back next season, as an English teacher who has an affair with a student. I somehow doubt it’ll be anything involving a prison or a camp: the former is too similar to Asylum, and the latter is being done by the guys behind Once Upon a Time. Perhaps we’ll get something with a political bent, or maybe they’ll try to do a period piece in the 19th or 18th century (plenty of untapped potential there). Or maybe something involving a trial, that would be interesting new territory. In any case, a story set at a school, particularly a private one, is my bet.

Well, we’ll find out soon enough. Possibly very soon, if they release a promo like they did after Freak Show. In any case, I cannot wait.

What did you think about AHS: Hotel? Enjoy it or hate it?

What are your guesses for Season 6?