Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Enough with the whinin’, back to business:

A lot of people who realized there is a connection between humor and horror, but few have embraced the concept as effectively as Jeff Strand. In Mandibles, he takes a horror concept that is inherently ludicrous (giant bugs – in this case, ants) and milks it for all its worth. In a testament to how well he pulls it off, the book works as either a gonzo horror novel or a straight out comedy.

The book jumps straight into the action, as Tampa, Florida is overrun with overly large fire ants (Southerners know they are scary enough in their normal form). The book follows the actions of various people, including two psychotic criminals and a visiting ant expert as they try to escape the onslaught, and find a way to put an end to it. As the book progresses, the ants become larger and larger, until the finally approach the size of the ants who gave James Whitmore hell in the 1954 movie THEM!.

I don’t know what else needs to be said. It’s a humorous horror novel about giant ants, for Cthulhu’s sake. If that interests you, go read it.

P.S. I would point out that there can’t possibly be ants as large as in the novel, since this would be prohibited by the square-cubed law, but everyone thinks I’m a geek, and I’m trying to be just a regular guy. A regular guy who reads books about giant ants, that is.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Nihilistic Impulse

Unlike a lot of people, I don't find the signal-to-noise ratio on the internet to be that bad. I've learned a lot roaming about on-line, and met people I've been happy to know. Sometimes, though, you get a little depressed because of the assholes and loons who make noise disproportionate to their number.

Lately, I've been toying more and more with chucking the whole virtual world. Dissolve the blogs, and erase my accounts with various message boards, and use the computer for the purpose for which it was intended: playing EA Sports NHL 08-09. Most of what I do is for my own amusement, and I don't think anyone depends on me, so it is very attractive to contemplate the murder of my alter ego.

It isn't one big thing that brings out these feelings, just an accumulation of tiny events. The most recent of these occurred today, on the message board. In the middle of an otherwise innocuous thread (about beverages, for Cthulhu's sake!) a douchebag laid in with a dig at Southerners, i.e. that we are stupid and lacking in taste. This sort of thing frosts me thoroughly.

Nobody is more aware of Southern flaws than a Southerner. We have our faults and shame, and we're aware of all of them. However, we are also the region which produced William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Johnny Cash, Larry Brown, Hank Williams, Tennessee Williams and many other fine persons of letters. The asshole in question is from Wyoming, which has produced Dick Cheney.

I started to go off on his comment in a big way, but limited myself to one touchy, sans-namecalling post, and just added him to my list of People To Be Ignored. If I had responded as I wanted, I would have been banned, but that is not the reason I held back. The message board belongs to someone else, and I didn't want to stir up a mess at someone else's place. Even jerkish Southerners like myself strive to be polite.

Anyway, I'm still here for now, but if the end comes, I imagine it will come quickly. So, if you look for me on-line one day and I'm not to be found, you'll know what happened: I got fed up with dealing with the bastards and shot poor KentAllard through the head.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Let's Hear It For One Of The Good Guys

People who do rotten things generally make the news, so it is nice to run across someone who does something good for no other reason than they feel it's the right thing to do. One of these persons is one of the best writers in the horror business, who made a commendable announcement this week. From this point forward, all small-press profits from Clegg's will be contributed to charities "out to shepherd the world a bit" and to programs to mentor aspiring writers. You can read the full text of Clegg's announcement here. This is an extremely generous gesture, since contrary to popular opinion, writers are usually not filthy rich.

Douglas Clegg has long been one of my favorite writers, and actions like these just encourage me to buy his books even more. If you haven't read Clegg's work, I recommend you give the Harrow House series a try, and remember if you buy any of his work from a small press, money is going to good causes.

Monday, August 4, 2008

My Bloody Valentine

The 1978 release of Halloween wasn't the first slasher movie, but its astounding success certainly kick-started a genre explosion. For years, movie after movie imitated its "psycho slaughters teens" formula, for the most part with disappointing results. Some of these films even sought to replicate Halloween's holiday motif (even though Halloween is the only holiday that really fits. Friday the 13th, Mother's Day, April Fool's Day and so on tried to carry on the tradition. One of the better movies in this sequence was the 1981 Canadian production of My Bloody Valentine. (A lot of movies are filmed in Canada, but MBV is one of the few which doesn't try to pretend they're not)

The town of Valentine Bluffs, Nova Scotia is a small mining town (it isn't clear exactly what kind of mine, since the people who made the flick didn't want to bog us down with unnecessary details). Twenty-two years earlier, it was the scene of a tragedy, when a miner named Harry Warden flipped out on Valentine's Day and started butchering people, removing their hearts and packaging them in Valentine boxes. He obviously had issues. Although Harry was caught and shipped off to an asylum, he warned the town to never hold another Valentine's Day party, and the creeped-out town has followed instructions.

But over two decades have passed, and the frisky kids of the town (all the guys work in the mine, which means the cast skews a little older than most movies of this type) are itchin' to put on their boogie shoes and party. Despite warnings from the adults, they decide to throw a shindig, ultimately at the mine. The only problem is Harry Warden seems to be back, and dead bodies and hearts start showing up. After an impressive body count, the last part of the movie occurs inside the surprisingly clean and spacious mine.

There are a lot of things to like about this movie. The killer, who stalks around in miner's gear including an identity-concealing gas mask, presents a fairly eerie figure. The kills themselves, important to aficionados of the genre, are pretty imaginative. The use of a gun used to drive spikes into the walls of the mine on one victim still gives me the willies. All in all, if you're the sort who likes slasher movies, you should check this one out, since it is definitely in the top ten percent.

There is one big complaint, though, which can't be blamed on the people who made the flick. Although it was rated "R", the only version of MBV currently available has had the violence and gore severely cut, to the point where several of the deaths are not seen at all, and at most we see the reaction shots of others, and try to figure out what happened. These cuts are so heavy, there's no disguising that things are missing, and it is a constant annoyance, and mutes much of the film's impact. The cut footage supposedly still exists, so maybe one day Paramount will release an uncut version.

The ending was designed so it would be easy to make a sequel, but financing was never secured for it. In January of 2009, Paramount will release a re-make (in 3-D!), and hopefully they will release a director's cut of the original to tie in with it.

Bessie Green's Thumb

Those of you reading this thing have read of my admiration for the work of author Fran Friel. (click here) Ms. Friel is the featured author at Horror World this month so head over there and read her story Bessie Green’s Thumb. You’ll like it.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


Clickers is a throwback story to old-time 50s-horror-movie horror, with a touch of Lovecraft. It is a collaborative effort between J.F. Gonzalez (his first novel), who’s gone on to a very successful career, and Mark Williams, who unfortunately passed away not too long after the book was written.

The story is pretty simple. A newly successful horror writer named Rick takes a vacation home in an isolated town in Maine to work on a new novel. As soon as he arrives he meets a girl – and the village is overrun by a strange species of crab (the eponymous Clickers). These crabs are abnormally large, with a hard shell and a scorpion-like stinger which injects venom which liquefies tissue. The casualty rate is high, the town is further cut off from the rest of the world, and Rick must protect himself and his new love. Just as the townspeople turn the tide and get the upper hand on the invaders, they learn a far more frightening truth – the reason the crabs have emerged from the deep sea is they are being chased by something far more frightening.

Clickers is a fast-paced action read, and once the attack occurs, it never lets up. True, it isn’t deep literature, but it doesn’t aspire to be. Clickers is supposed to be fun for the horror fan, and it is. The one real criticism I have is the book is one of the most poorly edited books I’ve ever read, and you’ll have to wade through the typos, but it is well worth it.

Clickers has been followed by a sequel, Clickers II, written by Gonzalez and Brian Keene, and there has just been an announcement of a third installment in the series. There has also been discussion for a long time of pitting the Clickers against the giant ants from Jeff Strand's Mandibles.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Oblivion is the first novel I have read by Jay Bonansinga. It is more or less a new riff on the Exorcist template. Spoilers a’plenty to follow.

A defrocked priest is accosted by a former altar boy (get your minds out of the gutter. The ex-Father hasn’t been a priest for twenty years, but his former protégé wants him to perform an exorcism. He isn’t told where the exorcism is or for whom it will be performed, he is just whisked onto a jet, flown across the country, and driven blindfolded to an estate, where he is to perform an exorcism on the demonically-possessed house. (It actually seems like a haunted house, so the exorcism is doomed from the start, but I guess that is unimportant. The main twist of the book is the haunted house turns out to be ……wait for it….The White House! Yawn. This finishes off the old willing suspension of disbelief. Throw in a subplot about the ghosts wanting to start a nuclear war, and you’ve got a hybrid haunted house – action thriller. This destroys any since of mood, and the attention wavers long before the predictable ending.

In spite of the ho-hum plotting, I thought Bonansinga does show evidence of being a capable writer, and I will give him another shot, but I just can’t recommend this one. Unless the haunted White House thing intrigues you, in which case, knock yourself out.

I am patting myself on the back for getting all the way through this without making a single snarky political comment.


In the grand tradition of other shot-in-the-dark movies like Unearthed and Alien vs. Predator: Requiem, comes 2007’s Catacombs. Unlike the other two, where you felt as if there might be an interesting movie going on if you could just see what was happening, that thought will never cross your mind while watching this.

Shannyn Sossamon (A Knight’s Tale) plays a meek American girl, scared of her own shadow. She is invited to Paris to spend time with her grad student sister (Alecia Moore, who is apparently a pop singer under the name Pink). The sisters are complete opposites in personality and seem to deeply hate each other, which is the first big mystery, mainly why the hell do they want to hang out together. Shannyn meets her sister’s friends, who make a hobby out of scaring people (Plot point!). All the French people are played by Romanians, by the way. I guess all Europeans look the same.

Sis takes Shannyn to a rave in the Catacombs, the great underground burial grounds of Paris. There they listen to awful techno-pop, and meet more of sis’s friends who are apparently obsessed with death. They tell her of a story of a man-like beast in a ram’s mask that kills people in a ram’s mask (we’ve already seen a victim of this in the pre-credits). After the police raid the party, poor Shannyn is cut off from the group, and is apparently chased by the underground creature. What we actually get is an hour of the actress running through the dark, occasionally coming to a dead end (she always screams “No!” at this point) and incessantly talking to herself. The girl will not shut up, and I was definitely wanting to kill her myself.

The movie ends with a lame twist that contradicts the aforementioned pre-credits sequence. Avoid this one.

It! The Terror From Beyond Space

Just because your budget is almost non-existent doesn’t mean you can’t make a decent film. Case in point: 1958’s It! The Terror From Beyond Space.

The movie opens on the planet Mars, in the distant future of 1973, when we will be jaunting around the solar system in rocket ships. Er, check that. Anyway, the second expedition to Mars has landed to rescue the sole survivor of the first expedition. He tells a fantastic story of how his crew-mates were killed by an evil creature. No one believes him (actually, we do, because we saw the creature on the dvd cover) and he is to be transported back to Earth for a court martial. Unbeknownst to the second crew, the creature has hitched a ride on the second ship, and waits for the moments when the crew members wander off by themselves, then grabs them to drain them of fluids (‘cause Mars is so dry). After only a couple of deaths, the crew realizes they’ve got a problem, and began a grim struggle against the monster. They are well equipped for this, since they brought guns, grenades, and even a friggin’ bazooka along on the ride. They proceed to fire/explode these weapons at will, bravely ignoring the danger of puncturing the hull and dying. I did wonder, if they were so damn sure Mars was uninhabited, why the arsenal? Eventually, they temporarily trap the creature belowdecks, and began seeking a way to kill it. (It took my wife fifteen minutes to state how to do this, although it takes the professionals hours to do so.)

It’s easy to poke fun at the movie for its scientific failings. In addition to the indiscriminate firing of weapons, the crew watches meteors flare by while in transit, even though there is no atmosphere to make them flame, and you will go crazy trying to figure out the order of the decks, since the people making the movie couldn’t keep it straight. And just for the record, if you only go to Mars, you haven’t gone “beyond space.” Still the movie is fairly effective in creating suspense, and scared the heck out of me as a little kid. Finding the desiccated bodies of crew members in the air shaft is a creepy moment.

The movie was written by Jerome Bixby, a well-regarded though not prolific science fiction writer, who also wrote scripts for The Twilight Zone and the first Star Trek series. As a promotional stunt, the poster that accompanies this article offers a $50,000 reward for anyone who could disprove the existence of such a creature on Mars. I guess they felt no one could do that in 1958.

It is widely stated that It! The Terror From Beyond Space was one of the inspirations for the movie Alien (there was a lawsuit), although I don’t know if that’s ever been proven. There are certain plot similarities.