Friday, July 31, 2009

Jack Brooks, Monster Slayer

Here’s a little advice for you aspiring filmmakers: If you are making a horror comedy, at the very least it should be either funny or a horror movie. I realize this is an artistic choice, and the advice represents only my opinion, but I think it is worth considering. With that in mind, let’s consider the opposing view, as evidenced by Jack Brooks, Monster Slayer.

When Jack Brooks, a plumber with anger management issues, was a small boy, he watched his entire family get killed by a monster while on a camping trip. We all hate when that happens, and it explains why he is angry and bitter. Still he is a functional person, plumbing away while taking a class at the university. His only professor is played by Robert Englund, the bright point of the movie. He spends most of his non-class time getting angry at his therapist. The movie drags a little here, as nothing much happens for the first hour of the 85 minute movie except Jack proving what a dick he is. The professor does get infected with something from a box he dug up, and is slowly turning monstrous.

The last 20 minutes turn moderately action-packed, with Brooks realizing his true calling is to be a monster slayer (they have a good 401(k)), and Englund turning into something that looks a lot like H.R. Pufnstuf. But most of the jokes fall flat, and the action is quite lame. Inexplicably, there is a sequel planned for next year.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Triage is three novellas built around a single premise: A woman receives a phone call at her place of work “I’m coming to get you” and then a man comes in and starts shooting everyone. Each story has a different, top-of-the-line author, the late Richard Laymon, Edward Lee, and Jack Ketchum. Any one of those names is good enough to persuade me to buy a book, so all three together had me very eager to read it, even though the reviews I had read were mostly negative.

The first story, Laymon’s, was the most straight-forward in its execution. I would call it good, solid Laymon, nothing spectacular by his standards, but certainly well worth reading, with a typical Laymon twist in the middle.

The longest story was Edward Lee’s, which surprisingly used a science fiction setting, which also made it the widest deviation of the three from what is expected. I started out irritated at this. I was looking to read a horror story, not science fiction, but I was won over by the end. Edward Lee is an inventive writer, and uses the science fiction milieu for a bit of social commentary, well in keeping with science fiction traditions. The reveal at the end will probably delight some readers and annoy others, but I liked it.

Jack Ketchum’s story is the last and shortest, and he, too plays around with the format somewhat. This is one of his Stroup stories, and adventure of his hard-to-like recurring character. I thought the story was more of a character vignette than a full-fledged story, but Ketchum’s gift is characterization, and this is a good example of his talents.

So my verdict is to ignore any harsh reviews, and if you like Ketchum, Lee or Laymon (and who doesn’t?) pick up Triage.

Happy Birthday, Douglas Clegg

I am told that today is the birthday of Douglas Clegg, so I wish a very happy birthday to a great writer who also seems like a great guy. You can celebrate his birthday by purchasing his new book, Isis, if you wish.

The Demonologist

I am beginning to come around to a strong appreciation for the work of Michael Laimo. I had previously read his first novel, Atmosphere, and enjoyed it very much, although I thought it had a bit of looseness to it. I am even more impressed by another of his older works, The Demonologist.

The Demonologist evokes comparisons to William Peter Blatty’s landmark novel The Exorcist, although an updated, less Catholic-centric version. The protagonist is Bevant Mathers, a man who has overcome early tragedy in the los of his wife and become a late-blooming rock star. What Bev doesn’t realize is his success is the result of a fateful deal with a demon, one made by his wife, which resulted in her death. Now his debt has come due. He is part of a centuries-old plot by a demon to bind twelve other demons to his will and unleash Hell on Earth. Bev is the chosen vessel for one of these demons, a little imp called…Satan. His only chance is to work with Satan to defeat the plot (Satan doesn’t want to become another demon’s lackey), who he obviously can’t trust. The book is gripping and suspenseful.

My usual tiny nitpick: The demon-infested boy in the book is adopted by a Protestant minister, and is burned during communion when the wafer is put in his mouth. Do Protestants even do this? And if they do the ritual, I'm pretty sure they don't believe in transubstantiation, which would mean the worse thing that could happen to the little hellspawn is a sugar rush. (This is obviously a minute quibble.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Hollow Earth

One of my favorite historical periods/locations in literature has always been late Victorian England. It is the period when Sherlock Holmes operated out of his office on Baker Street, when a mysterious Transylvanian count arrived to take up a brief residence, Martian tripods landed, a madman who could not be seen was on the loose, a bloody ripper stalked the ladies of the evening, and many other fantastic events. I’ve read so much from this period, it seems like home to me. So it is natural that I was drawn to Steven Savile’s chapbook from Bloodletting Books set in this era, The Hollow Earth.

Although it is very brief (61 pages, with very attractive full-page illustrations by Daniele Serra), The Hollow Earth develops a number of ideas that appeal to me. The chief creation is The Greyfriar’s Club, a collection of adventurers who respond to supernatural menace. They spring into action when a plot emerges to open a gateway to hell, and to allow the denizens of the underworld to be unleashed on London, with the first clue a ghastly crucifixion at St. Paul’s cathedral. The writing is true to the tone of writers of the period (with a more modern approach to gore), and if that isn’t your cup of tea, it may be a turn-off. For me, the story ended far too soon, and I would have preferred it to have been expanded to novel length. I hope Mr. Savile plans to reveal more adventures of the Greyfriar’s Club in the future.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Shapeshifter is a hybrid of werewolf story and crime thriller, written by J. F. Gonzalez (Clickers I & II, Survivor). The main character is a young man named Mark Wiseman who, for reasons unknown has been stricken since his teens with the curse of lycanthropy. Mark is an ambivalent character. Although he is not blatantly evil, he does come across as somewhat indifferent to the fate of those he kills following his monthly transformation. He wishes he didn’t have to do it, but he has come to accept it as a part of the natural order of things. Over time, Mark has learned how to at least partially control his bestial side, and settled into a quiet life working on computers for a large insurance company, until he is seen in a partial transformation on CCTV by the president of the company. The president is much closer to real evil than Mark. He uses Mark’s abilities to kill those who are on the opposite side of an upcoming merger issue, and to protect his place in the company. He forces Mark into this by blackmail and physical threats. Mark resents this, but doesn’t protest too much. I did wonder at why he went along with the evil CEO’s schemes for so long. Eventually, one of the assassinations is bungled, and Mark is on the run for his life.

This was a fast-paced book, and I read it in a day. Gonzalez has an easy, very readable style, and I would recommend this book. Some may be put off by the lack of a sympathetic character, since Mark himself doesn’t seem particularly noble. It is also interesting to compare this with Gonzalez' earlier work and see how much he has progressed as a writer.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Breeding Ground

I’m writing this hoping that Erin Andrews has not already broken the internet, and these words will be read…*

For some time, people whose opinions I respect have been telling me I should read Breeding Ground by Sarah Pinborough. “You’ll love it” they said. Being a contrarian by nature, I ignored them, and kept it buried at the bottom of my To Be Read pile. Recently, though, I noticed a sequel was on its way (Feeding Ground) and I didn’t want to face the possibility of an entire series sitting there taunting me with its come-hither eyes (like Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, all of which I own but have never read). So I gave it a shot, and you know what? All those know-it-alls were right. It is a helluva book.

Matt and Chloe are a happy young reasonably affluent couple in England. They become even happier when they receive the news that Chloe is pregnant. But Chloe begins to gain lumpy weight in all the wrong places. This section is very well done. The reader knows pretty much what is going to happen, and Pinborough paces it just right to properly exploit the feeling of dread.

Sure enough, Chloe’s day comes, and in a horrific scene, she gives birth to a …giant spider. A giant man-eating spider. What’s more, almost all the women in the country (presumably the world) have done the same thing. The few men (and a couple of women) who survive the initial onslaught struggle to find a place where they can survive.

This is a creature feature mixed with a post-apocalyptic story. Pinborough deftly produces the sort of shutters you’d expect to have if you saw a giant honkin’ spider, and there are intriguing mysteries that accompany the appearance of the beasts. Very few of which are answered here, as there is a sort of open ending. That’s okay, since the knowledge there would be a sequel started the whole adventure.

I would highly recommend Sarah Pinborough’s Breeding Ground, and Feeding Ground will automatically receive a place high on the TBR pile.

* Lest I be perceived as being too crass, let me say that what was done was outrageous, and she has my sympathies. But the amount of attention being paid to something that should only really concern the victim is staggering.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Roll Them Bones

Thomas Wolfe famously said, “You can’t go home again.” In David Niall Wilson’s 2003 novella, Roll Them Bones, maybe the lesson is “If you can go home, you probably shouldn’t”.

Four high school friends reunite in their home town, years after they were participants in a horrible incident, one that has haunted their thoughts and dreams for all the time since. They have been summoned by one of their number to revisit the site of the incident, where a house that burned down on that fateful night has mysteriously disappeared. They are forced to confront not only what they did, but who they have become. It is a fascinating look at how humans struggle to overcome their flaws, as well as a horror story. (This is the second great Halloween-themed novella I’ve read in the last couple of years, along with Norman Partridge’s Dark Harvest, and both will be perpetual reads of mine in Octobers to come). You have the childhood bully who seems to be trying to be a better person, the writer who is trying to work out his problems in the books he writes, and the two former lovers who find their feelings have not changed as much as they thought.

I haven’t read everything David Niall Wilson (This Is My Blood, Maelstrom, Ennui & Other States of Madness) has written (I am working on it), but I have never read anything that disappointed me. He consistently rises above what people imagine to be the restrictions of the genre. Roll Them Bones is no exception. Even though Halloween is still a few months away, this is well worth picking up. It was #12 in Cemetery Dance books’ novella series, and is still available through various on-line merchants.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Famous Monsters Interviews Brian Keene

The website Famous Monsters of Filmland (successor to the magazine that warped influenced me as a kid) has a good interview up with Brian Keene. Probably a good one for those just getting into Keene's work.

Monday, July 20, 2009

House On The Borderlands May Be Adapted For Film

According to Bloody Disgusting (I get e-mail telling me the title of this blog is tasteless. I wonder what they get?) Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, Dagon) is looking at William Hope Hodgson’s The House On The Borderlands as his next movie project. The House on the Borderlands is a classic, but one not many people have read, so here’s hoping it makes it to the screen.

Prodigal Blues

This is an incredibly gripping book. If you read it, it won’t always make you happy but I would recommend it as strongly as anything I’ve put on this site.

Prodigal Blues was written by Gary A. Braunbeck, who has become known for his horror fiction. There is nothing of the supernatural here, just the even more menacing horrors that humans can inflict on one another.

Mark Seiber is a college janitor with a degree in English. On a road trip to settle an inheritance issue, he “rescues” a little girl who has been missing for some time. The last thing the girl tells him as the police take custody of her is a bewildering “I’m sorry.” Seiber soon understands what this means, as he is captured by four more lost children, who, along with the little girl who set him up, were kidnapped by a monster (a human one) they know as Grendel. Grendel has sexually abused them, pimped them out, and surgically scarred them for his amusement. He is the embodiment of human evil, vile enough to leave Hannibal Lector curled in the fetal position, sobbing in a corner. The children, the only survivors of dozens of children taken, want Mark to help reunite them with the families they haven’t seen for years…and then to help gain their revenge against Grendel. If he doesn’t do what they say, they will kill Mark and his family. What follows is a horrific road novel, in which the children reach whatever varied levels of peace which is left to them, and Mark learns a lot about himself.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cell To Infect Your Television

Stephen King’s zombie-ish 2006 novel Cell, much derided by horror fans, will become a television mini-series, according to Fangoria’s website. This will follow numerous other mini-series made from King’s work. Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel) was supposed to direct this as a movie, but plans have apparently changed. Since I’m one of the few who liked Cell (I thought it was a great “popcorn movie” type of novel), I’ll be looking forward to it. The added length of the mini-series will hopefully allow for more character development.


I'm back. And the world didn't end after all. The usual inane posting to resume in a brief while.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Brief Hiatus

I'm going to be away from posting for a couple of days, since I have to go attend to something that has to do with my job (I work for the government). I'm not allowed to say exactly what it is, but just as a heads-up, if you should see a sudden flash of light in the sky, if I were you I'd make it a point to be behind at least six inches of leaded protection in two minutes or less. Sleep tight!

Wyoming Rocks!

Thanks to 7van7, I have now had a visitor from every state. Thank you to 7van7, and to all the good people of Wyoming. I can now turn my attention to the world map, where I can already tell sub-Saharan Africa is going to be a bitch. However, with the Americas, Europe and Asia already in the fold, I am undaunted. Watch out Urssurnibanipal!

Whore of Jericho

That header should see a spike in hits for the site, although I imagine anyone who come here after Googling “Whore” will be disappointed.

One of my favorite authors working today is Steven L. Shrewsbury, and of his work, I have a particular affection for his stories about the barbarian warrior Rogan. They are somewhat hard to find, however (a publisher who collected the Rogan stories would be doing a very good thing), so I was happy when a copy of the 2006 chapbook Whore of Jericho, featuring Rogan fell into my hands courtesy of my friend Mark Hickerson. It is obscure enough I couldn’t find any information about the publisher Pitch Black, LLC, so I imagine there aren’t that many hanging around.

The story opens in the ancient city of Jericho, with some exposition from the seer Kira, the wizard Elajac, and the artist Teragram, a scene that I found reminiscent of the three witches scene in MacBeth. Rogan and his woman Keevah have been hired, along with their fellow Kelts, to defend the city, and are in the process of concluding their final battle. Rather than being paid off, the pair are taken prisoner by Teragram and Elajac. It seems that Teragram practices a very peculiar sort of art, transforming humans directly and painfully into glass sculptures and she has her eyes set on Rogan as her next subject. Unfortunately for the sorcerous trio, Rogan has a knack for escaping from confinement, and isn’t the type to forgive and forget.

As always, Shrewsbury delivers a hard-hitting story in the grand tradition of sword & sorcery. Seek it out and read it.


During the early 8th century, a spaceship carrying Jesus Kainan (Jim Caviezel) crashes in the middle of Viking territory. Kainan is the only human survivor of the crash, but part of their cargo does make it through. This is a deadly creature called a Moorwen, which begins to wreak havoc on the local population. The creature glows with strange lights, and is absolutely bloodthirsty.

After an awkward meeting Jesus Kainan proves himself to the locals by saving only the truly important people in the village, and joins them in the fight against the beast. After all, it is his fault. Along the way, he gets to romance the local king’s daughter, Freya (Sophia Myles, Underworld) who he woos by punching her in the face.

This is another attempt to re-tell the Beowulf story, as with the superior 13th Warrior. While the science-fictional take on the story probably isn’t as effective as the other movie, it is a mostly amusing film. The cast is good, the special effects are decent, and the action scenes are well staged. It is probably 20 minutes too long, and there is a sequence at the end of the second act where Jesus Kainan explains the origins of the Moorwen (they were the dominant species on a world that his people coveted, so they were exterminated, not counting the one here on Earth), that probably shouldn’t be there. It serves to elicit pity for the poor Moorwen, the last survivor of its kind. Normally this isn’t a bad idea, but this is an action, swordsmen-versus-monster story, and the added depth is out of place with the humble nature of the story. Making us feel sorry for the monster just before it is killed doesn’t work that well in this type of movie.

Still, it is a solid effort, and I think most would be pleased with it.

Wyoming Still Eludes Me

Despite my best efforts, I still haven't been able to attract a visitor from Wyoming. Nearby states like Idaho and Montana send so many visitors, they feel like a second home, but no one from Wyoming.

Any advice? What sort of content do people from that great state like? I'm willing to resort to trickery if need be, as it would suit my purposes if a Wyoman (Wyomian?) just dropped by, called me "dipshit" and left. Or, if you're passing through Wyoming on vacation, if you want to stop at an internet cafe and log in here, it will be much appreciated.

Monday, July 13, 2009


There are movies that make us think. Movies that broaden us, and make better people out of us. Movies that serve as a communal experience enabling us to connect with the rest of mankind. Those movies have nothing in common with Razortooth, which is about a group of morons fighting giant eels in the Everglades.

The Everglades has a problem with a new invasive species, a type of eel from Asia. So a group of scientists working on the project genetically alters the eels to make them grow to enormous size. Why on Earth would they do that? Because they’re scientists, that’s why, and that’s what scientists do. Always poking things with their grubby scientist fingers and giantifying everything in sight. Those people need a keeper, I tell you.

Anyway, the scientists create enormous eels, and they go on a people-eatin’ rampage. Fortunately, they will be opposed by the local animal control officer and the sheriff, who in a movie coincidence used to be married. They are estranged, so it takes about five minutes of movie time before they commence PG-13 style shagging. The guy who plays the animal control officer also plays the harmonica incessantly for the first part of the movie, which began to tip my sympathies more toward the giant eel side. He also likes to walk around the local diner dangling dead rats on a string, despite which the owner of the diner thinks he’s just great. Despite the fact the town is located on the edge of the Everglades, the animal control guy is the only one in town that knows anything at all about any type of animal, which seems far-fetched.

Almost all the characters are some type of Southern stereotypes, which was funny back in 1970. There are plot lines that don’t go anywhere, such as the launch of a canoeing expedition filled with kids. You would expect there to be an extended sequence where the eels chase the kids, but nope. The next time we see them, they are corpses. The movie is steadfast in its determination to avoid anything plot-like or suspenseful. It is just one sequence after another of the giant eel eating someone, and then at the end the sheriff and the animal control guy blows it up, while they enjoy an oblivious, passionate kiss being showered with pieces of giant eel. I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m getting romantic and someone splashes me with eel guts, it takes me right out of the moment.

One of the taglines on the boxes is “always eating, never full.” I can explain that. When the eel attacks someone, it bites just enough of the person away to kill them, leaving 80-90% of the body to be found later. The eel would be much more satisfied if it would just clean its plate, rather than treat the Glades as a free-range human tapas bar.

Both the leads are primarily singers rather than actors, so the DVD has a music video, something of a rarity among giant eel movies. You should watch this if: you look at the DVD boxcover and think it would be something that would entertain you.

New Caitlin Kiernan - The Red Tree

A favorite author of this site (well, me, actually, the site itself doesn't read much), Caitlin R. Kiernan, has a redesigned web site to promote her upcoming book The Red Tree. Ms. Kiernan writes some of the most profound, literate books in the genre, so you might want to consider pre-ordering that one through Amazon or other fine booksellers.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ramsey Campbell at Hypericon 2010

According to a recent announcement, the Guest of Honor for Hypericon in 2010 will be author Ramsey Campbell. This is great news for me, as I have been a Ramsey Campbell fan for many, many years, and wouldn't have thought he would ever come to a convention here in the Southeastern United States. Hypericon '09 is just a little more than a month in the past, and I'm already looking forward to the next one.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Strain

When I heard Guillermo del Toro, the director of Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone, Blade 2, and the Hellboy movies, was going to be co-authoring a horror novel with Chuck Hogan, I was pretty skeptical. Everybody thinks they can write, and almost everybody is wrong. Now that I’ve read The Strain, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

The book has one of the creepier opening scenes. A jetliner arrives at JFK airport in New York from Germany, in the middle of the night. Once down, it stops in the runway, and all power goes down. Efforts to contact the plane fail. When a CDC team finally manages to enter the aircraft, they find all but four of the 210 passengers and crew are sitting dead in their seats, with no sign of violence, poison, or infection. A later autopsy reveals the bodies bleed a white fluid. And there’s something alive in that fluid.

A very old vampire has arrived from Europe, and plans to raise a large vampire army, starting in New York. He has human confederates, and soon only two members of the CDC team, a stockbroker, and an exterminator (!) are standing in his way.

The vampires of The Strain aren’t your sparkly emo vamps of modern fiction. They are ugly and disgusting (they look a lot like del Toro’s super-vampires from Blade 2), feeding through a long stinger underneath their tongue – which can extend as much as six feet. Due to their simplified systems, they excrete the unneeded parts of the blood they ingest, so the scene of their attacks is strewn with an ammonia compound. They are instinctively drawn back to the homes they lived in before their death, so frequently their first victims are their own former loved ones.

The Strain is the first book in a proposed trilogy. Part two will be published in 2010, and the story will wrap up in 2011. I’m sold.

Trivia: The books were originally intended to be a three year-long television series, a vampire story in the style of The Wire, but network executives wanted them to mellow out the vampires. That series would have been something to see.

Red Sands

In Afghanistan, a small group of soldiers on their way to man a house used as a watch station stops at a shrine carved into the side of a mountain. The shrine is a bas-relief of a woman, and one of the soldiers destroys it by using it for target practice, a la the Sphinx. Unbeknownst to them, the figure was imprisoning an ancient demon called a Djinn (genie), which follows them to their camp, and infiltrates their dreams, forcing them to turn on each other. (The movie opened with the sole survivor of the mission being debriefed)

Red Sands was made by the same team which produced 2004’s Dead Birds, which in my opinion is one of the more effective independent horror films. As with the first movie, effective use is made of camera angles, tracking shots, and the isolation of the locale to create a spooky mood. The harsh terrain, with its strong winds and sandstorms is used to great effect. The cast, which includes Shane West (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Leonard Roberts (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), J. K. Simmons (Spider-Man), Callum Blue (Dead Like Me) and Aldis Hodge (Friday Night Lights) is first-rate, and the actors handle their characters’ gradual disintegration well.

The movie had a reported budget of $1,500,000, and it shows in most of the CGI shots. The Djinn in motion looks like it came from a mid-90s video game, and the filmmakers admit in their commentary there were a number of shots they wanted but couldn’t afford to get. As a result, some horror fans will find it short on gore and big set pieces. It is also a bit of a slow set-up style movie.

For those who don’t look for dismemberment a minute, however, the movie has a lot to offer. It takes its time, allowing us to know the characters before bad things happen to them, which makes it more meaningful. There is a real feeling of dread to be found. If you enjoyed Dead Birds, I’d recommend this one, too.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Midnight in 411

Whenever I can, I try to post a link to some free on-line fiction. This is to spread awareness of some good authors you may not be acquainted with as of yet, and also because I figure many of you are cheap by nature like I am, and need something on the computer to pass the time while you’re pretending to work. There’s only so much freecell you can do before going mad.

So here’s a nice eerie story from Matt Cowan, entitled Midnight in 411. Enjoy it, and while you’re there check out some of Matt’s articles at the Vintage Horror website. Matt does a great job hi-lighting some authors from the past (and present) that may have been overlooked by today’s readers.

This Is My Blood

A reprinted and slightly re-written post from elsewhere...

This Is My Blood, by David Niall Wilson (one of my favorite writers), first published in 1999, is a book of extraordinary depth. It takes some of the conventions of horror (vampires, demonic possession, the Lilith legend) and uses them to explore the foundations of Christianity in a way that takes seriously the religious issues raised. In my own life, for purposes of reference, I was raised Southern Baptist, converted to Catholicism, and now don’t believe in the supernatural at all. Despite this, since I first read This Is My Blood seven or eight years ago, it has stuck with me. This is also a perfect book to read in the Christmas season, for obvious reasons.

The book covers the same period of the life of Christ found in the conventional gospels. Jesus has gone into the desert and is tempted by Lucifer. As part of the temptation, Lucifer brings forth a female fallen angel to tempt Christ with the desires of the flesh. To Satan’s surprise, the newly created woman responds to Jesus’ offer of redemption. In anger, Lucifer curses the woman, who will be known as Mary Magdalene, to live off the blood of humans, and to shun the daylight – the first vampire.

The book follows Mary’s attempt’s to gain redemption, and also features an alternate view of Judas, here seen as the most faithful of disciples. Although it is obviously quite different from conventional theology, Wilson’s skill brings these familiar characters to life in a new way, and makes you feel the suspense of what the outcome will be – even though you already know it.

Those who are easily offended by alternate depictions of Christ won’t care for this, but I doubt they read much anyway. This book is an underrated classic, and Wilson is one of the genre’s best-kept secrets. You will find great reward if you read this book. When I checked earlier this week, The Horror Mall had at least one copy in stock, and This Is My Blood has also been reprinted under the inferior (in my opinion) title of Temptation of Blood. Check it out. If you are looking for something past the endless action sequences of a lot of horror novels, this should interest you.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

24 Hell

My Beautiful Wife sits through a lot of really bad movies with me (just click on “movies” under categories and you’ll find a lot of examples). I definitely owe her for that, and how I pay that debt is to watch the TV series 24 with her when the new season hits DVD, watching it in large concentrations. This is more than fair.

The snag is, I’m among the few people who really hates 24. The preposterous plots, improbable plans, etc. torques me off in a big way. I’m 22 hours into this year’s 24 Hell, and there have been a series of biological attacks, a near chemical spill, terrorists seizing the White House and holding the President hostage, and the use of the air traffic control system to cause planes to collide in mid-air. As with every season, any government or law enforcement agency is composed of at least 50% traitors and double agents. The main character has been infected with prions that are eating his brain, although it’s a certainty he will be healed, even if that’s impossible. One past season had an agent shot through the throat, severing his carotid artery. He had quick surgery, and was back in action after an hour or so.

So why am I whining about this here? Well, I’m certainly not going to whine about it to BW, as that would defeat the purpose of my sacrifice, and I love whining too much to let the opportunity slip by.

I Get Letters (No Kidding)

Someone e-mailed me a question about the organization of my sidebar, so I thought I’d answer it here. As you can see, my “links” are divided into three categories: General Horror Links, Horror Writers, and Other Blogs of Note. Setting aside the clumsiness of this, the e-mailer pointed out that several of those listed under Other Blogs of Note (actually a majority, but who is counting) are themselves writers. Am I making a distinction between writers I think are good and those I don’t? No, absolutely not. The major reason I did it like that was being in a hurry to throw the site up, and then being too lazy to go back and fix it. I work for the government, after all, and it is tiring organizing the big Friday bonfires where we burn the leftover tax money for the week.

I’ve had a chance to at least glimpse at work by John Hornor Jacobs, Kent Gowran, C. Michael Cook, Erik Williams, Mark Justice, and Erik Smetana, and I can tell you they are writers to keep an eye on. Some very talented folks with as yet just a few publications under their belt, this is a group from which some of your favorite will come from in the years ahead. When it happens, remember I told you so. I still won’t have gotten around to fixing the site.


“Why do werewolves howl at the moon?
Because that’s where they originally came from!”

That’s the tagline for Al Sarrantonio’s 1989 novel Moonbane. Out of print for some time, it has now been re-issued in an attractive hardcover from Cemetery Dance, featuring a cover by Alan M. Clark, and interior illustrations by Keith Minnion. In it, Sarrantonio takes one of the classic monster archetypes (the werewolf) and melds it with a classic from science fiction, in this case H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. It is a delightful, fast-paced B-movie of a book.

Jason Blake is a poet (oddly enough, not starving) living in west Texas with his wife and son. Father and son are watching the Geminid meteor shower when the sky is set alight by many more meteors than expected, one of which falls to Earth nearby. Upon investigation, the younger Blake is bitten by an animal which crawls out of the meteor. This will be a tragic night for Jason Blake.

It seems years ago the Moon was home to a race of werewolves. When the Moon lost its atmosphere, the werewolves went into a state of suspended animation, waiting for more hospitable times. Volcanic eruptions have now sent some of these werewolves to Earth, where they are reborn and go on a killing rampage. Anyone bitten or scratched by one becomes a werewolf, also. The creatures kill and eat everyone they come across, leaving only a carefully arranged pile of bones behind.

Blake begins a long journey, accompanied by other stragglers he meets, to a distant military base. There, it is hoped, a solution lies that may keep mankind from being exterminated by the lunar invaders.

I’ve also been a sucker for a mixture of science fiction and horror, so I enjoyed the book a lot. There are a number of scientific inaccuracies that could be nitpicked, but to John’s surprise, I won’t. This is a very entertaining, quick-read of a book. If you’ve never read Moonbane, here’s your chance, and if you read and enjoyed it, this is an opportunity to own a hard-bound copy of a minor horror classic.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dig Me No Grave

Reading Steven Shrewsbury’s book Tormentor naturally got me to thinking about Robert E. Howard. My first exposure to Howard was not through his Conan stories, but rather through a comic book adaptation of his horror story “Dig Me No Grave” (I was creepy as a child, too), in the relaunched book Journey Into Mystery. I was delighted to find the story, adapted by Roy Thomas, Gil Kane and Tom Palmer, can be read online at the website The Horrors of It All. Click here to read it, and imagine yourself reading it as a pre-teen on a dark, rainy night and you’ll get my experience. I don’t recall anything about the two other stories in that comic book, but “Dig Me No Grave” has stuck with me ever since. Check out the rest of the website while you’re there, there’s lots of cool stuff.

Laid To Rest

Robert Hall’s first movie, Lightning Bug, ran into controversy because of its marketing. Since Hall (and his company, Almost Human) is best known for visual effects/makeup in genre films, the movie was pushed as a horror film, and viewers expecting that were disappointed to learn it is mostly an autobiographical drama. His second movie, Laid To Rest, allows no ambiguity to what it is: an old-school slasher film.

A woman (Bobbie Sue Luther, whose character is unnamed but eventually is nicknamed Princess) wakes up in a coffin in a funeral home (!) with no memory of how she got there or even who she is. She quickly discovers she is being chased by a sadistic killer, who never speaks (he later communicates with her by text messages, so it’s a good thing he didn’t have access to her Facebook page) and wears a shiny chrome skull mask, hence his nickname, Chrome Skull. Princess understandably flees from Chrome Skull, and in doing so becomes a sort of slasher flick Typhoid Mary, because everyone she meets comes to a gory death. Helping damsels in distress worked out so much better in the old fairy tales. No one ever shoved a knife through Prince Charming’s face. The plot of the movie is pretty much Princess flees, Chrome Skull chases, Chrome Skull kills everybody.

Not that the simplicity of the plot is a big detriment. Laid To Rest is intended to be a gory slasher, and nothing more, and it achieves that goal, and does so with a style that makes it one of the better retro-Old School slashers, much better than the over-hyped Hatchet. The murders are suitably gory and over the top, which is to be expected given Hall’s background, and the cast does a good job. Due to Hall’s connections, there are some better-known actors in some of the small parts, such as Lena Headey and Johnathon Schaech.

A bit of quibble involving telephones: At the beginning of the movie, when Princess wakes up, she calls 911 for help on an old model landline phone, but doesn’t know where she is. The operator tells her to stay on the phone long enough to trace the call, but she walks away and pulls the receiver cord out of the phone, disconnecting it. First of all, while TV shows used to be full of attempts to keep someone on the line long enough for a trace, nowadays, it’s almost instantaneous*. Secondly, pulling the receiver cord out wouldn’t disconnect the phone, you have to push down the bar to do that.

These nit-picks aside, if you are a slasher movie fan, you’ll probably enjoy Laid To Rest.

* As a teenager, I worked in the summer in the switching room of the local phone company, where I learned how to trace a call manually (never had reason to do so), as well as the complicated procedure used to disconnect someone’s phone, i.e. sticking a toothpick in the connection. It would cost the customer a $75 re-connection fee to get me to pull the toothpick out.


Author Steven L. Shrewsbury (Hawg, Thoroughbred) has long been compared to Robert E. Howard, who is best know for creating Conan the Barbarian, although he wrote in practically every paying field in the 20s and 30s. This comparison comes closer, in my opinion, in his new novel Tormentor, than any of his other work. Tormentor is the book Robert E. Howard would have written had he been born seventy years later.

Battlin’ John Kern is a former boxer, a one-time top contender. He gives up the ring after a man dies from his fists, and joins the Marines. After being wounded in a blast in Iraq, Kern begins seeing unworldly visions, which persist after he is sent to Germany. There, the visions lead him into a battle with a transsexual alchemist*, a group of necrophiliacs, and a cult dedicated to bringing a legendary torturer (the titular Tormentor) back from Hell to ravage the Earth. Kern is never one to back away from a fight, but he’ll face long (and weird) odds here.

There is also a story-within-the-story, an adventure of Shrewsbury’s barbarian creation, Erik Bedlam, a Conan-esque berserker with a shard of metal stuck in his skull. Bedlam stories are always a treat, and here you learn the ultimate fate of the character. The story is integral to the main plot, so it is not added just to make the book longer.

One of the best adjectives used to describe Howard’s work (though mostly out of use today) is “two-fisted”. It denotes a rugged action oriented approach to story-telling. I’m happy to say Shrewsbury’s work, including this novel is very two-fisted. Characters are direct, and the action sequences come along quickly. Battlin’ John Kern is a hero writ large, and his opponents are of the type seldom seen.

As always, Shrewsbury pulls no punches. The sex and violence is graphic, and if you occasionally have to pause in reading you Murder, She Wrote novel tie-in because it makes your heart race too much, his work is probably not for you. But anyone who appreciates a good story well told, and an adventuresome style rarely seen these days, should be reading Shrewsbury’s work, and should definitely pick up Tormentor. It is published by Lachesis Publishing, and may be ordered on line or wherever fine books are sold.

My 300th post on this site. Yay me. I need to get a real life.

* As a running gag on some message boards, I’ve teased Shrewsbury about scenes in his work where a male character suffers a traumatic loss of his genitals. In this book, Shrewsbury has reversed that trend, and added a penis to a woman, so I guess there is a type of cosmic balance at work here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Link: 10 Questions for Douglas Clegg

David Wilbanks has posted an interview with Douglas Clegg at dunderthome. Clegg is one of the better authors the genre has ever produced, so check it out. Ford Madox Ford, eh? That brings back memories.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Pod of Horror #54

Mark Justice and Nanci Kalanta have given us an Independence Day gift, as the 54th edition of the outstanding Pod of Horror is now available for download at Horror World. This episode features authors David Morrell and James Rollins, as well as horror news from Ms. Kalanta and other features.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I Spit On Your Grave

Unredeemable trash, or misunderstood pro-feminist classic?

I’m going to give you the entire plot of the movie. Don’t worry, it won’t take long, because the only way a movie could have less plot is if you accidentally put a blank DVD in the player.

Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) wants to write a novel, so she rents a secluded cabin. There, she catches the attention of three cretin and their mentally disabled (for real) friend. They grab her and rape and sodomize her repeatedly, forcing her to perform every possible act. This scene goes on long past what you think you can stand. It is long enough to take a break to use the bathroom, then fix yourself a sandwich and eat it. When they’ve finally done everything they can to the woman, they leave their retarded sidekick to stab her to death. He can’t bring himself to do it, and leaves her alive, although he tells the others she’s dead (considering what happens later, I wonder at the message of this. Use a competent member of your group to kill your victim?).

Having survived, Jennifer slowly heals. You might think she would go to the police, but she has other ideas. When she’s recovered, she returns to the location of her violation and puts the move on her attackers. Most people in their position would flee to Brazil when they saw her alive, but these nitwits actually believe the woman they brutalized would be attracted to them. Once she has them off guard, she kills them in various ways, with the one who spared her life going first and possibly most painfully. I guessed he regretted his one moment of kindness at the end.

When it was released in 1978, almost all critics were in agreement: The movie was trash. Since then, some contrarians have come up with the idea the movie has a strong feminist message, that the victimized woman is empowered when she takes matters into her own hands to get revenge. The original title of the movie, Day of the Woman (it was re-titled for a 1980 re-release, perhaps to fool people a second time), offers some support that the filmmakers had that in mind.

I just can’t buy it. The fact that the woman wins in the end can’t make up for the leering, overwrought multiple rape scene. I honestly believe the people who made the movie thought if they made a rape-filled movie, it would attract a certain type of viewer. But how to present this without looking like a pervert? Have the woman win in the end. If you look for a message and a deeper meaning in any film, you can find it, of course, but here I don’t think there was any real purpose other than to titillate some raincoaters.

Trivia note: The shapely rear on the poster (above) is not that of Ms. Keaton. There is a persistent legend the model was none other than Demi Moore, but I would think this about as likely as me being the King of France.


Stop the presses! We have a movie from the Sci-Fi Channel that didn’t suck. While I didn’t think Organizm (also known as Living Hell) re-invented the genre, or will replace Citizen Kane on the best movies lists, it was a competent little low-budget sci-fi horror movie.

The movie starts in 1958, where a small boy watches his Mom freak out. She very much wants him to remember “Vault 12, Level 3”. She is obviously concerned the kid has memory retention problems, because she cuts the info into the palms of his hands with a knife. Yikes. I would have gone with flash cards, but that is pretty effective. Just to make the day a little more memorable, Mom then shoots the dad to death, before committing suicide herself, all with the kid watching. This could lead to problems down the road, psychologically speaking, although I’m no professional at that stuff.

Jump forward to the more-or-less present. The kid is now a grown-up Frank Sears (genre favorite Johnathon Schaech, Quarantine, the Prom Night remake), but he hasn’t forgotten what his Mom told him, thanks to the extensive scarring. When he hears the military base his Mom worked at is due for demolition, he drives across the country to warn the authorities about Vault 12. There, Colonel Maitland (James McDaniel, NYPD Blue) is in charge of de-commissioning the base so it can be turned over to the local Indian tribe. If there’s anything we know, it is when the government gives anything to the Indians, there will be a catch. The decontamination team is led by a soldier of indeterminate rank, Carrie Freeborn (Erica Leerhsen, Blair Witch Project 2, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake)

Sears tries to get into the base, gets arrested, and tells Maitland about Vault 12. Although the vault has been searched and found empty, Maitland orders a second search, which discovers a secret room with an ominous tank in it. Freeborn wants to follow protocol in dealing with the tank, but Maitland say screw it, just open the thing, what could be the harm? This will turn out to be a mistake.

They open the tank, and in due course, most of the base is dead due to some fast-growing tentacles that snake out, covering everything and killing everyone they touch. Apparently our biological warfare folks back in the 50s were aces. Pretty soon, the town has been overrun by the tentacles, and the world is next. It’s up to Freeborn and Sears to find a way to stop the monster, as all the other military personnel are morons.

The movie has its flaws. Some of the special effects shots are pretty terrible, but I’m sure they did what they could with the budget they had. The story is fairly predictable and familiar, but is still fun. The script is reasonably tight, the story is told in a coherent fashion, and I thought the cast was good. Not a Best Picture nominee by any means, but if you are looking for a Sci-Fi Channel Original that is several cuts above their usual fare, I think this is it.


So I'm posting a comment on someone else's blog, and the word verification widget comes up. My word? "moran".

Damn you, Blogger Interface, you know me too well.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Fire Serpent

With a name like Fire Serpent, you know it has to be…fiery, I guess. This creature feature was on the wife and my picks for a Saturday night flick recently. The movie originally aired on the Sci-Fi channel, and it won’t be the movie that breaks the string of duds.

You see, there are these creatures that look like dragons (made of fire) that live in the Sun. Really. No kidding. Occasionally, one of them escapes, gets expelled, or something, and ends of on Earth. (This is extremely unlikely to happen randomly due to the vastness of the inner solar system. I’m pointing out a scientific flaw in a movie about a dragon made of fire). When they reach Earth, they want to burn things up, especially people. Why? Who the hell knows. They can also lurk for a long time, hide from water (The sequel will hopefully be Fire Serpent vs. Water Serpent, where the natural enemies fight), and possess people. It’s better not to ask about that one.

Way back in the 60s a young fireman sees one of the creatures barbeque his fiancée, and embarks on a lifelong crusade to stop them. Everyone needs a hobby. In the present day, a new fire serpent, or possibly the old one, is braising the countryside. The now older fireman joins with a younger fireman and a plucky lady who is leading the local investigation. There is also a high-ranking fed involved who is evil because, well, the fed is always a bad guy in these movies. A lot of stuff burns up against a backdrop of incredibly bad special effects.

Randolph Mantooth (from the 70s show Emergency!, and he’s held up well) plays the older fireman, Nicholas Brendan (Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) players the younger fireman, and Sandrine Holt (24) is the love interest/local agent. Robert Beltran is the evil fed. The movie is based on an original concept by William Shatner (!). Watch it if this seems in any way appealing to you. The DVD cover is better than the movie, which is often the case.


It took me a while to track down Bryan Smith’s Deathbringer, probably because people are starting to realize he is the next big thing. But it was worth the wait. This is Smith’s take on the zombie genre, but is much less derivative of the classic zombies than most.

In the supernatural realm, there are entities known as Reapers, whose job is to collect the souls of the dead. One of these Reapers desires more power, and has come up with a plan to challenge God himself. He goes to the town of Dandridge, Tennessee (that Tennessee is the locus of evil doesn’t surprise me), where a mystical book (shades of The Evil Dead!) is placed in the hands of Mike O’Bannon, a young police officer grieving over the murder of his fiancée. O’Bannon reads from the book, which causes the dead of Dandridge to begin to rise from their graves, killing the living and converting them into part of the undead army. This will ultimately able the Reaper to exterminate all life on Earth, and provoke a confrontation with the All-Mighty. There is a representative of the other side sent to stop him, but is he up to the task?

The zombies of Deathbringer are fast-moving and sentient, which makes them more dangerous than the usual crowd. They also retain the memories of their human lives, and can feel some remorse for their actions, which adds depth. As is usual with Smith’s books, the story is action-packed and fast moving. As with his other novels, I would highly recommend it.

A couple of quick additional notes:

In searching for a cover photo to steal use, I had the misfortune of running across the Amazon reviews for this book, which are mostly incomprehensible. I guess some people get kicks by tearing things down. Yes, it is like looking into a disturbing mirror.

I had the fortune of getting a sneak peek at Smith’s next book, Depraved, which will be out from Leisure later this year. Don’t miss it, it might be the best book of 2009.


Wyoming Wyoming Wyoming Wyoming Wyoming Wyoming Wyoming Wyoming Wyoming*

* According to Google Analytics, it's the only state from which I have not had a visitor in the last year, and I'm trying to complete the set.