My Bucket List, of Sorts – the Travel Edition

So, as I have entered into a new decade and thus a new phase of life, organizing and prioritizing certain things I’d like to do, see, or be before I die seems to have taken on a new importance.  And there is something about posting various “bucket lists” (although I hate the term) along these lines that I think gives them a sense of tangible reality. There are a number of national parks and forests all over the country — all over the world, even — that I’d like to see for one reason or another.  Horror fiction/film landmarks, places of great beauty, places of ancient awesomeness.  I don’t know that I’ll see all of them, but I’d like to try.

I imagine this may be a series of occasional posts about what I hope for the future, and by putting them out there in the universe, I might therefore find a way to accomplish them.

Domestically, I’d love to see the Redwoods and Bigfoot country, Rainbow Bridge and Falls in Seneca Lake as well as other parts of Lake George/Adirondacks and Lake Tahoe, the Grand Canyon and the Stanley Hotel, the creepy doll museum in Washington and the Warren Museum in Connecticut (I think it’s CT). This following list (in no particular order) is of international places I’d like to see before I move on from this world.

The Northern Lights
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Because, wow.  This is an aurora moonset taken somewhere in Alaska.  I’d also like to see Alaska in general, and not just because it’s the state with the highest number of UFO sightings/encounters of various kinds in the country.  Seeing the Northern Lights must be a magical, almost transcendental experience, whether in Alaska, Canada, or Iceland.  So this is definitely on my list.

 

 


The Hill of Tara, Ireland
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It seems to me that this is a place of ancient wisdom, beauty and power.  There is something about it that calls to my soul.  I would like to see Ireland before I die, and in addition to the usual tourist sites — maybe even more so than those places — I’d like to see this place.

 

 

 


Stonehenge

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Um, because it’s freakin’ Stonehenge! Talk about iconic places to see in one’s life. I understand they’re roped off now and you can’t get close to them, but I’d still like to see them.

 

 

 


Waitomo Caves
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These are the glow-worm caves of New Zealand. I would not go out of my way to see just any worms — these look pretty special. I figure, it’s like butterflies. They’re not really creepy-crawly if they’re pretty and glowy. I like glowy things.

 

 

 


The Great Pyramids
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Because ALIENS. No, seriously.

Okay, seriously, I have always found ancient Egypt fascinating — the hieroglyphics, the mythology, the gods, the culture.

 

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Oh, and I’d like to see the Sphinx, too.

 

 

 

 

 


The Hoia-Baciu Forest, Romania

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This is considered the most haunted forest in the world. UFO sightings, missing people, time anomolies, attacks from invisible entities — what’s not to love? Though this visit is going to be saved for what will presumably be the end of my life. just in case.

 

 


Aokigahara (Suicide Forest/Sea of Trees), Japan
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The sheer number of ghosts in this area are enough to fill a small city. No joke. It’s an absolutely beautiful forest with an absolutely terrifying history. Another golden-glow-of-my-sunset-years trip, but definitely on my list.

 


The Castle Tour

(too many pics to post but check them out HERE)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Horror Movie Survival Kit

Courtesy of Man Crates, I am participating in the Halloween-themed blog posting of what I consider my absolute essentials for surviving a horror movie.  Please comment with anything you’d include yourself — I’d love to hear feedback.

 

 

My Horror Movie Survival Crate

by Mary SanGiovanni

So you’ve found yourself in a horror movie. There you were, blithely waltzing through your average 9-5, cubicle-and-rush-hour-traffic day, and boom, you’re suddenly surrounded by apocalyptic explosions, fleshing-eating ghouls, shambling zombies, soul-shattering closet monsters, tentacled, blood-sucking aliens, clowns, Kardashians….

Okay, okay – don’t panic. You can survive this. I’ll bet money that you don’t have yourself a horror movie survival kit yet. You should. The world can be a wild, weird, scary place. Anyone wise in the ways of the horror movie-verse has a go-bag at the ready for any and all crisis situations – and now more than ever, so should you. But what do you look for in such a survival kit? What items ought to form the backbone of your horror survivalist contingency plan?

Well, I’m a horror writer, as long-time readers know; I put people in these kinds of situations for a living, so I have, I think, a pretty good idea of what it may behoove a body to have, if said body wants to remain upright and kicking. I think these items are versatile enough to cover a number of things that go bump and scratch and belch and roar in the night, and may just save you long enough to fight another day.

1. A bottle of water and nonperishable food – Let’s face it. If you’re going to think your way calmly and rationally through a crisis situation, you’ll need to see that the most basic problems are attended to. You’ll need to triage your needs and get your head right again. Assuming you haven’t been shot, stabbed, burned, beaten, bitten, broken, or dropped onto spikes, you should consider moving on to the important task of keeping hydrated and fed. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think about the best escape route through throngs of zombies or past crazed hillbilly cannibals on an empty stomach. Ditto, if I’m thirsty. I believe at least one bottle of water, maybe two, as well as a snack, is essential to keeping you in optimum survivalist mode.

2. A first aid kit – Remember when I mentioned triaging your needs? Attending to wounds is need #1. It trumps all else; you won’t have to worry about being hungry or thirsty if you’re bleeding to death. Just as it is inevitable that if you go swimming in shark- or sea monster-infested waters you’re going to get wet, it is likewise inevitable that if you’re going to make your way through a horror movie, you’re going to get hurt. Bandages will help stop bleeding, antibiotics will prevent infection, and a sewing kit, if used skillfully, will help minimize scarring when you give yourself stitches. Essentially, your horror movie survival kit should have a first aid kit because you or someone in your little band of survivors is going to need it. Trust me. Remember, major blood loss is no way to start off your plans for survival.

3. Ibuprofen or some other pain reliever – Hopefully, you’ll limit your injuries to a bruise or two or maybe some scratches, and not a broken or missing limb. Either way, you stand a better chance of survival if you’re not distracted to the point of helplessness by pain. Hell, I wouldn’t even want to deal with a headache if I didn’t have to. I suggest you make sure your survival crate has pain relievers.

4. Paper towels – You’re going to have to pee. Everyone does. But not everyone thinks about the particulars of setting one’s rear end down on the stained porcelain of a haunted house’s toilet, a patch of leaves in a forest teeming with werewolf packs, or in the rusty, crusty, blood-stained confines of an old asylum or prison. Paper towels are good for nesting as well as wiping. And should you find yourself in a situation where you are framed for the murder of your lover, a hooker, a stranger on a train, or the like, you can wipe off your fingerprints from the scene.

It’s all about thinking ahead, people.

4. Comfy shoes – I recommend that any good horror movie survival crate have a decent pair of sneakers – durable, waterproof, and comfy. Running sneakers would probably be a good bet. Know why so many people trip and fall in horror movies, floundering on the ground as a looming, silent hulk of monstermeat approaches with a machete? Bad shoes. Running in heels is not an option. Running barefoot is not ideal. Flapping flip flops will give away your position. Take care of your feet and they won’t fail you when you need them.

5. A weapon – I can’t stress enough the importance of arming yourself. A wise horror movie hero once said, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.” But which weapon to use? Guns will do nicely for killing most things, including wild, freakishly large animals, zombies (aim for the head), serial killers (ditto – in fact, shoot them twice in the head, to be sure), crazed occultists, and cannibals. Knives and axes will serve you in the event that the gun jams or runs out of ammo. But few things can match the awesome destructive power and panache of a flamethower. Fire is the great equalizer.

6. Holy water and a Bible – It’s possible that even the girlishly squee-able awesomeness of a flamethower may not be enough firepower, so to speak, to take down certain entities of a demonic persuasion. The power of Christ will compel them, though, according to those in the know. The exorcism ritual primarily includes holy water and a passage from the older editions of the Christian Bible. This is important – your crate Bible needs to have the Rites of Exorcism in it.

7. Sage and salt – I understand from professionals that sage and salt dispel evil and prevent it from returning, respectively. It can’t hurt to have these along as well.

8. Gloves and a shovel – Some things are better left buried. But of course, you are in a horror movie, and those things didn’t stay that way. So the shovel will come in handy when you’re re-burying an ancient corse, an evil artifact, etc. You may also want or need to bury those in your party that do not survive the movie (likely, because they didn’t have survival kits of their own). And gloves will keep your hands from blistering while you dig. Further, gloves, particularly rubber gloves, may keep any Captain Tripps-esque germs from said ancient corpse, artifact, or unfortunate companion from ruining all the hard work you put into staying alive and well. You could, I imagine, substitute the gloves for Purell, but if you think about the opposition – the Michael Myerses, the Jason Voorheeses, and other soundless slashers of their ilk – they all wear gloves, and they have amazing resurrective and regenerative power. It’s all about clean living.

9. A blanket – Creature comforts, if you’ll pardon the pun, go a long way toward promoting the will to survive. And should you find yourself the sole survivor of an artic camp, an ice-capped mountain cavern, a freak blizzard, or the like, you’ll be glad for the blanket. Plus, you can make yourself a right cozy little spot if you use the blanket on you and the flamethower to make yourself a little bonfire.

10. A disguise – If episodes of Scooby Doo have taught us nothing else, disguises can make or break a monster situation. These can be tailored to blending in seamlessly with the local zombie population, the angry mob, the inmates or guards, the patients or nurses. You can even hide among the piles of corpses, with the right make-up. Clothes, they say, make the man. Disguises, I say, make the man able to hide in plain sight.

So there you go – a few things in a crate, perhaps, that form the basis of your survival in this movie. Sure, it’s dark, and you’re reaching the point in the movie where the evil thing has nothing left to lose. Sure, that means it’s going to up its game when it comes after you one last time. But if you make good use of the horror movie survival kit items outlined above, you’ll make it. I know you will. It’s almost dawn, and I can see the end credits from here. Hang in there, and good luck. You’ll need it for the sequel….

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Guest Post — Aniko Carmean — No Songs for the Stars

I am honored to include this guest blog post by fellow writer Aniko Carmean regarding her experience reading my chapbook, No Songs for the Stars.  It is a thrilling and satisfying experience for a writer to find that her work resonates with others…..

The sand near the water’s edge is cool and densely packed. There are dunes, too, inland and sprouting the autumn stubble of dried grasses. Beyond the tactile, scrubby rise of the dunes there is a field of crisp snow, untouched by humans – but not untouched. Indecipherable marks of some otherworldly language are etched at intervals, dark glyphs on the pristine landscape.

A man sits at a table. He wears the maniacal look of one who has seen an inhuman truth. He has read there is no song for the stars, and he has destroyed the child-masks of The Other.

I’m reading a story. No. Not just reading. Feeling it, immersed by it. My fingers play across the coarse, cool sand of the chapbook cover, trip through the brushy liner sheet, smooth along the snowy quality of the printed pages. I pause to look at the illustration. The man’s pose is that of madness leaning into a terrible truth. Gorgeous alien glyphs slide down the frontispiece. I am enchanted by the textures, and captured by the intricate flow of the story that the pages transmit. The chapbook entreats me to touch it, even as it devours my world. In my forgotten mug, the chrysanthemum tea flowers bloat and grow cold. This is decadence. This is magic.

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No Song for the Stars by Mary SanGiovanni is printed in a gorgeous chapbook by White Noise Press. The marriage of form and content begins with the cover, where glyphs juxtapose the vertically stacked title. This visual effect lends itself to the sensation that the reader has apprehended the meaning of the glyphs, an effect which is in visceral harmony with the story. Glyphs trickle onto other pages. They serve as section breaks and reminders that the characters, and by extension the reader, are in the presence of what we can only partly grasp with our human intellect.

No Song is set at the meeting place between worlds, and the chapbook is crafted of textured papers indicative of passing between different locales. The pages where the story is printed are high-quality, and bright as enlightenment; they are a stark contrast to the assured, dark strokes that trace out the illustration of a man who has absorbed the source of the enlightenment.

The chapbook is offered as a signed, limited edition. The signatures invite you to touch the palpable furrows where some other hand has pressed a pen. Like the glyphs in the story, the signatures could be written on the walls of an interdimensional nexus, and maybe they really are, for what is more transporting than being absorbed and carried by a story?

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When I finished reading No Song for the Stars, I continued to sit and sip my lukewarm tea. I touched the pages, reveling in a sudden insight: in a world where access is instantaneous and digital, the snail-mail delivery and physical experience of reading a tactile piece of art was almost overwhelming. There was something sensual in knowing an autographed story from one of my favorite contemporary writers would appear in my mailbox. It was a thrill to remove bubble wrap and find the chapbook in a perfectly fitted envelop emblazoned with an intricate glyph. It feels good to feel, not just with our imaginations and our hearts, but also with our hands. Neither e-books nor mass produced pocket editions can provide the beauty I experienced sitting quietly and reading this slim chapbook.

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No Song for the Stars exemplifies the surreal themes I’ve come to crave from Mary SanGiovanni’s fiction. She makes the intrusion of alternate, hostile worlds into our reality seem not only plausible, but irrevocable. Any of us could be the man in the illustration, or the Detective who unknowingly stumbles to the terrifying conclusion that madness is the only true sanity.

The seedy location of the primary action is one way SanGiovanni grounds her horror and gives it the feel of something implacable. Her characters are modest, the kind of average people that we are, know, and love; there are no superheroes here, just people who stumbled into terrible knowledge. The details of the story are carefully chosen to build tension between the otherworldly and the prosaic, and nothing breaks the reader’s ability to believe.

The key to the story is the premise that some humans have an inborn ability to read and absorb the alien language scrawled on the walls of the nexus. The adventure (and peril) of reading is that you cannot know what you are going to learn until it is too late. The characters in No Song for the Stars read truths that set them at odds with human rationality; they are like religious visionaries or scientific “heretics” burned on the pyre of prevailing commonsense. In SanGiovanni’s universe(s), evil is dangerous, but so too is knowledge that cuts against what we have agreed is reality.

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No Song for the Stars is art in triplicate: form, illustration, and story. Only 158 copies exist, and of that number, only 150 are available for purchase through White Noise Press. Each copy is numbered and signed by both the author and illustrator, and makes a worthy addition to any literary collection.

Aniko Carmean is a speculative fiction author living in Austin, Texas. She loves ancho-chocolate milkshakes, October, and dogs. You can read her stories for free by visiting Odd Sky Books and signing up to become a member of the Odd Literati.

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Guest Post – Matt Manochio and THE DARK SERVANT

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I’m pleased to present a guest blog post by fellow author and New Jersey resident Matt Manochio, in which readers can learn a little more about his new supernatural thriller novel, The Dark Servant (a tale which happens to take place in his own little corner of Weird NJ, of course!) as well as a giveaway!

Krampusnacht

Krampusnacht is Friday! And I can hear your first question: What the hell is Krampusnacht?

European legend has it that Saint Nicholas (yes, Santa Claus) leaves treats in the good kiddies’ shoes, and farms out the naughty boys and girls to Krampus, a huge, hairy devil that kidnaps bad children and does all sorts of sordid things to them (e.g., he drowns them, he eats them, he makes them watch Katherine Heigl movies—really awful stuff). The big beasty lets loose on December 5 (a.k.a. the Eve of Saint Nicholas, or Krampusnacht).

Europeans celebrate this night by dressing up in some of the most horrifying devil costumes I’ve ever seen and then proceed to run up and down public streets (sometimes drunkenly) with the express purpose of scaring the children brought out by their parents. This is known as a Krampuslauf (Krampus run). Watch a few minutes of this YouTube Krampus run video, shot on a snowy night in Graz, Austria, in 2010, and see for yourself:

I find this wonderfully twisted and don’t find it the least bit surprising that this may have originated in Germany (I can say that because I’m part German, so get over it). Zoom to the 45-second mark and you’ll see a ghost-white Krampus—with a pentangle bloodily carved in its forehead—on its knees, wiggling its finger, motioning for a little boy to approach him.

As you might imagine, the boy, who can’t be any older than 8, is frantic to get behind his father for protection, frightened to the point of crying! And parents deliberately bring their children to this spectacle! There are perverse Thanksgiving Day parade-style floats trundling down the road, but instead of a cheery head-bobbing Turkey or lip-synching C-list celebrities that should’ve packed it in years ago, you’ll see a Grim Reaper steering a wheeled cage in which a man and woman are imprisoned! And for good measure there’s a skull dangling near of the crossbars. Don’t get me wrong, some of the wee tykes think this is cool and likely will be the ones hiding bodies under their floorboards 20 years from now. And it’s not like the dozens of Krampuses are being mean to the children. They pose for pictures, squeeze cheeks, give hugs. In the end, it’s fun.

Now, while Krampusnacht celebrations are a big to-do in Europe, they’re virtually nonexistent in the United States. Fortunately, a few brave souls who enjoy Krampus as much as I do have scheduled Krampusnacht events in, among other places, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Denver and Honolulu. Yes, Honolulu. Men and women will don incredibly hot and furry suits and probably wear leis for good measure. Please go to the website www.Krampus.com for a list 2014 events. There are only a handful now, but I expect more to emerge in future years. So if they’re in your area, go and have a blast—because I can’t find any near where I live.

The Dark Servant: 

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Santa’s not the only one coming to town …

It’s older than Christ and has tormented European children for centuries. Now America faces its wrath. Unsuspecting kids vanish as a blizzard crushes New Jersey. All that remains are signs of destruction—and bloody hoof prints stomped in snow. Seventeen-year-old Billy Schweitzer awakes December 5 feeling depressed. Already feuding with his police chief father and golden boy older brother, Billy’s devastated when his dream girl rejects him. When an unrelenting creature infiltrates his town, imperiling his family and friends, Billy must overcome his own demons to understand why his supposedly innocent high school peers have been snatched, and how to rescue them from a famous saint’s ruthless companion—that cannot be stopped.

The Dark Servant is everything a thriller should be—eerie, original and utterly engrossing!”
Wendy Corsi Staub, New York Times bestselling author

“Beautifully crafted and expertly plotted, Matt Manochio’s The Dark Servant has taken an esoteric fairy tale from before Christ and sets it in the modern world of media-saturated teenagers—creating a clockwork mechanism of terror that blends Freddy Krueger with the Brothers Grimm! Highly recommended!”
Jay Bonansinga, New York Times bestselling author of The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor

“Matt Manochio is a writer who’ll be thrilling us for many books to come.”
Jim DeFelice, New York Times bestselling co-author of American Sniper

“Matt Manochio has taken a very rare fairytale and turned it into a real page-turner. Matt has constructed a very real and believable force in Krampus and has given it a real journalistic twist, and he has gained a fan in me!”
David L. Golemon, New York Times bestselling author of the Event Group Series

“I scarcely know where to begin. Is this a twisted parental fantasy of reforming recalcitrant children? Is it Fast Times at Ridgemont High meets Nightmare on Elm Street? Is it a complex revision of the Medieval morality play? In The Dark Servant, Matt Manochio has taken the tantalizing roots of Middle Europe’s folklore and crafted a completely genuine modern American horror story. This is a winter’s tale, yes, but it is also a genuinely new one for our modern times. I fell for this story right away. Matt Manochio is a natural born storyteller.”
Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Savage Dead and Dog Days

“Just in time for the season of Good Will Toward Men, Matt Manochio’s debut delivers a fresh dose of Holiday Horror, breathing literary life into an overlooked figure of legend ready to step out of Santa’s shadow. Prepared to be thrilled in a new, old-fashioned way.”
Hank Schwaeble, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Damnable, Diabolical and The Angel of the Abyss

“In The Dark Servant, Manochio spins a riveting tale of a community under siege by a grotesque, chain-clanking monster with cloven-hooves, a dry sense of wit, and a sadistic predilection for torture. As Christmas nears and a snowstorm paralyzes the town, the terrifying Krampus doesn’t just leave switches for the local bullies, bitches, and badasses, he beats the living (editor’s note: rhymes with skit) out of them! Manochio balances a very dark theme with crackling dialogue, fast-paced action, and an engaging, small-town setting.”
Lucy Taylor, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Safety of Unknown Cities

“A fast-paced thrill-ride into an obscure but frightful Christmas legend. Could there be a dark side to Santa? And if so, what would he do to those kids who were naughty? Matt Manochio provides the nail-biting answer with The Dark Servant.”
John Everson, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Violet Eyes

“A high-octane blast of horror. A surefire hit for fans of monsters and gore.”
Mario Acevedo, author of Werewolf Smackdown

“Have yourself a scary, nightmare-y little Christmas with The Dark Servant. Matt Manochio’s holiday horror brings old world charm to rural New Jersey, Krampus-style.”
Jon McGoran, author of Drift

About Krampus:

December 5 is Krampus Nacht — Night of the Krampus, a horned, cloven-hoofed monster who in pre-Christian European cultures serves as the dark companion to Saint Nicholas, America’s Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas rewards good children and leaves bad ones to Krampus, who kidnaps and tortures kids unless they repent.

About Matt Manocchio: 

Matt Manochio is the author of The Dark Servant (Samhain Publishing, November 4, 2014). He is a supporting member of the Horror Writers Association, and he hates writing about himself in the third person but he’ll do it anyway.

He spent 12 years as an award-winning newspaper reporter at the Morris County, N.J., Daily Record, and worked for one year as an award-winning page designer at the Anderson, S.C., Independent-Mail. He currently works as a full-time editor and a freelance writer.

The highlights of his journalism career involved chronicling AC/DC for USA Today: in 2008, when the band kicked off its Black Ice world tour, and in 2011 when lead singer Brian Johnson swung by New Jersey to promote his autobiography. For you hardcore AC/DC fans, check out the video on my YouTube channel.

To get a better idea about my path toward publication, please read my Writer’s Digest guest post: How I Sold My Supernatural Thriller.

Matt’s a dedicated fan of bullmastiffs, too. (He currently doesn’t own one because his house is too small. Bullmastiff owners understand this all too well.)

Matt doesn’t have a favorite author, per se, but owns almost every Dave Barry book ever published, and he loves blending humor into his thrillers when warranted. Some of his favorite books include Salem’s Lot, Jurassic Park, The Hobbit, Animal Farm, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

When it comes to writing, the only advice he can give is to keep doing it, learn from mistakes, and regardless of the genre, read Chris Roerden’s Don’t Sabotage Your Submission (2008, Bella Rosa Books).

Matt grew up in New Jersey, where he lives with his wife and son. He graduated from the University of Delaware in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in history/journalism.

Photo Credit: Eric Schnare

See more about Matt and his book on his website: http://www.mattmanochio.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter (@MattManochio), Pinterest.

Tour Giveaway!

For everyone! CREATE a PINTEREST board by choosing one of the following themes: Krampus, Old World Legends, Vintage Holiday, Old World Christmas, Christmas Around the World, Traditions and Legends,  Myths, Monsters, and Horror, or something very similar.

Second rule: You must pin Matt’s book cover and Amazon purchase link or Samhain Horror Purchase link. Third Rule: Follow Matt Manochio and Erin Al-Mehairi.

Third Recommendation: Extra points for pinning extra things about Matt, such as tour page, articles, etc.

Your board will be judged on the above PLUS your creativity and effort in the project! Send Erin at hookofabook@hotmail.com your Pinterest page to enter by Dec. 8. Of course you can continue to use it through the Holiday if you wish!

Prize: A “Santa Checked His List and I’m on the Naughty Side” package. This will include your choice of Krampus themed apparel (t-shirt or sweatshirt, men or women, visuals to come) and a signed paperback of the book.

There might be shipping limitations. Check back to tour page before entering if you live outside the U.S. for updated information.

Example: http://www.pinterest.com/erinalmehairi/its-old-world-christmas/

And a board about Matt:http://www.pinterest.com/erinalmehairi/the-dark-servant-matt-manochio/

Giveaway for Reviewers!

Anyone on the tour, or outside the tour, who reviews The Dark Servant on Amazon and GoodReads and sends their review link into Erin (Publicist for Matt Manochio) at hookofabook@hotmail.com, now through Dec. 31, 2014, will be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift card.

Posted in Writing | 1 Comment

Random Drive-By Thoughts – The New Edition

Long-time blog readers may remember an occasional series I used to do called Random Drive-By Thoughts.  They were essentially Twitter before Twitter, in a way — a chance to drop a few unrelated one-liners, or post brief thoughts on different subjects.  They often generated some interesting conversation on a variety of different subjects.

I thought I’d reinstate the occasional Drive-By — but with an eye toward making it a different animal than Twitter.  Let’s see how it goes.

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I’m not really sure what to think about this whole Hachette/Amazon thing.  Publishers have had a long history of, let’s say, trying to maneuver things to serve their interests first, so what Amazon is doing seems, on the surface, no worse a tactic.  Also, in the interest of fair disclosure, my entire backlist is sold through Amazon, both paperback and e-book.  Now, I’ve heard notable authors taking both sides, and making compelling arguments.  What I think is, the united voice of authors using social media to battle for fair treatment, as in the Dorchester situation a few years ago, has proven that we can shift the balance with publishers.  With Amazon, maybe not so much — they have the money to strong-arm a situation which seems to me, in my limited understanding of such things, to be bordering on a monopoly, and not the fun kind with the little monocled guy in the top hat.

I don’t think it benefits writers for any one group controlling the publication and/or distribution of our works to have ALL the power, and I guess that is the main thing I struggle with in choosing a side.  I’m okay with a percentage of my money going to a middle man like an agent or publisher only because I don’t feel confident enough in my business acumen to completely discard those traditional services.  My fan base, while growing, isn’t large enough yet that I have the clout to see that my best interests are met simply by handling it myself.  However, that being said, I’m not so new that I can’t see that a publishing paradigm that looks good today might not look so good tomorrow.  Sometimes I really wish we could return to the concept of writers needing to do nothing more than write great books.

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I could really use some new hair clips.  Also, call it sexist, but some smells are manly and some are feminine, IMHO.  Using the wrong body wash and hoping your own pH or whatever balances out the smell doesn’t work.  I looove the smell of certain kinds of Axe and Old Spice body washes, but I don’t want to smell like them.  Note to self: thou canst not steal thy son’s bath products.  Motherfail on double levels there.

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I read recently in PWD an article where the author put forth that the best crime fiction was being put out by women nowadays.  The gist of the article as I understood it was that he saw former trends in character development that were growing stale (the cozy English mystery, the hard-boiled anti-hero detective), but that women approached both plot and character development by examining the multifaceted aspect of relationships.  He also mentioned that by writing about a whole host of character types as heroes that in the past had been relegated to the side bar of “furniture” in a mystery, the quirky minor characters, that it allowed writers to look at crime/mystery/thrillers from a new perspective.

I remember someone saying something similar about horror not too long ago; that women were producing some of the best and most genuinely frightening and powerful horror fiction nowadays.   In a genre so heavily driven by emotion, it makes sense that women, who often tend to regard emotion to be as useful and reliable a gauge in decision-making and life-planning as logic, reason, and intellect, would explore a horrific situation from other dimensions of perspective.  I believe that at the heart of any good fiction one has good characters, and the crux of any good story is an examination of the relationship those characters have to each other, to themselves, or to outside elements.  I think women tend to examine relationships in their lives and the lives of others through a number of different filters, and in their fiction, particularly in their horror fiction, the causes and effects of those relationships are significant.  This is not to say that men don’t do any of this; rather, I tend to think that men more often examine person vs. self as a primary potential conflict, with the consequent issues thus effecting person vs. nature and person vs. person, whereas women examine person vs. person, the possible fallout of which effecting person vs. nature and ultimately, person vs. self.

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I think Nutella should be used as currency because it’s so awesome.  Or as a way to end wars.  Who wants to bomb somebody who gives you a jar filled with love and ground up angels?

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Speaking of bombers and terrorists and such, I think ISIS is a beautiful name for one of the ugliest groups this planet has ever produced.

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Speaking of Isis and planets, I caught a marathon of Ancient Aliens last night, a show which at best provides creative inspiration for cosmic horror and at worst makes me giggle like a schoolgirl.  They believe that ancient astronauts are from Orion and Sirius.  I can dig it.

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I think lobotomies are barbaric.  Just saying.  It kills the part of you that fights back, sure — but it also kills the part of you that fights to feel the experiences of life, good or bad, wondrous or scary, diabolical or divine.  And although a portion of the psychology/medical field seems to feel differently, I also think electroshock therapy sounds pretty barbaric, too.  I have depression and anxiety, the severest cases of which I believe is what they use EST to treat; sending painful volts of electricity through me is sure as hell not going to make me feel good about myself, although it is going to make me TELL you I’m all better, to avoid the treatment again.

I certainly would be interested in hearing from professionals in the field as to what the benefits of the latter treatment are, as it’s quite possible I’m missing something.

The former practice, by the way, has been banned.  The latter is still in practice, although they call it something else now (the name escapes me at the moment).

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Have I ever mentioned that I’m terrified of and morbidly fascinated by hospitals and asylums?  Gurneys, wheelchairs, needles, nurse hats, the whole nine.  I’m not scared of losing my mind; I’m scared of losing my memories, and my grip on reality.  I fully expect, though, to be the kind of little old lady people kindly call “eccentric.”  Midnight bike rides in my underwear, flashing chickens, spouting conspiracy theories about ancient aliens among us and robots controlling Stalin and Hitler.

Eccentricity, tally ho!!!

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On an unrelated note (ahem), I’m developing my own religion.  Just because.  It’s got magic and monsters and symbols and all kinds of cool occultish stuff, and yet, it all makes sense.  At least to me.

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Pie.

Pumpkin or apple.  That is all.

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Ok, that’s it for tonight.  I had an idea for a short story I’m not sure I’m good enough yet to write, but I’m going to try.  Research, then work on the novel.  Stay surreal, dear readers from the deepest depths of darkest dimensions.

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Guest Post – Author Hunter Shea

montauk monster

I am delighted to announce a guest post by the talented Hunter Shea, whose new novel, The Montauk Monster, is great fun.  Reminiscent in all the right ways of early Stephen King in style and tone, Shea has written a story whose fast-paced action, endearingly realistic characters, and creatively brutual monsters are sure to delight fans of  action thrillers and old-school horror alike.

Those who want to follow his blog tour can check out his schedule here.

Without further ado, I give you Hunter Shea….
Why do I write horror?

First of all, I’ve loved horror all my life. As a kid growing up in the 70s, I couldn’t wait to stay up a little later to watch Kolchak : The Night Stalker or movies with my dad like The Thing From Another World or The Haunting.

I was reading King and Lovecraft and Saul before I was 10. My comic book collection, though overflowing with Captain America and The Fantastic Four, had a special section for Creepy, Eerie, Haunted and Ghostly Tales. My favorite magazine was, naturally, Famous Monsters of Filmland. Man, I wish I’d saved them. I have no clue where they went. I suspect a tidy mom is the culprit.

When An American Werewolf in London came out I was 13. After seeing it at the theater two blocks from my house, I bought every magazine that had pictures from the movie. Suddenly, I was taping stills loaded with gore beside posters of Loni Anderson and Victoria Principal on all four walls of my room. Surprisingly, my parents didn’t demand I speak to someone.

Then came the horror boom in the 80s. I was fortunate to revel in every moment of the decade. I even appreciated the total crap. I remember my girlfriend and I (who is now my wife) renting 5 horror movies every Friday at the video store and just watching one after the other. Our video store had an endless supply of movies good and bad and godawful. For some odd reason, we especially loved Witchboard, the Ouija board flick with Tawny Kitaen (she of the Whitesnake video – the greatest hood ornament ever!).

When I look back at my life, I can connect great moments with horror books and shows and movies I was digging at the time. I guess you could say the horror genre is, in a weird way, the soundtrack of my life.

So naturally, when I wanted to become a writer, there was only one genre for me, even if it was the redheaded stepchild of the publishing industry (which I don’t feel it is today, thankfully). Write what you know. Write what you love. I know and love things that scare people, stirring up emotions that many would rather only face between the spaces of their fingers as they cower behind their hands.

Not to mention, horror is just plain fun! I’ve even called it a kind of self-exorcism in the past. Cast thy mental demons out onto the written page lest they be brought to the fore in everyday life. Maybe this is why horror writers are such an easygoing group. Hell, they’re some of the funniest people I’ve ever met.

The power of horror compels us!

Little Hunter reading the latest issue of Ghostly Tales approves. Some roads are inevitable.

A Little About Hunter Shea:

Publisher’s Weekly named the upcoming thriller, THE MONTAUK MONSTER, one of the best summer books of 2014! Not only that, they gave it an awesome review. Here’s a snippet:

The urban mythologies of the Montauk Monster and the government labs on Plum Island unite to cause staggering levels of mayhem when mutant animals with toxic blood descend on a Long Island town. This wholly enthralling hulk of a summer beach read is redolent of sunscreen and nostalgia, recalling mass market horror tales of yore by John Saul, Dean Koontz, and Peter Benchley. — PW

The Montauk Monster, Synopsis and Advanced Praise:

Montauk Tour graphic

“Shea combines ancient evil, old school horror, and modern style.” –Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author

It Kills. . .

On a hot summer night in Montauk, the bodies of two local bar patrons are discovered in the dunes, torn to shreds, their identities unrecognizable. . .

It Breeds. . .

In another part of town, a woman’s backyard is invaded by four terrifying creatures that defy any kind of description. What’s clear is that they’re hostile–and they’re ravenous. . .

It Spreads. . .

With every sunset the terror rises again, infecting residents with a virus no one can cure. The CDC can’t help them;FEMA can’t save them. But each savage attack brings Suffolk County Police Officer Gray Dalton one step closer to the shocking source of these unholy creations. Hidden on nearby Plum Island, a U.S. research facility has been running top-secret experiments. What they created was never meant to see the light of day. Now, a vacation paradise is going straight to hell.

“Hunter Shea is the real deal.. . .intense.” –Gord Rollo, author of Valley of the Scarecrow and Crimson

“Shea delves deep into the unknown. A thrill-ride of a read!” –Alexandra Holzer, author of Growing Up Haunted

Raves for Hunter Shea:

Forest of Shadows

“A frightening, gripping story that left me too frightened to sleep with the lights off. This novel scared the hell out of me and it is definitely a creepy ghost story I won’t soon forget.” —Night Owl Reviews

Sinister Entity

“This is the real deal. The fear is palpable. Horror novels don’t get much better than this.” —Literal Remains

“. . .Culminates in a climactic showdown between human and spirit that keeps you glued to the pages!” —Horror Novel Reviews

Evil Eternal

“Hunter Shea has crafted another knockout. At turns epic and intimate, both savage and elegant. . .a harrowing, blood-soaked nightmare.” –Jonathan Janz, author of The Sorrows

Swamp Monster Massacre

“If you’re craving an old-school creature-feature that has excessive gore. . .B-horror movie fans rejoice, Hunter Shea is here to bring you the ultimate tale of terror!” —Horror Novel Reviews

 

 

montauk monster headshot

Hunter Shea is the author of paranormal and horror novels Forest of Shadows, Swamp Monster Massacre, Evil Eternal, Sinister Entity, which are all published by Samhain Horror. The June 3, 2014 release of his horrifying thriller Montauk Monster is published by Kensington/Pinnacle.

He has also written a short story to be read prior to Sinister Entity, called The Graveyard Speaks (it’s free, go download!), and a book of stories called Asylum Scrawls. His next book from Samhain Horror, titled HellHole, came out July 1, 2014, and is his first western horror. As you read this, he has a few more books in the works from both Kensington and Samhain and release dates should be announced soon.

His work has appeared in numerous magazines, including Dark Moon Digest, Morpheus Tales, and the upcoming anthology, Shocklines : Fresh Voices in Terror. His obsession with all things horrific has led him to real life exploration of the paranormal, interviews with exorcists, and other things that would keep most people awake with the lights on.

He is also half of the two men show, Monster Men, which is a video podcast that takes a fun look at the world of horror. You can read about his latest travails and communicate with him at http://www.huntershea.com, on Twitter, Facebook fan page at Hunter Shea or the Monster Men 13 channel on YouTube.

Montauk Monster Truth or Fiction:

Is the Montauk Monster made up for the book or an urban myth? Is there some truth that propels the story? You can find out more about the real Montauk Monster story here.

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Monday Night Monsters Postponed

My apologies, folks, but this week’s Monday Night Monsters has been postponed until next Tuesday, following my trip to Portland, OR for the World Horror Convention. Thanks for your patience.🙂

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Monday Night Monsters – Hammer/Amicus Films of Note

So this week on MNM, we’ll be looking at some Hammer/Amicus films of note. Each of them classics in their own right, these films are awesome not only because of delightful acting performances by the incomparable duo of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, as well as other favorites of mine like Donald Sutherland, but because of these movies’ innovative, unflinching, and perhaps more direct approach to that often underlying, subtle, or suggested horror of the Gothic tale.  The cinematography (elements of style, color, camera angles, and the like always appeal to me from an analytic perspective) also gives me warm fuzzies. 

1) Die, Die My Darling (1965) – Like a number of Hammer/Amicus films, what is frightening about this story is the depth of depravity that a single-minded obsession with an idea can trigger, especially when something about another character draws him/her right in the line of fire.  Interestingly enough, this film went through a series of title changes, from Nightmare to Fanatic to its current title.  This movie, Tallulah Bankhead’s last, is based on a 1962 novel (Nightmare by Anne Blaisdelle), which was adapted for film by Richard Matheson.

2) The Devil Rides Out (1968) – This movie delights me the way tentacled cosmic horror delights me. Which is to say, a lot.  I love the half-terror, half-campiness of most Satanic cult movies of that era.  Based on the novel of the same name by Dennis Wheatley (with screenplay also by Richard Matheson), this movie features Christopher Lee battling the ultimate forces of evil for the souls of initiates that Satanic cultists want to corrupt and possess in order to summon the angel of death.  There are psychic trances, black magic and white magic spells, and all kinds of demonic funstuff in this movie.

3) Horror of Dracula (1958) – If you have ever read an issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland or Fangoria, I’ll bet you’ve seen stills or promo pics from this movie at least once.  Christopher Lee as Dracula and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing — this is a horror classic. Directed by Roger Corman, this is a loose interpretation of Stoker’s novel, but a worthy contribution to the cannon of the vampire legend, in that Dracula’s reputation as both powerful and seductive is reinforced.  This is also one of those films I mentioned whether the level of gore/intensity of violence was notable for its time.

4) Torture Garden (1967) – Unlike the name suggests, this movie, if I recall, isn’t one of those that focuses particularly on torture.  It is structured in segments — Tales From the Crypt-esque in that regard — where characters are shown the evil they will do in the future by a man whose name quite literally suggests his real identity. And there are performances by Jack Palance, Burgess Meredith, and Peter Cushing for added squee-factor.

5) Asylum (1972) – This one is by far my favorite of the lot.  This manages, IMHO, to transcend the jaded perspective of subsequent horror movie eras and remain eerie in places, particularly the end.  Also, I’m as much a sucker for horror with mental institutions/asylums as I am for monsters. Also structured in that TftC/Creepshow anthology style of loosely related segments, there are some genuinely chilling aspects to the patient’s stories regarding their stay at the asylum “for the incurably insane.”  The quality of the segments is no doubt a result of psychological suspense master Robert Bloch’s adapting them from some of his own short stories.

6) The House that Dripped Blood (1971) – Also a favorite, this has all the golden goodies an Amicus movie can offer — Robert Bloch writing and Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee acting (as well as Denholm Elliott and Ingrid Pitt), and the anthology-style format offering cool, creepy segments about what happened over the years in a currently untenanted old house.  And a sense of humor:  (character Paul Henderson:) “That’s what’s wrong with the present day horror films. There’s no realism. Not like the old ones, the great ones. Frankenstein. Phantom of the Opera. Dracula – the one with Bela Lugosi of course, not this new fellow.”

Thanks for reading.  I hope you’ll consider checking out some of these horror movie classics.  Next week: movies you may not have seen but should.

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Monday Night Monsters – Slasher Flicks

So, I was going to do a MNM post on Hammer/Amicus movies, but realized I need to look into some details first, so instead, I figured I’d offer a top five of slasher movies I like.  My apologies for the schedule change; I hope you’ll enjoy this offering of MNM.  Mostly I picked these because of their innovation for the time, their ideas, or the utterly chilling types of slashing, hacking, teen-killing boogeymen. If you have favorites, let me know.

1) A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) – I don’t think there is anyone quite as terrifying as Freddy Kreuger in terms of the ultimate boogeyman.  Although I discussed this movie more at length in a previous MNM post, I’d like to reiterate that in the first movie in this series, the original Wes Craven idea, his monster was not the wise-cracking gore-and-giggles guy he later became.  He was a monster, alive and dead, the worst nightmare (literally and figuratively) of parents and little kids alike.  He was a loss of innocence, of security and safety, of control.  He was the terrible, awkward, ugly side of sex and the razor-sharp pain, horror, and gore of violence.  The scene in the school hallway with Tina in a body bag STILL gives me chills.

2) Halloween (1978) – Anyone who knows of my cinematic inclinations knows that I am a big Carpenter fan (JC/Jesus Christ and JC/John Carpenter – no coincidence there).  To me, Halloween is one of his top five best films of all time, and also a top slasher of all time.  Michael Myers as both a semi-supernatural kind of boogeyman and even worse, as a human so devoid of empathy or feeling of any kind, so driven by a single-minded, emotionless purpose of killing makes him somewhat terrifying.  He kills because killing is.  And to boot, Donald Pleasence’s performance as Myers’s doctor, Sam Loomis, with his Captain Ahab-like obsession with seeing his patient stopped for good, is absolutely essential in the terror of this film.  I am afraid of Michael Myers because Dr. Loomis is. As he says himself in the movie:

“I met him 15 years ago.  I was told there was nothing left — no reason, no conscience, no understanding of even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong….I met this 6-year-old child with this blind, pale emotionless face and the blackest eyes…the devil’s eyes. I spent 8 years trying to reach him and then another 7 trying to keep him locked up, because I realized what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply evil.”

3) Scream (1996) – Once again, the first in the series trumps the others, IMO.  This movie was the first of its kind to be self-aware, to understand intimately the tropes that the slasher sub-genre used and to reinvent them.  This film is both slick and scary, self-aware without degrading into parody.  Also, I very much enjoyed the casting in that there was the right mix of celebrity nod and genuine devotion to making the characters real.

4) Friday the 13th (1980) – I understand that this was made on a ridiculously small budget, and in spite of that, or maybe because of it, the film has a kind of small town home movie

5) Child’s Play (1988) – Mostly, Brad Douriff is awesome, even as a wise-cracking ginger-headed killer doll.  Also, there is something very disturbing in this first of an ongoing series, particularly in the helplessness-turned-determination of the struggling single mother and her naive, sweet, lonely little son, Andy.  Chris Sarandon brings an extra level of class to the original as well.  And unlike some of the sequels, we see in Chucky (much like we see in Freddy Kreuger), a cruel, vicious, manipulative person in Charles Lee Ray.  Life means nothing to him, so that the torture-death of an old friend and the continual endangerment of a small, trusting child are no worse offenses than his vengeance against those he feels contributed to his death or those who simply annoyed him/got in his way.

Runners-up: Sleepaway Camp (1983), Toolbox Murders (2003), The Burning (1981), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), Final Destination, The House on Sorrority Row (1983).

Next week…Hammer/Amicus films of note (Die, Die My Darling, The Devil Rides Out, Horror of Dracula, Torture Garden, Asylum, The House That Dripped Blood).

Two weeks…movies you may not have seen but should (Sinister, High TensionThe Descent, 30 Days of Night)

 

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Monday Night Monsters – Movie Inspirations, Part II

Hi, folks.  Welcome back to Part II of movie inspirations!  As always, I welcome your feedback on these movies or any others that inspire you.

1) The Machinist (2004) – This dovetails nicely into the Apex blog post I did this month  regarding the thin boundaries (and frequent cross-overs) between supernatural and psychological horror, and how each relies on the other to emphasize what we find so terrifying about both.  Another film directed by Brad Anderson, this movie seems largely to have flown under the radar but is impressive in its own right.  Christian Bale’s disturbingly skeletal insomniac character Trevor Reznik is at times heartbreakingly sympathetic and at others, distant enough as to seem alien to the audience.  Which makes sense, given the complex situation Trevor has going on in his life.  To say more would run the risk of giving away some of the film’s subtleties of plot, but it’s definitely worth checking out.

2) Halloween (1978) – Another John Carpenter entry — noticing a pattern yet?  This movie is another bad-stranger slasher film, but is set apart from the others because of its (at the time) originality, its commentary on the cold indifference of suburban communities, and because its monster is very much an ultimate evil in human form.  Unlike other faceless, silent, hack-n-slash stalker villains, there is absolutely no feeling, no humanity, no compassion for human beings whatsoever in Michael Myers.  In other movies, there is usually a reason given that created such a heartless killer, and a weakness associated somehow with that reason.  What makes Michael Myers so chilling is that there is nothing we can use to rationalize him down from supernatural reaper to human being with weaknesses and illnesses and most important, with vulnerabilities.  In fact, Michael Myers’s level of complete detachment from human emotion seems, at some point (given just the movie itself and not the original intentions of the script) to have made him just that — a supernatural and invulnerable force of evil.  As they say in the movie, “It really was the Boogeyman.”

3) Tales from the Crypt (1972) – Although I don’t generally think of myself as writing the kind of pulpy revenge stories that characterize most of the EC Comics’ catalogue and thus the movie adaptations of said material, I gleefully admit that I absolutely consider them an inspiration.  They were, essentially, the first real study of the anatomy of a horror story (along with the similarly-styled Creepshow movies) that I made as a fledgling writer.  Short stories with specific kinds of characters whose sins catch up to them, these stories explored human evil as much as the exuberantly gory supernatural evil that one-ups it.  This movie, IMO, ushered in a (somewhat more) mainstream appreciation of horror anthology films and television with its five stories of bad things happening to bad people.  It delights me.

4) The Exorcist III (1990) — Yes, III.  The first Exorcist movie is, of course, iconic in horror, a truly masterful classic of good vs. evil.  But the third movie…oh, the third movie.  What strokes me so terrifying about this film is the style in which it is written (which is, actually, very much the style, minus some content, in which the novel Legion, on which it is based, is written).  The scenes end with some frightening image or spoken idea that the mind has juuuust enough time to register as horrific before the director is whisking you on to the next part of the story.  George C. Scott’s performance as Lt. Kinderman is absolutely brilliant (as were pretty much all Scott’s performances); he is funny, sympathetic, kind, imposing, and efficient all at the same time.  His facial expressions alone convey some of the absolute horror of the situations surrounding him.  Brad Douriff is frankly terrifying.  If you’ve based your opinion of his fright-factor on Chucky and some of his other comedic-horror roles, you’ll be stunned by how scary one man’s voice and facial expressions alone can be.  This movie works on so many levels, from the writing/content to the cinematics to the incomparable talent of the actors.  And I still maintain that after having seen hundreds and hundred of horror movies, The Exorcist III still has the scariest scene ever put on film.  To this day, I can’t watch it full on without shivering.  I won’t spoil it; when you see it, you’ll know which scene I’m talking about.

Thanks again for reading, folks.  Next week, a look at some Hammer/Amicus movies….

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