Focus on the Frightful: A Pox on Period Horror

A Focus on the Frightful Banner

I love a good ghost story and haunted house movie and some of the best ones are set in the past. The moods, atmosphere and tones fit in well with certain time periods. Some of the best ones to exemplify this are The Others, The Awakening, etc.

Watching Winchester this Wednesday (my son and his girlfriend’s choice rather than a ‘romantic’ movie, I’m so proud *sniff*). I have to say, though that the most feeling it created was a hearty “Eh”. I try not to watch previews, sometimes they give away too much, so maybe it was my own fault. I was expecting something along the lines of it being closer to the real story of the Winchester Mansion, heavy on atmosphere with some supernatural elements. What I got were some big Hollywood Horror moments with some modern commentary so forced in that I think I rolled my eyes so hard I lost a contact in my cranium.

It got me thinking, however. In almost all period horror pieces there are always strange anachronisms. I don’t mean the nitpicky kind where “This feather should not be in that hair because that bird didn’t live in that area in that time”. I’m talking about when the director or writer wedges in modern commentary, actions or attitudes that sit so awkwardly in the movie they might as well be shouting “See how tuned in I am??!!”

I do see this in books more often than movies but books would be too numerous to mention here. Generally the worst offenders that I see in books are the ones who make their 19th century ladies very modern and nobody bats an eye. I have no problem with good, strong, female characters being portrayed in period novels but it detracts from the work if it’s so obvious that it takes you out of the story altogether.

However, there are some movies, some very good ones that also fall into the same error. I’ll talk about a few here. I don’t think there will be any spoilers. However, if there are they will be clearly marked. I also want to remind people that these are my opinions only.

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Winchester

Winchester Movie

I’ll start with Winchester because it’s the most recent. honestly, I’m not even sure where to begin with this one. There will probably be spoilers so if you want just skip down to Crimson Peak.

The first one that caught my eye made me giggle. In a beginning scene Dr. Price is shown taking laudanum. The laudanum label has a huge POISON on the front. And if that didn’t get it across there’s also a huge skull and crossbones. I’m assuming that it was done to get it across to modern audiences what laudanum was since some people might not know what it is. That one just made me laugh.

The more annoying ones have to do with the main plot of the guns and what amounts to a modern day office shooting. I’m not getting into any discussion of gun control here. I only want to point out that at that time (1906) guns were common. Very, very common. One of the reasons people thought that Sarah Winchester was crazy was because of her stance that the ghosts of the people killed by Winchester guns were haunting her. Most people didn’t give guns a second thought.

The other, and more annoying one, is what Sarah Winchester referred to as “soldier’s sickness” which is what addiction was called. And if they had went straight from the soldier’s sickness comment to her requesting him to not take drugs while he’s there since she wants him clear-headed I wouldn’t be so annoyed. But they just couldn’t resist adding in her question to him, “Are you addicted to any medication?” With all of the scrutinizing of painkillers lately this was not a throwaway line. Seeing this crackdown hurt so many people who are taking their medication correctly instead of the people it’s meant to be stopping, yeah, it ticked me off. Big time. The more so because it was so wedged in. It was not a very common stance at the time.

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Crimson Peak

There’s not many in this one. Just one, actually. When Edith is complaining that the publishers didn’t take her seriously because she was a woman writer who was writing ghost stories. That publisher’s wanted ‘a love story’ in her ghost story. Well, there were a lot of female writers at the time writing ghost stories that had no love stories but were still well regarded. I feel as though it’s Guillermo del Toro’s comment on love stories being wedged into almost every kind of story, whether they’re needed or not.

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Mary Reilly

 

Let’s ignore all of the other stuff wrong with this movie (namely Julia Roberts playing an Irish woman) but they literally had to change almost everything about the original story to force in a love story between Marty and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. They also wedged in a “be free!” message that is just…ugh. I don’t know how much of this is the book’s fault and how much of it is the movie’s but it doesn’t work.

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Smoking

One thing I notice the absence of in period pieces (most notably the war genre) is the absence of smoking of any kind. Especially when a doctor in 1860 lectures a patient about smoking (Sherlock 2009). I’m sorry but it just wouldn’t happen at that time period. Yes, smoking is bad for you. And in modern movies and tv shows they can leave it out all they want. But to act like it didn’t exist in period pieces is asinine. Thy try to work around it occasionally by showing someone with a cigarette or cigar but they usually lose it or their lighter doesn’t work. And for some weird reason cigars are ok to be shown but not cigarettes. What’s the difference? Especially when they have no problem showing those same people chugging down alcohol like it’s water.

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So what movies did I miss? Are there others that have been very noticeable to you guys? This article is more of a lead-in to next week’s. I’m a little tired of being so serious so I’m going to let the inner Nitpicker out to play next week and pick apart some major flaws in some movies! So see you next week to have a little snarky fun!

The Haunted Trousers #BookReview

Title: The Haunted Trousers | Author: Alex Gerrard | Pub. Date: 10/08/2011 | Pages: 190 | ASIN: B005U3UCZK | Genre: Children’s Fiction | Language: English | Triggers: Child illness | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Self-Purchased


The Haunted Trousers

It started as a school project about World War 2, but Emma, Jamie and Michael soon discover that finding an old pair of trousers, that had once belonged to a boy killed in the war, would unleash a deadly horror that haunted their village school and would put their lives in deadly danger. A creepy, supernatural story of ghosts and time-travel – with lots of humour thrown in. You will want to read this with the lights on! 

The Haunted Trousers Review

I really liked The Haunted Trousers. So much, in fact, that when my son and I were reading it together I stayed up to finish it after he fell asleep. The characters of Jamie and Emma were great. They were very believable as siblings but not so cutesy to each other that it made me want to gag. They argue a bit but Jamie is there for his little sister when she needs him. Call me old (or maybe I just don’t read enough kid’s books) but there doesn’t seem to be enough of that in kid’s books lately.

The mystery in The Haunted Trousers is engaging and moves along briskly. There’ are ghosts, hauntings, time travel and visions. There’s a lot of stuff packed into this book but the author does a good job of keeping it fairly reasonable. There’s also a bit of history about World War II that was pretty interesting. There’s also a bit of religion but The Haunted Trousers is not centered around it. The kids go to church a few times and guardian angels make an appearance near the end.

 The author does a very nice job of writing dialogue for the kids and actually making them sound like kids. The writing style in The Haunted Trousers is very casual and flows smoothly. The worst is an over-use of exclamation marks in the narration. The ending was surprising in a very pleasant way which I won’t spoil for you. The epilogue makes it seem as though the author might have been considering writing a series and I rather wish they would. I wouldn’t mind reading about Jamie, Emma and Michael again.

All in all it’s a nice, spooky ghost story for fourth to middle school age kids. 

Purchase on Amazon

 

Horrors – A Full Year of Horror #50

Horrors! 365 Scary Stories – A Full Year of Horror

12/23/2017 – 12/29/2017

The Final Post

The horror short-short isn’t easy to master, but more than 100 of the genre’s critically acclaimed authors & hottest up-&-comers have taken a stab at it in Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, an anthology that contains a short tale for every day of the year. Steve Rasnic Tem, Wm F. Nolan, Tom Piccirilli, Yvonne Navarro, Peter Atkins, Brian Hodge, Martin Mundt & 166 others give you short, sharp shocks.

If you missed the first post you can find it here.

This will be the final post of Horrors! While I am anxious to try out some new ideas I am also a little sorry to see it go. It’s been a fun year. I hope you guys stick around for what’s to come!

Being the last post, after the stories I will be summing up my favorites of each week for the year with links to the posts they can be found in.


Wired for FearLawrence C. Connolly

Synopsis:
Walt has accepted a $100 bet to stay the night i the “screaming house”. Walt soon finds a tape and suspects his friends have played a trick on him. But while the screams are phony they protect a secret much more sinister.

Review:
A great story and I loved that the tape is a fake being used by an older creature. It also had a bit of a (darker) Scoooby Doo feel to it.


Without Barbara on New Year’s EveTom Piccirilli

Synopsis:
The narrator has murdered his wife but keeps hearing her voice on the phone. He needs someone to help convince her that he’s not a bad guy so he goes through the night, collecting friends to help convince her…face to face.

Review:
While I did like the idea behind it, it also felt icky. I’m sure it’s supposed to drive home the point that the narrator is crazy but at the same time the fact that all of the ghosts of the people he’s just murdered are essentially blaming Barbara for ‘leaving’ him is a little disgusting.


Wood is an Amazing ThingMark Hannah

Synopsis:
A description of wood, steel and human flesh. With a lot of “Whacks!”

Review:
Meh. The repetitive use of ‘Whack’ for a sound seems lazy to me. In fact, the whole story does.


WormsPaul Smith and Thomas Smith

Synopsis:
Two men out to rob a mausoleum soon find out that worms are no trifling, squishy matter.

Review:
Um, big worm that eats people. Not too much more to it than that.


You Can’t Teach an Old Town New TricksDavid Niall Wilson

Synopsis:
On Halloween Timmy is out trick or treating. But it’s boring to do that in a new town with no friends. He sees a house with no one around…and strange sounds inside.

Review:
I don’t even know what is going on in this story. I’m not sure if it’s just a Halloween ‘haunted house’ or a really haunted house. Whatever it is it gives out caramel apples so I guess it can’t be too bad.


Your Own Light-Hearted FriendStephen Dedman

Synopsis:
Jack the Ripper stalks the non-foggy night looking for her. It doesn’t matter how many he kills. Next time it will be her.

Review:
No offense but…yawn. It’s not much different from other Ripper stories I’ve read.


You’re DeadDawn Dunn

Synopsis:
Two youngish lovers go out ghost-hunting, trying to find the woman in white that all of the papers have reported. Their idea is to tell her she’s dead and thus free her.However, things don’t turn out as planned. The woman in white seems to have been waiting for a lover of her own.

Review:
I really wanted to like it because I love a good ghost story, especially phantom ladies. But nothing really makes sense. The heat and burning there’s no explanation for. Passion’s heat, maybe? Also, it seems as though others saw her and are still alive so why this guy. I dunno.


Thank you again for joining me for a full year of stories and my (sometimes rambly) reviews of them. Horrors! 365 is a great collection and has lots of stories that balance out the few duds. Below you’ll find my favorite of each week and the link to the post it can be found in.


Week #1
After the End of It All – Andrew Sands

Week #2
And Then the Music Stopped Greg McElhatton
As Thousands Screamed – Gregory Nicoll

Week #3
Autumn in the Clockwork Forest – Michael Scott Bricker

Week #4
Beware the Truancy Officer – Leslie What

Week #5
The Bookseller – Adam Niswander

Week #6
Boxes – Phyllis Eisenstein
Burb Vamp – Barbara J. Ferrenz

Week #7
The Cards Speak – Brian Craig

Week #8
Christmas with the Count – Ian McDowell

Week #9
A Convenient Arrangement – Michael Marshall Smith
Crisis Line – Del Stone Jr.

Week #10
Daytimer – Steve Rasnic Tem

Week #11
Death Certificate – Scott A. Cupp
Demon Tears – Gordon Linzner

Week #12
Double Crossing – Lawrence Schimel
Don’s Last Minute – Wayne Allen Sallee

Week #13
Each Day – Steve Rasnic Tem

Week #14
Empathy’s Bed at Midnight – Martin R. Soderstrom

Week #15
Erosion Road – Gary A. Braunbeck

Week #16
Feast of the Crows – Brian A. Hopkins

Week #17
For Your Immediate Attention – Peter Atkins
Flash of Silver – Ben P. Indick

Week #18
Future Shock – John B. Rosenman

Week #19
Heartbeat – S. May Amarinth

Week #20
If Thine Eye Offends Thee – Peter Atkins

Week #21
If You Feel You Have Reached This Number in Error – John Heifers

Week #22
Pilgrimage – Brian McNaughton

Week #23
Just Another Good Ol’ Haunted House – Terry Campbell

Week #24
The Last Resort – Richard Gilliam

Week #25
Love Sat Alone on a Foggy Pier – Terry Campbell

Week #26
Memory – Mollie L. Burleson
The Midwife’s Temptation – Michael L. McCormas

Week #27
Monsters – Richard T. Chizmar

Week #28
Mud – Juleen Brantingham

Week #29
The Night Club – Scott David Aniolowski

Week #30
No Strings Attached – David Niall Wilson

Week #31
Odd Jobs – Jason Tanner

Week #32
Patient Fate – Tom Piccirilli

Week #33
Phone Tag – John R. Platt

Week #34
The Proof in the Picture – Lisa Morton

Week #35
Reading the Cards – Lisa Lepovetsky
Revelations – Gerard Daniel Houraner

Week #36
Romeo and Juliet – Jessica Amanda Salmonson

Week #37
Rosa Two-Coins – Billie Sue Mosiman

Week #38
The Second Vial – Lawrence Schimel

Week #39
Sherri Goes to the Office – Yvonne Navarro

Week #40
Shooting Evil – Lawrence Connolly

Week #41
Smell – Brian McNaughton

Week #42
Special Interessts – Lillian Csernica and Kevin Andrew Murphy

Week #43
Stone Face – Blythe Ayne

Week #44
Swamp Flowers – David C. Woomer

Week #45
The Tooth Fairy – Del Stone Jr.

Week #46
Up Our Block – Benjamin Adams

Week #47
Vampire Caravan – Ilona Ouspenskaya

Week #48
White Beauty – Cynthia Ward

Week #49
The White Lady of Overpass I-70 – Linda J. Dunn

Week #50
You’re Dead – Dawn Dunn

Horrors – A Full Year of Horror #48

Horrors! 365 Scary Stories – A Full Year of Horror

12/09/2017 – 12/15/2017

The horror short-short isn’t easy to master, but more than 100 of the genre’s critically acclaimed authors & hottest up-&-comers have taken a stab at it in Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, an anthology that contains a short tale for every day of the year. Steve Rasnic Tem, Wm F. Nolan, Tom Piccirilli, Yvonne Navarro, Peter Atkins, Brian Hodge, Martin Mundt & 166 others give you short, sharp shocks.

If you missed the first post you can find it here.

The end of the year approaches and Horrors will be winding down. Although I am looking forward to doing something new with you guys I will also miss reviewing this book with you. It’s been very fun and I’ve loved chatting with you guys (and sometimes the authors!) about the stories.

 


Voices in the DarkSteve Resnic Tem

Synopsis:
Brian keeps hearing voices in the night. Ever since he was little. Voices that keep asking him “Where is it? Why is it? What is it? Who is it?” Brian finds out who it is…it’s him.

Review:
I have no idea what in the heck this story was about. seriously. It was the voices and Brian seeing himself in bed. Was he dead? Out of body experience? I have no idea.


Waiting Up for FatherGreg van Eekhout

Synopsis:
A creation of his Father/Master he strives to be perfect but is always disappointing. Father/Master creates a new child. A female, flawless and beautiful. As quoted in the book “It takes Father decades to create his children. It takes a mere second to become a monster.”

Review:
An interesting take on the Frankenstein tale (although that name is never strictly mentioned) the creation is jealous and destroys the ‘perfect’ replacement. And waits for Father to come home. It’s unclear whether or not he is waiting to kill him or for his punishment.


Wall ArtShikhar Dixit

Synopsis:
They watch from the walls. Watch as you love, argue, hate and eventually kill. then they make room for you.

Review:
I’m not crazy about the title because it doesn’t seem to fit but the story is creepy as all get out. It gives a new spin on haunted/possessed houses.


Welcome HomeJuleen Brantingham

Synopsis:
While caring for her ailing mother the narrator takes this opportunity to get a writing career going. Her mother suggests speaking with the elderly woman who gives dolls for charities. An elderly woman whom the children used to be terrified of and as she steps into her parlor vague memories start to surface. The dolls may not be what they seem.

Review:
Lesson learned – do not mess with older ladies or they’ll turn you into something unnatural. Although, as the narrator recounts her misdeeds she didn’t seem very nice.


The WellAdam Troy-Castro

Synopsis:
As a man lives his comfortable, law-abiding life of contentment the spectre of the murder he committed as a child. He doesn’t know what drove him to push his best friend down, nor step on Jackie’s clutching hand. However, he feels fairly comfortable in his life. But he will pay. And it will be Jackie’s turn.

Review:
A very powerful beginning and ending. Very good.


Western MovesMichael Scott Bricker

Synopsis:
Ricky is unsure whether to be a ‘cowboy’ or an ‘indian’. He doesn’t know how to use a bow and arrow and Dad’s gun is so much realer than his.

Review:
The story would have been horrifying enough without the bizarre “ghost Indian” interjections. They really don’t fit.


White BeautyCynthia Ward

Synopsis:
The unicorn approaches the maiden, knowing that the mortal men are nearby. Little do they know that the beautiful beast is not a cow to be led to slaughter, nor whom it serves.

Review:
I love unicorns and an evil unicorn story is awesome. I will fully admit to geeking out at the unicorn in Cabin in the Woods. It’s definitely original. If I read more fantasy I might see more of them but, although I love dragons and unicorns, fantasy holds little interest.


Favourite of the Week:
Definitely White Beauty by Cynthia Ward. I told you, I love a good unicorn story. Generally they’re amoral at worst, vain and silly. Not usually literally from the depths of Hell.


Join us again next week as we count down the last two weeks of Horrors!

Horrors – A Full Year of Horror #46

Horrors! 365 Scary Stories – A Full Year of Horror

11/25/2017 – 12/01/2017

The horror short-short isn’t easy to master, but more than 100 of the genre’s critically acclaimed authors & hottest up-&-comers have taken a stab at it in Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, an anthology that contains a short tale for every day of the year. Steve Rasnic Tem, Wm F. Nolan, Tom Piccirilli, Yvonne Navarro, Peter Atkins, Brian Hodge, Martin Mundt & 166 others give you short, sharp shocks.

If you missed the first post you can find it here.

We’re getting to the end of the year. While I have enjoyed sharing these wonderful stories with you guys, I’m also very excited to get a new project started that I hope you’re going to love! I’m also flattered and so happy you all have been following along with me for this long. It’s made me very happy. Ok, ok, enough with the gushiness, my fellow ghouls. Let’s get on with the gore-fests!


Trigger MomentYvonne Navarro

Synopsis:
After decorating for her Halloween party Ellen wants nothing more than a brain-numbing, seasonally appropriate movie. Afterwards, though, began the dream. A dream where a creature is stalking her with a deadly implacability. But it’s just a dream, right? And she’s sure the young man her mother introduces her to is only in costume. They can’t be real claws, right?

Review:
A good story with a slasher movie feel. I was wondering about the strange doors she can reach over. I thought for sure it was going to be a movie screen and she was in a horror movie.


TunnelAnne Bishop

Synopsis:
She doesn’t like driving through tunnels. They’re dark and she gets panicky. At least he can see the light up ahead. Until the tunnel starts to close in on the car. And then her.

Review:
A very good, claustrophobia inducing story. Tunnels freak me out a bit, too. Bridges even more.


Twelve All HallowsLou Kemp

Synopsis:
For twelve All Hallows Margaret has been meeting Glenna. For twelve All Hallows her father doesn’t know. On this twelfth All Hallows, Glenna will have her revenge.

Review:
I love a good ghostly revenge story. It puts me in mind of the traditional murder ballads.


Two Shades, Hearts in ShadowsMichael Scott Bricker

Synopsis:
A knight, dusted down to bone searches endlessly for Eldorado. In his quest he meets his creator, Poe. And they ride, boldly ride, together. Forever.

Review:
I liked it but I was confused as to why Poe was referenced. Did he do a story about a knight? I will admit to not having read every single story of his so if there is one please let me know!


Unfinished JourneyHugh B. Cave

Synopsis:
The next-door neighbor, Henry keeps having the same dream. A dark alley, a long walk through the street where dark shapes lurk in doorways. But Henry always wakes up before the dream ends. So when the doctor gives him a prescription to help him sleep, enabling to finish the dream and leave the alley Henry decides to try it. What could go wrong?

Review:
Somewhat peculiar and I was a bit disappointed in the more mundane monsters. And I wasn’t sure how to read the doctor, exactly. It seemed he was complicit in the dreams but how?


Until the Next TrainBenjamin Adams

Synopsis:
Jourgenson has been battling an unseen tagger. Every morning Jourgenson awakes to the name ‘Malo’ tagged on his shop and every day he washes it away. On this day Jourgenson realizes that the paint is still wet, ‘Malo’ is nearby. He’ll soon wish he weren’t.

Review:
This had a way creepier ending than I was expecting. The ‘Malo’ and his brethren is described as…I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it’s freaking creepy.


Up Our BlockBenjamin Adams

Synopsis:
Jenny wakes up, unhappy to be alive again. She now has an indent in the back of her skull. Blunt force trauma, perhaps. Perhaps she was a nurse…before. Now she’s just a zombie slave. And the family likes it just fine.

Review:
Another by Benjamin Adams. I have to say, he writes in a subtly creepy way that sneaks up on you. Or makes everything normal until the horror slaps you in the face.


Favorite of the Week:
So many good ones this week! It’s hard to decide. The two by Benjamin Adams (Up Our Block and Until the Next Train) have a creepy neighborhood horror that creeps up your spine. Twelve All Hallows by Lou Kemp was a great ghostly revenge story.


Thanks for joining us again this week and be sure to come back next week for more Horrors!

Horrors – A Full Year of Horror #45

Horrors! 365 Scary Stories – A Full Year of Horror

11/11/2017 – 11/24/2017

 

The horror short-short isn’t easy to master, but more than 100 of the genre’s critically acclaimed authors & hottest up-&-comers have taken a stab at it in Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, an anthology that contains a short tale for every day of the year. Steve Rasnic Tem, Wm F. Nolan, Tom Piccirilli, Yvonne Navarro, Peter Atkins, Brian Hodge, Martin Mundt & 166 others give you short, sharp shocks.

If you missed the first post you can find it here.

Hello humans…the Furry Four-Leggeds have temporarily triumphed in the Battle of the Bed. This is why your Story Human was unavailable last week. We will let her come up from the cold wastelands of the end of the bed temporarily to let her tell her scary stories to you.

Hello! I hope you enjoyed last week’s review of Where Nightmares Come From, it was an excellent book. For you guys this means a double-post of Horrors! this week so, yay! Let’s get to the spookiness!


Teacher’s PetsHugh B. Cave

Synopsis:
After following some strange footsteps to his reclusive neighbor’s home, Joe goes to inspect. He finds his neighbor dead and evidence of evil experiments. Ever wonder what your neighbor’s doing in their garage?

Review:
Not bad but it’s told so dispassionately that it’s a little…meh. It’s hard to get excited during it.


TemperanceStephen Mark Rainey

Synopsis:
Two strangers meet in a bar. Hardly a strange occurrence. But what happens when they start to fight like cats and dogs?

Review:
I thought it was a really cute story but the narrator was a jerk, I think. Cats and dogs seem to get along just fine, judging by the amount of bed is taken up at the moment by them.


Terminal IntensityJoel S. Ross

Synopsis:
During a drug bust gone bad police officer Lucy must make a choice between following the light and staying a possible captive in her own body. Torn between the decision, Fate chooses for her. But Fate isn’t always kind.

Review:
I get where the author was going with this but I really don’t think that the ironic, karmic end was justified. It seemed they were reaching a little too hard for the twist.


That’s Mr. Wiggles!Dominick Cancilla

Synopsis:
Elvira Tugalug, known nutter and suspected witch, calls on the fire brigade to help her. Mr. Wiggles, whom she’s just conjured up that morning, has gotten itself into a tree. She does try to warn them that Mr. Wiggles might be frightened of strangers. Too bad they think she’s jut the crazy cat lady.

Review:
I really liked this one. Although I have a feeling that if you called the fire department to get a cat out of a tree in real life you’d be slapped with a hefty fine. I also wanted to know what Mr. Wiggles was, exactly.


That’s the OneC.J. Henderson

Synopsis:
The Story Police have arrived to settle a complaint. Alice refuses to drink from the ‘Drink Me” bottle and that’s not the way the story goes. Someone reading this might thnk it’s silly. But what do you do when the item in your story calls them on you?

Review:
I really loved the idea of this story. It’s ending got much darker than expected but in a good way. It is pretty interesting to think of a Story Police on hand to make sure things go exactly the way they’re told. interesting…and more than a little terrifying.


There it is Again Andrew Sands

Synopsis:
We’ve all been there: we hear a creak somewhere in the house and somebody has to go look. Erica sends her husband, armed to the teeth with a baseball bat. Erica figures it’s nothing when her husband gets back into bed with her. Or is it?

Review:
Great story!It actually gave me a scalp prickle because even though you know from the type of story that things probably aren’t going to end very well it’s still a surprise.


The Thing in the Dark Del Howison Jr.

Synopsis:
Bobby has been told over and over that the monsters he thinks are there at night are just his imagination. One night he hears his mother calling from outside. She’s locked herself out and is afraid something is out there. But it’s just his imagination, right?

Review:
A pretty good story and creepy as well but all I could think was “Pick up a freaking rock and break the damn window!”


This is a TestJohn C. Bunnell

Synopsis:
Two Greys (not Christian Greys, that would be even scarier) discuss their two specimens. Put back in their native habitat of Seattle the second subject starts to prepare to meet the first subject. But first he has some shopping to do…including a very sharp knife.

Review:
I liked the thrust of the story but it doesn’t really explain what they did with the woman or why. It says they removed inhibitors (presumably on the man) but hers seems to be more of a hypnosis thing. Perhaps to make sure she crosses his path? I’m really not sure.


Three Dark DoorsRichard Gilliam

Synopsis:
For years the man has lived prosperously and well, as have the generations before him. In his mansion, however, are three doors that are not to be opened. Two can be opened safely but the third will lead to nothing but ruin. One night a drummer passing by is enlisted for his aid. And they open the doors.

Review:
It was ok but it seemed like a lot of build-up just to get to a semi-ironic end. The doors aren’t explained, neither is the drummer disappearing or why the doors are even there.


‘Til Death Do Us PartMichael Mardis

Synopsis:
Harry’s wife is a bit on the nagging side. She complains about being cold so he brings her a sweater. As she yells at him to put it on her he considers burying her a little deeper next time.

Review:
Not too bad but it was kind of obvious where it was heading.


TimeJames Robert Smith

Synopsis:
Alan has screwed up big time. He’s screwed over his partner and Rob isn’t going to stand for it. He’s going to make Alan pay. And they’ve got nothing but time.

Review:
I can see why they would wait for the ‘surprise’ but I’d really like to have gotten a few of Billy’s emotions or thoughts. Does he want to kill Alan to save himself? Or does he not like Alan either and is happy to do it? It kind of bugs me that they don’t say.


Time CapsuleMartin Mundt

Synopsis:
While excavating the narrator finds a statue. A statue unlike any other, carved before man even existed. As he studies the statue the statue studies him. Which will be the one to walk away?

Review:
It reminded me quite a lot of the Lovecraftian dream stories. Just a fragment of alien history stumbled upon that has always been waiting.


Time FliesScott M. Brents

Synopsis:
Anna wants the clock. so badly she’s willing to almost steal it from the shop’s proprietor. As she drives off with her new acquisition she hears first one fly…then another. Six hundred and sixty six in total. All buzzing the same name. Beelzebub. Anna realizes too late that she’s made a mistake.

Review:
I really liked this story and it makes me curious about the clock and the shop’s proprietor. Is he guarding the clock or merely taking care of it?


The Tooth FairyDel Stone Jr.

Synopsis:
Jimmy tries to stay awake as long as possible. Tries to stay awake until dreamless exhaustion claims him. Because when he dreams, he dreams of The Tooth Fairy. Not the magical fairy but something gaunt and lifeless. And it’s waiting for him.

Review:
I loved this story! It had great visuals like the packaged meat slopping down onto the supermarket conveyor belt (because we’ve all experienced that leaky package and it’s gross) or the meat package full of human jawbones.


Favorite of the Week(s):
The Tooth Fairy by Del Stone Jr. is definitely on top just for the sheer, vivid imagery of it. That’s the One by C.J. Henderson had a dark and grim whimsy to it that lets you fill in the ending for yourself. There it is Again by Andrew Sands was a very creepy, if more realistic “What if?”


Join us again next week at the normal time for another round of Horrors! And, in the meantime, sweet dreams.

Horrors – A Full Year of Horror #44

Horrors! 365 Scary Stories – A Full Year of Horror

11/04/2017 – 11/10/2017

 

The horror short-short isn’t easy to master, but more than 100 of the genre’s critically acclaimed authors & hottest up-&-comers have taken a stab at it in Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, an anthology that contains a short tale for every day of the year. Steve Rasnic Tem, Wm F. Nolan, Tom Piccirilli, Yvonne Navarro, Peter Atkins, Brian Hodge, Martin Mundt & 166 others give you short, sharp shocks.

If you missed the first post you can find it here.

 

Fall has fallen (all over the yard) and it’s officially cold enough to start being invaded by by all of the four-legged furballs who are trying to take over the bed. It’s a stalemate at the moment. They seem to have a hatred of books as that seems to be their preferred layabout spot. I shall prevail!

 

 


Summer RetreatKevin Shadle

Synopsis:
The Copse family has a lot to do before their summer retreat. They have to bring in the harvest, mulch it into the ground and avoid the inquisitive neighbors. It’s tough being a were-tree.

Review:
Enjoyable with a bit of a different spin on the ‘were’ creatures.


Swamp FlowersDavid C. Woomer

Synopsis:
On their honeymoon Lynette and her new husband made the mistake of going out into the Great Dismal swamp. Lynette never returned. Every year her husband takes a skiff into the swamp for their anniversary ritual.

Review:
A beautiful and sad story. I’m a sucker for ghostly anniversaries.


Sympathy for Mad ScientistsJohn Gregory Betancourt

Synopsis:
A series of letters from baron Frankenstein to Dr. Schmidt on attending the Hamelberg Conference for scientists. Between a punctured assistant and tending to the boiling oil ones needs as defense against ignorant peasants a mad scientists has a lot on his hands.

Review:
I’ve always liked epistolary stories. This one is hilarious and I love the asides about annoying peasants and Igor’s puncturing.


Sympathy for MummiesJohn Gregory Betancourt

Synopsis:
On an Egyptian dig they are uncovering the tomb of an ancient bureaucrat. So what would a bureaucrat curse someone with? Paperwork, lots and lots of paperwork.

Review:
Another funny one by Mr. Betancourt. There are a few of them in a row by hi.


Sympathy for Psychos John Gregory Betancourt

Synopsis:
Crane has been hiding in the cemetery, ever since the spiders first attacked. They are sneaky, though. They look like humans but Crane knows better. He knows the spiders are just using them.

Review:
A very good story. Crane’s character is at once horrifying and sympathetic.


Sympathy for Vampires John Gregory Betancourt

Synopsis:
Shelly has had it with her neighbor. He hovers outside of her window at night, waiting to be invited in for a bite. His wife declares he’s just going through a phase but Shelly is getting irritated. Finally, she strikes on the perfect way to get him to leave her alone. It seems wannabe vampires don’t see the romance of scrubbing the shower.

Review:
Another funny one. Especially Shelly’s idea of getting rid of him. There’s nothing worse than a man going through a mid-vamp crisis.


Sympathy for Wolves John Gregory Betancourt

Synopsis:
A man stands at his window, his pack calling for him to join them. But he’s a man now and it’s so cold out. He’s not heartless though. As the pack files into his house they all share a common ground, briefly.

Review:
A nice story and the ending made me happy because I thought it would have been really mean not to let his pack in to spend the night.


Favourite of the Week:
Well, um, there’s a lot of John Gregory Betancourt isn’t there? While his titles aren’t exactly creative his stories were certainly varied, thank goodness. He shows a talent for switching between laughter and heartbreak with ease. That being said my favorite for this week was Swamp Flowers by David C. Woomer. It’s heartbreaking but beautiful as well. As for Mr. Betancourt’s entries I loved Sympathy for Mad Scientists and Sympathy for Wolves the best.


Join us again next week for another round of horror stories to make you laugh and cry.

A Special Slate of Spooky Spectral Reads

A banner with the words The Top Ten Tuesday List on it.

How perfect is it that Halloween falls on a Tuesday this year? Beyond the fact that it means no little monsters prowling our streets on a weekend, it enables us to have a perfectly timed Top Ten Tuesday list for our lovely readers. Well, it enabled Gracie to make a great list for you, as I mostly sat this one out due to life being life, and all of that.

Now, we gave you a list of interesting sci-fi / horror movies to consider watching for the lead up to All Hallows Eve, but if none of them tickled your fancy, perhaps one of these lovely books will.

Gracie has put together an excellent list of spectral-themed books that she’s paired up with commonly known (and liked) spooky movies for you.

We hope everyone has a safe, happy and haunting Halloween!

Top Ten Tuesday is brought to you by Broke & Bookish

 


If You Like to Watch: 

 

You’ll Love Reading:

Casualties

Small Sci-Fi and Scary Divider

If You Like to Watch:

 

You’ll Love Reading:

 

Small Sci-Fi and Scary Divider

If You Like to Watch:

 

You’ll Love Reading:

Small Sci-Fi and Scary Divider

If You Like to Watch:

 

You’ll Love Reading:

Small Sci-Fi and Scary Divider

If You Like to Watch:

 

You’ll Love Reading:


Now that you’ve hopefully got a book or movie in mind that you can watch in betwixt visits from ickle ghosties and goblins a’rappin’ at your door, why don’t you take a minute to talk about Halloween with us?

Are you going to dress up to hand out candy or to escort your little monster from door to door? Do you go all out for Halloween around your house?

We like it when you talk spooky with us. – L&G

The Frighteners #MovieReview

 The Frighteners Synopsis: After a tragic car accident kills his wife, a man discovers he can communicate with the dead to con people. However, when a demonic spirit appears, he may be the only one who can stop it from killing the living and the dead.

Tagline: Death is no way to make a living!

Starring: Michael J. Fox, Trini Alvarado, Peter Dobson

Release Date: July 19, 1996

Runtime: 1 hr. 50 min.

 

 

 

Coolthulhus Earned: 3

The Frighteners Review

The Frighteners, quite honestly, is a little harder to review than I thought it would be. It’s pretty much a horror comedy but it’s nothing along the lines of Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil. The humour is dry for the most part and instead of cracking up it produces mostly light chuckles and amusement. 

Michael J. Fox is great in it and it’s a more unusual part for him to play. He’s cynical and kind of a jerk through most of the movie. Since we’re used to seeing The Fox in more good-natured roles it was a huge departure for him that he pulls off amazingly. As far as the rest of the cast there is truly a stellar line-up which includes John Astin, Jake Busey, Jeffrey Combs (who is definitely no stranger to the horror genre) and Dee Wallace (who, again, is one of horror’s ‘familiar faces’).

The plot of The Frighteners is entertaining overall with some genuinely creepy and dark moments. There is a reveal at the end that was surprising but also felt like a bit of a cheat. I can’t really say more than that without spoiling it, The pacing is good throughout, with no real lags in the action.

There are a few minor issues with it, however. The love story that’s shoe-horned into it being the biggest. The movie’s timeline seems to take place over two weeks, at the most. But in that time the character of Dr. Lucy Lynskey loses her husband and then almost immediately falls in love with Frank Bannister. I’m never a fan of insta-love and when you mix in the fact that her husband just died it becomes a bit more…icky. They do try to wave it off with a “we haven’t been happy for some time” but it doesn’t feel like enough.

There are a few oddities in The Frighteners that don’t exactly tank it but will leave you scratching your head a bit at the sheer ridiculousness. For instance, Frank Bannister is on the police radar because he makes his living as a “ghostbuster”. So, naturally, they seem to think that he has something to do with deaths that are perhaps psychically caused. No real shocker there but everyone in town seems to think he’s nothing more than a con man and make it abundantly clear they don’t believe in ghosts. So it makes it a bit puzzling why they would even connect the two. Also, Combs’ character, while extremely fun, is a bit puzzling. There is absolutely no motivation or explanation for half the things he does. But, to give him credit, you have so much fun watching him be batshit crazy that it almost doesn’t matter.

The effects in The Frighteners are insane. They do not look dated at all. Of course, with Zemeckis in charge that’s not much of a surprise. The movie came out in 1996 and I’ve seen movies from 1999 – 2000’s with more dated looking CGI than this. The Reaper, the mouth of hell (literally) and more all look amazing. Danny Elfman also creates an amazing score to go with. But then, when doesn’t he?

With all of the serious star-power behind The Frighteners it’s a little strange that this movie seems to slip under the radar so often. It’s not perfect but it’s certainly worth a Halloween watch. 

These Are a Few of My Scariest Things by Kat Mayor

Kat Mayor, who wrote the lovely The Spirit Chaser, along with it’s follow-up Melancholy Ghost, has written for the site in the past for Halloween. Last year she gave us a lovely article on Chinese Ghosts that still gets views. This year, she presents These Are a Few of My Scariest Things. I loved this list and agree with her on almost all of them! Please feel free to chime in below and tell us what a few of your scariest things are!


My Scariest Things

Clowns in white make-up with big red balloons,

Animatronics and talking dolls, too.

Old hag and mirrors like those in The Ring

These are a few of my Scariest Things.

These Are a Few of My Scariest Things

by Kat Mayor

How many times have you watched a horror flick and thought, “Again? Can’t they come up with something new?” We may complain about it, but there are certain devices that are very effective at creating unease and that tingly feeling up and down your spine. The writers of film know this and that is why we see the same things reappear over and over in slightly different ways.

This is my personal compilation of things that I find terrifying. You may not agree with all of the things on this list, but I bet there’s at least one or two that raise the hair on the back of your neck. Especially if you’re a connoisseur of the horror genre.

  1. Clowns—We float down here. We all float.

            Clowns have been around for thousands of years. From the court jester in Rome to the French pantomime, clowns have served the purpose of humoring and entertaining us. But it’s not all fun and games. Clowns have fairly or unfairly been linked to tragedy, depression, murder, and pedophilia. Pennywise, from Stephen King’s IT, epitomizes why children are right to fear what lurks behind the painted face and drawn on smile.

I first realized that, “Yes, I hate clowns,” while viewing Poltergeist. The boy’s creepy stuffed clown attacking and pulling him under the bed will forever be imprinted on my brain. In the nineties the fear of clowns moved from the television and book realm to real life with the conviction of John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer clown. Now with the latest rash of stalkings at school yards around the country, these pasty-faced monsters are breeding a new generation of coulrophobics.

  1. Mirrors—Mirror, mirror on the wall who’s the most terrifying of all?

            Mirrors are considered by many to be portals to other realms or windows into the soul. The idea that malevolent, inhuman beings can cross into our world is reason enough to fear them. You might not like what is staring back, and I’m not talking about your own reflection.

            The woman in front of the mirror in the movie, The Ring, is a perfect example. Combing one’s hair is a mundane activity, but captured in black and white with grainy, speckled film, it creates a sense of dread in the viewer. Oculus capitalized on the scary mirror trope. House plants die and dogs disappear in in this imposing mirror’s presence. It tricks you into not eating or drinking, but it doesn’t stop there. This evil antique looking glass creates hallucinations. Those in its thrall become psychotic and homicidal.

  1. Dolls—I’m Chucky. Wanna play?

            I have mixed feelings about dolls. The plush ones, that don’t look too human, and don’t have vacant, staring eyes, I can deal with. Typically, my fear of dolls increases with the age and size of the doll. You won’t catch me in a room alone with a life-size doll or a porcelain-headed doll from the early twentieth century. The more realistic they look, the creepier they are. I’ve noticed that fear of dolls is not something that has to be taught or learned. When my son was younger he would ask for his sister’s dolls to be removed to another room at bedtime because he didn’t like them staring at him.

            The presumption that evil spirits can inhabit or attach to a doll, as in the case of Annabelle, is what I believe gave me the heebie-jeebies about dolls in the first place. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the subset of dolls that talk, and their creepy cousins, ventriloquist/dummies. There’s something inherently unsettling about a voice emanating from an inanimate, human-looking object. I blame the Twilight Zone for this particular fear. Just watch the episodes Living Doll or The Dummy and see if you don’t agree.

  1. Animatronics—Where a kid can be a kid. Or a haunted robotic character.

            One of my first memories of Chuck E. Cheese and similar themed pizza restaurants was seeing a group of plastic robots performing on a stage. They danced with stiff, exaggerated movements and sang with clacking jaws that didn’t quite move in sync with the lyrics. Even their plastic eyelids moved up and down in an unnatural blink. It made me uncomfortable, but at the same time, I couldn’t look away.

            The creators of Five Nights at Freddy’s took my fear, injected it with steroids, and packaged it as a game for my children. It is the first video game I’ve come across, that if I’m being honest, kind of unsettles me. The backstory is this: Five children are murdered at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria, a kid-friendly restaurant that often hosts children’s birthday parties. Instead of passing on, they stick around as unhappy spirits inhabiting the animatronics. The game player in the earlier versions is a security guard who must survive five nights in the haunted restaurant without being “jumpscared”.

FNaF’s use of eerie music creates an anxiety-filled atmosphere. “My Grandfather’s Clock”, and the “Toreador” are inextricably linked to this game in my mind. I can’t hear either one of these tunes without imagining mangled animatronics lumbering toward me. FNaF 3 upped the creepy song game with “Die in a Fire”.  As you might guess from the title, the singer, (Purple guy who killed the kids), hopes you die in a fire or suffer an equally unpleasant death.

  1. Sleep Paralysis

            Although there are plenty of movies that feature this nightmare scenario, I can’t blame video or pop culture on this one. My fear directly stems from research I’ve done on the subject.

            I know the scientific explanation of it. It’s a safety mechanism so you don’t hurt yourself sleep-walking. Sometimes your mind “wakes up” before you do and you can’t move. Scary yes—but according to scientists, not paranormal. I’ve seen the documentaries and horror movies about it. Then I read the book, Dark Intrusions by Louis Proud, and changed my mind.

Proud’s own experiences with sleep paralysis set him on a journey to find out what was happening to him and why. He presents several case studies of sleep paralysis and draws a connection between SP and poltergeist activity, mediumship, astral projection, spirit possession, and even alien abduction. While a lot of the evidence he presents is anecdotal, he does cite a host of sources to back up his claims. Proud notes that SP is not a new phenomenon. It has been described in literature and depicted in art for over three hundred years. One of the most famous examples of this is Henri Fuseli’s painting, “The Nightmare.”

A picture of Fuseli's The Nightmare
Fuseli’s “The Nightmare” – Public Domain

What I found most convincing was the similarity of experiences for those suffering from SP.  They know they are awake and that their eyes are open but they are unable to move. Sufferers describe a sense of something evil in the room with them and overwhelming fear of it. Many see the “old hag” sitting on their chest or “shadow figures” choking them.  If it’s just the brain acting up in an altered sleep state, then why do all those afflicted with SP see the same hallucination? I’ll let you make up your own mind on whether SP is an occurrence with a rational, scientific explanation, or as I believe, paranormal and truly scary.

What about these things make them so scary? For me, it’s the element of realism. Unlike ghost sightings or disembodied voices, we can actually see and touch these objects. No matter what you think of its origins, sleep paralysis is a well-documented phenomenon. The possibility that these mundane things could have a supernatural side is enough to induce fear and fire up my imagination. My best advice? Steer clear of clowns and only visit pizza parlors in the day time.  Keep your dolls out of sight when you go to bed, don’t gaze too long into mirrors, and pray that you never wake up to an old hag riding your chest.


Book cover for The Spirit Chaser The Spirit Chaser

Some places are too evil. Some places should be left alone.

Austin Cole has it made. Star of the hit television show Spirit Chaser Investigations, he has become the world’s most famous paranormal investigator. Although hard work, a talented investigation team, and favorable genetics have something to do with it, it’s his lack of fear and willingness to take risks no one else will that make Spirit Chaser Investigations cable’s number-one show. When a ghost-hunt-gone-wrong seriously injures his best friend and lead psychic, Austin is forced to find a replacement for a team member he considers irreplaceable.

Casey Lawson can’t catch a break. She’s been on her own since she turned eighteen and is scraping by as a part-time psychic and cashier at a New Age store. When a desperate Austin Cole calls her up and offers her a position on his team, has her fortune finally changed?

He’s a control freak; she’s stubborn and opinionated. It takes time, but when they finally realize they’re working on the same side, everything clicks, both on and off screen.

Just when things are looking up, a new threat emerges. Over the years, Austin has angered plenty of demons, and one of them has set her sights on him. Now he’s the one in danger, and it’s up to the team to rescue him from the riskiest investigation of their lives.

Our review.

Buy link: Amazon