The Schoharie #BookReview

Title: The Schoharie | Author: Diane M. Johnson | Publisher: BookBaby | Pub. Date: 08/30/2017 | Pages: 222 | ASIN: B0758BHKR5 | Genre: Horror | Language: English | Triggers: Domestic Abuse, rape | Rating: 2 out of 5 | Source: Received from the author for review consideration


The Schoharie

Thirty years ago a major Thruway bridge was built across a small creek near the town of Fort Hunter, New York. It had its problems with construction delays and local protests, but it was built and it was strong. 

Thirty years later the bridge collapses when spring floods transform the meager creek into a raging torrent. The collapse takes several lives and almost includes the life of Aaron Bonner, volunteer firefighter, who swears he saw a vengeful Indian spirit take the bridge down. He just needs to convince Sheriff Ben Harrigan that the same Indian spirit seeks more vengeance. But the sheriff knows that Aaron is just like his father, who tried to sabotage the bridge when it was first built, while in the throes of a mental breakdown. Has Aaron gone crazy? Or does the sheriff have something to hide? 

A near death experience triggers Aaron’s sensitivity to supernatural forces at work in the town of Fort Hunter. But his father’s history of mental instability makes Aaron doubt his own sanity. He confides in Sheriff Harrigan, the father of his girlfriend, in a moment of desperation– but memories are long in small towns like Fort Hunter, and the sheriff remembers well Joe Bonner’s attempt to sabotage the original construction of the bridge. He was there. And it was his fault. 

Harrigan knows the town isn’t being attacked by an Indian spirit seeking revenge. He knows Aaron is suffering from the same mental illness as his father. But when other things begin to happen– things that can’t be explained by a man experiencing a nervous breakdown– the sheriff must come to terms with his own role in Joe Bonner’s mental collapse in order to save himself, his daughter’s boyfriend and the rest of the town.

The Schoharie Review

The prologue starts out with a dedication to the actual Schoharie Bridge that collapsed and assures us that the story itself is fictional.

First, the good. The book itself flows pretty well (action-wise, narrative speaking is another story) and only lags here and there. The people in The Schoharie, for the most part are fairly well done. I say fairly because at times I had to ask myself how old Sara is. Her attitudes and reactions make her sound like a petulant seventeen year old half the time. For as much as the narration and Sara try to make the sheriff sound like an intolerant hard-headed jerk it never really struck me that way. It probably would have helped if it had been more consistent with what he disapproved of, exactly. On one page he disapproves of the main character, Aaron Bonner, implying it’s because he’s Native American. But in the next paragraph we find out that the sheriff was “friends since kindergarten” with Aaron’s father. Again, in another chapter he’s upset because his daughter is divorcing her husband. Two pages later it says he didn’t want her to marry that guy in the first place. And then he’s ‘judgmental’ about her seeing another guy before divorcing her husband. It was very uneven. The side characters are there to either give background, fill out the cast or be the villain. That’s about it. And it’s pretty easy to figure out who/what is behind the happenings.

Most of The Schoharie centers on the supernatural forces at work, waffling on whether it’s true or not and a lot of people looking accusingly at Aaron because of his father’s history and because he’s Native American. The rest is filler on what really happened in the past and a few action pieces. The writing is stilted and overly dramatic at times. Too many thesaurus words and apparently witnessing someone get shot can make things defy the law of physics. Example: “The fresh coffee in her hand slipped away in slow motion before it hit the floor…” It may be a nitpicky but that’s just one example of where the wavering narration just sounds weird. At times we’re in one head or another and then it will flip to an omniscient third-person and back again, often in the same paragraph. Action pieces are broken up by meanderings of “If so and so knew this…” and then eventually find it’s way back to the original point.

There were two other points in The Schoharie that really stuck out to me and not in a good way. Even though the book avoided the literal ‘evil Indian’ it was still “Indian sorcery” behind it all. Domestic abuse and rape also seemed to be treated in a way that somewhat made it sound acceptable. “he’s sick” “he’s possessed”, it’s the war. All of these are brought forward and they are used as actual excuses. To say I lost my patience with it would be an understatement.

I gave The Schoharie a two because the author does show some promise and with a better editor to help trim out the extraneous sentences and thesaurus words this might be a pretty decent book. On the plus side The Schoharie is formatted well and there are no typos.

Twilight Zone Tuesday – Back There

Back There

Peter Corrigan – Russell Johnson
Jonathan Wellington – John Lassell
William – Bartlett Robinson
Millard – Raymond Bailey
Jackson – Raymond Greenleaf
Whittaker – John Eldredge


A snazzy looking building proclaims itself as The Potomac Club. Inside are the men of the club, doing what guys do there. Reading newspapers and chatting. Maybe I’m anti-social but I’d rather be comfy at home reading a paper than have to walk somewhere to do it. We see a table with four men chatting and playing cards. Three older men and The Professor from Gilligan’s Island and this episode. They’re apparently talking about time travel. The Professor (in this episode his name is Corrigan but he’ll always be The Professor to me) is asking another man about his theory that “if a person were to travel back in time there would be nothing at all to prevent him from changing history”. I wouldn’t exactly call that a “theory”, more like a thought. The other man gives him an example: If The Professor were to go back in time to Black Friday (the real one, not the Thanksgiving one) the man points out that with his prior knowledge of the stock market collapse then he could take steps to protect his investments. I’m a little puzzled, though. Unless he had actually had stocks at that time then he would have had to purchase them before the crash. In other words, it’s a crappy example. The Professor points out that he’d be an anachronism, he really wouldn’t belong Back There. The other man says that The Professor could sell out at a profit and escape the crash unscathed. The Professor asks what if he did and instigated the crash to happen one day earlier? Somehow he goes from that (which would be a history changing event) to arguing that the crash happened on October 24th, 1929 the stock market crashed. It’s a fixed date that can’t be altered. Which is weird because he just gave a prime example of changing history.

SERLING:
Witness the theoretical argument, Washington D.C., the present. Four intelligent men talking about an improbable thing like going back in time. A friendly debate revolving around a simple issue: Could a human being change what has happened before? Interesting and theoretical because who ever heard of a man going back in time? Before tonight that is…because this is The Twilight Zone.

The Professor says he’s going to leave time travel to H.G. Wells. He’s too tired for metaphysics. Isn’t metaphysics things like ghosts and stuff? I thought time travel was at least (theoretically) scientifically possible. Since no one has ever gone back in time then it’s just too darned theoretical fr the Professor to bother thinking about. He says his goodbyes and tells the group that he’ll see them that weekend. One of the group jokes “don’t get lost back in time” to which The Professor replies that “he certainly shall not”. Since we’re watching The Twilight Zone we know that he certainly shall. As he walks out of the club he passes a bust of Abraham Lincoln (which I actually never noticed until just now) and runs into the club’s butler, knocking the tray in his hands. The butler apologizes profusely but The Professor shrugs it off, no harm done. From the angle it looked to me like the butler would have gotten doused, not The Professor. They chat a bit about the season and spring and what day is it anyways? William tells The Professor that it’s April 14th.

Things get a little fuzzy and The Professor grabs his head like he’s dizzy. I guess we’re going Back There. Looking to the left we see a lamp change from a n electric light to gas lamp. His clothing has changed as well. At least Back There is thoughtful and gave him matching clothing. Although, really, the suit he had on previously wouldn’t have looked all that out of place. Men’s suits hadn’t changed much. It’s starting to weird him out. Like Dorothy he thinks “there’s no place like home” and decides that’s the best place to be to get rid of the weirdness. But the creepity crawly music tells us theres no escaping…dun dun dun…Back There! That and all of the carriages and whatnot. They dressed up the set in period stuff and dammit they’re going to use it so we get a good, long look at it. He knocks at presumably his house. Which is apparently twenty steps from the club. An older lady answers the door and he excuses himself, asking what the number is. She confirms that it’s his number and he says he used to live there. It used to be the oldest building in the neighborhood. At least he’s being semi-smart and not running around yelling “This is my house!” Apparently he catches on quick. Well, The Professor always was smart, that’s why he got all the coconuts. She’s confused and he pardons himself saying he was just thinking out loud. she tells him she can’t be bothered standing there all night jabbering about which is the oldest building. I’m guessing it’s a boarding house because he asks for a room and she says she has one for ‘acceptable’ boarders.

She asks if he’s from around there and if he’s a war veteran. He says, yes to both (by his age I’m guessing World War II or the Korean War, possibly). She then asks what business he is in and he says he’s an engineer, which she’s very impressed with. As they’re chatting two people come downstairs all dressed up, saying they’re ready for the play. Dinner, a play and don’t forget to applaud the president. Hmm, a play and a president. This is isn’t going to end well. The Professor mulls it over and something strikes him. He asks what she meant by applauding the president. The lady asks what his problem is and the officer wants to know what’s wrong with applauding the president? What side was he on anyway? The Professor, quick on his feet, says “The Republic, of course!” and even looks a bit offended. The fancy dressed lady tries to pull her husband away to get into the carriage so they can get going. I really, really hope that they’re not the Wrathbones. The Professor asks what play they’re seeing. Why, it’s Our American Cousin, of course.

The Professor asks if it’s April 14th, 1865. The officer comments that The Professor’s actions are most strange. To which The Professor says “It is April 14th, 1865!” stares at them for a second and then jets out of the door. Nope, not strange at all. The Professor rushes to Ford’s Theatre, to the stage door and tries to get in but it’s locked. He pounds on the door yelling that the president’s going to get shot tonight.

The next shot is of The Professor getting dragged into the courthouse and before the bench/counter? I’m not sure what it is. The Professor tries to tell the guy in charge about the president and the officer rolls his eyes and says that’s what he was yelling outside of Ford’s Theatre and that’s why the door guard clocked The Professor in the head . Ah, that’s why he was rubbing his head when they came in. They go back and forth about President Lincoln being shot and, of course, they don’t believe him. The Guy in Charge asks if he’s clairvoyant or something. The Professor says that if he told them how he knows they wouldn’t believe him. He says he doesn’t care what they do to him but make sure the president is ok. The Guy in Charge tells the officer to throw The Professor into a cell to sleep it off. One of the policeman looks like he might at least listen but doesn’t go after him. They drag him off, still yelling about how President Lincoln will be shot by a man named John Wilkes Booth. A man enters with such a flourish he might as well have a neon sign above his head saying who he is.

He introduces himself to the desk sergeant (Guy in Charge) as John Wellington. Somehow, even though he just entered the room, he somehow knows The Professor’s name and what he’s been saying. The Desk Sergeant says yes, he was drunk. Wellington says perhaps, but perhaps he was ill. And taps his temple knowingly. Wellington asks if The Professor may be remanded into his custody. He’d hate to see a war veteran jailed when he may only be mentally ill. This seems a little anachronistic to me as I don’t think there were many alienists who would be all that concerned with veterans at the time. The Sergeant is a bit hesitant but Wellington says that he’ll take full responsibility for The Professor. I don’t know a ton about men’s fashions of the era (except suits and such) but…this outfit strikes me as a bit weird. A little stage-dressing, dare I say? The Sergeant orders the younger policeman to bring The Professor back. Apparently it’s Adopt-a-Prisoner day at the D.C. jail. He says he will wait to collect The Professor outside if they would be kind enough to bring him out to Wellington. If you want him so bad you wait for him, Wellington! Oh lord. Even back then…sigh. As Wellington goes to leave two “Ladies of the Evening” that are obligatory in every police station scene are brought by the camera. I have to admit, I cackled. It’s a long-standing tradition, I see.

 

After Wellington leaves, the younger policeman tells the Sergeant that maybe they should listen to The Professor and at least post a few extra guards around the theatre. The Sergeant  is unreasonably stubborn about it. What could it hurt, really? It seems sensible enough to me. The Sergeant says that President Lincoln has the Federal Army at his disposal and if they’re happy then he is as well. Unless he has the entire Army crowded in there with him they’re not going to be much good at their job. Since my mentality is even more immature than my son’s today I couldn’t help giggling at the younger policeman’s badge (hat?) number – 69. Told you I was immature. The younger policeman, not looking as satisfied as the Sergeant, walks away and watches The Professor walk by. He keeps watching as the older policeman send The Professor out to Wellington. He looks a bit worried.

Wellington is pouring The Professor a glass of something (I’m guessing sherry or brandy, it always seems to be one or the other) and tells him it will help. I’m sure it will. You’ll be lucky to wake up in the morning with both kidneys. The Professor is not suspicious at all and gulps it down in one shot. The Professor finally asks who the man is but he dodges the question and says at the moment he is The Professor’s benefactor and only friend. He takes off his capelet with a flourish (I can’t help it, he flourishes all over the place) and tells The Professor that he is with the government. Uh-huh. Wellington says that while he was in school he dabbled in medicine of the mind. The Professor calls him a psychiatrist but Wellington says he doesn’t know the term (it’s Alienist, Professor). The Professor then asks about his symptoms. Wellington admits that they do interest him exceedingly. Particularly his story about the president being assassinated that evening. This reminds The Professor about it and he asks the time. Wellington tells it to him and reassures The Professor that the play doesn’t start for another three quarters of an hour. Ok, unless Wellington was eavesdropping on The Professor from the beginning he shouldn’t know that. Unless they’re trying to let us know that Wellington knows too much about it. It’s not very clear here.

We get a zoom in on Wellington’s face as he asks whatever gave The Professor the idea that the president would be assassinated? Ok, since everyone has probably figured out already, Wellington is John Wilkes Booth. They might as well have painted it on his forehead. The Professor says he just knows, that’s all. Wilkes/Wellington asks if The Professor had a premonition. The Professor says he has more than that, he knows for a fact…blah blah, you know the rest. Wellington says that he’d be happy to help if The Professor can convince him that he’s not crazy. The Professor lays it out…again, this time adding the name of John Wilkes Booth. He’s not sure what time, though, that’s something he can’t remember. So why was he freaking out over the time a minute ago?

The Professor is getting a little woozy. Must be the liquor, I’m guessing, or an additive. Wilkes gives The Professor a handkerchief and tells him to apply it to his head, it hasn’t been properly looked at. The Professor says he feels odd, faint. He says he feels weak, as though he’s suddenly drunk, or…some way he’s never felt before. He looks up at Wilkes and Wilkes chuckles evilly. The Professor finally figures out that he’s been drugged. He tells The Professor that he had to. He’s a very sick man that doesn’t belong in jail, he needs rest to regain his reason. He lowers The Professor to the sofa and tells him to rest. The Professor (and I’ll give him a bit of leeway since he’s been drugged) still hasn’t figured out who the guy is and begs Wellington/Wilkes to believe him. Wellington/Wilkes snatches up his cape and says a really weird line, “And that’s odd. Because I’m beginning to believe you!”. If it were a spur of the moment plan and Wilkes was waffling on it then it might make sense but since history shows that it was planned in advance so you’d think Booth would believe him thoroughly from the start.

We get a brief clip of people applauding at the play and it’s back to The Professor, just now waking up from his ‘rest’. Looking very shiny. He’s still quite woozy and almost falls in the fire. After trying to stand (unsuccessfully) a few times he gives up on it and starts to worm crawl to the door. He finally gets to the doorknob but it’s locked. He calls for help and then finally passes out again, more or less convincingly (his eyelids are a bit fluttery). Some time later the landlady opens the door for the younger policeman and they find The Professor lying on the floor. The Professor asks what time it is. The younger policeman shakes him and wants to hear what he has to say. He doesn’t know if The Professor is mad or drunk but he doesn’t care, he’s convinced. The younger policeman says he’s been everywhere, trying to get a special guard for the president with no success. The Professor tells him to go himself, then. Then he gives the younger policeman all of the details he can. Rather than rushing off the younger policeman helps The Professor get up off the floor. Cause that’s the critical thing.

They get him to a couch and The Professor gives a few more details about what will happen and the escape route and everything he can. He then asks the landlady (not the same as earlier) where the man is who brought him there. Wellington. The lady looks confused and says there is no one there by that name. The Professor insists there is, the landlady insists there isn’t. As he’s arguing he finally looks at the handkerchief he’s been shaking in his fist and sees the initials J.W.B. Shock! Gasp! Of course, the landlady remembers who lives there finally, a Mr. John Wilkes Booth. The Professor angrily squishes the handkerchief at having been tricked. Even during all of this the young policeman is still there. Um, don’t you have somewhere to be?

As he’s telling the young policeman to stop it there is a cry from outside saying “The president’s been shot!” Outside there’s a large group of people. The young policeman looks stunned and tells The Professor he was right. The landlady weeps. They walk out, leaving The Professor sitting on the couch. He rants to the crowd outside and bangs on the window saying, “Why didn’t you listen to me!” As he bangs on the window it turns into a door and his clothing becomes normal again. I guess we’re back from Back There. A butler comes to open it and asks The Professor if he forgot something. It’s not the same butler as before. The Professor is confused The Professor asks where William is but the butler says that there’s no William on duty there. William walks back to the same room, passing the bust of Lincoln very slowly. Seriously, how the heck did I miss that before??!!

 

The men at the table greet him and go on talking about their new subject – money. There is also now a new man at the table with his back to the camera. The Professor tries to tell them about what happened. his head’s a little wavery and one of the other men, concerned, asks if he’s all right. When The Professor says that he’s ok so the other man tells him to pull up a chair and “listen to the palaver of self-made swindlers”. At least they’re honest. He tells The Professor that William has the best way. It shows the new man at the table, William the butler. Now he’s looking quite a bit un-butlery and rich. Going on with his joke he says his method is the best and most secure…inherit it. Ok, I’ll do that right away! William goes on to say that he was just happening to tell “the boys” that his great-grandfather was on the police force in D.C. the night of Lincoln’s assassination. Huh. Imagine that. He went all over the place trying to warn everyone that something might happen. No one seems to know how he got the information. Geez. He could at least have given The Professor credit for it. Apparently he got in the papers about it and eventually went from policeman to Chief of Police to Councilman, bought a little land and…poof! Millionaire. They start to get back to their bridge as William counts some cash (got it, he’s rich!). Do people bet in bridge? The Professor asks William if used to work there as an attendant> I like butler better. It’s more dignified. William looks mightily offended and tells The Professor that he was a member of the club while The Professor was still in prep school. He is “Certainly not a snob but, well sir! An attendant? I really must protest!” I dunno, that sounds snobbish to me.

The Professor pronounces his final view on time travel. Some things can be changed. Others can’t. They say okey dokey, and get back to their game. As he walks away from the table and their game he rubs his head again. Behind him they talk about him looking ‘peaky’ and acting very strangely. Can anyone tell me what the actual description for ‘peaky’ is? I run into it a lot in older books and stuff. I always had a notion that it meant pale and hollow-eyed but I don’t know. Anyways, looking ‘peaky’ The Professor wipes his brow with a handkerchief. He looks at it, it says J.W.B. So we know it really happened.

SERLING:
Mr. Peter Corrigan (The Professor) lately returned from a place ‘Back There’. A journey into time with highly questionable results. Proving, on one hand, that the threads of history are woven tightly and the skein of events cannot be undone. But, on the other hand, there are small fragments of the tapestry that can be altered. Tonight’s thesis to be taken as you will…in The Twilight Zone.


Ah, time travel. It’s an irresistible plot device but also one that can create plot holes you could drive a Mack truck through. Shouldn’t The Professor’s memories have changed to forget that William was ever a butler and remembered him as a club member? It also seems to be a common theme (and I admit I haven’t read many/watched many time travel movies) that you cannot change history. This episode seems a bit more realistic in that the larger event could not be changed but it affected the fortunes of a smaller player in history. That would seem more consistent to me. This is what I’ve always thought, and I doubt that it’s original: Perhaps larger events cannot be changed because it would cause too large a change and alter everything to such an extent that time would essentially ‘break’. But smaller events can be because it’s a much smaller shift in the timeline. I dunno, what do you guys think? Let me know down below!

They do a fairly decent job on the setting and period details. It’s more successful because they keep it on a much smaller scale. It’s also one where the switch in film isn’t as noticeable. I don’t blame Mr. Serling for being upset with the film downgrade. In the previous episode ‘Dust’ there are some tracking shots that are a bit blurred.

Thank you for joining us for this week’s Twilight Zone Tuesday and  apologize fr missing last week’s due to technical difficulties. Join us again for next week’s episode: The Whole Truth

The Best Indie Sci-Fi & Horror We Read In 2017

We’ve been waiting to roll this post out! While we’re going to be doing a “Best of 2017” in early January, we wanted to devote one list solely to small press and self-published authors that we’ve read this year. Now, unlike the Best of 2017 list, which has the qualification of must be published in 2017, because it is so much harder for self pubs and small press work to get attention, we relaxed that rule a bit. These are the best indie sci-fi and horror we read in 2017. Publication date does not matter.

The Best Indies Banner

Note: We’ve listed these in alphabetical order by title, not in order of preference. 

Best Indie Sci-Fi of 2017

Book cover for Chimera Catalyst

Chimera Catalyst by Susan Kuchinskas

Dark and Stars book cover

Dark & Stars by J.B. Rockwell

Book cover for Kings of This World

Kings of this World by Peter Bailey

The Killbug Eulogies

The Killbug Eulogies  by Will Madden

Book cover The Slant Six

The Slant Six by Christopher Cobb

Lilyn’s Notes: This was a hard list to settle on. I knew I had to stick to five, so naturally there was some weeding going on. These are the ones that stood out in the end, though. Chimera Catalyst had one of the most believable near-future settings I’ve seen. Dark & Stars had the rare distinction of being better than the first book (how often does that happen?) and I loved the first book!, Kings of This World was everything a post-apocalyptic novel should be but rarely is, and The Slant Six.. well, that was just downright funny, and it’s hard to make me laugh in a book. I won’t say more because the titles link to the reviews, and those say it best.

Best Indie Horror of 2017

Book cover for Crow Shine

Crow Shine by Alan Baxter

Book cover for The Darklights

The Darklights by MichaelBrent Collings

The Ghost Club by William Meikle

Book cover for Rites of Azathoth

Rites of Azathoth by Frank Cavallo

Book cover for Wicked Witches

Wicked Witches Anthology edited by Scott T. Goudsward, David Price and Daniel G. Keohane

GracieKat’s Notes: It’s probably pretty easy to tell from my list that I love short story collections and anthologies. Crow Shine impressed me because of its consistently good stories throughout. It’s true that a single author collection is much easier to sustain the goodness level than a multi-author one but really, Crow Shine had awesome stories throughout. The Darklights really surprised me because it seemed to be more science fiction but after reading a few chapters it really didn’t matter. I was hooked. And it is definitely horror. The Ghost Club was a late entry and I’m so glad it was. I knew William Meikle could write well in period language from his Carnacki books but I was still very surprised at how well he was able to write in the style of other, varied authors. To the Manor Born was certainly my favorite in that collection. Rites of Azathoth was a very good book. I can’t say I enjoyed the main character much, but the rest was great Lovecraftian gooey-ness. It’s also a testament to just how good the rest of the book was for me to overlook a few issues and put it in one of my top spots for the year. Remember what I said about multi-author anthologies? Wicked Witches was one of the few that I honestly can’t think of a story that didn’t blend well. And that’s no mean feat considering it was not only multiple authors but themed as well.

 

The Ghost Club #BookReview

Title: The Ghost Club: Newly Found Tales of Victorian Terror | Author: William Meikle | Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing | Pub. Date: 12/09/2017 | Pages: 189 | ASIN: B077SWFLZM | Genre: Horror, Classic Horror | Language: English | Triggers: Child death | Rating: 5 out of 5 | Source: Received from Crystal Lake Publishing for review consideration


The Ghost Club: Newly Found Tales of Victorian Terror

Writers never really die; their stories live on, to be found again, to be told again, to scare again.

In Victorian London, a select group of writers, led by Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker and Henry James held an informal dining club, the price of entry to which was the telling of a story by each invited guest.

These are their stories, containing tales of revenant loved ones, lost cities, weird science, spectral appearances and mysteries in the fog of the old city, all told by some of the foremost writers of the day. In here you’ll find Verne and Wells, Tolstoy and Checkov, Stevenson and Oliphant, Kipling, Twain, Haggard and Blavatsky alongside their hosts.

Come, join us for dinner and a story:

Robert Louis Stevenson – Wee Davie Makes a Friend | Rudyard Kipling – The High Bungalow | Leo Tolstoy – The Immortal Memory | Bram Stoker – The House of the Dead | Mark Twain – Once a Jackass | Herbert George Wells – Farside | Margaret Oliphant – To the Manor Born | Oscar Wilde – The Angry Ghost | Henry Rider Haggard – The Black Ziggurat | Helena P Blavatsky – Born of Ether | Henry James – The Scrimshaw Set | Anton Checkov – At the Molenzki Junction | Jules Verne – To the Moon and Beyond | Arthur Conan Doyle – The Curious Affair on the Embankment

Proudly represented by Crystal Lake Publishing—Tales from the Darkest Depths.

The Ghost Club: Newly Found Tales of Victorian Terror

Saturday is generally Kid’s Day around here but the regular programming will be interrupted to bring you the launch day review of The Ghost Club. And since we do like working with Crystal Lake Publishing (and because they have fantastic anthologies and collections) we were happy to oblige. While this might not be classic horror, per se, classic horror is a great place for kids to start since the language is clean (and helps build vocabulary skills as my son will attest) and sex rarely rears it’s head (or other parts). So I hope you won’t mind the interruption too much. Next week it will be back to normal (or, as normal as it gets around here, anyways).

I love classic horror. Sometimes it can give me the creepy crawlies much more than a modern book will. I think it’s partly the restraint of them. Not restraint in the amount of words they used (some of them can be a bit…wordy) but in their topics and what they were and were not allowed to say. Modern authors can be as graphic as they please and it can take away a bit from the terror at times.

So you can imagine how quick to grab this book and run. I may not have been so eager if I hadn’t known the author was William Meikle. As anyone who has read his “Carnacki” books can attest, Mr. Meikle is very comfortable with writing in period language. From the very intro I was sucked in and, for the most part, I can say he does a fantastic job of recreating several different author’s voices. The only ones that I’m not 100% sure on were the authors whose works I am not very familiar with such as Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Rudyard Kipling. I always had trouble getting into his stories. I have liked a few but they just don’t grab me and say, “Read me!”

I also loved the forewords to the book and the stories themselves. The foreword at the beginning has a cleverly worded paragraph about the dubious authenticity of the “find” that I thought was amusing. The forewords to the stories were great. They evoked each writer very clearly and were a nice way to shift the ‘mood’ between stories so the style changes were less jarring.

That being said, let’s check out the stories, shall we?

Small Sci-Fi and Scary Divider

Wee Davie Makes a FriendRobert Louis Stevenson
I very much liked it. It was a bit sad but you could kind of tell where it was going to go. I also loved how William Meikle worked in Louis’ own childhood experiences in ‘The Land of Counterpane’.


The High Bungalow‘Rudyard Kipling’
An enjoyable tale that centers around an interrupted rendezvous and an unexpected encounter with something rather unusual beneath a bungalow. It also ends, dare I say it? A bit clearer than some of Kipling’s own tales did.


The Immortal Memory‘Leo Tolstoy’
The Empress has summoned Captain Marsh for one reason…and one reason only. He must find her a Scotsman to repeat the works of Robert Burns into perfectly translated Russian. Should be a snap…I’m not familiar with Tolstoy’s works so I’m not sure how faithfully the story is to his writing style but the story itself is a good one. It is true that an author can have immortality like no other


In the House of the Dead ‘Bram Stoker’
Bram Stokers shorter works have always been either/or with me. I loved ‘The Judge’s House’. This story evokes his writing style very well, including the epistolary style that Dracula is well-famed for. The story itself is quite beautiful. A story of love, loss, hope and, perhaps, reuniting.


Once a Jackass‘Mark Twain’
It certainly has the dry wit and terseness of any story I’ve read of Twain’s. He always seemed to me to write merely for the fun of a ghost story, not really trying to get down to the emotional depths that others plumbed. The concluding lines are funny in their own way and also, in their own way, could be applied to anyone at anytime.


Farside‘Herbert George Wells’
I have never read much by H.G. Wells (no, not even War of the Worlds) so I’m not sure on how close the style is. A machine in which your aura is shown seems to be the crux of this tale and I won’t say anymore as the ending is great. As is the rest of the story. Is it ghostly vengeance? Or something more?


To the Manor Born – ‘Margaret Oliphant’
I thought this story was excellent and could have come from the pen of Ms. Oliphant herself. The more I read on the more I am impressed. Mr. Meikle is not just talented at pastiching writers, he can create stories in their voices. It might seem like mere imitation to be able to do that but I assure you, it is not. It takes a talent all its own and the ability to not just imitate another writer but to get within their mindset as well. I loved this story and although it’s sad it kept me captivated until the end.


The Angry Ghost‘Oscar Wilde’
I did think Oscar Wilde a bit of an odd choice. As far as I am aware the only supernatural writing he had ever done was ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ (if I’m wrong please point some out to me, new stories are always welcome!). Which, I have to admit, the first time I read it I didn’t get past the first couple of chapters. I may give it a go again one of these days. The Angry Ghost is darkly funny and a brisk, to the point tale.


The Black Ziggurat‘Henry Rider Haggard’
I have to be honest. I wasn’t that enthused with this tale. I’ve never been one for adventure stories and I’ve read one or two of Haggard’s work. Enough to know they’re just not for me. Someone else might like this story a lot more because from the admittedly limited exposure I’ve had to his stories they do imitate his style quite well.


Born of EtherHelena P. Blavatsky
A very good story taking a more unusual subject and blending it with a good ghost story. As far as I can tell the style seems somewhat consistent with what I’ve read of her Theosophy writings.


The Scrimshaw Set‘Henry James’
What is it about chess sets? You wouldn’t think something so prosaic and commonplace (and, some people might add, boring) would be able to summon up dread or horror but yet there are quite a few tales of chess sets – haunted, cursed or otherwise disagreeable. Meikle, with a superb rendition of James’ sometimes prolix writing conjures up a tale of a haunted chess set with a most unusual apparition. Definitely not to miss.


At the Molenzki JunctionAnton Checkov
I’m not really sure if I have ever read anything by Anton Checkov so I can’t speak to style but if this story is representative of his real stories I am certainly going to be looking him up.


To the Moon and Beyond‘Jules Verne’
This story was a bit more of a mix of fantasy and sci-fi (to me at least) and although it was interesting I did catch myself skimming certain parts. Not high on my list of favorites from the book but someone else may like it much better than I.


The Curious Affair on the Embankment ‘Arthur Conan Doyle’
The book winds up its tales with a story from Arthur Conan Doyle, the same writer who has been providing the introductions to the tales. With Lestrade at its center (we all know Mr. Holmes would sneer at the thought of magic) it’s a very good Holmesian tale of magic. And it’s nice to see Lestrade not presented as the bumbling ijit so many modern Holmes writers portray him as.


To wrap it up, these are some very fine stories and William Meikle does a very good job of trying to create the voices of each author. As I said, no small feat. I do have to question the inclusion of Blavatsky and Wilde as there were many other lady Victorian writers who I think would have been great to see represented here. In fact, it would be interesting to see what Mr. Meikle could do sticking strictly to writers such as Mary Wilkins Freeman, Edith Nesbit and so on. Maybe we’ll get lucky and get another Ghost Club anthology.

Horrors – A Full Year of Horror #47

Horrors! 365 Scary Stories – A Full Year of Horror 

12/02/2017 – 12/08/2017

 

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 one upside to that nasty white stuff falling outside my door is that no one questions it when you curl up with a book. In fact, I truly believe that is what winter was invented for just that purpose. So let the snow fall (or the sun shine, lucky) and let’s get to some wintry horror…or whatever comes our way this week!


UpstairsLawrence Watt-Evans

Synopsis:
All the couple upstairs do is fight and yell. They are also very inconsiderate about leaving the tap running and something is stinking the place up. Jack says he’ll go talk to them…now something else is leaking through the ceiling. It’s not water though.

Review:
An ok story. I’m assuming the upstairs neighbors are probably serial killers hence all of the thumping and stink. However, they are usually smart enough to not kill their neighbors unless he literally walked in on them killing someone.


The Valley of the ShadowFrancis Amery

Synopsis:
A reading of the Bible leads one man to the conclusion that God smiles on industry…and industry requires sacrifice.

Review:
I don’t mind a little Biblical horror every now and then (which is different than horror or thrillers geared to Christians) but this was just weird. I almost think that they might have gotten inspiration from Centralia, perhaps.


Vampire NationThomas M. Sipos

Synopsis:
Count Farkas has awakened to a nation and a time of apathy. No one believes in the old superstitions anymore. What better climate for a vampire to exist in? But apathy can be contagious.

Review:
A good story about contagious indifference and boy, is it ever! It made me want to curl up and go to sleep!


The Vampire’s BurdenTippi N. Blevins

Synopsis:
While hunting among the vampire pretenders at the club Teddy finds the perfect victim. He thinks she’s all too human. He’s mostly right.

Review:
A little on the eh side. Miranda doesn’t really give Teddy an actual chance to change and she seems to be a forerunner of “Oooh, pretty vampires!”.


The Vampire’s CaravanIlona Ouspenskaya

Synopsis:
One enchanted evening a peasant girl watches the majesty of the Vampire’s Caravan and is offered a place in it. What will her choice be?

Review:
Very beautifully described and it makes me curious which path she is trying to take.


Vengeance is MeTom Piccirilli

Synopsis:
A woman sleeps, imagining her husband’s death, over and over while he lies awake amidst hallucinations born of his guilt. Or are they?

Review:
I did not like this one. It had a good guilt theme to it but there are two refrains repeated over and over that are just gross and unnecessarily repeated.


VocabularyAdam Troy-Castro

Synopsis:
Trying to find that word that’s on the tip of our tongue can be frustrating. So frustrating, in fact, that you might try checking other people’s tongues. And you’ll let them go, of course. They just need to figure out the word.

Review:
A rather gruesome story. Not torture porn descriptive but your imagination does the work for you.


Favorite of the Week:
Hmm. While not a terrible week it was sort of blah, wasn’t it? It would have to be Vampire Caravan by Ilona Ouspenskaya for the sheer loveliness of the prose and description.


Thank you for joining us this week and come back next week for another seven days of Horrors!

The Evil Within #GraphicNovel

Title: The Evil Within, Volume 2: The Interlude | Author: Ryan O’Sullivan | Illustrators: Szymon Kudranski and Damien Worm | Colorists: Szymon Kudranski, Damien Worm and Guy Major | Publisher: Titan Comics | Pub. Date: 11/07/2017 | Pages: 64 | Genre: Horror | Language: English | Triggers: Child death, murder | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Received from Titan for an honest review


The Evil Within, Volume 2: The Interlude

Coinciding with the release of the new game, get ready for the hotly anticipated comics sequel to Tango Gameworks’ blood-curdling survival horror series. Still shell-shocked by the horrific events that took place at the Beacon Mental Hospital, Detective Sebastian Castellanos finds himself investigating a gruesome murder in Krimson City that might be his key to understanding what happened in his terrifying encounter at Beacon. From the mind of Shinji Mikami – creator of the seminal Resident Evil series – The Evil Within represents the pinnacle of survival-horror gaming with its mind-bending environments, intricate story lines and blood-curdling scares.

I loved the video game The Evil Within so when this was offered I quickly said, “Yes, please!”. The Evil Within: The Interlude collects The Evil Within #2.1 and #2.2 into one book. Since they’re “coinciding” with the release of the second game they do a very good job of catching you up with the characters from the game.

I haven’t looked into The Evil Within 2 (most game reviewers are complete jerks about spoiling the story) so I’m not sure if these are supposed to lead into the game or not. They do feel like they’re supposed to be a lead-in. I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone who hasn’t played the game as you’ll most likely be very, very confused as to what’s going on. They do give you one of these “The Story So Far…” in the beginning but it’s just a paragraph telling you who Sebastian is. It also doesn’t really feel written for the casual reader. It feels like it was written specifically for people who have played the game.

While I wasn’t crazy about one of the art styles I did like how they used the two different styles to evoke two different worlds. They drab colors and cleaner lines fit the “real” world (I use quotations because if you’ve ever played The Evil Within you’ll realize that “real” is a hard concept to define in that world. I also liked the vivid oranges and reds for the other sequences. I loved the cover art. These are also included, along with a section on panels going through the steps, which was interesting.

The writing was good and didn’t stick out as being out of place for the characters. I did have one issue with the way the character of Sebastian is portrayed but I am not faulting the writer of the novel for this. I think it’s where they’re taking his character in The Evil Within 2. If it is…all I can say is The Grizzled World-Weary Alcoholic Detective has been done to death in every genre. Let him retire. 

These were made to tie into the series. There’s no way around that so someone who hasn’t played The Evil Within probably won’t enjoy it. I’m a little on the fence with this approach. The gamer half is very appreciative that books and merchandise are finally being marketed to what businesses used to think was too small of a crowd to have any financial impact. My general reader half though thinks it’s a little elitist and not likely to draw in new customers to either the games or the novels. The novels tell you just a tiny bit, hardly enough to make you think (if you generally don’t play games) “Gee, maybe I should try this”. And the side of me that has played it, it’s a little unsatisfying. There’s just not enough story to it and I sometimes wonder if they’re winging it for the sequel.

Although it piqued my interest it didn’t get me saying “Oooh, now I have to get The Evil Within 2!” which I’m pretty sure was its main objective.

Flyby Five: Scary Scenes from Non-Scary Movies

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Flyby Five, where we abandon all sense of seriousness and do silly lists about whatever pops into our heads. This segment will be posted every Wednesday we feel like posting it. This is not a serious list, nor is it a “Top 5” list. And there is every possible chance that some of these lists or the language in these lists may not be PG-13 friendly. You have been warned. -L&G

Five Scary Scenes from Non-Scary Movies

You’ve all been there. You’re watching a perfectly normal movie, no scariness in sight and then…bam! You’re creeped out by some weird, freaky thing the director decided to throw in for the sole reason of freaking you out, apparently. Below is a short list of scenes that freaked me out as a kid. And, quite honestly, some still do. Like the first one…

Superman 3 – Vera Gets Turned Into a Robot

What the hell, Superman?! Even Evil Superman wasn’t as scary as this abomination!


Annie – Annie’s Escape from Rooster

Ok, I might be alone in this one but this part always scared me. The trestle they’re climbing is insanely high and Tim Curry looks scary as hell as Rooster.

The Annie gif is courtesy of a combined effort of @JasonicProtosh who created it for me and Lilyn, who helped me get it to the post. Thank you!


The Beastmaster – The Bird…Shaker…Things

This might be cheating a bit because it is a fantasy and there are other freaky creatures in it. But…these things. They are freaking terrifying. I have no idea what their proper title is but I’m not getting close enough to find out.


Return to Oz – Electroshock Therapy

This is a great sequel and actually has quite a few creepy-ass creatures (and the creepiness isn’t confined to the bad characters) but the opening takes the cake. Those people looking forward to a light-hearted sequel to Wizard of Oz were treated to a frightening opening scene of Dorothy being installed in a sanitarium for some electroshock therapy. Good family fun!


My Little Pony – Flutter Ponies Drowning in Honey

I saw this episode on television (yes, I’m that old) when I was a teen and it really freaked me out. It might seem mild but the thought of slowly drowning in honey was the most horrifying thing I’d ever seen on My Little Pony. Well, until I went looking for this picture…there are some things you can’t unsee.


Are there any movie or cartoon scenes that freaked you out, reasonably or not? If you do let us know down below!

Darkest Hours by Mike Thorn #BookReview

Title: Darkest Hours | Author: Mike Thorn | Publisher: Unnerving Magazine | Pub. Date: 2017-11-21 | Pages: 252 | ISBN13: 9780995975354 | Genre: Horror | Language: English | Triggers: Er… read at your own risk. | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: I received a copy from the publisher for review consideration


Darkest Hours

In the bleak landscape of Darkest Hours, people make decisions that lead them into extreme scenarios – sometimes bizarre, often horrific, always unexpected. Between this book’s covers you will find academics in distress; monsters abused by people; people terrorized by demons; ghostly reminiscences; resurrected trauma; and occult filmmaking. Ranging from satirical to dreadful, these stories share a distinct voice: urgent, sardonic, brutal, but always empathetic.

Book cover for Darkest Hours

Darkest Hours Review

I rarely do short story collections, but Unnerving approached me about one they were getting ready to publish soon, and it looked just interesting enough that I decided to give it a try. (To be honest, I was also counting on the fact that I could foist it off on my short-story loving co-host if it failed to thrill me. ) Happily, the stories in Darkest Hours kept me engaged the majority of the time.

The writing style is consistent, actually overly consistent at times as certain phrases were used a little too regularly across the stories. The ‘type’ of horror is not, however. The author appears to enjoy turning his attention to different ways to disgust or disturb. There is everything from the mundane fetish (Hair) to the supernatural night visitor (Long Man), and from the ridiculous satirical (Satanic Panic) to the not easily classifiable (Party Time) in Darkest Hours.

There are 15 stories in the collection. My favorites were Sabbatical, Long Man, and Hair. (Hair makes the list just because it utterly disgusted me. I admire any story that can make me have to resist the urge to gag when reading OR talking about it.) Most of the stories received a three or four star rating.  There was only one story that I outright didn’t like, which was Fear and Grace.  One, Economy These Days, was interesting because although I could see how it could be labeled as a certain type of horror short, I found it to be simply thought-provoking.

Although the stories vary dramatically in chosen subject, by the end of the collection, certain things make themselves known time and again. Specifically, smoking, heavy metal, and – oddly enough – academics.  I’m sure people who are more into the literary dissection side of things will have fun picking apart the stories contained in Darkest Hours. I’m not one for doing that, though.

Mike Thorn’s Darkest Hours is contains the most diverse selection of stories that I’ve ever read from a single author.  The story order was well chosen, providing a whirlwind of an experience. You could never really be sure what you were going to read next.  Overall, if you’re a fan of horror short stories, you need to give Darkest Hours a try. You might very well just be missing out if you don’t.

Buy Link: Amazon

10 Bookish Sci-Fi & Horror Locations We Want to Visit

A banner with the words The Top Ten Tuesday List on it.For this Top Ten Tuesday, we were supposed to talk about bookish locations that we wanted to visit. This one made us happy! When it comes to places I want to visit, my mind instantly goes to science fiction. I know Gracie’s half of this list (at the bottom) will be very different. These locations are all ones that shine in my mind. When I do get a chance to daydream, these drift through my head. Science fiction gives you such a full range of choices. It was hard to narrow it down to just five, but these are an awesome five!

As usual this Top Ten Tuesday topic is brought to you by Broke & Bookish.

*Titles will link you to our reviews of the books.

2312 – Kim Stanley Robinson

The book cover for 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Terminator, Mercury from Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312.  He describes it so beautifully that I want to be there. I want to walk on Mercury, with the sunlight chasing me. Even though it’s dangerous, and stark, it’s gorgeous. And I need to be there.


Aaru – David Meredith

Book cover for Aaru

Aaru from David Meredith’s Aaru. Even though I wasn’t a big fan of the book, the idea of Aaru has stayed with me. I don’t know that I would want to spend my ‘afterlife’ there, but the idea of having it as a vacation spot sounds absolutely lovely.


The Stark Divide – J. Scott Coatsworth

Book cover for The Stark Divide

Forever from J. Scott Coatsworth’s The Stark Divide. O’Neill cylinders fascinate me. Forever is a new take on the O’Neill cylinder concept that seems absolutely fascinating. I want to be there by that tree. To watch the dawning with the golden sap coursing through everything. I need to strap on a pack and  sail the air currents to the poles.


The Last Machine in the Solar System – Matthew Isaac Sobin

Book cover for The Last Machine in the SOlar System by Matthew Isaac Sobin

The sun from Matthew Isaac Sobin’s The Last Machine in the Solar System. Specifically, I want to be there at the end, walking on the surface of the sun with The Last Machine. There was something so impactful about reading that last scene that I think I could sit, look out, and I could cry. Just cry for everyone, and everything, and then, I think, I could lay down and die peacefully.


The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Series – Jodi Taylor

Book cover for Just One Damned Thing After Another

St Mary’s from Jodi Taylor’s The Chronicles of St. Mary’s series. Oh sweet baby Cthulhu, how could I have not remembered this until the last line on my list? St. Mary’s is a place I don’t just want to visit, I need to visit it. At pretty much any time from any book. The insanity that goes on there would be an instant lift to my spirits. I wouldn’t even necessarily want to time travel. I just want to be there. With that group of nutballs.

There’s a reason everyone tells me that I’d most likely be the first to die in a horror movie. Or be the ijit who gets everyone cursed and/or trapped in the haunted mansion. And not the Disneyland one. I’d watch the cursed videocassette/YouTube Channel, visit the website just to see if it’s really an urban legend or not…and go to these places where my imminent (and most likely gruesome) death awaits.

Stone Cold Bastards – Jake Bible

Book cover for Stone Cold Bastards

Yeah, it’s a little unlikely that the Gates of Hell get opened (maybe) but if that were to ever happen there’s nowhere I’d want to be other than inside the Cathedral with the Grotesques. Like Lilyn said above, I just want to hang out with them, especially Scythia and Roan.


Hell House – Richard Matheson

If I really want to see a ghost (or anything else on the long list of Hell House’s psychical shenanigans) how could I refuse an invitation to the Belasco Mansion? It would be a good idea to pack lightly. You probably won’t be staying long…I would love to live in the quintessential English mansion. I know, it’s in America but, c’mon, there’s a reason they decided to make it an English movie.


Silent Hill: The Novel – Sadamu Yamashita

Ok, I am cheating a teensy bit with this one, but it is a book! I would love to go to Silent Hill. You get three trips in one! If you’re a reasonably well-balanced person it’s a great tourist town. There’s a lake, a nice hotel, an amusement park, and, oh yeah, a *ahem* gentleman’s club. If you get tired of that there’s always foggy Silent Hill which is peaceful and quiet. There are a few odd people about (who have a nasty spitting habit) but they’re easy to avoid. And if you’re feeling adventurous, guilty or just in the wrong place at the really wrong time, there’s always The Otherworld. I’d never be bored!

(By the way, if anyone knows where I could find an English-translated version of this book I will be so grateful that I’ll…I’ll, well, I’ll just say thank you but I’ll really, really mean it!)


The Red Tree – Caitlin R. Kiernan

Book cover for The Red Tree

I love Caitlin R. Kiernan’s writing. It’s lush, lavish and also spare, in a way. Unfortunately her stories have a tendency to get lost in the words and it’s like being led down a gorgeous path only to be ditched in the middle of it. The scenes in this book whether dream or real are described so wonderfully that I want to see them. The quarry where she would find fossils, the underground caves with the oddly beautiful fungi (and I don’t normally find fungus ‘beautiful’) and The Red Tree itself. I would love to sit underneath it and enjoy it’s luxurious, unsettling, shade.


House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski

Although spending much time with Johnny might be a tad uncomfortable I’d love to wander the Navidson house. To watch as the Five-Minute Hallway lengthen and perhaps discover what’s lurking in the dark…


Thanks for coming with us on a visit to some of our favorite places. Please, tell us what magical (or otherwise) land, house or country that you would love to live in…whether it’s just a short visit or you’re moving in! Let us know down below!

The Gatehouse #MovieReview and Interview

Movie cover for The GatehouseThe Gatehouse Synopsis: Eternity (aged 10) lives in a haunted gatehouse at the edge of an ancient forest. She likes to dig for buried treasure in the woods, but one day she digs up something she shouldn’t and the forest want it back.

Starring: Scarlett Rayner, Simeon Willis, Linal Haft

Release Date: 10/01/2016 (UK), 12/05/2017 (VOD, USA)

Runtime: 1h 37 min , Coolthulhus Earned: 5 out of 5

 

 

 

 

The Gatehouse Review

I can’t even begin to say how much I loved this movie. It was beautifully shot, lighting was perfect and the effects were breathtaking. The cinematography was gorgeous. Even if I didn’t like the story I would have loved to look at it. Fortunately the story was amazing. It was very different than what I was expecting. I didn’t know it had won awards because, quite honestly, I don’t pay attention. I know, horrible to do as a reviewer that’s trying to be professional but awards don’t always indicate the quality of a movie. I am happy it did, though, if only to get it some recognition and push toward the public eye.

The acting was superb and spot-on. I haven’t seen any of the actors before but I was so impressed. Simeon Willis was excellent in his role as the somewhat frazzled dad. The real stand-out however, is Scarlett Rayner. In my opinion this was a tricky role to play well, especially as a younger actress. It would have been very easy to have the character of Eternity slip into a bratty ten-year old if played not as well as Scarlett Rayner pulls it off. She was funny, interesting, at times infuriating and all around awesome. As far as her character is written it’s an excellent mix. she’s basically a kid. Smarter than most and I’m so glad they didn’t go for the “Smart Kids Must Be Emotionless Robots” trope. Also, the character of Daisy (played by Vanessa Mayfield) turned out to be a solidly likable character, which kind of surprised me.

I really hope it doesn’t get hit with the Crimson Peak effect. People went in expecting a ghostly horror story but weren’t expecting a dramatic ghost story (which really shouldn’t come as a surprise when you look at del Toro’s other movies). This is labeled as horror/adventure/drama/fantasy and a bit of a mystery as well for a while but it does not fall into any of those categories easily and yet fulfills all of them. So, keep an open mind going in because if you go in expecting it to fall firmly into one of those genres you will be surprised. The relationship between the father and daughter is one of the better ones that I’ve seen portrayed in movies in a long time and it’s very refreshing. Some might quibble with that because of one scene but, honestly (and Cthulhu knows I’ll probably get some comments for this) but I don’t know if I would have reacted much differently. The story establishes their relationship quite well.

There were some truly surprising twists to it and things that are fore-shadowed are done very subtly and don’t clobber you over the head with them. There was one part that actually surprised an out loud (very loud) laugh from me because it was so funny and unexpected. Trust me. You’ll know it when you see it. That is another thing I loved about it. There was humour in it, as well. Mainly more quiet humour but (and I never use this word) it was charming and fit the tone of the movie so well. There is also one very unexpected brutal moment that truly surprised me because the movie keeps you so off-balance for a while (in a good way) that it’s unexpected and you’re not really sure what’s going on, what’s real, what’s not.

My only two quibbles with it are pretty minor. There’s one scene that, in regards to the end, doesn’t really make sense. The other is the scoring. In some places I didn’t think that it really went with the scene or the feeling that it seemed like the scene was trying to convey. There was one moment though where it was a perfect synchronicity of music, scene and everything and used so effectively for humour that it was perfect. And I can actually mention the scene (yay!) it was a “horror movie music” note complete with a lightning strike and asylum = perfect.

So please, please watch this movie, give it a chance, don’t go in with preconceived genre expectations.

Small Sci-Fi and Scary Divider

Bonus! 

Interview with Director Martin Gooch

Sci-Fi and Scary: The story in The Gatehouse is very rich in mythology. Did you have to do a lot of research on the background of the lore you used?

Martin Gooch: Growing up in England I think mythology and history is all around – you learn some of it by osmosis. My dad is really into history and there were lots of books in the house so I would avidly read those books as a kid. I’ve always loved a bit of ancient history and lore. I didn’t do much actual research for the film as I had already done 30 years of research thinking about it…

Sci-Fi and Scary: Where did you get the idea for the story in The Gatehouse?

Martin Gooch: I just made it up. It didn’t really come from anywhere. It’s two stories , really. The story of Jack the dad and Eternity, the daughter. Both are on a sort of a quest and the film has a classic three act structure so once I had the story in my head I plotted it out to fit the structure. There was a subplot which we actually filmed but it didn’t really add to the pacing of the movie, s it went in the edit, I hope it’ll be on the DVD extras.

Sci-Fi and Scary: The Gatehouse is a superb blending of several genres. Was it a conscious effort to make it cross genres the way it did or was it just the natural result of the story?

Martin Gooch: Thank you. Yes – I didn’t want to do a straight horror as there are so many horror films with no individual voice so I wrote a Gothic Horror – or fantasy. My original pitch was “it’s like Pan’s Labyrinth, only without the Labyriinth…or Pan”. I feel it is closer to Time Bandits by Terry Gilliam than it is to a straight horror film.

Sci-Fi and Scary: The effects and creations in the movie were very creative and unique. How closely did you work with the effects technicians to create them?

Martin Gooch: Extremely closely. I had a strong idea of what the Horned God looked like based on legends of Herne the Hunter who used to live in ancient forests (and maybe still does). I imagined him just standing there in a clearing in the woods watching you – a silhouette with his horns making him over 7 feet tall. Quite a sight! And this is the image we have in the film when they meet the Horned God in the middle of the forest at the end of the movie. I drew some pictures and found a lot of reference images to show our art department. We were lucky to have the immensely talented Inma Cooke and Charlotte Ball as our monster makers and they just worked incredibly hard and made us a monster!

Sci-Fi and Scary: You had originally interviewed Scarlett Rayner for your film The Search for Simon. When you were writing The Gatehouse, did you have her in mind from the beginning for the role of Eternity?

Martin Gooch: Yes. I totally wrote The Gatehouse with Scarlett in mind – we never interviewed any other actresses for the role. It was written for her and a lot of the dialogue was because I had listened to how Scarlett spoke and used that as a template for how Eternity would speak. I also went through the script with Scarlett and got her to make the dialogue fit how she would actually speak. For example: In the scene where she meets the police woman (Sarine Sofair) in the forest and waves her stick at her – Eternity says, “I’m not alone, I’ve got this stick which, FyI could have your eyeball out!” That was one of Scarlett’s lines.

Sci-Fi and Scary: Speaking again of Scarlett, she was nominated two times (and won once) for Best Child Actress for her role as Eternity. Her screen presence is quite potent considering how new she is to film. Do you think there was any specific scene that won over the judges or just her performance in general?

Martin Gooch: I think she is a very natural actress and she has just ‘got it’. She learnt the whole script back to front and inside out. For the whole shoot I never actually saw her looking at the scripts, she had learnt it so well (a lot of actors could take a lesson here) and this gave her the confidence to work n the performance and not be worried about remembering the lines. She knew the script so well she could even help the other actors when they stumbled over a line or two…

Sci-Fi and Scary: What were your main influences for The Gatehouse?

Martin Gooch: I read a lot and I find that images are the greatest influence rather than stealing from other films. My influences include 20000AD the comic, and stories like Summer Magic and Pat Mills fantasy stories. It’s also loosely based on the Herne the Hunter legends and Gothic literature. The films it is closest to are, as I said, Time Bandits, but also The Watcher in the Woods and things like that.

Sci-Fi and Scary: You’ve also served as writer/director for The Search for Simon, After Death, and quite a few shorts, not to mention your upcoming sci-fi Black Flowers. Beyond more involvement in the beginning with the script, obviously, does the process change much for you as opposed to when you are just serving as director or producer?

Martin Gooch: The main difference is that when you’re ‘just a director’ you don’t have much control over the script on set, if something isn’t working or an actor wants to change something, you can’t just do that, you have to use what is written on the page, even if it doesn’t work. so, it can be frustrating, but on the other side of the coin, you just have to get on with directing and if the script is bad then you just have to work extra-hard to bring that script up through camera and performance and then the scriptwriter will jut think they wee brilliant and they did all the work! But if the script is good it’s always just a pleasure to be directing it regardless of who wrote it.

Sci-Fi and Scary: The Gatehouse received four awards and five nominations across several film festivals including, Best Film (Iowa Independent) and Best Sci-Fi/Horror Feature (London Independent). Is there one in particular that you’re most proud of?

Martin Gooch: It’s always fantastic to win any award and I’m grateful to the festival not only for selecting our movie but also realizing its worth and honoring the work with an award! It was particularly exciting to win at the London Independent Film Festival as we had no idea if we were even in with a chance and it was the first film festival we were in competition with so it was particularly magical to win. Actors Simeon Willis and Vanessa Mayfield were with me so all three of us could go and collec he award. It was a great event.

Sci-Fi and Scary: Has there been any particular reactions from the audiences at various screenings that impacted you?

Martin Gooch: We had a screening at Sci-Fi London Film Festival And afterwards a young lady came up to me with tears in her eyes and told me it was the most beautiful film and she absolutely loved it. She asked me lots of questions and was very excited to meet some of the cast and crew. I felt that she had really “got it” and connected with the movie, which was a wonderful thing. I’m glad I could make someone so happy.

Sci-Fi and Scary: What was the best experience you had in the creation of The Gatehouse?

Martin Gooch: It was a great shoot on the whole. We had a really wonderful crew – particularly Mark Hammond the DOP who I have been working with off and on for twenty years since we were both camera assistants together at Shepparton Studios, England. One of the best days was shooting the night scenes with the two girls (Vanessa Mayfield and Samantha White) being attacked by the Horned God on the path through the woods at night. There was just a great atmosphere on set and I think the Horned God (played by Tom Green) looked particularly good that night, thanks to our awesome art department and brilliant lighting from Mark. It was one of the last days of filming and we were excited to bring the film to a close.

I enjoyed shooting the opening scene on the Quantock Hills in Somerset. That was real fog, nothing to do with a smoke machine and as Dad and Eternity appear out of the fog that’s actually how it was, we didn’t do anything. It was very weird as we were on top of a hill, inside a cloud and all the water in the air absorbs the sound so it all sounded like we were inside a big ball of cotton wool. No one could hear anyone shout directions! But it was good fun and we were blessed by perfect weather. It was a good day.

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We want to thank Martin Gooch again for taking the time to answer our questions and giving us such a great interview! As always, thanks to October Coast for setting us up with such an amazing movie and opportunity!