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HAVE YOURSELF A SCARY LITTLE CHRISTMAS

Nov 30 16

lg_scary-santa-450x300And once again, the holiday season is upon us. Like many of you who celebrate Christmas, every year when I hear that Andy Williams song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” I always wonder about the lyrics that say, “There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.” Christmas isn’t usually a time for horror tales, but there are movies and TV shows that beg to differ. I’ve decided to post an updated list of my favorites.

“And All Through the House” – Tales From the Crypt (British TV Series/1972)

The first time I saw this old episode on late night TV, I couldn’t help but be impressed. Joan Collins stars as a wife without good cheer who murders her husband with a fireplace poker on the night before Christmas. As she’s trying to dispose of the body, an escaped homicidal maniac dressed as Santa tries to break into her house. Alas, she can’t call the police because she’s just committed a dirty deed. Love it!

Black Christmas (Movie/1974)

Directed by Bob Clark and written by A. Roy Moore, this Canadian film is widely believed to be one of the earliest slasher flicks, and supposedly influenced the making of Carpenter’s Halloween.   Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder and John Saxon have starring roles. A deranged killer hides out in the attic of a sorority house, stalking and murdering the sisters one by one. I liked this film a lot better than Silent Night, Deadly Night. 

Gremlins (Movie/1984)

Everyone is probably familiar with this flick. A salesman (Hoyt Axton) buys his son Billy (Zach Galligan) a magwai for Christmas. But the cute, furry little creatures have a very dark side, and if you feed them after midnight or get them wet, you will find out how much trouble they can be. Of course, Billy can’t follow the rules, and his town soon suffers the consequences. Phoebe Cates also stars as Billy’s girlfriend. (Her story about her dad’s odd, gruesome death struck me as funny, though it wasn’t meant to be.)

A Christmas Carol (TV Movie/1984)

Yeah, I know. Dickens isn’t scary, really, but there are some spooky moments in the beginning, when Ebenezer Scrooge (played by George C. Scott) is visited by his late business partner, Jacob Marley. I love this movie despite the sentimentality, and this is my favorite version out of all of them. But still, I often ask myself why I let Tiny Tim gut me like a fish every December.

“How The Ghosts Stole Christmas” – The X Files (TV Series/Season 6, Episode 6/1998)

The X Files is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. In this holiday offering, agents Mulder and Scully end up investigating a house on Christmas Eve that’s supposedly haunted by a pair of doomed lovers who killed themselves eighty-odd years before. Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin are wicked and delightful as the ghost couple, Maurice and Lyda. The two string the FBI agents along, while providing insights into Mulder and Scully’s relationship and personalities. This episode is in my top ten favorites.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (Movie/2010)

This is a Finnish film, based on the premise that Santa Claus has always been evil. (Think of the early European myth of the horned Yule Goat who demanded gifts on Christmas Eve, and who worked with a sidekick called Krampus – a half-goat, half-demon creature who punished naughty children.) Trouble starts when an archaeologist digs up Santa’s old tomb. Now no one in the Finnish village is safe. This flick is a mix of horror, fantasy and comedy – definitely off-kilter.

Krampus (Movie/2015)

Written and directed by Michael Dougherty, this one seemed like a cross between Gremlins and the Finnish film A Christmas Tale. There was no gore to speak of, due to its PG-13 rating, but I did enjoy its dark humor.  (Especially from “Aunt Dorothy” – played by Conchata Ferrell. Toni Collette and Adam Scott also have leading roles.) When his dysfunctional family clashes over the holidays, young Max (Emjay Anthony) is disillusioned and turns his back on Christmas. Little does he know, this lack of festive spirit has unleashed the wrath of Krampus: a demonic force of ancient evil intent on punishing non-believers. All hell breaks loose as beloved holiday icons take on a monstrous life of their own, laying siege to the fractured family’s home and forcing them to fight for each other if they hope to survive. This film isn’t something I’d plan on watching every year, but it’s worth seeing at least once.

And there you have it. Speaking of spooky tales, if you like scary fiction, please check out my latest eBook release, available on Amazon and other online stores, called “The White Death and Other Ghastly Ghost Stories.” It definitely isn’t for kids!

Hope all of you have a safe and happy holiday season.

THE WHITE DEATH – AN EXCERPT

Oct 30 16
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It’s my favorite time of year, so I’m posting an excerpt from the first dark tale in my collection, The White Death & Other Ghastly Ghost Stories. In the “The White Death,” a reluctant candy striper suffers through a night of hell in a hospital that used to treat tuberculosis victims. (The setting is my favorite haunted place in Louisville – Waverly Hills Sanatorium.)

Have yourself a wicked little Halloween.

THE WHITE DEATH

Brenda Morris climbed out of her foster mother’s ’64 Buick Riviera and slammed the passenger door shut. She was supposed to have Thursday nights off, but the old bat was forcing her to fill in for another candy striper that’d gotten sick at the last minute.

Yeah, sick of working at a geriatric sanitarium, probably.

Brenda stalked away from the car without bothering to wave goodbye and headed towards the institution’s imposing main entrance.

She took a deep breath, savoring the brisk October air, and gazed up at the gothic monstrosity that was Woodhaven. A full moon hung so low over the hilltop structure that it appeared to teeter upon the bell-tower.

She stood still for a moment to admire the effect. “That’s just so bitchin’.”

A whirlwind of dry leaves skittered past her, and she exhaled slowly. No use putting it off any longer.

Brenda entered the ornate lobby and wrinkled her nose. One never got used to the cool mustiness and the smell of stale urine. Quite often, the pitiful moans of elderly residents could be heard echoing down the long hallways.

No wonder the place was short staffed.

Brenda climbed the winding staircase to the second floor. Before beginning her rounds, she paid a visit to one of the restrooms to wash her hands and run a comb through her auburn curls. She smiled ruefully at her reflection in the smudged mirror. The red and white striped apron made her look like a sweet, innocent fifteen-year-old.

Brenda’s foster mother – her seventh in so many years – no doubt wished it were true. The witch had busted her one too many times for smoking and sneaking out at night to meet up with The Wrong Crowd. She’d given Brenda an ultimatum: Volunteer at one of the local hospitals several evenings a week or spend some time in Juvenile Hall.

Brenda had picked Woodhaven because her dark nature was drawn to its morbid history. For several depressing decades it had been used as a sanatorium for those suffering from The White Death. Tuberculosis had claimed thousands of lives here – not including the suicides it had provoked among patients and nurses alike.

But, God, I’d rather die of a disease than grow old and useless, Brenda thought, leaving the restroom. She could hear a woman yelling just down the hall.

It was Mrs. Hauser in Room 212.

“Somebody help! She took it away! It’s mine and she stole it from me!”

Brenda reached the room and paused in the doorway, grimacing at the all too familiar sight. The old lady stood by her bed stark naked. She stared at Brenda with watery gray eyes full of righteous anger.

“Mrs. Hauser, calm down and tell me what happened.” Brenda hurried over and grabbed a blanket off the bed to wrap around the woman’s cold, saggy body.

“A strange little girl took my new robe. My pretty blue robe is gone – it’s gone and I want it back now!”

Brenda sighed. Mrs. Hauser was hallucinating again. It was probably another patient – they were always “borrowing” things from one other.

“Okay, stay here and I’ll go look for it. I’m sure the girl didn’t go very far.”

Brenda went back out into the hall, and a noise caused her to glance right, towards the elevator. Just before the doors slid shut she caught a glimpse of something blue.

Here we go.

Brenda hurried over and punched the UP button. Catching the person would be easier now. For some freaky reason, every elevator in the building insisted on visiting the basement first, no matter what floor was chosen.

She wasn’t really bothered by this fact – it just made the place more interesting.

Brenda listened to the distressing hum of the contraption as it ascended. It passed the first floor and then stopped. The doors opened slowly.
Empty. This meant the thief had gotten out on the basement level.

Well, they are loony, after all.

Brenda rode the elevator down and waited impatiently for the doors to open. When they did, she was grateful to see that the hall light had been left on. At least the morgue was located clear over on the other side of the basement.

Not that she was afraid of dead people. What could they do? It was the live ones that were scary.

As she exited the elevator, Brenda heard a cough behind her. She turned and looked as the doors began to close, but she saw no one.

The White Death & Other Ghastly Ghost Stories is available on Amazon (also B&N, iBooks, etc.):

www.amazon.com/White-Death-Other-Ghastly-Stories-ebook/dp/B009SQTHXI/ref=sr_1_1

NOTE: The book cover for The White Death & Other Ghastly Ghost Stories was created by the talented artist and photographer Danielle Tunstall. Visit her here.

THE WITCH – DVD REVIEW

Sep 30 16
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“It’s a story about a troubled family,” a close friend said to me recently. “They’re ‘supernaturally’ dysfunctional.”

Okay. I was tired of the spooky-witch-in-the-woods trope, but I gave in to peer pressure and put The Witch (A New England Folk Tale) on my Netflix queue. To my surprise, I liked it a lot better than I thought I would. The “R” rated horror flick was written and directed by Robert Eggers.

The first thing that stood out to me about the movie was the powerfully disturbing musical score, composed by Mark Korven. Seriously, without it, the level of anxiety I felt during many of the scenes probably wouldn’t have been as high. Kudos also to the camerawork, which limited the audience’s access to what was happening just the way the characters experienced it.

And my friend was right – it’s a story about a troubled Calvinist family, circa 1630. Banished from their New England settlement due to religious intolerance, a farmer (Ralph Ineson), his wife (Kate Dickie) and their five children build a home for themselves in the wilderness. Right away they sense something evil lurking in the dark forest nearby.

Paranoia sets in when the baby, Samuel, disappears while his teenage sister, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), is playing with him near the edge of the forbidding woods. Twin siblings, Mercy and Jonas, accuse their older sister of witchcraft – and soon suspicion starts to unravel their lives while unsettling things continue to plague the family. Did someone make a deal with the Devil? Is the witch in the forest real, or is she living among them?

The film blends witchcraft, black magic and possession together into a roiling cauldron of terror, resulting in shocking consequences for the God-fearing family.

The Witch (A New England Folk Tale) delivers many chill-inducing moments and scenes filled with palpable dread, and the actors are all excellent in their roles – especially Anya Taylor-Joy. I give it four out of five goblins.

NEW YORK CITY COMIC CON 2016

Aug 31 16
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It’s not too late to get tickets to the East Coast’s largest pop culture convention (and the second largest in the nation): New York City Comic Con (NYCC).

The event takes place this year from October 6 – 9, with a show floor featuring comics, graphic novels, anime, manga, video games, toys, movies and television. There will be Panels and Autograph Sessions along with screening rooms providing sneak peeks at films and television shows months before they hit the big and small screens. Many special guests will appear in the comic, literary and entertainment fields – writers, actors and artists.

Spotlight guests include Bruce Campbell, Adam West, Lucy Lawless, Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Jenna Coleman, Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu, Tom Mison, Jon Bernthal, Carrie Fisher, Nichelle Nichols, Lee Majors, Stan Lee, Stephen Moffat, Chuck Wendig and many more.

Rooms are still available at several of the official hotels.

Check here for all the details.

2016 LOUISVILLE ZOMBIE WALK

Jul 31 16
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It first started back in 2005 – two horror-loving friends with the same birthday (August 29) decided to have a “different” kind of party for themselves. Fast forward over a decade later: the event is now the world’s largest annual zombie “attack” walk, happening every August, always starting at 8:29 p.m. – no matter the weather, no matter what! For those who don’t know, a “Zombie Walk” is an event where thousands of people come dressed as a zombie and walk down the street just like they were starring in George Romero’s film Night of the Living Dead. (Last year, it was estimated that 35,000 zombies participated.)

The walk starts and ends in the Highlands area of Louisville, Kentucky (my fave part of the city). This year the meeting point will be at the corner of Bardstown Road and Eastern Parkway. Concerts and merriment start after 9:00 p.m. and continue until midnight. So, if you plan to be in or near the Derby City in late August, make sure you attend the zombie walk – even if you’d rather be a spectator or a “zombie hunter” instead. All are welcome.

This year the Zombie (Attack) Walk will take place on August 27. Check out the official links below for more info.

Zombie Walk

Zombie Attack!

Zombies unite!

FANDOMFEST 2016

Jun 30 16
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Almost time for fireworks! And Fandomfest 2016 – now taking place at the Kentucky Exposition Center from July 29 through July 31. This event keeps getting bigger and better every year (started in 2005 as Fright Night Film Fest). You can find accomodations at the Courtyard Louisville Airport Hotel.

Description from the website:

Fandomfest is the largest comic con in the midsouth region, reaching thousands of attendees. We serve the anime, comic book, pop culture, movie, TV, scifi, horror, literary, arts crowd, and Fandomfest is the flagship show of our multi-city tour.

Gaming and Cosplay will also be happening. Special guest of honor will be the legendary Stan Lee. (See the site for a full list of celebrity, artist and author guests.)

Don’t miss the fun!

And be sure to check back here later this month for more book and movie reviews.

Happy 4th of July!

DERBY CITY COMIC CON 2016

Jun 1 16
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Happy to remind everyone that Derby City Comic Con is returning this year to the Kentucky International Convention Center in downtown Louisville on June 25 and 26.

The Hyatt Regency is set to be the official host hotel. Scheduled events include panels, Cosplay, gaming, vendors, as well as activities for children. Special guests who have been announced are comic book artist Jae Lee, comic book writer Bob Layton, Bryan Johnson and Ming Chen of Comic Book Men, as well as Colleen Doran, graphic novel artist – and many others.

Click here for tickets and more information.

 

 

IMAGINARIUM 2016

Apr 30 16
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It’s already the end of April – and not too early to bring up events I’m looking forward to this fall. Join me this October 7 – 9 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel here in Louisville for a new favorite, local convention: Imaginarium 2016, a midwestern/midsouth conference for writers, readers and fans (media, news, publishing, gaming).

Check here for more details.

The Imadjinn Awards (includes an awards banquet) will be handed out on Saturday, October 8 to winners in the categories of Small Press nominees and independently published authors.

Also on Saturday evening, October 8, make plans to attend the third annual Imaginarium Masquerade Ball. There will, of course, be a costume contest.

Don’t forget that the Film Festival will include an awards show as well. Many things to keep track of over the course of three days!

Some special guests of the convention this year: 

Brian Keene (author and Guest of Honor)

Elizabeth Bevarly (author)

Jason Sizemore (author/editor/publisher)

Lynn Tincher (author/filmmaker)

Michael Knost (author/editor)

Lana Read (screenwriter/film director)

Tim Waggoner (author)

Dan Jolley (author/game designer)

Maurice Broaddus (author/editor)

And many more….

I hope to see you there!

 

 

 

STEPHEN KING “END OF WATCH” BOOK TOUR

Mar 29 16
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I’ve wanted to be in the same room with Stephen King since I was 13 years old. Finally, it seems I’ll have my chance. Louisville is one of the stops on his 2016 book tour this summer – probably the first time he’s been to the Derby City, so I was quite excited by the news.

Tickets went on sale here on March 26, and I’m happy to say I nabbed one early that morning. Even though the event is sponsored by Carmichael’s Bookstore, the actual venue for his appearance will be Iroquois Amphitheater.

From King’s official website:

“To celebrate the release of End of Watch, Stephen King will embark on a twelve city book tour kicking off on June 7 in New Jersey. The tour will include an evening with Stephen discussing End of Watch (the final book in the Bill Hodges Trilogy) and much more. At each event, 400 pre-signed books will be given out at random. There will not be book signings during the appearances.”

For more details, click the link below. (It’s been reported that the events in Iowa and New Jersey have already sold out.)

Stephen King 2016 Book Tour

 

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I also wanted to remind people that ConGlomeration 2016 (Louisville’s grassroots interactive sci-fi and fantasy convention) will take place April 8 – 10 here at the Ramada Plaza Hotel. Click here for more info.

Happy springtime!

 

 

I STILL WANT TO BELIEVE – THE X FILES SEASON 10 REVIEW

Feb 29 16
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I don’t think anyone could have been more excited about the return of The X Files than this redheaded gal right here. It was my favorite show from the 90s – probably my favorite series of all time. And three years ago I finally got to (briefly) meet Gillian Anderson – Agent Dana Scully – at a local convention.

“I can’t remember how many times I pretended I was Scully for Halloween.” The cheapest costume ever, even with my fake F.B.I. badge.

But duh – that’s what I chose to say to an icon? Gillian just smiled. “You fooled your friends. I know you did.”

During her Q&A, she mentioned how she’d love it if Chris Carter brought back the series. No one I know believed it would happen, but here we are in 2016 and wishes do come true.

Was Season 10 perfect? No, far from it, but you won’t hear me complaining. The old show had its flaws, too. Unlike a lot of fans, I didn’t expect these newest six episodes to have the same quality of writing and chemistry that the early seasons had. Many years have passed since the end of the original series, so of course the actors, characters and writers had all aged. And the world had changed. A complete reboot/reset button had to be pushed, and I expected some glitches along the way.

Minor spoilers ahead.

I consider the first episode – “My Struggle” – an attempt to set up the new season for old viewers and new viewers alike, with a government conspiracy (and alien abductee) plot-line. We were subjected to lots of background info and exposition, and it’s clear that David Duchovny (Mulder) and Anderson had to rediscover – and then redefine – their characters and their relationship. To me, it all felt familiar and different at the same time. Scully seemed the most changed. Even her voice sounded husky and strange. (Perhaps she simply had a cold?) I heard many of my friends moan and sigh over the Season 10 premiere, saying they were disappointed. But I was unperturbed.

The second episode (“Founder’s Mutation”) was better received by all – a definite improvement over the first. Extreme genetic experimentation at a lab had resulted in subjects developing dangerous powers. More like the old show for sure. Mulder and Scully seem more comfortable with each other, too. But Scully’s voice still isn’t normal.

“Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-monster” is my favorite of the six episodes. This third installment is nothing but fun, and made me feel nostalgic. It reminded me of how I felt watching the original series – witnessing the same old chemistry between Mulder and Scully (whose voice sounded unstrained, finally). The two investigate a dead body that was found in the woods, trying to determine if a serial killer, an animal, or a weird creature rumored to have been on the scene is responsible. Written by Darin Morgan, who wrote four of my favorite episodes during the original run, it involves nihilistic humor, left-field plot twists, and a few Easter eggs to be discovered and enjoyed by us X Files fanatics (who know more about the show than your average fan).

“Home Again” also managed to capture the feel of the original series. Mulder and Scully investigate the odd, gory murder of a city official who was considered an enemy of the city’s homeless population. At the same time, Scully struggles with feelings of guilt and remorse regarding the son she gave up for adoption fifteen years before.

The “Babylon” episode reflects the world we live in today – terrorism on the rise due to religious extremism. An art museum is targeted by suicide bombers, one of whom survives the blast, and Mulder and Scully try to find a way to communicate with the comatose young man to prevent another attack. I found this episode to be a bizarre mixture of tragedy and comedy – the humor coming into play during Mulder’s wild “trip” after supposedly using mushrooms in an attempt to reach another plane of existence. The “Achy Breaky” dance sequence amused me greatly, and we even got to see The Lone Gunmen again. We are also introduced two new likeable characters, young F.B.I. agents who are nearly carbon copies of Mulder and Scully: Agents Miller and Einstein. The scenes between the four of them were quite humorous.

The season finale, “My Struggle II,” had me thinking “too much, too soon.” I feel it would have been much better to spread (and expand) the events out over two or three episodes instead, building up to the cataclysmic ending. We see the return of an old nemesis, and the controversial web-TV host from the first episode is back as well, along with Agents Miller and Einstein. People are becoming seriously ill all over the world, apparently relating to the events of 2012 that were predicted by the Cigarette Smoking Man (aka Cancer Man) near the end of the original series. Mulder is in danger but Scully is immune. All along I wanted them to have a reason to find their son, William, and now they have no choice but to locate him. Will he be a typical angry teen, or a human-alien hybrid with his own agenda? The events at the end of this episode mean the world will never be the same again, so a future season – probably the final one – would have to pull out all the stops. The X Files would become a different kind of series altogether.

So come on, Chris Carter, give it one more try. As the late director/producer Kim Manners used to say, “Let’s kick it in the ass.”