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2017 LOUISVILLE ZOMBIE WALK

Aug 16 17

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. Come and witness a massive horde of over 40,000 zombies as they take over Bardstown Road in Louisville, KY!

The walk is 3/4 of a mile with a block party at the end (near Highland Ave.) featuring live bands, entertainment, food vendors, a costume contest and – NEW for 2017 – the Zombie Market brought to you by Market for Mischief!

This FREE event will take place on Saturday, August 26, 2017 at 8:29 P.M. Price of admission is that you must dress up as a traditional zombie related character – or develop your own unique version of a flesh eater!

Starting point is the corner of Eastern Parkway and Bardstown Road in the Highlands area of Louisville. Look for the big yellow bus with a Louisville Zombie Walk banner posted on the side at MidCity Mall (1250 Bardstown Rd., Louisville, KY 40204).

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.

Click here for details.

A CURE FOR WELLNESS – DVD REVIEW

Jul 31 17

I avoided watching A Cure for Wellness for quite some time. Lately I’ve had a problem with torture scenes in films, and, after seeing the previews, I thought this movie would have way too many of those moments for my taste. It surprised me – most of the scenes I dreaded were in the last half hour, and some of those were over-the-top.

The film, directed by Gore Verbinski, would have benefited from having a ruthless editor with a sharp implement (at least in the old days). It needed roughly thirty minutes cut from its running time of two and a half hours.

Somewhat Gothic and old-fashioned, it reminded me of the movies my mother liked to watch from the 1960s. There’s a gloomy atmosphere throughout, which dampens what ordinarily would be considered stunning scenery.

Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is a financial wiz kid who cheats in order to climb the ladder. After being confronted by his superiors, he is forced to travel to Switzerland to retrieve his crooked boss, Pembroke, from a wellness facility and return him to New York to face the authorities. The task will be much harder than he thinks. (It’s like that song “Hotel California” – you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.)

It’s easy to dislike Lockhart at first. But everyone has a past (and a childhood) that shapes them, and we gradually learn why he became the cynical young man he is today. He’s not about to fall for the rhetoric he hears from the staff and the sanatorium’s Director (Jason Isaacs with a German accent).

Pembroke doesn’t want to cooperate with his employee either, but before Lockhart can force the issue, he is involved in a car accident that makes him a patient at the castle-like facility. He has plenty of time to wander around and get into trouble, learning the dark history of the mountain-top fortress and befriending the teenage daughter (Mia Goth) of the Director, much to the doc’s dismay.

By the time Lockhart meets the mysterious teen girl, Hannah, I had already figured out all the twists and turns the plot would take. (Perhaps that’s one reason the film seemed too lengthy to me.)

Dane DeHaan is perfect for the role of Lockhart, and the entire cast is exemplary. My biggest complaint with the film is that it doesn’t go anywhere I haven’t seen before and it takes too long to get to the predictable conclusion.

For those reasons, I can only give it two out of five goblins.

THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS – DVD REVIEW

Jun 30 17

Right away, I knew The Girl With All The Gifts would be a different kind of zombie flick. For one thing, the cast is topnotch. (I mean, would you expect to see Glenn Close in a horror movie?) And I immediately believed the dystopian world created by novelist Mike Carey and director Colm McCarthy existed. This film wrung serious emotion out of me in the first ten minutes.

And I’m not talking about the (adequate amount) of gore. I’m talking about the girl.

Minor spoilers ahead.

Most of the time Melanie (played brilliantly by Sennia Nanua) seems like an ordinary ten-year-old – but she is part human and part monster. The fungal disease that has turned most of humanity into crazed, flesh-eating “Hungries” has not affected her the same way. She is one of several second-generation children who were born infected (who ate their way out of their mothers’ bodies) and who are being raised in an underground military bunker in England.

Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close) experiments on them, trying to discover a cure. Sgt. Parks (Paddy Considine) runs the facility and tries to make sure no one gets too close to the “f****** abortions” – especially their teacher, Ms. Justineau (Gemma Arterton). Everyone wears scent-disguising lotion to keep the children calm, and while they are out of their cells and in class they are restrained in wheelchairs.

But Melanie is unique when compared to the others. She has true emotions and can express empathy. Before long, she forms an unbreakable bond with her teacher. Ms. Justineau hates the fact that the children are being experimented on, and when it’s Melanie’s turn, she decides to intervene. But before she can free the girl from the lab, all hell breaks loose as the military base is finally overrun with zombies.

Melanie escapes on her own and she and Ms. Justineau flee the facility with Dr. Caldwell and Sgt. Parks. They struggle to get along together and fight for survival – and Melanie’s special gifts end up helping them all. Dr. Caldwell now thinks Melanie – a zombie with a conscience – is the key to finding a cure, and she is determined to dissect the girl’s brain at the first opportunity.

Most zombie movies don’t engage me from beginning to end the way this “smart” flick managed to do.  If you want to see a different take on the genre, you can watch The Girl With All The Gifts on DVD or stream it on Amazon. Out of five goblins, I would give it three and a half.

ODD THOMAS – DVD REVIEW

May 28 17

At a recent convention, a friend told me about an obscure movie she’d just seen on Netflix starring the late Anton Yelchin (an actor best known for playing Chekov in the new Star Trek franchise, who died way too soon last year in a freak accident). The film, Odd Thomas, was based on the first of a series of books by Dean Koontz. This 2013 adaptation did not have a wide release and quickly went to video.

Despite the fact I’m a huge horror fan, I don’t think I’ve ever read a Koontz novel, and I’ve seen very few films based on his work. But now I think I’m interested in giving the “Odd Thomas” series a try.

Odd is a twenty-year-old fry cook who lives in the quiet desert town of Pico Mundo, California. The only thing that makes him unique is his extraordinary gift: he can communicate with the deceased.

As he puts it, “I see dead people…but then, by god, I actually do something about it.”

He’s basically a supernatural detective, dealing with both spirits and demons (like “bodachs” – predators who feed on pain and tragedy).

When a creepy stranger ends up murdered, he and his girlfriend, Stormy (Addison Timlin), set about helping the local sheriff (Willem Dafoe) solve the crime. During the investigation, Odd realizes that his small town is about to suffer a horrifying fate.

Can he stop it from happening?

This movie is a combination murder mystery/detective drama (complete with “gumshoe narration”) and supernatural thriller. In many ways it reminded me of “The Frighteners” – a film based on Stephen King’s novel.

I don’t know if Odd Thomas does Koontz’s series of books justice, since I haven’t read any of them yet – but I’m always pleased with Anton Yelchin’s acting. I also enjoyed the sweet romantic scenes between Odd and Stormy, childhood sweethearts who thought they were meant to be together forever.

The twist at the end does pack an emotional wallop, and I kept thinking I should have seen it coming. Since there is no chance a sequel will be made, I’ve made up my mind to read the novels.

I’m giving Odd Thomas three out of five goblins. Check it out via streaming or on DVD – it’s definitely worth watching once.

A FREE FLASH FICTION TALE: “MR KROLL”

Apr 30 17

Happy springtime! Had a busy schedule lately, so I thought it was time I posted a free story. “Mr. Kroll” is a dark flash fiction tale about a witch’s familiar, originally published back in 2003. I hope you like it.

 

“MR KROLL” by Debbie Kuhn

I believe I was once a man. That would explain the strange memories that live in my dreams. My special awareness, my ability to understand humans, comes from the demon spirit that resides in me now – though I am not certain if I was reincarnated for this purpose or changed into a feline and a familiar through witchcraft.

Only black cats like me have nine lives. It’s a mystical ability and, truthfully, it would be more accurate to call them nine chances. But there is only one way for us to cheat death.

Oh, yes, I am much older than I should be.

My beloved mistress, Marantha, died far too soon. She was born a witch, and if that made her evil, it was not by choice. She studied spells and curses, but also healed the sick.

What happened to her was my fault.

We were living a peaceful existence in a cottage just outside of Devington. In the summer of 1701, that English village was still growing, and it bustled with great activity at week’s end.

One Saturday afternoon, as I lay on a sunny windowsill sniffing the lilac-scented air, my mistress entered the tidy kitchen and addressed me with her musical voice.

“I need to sell some herbs and tonics today, Mr. Kroll.” She stroked the sleek fur along my back and smiled into my knowing green eyes. “Would you like to be my company?”

Always.

We could read other’s thoughts whenever necessary.

The two of us started off on the mile long walk and took the dusty dirt road that led to Devington. My mistress swung her large, round basket to and fro, and sang a lilting tune in a language I did not understand. Her lustrous long hair – as black as a moonless midnight – fanned out behind her in the warm breeze.

Marantha’s perfect features always attracted attention in the village. Men of all ages would pause in their daily activities to watch the young healer’s graceful, shapely figure as she carried out her errands. They openly admired her wavy dark tresses, her heavenly blue eyes, and the creamy fairness of her skin.

All the women stared at her with jealousy in their hearts. Soon I would give them a reason to be rid of her forever.

“Meet me here before sunset, Mr. Kroll,” my mistress said, as we reached the edge of town.

I went my own way, exploring the underbelly of the noisy village, scrounging for interesting food scraps and hunting rats that were almost tame. The mongrels running loose did not concern me. My presence terrified them.

It was the shiny crystals that caused my carelessness. They hung in a shop’s open window across the way, swinging gently in the wind, glinting in the sun. They mesmerized me.

I sprinted into the road and was caught up under a carriage wheel. It threw me clear, leaving me in agony. An ordinary cat would have died outright.

I forced myself to lie quietly for several minutes, gathering my strength and gaining control over the pain. No bones had been broken, but the damage to my organs was considerable. Finally, I struggled to a standing position and limped down a cluttered alley, using my powerful sense of smell to find what I needed.

I slowly climbed a stack of broken wooden crates to reach the ledge of an open window. Inside the stuffy room, an infant slept unattended on a cot, surrounded by rolled up blankets. I crept over to the bed and pulled myself up.

His damp gown smelled of sweat and harsh soap. I straddled his wee chest, but he did not awake. The crustiness on his lips was dried mother’s milk. When I began licking it off, the baby opened his mouth, and I covered it with my own.

I sucked my breath in and pulled his life force out. The invisible hot stream flowed into me and I could feel my injuries begin to heal.

Then I heard the mother scream. She knocked me off her baby with a broom handle and chased me out the window.

I was well enough to flee, and I headed for home in the gathering darkness. If I had not been interrupted the internal healing would have been complete. Eventually I would have to seek out another life force.

I entered the cottage through the open kitchen window and found my mistress in the front room, reading a thick, leather-bound book by candlelight.

She looked up in relief when I sauntered in. “Mr. Kroll, I knew you’d be all right, you naughty, careless feline.”

I curled up in her lap and allowed myself to purr.

Less than an hour later they came, surrounding the cottage, holding their fiery torches high.

“Show yourself, witch! You and your familiar!”

That was Hester the nosy seamstress. I recognized her deep, croaking voice.

Marantha opened the heavy wooden door and faced the angry mob. Most of them were women, with a few harried husbands standing in back.

“Friends, why are you here?”

“Oh, ain’t we the innocent one now,” Hester sneered. “Your demon cat was caught stealing a babe’s soul this very night.”

The women surrounded Marantha and held her prisoner while the men searched the cottage. They found the evidence they were looking for – a book of witchcraft.

Hester took the tome from her husband and held it high before the crowd. “The witch must burn! She must pay for her sins in Hell!”

I slipped past the mob and climbed an oak, watching helplessly as they bound Marantha’s hands and feet and carried her back into the cottage.

They set the house ablaze and then stayed to watch the spectacle. The women’s hard faces were lit with malicious glee. I heard Marantha’s agonized, heartrending screams, felt her blinding fear, and I couldn’t bear to linger.

There was someplace I needed to go, something I needed to do.

Hester had a baby daughter.

STOKERCON 2017

Mar 29 17

Climb aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California for the Horror Writers Association’s 2nd annual StokerCon event, April 27 – 30, 2017.

EVENTS:

The gala presentation of the Bram Stoker Awards

Final Frame Film Festival and Competition

Horror University Writing Workshops and Panels

Author Signings

Dealers Room

The Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference

Librarians’ Day

SPECIAL GUESTS: 

George R.R. Martin, Stephen Graham Jones

Nancy Holder, Elizabeth Hand

Chuck Wendig, Gretchen McNeil

Tananarive Due, Bill Bridges

Peter Crowther …and many more.

Full details here.

PRINCE LESTAT AND THE REALMS OF ATLANTIS – A REVIEW

Feb 28 17

Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis is the twelfth installment of Anne Rice’s long-running series The Vampire Chronicles. A full cast of familiar characters (alive, dead and undead) are present, interacting with and worshiping the irresistible Lestat de Lioncourt, who is now Prince of all vampires left in existence.

And whatever happens to Lestat, happens to them. This is a key issue in the latest book. Now that Lestat is the host body for Amel – the powerful spirit who represents the magical core of vampirism – he must fight to stay in control and heed the danger he now poses to his kind. It’s a love/hate relationship.

Complicating matters is Lestat’s old enemy, Rhoshamandes, who has discovered the existence of a race of fantastical beings who pose a threat to the entire vampire species. Rice really shows off her imaginative skills with the introduction of these new beings and their origin – and scenes of their wondrous, doomed kingdom.

However, there is a point in the latter part of the story where the pace slows down and rarely picks back up again. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend the book for any reader who isn’t already a die-hard fan of the series. As for the ending, it was almost too well-resolved – and I didn’t find myself thinking, “What will happen next?”

My favorite parts of the novel were the chapters told from Lestat’s point of view. The scenes between him and his beloved Louis took me back in time to the original books. Of course, most of the characters were, as usual, emotionally expressive. I’ve rarely met a Rice character, male or female, who didn’t pour their hearts out at every opportunity.

Will readers ever get enough of the Brat Prince? Eventually, maybe, but I don’t think I ever will. The esteemed author has hinted at a 13th installment of this popular series. I will have no choice but to read it.

I give Rice’s latest novel 4 out of 5 stars for die-hard fans – and 3 out of 5 stars for new readers.

FEBRUARY – WOMEN IN HORROR MONTH

Jan 31 17


February is Women in Horror Month – a celebration of dark fiction and scary films created by (or starring) women. Several websites are celebrating the event by posting interviews, stories, film clips, etc.

I’ve made a list of my favorite places on the Internet to visit in February:

Women in Horror Month: www.womeninhorrormonth.com

Big Time Books: www.bigtimebooks.com

Killer Podcast: www.attackofthekillerpodcast.com

Killer Horror Cast: @KillerfromSpace

Digital Fiction Pub: www.digitalfictionpub.com

Halloween Daily News: www.halloweendailynews.com

Horror Homeroom: www.horrorhomeroom.com

Screaming Film Club: @screamingfilm

Cine Dump: www.cinedump.com

Blogferatu: www.blogferatu.com

Horror World: www.horrorworld.org

The Horror Tree: www.horrortree.com

There are many other sites. Simply do a search online for Women in Horror Month and you’ll find plenty more places that are celebrating the event.

And check back here at the end of February for my review of Anne Rice’s latest novel in the Vampire Chronicles: “Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis.”

5 FAVORITE HORROR FILMS OF 2016

Dec 31 16

hero_train-to-busan-2016As I stand on the threshold of 2017 and look back at 2016, I have to admit it was a good year for horror flicks. Sadly, I’ve seen far fewer of them in the last twelve months than I’d like.

Of the movies I did manage to watch, here are my top five favorites in no particular order:

The Witch 

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 Autopsy of Jane Doe

You don’t see too many horror movies these days set entirely in a morgue. This flick pulls it off in an admirable way. I was surprised to discover that Norwegian director Andre Ovredal was responsible – having seen his movie Trollhunter, which was so completely different. (And I liked it, too.) On a dark and stormy night (so appropriate) in a family-owned mortuary, a father and son (played by Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch) perform an autopsy on the body of a Jane Doe, found at a violent crime scene. The mysterious victim has a lot of secrets to tell, and as the night progresses, things become more and more sinister for the two men who are trying to uncover the startling truth.

Don’t Breathe

A bit of a twist: intruders break into the house of an older blind man, and they end up being terrorized by him instead. The gentleman has issues, and that means more fun  and chills for viewers – and at least one truly shocking scene that I won’t soon forget. (Jane Levy and Stephen Lang are both awesome.)

Train to Busan

Probably my favorite zombie flick of the last five years, this Korean film by director Yeon Sang-ho is non-stop, nail-biting entertainment. Divorced manager Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) is too busy to attend his daughter’s singing recital. To make it up to her, for her birthday he gives in to her request to visit her mother in Busan. But as they board the train in Seoul, a plague breaks out that threatens to destroy all the passengers – and the world.

10 Cloverfield Lane

This sequel to Cloverfield is nothing like the original film, which I liked, but I am willing to say that it’s much better. Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up after a terrible accident to find that she’s locked in a cellar with a doomsday prepper, who insists that he saved her life and that the world outside is uninhabitable following an apocalyptic catastrophe. Uncertain what to believe, she becomes more and more suspicious and determined to escape the hideout no matter what might await her on the outside. John Goodman is fantastic in his role as the father figure survivalist who “rescues” her.

Other movies I have not seen that have been recommended by friends and critics alike:

The Eyes of My Mother

The Forest

The Wailing

The Conjuring 2

Hush

Lights Out

The Neon Demon

Happy New Year! May 2017 be a stellar year for horror once again.

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.