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Jul 30 18

“If they hear you, they hunt you.”

It’s a simple idea that leads to loads of tension and suspense in a horror/sci-fi movie made for (nearly) the whole family. A Quiet Place has a PG-13 rating, which is the main reason I waited for the DVD. I thought it might be too tame for my taste.

But the opening scene captured my attention right away. Minor spoilers are ahead.

Silence means survival for Lee (John Krasinski) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt) Abbott, who live with their three children in an isolated farmhouse. We first see them scavenging for medicine in a small town within walking distance – and then traveling home barefoot on trails covered with sand.

Lurking in the shadows are huge insect-like creatures that are blind – and they are always hungry. We are never told how these monsters came to conquer the world. I think it’s safe to assume they are alien in origin.

There is very little dialogue in the film. The Abbotts already have experience communicating non-verbally. Their oldest, daughter Regan, is deaf and the entire family knows sign language.

But getting back to that first scene on Day 89… When it was over, I wanted to nominate Lee and Evelyn for Worst Parents of the Year. After that, the movie skips ahead 400+ days. Evelyn is heavily pregnant (please tell me this wasn’t a planned pregnancy). If I were them, I would have moved house a lot closer to that thundering waterfall Lee and his middle child like to visit when they need a father-son moment. “Louder noises cancel out smaller ones.”

Instead, they build a special box (reminded me of a coffin) for the baby, complete with an oxygen mask. I was thinking, “What’s their plan for the terrible twos?”

Admittedly, I had a problem with some of the characters’ decisions and actions and other little details, but the film wasn’t boring in the least. How A Quiet Place truly succeeds is by instilling every scene with nerve-wracking tension and making the viewer feel like they are anything but a passive observer in this terror-filled world. Even the silence becomes horrific. And we know from the beginning that a careless moment can mean a life lost.

Lead actor John Krasinski also directed the hour and a half film, and shares a writing credit along with Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. I found no fault with the acting – Emily Blunt, especially, gave a stellar performance.

For nit-picky horror fans like myself, I must give the flick three out of five goblins. But for everyone else who loves suspense and creature features, I’ll give it four.


Jun 30 18

Kick back and watch Cargo and you’ll see some of the usual tropes you’d expect to find in a zombie flick, but (forgive me) it has both brains and heart, being unusual for its character-driven plot. The pace is slow at first, but picks up when the tale expands from being about a family struggling to stay together during a pandemic to an even more desperate father-daughter journey.

Directed by Yolanda Ramke (who also wrote the screenplay) and Ben Howling, this Netflix original movie stars Martin Freeman as Andy, a father who has become infected with the virus after being stranded in rural Australia with his infant daughter, Rosie.

Andy knows he has less than two days to find someone who is willing and able to care for his baby, while he struggles to protect her from his own changing nature. And as he searches for help, he must protect them both from those who have already turned – and from humans who are worse monsters than the zombies.

Giving him hope is an Aboriginal girl he ends up rescuing, Thoomi (Simone Landers), who has been trying, in vain, to protect her own turned father. Thoomi joins him in his agonizing quest to save Rosie.

Martin Freeman is brilliant, as always, and Simone Landers gives an impressive performance as well. I love horror films, but they rarely move me. By the time I watched Cargo’s inevitable ending, I was a little shocked at my emotional response. (The only other time I’ve gotten teary-eyed during a zombie apocalypse tale was when I saw The Girl With All The Gifts.)

So I can’t help it … I must give Cargo four out of five goblins.


May 27 18

A small group of friends decide to go hiking in the wilderness to get away from the stress and hassle of the big city. But danger is lurking in the shadows and not every man will make it out alive. Sound familiar?

This popular plotline shows up once again in The Ritual, a Netflix original movie (based upon the novel by Adam Nevill). Four mates mourning the loss of a good friend head to the dense, dark forests of northern Sweden to honor his memory. The Brits are carrying along a lot of baggage – and I don’t  mean camping equipment.

Their history and collective trauma adds weight to what could have been a forgettable horror movie. Warning signs of the unknown danger they will soon face become apparent as soon as they leave the hiking trails for what they hope will be a shortcut back to civilization. Guilt and resentment are extra burdens the men must carry as they fight for survival.

Who or what is stalking them? Butchered offerings are left high in the rune-covered trees, and every once in a while one of the men sees a glimpse of a creature both huge and mythical. They hear it’s blood-curdling screams at night, and when they sleep it invades their minds – forcing them to relive their worst nightmares and failures.

I liked the monster. I found it unique to the genre.

The Ritual is darkly atmospheric and suspenseful until the last scene, and all of the actors give stellar performances: Rob James-Collier, Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Paul Reed and especially Sam Troughton. His annoying character, Dom, got my vote early on for “Dude I Want to See Die First.”

So, how many goblins does this flick deserve? 3.5 out of 5 … at the very least.


Apr 15 18

Not long ago I reviewed Stephen King’s collaboration (Sleeping Beauties) with his son, Owen, and remarked on how noticeable the difference in style was compared to SK’s solo work. Oddly enough, 2017 also saw another such partnership, this time between Anne Rice and her son, Christopher: Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra. Whereas I had never read any of Owen King’s previous novels, I was already a fan of Chris’ body of work.

Anne and Christopher have similar enough writing styles to make their collaboration appear seamless. Still, I could detect his influence and I found it to be positive (“No, Mom, we don’t need to spend two or three pages describing one room – no matter how magnificent it is.” Don’t get me wrong – I adore Anne.)

I was surprised and delighted that a sequel to The Mummy: Ramses the Damned had finally been penned after nearly a thirty year wait. While it isn’t necessary for readers to be familiar with that first book in order to enjoy the second, I would still recommend they devour it before the sequel. The Mummy is one of my favorite Anne Rice novels. It wouldn’t be a chore to start at the beginning of the tale, even if you’ve read it before.

The Passion of Cleopatra picks up right after the events of the first novel: In 1914, the mummy of Ramses the Great is discovered in Egypt due to the efforts of shipping magnate Lawrence Stratford; Ramses simply reawakens after his body is discovered, having consumed an elixir that made him immortal before his voluntary slumber beneath the desert; Ramses is transported to England and falls in love with Stratford’s daughter, Julie (who is already engaged to Alex – the son of a family friend); Ramses becomes the toast of London under the assumed name of Reginald Ramsey, and we learn that he was once the consort of Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile. As such, he offered her the elixir, but she refused it, pleading with him to give it instead to Marc Antony so he could create an invincible army. When Ramses refuses, Cleopatra kills herself.

The sequel has many elements of the first book – a bit of soap opera mixed with the constant rivalry, battles and inevitable betrayals of the blue-eyed immortals who are trying to track down more of the elixir, which is in the possession of Ramses II, a.k.a. Reginald Ramsey. The biggest new development is the repercussions of a rash act committed by Ramsey on a visit back to Cairo in the first book. When he sees Cleopatra’s lifeless mummy displayed in a museum, he is filled with remorse and brings her back to life with the elixir. Cleopatra goes on to wreak havoc.

In the sequel, the question as to whether the Queen has a soul is debated. At times the matter can be confusing, since her mind and memories have been linked to those of an American author named Sybil Parker. Is Sybil the reincarnation of Cleopatra?

Another major character who complicates the plot is Bektaten, the queen of an ancient African civilization who first discovered the elixir. She and her backstabbing former adviser Saqnos (who has forever been trying to steal the formula for immortality), along with throngs of other immortals, follow Ramsey back to England, where he and his fiancée Julie are to attend an engagement party. All hell breaks loose, of course. And unsurprisingly, the ending leaves enough questions unanswered to justify a trilogy.

I’d be happy to read a third installment. I’m giving Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra four out of five goblins.

MOCON 2018

Mar 31 18

It’s back! After a two year hiatus, my favorite small writers’ convention will return to Indianapolis the weekend of May 4 – 6. Founded by author Maurice Broaddus in 2006, Mo*Con attracted quite a bit of attention over the next decade, and for the reason why, read his description below:


The new venue will be at The Switchboard in downtown Indy in the Fountain Square District (735 Shelby Street). Guests of honor will be award-winning editors, artists, authors, agents – and you!

Join us for panels, stimulating discussions and debates, great cuisine and memorable after-parties.

Click here to register.



Feb 24 18

Celebrate horror’s premiere event, StokerCon 2018, March 1 – 4 at the historic Biltmore Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island.

Special guests include:

Ramsey Campbell, Craig Engler, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Victor LaValle, Elizabeth Massie, Sam Weller and Jeff Strand.

Events include:

Horror University (Learn about the craft and business of writing.), Final Frame Film Competition, Bram Stoker Awards (Enjoy a gala banquet as writer/emcee Jeff Strand presents awards for Superior Achievement in Horror Writing.), Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference (Present your horror-themed paper.), Librarians’ Day, Programming (panels and workshops, readings and signings, pitches and presentations, and, of course, parties!)

Register here.


Jan 21 18

It’s the dead of winter and I’m trying to find ways to cheer myself up while I wait for spring to arrive. In case others are feeling the same way, I thought I’d offer up a free humorous story about two knights, a dragon and a damsel in distress. Are YOUR priorities in the right place?


It was on the road to Glastonbury that things went awry for the two knights.  When they crested a steep hill and gazed out across the sun-splashed meadow below, the scene before them caused both men to rein in their horses and stare in astonishment.

Sir Reginald lifted a bushy eyebrow.  “Aren’t dragons scarce in this kingdom?”

“I heard they’d all been killed.”  Sir Simeon shook his head.  “Rotten luck.  I suppose we’ll have to DO something about this before we continue on?”

“It is our duty, I’m afraid.”

They sighed in unison, watching as the dragon tramped across the field of daisies towards a golden-haired maiden.  The young lady struggled in vain to free herself from the ropes that bound her to a tall post, situated right at the edge of a forest.

She screamed, and the knights drew their swords, urging their impatient steeds forward.  At the bottom of the hill, they jumped a crumbling stone wall into the meadow and then pulled up to assess the situation more thoroughly.

The dragon lumbered into the center of the field.

Sir Reginald spoke up.  “The beast does not seem fierce at all.  I daresay that one of us could dispatch it without much effort.”

“It does seem rather ponderous.  However, it could still fly.  There’s no sense in us both risking the loss of our finest swords and armor just to rescue a maiden that, from this distance, does not even appear to be beautiful.”

“Agreed.  I shall wait here for you, then.”

“Beg pardon?”  Sir Simeon looked offended.  “Surely you realize that I have the superior weapon, therefore, you should be the one to take this risk.”

Sir Reginald brandished his sword in the air.  “I think not.  This blade was tempered with the blood of twelve royal virgins.”

“Weak, simpering females, more like.”  Sir Simeon held up his own sword for inspection.  “A weapon forged with sweat and urine from the ten bravest dragonslayers who ever lived.”

The maiden’s screams intensified.

“Dash it all, we’ve no time to argue.”  Sir Reginald pointed to the ruined wall that surrounded the meadow.  “I say we stone the creature and frighten it away.  It seems almost timid.”

“Yes, it hasn’t even breathed fire at us yet.”

The dragon paced back and forth in front of the frantic maiden, making odd sounds in the back of its throat.

The knights charged across the meadow.  Sir Reginald dismounted near the wall while Sir Simeon freed the struggling prisoner with one expert slash of his sword.  The maiden picked up her green velvet skirts and sprinted into the dark woods without uttering a word of thanks.

“Ungrateful wench.”  Sir Simeon dismounted and joined his friend, who was now lugging stones at the beast from behind a heavy shield.  The rocks bounced harmlessly off the dragon’s bluish-green scales.

“Shoooo!  Go away, you annoying, incompetent creature!”

The dragon had ceased its pacing.  It just stood there quietly, batting its long eyelashes and looking confused.

“Buttercup!  Come along now, Buttercup, there’s a good girl.”

The gruff male voice emanated from the forest.  The dragon perked up and obediently trotted off towards the sound, disappearing behind some dense foliage.

The knights soon found themselves surrounded by scores of men, women and children, all carrying weapons.  Some possessed crudely made spears, others held pitchforks or hatchets, and many carried hunting knives.

Sir Reginald addressed the motley gathering.  “Good citizens, we have just rescued a fair maiden in distress.  Please explain your hostility.”

Hearty laughter filled the air and then died down as the crowd parted to make way for a finely dressed, blue-eyed youth with golden hair.

“The maiden was in no danger, kind sirs.”  The young man smiled.  “And neither was the dragon, it seems.”

The knights were assaulted with riotous laughter.

“My name is Prince Thaddeus,” the youth said, stepping aside to reveal the golden-haired maiden.  “And this is my sister, Princess Honoria.”

“Sweet, harmless Buttercup,” said the princess.  “She thinks she’s a cow.”

Sir Reginald flushed crimson.  “We demand an explanation for this duplicitous act.”

“It is very simple,” Princess Honoria stated.  “We used the dragon to lure you into our midst.”

“For what purpose?” Sir Simeon asked indignantly.  “To rob us?”

“To insist on a charitable donation,” Prince Thaddeus replied.  He pointed past the knights to a hill in the distance.  “See yonder castle?  It belonged to our father, King Cedric, before the invaders destroyed it.  Honoria and I must repay these loyal villagers for their efforts in rebuilding it.  Our home will soon be completely restored.”

The princess smiled.  “We’ve collected many fine donations this week, thanks to the festivities in Glastonbury.  But we are not greedy.”

The crowd murmured its agreement.

“Quite so,” Prince Thaddeus said, nodding.   “We require that both of you give up only one of your prized possessions for our cause.”

Sir Reginald and Sir Simeon exchanged incredulous glances.

“Our horses or our swords?” Sir Reginald asked.  “Ridiculous.”

“We can’t possibly give you either,” Sir Simeon added.  “My friend and I are on our way to take part in King Adrian’s weeklong celebration.”

Sir Reginald brightened.  “Perhaps we could come to another arrangement.  I’d be willing to delay my journey and help these kind villagers by laboring beside them for a day.”

“Well, I suppose that would be acceptable.”  Prince Thaddeus turned to the other knight.  “What say you?”

Sir Simeon squirmed.  “I’m afraid I cannot be delayed.  My part in the ceremony is too important.  We’ll have to think of a different solution.”


“I say,” said Sir Finnegan, reining in his white steed, “I didn’t think any dragons still existed in this country.”

“Just our luck, isn’t it?”  Sir Harry muttered.  “I suppose we’ll have to rescue the lady before we travel on?”

“It IS our duty.”

The damsel in distress let out a guttural, extremely unladylike screech.

Sir Harry shook his head. “I must say…that is the UGLIEST maiden I have ever laid eyes on.”



Dec 16 17

The holiday season seems like an excellent time to give a shout out to the writers I know and admire. Most people have heard of Stephen King, Anne Rice, J.K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman, but there are also many successful, less famous authors out there who are worthy of attention.

And why not buy their books to read and give away to others as gifts? (Oh, and taking the time to write an online review somewhere is another present any author would undoubtedly appreciate.)

Here is a list of writers (in no particular order) I highly recommend for those who love speculative/genre fiction:

Joe Lansdale (Horror/Mystery/Humor)

Tom Piccirilli (Horror/Noir/Fantasy)

Brian Keene (Horror/Comics/Fantasy)

Wrath James White (Extreme Horror/Poetry)

Maurice Broaddus (Horror/Fantasy/Middle Grade)

Ray Garton (Horror/Suspense)

Ronald Malfi (Horror/Thriller/Literary)

Nicole Cushing (Extreme/Cosmic Horror)

Michele Lee (Horror/Paranormal Romance)

Vanessa Fewings (Romance/Erotica)

Tim Waggoner (Horror/Fantasy/Thriller)

Amy Grech (Horror/Mystery)

Nicholas Kaufmann (Horror)

John Hornor Jacobs (Horror/Fantasy)

Laird Barron (Horror/Noir/Dark Fantasy)

Christopher Golden (Horror/Fantasy/Suspense/YA)

Willie Meikle (Horror/Supernatural)

Jeremy C. Shipp (Horror/Fantasy/Sci-Fi)

Joe McKinney (Horror)

Jonathan Mayberry (Horror)

Nancy Holder (Horror/Fantasy)

Jeff Strand (Horror/YA/Humor)

Fran Friel (Horror/Fantasy)

Weston Ochse (Horror/Sci-Fi)

Yvonne Navarro (Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy)

Scott Nicholson (Horror/Fantasy/Mystery)

Mary SanGiovanni (Horror)

Sarah Pinborough (Horror/Fantasy/Thriller)

Gemma Files (Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Poetry)

Alethea Kontis (Fantasy/YA/Children)

Lucy A. Snyder (Horror/Fantasy/Poetry)

Gary Braunbeck (Horror/Fantasy/Mystery)

Douglas Clegg (Horror/Fantasy/Suspense)

Cullen Bunn (Comics/Fantasy/Horror)

Lincoln Crisler (Horror/Sci-Fi/Comics)

Gina Ranalli (Bizarro/Horror)

Chuck Wendig (Sci-Fi/Fantasy)

Bryan Smith (Horror/Crime)

Kealan Patrick Burke (Horror)

Neil Davies (Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Mystery)

Nancy Kilpatrick (Horror/Erotic Horror/Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Mystery)

Chesya Burke (Horror/Dark Fantasy)

Amber Fallon (Horror)

Steve Rasnic Tem (Fantasy/Horror)

Jeff Vandermeer (Horror/Weird Fiction)

Joe Hill (Horror/Fantasy)

Paul Tremblay (Horror)

Bracken McCleod (Horror)

Bentley Little (Horror)

Ramsey Campbell (Horror)

Simon Clark (Horror)

Graham Masterton (Horror/Extreme Horror/Mystery/Crime)

Greg F. Gifune (Horror)

Gregory Lamberson (Horror)

John Scalzi (Sci-Fi)

Jim C. Hines (Fantasy)

Chet Williamson (Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy)

F. Paul Wilson (Horror/Sci-Fi)

Lee Thomas (Horror)

Ed Kurtz (Horror/Crime)

Armand Rosamilia (Horror)

Garry Charles (Screenwriter of Horror & Fantasy)

Pamela Turner (Horror/Fantasy)

Michael West (Horror/Fantasy)

Bob Freeman (Horror/Fantasy)

John Everson (Horror/Erotic Horror/Dark Fantasy)

John Urbancik (Horror)

Edward Lee (Horror/Extreme Horror)

Richard Laymon (Horror/Splatterpunk/Suspense)

J.F. Gonzalez (Horror/Extreme Horror)

Jack Ketchum (Horror/Extreme Horror/Crime)

John Skipp (Splatterpunk/Horror/Fantasy)

Simon Wood (Thriller/Mystery/Horror)

Carlton Mellick III (Bizarro/Horror/Fantasy)

Deborah LeBlanc (Horror)

K.H. Koehler (Horror/Sci-Fi)

Tracy Devore (Horror/Gothic Romance/Non-Fiction)

Erin Hart (Mystery/Crime)

Brian R. Hill (Fantasy/Thriller)

Tim Lebbon (Horror/Dark Fantasy)


I’m sure I’m forgetting someone…but this is a good start. Happy Hanukkah, Happy Yule, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa….  


Nov 13 17

What would the world be like if all the women disappeared? What would happen to our planet if the only inhabitants were female?

Both of these questions are answered to a certain degree in Stephen King’s latest novel, Sleeping Beauties – co-written with his youngest son, Owen.

In truth, I’d been thinking about the aforementioned questions long before reading this father and son collaboration (and especially after seeing Wonder Woman). The news headlines get more depressing every day. I’ve always loved to read, but more and more lately I find it (and watching comic book movies) necessary for my mental health – an escape from the horrors happening in America.

Sometimes I daydream about living in a society seriously (or completely) lacking in testosterone. Would there be wars waged due to greed, megalomania or religion? I doubt it. Crime would still exist, since women aren’t perfect human beings, but the earth would be a safer place to live in so many ways. (Alas, it takes both sexes to keep the human race going, of course.)

Now…back to the book I’m supposed to be reviewing. I admit when the hefty novel arrived in the mail, I was a little disappointed. I was hoping for a shorter read than 700+ pages. These days I prefer novellas due to my hectic schedule. Also, most of the time, I find lengthy tomes fail to hold my attention because they should have been more ruthlessly edited. (For this reason, I failed to tackle two of Stephen’s previous novels, Duma Key and Under the Dome.)

Sleeping Beauties could have been shorter and would not have suffered from an omission of certain characters and their extensive characterizations. I’ve never read any of Owen King’s previous work. Bringing characters to life in extreme detail is a talent his father has always possessed (and some critics believe he goes too far). I understand that a cast of hundreds is sometimes necessary to bring a story to fruition, but it can be hard to keep all of them straight in my head. (There’s even a fox running around in this tale with his own point of view.)

With Owen’s contribution in descriptions and dialogue, the novel did have a different feel than other King offerings. I’m curious to know which one of them thought up the premise – an idea I immediately found intriguing.

The setting is an Appalachian town not far from Wheeling, West Virginia. One seemingly ordinary day in Dooling, it’s discovered that women who fall asleep cannot wake up. The scientists call the world-wide sickness the Aurora virus. The females are wrapped in mysterious cocoons while they are at rest, and when the fibrous covering is forcibly removed, the women awake in a rage. Before returning to their slumber, they try to kill the person unwise enough to disturb them.

A lot of the action takes place at a local women’s prison. Several of the main characters either work there or are inmates. The jail’s psychiatrist, Clint Norcross, is a key figure, as is his wife Lila, who happens to be Dooling’s sheriff. And then there’s Eve Black – a beautiful young woman who is arrested for murder and whose special abilities convince people she must be a witch.

Of course, I immediately thought of the Biblical version of Eve. Some of the comments she makes early in the book reinforce that portrayal – along with these lines from the prologue, set in an Eden-like clearing complete with exotic animals and a mammoth tree:  “Evie doesn’t trust the snake, obviously. She’s had trouble with him before.”

It becomes apparent that Eve is responsible for the malady that has befallen the female population. She is unaffected by the sleeping sickness. But what’s her motive?

Well, perhaps she’s trying to right a wrong. “I think it may be time to erase the whole man-woman equation. Just hit DELETE and start over.”

She’s set the plan in motion. What happens to the women after they fall asleep? They wake up in what looks like the same world, albeit a post-apocalyptic version many years in the future where all the men have disappeared. Eventually they name their haven Our Place. It’s not a utopia, but the women have a fresh start in a world that has gotten safer.

But what happens to a woman there when she dies in the real world? If she perishes in Our Place, what happens to her cocooned body? Answer: something bad.

In the present, men are having a hard time adjusting to life without the womenfolk – and some idiots even decide to begin torching the sleeping women to prevent the spread of the virus. (I was surprised there were no attempted rape scenes – and no mention of husbands missing their conjugal rights more than the cooking and housekeeping services wives tend to provide).

Chaos begins to reign, and a small faction of Dooling’s male population come up with the idea of storming the prison so they can force Evie to reverse the pandemic.

Is there truly a way for the women to return home? Can the world revert back to normal?

I found the first half of the book to be faster-paced than the second half. As I expected, the denouement was rather open-ended. I wish the enigmatic Eve’s identity and motivations had been more fully explored and revealed. She’s a pivotal character, but we know next to nothing about her and the authors choose to let her origins remain a mystery.

I’d be perfectly willing to give Sleeping Beauties four out of five goblins if it weren’t for its unnecessary lengthiness. I think three and half will have to do.


Oct 24 17

Not only has 2017 been a banner year for the horror genre, it has been an especially good one for adaptations of Stephen King’s work: It, Gerald’s Game, Mr. Mercedes and now 1922 (available on Netflix as of October 20). I haven’t read the novella the movie is based on, but I’ve heard it stays fairly faithful to the source material. (I didn’t forget about The Dark Tower and The Mist, but those offerings weren’t well received.)

1922 is a Gothic horror tale set in the heartland of America – Nebraska, to be precise. I’m a long-time fan of Thomas Jane (Hung, The Expanse, Dreamcatcher), who stars as farmer Wilfred James.

At first I didn’t recognize him in the role – and I certainly didn’t recognize his voice. He constantly squints and speaks with an antiquated drawl  which made understanding some of the dialogue a bit difficult. I found myself wishing he had skipped using the authentic accent of the place and time period, but his portrayal is impressive despite that distraction.

Now to the story…with some spoilers.

Wilfred lives with his wife, Arlene (Molly Parker), and their fourteen-year-old son, Henry (Dylan Schmid), on the family farm, barely eking out a living. Life is hard, but Wilfred refuses to consider moving to the city. When Arlene inherits 100 acres from her late father, she is determined to sell the land, divorce Wilfred, and move to Omaha or St. Louis with Henry. Wilfred tries to change her mind – he doesn’t want to lose the land or his son. When Arlene won’t be swayed to his way of thinking, he comes up with a plan to kill her and involve his son in the murder so the boy will keep quiet and stay tied to his birthright. Gaining Henry’s support becomes easier when he falls for the neighbor’s teenage daughter, and his mother makes it clear he will be forced to move away when she leaves his father.

Henry suggests they smother Arlene, but Wilfred believes that would take too long and be too painful. Murdering a person is harder than they thought it would be – especially when it’s someone you used to love. When they are finished, the bedroom is a gory mess. The empty well in the backyard becomes Arlene’s (somewhat) final resting place. (I’m really not too fond of the doomed cow scene, but it’s a clever way to find an excuse to fill the well and cover up the evidence – and the rats.)

After the dirty deed is done, the two partners in crime enjoy a profitable summer. But guilt is already eating at them both. Wilfred has come up with a solid cover story – saying Arlene took a suitcase and ran off in the middle of the night, presumably to be with someone else. After a short investigation, the local lawman is convinced.

They should be in the clear, but every once in a while, Wilfred thinks he sees Arlene around the property, staring at him accusingly, her cut throat still bleeding. Things go from bad to worse late in the fall when the money runs out and Henry gets his girlfriend pregnant. The two lovebirds run away together to keep her father from sending her to a convent. Wilfred faces the winter alone, with a home and barn sorely in need of repairs.

1922 progresses at a slow burn across a bleak landscape – regret and the consequences of sin play out gradually with Wilfred’s grim narration. Is Arlene’s return a guilt-induced hallucination? What about the rats that constantly torment him? The one time that Arlene speaks, does she actually reveal the tragic fate of their son?

“She told me secrets only a dead woman could know.”

Guilt is a poison, and Wilfred is a haunted man who is forced to leave the farm he sacrificed so much to keep. Ghosts – and his own demons – keep him on the run.

“You always get caught,” he writes in his confession.

(And if you’re lucky, justice will be meted out by law enforcement.)

I’m willing to give 1922 three and a half out of five goblins.

Back to Stephen King…I’m currently reading his latest novel, “Sleeping Beauties” – co-written with his son, Owen. My next blog post will be a review of that effort. (Yes, I’m enjoying the opus so far.)