Sunday, October 15. 2017
Whenever I am preparing to go out to the movies, I always have a sick feeling in my stomach. Not that I don't love going, but I never know when the miscreants are going to ruin it for me. You know the type: the idiots who can't seem to keep their mouths shut long enough to watch a movie. The despicable cretins who think they are, with their loud asinine comments, more entertaining than the movie they and others paid to experience.
I used to make a joke about having snipers posted in the upper corners of theaters, but that isn't so funny when one considers recent horrifying news stories.
The incident I am relating occurred a few months ago. I had a rare free afternoon and I wished to spend it at the movie theater. In peace. A simple ambition, you would think.
The movie in question was The Big Sick, which promised to be a welcome return to form for Judd Apatow. I was excited about the prospect of seeing it.
It had been some time since I had been to the movies. I was stoked and looking forward to a special time. I bought popcorn. I bought hot tea. I was ready.
So I enter the auditorium and was making my way to my preselected seat, and there sat some individual right in the area I had chosen. He gave me a hopeful smile, held up his ticket, and said, "Seat G7?"
Already sick at heart, I agreed that I was, indeed, the lucky owner of the G7 ticket. Beaming, he stood up and with a flourish invited me to sit directly next to him.
You see, this kindly soul looked upon the available seat on the online seating chart, and he decided that he would make someone's day brighter by sitting next to him. Because surely anyone who is sitting by his or herself has to be lonely. Right?
It was like being in some wretched comedy where a hapless straight man runs afoul of some buffoon and gets stuck with him. Think a typically repugnant Will Ferrell comedy. And, in fact, this midguided individual did indeed look a little like Ferrell.
I wanted to move, move for my life, but the theater was getting full. Miserable beyond words, I stayed in the seat and tried to ignore this pest. It was like trying to ignore a particularly infuriating horsefly.
He babbled. He asked about movies. A wee part of me felt sorry for this schlub, but mostly I was pissed.
He could barely speak. "You shee Atomick bowm?". "Atomic Bomb
?", I coldly replied. No slouch he, the guy broke out his smart phone and conjured up an image of the Atomic Blond poster. "No', I replied.
I wanted to scream. I wanted to roar out, "NO, I HAVE NOT SEEN ATOMIC BLOND. I DON'T WANT TO SEE ATOMIC BLOND. I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT ATOMIC BLOND
But, nice guy that I am, I remained quiet. Then, sin of sins, the coming attractions ended and the movie began. Surely this creep would keep his trap shut now, wouldn't he?
What do you think?
He began to inform me about details of characters as they appeared onscreen. I probably should have just demanded that he shut the hell up, but I set my popcorn tub down, sadly bid adieu to my tea, and stomped out of the theater and to my car.
He probably hoped that a woman held the seat, and he could sweep her off her feet with his knowledge of mainstream movies. He almost certainly would have settled for a friend. I have a pretty good feeling that this guy doesn't exactly have a stockpile of bros on his side.
This is yet another example of the lie about treating others how you would like to be treated. To hell with that. Leave people the hell alone, or at least pick up on clues and grant them the peace they obviously want.
Other than Stephen King's It, this was the last time I have attempted to see a movie in public. Before that I tried to see the original Halloween and the audience seemed to think they were at a Rocky Horror screening and hooted and catcalled through the whole thing.
There are movies I want to see, but I don't wish to spend thirty bucks on tickets and concessions only to be infuriated by inconsiderate nincompoops. It doesn't help that theaters are increasingly being set up like living rooms, with recliners and all. It makes the idiots feel like they are in their own homes where they can behave as they wish.
It may seem like a little thing in light of the problems we face in America and in the rest of the world. But I work hard all week, and I have a grueling commute. Having my day off ruined is a pretty big deal to me.
So I don't really go to the theater anymore. I hate movies that look like they were made on a computer, so I guess it really isn't much of a loss these days.
Tuesday, September 26. 2017
It was the 80's. An unbeatable time to be a horror fan. I sometimes think that younger people--fans of this stuff--might get sick of hearing about the era, but to my surprise many enjoy hearing about those days. And look at the popularity of Stranger Things and Stephen King's It, not to mention the recently-published-to-much-excitement Paperbacks From Hell.
It was a great time for horror fiction, and goofy, gloppy horror comedies and sequels were everywhere. But it was also the day of the first real Gorehounds. A tribe of which I proudly numbered myself among.
I had always loved horror movies, and I reveled in the slasher movie cycle. But sometime around the mid 1980's I began reading Fangoria, and my love of horror grew exponentially.
There was, and in fact still is, a comic store in Hampton VA that had a tidy little horror section in it. Magazines and books were what held my interest, and I bought a lot of stuff there. It was at this place of wonder where I beheld the first issue of Deep Red Magazine. I snatched it up off of the shelf with trembling hands, and I instantly knew that I was going to buy it. I was pretty broke in those days, and even the decision to purchase a new magazine was fairly big. There was no doubt, though, that this Deep Red was eminently suited to me.
Deep Red wasn't Fangoria, that's for sure. I loved Fango, especially the Early Timpone years, but Deep Red was a lot more raw. It didn't need to cater to advertisers or to timid publishing execs. Chas Balun and his crew told it like it was. They skewered sacred cows, and they enthusiastically praised worthy movies and directors.
It was the heyday of Italian horror, and I had been learning about names such as Argento, Fulci, and Bava from Fangoria. But in Deep Red I began reading about directors like Ruggero Deodato and Bruno Mattei.
Deep Red also reviewed oddities that no one else in genre journalism would, like the Oingo Boingo nuthouse movie, Forbidden Zone, and Herschell Gordon Lewis kids' movies.
Deep Red was down. Dirty. Rude. Uncompromising. It was also intelligent and discerning. Did I agree with the writers all of the time? Hell, no. They all seemed to hate Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and I have always adored that movie. But I mostly saw eye-to-severed-eye with the Deep Red bunch.
I rented every damned low budget or foreign horror tape I could get my hands on, and I sat through a lot of shitty transfers, brutally cut prints, and just plain bad motion pictures. I loved the thrill of the hunt, and in retrospect it was more fun doing that than having everything available at our bloody fingertips. The chase was at least as fun as watching a gory videocassette.
I bought every issue of Deep Red at that same store, and I loved every one of them. But times changed, and the wonderful little horror section dwindled. They stopped buying and stocking new materials, because frankly I was the only one buying them.
And Deep Red ceased publication. The publisher, Fantaco, folded, as I understand it, and there didn't seem to be as big a market for gorehound publications as the nineties wore on.
Chas Balun did some books of horror journalism, and he published some fiction. I had all of it, but in pressing financial times I sold some of them. What hurts the most was losing Chas's fiction: Ninth and Hell Street and Director's Cut. I'd love to have them again, but alas they command a pretty penny nowadays.
The years went on. Horror fads came and went, but nothing ever compared with the days when I was so excited about seeing a newly unearthed Lucio Fulci picture, or discovering a new Eurohorror filmmaker. The days when Fangoria still had balls and Chas Balun was doing Deep Red.
Chas Balun lost his battle with cancer in December 2009. I never had the opportunity to meet the man, but I felt like I was saying goodbye to one of my closest friends.
Horror movie journalism had lost its luster for me in the ensuing years. Sure there was cool stuff out there, but it didn't have the magic that I once felt in the pages of Deep Red. Horror had lost its guts.
Now here we are in 2017. Horror seems to be popular again, and people are looking to the past. I was delighted when I saw an announcement that Deep Red was going to come back into print. An all-new magazine from many who had worked with Balun before.
Can it work without horror's boldest spokesman at the helm? I'm betting that it will. And I'm putting my money where my mouth is with the Deep Red Kickstarter
drive. As I write these words the goal has already been reached, and Deep Red will be a reality once again. I'd still love to see it be as successful as possible, and I hope, urge, plead with all horror fans to join us in the pledge
to keep the bloody waters flowing.
Sunday, September 10. 2017
There is a misconception that Janz is a new writer. He isn't. He already has 9 novels under his belt, plus multiple novellas. Despite the high quality of these stories (I've read most of them), I suspect there are some big horror readers out there that haven't given him a chance yet. He has already written one of the greatest horror novels of recent memory, Children of the Dark, so I'm not sure what else he has to do to get everyone's attention. Well...
Maybe this double-stack of Exorcist Road and its sequel Exorcist Falls from Sinister Grin Press will do the trick.
I don't like doing plot summaries in my reviews. You can always get a better one from amazon, or from the back of the book itself, so why would you want one from me? All you need to know is 1: They're both exorcism stories (in case you didn't gather that from the titles) and 2: They're both VERY good. Janz's Laymon-esque writing style is in full force here as evidenced by his economy of words and internal dialogue/character motivation sequences. This leads to a lean, fast paced, and compulsively readable narrative.
These are easily two of Janz's strongest works, conveniently collected together in one volume.
Review by Jason Cavallaro
Monday, September 4. 2017
A double-header of Jack Bantry: first is a bigfoot themed novella, and second is issue #8 of his Splatterpunk Zine.
First impression: great title, and great cover art for The Lucky Ones Died First. Second impression is that it's really short, even by splatterpunk standards (108 pages). I was excited to dig in.
Bantry gets a few things right. The book is very fast paced, the action scenes are fun to read, and it has a nice little nasty ending. However, there were a few things that didn't work for me. For one, you never get a detailed description of the Sasquatch. This "less is more/let the reader use their imagination" strategy could potentially work in other monster novels but the problem with using it in a Bigfoot story is that you run the risk of the reader inserting Harry (Harry and the Hendersons) or the Jack Links Sasquatch into the story-which is exactly what I did. Secondly, I had trouble having affinity with any of the characters, which just turned them into cannon fodder for the monster. Also, all of the cliche' horror tropes were on display here: the mayor concerned with negative publicity (Jaws?!), the professional monster hunter (Jaws?), the scientist who no one takes seriously, and the photographer in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The Lucky Ones Died First, even with its flaws, is still a solid debut from Bantry. Thanks to him for sending us a review copy.
Next up is Bantry's Splatterpunk zine #8.
Upon seeing this Splatterpunk zine, I was instantly reminded of being in high school and being handed a taped-up, dog eared, and torn up copy of The Anarchist's Cookbook. It's a simple, photocopied pamphlet in black and white. This is splatterpunk in its rawest form. It's literature's equivalent of seeing an explotaition film in a drive-in cinema.
The zine features interviews (Ray Garton!) and also includes fiction by Bracken Macleod, Ryan C Thomas, Nathan Robinson, and Gabino Iglesias. I thought all 4 stories were solid, and all of the interviews were solid. This would be an excellent gateway into splatterpunk for those not familiar with it. Thanks again to Jack Bantry for sending these copies to www.horrordrive-in.com for review.
Review by Jason Cavallaro
Wednesday, August 30. 2017
Have I ever been so excited about a new horror movie as I am to see the soon-to-be released adaptation of Stephen King's It?
Well, yeah, I think so.
The question takes me back, way back, to my favorite era of the genre: the mid nineteen-eighties. I had been a huge horror fan up until then--for my entire life, really--but reading King's mammoth ode to childhood horror brought it all into crystallized focus.
For me King had done no wrong at that point. Oh, Firestater wasn't a favorite, and some of the short stories didn't quite work for me, but I was an unabashed fan. With sincerest apologies to Mr. King, I didn't much care for some of the later work, but that early period? Perfection. Happily, I've loved everything Big Steve has done in the last decade.
After It I was about as rabid a horror fan as you were likely to find. I began buying and devouring every issue of Fangoria. I read all the authors, or at least the ones that mattered. It was a boom, and a lot of crud littered the shelves. I read the good stuff. Trust me.
Movies, books, you name it. I couldn't get enough. It was a busy time for horror movies, and most of it was horror comedies or sequels. Sometimes a movie was both.
Such is the case with Sam Raimi's frenetic, astonishing, and absolutely brilliant Evil Dead 2. The hype for this movie was strong in Fangoria, and I could not have been more excited.
Sure, I've been stoked about other horror movies since then. Hellraiser, Child's Play, The Lost Boys, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Scream, Hostel, and on and on. Some of these movies I loved. Some were slightly disappointing. At least one completely sucked. But I honestly do not believe that I've ever been as excited about a horror movie since Evil Dead 2.
This is a big deal. Yuge, as they say. So much so that I am planning a trip out of town just so I can see It at a drive-in theater. Can you imagine a better drive-in experience than Stephen King's It?
It's hard, nearly impossible in fact, to maintain the kind of enthusiasm and passion we have in our youth. I consider my mid-twenties to be my youth, by the way. Thirty years have passed. I've followed horror the whole time. Movies, damn straight, but mostly books. I did the splatterpunk thing, the gore/grossout thing (NOT the same as Splatterpunk, by the way), the transgressive movement, you name it. I've come full circle and crave old fashioned horror stories that involve kids and their innermost fears. Isn't that where and how we all became fans in the first place?
I miss the eighties boom, but I don't miss everything about those days. I worked, but the kind of jobs I had were ones where if I bought a new paperback, I probably had to skip a meal to do so. I was poor. I had relationships, but they were unwell, and my addiction and devotion to horror strained them to the breaking point.
Now I make decent money. I still damn near skip meals to buy books, but these books are stunningly beautiful and more expensive than the old paperbacks. Much more expensive. I'm with the best woman I've ever known. The genre has evolved and changed, publishing doesn't bear much resemblance to the pre-Kindle days, and movies look like they were made on computers.
I still love horror and I still love to read. I don't watch nearly as much as I used to, and I'm quite happy about that. I actually have a social life now, and not with drunks and burnouts. My reading time is precious and I value it like little else.
But King's It is very close to being here, and like Evil Dead 2, hype is high. I feel the kind of excitement I felt back in nineteen-eighty-seven, and I was poring over every word of Fangoria Magazine.
I hope that you do not miss the opportunity to see It in the theaters. We all bitch about the quality of horror movies, and how we wish more books would be adapted to the screen. Yeah, It is sort of a remake, but that old miniseries left something to be desired. I like the cast of it and the entire feel of the production, but it fizzled out in the second half.
So, please, go see It and support horror in the theaters. And if there is a drive-in theater within traveling distance, all the better.
Thursday, August 24. 2017
Gillian Foster receives a letter in the mail like any other day, except today is different. The letter brings about a force, one of shadow figures, creatures, that nobody can see but her. She isn't sure what the creatures want, but she only knows it can't be anything good. Quickly she takes her daughter, Meg, away from the home in hopes they can outrun the forces at work, and find somewhere safe. The only problem is, this isn't something that can be outrun.
Fast forward twenty years, and Gillian has been placed in a psychiatric hospital to keep herself under control. Now though, her daughter has received a similar letter, and to her horror the creatures are now something she can see, and she cannot stop them either. She doesn't know if it's something hereditary, something she picked up from her mother's genes, or if it is much worse than that. It could actually be real.
Can Meg find somewhere safe? Is there any way to actually stop these creatures? What is bringing them about in the first place?
In this novella by up and coming author Patrick Lacey, both reality and the space beyond come to life in a fast-paced ride of creepy storytelling. On top of that, the three bonus short stories are all fun little trips and give a better idea of Patrick's scale of writing ability. Overall I'd give this one a B and recommend people start checking Patrick's writing out!
Review by Kyle Lybeck
Tuesday, August 22. 2017
There have been numerous rumors about a third Gremlins film for years and years. As always I greet such things with mixed feelings. Fans are eternal optimists, but we also have learned to expect the worst in situations like the return of a treasured icon like Gremlins.
Recently it has been reported that a script for Gremlins 3 has been completed. So far it sounds almost too good to be true.
Chris Columbus, who wrote the first two Gremlins movies, has written the screenplay. Good. He says that the proposed third movie with be "twisted and dark". Very good. CGI will be limited and old school puppetry is to be employed in Gremlins 3. Better all the time. And star Zach Galligan is said to be returning. Hopefully Phoebe Cates will follow suit.
Maybe they can even dust off poor Corey Feldman to reprise his role. But then Feldman is a long, long way from the cuddly moppet that he was in 1984.
The biggest hope of all is that director Joe Dante will be invited to helm Gremlins 3.
Under Dante's supervision, Gremlins was a huge success. One of the biggest of the 80's, and not just in box office revenue. Merchandising was enormous with Gremlins. Kids could not get enough of those cute, diabolical little demons.
It's kind of a retro surprise that Gremlins was as big as it was. It's a pretty dark movie. Not just the lovable Mogwai turning violent, but the Christmas theme is pretty ominous. It's still hard to believe that the execs allowed the Phoebe Cates rant against the holiday to be in the final cut.
I love that speech, and I love Gremlins. I enjoy it all, but I particularly like the early, Capra-esque moments in the beginning of the movie.
Just imagine the possibilities of Gremlins in today's world. The damage they could inflict upon software. I'd love to see social media chaos, such as liberals waking to see that they have bestowed praise upon Donald Trump, or conservatives aghast when they see Facebook updates in their name pleading for the return of Barrack Obama.
Curiously, there is a wealthy businessman character in Gremlins 2 named Daniel Clamp, who bears a marked similarity to America's current president.
But would Universal entrust an aged director like Dante to bring a big budget project like a Gremlins sequel to the screen? Why not? Warner did it with George Miller and Mad Max, and it turned out to be the right decision.
Centerfold to the October 1984 issue of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Magazine
Wednesday, August 16. 2017
Do you remember back in two-thousand-and-two?
The internet was still relatively new
Our hearts were still young and strong and true
I moderated several busy message boards
Supporting horror was the goal we headed toward
Now there is a different game in store
Social Media killed the message board star
Social Media killed the message board star
Facebook came and broke my heart
And so I lurk at an abandoned forum rink
Photobucket has broken all the links
If you ask me the situation stinks
It was a great time
But now a late time
Social Media killed the message board star
Social Media killed the message board star
Facebook came and broke my heart
In my mind and at my desk
We can't delete we've left the nest
Put the blame on the beta test
Now advertisers watch everything I do
And all the authors beg for Amazon reviews
It makes me feel so lonely and confused
a message board sta-a-a--ar
When did the Internet become so ugly
I started Horror Drive-In as a nostalgia site devoted to horror fiction, exploitation movies, and drive-in theaters. Now I'm nostalgic for the days when the site was new.
I've been doing this stuff for--has it really almost been twenty years? How many hours have I spend pecking away at a keyboard, talking horror?
It was a lot of fun. Especially in the early days, when it was something new to be able to talk with people around the globe about horror. I was instantly hooked.
And from almost the start, I saw amazing success with message boards. The first board I moderated is still probably the best memory. I went on to do more, and my boards were always crowded.
Most people were really cool, too. A few problems here and there, but they were very few and very far between.
How did it all change?
The big sites grew more and more popular. Facebook was and is still the biggest, and that's where almost all my old friends have fled to. A few still hang out at the boards, God bless 'em. Some have disappeared altogether. I guess they finally grew up and didn't care to play any more.
I think a big part of it is, people didn't like having others moderate their posts. Everyone is his or her own boss at Facebook. Arguments are easily won. Delete offending posts or unfriend the offending user. With Facebook, everyone is the star of their own reality TV show, and their delighted fans can read about how tired they are, how work sucks, what's for dinner, and of course their prized political opinions.
Authors can self promo all they want without getting called down for it, as occasionally happened at the boards. And, yes, they can urge their readers to write Amazon reviews.
Remember when writers used to bitch that all readers were owed were the actual books they purchased? This happened when readers claimed that writers owed their success to their readers. Now buying a book isn't enough, we are supposed to write reviews for them, too. You got a royalty, and now I have to do that? What else can I do? Wash your car? Mow your yard?
All right, I get it. I seriously doubt that writers enjoy asking their readers to write Amazon reviews. It's the way the game is played today. I don't have to like it, and I don't, in fact, like it. I don't do Amazon reviews. I can barely respond to the emails I get, and I don't have time to write reviews for my own site, so why would I bother to do so at a webstore I despise?
Like I say, the rules have all changed. Amazon, social media, smart phones. People are getting rich off this shit, but I guarantee it isn't me, and I bet you aren't exactly floating in cash either.
I busted my damned ass in the early days of Horror Drive-In. Writing essays, reviewing books and movies, keeping the message boards active. I had hopes that it might all come to something. Why not? I had very respectable numbers in the first few years of the site's existence. I hoped for ad revenue, but I have gotten very little. People told me that I had to pursue that kind of thing, but I have no idea how to go about that. Now numbers are down, of course, because my uploads have been far more infrequent.
I often feel like I have wasted my damned time. Like all the work I've done, the time I've put in, hasn't amounted to a hill of beans. Then I tell myself to stop with the self pity.
I seriously doubt that I would be with Cemetery Dance if it weren't for Horror Drive-In. I've met some of the best friends of my life through Horror Drive-In But still...
I point to Facebook as part of the blame, but I'm as guilty as anyone. I use Facebook probably more than I do the HD-I forum. It's easier to post pictures there for one thing. And I get a lot more comments about how people love my Reading in the Great Outdoors posts at Facebook than I get feedback about Horror Drive-In these days.
Times change. People change. Trends change. I feel out of touch with most horror fiction these days. People at the Drive-In boards want to talk about TV shows and superhero movies instead of classic exploitation pictures. I don't blame them, and I am not the sort to tell people what to talk about.
I think some people left in disgust. There were problems and some felt that I didn't handle them in the proper way. But let me tell you something: when shit gets ugly at the boards, nothing a moderator does will please everyone, and no matter what course you take, people will be complaining or talking crap about you for your actions. It's goddamn thankless.
I've all but stopped using the boards. Things just don't seem the same. People get testy too easily, and I am not just pointing fingers. I'm as guilty as others. We have more stimuli and experiences at our fingertips than most of us ever imagined, and people have just gotten angrier and more self righteous.
My domain contract is over at the end of the year, and once again I am toying with the idea of letting it go. People tell me I'd miss it, and they're right. But I am also not much enjoying Horror Drive-In anymore.
It makes me want to shuck it all and just read like the old days. Which is pretty much what I've been doing.
I've accepted donations in the past to keep this website afloat. This time I am going to either pay for it all myself, or simply let it go. I'm one of the last of the old school message boards still going, but everything has to end sometime, doesn't it?
Though my time is more limited than ever, I'll try some more over the next few months left in twenty-seventeen. I'll try to get motivated to write reviews. To post at the forums. Maybe some of the old enthusiasm will return. If not?
Tuesday, August 8. 2017
I've read quite a bit of Simon Clark's books, especially in the Dorchester/Leisure era. I still cite Blood Crazy as one of the best zombie novels ever written. Darkness Demands and Vampyrrhic are also high quality horror novels on my shelf.
With that being said, my interest in Clark took a downswing in the early 2000's when he released a few books that were (in my opinion) way inferior to his earlier stuff (The Tower, In This Skin, Death's Dominion).
Still, I'm an optimist at heart, so I couldn't pass up a chance at getting an ARC of his latest. I haven't read him in years, and maybe things have changed?
...things haven't changed. This is an odd little novella concerning Sherlock Holmes, nazi's, and war. It's more historical fiction than horror for sure; which isn't a bad thing. My problem is that I never got "hooked" into the story. I was never fully invested in the characters, or even the plot. The story manages to gather up a little bit of momentum towards the end, but even that ended up being unsatisfying and clunky.
Review by Jason Cavallaro
Sunday, July 30. 2017
I need the Scares That Care Weekend
I turned fifty-six years old last month, and sometimes it's hard to keep from having the grumpy old horror fan syndrome. "You punks don't know good horror fiction! Why, in my day we had KARL EDWARD WAGNER! CHARLES L. GRANT! PETER STRAUB! T.E.D. KLEIN! DENNIS ETCHISON!".
Yeah, I feel that way sometimes, and it's lethal. It's a good way to grow old where it counts, and that's upstairs. Like those rubes with the shirts that say things like, "I may be old, but I got to see all the good bands!". Nyah, nyah nyah.
I do cherish the memories I have of reading and watching horror throughout the nineteen eighties. I stick to my guns that it was the greatest era for the genre, and I've had a lot of young readers tell me that they not only agree, but that they wish they had been around back then. Me, I wish I was young today. Sort of.
I can have my head buried in the past all I want, but the truth is, horror fiction is thriving right now. It's considerably more dicey than it was my my heyday, with the swamp of self-published materials out there, but despite that, there is one hell of a lot of phenomenal horror fiction on the market today.
You'll be hard pressed to find a place anywhere in which you'll see more horror fiction on display than the Scares That Care Weekend. Not just books are on display, but the authors themselves, and publishers. It's a thriving community, and like all communities, there are good streets and poor ones. But you have to walk down those roads for yourself to determine which is which.
Last weekend, as I write this, I attended the fourth Scares That Care Weekend (they deliberately eschew calling it a convention). It was a smoothly run event from the start, and this year was the best yet. STC is a charity organization, and every penny over and above costs goes to families in need.
There are media guests at Scares That Care, but frankly I am mostly uninterested in them. I don't even really know who half of them are (see old fogey references above). I'm there each year for the writers and the readers. In short: the horror fiction community, of which I have considered myself to be a part of for nearly twenty years.
The guests this year were a delightful mix of genre legends, current stars, and rising newcomers. The legends included Thomas F. Monteleone, John Skipp, Edward Lee, Joe R. Lansdale, John Maclay, and Chet Williamson. Today's heavy-hitters were represented by Jonathan Janz, Ronald Malfi, Mary SanGiovanni, and Paul Tremblay. And there were numerous new talents out there struggling to gain a foothold in the field.
It's a fantasy weekend for horror fiction fans, where you can step up and chat with favorite writers, or make friends with the new guys on the chopping block. And there are fans everywhere. It isn't a pro-centric event like World Horror or NECON, but a gathering of pros and fans. A harmonic weekend of horror.
What could be better for a fan or an aspiring writer? A great time, partying, books galore, and all for an unbeatable cause. You can literally feel the good will from everyone in attendance.
There are plenty of thanks to go around, but mostly I grateful to Joe Ripple for being the one who created the Scares That Care organization, and who holds it all together. Of course his staff are all overjoyed to be there, and together they make it all happen. Then there is Brian Keene, who organizes the author programming, and does God only knows what all else for the event.
No pay. Hard work. Endless headaches. They do it for people in need, and also for a great time for the horror community.
I started this piece off by saying that I need Scares That Care. And I do. This weekend of horrors is critical in keeping me up to date and aware of the changes in the genre. But you know what? Scares That Care needs me, too. They need all of us. The attendees who pay for admission, the ones who donate money, time, and valuable auction items. Scares That Care
is truly a group effort and I see mutual appreciation and gratitude in just about every face I see there.
Thanks to everyone involved, and I hope and pray for this joyous, beautiful event to go on for years to come.
Wednesday, July 26. 2017
Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country hit the market last year and had an immediate impact. It seemed like you couldn't find a 2016 top ten list that didn't have this book listed: GoodReads Choice awards finalist, Barnes and Noble Best of 2016 list, Locus Award finalist, etc.
So, Lovecraft Country found its way into my amazon list of "things I may want to read." It got bumped higher on my list when it was announced that it would be adapted into an HBO series by Jordan Peele (Get Out). Matt Ruff, it seems, is no longer an unknown. In any case, I loved Get Out so I decided to take the plunge.
It's a unique story. It deals with Jim Crow-era America racism and....HP Lovecraft? It's a mishmash of racial tension, pulp horror, and historical fiction, which sometimes worked for me and sometimes didn't. I appreciated the effort of making something NEW, which he did accomplish. The story is told in separate, but linked episodes. That turned me off a little, as I just don't enjoy that particular storytelling format. Story arcs are set aside in order to create new ones, which was just too jarring for me.
However, if you're a Lovecraft fan and want something that is completely different from the contemporary Lovecraft emulation out there, you will probably like this more than I did.
Review by Jason Cavallaro
Sunday, July 16. 2017
I'm no fan of the undying zombie trend, but how can any self-respecting horror fan pass up an anthology called Nights of the Living Dead? Especially when it was co-edited by none other than the Godfather of the modern zombie ghoul, George A. Romero? Add in new stories by favorites like Brian Keene, David J. Schow, John Skipp, Joe R. Lansdale, and Jay Bonansinga, plus new fiction by John Russo and Romero himself, and this book is a dead-brainer.
Of course I could have saved a few bucks by ordering online, and I would have done so with B&N.com, but I felt like reliving that retro feeling of walking into a bookstore and purchasing a book from a real live human being. Besides, too many employees of the USPS seem like they would have a more appropriate position in a cheap-ass zombie movie.
So, to Barnes and Noble brick and mortar I went.
I live closer to one in Hampton, VA, but I was in Newport News this morning. The N.N. store was the first in my area, back in the mid-90's, and I was so glad to have it. I feel the pain of those who lost beloved indie bookstores from big box places like B&N and Borders, but we never had a decent independent store here. Despite the large population, this military and industrial region has never exactly been a bastion of culture.
I used to go to this Barnes and Noble every weekend when it opened. A different time, and a different set of rules in regard to book distribution. Electronic books have been around a long time. As early as nineteen forty-nine, in fact, but they came into forceful prominence with the advent of Amazon's Kindle device. Since then distribution has changed a lot. Maybe no so much for bestsellers, but for a lot of smaller genre writers, you can't find their stuff at the major bookstores.
I weaned off of my regular weekly trips to Barnes and Noble. I don't even go monthly now. In fact, it's quite a bit less often than that. I do continue to buy books, but they are often used, and I can't resist the temptation of the discounts the online stores offer.
I enjoyed walking into that old B&N. It still has loads of junk cluttering the place, and I guess all of those games and calendars and coloring books have helped the ailing corporation stay afloat. Me, I just think of all the shelf space could be devoted to books. But then as far back as I can recall, Barnes and Noble has always been filled with perpetrators.
I enjoyed looking at the magazines. I was more than a bit shocked to see that standbys like Videoscope, Scary Monsters, and Filmfax are still in circulation. Gotta admire these stalwarts for hanging in there. I almost bought one or two, but the truth is, with the internet there is more information about movie readily available than I will ever care to have.
I also saw some other cool stuff. The paperback cover of Grady Hendrix's excellent My Best Friend's Exorcism is ultra cool, and it reminds me of an older trade paperback of Brett McBean's The Last Motel.
I began to look in earnest for Nights of the Living Dead, but I couldn't find it. Surely they stocked a copy of this one...? It wasn't in the general fiction section, and not there in science fiction. I didn't see it in the new publications displays either. WTF. I was thinking that they had done a pretty damned good job of hiding it, when I realized that B&N has a section devoted to anthologies.
For the love of Lovecraft, would it be too much to have a Horror section? Borders had one, as did WaldenBooks and B. Dalton. Sure, it wouldn't be a perfect system, and not all books fall comfortably into one generic categorization, but it would be helpful for those of us who enjoy the dark stuff to be able to waltz up and peruse an area just for us. Chances are we would find something that we hadn't realized was out yet.
But at least I have it, and I plan to dive into the living dead just as soon as I am done the book I am currently reading.
I'm also grateful that, despite predictions, there are still bookstores out there, and still paperbacks to be had. Even if I do have to pay almost twenty bucks to own one.
Sunday, June 25. 2017
I've made a terrible mistake. About two years ago I read Malfi's excellent novel, Floating Staircase, and for some reason I didn't immediately seek out his other books. If you haven't read him, don't make the same mistake that I did.
In the Acknowlegements section of the book, Malfi states, "Any writer worth their salt has inside them at least one good book about their childhood."
The plot of this one concerns a close knit group of young boys who live in a small town plagued by a serial killer. What follows is a beautifully written story about the power of friendship and the trials of growing up.
I'm a connoisseur of coming-of-age novels, so believe me when I tell you that December Park will not be out of place on your bookshelf next to King's IT, McCammon's Boy's Life, Simmon's Summer of Night, or even Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes.
5 stars! highly recommended
Review by Jason Cavallaro
Sunday, June 18. 2017
I've been having this pleasant daydream: George R.R. Martin, mega-famous writer of the Game of Thrones industry, didn't write all of that epic fantasy stuff. I realize that the idea sounds horrible to a lot of people, but not me. I'm sure that the books are beautifully written, but my love affair with fantasy began and ended with Tolkien. Yeah, I tried some Brooks, some Donaldson, but they weren't for me.
No, imagine with me, horror fans, that GRRM followed The Armageddon Rag with another horror novel. And another. And another after that. And so on.
Imagine if you will that Martin wrote and published big, fat, wonderfully-written horror novels ever after, to this day and beyond. Perhaps even overtaking Stephen King as the biggest writer in our dark little literary genre.
It could have happened. Really, it could have.
Before Armageddon Rag, Martin did Fevre Dream. Horror was hot and getting hotter by the day. And these two novels are as good as anything ever written in the horror field, in my slightly humble opinion. However...
While the fabled horror boom of the 80's was barrelling in, Martin kind of got left behind. The Armageddon Rag was a complete disaster. Not so much critically, but commercially. It simply did not sell.
I bought it. I distinctly remember being attracted to the cover of the paperback while I was in a grocery store. I knew GRRM's name from the Science Fiction field, where he had been working in for a decade or so beforehand. I had read some short stories, which were good. Like some others at the time, like Thomas F. Monteleone, F. Paul Wilson, and Charles L. Grant, George R.R. Martin was shifting toward the lucrative horror genre.
The boom, as I said, was underway, and for my own journey from SF fan to Horror lover, Fevre Dream and The Armageddon Rag were both important and influential books. I devoured The Armageddon Rag over the course of a weekend, and then I located a used copy of Fevre Dream the following week, and I read it withing a couple of days.
Fevre Dream is a historical novel that sort of combines the steamboat setting of Mark Twain with Bram Stoker. It's certainly one of the greatest vampire novels ever published, and it came long before the thought of a vampire story served well as an ipecac to discerning horror readers.
I think I might like The Armageddon Rag a bit more. Rag was ahead of the curve and it beat the Splatterpunks to the rock and roll horror punch by a few years. The novel serves as a taut and scary supernatural suspense story with a hard rock backdrop, but also as a lament to the optimism and hope of the Sixties and the hippie generation.
I've read quite a few books twice, but there are precious few that I have done so more than that. I recently found the two pictured trade paperbacks at a thrift store, and I bought them. I am reading The Armageddon Rag for the third time in my life, and I think I am enjoying it more now than I did the other two times.
Why does one good book sell like gangbusters, and another tanks? If that were an answerable question, every publisher would be as flush as Fort Knox.
It makes me sad, but I doubt that George R.R. Martin, or his agent, are losing any tears over his departure from the horror genre. Still, I can dream, can't I?
And, yes, I can read these books again. As well as his novella, The Skin Game, or his nerve-jangling horror-SF short story, Sandkings. You can, and should, as well.
Sunday, June 11. 2017
In the future universe, where you can travel through wormholes into other galaxies, the rules have changed. In these new times, there are those called FixIts. They are sent by The Company to take care of problems that may arise. These problems could be anything from discrepancies, to terraforming a planet, to outright destroying the planet entirely if it was called for. These FixIts have total control, wherever they go. Their clearance goes beyond anything else set forth, but it's that clearance that can also get them into undesirable situations.
One of these men goes by the name of Gerrold. The toll that the job as a FixIt has taken on him is unlike many others. His wife begs for him to stay with his family, to not go out on any more jobs when he's called. The problem is he has to go, there is no saying "no" to The Company. That's when Gerrold finds out something else is going on with his wife, something that will tear them apart from the inside. Then his child comes down with an extremely rare illness, and Gerrold has no other choice but to take one final unknown job, a job that could get him killed, a job that could save his child's life. In the end, a man is brought to his final reserves, pushed to his limits, and taken to hell and back for the life he has chosen.
In this latest novel by Michaelbrent Collings, it takes quite the turn from previous novels I have read and reviewed for him at The Horror Drive-In. Normally the books I read from him are fast paced, horror and thriller based. This one went in a much different direction, leaning much more towards sci-fi/thriller, with a few little tidbits of horror thrown in. I'm not going to lie, I'm not really a sci-fi fan, but the story intrigued me, so I went ahead and volunteered my time to read and review this one. The pacing is a little slower than what I had been used to from his other novels, but it still packed the same style of emotional punch I'm used to getting from Michaelbrent, with characters that make you care about who you're reading about.
Overall, I'd say if you're looking for a little change of pace from your horror novels, check this one out. It might just pique your interest and give you a nice break from the usual. I'm giving this one a solid B rating, and want to thank Michaelbrent for lending me an ARC review copy so I could write this review for you guys.
Review by Kyle Lybeck