Horror


Inspection: Here’s how to ruin your experience with this book

Inspection by Josh Malerman

Here’s how to ruin your experience with this book: Read the publisher’s blurb below, think it sounds sweet and thoughtful, and then order an audio copy that doesn’t have a book jacket containing quotes from Chuck Wendig and J.D. Barker. The publisher’s blurb goes like this:

J is a student at a school deep in a forest far away from the rest of the world. J is one of only twenty-six students, all of whom think of the school’s enigmatic founder as their father. J’s peers are the only family he has ever had. The students are being trained to be prodigies of art, science, and athletics, and their life at the school is all they know — and all they are allowed to know. But J suspects that there is something out there, beyond the pines, that the founder does not want him to see, and he’s ... Read More

Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Volume 1 & Volume 2

Mostly Void, Partially Stars: Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Volume 1
The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe: Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Volume 2


by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

Perhaps you’re familiar with the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, created in 2012 by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, which takes the form of twice-monthly, roughly-30-minute dispatches from the community radio station in a small, exceptionally weird and yet utterly normal desert town. If you haven’t listened to the podcast, now in its seventh year, perhaps you’ve read the stand-alone novels Welcome to Night Vale or It Devo... Read More

Middlegame: Blood is thicker than alkahest

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire brings together horror, alchemy, and fantasy in Middlegame (2019), a novel about ambition, power, creation, family, genius, and imagination. And because it’s a McGuire novel, there are also plenty of things that go bump in both the day and the night, a terrifying amount of corn, a refutation of pastoral/nostalgic Americana as viewed through the lens of classic children’s literature, and a battle-scarred old tomcat.

James Reed and his assistant Leigh Barrow ― a pair of rebel alchemists of the mad scientist type ― have been doing human experimentation for years, trying to make/breed (it's a combination of both) children who will embody the "Doctrine of Ethos" and have godlike magical powers. Because putting all this power in one person hasn’t worked, they split ... Read More

A Hawk in the Woods: Monsters may be scary, but it’s family that’ll get you

A Hawk in the Woods by Carrie Laben

Abby Waite, a moderately successful internet celebrity, is diagnosed with a terminal disease. The prognosis, even with treatment, isn’t good, so Abby decides it’s time to break her twin sister Martha, serving a twenty-year sentence for murder, out of prison, and go to the family cabin in Minnesota. It should come as no real surprise that the prison-break is the easiest thing to accomplish in A Hawk in the Woods (2019), by Carrie Laben, a road-trip-family-reunion-horror-story inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Thing on the Doorstep.”

Both Waite daughters have powers. They are orphaned, and now that they are out on the road, it seems that they have attracted the attention of various horror-style predators. The story alternates between the weird road trip and flashbacks to ... Read More

Happy Death Day: Unexpectedly fun

Happy Death Day by Christopher Landon

Since Groundhog Day came out in 1993, the premise of a single person being forced to live the same day over and over again has been adapted for the science fiction (Edge of Tomorrow), thriller (Run Lola Run), and psychological horror (Salvage) genres, with even television episodes from Charmed, The X-Files and Xena: Warrior Princess getting in on the act.

Happy Death Day passes the idea over the slasher genre, in which Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) relives her birthday countless times — with it ending in her murder at the hands of a masked killer each time. The solution seems clear: she has to figure out who it is that keeps killing her if she's to move forward with her life.

One of the staple components of this type of story is that the main character learns something from their experience. In this case Tree is that typica... Read More

Queen of No Tomorrows: Atmospheric writing in a story of LA Noir-weird

Queen of No Tomorrows by Matt Maxwell

Matt Maxwell’s 109-page novel (I’d call it a novella), Queen of No Tomorrows (2018), mixes American tentacular-weird with LA Noir, flavoring the story with bits of pot-smoke-fueled punk imagery of the 1980s. It is a story that thrives on shadows.

Cait MacReady works as a book restorer for the Los Angeles Public Library. On the side, she locates rare, exotic occult volumes for discerning customers… or, when the books are unavailable, creates them herself. She is an expert forger, and when Queen of No Tomorrows opens we learn that Cait has created her first original book, which she has named The Smoking Codex. Cait feels as if she practically channeled the book; she wrote the text as if in a dream and doesn’t know where the inspiration for the artwork came from. It is a masterpiece and she is proud of it. Now s... Read More

SFM: Gailey, Pinsker, Fox, Bruno

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Bill and Tadiana both weigh in on a few more of this year's Nebula nominees (and one other excellent short story that Tadiana thinks should have been nominated), and Tadiana comments on the 20Booksto50K Nebula controversy.

“STET” by Sarah Gailey (2018, free at Fireside magazine)

“STET” is in the form of a draft of a scholarly article by a woman named Anna, in which she and her editor exchange increasingly agitated (at least on Anna’s side) written comments about the article’s references and footnotes. “STET” begins with a section on “Autonomous Conscience and Automotive Casualty.” It sounds dry, and reading the paragraph of body text from this... Read More

Ghosted (Vol. 1): Haunted Heist: Haunted houses, possession, and revenge

Ghosted (Vol. 1): Haunted Heist by Joshua Williamson, Miroslav Mrva, Goran Sudzuka

In Ghosted (vol. 1): Haunted Heist by Joshua Williamson, we meet Jackson T. Winters, currently in prison after an armed robbery gone wrong. It turns out that his death wish is not simply because he hates living inside a prison; rather, it’s because of a supernaturally disturbing vision he had the day of the robbery — it turns out the casino they were robbing was built on an ancient and sacred burial ground. Also, in the course of the robbery, every member of his team dies but him, and he is left alone to be caught by the police. The story takes off when he hears gunshots while sitting on his bunk in his cell. In minutes, a woman, Anderson Lake, opens his cell, kills his two cellmates, and knocks him out. When he wakes up again... Read More

SFM: Harrow, Kemper, Kowal, Lawrence

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted to share with you. 



“Do Not Look Back, My Lion” by Alix E. Harrow (2019, free in Beyond Ceaseless Skies, Issue #270, Jan. 31, 2019; 99c Kindle magazine issue)

“Do Not Look Back, My Lion,” begins and ends with Eefa leaving home — she cannot bear to see her daughters and wife march to war any longer, is tired of her wife’s promises that this child (and this child and that child) will be the last marked at ... Read More

Welcome to Night Vale: Buckle up — it’s going to be a weird ride

Reposting to include Skye's new review.

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

If you enjoy horror in all its many forms, or just plain Weird Stuff, odds are good that you’ve at least heard of (if not been sucked into the fandom vortex of) the highly-acclaimed podcast Welcome to Night Vale. Its creators, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, have spent the last five years expanding upon a central premise — there’s a desert town in the southwestern region of the United States, where all manner of strange things happen and time doesn’t really exist — through twice-monthly podcast episodes. The success of the podcast has led to a number of other projects, including this novel, Welcome to Night Vale (2015), which is a perfect entry point for anyone wondering what... Read More

Nightflyers: Mystery and horror aboard a haunted spaceship

Reposting to include Marion's review of the new SYFY channel adaptation of Nightflyers. You can find it below our reviews of the novella.

Nightflyers by George R.R. Martin

Nightflyers was first published in 1980, won the Locus Award for best novella, and was nominated for a Hugo Award. It was made into an unsuccessful film in 1987. It’s recently been on people’s radars due to the upcoming SYFY series based on the novella. You can purchase it in several new (2018) formats including an illustrated edition, a story collection, and an audio version. I listened to the audio version, which was narrated by a... Read More

Deliver Me From Eva: A flabbergasting thrill ride

Deliver Me From Eva by Paul Bailey

Once again, I am indebted to Stephen Jones and Kim Newman’s excellent overview volume Horror: 100 Best Books for alerting me to the existence of a great read that I probably would never have run across without their assistance. In this case, the novel in question is Paul Bailey’s Deliver Me From Eva, which was chosen for inclusion in that volume by no less a figure than Forrest J. Ackerman — former editor of the beloved magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, renowned literary agent, and legendary collector of horror and sci-fi movie memorabilia — himself. The book, Ackerman tells us, was one that he first read upon its initial publication in 1946, but had never forgotten, and any reader of this absolutely flabbergasting thrill ride will surely understand why.

Paul Bailey, I should perhap... Read More

Fear: Hubbard’s classic horror thriller demands to be read at a breakneck pace

Fear by L. Ron Hubbard

The professional reputation of Nebraska-born writer L. Ron Hubbard, it seems to me, has taken a double hit since his heyday in the 1940s. Hubbard, of course, was the founder of the cultish sect known as Scientology, and ever since the release of his initial article on Dianetics in the May 1950 issue of John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science-Fiction, and the founding of the group two years later, his name has been unavoidably linked to this oft-maligned pseudoreligion. And then there was the notorious film version of Hubbard’s 1982 doorstop of a novel Battlefield Earth, featuring Scientologist John Travolta in a picture that most viewers seem to have found dreadful, if not laughable. (Full confession: I have never read the... Read More

Alice Isn’t Dead: Anxiety Bros, unite!

Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink

Alice Isn’t Dead (2018) is a stand-alone novel, adapted from the three-season podcast of the same name, both of which were created by Joseph Fink. Where I would have given the podcast 3.5 stars, the novel is much more cohesive and much more successful at telling this story. Lines like “Earl’s eyes were empty pools of water” and “The subtext of America wasn’t just text here, it was in letters five feet tall” are less awkward, more natural, when delivered by an omniscient narrator rather than a lone woman monologuing over a CB radio to anyone who will listen.

Keisha Taylor wasn’t always a long-haul trucker. But then, her wife Alice wasn’t always dead. (Or is she? It’s certainly up for debate, which is why Keisha’s on the road to begin with.) One day, without any ... Read More

The Woman in Black: A classic ghost story

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

So what does a young actor do after starring in one of the most lucrative franchises in cinema history? That was the precise dilemma facing the 22-year-old Daniel Radcliffe in 2011, upon the completion of his 8th and final Harry Potter film. The Potter series had brought in a whopping $7.7 billion worldwide over its 10-year run, firmly establishing Radcliffe as an international star. And so, the question: What next? Wisely, the young actor’s follow-up project was another in the supernatural/fantasy vein, and one that was also based on an already well-loved source. The film was 2012’s The Woman In Black, another successful film for Radcliffe, having been produced for $15 million and bringing in almost $130 million at the box office. The film was based on English author Susan Hill’s 1983 novel of the sam... Read More

Psycho: The modern horror era begins

Psycho directed by Alfred Hitchcock

It is not every filmmaker who can manage the difficult trick of coming up with four consecutive masterpieces, but that is just what British director Alfred Hitchcock was able to do as the late 1950s segued into the '60s. His 1958 offering, Vertigo, took time to find its audience but today is recognized by the British Film Institute's Sight and Sound magazine as the single greatest motion picture ever made; 1959's North by Northwest is surely one of the all-time great entertainments; 1960's Psycho practically jump-started the modern-day horror industry all on its own, and remains the director's most well-known film; and 1963's The Birds is still a baby-boomer favorite to this day.

But of those four films, all of which reside on my personal Top 100 Favorite Films list, it is the third, Psycho, that remains my favorite after all these years, and indeed, I person... Read More

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer: Pretty potent stuff

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer directed by John McNaughton

Loosely based on the real-life exploits of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, who confessed to the slayings of over 600 people but who was ultimately convicted in the homicide of a "mere" 11, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer changes some of the established facts around, yet remains a very strong experience for the viewer. As revealed on a certain Wiki site, the film was shot in just four weeks in 1986, at a cost of around $110,000, but was not released until four years later. Despite its great reputation, it is a film that I had long put off watching, having a suspicion that it would be a rather unpleasant experience for me overall. But lately, I have been exposing myself to a bunch of previously dreaded films (such as Blood Sucking Freaks and 1978's Read More

SFM: Jackson, Rucker, Ochse, Armstrong

Short Fiction Monday: Our reviews of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. For this year's Halloween week column, we offer a selection of haunted house stories. (The first story is admittedly pushing the boundaries of that classification, but it was too good to leave out.)

 

“The Man in the Woods” by Shirley Jackson (published 2014, free in The New Yorker)

Christopher, a college student, leaves school one day for reasons he can’t even articulate to himself, and walks for days through towns and fields, eventually making his way into a forest. The trees ominously press in on him, but a cat has joined him on his journey through the forest, giving him some companionship and comfort. Christopher and the cat eventually come across a stone house in the forest. He’s invited i... Read More

The Happening: Respectful awe

The Happening directed by M. Night Shyamalan

Following the inanity of the borderline train wreck that was 2006's Lady in the Water, writer/producer/director M. Night Shyamalan rebounded in a very big way with his next film, 2008's The Happening. His contribution to the type of eco-horror film that was all the rage in the 1960s and '70s — I’m thinking of such films as 1963's The Birds, 1972's Frogs, 1977's Kingdom of the Spiders and 1978's The Swarm ... not to mention the little-seen 1976 Spanish classic Who Can Kill a Child? — the film seems to have divided his fan base and resulted in a bona fide critical flop of sorts. Indeed, the woman who I sit next to at work, a big admirer of film auteur Shyamalan, hated the film, although she professes a love for Lady in the Water, a picture that I found to be ... Read More

Brides of Dracula: Even without Lee, a very fine Hammer offering

Brides of Dracula directed by Terence Fisher

The title is something of a misnomer. As the story goes, following the worldwide success of Hammer Studios' The Horror of Dracula in 1958, star Christopher Lee decided that he did not wish to participate in any possible sequel, fearing that he might be later typecast in the vampiric role. Thus, despite the sequel's title, Brides of Dracula not only does not feature Lee's participation at all, but the world's most famous neck nosher is nowhere to be found. Rather, what the viewer gets here is another Transylvanian vampire, an acolyte of Dracula's dark religion, if you will. But the results, even without Lee, are still most impressive, and even though Lee would later return in the following decades to appear in no fewer than six Dracula films for Hammer (Dracula, Prince of Darkness in '66; Dracula Has Risen From the Grave in '68; Taste the Blood of Dracula and Sc... Read More

Split: A dude with TOO much personality

Split directed by M. Night Shyamalan

Over the years, there have been any number of films that have dealt with lead characters who suffer with what the layman might term "split personality." Putting aside all the many iterations of the Jekyll & Hyde story, in 1957, audiences were given both Lizzie, in which Eleanor Parker played a woman with three distinct personalities, and, five months later, the more well-known The Three Faces of Eve, in which Joanne Woodward played a woman with the exact same predicament. In 1960, theatergoers were shocked out of their showers via their introduction to Tony Perkins' Norman Bates, a young man who was also his own mother, in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. The situation was played for laughs in 1963's The Nutty Professor, with Jerry Lewis portraying the hapless Prof. Julius Kelp AND his alter ego, the Dean Martin-like Buddy Love. But you would have to take all the preceding alter egos... Read More

Witch House: Sarai, Sarai, quite contrary

Witch House by Evangeline Walton

Ever since British author Horace Walpole kick-started the haunted house genre with his seminal short novel of Gothic romance, The Castle of Otranto (1765), there have been hundreds of short stories and dozens of novels centered on this most shuddery of literary subjects. But for this reader, the two novels at the very top of the ectoplasmic heap have long been Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House (1959), still the most spine-tingling book that I have ever read, and Richard Matheson’s ubercreepy Hell House (1971); perhaps not surprisingly, those two were later adapted into exquisitely scary cinematic fare, in, respectively, The Haunting (1963) and Read More

The Mysterious Doctor: Eleanor shines in her second film

The Mysterious Doctor directed by Benjamin Stoloff

A seeming meld of fog-shrouded Universal horror and the rah-rah wartime propaganda films that were so prevalent during the era, the Warner Brothers offering The Mysterious Doctor turns out to be a minor concoction that should just manage to please modern audiences. Released in March 1943, during the darkest days of World War II, the picture provides some chilling escapism while at the same time inspiring its target audience to greater productivity in the war effort. For today's viewer, the film works as an efficient little chiller and as a showcase for its ingénue female star, Eleanor Parker, who here evinces great charm and ability (and beauty, natch) in this, her second role on screen.

The film manages to engender a chilling mood from its very opening moments, in which the viewer beholds a very tall AND HEADLESS personage stalking through a mist-enveloped woodland. We soon meet the mys... Read More

From Hell It Came: Kimo therapy

From Hell It Came directed by Dan Milner

Back in the 1960s, when I was just a young lad and when there were only three major television stations to contend with, The New York Times used to make pithy commentaries, in their TV section, regarding films that were to be aired that day. I have never forgotten the terse words that the paper issued for the 1957 cult item From Hell It Came. In one of the most succinct pans ever written, the editors simply wrote: "Back send it." Well, I have waited years to find out if this hilarious put-down was justified or not, and now that I have finally succeeded in catching up with this one-of-a-kind cult item, have to say that I feel the Times people may have been a bit too harsh in their assessment. Sure, the film is campy, and of course, its central conceit is patently ridiculous, but does the film give the viewer that one necessary ingredient — namely, fun — that all good movies should provide? Oh... Read More

The Dunwich Horror: A pleasing Lovecraftian adaptation from AIP

The Dunwich Horror directed by Daniel Haller

Having enjoyed great success with a string of some seven pictures based on the works of the writer who has been called the greatest horror author of the 19th century, Edgar Allan Poe, American International Pictures (AIP) soon turned its attention to the horror author who has been called the greatest of the 20th, the so-called "Sage of Providence," Howard Phillips Lovecraft. For their first Lovecraft attempt, the studio came out with the Boris Karloff outing Die, Monster, Die, loosely based on the author's 1927 story "The Color Out of Space." And five years later, the film in question, The Dunwich Horror, was released, in January 1970 (just weeks before the studio came out with the Peter Cushing/Vincent Price/Christopher Lee outing Scream and Scream... Read More