Horror


Deeplight: A new take on the Cthulhu mythos

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

They say that the Undersea was the dwelling place of the gods. They say many things of the Myriad, and all of them are true. The gods were as real as the coastlines and currents and as merciless as the winds and whirlpools.

No one knows who or what the gods were, the giant creatures who lived in the sea and then, mysteriously, all died. But everyone knows that a piece of a dead god can make your fortune. Hark is still a child himself, all of 14 years old, but he knows it, too. That’s why he’s in the crowd when a submarine brings back parts of the Hidden Lady, the god that used to live in the waters around the archipelago on which he lives. His friend, Jelt, knows it too, and he has plans that call for Hark to do some hazardous things to make them both rich. Hark pays the price for Jelt’s foolishness, sold into indentured servitude.

Hark is lucky that he has a golden tongu... Read More

Jack: Horror during the London Blitz

Jack by Connie Willis

Subterranean Press is reissuing Connie Willis’s moody and bleak novella Jack (1991), which was a finalist for the Nebula and Hugo awards and has appeared in several anthologies over the years. It’s set during the London Blitz in WWII, one of Willis’ favorite settings for her works, including the time-travel novels Blackout and All Clear and the Nebula and Hugo award-winning novelette Fire Watch. Once again, there’s something peculiar going on during the Blitz … but this time it’s not just time travelers visiting from the future.

Jack Harker is p... Read More

SHORTS: Anderson, Osborne, Wilde, Pinsker

SHORTS: Our column exploring free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. In this week's column, we review more of the current crop of 2019 Nebula nominees in the short story and novelette categories.

"A Strange Uncertain Light" by G.V. Anderson (2019, Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine). 2019 Nebula Award nominee (novelette).

Anne and Merritt have just been married, practically on impulse. Each of them has a problem: Merritt is a drunk, but Anne sees the ghosts of strangers at the moment of their death. As prosaic an activity as looking out a train window can give her a vision of a man caught between the rails and the wheels, “to be sliced through like brisket.” Neither of them has confessed to the other, though Merritt’s shortcomings have been unhappily obvious. Still, they are honeymooning at Rannings, in Yorkshire, a grand hotel, and Anne is happy.

Another... Read More

Catfish Lullaby: Song of the swamp meets cosmic horror

Catfish Lullaby by A.C. Wise

Catfish Lullaby (2019), a Nebula Award-nominated novella, might be described as Louisiana swamp monster folklore colliding with eldritch Lovecraftian horror. Author A.C. Wise (who also has a second Nebula nomination this year, for her short story “How the Trick is Done”) visits Caleb, the biracial, queer son of the local sheriff, at three key points in his life. We follow Caleb from childhood to adulthood as he navigates his friendship with Cere Royce, the daughter of a once-prominent and depraved local family, and they try to conquer the black magic that haunts her and has destroyed her family.

When Caleb is about twelve, the Royce home mysteriously burns to the ground, killing Cere’s father and two older brothers. Caleb’s single father takes Cere into their home. Cere manages to freak out the schoolboys who have been bullying Caleb for years (“Sometimes you have to... Read More

The Twisted Ones: A modern twist on an old horror classic

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher

The Twisted Ones (2019) begins with mild consternation: Melissa, who goes by “Mouse,” has the thankless task of taking a trip to backwoods North Carolina, with her loyal redbone coonhound Bongo for company, to clean out her late grandmother’s home. “It’ll be a mess,” her father says, in a massive understatement. Consternation shifts to deep dismay: Grandma was a hoarder. It’s even worse than normal, since her grandmother was a cruel and vicious person, and something of her evil still infuses her house, like the room full of baby dolls that looks like a “monument to infanticide.” Luckily, Mouse finds one bedroom that is clear of clutter, the bedroom of her step-grandfather Cotgrave, who died many years earlier. (If you’ve read Arthu... Read More

Beneath the Rising: A horror adventure about friendship and betrayal

Beneath the Rising by Premee Mohamed

If you’ve had the good fortune to read any of Premee Mohamed’s short fiction, you know it is strange, beautiful and often horrifying. In Beneath the Rising (2020), her first full-length novel, all these things are true. This adventure novel with tentacular monsters and evil Ancient Ones will sweep you along and get deeply under your skin.

Joanna Chambers, who goes by Johnny, is more than a genius and more than a prodigy. She might be a miracle. In a world much like ours but very changed by Johnny’s inventions and discoveries, her best friend Nick, a regular guy, tries to be a lifeline for his rich, brilliant celebrity friend. Although she hasn’t turned eighteen yet, Johnny has found a vaccine for HIV, created improved solar panels that are in use around the world, developed clean water systems and food sources for hundreds of millions.... Read More

Coyote Songs: Literary horror that rewarded me beyond my expectations

Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias

I’m giving 2018’s Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias five stars, and I’m going to recommend it highly here. Then I’m going to post warnings, because this is one of those “this book is not for everybody” things.

On Twitter, Iglesias describes his writing as “barrio noir,” and also “a mix of horror and noir.” Coyote Songs follows several characters on either side of the Mexico/USA border as a mysterious rage-filled entity comes into their lives. The short book (not quite 200 pages) is lyrical, hyper-violent at times, blood-drenched, fantastical, satirical, and contains a hefty slice of body horror in the storyline with Mother (a pregnant woman) and Boy. Descriptions are as vivid as a neon sign in a desert night, and often as disturbing as the buzzing of a colony of flies on a dead animal. It starts bloody and dark an... Read More

The Institute: A horror story of the human heart

The Institute by Stephen King

Stephen King takes over 550 pages to relate the story of the mysterious Institute and its merciless dealings with kidnapped children. Given that page count, it shouldn’t be too surprising that King spends the first forty pages setting up his tale with a seemingly unrelated story of a man adrift in his life. Tim Jamieson, an out-of-work cop, takes a hefty payout to give up his seat on an overfull flight, and ends up making his rambling way from Tampa, Florida to the small town of DuPray, South Carolina, where the local sheriff gives him a job as a night knocker, an unarmed beat cop who patrols DuPray during the night. But — as King informs us not once, but twice — great events turn on small hinges.

That same summer, Luke Ellis, a twelve-year-old Minneapolis boy with genius-level intelligence, loving parent... Read More

SHORTS: Sen, Yoachim, Wise, Ramdas, Greenblatt

SHORTS: Our column exploring free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. In this week's column, Skye and Tadiana review several of the current crop of 2019 Nebula nominees in the short story and novelette categories.



“Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island” by Nibedita Sen (2019, free at Nightmare Magazine)

This Nebula Award finalist is precisely what the title promises, as it takes the form of ten excerpts from an annotated bibliography.

I thoroughly enjoyed the form of this story — I would almost describe it as delightful, if it weren’t published in Nightmare Magazine and didn’t centre around cannibalism. From the ten excerpts, you get the gist of two related events in history, and then as they... Read More

Ninth House: Black magic in Yale’s secret societies

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Galaxy “Alex” Stern (the name courtesy of her hippie mother) seems an obvious misfit at prestigious Yale University. Wealth, athletic talent and academic stardom are nowhere to be found in Alex’s life. Instead she’s a high school dropout with a history of dead-end jobs and drug use, and the survivor of a traumatic multiple homicide. But she has a rare talent that to date has brought her nothing but grief: Alex sees the ghosts of dead people.

As it turns out, that talent is highly useful to Yale’s eight elite secret societies, and they’ve had their eye on Alex for a while. Each of these houses specializes in a different type of black magic — Skull and Bones, for example, performs ritual vivisections of living people, examining their inner organs to predict stock market changes — and these dark rituals attract ghosts. A ninth Yale house, Lethe, polices the magical activities of those othe... Read More

The Uninvited: Book vs. film

The Uninvited by Dorothy Macardle

Although 1944’s The Uninvited has long been one of this viewer’s favorite spooky movies of that great filmmaking decade, it wasn’t until fairly recently that I learned of the special place it holds in cinema history. The film, apparently, was the very first Hollywood product to treat ghosts seriously. Here, at last, the specters on display were not hoaxes, not fakes, and not played for laughs. Rather, they were completely legit; supernatural survivors with unfinished business here on the material plane. Featuring first-rate acting by a cast of pros, impressive direction by Lewis Allen in his first feature-length film, a theme song that would go on to become a classic, remarkable (for its time) special FX, and stunning, noirish and Oscar-nominated cinematography by the great Charles Lang, the picture is a very solid entertainment, indeed, if perhaps a tad tame for today’s horror buffs … especia... Read More

SHORTS: Cho, Machen, Rambo, Scalzi, Andrews

SHORTS: Our column exploring free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've recently read that we wanted you to know about.

“Head of a Snake, Tail of a Dragon” by Zen Cho (2018, free on the author’s website)

This short story is a delightful sequel to Zen Cho's Hugo award-winning novelette, “If at First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again.” And both are free online, so win-win!

Jin-Dae is an imugi, a magical serpent that can — if it learns and grows in the right way — turn into a dragon. But Jin-Dae has no particular interest in becoming a dragon; she's just fine with her life the way it is. Except that there aren... Read More

SHORTS: Larson, Carroll, St. George, Yang

SHORTS: The annual Halloween edition. Our horror-themed column this week, reviewing some recent online short fiction works, features demon babies, slasher film heroines, ghosts and more.

“Growing and Growing” by Rich Larson (2019, free at Nightmare Magazine)

Ignacio and Hector are on their way home after a night of drinking when they find a baby crying in the middle of the road. Ignacio decides to bring it home for the night so he can take it to the hospital in the morning. But on the way home, the friends begin to realize that something about this abandoned baby is not quite right…

“Growing and Growing” is a very short (12 minute) creepy tale that works great in the audio format performed by Stefan Rudnicki, one of my f... Read More

Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places

Reposting to include Kelly's new review.

Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey

If ghosts exist, we don’t know why, but ghost stories exist because the living make them up; and the living make them up because we need them. Colin Dickey’s book Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places (2016) explores the US’s social conflicts and hidden histories as they play out in places that are publicly advertised as “haunted.” In the first chapter, Dickey says, “If you want to understand a place, ignore the boastful monuments and landmarks, and go straight to the haunted houses. Look for the darkened graveyards, the derelict hotels, the empty and decaying old hospitals.”

That passage is also something of a roadmap to the book, which comprises a collection of Dickey’s essays. The chapters are divided by category: haunted houses; h... Read More

The Monster and the Girl: A flabbergasting mix of film genres

Happy Halloween!

The Monster and the Girl directed by Stuart Heisler

I suppose that I owe director John Landis a huge debt of thanks, as he was the one who first introduced me to the movie in question, The Monster and the Girl ... a film that I may very well have never heard of, without his knowledgeable guidance. As the TCM guest programmer one evening recently, Landis — himself the director of one of the truly great modern-day horror films, An American Werewolf in London — told host Ben Mankiewicz that he had selected the 1941 film because he found it to be totally unique, and indeed, a viewing of the picture will surely leave the viewer thinking that this highly effective little "B picture" really is a sui generis experience. Conflating as it does the gangster film, the courtroom drama, and the mad scientist movie, The Monster and the Girl manages to surprise at every turn, and as Mankiewicz noted, the ac... Read More

The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton: A masterful collection of chillers

The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton by Edith Wharton

Perhaps because she is one of the most esteemed writers of the 20th century, Edith Wharton may not be immediately associated with the genre of horror. Today, she is probably best remembered for her novels The House of Mirth (1905) and The Age of Innocence (1920), which latter book copped her the Pulitzer Prize, as well as for her classic novella from 1911, Ethan Frome, a staple reading assignment for all English majors. In novel after novel, Wharton examined the members of the upper crust in turn-of-the-century NYC, a society and a town that she knew well by experience. But as she would reveal in her autobiography A Backward Glance, the author was a big fan of the ghost story as well, a shivery pot in which she would ultimately dip her quill on any number of occasions. After ... Read More

Monster of Venice: Alla Salute!

Monster of Venice directed by Dino Tavella

Pop quiz: Can you name a film in which a serial killer stalks the byways and canals of Venice? If your answer is Nicolas Roeg's 1973 film Don't Look Now, a glass of Chianti for you! If you came up with the more obscure film Who Saw Her Die?, a giallo picture directed by Aldo Lado in 1972, well, you've just earned yourself two glasses of Marchesi Antinori! And if your response was the extremely obscure Monster of Venice, a B&W thriller directed by Dino Tavella in 1965, well, YOU deserve an entire bottle of Nero d'Avola! In this one, the titular madman's MO is to put on scuba gear and either abduct his teenage female prey right off their gondolas or as they're walking near the canals. When he isn't busy actually snatching his pretties, he can be found in his underground catacomb lair, injecting his latest catch with embalming fluid (the film's American title IS The Embalmer... Read More

Tomb of Torture: Anna-phylactic shock

Tomb of Torture directed by Antonio Boccaci

1963 was a very good year for the Italian horror film. In February, cinematographer-turned-director Mario Bava started the giallo ball rolling with the release of his seminal The Girl Who Knew Too Much, and he would follow up that August with back-to-back releases of two of his most beloved films, Black Sabbath and The Whip and the Body. Riccardo Freda's The Ghost, starring Barbara Steele, came out in late March, Alberto de Martino's The Blancheville Monster in June, and Antonio Margheriti's Horror Castle, featuring Christopher Lee, also in August. Lost in the shuffle, apparently, was the late March release of Tomb of Torture, a little-known horror outing that is certainly a lesser affair than those others, but yet one that has much to offer for the modern-day fan of Gothic Eurohorror. Originally released with the title Read More

The Hanging Woman: Igor vs. Gotho

The Hanging Woman directed by Jose Luis Merino

Paul Naschy, the so-called "Boris Karloff of Spain," was apparently very proud of the work he turned in for Jose Luis Merino's 1973 cult favorite The Hanging Woman. In an interview taped for the Troma DVD release, shortly before his death from pancreatic cancer in 2009, Naschy revealed that he initially turned the part down, only accepting after Merino allowed him to add some "dimensionality" to the small role of Igor, a grave digger who is murdered shortly after the film's midpoint. Naschy rewrote the part, making Igor a necrophilic grave digger (has there EVER been a "normal" character named Igor in the history of the horror film?) who still has a maximum of a dozen lines in the picture. Rather, The Hanging Woman centers around the character of Serge Chekhov (an unappealing performance by Stelvio Rosi), who comes to what I inferred to be an early 20th century Alpine village (although the IMDb say... Read More

The Blancheville Monster: “Everything seems morose and deathlike…”

The Blancheville Monster directed by Alberto de Martino

The shadow cast by Mario Bava's seminal 1960 film Black Sunday was indeed a long one on the Italian horror industry. Three years later, in Alberto de Martino's The Blancheville Monster, we find its cousin, a Gothic-tinged, B&W horror outing with a familiar tone but nowhere near as much artful impact.

In the film, beautiful Emily de Blancheville (Ombrella Colli) returns to her ancestral castle, in Brittany in the year 1884, after finishing her years in college. She is accompanied by her American school friend Alice (Iran Eory) and Alice's brother John (hunky Vanni Materassi), her soon-to-be fiancé. But it is a tough homecoming for Emily, as it turns out. Her brother Rodrigue (Gerard Tichy) is now in charge, following their father's disfiguring injuries in a recent abbey fire; two new presences in the castle, Dr. Lerouge (Leo Anchoriz) and the housekeeper, Miss E... Read More

The Last Town: … or this could be hell

The Last Town by Blake Crouch

Blake Crouch wraps up the WAYWARD PINES trilogy in The Last Town (2014). If you haven’t read the prior two books, Pines and Wayward, be warned that here there be spoilers, as well as monsters and a bloodbath.

David Pilcher was a visionary man, convinced that the town of Wayward Pines, Idaho would be a new Eden, a place where people could start over again. The sign outside of town even proclaims “WELCOME TO WAYWARD PINES — WHERE PARADISE IS HOME”! Though Pilcher was right in many ways, life there was far more difficult and dangerous than he foresaw. Between that and Pilcher’s mania for control, Wayward Pines has been more of a prison for its inhabi... Read More

The Wild, Wild Planet: Colorato e fantasioso

The Wild, Wild Planet directed by Antonio Margheriti

The mid-1960s was a very interesting time for Italian sci-fi on the big screen. In September '65, future giallo legend Mario Bava gave the world the artfully done Planet of the Vampires, a film whose set design, it has been suggested, very possibly influenced the look of the movie Alien over a decade later. In December '65, director Elio Petri delivered the film that is, for this viewer, the best of the Italian sci-fi bunch to this date, The 10th Victim, based on the short story "Seventh Victim" by Robert Sheckley. Starring Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress, the film remains a knockout more than half a century later. Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, director Antonio Margheriti, once again working under his alias of Anthony Dawson, was working on a string of relatively low-budget fi... Read More

Bloodsuckers: When Peter Met Patrick

Bloodsuckers directed by Robert Hartford-Davis

Perhaps I should state at the outset that my only reason for renting out the 1970 British film Bloodsuckers is that it stars two of my very favorite English actors, Peter Cushing and The Avengers's Patrick Macnee, appearing in a theatrical picture together for the first and only time. Well, I suppose that helps to explain my double disappointment with this film, a horror outing without a single shiver, and moreover, one in which Cushing and Macnee share not a single scene together. A fairly incomprehensible, ineptly put-together goulash of a film, Bloodsuckers (aka Doctors Wear Scarlet and the title under which I saw it in its current Something Weird DVD presentation, Freedom Seeker, as well as Incense for the Damned) turns out to be som... Read More

The Lost Continent: Serendipity

The Lost Continent directed by Michael Carreras

There is a word, "serendipity," that Webster's defines as "an instance of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for," and I suppose that this would be the precise word to describe my experience with the 1968 film The Lost Continent. I had set my DVR at home to record a film that I thought to be the old Cesar Romero film from 1951, Lost Continent, a childhood favorite, and wound up getting this one instead. I was very disappointed when I discovered my error, but decided not to immediately delete what I'd recorded, and instead kept it in digital storage for a year or so. But when I finally sat down to watch The Lost Continent the other night, what a nice surprise it turned out to be! And no wonder! The film is a product of the always reliable Hammer Studios, featuring fine acting support, pleasing if cheezy special effects, and an action-packed story line. Hammer initiall... Read More

The Disembodied: See it for Allison

The Disembodied directed by Walter Grauman

Sometimes, all it takes is one decent, interesting and/or sexy performance to salvage an otherwise lackluster film from complete uselessness. To demonstrate the veracity of this statement, I give you The Disembodied, a rather silly and borderline confusing voodoo film that is of interest today solely for the performance of its leading lady, Allison Hayes. When The Disembodied was first released in August 1957, it was part of a double bill, playing alongside the now legendary From Hell It Came, now regarded as one of the worst films of all time, its walking tree monster Tabanga a source of jokes and derision for over 60 years now. In retrospect, though, From Hell It Came is a fun albeit campy experience, and one that this viewer enjoyed a lot more than he thought he would. It is surely the superior film as compare... Read More