Sunday, December 4, 2011

Editorial December 2011 e-issue #30

By Nickolas Cook
The Black Glove Magazine

Since I know now I'm not going to have this issue posted before the end of 2011, I'm going to say it now: HAPPY NEW YEAR, HORRORHEADS!

Another year has come and gone. The world did not end; the universe kept right on going, even though we all lost people who were important to us. But as we all probably know by now, unless you’re a complete socio-pathic person, that’s the nature of this universe in which we exist. Death and life come and go, they happen all around us, but the lucky among us keep right on truckin’.

I’m pretty familiar with that feeling because of what happened to me between 2009 and 2011, years in which I went through some life altering events. There were moments that I worried about my sanity and if I would see the year 2012.

But you know, let me stop here for a moment.

I should probably warn you right up front, dear reader, that this month’s editorial may become a little personal, and may contain some comments and views which you may not want to bother with. And so I will completely understand if you skip this editorial. It won’t hurt my feelings any. Really.

My ordeal, the one which caused me to question if I’d see 2012, started in 2009. I touched on what happened to me a bit in last month’s editorial, in which I mentioned my health issues—the ruptured Achilles tendon on my right leg, the subsequent operations, the chronic infections, etc., etc. It was a matter of one simple second between having my whole life in order, planned out and going along quite smoothly for myself, and then that sudden white hot pain in the back of my right foot…and then my life going completely topsy turvy. I lost control of everything in my life from that moment on. And, to be honest, after almost three years, I’m only now beginning to feel like I have any control over it again. That may sound completely melodramatic to some people. And you may even be right in that summation. But let me say this: I pray no one I know ever has to go through what I’ve been through these last few years. It’s been a challenge to even want to get out of bed on some days. I went through a couple of years of clinical depression so intense that I didn’t care if I lived or died. And while I won’t sit here and say I wanted to take my life, I sure as hell wouldn’t have done much to stop it from happening. There were even times when I felt like a quick death would have been a hell of a relief.

I know some people aren’t going to understand that at all. There’s no way to fathom the feeling of loss and despair, almost really no way to put it into words to make anyone understand how I felt, unless you’ve been unlucky enough to have been through something so traumatic.

See, part of the problem was that I was a pretty active martial arts and self defense practitioner for a few years leading up to when my injury took all my options and plans away from me in one second of being whole and then not being whole anymore. I was even planning to fight in some amateur MMA events. For months I had been training hard, working in the studio and the weight room four and five days a week, working out on average about four hours a day. I was doing Krav Maga, Brazilian Jui-Jitsu, MMA training, some Combative Tactics training and Crossfit. To meet the energy demands to do those workouts I was eating anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000 calories a day—and that was even with Diabetes Type-2 to contend with. But between the incredibly intense workouts, and some basic diabetes medication, with me eating even that amount of food a day, my blood sugar was still not out of whack. My doctors were astounded. I even saw a dietitian specialist to make sure I was on the right track with my diet and exercise routines. Before that fateful day in 2009 I was so healthy I was even advised to actually eat some sugar to keep a proper glucose balance on my workout days.

And then WHAM!, out of nowhere, life happened and all that hard work and planning went to hell.

Next thing I knew I was being fitted for a cast and scheduled for an operation to my right Achilles tendon. The operation went fine, had my leg repaired as best as could be done with what I had to work with, and as far as me and my wife knew, I was on the path to recovery. I was even planning how I was going to continue with my workouts, was doing research to figure out how long I could expect to have to workout at half my normal intensity before going back to my four hour workouts again. Yes, even throughout this entire ordeal of casts and operations and such, I continued to go to the studio and workout in my martial arts to stay in shape and to keep my blood sugar under control. I did however have to cut way back on my daily caloric intake simply because I wasn’t using as much energy as before, since my workouts weren’t as intense or laborious.

Then, a few weeks after my surgery, the repaired area on the back of my foot still wasn’t healing as it was supposed to. That was the first time I began to worry, but I still remained hopeful that things would work out and I would be able to get back to my life again—maybe a little longer recovery time was all. The surgeon advised sometimes these types of repairs on areas where there wasn’t a lot of flesh to work with to close the open wound properly (and the back of the heel is the worst place for this kind of surgery) could become complicated and it might take more time to heal properly. Me and my wife listened and followed his advice, kept hopeful, and I kept working out and dieting, kept testing my blood sugar to maintain it properly.

Then the wound got infected. Despite some basic medications to stop the infection, the damned wound stayed infected. And my being diabetic wasn’t helping.

We consulted the surgeon again and he sent me to see someone else to control the wound’s healing and to help me keep the infection under control. He kept giving me antibiotics and telling me to keep up with my workouts and dieting routines. Keep an eye on that blood sugar.

This went on for eight months. And during that time my hopes for getting back on track went slowly down the drain. By the time I was told the chronic infection was going to be a real issue with how I healed, I knew in my heart my glory days of four hour workouts and dreams of fighting in an amateur MMA bout were done. I started becoming depressed for the first time, then.

Also, by the end of the eight months, before me and my wife decided to seek another surgeon for legal reasons, that chronic infection had eaten away a good portion of my tendon, part of my heel bone and some of my flesh and muscle had gone necrotic as well.

Meanwhile, the two docs involved with my case kept telling me it was my diabetes causing the problem, even though I was still working out, still dieting, and still checking my blood sugar several times a day. It got to where no matter what me or my wife said to contradict their theory that it was all because of my diabetes, neither of these guys wanted to hear it. So, in an effort to prove to my doctors that my diabetes had nothing to do with my chronic infections, I made the life altering decision to undergo a bariatric procedure known as a Gastric Bypass, in which part of my intestine would be tied off, leaving me with a lot less capacity for food intake, which would subsequently cause a drastic loss of weight and would send my diabetes into “terminal remission”, which for all intents and purposes meant it would be cured, and would, therefore, no longer be part of the equation when it came to do with my chronic infections. Before the Gastric Bypass operation I weighed in at about 280 lbs., which up to the time my injury occurred was solid muscle. I wasn’t fast on my feet, but I was like a wall of muscle and bone that steamrolled through pretty much anyone who I sparred with; they could slip in some good hits, but they didn’t slow me down much, and once I wore them down, I had only to get them on the ground and put my weight on them and the fight was generally done at that point.

So two weeks after this new operation I had lost nearly 20 pounds and I was no longer diabetic…but the chronic infections continued, to the point that I even developed abscesses on my wounded foot, one on each side of my ankle area. The specialist was baffled, but kept feeding me antibiotics that were doing less and less good for me, with each new prescription. He lanced these new abscesses and I now had THREE! open wounds on my foot, each of them freely suppurating all day, and each of them had to be dressed with new bandages each day.

At this point, I was beyond concerned. I was downright terrified that I was going to lose my foot entirely, despite all I had done to keep it from happening. The doctors didn’t seem to be able to do much of anything else (at least that’s what they kept telling us, even though we found later there were other things they could have done, had they not misdiagnosed the reason for my chronic infections).

Then a few weeks after the Gastric Bypass operation a blue length of surgical thread came snaking out of one of the open wounds where the “supposed” wound specialist had lanced an abscess. That’s when all the docs decided to admit that my chronic infections weren’t because of my diabetes at all; the entire problem had been the fault of the non-dissolvable sutures used to repair my tendon. They were still inside my leg and had become one giant bacterial breeding ground, hence why the chronic infections would not stop, despite the months of antibiotics and chemical treatments I had undergone.

So, here I was, a somewhat healthy guy at the beginning of 2009, now injured, chronically infected, his intestines now tied off for the rest of his life, and a foot which was slowly being eaten away from the inside. It was around then that my chronic insomnia also started. I still deal with that in cycles, and I've been told I may have to deal with it for the rest of my life.

Yeah, by then, I was pretty low.

But, as I was about to discover, my ordeal was only just beginning.

We dropped both of the doctors who had left me hanging for eight months with an infection that wouldn’t go away, which was probably going to cause me to lose my foot, and we went to one of the most well known orthopedic surgical specialists in all of Arizona, which we were lucky enough to have living in Tucson with us. She took one look at my foot and scheduled immediate surgery.

During the surgery to remove the non-dissolvable sutures, she discovered that after eight months of chronic infections I had lost most of my tendon, part of my heel bone and a good portion of my flesh and muscle had also gone necrotic and had to be removed as well. I came away from that surgery with my foot, but in a drastically limited and painful state. A few weeks later, I had to undergo another operation, this time it was a drastic form of plastic surgery to close the new open wound caused by the second repair operation, which involved removing a portion of my healthy calf flesh and an active nerve, and doing a transfer of them to my 3X3 inch area of lost flesh and muscle.

If you’ve lost count, that’s five surgeries in less than a year and a half for a man who was used to being able to get into the studio and weight room to workout on a steady basis.

I had to learn to walk four times; and now I had to do so with a significant limp and lots of chronic pain because of the nerve damage in my foot. Although the new surgeon did the best she could, I was no longer a whole person. And all I had to do to remember that was to look down at my massively scarred leg and foot, or even simply try to walk too quickly or step off a curb the wrong way, and then the pain would flash through me like white hot lava, leaving me breathless and nearly blinded with pain.

As you can probably guess, throughout this entire ordeal my depression was becoming deeper and more cumbersome, dragging me down to the point that I didn’t write anymore, didn’t read books and I pretty much stopped caring if I lived or died. I was lucky to be able to deal with most of the people with whom I continued to stay in contact with was through the internet; they couldn't 'see' how bad I was, even if my online behavior was sometimes erratic and unprofessional. So I stopped hanging out online as much, to keep from destroying even those few internet friends I still had. I was also lucky to have THE BLACK GLOVE to at least keep part of my mind occupied. Although I'm sure by my sometimes unreliable content in past issues, it's easy enough to know when my bad days were on me.

I wound up seeing two different psychiatric specialists to help me deal with the fact that I was going to be crippled for the rest of my life and the fact that I wasn’t able to work a real 9 to 5 job again, which was causing issues with my family, who were having to carry the financial burden alone, because I had no income. They both diagnosed me as what I already knew I was: clinically depressed. If you’ve ever been around someone who suffers from clinical depression, then you know we aren’t a ball of sunshine to be around. To put it bluntly, we are real fucking downers to be around. We tend to suck the life out of the room with our obvious and uncontrollable despair. Nothing makes us happy; everything sucks to people who suffer from this terrible mental and emotional state.

But I wasn’t just sitting still and letting the depression eat my confidence and self-assurance away. No, throughout all these months, I was seeing one doctor and specialist after another and these folks were prescribing several different kinds of anti-depression medications to help. But because of the Gastric Bypass none of them were working the way they were supposed to: they were being absorbed way too quickly, or improperly, and these sometimes dangerous chemical and mood altering drugs were hitting me with the worst of their many side effects and none of their benefits—so much so, that my passive suicidal tendencies were quickly becoming actively suicidal. At one point, while using a trial dosage of one of those anti-depressants, the ones you see on TV that warn you of all these terrible side effects, I can remember wondering how hard I would have to cut myself to bleed out and let myself die. Needless to say, that scared me fucking silly and I stopped taking that particular anti-depressant immediately, called my doctor right away. Thankfully I was still cognizant enough to realize those sorts of thoughts weren’t safe for someone like myself suffering from clinical depression.

One of the things which contributed to my clinically depressed state was the chronic pain from which I suffered (and still do). To combat this, I was given several types of pain medications, prescribed by different doctors and various pain management specialists, none of which worked for long, and so I wound up taking a dangerous amount of them to get any relief. The same absorption issues which had caused problems with the anti-depressants were now also working against me with the pain medications. I finally had only one option left to help control the pain, Fentanyl transdermal patches. They do work, but not as well as they once did because, after so much time, my body has become acclimated to their effectiveness. So I still have my bad days.

But I hadn’t been relying on medicines all this time, either. I also use my own version of pain control, which is regular workouts and healthy diet, and several meditation techniques which I have learned from my years of martial arts.

The irony was that during this time all those books I’d written before my injury stole my life away from me were getting published. I had finally become a semi-professional author of dark fiction and I didn’t even care. I couldn’t even enjoy the moment I had worked my ass off to get to for most of my adult life, because for most of 2010 and 2011, I just simply didn’t care what happened to me from one day to the next. Meanwhile, life was still happening all around me. Not all of it in a good way. During this time, my wife and I were having issues because of my depression and because of my new habit of self-medication through drinking. She was dealing with all the bills on her own because of my lack of income. I finally put a stop to the drinking on my own, partly because of what it was doing to my marriage, and partly because I just couldn’t allow myself to go down that path; I had seen what drinking had done to too many of my family members when I was growing up, and I knew I was better than that; I couldn’t let myself go that way. It’s been over a year since I drank to that sort of excess, to that state of physical and emotional numbness.

However, the depression continued and deepened, and it has only been in the last couple of months that I’ve been able to move past my rage and pain to find some measure of acceptance of what I have become. And while I’m not going to lie and say I feel great everyday, I have begun to have more good days than bad days again, and I have begun to feel like there’s still a life left for me to live, despite my limited physical state and the mental/emotional issues with which I still contend.

So, for me, 2012 looks a lot better. Almost like a new beginning, really.

In the next few months I have several books to be published; I’ve been promoted to an assistant level 1 instructor in my Krav Maga class at the studio where I do my martial arts here in Tucson, The Ultima; I’ve gotten into a semi-regular workout routine again. But best of all, I believe our marriage is going to be fine. I couldn’t stand the idea of losing my best friend because of my weakness and lack of emotional control. That would be too much.

So after dealing with this for almost three years now (my wife right alongside me, while she was also dealing with her own health issues to do with back surgery and her own pain management), I can only thank whatever gods there are above that I seem to have made it to the other side of my personal Hell.

If nothing else, this ordeal (still ongoing in some ways; which I don’t think will ever be completely over for me) has provided me with some powerful insight into the true nature of pain and the blues. Since the end of 2010, I began to write again on a semi-regular basis, which soon turned into a regular routine once again. I still deal with cycles of depression keeping me down for weeks or months at a time, during which I don’t as much as I once did. But thankfully those episodes are further and further apart now, and seem less aggressive and easier to deal with these days when they do happen. Usually, if I just submerse myself in a workout and/or some writing, I can get above those black days and work my way back to the light after a few days, sometimes, even after a few hours. All in all, even though it could be better, I know now it could be a lot worse. I also know that old adage is true...the one about people who have it a lot worse than myself, who live with their problems with less whimpering than I have. Yeah, it's true. And I appreciate that fact. But I also know we all live with our pains in different ways. I think I've found a way to deal with mine in a healthier manner than before, but that doesn't make it any less relevant or painful for that. I'm sure plenty of people will be disgusted that I let this get to me as it did, but I guess they'll just have to understand what it was like when they have to deal with their own losses like I have since the second that tendon snapped off the bone...

So welcome 2012.

Thank God I was here to see you come round.

--Nickolas Cook
The Black Glove Magazine

(EDITOR’S NOTE: If you are, or someone you know is, experiencing the symptoms of clinical depression, please seek some professional help. I can tell you from experience that it’s not something you can handle alone, and you don’t have to do so. There are plenty of programs available at little or no cost to you to get some much needed help. Even if it’s just to talk to someone, it can be enough to help you see some light at the end of your own tunnel. And even just a glimmer of hope could be the difference between seeing another year to causing your loved ones some serious emotional pain and guilt.
REMEMBER: Being depressed doesn't make you weak; it makes you human. So allow yourself to be merely human. But, please, be smart enough not to do something stupid that the ones who love you will have to live with for the rest of their lives.)

Staff Profiles

Nickolas Cook (editor-in-chief)
Publishing Credits: Nickolas has had dozens of short stories and non-fiction reviews and articles published in print and electronic formats. He has been the fiction moderator for for over four years. To date, his two published novels, THE BLACK BEAST OF ALGERNON WOOD (Dailey Swan Publishing), BALEFUL EYE (currently in pre-production with new publisher) and ALICE IN ZOMBIELAND 2nd Edition with Sourcebooks 2011, all of which have received several positive reviews and he’s been said to display a true craftsmanship missing in much of modern horror. His first short story collection, 'ROUND MIDNIGHT AND OTHER TALES OF LOST SOULS was recently released from Damnation Books.. He also has several new releases forthcoming from various publishers. Stay tuned for more news on his official website and his Facebook Page as listed below

Personal Info: Nickolas lives in the beautiful Southwestern desert with his wife and four wonderful Chinese Pugs, who are worse than little children…the dogs, not the wife.
Visit me at my official website, THE HORROR JAZZ AND BLUES REVUE
He also has a very active Facebook page
Or email him at

Co-Editor: Brian M. Sammons has been writing reviews on all things horror for more years than he'd care to admit. Wanting to give other critics the chance to ravage his work for a change, Brian has also penned a few short stories that have appeared in such anthologies as Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, and Dead but Dreaming 2. Some of the magazines where you can find his twisted tales are Bare Bone, Cthulhu Sex, and Dark Animus. He co-edited the upcoming anthology Cthulhu Unbound 3, has his first novella coming out called The R'lyeh Singularity, co-written with David Conyers, and is currently editing other fright collections, including the soon to be release Undead & Unbound. For more about this guy whose neighbors describe as "such
nice, quiet man" you can check out his very infrequently updated webpage here:

BIll Breedlove is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in publications such as RedEye, Chicago Tribune, Metazen, InSider, The Fortune News, Encyclopedia of Actuarial Science, Bluefood, and Playboy Online. Some of his stories can be found in the books TALES OF FORBIDDEN PASSION, STRANGE CREATURES, TAILS FROM THE PET SHOP, BOOK OF DEAD THINGS, CTHULHU & THE COEDs and BLOOD AND DONUTS. He is also the editor of the anthologies CANDY IN THE DUMPSTER, WAITING FOR OCTOBER, LIKE A CHINESE TATTOO, MIGHTY UNCLEAN, WHEN THE NIGHT COMES DOWN and (with John Everson) SWALLOWED BY THE CRACKS. He lives in Chicago.

MyMiserys (aka Kim Cook)
Personal Info: Kim lives in the Arizona desert with her husband, Nickolas Cook, and a pack of Pugs. She met Nick in 1997 in an old AOL Horror chat room and they married a year later on Halloween 1998. She has had a passion for horror novels since the tender age of 12, when she read The Exorcist (before it was made into a movie). Her favorite author, other than Nick, is Stephen King, and she truly considers herself his “Number One Fan”. She has been reading and collecting King’s books since “Carrie” was first published. When she is not reading, Kim bakes …and bakes and bakes. You can see pictures of her wonderful cakes on her MySpace page and Facebook. Each month Kim asks a featured author “13 Questions” so Black Glove readers can get to know a little about the person behind the books.
Guilty pleasure? MeatLoaf...the man...not the entrée.
Facebook Page

Carey M. Copeland has worked in television, radio and film. He has been a special effects artist on several film and TV productions, through The Joe Blasco Makeup Academy of Orlando Florida. Having worked at Sally Industries (now Sally Corp) , he helped design dark ride exhibits around the world, including the E.T. ride at Universal Studios Florida. Carey has been a lifelong horror fan and knew after seeing a rerun of “NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD” that he wanted to make monsters for a living. Carey says, “I love the creativity of the movies from 1930’s to 1990’s. It seems that with the creation of more affordable computers, the solid effects artist has become almost extinct. When you see a movie now, it’s almost all CGI, with practically no hands-on sculpting and molding. ”

Bill Lindblad has been a bookseller specializing in horror and other genre fiction for roughly fifteen years. He is a regular contributor to the writing blog Storytellers Unplugged and has been a staple at conventions for almost a quarter of a century (as an attendee, dealer, panelist, auctioneer and convention staff.) Bill is an unrepentant fan and has taken this out on the pets... as ferrets Mughi (Dirty Pair) and Boingo, cats Gamera and Shane (after Shane MacGowan) and black labrador Grue (Dying Earth and Infocom games) could attest were they able to talk. His wife makes him watch too many strange movies.

Jenny Orosel has been published in fiction and nonfiction for the past nine years. She is also an avid baker and candy-maker (having only set a kitchen on fire once). She has also appeared in numerous game shows, worked on two feature films, and won an award for her first animated short film (also including fire, this time on purpose). When not writing or making sugary treats, she is forcing Bill to sit through some of the strangest movies he’s ever seen.

Lisa Morton is a screenwriter and the author of four non-fiction
books, including THE CINEMA OF TSUI HARK. She is a four-time winner of
the Bram Stoker award, a recipient of the Black Quill Award, and has
published fifty works of short fiction. Her first novel, THE CASTLE OF
LOS ANGELES, was released by Gray Friar Press in 2010 (Gray Friar Press) and her first collection, MONSTERS OF L.A., will be published by Bad Moon Books for
Halloween 2011. She lives online at

Karen L. Newman lives in Kentucky where she's a Kentucky Colonel and an active member of Horror Writers Association. She edits the magazines Illumen and Cosmic Crime Stories. She’s also a book editor for Morrigan Books. She’s been named Chair of the 2011 Bram Stoker Award jury for Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection and is the 2011-2012 East Regional Director for the Kentucky State Poetry Society. She edited the online magazine, Afterburn SF for over four years before the market closed. Over four hundred of her short stories and poems have been published both online and in print in places such as Dark Tales of Terror, Kentucky Monthly, and The Pedestal Magazine. Her poetry collections include EEKU (Sam’s Dot, 2005), ChemICKals (Naked Snake Press, 2007), Toward Absolute Zero (Sam’s Dot, 2009), and ChemICKal Reactions (Naked Snake Press, 2010). Two of her poems received honorable mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. She's been nominated for a Rhysling Award, James B. Baker Award, and twice nominated for a Dwarf Star Award. Please visit her online at

JW Schnarr is a writer from Claresholm, AB. He works as a reporter/photographer by day and a horror writer/publisher by night. He is the author of "Things Falling Apart" and Alice & Dorothy.  JW can be reached at

Anthony Servante is a retired college professor with post-graduate studies in the field of the Grotesque and Horror in the Romantic Age, where vampires and Frankenstein monsters were born. It was a dream subject in his studies—to follow and write academically about monsters. He exhorts the academics of horror in his column, Servante of Darkness. He has since begun his nonprofit project: “Read THIS! Scaring Up Readers”, a book giveaway Program that donates books in the fields of Horror, Fantasy, Mystery, and Science Fiction to college-bound students to enjoy the genres Anthony has read and enjoyed since he was a kid. He critically respects old school Horror writers and encourages new schoolers in his reviews. In retirement, he hopes to push for publication of his short stories, continue to write on trends in horror, and review books, movies, and music.

Jason Shayer
Recent publishing credits:
Necrotic Tissue #6, the Dead Science and Through the Eyes of the Undead anthologies, and Arcane magazine.
He's also a regular contributor to Back Issue! magazine, a comic book magazine spotlighting the 1970s and 1980s.
Personal Info:
Jason Shayer's 12-year-old mind frame has given more than a few people a reason to raise an eyebrow, most often his wife. When he’s not writing or reading, he’s teaching his kids the finer points of zombie lore.
Contact info:

Do You Wanna Write For The Black Glove?

If you're interested in writing your very own column, or just want to write reviews for your favorite horror movies and/or books, send me an email at While we can't pay for the content, I can promise horror fans around the world will read your stuff. Please, let me stress, this is for serious applicants only. You MUST know the genre. While I don't mind a certain amount of personalizing your content (in fact, I encourage it!), I need it to be, at the end of the day, about the genre and not your personal life only.

--Nickolas Cook

TIME CAPSULES classic book reviews by Bill Lindblad

WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE by Shirley Jackson (1962)

It is hard to say who stakes a greater claim to Shirley Jackson: the horror community or the literary community. An argument for the latter can be found in the inclusion of The Lottery in American Literature texts of nearly every high school in the county. An argument for the former can be heard at conventions throughout the world and online discussion forums whenever the subject of female horror writers emerges.

She belongs to both worlds, that is certain. While she produced (and eventually collected) essays about family life, she is known primarily for her moody works of isolation and alienation and not as a progenitor of Erma Bombeck. This, her last novel from 1962, is primarily a character study, and it displays her talents with a dark beauty.

The story centers around the two Blackwood sisters, Constance and Mary Katherine. They have survived a tragedy: the arsenic poisoning of the remainder of the family, all but one of whom died. They live with the other survivor, their impaired uncle. The novel focuses on the efforts of the sisters to live peacefully in a small town where they are ostracized due to the stigma of the deaths, for which Constance has been blamed. The interaction with the townspeople, the uncle, and their estranged cousin Charles comprise the body of the novel.

If you're looking for excessive violence, you'll be disappointed. There is almost no violence in the book and in fact there is little dynamic activity. Instead the reader is treated to subtle studies in agoraphobia and abnormal psychology, all amidst a setting that creates a haunting sensation of foreboding and maintains it throughout the novel. It is a quiet work of brilliance, both as horror and literature.

Five stars out of five.

A BUNDLE OF NERVES by Joan Aiken (1976)

Joan Aiken is best known for her contributions to children's literature, but she enjoyed dwelling in the shadows on occasion. This is a 1978 collection of some of her early horror pieces, and in it she provides a bevy of short works which range from merely odd to strangely humorous to simply unpleasant. They are written in the style of the short mystery story of the 1970s, where a payoff is presented at the end of the tale, but there is also no overt gore or violence. As such, the stories can be read and enjoyed by young adults, by horror fans and by mystery fans alike.
The stories are set in various parts of Britain, and while she rarely uses the location as an additional character for a story the language and reactions of the characters are realistic and as such are evocative of Britain. The result is a collection of works which are accessible and enjoyable for English readers throughout the world, but maintaining a distinctive British feel.

Aiken leaves few stones unturned. In the pages are found cannibals, werewolves, trolls, magicians, aliens, witches and many more classical horror dangers. The stories have a stylistic consistency which borders on the formulaic, making the collection smoothly readable but which results in an unfortunate sense of similarity even among disparate tales. It is a criticism, but it is a minor one.

Four stars out of five.

NEW LIFE FOR THE DEAD by Alan Rodgers (1991)

Originally published twenty years ago in 1991, this short collection contains five stories, each bracketed by poetry. The common theme to the works is the dead; not death, necessarily, but dead bodies. In a manner reminiscent of Nancy Kilpatrick's ever-inventive takes on the vampire, Rodgers spins stories and poems that seem related but never repetitive.
The book's strongest pieces, to me, are the first and third stories: The Boy Who Came Back from the Dead and Emma's Daughter. The first of them is brilliant, blurring the line between fairy tale and modernist short fiction and doing so within the confines of science fantasy. Emma's Daughter features cancer as a character in and of itself in a way I have rarely seen achieved as effectively (the exception that springs to mind is "Big C" by Brian Lumley in the Lovecraft's Legacy anthology.) The other stories and poems are carefully and effectively crafted, however, and I am certain that if polled, other readers would choose other works as the best in the book. It is a remarkably even collection, and a desirable addition to any horror reader's shelves.

That said, it is unpleasantly short. The entire book is under 140 pages, and with the exceptional quality of the stories I was left wanting more. I expect other readers will feel the same.

Four stars out of five.

--William Lindblad

BLOODLINES: Serial Horror in Fiction #6: Oxrun Station by Charles L. Grant

Charles L. Grant: 1942-2006

by Bill Lindblad

I mentioned Oxrun Station in the last column, so it only seems right to give it some time this month.

This has been described by many as Charlie Grant's horror series. That's incorrect. Grant loved to connect his works, and he had a variety of series. He edited four: the Shadows anthologies of quiet horror; the 1980s paperback original set (Horrors, Terrors, Fears, Nightmares); a pair of Midnight books and the first horror shared-world anthologies of Greystone Bay. He connected some of his horror stories to his post-apocalyptic Parric series of science fiction novels and connected others to his Lionel Fenn humor series of Kent Montana. He set a number of his early horror stories on Hawthorne Street and others in the quiet town of Oxrun Station, to the point that his Arkham House collection had large sections for each setting.
But Oxrun is the one that put him on everyone's radar. He used the setting for eight novels (The Hour of the Oxrun Dead, The Sound of Midnight, The Last Call of Mourning, The Grave, The Bloodwind and the historical novels The Soft Whisper of the Dead, The Dark Cry of the Moon and The Long Night of the Grave). It also served as the locale for four novella collections (Nightmare Seasons, The Orchard, Dialing the Wind and The Black Carousel) and for other short fiction. Many of the works were nominated for World Fantasy and Bram Stoker awards, and some won him statuettes for his mantle.

By placing all of these stories within the same small town, he forced himself to use characters repeatedly, often expanding secondary characters in one story to protagonists in another. He added to the sense of continuity by including glimpses into the events before or after other works; a main character from an earlier novel evokes sympathy from another secondary character because of the family member she lost... the family member who was revealed at the end of the book to be a killer. The reader of the earlier book knows that in the end, she managed to drown the murderer and make it look like an accidental death in the tub. The person who did not read the earlier book is merely shown more of a town whose tertiary characters have a depth unusual to contemporary storytelling.

Sympathetic protagonists live and die, succeed and fail in the stories of Oxrun Station. The stories are told with a prose style leaning heavily toward the poetic, and Grant used that style to draw the reader into his stories. But the star of Oxrun was not his distinctive descriptive flair but rather the Station itself.

Other authors recognized this. A collection, Horror at Halloween, featured not only Grant but three other authors creating a mosaic novel for young adults set in Oxrun. Kim Newman gave readers a final and beautiful glimpse of the station in the staggeringly expensive Grant tribute collection, Quietly Now. The Station has been mentioned in tales by contemporaries and juniors to Grant, showing a longevity and appreciation for his creation.
Centipede Press recently reissued the first two novels in the series in beautiful hardcover editions limited to 100 copies each. They deserve to sell through quickly, because these books should be mandatory reading on how to properly construct a literary town. It is the luck of the horror community that genre to construct it.

--Bill Lindblad

(NOTE FROM EDITOR: As a writer of dark fiction, and a longtime fan of Mr. Grant's particular style of "quiet horror", I encourage anyone who wishes to become a better writer, or even someone who wants to read some of the best horror fiction published in the 80s and 90s, to please find Charles L. Grant's books, get them, read them and learn. Modern horror fiction needs to remember this man who helped in so many unapplauded ways to make the horror genre what it is today. It is a shame that he is now nearly forgotten by today's modern horror reader. But as modern horror writers, we cannot allow this man's contributions go unrecognized in the genre we all love so much. It is our duty to continue his work in creating horror that frightens on psychological and emotional levels, and leave one disturbed long after the last page has been turned. To do otherwise is far from fulfilling the first duty of great horror fiction. And to allow this man's works to be lost in such a short time is nothing short of a crime against the entire community of horror writers and fans.

--Nickolas Cook, Editor-In-Chief)



It’s strange for me to call a movie “noir” when it’s set in the sunny beaches of Florida, and much of it seems to be set in the warm sunshine of early summer. Yet, for DARKER THAN AMBER (1970), the label works, and they’ve created quite a tense little film noir.

Rod Taylor plays Travis McGee, a man specializing in “finding things” for people. But in DARKER THAN AMBER, he accidentally finds a woman when she falls from the sky into his little fishing boat. She’s pretty, mysterious and alluring. McGee falls for her. But when she’s murdered, he uses his contacts to find something for himself—answers to her murder. Someone will pay, that much we are sure of. The fun comes in finding out how and when.
Taylor deserves a huge amount of credit for the movie’s success. His McGee is a really nice guy, but it doesn’t seem out of place when he starts kicking some ass. Suzy Kendall gives a good performance as the mystery woman, and I have no complaints about it. But this really is Taylor’s movie, and he carries it quite well.

The biggest downfall of DARKER THAN AMBER is the music. Even without seeing the men in micro-shorts, you can tell this flick was made in the 70s by the score. Everything else fits perfectly for that film noir, but then the funk starts up. The score would have been perfect for something a little more pornographic. However, it is hard for me to say too much bad about it because, even though it pulled me out of the movie on occasion, the goofy fun of the music made for a great tension reliever and made me smile.
I have not read the novel, or any of the other Travis McGee mysteries. From what I understand, though, this movie captures the character quite well, and it’s a huge compliment to the movie that now I do want to go read a few of the books. It’s a shame Taylor didn’t do any more McGee films, because I could easily see it becoming a beloved movie series. Instead, we’ll just have to be happy with the one we have.



BOOK: DARKER THAN AMBER by John D. MacDonald (1966)

The Travis McGee series is one of the best in detective fiction. It was published as a series of paperback originals at the rate of roughly one per year in the 1960s, 70s and the beginning of the 1980s. The books follow the adventures of a professional "salvage expert" who lives in Florida on a boat won in a poker match.

The odd residence fits McGee perfectly. He lives through risk, surviving and flourishing through his successful efforts. His "salvage" work is not the typical Floridian boat efforts, but rather a word-of-mouth business for which he recovers items - usually cash - for people who have been cheated or robbed. He charges a fifty percent fee.

The high price keeps away those who aren't desperate, and allows Travis to maintain a semi-constant state of "retirement". The episodes in between provide the meat of the novels, and through the series the reader gets to experience the change of Florida's coast from beachland to developed properties.

In Darker than Amber McDonald bypasses McGee's normal method of acquiring a case and instead literally drops a young woman in front of Travis. McGee and his closest friend are fishing under a bridge at night when a woman plummets into the water, getting tangled in McGee's line. He saves the girl's life and in the course of helping her to recover learns of a prostitution and murder ring that he feels obliged to end.
The action is believable and violent, the progression of events natural, and there is a strong sense of dramatic tension built for the various secondary characters.

It's not the best of the series, but this spiritual father of Repairman Jack always provided an interesting read.

Four stars out of five


OFF KILTER TV: Where Horror Rears its Ugly Head on Family Television

The Weird Western* Lassos the Rawhide TV Show
Reviewed by Anthony Servante

When we watch family television, we have certain expectations about the plots and the behavior of the characters. We expect Lucille Ball to get into and out of trouble; we expect Scully and Mulder to encounter supernatural phenomena. What we don’t expect is Lucy taking on monsters or Mulder stealing John Wayne’s cement footprints from the Grauman’s Chinese Theater. When the unexpected happens on our favorite shows, I call them Off Kilter TV.

In today’s column we will take a look at the 60s TV Western, RAWHIDE and an episode called, “Incident of the Four Horsemen”, written by Charles Larson, who wrote for the TV show, One Step Beyond, and directed by Thomas Carr, who directed for Adventures of Superman and Dick Tracy.

What I like about Rawhide is that the stories are always on the verge of the supernatural: a mysterious figure in black follows the drovers, killing them off one by one, the Murder Steer (a bull with the word ‘murder’ branded on its side) appears and whoever sees it soon after dies; there’s the rolling wagon with no driver, a supposedly haunted Indian Burial Ground, and a zombie Indian, but the episodes always end with an explanation: the figure in black is a man who murdered his wife and child and seeks his own death by killing others; the Murder Steer is planted by a corrupt judge who plans a crime; the zombie Indian was just very ill and never really died as his tribe believed. However, in the episode, “Incident of the Four Horsemen”, it turns out to be a true supernatural tale, an Off Kilter TV yarn closer to weird than western.

Let’s first refresh our memories as Rawhide is over 50 years old. The western TV show revolves around a cattle drive of about 3000 head of steer, the trail boss, Gil Favor (Eric Fleming), the second in command, ramrod Rowdy Yates (Clint Eastwood), Wishbone, the cook (Paul Brinegar), and the 20 or so drovers played by regular and guest actors from week to week.

In the Four Horsemen episode, the drive is stalled between two feuding families, and in Romeo and Juliet-style, a young man from one family, Louden, and a young woman from the other, Galt, marry, triggering a murder and fueling the feud toward a full-scale war. One by one, each of the horsemen arrive as the war nears. Here we need to get a little biblical guidance before we resume the episode analysis. The coming of the horsemen heralds the Apocalypse, that is, the final battle between Christ and the Antichrist for the souls of mankind, and these riders are known traditionally as Death, War, Famine, and Pestilence. The head of one family is Galt (God?), and the other is Louden (Lucifer?); it is difficult to say who is the good one and the evil one in that their names are interchangeable with double meaning: for instance, Galt can be gaunt or god, while Louden can be Lucifer or Lord. This ambiguity causes us to focus on the horsemen rather than the families, just as in the biblical Apocalypse there will be false prophets and one will not be able to tell the rise of the antichrist from the second coming of Christ. Many souls will be lost as they choose the wrong side.

So, in the Rawhide episode, the family feud on the brink of battle represents the coming Apocalypse. Thus, the first horseman to appear is War: Initially, we meet Gus Marsden (Claude Atkins); get it, Mars, Roman god of war? The den of war. Nudge, nudge. His first act is to instigate the murder of Carl Galt (Edward Faulkner) right after the marriage between Amy Galt and Frank Louden. Next we meet Ben Kerran (carrion?) (John Dehner) who plays the horseman Death. We can tell he’s Death because Wishbone finds him dead and buries him, and a few seconds later, he rises from the grave. Of course, Favor hires him immediately. When Marsden and Kerran meet, they get on like old acquaintances, for what is war without death?

The horsemen, Famine and Pestilence, are found in a ghost town. They are called Hombre and White. Hombre represents famine as he eerily eats nonstop for the rest of the episode. White is pestilence as he coughs nonstop, a cough deep inside where no medicine can reach, as he points out. Soon, the two horsemen join the others and the four are now together, ready for the families to begin their bloodshed so they can thrive. Only Gil Favor stands between the four men and their goal. Favor must drive the cattle across the river, preventing any of the armies from using the steer to feed their warfare. But the Four Horsemen are not going to make it easy for him.

As Kerran reminds Favor that he’s driving the herd straight into a brewing war, the trail boss points out that he makes his own fate, thus alluding to free will and that the outcome is not predetermined. He tries to convince Louden not to go to war, but Galt and Kerran barge in on them. Kerran (Death) pushes the newlywed groom to make it seem like he’s reaching for a gun and Galt shoots him. The horseman tells Favor that he was trying to push him out of harm’s way, the same lie Marsden used to trigger the first murder, of Carl Galt, that brought them to the brink of battle.

Favor is not deterred and plans to cross the river. Marsden, Kerran, White and Hombre sit atop their horses on the other side of the river and the herd refuses to cross. It is then that someone says that the four men are the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and call Kerran by the name Death. Favor insists that the sun is in the cows’ eyes and they just need to wait a few hours for the sun to be overhead. But war threatens. Marsden and Kerran are steely-eyed, White coughs away, and Hombre continues to eat. The trail boss challenges Kerran to a fight, winner takes all; if Kerran wins, he claims the lives of everyone, including the cattle’s, but if Favor wins, war will be averted and the cattle can cross the river.

So, it’s mano a mano with Gil Favor versus Death. Since we can’t have the hero of the show get killed, Favor wins, and Kerran admits that his timing was off, that it was not yet Favor’s time, but that he’ll be back. War is averted, the cattle cross, the family feud is settled, and the Four Horsemen ride off.

You can watch the episode in its entirety on YouTube below.

Much of the fun of this supernatural episode is the weak attempt to explain away the strange behavior of the drovers (some come down with a bad cough, similar to White’s, others choose sides for or against Galt and Louden, and many are driven to drink to handle the pressure of impending war), but the best they could come up with is the sun got in the cow’s eyes. Throughout the episode there is talk of devils and demons, god and man’s place in a godless land. Through it all, as Favor tries to talk sense to his men, we as viewers cannot ignore all that has transpired, the deviousness of Marsden and Kerran, the insatiable appetite of Hombre, and that wicked cough deep in White. Still, “Incident of the Four Horsemen” can be added to the list of Weird Westerns and to the list of Off Kilter TV shows brought to you by yours truly.

Until next we meet with another Off Kilter TV program, keep the TV on in the darkness.

--Anthony Servante

(**NOTE** See this month’s Servante of Darkness column on the Weird Western for more background. See also the September issue of The Black Glove for an Off Kilter TV look at Bonanza: Twilight Town, another Weird Western episode.)

Foreign Fears: Tropical Malady (2004)--สัตว์ประหลาด or Sud pralad

Tropical Malady (2004) Thai or Sud pralad

Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Cast: Sakda Kaewbuadee, Banlop Lomnoi, Sirivech Jareonchon, Udom Promma and Huai Deesom

reviewed by Nickolas Cook

Watching TROPICAL MALADY is somewhat like drifting into someone else's narrative--a half-dream state, a slight adjustment of reality, a drone at the back of the head. But I don't mean that in a bad way, mind you; but there is a definite sense of dislocation...of disconnection, when you watch this modern classic of 'magical realism'. Its structure feels truly less Asian than Latin American in its depiction and devotion to the preternatural world of forests, and the strange animal spirits which dwell within it.

But TROPICAL MALADY is more than an examination of that weird twilight world that exist beyond the safety of the city lights and the four walls and ceiling within which we find such dubious security. In fact, its first part is devoted to a young soldier who falls in love with a young innocent village boy, and their sweet courtship, as they begin to discover one another's desires and fears. In this first part we are treated to the love story, up until we see the soldier visiting the boy's parents' farm and we hear a radio report of the strange deaths of local cattle, blamed on a wandering predatory jungle cat. The young boy wanders off into the jungle and...

Abruptly, we find ourselves with the soldier who is in the jungle looking for a lost villager. Slowly, deliberately the soldier keeps wandering deeper and deeper into the jungle, hearing the frightening sounds of a big cat and finding evidence of its feeding, until night falls down around him. It's then that he meets up with one of those jungle spirits, the spirit of a tiger shaman, who can turn from human to cat.

And its the jungle scenes in which we see the power of this director's ability to frighten and entrance, as we are treated to visions of terror and beauty. Sound also plays an important role in this film: there are many moments when there are no human voices, only the incessant droning of insect and animal life in the jungle's depths, or even at times the constant background ambience of the city streets, an arcade, or even the distant sounds of music echoing across the nighttime cityscape, the sound of one man's frightened breathing as he stumbles after an unknown entity in the dark, thickness of the jungle's depths. And its through the use of sound and imaginative camera work that we can almost feel that same jungle surrounding us, entrapping us with its ancient secrets of animal and man alike.

I highly recommend it to the viewer who is just beginning to discover what joys and beauties that can be found in Asian cinema, as well to the film buff who feel that they have seen everything the movies have to offer. But be warned this is not a gore-fest unto like Miike, or even a narrative that lays out a simplistic plotline of violence and explosions. No, this is a film for those of us who still appreciate the work of a master who knows how to use the image as a storytelling device, without the hammer over the head approach of modern film's know the kind of movie where someone has to pause halfway through the film to explain to one of the characters what has happened and what is going on. If that's what you're looking for, this ain't gonna be the movie for you. In point of fact, as I complain about such imbecilic filmmaking, I think it's safe to say that there are few modern films like TROPICAL MALADY, which is as it should be: I'm not sure if modern cinema could handle such weighty and yet gossamer visions.

--Nickolas Cook

Brian Sammons Hi-Def Horror Hoedown!

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011)– Blu-ray review

Director: Rupert Wyatt
Cast: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto

Ok so it’s not necessarily a horror movie, but it is a reboot (yes I said reboot and not remake) of a great movie written in part by the guy that gave us all THE TWILIGHT ZONE, so that’s more than enough pedigree for me. So get ready to pick some bugs from your buddy’s hide with you filthy paws, its monkey time.

RISE is set in modern day earth where we humans still call the shots. Thankfully there is no capsule falling from the starts with space chimps in it. Unfortunately it’s the old chestnut of trying to defeat Alzheimer’s disease buy genetically altering animals that gets folks into trouble. Come on people, that’s the exact same setup for DEEP BLUE SEA, and you know how well that went. Anyway this time around the well-meaning scientists are experimenting on apes instead of sharks, so I guess that’s a little better. This testing results in a supper smart mommy monkey who goes berserk one day defending her super smart baby, so she is killed and the project is scrapped by the typical evil rich businessman. But one scientist, played by a rather wooden James Franco, sneaks the genius chimp out of the testing labs to raise as his own. This Mensa monkey is named Caesar and yes, that name should sound familiar to you, for more than just historic and pizza reasons.

Caesar grows up like your typical hyper intelligent primate, looking on the outside world with longing from his attic bedroom. The classic tale of “who am I?” is played out as Caesar is smart enough to know that he’s different from his adoptive father and grandfather (John Lithgow doing a good job as Franco’s Alzheimer’s afflicted father) but he doesn’t know why he’s different. Things then go from sad to bad when the demented granddad goes outside and gets accosted by the world’s biggest jackass neighbor. When Caesar swings in (literally) to save the day and bites the douchebag’s fingers off, he gets sentenced to monkey jail until the courts decides what to do with him. And as you would guess, bad goes to worse as the ape house is run by Brian Cox and has Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter films) as a scumbag assistant. Yeah, I’m sure Caesar will have no problems with either of them.

The movie next becomes a bit of a primate prison film with Caesar having to prove himself to the other apes, including the big bully chimp of the cellblock. Meanwhile the well-meaning scientist tries to get his ape buddy back, but at the same time he continues his work on the wonder drug that made Caesar so smart. But before long Caesar decided he’s had enough of man’s cruelty to his kind, so he steals a bunch of the smart drug, doses all of the apes in the monkey prison, and stages the great ape revolt.

I have to admit that when I started this film I had very low expectations. While I liked the original PLANET OF THE APES movie, I was never a fan of all the various sequels, so I didn’t have any fanboy love for this series. Also the previews I had seen for the flick just looked silly; it looked like a CGI monkey fest where apes could somehow overcome a SWAT team complete with machineguns and helicopters. That said, I was surprisingly won over by this film. Sure there were a lot of silly bits in it, but that’s to be expected in any movie with super smart apes in it. But here the story was surprisingly engaging, all the actors did a very good job, and even James Franco was less wooded than usual. Special kudos must be given to Caesar as both a good looking CGI creation, and a fine performance by the master of mocap (motion capture) acting, Andy Serkis, who mastered his virtual acting skills by playing Gollum in the LORD OF THE RINGS films and Kong in 2005 KING KONG remake. The vast majority of time I can’t stand CGI, but here I not only didn’t mind it, but I sometimes forgot I was looking at a computer created character. Higher praise than that, I cannot think of.

As far as extras goes, this is one of those three-way combo packs that I like so much. That means it has the Blu-ray, DVD, and digital copy of the movie to choose from. In addition there are a ton of goodies on the Blu-ray disc including audio commentaries, deleted scenes, and a boatload of featurettes with many of them focusing on the CGI/mocap aspect of the film and on Andy Serkis in particular. A nice collection of trailers, concept art, a look at the previous APES film, and more round out the impressive list of extras to be found on this Blu-ray.

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES was a fun, popcorn-muncher of a film with a lot more depth in it then I would have thought. I think it will satisfy both fans of the original series and those who have never seen any of the previous APE films. And as someone who was neither, I really liked it too. So consider this bit of monkey business recommended.

FINAL DESTINATION 5 (2011)– Blu-ray review

Director: Steven Quale
Cast: Nicholas D'Agosto, Emma Bell, Arlen Escarpeta

Yep it’s another FINAL DESTINATION movie and since the plot for them haven’t changed a single, solitary bit since the first movie back in 2000, you know exactly what to expect. Some young and far too pretty people narrowly avoid a massive and over the top death scenario, be it an airplane crash, killer roller-coaster, world’s worst traffic accident or whatever, by someone getting a psychic vision of the impending doom. This cheat really pisses the grim reaper off to no end who then strives to put things right through the use of usually overly complex deaths. Think of the traps from SAW as seen through the eyes of a morbid Rube Goldberg, with a healthy
dose of happenstance and whimsy mixed in for good measure.

The protagonists always try to find a way to escape their fatal fate while all their friends around them die gloriously gory deaths, and by the end of the movie they will think they did cheat death a second time only to get a “surprise” (yep, those are finger quotes) death at the end proving that no one can escape their fate. And seriously, that’s it, that’s the exact same story, over and over again, with only new death scenes cut and pasted into the movie to make one film the least bit different from those that came before it. Hell, even the endless chain of FRIDAY THE 13TH movies had more variety and creativity than that.

But you know what, that’s ok. Because the real star of these movies have never been the mad-libs with gore story, or cute but forgettable twenty-something actors, or the competent at best, but in no way thrilling direction, or even Tony (Candyman) Todd as the voice of death. No, you go to see a FINAL DESTINATION movie for the crazy kills and sensational splatter and these films have always delivered the goods. Thankfully Part 5 is no exception to this and the kills come fast and bloody in this latest installment.

The one, and pretty much only, new wrinkle to this tail is the setup, the aforementioned big catastrophe that the stars of the show narrowly escape. This time it’s a bridge collapse in all its CGI splendor. After that come the usual “who will die now and how” part of the film and this is where these movies shine as death gets medieval on their collective asses for daring to turn him down when he first asked them to dance. However, as rote as this part of the film is, I must say that the ending of FINAL DESTINATION 5 was, in a word, super-freaking-awesome. Seriously, it’s the best ending of any of the movies from the series and if you are a fan of the DESTINATION flicks, it is worth the price of admission alone just to see it. Also as impractical as it first seems, in retrospect the movie plays 100% fair and honest with the big twist. Go ahead, watch it a second time and you’ll notice all the clues you first missed.

As far as extras on the new Blu-ray from Warner Brothers goes, like the movie its self, the majority of them focus on the stars of the show; the death scenes. From alternate versions of the deaths, to behind the scenes bits on the technical aspects on creating those deaths, to split-screen features on two of the big set pieces. Sadly there was no commentary track, but what would such a thing be, anyway? “Ok here we thought it would be cool if someone died during lasik eye surgery. Now here we were thinking about acupuncture needles…”

FINAL DESTINATION 5 does nothing new, but what it does, it does well. If you’re a fan of the FD flicks then you’ll dig this one too. If you’re not, then this movie won’t do a thing to change your mind. If you’ve got a jones to see people get squished, sliced, bashed, stabbed, electrocuted, and all sorts of other icky things happen to them real good, then this movie is the one for you.

CHILLERAMA (2011)– Blu-ray review

Directors: Adam Green, Joe Lynch, Adam Rifkin, Tim Sullivan
Cast: Richard Riehle, Adam Rifkin, Ray Wise, Joel David Moore

Hello fans of the wonderfully weird, the gorgeously gross, and the fantastically f***** up, do I have a movie for you. It’s CHILLERAMA, a collection of four short films gathered CREEPSHOW style that bills itself as “the ultimate midnight movie.” Does it live up to that lofty claim, or is it like many of the movies it rips off – er, I mean pay homage to, and its more hyperbole than honestly good? Well jump in the car and let’s head out to the drive-in to find out.

Speaking of drive-ins, they’re not only the perfect place to see this movie, but the setting for the wraparound film that holds the other three together. “Zom-B-Movie” takes place on the last night of a local drive-in that plans to go out in style by having an all-night freaky flick fest. Unfortunately what was not in the plan was for one of the employees to dig up his dead wife for some “dead head” before going to work. And yes, dead head is exactly what you think it is. However little miss cold and rotting doesn’t like the idea of necrophilia, even when she’s the corpse, so she bites one of her hubby’s bean bags off, which surprisingly doesn’t upset him all that much as he still goes to work. So as CHILLERAMA progresses, and the other three short films play out, things start to get weird at the drive-in as a slight case of zombie-itus begins to spread. However these undead don’t want your flesh, well at least not for eating. No, they’re only hungry for you love, whether you want to give it to them or not. Yeah they are sex crazy rape zombies, and if the idea of that puts you off this movie, then you should just stop reading now, as things only get weirder from there.

“Wadzilla” is your typical 1950s sci-fi, giant monster movie, if the giant monster in question was a huge, man-eating sperm. Yep poor old Miles Munson, played very well by this segment’s director; Adam Rifkin, has very slow, weak sperm. Taking a new and untested drug to give him stronger little swimmers, he gets more than he bargained for when, after rubbing one out before a hot date, he pops out a fist sized sperm that just keeps growing and growing and growing. Pretty soon its giant-fire-breathing-lizard size and it’s up to Miles and the good old American army to save the day.

“I was a Teenage Wearbear” is the age old story of boy meets girl, boy would rather meet another boy, boy gets bit on the butt during a wrestling match and starts to transform into a bear when aroused. And if you’re familiar with gay slang then you will know why bear is far more appropriate than wolf here. Oh and all this is set to sunny 50s style music. That’s right this is a high school musical with sexual confused teenage shapeshifters. What’s not to love about that?

Last, but in no way least, is “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein” by Adam “HATCHET” Green. In this movie Adolf Hitler gets a hold of Frankenstein’s diary and plans to make a murderous monster to win him the war. Naturally he wants his monster to be as frightening as possible, so he makes him in the image of what terrifies him most, a Jew. Too bad for Hitler (and I never thought I’d type that) he never thought there would be a downside to creating a huge, hulking, indestructible Jew. Then his pet monster, named Meshugannah and played by Kane “the best Jason Voorhees ever” Hodder, realizes that he really shouldn’t be doing the bidding of the chief Nazi and does what everyone on earth, besides other Nazis, would love to do.

And as if all this wasn’t enough, there’s even a mini-movie within one of the short movies called “Deathecation” about…well take a guess. So CHILLERAMA gives you blood, guts, necro-rape, naked boobies, killer sperm, Nazis, impalement on a large werebear penis, show tunes, foul language, and poop jokes. Oh and it is also funny as hell, if you are into over-the-top gross-out humor that doesn’t care about what is nice, acceptable, or family friendly. I, for one, completely loved this movie for that.

To compliment this crazy film are a nice collection of extras on this Blu-ray. First and foremost is a video commentary track with all four directors. And when I say video, I mean just that as the commentators appear in a little window in the upper left of the screen. As you can expect from a meeting of the minds that brought us this frightfully funny flick, there’s a lot of clowning around and I found the commentary a very entertaining addition to this film. Additionally there are a bunch of featurettes of varying lengths, with one of the best being a thirty minute making of for “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein”. Tim Sullivan’s "I was a Teenage Werebear" does double duty, providing a twenty minute behind the scenes feature and a collection of deleted scenes. Sadly the same love is not shown to “Wadzilla” and “Zom-B-Movie” as both of those are just represented by a few deleted scenes. There is a very short (five minutes or so) interview with the quartet of directors from FAMOUS MONSTERS magazine and a just slightly longer interview (seven minutes, give or take) with the freaky four at 2011’s Comic Con. A couple of trailers bring the extras to an end.

CHILLERAMA is a fun and funny flick perfect for those not easily offended. It’s bloody, silly, sexy, and is totally the movie you would never watch with your mother. If that sounds like the flick for you then snap yourself up a copy today. Consider this one very recommended for all out craziness and not taking anything seriously. If only more movies dared to do this, the world would be a better, if weirder, place. Of that I am certain.

--Brian Sammons


by Lisa Morton

Allow me a moment to sing the praises of The Criterion Collection. Their magnificent DVDs have introduced me to a number of films I would have missed otherwise, especially those intriguing gems from other countries that may have been difficult to see in the U.S. Take their Japanese horror releases, for instance - aside from more well-known classics like UGETSU and KWAIDAN, they've also got JIGOKU (already reviewed in this column), the completely lunatic HOUSE (review coming soon), and the subject of of this installment, KURONEKO. I'd never heard of KURONEKO until I found it in the Criterion catalog, and now I'm glad I did.

KURONEKO may not have the artfulness of UGETSU, the frantic pace of HOUSE, or the trapped-in-a-bad-dream feel of JIGOKU, but what it does have is a very solid script, buoyed by fine performances, lovely cinematography, memorable music, and plenty of genuinely creepy moments. It begins in Japan's past, as two women alone in a farmhouse are found by a band of bad-guy samurai soldiers who eat their food, rape the women, and then set fire to the house. As the sated warriors wander off, the dead or dying women are attended by their black cat...

Flash forward to: Several years later, when the women have come back as the vengeful ghosts with more than a hint of feline about them. They have a singular, specific purpose: To wreak revenge on all samurais. They do this by luring lone soldiers to an isolated house, where the older woman (mother) attends them, while the lovely younger one seduces them - before biting their throats out. They tell one of their victims that they are still awaiting the return of GIntoki, son and husband to mother and daughter-in-law.

When enough of his men are discovered dead, the arrogant local lord orders an investigation, and calls for his bravest soldier to investigate. Because, of course, KURONEKO is based on a traditional legend, coincidences and deus ex machina-twists of fate are not just accepted but expected; in this case, the plot hinges on the fact that the cruel lord assigns none other than Gintoki, only recently returned from war and now a hero, to pursue the murderous ghosts.

That's roughly the halfway point of KURONEKO; the rest of the film is occasionally poignant (as Gintoki engages in a ghostly affair), erotic (see above), and fantastic (as the cat spirits within the ghosts emerge).
What's surprising about KURONEKO is that it's more obvious about its genre elements than something like, say, UGETSU. There are glimpses of catwomen, murdered soldiers, and even a severed half-paw/half-hand (although it lacks the obvious gore of the earlier JIGOKU). It's also interesting that director Kaneto Shindo shot his 1968 film in black and white, when most other Japanese films had moved to color. The black and white ends up serving the story very well; Shindo is skilled at creating high-contrast compositions, and some of the most startling moments in the film are when white figures are glimpsed gliding through a black frame behind an unwitting soldier.

Will KURONEKO be frightening to modern audiences? Well, I'm not sure it was frightening to 1968 Japanese audiences, because Shindo is going for a moodier piece, and at that KURONEKO is completely successful. It's got that unsettling feel of an authentic, unprocessed fairy tale, like a Grimm's before Disney gets a hold of it.

The performance of Nobuko Otowa as catwoman mom also lends significantly to the film's aura. She glides along hallways with animal grace, laps at water, and performs kabuki-like movements as her daughter-in-law tempts and destroys each new samurai. She delivers the film's most tragic and strange speeches, and is also fine as the ultimate, fiendish antagonist GIntoki must face.

Of course the Criterion transfer is exquisite, and I highly recommend their disc of KURONEKO to those looking to expand their knowledge of Asian horror cinema. It certainly expanded mine.

--Lisa Morton

Movies Worth Googling: Strange Movie Reviews by Jenny Orosel


Some time ago, a friend and I were talking about a movie we both liked. However, a few minutes into the discussion we realized we were talking about two different movies. The title was the same, but that’s where the similarities ended. Titles can’t be copy written, so you could theoretically have fifty movies in one year, all with the title of HAPPY SCRAPPY HERO PUP. It wouldn’t be wise, as that title invokes a very specific mental image. A more generic title like, say, FOOD or SUNSHINE could work. So could BUG.

The Internet Movie Database lists five movies with the specific, one-word title BUG. That’s not including films like BUG’S LIFE or HERBIE THE LOVE BUG where it’s only a portion of the title. I watched three of the BUG movies, and they couldn’t be more different than each other.

2002’s BUG has very little to do with bugs. It starts with a child squishing a roach, and scattered throughout the film, there are bug references. That’s not what the movie’s about. Ever since Richard Linklater’s SLACKER (1991), there’s been a subgenre in indie flicks where, instead of one large over-arching plot, there are a handful of loosely connected vignettes. We never get to know the characters; in fact we rarely learn their names. It takes a strong script to survive an ensemble story, and BUG had some decent writers behind it. Directed by two screenwriters (Phil Hay and Matt Manifred), they give enough information about the characters, but not so much that it bogs down the story. The forementioned bug squishing inspires a lonely man to put on an insect costume and jump from the roof of a skyscraper, only to be stopped by one good-hearted man who gets a parking ticket every time he stops to do a good deed. What is the first man trying to say with his attempted suicide? What is it that keeps the second man motivated to do kindness, despite the cards that appear stacked against him? We never find out because we never need to. And therein lies the key to BUG—it keeps the focus on needed information and, unlike most flicks by first-time indie filmmakers, avoids self-indulgence.

Bug | Brian Cox | Michael Hitchcock | Phil Hay | Movie Trailer | Review

By contrast, BUG from 1975 is about insects. Specifically, roaches from beneath the Earth’s surface that travel by car exhaust and make things (including people and cats) catch fire. Sounds corny. But this one was co-written by William Castle, the brilliant mind behind gimmick flicks like THE TINGLER and 13 GHOSTS and that man knew how to create a story that was a damn good time to see. It didn’t try and have a deeper meaning, or deliver a Very Important Message. Instead, the director and writers realized they were making a movie about roaches that make things explode and ran with it. The deaths are alternately frightening and hilarious. Like some of the best monster movies throughout history, 1975’s BUG is pure fun.

In 2006, William Friedkin made his own BUG movie, this one based on a stage play. Yes, the story involves bugs, however, it does not involve insects. Peter Evans recently returned from the first gulf war, where he had to undergo unnamed medical treatments, He believes the doctors implanted a “bug” somewhere on his body to spy on him. The story is told through the eyes of his new girlfriend, played by Ashley Judd, as she travels with him deeper and deeper into his world of fear and paranoia. Was he really the subject of unspeakable experiments? It doesn’t matter. What does matter is what they believe. Friedkin is a master filmmaker, and by the end, you can almost feel the world closing in the way the two main characters experience it.

Three completely distinct movies, one title. As a writer I find it fascinating how a single word can be interpreted in such different ways. It would make for a fun exercise to see all the different ways a writer can interpret a single word or concept. But in the meantime I might just go watch the other BUGS….

Where to find the movies:

The 2006 and 1975 versions are still in print. The 2002 BUG is out of print but can be found for less than a dollar on EBay. That is, if you don’t mind combing through the 841 results for movies with “bug” in the title.

--Jenny Orosel