Monday, July 4, 2011

Editorial July 2011 e-issue #25

By Nickolas Cook
The Black Glove Magazine

Even though I’m (mostly) a horror writer myself, it has come to my attention how much of a pain in the ass modern horror fiction has become to me, as a writer, and, yes, even as a reader.

A huge one.

There was a time when I LOVED horror fiction, lived for it. These days, it’s sort of an embarrassment to someone like myself who still thinks Poe and King are the two greatest horror writers who ever lived.

There was a time when I read nothing but horror, a “stale” period in my reading life that went on for a few years, back in my early twenties. Of course, back then I didn’t think of it as “stale” at all. I was having a great time diving into one horror novel after another, reading anything and everything I could get my hands on with equal zeal-- the good, the bad and the downright pitiful. I was young, so what the hell did I know from wasting my time? Hell, at that age, I figured I had nothing but time. Silly me…

Around that time, as I was devouring one John Saul/Dean Koontz/Stephen King/etc., etc., novel after another, two non-fiction books on the subject of horror changed not only my writing life, but my reading life as well.

The first was one that most horror fans have probably picked up at one time or another: Stephen King’s “Danse Macabre” (1981)

King’s book because he opened up the world of horror for me on a broader range than I had yet to be exposed to. He talked a great deal about horror film and its connection to horror fiction, and how the two, in some ways would never, could never, see eye to eye. The audiences for the two mediums are not the same. I have since read the book several times and still get tons of enjoyment out of his insight and theories. It’s a history which speaks to this Horrorhead, loudly and clearly.

The other book was Stanley Wiater’s “Dark Dreamers: Conversations With the Masters of Horror” (1990)

Wiater’s book contained some advice from a well known and respected horror author which finally startled me awake to what I was doing to myself as a wannabe writer (and, on a lesser score, as a well rounded reader). I purchased the book after having read King’s “Danse Macabre” for the first time, and it came to me during a period of my life in which I was thinking of really getting serious about putting ass to chair, and trying to make a real writer out of myself. The advice actually came from several different authors, given in several different ways throughout the book of interviews, so I guess you could say it was well known and regarded advice from some of the best known and bestselling horror authors in that decade or two when horror was king on the bookshelves (roughly late 1970s-early 1990s). I had read the same advice from these varied sources, as I went from page to page, getting the lowdown on how Clive Barker got his start, how Anne Rice’s religious background and the death of her son played the biggest roles in her beginning of her first horror novel, and how Robert Bloch’s long distance pen pal relationship with his mentor H.P. Lovercraft helped make him the writer he would later become…at age 13. But for some reason it was Peter Straub who finally got through to me. He’s an author whom I have admired and tried to learn from since I first read his superior existential horror novel, “Shadowland” (1980) back in 1988.

Having read a few of his books at that point in my life, I already understood that he was a adroit and educated craftsman, who had the ability to make the creepiest moment feel like some kind of dark poetry in motion. He did nothing but give the same advice as those others in Wiater’s collection of interviews, but it must have been his combination of literate and humorous wording which really struck me, because that advice lit me up as a writer and a reader, and acted as a guided post all those years ago.

Still does, over 25 years later.

Is it killing you trying to figure out what golden advice Straub gave Wiater’s readers nearly three decades ago?

It was simple advice and the kind of thing you wonder why it never occurred to you to do, if you’re not already doing so. What he said in essence was that believed to become a great writer, horror or not, you had to be willing to read and learn from any and everything you could put your hands on, both fiction and non-fiction. He said you had to willingly go beyond the boundaries of what you usually found yourself reading, so you got a well rounded education in the written word, and all the possibilities inherent in its powers and limitations.

Now I’m paraphrasing, of course, but that’s about the size of what he advised ALL writers HAD to do. Especially is you were a NEWBIE/WANNABE, and had any desire to develop your craft as quickly and fully as possible.

Well, like I said, I was getting very serious about making a go at the whole writing-as-career thing, so this simple advice sunk in.

Another cog had fallen into place only a couple of years before when I became the one and only young writer to win an award for a horror story in the school newspaper/fiction journal. I hope by now things have changed at good old Fernandina Beach High School (home of the Fighting Pirates!), and some measure of open mindedness and acceptance of such things has become the norm, and not exception, for the present staff and student body. But I was justifiably proud of that award. And I find I still am, even now, all these years later. Back then, winning it was a sort of validation from higher powers that my desire to write for a living was a good thing, the right thing. By then, I’d already had some battles with the people in my life who were older and seemingly wiser than myself, people who told me it was a silly dream, and that I’d die poor and unknown. The people who should have been encouraging me to follow my dreams were the ones stomping on them and telling me I was a fool.

But despite their negativity, there was something happening inside of me back then, something important. Winning that award pushed me over the line, gave some much needed confidence in my meager talents, and made me feel as if putting my time and energy into the writing lifestyle wouldn’t be the waste of time I kept hearing it would be. For I knew enough even then, that if I hoped to be the next Stephen King, I would have to work hard and stay disciplined about getting better and better all the time.

Of course, back then I couldn’t have foreseen just how much time and energy would be required of any person who wants to become a halfway decent writer, let alone the Straub level to which I was aspiring. Back then, there’s no way I could have known how long it would take to hone my dull-edged craft, so that I would finally be able to write something that was actually good enough to call a story.

Years and years.

Hundreds of thousands of words, most of them badly strung together.

Until the last few years, that is. I find now, after all those years of making myself write everyday—no matter what was going on in my life—and reading and researching, that I’ve actually come to point in my writing that I don’t completely suck. People who read my stuff now actually get the story. And sometimes, God help me, I even get an emotional reaction.

Man, you can’t begin to know how proud of that I am.

It must be sort of like the trumpet player who finally hits all the notes right, all the time, through a Miles Davis tune. Or a surgeon who finally manages to tie off his work the right way after countless hours of practice.

But to be honest, even now, there are days when I wonder why I keep sitting down to tell these silly little stories to myself. It certainly can’t be for the money. And while for the past three years I’ve been able say I’ve actually made money off of my writing, the hard truth is that, if one were to sit down with an accountant’s coolly detached eye for pluses and minuses, and broke it to an “hours worked / dollars per hour earned”, the lopsided math would be enough to make the most positive Pollyanna shed some frustrated tears. No one in his right mind would even think of pursuing this writing thing as a career. Hell, not even on a semi-professional basis. There just isn’t enough income to make it worthwhile on a financial level. Unless, of course, you happen to fall into that less than 1% of writers who can say they make a living at it.

Especially now, with all the industry destroying things that have happened to the publishing world just in these last few years, let alone since I first got serious back in the late 1980s. Some of what’s crippled the genre has been the inevitable, and unstoppable, technological advances in publishing, which have undermined the old ways, the old guards and the old “rules of the game”.

Even the unspoken rules. Rules such as Thou Shalt Not Pass Go Without a Gatekeepers Approval, which was hands down the single most important and most debilitating rule of the game for hundreds of years in the publishing business. Editors, publisher, and even other writers, had the power to keep out those whom were deemed unworthy of being published via legitimate industry avenues. I don’t mean the sad-ass self publishing places through which your innocent and trusting grandma might have gotten her memoirs of Backass, Georgia printed and called herself a writer. No, I mean the houses who put millions of dollars every year into making sure worthless mind candy like those thousands of Harlequin Romance novels you see cluttering the shelves of your local used bookstore. You know, the kind of books you read and they feel just like the book you read the day before.

Those houses had the power in the industry. And we all know that old credo about power and how it sometimes corrupts, absolutely. Well, it did in some cases. So much so that those same gatekeepers were responsible for keeping the horror genre in the stone ages in terms of content and style for way too long.

That has changed, because of the technology which allows just about anyone to write, publish and even sell their books online, to people who don’t even have a real book in front of them to read afterwards. E-book readers are the future. Anyone who doesn’t believe that is so better wake up and smell the burning circuits. For some I know in the industry, it’s too late, even at this early stage of the game, to learn, to accept and adapt to that truth. They’re just simply unwilling to allow the world they know to change. But it is, whether they like it or not. That’s the way of the world, as the old 80s Earth, Wind and Fire song goes.

I said those gatekeepers were the single most important thing in the publishing industry, if you’ll remember. I said they had a tendency to choke the world of horror fiction, to stifle it damn near to death, because they were unwilling to allow much radicalism to occur on their watch; change was okay, as long as it was slow and comfortable. If it got to be too much too soon, these same gatekeepers would sometimes shut down and turn a blind eye to the need for such rapid upheavals in their precious Lovecraftian, Gothic worlds.

But this sometimes pernicious attitude was the very thing which was keeping the entire horror fiction industry from falling into ruin. Because, the truth is, sometimes too much too soon can be a very, very bad thing.

And, God help me, though I spent years railing against these assholes gatekeepers and their creaking slow gates that would not allow ME in, I can now look back and see the simple truth: I DID NOT DESERVE TO GET IN.

Not then.

See, I wasn’t anywhere near ready to be an actual professionally published writer. I thought I was, because I could write some short stories, stories that sometimes worked, but too often didn’t. Back then, more times than not, those stories which I would kick and scream to defend if someone dared to say they might not be as great as I thought, were, at best, badly written pastiches. They weren’t all that good.

I can see that now.

So, by not getting in when I wasn’t ready, I had to make the decision to either “ignore these assholes who were holding me back because they didn’t know what great writing was”, or shut up, listen to what these folks were telling me, and try to improve.

Thankfully, I decided to sit and listen and try to improve.

In 2004, my wife and I attended our very first World Horror Convention out here in Phoenix, right down the road from our home in Tucson. For three days, we got up every morning at 7 AM, drove about a hundred miles to get to the hotel where the event was booked, stayed all day and night, left around 2 AM, drove the hundred miles home, got a couple of hours of sleep, got up and did it again. I was that dedicated. Thank God, my wife was that dedicated to me. And to getting to meet her horror heroes. One of which she still refers to as ‘the sweetest guy in horror’, Doug Clegg, whom she still adores and worships.

And for good reason.

Doug was the first real face to face writer who took me seriously. He spent many hours that weekend giving me FREE golden advice on how to present my work to an editor, who to talk to, how to talk to them, and how to get to where I wanted to go. He was honest (not brutally, but honest, nonetheless) and personable, and I don’t think there wasn’t a newbie at that con which he didn’t try to give advice to over the weekend. There were a bunch of others who we met and talked to about the industry that weekend. Mort Castle was one, a man to whom I will always be in debt to for the help he gave me that weekend. I still use his guidance, even today.

But there was one man in particular who warned what would happen, and indeed was already happening, to a publishing industry without gatekeepers, especially genre fiction.

Editor/writer Stephen Jones is not loved by the little people in horror publishing. I mean the people who believe they don’t need to listen to anyone else, and that their work is gold right now, as is, and why the hell do I need to edit this stuff?

Mr. Jones spent that weekend getting a lot of dirty looks from not only me, but a lot of younger, know-it-all newbie writers, like myself, because of the things he’d said throughout the weekend during panels. Whenever anyone asked him about the state of the horror publishing industry, he told it as he saw it (and I’m afraid the way he still sees it; and I’m even more afraid he’s still terribly dead on. Obviously, since then, I have come around to his way of seeing things, because, like him, I've spent way too much time reading other wannabes works and see how bad they have become, year after year, especially here in the U.S.). He said in 2004 that the modern horror novel, with the exception of the professional bestsellers, such as King, Koontz, Straub, Rice, Campbell, and some other UK authors he named that weekend which at the time I had yet to read, were the only ones worth the paper they were being printed on, but that most small press shit was just that, shit. And he did some finger pointing (a huge no-no at these conventions, where everyone is really busy kissing everyone else’s ass to get their stuff published, to be remembered for an “invite only” anthology), which got him some nasty comments when he wasn’t in the room at certain convention parties, with certain American horror authors who were (and probably still are) convinced that they were the cat’s meow in modern horror. Those are the same dipshits who got pissed at him a couple of years later when he told them their work wasn’t good enough to take valuable convention reading spots from authors who deserved to have those reading rooms because they were professionally published authors. It didn’t help that the authors he had in mind were all, to a man, UK authors.

Which brings me to what happens when those pain in the ass gatekeepers lose control over the gates, when people ignore them, find ways around those gates, and then dump their sub par crap onto the public (who isn’t half as lazy or illiterate as the writers who are doing the dumping think they are…or perhaps it’s because they’re so lazy and illiterate themselves that they couldn’t know the difference). What happens is what Mr. Jones warned us would happen. It’s somewhat like Lon Chaney Jr.’s Wolfman monster from the 1941 classic Universal film of the same name, YOU KILL THE THING YOU LOVE MOST.

What happened (and is still happening, and will keep happening until there is nothing left of the familiar horror fiction industry we all knew and loved from the 70s and 80s) was that technology got so cheap and easy that all these simpletons who thought they were already well seasoned enough to be a Horror Author/Writer ignored those scary, evil gatekeepers and started self publishing everything they wrote—good or bad…

Well, mostly bad…really, really bad.

And you’d think the publishers/editors of the small indie houses would be more attentive to their product before it hit the streets. After all, these guys are supposed to be their own best friend in terms of making sure their business isn’t undermined by bad books going to worse.

Not so.

I’ve gotten recent releases from small publishing companies that I cannot even finish; that’s how badly put together they are. I figure life is too short to spend it reading a bad book.

Seems to me the cheaper and easier it’s become to publish your own stuff, that I’ve seen an equal number of fly-by-night editors/publishers who have sometimes even less right being in the business than the people whom they are helping get published. They know even less about grammar, spelling, writing rules, etc., etc. than the people writing these crappy books. I’m not sure why they think horror fans will lap up anything they send out that has a ghost, vampire or goddamn Lovecraftian monster on the cover. I’m not sure why their respect level for their audience is so low that they feel this is okay.

I have some theories.

One, that the idiot editors and publishers who are doing this sort of thing are just that: Idiots. They honestly don’t think the crap they’re sending down the line is crap. They honestly believe the bad books they publish are good books.

Think I’m just being an asshole? Go to, look up any number of smaller companies and see if you can a preview of their products. Go ahead and read some of that atrocious crap and come back here. Go ahead. I’ll wait…

Two, that these idiot editors and publishers are RIGHT! Horror fans, for the most part, really are morons, who will lap up anything with the above listed creatures on the cover.

Several years back, I made the mistake of spending way too much time on I came into contact with some really great folks while I was hanging out on the message board, even went so far as to head up the, then defunct, Shocklines Writers Group, bringing it back to life to help wannabes like myself get better.

But I also came into contact with some rather poisonous people in the industry, some of them authors who I respected up to that point, some of them self-professed horror fans who did nothing but prove the snobs’ claims of their level of intelligence. I mean, I saw some really bad stuff on that board, things that made me question why in the hell I ever wanted to write for these people to begin with (solved that dilemma by deciding to write for myself, first, at all times). It left a bad taste in my mouth about the horror publishing industry and SOME of the people who called themselves fans. I won’t go into gory details here, but suffice it to say, I’m a horror fan myself and had second thoughts about being associated with some of these folks.

So here we are now, coming to the end of 2011, and e-publishing is cheaper and easier than ever before. Anyone with the time, and small amount of money needed, can publish anything.


Doesn’t need to be edited: Because no one but the author of such drivel will be responsible for doing so.

Doesn’t need to well written: Because no one is going to be there to tell you it needs work in the middle because it really drags, or the story doesn’t make sense because you forgot you changed a character’s name back on page 30 and kept right on going with the new name.

Doesn’t even need to be a complete story, with character arcs, a beginning, middle and end: Because, once again, the people who might have told your work was missing some or all of those things aren’t there to tell you.


None of those things matter.

You got the money, honey, I got the time, as the old Willie Nelson song goes:

So you got past the gatekeepers in NYC Publishers Row (which in some ways is justifiably accused of being the epicenter of all things Eastern snobbish and elitist in all things fiction and intellectual in the U.S.), got your works self published, got them online and even can have them ordered in any major chain retail store, let alone the book biggies like Barnes & Noble and Borders and Books-A-Million. You, sir or madam, are an honest-to-God HORROR AUTHOR.

Yeah, so did you think you were the only smart cat in this alley, bub?

Hell, no. You and about half a million other no talent, uneducated, illiterate assholes got a book published before lunch today.

Let’s see…that’s how many self-published books online for e-readers to order for a buck a hit?

So let’s say on the off chance that you really are the greatest thing to hit horror fiction since Clive Barker; you are the best new talent to come along since Stephen King was a struggling young man writing “Carrie” (1974). Let’s just pretend, okay? You and I both know you are not. Hell, I’m not, and I’ve been doing this since I was 13 fucking years old. But for the sake of argument, let’s say you are, okay?

So now you’ve got this dynamite new book out there and it’s stacked up against how many new books that got self-published yesterday? I’m going to be conservative, here, because after doing some research, I found numbers which varied between 100 to 1,000 new fiction e-books are being published a day…in the U.S., alone…not counting the International stuff…not counting the non-fiction works, like advice books, cookbooks, religious books, tourist guides, local and national history books. Yeah, all of those have glutted the market along with your super-duper book.

Can you see where this going? Can you understand now what other value, if no other, the gatekeepers had in this horror fiction industry?

Time for hard truth, Mister/ Miss Horror Author/Writer:

Even if you are the next Stephen King or Clive Barker (and I’m here to tell you after spending a considerable amount of time running a writers group for the largest horror website/message board online,, and helping to edit fiction for such magazines as DARK RECESSES, chances are you’re neither. But even if you are, your book is going to sink beneath the tide of sub par shit that got published right along with your stuff that same day. That’s not counting the stuff which was self-published the day before, the day before that, the day before that…yada, yada, yada…and the stuff tomorrow and the next day and the next day…yada, yada, yada…and not to mention the books which ARE well written, the books that have been around for some time. You know, books by people like Stephen King and Clive Barker?

Can you see where this is going yet?

Even with the gatekeepers in place, the chances of a book making it big—hell, even making it on the low end of a bestsellers list, anywhere physically or online—were pretty slim, at best. And those were the people who were experienced enough to know a stinker when they read one, and had your best interest at heart, and were trying like hell to make your book a success.

Can you begin to fathom your chances of success without those same gatekeepers we all cursed?

Yeah…so I’ll wait here a moment while you go cry and curse the gods.

Now, imagine if you can, someone like myself, who has been at this thing for years and years, and is just on the cusp of having some small measure of financial success with his works. Now imagine how it must feel to see that tide of self-serving, self-important, self-published crap come down upon me and my work like an avalanche of Pure-D-Shit.

Can you see why people like me, who have put in the time and sweat trying to be the best writer we can be, might loath this modern age of horror publishing without those gatekeepers?

So instead of getting angry, I’m going to try and be positive, and I’m going to attempt to “pay it forward” a little in this column. Here’s some advice for any of you newbie, wannabe writers out there who are convinced you can be the next Stephen King or Clive Barker.

Some items to consider for your future:

1. Learn to write. Most of you who self-publish are doing so because you didn’t want to hear editors tell you that you don’t know your ass from a preposition. The problem still remains, whether you want to hear it or not, that you don’t know how to write yet. You might know some, but it ain’t enough. Trust me. It never is enough and it never will be. And that’s not some weird conundrum-istic, Buddha B.S.. It’s the truth. You never stop learning. The problem with most of you idiot wannabes is that you’re utterly convinced you’ve nothing let to learn. Trust me, again. You do. We all do. All the time.

2. Read any and everything you can get your hands on. It’s the same advice I read in Wiater’s book, from any number of successful, genre masters, old and young alike. From Skipp to Straub. Read newspapers, read fiction, non-fiction, read good books and bad books. Hell, you’d be surprised how much you can sometimes learn from a bad book over a good one, simply because you can see the stupidity of the moron who wrote. So go out and start reading all those self-published books that came out with yours yesterday or this morning, okay? And if you DON’T find half a million things wrong with all of them, then you’re a liar. Or delusional. Or a complete moron.

3. Learn to edit. Editing is the next most important thing a writer MUST learn do correctly and smoothly. Since the industry has changed so much, many of the larger publishing houses, for financial reasons or others, simply don’t have enough staff to help all their writers edit their stuff properly. So what happens is you see books getting less and less editing attention over the years. Think it’s not your fault, not your responsibility, not your problem? Surprise, pal. The reader doesn’t give two shits who didn’t do their job at the publisher. They don’t even know what the editor does in most cases. Nope. They see your name on the book and that’s who gets the blame. And now, because houses know the truth about who is taking care of the editing in most cases, they will also blame the name on the book. The way they see it, you’re the writer, so it’s your freakin’ job to edit your own work. And they’re right. So learn to edit. Which means #1 above is even more important now, right? So learn your grammar, your spelling. Learn the parts of a sentence, and use them the way they were meant to used. Show some intelligence, and don’t look like an idiot…just in case someone is actually reading your book ten years from now. I can tell you from experience, nothing is more embarrassing than someone picking out your mistakes in a roomful of strangers, say, at a convention or a reading. In those cases, you want to crawl under a table and hide. And they aren’t going to listen to your sob story about how tired you were, or how you didn’t feel like looking it up. Writing correctly, editing correctly are your jobs. So fucking do them.

4. Be patient. That’s right. I know you probably don’t want to hear this, especially if you’re one of those who decided the rest of us don’t know diddly and went the self-publication route. But here’s some news: we do know what we’re talking about, because we’ve been there where you’re at. Only we didn’t have the realistic option back then to go off half-cocked and self-publish our works. Trust me, one day, if you’re serious about getting somewhere with your work, like becoming a real writer that writes stuff that doesn’t actual suck donkey dick, you’ll regret the self-published stuff. You will. Because it will come back to haunt you. Big time. Another reason to be patient, is that a lot of publishers will not touch your stuff once you’ve self-published it. To them, it’s damaged goods, and they’ll feel as if they’re going to have to fight against the negativity surrounding self-published works. Because unless you’re King or Barker, people will assume it sucked even if it didn’t. Potential real publishers won’t even talk to you about those self-pubbed works, even if later you’re well regarded. Trust me. I’ve seen it happen with younger authors who could not be patient and put the work and time into getting it through a real publisher. And to a man (or woman), they have told me how much they regret having been so impatient.

5. Stop acting like a newbie/wannabe. There are certain things that you guys all do when you’re trying so hard to be taken seriously, to make people believe you’re the next King or Barker. One of the things that’s a dead giveaway is putting this sort of title before your name: HORROR AUTHOR or something like HORROR WRITER. And it’s almost a guarantee that if you’re going to use such a title before your name, then you’ll also CAPITALIZE the damned thing, too. Almost every single time. Why? I don’t get it. I don’t where the hell this trend started, but Jesus-Jumped-Christ, it’s fucking annoying. Do you think that by doing so, you will somehow convince everyone else of your worth as a writer? Are you going to convince yourself? If you need that kind of validation, that sort of silent scream, every time someone sees your name, then how good are you, really? Because that’s pretty much what putting such a title before your name equates to: A SCREAM!!! LOOK AT ME!!! LOOK AT ME!!! It’s stupid. When’s the last time you saw that on a for-real published book, from a for-real published writer? Umm…let’s see….how about never? Good reason for it. Think about it. Wanna be taken seriously? Take yourself seriously. Which leads me to our last point…

6. You are a writer. So act like one. Think like one. All the time. You need to get ti through your head that there is no time when you are not a writer. If you start acting like one, and know in your heart that you are one, then who is going to tell you you’re not? But that doesn’t mean you get act like one without putting in the work and sweat of becoming one. Any author worth his salt will tell you what I said way up there toward the top of this list is the truth: you never stop learning. So as long as you’re still learning, then you’re still a writer. The day you sit on your laurels, real or imagined, and feel like you know it all, and that there’s no room for improvement, no room for a challenge to your craft and/or abilities as a writer, then you might not be that great of a writer, pal. Think on it. It makes a lot of sense. And it goes for pretty much anything you value in your life. For instance, if you love someone, and you value their love, you never sit on your ass and think, well, no more reason to show my love because I already said I was in love, right? You know it don’t work that way. Well, it might if you like being alone and divorced. So maybe you should think about writing as being in love with the craft, the written word. Just keep proving your love to that craft and that written word everyday and I don’t see how you can be anything else but a real honest-to-God writer. A horror writer. Not a HORROR WRITER, damn it.

Some other advice from such well known writers as Lisa Morton (who has been nominated and won multiple awards in the horror industry, including Stokers) and Bill Breedlove (who has edited several horror anthologies for various publishing houses)…just in case my above advice didn’t sink in:

Lisa Morton—

Be humble. Seriously. I get approached by a lot of new writers, many of
whom want me to blurb their book, and they'll start off the approach
by telling me exactly how great their book is. Or how original the
plot is. Or how terrifying it is (those are especially fun when they
openly compare their book to a genre classic). And then of course I
take a look at the first page, and promptly decide that English is the
writer's second language.

That "be humble" advice applies even if you're not an egomaniac who
thinks s/he's the next Stephen King. Always assume your work can be
better. Never stop believing you can improve. Accept any remarks given
in rejections as honest critique to be studied, and be grateful that
you got the feedback.

"Be humble", btw, doesn't mean "be timid". Don't be afraid to submit
or to approach other writers. Keep a realistic attitude - accept that
it's likely your work will be rejected, and approach writers with
respect for their accomplishments, not hype about yours.

Bill Breedlove—

"Read something. Read anything. Read everything." that's some good advice Where have we heard that before? I wonder...

Well, that’s enough from me on this subject. I don’t think there’s much chance this impassioned and snarky editorial is going to stop the headlong rush we horror people are bent upon putting our whole genre into, down in the gutter, with the trash, but I felt I had to at least give it a try. Let’s hope at least one or two people who are about to make the above mistakes will read this and NOT do them. Set your goals higher than just being published. To quote my friend and mentor, Mort Castle, don’t just publish, publish well…

--Nickolas Cook
The Black Glove Magazine

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 two new releases forthcoming: PAINT IT BLACK (late 2011 from Dailey Swan Press).

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

Steven M. Duarte (Co-Editor)
Personal Info: I have always been interested in horror culture from a very young age. I enjoy all aspects of the genre from movies, video games, books to music. I have a soft spot for foreign horror films most notably Italian made ones. I especially enjoy zombie horror films and have made it my mission to try and view any and all movies involving zombies.
Favorite films: Day of the Dead, Suspiria, Zombi, The Beyond, City of the Living Dead, Return of the Living Dead, and Deep Red, just to name a few.
I primarily listen to heavy metal but enjoy all different types of music. I have been a diehard Slipknot fan since the start and continue to be a supporter of the group. I also enjoy listening to horror soundtracks especially by the Italian group Goblin.

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 newest novella, THE SAMHANACH), 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

Brian Sammons has been writing reviews for years for such places as the magazines Cemetery Dance, Dark Wisdom, Shock Totem, and The Unspeakable Oath. His reviews have also appeared on many websites like The Black Seal, Bloody-Disgusting, and Horror World. 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, and Monstrous. Some of the magazines where you can find his twisted tales are Bare Bone, Cthulhu Sex, and Dark Animus. For more about this guy whose neighbors describe as “such nice, quiet man” go here:

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:

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.

--Nickolas Cook

Stabbed in Stanzas Book Review: Shroud of Night by G. O. Clark

Reviewed by Karen L. Newman

If you’re a reader of Asimov’s Science Fiction then you’re familiar with the poetry of G.O. Clark who won the magazine’s reader award for poetry in 2001. With his latest poetry collection, Shroud of Night, Clark also makes a name for himself in horror poetry, although he harkens to his science fiction roots at times, as in the poem, “Fear”: The stars / are light-daggers / to those who’ve / lost focus. The rhyme in the two lines and the use of consonance makes this poem outstanding.
A haiku starts and ends the book, two bursts of horror, one to whet the appetite and the other to end the collection in, of course, a cemetery. The best poems, in my opinion, are located in the middle, unusual since most books begin strong. Most of his early poems poke fun at Hollywood horror movies – good if the reader is familiar with them. Clark also combines death and writing in a memorable way in the poem “Rubbing” in addition to alluding to other authors in another work. A standout poem is “The Hollow Man”, the theme of which is unexpected. “Curses and Salutations” reminds me of the song “May the Bird of Paradise Fly up Your Nose”. The book ends with zombie poems, which are clever and humorous. Clark advises the reader on “Some Zombies One Should Avoid” and turns Halloween upside down with “Little Zombies”.
Shroud of Night is a fun read that’s also thought-provoking. Mankind’s foibles are shown, not in fear, but in humor, which makes them all the more memorable.

--Karen L. Newman

(Visit Speculative Poet/Writer G. O. Clark's Official Website The work reviwed above can be purchased at Dark Regions Online Store here)

BLOODLINES: Serial Fiction in Horror: #1-- Zorachus by Mark E. Rogers

By Bill Lindblad

Horror movie sequels are so common as to have become a punchline. For a successful movie not to have a follow-up is rare.

This makes the lack of horror story sequels curious. While they do exist, they're uncommon, and when they occur it's usually in one of two formats: either a webwork of stories all connecting to the same general vicinity with some repetition of secondary characters (as with Lovecraft's Arkham or Braunbeck's Cedar Hill) or a supernatural detective.

While I'll happily discuss both of those types of series, there are others, equally interesting.

The Zorachus / Zancharthus books of Mark E. Rogers are among the best of them. Unfortunately, despite being great horror novels, they were never listed under horror. Instead they were sold as traditional fantasy novels. It's an understandable mistake; they feature magic, swordplay, and armored figures riding horses.

They also start off with a character being riddled with crossbow bolts, only to rise up and slam a pair of them through the ears of the first soldier foolish enough to approach the "dead" man. This sets the tone for the rest of the series, where we'll see people ripped apart by spiders, chopped slowly into pieces by a cleaver-swinging demon, and even a man devoured alive as his harem of feral pigs turns on him. The series averages far more than one gruesome "on-screen" death per chapter over the course of its nine books. This is as much horror as fantasy, no matter where it may have gotten shelved in the stores.

The books are set on an alternate world where monotheism is absolute fact, and God and the Devil are overtly influencing events. God is acting in the way familiar to most monotheistic religions on Earth, sending a messiah who will redeem his followers and encouraging people away from hatred, violence, lust, and other base instincts. The Devil, on the other hand, is wearing many different guises and setting factions of people against each other while tempting them into choosing damnation.

This could be simplistic, and it could easily devolve into a paean to one religion or another; instead Rogers plays fair with the readership and maintains the common outlines for "good" without actively promoting Christianity, Judiasm, Islam, or any other actual religion. Sexuality and violence alike are treated as dangerous traps less because of any specific perversity (and just about every permutation of sex or violence is covered in the books) than because of the opening that lust or rage gives to evil's influence.

The first two books, Zorachus and The Nightmare of God, follow the fall of title character Zorachus from missionary to servant of evil. They are a tragedy in the classical sense, where we see the seeds of failure blossom due to events and the inherent personality flaws of the protagonist.
The next three books, The Blood of the Lamb trilogy (The Expected One, The Devouring Void, The Riddled Man) follow the discovery of a messiah, and the fallout from the different reactions of a few philosopher-priests tasked with determining his divinity.

The other books in the series (Blood & Pearls, Jagutai & Lilitu, The Night of the Long Knives, Lilitu) flesh out the world by telling the histories of some of the key characters in the early books. The result is a fully fleshed fantasy world where bad things... a lot of very bad things... are commonplace, but for a reason. It's a weird mix of theological philosophy and escapism, and very highly recommended.

Most of the titles can be purchased on Amazon or Barnes and Noble online; those that cannot can often be purchased used.

--Bill Lindblad

TIME CAPSULES classic book reviews by William Lindblad

Creep, Shadow! by A. Merritt (1934)

This book, sometimes retitled Creep, Shadow, Creep! to better indicate its status as a sequel to Burn, Witch, Burn! was written in 1934 by Abraham Merritt. Merritt was to fantasy what Asimov was to science fiction or Stephen King is to horror: simultaneously the best seller and the popular face of the field.
This book carries all of the hallmarks of Merritt's work: the dialogue can be simplistic or unrealistically purple, the writing leans too heavily upon adverbs and the first-person protagonist telling the story often bogs down into strange levels of detail. The impressive thing it that it works; the story which was written more than three quarters of a century ago feels like a remnant of another time but it is a welcome one. The style is one that encouraged dozens of pulp imitators, but few did as well with the form.
The main character begins the story with the discovery of a dear friend's suicide, and through the action of another mutual friend (whose sister quickly develops into a love interest and the requisite "good girl") is drawn into a situation in which his expertise is needed. Dr. Alan Caranac is an ethnologist, which for the requirements of the story allows him to be an occult detective. Where the story excels is in its characters and plotting; rather than follow the traditional format, Merritt allowed the villains of the piece to become apparent early on, because the true meat of the story lies in Caranac's response to his unique situation: he has had a past life awakened to him and thus is able to garner needed information about his foe, but in that past life he was a king to her queen, and she is tempting him with that position again. By focusing as much on Caranac's inner conflict as the external one, Merritt produced a story which stands out among the adventure horror fiction of the early 20th century.

Five stars out of five.

The Torturer by Peter Saxon (1967)

In 1966, Peter Saxon wrote The Torturer, and it was published in the United Kingdom. In 1967, it was published in the United States by Paperback Library. This is definitive proof that publishers were willing to release any horror they could find in the 1960s, no matter how pedestrian it might have been.
The plot is simple enough: a movie crew is filming at a deserted castle. The beings haunting it prey upon them. The haunters are effectively pain vampires, receiving vitality through the torture of others.
That's the only mild surprise in the book, and I wouldn't give it away were it not telegraphed pages ahead of the reveal, or if that revelation had anything to do with the story's resolution. As it is, the rest of the story doesn't have much to recommend it. While there are a few deaths in the story, they are all what have been described to me as horror movie "needed killings". All of the unsavory characters die, and all of the others are completely virtuous and survive. The spirits who have managed to survive centuries are shown to be vulnerable to both simple physical assault and sunlight... making them among the most pitiful monsters in literary history.
The book isn't terrible, it just isn't very good. It's competently written with a complete lack of inspiration. The cover copy promises "A Black Magic novel of Terror" and "A terrifying supernatural of undying evil." The cover copy lies.

Two stars out of five.

DEAD LINES by John Skipp and Craig Spector (1988)

I love this book.
It's a 1989 work by Skipp & Spector, the overlords of the then-burgeoning splatterpunk genre, and it was their take on a familiar format: the frame story novel. These are books, like Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man or Douglas Clegg's The Nightmare Chronicles, which use a framing story to introduce a series of short stories, often stories which have previously seen publication in magazines.
The story follows a woman who discovers a cache of stories written by an author who had previously committed suicide in what was to become her apartment. As she reads them, she becomes steadily more obsessed with him, and his spirit reaches from beyond death to her first in dreams, then reality.
The book includes a handful of previously published stories by Skipp & Spector, and that's part of what made it work so well: it was only a handful. Typically even the best of these novels (see the two mentioned above for great examples) cram as many of the short fiction pieces in as possible, leaving the frame story, no matter how good, as a literary contrivance. It makes sense; these are usually a way for the author to lure novel readers into trying some of their shorter work, and with more short fiction included less new material needs to be written.
In this one, however, the balance is tilted oddly; the framing story takes up a good half of the book, and the reader is left with the feeling they've actually read a novel, not merely a wonderfully framed collection.
Five stars out of five.

--William Lindblad

Movie vs. Book: The Shuttered Room

MOVIE: "The Shuttered Room" (1967)

"The Shuttered Room" (aka "Blood Island") was based off a book by August Derleth and H.P. Lovecraft. The movie bears no resemblance to anything Lovecraftian. That’s not to say the movie was bad. It wasn’t. In fact, it was a fun ride.

"The Shuttered Room" centers around young Susannah Whatley-Keaton who, married and having just turned twenty-one, inherits the old mill house she grew up in off the New England coast. She and her husband travel to the small island community to take a look around. The only thing is…there is something evil living in that house. Something horrible that makes her aunt warn her to stay away, turn around and go home. But it’s not the thing in the house that Susannah and her husband need to worry about most; the menacing redneck townsfolk seem more dangerous than the family curse (think Straw Dogs). Is there really a demon living inside the house, or is it the townsfolk’s’ way of tormenting the “city folk”?

Made in 1967, this movie is so very much a product of the era. The camerawork uses a lot of the tweaked angles popular in the day. The music just barely walks the edge of atmospheric, with a toe in the psychedelic. Oddly, the director, David Greene, went on to direct "Godspell" (1973) a few years later. It does seem to fit.

Dated or not, the movie was quite fun. From the opening sequence of a young child and her parents being tormented by an unseen creature in the mill house, the pacing does not let up. Even though it takes over an hour for the first dead body to show up, it keeps you on the edge of your seat without letting you get bored, even during the exposition.

The performances were pretty good, too, especially Oliver Reed as the head baddie. In the 60s and 70s, quite a bit of Reed’s career came from playing either bad guys or guys only partially leaning bad. In the case of The Shuttered Room, he seems to relish the pure sinister qualities of his character, and that makes him fun to watch even as you root for his demise.

However, if you’re expecting something Lovecraftian, you will be disappointed in the movie. There are not a lot of quiet unnerving chills, nor are there any elder gods. It stays more along the lines of a Hammer film, where the horrors are punctuated either by creative camera use, musical cues or maniacal performances.

All in all, as its own movie, I definitely recommend "The Shuttered Room". Granted, I haven’t read the story so I’m not sure if it’s loyal or not (somehow I’m guessing it isn’t). But on its own, it’s a lot of fun.

-- Jen

BOOK: The Shuttered Room by August Derleth and H.P. Lovecraft (1959)

This short novella contains everything that Derleth's fans love about his posthumous "collaborations" with Lovecraft, and much of what his detractors hate about them. It is not as overt about his categorization of the Lovecraftian deities as many of his other stories, but it does add to the Mythos a level of order which is typically only tangentially approached in the original stories.
Specifically, this story serves as a sequel to two of Lovecraft's stories, The Dunwich Horror and The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Where it succeeds for me is that, while it sticks with Derleth's favorite Lovecraftian tropes (much of the plot being explained through passages from books or articles, italics at the end of the story... while HPL used these devices, it seems that they dominate the bulk of Derleth's most memorable Mythos stories) it does not lean upon them for the entire punch of the story. Instead, there are moments of activity by the protagonist and the backstory content is there merely to establish the connection to the two earlier tales.
When Derleth was focusing more on storytelling and less on imitation, he could produce wonderful pieces. His Solar Pons work and his Mythos pieces both produced some true gems, but his efforts to shoehorn the Mythos into alchemical constraints and traditional notions of good and evil have earned him deep enmity from many Lovecraftean fans. I don't share their view; instead, I simply feel that if Derleth was free to riff off of other authors' work without conveying their full intent, I don't see why I have to measure Derleth's work in the context of the original work. To me, Derleth's Mythos is the horror version of alternate history fiction, and this is among the best of those pieces.

Four stars out of five.


Fresh Blood: New Releases In the World of Horror

In Theaters Soon:

Cowboys and Aliens
Release date: July 29, 2011

Starring: Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde, Harrison Ford, Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano

In a mix of Tombstone meets Independence Day we have Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford going toe to toe with alien invaders during the old west times. While the trailer looks promising I can’t help but get that Will Smith Wild West vibe which is not a good thing.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Release date: Aug 5, 2011

Starring: James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Andy Serkis, Brian Cox

A prequel so to say of the planet of the apes films, shows the origins of the “smart monkey.” The film shows promise and includes a strong cast with James Franco in the lead role.

Final Destination 5
Release date: Aug 5, 2011

Starring: Emma Bell, Nicholas D'Agosto, Miles Fisher, Arlen Escarpeta, Jacqueline MacInnes-Wood

In an unsurprising move the last destination movie was not the final. These films went from being decent to worse. While the first films at least had some story to go along, the more recent ones just focus on clever ways to kill people. Here’s hoping that this really is the final destination.

Fright Night
Release date: Aug 19, 2011

Starring: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, David Tennant, Toni Collette, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Imogen Poots

The classic 80’s tale of the vampire living next door gets a full blown remake with Collin Farrell taking on the role of the vampire. Im really on the fence on this one as I enjoyed the original so much that Im pretty sure im going to be let down by whatever the remake brings to the table. I just hope we get to hear Mclovin say “You’re so cool Brewster.”

--Steven M. Duarte

Celluloid Horrors Movie Reviews

PRIEST (2011)- In Theaters

Director: Scott Stewart
Cast: Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, Cam Gigandet and others.

review written by Nickolas Cook

Based on the cult classic Korean graphic novel of the same name, this is action packed, horror edged entertainment. Now I didn't see the 3-D version...mainly because I freaking hate having stuff thrown at me on the screen. I find it cheapens the movie going experience.
From the expository animated short at the beginning of the movie to let us know where we stand in this apocalyptic future of super powered Vampires (which look sort of like aliens from the Alien franchise; the vampires even build hives like them) vs Priests, super badass trained martial arts warriors that fight for good.

I do martial arts. What we see in this movie are unrealistic action and fight sequences that no one with half a brain would take it seriously. Everything is uselessly over the top.

But this seems to be par for the course in what passes for modern American genre cinema, especially the video game minded bullshit that seems to appear with more and more frequency in the 21st century.
And it is from the same visual effects man turned difrector who gave us 2010's "Legion", another ridiculously video game minded flick with little substance and too much style.

Listen, as an audience we should make it well know that we expect a little more from out movies than this sort of subpar emotional and intellectual garbage.

Anyway, back to why this movie is for kids...

Sadly, they took some really adult oriented narrative and diluted it into this cartoon. Although, I will grant their were some interesting visuals, as they attempted to recreate some of the graphic novel's dark vision.
It's a simple story of good vs evil, but it's tough to know which side the characters might be on at times, as the lines tend to blur as one climbs the church's heiarchy.

When a heroic, but embittered, man of the order (played with Clint Eastwood-like stoney face and growling one liners) decides to defy the church and go after his kidnapped neice (which turns out later to be...never mind...I won't ruin the only true surprise of the story), he is joined by her young lover, and they go off into the radioactive wastelands to fight for her return, matching their guns and fists against the blood sucking creatures of the night and their minions.

If at times this seems more like a huge video game concept turned film, I'm with you. There are moments where it even feels like we've fallen into a "boss challenge sequence" at the end of different levels as the movie progresses.

Quite annoying.

It loses touch with anything slightly resembling realism in its narrative and character several times. And when the first appearance of the vampires occurs...can we say OVERBLOWN CGI?

Yeah, again, big budget Hollywood studio decides to use too many slo-mo sequences, mixed with unbelieavbly badly articulated CGI monsters, that look like every other CGI monster in every other movie since "Jurassic Park" (1993)

What we get is a variation on the-man-with-name western (everyone even dresses like they're in the Old West), mixed with sci-fi and "horror lite", along with something that barely touches on the classic ideal of the vampire, and builds almost zero suspense: No one ever seems truly in danger.

But we old timer Horrorheads get a treat in the form of Brad Dourif, who has a bit part, but who's always welcome in any movie, for those of us who are older than 20.

Besides the aforementioned visuals, there is a great score by the always talented Christopher Young, a man who has worked with a lot of horror films in his career. One can even hear a nod to those old spaghetti westerns in his soundtrack for Priest, a sort of homage to the great Ennio Morricone, full of choral layering and ambient orchestral work, mixed with some lowkey electronica soundscaping.

It's fairly mindless entertainment, inoffensive and not challenging. I guess that's an okay thing, sometimes. But to be honest, I think I'd rather have seen a real anime of this story, since I think an Asian production would have been more realistic for this type of film.

Better luck next time, guys, since we're left with the discinct sense that the story is only just beginning for the new war between vampires and priests.

Who knows...maybe I should have seen this one in 3-D, after all. Maybe having something more than stupidty thrown at me on the screen would have been a welcome change of pace.

--Nickolas Cook

SUPER-8 (2011)- In Theaters

Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler and others

review written by Nickolas Cook

Should've been called " was okay-8". One of the most underwhelming movies, given the amount of hype it received pre-release, that I've seen from a summer "hit" in some time. Part of the problem I had with it is that it tries too hard to be too many things at once. Is it horror, sci-fi, a teen romance. Abrams tries to give modern audiences a sense of the late 70s- the look and feel of that time in American history as it appeared in the then contemporary genre films. Think "Phantasm", "Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind", etc., etc.

I grew up then and so I lived the period, saw the movies, and while this made the attempt, it doesn't always work quite right for someone who did live in the late 70s. It feels to "over-produced" and comes off feeling as "bogus" as the intentional use of some of the teen American idiom of the time (most of which wasn't in use for my town's teen population until later). There are the obligatory pot references, with a very anti-drug message that you would not have seen in the late 70s films (after all, it was a couple of years later that Cheech and Chong movies became huge theatrical hits for almost a decade...because of the social acceptance of drugs like pot). It looks to me as if they thought having men with long hair and sideburns and using a recognizable late 70s melange of pop music and a disco reference was supposed to be enough to give us that sense of the 70s in midtown America.

Let's talk special effects, because I was really expecting something special from an Abrams/Speilberg production. What I got was lackluster CGI that looked like some leftover designs from the alien bug from "M.I.B." (1997). Too smooth and unnatural articulation that looks as fake as the late 70s production values attempt. The alien's actual body, with the tentacular design doesn't really suit the supposed technology is uses to get from planet to planet. Very mismatched looking.

And don't look for any of that trademark Speilberg cute monster crap, here. It didn't make it into this modern day genre flick. Guess nobody wanted another "E.T." (1982)


I found the whole thing a little insulting, intellectually and emotionally.
But guess what?

Yeah, this film wasn't really meant for me.

It was meant for that all powerful money making machine in American cinema known as the "Summer Teen Moviegoer".

Apparently, Hollywood really feels that these video game obsessed, emotionally stunted morons that range in age from 11-16 are the only ones who deserve summer films in this country.

The film spends a long time developing these relationships between characters (time which I felt was badly spent, wasted, in fact) and then pretty much scraps them to make sudden changes in, throwing peripherial characters together and then staring over with the developement.

And the final scene with the kid's memento feels like they worked a long time to get to this 'punchline'. She's going to the stars...right?
How freakin' modern day typically new age idiotic.

As a huge fan of Abrams's "Cloverfield" (2008) production, I have only one word for this movie: disappointing.

--Nickolas Cook

INSIDIOUS (2011)– DVD review
By Brian M. Sammons

Director: James Wan
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins

I’m pretty much a fan of the movies of James Wan, and when he teams up with his buddy, the actor/writer Leigh Whannell, usually very good things happen. The pair gave us the movie that started the franchise that won’t die, SAW. Sure the endless sequels jumped into the toilet, but the first one was a very well done gory thriller. Then they did the criminally overlooked and underappreciated evil doll flick, DEAD SILENCE. So with that in mind, I was pretty happy to hear that the dynamic duo was teaming up once again to give us their version of a haunted house film. But is their third time together a charm, or just a strike out? Let’s find out.

A young couple with three small children moves into a new house, and soon after spooky things start happening. However, when one of the kids slips into a mysterious, medically baffling coma, things really start getting out of hand. Of course only the wife sees the spooks and the husband doubts her, but then they do something that I have never seen done in any other ghost film; they actually move the hell out of the haunted house. You know; the exact same thing you yell at the characters on the screen to do in every haunted house movie ever made. So points to the filmmakers for doing the obvious audience reaction…and then not having it do a bit of good.

Yep even in a brand new house, the ghosts keep a-coming, and in fact things get worse, all the while the coma kid keeps on sleeping. Enter the prerequisite semi-wacky ghost hunters, the slightly creepy lady psychic, and the séance where things don’t go as planned. Ok, got to take points away from Wan & Whannell for breaking out the overused cliché trifecta. Anyway, the long and short of it is that the coma kid’s spirit is being held prisoner, I won’t say how as to not ruin it for you, by a demon who wants to claim ownership of the boy’s body. And here in lies my biggest problem with this movie: the demon is simply silly looking. It’s a regular guy, painted head to toe black, with a bright red and black face. The end result is far more Darth Maul from Star Wars than creepy demon from hell. The fact that this “fiend” wears furry pants that are supposed to be goat legs and has shiny, bejeweled finger knives that scream more goth kid than scary weapon, doesn’t help things. Every time this guy was shown in the movie, and sadly he’s shown a lot and quite clearly, it shattered any dread or horror the film was going for. Whoever thought this was a good look for the big bad of the movie really missed the mark by a mile.

Bad makeup decisions aside, this movie has a fun, creepy vibe, a few good shock scares, memorable scenes, and best of all, great sound effects. I think I jumped as much, if not more, in this film due to the sound design as I did due to the visuals. It is well acted, has some originality in the story to offset the clichés, and is very well directed by Wan. That man knows how to tell a good, scary movie.

The DVD brought out by Sony has only 3 special features on it, which isn’t bad, but it’s not great either. And just like the amount of extras, the quality is only ok at best. There’s a ten minuet interview with director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell about their film and horror movies in general. There’s a pretty standard behind the scenes bit on the set of the film that is also very short, at just eight minutes. The shortest of the three mini-featurettes, at only six and a half minutes, is about the ghosts that appear in the movie. And that’s it. There’s not even an audio commentary, and that’s just sad in 2011. So while not a bare bones disc, the extras on this DVD are nothing to write home about.

While INSIDIOUS is not Wan and Whannell’s best effort, and it does has a silly Darth Maul demon in it, there is enough effective atmosphere and honest to goodness horrific and chilling moments in it to make it mandatory viewing for fright fans. Consider this one a slightly more than moderate recommendation, only because of the film’s poor choice in a main villain and the less than stellar DVD release.

--Brian M. Sammons

[Rec] 2 (2009)- DVD

Review written by Steven M Duarte

Director: Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza
Cast: Jonathan Mellor, Óscar Sánchez Zafra, Ariel Casas, Alejandro Casaseca, Pablo Rosso and others

The first person perspective/lost footage genre has recently been getting a bit old. I originally thought it was pretty clever when Blair Witch first came out then lost interest in this filming style as time went on. That is until I watched REC for the first time. It was a different type of film that really put you dead in the center of a zombie apocalypse that was occurring not in an open field in the mid west but confined to one apartment building. The last shot of the female lead being pulled away by some unknown being was pure genius from a horror head stand point.

Fast forward a couple years and we have a US remake named Quarantine and now REC 2. The US remake of the first REC was basically a shot for shot remake where you don’t miss out on much if you do not watch the original. Now the sequel is something to talk about. You are on the edge of your seat from the beginning credits down the last.

The film starts 15 minutes after the original ended with a SWAT team being deployed to the apartment building. They are given vague instructions and are told there is a known infection in the building that they have to contain. They have a Bio scientist sent with them to study the virus. This beginning scene was very reminiscent of the old school Resident Evil games where the STARS teams were going in to neutralize the infected. While this seems pretty straight forward everything is not as it seems. Do not read the next paragraph as they contain spoilers.

*********Warning Spoilers ahead*********

We end up finding out what the virus is and why it occurred in this building. The film takes a 180 and turns into a demon possession film. I know everyone figured the infected were either zombies or 28 days later Rage infected individuals. In a surprise twist they turn out to be demons. The secret room they find in the first film turns out to be a Vatican priest’s laboratory who was conducting tests on a young girl who was possessed by a strong demon none like the church had seen before. I was taken back by this Sixth Sense like twist. Bravo to directors Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza as I rarely get that blown away by a plot twist.

**********End Spoiler&*************

Final Thoughts:

In the end I was genuinely creeped out and wanted more once the credits ends. More as in it was that good. I recommend REC 2 to those who have seen the first as going straight to this film will not make too much sense even though the second one has enough to stand on its own. Now the real hard part is waiting til the already announced REC 3 comes out….

--Steven M Duarte

MST3K Vs. Gamera: Mystery Science Theater 3000, Vol. XXI [Deluxe DVD Edition] (1965-1971)

By Brian M. Sammons

Director: Various
Cast: Joel Hodgson, Kevin Murphy, Trace Beaulieu, and others

Gamera, the giant, flying, fire-breathing, child-loving (not that way, you pervert), red-headed step-child to King of the Monsters Godzilla. Yeah I grew up watching him battle a variety of odd giant creatures on the Saturday afternoon Creature Feature, but truth be told; they’re not great movies. Maybe that’s because they were first and foremost made for children. Maybe that’s because the foes in Godzilla were mostly badass, like the awesome three-headed dragon, King Ghidorah, and Gamera was stuck facing off with the likes of Guiron, a doggy like dinosaur with a knife for a head. Or maybe it’s because the idea of a jet powered giant turtle is just so silly? So yeah, the original Gamera films (yes, there were some more giant turtle flicks made in the 90s) are not good monster movies. In fact they are cheese-tastic. But it’s because of that that they make for great, and I mean GREAT, fodder for the original snarky movie-riffers; MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000. Well if you are a Mistie like me (that being a fan of MST3K) then put on your party hats and go woo-hoo because we’ve got a new DVD collection featuring Joel, the bots, and five, yes count them: five of the original Gamera flicks. That totals almost 10 hours of entertainment, not including extras, but is this big chunk of Gamera goodness worth the price of admission? Well I think it is, but to try to prove it to you, let me count the ways.

First of all, the DVDs come in a handsome tin collector’s box. In addition to the five individually packaged DVDs inside the tin, it also contains five cardboard mini-posters featuring the movie monsters and the bots of MST3K. Cool looks and trinkets aside, the start of the show are the actual shows. Five full length episodes, thankfully minus commercials, featuring the movies; GAMERA, GAMERA VS. BARUGON, GAMERA VS. GAOS, GAMERA VS. GUIRON, and GAMERA VS. ZIGRA. If you’ve never seen these giant turtle flicks and you’re a fan of Japanese monster movies, then you’re in for a treat. If you’ve never seen these episodes of MST3K then you’re in for a huge treat, as the famous movie riffers were never better than when they were giving these movies the business. Ok, maybe their MANOS: THE HAND OF FATE episode was better, but that’s about it.

Wait, just hold on a second.

Could it be that you’ve never seen MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 before? Could you not have the slightest idea of what I’m talking about? If so, then wow, my heart truly bleeds for you, as you’ve missed out on some of the best TV ever. Anyway, here’s the Cliff Notes version. Joel was a regular guy shot into space aboard the Satellite of Love by two mad scientist and forced to watch really bad, Z-grade movies until it drove him mad. In an effort to hang on to his sanity for as long as possible, Joel made some robot buddies to pal around with and make fun of the movies he had to sit through. This very simple formula was hilarious as hell and a huge success. In fact, even though the show, MST3K is sadly no more, the writers and stars continue to do their thing with the famous Riftrax, and the lesser known, but equally as awesome, Cinematic Titanic. Google either of these if you hunger for some more movie riffing. And if you never saw the original MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000, then this is a great place to start.

Lastly, in addition to the five flicks, the tin, and the posters, there are some cool extras on the DVDs. There are three sizable featurettes to be found here. The first has interviews with the creators, writers, and stars of MST3K about their extended run on the Gamera films. Another featurette is an in-depth interview with three special effects guys on the technical side of the Gamera movies. The third and final featurette is an interview with a historian and expert on all sorts of “guy in a rubber suit” monster movies. All three of these special features were fun and informative and not just your usual talking head blather.

If you’re a fan of Gamera, MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000, and especially of both of them, then this collection was tailor made for you. For hours and hours of hilarious giant turtle fun, I can easily and highly recommend this new five DVD set from Shout! Factory.

--Brian M. Sammons

Foreign Fears: I Saw the Devil (2010)

"I Saw the Devil" (2010)
written by Steven M. Duarte

These days I don’t normally walk away from a movie greatly impressed but I do have to say this film really left me with that feeling. In anticipation of seeing this film I scarcely read anything about the films plot and did not read any actual reviews on it. I knew it contained a revenge plot and that’s as far as I went with any pre notions of the film. The film is directed by Korean director Jee-woon Kim known for such films as "A Tale of Two Sisters" (2003) and directing segments on the "Three...Extremes" (2004) features. A solid director alongside "Old Boy" (2003) actor Min-sik Choi makes for a good feature film.

At the heart of "I Saw the Devil" we have a serial killer played by Choi who is a cold-blooded killer with no real motive for his actions. He doesn’t do it for money, sex, or hatred of a particular trait. While we see hints that he does gain some sexual pleasure from some of his victims he does not do so with every single one to say that’s his primary motive. He really is just a sick fuck. I haven’t felt so uncomfortable watching scenes of murder in a film since "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" (1986).

The other part of the film plays out as a revenge film with the other lead character chasing after the murderer to avenge his significant others death. The title comes into play with the extent that he goes to obtain revenge as he himself starts to lose face and becomes no better than the serial killer. The various setups for their meetings and brawls that ensue are always kept fresh. Choi does an awesome job of showing no fear even when beat to a bloody pulp.

There aren’t very many films that make me uncomfortable when viewing but I would have to say that certain scenes in Devil really take the cake. Word has it an American remake is in the works. Chances are it will be cut down to 90 minutes, carry a PG-13 rating and star Collin Farrell.

--Steven M. Duarte