Why Horror?

I get asked that question a lot.

Most of the time, vocally. The rest of time, people just give me that strange, judgmental look.

You know the one I’m talking about.

Whether you write horror fiction, or you’re just a fan of the genre, you’ve gotten that look. It’s a look that says, “What’s wrong with you?” or “Why do you like that stuff?”

Because it fucking ROCKS, that’s why!

Fans of heavy metal (I count myself among you) get the same treatment. Any genre that our society doesn’t generally accept gets regarded with a certain amount of animosity. Horror fiction, horror movies, heavy metal – exist on the fringe. Fans like us are the “outsiders.” The freaks. The weirdos.

We’re the ones that have a morbid infatuation with death. We worship Satan, crave violence, cheer death, praise serial killers…

I  know, right? That’s how “mainstreamers” regard us! You’re right – they don’t get us.

Even if you were to explain that, no – we aren’t presidents of the Ted Bundy Fan Club, and actually, we don’t high-five each other over the horrors found on the internet and the evening news. Even your confession of fainting at the sight of blood won’t likely register much in the way of sympathy from the mainstreamers. To them, we’ll always be the sickos their preconceived notions tell them we are.

After DEADSVILLE came out, members of my extended family (folks who are definitely NOT horror fans) got in touch to say they read the book – and enjoyed it!

I know – they’re relatives. They’re supposed to say that. No argument here. However, they all had one particular comment in common. It struck me because most of the readers who WERE horror fans had the same comment. I have to paraphrase, but it boiled down to this:

“[The stories in DEADSVILLE] were not what I was expecting.”

Reading through the reviews, (and in our online and in-person conversations) Terry and I could clearly see that we had exceeded the expectations of BOTH groups – the established horror fans, and the relatives who had never read (but knew they didn’t like) horror fiction.

The fans didn’t expect the twists or the stories to to be so unique, in that we didn’t rely upon established (recycled) concepts and plot lines. (Thanks!) The non-fans didn’t expect that horror stories could be well-written. Or stories! Their mind-set was blood and body parts everywhere, character and plot secondary or missing entirely. (Thank you! We’re happy to shatter your preconceived notions!)

I write horror because I find it to be the perfect backdrop for exploring the human condition. In the genre, all emotions are valid. I’m not saying that in other genres emotions are somehow less valid, but in horror fiction you’re creating characters that are dealing with all sorts of monsters and madness, and with that much adrenaline being injected into their systems, those characters discover who they really are. Plus, it’s damn good fun to unleash a demon or some other hellish monster and watch what happens to the humans in our fictional worlds! If the story works well, it’s like a mirror – a reflection of the real world. When those characters reveal what they’re made of, we often see what we’re made of!

Sometimes, perhaps, we don’t like so much what we see in our reflection.

Sometimes, there’s a monster staring back at us.

So – why horror? Why write it, why watch it?

Because good horror is always more than the sum of its bloody, dismembered parts. It can be literary. It can be emotional. It can be funny. It can be mashed-up with other genres. Fictional horror helps us deal with the real-life horrors that surround us every day.

Because if there ever is a monster staring back at us in the mirror, we need to know how to take that thing on!

Thanks for reading, Deadies!

For more information on DEADSVILLE, click on the image below…

 

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Mongrels

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Werewolf stories, as with zombies and vampires, have pretty much been played out – strip-mined beyond recovery, their once seemingly inexhaustible appeal now a barren wasteland of recycled plots and sparkly frenemies.

So when I heard Stephen Graham Jones had written a werewolf novel – novel!! – I was understandably… excited!

Having become familiar with SGJ’s short story collections, (The Ones That Got Away and After the People Lights Have Gone Off) where he kept me joyously off-balance with a broad range of superbly-crafted tales of horror and darkness, I was eager to grab a copy of Mongrels, excited to see what he could do with monsters whose wolf costume had worn thin and more than a little shiny along the flanks.

I have to confess to being apprehensive about the word ‘novel’ associated with werewolves. What I mean by that is, this horror sub-genre seemed so played out, that I wasn’t sure if ANY author could successfully pull off an entire novel about werewolves these days!

Happily, my concerns were abated pretty much after the first paragraph or so, as I was immediately invested in the main characters, an adult brother and sister (who just happen to be werewolves) raising their nephew, who may or may not be one of them.

The novel is told from the boy’s point-of-view, and follows his story for roughly ten years as he travels the southern US with his aunt and uncle, (werewolves are nomads, for obvious reasons) the trio living hand-to-mouth in crumbling, abandoned trailers, working odd jobs and stealing and conning their way back and forth across the South, looking for a better life that they know they can never truly have.

It’s a coming-of-age story, reading more like a literary novel than horror, but don’t forget for a minute that this IS a horror novel. Actually, you can’t because SGJ reminds you of that fact with little punches of unsettling detail distributed throughout the book, ranging from descriptions of the horrific transformations to the dispatching of an owl (in a spectacularly grisly fashion!) to a cop’s belt – with no cop in it.

Mongrels alternates between past and present events, following the young boy’s transformation from childhood to manhood as he yearns to belong, either in the world of werewolves or in the world of humans. The novel has a Southern noir feel, depicting werewolves as ragged, desperate outsiders pursued not only my men who discover their secret, but by other werewolves bent on keeping their culture secure – even if it means attacking their own kind.

Stephen Graham Jones is a gifted wordsmith, weaving a tale with equal parts humor and heart, interlaced with moments of sheer terror as the boy and his family struggle to not only stay together, but stay alive in a world that’s becoming increasingly dangerous.

Mongrels is easily one of the best books of 2016. It might just be the best werewolf novel ever written! Just as he kept me off balance so often with his short fiction, Stephen Graham Jones does that and more with this book. I didn’t know what was coming next, I only knew that, right from the first page I was enjoying the journey.

Mongrels would make a terrific little indie film as well. I don’t know if any producers have bought the rights, but don’t wait around for the movie – get the book today and “wolf out” on a truly great read!

Thanks for reading, Deadies!

Grey Matter Press: The Terrifying Toddler of Publishing

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2013 was a hell of a good year for horror fiction.

That’s the year I picked up a copy of Dark Visions, Volume 1 – the debut horror anthology from Chicago-based Grey Matter Press. Right away I was reminded of the terrific anthologies of the 80’s – many of which were edited by the late great Charles L. Grant – with one key difference:

This one was even better!

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The writers involved were mostly unfamiliar to me, as was the publisher, but once I finished the book I was already tracking down more of their work, and I was eager to read more from Grey Matter Press, impressed by not only the quality of the writing, but the appearance of the books, which were flawlessly produced, featuring high-quality artwork on the covers and superb interior design. On the shelf or on your Kindle, it was clear that this new small publisher meant business, and was determined to run with the big dogs. Or werewolves – this is a horror blog, after all!

Grey Matter Press was founded by editor Anthony Rivera, who (thank God – or perhaps Black Phillip?) grew weary of the advertising biz, and in 2012 pursued his true passion – dark fiction – and started Grey Matter Press. Together with co-editor Sharon Lawson, the duo began cranking out one great anthology after another, quickly becoming horror’s Lennon and McCartney, earning accolades from readers and writers alike, as well as nominations for the prestigious Bram Stoker Award.

A couple of my favorites from their early collections are worth noting, as I feel they serve as excellent examples of the quality of the stories Grey Matter publishes. “Release,” from Dark Visions 2, is simply the best zombie story I’ve ever read! Wholly original, and deeply – profoundly – disturbing. Written by Peter Whitley and Jane Brooks.

“Violence for Fun and Profit,” by Gregory L. Norris, appears in Splatterlands: Reawakening the Splatterpunk Revolution, shatters a well-established truth about this blood-soaked horror sub-genre: that the stories are thick with gore, but thin on plot and character. Luckily, Grey Matter Press readers can have their cake AND eat it too. Just make sure that cake is nailed down good and tight before reading this one! To say more would spoil the fun, suffice to say it involves a killer for hire who REALLY enjoys his work!

What these two stories have in common is originality, and you’ll find that in buckets with GMP.

                DREAD: A Head Full of Bad Dreams – their recently-released “best of” collection – is a must-read whether you’re new to Grey Matter’s offerings, or an established fan. Read this one and you’ll understand precisely what I’m talking about in terms of quality and originality. A few of my very favorite stories from this book inENDclude Rose Blackthorn’s “Through the Ghostlands,” “Amnion,” by John Everson, “Mister Pockets,” by Jonathan Maberry, and “Wormhole,” by J. Daniel Stone. Every story in this book is excellent, and you’re likely to find yourself reading them all more than once – they’re that good!

My favorite anthology published by Grey Matter is a single-author release – John F.D. Taff’s The End in all Beginnings, a collection of five novellas. I should add the word ‘brilliant’ to that description, because this book is easily on my Top 5 All Time Favorites List!

Mr. Taff’s work transcends genre, proving that horror fiction can be literary, that it can earn its place in the world of “respectable” writing. First, the guy writes beautifully, his prose vivid and sharp – like a high-quality chef’s knife. And he knows how to use that knife, folks! His words bring his stories to life through well-crafted characters and the haunting landscapes where they reside. Then those words turn on you, and he uses that knife to gut you, to expose your heart before ripping it out and showing it to you! All in the most beautiful of ways.

John’s short stories can be found in several Grey Matter Press anthologies. Read any of them and it’s easy to see why he’s nick-named The King of Pain. His stories leave a mark!

I’m looking forward to more of John’s work being published by Grey Matter Press. PerhapsWHITE

we’ll see a future novel of his appearing under the GMP logo soon!

The good news is that Grey Matter Press is now publishing NOVELS!

Earlier this spring, the Chicago-based publisher released its first novel, and it’s every bit as unique as the anthologies that came before it.

MISTER WHITE, by author John C. Foster, is described as a “dark thriller,” and it’s every bit of that and more. It’s part Robert Ludlum, part Clive Barker – tightly coiled around a plot that involves spies, international intrigue, and the terrifying Mr. White, a mysterious and particularly deadly entity whose name you do not dare speak. If you do, God help you.

Actually, God can’t help you. You see, Mr. White has a habit of destroying those who speak his name in a variety of ghastly ways.

I would tell you more, but trust me – you’re going to want to read it for yourself. I never would’ve thought the horror and spy genres could endure a mash-up in any way that was remotely credible, but this page-turner expertly blends the genres, delivering a superb dark fiction novel that thrills as brilliantly as it chills!

Based on these past few years, I’m excited for what the future holds for Grey Matter Press. Barely a toddler, to use John F.D. Taff’s description, Grey Matter Press has already achieved more success in a few short years than most small publishers ever dream of, if they’re lucky enough to survive this long at all.

So pick up one – every single one – of Grey Matter’s books. And be sure to write a review. Small publishers – even successful ones like Grey Matter – stay successful because of support from their readers. So review, and share your thoughts across your social media. Make note of the stories that really thrilled you and give a shout-out to the authors! Trust me – we absolutely depend on reader feedback in order to get noticed by publishers such as Grey Matter Press.

Shop the Grey Matter Press website store or Amazon for all their titles, and look for their new anthology, I Can Taste the Blood, featuring five new novellas from authors John F.D. Taff, Josh Malerman, J. Daniel Stone, Joe Schwartz, and Erik T. Johnson! The collection releases August 23rd, 2016.

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Review: STAR TREK BEYOND

 

 

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I know – this is a horror blog.

So why on EARTH am I using up space on this page talking about a sci-fi action film?

The answer is simple.

I’M A HUGE NERD.

And I’ve been been dying to talk about the movie, so I figured what the hell.

I’ve been a Star Trek fan since my big brother Don sat me down to watch the original series with him back in the early 70’s. The show was in reruns then, on its way to cementing its legendary status within pop culture and sci-fi circles. The Saturday morning animated continuation of the series was still on the horizon, (I own that on DVD in a sleek white box) and the first feature film was still years away, but it was clear even then that Trek, despite being canceled, wasn’t going away any time soon. The reruns of the original series flourished on TV for decades. Gene Roddenberry’s “Wagon Train to the stars” was towing a helluva lot of passengers, and they could be found in the hundreds of Star Trek conventions that were popping up all over the USA. As with Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone, Trek was now so ingrained in the lexicon of pop culture it was now Americana.

Over the years, Trek spawned not only a highly-successful, if uneven, feature film series, new TV series arose to slake the unquenchable public thirst for more journeys to where no one has gone before. I remember literally shaking with excitement as Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted in 1987. Even now, I was all aflutter watching the recent teaser trailer the latest incarnation of the series, the forthcoming Star Trek: Discovery.

I’ve been equally giddy over the feature films as well, trekking (sorry) to the theater to see every one of them beginning with Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979. They were an uneven lot, but when the films got it right – oh, boy – did they ever get it RIGHT. Star Trek: TMP may have been a boring slog of a thing, but 1982’s Wrath of Khan hit a high-water mark that just may never be equaled!

The prime lesson from the early Trek film franchise?

If Star Trek is going to work on the big screen, the movies need to be action-oriented. The purely exploration themes that Roddenberry preferred over fisticuffs and phasers were better suited for the television plots, although an argument can be made when considering episodes such as “The Space Seed” from the original series, or “The Best of Both Worlds” from The Next Generation. Those stories were intelligent and action-packed.

Which brings me to the latest Trek film – STAR TREK: BEYOND.

Now, if you’re one those Trekkers that just doesn’t care for the J.J. Abrams “reboot-iverse,” then you probably will hate the movie. Just like you hated Into Darkness and the first one. I personally don’t understand the vitriol leveled at the new films, but hey – that’s your thing. If you don’t dig it, you don’t dig it.

For those of you who have liked the “reboot-iverse,” you’re going to enjoy Beyond. It’s a better movie than Into Darkness, and just like the ship Kirk and crew use in this one in place of their beloved Enterprise, it’s a stripped-down hot rod of an adventure, not surprising given the film’s director, Justin Lin, who helmed three movies from the Fast and the Furious franchise. The sharp script, written by Simon Pegg (Scotty) and Doug Jung, brilliantly captures the family dynamic that the original cast and characters shared. The action is punctuated with humor and heart, and despite the villain being a bit generic and almost beside the point, Idris Elba gives dimension and plenty of menace to the character.

Star Trek: Beyond has a lot in common with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, only with a more balanced approach to the action and humor. This being the “reboot-iverse,” there’s also an excellent opportunity for the film-makers to correct a rather large mistake (my opinion) from the “Shatner-verse,” and that issue gets handled pretty ingeniously, (again, my opinion) paving the way for the remainder of the films for this current version of the Star Trek film franchise.

This being the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, Beyond is loaded with Easter eggs that both the casual fan and hardcore Trekkers alike will have fun discovering. There’s also a touching tribute to Leonard Nimoy, and a haunting acknowledgment of the tragic passing of Anton Yelchin, who did such a great job portraying Chekhov. We’ll have to wait until the next film to find out if Paramount continues the character with a replacement actor, or (please God NO!) writes off Chekhov altogether.

Either way, the stage is set for more Star Trek adventures on the big screen.

I’m on board for the continuing voyages of the starship Enterprise. I hope Paramount Pictures has their phasers set to FUN.

Thanks for reading, Deadies!

Next post will DEFINITELY be about horror.

Until then…

Live long, and prosper!

Review: STRANGER THINGS

 

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What follows is what I believe to be a relatively spoiler-free review of Stranger Things. If, however, you haven’t seen (binged) the show yet, and want to know as few details as possible, here is my quick-and-dirty, positively spoiler-free review:

WATCH THE SHOW. YOU’LL DIG IT.

There.

I trust you folks are already headed for your remotes and La-Z-Boy recliners, ready to watch (binge) the show.

For those of you who haven’t seen the series, but don’t mind learning a few (as spoiler-free as possible) details, read on. For those of you who have seen the show – welcome! – and please feel free to add your thoughts to the comments section below.

In the new Netflix series Stranger Things, the eighties are back – and not only due to the show being set in 1983.

Stranger Things is a throwback to all the things that made TV and movie pop culture back then great. In the eight episodes that comprise Season 1, you’ll find all manner of nods, tributes and tip-your-cap howdy-do’s to Stephen King, John Carpenter, James Cameron, The X-Files (OK – 90’s show, I get it) author and screenwriter Dan O’Bannon, (who gets a character named after him) Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott – the list goes on. Even the excellent theme music is reminiscent of John Carpenter and Tangerine Dream.

What’s great about all that stuff is that, behind all this love-letter praising of artists and movies of that era, is a very solid and well-executed storyline. The scripts are clever and fun, the acting is first-rate, and the directing is terrific, rife with the above-mentioned stylistic cues from so many legendary directors that flourished in ththings2e eighties.

The overarching plot is about a young boy who goes missing one evening after a Dungeons-and-Dragons campaign with his three equally-nerdy pals. In the pre-credit sequence, we see a scientist being pursued by some kind of strange, unseen creature, and we can only assume the poor D&D player has also fallen victim to the monster.

The rest of the episodes revolve around the boy’s distraught mother, the town’s alcoholic sheriff, and the other three D&D-playing buddies as they all set out on independent missions to find the kid. As the series evolves, an assortment of government baddies led by Matthew Modine (ask your parents about his 80’s resume) is also eager to find the lad, albeit for their own nefarious purposes.

Enter “Eleven,” a little girl with a shaved head and destructive telepathic and telekinetic powers that are reminiscent of Stephen King’s Charlie from his novel Firestarter. She – and her powers – are discovered by the misfit boys during their search, and, well…. stranger things ensue.

The show features monsters and mayhem, and while the series is reminiscent of past works by the above-named authors and directors, none of it is a rip-off of their work. The show feels fresh and authentic despite its pre-internet setting and derivations, and it’s a helluva lot of fun to watch!

At only eight episodes, the series never comes close to wearing out its welcome, as there are no filler moments, let alone filler episodes as it breezes along toward its monster-filled, dimension-bending conclusion.

And it’s a satisfying conclusion, effectively wrapping its first season and leaving you wanting to see more. Netflix has already granted fans that wish, and I can’t wait to see what series creators (and directors) the Duffer Brothers come up with next. They are a couple of interesting guys! The series, while paying tribute to their creative heroes, also looks like the greatest fan-film ever made, in that there is a raw quality to the style of the episodes due to what I can only assume was a low production budget. And yet they pull it off brilliantly. The visual effects work very well, and it’s clear these guys know what they’re doing behind the camera, making the most out of their resources in much the way John Carpenter did with his early films.

So catch the binge-train to Netflix and watch the show. Bring a friend, even if they’re not that into horror and sci-fi. If they were children of the 80’s, they’ll dig the nostalgia! And I’m willing to bet they’ll enjoy the complex, yet not too complicated storyline.

Hey, Stranger Things have happened…

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A Look At: Horror Short Films

I write short fiction.

So it makes sense that I have a particular fondness for short horror films.  As with short fiction, these films take minutes (usually under twenty) to tell their stories, and if they’re good, they make an impact.

Sometime around the start of middle school, I discovered The Twilight Zone, and I was instantly hooked, my life forever changed. Rod Serling, the show’s iconic host, creator and chief writer, introduced me to that strange land between light and shadow, a place of both things and ideas. A place where nothing was ever as it seemed. From that first moment, I knew I wanted to write, and what I wanted to write were these kinds of stories.

These days, anthology shows like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits are no longer produced, and haven’t been in decades. The format itself is a survivor, though. Those classic television shows live on in syndication. Short horror fiction lives on as well, despite numerous articles and posts over the decades declaring the format dead.

The format is not dead. Horror authors cut their teeth writing short stories, and most continue to write them even after becoming established novelists.

Film-makers follow a similar path. Short films are easier to finance and produce, so it makes sense that directors start with them. Some return to the format (Creepshow, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Tales from The Darkside, etc) and it’s easy to see why:

They love the format, too!

Short films offer an opportunity for the film-maker to tell a story with a single set, few characters, often with little or no dialogue. Instead of unpacking a complex story over two hours, the short film can be told in a single scene. Expensive special effects can be set aside in favor of a single drop of blood. In my opinion, the director who can scare you on a shoestring budget knows how to scare you best. They know that relying solely on special effects or other film-making trickery is a fool’s errand. They know that most audiences will see right through that stuff, revealing the usually poor script and bad director behind the camera. Not that lavish, complicated special effects can’t be used well, (John Carpenter’s The Thing comes to mind) but if that’s all a director has in their toolkit, it’s usually a sign of a bad film.

With these things in mind, what follows are some of my favorite short films I’ve seen recently. These little movies use their slight budgets to great effect, making an impact with an economy of resources. I’ve selected them because they’ve gotten under my skin in some way. Some are scary. Some feature a clever twist. Some tell a great little story. Others I chose because they were simply odd enough to stay on my mind.

All of them, in my opinion, are made by talented folks who demonstrate the best attributes described in the paragraphs above.

First up is Cargo – a gem of a zombie tale about a bitten, soon-to-be undead father and his clever, desperate plan to save his infant daughter.

 

 

Cool, huh?

I like dark subject matter that isn’t afraid to plumb the emotional depths of the characters in an honest way. Anybody could make a film with characters that blubber and weep, but that always comes off as hokey and inauthentic, in my view. In this story, we feel the dad’s terror – his anguish – as he hatches his plan to save his child, and the sheer hell of it is that he’ll never really know if his plan is successful! But the film-makers don’t try for any emotional “cheap shots” here. This is honesty in character development and storytelling – remarkable for such a short film.

Next up is Lights Out. You’ve no doubt heard about the feature version produced by James Wan, and I hope it’s at least as good as this little fright fest! Simple techniques used to build tension and deliver the scary goods are on full display here. Check it out – with the lights ON.

 

 

As with Lights Out, a talented film-maker spotted this short film and was instrumental in developing a feature version for the big screen. Guillermo del Toro, one of my favorite directors working today, produced Mama, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s a horror classic. Wildly underappreciated, Mama delivers a better ghost story than anything with ‘paranormal’ in the title, out-conjures the first Conjuring by a long shot, and is far more ‘insidious’ than anything in that series.

The short film is equally genius in telling a complete, terrifying tale in a mere two minutes! “Mama” herself is brought to twisted, nightmare-inducing life with some truly remarkable special effects techniques!

 

 

The Smiling Man is creepy as hell. A child in danger, little baggies of doll parts tied to balloons – this one has classic horror elements on full display, and the best part? Well – you’ll just have to watch! I was impressed by the way this film used those elements in the set-up, and didn’t squander them in the final reveal. The Smiling Man gets under your skin – and takes up residence there for a long time.

 

 

The Killer Inside is a fun little horror film from indie director David Karner. I thought it was clever, and left me wanting to see more from this film-maker. Whatever you do – stick around to the end – it’s a good one! And don’t take stuff without asking.

 

 

One Last Dive is our last “dive” into this subject – for this particular post anyway.

This film is only a minute long, but it’s very effective – and a lot of fun to boot! Plus, deep water scares the shit out of me. Whether that fear was created by JAWS or simply revealed by that film is anybody’s guess.

 

 

I hope you enjoyed this look at the short horror film. The films I talked about here are just a tiny sampling of what’s out there. If you’ve seen a good one – or several – share the titles with us in the comments section! I’m always up for a good movie, and with my crazy schedule these days, these snack-size bites of horror really hit the spot!

A Review of 10 Cloverfield Lane

 

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By now, you’ve no doubt heard that 10 Cloverfield Lane is not really a sequel to 2008’s hit found-footage monster classic Cloverfield.

It isn’t, and that’s OK. From what I understand, the suits in charge of green-lighting this one wouldn’t go ahead with it unless it was tied to that film, so the producers decided to set this “in the same world” as Cloverfield. Marketing trickery? Maybe, but again, I’m OK with that because a great film got made as a result.

Cloverfield, (far superior to the recent Godzilla, and don’t even get me started on that awful 1998 version!) in my opinion, didn’t need a sequel. In such a franchise-driven movie culture, it’s refreshing to have a “one and done” film. Kind of a throwback, really. Now, perhaps there will one day be a direct continuation of the Cloverfield story, but I hope not.

The same goes for 10 Cloverfield Lane. The story in this film could be continued, but I hope it isn’t. It’s a terrific film just as it is – a tense, taut thriller with some dandy horror elements!

Lane stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Michelle, a woman who, weary of her failing relationship, decides to leave her boyfriend and drives off amid strange reports of rolling blackouts. Distracted by the reports over the radio, she is involved in a serious car accident on a Louisiana backroad. Hours later she comes to in a basement room, hooked up to an IV. The room resembles one of those terrifying dungeons we see on so many news reports where women were imprisoned for years after being kidnapped by a creepy older dude. (why do they always look like they could be from the same family, somehow?)

Soon we meet Howard. Sure enough, he’s a creepy, middle aged dude – brilliantly played by John Goodman. His Howard is a lurking bear of a man, and positively obsessed with survival prep, the kind that we also see on so many TV shows and news reports. Has Howard captured Michelle to fulfill his own perverted fantasies, or is he her savior, protecting her from a world that has suffered an apocalyptic disaster?

Either way, Howard has spent years building an impressive underground bunker. He is well-stocked with food and supplies – enough to last years. Whatever the man’s intentions are, Michelle is going to be stuck with him until the bitter end. Howard is convinced that the air on the surface is now lethal, and she is unable to persuade him otherwise.

To say anything further about the plot would risk spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it. The director does a masterful job with an excellent script, building the suspense and continually ratcheting up the tension, tossing in some humorous moments for levity before gut-punching you with sequences that run the gamut from white-knuckle suspense to raw horror.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead does a brilliant job at portraying a tough, smart female lead. Her Michelle reminded me of Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley. Michelle is anything but a victim, despite being hopelessly imprisoned by John Goodman’s Howard. She uses her fists when needed, and is always using her head in scene after scene as she tries to outwit her captor and break free from the bunker.

John Goodman (finally!) is allowed to be the male lead in a film, and man – does he ever make the most of it! Genius in all of his supporting roles, Goodman applies those same skills to his lead role here. His Howard is equal parts unhinged madman and misunderstood good Samaritan. Few actors could walk this delicate line so convincingly. Personally, I think he deserved an Oscar, but that’s a discussion for another time.

As for the plot, I really enjoyed how the cat-and-mouse game between the main characters unfolded, and I particularly enjoyed the ending, which has been a source of some controversy among fans of not only Cloverfield, but of films like this in general. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend 10 Cloverfield Lane. Decide for yourself if you like it all the way through to the end, as I did. If you were a fan of the monster movie predecessor to this, you may be disappointed. Or not. In regards to the ending of Lane, I felt it had a similar tone and feel as Cloverfield. It really does feel like the same world to me. But I really like that this film is not that film, or that story.

Both Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane are great stand-alone films – for different reasons.

I hope Hollywood keeps them that way.

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WELCOME TO DEADSVILLE AFTER DARK!

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“Greetings, Welcome to DEADSVILLE AFTER DARK! My name

is J. “Bony” Deaderson. What’s that? What’s the ‘J’ stand for? Nothing! I’m DEAD!” 

 

Hold on there, Bony!

Sorry, folks. Our friend up there gets a bit carried away sometimes.

My name is Dale Elster. The fella standing to my left? Or is it your left? My right? Anyway – see him down there? That’s him! The guy that still has all of his hair. His name is T.D. Trask (Terry) and we’re horror authors.Dale Elster

We wrote DEADSVILLE: 13 Tales of Horror, the book that inspired this site. It’s a collection of stories that are set in a town called Rock Creek, aka DEADSVILLE. A place where bad things happen to the good – and sometimes bad – people there. It’s a one-stoplight town in the middle of nowhere, on the way to nowhere. Perhaps you’ve been to a town like Rock Creek – a town ruled by quiet, country boredom. Perhaps you’ll pay our fictional town a visit! We’d love to have you.

The idea behind our little corner of the interwebs is two-fold. This site gives us a place to promote our works of dark fiction, and also a space where we can freely talk about the horror genre without the confines of 140-character tweets or Facebook police.

We like to write fiction as much as we like to talk about horror mT.D. Traskovies, horror TV shows, horror novels and anthologies (like DEADSVILLE! #gratuitous #plug) – heck, even horror music! Our intention with this site is to talk about the genre we love – and have a little fun while we’re at it!

On DEADSVILLE AFTER DARK, we’ll review movies we’ve seen, whether they’re new releases or old classics. We’ll chat about that great horror novel we’re reading, or dig into the bibliographies of authors who continue to inspire us. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll score an interview or two!

So come on in! Make yourself at home. Pour yourself a glass of something fancy and settle in – at least until that storm outside passes. They get pretty violent in this neck of the woods.

I sure hope the lights don’t go out!

You wouldn’t believe the things that come out of the dark here.

Brand New Website

Greetings, and welcome to the new home of Deadsville.

Welcome to Rock Creek, New York.

A one-stoplight town in the middle of nowhere, on the way to nowhere. A town ruled by quiet, country boredom, nestled between rolling hills and dense forests. Bordered by vast stretches of farmland. A quaint community of friendly faces, charming landscapes, picket fences. An idyllic rural existence. Maybe it is. But the locals have another name for their town: Deadsville.

And not for the reason you think. You see, this town holds many secrets. Nothing is as it seems. Old houses serve as something more than homes for the living. Killers walk amongst the townsfolk. Monsters are real. You’ve found Evil’s hometown. So be prepared to stay. You’re going to be a permanent resident. Because even if you get out, there’s no escape.

1 Town. 2 Authors. 13 Tales of Horror.

Deadsville is a collection of ALL NEW horror stories from authors T.D. Trask and Dale Elster set in the fictional upstate town of Rock Creek, NY. Enter Deadsville and accept the invitation to join them as they reveal the darkness lurking there, hidden within the people who walk the streets. Haunting places daylight never finds.

In the coming weeks, this site will also feature blog posts and other content presented by the authors.

If you’d like to be updated when new content is available, or when a new project is underway, please subscribe to our Newsletter.