Top 10 Stephen King

What’s your favorite Stephen King book?

Notice I said ‘book’ and not ‘novel.’ That’s because the man has also published some equally fantastic nonfiction books! But hey, why stop there? Whaddya say we really open this thing up? Let’s include all his short stories and short novels in your list! Heck – even screenplays!


Now for the tricky part.

Keep your list to a Top 10 format.

So – name your Top 10 Stephen King works. Not an easy task, to be sure. I recently looked at the list (on his website) of all his works, and I nearly fainted! I can say in all honesty that I have not read everything Mr. King has ever published, though I have read a respectable chunk of his stuff. I’m willing to bet some of you are in my shoes on this deal, so obviously, we’ll base our list on the books we’ve read.

My list will be heavy with his earlier works, which I consider to be his finest. Yours might be lean more toward his later work, or more balanced with material from across his massive bibliography. No biggie – there really are no wrong answers here.

So, here we go!














You’re right. This is hard. Impossible, really.


The works I included in my list are great – I could be dumped on a proverbial desert island and happily reread them again and again. But good God Almighty would I miss the ones above that I left off!

  1. Let’s try this again.















By including the Skeleton Crew anthology, I can grab up those classic King short stories listed above – but dammit! There goes Shawshank, the one story I picked to represent his brilliant collection of short novels, Different Seasons!

This sucks! Can’t give up The Shining, The Stand, ‘Salem’s Lot or Night Shift. No way. And On Writing changed my entire writing life. That one stays, buddy boy! OK – time for one more try at this. One more try to come up with my ultimate “desert island” King picks. Geez – one could go insane trying to narrow King down to a ‘top ten” list!

















Well now – that’s more like it! That’s a Stephen King Top 10 List I can live with!

What? Whaddya mean it’s not a Top 10 List? Sure it is! Okay okay okay – so it’s a “baker’s dozen.” Or a “King’s Dozen,” if you will. I may have set the bar a little high with this challenge!

But I can live with my list. On a desert island.

Ya know, like one of those “survivor types.”

Thanks for reading, Deadies! And feel free to leave your own “Top 10 Lists” in the comments section below.




Jonathan Demme and ALIENS!


April 26th started out fun.

It was “Alien Day” – in reference to the famed planet of LV426 from the Alien franchise – and fans like myself have fun spending the day tweeting and posting all kinds of amusing tributes to the films.

While I was on Twitter, I spotted Jonathan Demme’s name trending, and I immediately feared the worst.

Sadly, those fears were confirmed when I learned he had indeed passed away at age 73 from cancer and heart-related issues. My heart sank. No longer would I have the chance to see another new film from him, whether it be an irreverent comedy like Married to the Mob, or a powerful drama like Philadelphia, where Demme tackled AIDS, homosexuality, and bigotry with respect and finesse. In my view, that film really started the conversations that led to the levels of acceptance of the LGBTQ community we enjoy today.

The Silence of the Lambs.

No discussion of Demme can be made without including this film, arguably one of the ten best films in Hollywood history. Certainly, one of the most beloved and influential movies of the horror genre. TV shows like CSI and Criminal Minds wouldn’t exist without Silence, nor would films like Seven or The Bone Collector.

After what initially seemed like the single worst decision Hollywood ever made, appointing a man who was previously known for concert films (Stop Making Sense) or irreverent comedies (Something Wild, Married to the Mob) to direct a film based on the book by Thomas Harris, one of the greatest (not to mention most popular) horror thrillers ever written, Jonathan Demme instead turned out to be one of the best decisions Hollywood could’ve made.

The Silence of the Lambs, costing a mere $19 million, went on to gross over $270 million worldwide and swept the Oscars in all five major categories: Best Picture, Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodie Foster), Best Director, and Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally).

For fans of the novel like myself, Oscar night that year was extra special for a couple of reasons. First, Jonathan Demme delivered a perfect adaptation of a perfect book. Second, Hollywood didn’t snub the film as we all feared it would.

Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Hannibal Lecter elevated the cannibalistic doctor to icon status in the horror genre as well as in pop culture, and Jodie Foster’s performance as Clarice Starling was equal to Sir Anthony’s, a stunning achievement not only in acting terms. Foster portrayed a smart, strong woman fighting for – and earning – the respect of her male boss and fellow officers in a time when that was not only rare but generally frowned upon in society and especially in movies and television. Clarice Starling reflected the millions of women dealing with the same issues in their own lives. Clarice was a major character in the film. She was not added to the movie to simply be a love interest for a male character, or a damsel in distress waiting for the hero to save her. She was her own hero, and with her combination of smarts and her resilience, she was a hero for all of us, male or female.

Suffice to say, The Silence of the Lambs was a crowning achievement for everyone involved. Demme’s quirky style melded perfectly with Ted Tally’s spot-on script, defying all odds. Granted, Silence cast a hefty shadow, and while I didn’t quite enjoy Demme’s work after Silence as much, he was without doubt a terrific filmmaker who added depth and humanity to every one of his films.

I’m going to close this post so that I can go back and enjoy my favorite Jonathan Demme movies – not just The Silence of the Lambs, but Something Wild, a strangely magical dark comedy that may or may not have influenced Breaking Bad. I’ll let you decide. And of course, Stop Making Sense, a brilliant concert film that I promise will make you a Talking Heads fan, even if only for a short time. (I’m willing to bet you’ll explore their catalogue after watching!)

I think it’s fitting that Jonathan Demme left us on ‘Alien Day’ – a fun day celebrating the achievement of a legendary director. And aliens!

I bet he’d get a kick out of that.



Dear Horror Readers

Dear Horror Readers,

                It’s me, an old horror fan from a generation that grew up pre-internet, pre-Netflix – in other words, the stone age!

                I was around when Stephen King first wrote Carrie, and got to marvel at that handful of dark, wonderful gems he wrote as they were first published. It was an amazing time to be a horror reader. There were lots a great horror movies, too – but that’s another post.  There were other great writers that came out of that time – Robert McCammon, Dennis Etchison, Michael McDowell, to name just a few. Horror was hugely popular in print and on the screen – it was a great time to be a fan!

                Discovering new authors back then was a matter of how stocked your local bookstore’s horror section was. I grew up in a small town that didn’t have a bookstore, so I relied on the small section of trade paperbacks in the drugstore, or the public library. There was a Waldenbooks (remember those, anyone?) about thirty miles away, but I didn’t get there often. Still, the reading life for this horror fan was one of few complaints. The books I could get my hands on were mostly solid to downright phenomenal.

                As time passed and the publishing houses started closing their horror imprints, I began to get discouraged. I was growing disappointed with Stephen King’s work, and new works from the other authors I liked were getting increasingly harder to find. As a result, my enthusiasm for reading horror fell off.

                Boy, did I miss it! I was also into the noir genre, so I pacified myself with classics by Chandler and Spillane, and a relatively new writer at the time named Lee Child, but I missed horror. There were occasional books by Stephen King that captured my interest, and while his prose was always terrific, in my opinion his work was becoming too bloated, too wordy. The magic of early King just wasn’t there anymore.

                To be fair, it’s rare that any artist maintains that level of greatness associated with their early work throughout their career. Hell, most writers would kill for a fraction of the success King enjoyed. And it wasn’t the man’s fault he became a pop culture icon. I can’t even imagine functioning as a human being in such an intense spotlight as that, let alone write!

                From a technology standpoint, I’m several years behind the times. I wasn’t exactly the first kid on the block to have a computer – let alone the internet. Even after I got all that stuff, my PC was slow, and my dial-up connection was already a dinosaur compared to the more powerful desktops and the high-speed broadband that was now available. And the Kindle had been out awhile before I finally got one.

                 Once I did get a Kindle, my reading world opened up considerably. Sure – a lot of the horror offerings were terrible. Self-publishing was upon us, and with few publishers available to them, writers were taking their work directly to the readers for as little as a buck or two, and oftentimes free. Sadly, much of the work I was discovering was poorly edited (if edited at all) and I found myself disappointed and skeptical of anything not written by known authors.

                I was mired in a rut of familiarity. While it was great discovering work by my favorite authors that was either new or ‘new to me,’ I realized I was getting boxed-in by not exploring the genre more. Besides, I’m one of the many unknown indie authors out there! By not exploring the work of these fellow authors, I was not only shutting myself off from undiscovered gems, I was making a choice not to support someone in the same boat as me! I couldn’t live with that.

                So again, I waded into the vast ocean of indie books. Social media introduced me to many authors that were enjoying success in the horror genre, including John F.D. Taff, Josh Malerman, John Foster, Ania Ahlborn, Rhoads Brazos, among others.

                There were some great small publishers I found along the way. Publishers who specialized in bringing high quality horror fiction to the world, and who were open to working with new voices. Grey Matter Press, Crystal Lake Publishing, Sinister Grin, Cutting Block Press, Postmortem Press, and Permuted Press are among the best small publishers out there. Pick any of their books – you really cannot go wrong.

                Of course, there are also some authors out there who are truly independent and either work sporadically with various small presses or exclusively self-publish. The best of them will match the quality of the small presses, with terrific covers and interior design, as well as solid formatting and professional editing. Some of my favorites are Rebecca Besser (@BeccaBesser), Latashia Figueroa (@LatashFigueroa), Isaac Thorne (@isaacrthorne), Israel Finn (@Israel_Finn), I encourage you to not only read the work these fine authors have available, but discover new authors as well. Feel free to share those author’s names in the comments section below!

                To help you discover those next great voices in horror, I suggest visiting some fantastic book sites and blogs such as GoodReads, Shotgun Logic (, The Horror Bookshelf (, The Scary Reviews ( or by joining one or more of the many fine book review groups on Facebook. As a member of those groups, you can usually post your own reviews – which really helps the authors spread the word about their books.

                The point of this open letter is simple: don’t be afraid to explore the indie world. The small presses mentioned above are a great place to start your journey, but don’t let the fact that an author who self-publishes means they are somehow not “legit.”

                Most small presses and self-published authors spend thousands of dollars and weeks, if not years of their time perfecting and marketing their books. Rarely is this endeavor profitable. They write and publish not just for money (though money certainly helps!) but because they love the craft, and want their readers to have the same experience they’d get from a major publisher.

Indie authors not only love readers’ feedback, they absolutely depend on your reviews for survival, particularly on Amazon. It has nothing to do with ego. Whether it’s three words or three hundred – reviews trigger Amazon’s algorithms to recommend the author’s books to shoppers.

As I discover new voices in the horror genre that I like, I’ll be sure to feature them on the Deadsville After Dark blog, so be sure to visit again soon!

                Before you go, allow me a moment of shameless self-promotion. Right here on the website you’ll find information and links to the Deadsville anthology I wrote with T.D. (Terry) Trask. Give it a look-see while you’re in the neighborhood, and feel free to connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.

                Thanks for reading, Deadies!

                 Yours in Horror,

                Dale Elster (@DaleElster)

               PS –  Follow Terry on Twitter – @tdtrask






Deep Red: Argento’s Other Masterpiece of Giallo Filmmaking

Trying to review a Dario Argento film is difficult. Not because of the quality of the filmmaking, but rather to be totally honest, one must ignore the glaring issues of story. As was the case with Suspiria, so it is with Deep Red, Argento’s other great film.

Fortunately, when I re-watched the film, I happened to get the best version of the film. As was the case with Suspiria, there are several different versions floating around, edited for U.S. theaters. The disc I got from Netflix was the full version, and boy howdy, is it good. This was the first time I’d seen the entire film the way that Argento intended, so even though there are a couple logic flaws, the story holds together great.

The film stars David Hemmings as Marcus Daly, a musician in Italy to teach jazz. After class one night, he walks home and finds his friend, drunk on the street. After a short conversation, his friend eventually wanders back into the bar. Marcus turns and from that moment on, the film is a galloping, joyous, and uncomfortable ride until the end. He witnesses a murder through a window, and when he tries to stop it, winds up in the middle of a police investigation. An intrepid reporter joins up with him to figure out who and why the murderer is choosing victims. Saying anything more would probably kill the enjoyment of the story, so in this case, less is still very much more.

The film is, of course, photographed beautifully. Argento uses the Italian architecture to fullest advantage, with all its angles and curves presented prominently. The acting, beyond the always terrific Hemmings, ranges from good to competent, with no one being glaringly bad.

The development of Deep Red is interesting because originally Argento was going to have a jazz score, but apparently was unimpressed with the music written for it. So this was the first time he brought in The Goblins (who went on to write the music for Suspiria) to write and perform the score. Great choice.

When the script was being developed, Argento and fellow writer Bernardino Zapponi made conscious choices for how the murders take place. They used ways to die that the entire audience could identify with, and to say anymore would be a travesty that would ruin it for anyone never seen it before. Plus, don’t watch the trailer, which tells too much.

Word of warning: The film is in both English and Italian with subtitles, so if you are one of those folks who can only enjoy a film if you don’t have to read once in a while, then you might want to stay away from this one.

Try to find the original, full film that Argento made with the run time over two hours. The story makes more sense and the characters don’t do things that you don’t expect them to. I’ve seen three versions of Deep Red now, and this one makes the most sense and is the most satisfying.

See it. Ten headstones out of ten.

Until next time, Deadies…

Whats Wrong with The Walking Dead


I’ve been watching The Walking Dead since it debuted on AMC in 2010, or more accurately, what’s starting to feel like sometime late last century.

Overall, it has been a fun series to watch, and, like its core group of survivors, the show itself has proven to be a survivor. Chewing through major characters as well as showrunners (TWD is currently on its third) like one of the “walkers” shambling through the world of Rick Grimes and Co., the series has been resilient in keeping its core audience watching. There has been some fluctuation in numbers of viewers between the season premiers and cliffhangers, but so far there hasn’t been a fatal dip in the ratings. In fact, most shows would kill for the weakest numbers The Walking Dead has put up this season.

After the brief six-episode first season, the series expanded to thirteen episodes, then sixteen by Season Three, split into two, eight-episode runs with a hiatus of a couple of months in between.

For me, this is where the problems began to arise.

This is where the “filler” episodes began to crop up, along with the current formula consisting of exciting season debut, a whole lotta not much, then a (usually) exciting “mini-cliffhanger,” hiatus, exciting first episode return, and so on.

Not that I demand non-stop action in every episode. Frankly, if the show were as simple and straightforward as the series of graphic novels it’s based on, it wouldn’t make for very good television.

I also enjoy good, dramatic acting, so watching the performances by the stellar cast in the quiet moments is just fine. The problem, especially in regard to the recently-concluded Season 7, is taking these interesting characters and sending them on either moronic missions that go nowhere or wasting more than half of an episode while they wring their hands over moral dilemmas. This is tolerable in smaller doses, but week after week it makes for a tedious and frustrating viewing experience.


Negan, the iconic, bat-wielding villain from the graphic novels is portrayed in the series by veteran character actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and he does a phenomenal job chewing up the scenery with a gleeful balance of wit and menace. No wonder he’s given pages of dialogue in several episodes!

That’s also one of the problems with Season 7.

Too much of a good thing.

By the time the showdown between Rick and Negan comes at the end of Season 7, Negan feels less menacing, and his jokes have gotten stale. And what’s with all the respect for members of Rick’s group? Negan respecting Carl made sense. Respecting Daryl made sense. The scenes where Daryl is locked in a room while the song “Easy Street” blares twenty-four seven in an effort to “break” him and convert him to Negan’s crew were effective.

But by the time we get to Sasha’s storyline (inane and senseless as it was in this season) and her entirely unnecessary decision to follow Rosita’s lead in taking out Negan, only to have their plan fail (predictable) and then sacrifice herself for nothing and for virtually no advantage to Rick’s group was the clearest example yet of the damage these filler story arcs can do.

We should’ve seen the problems with Season 7 coming.

In Season 6’s climax, we see the major players of Rick’s group on their knees before Negan, with one of them waiting to meet their fate at the business end of Lucille, the villain’s barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat. We never get to see who the victim is. What we get instead is a Negan monologue that drags on WAY too long before, from the unidentified victim’s point-of-view, we see Lucille arcing down as the episode fades to black with dopey, animated blood dripping down the screen.

Too much hype. Zero payoff.

The producers of the show obviously heard outcry from enraged fans and over-corrected by showing EVERYTHING in the Season 7 opener, in which we see Abraham meeting Lucille in grim fashion before Daryl punches Negan in the face, thereby sealing the fate of the beloved Glenn Rhee. The scene is delivered with such savage brutality that you could almost hear the collective gasp worldwide as it happened.

I had no problem with the brutality, and was looking forward to what was setting up to be an exciting – albeit extraordinarily dark – season. Flash forward to last Sunday’s season finale, which featured some fun moments – Shiva the tiger devouring the face of an unlucky Savior, the “filthy garbage people” double-crossing Rick, Rick staring down Negan, defiantly informing the leather-jacketed villain that he’s “already dead.” But those moments were weighed down by the tedious, flashback-laden Sasha storyline that, again, was ill-conceived and ultimately meant nothing.

While many fans were happy with the finale, I found the battle sequence less than impressive. I was hoping it would feel as epic as the Season 2 finale, or even the Season 4 finale with the fall of The Governor, but this one fell short. At least the stage is set for all-out war between Rick’s group and Negan’s Saviors, but I fear more of the same filler in store for next season.

Season 7 could’ve been wrapped up in eight episodes instead of sixteen, though I doubt AMC will shorten the seasons any time soon. I understand wanting to keep Negan around for two seasons, but at what cost? Having to sit through pointless filler only to see a few cool tidbits is getting pretty damn old.

The Walking Dead still feels like a zombie epic, but that epic is feeling like it’s made up of mostly the deleted scenes at this point.

The fans deserve better, AMC.

Thanks for reading, (Walking) Deadies!

Feel free to share your thoughts on this piece by posting a comment below!





“I need to confess something.”

Officer Greg looked at the slight, middle-aged man who had stepped up to the barred window. He wore a faded plaid shirt, jeans, and an International Tractor baseball cap.

“OK,” the officer sighed. “Confess to what?”

“It happened a long time ago, sir. Back in 2003.”

“Okay, give me a clue, will ya? Confess something.”

“I was the cause of the great blackout.”

The police officer closed his eyes slowly, wishing he was anywhere but standing at the window. Every once in a while a nut would come in. Today was, apparently, one of those days.

“The world forgives you. Go home.”

“No, no. This thing has been eating me up for years. It’s getting so I can’t sleep. I’ve got no appetite. It’s really weighing on me more and more. Please, listen to me.”

The officer stared plaintively at the distressed man. He finally let out a sigh of resignation.

“You packing a gun? Any weapons on you?”

“No. I said I was coming in to confess. I wouldn’t bring a gun into a police station. I’m not stupid.”

That remains to be seen, the officer thought.

“Okay, empty your pockets, step through the metal detector.” He motioned for Officer Jane to take his place at the window.

Officer Greg looked over the few items passing through on the belt. Nothing but the usual things—keyring, nail clipper, a couple of wadded up store receipts. He instructed the man to gather his belongings on the other side.

“Buzz us in, Jane.”

“Not your day, eh Greg?” She pressed the button and shot her colleague a smirk.

Officer Greg replied with an irritated grunt.

“Have a seat, sir. I’ll get the paperwork started.” He switched on the notebook computer atop the scratched gray metal desk. He pulled a small voice recorder from the drawer and pushed a pen and yellow steno pad at the man. “Print your name and address and any phone numbers you have.”

The man scratched his personal information down, his hand shaking a bit.

“Am I going to jail?” The man slid the pad back to the officer.

“Not until I hear your story…” The officer read the name scrawled on the pad. “Mr. Colby.”

Colby shifted uncomfortably in his seat, then began:


Call me Bumper. My real name is Todd, but everyone calls me Bumper since forever. I’m not sure why. I’ve never been able to get anybody to tell me.

Anyway, it was back in 2003, like I said. I got done with my shift at the box factory, second shift. I went home like always. I had this little trailer in a park just outside of Rock Creek. I used to live at home until Ma passed, and then I had to get the rental. Nothing great, but that’s fine.

So I get home, watch a little TV, and then fall asleep in my chair. It was around two, two-thirty in the morning, I wake up. Right then I know, I mean know, that there was someone there. You know that feeling where you wake up and you don’t know what woke you? That’s what I was feeling. Except I get this feeling of something being real close.

The television is still on. All I can hear is squealing tires from some action show, so I turn it off to listen. It was quiet at first. Then, from the kitchen, I heard it. Somebody was crunching potato chips and rattling the bag just enough that I could hear it.

“Who’s there?” I said it pretty loud.

The crunching and bag rustling stopped. I get out of my chair real slow and tiptoe to the kitchen. I turn the corner, and there it was.

An alien. Yeah, I see the look you’re giving me. And I can’t blame you. But every word is true. It was one of those pasty-gray short guys with big oval eyes that kind of wrap around the big swollen-looking heads. It had skinny little arms and legs, and looked naked. Each hand had just three long fingers.

It just stood there staring back at me, a chip in one hand, halfway to its—I don’t know what else to call it—mouth opening, I guess. Then it finally just shoved the chip into its mouth, staring at me like it was nothing.

I was real scared, but then again, it kind of pissed me off. I mean, those were MY chips. It stood there crunching. Both of us staring at each other.

Finally I got my balls tightened up enough to talk.

“Those are my chips, you know.”

The thing never took its eyes off me. It just reached into the bag real slow and crammed more chips into its mouth.

In my mind, I heard, “I know.”

I mean, its mouth was full of chips just munching away, but it talked to me in my head.

“They cost me two bucks,” Now I’m more pissed than scared.

“Money is a thing of your world,” it said in my mind.

“And you’re eating a thing of my world, Snack-King. They’re my chips. Put ‘em away.”

It rolled the bag up and set it carefully on the kitchen counter. Then it turned to me and said, “It’s time for your periodic evaluation.”

“My what?” I had no idea what it was talking about.

“Oh, come on. You know what that means.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Yes you do.”

“Nuh-uh.” It wasn’t going to let me have the last word.

“Uh-huh. Now let’s stop acting like you’re eight years old and let’s go.” The alien turned and headed for the door. I didn’t budge.

He stopped, turned back. “Well? You coming?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“Not really. The data that you provide is enormous. I just didn’t want to make you unconscious, for once. We find we get much more data when the subject is awake and fully conscious.”

“Jeez. It’s the middle of the night. Can’t we do this during the day? I gotta go to work later.”

“Would you rather be unconscious?”

I thought about it, then shook my head. “Nah, I guess not.” I figured if I had my druthers, I’d rather be awake and know what I was getting myself into.

We went down the front steps, and, being the middle of the night, there were no lights on or any movement throughout the entire trailer park. Completely silent and dark. We stopped in the road, and it looked up into the sky. Suddenly, there it was. I don’t mean it snuck up on us. I mean it suddenly just there, right above my head. Like it might have had some kind of cloaking device, you know, like in those space movies. The thing was a wedge kind of shape, about the length of two Ford one-ton F-350’s with dual wheels and crew cab placed end to end.

A door opened, and light flooded onto the gravel.

“Enter,” it said.

I took a deep breath and went up the ramp. As soon as I got to the top, it lifted and closed behind me. Over to the pointy-front edge of the craft there was another alien dude. I waved at it, and it started to lift a three-fingered hand, then stopped. It turned back to the panel.

“Sit,” the chip-muncher said, pointing toward a recliner that moved out flush from a wall.

I sat, nervous and scared.

“You gonna do that probing thing?”

“What?” it said, surprised.

“You know, the anal probe thing. I heard about it, and it doesn’t sound great.”

“What? No! That isn’t the type of data we collect. Right now we’re on a mission to explore your culture and society.”

“Good. No probes.” Boy, was I relieved.

“Why would you even bring that up? You WANT us to probe you or something?”

“Hell, no. It was just something I heard happens to people who are abducted.”

“And what other fallacies have you heard?”

“Being seduced by sexy space babes.”


“You know, your world is dying and you need the seed of manly men to repopulate your planet. So you use space babes to seduce…”

“That is the single most ridiculous statement I’ve ever heard from a human.”

“Sor-ry!” I was more than a little sorry to hear that wasn’t going to happen.

“Why is it that your planet insists on needing odd rituals and tall tales? They do no real good, from what we see.”

“So, you’re saying there are no such thing as space babes.”

I could hear it huff out a sigh in my mind. Then it said, “Well, okay, it happened once.”


“Okay, twice or maybe three times.”

I looked at it, feeling a little bit of hope that it might happen to me. “How about today?”

The alien at the panel spun its big head to face me, its mouth bunched up into an ‘O’. The first alien said, “No. Not today.” The other alien turned back to the panel.

“Damn,” I said.

“What is your idea of a ‘sexy babe’?”

“Here, I’ll show you.” I pulled out my wallet, opened it. I flipped past the picture of Ma. I held it out to it.

“Who is this next to your Federal Breast Inspector card?”

“A sexy babe. Not from space. She’s Hispanic, I think. Her name’s Sofia Vergara. She’s hot, huh?”

“I’m afraid that she holds no fascination for me. However, her children will never go hungry.”

“That’s for sure.”

“Is she your mate?”

“I wish! But nah.”

“So, we have a few questions for you.”

“Shoot.” I put my wallet back into my back pocket, then clapped my hands and rubbed them together.

“What are the most important items that you use in your life?”

I thought about it for a while, then pulled out my cell phone. “This is pretty important.”

“That is a communication device, yes?”

“Yep. I can call people, have people call me, send and get texts when I’m too busy to stop what I’m doing to talk.”

“Is that all you do with it?”

“Hell no. I can take pictures. Hey! Let me take a picture of you.”

“No. No pictures.”

“What? You think that pictures make you look fat or something?”

“No. It’s simply that we must ensure our state of anonymity.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“May I see it?”

I paused, then handed it to the alien. Its long knobby fingers felt all over it.

“Hey, since I just let you see my phone, why not tell me your name?”

Without looking at me, it said, “My name would mean nothing to you.”

“I didn’t ask if it would mean anything to me. I asked what your friends call you.”

It looked up from the phone. “Sidonostominyxyx.” He said. This was my closest guess to what his name sounded like.

I tried to say the name, but only got the first part right. “Okay, that’s pretty hard to say. Mind if I call you Sid?”

“That’s fine.”

“What’s that guy’s name?” I asked, nodding towards the other alien.

Another voice, a different one, said “Oomizyxeffoozx.” Another guess on my part.

“Hey, mind if I call you Oomi?”

The alien turned, looked at me and nodded. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Sid flipped the phone open. The screen lit up.

“How do you make calls?”

“Easy,” I took the phone back, pulled up the phone list. “See. The phone numbers for everyone I want or need to call are there. I just press the button and it automatically dials.”

Sid pressed a button.

“Whoa there chief,” I said, taking the phone from him and cutting off the call. “I have no idea where we are right now and I don’t need roaming charges. I can barely afford my rent and don’t need no extra bills on my phone.”

“Roaming charges?” Sid asked.

“Yeah. Damn service providers charge a lot more when you call when outside of the coverage area.”

“I see.”

“Where are we right now?”

“What you call the dark side of the moon.”

“I just got here and we are already there?”


“Pink Floyd’s got nothin’ on me.”

Sid said nothing, simply stared like he didn’t know what to say.

“Where you taking me?” I asked. “You got a window in this thing?”

Oomi looked up, his oval eyes slanted slightly.

Sid nodded. “Show Bumper where we are.”

Suddenly the wall disappeared, and I was staring into the stars. The sight was incredible. I mean, I’ve seen the night sky before, but this looked completely different. I fumbled for the flask in my back pocket, unscrewed the cap and took a big swig of Jack.

“What is that?” Sid asked.


“That container from which you just drank.”

“Oh, just my flask. I keep some handy just in case.”

“Just in case of what?”

I waved at the stars. “Oh, something like this. Where’s the moon?”

“Behind the ship.”

“Can I see it?”

Oomi tapped the panel in front of him. The stars seemed to move and then the black shape of the moon came into view, half lit.

“I thought you said we were on the dark side of the moon.” I felt a little like someone was pulling my leg.

Sid sighed, and I saw him lower his gray lids over his eyes, then opened them to once again look at me. “As I would have figured you would know that the term ‘dark side of the moon’ refers to the side of the moon that those on earth cannot see.”

“So this is special, huh?”

“For humans, yes, this is special.”

“So where is your moon base?”

“Moon base?” Sid asked.

“Yeah, I figure you guys can’t be just flying around out in space without getting fuel or getting something to eat. You know. Your moon base.”

“We have no moon base.”

“Well, where is your base.”

“We have installations we keep hidden in various waterways around your earth.”

“What? You mean underwater?”


I thought about this, unscrewed the cap to the flask again and took another pull.

“Why do you do that?”


“Drink that liquid.”

“It makes me happy,” I said, shaking my head. These aliens didn’t know shit.

“May I have a drink?”

I didn’t want to be weird about alien backwash, but I didn’t want to get stranded on some asteroid, so I said, “Sure.” I unscrewed the cap and handed the flask over. Sid’s knobby fingers fumbled a little with it, then got the hang of it and curled all three fingers around the container. I heard the Jack gurgle into his mouth opening. Then he suddenly bent forward, making half-gagging, half-coughing noises. He held out the flask while he was still bent over.

I took it from him with a laugh. “That’ll put hair on your chest, huh?”

Sid finally caught his breath. “Yes, indeed. Especially if the hair comes from intense burning from within.”

I saw Oomi cross the room, looking at me.

“What?” I asked. “You want a tug o’ Jack Daniels?”

“Please.” Oomi said in my head.

I unscrewed the cap again and held it out to him. He carefully took it, glancing over at poor Sid. He raised it to his mouth opening. As he swallowed, his big eyes got even wider than I ever thought possible. When he held the flask out, I heard him whooping, like gasping for breath. Sid took the flask from him, drank some more. I took it from him, drank some more. We passed it around like that for a while.

Oomi got the last of the Jack. He held out the flask to me like he was sorry to see it end. Then he kind of stumbled back to the lighted panel and went back to work.

“So what kind of engine you got in this thing?”

Sid’s lids were halfway over his eyes, obviously feeling a heavy buzz. “Concentrated plasma drive.”

“No shit. Do you go like a bat out of hell?”


“Which one of the stars are you from?”

“This star.”

“What? The sun?”

“Yes. We are also terrestrials.”

“How can that be? Don’t get offended, but you sure don’t look human.”

“Think of us as energy forms. We appear as best fills our needs. This form you see is what you expect to see.”

“So why don’t you already know stuff like potato chips and Jack Daniels and hot chicks? I mean, if you’re from earth, you’d know about it.”

“Think of us as visitors from another reality.”

I couldn’t wrap my skull around that one. I thirsted for another sip from my now-empty flask. “How long would it take to get back to earth? I could get us some beer. What time is it anyway?”

“We are outside of time right now.”

“Right. So what time is it?” I flipped open my phone and it told me it was nearly nine o’clock. “Shit! How long have I been here?”

“As I said, your time moves differently when you are in our presence.”

“Well, the Flash Mart is open twenty-four seven. I think I’ve got enough cash in my wallet for a twelve-pack. What say we zip on down and get some fortification. Plus, I can call in sick. I’m kind of enjoying tooling around with you guys.”

“We’re here!” Oomi exclaimed, promptly falling to what must have been his knees.

“Okay, cool,” I looked at Sid. “How do I get out of the ship without being seen by anyone? Hate to make you obvious to anybody else.”

“Don’t worry about that. Just walk down the ramp. We’re cloaked.”

“I KNEW IT! You guys are outstanding!”

The ramp opened, and I went down to the parking lot. As soon as I stepped off the ramp, I heard cars and the gas pumps tinging. I went around to the front of the building and went in. The place was busy, people buying coffee, newspapers, and scratch-off tickets. I pulled a twelve pack of Rolling Rock beer out of the cooler and went to the counter.

The cashier’s name tag said “Mikey”. I set the beer on the counter and grinned at him.

He looked at me and said, “Starting a little early, aren’t we cowboy?”

“Still going from last night, Mikey. Hey, how about some of those kettle chips. They might like those.”

Mikey rang it all up, shaking his head. “You and your friends must be hard core.”

“Maybe we’re just celebrating.”


“Does it matter?”

“I guess not.”

We exchanged cash, and as I stuffed the change in my pockets, I grabbed the chips and beer.

“Have a good day, sir,” Mikey said, “The door is twelve steps that way.”

“You’re a funny guy, Mikey.” I said, a little annoyed.

I went back into the side parking lot, but didn’t see anything. I looked around to see if maybe someone was watching me. When I turned back I saw the ramp down so I ran up into the ship.

“What are those?” Sid asked, big-eyeing the bag of chips.

“Kettle chips. They’re good. I think you’ll like them.”

“What is ‘Rolling Rock’?”

“Oh, come on. You guys know about beer, right?”

“Is it like ‘Jack Daniels’?”

“Not quite. But it’s good. It’s got alcohol in it.”

Hearing those words, Oomi turned from the panel to face me, still kinda wobbly. I popped open the box and pulled out three cans. I popped the tops to all of them and handed one to each of my new buddies. Sid raised the can to his mouth opening, made a sucking noise. I figured it was the way he smelled stuff since he didn’t have much of a nose. Then he raised the beer up and took a swig.

When he lowered the can, his eyes told me that he liked it. He immediately raised the can back to his opening and tilted back.

I felt a tap on my elbow. Oomi stood there, weaving a little, holding out his can.

“More?” he asked in my mind.

His can was already empty. I hadn’t taken a drink from my can yet, so I just held out mine. Oomi took it and stumbled back to the panel.

I pulled another can out, popped the top. “Hey Sid! Road trip?”

“Road trip. What do you mean by this term, ‘Road trip’?”

“Aw, come on! You guys don’t know anything! We got some beers, we got some munchies, we just tool around drinking beer listening to AC-DC, eating stuff, and seeing what is out there.”

“AC-DC? How would you listen to electricity?” Sid asked uncertainly.

“Nah. That’s the name of only the best rock group in history. They rock! So. Road trip?”

Oomi’s voice popped into my skull. “Road trip!”

Sid said, “Road trip!”

“Road trip!” I shouted, chugging down half my beer.

Before long, Oomi had made all the walls and floors vanish and we all sat on the weird recliners and drank beer, the landscape whipping by. All the highways and trees and farms and the people not even looking up at us as we whizzed over them. I took out my phone and got a picture of Sid with kettle chip crumbs all over his skinny torso, lifting a beer to his opening. Then I got a pic of Oomi leaning heavily on the control panel, his eyes closed. They were awesome pics, too! Sid grabbed my phone and got one of me with my arm around Oomi.

“We need tunes!” I shouted.


“You know, music. Stuff that rocks! You got a radio? Maybe a CD player? Something that rocks?”

Oomi pressed the panel a few times. Sid just sat there swigging beer and shoving kettle chips into his mouth. Suddenly music blared on.

“Alright! That’s what I’m talking about! AC-DC!” I yelled, popping open another beer.

This went on for a long stretch until I got bored. I went over to Oomi standing over the panel. “Thunderstruck” was playing.

“Hey Oomi. You drive this ship, right?”

“Yes. I. Pilot. This. Craft.” He could barely put the words into my head. His big head wobbled on his neck like a top about to tip over.

“Can I try?”

Oomi’s big eyes looked all filmy and his lids were at half-mast. He shrugged and looked over at Sid. Sid said loudly in my head, “Let him drive!”

Oomi showed me where to press the panel to move the ship. I had no idea what I was doing. I mean, it looked like a blank panel to me. Just lights. But I finally got the hang of it with Oomi’s help. The ship moved real slow, but I got it moving.

“Where are we now? Norway? Germany?”

Oomi said, “No. Northern Ohio in your United States.”

“Aw shit. I was hoping to go around the world a few times.”

Judging from watching the passing landscape, the craft was moving at a super slow pace. I didn’t mean to, but I steered us slow and steady towards some trees. Behind the trees I could see power lines.

“Just be careful. You’re moving sideways. Stop. Stop. STOP!” Oomi screamed in my mind.

I pushed the craft into some maple trees. We kind of twirled in the air and then the ship slid over a power line. Suddenly the lights in the ship went bright, and I glanced over to my left and saw sparks flying where the ship grazed the line.

“Oh, shit,” Oomi said in my mind. I was surprised he knew that word. He edged in front of me and corrected our course. But it was too late. That was when the blackout happened. And I was the cause of it. Because I drove a space ship drunk.


Officer Greg stared at the man without saying a word.

“You believe me, right?”

“Do you have proof?”

Bumper looked dismayed. “Not really.”

“What about the pictures? From the ship?”

“No. I messed up. I accidentally dropped my phone into the shitter a couple days later.”

“So what happened? Did you go to work?”

“I never showed up. The only reason I didn’t get fired was that the factory floor was closed because of the blackout. You believe me, right?”

“I—uh—don’t know. It’s kind of hard to imagine aliens who can’t hold their booze.”

Bumper slumped in the chair and shook his head. “They told me to not say anything. They told me no one would believe me.”

“Why are you coming forward now? So many years have gone by.”

“Well, I know from news reports that some people died because of it.”

“Well, you weren’t really the direct cause of their deaths.”

“I caused a 3,500 megawatt overload to the entire northeast power grid.”

“By driving a space ship into a power line.”

“Yes! Yes!” Bumper sounded hopeful.

“I can’t arrest you for that.”

“Why not? I’m admitting that I was drunk.”

Greg ran a palm over his face, feeling miserable. He knew he had to think of something to say that would satisfy Bumper and assuage his guilt.

“Aha!” Greg said suddenly, pointing at Bumper. “Statute of Limitations! That’s it! Your accident happened so long ago we can’t legally do anything.”

“You mean you can’t arrest me?”


“How do I come to terms with myself over this?”

“You still drinking?”

“Not much anymore. Every time I put a twelve-pack in the fridge, it’s gone by morning.”

“So you’re still drinking a lot.”

“No, I’m saying that Sid and Oomi must come in at night while I’m asleep and take it.”

“The aliens are stealing your beer.”

“Yep. I’m guess I started a bad precedent. They also grab my snack food.”

“Aliens are stealing your snack food.”

“Chips, cheese puffs, popcorn, you name it. I made the mistake of buying Little Debbie Nutty Bars once and, poof, they were gone.”

“Do you see these aliens anymore?”

“No. I know they still visit me, but I don’t remember them. I think they block my memories somehow. So what do I do?”

“Why not stop drinking altogether? And stop buying snack foods. Work to become a better person.”

Bumper nodded. “Yeah, I suppose that would be the best thing really. And it really would save me money, especially since I never get back my can and bottle deposits.”

Officer Greg pressed the button to stop the tape recorder. Then he stood and shook Bumper’s hand, signaling the end of the interview, After Bumper went out the station door, Officer Jane came over, chuckling.

“So?” she asked.

“He’s a good person at heart. You know, I think he actually believes he did it.”

“But it’s a whole ton of bullshit, right?”

Greg paused for a long moment, then shrugged.

He said finally, “Probably.”


Catch more of my writing in my collection of weird stories, Banquet of Souls at Amazon. Click here:

Banquet of Souls







As a horror fan, I’m heartened by Netflix’s recent efforts to make original horror programming a featured part of their lineup. Outside of old movies (watered down for TV) or AMC’s The Walking Dead, there just isn’t much out there.

It’s been mostly a swing-and-a-miss so far.

That being said, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that, given the overall quality I’m seeing, it’s only a matter of time before Netflix hits a home run.

CLINICAL is not a home run. It’s more of a bloop single. But it does have a nifty opening sequence, and a solid performance by character actor Kevin Rahm, (aka Ted Chaough on AMC’s Mad Men) the main supporting player in the cast.

CLINICAL follows the story of Dr. Jane Mathis (Vinessa Shaw) a psychiatrist who, after a horrific, near-fatal encounter with a patient, attempts to resurrect her career.

Enter Alex, (Kevin Rahm) a disfigured man trying to overcome a tragic event shrouded in mystery when he arrives at Jane’s door seeking her help. Despite her efforts, Alex is reluctant to open himself up and reveal to Jane the mystery of his tragic past, allowing only minimal clues as to what happened to him.

CLINICAL resides in the psychological thriller end of the horror spectrum, where one’s inner demons serve as the mechanism for unleashing real horrors upon the world.

Sadly, this film’s weaknesses are not enough to overcome its strengths. The main character isn’t nearly as interesting as she needs to be, and I found myself not caring all that much about her struggles to normalize after her violent attack in the film’s opening, or her mildly supernatural journey to learn the fate of the patient that both physically and emotionally scarred her.

Kevin Rahm does what he can with the script to add depth and humanity to a character that holds the secrets behind the central mystery of the film, but the mystery itself lacks the depth to rise above only the mildest of interest for the viewer. It’s far too weak of a glue to hold the plot’s pieces together, and the climax is straight out of the Final Girl playbook.

CLINICAL wants desperately to be a Brian DePalma-esque thriller, but its attempts to copy his style and split-screen finesse arrive too little, too late, and too removed to be of much use.

Still, I applaud Netflix for pursuing original horror content.

Sooner, rather than later, I’m confident they’re going to score a big hit.

Dario Argento’s Maserpiece of Horror, Suspiria

Giallo films (Italian for yellow, the color associated with fear and based on popular pulp novels) were all the rage in the sixties and seventies. In fact, one of my other favorite horror films is also directed by Argento. Deep Red (1975) which starred David Hemmings. That film felt like you could sense Argento building his directorial talent to its height with Suspiria. Perhaps I’ll review that particular classic again sometime.

Dario Argento’s Suspiria is truly a masterpiece of horror and remains one of my favorite horror movies of all time. This 1977 film packs as much visual horror as possible into a simplistic storyline, and through the visuals, ultimately helped change horror forever. Think of it as an ancestor to slasher films, only with supernatural elements.


Every two or three years I revisit Suspiria just to re-experience the joy and audacity of the filmmaker. I watch it, enjoy it immensely, and then compare that to where horror is at that moment just to see how the genre is stacking up.

Most of the time, present-day horror really doesn’t stack up well against it. The plethora of remakes and supposedly original films made up of jump scares and buckets of gore just doesn’t cut it for me.

And it isn’t because of anything that Suspiria is. The film is a dopey, illogical, poorly dubbed, clumsily acted mess, with a storyline that shouldn’t work. But it does. And the reason that it works is that the director’s vision and use of the camera seems to overcome all sense of reason to make you feel as though the viewer is dreamily in on the nightmare.

I first saw Suspiria in a small art house cinema in Oneonta, New York, with my then girlfriend who begged me to see it. I went and was immediately blown away. I remember being filled with excitement over what I’d just watched, because of the visceral nature of the visuals. Ann, my girlfriend said it was “okay, I guess.”

I should have known that was the beginning of the end for us.

Jessica Harper stars as Suzy Banyon, a dancer traveling from America to Germany to attend the most prestigious dance school in the world. How a school with approximately two murders a week becomes the place dancers HAVE to go is a bit of a mystery, but hell, just go with it. Another issue is that the film supposedly takes place in Germany, but a character is heard saying ciao as they leave rather than auf wedersehen. Eh, well, we all know it is an Italian film, and things are bound to slip through the cracks. The terrific music by Goblin (with input from Argento) is compelling and suspenseful and brings the film together as a whole even when the logic of people’s actions and motivations falter. What Suzy finds is a string of murders, a very suspicious teaching staff and headmistress, and a whole lot of horror.


If you’ve seen this film already, then you either have come to one of two conclusions. Either that yes, Terry, you are completely correct, or that no, Terry you’ve missed the boat on this one and don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

If you haven’t seen Suspiria, I highly recommend you do go out of your way to see it. The copy I got from Netflix had the original Technicolor wide-screen format, but unfortunately looked a little blurry on my TV. Plus the music kind of overwhelmed some of the dialogue at times. These are minor bitches though. See it.

I, of course, give this flawed, but truly classic fun film a full 10 out of 10 headstone rating.

And, as a postscript, I received word that there is a remake being filmed at this moment starring Dakota Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Tilda Swinton. Jessica Harper is even in this new one.

While I usually don’t hold much hope out for remakes, I’ll go to see this one, because even if it is a miss rather than a hit, I’ll always have the original.

Netflix and CHILLS: I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in the House




This entry in my Netflix and Chills series of blog posts takes a gander at an indie horror film that is a Netflix Original, an effort that I appreciate from the Netflix folks. It’s cool that they are investing in original horror content.

Sadly, this film is a disappointment.

Many of the best ghost stories are a “slow burn” in terms of pacing, and this film is no different.  This isn’t a bad thing, despite being a risky move in this day and age of instant gratification and the demand for constant action. Adding to the slow pace of the film is the narration by the main character, which is recited more than spoken, her voice a deliberate, sleepy monotone. I could get past this, but the words she is speaking are at times quite over-written and tedious.

If there was a satisfying payoff to this ghost story, I could forgive the pacing and the sluggish narration, but when the climax arrives, it’s just as yawn-worthy as the rest of the film.

It’s a shame, because a slow burn, throwback ghost story filmed in the Kubrickian-style that the director of this movie attempts to emulate could be great. Sadly, Pretty Thing lacks both an intriguing ghost and fails to engage as a story. At just under ninety minutes, it’s not a huge investment of time, but even at that length it feels too long. I think the whole thing might have worked best as a short film, where the misfire of its climax would have more impact.

Netflix – I give you an A for effort, and I sincerely hope you continue to invest in original horror programming. Given the recent success of Stranger Things, I have a feeling that 2017 will be a very good year for fans of the genre!

Thanks for reading, Deadies!


Review—Ex Tenebris, the audio drama from The Night Keep

When an artist has passion for their work, it shows. And it shows in Ex Tenebris, the audio drama from the fantastic Night Keep.

The Night Keep is an eclectic website that presents original music and audio drama. I’ve listened to the works and this latest work, Ex Tenebris, is an absorbing blend of disturbing, suspenseful music and a compelling sci-fi horror drama. The composer and writer, the terrifically talented J. Daniel Edenfield, has obviously put forth a massive effort to bring this work to fruition.

This is a horror/sci-fi novel come to life. It’s pretty long, so it was tough for me to find the time to listen to the tale in its entirety in one sitting, since it is a whole novel acted out. But your patience is definitely worth it. The storyline is this: A spacecraft is sent on a recon mission to the planet Acheron. On the surface, it has the familiar feel of the film Aliens, especially in the beginning and ending chapters, but then the story moves on to so much more. I hesitate to tell you any more of the plot since I don’t want to spoil the surprises, but suffice it to say that things don’t go well in ways that you don’t expect.

This is sci-fi deftly blended with gothic horror, and it works nicely. Ancient forces are afoot in our solar system, and they are tenacious. I found myself caught up in each chapter wondering exactly what would happen next. And those who know me will tell you, when I can’t tell exactly what will happen next in a story, that gives it a hearty thumbs up from me! More than once I got chills down the spine, and that’s not an easy feat.

The other half of this tense drama is the music. I noticed that there was more than a touch of influence from John Carpenter’s music, the terrific artist Enigma, gothic symphonic works, and electronica from games. This sounds like the music would be a disjointed mish-mash, but it all works beautifully to give the entire piece a unique and disquieting feel, and accompanies the drama perfectly.

And, if you have a mind to, check out Daniel’s commentary on the entire project at the very end. He gives the in-depth backstory of his work and the influences on the story and music. Fascinating stuff.

Link to the show here:

So Deadies, get this and listen when you are in the car traveling, or if you have time to get your chills on! And if you dig it, check out past works by The Night Keep. Whether you’re approaching as a listener looking for a thrill, or a writer looking to set a mood, give Daniel Edenfield and The Night Keep a chance.