20th-century horrors in Indiana!

Here’s the first chapter of The Rockland Horror 3

Chapter One

It was a chilly, wet day in March 1917, and thirty-year-old Joe Cullen was overdue for a smoke break.

Joe shot a quick glance over his shoulder. He wanted to make sure that his foreman was nowhere in sight.

Joe was relieved to find himself completely alone on the tree-lined road. All around him, there was nothing but the silent woods. And the light, cold moisture falling from the leaden sky.

Well, almost nothing. There was the Briggs House, too.

This thought made him smile self-consciously. Country people and their superstitions. Never mind that Joe was as country as they came. He also read books, dagnabbit. He had knowledge of the broader world.

He bent and laid his shovel down in the long, sallow, late-winter grass at the edge of the road. The road itself was muddy, owing to the wet weather. He did not want the handle of his shovel to get muddy, too. He still had a lot of work to do with that shovel before quitting time.

That done, he stood, removed his gloves, and slipped them into the lower left side pocket of his coat. From the lower right side pocket he removed a box of Lucky Strikes and a box of wooden matches.

Joe was wearing a broad-rimmed hat, a treated canvas raincoat, and heavy boots. The overhanging tree branches—though still bare of leaves—also caught some of the light rainfall. But when you were working outside in weather like this for an entire day, it was impossible to avoid either the dampness or the chill.

Today’s precipitation was not a hard, driving rain; but it was a steady, unrelenting spittle that varied between mist and drizzle. Fireplace weather, Joe’s mother would have said.

But there would be no fireplace for Joe today—not until quitting time, at least; and that was still several hours away.

***

Joe was currently employed by the Indiana Department of Transportation, a brand-new state agency created by the Indiana Highway Act of two years prior. Joe was part of a crew that had been charged with preparing Washington Hill Road for paving.

At present, the road was all packed earth and gravel. It was literally the same road that had been used in the pioneer days. Washington Hill Road turned to mud every springtime, or even during a midsummer thunderstorm. That might have been suitable for the age of the horse. It would not do for the age of the automobile.

As he paused to light his cigarette—cupping both the cigarette and the match in his hands to shield them against the moisture in the air—Joe allowed himself a look at the Victorian mansion that was impossible to miss at this point on Washington Hill Road.

The Briggs House rose above him in the distance. The decrepit monolith appeared old-fashioned and dark, even when silhouetted against today’s cloudy gray sky.

The Briggs House was on the left side of the road. It stood at the top end of a long, winding, overgrown private lane that rose to a promontory. When the trees were bare, the roofline of the mansion could be partially glimpsed far below Washington Hill, Joe knew. He was a lifelong resident of Rockland, Indiana.

He smiled to himself, and took a drag on his cigarette. Joe Cullen knew all about the Briggs House—the murders, the whispered stories of witchcraft and necromancy. Much of that was pure fabrication, and at least half of it was pure nonsense.

Joe Cullen had no way of knowing that within a matter of minutes, he would hold an entirely changed attitude about the Briggs House.

About The Rockland Horror saga:

“A terrifying multigenerational horror saga set in a cursed house in Indiana. Zombies, evil spirits, and supernatural monsters!”

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Horror on Kindle Unlimited

Kindle Unlimited is Amazon’s main subscription ebook reading program. Kindle Unlimited gives you virtually unlimited (hence the name) reading privileges to a wide variety of titles, for a low monthly fee.

Not every title listed on Amazon is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. Literary fiction from the big New York publishing houses generally is not included. You likely won’t find the latest Jonathan Franzen novel in Kindle Unlimited anytime in the near future.

Kindle Unlimited is heavy on genre fiction. This means: romance, space opera, LitRPG, fantasy, and horror.

I have a fair number of horror titles in Kindle Unlimited. I write supernatural horror, in the tradition of Peter Straub, H.P. Lovecraft, Bentley Little and E.F. Benson.

And yes (I know this sounds a bit pretentious) Stephen King. I have achieved barely a gazillionth fraction of King’s commercial success. But his formula of character-based, fast-moving horror is always on my mind when I sit down to write a horror tale.

What kind of horror don’t I write? If you want splatterpunk, or “extreme” horror (aka “torture porn”), then you should skip my books and stories. I have no interest in writing horror fiction that is endlessly grim and/or sadistic. My horror fiction is more akin to the campfire ghost story.

Below are the horror titles that I presently have enrolled in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. This means that you can read them for free if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.

To view one of these titles on Amazon, simply click on the image of any book, or any hyperlink below.

(Don’t have a Kindle Unlimited membership? Click here.)

Eleven Miles of Night

A college student takes a walk down the most haunted road in rural Ohio for a cash prize. This is a “haunted road” story, basically a tale of being stuck on a cursed country road at night. Ghosts, evil spirits, and hellhounds abound. Also, an evil witch that inhabits a covered bridge.

12 Hours of Halloween

A coming-of-age story set on Halloween night, 1980. This is a tale of supernatural events in the American suburb. A classic horror tale for Generation X.

Revolutionary Ghosts

The year is 1976, and the Headless Horseman rides again. This coming-of-age horror thriller is sure to please readers who appreciate character-based supernatural fiction with lots of twists and turns.

The basic idea is: the ghosts of American history coming back to haunt Middle America in 1976, the year of the American Bicentennial. (And yes, I’m old enough to remember the Bicentennial, although I was rather young at the time.)

Luk Thep

In early 2016, I read an article in The Economist about the luk thep “spirit dolls” of Thailand.

Manufactured and sold in Thailand, these are factory-made dolls with a unique sales point: each doll is supposedly infused with the spirit of a young child that passed prematurely.

The luk thep are intended to bring comfort to their owners. (They are marketed to childless women.) To me, though, the whole idea sounded rather macabre.

And I couldn’t help thinking: what if one of the dolls was infused with a child spirit that wasn’t very nice? What if that same doll ended up in the possession of an American woman who happened to visit Thailand on a business trip? Luk Thep is a fast-paced ghost tale that spans two continents.

The Rockland Horror saga

Spanning a nearly 140-year period from 1882 to 2020, The Rockland Horror is a series about dark events at a cursed house in rural Indiana.

Hay Moon & Other Stories: Sixteen modern tales of horror and suspense

This was my first short story collection. Although all of these stories contain speculative elements, there is quite a range in plot and subject matter. In this collection you’ll find vampire and ghost stories, but also a few crime stories with a “twist”. Oh, and there are also several “creature feature” stories that are kind of fun.

I Know George Washington and Other Stories: Five Dark Tales

Five dark tales of murder, hauntings, and the undead, set in locations from Tennessee to Mexico.

My last Halloween (the true story)

How egg-throwing teenage boys ruined my last trick-or-treat

My novel 12 HOURS OF HALLOWEEN is a supernatural coming-of-age tale about three young friends who endure the trials of a 12-hour curse on Halloween night, 1980. To survive the night, they must battle vampires, animated trees, and the horrific creature known as the “head collector”.

12 HOURS OF HALLOWEEN is one of the most autobiographical novels I’ve ever written. Like the characters in the novel, I was 12 years old in October 1980. The suburban Cincinnati, Ohio setting is very similar to the one in which I spent my formative years.

That said, the main character of the story, Jeff Schaeffer, doesn’t have much in common with me, or with the boy I was more than 40 years ago. And while I had a group of friends, neither Leah nor Bobby is an exact representation of anyone I knew back then.

Oh, and I never did battle with any of the supernatural creatures that appear in the book.

Here is another point of fabrication: I went on my last trick-or-treat in 1979, not in 1980.

I set 12 HOURS OF HALLOWEEN in 1980 because some of the themes I wanted to explore required an adolescent perspective; and I was twelve in 1980, not in 1979.

But like the characters in the novel, I was somewhat torn (as were the adults around me) about the appropriate age for giving up the trick-or-treat ritual.

In the culture of those times, you were generally okay for trick-or-treating up to age ten or eleven. But once you reached junior high, well, people would give you funny looks if you showed up at their door on October 31st, asking for candy. And once you reached high school, you were definitely too old.

***

In 1979, therefore, my friend Ken and I decided to go out for “one last Halloween”, kind of like the characters in the novel. (Ken, being a year older than me, actually did turn twelve that year.)

I wore a prefabbed costume from Kmart. I don’t even remember what it was. (I seem to recall a green skeleton, but I can’t be sure.) Ken, however, had one of the coolest Halloween costumes I’ve ever seen—before or since.

This was the early Star Wars era, and every kid was a fan. Ken was no exception. His mother made for him a very elaborate imperial stormtrooper costume. This was not something store-bought. She made the whole thing from scratch. It was amazing.

Halloween 1979 in the Cincinnati area provided a clear, pleasantly cool autumn night. We set out a little after 6 p.m., and everything went fine…at first. Then we crossed paths with a group of teenage boys, a hot rod, and some eggs.

***

One thing I’ve noticed about the 21st-century: suburban teenagers are less mischievous than they used to be.

This could be because of helicopter parenting. How much trouble can you get into when your parents are tracking your movements on a smart phone app? Kids today are also very absorbed in virtual worlds of different kinds.

In the late 1970s, however, adolescent entertainment consisted of whatever was on network television (cable TV didn’t become common until about 1982), books, and other young people.

And since there were no parental tracking apps, your parents typically had only a vague sense of your whereabouts at any given moment.

In this atmosphere of fewer ready-made distractions and much less supervision, there were more motives and opportunities for getting into trouble. And plenty of teenage boys jumped at the chance.

***

This particular group of teenage boys, riding around on Halloween night 1979, had decided that it would be fun to throw eggs at the kids who were still young enough to go trick-or-treating.

They were obviously selecting their victims at random. I will retroactively blame Ken for our being singled out. His solid white stormtrooper outfit really did make him a target.

The car—it must have been a Dodge Charger or a Trans Am—slowed down as it approached. Ken and I had no time to assess the situation, let alone take evasive action. Then someone in the passenger seat threw some white objects at us via their rolled-down window.

The car roared away before we realized what had happened: they had pelted us with eggs.

Ken had been walking closest to the road, and he was a mess. The stormtrooper outfit his mother had so painstakingly crafted was now smeared with dripping yellow egg yolk.

Some of the eggs had splattered on me, too…though not very much.

After that, we decided to call it an early night. Neither one of us wanted to walk around dressed like an omelette.

At least the boys didn’t throw rotten eggs at us, I would think later.

***

My guess is that the egg-throwing foray was a spur-of-the-moment thing for the boys.

Speaking of the teenage boys: I never learned their identities. Whoever they were, though, they would all be pushing sixty in 2021.

***

So that was how my last Halloween went, in 1979 and not in 1980. By Halloween 1980, I decided for myself that I had had enough of Halloween and trick-or-treat. It was time to let that childhood ritual go.

Halloween, nevertheless, retains a strong grip on my imagination. 12 HOURS OF HALLOWEEN was therefore a very fun book to write as an adult.

***View 12 HOURS OF HALLOWEEN on Amazon***

‘The Rockland Horror 3’ is out!

The third installment of The Rockland Horror saga is now available on Amazon:

The 20th century holds new horrors for Rockland, Indiana!

The year is 1917. In faraway Europe, the Great War rages on. The world waits anxiously to see if U.S. President Woodrow Wilson will take America into the conflict.

By now, the events of 1882 are fading into the stuff of legend, for all but the town of Rockland’s oldest residents.

But a few still remember what happened. Continue reading “‘The Rockland Horror 3’ is out!”

Horror movie notes: ‘Unearth’, ‘Sinister’, and ‘Fallen’

I’ve caught a few more horror movies of late: one relatively new, two a bit older. Here are my very quick reviews, given in reverse chronological order of the dates of the films:

Unearth (2020)

Billed as “a fracking horror story”, Unearth is a horror film that purports to combine postmodern anxieties (economic malaise, climate change) with a horror plot reminiscent of Alien or The Thing.

The basic setup is this: a struggling farmer in western Pennsylvania allows an energy firm to excavate for natural gas on his land. Bad things are awakened from underground. Hijinks ensue.

There was a lot that could have been done with this idea. Most of the movie, though, was wasted on repetitive emotional drama, and several sexual subplots that seemed tacked-on and pointless.

Unearth did feature a strong performance from 80s horror film star Adrienne Barbeau. But the writers of Creepshow (1982), The Fog (1980), and the aforementioned The Thing (1982) gave Barbeau much better movies to work with.

Sinister (2012)

Ethan Hawke stars as a true crime writer who moves into a house where a family of four was recently murdered, in the hope that the home’s atmosphere will inspire a bestselling book.

The writer soon finds that the house contains more than just memories and dark ambiance, though. The events of the family’s murder are still very much present, as is a force behind a string of similar murders that have occurred since the 1960s.

Sinister has multiple plot holes. And—as is too often the case in horror movies—the characters do things that people of otherwise ordinary intelligence and judgement simply wouldn’t do. I would also have done the ending differently, had it been my movie.

That said, Sinister has some genuinely scary moments. This film has a vibe that is downright creepy, and you’ll be thinking about it for a while after the action stops. I did, anyway.

Fallen (1998)

This is one of Denzel Washington’s best films. (And Denzel Washington has made a lot of good movies.)

In Fallen, Washington plays detective John Hobbes, a Philadelphia Police Detective who is stalking a demonic entity known as Azazel.

Fallen is more of a supernatural thriller film than a horror movie. There is a recognizable narrative structure to the film (something definitely missing from Unearth), and the main character has agency and initiative (a factor missing from Sinister).

Fallen is probably not a movie that is going to keep you awake at night. But it will keep you guessing, and you’ll remember it. I saw Fallen for the first time about twenty years ago, and I very much enjoyed my second viewing.

As a bonus, there are strong secondary role performances from Elias Koteas and the late James Gandolfini (1961-2013), both of whom later went on to larger roles. (Both Koteas and Gandolfini also appeared in The Sopranos, with Gandolfini in the starring role.)

***Shop for horror movies on Amazon***

‘Neverknock’: quick review

On Halloween 1986, three young people lose their lives in a series of supernatural events at an abandoned house. The house becomes an urban legend. In the present day (circa 2017), a group of teenagers accidentally awaken the house’s dormant powers. The forces inside the house take the young people down, one-by-one. 

That’s the setup for the Syfy original film, Neverknock.

When viewing (or reviewing) any “Syfy original” movie, one is wise to set the bar low. That’s what I did when I sat down to watch Neverknock

The urban legend is an inexhaustible source of horror film and fiction. I can’t fault the premise of Neverknock, but there are some issues with the execution.

The opening incident involves some over-the-top phenomena, making it difficult for the viewer to suspend his sense of disbelief. It only gets worse from there. There is a monster that appears repeatedly throughout the film that looks like a leftover from a 1980s horror film.

The cheesy special effects are a big part of the problem with this movie. Watch A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) today, and the special effects will look amateurish by today’s standards. But A Nightmare on Elm Street was made almost 40 years ago. Viewer expectations have changed since then. (That’s even true of older viewers like me, who can remember A Nightmare on Elm Street when it first debuted at the cinema.

The bottom line is this: If a filmmaker doesn’t have the budget for modern special effects, the best option is to not attempt them.

And this is quite possible. Sometimes the best horror is found in what is left unseen, to the imagination. But Neverknock shoves it in all your face, and what it shoves at you simply isn’t credible. As I watched the movie, I could not help noticing the figurative zipper in the figurative monster suit.

The acting was decent, given that this was a movie about mostly vapid teenagers who are killed off in rapid succession in gruesome ways. I especially appreciated the performance of Dominique Provost-Chalkley (of Wynonna Earp fame). Hers was the only character with any real depth.

Some movies linger with you for days, for reasons both good and bad. This is a movie that you’ll forget within a few hours of watching it. 

‘The Empty Man’: quick review

In 1995, four twentysomethings are hiking through remote Bhutan. Once of them is infected with a tulpa, a spiritual being that is created through deep, mystical concentration, according to Tibetan lore.

The other three young adults are killed.

Decades later, in 2018, young people in a Missouri River town begin acting strangely. Then some truly horrific things happen.

That’s about as much as I dare tell you without getting into spoilers.

This movie had a very interesting premise, certainly an original one. There were a few genuinely creepy moments. The mystery within the film, moreover, was so tightly concealed that it kept me guessing till the end. 

There was a noticeable problem with the pacing, however. The screenwriter and producer tried to pack too much story into a 2 hour, 20 minute-movie (which was already long, by today’s feature film standards).

The result was an uneven progression of the plot. There were portions in the middle that seemed to drag. Meanwhile, the ending was kind of rushed.

This is an example of a movie that would have been better as a miniseries. There were multiple storylines, and a complex premise to begin with. A lot to tie up in a little more than two hours, and the the makers of The Empty Man didn’t quite succeed. 

Horror sequels and haunted office buildings

Book 3 of The Rockland Horror saga is now live on Amazon. There will also be a Book 4. (I already have the basic story mapped out, in fact.)  At present, though, I’m working on a sequel to Eleven Miles of Night.

Eleven Miles of Night is set in 2013, and was published in that year. The next book in what will become the Jason Kelley series will take place eight years later, in 2021. It will involve Jason’s re-entry into the world of paranormal research.

(You may recall that Jason swore off paranormal research at the end of Eleven Miles of Night, because he was so shaken by what he encountered on the Shaman’s Highway.)

In the next book, Jason’s challenge will be not a haunted road, but a haunted office building.

Why an office building? Oh, trust me, office buildings can be very creepy after-hours. And I have a very creepy one planned for Book 2 in the Jason Kelley series.

If you haven’t yet read Eleven Miles of Night, now might be a good time to do so!

Horror movie notes: ‘Don’t Breathe’:

Just a quick horror movie entry. The other day I finally got around to watching Don’t Breathe (2016).

This is a combination of a heist film, and a “monster in the house” horror movie.

Don’t Breathe is a very accessible, fast-paced film. Not one that is going to change your entire worldview or anything, but quite entertaining.

And according to the Internet, a sequel, Don’t Breathe 2, will hit the cinemas in August.

Curiously, the villain of the first film, Norman Nordstrom (played by Stephen Lang), seems to be cast as a kind of antihero vigilante in the next movie. (Note: This is based on what I’ve seen in the available previews.)

It is unclear, then, if Don’t Breathe 2 will really be a Don’t Breathe 2, or a twenty-first-century version of Death Wish. (For younger readers: I’m referring to the vigilante films that Charles Bronson starred in during the 1970s and early 1980s.)

When I read the Amazon and IMDB reviews for Don’t Breathe, I noticed something: many viewers tended to sympathize with the villain of the film.

This is not entirely unexpected. The premise of the heist portion of the movie is three young criminals robbing an older blind man who has suffered multiple tragedies. One of the criminals (the one who dies first) is extremely unlikable. The other two are morally ambiguous at best.

The villain, Norman Nordstrom, certainly has his character flaws. But the bottom line is: He would never have crossed paths with the three young burglars had they not broken into his home, with the intention of robbing him.

Two recent horror films: one good, one not so good

I recently watched two horror movies of relatively recent vintage: The Unholy (2021) and Hereditary (2018).

What follows are two (very) brief reviews.

The Unholy

The Unholy is a film about a hearing-impaired teenage girl who appears to be channeling the Virgin Mary. What she is actually channeling, however, is not Mary, but a malevolent spiritual force.

This film, starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan (“Negan” on The Walking Dead) and newcomer Crickett Brown, was excellent.

Anyone familiar with Catholic-Protestant differences regarding saints and religious imagery will appreciate the “what if?” scenario here. This film explores a key question of the Reformation from a fully modern, supernatural perspective. (The film even quotes Martin Luther.)

I was raised Roman Catholic, and—with all due respect to the Protestants in the room—that’s the way I roll. No thank you, I am not interested in attending your non-denominational church. (But thanks, again, for the invitation.)

Nevertheless, I am also not above taking a critical approach to some aspects of my Roman Catholic faith. Roman Catholicism does, indeed, include a cult of saints, and a cult of the Virgin Mary. Protestants who point out the pagan similarities here are not completely in left field.

The Unholy is well-paced and entertaining. That said, this is not a movie for someone looking for a simple monster flick with jump scares. If you don’t like ideas in your horror, skip this one.

I would give The Unholy high marks for the acting, story, script, and concept. The special effects, however, were right out of the 1980s. The early 1980s.

The fake fire, in particular, looks like fire from a B-movie, circa 1983. Given everything else that the filmmakers did right, they shouldn’t have cut corners on the special effects. And they definitely did cut corners.

Hereditary

Grandma is dead, but grandma was a satanist. That’s the setup behind Hereditary.

The movie starts on the day of the grandmother’s funeral. The surviving family of four (the parents and two kids) slowly fall prey to a curse that involves (spoiler alert) a satanist plot.

Hereditary is a disturbing movie. I am by no means a sensitive viewer. But even I required a good 24 hours to fully purge this movie from my mind.

Hereditary contains plenty of otherworldly events and phenomena. But it also contains graphic and realistic depictions of extreme family turmoil, corpse mutilation, and (in one scene) the accidental beheading of a child.

(Yes, really. Graphic violence against children is a line that movies usually don’t cross; but this one did.)

Many horror movies take us to dark places. That is a part of the horror movie experience, and a part of the ride. The real problem with Hereditary is not its darkness, but its complete lack of redemption, or even a glimmer of hope. I won’t tell you what the ending is, but suffice it to say that this movie ends on a very down note.

Several of the characters in the movie are sympathetic. None of them, however, could be properly described as heroic, or even proactive. They all sort of drift along, waiting for the next bad thing to happen. And as noted above, plenty of bad things do happen.

Hereditary is a technically competent film. The movie was shot in Utah, and the movie makes good use of the inherent otherworldliness of the Utah landscape. Hereditary is well-paced, despite its length of more than two hours. You won’t be tempted to look at your phone while you’re watching it.

Nevertheless, I’m not sure that you will emerge from Hereditary with any new insights, or even any provocative questions. And while there are some creepy moments, Hereditary isn’t an especially terrifying movie. This is no thrill ride. Mostly, it is simply disturbing.

***

Anyway, those are two of the horror films that I’ve watched recently. In summary, I highly recommend The Unholy (with a minor qualification regarding the amateurish special effects). As for Hereditary, well…proceed with caution.

View THE UNHOLY on Amazon.

View HEREDITARY on Amazon

‘The Appearance’: not quite a horror film, not quite something else

A well-intentioned church official in Middle Ages Europe must uncover the truth about an accusation of witchcraft. But what if the accused “witch” really is a “witch”? And what if her past ordeals make her story a sympathetic one?

That’s the general setup for The Appearance (2018). Mateho the Inquisitor (Jake Stormoen), and his assistant (Kristian Nairn, of “Game of Thrones” fame) are called to a remote monastery to investigate a series of gruesome murders, and to interrogate the teenage ‘witch’ (Baylee Self) who has been accused of the crimes.

At first, The Appearance seems to be a dark murder mystery. But then things go wrong, and the film becomes a horror flick patterned loosely on The Exorcist, but much weaker sauce.

The claustrophobic setting of the monastery offered a lot of potential, but the script never really exploits it. There are moments of genuine suspense, but these occur between long, slow stretches.

There is one scene in which a monk’s eyes are literally ripped out. Whenever a movie contains gratuitous sex or gore, that’s usually a sign that the moviemakers weren’t sure what they were doing, or wanted to do. While the gore here is certainly gross, the over-the-top nature of it jolts the viewer out of the film. It comes across as somewhat cheesy.

(Small spoiler alert.) The Appearance closes with a “surprise” that you’ve seen versions of in the past. So it really isn’t that much of a surprise. I won’t tell you exactly what it is.

It appears, however, that the creators of this movie felt obligated to inject a social message: the mistreatment of women in the Middle Ages, and the Catholic Church’s contradictory views on femininity and sexuality. These are neither invalid nor unworthwhile themes. But they’ve been covered more adeptly in other recent works, such as James Carroll’s 2019 novel, The Cloister. The way the ending comes about, the “message” of The Appearance seems tacked on and almost random.

Bottom line: this is an okay movie, but it lacks an overall coherency. After watching it, I was unclear of what the filmmakers envisioned. A horror movie? A mystery? The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Exorcist? I wasn’t sure.

Finally, The Appearance, at nearly two hours, is a little overlong. The script doesn’t justify that much time. This should have been an 80- to 90-minute film.

**View The Appearance on Amazon**

H.P. Lovecraft and first-person narration

A small addendum to my earlier post on HP Lovecraft.

I have noticed that H.P. Lovecraft has a strong preference for first-person narration.

First-person narration is neither intrinsically good nor bad. I’ve used it myself in a handful of novels, including The Eavesdropper, Termination Man, Revolutionary Ghosts, and 12 Hours of Halloween.

I suspect, however, that Lovecraft’s excessive reliance on first-person narration traces to his generally weak sense of character and characterization. As I previously noted, every Lovecraft character is essentially the same person: a solitary male engaged in arcane pursuits, often with the assistance of an uncle who is a professor at Miskatonic University.

But all writers, I should note—me included—have their quirks and habitual crutches. This is not a condemnation of Lovecraft, but merely a literary observation.

The Rockland Horror FREE series starter (June 13th & 14th only!)

The Rockland Horror 3 will hit Amazon and Kindle Unlimited within a few weeks.

In advance of that, this is your chance to start the series for free.

***

The year is 1882. Twenty-one-year-old Ellen Sanders is beautiful but poor. She lives with her parents on a struggling farm in southern Indiana.

Ellen awakens one night to the sound of ghostly moaning, only to be confronted by a supernatural presence. 

Days later, a wealthy older man makes Ellen an offer of marriage that she can’t refuse.

Ellen is immediately pulled into a world of witchcraft, necromancy, and the living dead!

Get the first book in the series FREE for two days only (June 13th & 14th!)

Diane Franklin and 1980s film culture

Diane Franklin appeared in a slew of memorable 1980s films. These included her breakout role as Karen in the surprisingly meaningful teen sex comedy, The Last American Virgin, in 1982.

That same year, she delivered a haunting performance as the doomed eldest daughter of the quasi-fictional Montelli family in Amityville II: the Possession. This film was loosely based on the infamous Amityville, New York murders of 1974.

Oh, also: Better Off Dead (1985), TerrorVision (1986), and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989).

In this interview with Ray’s Happy Hour-ish podcast/YouTube channel, Ms. Franklin discusses some of her iconic roles, storytelling in the movies, and 1980s pop culture. She also talks about her recent and upcoming film projects. Enjoy.

‘Wrong Turn’: fun horror movie

A group of progressive-minded college students from the city visit a small town in Virginia, with the aim of hiking the Appalachian Trail. 

What could possibly go wrong?

The town folk aren’t too friendly, to begin with. There are Confederate flags all over the place. The people seem clannish. And one of the college students seems determined to pick a fight with the locals.

But all of the locals insistently warn the college kids, over and over again, to stick to the tourist route when hiking the trail. 

And don’t go up the mountain!

As is always the case in horror movies, though, the protagonists don’t follow sensible advice. Hijinks ensure.

This is a reboot of an earlier film by the same name, which I also saw many years ago. The new reboot, starring Charlotte Vega and Matthew Modine, is better, and more complex.

***

Reboot or not, the basic idea itself is not original, anyway. If you’ve read Deliverance (or seen the movie), you’ll recognize the setup. A 1981 film called Southern Comfort used a version of the same premise. (Only in that film, the victims of the backwoods brutality were National Guardsmen.)

The conflict between the city and the country is as old as civilization, and certainly as old as America. It is especially acute now, in the midst of the culture wars.

What this movie was not—to its credit—was a simplistic put-down of Southerners or country people. There is a lot more going on than that. Before the end of the movie, we also discover that at least one of the “liberal” college students lacks any sense of integrity when the chips are down.

There are some major plot holes toward the end of the film. But they’re forgivable in the context of an overall plot that is already farfetched.

This is definitely not a boring movie, even if it’s a less than perfect one. 

Warning for sensitive/younger viewers: There is no explicit sex, but there is plenty of violence that is often painful to watch. How could there not be, in a movie like this?

View on Amazon!