The Horror Bust (That Didn’t Seem Like a Bust)

We were talking about the great horror boom of the 1980s at the Horror Drive-In message boards the other day. Most seem to think that it was the greatest era in the history of the genre. I happen to agree. I was there, and as big a fan of all things horror as you’d have been likely to find. It was an exciting time, for movies and for horror fiction. I could go on about it indefinitely, but I have something else on my mind today.Continue Reading

“The Officer’s Club” and “The Phone Call”

Hello again, fans of the Dance. This is the seventh installment of monthly double reviews studying the structure of great horror fiction published in our beloved Cemetery Dance.

Last time I reviewed two Barry Hoffman stories: “An Island Unto Herself” from Cemetery Dance #1 (1988) and “Vicious Cycle” from Cemetery Dance #26 (1997). If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do so and let me know what you think.

In keeping with the popular notion of reviewing two stories by the same author separated by time, this month I’m going to dive into a pair of Roman A. Ranieri stories. The first, once again from Cemetery Dance #1, was published in 1988. The second, from Cemetery Dance #23, was published in 1996.

Let’s see what eight years of separation did for ole’ Roman’s skill set… Continue Reading

Cutting Class for a Higher Education

Here’s a little public service announcement that you’ll never get on TV.

Nothing helped foster my career as a horror writer more than cutting entire days of class when I was in college. Not only that, it also provided the foundation of my marriage.

Now there’s a one-two punch I never would have gotten from another psych or communications class. Continue Reading

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #198

Stephen King News From the Dead ZoneThe Dark Tower trailer we’ve all been waiting for is finally here. Let’s get that out of the way straight off:

However, before the trailer showed up at 9:19 am Keystone Earth Time today, we were treated yesterday to some Twitter banter between Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey as they laid the groundwork for a couple of teaser trailers that contain some footage not found in the official trailer.Continue Reading

Al Sarrantonio: The Weird King of Halloween

I first encountered Al Sarrantonio the same way others most likely did; in his Orangefield Cycle, which regales the tale of the strange Pumpkin Capitol of Orangefield, New York, through the novels Halloweenland, Hallows Eve, Horrorween and the novellas The Pumpkin Boy and Hornets. In Orangefield, strange things happen around Halloween. People die mysteriously, create suicide pacts, conduct pagan rituals, and see strange things from other worlds. Like the mythical Pumpkin Boy, a robot with a pumpkin for a head. Or Samhain himself, trying to take advantage of Halloween’s thin dimensional walls in his repeated attempts to sneak into our world as the advance scout of an unholy army lead by something far worse. Continue Reading

‘Thinner’ and the Blame Game

What I Learned from Stephen King by Jason Sechrest

“There are no curses, only mirrors you hold up to the souls of men and women.” – Stephen King, Thinner

A disclaimer before we begin: As is the case with most of these doo-dads, there are spoilers ahead for those who have not read Thinner. More spoilers than usual in fact, as I found it necessary to employ the book’s end in my final analysis. If you, Constant Reader, should wish to check out now, we will hold no grudge, nor lay the blame. For if there is anything to be learned from Thinner (and I believe there is, or I would not have written said doo-dad), it is that blame is like a spinning wheel. Round and round and round she goes… Continue Reading

“An Island Unto Herself” and “Vicious Cycle”

Hello again, folks. This is the 6th installment of monthly double reviews studying the structure of great horror fiction published in our beloved Cemetery Dance.

Last time I reviewed two Bentley Little titles: “The Janitor” from Cemetery Dance #1 (1988) and “We” from Cemetery Dance #64 (2010). This marked the 2nd time my little column compared an older and a newer story from the same author. I know I liked it, and readers seemed to as well.

Fortunately, I get to do this again this month with a pair of Barry Hoffman stories. His two pieces were published in Cemetery Dance in 1988 and 1997. And while they may not be separated by the two full decades like we saw with Mr. Little, Mr. Hoffman’s stories nevertheless show both growth over this span of time as well as a certain, unique thematic element.

Let’s see if you can figure it out before I connect those dots…Continue Reading

Why Jason Loves the ’80s More Than You

People ask me all the time who the next Jason, Michael or Freddy will be. I tell them there’s a better chance of a Glenn Miller-hip hop genre emerging on pop radio than ever seeing the likes of our favorite killing machines from the ’80s. They were a product of a very special time in horror cinema. The best we’ve been able to come up with since then is Saw. A puppet and dying old dude really don’t shiver me timbers. Continue Reading

My First Fright featuring D.J. MacHale

I’m a big fan of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, the horror/fantasy TV series that ran on Nickelodeon back in the ’90s and early 2000s (if you’re unfamiliar, think Tales From The Crypt Jr., or The Twilight Zone for kids). The show wasn’t my first introduction to horror, but it definitely helped fuel my then-burgeoning interest in the genre. Seen by millions over the last few decades, Are You Afraid of the Dark? is likely the first fright for more than a few writers pounding out spooky fiction today. So, I couldn’t help but wonder, what would it be like to interview the brain behind the show, an architect of First Frights himself, and find out what, in turn, inspired him.Continue Reading

“The Janitor” and “We”

Hello again, folks. This is the fifth installment of monthly double reviews studying the structure of great horror fiction published in our beloved Cemetery Dance.

Last time I reviewed my favorite story from Cemetery Dance #1, Anke M. Kriske’s “The Departing of Debbie” and William Peter Blatty’s semi-controversial “Terry and the Werewolf” from Cemetery Dance #62 (2009).

If you want to know about some really great early horror fiction and/or give your respect to our recently-lost great, Mr. Blatty, do please check it out.

This month, I’m going to review 2 stories from the same author, a man who is clearly one one of Cemetery Dance’s favorite repeat contributors based on the fact that he’s been published in Cemetery Dance numbers 1, 2, 4, 7, 13, 14, 34, 36, 39, 50, 64, and 71. He has been published by CD more than only one other author (that’s a column for another day), and has been there since the beginning.

His name is Mr. Bentley Little.

Let’s get to it…Continue Reading

Those Crazy Swedes

John Carpenter’s The Thing was one of the very first VHS tapes I ever bought because it was, and still is, my hands-down favorite horror movie. Coming in at #2 is Alien. I’m a sucker for flicks with isolated, well-defined characters getting picked off by terrifying creatures. That also explains my infatuation with The Descent.  

The Thing tape had a shelf all by its lonesome, a place of special importance, flanked by posters of Loni Anderson and Samantha Fox. Aside from being creepy, gory and this side of awesome, The Thing was also associated with a very special memory.

It’s the movie that made my father throw up. Continue Reading

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #195

Stephen King News From the Dead ZoneCastle Rock.

A little town in the lakes region of Maine, just south and west of Lewiston-Auburn, population somewhat less than two thousand. Not much to make it stand out from all of the other little places in the state. The founders made full use of the Castle name. Castle View is right next door. Nearby bodies of water are the Castle Stream, Castle River and Castle Lake, and the town is the county seat of Castle County. The more affluent people live on Castle Hill.Continue Reading

Epilogue, Part One

November 16, 2016

Brian and his oldest son have spent a week in Seattle. His oldest son, now twenty-five, is a social worker by day, and a budding rock guitarist by night. He is a fan of Alice In Chains, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Mother Love Bone, and the rest of the grunge-era music (which is now considered classic rock—something that makes Brian feel that full weight of fifty that he knows will be drawing down on him next year). Given this, Seattle makes sense for what will be their first father and son vacation since the now-young-man was ten years old.Continue Reading

Charles L. Grant, Part 2: The Short Stories

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.

This sentiment haunts me. It has since I first heard it quoted by Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. The quote in its entirety, by Henry David Thoreau, is even more chilling:

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to the grave with the song still in them.

The implications make me shiver. Most men lead lives of quiet desperation. Most of us are gripped by worry, anxiety, fear, and a crippling helplessness. But it’s repressed deeply inside; quiet, restrained, shackled, bringing us to the brink of madness without ever quite plunging us over the edge. And in the end, we go to the grave with the song still in us, never able to express what we wanted to—needed to—while shuffling through this numbing thing called “life.”Continue Reading