Review: The Queen of the Cicadas by V. Castro

cover of Queen of the Cicadas by V. CastroThe Queen of the Cicadas by V. Castro
Flame Tree Press (June 22nd, 2021)
224 pages; $14.95 paperback; $6.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

There are so many important themes to unpack in V. Castro’s The Queen of the Cicadas, that I almost don’t know where to start. First, I’ll entice you with some plot details. There is a dual narrative which involves a present-day wedding ceremony at a farmhouse and a story from the past that takes place at the same location.Continue Reading

Video Visions: The Twelve Assholes of Christmas

Black background with spooky lettering that says Hunter Shea Video Visions and the Cemetery Dance logo

Whether you’re a ho-ho or a humbug, it’s impossible to ignore the holiday season. I know I can’t. As I write this, the threat of having to string up lights outside is looming, which is why I just might take my sweet time getting this done. 

After subjecting my wife to watching at least one horror movie a day in October (we hit 55 this year), when December first rolls around, it’s my turn to get the water torture. Yes, we have to watch at least one Christmas movie or cartoon a day until Christmas Eve, when A Christmas Story goes on repeat mode all through the next day. Mind you, I’m not complaining (not loud enough so the wife can hear). First, she never makes me watch any of those insipid Lifetime or Hallmark pieces of dreck. Second, we do throw in some horror movies like Black Christmas, Red Christmas, Better Watch Out, Anna and the Apocalypse, and this year, thanks to Shudder, Silent Night, Deadly Night parts three through five. I never saw them before, and my limbo stick is set on low. Continue Reading

Review: Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories (2021 Set)

Seth's Christmas StoriesSeth’s Christmas Ghost Stories (2021 Set)
Biblioasis (October 2021)
$9.50 each paperback; $25 set of three
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Reading a ghost story on Christmas Eve was once as much a part of traditional Christmas celebrations as turkey, eggnog, and Santa Claus.

I wish that had been the case with my family growing up. Don’t get me wrong, I love our traditions, but mixing in a ghost story would have been perfection. But I have to be honest — even as a young card-carrying, Fangoria-buying, Stephen King-reading horror fan, the idea of reading a ghost story at Christmas never occurred to me. If it had, I have no doubt I would have gravitated to these “Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories” sets from Biblioasis.

Biblioasis, a literary press based in Windsor, Ontario, has been releasing these editions for a few years now. They’re a smaller (4×6) size, so they’re perfect for stockings, and each year they focus on a different set of Christmas ghost stories. Past entries include such tales as “The Signalman” by Charles Dickens, “The Apple Tree” by Daphne du Maurier, and “The Story of a Disappearance and An Appearance” by M.R. James.

The 2021 set includes the following stories, each presented as its own paperback book:

  • “An Eddy on the Floor” by Bernard Capes: A man is appointed doctor of a local prison, where he meets a frightened inmate who is begging to be moved from next to a boarded-up cell that no one will let the doctor see.
  • “The Doll’s Ghost” by F. Marion Crawford: A young girl drops her doll down a staircase and prepares a grave for her fractured companion. Doll doctor Mr. Puckler comes to the rescue, but soon his daughter goes missing — and a strange voice begins to call out to him in the night.
  • “Mr. Jones” by Edith Wharton: Jane Lynke inherits a beautiful country estate, but someone named Mr. Jones has instructed the caretakers to deny all entry. Meanwhile, Mr. Jones himself is nowhere to be found.

As good as the story selection is, the design of each book is the star. Seth’s evocative covers and black-and-white interior illustrations provide the perfect accompaniment to the stories. His clean style elicits a ton of atmosphere without being hyper-detailed. In his work I see the brilliant use of shadow a la’ Mike Mignola, combined with the dark whimsey of Tim Burton.

Come Christmas Eve, you might find me dimming the lights and gathering the family to listen (and look at) one of these tiny terrors. Come the day after Christmas, I’ll be hitting the Biblioasis website to start building out my collection. Highly recommended for the horror lovers looking for something special in this post-Halloween season.

Review: The Secret Skin by Wendy Wagner

cover of The Secret Skin by Wendy WagnerThe Secret Skin by Wendy Wagner
Neon Hemlock (October 2021)
102 pages; $11.57 paperback
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

“Last night I dreamed of Storm Break, dear Lillian, for the first time since we escaped that salt place.”

June Vogel returns to her family’s estate on the Oregon Coast after being away for six years. In the tradition of all atmospheric, Gothic storytelling, Wendy Wagner sets the stage perfectly in the prologue, hinting at family tragedy and secrets that will be revealed in time. But with only one hundred pages used to tell the tale, readers don’t have to wait long.Continue Reading

Revelations: A. R. Morlan’s Ewerton Cycle

Banner for Revelations, the column written by Kevin Lucia for Cemetery Dance

Around 2012, after a life-changing night with F. Paul Wilson, Tom Monteleone and Stuart David Schiff, I began searching used bookstores far and wide for seminal works of horror I’d missed out on. I came to the horror genre late — both as a reader and a writer — so all I knew of horror was Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Peter Straub. There’s nothing wrong with these writers, of course. But after that night, my head spun with the names of the dozens of writers I’d never heard of before. I decided that to be the kind of writer I aspired to be, I needed to widen my reading palate.Continue Reading

Review: Body Shocks edited by Ellen Datlow

cover of Body Shocks edited by Ellen DatlowBody Shocks edited by Ellen Datlow
Tachyon Publications (October 2021)
384 pages; paperback $15.95; e-book $6.49
Reviewed by Janelle Janson

Body horror is a relatively new horror sub-genre to me, but it has quickly become one of my favorites. That being said, it needs to be done right, so when I heard about a short story collection called Body Shocks: Extreme Tales of Body Horror edited by the great Ellen Datlow, the queen herself, I knew I had to read it.Continue Reading

Review: WereWoofs by Joelle Sellner and Val Wise

banner that reads The Comic Vault

cover of Werewoofs

WereWoofs by Joelle Sellner and Val Wise
New Paradigm Studios (December 21, 2021)
160 pages; $7.99 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Joelle began her writing career as an advertising copywriter, creating award-winning campaigns for brands like In-N-Out Burger, Kleenex and Lexus. Since making the jump to screenwriting, she’s written several romantic comedy and family telefilms including Hallmark Channel’s Paris, Wine and Romance. Joelle has also written comics for Blizzard, DC, Marvel, and Dynamite Entertainment. Graphic novels for IDW/Lion Forge Comics include reboots of the NBC classic shows Saved By the Bell and Punky Brewster. Her newest graphic novel is the YA horror book, WereWoofs.

The small, Midwest town of Howlett was established, long ago, by werewolves. When ordinary humans came in, they drove the werewolves underground, but all that’s going to change when the pack alpha disappears and his nephew takes over. Working at the Paw Paw dog food mill gives him certain advantages, including corrupting the donated food at local animal shelters with the virus that creates werewolves.

In the meantime, the baby of the pack, Mara, is struggling in high school. She’s been branded the freak of the class and has no friends. When a pack of dogs from the shelter break free and attack her classmates, however, she instantly gains some friends, especially when they begin shifting into dogs themselves. Her knowledge of werewolves and werewolf training helps them bond, but that still doesn’t solve the mystery of the missing alpha nor what caused the dogs in the shelter to go crazy. 

WereWoofs is a great YA graphic novel. There are horror elements, to be sure, but nothing too scary that a middle-grade or YA reader will be completely put off. Furthermore, the scenes of bullying and teasing in high school, as well as the problems with teachers, grades, crushes, etc. will connect well with a YA audience, as well as many adult readers. Val Wise’s cartoon style fits the narrative and the audience well, too. The characters are detailed enough to be realistic and not too cartoony, but they’re soft enough to not be overly realistic or scary; there’s an excellent balance that Wise has achieved with her art which only serves to propel the narrative further.

Overall, WereWoofs is a fun story about lycanthropy and high school. It’s not too graphic or over-the-top, but it’s also not too cheesy as to upset or put off any of its target readers. It’s a solid mystery, open-ended mystery tale combined with high school drama that makes for a fun read.

Dead Trees: The Doll Who Ate His Mother by Ramsey Campbell

banner reading Dead Trees by Mark Sieber

Who is the best living horror writer?

The obvious, and most popular answer, is of course Stephen King. I almost agree, but King has done too many different types of fiction to be stigmatized as merely a horror writer. A lot of it can even be construed as science fiction. Especially when one considers how psi talents were an SF staple for years and years.

Despite my love of his work my answer is not Stephen King. I’d have to go with the inimitable Ramsey Campbell.Continue Reading

Marin Ireland announced as GWENDY’S FINAL TASK audiobook reader!

Gwendy’s Final Task
by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

Award-winning narrator Marin Ireland announced as audiobook reader!

We’re excited to announce that award-winning narrator Marin Ireland will be reading Gwendy’s Final Task, the final audiobook in Stephen King and Richard Chizmar’s Gwendy trilogy, coming 2/15/22 from Simon & Schuster Audio. Pre-order your copy here!

Cover

Thank you, as always, for your continued support and enthusiasm!

Review: TKO Presents: Tales of Terror edited by Sebastian Girner

banner that reads The Comic Vault

cover of TKO Presents: Tales of TerrorTKO Presents: Tales of Terror edited by Sebastian Girner
TKO Studios (November 2021)
180 pages; $19.99
Reviewed by Danica Davidson

TKO Presents: Tales of Terror is a comic book anthology with nine different short stories. It’s in the vein of Tales from the Crypt in that each story is self-contained, each story has a twist, and they’re all snippets of horror in bite-sized pieces.Continue Reading

Review: Landis: The Story of a Real Man on 42nd Street by Preston Fassel

cover of Landis by Preston FasselLandis: The Story of a Real Man on 42nd Street by Preston Fassel
Encyclopocalypse Publications (December 7, 2021)
146 pages; $9.99 paperback, $3.99 Kindle
Reviewed by Damon Smith

The modern internet has made being a fan of genre film so much easier. Information is abundant on even the most obscure z-movie and new “boutique” Blu-ray labels seem to pop up overnight with lavish releases and restorations of dozens of obscure horror, action, and exploitation films. The scene has come a long way from trading bootleg tapes at cons or mailing out orders cut from fanzine pages, and a major figure at the very genesis of this movement was the late Bill Landis. His fanzine, Sleazoid Express, set the standard for what exploitation film journalism could be and acted as an ethnography to a culture that much of America was more than happy to sweep under the rug.Continue Reading

The Cemetery Dance Interview: John Shirley

banner graphic that says Cemetery Dance Interviews

John Shirley

A renaissance man of ink and design, John Shirley has seen over 40 of his novels and almost a dozen short story collections published to date, spanning from 1979 with Transmaniacon and Dracula In Love to present with Stormland and The Feverish Stars. He’s written for television on such classics as Robocop and The Real Ghostbusters, as well as for major films like The Crow staring Brandon Lee. No genre border can contain him, but he’s probably best know as a cyberpunk OG. He can blend sci-fi and dark fantasy like no other and not only supports The Blue Oyster Cult with lyrics to rock out to, he’s still going strong with his own punk band, The Screaming Geezers.

Sitting down with John was the perfect opportunity to pick the brain that masterfully knows how to pluck the chords of our deep subconscious while bringing to light creations of humanity which are as apt to save us as they are to bring us to our eventual doom. Join the conversation as we discuss his latest collection, The Feverish Stars, his recent novel, Stormland, and what a day being John Shirley looks like, and beyond.Continue Reading

Review: The Feverish Stars by John Shirley

cover of The Feverish Stars by John ShirleyThe Feverish Stars by John Shirley
Independent Legions Publishing (March 2021)
306 pages; $22.35 paperback; $5.90 e-book

Reviewed by Rick Hipson

A kaleidoscope of stunning visuals, The Feverish Stars delivers a bullet of an experience which ricochets off every nerve and fiber of the imagination. Firing its trajectory on a one-way collision course with any expectations you might have, Shirley grabs your senses by the roots and coaxes with a lust for more. Against the maelstrom of a sci-fi punk master’s deliberate muse, every word strikes down like a hammer of poetic reckoning, smashing down gates to portals of fantastical realms. There can be no return without alteration, but isn’t that what we’re all here for?Continue Reading

Review: The Boy with the Spider Face by AJ Franks

cover of The Boy with the Spider Face by AJ FranksThe Boy with the Spider Face by AJ Franks
Crystal Lake Publishing (November 26, 2021)
126 pages; TBA paperback; TBA e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

In this young adult, coming-of-age horror novella, AJ Franks imagines what life would look like for a teenage boy with an actual spider-face. The story unfolds rather quickly with the protagonist, Jeff Pritchet, struggling to lead a normal life but realizing that nothing will be easy for a boy with his unique condition. At school, Jeff befriends “the new kid” which introduces a combination of subtle queer themes and very heavy-handed racism.Continue Reading