Dead Trees: The Nightrunners

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cover of Twilight Zone Magazine from October 1988The October 1988 issue of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine had a big feature about Splatterpunk authors. Editor Tappan King was reportedly trying to create a movement.

There were photos of authors from a convention who were purported to be Splatterpunks: John Skipp, Craig Spector and David J. Schow, of course. R.C. Matheson and Ray Garton. I can buy all of that, but Joe R. Lansdale was proclaimed to be one of the Splat Pack. Even more ridiculously, so was Robert McCammon.Continue Reading

Horror Drive-In: Holiday Slasher-Thon

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Sometimes I bring up slasher movies to people of my age group. I’m talking fifties and early sixties. I often see a glint in their eyes. A recognition of something magical. A recollection of a time of youthful fun and rebelliousness. When our hearts were still untamed. Before the soul-crippling drudgery of work. When our bodies were young and strong, our minds and hearts untamed.

I see traces of mournful regret. Regret about growing old and predictable. Sadness about obsession with politics. Disappointment at falling into the comfort zone of mediocrity. Superheroes, Star Wars, the latest streaming trends.

Many young people loved the slasher movies of the early eighties, but few loved them as much as I did. I saw as many as I could. In walk-in movie houses and in the glorious outdoor splendor of the drive-ins. My best friend and I were huge fans. He’s gone now, and I miss him as much as I miss the bloody innocence of the time.Continue Reading

Dead Trees: The Cleanup

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cover of The CleanupWhen I first began reading horror fiction, most of it was populated by educated, successful characters. Writers were a popular choice. I was fine with it, and I still am, but by the mid-eighties the genre needed a jolt from a different demographic. John Skipp and Craig Spector gave it to us.

With the publication of The Light at the End we had characters from another class and fiction designated for a different demographic. Those who barely made it through high school. Or didn’t get a diploma at all. The disenfranchised, the ones who were dealt a bad hand from the start. People like me and my friends, in other words.

Many of the people I grew up with had ideals, but most lost sight of them. Bitter disappointment after disappointment hardened our hearts. We partied to celebrate our youth and to be free of the constraints of society, but the partying quickly began to take a toll, and burnout set in. We were more concerned with the next beer, the next gore movie, the next gorge-out buffet than bettering the world or ourselves.

Our lives were badly in need of a cleanup.Continue Reading

Horror Drive-In: Talking About Clay McLeod Chapman’s MOTHER

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cover of What Kind of MotherClay McLeod Chapman writes without a net.

His stories defy easy categorization. The bare bones of the books may sound like typical generic plots, but he always goes in unexpected directions. Chapman doesn’t seek the easy, commercial way to publishing success. Instead he is carefully, skillfully, creating a body of bold, uncompromising fiction unlike anyone else.

The latest book, What Kind of Mother, is perhaps his most audacious to date. On the surface it’s another domestic thriller, perhaps tinged with the supernatural. It is so much more than that.Continue Reading

Dead Trees: Crucifax Autumn

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It’s in vogue for horror novels to take place in the 1980s. Fans rightly revere it as the Golden Age of the genre, both for film and fiction. The genre has a long history, but the building blocks of modern horror were laid in the eighties.

Naturally I am fond of the trend. I was an unabashed fan then as I am now. However I am all-too-often disappointed in current horror fiction set in the ’80s.Continue Reading

Dead Trees: Midnight Movie by Tobe Hooper

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photo of Tobe Hooper
Tobe Hooper

Tobe Hooper was not a man. He was a God who walked the Earth for too few years.

Hooper did a lot of things in his time here, but he will always be remembered, be cherished, for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. TCM is a strong candidate for the greatest horror movie ever made. It’s the Crown Jewel of the 70’s exploitation era. No other film can touch it.Continue Reading

Horror Drive-In: Preserve Our Heritage – Collect Physical Media

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stack of dvds, including The Godfather Trilogy and Fight ClubDVD hit the world of movie distribution like an atomic bomb. I got my first player in 1998. Few others had them at that point. By the turn of the century almost every home had at least one DVD player.

It was a frenzy. People no longer settled for renting movies. They wanted to own them, and DVD was the perfect format. The storage capacity of a Digital Versatile Disc allowed supplementary materials and all kinds of bells and whistles.

Horror fans embraced the new technology with a never-before-seen ferocity. Distribution companies were springing up and we were finally — finally! — able to see the movies we craved as they were meant to be seen. In glorious widescreen format, with vibrant colors, and endless background information.Continue Reading

Dead Trees: Bite by Richard Laymon

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cover of The BiteRichard Laymon is one of the most controversial authors in the horror genre. I don’t see him discussed so much anymore, but at one time his work was hotly debated.

Many called Laymon one of the greatest writers we had. Others derided him as a hack and a sexist. Me, I think it’s just as ludicrous to cite Richard Laymon as one of the best as it is to claim he was a bad writer. He knew how to pace a novel, and his plots are always complicated and surprising. Laymon spent time developing his characters before he threw them into the maelstrom.Continue Reading

Dead Trees: The Making of a Monster by Gail Petersen

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vintage cover of The Making of a MonsterHorror was in a time of transformation in 1994. John Skipp and Craig Spector’s final novel, Animals, had been published the previous year. The original Splatterpunk era was over. Necro Publications and the underground hardcore horror fiction wave was a couple of years ahead. Cemetery Dance had spearheaded the small press revolution, but it was still gaining momentum. The biggest thing in the genre, other than King and Barker of course, was the Dell/Abyss line of postmodern horror paperbacks.

I liked some of the Abyss titles and authors. Poppy Z. Brite and Kathe Koja were and are favorites. I liked Brian Hodge and Dennis Etchison. However, the books began to wear on me after a while. It seemed like some of the writers were trying too hard to be hip. I didn’t care for novels by Tanith Lee, Nancy Holder, and Jessica Amanda Salmonson. I lost faith in the Dell/Abyss brand and stopped buying the books.Continue Reading

Dead Trees: Stephen King: The Art of Darkness

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cover of Stephen KIng: The Art of DarknessEnter the Wayback Machine and go back to 1984. I was still shrugging off the science fiction habit I had all my life and becoming a full-fledged horror fan. I read authors like Grant, Straub, Wilson, Etchison, Campbell. And of course Stephen King. When I finally got around to reading him, my reading life changed forever. Pet Sematary had just been released in paperback. Ahead were wonders like The Talisman, Thinner, Skeleton Crew, and It.

Horror was in a state of flux. In the movies, the slasher era was cycling down. In ’84 we had The Mutilator, Splatter University, The Initiation, and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. A Nightmare on Elm Street was ushering in a new breed of horror. Stephen King adaptations were in a bit of a lull, as disappointing productions like Children of the Corn and Firestarter hit the screens. Bigger and better things were ahead.Continue Reading

Book Trailer: HE WHO TYPES BETWEEN THE ROWS 2: HORROR DRIVE-IN WILL NEVER DIE!

All….okay, MOST great horror films eventually get a sequel. We’re excited to announce that Mark Sieber, one of the great chroniclers of the horror scene, has jumped on the sequel train with the follow-up to He Who Types Between the Rows. Check out the new book trailer below, then grab a copy of the e-book at its special pre-order price of 0.99. The e-book and paperback will be released on April 22!

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Horror Drive-In: Scaaaa-REEM!

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I am the perfect age to be a slasher fan. Halloween was released when I was seventeen years old — roughly the same age as the victims in John Carpenter’s masterpiece. I saw it in a walk-in theater and the experience was truly transformational. I was on the verge of adulthood and this movie, which was based on an oft-told urban legend, felt like the beginning of something entirely new.

Halloween was a runaway success and along with the inevitable sequel, imitator movies were quickly made and released. The biggest of them is, of course, Friday the 13th. I was eighteen years old.Continue Reading

Revisiting T.E.D. Klein, The Ceremonies, and Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine

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I like to read something special for a holiday. In 2020, deep in the pandemic, I spent a long week whiling over The Cider House Rules, a novel I read and absolutely loved when it first came out. I was considering what to read this year, when it occurred to me that I had not read T.E.D. Klein’s The Ceremonies since it was originally published. That was quite a few moons ago, and my memories about it were vague. The Ceremonies is a book that requires attention and a little patience, so a week off is the perfect time to indulge in it.Continue Reading

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

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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