Mother’s Day Just Got Spookier With Shudder’s Z

Horror fans will be delighted to here that Shudder is streaming Z on Mother’s Day. The very idea of an imaginary friend frightens me, though. You can’t see them. You don’t know what they are saying to their human companions. You don’t know how they feel about other family members. All you really see is your loved one talking to no one in particular. It’s when a child puts a name on that empty space next to them that sends a cold shiver down my spine. Why can’t other people see them? Do they not want to be seen? I’m sorry for the rant, it’s just that imaginary friends scare me. In films, horror films especially, imaginary friends are depicted as malevolent things that prey on children. Z seems to follow that same formula. I can’t wait to see it.


Synopsis:

A family find themselves terrorized by their eight-year-old son’s imaginary friend.

What’s not to like and be scared about?

[Review] A Cacophony of Owls: The Nightly Disease

Publisher: Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing | Published: September 12th 2017 | Pages: 414


The Nightly Disease was an unexpected treat. I love owls and the cover spoke to me, as did a two star review on Goodreads. I’ve never read anything quite like this book. Max Booth III kept this reader off balance and turning the page. Isaac, the night auditor at The God Damn Hotel, isn’t the most reliable of narrators. He’s either slipping into madness or he has a vivid imagination. Either way, he probably needs a mental evaluation, but I’m not sure he has health insurance. Isaac is overworked, underlaid and he pretty much hates everything about his job. When he’s not watching Netflix or doing the five knuckle shuffle on the hotel roof, he’s dealing with rude and ignorant guests. He also likes hanging out with his fellow night auditor, George, from the other hotel.

Max Booth III is at his strongest when Isaac is dealing with the various hotel guests. It’s the inner monologue that truly brings the character to life. You can tell Max drew from his own experiences. Isaac is witty, sarcastic and candid. His appalling thoughts made me laugh. The inner monologue starts bleeding through. He doesn’t know if people can hear him, and he might be having delusions involving owls. He also falls in love with a bulimic woman. Even though Isaac hates his job, he still has to fulfill his duties as the night auditor, unclogging nasty toilets and taking extra towels to guests. Can he catch a break? Nope, uh-uh, no he can’t. Things get even worse for Isaac when two low-life brothers blackmail him into helping with their counterfeiting business.

Bodies start piling up, but Isaac has to be the world’s worst at getting rid of bodies. His apartment scenes are gross. You can smell the stench wafting from the pages. Even though I was grossed out, I had to order a pizza pie and some pasta. The writing is good. It is taut and very-well paced. Max Booth III is not a predictable writer. He throws in several twists throughout the book. The characters were compelling. I was totally invested in Isaac, I needed to see how his story was going to play out. The payoff was worth it. I wasn’t expecting that ending.

I wish there was a soundtrack to this book. I bet it would have at least one Nine Inch Nails song on the track. I’ve never read anything quite like The Nightly Disease, it’s weird and compelling storytelling.

You can buy The Nightly Disease here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Sleep is just a myth created by mattress salesmen.

Isaac, a night auditor of a hotel somewhere in the surreal void of Texas, is sick and tired of his guests. When he clocks in at night, he’s hoping for a nice, quiet eight hours of Netflix-bingeing and occasional masturbation. What he doesn’t want to do is fetch anybody extra towels or dive face-first into somebody’s clogged toilet. And he sure as hell doesn’t want to get involved in some trippy owl conspiracy or dispose of any dead bodies. But hey…that’s life in the hotel business.

Welcome to The Nightly Disease. Please enjoy your stay.


Max Booth III is the Editor-in-Chief of Perpetual Motion Machine, the Managing Editor of Dark Moon Digest, and the co-host of Castle Rock Radio, a Stephen King podcast. He’s the author of many novels and frequently contributes articles to both LitReactor and CrimeReads. Follow him on Twitter @GiveMeYourTeeth or visit him at http://www.TalesFromTheBooth.com. He lives in Texas.

[Review] The Creeping Nothingness: The Perfectly Fine House by Stephen Kozeniewski and Wile E. Young

Publisher: Grindhouse Press | Published: March 16th 2020 | Pages: 232


I love haunted house stories. There’s just something about a comfy old house filled with ghosts that makes my horror heart melt. Add in pretty cover art, and I’m hooked for life. What Stephen Kozeniewski and Wile E. Young does so well is transcend the haunted house trope, while creating a beautiful world full of fascinating characters; it’s a truly remarkable feat. Kozeniewski and Young’s writing styles mesh well together, it really is seamless storytelling.

Now, imagine a world where everyone and everything that dies turns into a ghost. Every single place in the world is haunted, save for one house–Jackson Manor. Within the first couple of pages, the reader is left with a burning question: What happened at Jackson Manor? The opening scene chilled me to my core. You can’t ask for a better setup. It pulls you in head first and doesn’t let go until you’ve turned the last page.

Donna Fitzpatrick is a surrogacy agent. She helps ghosts possess volunteers so they can enjoy carnal pleasures. Donna is accompanied by her twin, Kyle, who died in a motorcycle accident fifteen years ago. She’s been working herself to death, but dying isn’t a big deal. After having a panic attack, Kyle insists she take a vacation at the Jackson Manor, an old abandoned mansion. Donna soon realizes something different about the archaic house. And whatever happened at the mansion starts happening in other places. It starts rapidly spreading like a wildfire.

While all of that is going on, you get to know the characters. Poor Kyle. He was treated so badly. I was invested in the twins and their predicament. The authors unfold the story in a timely manner. It doesn’t feel like a 200+ page book. The storyline is taut and unpredictable, making for a compelling read. I had so many emotions reading this book. The authors are not afraid to put their characters in harm’s way. I enjoyed my time in this book, even if it was only for a little while. I didn’t want it to end, so I read it in a couple of sittings.

If you like to feel things when it comes to your horror, then I think you would like The Perfectly Fine House. You can order a copy here.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

In an alternate reality where ghosts are as commonplace as the weather, the most terrifying thing imaginable is a house not being haunted. 

Donna Fitzpatrick runs a surrogacy agency, where ghosts can briefly possess volunteers in order to enjoy carnal pleasures. She’s also working herself into an early grave. But that’s no big deal because death is no worse than puberty. That’s particularly evident in Donna’s twin, Kyle, a self-absorbed roustabout who spends most of his time high on sage. Kyle’s been in arrested development since his motorcycle accident fifteen years ago.

When Donna has a panic attack, Kyle insists she take a vacation at an abandoned mansion. There’s just one small problem: there isn’t a single ghost in Jackson Manor. And while an unhaunted house seems no worse than an oddity at first, soon ghosts go missing, natural disasters consume entire cities, and every afterlife on earth is threatened by the terrible secret behind . . .

THE PERFECTLY FINE HOUSE.

[Review] Killer Clowns Come To Town: Dead White

Publisher: Tor Books | Published: November 11th 1983 | Pages: 320


This is my second Alan Ryan read, my first being The Kill. Both Dead White and The Kill feel like dime store Stephen King books. They both have a unique premise that is hard to ignore; I was tricked both times. The writing is good, it’s not padded or longwinded. It’s just that when you buy a book and spend hours reading it, you expect a good payoff. You have all this tension and build up that ends up being just another convenient ending. The author didn’t take any chances. The storytelling was very formulaic, and it fell bland after a while. I was hoping for more, especially when you combine clowns and snow. I mean come on, it’s a can’t miss story, but somehow it missed.

Dead White is a quiet horror story. There is some good, but it takes a while to get there. It’s all about atmosphere and the foreboding danger of the small upstate New York town of Deacons Kill and its inhabitants. Alan Ryan doesn’t get too fancy with his words, he keeps it economically friendly. The chapters are time stamped, and the story is told with multiple narratives. The author makes you use your imagination, it’s not in your face horror by no means. There are several, probably too many instances of over describing the snow and the landscape. It sounded like Forrest Gump describing the snow. It snowed this way, that way and every which a ways.

Dead White starts off with an old circus train full of evil clowns appearing in Deacons Kill in the midst of a freak blizzard. The residents have to survive the cold and an evil presence that road in on the train. The legendary Stanton Stokely’s Stupendous Circus is led by a ringmaster with a traditional black top hat and cape. The town inhabitants are isolated, making them easy prey for the evil that lurks within the circus train. The small town relies on a callow sheriff and an old doctor. What could go wrong?

Clowns start popping up in different places. They float across the snow. They stare at you through your frozen windows. They even kill. But sadly we don’t get to “see” the deaths because the author holds back. The characters felt cliched and paper thin. I didn’t really connect with any of them. I just wanted to see what the creepy clowns were going to do. You have to wait a while. And remember, all this time, tensions have been building for hundreds of pages, and then the ending comes and goes with a whimper. I was wanting a bang or a boom, but instead, it fizzles out.

I’m going to read Alan Ryan’s other work. I don’t think any of his work has been published on Kindle or Nook. I know Dead White and The Kill is out of print, but you can find used copies for a reasonable price online.

Rating: 2 out of 5.


Coming Soon From Terry M. West

The Devil’s List is a dark tale of insanity and horror from Terry M. West. In the small Texas town of Pleasant Storm during the summer of 1985, Chuck Beall embarks on a journey of brutality and madness. Convinced he’s possessed by a demon that compels him to kill, Chuck’s murderous attention shifts from random transients to those he blames the most for his abusive past.

Pre-Order at Amazon.com.

[Review] Adopting The Devil: Frank Lauria’s The Foundling

Publisher: Pocket Books | Published: March 1, 1984 | Pages: 284


This was my first time reading Frank Lauria. The metal book cover drew me in, so I gave it a read. The whole story caught me off guard. Turns out, the book is nothing like the book cover. I thought The Foundling was going to be about heavy metal, or at the very least, rock and roll. It had inklings of music within, but it was mainly about an orphan named Dani.

The Foundling starts off with some background of a couple, Jeff and Ruth, who adopt Dani. Jeff and Ruth had a tough go of it in the 1960s when Jeff was the lead singer of the band Jeff Austin and the Vigilantes. While Jeff’s band was performing at an outdoor concert, their 3 year old daughter dies suddenly after grabbing an electrical cable on stage. Ruth ends up miscarrying soon after their daughters shocking death.

Now, with their hippy pasts behind them, Jeff and Ruth move to Bridgeport, CT, trying to rekindle their flame. Jeff is a successful jingle producer and Ruth works in a fashionable boutique. They eventually decide to adopt a baby, but there are no babies availabe to adopt. So, they decide to adopt Dani. She’s 12 years old, the same age their daughter would’ve been. I know, creepy right?

If only Jeff and Ruth knew about Dani’s past. Too bad they didn’t read the prologue, or they’d know that Dani’s mom was a hooker who dumped her with nuns. Turns out Dani has a secret third nipple that’s hidden right below her armpit. They also didn’t notice Dani’s effect on the nuns at her Catholic orphanage. Who knew there would be crazy old nuns in this book? Not me. The whole nun thing really creeped me out, especially the nun’s actions.

While hanging around her new house, Dani sings every chance she gets, hoping Jeff would overhear. She records demos in her room, and she accidently plays one of her demos in the recording studio with Jeff and Eric Jordan, a fading rock star. The two men take notice of Dani and her singing voice. But it’s Ruth who noticed something different and sinister. Turns out Dani has psychic powers centered around her harmones. Sound familiar? You betcha. When she gets her first period all the matches in the house explode into flames. A car full of mean guys who saw Dani’s boobs wreck into a gas tanker and explodes into flames. While recording his album, Eric Jordan tried to put the moves on Dani. Things don’t turn out great for him either. A strange wind blows his cocaine out of his penthouse window. As he’s checking things out, the glass patio door explodes, driving a a huge shard of glass into his manhood.

The strange doesn’t stop there. We’re nowhere near the finish line. Frank Lauria turns the weird up to eleven. Dani somehow manipulates Jeff into thinking Ruth has an alcohol problem, so he sends Ruth to therapy with Father Bernucci. Since she can’t convince the Catholic priest she’s not an alcoholic, Ruth becomes an actual alcoholic, which turns out horrible for her. While she mixes pills and alcohol, all the faucets turns on in the house and Ruth drowns in the basement. While she is dying a terrible death, Jeff is being seduced by his studio assistant, Pam, across town.

Jeff learns about Dani’s third nipple and how it drove a nun mad. He finds out Dani inherited her extra nipple from her mother, an old lounge singer living in Vegas named Diane Shelley. She apparently shaved her vagina and got the face of Satan tattooed on it. How crazy is Dani’s biological mother? She lived on the Manson Ranch in the 1960s. To top it off, Charlie Manson was Dani’s babysitter.

The Foundling is all about nipples. Frank Lauria’s writing is pretty good. The story is cheesy and kind of unsettling in that creepy uncle kind of way. I wouldn’t read it again. It doesn’t have any depth. It wasn’t as compelling as I’d hoped. The ending fell flat, too.

I say all of this to tell you: two nipples are good, three nipples are evil.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Surprise Cover Reveal From Brian Fatah Steele

Hi, there! I have been more active on Twitter lately. Today, a picture caught my eye while scrolling through my feed. The picture ended up being a cover reveal posted by Brian Fatah Steele. I’ve never read his work before, but I can’t wait to read Our Carrion Hearts. The author describes it as a character-driven, supernatural splatterpunk story. What’s not to like?

Our Carrion Hearts is being published this summer by Bloodshot Books. I was hoping to pre-order it, but I didn’t see a link on Amazon. I’ll check again at the end of the month. But while you are here, take a look at this cover. Isn’t it beautiful?

[Review] Brr It’s Cold In Here: The Chill Factor

Director: Christopher Webster | Writer: Julian Weaver | Released: July 28th 1993 | Run Time: 1h 26min


The description drew me into this BluRay. I had never heard of this film until I found it at Arrow Video. It was originally released in 1993, but hadn’t really seen the light of day, until now. The Chill Factor was released onto VHS as Demon Possessed, but it fell into obscurity, never really seeing the light of day until now. It’s directed by Christopher Webster, the producer of Hellraiser and Hellraiser II: Hellbound, so I bought it. I wanted to see what I’ve been missing all these years. Who can blame me? I mean, really. It’s a winter slasher, and there’s a snowmobile chase. What’s not to like?

A group of friends go on a snowmobiling trip, but an accident thwarts their plans. They have to find shelter from an incoming storm in an abandoned summer camp. Things slow way down as the group cares for their injured friend. They begin nosing around the camp, having promiscuous sex. There’s this scene where the guy is taking off a girl’s panties and he rubs her legs. Sexy, right? Wrong. It sounded like sandpaper.

They start noticing old, religious artifacts lying around the place. The group manages to find an old Ouija board. They decide to play with it, and consequently awaken a frightening evil. This takes a big chunk out of the film. Members of the group start dying off one by one in mysterious ways. There’s not much blood and guts, but some of the deaths are kind of cool. Too bad you have to wait a while before anything really happens.

The film doesn’t live up to the premise. The actors couldn’t deliver a single convincible line. The dialogue is too choppy and forced. I didn’t care for any of the characters or their fate. Slowly but surely you find out who is possessed by the frightening evil, but it comes as no surprise. The film ends with a bang, though.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.


Description

The Exorcist meets the Winter Olympics in this tale of demonic possession and snowbound slashing from director Christopher Webster, producer of Hellraiser and Hellraiser II: Hellbound.

For a group of young couples, a snowmobiling trip turns into a waking nightmare when one of their number is thrown from their vehicle and knocked unconscious. Seeking refuge in a nearby abandoned summer camp, the group find themselves holed up in a cabin filled with bizarre and ominous religious artefacts. As night falls, the discovery of a Ouija board amidst the dusty relics awakens a terrifying evil.

Barely released outside of its original VHS outing (for which it was retitled Demon Possessed), cult enthusiasts Arrow Video have dug up The Chill Factor from its wintry analogue grave so horror fans can rediscover this heady mixture of snow, slaughter and Satan!

Coming Soon From Atlatl Press C.V. Hunt’s Murder House


C.V. Hunt has a new book arriving May 29th 2020. You can’t put Hunt’s writing in any one box. Her writing combines different genres, such as: horror, extreme horror, bizarro and splatterpunk. I’m going to start reading her books in order this summer. She seems cool and I want to support her writing. You should do the same and pre-order a copy of Murder House here.

Description

It’s not the house you should be afraid of, it’s the people who live there. Laura’s boyfriend, Brent, is an author and he’s writing a true crime book about the Hallow’s Eve Massacre. The publisher has given Brent a tight deadline and the opportunity to stay in the house where the massacre took place. But the basement creeps Laura out and she’s left questioning her sanity after she sees things that may or may not be there. When Brent begins to act strange, Laura writes it off to the pressure of his deadline. Is Laura really losing her mind or is there something in the house that’s changing the couple?

C.V. Hunt lives in Dayton, Ohio and is the author of several unpopular books like RITUALISTIC HUMAN SACRIFICE, BABY HATER, and COCKBLOCK.

[Review] Underwater Is A Pulse-Pounding Aquatic Creature Feature

Director: William Eubank | Writers: Brian Duffield (story/screenplay) Adam Cozad (screenplay) | Released: January 10th 2020 | Run Time: 1h 35min


On the surface, Underwater looked and sounded familiar, like we’ve watched this movie before. From the synopsis to the trailer, it looked like a newer version of Alien and a plethora of other films that copied the same formula, more specifically the deep sea horror sub-genre. But the studio did a great job with the trailers because they really didn’t even scratch the surface of the film. Where other films have failed in this sub-genre, Underwater succeeds.

Underwater is a respectful throwback that pays homage to the horror films that came before it. It’s your typical setup of man using technology to search the unexplored parts of the universe, only to be punished in unimaginable ways for his pride – this punishment is usually doled out by monstrosities. Underwater goes big with the monstrosity and it pays off, instantly making me a fan. It’s worth every penny.

The takes a minimalist approach to the film’s opening sequence with newspaper articles and headlines detailing how humans have discovered the technology to drill into the Mariana Trench and set up a sprawling rig seven miles below sea level. Things go awry really fast. The first character we meet is Norah (Kristen Stewart), one of the rig’s mechanical engineers. She’s getting ready when an earthquake damages the rig causing her to run for her life. The few surviving crew members have to walk two miles on the ocean floor in futuristic diving suits to reach the escape pods. But, you guessed it, the crew is not alone on their journey. Something is lurking out their in the ocean depths.

I couldn’t ask for a better creature feature. Underwater is a bloodcurdling subaqueous monster film. It’s nightmare fuel. You’re going to want to stay out of the water for a while. On one hand it’s panic enducing isolation horror, and on the other, it’s a sci-fi monster movie. As the movie progresses, you get to know more about the characters through dialogue. Kristen Stewart does a great job anchoring Underwater. She makes for a cool, level-headed hero. The supporting actors do a great job bringing a three-dimensional feel to their characters.I felt like some of the emotional parts kind of missed the mark, though. The action-packed sequences will have you on edge. Underwater is anything but predictable. You won’t see any of it coming. The director does a great job of making you feel like anything can and go wrong at any time.

The atmosphere and dread weighs heavy on the chest. You feel what the characters feel, which is claustrophobic and isolated. It brings you and the characters closer together. The cinematography is beautiful. The sights and sounds are spot on. The set pieces play into the story really well. You learn about the characters through their actions. It’s really a story of humanity…seven miles below the ocean’s surface.

The smaller monstrosities make an appearance at the right times. The writers and director timed the appearances perfectly. The story is well-paced, with steadily increased tension, save for a minute or two. The quiet scenes are just as taut with tension as the action sequences. The pitch-black silence of the open water is spine-chilling. The final showdown with the huge monstrosity is everything you could want in an aquatic horror film. It’s one of the best scenes I’ve seen in a long time. Underwater has quickly become one of my favorite horror films.

You can rent or buy Underwater here.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

A crew of oceanic researchers working for a deep sea drilling company try to get to safety after a mysterious earthquake devastates their deepwater research and drilling facility located at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.