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AUTHOR INTERVIEW: J.P. Choquette

Meghan: Hey J.P. Welcome back to our annual Halloween Extravaganza? What is your favorite part of Halloween?

J.P.: I love the dressing up and pretending to be someone else aspect. As a kid, playing dress up and imagining myself in different roles and situations was one of my favorite things to do. And of course, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

J.P.: Decorating the house with my husband and son is always fun. My very favorite part of that is standing down by the end of the driveway when we’ve finished and looking at the lights/decorations. Last year (COVID) we weren’t sure if trick-or-treating would be possible, so we had a big outdoor Halloween party with several families in our neighborhood and my son’s friends and families. It was a blast and I really enjoyed our creative Halloween-themed snacks (puking pumpkin was a hit but maybe not as much as the spider donuts).

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

J.P.: Halloween is toward the top of my list. I just love the idea of everyone connecting with their creative selves—the decorations, costumes, the fun of walking the streets in the dark with kids as they go door-to-door, the movies and books, candles and coziness—there’s a lot to love!

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

J.P.: No superstitions here. 😊

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

J.P.: I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the first time a few years ago. While I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of vampires and their eerie transformation from person to blood-sucking-villain, this book made the idea so much more real…and frightening. Highly recommend this book—the atmosphere Stoker created was incredible and the writing really beautiful.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

J.P.: I read a scary book by Mary Higgins Clark when I was a teenager about a babysitter who was getting crank calls…and realized they were coming from inside the house. I did a lot of babysitting back then and it was at the back of my mind from that point on! I have heard variations of this as an urban legend but am not sure which came first—the story or the novel.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

J.P.: Ohhhh, I do not like serial killer stories at all.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

J.P.: I saw Child’s Play at a friend’s sleepover party when we were in the third grade. I was terrified. Afterward, my little overactive imagination saw Chuckie everywhere I went—behind the shower curtain, in my closet, under the bed….

My first horror book was Dean Koontz in high school, I think. I can’t remember the title but there was some sort of supernatural monster in it. I love supernatural suspense and the type of horror that causes all the fear and dread without relying on gore.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

J.P.: I think it was the year I made a Bride of Frankenstein costume. I bought a big Marge Simpson-style white wig and spray painted it black (cutting out lightning bolts first to keep the hair underneath white). I made a dress from an old sheet and my husband helped with the makeup. It was fun and I loved the way it looked in the end.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

J.P.: I love Halloween songs! Thriller, Monster Mash, and Purple People Eater–they’re all great. My absolute favorite, though, is Little Red Riding Hood by Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs. Love it!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

J.P.: I’m a huge chocoholic so anything with chocolate is a yes for me. If it’s paired with peanut butter (Reese’s PB cups or Butterfinger) makes it even better.

Meghan: Thanks for stopping by today, J.P. Before you go, what kind of Halloween books and movies are your go-to?

J.P.: Right now, I’m listening to Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie which I’m really enjoying. Anything gothic-y, dark, atmospheric, preferably set in the deep woods, a crumbling mansion, or a boarding school are my go-to choices for Halloween…and most of the rest of the year, too.


Boo-graphy:
Thriller author, J.P. Choquette, writes atmospheric suspense novels with themes of nature, art, and folklore.

She started writing “books” when she was old enough to hold a crayon. These were held together with staples and left some painful scratches. 

In her career, J.P. has been a vet tech, a Montessori teacher helper, an administrative assistant, a case manager, and a buffet hostess, in no particular order. She’s been writing full-time since 2008. 

When she’s not working, you’ll find her sipping a hot beverage, reading, or in the woods with her family. 

Join her Readers’ Club and get peeks into her writing life, upcoming releases, thriller book recommendations, and other treats for book lovers.

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Green Mountain Trilogy:
Let the Dead Rest, Shadow in the Woods, Dark Circle

Combined for the first time, readers of J.P. Choquette’s Gothic tales of suspense will be riveted by The Green Mountain Trilogy.

In “Let the Dead Rest,” a strange doll makes her appearance in the life of Isabel Joven, an artist living out in the boondocks of Vermont. When strange things begin to happen, Isabel is drawn deeper and deeper into the doll’s frightening past, even as her own world starts to fall apart at the seams.

Readers are calling “Shadow in the Woods,” a “fast-paced, fun thriller,” and remarked that it “hits the accelerator and never lets up on the gas.” In it, two mental health counselors bring a small group of patients for an “ecotherapy” weekend in the wilds of the Vermont mountains. But when the group is forced to take refuge from a storm in a cave, sinister things begin to happen. Six go into the woods, but only three come out.

Sarah Solomon is recovering from a traumatic experience in “Dark Circle,” and moves to northwestern Vermont for a fresh start. But strange things are happening in the gated community where she and her husband live. When Sarah sees the “gray lady” in the woods, she’s unsure if it’s a ghost or a real person. As Sarah digs deeper into the community’s past, she discovers secrets that others want very much to stay buried.

Now available for the first time in a trilogy format, readers can enjoy a collection of Choquette’s most popular supernatural suspense titles. Fans of Ruth Ware, Lisa Unger and Peter Swanson will enjoy Choquette’s atmospheric, chilling tales packed with twists and turns. All three novels are set in rural or small town northwestern Vermont.

GUEST MOVIE REVIEW by Thomas R. Clark: Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Venom: Let There Be Carnage
2021 – PG13 – 1 hour 37 minutes

Director: Andy Serkis
Screenplay Writer: Kelly Marcel
Story Writer: Tom Hardy

Stars:
Tom Hardy
Woody Harrelson
Michelle Williams

Eddie Brock attempts to reignite his career by interviewing serial killer Cletus Kasady, who becomes the host of the symbiote Carnage and escapes prison after a failed execution.


Why VENOM LET THERE BE CARNAGE is the Cosmic Horror Super Hero Movie We Needed This Halloween Season

I love cosmic horror and all things related, complete with tentacles. The science fiction aspects of the horror genre are gateways to twisted aliens, elder gods, death cults, abominations, and a whole lot of insanity. I’m fascinated at how cosmic horror’s tropes can weave their nefarious tendrils into non-science fiction properties. It meshes well with folk horror, for example. THE RITUAL, Adam Nevill’s excellent novel and subsequent film adaptation, is a great example of this mash-up. Comic Books, and superheroes in particular, are also riddled with cosmic horror elements.

The Marvel multiverse is filled with Cosmic Horror, and the current Phase 4 appears to be going all sorts of Lovecraftian. There have been a few attempts to translate these horror elements in the past, and not all of them have been successful. Going back as far as HOWARD THE DUCK, (YES – I invoked HOWARD THE DUCK) in which the “Dark Overlords of the Universe (aka ELDER GODS) want a piece of the earth, we’ve seen a cosmic horror element in Marvel properties on film. Most recently, Josh Boone tried (and failed) to bring the horror of mutants into a then FOX film, with THE NEW MUTANTS.

With the creation of the Multiverse, it only makes sense some of Marvel’s true Cosmic Horror entities make their way to the forefront. Take the alien symbiote, VENOM, for example. You cannot deny the cosmic horror origins of the character. His first film outting was in Spider-Man 3, the overbooked and underwritten finale of Sam Raimi’s trilogy. SONY’s decision to bring a revamped incarnation, the anti-hero Venom has become in the decade since, proved to be wise. The 2018 film, albeit flawed, made a mint in the pre-pandemic world. Tom Hardy’s reimagined Eddie Brock is the perfect likeable sad sack. And his dual role as the brain eating symbiote lured viewers in and promised a sequel featuring a showdown with one of Venom’s greatest adversaries: Carnage.

And we were all ready to get it in 2020… until the Pandemic hit. We were forced to wait an entire year, with the date getting pushed back and forth as studios tried to adapt to the difficulties of the pandemic. The date of 10/1/21 turned out to be more perfect than we could have imagined. Why, you ask? Because it’s the start of Halloween Movie season for many horror fans. And what could be better than shape morphing aliens chomping off peoples’ heads?

Oh yes, VENOM LET THERE BE CARNAGE, although mostly bloodless, is a PG-13 superhero cosmic horror delite. After a seriously scary prologue featuring teenage Cletus Kasady in a mental institution, the new movie moves to where the last film ended, with Eddie being summoned as the chronicler of serial killer Kasady’s final statements before being put to death. The homages to Silence of the Lambs are not forgotten, and used as catalysts to move the plot forward.

Yes, I said plot.

You see, unlike the previous VENOM entry, this movie actually has a story and a plot. At a brisk 96 minutes, director Andy Serkis wastes no time getting down to business. Kelly Marcel, co-writer of the first Venom, brings a solo screenplay full of chills, thrills and laughs. But in the end, it’s Woody Harrelson, doing his best Nicholas Cage overacting, and Tom Hardy’s charisma that make this movie leaps and tendrils better than the 2018 film. There are plenty of heads eaten by bad guys and anti-heroes, and more than enough one-liners to make you giggle like a 5th grader.

I hope we get an R-rated home release with some blood and gore in it at some point. You see, on a written page, the VENOM films would be extreme cosmic horror novels, complete with as many mind fucks and brains sucked out as any book from the genre. I’m a believer the more extreme aspects of horror can be mainstream, it’s in the manner you present them. And doing so through a superhero property is an easy way to do it. Godless has seen great success with their Splatter punk anti-hero line, GODLESS LEAGUE, which includes characters as diverse as John Baltisberger’s vengeful Rabbi, STABBERGER, and Drew Stepek’s head squishing buzz topped DOZE.

The only thing I didn’t care for was the mid-credits scene. It felt like a shoehorned cop-out, but I digress in my search to find something in the movie that didn’t work. Make no mistake about it, VENOM LET THERE BE CARNAGE is a horror film. It’s the perfect start for your Halloween and a welcome entry into the modern era of the Marvel Multiverse and superhero movies.


Boo-graphy:
Thomas R Clark is a musician, writer, and podcast producer & engineer. He is the author of the 2021 Splatterpunk Award Nominated BELLA’S BOYS, GOOD BOY, and THE DEATH LIST – published through Stitched Smile Publications, and the forthcoming THE GOD PROVIDES, from St. Rooster Books. His short fiction collection, A BOOK OF LIGHT AND SHADOW is available through his personal imprint, Nightswan Press. Tom’s journalism has appeared in Rue Morgue, This Is Infamous, and House of Stitched Magazine. He lives in Central New York with his wife and a trio of Jack Russell terrier companions.

The God Provides
The foothills of Upstate New York are alive with something terrifying. It hunts, it tempts, it traps, and there’s no escape. Thomas R Clark re-invents Irish Mythology and takes you on a bloody, emotional, and horrific journey back through time with the tale of the McEntire clan, and the devastating secrets they hold. The author of the Splatterpunk Awards nominated Bella’s Boys: A Tale of Cosmic Horror has crafted a story that’s part The Wicker Man and part Cycle of the Werewolf, but at the same time like nothing you’ve read before.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Thomas R. Clark

Meghan: Hey, Tommy! Welcome to this year’s Halloween Extravaganza. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Tommy: The history and mythology behind the Celtic cross-quarter holiday has always attracted me.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Tommy: I like to bury an apple in my backyard to remember those who have passed.

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Tommy: I’m of Irish heritage and I identify more with this pagan holiday than with St. Patrick’s Day.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Tommy: Omens. If I see something in a pattern of 3’s I get the heebie-jeebies.

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Tommy: The werewolf, of course. My first favorite monster was Lon ChaneyThe Wolf Man.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Tommy: The Heidi Allen case in Upstate NY. I’m of the camp who doesn’t believe the men arrested for her murder were guilty, and that she was killed by drug dealers.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Tommy: Bigfoot. I thought I saw Bigfoot when I was a child (it was most likely a deer), and the neighborhood kids pulled a prank, and dressed up in a Planet of the Apes costume and pretended to be Bigfoot, which scared my mother.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Tommy: Jack The Ripper cos of the mystique around his identity.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

Tommy: I’ve watched horror movies since I can recall, courtesy of Monster Movie Matinee on Saturday and Sundays. There was never that “Oh, I saw this then,” moment, but it was likely a King Kong or a Godzilla Kaiju movie.

I was 11 when I read Salem’s Lot. I bonded with Mark and saw it through his eyes. I didn’t understand much of the adult content, but when Mark was the focus, and even Ben, I found myself lost in the story.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Tommy: Pet Semetary. It scared me as a kid, seeing it through Ellie’s eyes. It scared me as a father, seeing it through Louis’s eyes. And it has scared me as a grandfather, seeing it through Judd’s eyes.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Tommy: The Last Man on Earth, when Vincent Price throws his dead baby daughter on a funeral pyre. I can’t shake this image from my head to this day.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Tommy: My Mark Post Planet of the Apes costume when I was 8.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Tommy: Type O Negative, Black No. 1

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

Tommy: Candy Corn. Popcorn Balls.

Meghan: Thanks for stopping by tonight, Tommy. Before you go, what are your five go-to Halloween movies?

Tommy:
5. Pumpkinhead
4. Halloween III: Season of the Witch
3. Tales of Halloween
2. Halloween II
1. John Carpenter’s Halloween


Boo-graphy:
Thomas R Clark is a musician, writer, and podcast producer & engineer. He is the author of the 2021 Splatterpunk Award Nominated BELLA’S BOYS, GOOD BOY, and THE DEATH LIST – published through Stitched Smile Publications, and the forthcoming THE GOD PROVIDES, from St. Rooster Books. His short fiction collection, A BOOK OF LIGHT AND SHADOW is available through his personal imprint, Nightswan Press. Tom’s journalism has appeared in Rue Morgue, This Is Infamous, and House of Stitched Magazine. He lives in Central New York with his wife and a trio of Jack Russell terrier companions.

The God Provides
The foothills of Upstate New York are alive with something terrifying. It hunts, it tempts, it traps, and there’s no escape. Thomas R Clark re-invents Irish Mythology and takes you on a bloody, emotional, and horrific journey back through time with the tale of the McEntire clan, and the devastating secrets they hold. The author of the Splatterpunk Awards nominated Bella’s Boys: A Tale of Cosmic Horror has crafted a story that’s part The Wicker Man and part Cycle of the Werewolf, but at the same time like nothing you’ve read before.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Sephera Giron

Meghan: Hi, Sephera. Welcome to our annual Halloween Extravaganza, where we see how much Christmas we can take over with Halloween Halloween Halloween, which seems only right since Christmas does take over Halloween each year. Let’s get started: What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Sephera: I enjoy walking the streets on Halloween night and enjoying the decorations, the darkness, the children laughing with nervous delight in their costumes, and the electrical feel of the night when the veil between the worlds is thin.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Sephera: I enjoy seeing people dress in costumes.

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Sephera: I love the excitement of people, even regular people who you don’t think like to have fun, considering what to wear and how they dress up. I love dressing up, I love how people are excited about being frightened, and I love to see all the imagination going into people’s costumes and decorations.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Sephera: I’ve grown out of my superstitions, but I’ll still toss some salt over my shoulder if I spill any and I won’t walk under ladders.

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Sephera: It changes all the time. Right now, I’m prone to enjoying Kylo Ren, Loki, and Dandy Mott.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Sephera: I suspect most would say for me that it’s the Lizzie Borden case since I’ve stayed overnight at her place several times, but I’m very intrigued by Jack the Ripper and even wrote about him in my novel Flesh Failure (which is part of Experiments in Terror on the SCREAM app). With Lizzie Borden, I’m 99% sure she committed the murder of her parents, so I don’t consider it unsolved. I’m also still wondering what happened to Flight MH370.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Sephera: These days, I’m not scared of any urban legends.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Sephera: I don’t have one as they are all horrific, despicable people.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

Sephera: I don’t know how old I was or what I would consider horror. Some movies and TV shows freaked me out like Disney movies. The violence of the original Planet of the Apes franchise when I watched it in the theatre upset me greatly. Fairy tales were the original horror gateway drug for me. Stories such as original The Goose Girl, Cinderella, One Eye, Two Eyes, and Three Eyes, and many others terrified and upset me.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Sephera: When I was very young, I read the book Beautiful Joe which is not a horror novel but it’s gruesome and horrific and it upset me greatly. The horror novel that unsettled me for life (there are many) was The Shining. Stephen King was the new kid on the block back then and I was the perfect age as a teenager to be scared to death reading that book. I’ve never enjoyed a book so much before or since.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Sephera: When I was a kid, I walked into the room when my parents were watching some movie about a haunted voodoo doll statue thing, and they told me to leave. So I was terrified that thing would show up in my room. Also, there was a movie that I believe is called The Crawling Hand that I was watching on a Saturday afternoon Sir Graves Ghastly TV matinee. We could only get that channel sometimes, depending on which way the wind was blowing and how you positioned the antenna. An astronaut blew up in space and his hand was crawling around killing people, like jumping out of closets and stuff. The cable went out and I never saw the end of the movie, to this day, and was terrified for years of random crawling hands/arms that might suddenly appear on the top closet shelf to jump out at me and strangle me and so on. Years later, Frankenstein: The True Story also had a crawling arm/hand which continued the motif for my terror and I had to keep closing my eyes when they’d show it.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Sephera: Thriller

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

Sephera: I love candy corn, those molasses kisses and Reese’s peanut butter cups. As a kid, I never ate chips so I hated getting those bags of chips with three chips in them.

Meghan: Thanks for stopping by today, Sephera. This was great fun getting to know you. Before you go, what are your go-to Halloween movies and books?

Sephera:
Movies:
Rosemary’s Baby
Poltergeist
Hellraiser

Books:
The Shining
Carrie


Boo-graphy:
Sèphera Girón is a horror novelist and screenwriter in Toronto. She has over twenty traditionally published books with more on the way. During the pandemic, she has reconnected with her screenwriting roots and has been working on several films and TV shows with hope of them being produced one day.

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Newest releases are on the brand new SCREAM: Chills and Thrills app. Three books that were previously published by Samhain Horror are now on SCREAM packaged as: A Penny Saved and Experiments in Terror. Read the first few chapters on the app for free.

See me recount a scary real life haunted house experience:

A Penny Saved
Cora hoards pennies, and why not? Pennies have been obsolete in Canada for years so to find one is rare. Unfortunately, Cora’s obsession has conjured a demon who requires payment for the deals he can make for her. Cora rises up through the business world, as promised, but at what price? There’s a special place in hell for some people, and Cora’s spot has been reserved.

Experiments in Terror
The secrets of life…and death! For centuries scientists have sought the secrets of life itself. However, these experiments have often gone very, very wrong. Gathered together in this volume for the first time are two novellas by Sephera Giron that show exactly how terrifying these attempts can be.

In Captured Souls, Dr. Miriam Frederick is determined to create the perfect human specimen-and the perfect lover-with decidedly unexpected results.

And in Flesh Failure, a young woman pulls herself out of a shallow grave to roam the foggy streets of Jack the Ripper’s London, desperate to find answers…and what she needs to remain alive!

GUEST POST: Matthew R. Davis

13 Fun Fright Flicks for Halloween

Halloween is as much about fun as it is frights, so here’s a list of films to get you cackling through the chaos. I’ve avoided the obvious choices, so no Shaun of the Dead, Scream, Trick ‘r Treat, etc. (even if Shaun is one of the best films of all time, hands down). Here, you’ll find a baker’s dozen of rollicking romps and silly shocks, all dressed in the finest Halloween regalia, and I’ve even included some streaming options if that’s your thing… but I should warn you, Halloween itself plays almost no part in these films. Themes are hard, man! Here’s your effing lot.

DEMONS (1985)
Lamberto Bava’s Demons lays on the cheese thick and fast, taking everything we’d come to expect from producer/co-writer Dario Argento’s oeuvre and amping the ridiculous action up to 11. A group of unsuspecting folk enter the Metropol for a free screening of a new horror flick, only to find the nightmare bursting off the celluloid to run amok in the theatre. Cue special effects that range from laughably daft to outright eerie, a soundtrack that cuts between a very ‘80s synth score by Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti and rockers like Mötley Crüe’s “Save Our Souls” and Billy Idol’s “White Wedding”, and outlandish elements such as a working dirt bike in the cinema lobby and an unexplained final-act helicopter crash in the amphitheatre. A perfect beer and pizza flick!

Stream Demons on Shudder

NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986)
Featuring a standout turn from Tom Atkins as the endlessly quotable Detective Ray Cameron, Night of the Creeps delivers a fun 1980s update of 1950s SF/horror larks that never knowingly takes itself seriously. A college hazing prank gone wrong looses alien brain parasites upon a small town, turning the infected into murderous zombies whose rampage leads to college girls accessorising their prom dresses with flamethrowers. Writer/director Fred Dekker channels youthful joy into an enjoyable romp that throws in B&W ‘50s flashbacks, Hawaiian dream sequences, a disabled best friend who brings both laughs and pathos, and exploding heads by the dozen. If you don’t answer the phone with the words “thrill me” after watching this, you’re doing it all wrong.

Stream Night of the Creeps on Shudder

TRICK OR TREAT (1986)
We’ll be moving on from the ‘80s in due course, but first, here’s a treat (or trick) for fans of cheesy heavy metal. Sneering hairspray rocker Sammi Curr dies before the release of his new album Songs in the Key of Death, but his biggest fan soon realises the gig he had planned for the local high school’s Halloween dance will be going ahead regardless – and Curr’s set is going to kill. Featuring cameos from Gene Simmons as rock DJ Nuke and Ozzy Osbourne as a fundamentalist preacher set on abolishing rock n’ roll, Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat brings a knowing wit to its cheap pyrotechnics as it follows many a disgruntled teen’s arc from investing whole-heartedly in rebel music to eventually discarding it for the trappings of maturity. Don’t believe that hype, though – metal is forever!

THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (1988)
Ken Russell’s delirious adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 1911 novel is as outrageous and enjoyable as you’d expect, contrasting venomous visions of Romans ravishing nuns amidst blood and fire with the bucolic sleepiness of a small English village. When a giant serpentine skull is unearthed at an archaeological gig, the appetites of ancient worm deity Dionin accelerate to envelop humble innkeeper and rich gentry alike. A fresh-faced Peter Capaldi (twenty-five years away from headlining Doctor Who) brings the modest heroism, Hugh Grant plays his charming, dapper-but-practical toff to the hilt, and Amanda Donohoe is having such a blast as the seductive villainess Miss Marsh that her sharp turns into sheer snake-eyed terror are all the more disturbing. The Lair of the White Worm is a fever dream from which you’ll wake laughing… in a pool of cold sweat.

Stream The Lair of the White Worm on Shudder

FRANKENHOOKER (1990)
You won’t find any frights here, but you will laugh your head off – and if you’re unlucky, someone will come along to sew it back on the wrong body. After an horrific lawnmower accident leaves his fiancée in pieces, a backyard scientist resolves to build her a new body, and what follows is an orgy of homemade super-crack, exploding sex workers, relaxation techniques involving trepanation by power drill, and a patchwork prostitute tottering around on stacked heels looking for fatal “dates”. Frank Henenlotter’s ludicrous body-horror is a welcome shock of lightning for those seeking bad-taste titillation on Halloween. Also, I just can’t help myself, so here’s a crap joke: Frankenhooker; or, the Modern Promiscuous.

Stream Frankenhooker on Shudder

BRAINDEAD (1992)
If you’re only familiar with Peter Jackson through his epic Tolkien adaptations, watching his early films must be like discovering your favourite classical composer used to be in a smutty grindcore band. After she’s bitten by a Sumatran Rat Monkey, downtrodden Lionel finds his nasty mother taking a turn for the worse and must go to extreme lengths to keep her and her ever-increasing horde of zombie victims under wraps, even if it means strapping a lawnmower to his chest to cut swathes through the undead or stabbing his way free from a monstrous womb. Jackson masterfully steers this flick from a comedy of manners set in 1950s New Zealand to a hilariously over-the-top rampage that soaks the screen in more red stuff than any movie before or since. This is splatter that matters.

Stream Dead Alive (aka Braindead) on Vudu

SCOOBY-DOO ON ZOMBIE ISLAND (1998)
When it comes to spooky fun, how can you go past the family-animation gateway to horror that is Scooby-Doo? The gang reunite to shoot some footage for Daphne’s TV show in New Orleans, only to find themselves up against a threat that, for once, proves to be much more than a small business owner trying to scare off competition by skulking around in a monster suit – this time, the creeps are real. Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island is highly regarded amongst fans for its (slightly) darker tone, which prefigures the show’s future exploration of more layered and “adult” plots in the excellent Mystery Incorporated. Jeepers, jinkies, and zoinks, oh my!

Stream Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island on Roku

CUT (2000)
Time for some tongue-in-cheek slasher hijinks, and you can keep your Scream franchise and subsequent knock-offs – Cut may not be better, but it’s at least a flavour you might not have tried before. An Australian film crew decides to finish shooting the incomplete horror feature Hot Blooded!, which has long been regarded as cursed, and naturally, slaughter ensues as the movie’s masked killer returns to wreak havoc on the set. If you’re not sufficiently intrigued by the casting of Molly Ringwald as a bullish diva looking to reignite her career, perhaps you’d be interested in watching Kylie Minogue meet a gruesome death – and this was all shot by Kimble Rendall here in my home state of South Australia. Frights, camera – slashin’!

Stream Cut on Vimeo

GHOSTS OF MARS (2001)
That’s right, my friends, we’re going there – I consider Ghosts of Mars to be an underrated and highly enjoyable horror flick, not a patch on John Carpenter’s prior classics but easily worth ninety minutes of your time. When a mining crew unleashes a horde of ravenous spirits on Mars, it’s up to Natasha Henstridge’s team to save the day, and if nothing else, it’s a whole lot of fun watching Pam Grier, Ice Cube, and a pre-fame Jason Statham chew the scenery like catering had taken the day off. Carpenter throws a bunch of intriguing ideas at the screen – a subtly matriarchal society, the use of illegal narcotics providing unexpected salvation for one character – as well as a whole lot of severed heads and tribal scarification. If you’ve heard about the toxic reception but haven’t tried it yourself, you might find that, like me, you disagree with the critical consensus.

Stream Ghosts of Mars on Hulu

THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO (2009)
If you’re in the mood for something crass and entirely lacking in socially redeeming features, look no further than Rob Zombie’s outrageous adventure in animated sleaze. Celebrity luchador lunkhead El Superbeasto follows his lust for super-stripper Velvet Von Black (and anything else with boobs and a pulse) into the path of Doctor Satan’s clumsy quest to gain all the sudsy powers of Hell, with his sexy spy stepsister Suzi-X riding shotgun to pull his irons out of the fire. Packed full of horror references, silly songs, and game-for-anything celebrity voices, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto threatens to throttle good taste at every turn. All together now: “Zombie Nazis, f**kin’ up my day now…”

Stream The Haunted World of El Superbeasto on Roku

DETENTION (2011)
Why be just one thing when you can be everything – that seems to be the driving thought behind Detention, Joseph Kahn’s sensory overload of a film. A grotesque serial killer called Cinderhella is on the loose, but that’s merely a distraction from time-travel shenanigans involving a stuffed bear, personality swaps, wardrobe malfunctions, and a character once teasingly nicknamed TV Hand. More of a teen comedy on steroids and hallucinogens than a horror flick, Detention throws so much at the viewer that they might end up wishing they too could time-travel, if only to make sense of the increasingly convoluted plot. Kinetic, crazy, and a whole lot of fun.

Stream Detention on Shudder

HAPPY DEATH DAY (2017)
Here’s a slasher that proves more interested in character development and even – gasp! – a dash of pathos than outright slaughter. Self-centred college student Tree Gelbman wakes up in a boy’s dorm-room bed and takes a walk of shame that ends in her murder at the hands of a killer in a baby-face mask, only to begin the same deadly day again and again until she works out how to use her knowledge of events to combat her murderer, experiencing some much-needed personal growth along the way. Christopher Landon’s horror-comedy charms more than one expects, and for those who want to know more, there’s a sequel that flips everything on its head. Fun fact: this is one of those rare films that features a bong as a murder weapon.

Stream Happy Death Day on Netflix

SCARE ME (2020)
Telling scary stories is an integral part of Halloween, and here’s a film that builds upon that tradition in a most amusing fashion. When struggling writer/actor Fred finds himself trapped by a thunderstorm in a cabin with successful horror author Fanny, the two try to frighten each other by making up terror tales – but the biggest threat may lie in Fred’s frustration with Fanny’s acerbic nature and his own feelings of failure and entitlement. Writer/director/actor Josh Ruben’s Scare Me relies upon the rapid wordplay of its lead actors, and while he acquits himself well, it’s Aya Cash (Stormfront from The Boys) who carries the film with her vibrant performance of the acidic Fanny. Add an unexpected sting in the tail, and you have a funny and satisfying addition to the horror-comedy canon.

Stream Scare Me on Shudder

BONUS FLICK:
THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW (1949)
This animated segment – one half of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad – was something I saw a few times in my childhood, and it never failed to provide me with much amusement and a little healthy fear. Lanky bookworm Ichabod Crane vies for the hand of Katrina von Tassel, so his rival Brom Bones regales him with the tale of the Headless Horseman… and later that night, he discovers for himself just how much truth is held in the tale. The only selection here suitable for a family audience, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow comes highly recommended for anyone looking to pique their children’s budding interest in spooky fun.

Stream The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad on Disney+


Boo-graphy:
Matthew R. Davis is an author and musician based in Adelaide, South Australia, whose novelette “Heritage Hill” (found in Outback Horrors Down Under: An Anthology of Antipodean Terrors, edited by Steve Dillon, published by Things in the Well Publications) was shortlisted for a 2020 Shirley Jackson Award and the WSFA Small Press Award. His books are the horror collection If Only Tonight We Could Sleep (Things in the Well, 2020) and the novel Midnight in the Chapel of Love (JournalStone, 2021). Find out more at his website.

Midnight in the Chapel of Love
THE MAN: Jonny Trotter has spent the last fifteen years running from tragic memories of the country town where he grew up—but the black envelopes pushed under his door won’t let him forget, and now that his father has died, he can run no more.

THE TOWN: Returning to Waterwich for the funeral and wake with his partner Sloane, Jonny must confront old resentments, his estranged best friends Brendan and Coralie, a strange, veiled woman the locals call the White Widow…and the mystery surrounding the fate of his first lover, Jessica Grzelak.

THE GIRL: A morbid and reckless city girl banished to the country to live with her aunt, Jessica loved to push the limits and explore the shadows—and no one has seen her since the night of her high school formal, the night she and Jonny went looking for the Chapel.

THE CHAPEL: Rumored to be found in the woods outside Waterwich, mentioned in playground rhymes about local lovebirds Billy and Poppy and their killing spree in 1964, the Chapel is said to be an ancient, sacred place that can only be entered by lovers—a test that can only be passed if their bond is pure and true.

THE TRUTH: Before he can move on to a future with Sloane, Jonny must first face the terrible truth of his past—and if he can’t bring it out into the light at last, it might just pull him and everything he loves down into the dark forever.