AUTHOR INTERVIEW: M. Ennenbach

Our next author, as long as he takes part in our annual Halloween Extravaganzas, will always be on November 1st. Why? Because today is his birthday – and what better way to celebrate than to have him on to share more about the awesomeness that is he.

Meghan: Hey, Mike!! Welcome back! It’s always a pleasure to have you on the blog. Thanks for stopping by. Now that all the niceties are out of the way, let’s get started. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Mike: It is different in Texas, less a spectacle, but that may be because I have gotten old and lost the joy. As a kid it was the cool autumn air, the threat of snow lingering, and of course, my birthday being the next day. Most kids just get candy, bit I got paraded to relatives’ houses and showered with gifts as well in my scratchy plastic Spiderman costume.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Mike: I grew up poor, so we didn’t do pumpkins or decorations. Halloween was always a rush to get ready and then stomp through the leaves as my parents sat smoking in the rusted red Chevy Nova down the block. I try to read one horror book in October, time permitting. I am lame. I don’t do holidays.

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

Mike: It would definitely be my favorite because I am a child of Autumn. The pressure isn’t there like other holidays to scrabble together a meal or buy gifts. An excuse to dress up and get wasted.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Mike: So much. My anxiety is fierce. I don’t know if I am superstitious, or just so used to things going badly. I toss salt over my shoulder and avoid going under ladders. But I love black kitties and go out of my way be in one’s path.

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

Mike: I like it when man is the villain. Dr. Decker from Nightbreed. Hannibal Lecter. Though I have a great affection for the Universal Monsters, the tragedy of them resonates.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Mike: Black Dahlia or Jack the Ripper.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Mike: Any of them with a siren luring men to their doom. I know just how much of a hopeless romantic I am, and that I would for sure heed the call.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Mike: HH Holmes. He built a murder house in the middle of the World’s Fair.

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

Mike: First movie was The Hand with Sir Michael Caine. I was so young. Every shadow was that effing hand scurrying in the darkness for weeks after. First book was a collection of Poe in first grade. It didn’t scare me, but it opened my eyes to a whole new world.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Mike: The first half of Heart Shaped Box, when it was still a ghost story. It went to crap when he over explained everything and it turned into one of his dad’s books. But that first half was amazing.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Mike: I grew up with Faces of Death, so nothing really affected me after. I think The Autopsy of Jane Doe might have scared me the most.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Mike: One year I got a zoot suit and that was pretty awesome.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Mike: I don’t know really. I guess anything by the Misfits.

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

Mike: I like sour fruity candy. Anything else is just gross.

Meghan: This has been great fun, as usual. Before you go, what are your go-to Halloween movies?

Mike: Halloween 1 and 2 (original) are the best.


Boo-graphy:
M Ennenbach. Poet. Author. Member of Cerberus. Mike has four collections of poetry, two chapbooks, a collection of shorts, a Splatter Western, the debut by Cerberus, and thirty some anthology appearances in his three years of writing. He writes a lot of horror, but depressing and absurd literature is his sweet spot. He writes on his blog on a daily basis, mostly poetry with a smattering of fiction and news. He works with Eleanor Merry at Macabre Ladies Publishing, and they have exciting things on the horizon.

(un)poetic
Unscaled highs, perilous lows; this is a journey filled with both. A free form dance in the form of poetry; tended with loving care that drips sorrow. Darkness tinged with hope, forged in the fires of life. Of the sea, of the stars, of the night air as the sun breaks on the horizon. A desperate love, in the guise of loving desperation.

(un)poetic is anything but.

No rules. Just pure expression poured on the page with shaking hands and envisioned through tear-filled eyes. This is different, this is new. Raw. This is poetry, here and now.

(un)fettered
to soar free of inhibition. a collection of poetry that skims the surface of fathomless emotion, leaving waves across the placid sea. m ennenbach plumbs these ripples in search of connection. sometimes the only answer is to tear down everything and examine it in its basest form. (un)fettered.

(un)requited
unwanted. unfulfilled. unworthy. in the moment you offer every bit of yourself, mind body and soul, only to find you were not enough. broken hearted and alone. (un)requited.

GUEST MOVIE REVIEW by Chris Miller: Snake Eyes (1998)

Snake Eyes (1998)

Director: Brian De Palma

Screenplay: David Koepp

Story: Brian De Palma & David Koepp

Starring:
Nicolas Cage
Gary Sinise
John Heard
Carla Gugino

A shady police detective finds himself in the middle of a murder conspiracy at an important boxing match in an Atlantic City casino.


I bet no one expected to see this movie come up for review in 2021, did they? While it’s often been derided by critics and filmgoers alike (at least it was at the time it was released), I have always been a fan of this suspense-thriller from De Palma, a man who knows a thing or two about horror and suspense. It’s a movie that’s overlooked and mostly forgotten now, but I would encourage folks to give it another chance. It isn’t a perfect movie by any stretch, but it gets so many things right that I look for in a movie that its faults are easily overlooked, at least for me.

Before I dive right into the review, let me say a few words about Nic Cage. I’m personally a huge fan, especially the more batshit he gets (think of his performances in MANDY, the 1993 remake, KISS OF DEATH, BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS, VAMPIRE’S KISS, and there are plenty more). He goes completely off the rails and over the top in some of his performances, but unlike most actors, he does it brilliantly. I know this is just my opinion, so fuck you. The man makes you really believe he’s out of his mind, and it may well be that he is, who knows? But he’s not only good at nuts. He’s good at smarmy, at humor, can play a complete slimeball or a loving family man, all with equal vigor and commitment. He pumps movies out constantly nowadays, to varying success, but one thing about Cage that sets him apart from most: he doesn’t need a good script or director to still be good in a movie. The movie can totally blow, but he still kills it. His latest movie as of this writing is PIG, which has a terrific script and direction, and an understated performance for Cage. It’s utterly brilliant and highly recommended. But I digress…

SNAKE EYES opens with one of the best long shots I’ve ever seen, with the camera focusing on some monitors as a storm rages outside of a boxing arena and casino in Atlantic City, showing us a frustrated news woman reporting on the big fight of the night as a government official is seen walking in with his entourage. Then the camera pans to another monitor where a reporter is getting ready to go onscreen inside the arena when Ricky Santoro (Nicolas Cage) shows up in loud clothes and a big, cocky grin as the camera then pans off the monitors and to the actors themselves. What follows for roughly fifteen minutes is us trailing Cage as he runs into a bookie, sees one of the fighters (turns out they went to the same school), catches a drug dealer whom he robs and then destroys all of his vials of drugs.

Did I mention Ricky Santoro is a cop?

In fact, he’s a homicide detective, and he immediately takes the money he steals from the dealer to the bookie to put money down on the match. We then follow him as he enters the arena and a hot blond that is going to carry the number 7 (his lucky number) sign around the ring and he gives her his number. Then his girlfriend calls him on his golden flip phone (he’s a flashy big fish in his small pond) and does some dirty talk, then his wife calls and there’s a hilarious moment where he argues with her as to what toppings are on a given pizza. The crowd is roaring and he quickly gets off and points to his best friend Kevin Dunn (Gary Sinise), a military man who is in charge of security for the government official for the night. Now, De Palma may have used some of Hitchcock’s tricks from the classic ROPE with some fast camera pans that were probably cuts, but you still have the illusion we’re still in that single, long opening shot. He sits down, has some banter with his pal. Ricky is king of his little world in his own mind, and he lets us know it.

Now, stay with me, there’s a reason I’m detailing this opening shot. The whole movie revolves around this shot going forward.

Sinise sees a stunning red haired woman who seems totally out of place in the front row. She’s not with anyone. Since he’s head of security, he goes to inspect. The fight has started, but we don’t see anything in the ring. We hear punches and see the crowd reactions, and when they all stand up at once, the woman takes off and Sinise follows. We pan back to Cage who tells a woman who sits next to him the seat’s taken, but when he notices how beautiful she is, he changes his tone. Then his phone rings again and it turns out to be his “Lucky Number 7”. He scans the crowd, finally seeing her across the way on the top row, waving her big Round 7 card. The woman next to him is leaning back, speaking to the government official. This is sort of in the background of the shot, and Cage starts to notice while on the phone. A man in the crowd stands up to scream, “Here comes the pain, baby! Here comes the pain!” and security is all over the guy.

Then Cage hears the woman (Carla Gugino) telling the government man, “It’s you who’s going to be sorry, Mr. Secretary.”

We finally cut away from the long opening shot as Lucky Number 7 screams and we see Cage’s confusion as he turns around to see the Secretary is shot in the throat, blood spraying out, and we enter one of De Palma’s beautiful slow motion sequences as absolute chaos ensues. The woman stands in shock and is shot in the arm, then Cage tackles her to the ground, pulling his gun and looking up across the way to see Sinise shooting an armed man who was hiding inside a advertising…closet…thing…just watch the movie.

And now, the movie takes off.

De Palma is a master of building suspense, and he’s set a taut stage. Cage takes over the investigation and has an hour and a half before the FBI will get involved. He starts interviewing suspects and we go back in time and see a lot of the same opening shot we just went through, but from other points of view and we start to get a clearer picture of what’s happening. Or, so we think, anyway.

With the entire stadium locked down with 14,000 eye witnesses, the hunt is on for the woman who was speaking with the Secretary, who vanished in the chaos. Cage and Sinise split up, and we follow Sinise now down to a basement where we see not only the red haired woman from before, but also the man from the crowd who had shouted, “Here comes the pain!”

“Someone made you both,” Sinise says, and things turn more sinister. There’s more going on than we thought, and we learn that there is a whole conspiracy surrounding the murder of the Secretary, having to do with a weapons system that was reporting perfect results, but were in fact doctored. Gugino had uncovered all of this and had been corresponding with the Secretary and was going to bring him the evidence at the fight, where they thought it would be safe being so public.

Wrong.

De Palma uses the camera and music in beautiful harmony as the movie goes on and Cage discovers his best friend is not only in on the conspiracy, but had deliberately used Cage as cover, thinking he would just take some money and be quiet. But something about this sits wrong even with a slimeball like Cage’s character, and we see that when he’s hidden the woman and is faced with giving her up and getting rich or getting the shit beaten out of him and then killed.

“I ain’t never killed nobody,” Cage says. Turns out, he does have a moral compass, even if it doesn’t point True North.

The storm outside has become a hurricane, and we watch the smarmy, big shot crooked cop with aspirations to become mayor become a hero, because killing people isn’t something he’s willing to get on board with. Sinise’s character, sinister as he is, doesn’t want to kill Cage. He has a moral compass, too, at least in as much that he doesn’t want to kill his friend…even though he’s still willing to do it.

The big finale comes with a boom and Sinise is exposed. He’s begging Cage to vouch for him, that the woman is a suspect. Cage, beaten and swollen and barely able to stand, tells him, “You got Snake Eyes.”

Sinise takes himself out and Ricky Santoro is a hero in the public eye. That lasts about five minutes, as the movie winds down and all of Santoro’s life is under scrutiny. It isn’t long before charges are brought against him and he’s set to go to jail. The movie ends with him and Gugino talking, and that he’ll give her a call in 12 to 18 months, which she looks forward to.

De Palma is a master of suspense, and no stranger to horror movies. No one would mistake this film for a horror flick, but some of the shots, the way he moves the camera to build tension, the flashes of lightning and the shadows of killers within them, all of this gives it a feel—at least in the final third of the film—of a horror movie. This works well with the suspense and Cage’s over the top performance after he’s been so badly beaten still works because, well, he’s fucking Nicolas Cage!

The movie has some plot holes, some things that don’t quite add up, but I didn’t care about any of that. The movie starts cranking up the tension from the first reel, ratcheting it tighter and tighter all the way to the end. Cage’s performance is delightfully over the top and a lot of fun to watch, and Sinise is as solid as ever. De Palma’s direction is the real winner here, though, because no one else does it quite like him. He can take a script with holes in it and deliver what I still think is a masterpiece of suspense.

A great cast, a unique setting and plot (holes and all), and a director who is often compared to Hitchcock all come together to deliver a chilling little film that is all but forgotten now. If you tried it out in ’98 or a long while back with a “meh” reaction, maybe it’s worth giving it a second look, especially if you take it for what it is: an exciting little suspense flick. It’s not quite a ‘turn your brain off popcorn movie’ (it isn’t an action film), but while you really want to pay attention to the details, especially in that amazing opening scene, the movie doesn’t require much from it’s viewers beyond that. If you’re anything like me, that’s perfectly fine so long as they manage to keep it taut and fun.

SNAKE EYES does both.


Boo-graphy:
Chris Miller is a native Texan who began writing from an early age. In 2017 he began publishing, and since then has published several novels – including the Amazon bestselling Splatter Western Dust (nominated for the Splatterpunk Award) – a collection, Shattered Skies, and has also been inducted into many anthologies. Chris is 1/3 of the writing collective Cereberus, and likes to play guitar. He is first and foremost a family man and is happily married to the love of his life (and best friend) Aliana. They have three beautiful children and live in Winnsboro, TX.

Shattered Skies
Taut as a guitar string. More relentless than time. Award-winning author Chris Miller offers up ten tales of terror and suspense to crank up your anxiety in the way only he can.

Desperation, panic, worlds on fire, and much more.

Featuring a foreword by Patrick C. Harrison III and a story co-authored with M. Ennenbach, SHATTERED SKIES will leave you breathless, white-knuckled, and wanting more.

The Master of Suspense is at your service.

Cereberus Rising
(co-authored with Patrick C. Harrison III and M. Ennenbach, together Cereberus)

A poet, a master of horror, and a master of suspense join forces as Cerberus. With three prompts–Cabin Fever, Letters, and Chaos–the three-headed beast dishes out nine novelettes. Cerberus Rises with their unique styles to take you on a journey through nine different levels of Hell.

GUEST MOVIE REVIEW by Chris Miller: Found (2012)

Found (2012)

Director: Scott Schirmer

Screenplay: Todd Rigney (based on his novel)

Starring:
Gavin Brown
Ethan Philbeck
Phyllis Munro
Shane Beasley

A horror-obsessed boy discovers his older brother is a serial killer.


FOUND (or if you prefer the pretentious titling “found.”) is an extremely low-budget (the movie was made for about $8,000) coming of age horror film, adapted for the screen by its novelist. And when I say ‘horror film’, I’m not fucking joking. Like at all. They may not have had much money to make this movie with, but they used every last dollar to its fullest potential and delivered something so utterly disturbing and profound, it has literally shaken me.

And I’ve seen it twice now. There was no less “shaken-ness” upon my second viewing, even knowing what was ultimately coming.

Marty is a young boy who loves horror movies. His older brother also has a love for horror movies, but it seems that maybe big bubba’s fascination with the genre has gone far past his little brother’s. From the opening scene we’re made aware that Marty’s older brother is a serial killer who likes to decapitate his victims and put their head in a bowling ball bag, which he keeps in his closet. Every so often, Marty goes in to have a look. It’s usually black women (there’re a couple of moments where we see that Marty’s dad and older brother are racists), but once in a while it’s a man, even a white man sometimes. Marty’s brother has no idea that his brother knows his secret, and is very defensive of anyone coming into his room for any reason without his explicit permission.

It goes without saying that the family dynamic is, well…fucked. Marty is bullied at school, his dad is a racist asshole, and his mom has her head in the sand. And to top it all off, as I started with, his older brother is a serial killer.

But there’s more to it than that. While a serial killer, there seems to be one person in the world Marty’s brother actually cares for: Marty. He’s rough with him when he finds him snooping in his room, but when he finds out about how his little brother has been bullied, there is a genuine brotherly bond shown, and it’s totally believable. Marty’s brother isn’t soulless, though the ending might make you think so (we’ll get there in a minute). Just mostly so. But he cares about Marty. We get the impression of neglect, perhaps even some abuse that has happened to the brother in the past, though it’s never shown or spoken outright. And it’s this implied aspect that makes the relationship between Marty and his brother seem so genuine. Marty is scared of his brother. Marty knows he’s evil. But Marty also knows that his brother is, ultimately, the only one who is willing to stick up for him in this world.

The movie’s production quality isn’t high, but you wouldn’t think you were watching a college project film at any point, either. Like I said, every dollar of its tiny budget is used to its full effect. The acting, especially by Marty, is actually pretty good, and there are some terrific moments of suspense that have you gripping the armrests of your chair and holding your breath.

It isn’t until the middle of the movie that it gets really nasty, when Marty has a friend over and they borrow one of his brother’s movies he’s stolen from the video store, called HEADLESS. The movie within the movie is mindless splatter trash, but it’s extraordinarily graphic: women’s clothes ripped off by a masked psycho who then chews off one of their breasts, decapitating victims only to fuck their head through their esophagus, all shown in very graphic detail, coming just shy of faux snuff.

The movie shakes Marty, makes him realize who his brother has modeled himself after. Marty loses all his friends along the way because of the bullying and no one wanting to be associated with him. He’s into drawing comics and making up cool heroes and villains, but when his best friend writes him off and his parents lose their cool with him, Marty’s brother loses his cool altogether, and in glorious, horrific form.

I’m not going to give away the ending, because it has to be experienced to really get you. Most of the violence is off screen, but what we know is happening is probably the most depraved thing I’ve ever seen committed to film (NOTE: I have not seen and will not see A SERBIAN FILM, I don’t need that level of filth in my head). It’s a powerful ending, if hard to watch, but I promise you it will leave you with your jaw hanging open and, perhaps, your stomach rolling. And it’s power comes not in showing you every gory detail, but by experiencing it all through Marty’s perspective, as his brother goes about as batshit as anyone on film ever has. He’s not over the top like Nic Cage can go—there’s nothing fun about this movie—but he’s at least as insane as I’ve ever seen Cage get, and if I’m being honest, far surpasses any of his roles in terms of being deranged.

There is some graphic, shocking nudity and implications in incestual rape towards the end. This movie sort of falls into that slasher flick style in the final fourth of the movie, but it does it with grace and respect for the audience’s intelligence, and without giving a single good goddamn how you feel about it.
In short, this is a powerful little horror film. It isn’t going to be for everyone, probably not even most people, but for those who can appreciate this sort of cinema, I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find something more profound in low budget horror after the final frame cuts to black. It’s haunting, horrific, mesmerizing, and all too real.

It can be found on Shudder, Prime, or on DVD. I advise those with weak constitutions to avoid this film. It is not a film to watch with your kids. This movie takes itself deadly serious and doesn’t go for laughs. Because there’s nothing funny about it. It’s too real. The bullying, the neglect, the pain of growing up, the bond of brotherhood, and the ultimate, psychotic ending, all of it is played straight, and the movie is all the more horrifying for it because it never blinks, and there is never a winking moment of levity to any of the content.

I’m usually one who prefers the darker stories to have some humor in them, but there is none to be found here. And for this movie, it works. That’s where it gets its power. This isn’t a fucking joke and it’s all too possible that this could really happen. I don’t think a big budget movie could have ever pulled this off, never mind the fact no major studio would ever come near it, even with a twenty foot pole.

Take what I’m saying here seriously: DO NOT WATCH THIS IF YOU CAN’T TAKE EXTREMES. There aren’t many, but when they happen, they genuinely shock, but they don’t shock for the sake of shocking you.

It shocks you because, as you’ll see, it’s so real you can see yourself in it.


Boo-graphy:
Chris Miller is a native Texan who began writing from an early age. In 2017 he began publishing, and since then has published several novels – including the Amazon bestselling Splatter Western Dust (nominated for the Splatterpunk Award) – a collection, Shattered Skies, and has also been inducted into many anthologies. Chris is 1/3 of the writing collective Cereberus, and likes to play guitar. He is first and foremost a family man and is happily married to the love of his life (and best friend) Aliana. They have three beautiful children and live in Winnsboro, TX.

Shattered Skies
Taut as a guitar string. More relentless than time. Award-winning author Chris Miller offers up ten tales of terror and suspense to crank up your anxiety in the way only he can.

Desperation, panic, worlds on fire, and much more.

Featuring a foreword by Patrick C. Harrison III and a story co-authored with M. Ennenbach, SHATTERED SKIES will leave you breathless, white-knuckled, and wanting more.

The Master of Suspense is at your service.

Cereberus Rising
(co-authored with Patrick C. Harrison III and M. Ennenbach, together Cereberus)

A poet, a master of horror, and a master of suspense join forces as Cerberus. With three prompts–Cabin Fever, Letters, and Chaos–the three-headed beast dishes out nine novelettes. Cerberus Rises with their unique styles to take you on a journey through nine different levels of Hell.