GUEST MOVIE REVIEW: The Howling

In the third part of CM Saunders’ five-part series, he talks about The Howling.

Top 5 Eighties Horror Flicks #3

Title: The Howling
Year of Release: 1981
Director: Joe Dante
Length: 89 minutes
Starring: Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee, Dennis Dugan, Christopher Stone, Slim Pickens, John Carradine, Elisabeth Brooks

Humour, often coupled with OTT excess, was a common staple in eighties horror movies. It was symptomatic of the times, when a large percentage of people had more money than they knew what to do with and many were off their tits on coke. It was a good time. This humour seems especially suited to werewolf movies as if someone way back in the day decided there was something knee-slappingly funny about people transforming into humungous wolf-like creatures and ripping innocent bystanders into bloody pieces.

While far more subtle than some examples, the humour is still evident in Joe Dante’s classic The Howling. The script, adapted from Gary Brandner’s novel by screenwriter John Sayles who had previously worked with Dante on tongue-in-cheek classic Piranha, positively drips with satire (“You were raised in LA, the wildest thing you ever heard was Wolfman Jack.”) and the humour moves centre-stage right at the very end, as if the makers simply couldn’t contain themselves any longer. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The fact is that even now, over four decades after it was first released, The Howling is still a brutal, terrifying, and deeply disturbing journey into the dark heart of the lycanthrope legend which has long been considered a metaphor for the beast lurking inside all of us, something which is hinted at several times throughout the movie. If you’ve never seen it, that’s something you need to rectify.

Karen White (Scream Queen Dee Wallace, star of horror staples Cujo, the original Hills Have Eyes, and Critters, but probably best known for her role in E.T.) is a television news anchor in LA who thinks she is being stalked by a serial killer. In conjunction with the police and TV crews, she takes part in a sting operation, agreeing to meet the murderer in a sleazy porno cinema. In the ensuing kerfuffle, the serial killer is shot dead by cops, but Karen is left severely traumatised by it all and suffering from PTSD and amnesia. Her therapist (Macnee, that bloke off the Avengers) suggests she and her husband (Stone) spend some time at an exclusive retreat in the countryside to help her recovery, something they are only too happy to do. Big mistake. The Colony, as they call it, is full of colourful characters, one of them being a nymphomaniac called Marsha (Brooks) who tries to seduce Karen’s husband. When he rejects her advances, she follows him into the woods and scratches his arm, thereby ‘turning’ him. They later do it next to a bonfire (snigger) in one of those scenes that you probably rewound way too much as a horny teenager, before getting creeped out by the fact that by the time they finish shagging you are essentially watching a couple of Furries getting some in make up and monster suits.

Anyway, Karen soon begins to suspect that something sketchy is going on not just with her husband, but at the retreat as a whole, and calls in a little help from her friends. That’s when things get interesting, if they weren’t interesting enough before.

There’s no getting around it, by today’s standards The Howling comes across terribly dated in parts. But the script is extremely well-written, the cast is a who’s who acting talent and, though Rick Baker deservedly won an Oscar for his creature effects on An American Werewolf in London a year later, Rob Bottin’s work here is just as impressive. You can achieve quite a lot with tiny inflatable air bags under latex skin. He lets the side down somewhat in the climactic scene where Karen, now also changed, morphs into something resembling a cocker spaniel live on air which is more hilarious than frightening, but we’ll let that one slide. I prefer to think that particular scene (a late addition tagged on to the end while Wallace was filming Cujo) is meant as one of those era-defining tongue-in-cheek moments.

An earlier section where the werewolf attacks Karen’s friend at a secluded cabin in the woods is straight-up terrifying, as is the part where our heroine comes face to face with the monster for the first time and watches transfixed as it transforms in front of her. The suspense is maintained throughout, and the action rarely lets up. There’s also a fair bit of sex and nudity which led to some reviewers, somewhat unfairly, dubbing it ‘erotic horror’. Dante (who also directed Gremlins, Innerspace and Burying the Ex, amongst others) fits all the pieces together nicely, and shows neat little touches here and there, like having Little Red Riding Hood playing in the background at one point and naming many characters after directors who made other werewolf films, like George Waggner, who directed The Wolf Man (1941). In keeping with this theme, the consensus on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes (where it holds a respectable 74% approval rating) reads: “The Howling packs enough laughs into its lycanthropic carnage to distinguish it from other werewolf entries, with impressive visual effects adding some bite.”

Brilliant.

Unsurprisingly, due to its success, The Howling spawned a sequel (Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf) in 1985. What is surprising, however, is that despite the sequel being a total flop it then led to a bunch more, none of which were very good. The most recent was the eighth installment released in 2011. In January 2020 it was announced that Andy Muschietti, director of Mama (2013) and It (2017) had been hired to direct a remake for Netflix. That should be fine, as long as they don’t decide to remake the other seven.                

Trivia Corner:

Dee Wallace and Christopher Stone were married in RL, having met on an episode of CHiPs before filming started on The Howling. They were together until his death from a werewolf bite (not really. It was a heart attack) in 1995.

On the 13th of every month I put a fresh spin on a classic movie in my RetView series over at my blog. Go here to check out the archive.

Boo-graphy: Christian Saunders, a constant reader who writes fiction as C.M. Saunders, is a freelance journalist and editor from south Wales. His work has appeared in almost 100 magazines, ezines and anthologies worldwide including Fortean Times, the Literary Hatchet, ParABnormal, Fantastic Horror, Haunted MTL, Feverish Fiction and Crimson Streets, and he has held staff positions at several leading UK magazines ranging from Staff Writer to Associate Editor. His books have been both traditionally and independently published.

The fifth volume in my X series featuring ten (X, geddit?) slices of twisted horror and dark fiction plucked from the blood-soaked pages of ParABnormal magazine, Demonic Tome, Haunted MTL, Fantasia Diversity, and industry-defining anthologies including 100 Word Horrors, The Corona Book of Ghost Stories, DOA 3, and Trigger Warning: Body Horror.

Meet the local reporter on an assignment which takes him far beyond the realms of reality, join the fishing trip that goes sideways when a fish unlike any other is hooked, and find out the hidden cost of human trafficking in China. Along the way, meet the hiker who stumbles across something unexpected in the woods, the office worker who’s life is inexorably changed after a medical drug trial goes wrong, and many more.

Also features extensive notes, and original artwork by Stoker award-winning Greg Chapman.

Table of Contents:
Demon Tree
Revenge of the Toothfish
Surzhai
The Sharpest Tool
Something Bad
Down the Road
Coming Around
Where a Town Once Stood
The Last Night Shift
Subject #270374
Afterword

X X2 X3 X4 X5

GUEST MOVIE REVIEW: The Lost Boys

Here we are with the second part of this five-part series with author CM Saunders, this one focusing on one of my favorites, The Lost Boys.

Top 5 Eighties Horror Flicks #4

Title: The Lost Boys
Year of Release: 1987
Director: Joel Schumacher
Length: 98 mins
Starring: Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Dianne Wiest, Kiefer Sutherland, Jami Gertz

Number Four in our countdown of eighties horror flicks is something that typifies the entire decade; cool, sassy, and slick, but with a dark, dangerous edge. It’s a conversation which comes up every so often. There you are, semi-drunk with a group of colleagues, or on one of those awkward Tinder dates, when in an effort to lift the tension and find some common ground, somebody asks, “So, what’s your favourite film?”

Obviously, there’s no right or wrong answer. It’s entirely subjective. But it’s still a bit of a loaded question. Say the wrong thing, and it could cloud someone’s opinion of you forever. What would your peers and prospective lovers think if you gave the accolade to Human Centipede 2? Or even worse, the Adam Sandler disaster Jack and Jill? For me, there are a few contenders (neither Human Centipede 2 or Jack and Jill is among them, you’ll be glad to know). But for a long period in my formative years, my answer was The Lost Boys.

It wasn’t always a popular choice. Horror hounds and 80’s film buffs might nod with appreciation, while others, especially the younger crowd, invariably frown and say ‘You what?’

Given that The Lost Boys came out over 35 years ago, I suppose that’s an acceptable reaction. Upon release it was a modest hit but was no Top Gun or Dirty Dancing, and has since passed into the ranks of ‘cult classic.’ That said, it has certainly aged better than most 80’s movies. Have you seen Weird Science recently? Don’t bother.

Anyway, directed by Joel Schumacher and made on a budget of just $8.5 million, the Lost Boys was a triumph of style over substance, in many ways encapsulating the decadence of the decade. It was big, brash, gaudy, and ever-so-slightly camp. Yet by the same token funny, slick, and immeasurably cool. In the case of Kiefer Sutherland, it might also be one of the very few times a lead character rocks a mullet and gets away with it.

For the uninitiated, The Lost Boys is the story of two brothers, Sam (Haim) and Michael (Patric) who move with their recently-divorced mother (Wiest) to stay with her eccentric father in Santa Carla, California. Cue lashings of teen angst and despair about feeling isolated and not fitting in and stuff. At a local comic book store, Sam bumps into the Frog Brothers (Feldman and Newlander) who warn him that the town has become overrun with vampires and give him comics to educate him about the threat, while big brother Michael falls in love with Star (Gertz) who happens to be in a relationship with a local gang leader called David (the aforementioned mullet-sporting Sutherland). Yup, you guessed it, David’s gang is actually made up of the very same vampires that have been terrorizing the town and  making people disappear, and they want the star-struck (sorry) Michael to join their ranks. Don’t forget, this was back when vampires were glitter-free and legitimately scary. The story builds to an epic showdown between good and evil featuring some fantastically creative kill scenes (“Death by stereo!”) and even better one-liners.

At the time, Lost Boys represented something of a gamble by Warner Bros. Horror comedies aimed specifically at younger audiences were an unexplored genre, and a largely untapped well. It was a constant battle with the censors to sneak in as much gore as possible without falling foul of an ‘adults only’ rating that would severely limit your cinema-going audience. To make things even more problematic, the main cast was comprised mainly of unknowns (even if one of them had a famous dad) and even director Joel Schumacher was a largely unknown quantity with only The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981) and St Elmo’s Fire (1985) on his resume.   

Even with the benefit of having 35 years to think about it, it’s hard to pinpoint what makes Lost Boys work so well. The plot itself is a little thin with not many surprises, but the script is sharp and witty and the performances are a cut above. Given Corey Haim’s untimely end, this is how most people remember him. A piece of marketing genius, the slogan (sleep all day, party all night, never grow old, never die. It’s fun to be a vampire) captured both the imagination and the mood of a generation, while the shiny MTV-style visuals are positively spellbinding, Kiefer Sutherland made the coolest villain ever, and Jami Gertz sent pulses racing. The haunting rock-infused soundtrack, an essential component of any 80’s movie, was also a contributing factor. Even Nanook the dog deserves praise for several show-stealing scenes.

However, despite all this, Lost Boys was much more than the sum of its parts, making an undeniable impression on the Generation X psyche and paving the way for everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the Twilight saga. The movie spawned two low-key sequels; Lost Boys: the Tribe (2008) and Lost Boys: the Thirst (2010) but neither set the world on fire, and a rumoured proper sequel, the Lost Girls, also directed by Joel Schumacher and which sounds pretty amazing, failed to materialize. The enduring legacy of Lost Boys ties in neatly with the source of the title, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan who, just like vampires, never grew up. To my knowledge he didn’t end up dissolving in a bath of garlic or being impaled on a fence post, either, so there’s that.

Trivia corner:

The producers originally wanted to call the town where Lost Boys is set Santa Cruz, because during the 1970s Santa Cruz gained a reputation as being “the Murder Capital of the World” after three infamous serial killers (Kemper, Mullin, and Carpenter, aka the Trailside Killer) hunted victims there. However, the Santa Cruz council ‘strongly objected’ to the town being portrayed in such a negative manner and allegedly withheld filming permits, forcing the producers to change the name to Santa Carla. Spoilsports.

On the 13th of every month I put a fresh spin on a classic movie in my RetView series over at my blog. Go here to check out the archive.

Boo-graphy: Christian Saunders, a constant reader who writes fiction as C.M. Saunders, is a freelance journalist and editor from south Wales. His work has appeared in almost 100 magazines, ezines and anthologies worldwide including Fortean Times, the Literary Hatchet, ParABnormal, Fantastic Horror, Haunted MTL, Feverish Fiction and Crimson Streets, and he has held staff positions at several leading UK magazines ranging from Staff Writer to Associate Editor. His books have been both traditionally and independently published.

The fifth volume in my X series featuring ten (X, geddit?) slices of twisted horror and dark fiction plucked from the blood-soaked pages of ParABnormal magazine, Demonic Tome, Haunted MTL, Fantasia Diversity, and industry-defining anthologies including 100 Word Horrors, The Corona Book of Ghost Stories, DOA 3, and Trigger Warning: Body Horror.

Meet the local reporter on an assignment which takes him far beyond the realms of reality, join the fishing trip that goes sideways when a fish unlike any other is hooked, and find out the hidden cost of human trafficking in China. Along the way, meet the hiker who stumbles across something unexpected in the woods, the office worker who’s life is inexorably changed after a medical drug trial goes wrong, and many more.

Also features extensive notes, and original artwork by Stoker award-winning Greg Chapman.

Table of Contents:
Demon Tree
Revenge of the Toothfish
Surzhai
The Sharpest Tool
Something Bad
Down the Road
Coming Around
Where a Town Once Stood
The Last Night Shift
Subject #270374
Afterword

X X2 X3 X4 X5

GUEST MOVIE REVIEW: The Fog

This is the first in a five-part series by author CM Saunders where he discusses with us his top five 80s horror picks. I hope it encourages you to either watch (or maybe re-watch) some old classics. I know it really helped me to get some of my Halloween spirit back this year, and since Halloween isn’t over until I say it’s over, you’ve got plenty more time to sit back and enjoy these.

Top 5 Eighties Horror Flicks #5

Title: The Fog
Year of Release: 1980
Director: John Carpenter
Length: 89 minutes
Starring: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Hal Holbrook, Janet Leigh

Any horror movie aficionado of a certain age will tell you that the eighties were a special time. Yes, some of the music was questionable and the fashion sense largely atrocious. Plus, there was no internet meaning that you had to physically go to shops to buy things. There were no cellphones, either, so you usually had to go by yourself. Crazy, I know. But the movies were something else. What they lacked in special effects and CGI they more than made up for in wit and atmosphere. That’s why I’ve decided to mark this Halloween spooktacular with a rundown of the top 5 horror flicks of the decade. You’ll probably be familiar with most of them. If not, seek them out immediately. Despite the big shoulder pads and spiky hair, you won’t be sorry.

One more thing before we get started; this list, as with most lists, is entirely subjective. If you don’t like it, make your own damn list.

Following the success of Halloween two years earlier, John Carpenter was considered hot shit in Hollywood and virtually given free license to do what he wanted on the Fog, albeit on a modest budget. He didn’t disappoint. Being sandwiched between Halloween and Escape from New York the Fog is often overlooked, but remains one of the jewels in carpenter’s crown. 

As the Californian coastal town of Antonio Bay nears its hundredth anniversary, paranormal activity begins to rocket. When a huge chunk of masonry falls out of a wall in his church, town priest Father Malone (Holbrook) finds his grandfather’s journal hidden in the alcove. When he reads it, he uncovers a terrible secret. The original townsfolk, led by Malone’s grandfather, deliberately sank a clipper ship, the Elizabeth Dane, and plundered it for gold, which was then used to establish the town and build the church. Cut to the present day, and a fishing boat is out at sea when it is engulfed by a mysterious glowing fog. You guessed it, there’s something in there. Specifically, it’s the Elizabeth Dane, and her very angry (and very dead) crew.

The heart and soul of San Antonio is the local radio station, seemingly managed by Stevie Wayne (Barbeau) all on her lonesome. The radio station is set up in an old lighthouse, meaning Stevie is in pole position to see the glowing fog, which suspiciously moves against the wind, approach the town. Weatherman Dan helpfully calls to tell her about it, but unfortunately, Weatherman Dan could make a strong case for being the stupidest man in the world and he is dead moments later. Instead of just calling it a night and going home, Stevie then takes to the airwaves to implore any passing strangers to go to her house, address provided, to save her son who is stuck there with the soon-to-be-dead babysitter. A short time later, she apparently gives up on him altogether and shifts her attention to saving the villagers instead who have gathered for a Centenary celebration. In an apparent attempt to help the crew of the Elizabeth Dane find them quicker, she tells them all to gather in the church where an epic showdown takes place.  

As well as writing, directing, and even pulling off a brief cameo role, John Carpenter also composed the musical score. I didn’t notice the significance until I sat down and actually listened to it. It consists of the usual deep, ominous, brooding tones, which are then mimicked by lighter tones. Same chords, different tones. When I thought about it, that effect conjured up the notion of being stalked or followed, which I imagine to be an effective tool to use on the subconscious whether intentional or otherwise. The music is instrumental (boom!) in making the Fog such an atmospheric, satisfying, well-made chiller. The plot is ultimately a tad predictable, but there’s just enough gore and jump scares to keep things interesting.

The fate of the Elizabeth Dane is said to be based on that of an actual wrecking which took place off the coast of California near the town of Goleta in the 19th century. This particular kind of skulduggery appears to have been mercifully rare in America. However, it was a lot more prevalent in Britain (LINK). John Carpenter also claimed to be partly inspired by a visit to Stonehenge with his co-writer/producer (and then-girlfriend), Debra Hill while in England promoting Assault on Precinct 13 in 1977. They visited the site in the late afternoon, and saw an eerie fog in the distance. Though carpenter and Hill worked together on The Fog, Halloween and several other projects, by the time the Fog came to be filmed Carpenter was married to Adrienne Barbeau. Unusually, both Carpenter and Hill were involved in the 2005 remake starring Selma Blair and Tom Welling, which managed to stay more-or-less faithful to the original.  

Trivia Corner:

Worried the film might flop, the distribution company, AVCO Embassy Pictures, spent around $3 million on advertising and promotion, mostly on expensive TV, radio and print ads. They also spent a considerable amount installing fog machines in the lobbies of cinemas where the film was showing. That was almost three times the amount the film cost to make. However, the gamble paid off as it generated over $21 million at the Box Office.

On the 13th of every month I put a fresh spin on a classic movie in my RetView series over at my blog. Go here for the archive.

Boo-graphy: Christian Saunders, a constant reader who writes fiction as C.M. Saunders, is a freelance journalist and editor from south Wales. His work has appeared in almost 100 magazines, ezines and anthologies worldwide including Fortean Times, the Literary Hatchet, ParABnormal, Fantastic Horror, Haunted MTL, Feverish Fiction and Crimson Streets, and he has held staff positions at several leading UK magazines ranging from Staff Writer to Associate Editor. His books have been both traditionally and independently published.

The fifth volume in my X series featuring ten (X, geddit?) slices of twisted horror and dark fiction plucked from the blood-soaked pages of ParABnormal magazine, Demonic Tome, Haunted MTL, Fantasia Diversity, and industry-defining anthologies including 100 Word Horrors, The Corona Book of Ghost Stories, DOA 3, and Trigger Warning: Body Horror.

Meet the local reporter on an assignment which takes him far beyond the realms of reality, join the fishing trip that goes sideways when a fish unlike any other is hooked, and find out the hidden cost of human trafficking in China. Along the way, meet the hiker who stumbles across something unexpected in the woods, the office worker who’s life is inexorably changed after a medical drug trial goes wrong, and many more.

Also features extensive notes, and original artwork by Stoker award-winning Greg Chapman.

Table of Contents:
Demon Tree
Revenge of the Toothfish
Surzhai
The Sharpest Tool
Something Bad
Down the Road
Coming Around
Where a Town Once Stood
The Last Night Shift
Subject #270374
Afterword

X X2 X3 X4 X5

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: CM Saunders

Meghan: Hey, Chris. Welcome back to Meghan’s HAUNTED House of Books. Thank you for once again taking part in our annual Halloween Extravaganza. Tell us about this new release I’ve been hearing about.

Chris: That would be X5. As the title suggests, it’s my fifth collection of short fiction. Most of the stories have appeared in magazines or anthologies before, and it’s a great feeling to package them up together and give them a new lease of life.

Meghan: What’s your favorite story in X5 and why?

Chris: You know how some people say you should love all your kids the same? Well, that’s bullshit, we all have favourites, and the same applies to stories. There’s one called Subject #270374, which I wrote about doing a drug trial in London making the story an (un)healthy mix of fact and fiction. It was a very weird experience, and fully merited having a horror story written about it. It first appeared in the anthology DOA3 on Bloodbound Books.

Meghan: What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Chris: I have a tradition where I stay up all night and watch horror movies. It doesn’t matter whether I’m alone or with someone else. That’s what I’ve always done, and that’s what I will continue to do. It can be a problem if I have work the next day!

Meghan: Do you get scared easily?

Chris: Only by centipedes and beautiful women.

Meghan: What is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen and why?

Chris: I remember watching the original Evil Dead as a teenager and being absolutely terrified. The whole concept of being the only survivor in the middle of nowhere having to overcome so many unnatural horrors  having just seen all your friends get either killed or possessed is just grim.

Meghan: Which horror movie murder did you find the most disturbing?

Chris: I don’t really find horror movies disturbing. It’s just a movie, right? Right?

Meghan: Is there a horror movie you refused to watch because the commercials scared you too much?

Chris: Unfortunately not.

Meghan: If you got trapped in one scary movie, which would you choose?

Chris: Without a doubt, Lost Boys. Come on, it was the eighties. That movie struck the perfect balance between style, substance and cheese. It made vampires cool before they were cool.

Meghan: If you were stuck as the protagonist in any horror movie, which would you choose?

Chris: Probably Jason Vorhees, because he just keeps on trucking.

Meghan: What is your all-time favorite scary monster or creature of the night?

Chris: Werewolf. Can you imagine having a friend who was a werewolf? I think, depending on the nature of your relationship, every full moon it would would cease to be scary and start being hilarious. The level of banter would be unprecedented.

Meghan: What is your favorite horror or Halloween-themed song?

Chris: Anything from the Disintegration album by the Cure. It’s brilliant, but so bleak and atmospheric. If dying sounds like anything, it probably sounds like that. It would also be the perfect soundtrack to anything remotely scary.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Chris: The Troop by Nick Cutter. If you’ve read it, you’ll know why.

Meghan: What is the creepiest thing that’s ever happened while you were alone?

Chris: I once woke up with scratches on my back in places I couldn’t reach, all in sets of three. I concluded that I had been the victim of a demonic attack, and thanked my lucky stars I’d been asleep when it happened because I don’t want to see that shit.

Meghan: Which unsolved mystery fascinates you the most?

Chris: There are so many. For a species that’s supposed to be intelligent, people leave a lot of questions unanswered; Jack the Ripper, Dyatlov Pass, the Bermuda Triangle, the JonBenet Ramsey murder, the 411 disappearances, and whatever is going down at the Winchester Mystery House. Top of the pile, though, is WTH happened to Flight MH370. I’ve read a couple of books on it, and they all agree there was a lot going on behind the scenes. Those poor people might just have been collateral damage.

Meghan: In a zombie apocalypse, what is your weapon of choice?

Chris: It would be easy to say some sort of assault rifle or machine gun, or even a sniper’s rifle enabling you to take zombies out from distance? But what happens when you run out of bullets? Then you would be in a world of hurt. For that reason, maybe a sword would be better, especially up close. One good swipe could take out a whole family of rotters.

Meghan: Okay, let’s have some fun… Would you rather get bitten by a vampire or a werewolf?

Chris: Vampire, because then I could party all night, sleep all day, and live forever (or until someone rams a wooden stakes through my heart). I know they say that if you’re bitten by a werewolf you turn into one at the next full moon, but most of the werewolf victims I see in movies just get torn to pieces. That’s no fun. No fun at all.

Meghan: Would you rather fight a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion?

Chris: Zombies. Aliens are more likely to exist, but they’re an unknown quantity. They might be capable of anything. You know where you are with a horde of zombies so theoretically you’re more likely to come through.

Meghan: Would you rather drink zombie juice or eat dead bodies from the graveyard?

Chris: Zombie juice, please. It sounds like a Halloween cocktail. We can always put some vodka in it to give it a bit of a kick.

Meghan: Would you rather stay at the Poltergeist house or the Amityville house for a week?

Chris: Ooh, Amityville! I was greatly affected by the original Amityville Horror and it looks like a beautiful house. The poltergeist house is suburbia personified. Boring.

Meghan: Would you rather chew on a bitter melon with chilies or maggot-infested cheese?

Chris: I love chilies! I think the maggot-infested would depend on the maggots. There’s an Italian cheese called Casu martzu which has live maggots in it. Google it. I am a huge fan of cheese, but that’s gross. I have a line.

Meghan: Would you rather drink from a witch’s cauldron or lick cotton candy made of spider webs?

Chris: Dunno. What’s in the cauldron? Is it all eye of newt and toe of frog, etc? If so, I’ll go with that. I lived in China for ten years and I ate all that stuff anyway. One day a friend of mine told me she was coming over to cook a ‘special’ meal, and then she turned up with a pig’s snout.

Boo-graphy: Christian Saunders, a constant reader who writes fiction as C.M. Saunders, is a freelance journalist and editor from south Wales. His work has appeared in almost 100 magazines, ezines and anthologies worldwide including Fortean Times, the Literary Hatchet, ParABnormal, Fantastic Horror, Haunted MTL, Feverish Fiction and Crimson Streets, and he has held staff positions at several leading UK magazines ranging from Staff Writer to Associate Editor. His books have been both traditionally and independently published.

The fifth volume in my X series featuring ten (X, geddit?) slices of twisted horror and dark fiction plucked from the blood-soaked pages of ParABnormal magazine, Demonic Tome, Haunted MTL, Fantasia Diversity, and industry-defining anthologies including 100 Word Horrors, The Corona Book of Ghost Stories, DOA 3, and Trigger Warning: Body Horror.

Meet the local reporter on an assignment which takes him far beyond the realms of reality, join the fishing trip that goes sideways when a fish unlike any other is hooked, and find out the hidden cost of human trafficking in China. Along the way, meet the hiker who stumbles across something unexpected in the woods, the office worker who’s life is inexorably changed after a medical drug trial goes wrong, and many more.

Also features extensive notes, and original artwork by Stoker award-winning Greg Chapman.

Table of Contents:
Demon Tree
Revenge of the Toothfish
Surzhai
The Sharpest Tool
Something Bad
Down the Road
Coming Around
Where a Town Once Stood
The Last Night Shift
Subject #270374
Afterword

X X2 X3 X4 X5

GUEST BOOK REVIEW by William Meikle: Something Wicked This Way Comes Part 3

Green Town 2:
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Ray Bradbury

Genre: Coming of Age, Horror, Halloween
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Original Publication Date: 9.17.1962
Pages: 314

One of Ray Bradbury’s best-known and most popular novels, Something Wicked This Way Comes, now featuring a new introduction and material about its longstanding influence on culture and genre.

For those who still dream and remember, for those yet to experience the hypnotic power of its dark poetry, step inside. The show is about to begin. Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. The carnival rolls in sometime after midnight, ushering in Halloween a week early. A calliope’s shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. Two boys will discover the secret of its smoke, mazes, and mirrors; two friends who will soon know all too well the heavy cost of wishes…and the stuff of nightmares.

Few novels have endured in the heart and memory as has Ray Bradbury’s unparalleled literary masterpiece Something Wicked This Way Comes. Scary and suspenseful, it is a timeless classic in the American canon.

Something Wicked This Way Comes – A Review (Part 3)

Part 2: Departures

The end game begins with the two boys completely under the influence of Mr Dark. They are frogmarched through town, as if they’re being shown off, and they are unable to do anything but comply. They are taken to the carnival where Mr Dark gathers the crowd for one last trick of the night – the infamous bullet trick. He asks for a volunteer to fire the weapon. There are seemingly no takers… then Will’s father steps forward.

It’s a wonderful moment. I almost felt like cheering. And now we come to the face-off. With the help of the crowd, Will’s father manages to free Will from the carnival’s clutches long enough to get him by his side to help aim the weapon. It’s a wonderfully tense scene, and we can almost see Mr Dar begin to sweat. Things aren’t quite going his way. And things get worse for the carnival. Using the crowd’s laughter, Will’s father takes his shot… and kills the Dust Witch.

The dad and Will flee into the mirror maze to search for Jim, another wonderfully tense little scene where Dad looks to son and son looks to Dad and they see they are mirror images of each other.

“And then, at last, he gave the maze, the mirrors, and all Time ahead, Beyond, Around, Above, Behind, Beneath or squandered inside himself, the only answer possible.”

Dad laughs, and the maze trembles. He takes note, and laughs again, the spell of the carnival finally broken.

The mirror maze collapses in shards and fragments. Jim is not among them; he is running in the dark as the carnival closes down, with both the autumn people and Dad and Will looking for him.

They find Jim at the carousel. Jim takes the ride into his future, still under the carnival’s influence, but is stopped and thrown off by Will’s love for her, leaving Jim in a stupor on the grass with Will watching over him while Dad heads for a final confrontation with Mr Dark.

It all comes down to this; a father standing between the boys and the darkness.

Mr Dark has disguised himself as another boy, but Dad sees through him, sees his fears. He hugs the boys close, the power of love starving the dark. The boy succumbs, the carnival falls with him… but Jim is still in a death-like trance.

But Dad knows what is needed. Joy and laughter will bring the boy back; he gets Will to join him in capering and singing and dancing. The power of their love and joy brings Jim back to them.

“They yanked Jim. Jim flew. Jim came down dancing.”

The carnival has fallen to ruin around them. Only the carousel remains, a last temptation for all three of them. They turn their backs on it, and make for home.


“Then, as the moon watched, the three of them together left the wilderness behind and walked into the town.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this reading, and I hope you’ve enjoyed my real-time walk through it.

I’m older now than Will’s dad in the book, and it’s a different experience reading it now than it was when I was Will’s age. The nostalgia factor is strong now, and Will’s dad’s thoughts on aging and death resonate strongly. But as ever with Bradbury, it’s the magic that’s the thing, magic that brings back youth.

And I feel young again.

Boo-ology: William Meikle is a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with more than twenty five novels published in the genre, and over 300 short story credits in thirteen countries. His work has appeared in a number of professional anthologies. When he is not writing, he plays guitar, drinks beer, and dreams of forture and glory.

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