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

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Joe Scipione

Meghan: Hi, Joe. Welcome to Meghan’s HAUNTED House of Horror. This is your first time here so thank you from all of us for taking time out of your schedule to join in our frivolities. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Joe: Even though I’m a horror writer, Halloween has always been more about dressing up in a funny way as opposed to being scary. The last few years, my daughter has decided that my family should dress up in themed costumes for Halloween. A few years ago we were all characters from the show Phineas & Ferb, last year we were Winnie the Pooh characters (I was Winnie the Pooh of course—I do a pretty mean Winnie the Pooh impression) and this year we will be doing Curious George characters. My son, who is going to be 16 even plays along every year so recently that has been a lot of fun.

Meghan: Do you get scared easily?

Joe: Not really. Things that scare me the most are real life things as opposed to books and movies. If I was going to say one thing scares me the most it is something happening to my family. I do like when books, movies or TV shows make me feel uncomfortable and that’s the feeling I go for when I write something. If I make someone feel uncomfortable, or if they are cheering for the hero (Or hoping something terrible happens to the villain) in one of my stories then I think I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.

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

Joe: After saying movies don’t usually scare me, I will saw Jaws is probably the movie that sticks with me the most. I grew up in Massachusetts and spent many summers on Cape Cod. Jaws was filmed on Martha’s Vineyard which is just off Cape Cod and there is always that little thought in the back of your head when you’re in the ocean there when you think a shark could come up and rip you in half. That is certainly and uncomfortable feeling I was talking about earlier.

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

Joe: I could go with Jaws again, but another of my favorite horror movies is Hellraiser. The death of Frank at the end when he has the hooks attached to him and they are pulling him in all different directions and stretching his face out always stuck with me as particularly brutal.

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

Joe: No. I was actually never a big horror movie fan when I was younger (though I’ve always read a ton of horror) so I find that now that I’m older I’m trying to go back and see the horror movies of the 80’s and 90’s that I never saw.

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

Joe: I’d have to go with Beetlejuice here. If I was going to be stuck in a scary movie, at least this way I’d be entertained at the same time. Also, who wouldn’t want to be a ghost?

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

Joe: Defintely Danny Torrance from The Shining. Obviously there would be some trauma I’d have to work though, but at least I know I’d survive and then I’d have this incredible superpower for the rest of my life.

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

Joe: One of my favorite books of all time is It by Stephen King. I love the cast of characters and the fact that we get to see them as children and as adults. Pennywise has long been my favorite monster in movies or in books. What could be better than an evil clown with cosmic powers beyond anything most people would be able to comprehend?

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Joe: As I mentioned before, it’s a newer tradition, but themed family costumes has become my favorite thing about Halloween.

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

Joe: Its not necessarily Halloween-themed, but there is a song by Aerosmith called Voodoo, Medicine Man and it always gave off some creepy vibes for me. I listen to that song a lot when I’m trying to get in the mood to write a certain type of scene. The song is dark and starts off slow but builds to a loud, fast-paced ending that I always loved. The intro to the song was creepy as hell too.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Joe: I always have the same answer to this question and it’s a fairly newer book. The Cabin At the End of the World by Paul Tremblay is always going to be at the top of my list for questions like this. I can’t put my finger on one specific thing about the book that cause this to happen, but I read it in two days and the night after I started reading it, I couldn’t sleep. I kept falling asleep and waking up thinking about that book. The premise was great and the characters were so well written I think it just stuck with me like only a few other books have ever been able to do.

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

Joe: I wasn’t alone, but I was driving home from high school late one night for some reason. I was with a friend and we had to drive by a church in my hometown, which is directly across the street from the town common. It was probably around 7 or 8 at night, it was dark and cold out. Ass we drove by, I looked over into the common and there was a kid—maybe 6 years old—kneeling in the middle of the grass just staring up at the church. There was no one else around. I was so freaked out I made my friend turn around to see if the kid needed help. We hadn’t gone that far and when we got back the kid was gone. We would have been able to see him if he’d got up and left, he just disappeared. That creeped me out for a long time—still does.

Meghan: Which unsolved mystery fascinates you the most?

Joe: I don’t know if this counts as an unsolved mystery or not, but the existence of life on other planets is fascinating to me and it always has been. The more we learn about just how large space is and how much stuff is out there, the more likely it becomes that there is other intelligent life somewhere on one of those planets. I hope in my life time we get some definitive proof of life outside of our little planet. Even if we do, it will continue to fascinate me. Of course, there might already be definitive proof that the public just doesn’t know about. 😊

Meghan: What is the spookiest ghost story that you have ever heard?

Joe: I can’t think of a specific one, but any ghost story that is based in reality I find so interesting. Just like I want aliens to be a real thing, I would love if there was some way to prove that ghosts exist.

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

Joe: I don’t think I’d be able to kill all the zombies in a zombie apocalypse, so give me a good bomb shelter with plenty of food and water and plenty of books and I think I’ll be ok for a while.

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

Joe: Vampire, 100%. Who wouldn’t want to be a vampire?

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

Joe: Alien invasion. Put me right up front.

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

Joe: I hate putting gross things in my mouth, even the thought of it makes me gag a little. That said, I could drink zombie juice like a shot and I’d have to chew up the dead body before I ate it, so give me those zombie juice shots all day.

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

Joe: Poltergeist house.

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

Joe: I love spicy foods so I’ll take the melon with chilies.

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

Joe: That’s a though one, but I don’t know what that witch is going to try to do to me, might turn me into a rat or something, so I’ll take the spider web cotton candy.

Boo-graphy: Joe Scipione lives in the suburbs of Chicago with his wife and two kids. He is the author of Perhaps She Will Die, Zoo: Eight Tales of Animal Horror, and Decay. His novellas, The Life & Times of Edward Morgan and Justice, are due out in 2023 from D&T Publishing. He is also a Senior Contributor at HorrorBound.net. When he’s not reading or writing, you can usually find him cheering on one of the Boston sports teams or walking around the lakes near his home.

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Paul Flewitt

Meghan: Hi, Paul. Welcome back to Meghan’s HAUNTED House of Books and thank you for being a part of this year’s Halloween Extravaganza. Interesting fact for you: I was looking at post views for all of my Halloween celebrations over the years and I found that YOUR Clive Barker Retrospective in 2019 (Pt 1, Pt 2, Pt 3, Pt 4, Pt 5, Pt 6) has the most views of all GUEST BLOG POSTS in the history of me being a book blogger. Which I find super awesome. I should add that to the trivia next year!! What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Paul: I love getting together with the kids and getting dressed up. For my family and friends, Halloween is a big event. We have friends who have an annual, themed party, so the costumes and themes are planned for months in advance. We’ve done everything from Historic Villains, to Rocky Horror, to Scary Fairytales. It’s a hell of a lot of fun. I absolutely love it. The chance to just get together with my family and friends, have fun and revel in the darkness is amazing. It’s also the one night of the year where I’m not the weirdo, so that’s cool too.

Meghan: Do you get scared easily?

Paul: Not really. Real life scares me far more than anything in books or in movies. For me, horror and Halloween is an escape from all of that crap we see in the news and, largely, have very little control over.

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

Paul: Not so much scary, but one I vowed never to watch again was Salo. That movie works on several different levels. It’s disgusting for one thing, but is also very loosely based on true events. There were portions of that movie which made me feel physically sick. It’s certainly one you only ever need to watch once. If you watch horror movies for fun, that one certainly isn’t a good time.

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

Paul: Again, none really. Personally, I find the deaths in movies like American History X or The Shawshank Redemption to be far more disturbing because they’re there with a point and hit close to home. In horror, they’re mostly set pieces to get from one place to another. They’re like the finishing move in a wrestling match. From that standpoint, I appreciate how well they’re done than actually become disturbed by them.

That said, I think the way they rendered the second death of Georgie Denbrough in the first new It movie was really well done. That was pretty heartbreaking actually, and both the young actors really dug deep for that one.

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

Paul: Nah, the only movies I really refused to watch are ones which just look too silly to even be funny. I’m talking about stuff like the Sharknado films, which I just can’t even approach. They have their audience, I’m sure, but I’m not among them.

I will admit though, I had to stop watching The Handmaid’s Tale after a while. That series just cut closer and closer to the bone after a while, and it started making me inordinately angry as I saw governments seemingly taking it as an instruction manual. I really enjoyed the series, but I just had to walk away from it for a while. And really, that has to be a compliment to the writers and actors.

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

Paul: Would I want that? Really? I mean, if I had to choose one then it’d probably be the Scream franchise, because the antagonist is crap at his job and I’d have half a chance at survival.

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

Paul: Again, why would I want that? Writers tend to enjoy torturing their protagonists, so why would you want to be in that position? Nah, this is one time I will advocate for being the protagonist in some sort of comedy.

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

Paul: Everyone who knows me (you included) knows the answer to this one. It’s Pinhead, from the Hellraiser movies. There’s a grace and elegance about that character, especially in the first two or three films. I appreciate that his appearances are used sparingly, and that his speeches are few and far between. He doesn’t say much, but when he does speak there’s usually a profundity in his statements which are breathtaking. That’s something I feel they got wrong as the franchise moved on and away from Barker’s original vision, and he quickly became a cheesy parody of what he was meant to be. Still, we have those first two or three movies.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Paul: Well, maybe not an official tradition, but the costume parties at my friends’ house is always the highlight. And, if they don’t happen for whatever reason, then it’s sitting down for a classic movie marathon with the kids, or just reading a good horror story.

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

Paul: I’m a big lover of horror movie soundtracks, so the first Hellraiser score is on pretty heavy rotation in my house. That, and the Phillip Glass piano music from Candyman. That’s something that Barker always got in his movies – a great score.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Paul: A very little-loved Barker novel called Mister B. Gone. As I’ve already said, I don’t really get scared or disturbed by books and movies, but that one I had to put down for a while. There are parts of the book where it’s like it’s talking directly to you. Now, I read it when my daughter was first born, so I wasn’t getting a lot of sleep at the time. So, reading it at the dead of night, with your wife snoring softly beside you, and the book starts threatening your family and describing their deaths. Yeah, that got to me at that point.

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

Paul: My wife says I’m a psychic black hole, so creepy things don’t really happen around me. I’ve walked into supposedly haunted places with people who are attuned to that kind of thing, and they say pretty much the same. So, I’ve never experienced anything which couldn’t be explained. It’s quite the disappointment really.

Meghan: Which unsolved mystery fascinates you the most?

Paul: There are a few, and many of them offer inspiration for stories. Particularly though, Jack the Ripper is probably the main one. I do love anything to do with ghost ships, which I find absolutely fascinating.

Meghan: What is the spookiest ghost story that you have ever heard?

Paul: A lot of the stories by MR James, which I’ve just re-read. He really was a master of dark atmosphere, and reading his stuff on a dark night is truly creepy.

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

Paul: Anyone with a dodgy leg… and my wife. Seriously, hear me out a moment.

So, if you’re being chased by a zombie horde, you’re going to want someone slower than you are, right? It buys you time to get away, so why not keep a person with a dodgy leg around?

And my wife because we recently went to an axe throwing centre and found that she has something of a natural talent for throwing pointy objects at things. So, she is definitely a weapon of choice in any situation.

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

Paul: A vampire. That would be erotic as hell.

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

Paul: Tough one. Are we talking traditional, slow zombies, or new style fast ones? If its traditional ones, then I’m taking them bastards all day long.

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

Paul: Erm… neither sound particularly appetizing. Can I just stick with a JD, or a nice glass of red wine please?

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

Paul: Oooh, neither of those, because we have our own version of that here in the UK. I’d stay there in a heartbeat, and take my pad and pen with me.

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

Paul: Well, there’s a lot of protein in them maggots, you know?

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

Paul: Did you say cotton candy? I do like me some cotton candy …

Boo-graphy: Paul Flewitt is a horror and dark fantasy writer from Sheffield, UK, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Paul began publishing in 2012, beginning with the flash fiction story, Smoke, for OzHorrorCon’s Book of the Tribes anthology. He went on to pen further short stories, including Paradise Park, Climbing Out, Apartment 16c and Always Beneath.

In 2012, he also published his first novel, Poor Jeffrey, which was received to much critical acclaim.

His novelette, Defeating the Black Worm, was released in 2021, through Demain Publishing.

Paul cites writers such as Clive Barker, Stephen King, James Herbert, and JRR Tolkien as inspirations on his own writing.

Paul continues to write, contributing to Matt Shaw’s The Many Deaths of Edgar Allan Poe anthology in 2020 with The Last Horror of Dear Eddie. He also began releasing free short stories and fanfiction on his Wattpad account for fun.

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Henry L. Herz

Meghan: Hi, Henry. Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books and thank you again for agreeing to take part in this year’s Halloween Extravaganza. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Henry: As a kid, my favorite part of Halloween was the candy, of course. Now, it is the costumes. Any excuse for a party is a good excuse.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Henry: Seeing groups of kids happily wandering through the neighborhoods, their pillowcases bulging with sugary loot.

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

Henry: Free candy and costumes! What’s not to like? It gives us all an excuse to slip into an alter ego.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Henry: Nothing.

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

Henry: Dracula. Think of how terrifyingly unstoppable a vampire would be with its powers and wisdom from existing for centuries.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Henry: The murders committed in 1888 London by Jack the Ripper. Who was he? Why did he do it?

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Henry: The Licked Hand – a scared girl hears an ominous dripping coming from within her home. She is reassured by her faithful dog, who licks her hand from under the bed. Eventually, she investigates the noise only to find her dog slaughtered and a message written in blood – “humans can lick hands too”.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Henry: Hannibal Lecter because he is so intelligent, depraved, creepy, and sophisticated. If he sets his eyes on you, you are toast… with some fava beans and a nice bottle of Chianti.

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

Henry: I think my first horror movie was Jaws. I did not want to go swimming for quite some time after that. I unexpectedly slipped into reading horror when I discovered how good a writer Stephen King is with Different Seasons, which was comprised of four novellas, more dramatic than horrific. So, after that, my first horror book was Salem’s Lot. Vampires, yeah. Scary.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Henry: I was less scared by Cujo, Christine, or Carrie than I was It. An alien clown. Why did it have to be an alien clown? Preying on kids. Want a balloon, little boy?

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Henry: There’s a scene in An American Werewolf in London when the two friends are out walking in the fields at night, scared by wolf howling. One slips and falls and they have a good laugh. Right in the middle of that comic moment, the werewolf slams into one of them. Scary!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Henry: Being a fantasy fan and San Diego Comic-Con attendee, I’ve seen some amazing costumes. Inside jokes, like the cabbage merchant from Avatar: The Last Airbender crack me up. I also like authentic “recreations”, like a group of eight women dressed as Adapta Sororitas (Sisters of Battle) from Warhammer 40K. I love mashups, like a little girl in a pastel-colored Predator costume and tutu, or a mashup of Boba Fett and the giant chicken Ernie from Family Guy.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Henry: Ooh, it’s hard to pick just one. Dragula by Rob Zombie, Thriller by Michael Jackson, Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr., Dead Man’s Party by Oingo Boingo. Don’t Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult, and of course, Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon.

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

Henry: The 100 Grand candy bar from Ferrero is the king of Halloween candy. Fight me. Chocolate, caramel, and krispies, undiluted by gratuitous peanut butter, coconut, or whole nuts. The three most disappointing candies of my youth were candy corn (all the candy corn ever made was made in 1911), elephant “peanuts” (stale marshmallow formed into large peanut shapes, flavored with a hint of self-loathing), and Necco wafers (sad pastel-colored discs of brittle chalk).

Meghan: Before we go, what are some of your top Halloween movies and books?

Henry: Some of my favorites scary movies include Ghostbusters, The Silence of the Lambs, Se7en, and Kiss the Girls. For scary books, you can’t go wrong with horror written by Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, and Neil Gaiman.


Boo-graphy:
Henry L. Herz is the author of 11 traditionally published children’s books. He also writes scary adult and young adult stories, including: “Cheating Death” in The Hitherto Secret Experiments of Marie Curie anthology (Blackstone Publishing), “The Castle on the Loch” in Castle of Horror IV anthology (Castle Bridge Media), “Demon Hunter Vashti” in the Jewish Book of Horror anthology (Denver Horror Collective), “Gluttony” in Classics Remixed anthology (Left Hand Publishing), and “The Kelpie of Loch Ness” in If I Die Before I Wake: Tales of Nightmare Creatures anthology (Sinister Smile Press).

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I Am Smoke
Smoke speaks in mesmerizing riddles: “I lack a mouth, but I can speak…. I lack hands, but I can push out unwanted guests…. I’m gentler than a feather, but I can cause harm….”This rhythmically powerful narration is complemented by illustrations in which swirling smoke was captured on art paper held over smoky candle flames, and the dancing smoke textures were then deepened and elaborated with watercolors and Photoshop finishes. With this unique method, Mercè López “let the smoke decide how the idea I had in mind would dance with it, giving freedom to the images.” The resulting illustrations are astounding, and they resonate with the otherworldly text.

Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes
Enter an enchanted land of mythical creatures where manticores reign and ogres roar-a land of mystery and fright. A unique twist on traditional rhymes of everyone’s youth, “Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes” presents a more sinister approach to these childhood classics, and yet the sing-song nature of the poems renders them playful and jovial at the same time. Little Witch Muffet is not frightened by a silly, little spider; she simply adds him to her stew!

Rotten zombies, giants, dwarves, and goblins mingle with werewolves, centaurs, and fauns. Follow along the skeleton stepping stones, scale up a palisade, claw at the window of a tasty child and bake him into a pumpkin shell. Monsters cook up delicious elvish pie, too! Every kid who has an eensy weensy bit of sense wants a pet with feathers white as snow, who flies like an eagle and bleats like a goat-a hippogriff, of course!

Six forest sprites with four times as many pixies escape from a loaf of bread atop the elaborate table of the fey queen; her feast has flown away! If you enjoy mischief and have a penchant for the morbidly hilarious, the Herzs’ rhymes will satisfy your mythological curiosities.

Larson’s illustrations give new life to these ancient figures, and her artistic style employs the bold lines and colorful movement of an action-packed comic book. The author also includes a “bestiary” with information about the book’s legendary creatures, which hail from Scotland, Germany, Italy, Persia, Haiti, and Scandinavia.