GUEST MOVIE REVIEW: Lisa Morton

Halloween III: Season of the Witch
By: Lisa Morton

Let’s get one big thing out of the way first: Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) is possibly the worst sequel ever made. I don’t mean that in the sense that this is the worst movie ever made that followed another movie, but rather that this is not even remotely a sequel to Halloween (1978) or Halloween II (1981). This movie has no slasher in a William Shatner mask (except for a couple of scenes of the first movie glimpsed on televisions), no courageous Laurie Strode frantically repurposing a wire coat hanger into a weapon. Making this movie part of the Halloween franchise is about like making a Mad Max movie set in a scenic utopia where everyone walks.

Aside from that, there’s really a lot to love about Halloween III: Season of the Witch, especially if you’re one of those who (like me) start cruising stores in July for Halloween stuff. Unlike the other films in John Carpenter’s Michael Myers series, this one is not merely set around and finally on Halloween, but explores the deeper meaning of the holiday itself.

In case you’ve either skipped seeing Halloween III because of the bad press or haven’t seen it since its original release in 1982, here’s what it’s all about: a small-town doctor, Dan Challis (Tom Atkins), is working the late-shift at the hospital eight days before Halloween when he finds that one of his patients has had his face pulled apart. When the dead guy’s comely daughter Ellie (Stacey Nelkin) shows up and decides to investigate Dad’s murder, the good doctor accompanies her to the small Northern California town of Santa Mira, where Dad had been dealing with the Silver Shamrock Company, producers of Halloween masks. Silver Shamrock’s owner Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy) is a mysterious Irish toymaker who is more than he seems. Before long, Dan and Ellie are surrounded by a number of bizarre deaths, all somehow related to a five-ton piece of Stonehenge kept in Silver Shamrock’s basement, surrounded by scientists and high-tech (for 1982) equipment. It’s finally up to Dan to escape Cochran and tell the world that the immensely popular Silver Shamrock masks will unleash more than just a lot of candy.

So, where’s the title witch? Okay, yeah… Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a double-fail as a title because there’s no Michael Myers AND there’s no witch. What there is instead is Conal Cochran, who is known as the ultimate practical joker and who tells Dan that he was around when Halloween was still called Samhain and “the hills ran red.” The first screenwriter on Halloween III was mad genius Nigel Kneale, the British writer who not only wrote the terrifying Quatermass and the Pit (known in the U.S. as Five Million Years to Earth), but even invented a now-accepted paranormal investigation theory in his 1972 television movie The Stone Tape (“stone tape theory” speculates that some objects or structures can record traumatic events and replay them). Producer Debra Hill asked for a story that combined ancient witchcraft and modern technology, and Kneale was brought in to write the first draft but he ended up being unhappy with the gore added later and had his name removed from the credits. Kneale’s influence is plainly still there… but, sadly, watered down. In his draft Cochran was an ancient demon; in the final film, his nature is so ambiguous – is he a trickster spirit? A sorcerer? A Druid? Just a creepy old dude? – that it deprives his character of a shot at real iconic horror stardom.

Halloween III certainly has other problems. It was Tommy Lee Wallace’s first directing gig (he would go on to make the It television miniseries with Tim Curry as Pennywise), and he has a bad habit throughout the film of holding on his actors so long that you can see them actually wondering what they should be doing. Tom Atkins is always a reliable and likeable actor, but his character here is a doctor who drinks and smokes too much, slaps his nurse on the ass, and asks Ellie how old she is after they have sex (hey, at least he’s not a typical hero). The editing is lazy, and the story takes too long to get going.

But here’s what’s great about Halloween III: it’s Weird with a capital W. Weird as in, full-on go-for-broke crazy. Name another movie that incorporates 18th-century clockwork automata, Jerusalem crickets, loving shots of latex masks being produced, a fake living room set in a lead-lined laboratory, a heroine whose last name is Grimbridge, a reference to Samhain, a woman whose face is (very artistically) fried by an energy beam… well, you get the idea. Buried beneath all this wackiness is some interesting commentary about consumer culture, especially about how it has created a middle class that is happy to plant its children in front of a television while the parents are otherwise engaged. The Silver Shamrock commercial jingle, heard throughout the film, limns an American society obsessed with advertising, even at the expense of protecting its own children. Halloween III is one of those few films that doesn’t just threaten children but shows one being graphically killed, while the parents attempt not to save the child but to flee.

It’s probably no coincidence that Halloween III, which John Carpenter co-produced and also co-wrote, is intensely cynical and ultimately nihilistic, because it was released in 1982, the same year Carpenter directed The Thing. Although in some respects it’s closer to Carpenter’s 1980 gem The Fog – they share the same small Northern California coastal town setting – it absolutely reflects the “we’re all doomed” aesthetic of The Thing.

It also happily wallows in Halloween-ness. First are the three Silver Shamrock masks – a jack-o’-lantern, a skull, and a witch – which we get to see in the factory, in stores stocked full of Halloween goods, and on kids parading about the streets in costume, engaged in trick or treat. The plot’s meticulous build toward the 31st – giving us a seasonal countdown – raises the holiday to an appropriate level of importance. And even Cochran’s undefined nature could arguably be a comment on the deeper mysteries surrounding the history of Halloween.

If you’ve never seen Halloween III: Season of the Witch, consider giving it a spin this October. Go in knowing it’s neither a perfect film nor a classic slasher and you might find other, stranger pleasures here to enjoy instead. Just don’t blame me if that Silver Shamrock jingle gets stuck in your head for weeks after.

Boo-graphy: Lisa Morton is a screenwriter, author of non-fiction books, Bram Stoker Award-winning prose writer, and Halloween expert whose work was described by the American Library Association’s Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror as “consistently dark, unsettling, and frightening.”  She has published four novels, 150 short stories, and three books on the history of Halloween. Her recent releases include Weird Women: Classic Supernatural Fiction from Groundbreaking Female Writers 1852-1923 (co-edited with Leslie S. Klinger) and Calling the Spirits: A History of Seances; her latest short stories appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 2020, Final Cuts: New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles, and In League with Sherlock Holmes. Her most recent book is the collection Night Terrors & Other Tales. Lisa lives in Los Angeles and online.

From Halloween expert Morton, a level-headed and entertaining history of our desire and attempts to hold conversations with the dead.
 
Calling the Spirits investigates the eerie history of our conversations with the dead, from necromancy in Homer’s Odyssey to the emergence of Spiritualism—when Victorians were entranced by mediums and the seance was born. Among our cast are the Fox sisters, teenagers surrounded by “spirit rappings”; Daniel Dunglas Home, the “greatest medium of all time”; Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose unlikely friendship was forged, then riven, by the afterlife; and Helen Duncan, the medium whose trial in 1944 for witchcraft proved more popular to the public than news about the war. The book also considers Ouija boards, modern psychics, and paranormal investigations, and is illustrated with engravings, fine art (from beyond), and photographs. Hugely entertaining, it begs the question: is anybody there . . . ?

An abused child finds comfort in the friendship of Frankenstein’s monster…a near-future Halloween party becomes an act of global terrorism…one of the world’s wealthiest men goes in search of his fate as he rots from within…Hans Holbein’s famed “Dance of Death” engravings are revealed to be an instruction manual…a man trapped on an isolated road confronts both a terrifying creature and the legacy of his tough-as-nails grandfather…

Night Terrors and Other Tales is the first major collection to gather together twenty of Lisa Morton’s finest short stories (chosen by the author herself). During a career that has spanned more than three decades, she has produced work that has been hailed as “consistently dark, unsettling, and frightening” (the American Library Association’s Readers Advisory Guide to Horror).

If you’ve never encountered Lisa Morton’s work before, you’ll find out why Famous Monsters called her “one of the best writers in dark fiction today.” If you’re already a fan, this collection will offer up a chance to revisit these acclaimed and award-winning stories. You’ll also find a new story here, written just for this collection: “Night Terrors” reveals ordinary people trying to cope with extraordinary and terrifying dreams that have spread like a plague.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Thomas R. Clark

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

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

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

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

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

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

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

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

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

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

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

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

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

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

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

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

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

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

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

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

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

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

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

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

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

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Tommy: Type O Negative, Black No. 1

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

Tommy: Candy Corn. Popcorn Balls.

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

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


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

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

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Matthew R. Davis

Meghan: Hey, Matthew! Welcome to Meghan’s (Haunted) House of Books… or (Holiday) House of Books because, technically, it’s December… but I’m just not ready to finish with Halloween, as you can tell. Thanks for joining in our annual frivolities. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Matthew: The fact that we celebrate all that is spooky and dark! While the day has come a long way from its roots, it’s broadened to include all kinds of horrors, and so naturally I love the aesthetics and the focus on peering into the shadows.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Matthew: Ah, I don’t really have one. In Australia, we don’t get out on the streets as much as other countries – I’ve never been trick or treating, though at one of my previous homes (Ghastly Manor) we did put out some props and hand lollies over to groups of roving children. I do like to get out and celebrate the Spooky Season – there are usually a few goth events on, my partner and I attended a double bill of Shaun of the Dead and Dawn of the Dead a few years back, and last year a dearly departed friend had his final, posthumous exhibition opening on Halloween night.

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

Matthew: Again, it’s all about the celebrations of horror and the macabre. The trappings of Christmas are an annoyance to me – carols and tinsel, chintzy decorations indulged in just because It’s What We Do, the religious angle – so Halloween provides a much-needed balance.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Matthew: Pretty much nothing. I’m an entirely irreligious person, and while I keep an open mind, I don’t believe in the paranormal – which is perhaps an odd attitude from a horror writer whose work is so often supernatural! I guess I’d like some of the stories to be true, for these hints of further worlds to be genuine, because then there’s so much more to explore and it might also mean there’s something else to come after we shuffle off this mortal coil – and while I don’t think there is, I have to admit that the idea of an afterlife beyond the codified legends of religion, freely entered without having to follow some deity’s laws of conduct and devotion, is an appealing one. I believe we get one life and we need to make the most of it, but I won’t feel too bad if I’m ultimately proved wrong… so long as I don’t end up consigned to excruciating and unjust torture for all eternity!

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

Matthew: I tend to wince when I see yet another meme or image that wheels out the pop culture horror big guns like Freddy, Jason, Michael, Pinhead, Ghostface, Regan McNeil, Pennywise, Leatherface, etc. There’s so much more beyond these figureheads! That said, I am a fan of most of those characters, or at least some of the movies in which they feature. (My hot take: The Exorcist is overrated Catholic propaganda.) But I prefer standalone films with one-off monsters or villains, and having said that, now I have to think of some in order to actually answer this question! Here are some notables: the witches and their associates from Suspiria (original and remake), the titular woman from The Autopsy of Jane Doe, the ghosts of The Haunting of Hill House series, the creepy doubles from The Broken, the grotesqueries that appear throughout In the Mouth of Madness, the demons from, well, Demons, the haunting at the heart of Mungo Lake… and so, so many more!

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Matthew: I don’t know if I could pick just one! Some cases are so intriguing that a solution is craved if only to satisfy the onlooker’s curiosity, but then, so much of their interest is predicated on them remaining unsolved. I hope they are unraveled so those close to the victims can gain closure, but the mystery is always more satisfying than the solution. It may be a little ghoulish to find titillation in the unsolved disappearances and deaths of strangers, but why shouldn’t we be curious? Nothing is ever learned without someone applying thought to the situation.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Matthew: I’m not credulous and I don’t scare easy, and most legends are fairly humdrum and ridiculous anyway, so I guess… none. I do find them interesting, though, and I occasionally include one in my work. A pair of 1960s teenage spree killers inspire a schoolyard ditty in my novel Midnight in the Chapel of Love, and rumours of their visit to the titular Chapel lead others to try and find the place.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Matthew: None. Fuck those people. I don’t have a favourite rapist or a favourite thug, so why should I have a favourite murderer? While I am intensely curious about serial killers and love to read about them, I don’t ever glorify what they do – my interest lies largely in my inability to understand how people could do such atrocious things to others, and in the processes by which they can be profiled, identified, and captured. I want to know what causes some people to kill and I want to know how we can stop them. Accordingly, I find great interest in books by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker, who set out their stall with Mindhunter.

Meghan: I guess I should have worded that question differently. I did not mean “favorite” as in one you idolize, but “favorite” as in the one that intrigues you the most. But I digress… How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

Matthew: Okay… I don’t know for sure, but I remember seeing bits of a movie I now know is Cruise into Terror (1978), including an Egyptian sarcophagus that started breathing, and that was quite creepy when I was so young. The only movie I ever turned off was The Masterson Curse (aka Scared Stiff, 1987) when I was ten, because I couldn’t stand the tension building up to a well-telegraphed jump scare – something tells me I’d find that movie very mild going these days!

As for books… I read one of Guy N. Smith’s Crabs books before I should have, and that was pretty heavy going. The Choose Your Own Adventure books got quite grim sometimes, and then there were darker variants like the Plot Your Own Horror Story series. The only one I own is Grand Hotel of Horror (Hilary Milton, 1984), which snaked under my skin with its anything-goes terrors and eerie illustrations, and other entries saw you trapped overnight in a mall, a haunted house, and even a space museum. In fact, Space Age Terrors has one of the best back cover taglines I have ever seen.

It is programmed to destroy.
It can walk through locked doors.
It is looking for you.

Brrr!

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Matthew: At the risk of sounding repetitive and dull, it’s rare for a book to actually scare me. Sometimes it’s individual pieces that get to me: some of the seabase scenes in Nick Cutter’s The Deep, the exploration of an abandoned flat and subsequent entry of Black Maggie in Adam Nevill’s No One Gets Out Alive, the increasing religious mania of the father in Ramsey Campbell’s The House on Nazareth Hill and the concomitant persecution of his daughter that leads to a truly shocking climax. Sometimes it’s the creeping mood and atmosphere that lingers after the covers have been closed, like in Laird Barron’s The Croning, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, or Stephen King‘s Pet Sematary.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Matthew: See above, but to avoid repeating myself: Jaws (1975), which I saw far too young and instilled in me an instinctive fear of water deeper than I am tall, not to mention a lifelong phobia of great white sharks! My brother, who watched those films with me (and was two years younger to boot!), recently went cage-diving amongst the great whites of Port Lincoln, and man, let me tell you – it is exceedingly unlikely I would ever even contemplate doing the same!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Matthew: Nothing I’ve ever worn, as I’ve never dressed up in full costume for Halloween. I’ve seen some great ones, though! (Not Great Ones, thankfully.) Let me give a shout out to my partner, who did this great little goth vampire thing a few years back complete with fangs and creepy contacts. As for me, I was wearing a skirt and steel-capped boots – perhaps scary, but not in the same way.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Matthew: John Carpenter’s Halloween theme, naturally; “Halloween” and “Halloween II” by Misfits; “Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare All)” and “All Hallows Eve” by Type O Negative. I can’t think of much else that is explicitly about the season, but I’m a big fan of dark, creepy music in general – I could put together a playlist for Halloween that would kill.

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

Matthew: Chocolate. Not chocolate.


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

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

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

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

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

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

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: S.C. Mendes

Meghan: Hey!! Welcome back. Thanks for agreeing to help us see how long we can celebrate Halloween this year. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

S.C.: Dressing up! I love costumes, and the time spent finding the perfect one is just as fun as sharing it with others at a party. This is also the reason why Halloween is my favorite holiday. As a child, it was my favorite for the spooky movies and decorations and of course what kid doesn’t live getting free candy, but as I got older the joy transferred almost entirely to the aspect of costumes. They don’t even have to be scary anymore. I just like seeing the creativity of myself and others in the art of the costume.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

S.C.: Haunted Houses and carving pumpkins. From my teenage years until late in my 20s, I was a huge scaredy cat at haunted houses. That was part of the fun though. I enjoyed those jump scares and cowering behind friends as we walked through the dark corridors; it helped me get into the spirit of the season. I never understood the guys (or girls) who went in and talked back at the characters in the house or were proud that nothing scared them. I didn’t understand the point of going if you weren’t going to let yourself be vulnerable to the fear. It’s like watching a horror movie and expecting it to be unscary.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween memory?

S.C.: There is a gray area during high school, when you still want candy, but society starts saying you’re too old to be trick or treating. It’s also just before you start getting into trouble at “drinking” parties. My solution to this limbo stage was to turn my home into a haunted house for younger trick or treaters.

My brother and I had a great set up for this. He would sit on a chair at the front door in a costume that made him look like a stuffed scarecrow. Newspaper coming out sleeves and shirt buttons. Kids would be hesitant to approach the door for candy, rightly assuming the scarecrow would jump at them. But my brother never moved a muscle. Parents would assure the kids the figure was just a dummy or older kids would even poke him to prove it. Still my brother waited patiently. After the doorbell was rung and my mom gave out candy, only then would he jump from the chair and scare them. Kids and families would retreat and get to the driveway to laugh and catch their breathe at the good scare…. Then, I would come from the backyard and get them a second time with a fake chainsaw that made noise. We did that two or three years in a row. Good memories!

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

S.C.: In a way, I’m superstitious about everything. Not in a fearful way though. I believe that everything in life happens for a reason and the universe/unseen world is always communicating with us through signs and events. So if something strange happens to me, I tend to analyze what the deeper meaning may be.

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

S.C.: Very hard to pick. But I would probably say Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. At the very least, I quote him more than any other horror villain.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

S.C.: Cliché, but I’ll go with Jack the Ripper because the various theories on his identity fascinate me.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

S.C.: Bloody Mary. Mirrors have always been mysterious objects to me. I remember a high school birthday, maybe sixteen; I had friends over and they pulled that nonsense of summoning her in my bathroom mirror. Well, it’s all well and good until everyone goes home and I’m alone wondering if someone of something is going to appear later in the night and kill me.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

S.C.: I am no longer fascinated by serial killers in the way I was as a youth. As a teen though, I really enjoyed Silence of the Lambs—I dressed as Hannibal Lecter for junior year—and so cannibals became my obsession in serial killers.

Being the rebellious teen I was, not only did I want to be unique in my fashion and music, I wanted my serial killers to be obscure as well. Since everyone knew Dahmer as a cannibal, I researched people like Albert Fish, Peter Stumpp, and the Vampire of Dusseldorf.

If you enjoy serial killers and heavy metal, I cannot recommend this band enough: Macabre.

Macabre has been around for thirty something years, I think, and there songs contain so much info on what these monsters did. Hard to pick a favorite album but Murder Metal is probably my favorite.

As an adult, I feel very different about these monsters. I’m glad I learned about the serial killers at the time, but I no longer want to buy merchandise or dress up like them even for Halloween.

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

S.C.: Not sure what the first was, but I will tell you that I distinctly remember the endings of Friday the 13th and Prince of Darkness. Around when I was 12 or 13, I think. Just when I thought the movie was over—Bam! Jason pulling her into the lake and the melted face of the girl in bed had me off the couch and running from my room before the credits.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

S.C.: We Need to Talk About Kevin. I was always nervous about having kids. Being responsible for the creation of life and ensuring that this human grows up to be…. Well, that’s the thing, isn’t it? Are you responsible for what your child becomes? We Need to Talk About Kevin put the final nail in the coffin when it came to me wanting to have children. Terrifying though not a novel all will consider horror.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

S.C.: Again, I may have a response that isn’t quote horror, although it was violent. As a kid, my Grandma was watching Wisdom with Emilio Estevez and Demi Moore. I was maybe six years old at the time and walked in during the ending scene when the Bonnie & Clyde duo is riddled with bullets. I had never seen people killed in movie before except for Disney and it’s not the same when Bambi’s mom dies or Ursula turns someone into a seaweed person. Watching their real human bodies tear open and bleed scarred me. Maybe it subconsciously spurred my fascination with blood, death, and horror. Who knows. I always remembered Emilio and Demi’s face though and when I was much older I found out what the movie was called. At the time, I had no idea what the movie was. To this day though, after learning what it was, I still have never watched it from start to finish. Just that ending as a six-year-old…

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

S.C.: Too hard to pick a favorite, but some of my standouts over the years were The Dude from The Big Lebowski, Heath Ledger’s Joker, and Johnny Depp from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Honorable mention to Jim Carrey’s Ace Ventura.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

S.C.: Anything by John Carpenter. His music set the stage for so many classic horror films, including Halloween that he is synonymous with the holiday for me. I love his Lost Themes album. Perfect background music if you’re handing out Halloween candy. Or writing scary stories 😉

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

S.C.: Reese Peanut Butter Cups and Butterfinger when I was a kid. Disappointed by Candy Corn.


Boo-graphy:
Learn to appreciate the darkest moments of your life. It is those moments that make our time in the light even more beautiful. S.C. Mendes is the author of numerous short stories and a fan of pen names. The anonymity helps maintain his day job as an indoctrinator of children for the state. THE CITY is the beginning of the Max Elliot saga.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Feind Gottes

Meghan: Hey, Feind! Welcome back! What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Feind: When I was very young my favorite thing at Halloween was seeing The Wizard of Oz on TV. The Wicked Witch was the first thing I ever remember scaring the bejesus out of me and it also meant trick or treating was only a few days away. These days it always seems to play around Christmas which makes zero sense to me. My favorite thing about Halloween these days is watching some of my favorite horror movies leading up to the big day. COVID killed it in 2020, but I had been frequenting a local theater that played horror movies for the month of October. It’s fun to view these movies, some that I never had a chance to see on the big screen, or get to relive my youth by seeing them that way for the first time in decades.  

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Feind: I live in an apartment so I can’t really decorate much and I get zero trick or treaters so my tradition is usually to pick 2 or 3 of my favorite horror movies to watch on Halloween. I try to pick something old like a black & white or old Vincent Price then build to something bloody & gory to end the night. Unfortunately this is usually me alone but add a few adult beverages to the mix and I have plenty of fun anyway. 

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

Feind: As a horror writer it’s hard not to have some affinity for Halloween. It is the night we get to dress up and celebrate all the spooky things I only get to write about the rest of the year. Seeing everyone veer to the dark side always warms my heart. I won’t be the cliché horror writer who claims Halloween as my favorite holiday, for me that is Thanksgiving for completely personal reasons. Halloween is by far the most fun, or at least it can be if you’re not a stick in the mud. 

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Feind: I have to say I don’t really have any superstitions. Maybe that’s disappointing? It’s just me being honest. Send a million black cats across my path and I’ll just stare at how strange a sight that would be LOL

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

Feind: I’m going to cheat here since it wasn’t specified books or movies. In literature I have to go with the beast to beast all beasts, Cthulu! Lovecraft’s Elder God, for me, is the coolest monster ever created and as far as I know he’s never really been done very well or at all in film. This is a fact that makes me very sad.

Now for movies, there are so many greats to choose from but I think my favorite monster is The Thing even though you never even see it in its true form, whatever that is. My favorite human villain of all-time is Otis Firefly played by Bill Moseley in Rob Zombie’s Devil’s Rejects trilogy (so far). I love Otis with an unhealthy passion. Also Bill is one cool MFer who loves to engage with fans whenever he can.  

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most? 

Feind: I have two and neither are a single unsolved murder. I think all lovers of the macabre have at one time or another been fascinated by the Jack the Ripper killings which so far are still frustratingly unsolved despite numerous theories that fill several books. The other would be The Zodiac killings even though this one has essentially been solved. I picked up the book Zodiac by Robert Graysmith when I was a teenager and I’ve been fascinated by the case ever since. The fact that both of these killers managed to get away with their crimes is amazing since every other killer manages to make a mistake or mistakes that finally get them caught.  

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most? 

Feind: Again I’ll disappoint everyone here because I don’t have one. I don’t believe in any of them hence I can’t find them very scary. Sorry.  

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Feind: Wow, there are so many to pick from which is the truly terrifying part. I’m going to go with a lesser known (probably) here and say David Parker Ray sometimes referred to as The Toy Box killer. He, his wife and a group of others who, I believe, remain unknown would kidnap, rape, torture and then sometimes kill their victims. What makes Ray stand out for me is a transcript I read of a recording he would play for his victims after he kidnapped them. He would drug young women and when they awoke they would be naked and tied to a gynecologist exam table. Ray would watch remotely then play a recording when he saw they were awake. In a cold, calculated voice he would describe exactly what the woman was going to be put through. If they tried to escape as some had managed to do they were quickly recaptured or killed and another woman would be kidnapped to take their place. Some of his victims were raped and tortured over years and some became so broken they stayed of their own volition. The transcript is absolutely sick and bone chilling. Look it up if you dare! 

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

Feind: Aside from The Wizard of Oz, since that stopped being scary by the time I was about 6 years old, my first horror movie was The Amityville Horror (1979). I don’t remember the exact year I saw it for the first time, but it was after it came to regular TV so probably about 1982-ish. My oldest sister is about 5 years older than me and she would torture myself and my other sister (also older than me, I’m the youngest) by watching it. At the time it scared the living you-know-what out of me, though I find that pretty laughable now. I was determined to watch it all the way through so my sister couldn’t make fun of me anymore. I did and my love of horror was born.

I became an avid reader around the ages of seven or eight. I blew through young reader books like the Hardy Boys then moved into mercenary books which became uber popular in the early 80s. Then I needed something more. My mother was also an avid reader who had hundreds of books of all genres so I went to her for a suggestion. She knew I liked horror so she suggested I read something by Stephen King. She had several to choose from so after much consideration I picked The Stand because it was huge which I saw as a challenge. I was eleven years old. I loved it and my love affair with King was born. 

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Feind: I am a bit of a weirdo here in that I’ve never really had any book scare me very much. Perhaps a passage here or there but it will likely surprise anyone reading this to know I’m not a very visual person. I find when reading you’re only as scared as your imagination allows you to be. I think from early on I had a knack for suppressing my imagination while reading. The best answer I can give though would probably have to be Zodiac because it was about a real killer who was never caught. I still find the things that scare me most are the real human monsters that could be living right next to you.  

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Feind: Now here I could name several so the hard part is picking just one. I’d say the last one to deeply affect me would be The Human Centipede. Again when you really get into it there could be someone as demented as the doctor in the film out there right now. Also, in this first film of the trilogy, Tom Six went out of his way to see if something like this could actually be done and how it would be done. The scene where one of the girls escapes and the doctor explains to her why he is going to make her the middle segment and why it’s the worst is so disturbing and disturbingly real I had a hard time continuing to watch. Of course, I did ‘cause I’m that kind of sicko. Also “The Scene” in A Serbian Film is the only thing more disturbing I’ve ever seen (if you’ve seen it you know exactly what I’m talking about).

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Feind: Well it wasn’t for Halloween but I would totally do it if it didn’t make such a mess! When I was young my mom and I were part of a “simulation team.” We did accident simulations to help local fire departments and first responders deal with real crisis situations. It was a lot of fun but my favorite scenario we set up was a simulated industrial accident which was actually at the factory my father worked at. I was given dual injuries. I wore a disembowelment prosthetic as well as a severed arm both were complete with blood bladders for me to pump out at the appropriate time. The emergency team that found and worked on me unfortunately failed miserably as they found and treated my disembowelment but completely missed my severed arm. This is why we did these things. So if I had the prosthetics and available fake blood I would totally do something like this for fun on any given Halloween (or really any day of the year just to freak people out)!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Feind: Music is a huge part of my life and I honestly couldn’t write without it. Since I’m a huge heavy metal fan most would consider much of what I listen to, at least, somewhat horror and Halloween themed. However, I think my favorite classic Halloween themed song would have to be Monster Mash by Bobby Pickett. I’ve always loved that one.

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

Feind: I honestly don’t eat very much candy but if you want to make me happy a simple peanut butter cup will do nicely! However, if you try to slip me licorice I may have to kill you in real life not just in print! Also there may not be anything worse than chomping down on what you think is a nice, fruity Mike & Ike’s only to find out it is actually a vile, disgusting Good & Plenty. This is a capital offense requiring the death penalty!

Meghan: Thanks for stopping by, Feind. But before you go, let’s talk Halloween books and movies.

Feind: I know some like to read on Halloween and that’s fine, as a writer myself I won’t discourage it. If that’s what you like to do on Halloween then I would go with an anthology of short stories like Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew or Clive Barker’s Books of Blood though I have stories in several that should fit the bill nicely as well! That said, I prefer to watch some horror films on good ol’ Halloween. You can never go wrong with a classic like John Carpenter’s Halloween (or even Rob Zombie’s remake) or The Thing. If you only have time for one movie you’ll just have to pick your favorite – I have a fondness for The Shining when this is the case. However, if you have time I always prefer to watch two or three films. Sometimes I’ll choose a progression from something old up to a new favorite. For example, a couple years ago I went with Steve McQueen in The Blob followed with Evil Dead II then ended with The Devil’s Rejects. I also find it fun to watch trilogies if possible. I’ve done the Evil Dead or Rob Zombie’s Reject trilogy. I even did a marathon of Ash Vs Evil Dead one year.

I know I was supposed to give you a list of my best but, honestly, it really depends on my mood as to what ends up on such a list. I am a life-long lover of all things horror from the old Universal monster movies to the 50s giant radioactive creature features through the slasher era to low budget Troma horror-coms and everything in between. It would probably be easier to tell you what I don’t like and that is the modern PG13 era horror films that have nothing to offer other than jump scares which is weak sauce to me. I like a good, well-written story that chills you to the bone. It doesn’t have to be bloody and gory but I don’t shy away from any of that either. I also don’t like films that only offer blood and gore with no story. A lesser known film that is a personal favorite is High Tension or Haute Tension which is the first film of Alexandre Aja (Piranha, The Hills Have Eyes, Maniac). I love the story and it has some over the top bloody kills along the way. For me, Halloween is a time to celebrate and revisit your favorite horror films or books. Leading up to it is a good time to check out some new stuff too but to a horror nut, like me (us?), I’m on the hunt for new great horror all year long to have as a new favorite for future Halloween marathons.


Boo-graphy:
Feind Gottes [Fee-nd Gotz] is a horror nut, metal lover and an award winning horror author. Feind currently resides near Omaha, NE

Feind has short stories and flash fiction appearing in over a dozen anthologies with more to come. His novella, Essence Asunder, unleashed by Hellbound Books in 2018 was his first solo release. Feind also gained his first editing credit by co-editing the anthology, Blood From A Tombstone, with Don Smith Jr in 2019. Lastly Feind’s debut novel, Piece It All Back Together also published by Hellbound Books, was released in Spring 2021.

The first draft of Feind’s debut novel won the 2016 Dark Chapter Press Prize followed in 2017 by a Top Ten finish in The Next Great Horror Writer Contest and winning the Vincent Price Scariest Writer Award from Tell-Tale Publishing.

Piece it all Back Together
Deliciously gruesome, original, and highly innovative!

Private Investigator Jamie Windstein has a dark secret: she collects her victim’s heads.

When millionaire Thomas Combs hires her to find his long lost friend, Jimmy, Jamie’s world is turned upside down. Ghosts of the past pile mystery atop mystery while ghosts of the present add grim new riddles with no solution.

Jamie is determined to get answers even if she has to kill her way to the truth. She must tiptoe a fine line when she learns her only friend’s police officer husband has been assigned to a special task force on the hunt for Jamie and her head collection.

Dark secrets abound as the past is dragged kicking and screaming into the light. It’s serial killer versus serial killer versus the police in a race to the answers.

Jamie Windstein’s life will change forever if only she can Piece It All Back Together.