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

Snake Eyes (1998)

Director: Brian De Palma

Screenplay: David Koepp

Story: Brian De Palma & David Koepp

Starring:
Nicolas Cage
Gary Sinise
John Heard
Carla Gugino

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


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

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

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

Did I mention Ricky Santoro is a cop?

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

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

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

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

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

And now, the movie takes off.

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

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

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

Wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SNAKE EYES does both.


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

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

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

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

The Master of Suspense is at your service.

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

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

GUEST MOVIE REVIEW by Chris Miller: Found (2012)

Found (2012)

Director: Scott Schirmer

Screenplay: Todd Rigney (based on his novel)

Starring:
Gavin Brown
Ethan Philbeck
Phyllis Munro
Shane Beasley

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

The Master of Suspense is at your service.

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

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

Christmas Takeover 25 Pt 2: M. Ennenbach: Thanksgiving at the North Pole

M. Ennenbach is the author of our second Christmas Day story, and I know I know… it’s technically a Thanksgiving Day story, but here’s the thing… When I went to write my schedule for the Christmas Takeover, I decided to try something differently. I put everyone’s name in a bucket and pulled it out and, interestingly enough, two of my favorite newer-to-me authors were selected out of the bucket for today, so that’s how we’ve ended up with a Thanksgiving story on Christmas haha.


Thanksgiving at the North Pole

A Story by M. Ennenbach
1,686 words

“Fuck me.”

“Gladly my dear.”

“Funny. I need help here. You have another funny quip or you feel like getting off of your lazy ass and actually helping for once?”

“If I have a choice…”

“Never mind then. I can do it by myself.”

“I am just kidding. Calm down, we have tons of time. You always wait until the very end to start panic mode. Every year. What do you need me to do?”

“The elves are only working at ninety nine percent optimal speed. The reindeer have not tried on the new harnesses and my goddamned internet connection is slower than Krampus after a a second bottle of his nerve tonic.”

“So every thing is going just like normal?”

“Look, I love you. You are my wife and partner but sometimes I want to throttle you. Just a little.”

“Sometimes I want that too. Maybe you just need a little break to stuff my stocking.”

“Not right now, we are on a deadline here. And what the fuck is Rudolph doing? I swear if it weren’t for that shiny red nose I would put him down. With the advances in tech over the years he is not nearly as important as he likes to march around and act.”

“Leave Rudy alone you big bully. Did you see that? Jennifer just hit her brother. Again.”

“He deserved it. He has been calling her names all day. He thinks he is sneaky. He will know just how sneaky when he gets coal. Again. One more year and he goes in Krampus’s wicker basket.”

“Five years running and he still doesn’t understand you see everything.”

“Some of these kids never learn. Doug stole another issue of his dad’s reading material and blamed the mailman. He is going to go blind if he keeps doing that. Surprised his hands aren’t covered in hair by now.”

“I will head down and let the elves know they are behind production.”

“Again.”

“Yes dear, again. And then the reindeer will get fitted for the sleigh.”

“Next year we are going to get in touch with that Musk guy. We could retire the deer and use electric engines. There are enough solar panels that I could get him to put reactive pads on the sleigh and we could charge as I make deliveries.”

“What about in Africa? Or the more isolated areas in Asia?”

“Hybrid? Maybe give him a glimpse into the thermal tech we use to power the factory. If half of the elves used a quarter of their fucking brains we could have solved this years ago.”

“Years ago the kids around the world still wanted toys. Now it is all about electronics and cell phones.”

“Don’t get me started. Spent how much to renovate the production lines, to get up to speed on electronics instead of rocking horses and dolls. Surprised we haven’t had to install those suicide nets like in China.”

“The elves enjoy their work. And soldering is just as much an art as painting toys.”

“I guess. But where is the joy in it? Making a device that is basically already obsolete by the time it is unwrapped. Remember those goddamned Furbys? Demonic little shits.”

“Our business is happy kids, not telling them what they want or need.”

“Maybe their parents should be telling them less watching other people play games and more playing with toys.”

“You realize when you get like this it is impossible to have a reasonable talk, right?”

“I’m sorry.”

“I know. Eat those cookies I brought down for you. Take a break and watch the newest Mr Robot, the season is almost done already.”

“Elliot is on my nice list. Angela was but recently…”

“Darlene seems to be coming around though.”

“True. You’re right.”

“What was that?”

“I said you are right my love. I do need a break.”

“Well Mr Claus, it seems you are capable of learning after all this time.”

“Whatever. I am going to my study. One episode and then it is back to it.”

“I will see to the others dear. I love you.”

“I love you too Mrs Claus.”


“Presley, Martin, Rachael and Sherwin, I need a word with you.”

“Yes Mrs Claus.”

“We all know today is Thanksgiving in America.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“We also know how my dear husband gets at this time every year.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“So why in the fuck are we at ninety nine percent efficiency? Can someone explain why we would be running any less than optimally on this day?”

“Bad peanut brittle. Nearly ten percent of the workforce has been racing to the latrines.”

“Bad peanut brittle. You want me to explain to Santa that ten percent of you ate bad peanut brittle and because of that production is suffering?”

“It is the truth ma’am.”

“So the giant party last night had nothing to do with it? The fact that someone raided our pantry and stole all the powdered sugar is just a coincidence?”

“Well, see…”

“I told them it was a bad idea. No one ever listens to me ma’am.”

“No one like an ass kisser Sherwin. Rachael, is there any correlation between the sick elves and those that partook of the powdered sugar?”

“Possibly ma’am. I wouldn’t know. I was sound asleep by eight fifteen.”

“So you claim ignorance?”

“Umm, yes Mrs Claus.”

“Presley, let the workforce know until all the backlog is filled the cocoa will be sugar and marshmallow free.”

“But Mrs Claus!”

“Shall I explain to my husband that his production manager came to a meeting with powdered sugar all over his nose? Do you think sugar free cocoa will be his response? Remember last year when he caught Beauregard with pixie sticks? Has anyone seen him since?”

“My apologies ma’am. I understand Mrs Claus. We will work through the night until we hit our numbers. Though there is a problem with some of the chips out of India.”

“And I am hearing about this now.”

“I just found out myself. The failure rate has gone from two to four percent.”

“Still acceptable.”

“Yes but that has caused a back up in the screen department. We have had to go back and double check the last two weeks inventory.”

“And?”

“It looks worse than it is. Just wanted you to know before it gets overblown.”

“Noted. Now get your magical asses back to work before my husband decides to come down himself.”

“Yes ma’am!”

“And someone call down to the stables, let them know I am on my way. And let them know my mood. Not time for fuckery today, not on Thanksgiving.”

“Consider it down Mrs Claus.”


“Dante, my friend. How are you today?”

“Doing well Mrs Claus.”

“Then explain to me why in the fuck the harnesses have not been properly fitted yet if you will.”

“But they have! We double checked them this very morning.”

“So then my husband is lying about it? What ever could he gain from that?”

“Did I say this morning? It was probably closer to noon now that I think about it.”

“Oh. So were they or weren’t they fitted today?”

“We can do it again if you would like to check them yourself ma’am.”

“Dante, if I wanted to get jerked off I would be in the den with my husband not down here where it frankly reeks of shit and sugar.”

“That is not, umm, I mean to say… yes ma’am. I apologize.”

“God damn it Dante, what day is this?”

“Let’s see the twenty third. Oh. Thanksgiving.”

“And who freaks out every year on Thanksgiving?”

“Santa does.”

“And why is that?”

“We have a month until the big night.”

“So when he asks if the harnesses have been fitted correctly what do we do?”

“We double check them and send our report in promptly.”

“And what the fuck is Rudolph doing?”

“He is upset with the other reindeer. He has been moping and sniffing glue all morning in his stall. Typical drama king, he gets worse as we get closer to the big night.”

“And why is he allowed to mope?”

“He leads the sleigh? A sense of entitlement? Who can understand why a reindeeer stuck in teen angst does anything?”

“No. Because you let him fucking mope and act like this is his big production.”

“He has become impossible ever since that claymation special and song.”

“Then teach him how important he is. Show him the sketches of the LED modules for the front of the sleigh.”

“Are you sure?”

“Dante, did I fucking stutter?”

“No you did not Mrs Claus. It will be handled.”

“Good. I expect a report sent in within the hour. And Rudolph to be on his best behavior. Santa is talking about Musk again. You know what happens then?”

“We are rendered obsolete.”

“And what happens to elves and deer that are rendered obsolete.”

“We are turned into coal for bad children.”

“You are this close to that. Do not make me regret sticking up for you.”

“Yes ma’am. Thank you very much ma’am.”

“Just do your fucking job and we will all make it through another season.”

“Yes Mrs Claus, my apologies. We will send the report directly to Santa asap.”

“See that you do.”


“How was your show dear?”

“Amazing. They keep me right at the edge of my seat. Brilliant as always. I need to send them something special this year.”

“You should dear. The elves have been spoken to. And the reindeer have been fitted.”

“And Rudolph?”

“He is learning an extra special lesson on knowing ones place.”

“Ho ho ho! Thank you my love. I couldn’t do this without you.”

“Does that mean you have a special treat for me?”

“And what does Mrs Claus want?”

“Let’s start with a candy cane, a special one…”

“Ho Ho Ho! A thanksgiving miracle indeed. And then some stocking stuffing.”

“And look at where I have hung the mistletoe.”

“You are being awfully naughty with it on your belly button ring like that. But rules are rules.”

“Indeed they are, now about that sweet treat…”

M. Ennenbach is a lot of things. Part time dreamer. Full time poet. Scribbler of tales. An Illinois yankee in DFW, but don’t hold any of that against him. A proud father of two that he loves more than life itself. His stories are written from a place of raw emotion, stripped pieces of the man himself spun into powerful trips through nightmare and daydream. Sometimes bleak, at others hilarious but always unique glimpses of another realm; his words will take you on a journey. His first collection, Notches, is available on Amazon and Death’s Head Press with more on the way.

Halloween Extravaganza: M. Ennenbach: STORY: Halloween

Wait. You thought Halloween was over just because it’s November 1st? Boy were you wrong. Sit back and prepare yourself for another month of Halloween. Here’s a short story to get you feeling the mood…


“Look kid, don’t make us call your parents to come get you. Just tell us what you and your friends did.”

The officer stares at me across the table. I wish I could say this was my first time in the police station. At least I can safely say that this time I did nothing wrong.

Halloween night, 6:00pm

We were hooligans. But the kind with hearts of gold. Gold plated. Alright, the kind of gold that turns your skin green from prolonged exposure. We had started onto our path of hijinks over the summer. What can I say? They were all fifteen and I was the fourteen years old only child that wanted to fit in. And maybe, just maybe, I was also the de facto ringleader.

All throughout summer we had taken to sneaking into the junk yard to get the parts needed to rebuild our friend’s motorcycle. They had the know how, I had the brawn to carry the parts. It was a dream team. Sort of. It took two weeks after the bike was running for it to fall over muffler first onto Ron’s calf. So now it was Halloween and he was still going through treatments where they peeled the skin off of his leg so shenanigans were out for him. But the rest of us were bored. So bored. Already drinking lost its appeal. Weed was still a good time but it was Halloween. Dammit. What do we do?

“Let’s run from the cops.” Warren looked at us all.

“Why?” I wasn’t opposed to the plan. It was better than nothing.

“To get them to chase us.”

I looked around the room and through the haze of smoke I saw nodding heads. “So we see a cop and we just take off?”

“Yep. Cut through yards. See how long until they catch us.”

I felt all of their eyes on me. Let’s go back to when I said I was the brawn. It’s because I was fat. Not chunky. Not portly. No. Morbidly obese. It was ridiculous. I had a bicycle with an odometer on it and we rode over a thousand miles that summer. Yet the way my thighs rubbed together as I walked made it seem like I just laid in a bed of Cheetos. That was after the bike rides. I just didn’t have a grasp on that yet. So the law of averages stayed the first of us to get caught would be me, the slow one that wheezed up stairs.

If I have ever been anything, it is self aware.

So we smoked some more and went outside. Halloween in Illinois was always a precursor to Winter no matter what the calendar said. It was cold and rainy. We walked around until we saw the first squad car and made sure he saw us looking suspicious in no costumes. When he turned towards us we scattered.

I don’t know how far we ran. How many yards we his in as the spotlight made its way slowly over the fence. But we ran for hours. Laughing like madmen we would get to the sidewalk and wait patiently for the cherries to make there way closer and then we were off again.

It was a different time back then. None of us even considered getting shot. Or tased. Or anything. We just saw the cops and we laughed and ran.

I wasn’t the first kid caught either. A combination of puberty and cool weather kept me moving. I didn’t always lead the pack but I didn’t trail far behind it either. We began to fall, one at a time. Soon it was Warren and I alone. That’s when they got smart and cornered us in an alley. No cuffs. No pat down. Just thrown in the back of squad car where we laughed and laughed all the way to the station.

When we got there they threw us all into one room. I was shocked to see two of the guys with tears on their faces.

“They said they are gonna call our parents!”

I held up a hand. “For what? Running?”

They all looked at me as the lightbulb clicked. For once, we were innocent. So we just reminded ourselves of that as they took us into the interrogation room one at a time.

“You were just running?”

“Yes officer.”

“Why?”

“Two reasons really. I am fat and could use the exercise,” I didn’t appreciate the nods, “and because it was fun having you chase us all night. I’m clearly not the only one that needs the exercise.”

They arched their eyebrows but then patted their ample bellies and reluctantly nodded again.

“So to get it straight, you thought it would be fun to get chased by police officers? What kind of idiot idea is that?”

“You kept chasing us…”

“Get your friends and get the fuck out of here!”

There were Halloweens in costumes with tons of candy. There were Halloweens spent drunk at great parties, on hayrides, doing scavenger hunts. But this one will always stick out as just sheer fun. And one that cannot be recreated in this day and age.

Next year, remind me to tell you about the scavenger hunt in the old creepy cemetery. It has hijinks, booze, drugs and even some sex.

M. Ennenbach is a lot of things. Part time dreamer. Full time poet. Scribbler of tales. An Illinois yankee in DFW, but don’t hold any of that against him. A proud father of two that he loves more than life itself. His stories are written from a place of raw emotion, stripped pieces of the man himself spun into powerful trips through nightmare and daydream. Sometimes bleak, at others hilarious but always unique glimpses of another realm; his words will take you on a journey. His first collection, Notches, is available on Amazon and Death’s Head Press with more on the way.

Notches: A Collection

A Collection of dark, twisted and some humorous stories including an epic dark poem from the tormented mind of M. Ennenbach. Each story will give you a window into the darkness of the soul. Fueled by raw, powerful emotions. They will chew you up and spit you out, leaving you quivering on the floor in a gruesome mess begging for more. Are you brave enough to traverse the dark path laid before you or will you become another notch on the wall?

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: M. Ennenbach

Meghan: Hi, Mike. It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?

M. Ennenbach: I finished a novella for a secret project with the guys at Death’s Head Press. I finally got my first novel edited. And compiled a collection of poetry. Shopping them around now in the hopes someone will put them out soon. Also had a short in Dig Graves Volume 2. It has been a busy first year as a published writer.

Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?

M. Ennenbach: Father to two. Neopost technician that travels the DFW area fixing mailing machines. Daily poet at mennenbach.com.

Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?

M. Ennenbach: Anyone that knows me has determined long ago that I have issues and their reading my words will just prove them right. It is daunting though. Like being stripped naked and paraded in front of them to judge.

Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

M. Ennenbach: Nice. Both. The ability to write and make others feel emotion is one of the greatest gifts. Not having enough hours in the day to scribble down every single idea and refine them is a curse.

Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?

M. Ennenbach: As a kid, my parents always had a book in front of them. They instilled a deep seated love of the written word. Battling depression my entire life has colored my writing. It adds it’s distinct coloring to my tales.

Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?

M. Ennenbach: The worst was one night I spent an hour doing algebra to determine how far from shore a man would have to be to out swim crocodiles. An hour for a paragraph.

I made friends with genital torturers and doms for a short story in Notches. It led me down a rabbit hole that helped shape a character in my novel as well. So many things seen that cannot be unseen.

Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?

M. Ennenbach: The middle. I know the beginning most of the time. And the ending is there but nebulous. The middle is always a surprise to me. I feel I corral the words towards the ending with no real control over what happens. It’s nerve wracking. I’ve killed characters I had no intention of killing because that is where the story took itself.

Meghan: Do you outline? Do you start with characters or plot? Do you just sit down and start writing? What works best for you?

M. Ennenbach: Usually I have a vague idea. I like to write a prologue that pops and catches attention for an opening scene. No outlines though. Too stringent and when I try and make one I become bored of the story. Nine times out of ten, I just let it flow and around chapter three I hurry to jot down a list of characters so I can remember who does what. Very professionally unprofessional.

Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?

M. Ennenbach: Let them tell their own story. The best made plans can become a better story if you let it fall how it wants to. Organically developing twists are what makes it fun for me.

Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?

M. Ennenbach: Ryo Fukui playing in the background. A big cup of coffee and a blank screen. I make myself wrote two or three poems a day to keep myself in writing mode. Since I do all of my writing on my phone it makes it easy to scribble when inspiration strikes.

Meghan: Are you an avid reader?

M. Ennenbach: Yes. Been reading a lot of beat stuff lately. Anything Bukowski or Thompson.

Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?

M. Ennenbach: Horror or fantasy is my go to genres. Eastern European and Russian lit is also great because they give this tragic and off-putting feel in everyday living.

Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?

M. Ennenbach: I’m not a snob. I know it is impossible to refine one thousand pages into two hours. That said, the trend of ten episode shows based on books is way better. I prefer the author being involved in some capacity to keep it authentic.

Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?

M. Ennenbach: Yes. A few. No one is safe. If you know a character is safe it takes away the stakes.

Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

M. Ennenbach: I like to let then dig a hole and have to find a way out. Suffering is part of living, so while I don’t take pleasure from writing it, it would be wrong to leave it out.

Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?

M. Ennenbach: I have a drug addled leprechaun in my novel. He snorts a drug he makes called Unicorn Blow. Then there is the Undersecretary of Hell that transcribes the meeting of Satan and his demons.

Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received? What’s the worst?

M. Ennenbach: The best has been being told certain stories actually made them cry. To move someone with a story like that blew my mind. The worst was an ex asked why I waste my time writing stories no one will ever read. I set down my pen for five years after that.

Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?

M. Ennenbach: I don’t have fans. Not yet. I have a core group of readers that have become friends. If I ever get to the point of having fans I hope to make them all friends as well. I guess it is a concept I cannot wrap my head around.

Meghan: If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?

M. Ennenbach: Silk from David EddingsBelgariad series. He is slimy, hilarious, and has a trick for any situation. Or Captain Nemo from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. He is just awesome.

Meghan: If you could write the next book in a series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?

M. Ennenbach: Dang. Richard Kadrey wrote a book, Butcher Bird, a decade or so back. He says he will never write a sequel and went on to the Sandman Slim series. I would like to dive back into the world he created and explore the mythos of it. A badass assassin on a mission to expose the hidden world to all.

Meghan: If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?

M. Ennenbach: A dream scenario would be with China Mieville on a prequel to Perdido Street Station. I would like to tackle the Malaria Wars between the people of the Bas Lag and the mosquito creatures that threatened extinction. It was a quarter chapter idea in The Scar that made me chomp at the bit to see fleshed out.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

M. Ennenbach: The secret project is due out in early 2020. I’m really excited about it and feel it is a great story. I am in the midst of writing the sequel to my novel. New poetry everyday and hope to see a collection of two of it hit the shelves soon.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

M. Ennenbach: Website ** Facebook ** Instagram ** Twitter

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview or the last?

M. Ennenbach: Thank you for reading so far. More is coming and I feel I am just getting better with each release. Leave reviews after you read. It really helps spread the word about your favorite authors.

M. Ennenbach is a lot of things. Part time dreamer. Full time poet. Scribbler of tales. An Illinois yankee in DFW, but don’t hold any of that against him. A proud father of two that he loves more than life itself. His stories are written from a place of raw emotion, stripped pieces of the man himself spun into powerful trips through nightmare and daydream. Sometimes bleak, at others hilarious but always unique glimpses of another realm; his words will take you on a journey. His first collection, Notches, is available on Amazon and Death’s Head Press with more on the way.

Notches: A Collection

A Collection of dark, twisted and some humorous stories including an epic dark poem from the tormented mind of M. Ennenbach. Each story will give you a window into the darkness of the soul. Fueled by raw, powerful emotions. They will chew you up and spit you out, leaving you quivering on the floor in a gruesome mess begging for more. Are you brave enough to traverse the dark path laid before you or will you become another notch on the wall?