AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Kristopher Rufty

Meghan: What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Kristopher: I’m in love with all of it. Have been since I was a kid. Now, I get to enjoy it with my own children, which makes the holiday even more fun. We’ll bake Halloween cookies, using spooky cookie cutters and carve jack-o-lanterns and all. It’s always a fun time in the Rufty house.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Kristopher: All of it. It’s hard for me to narrow it down. I do like a good Halloween party, though.

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

Kristopher: I guess because Halloween sparks that childlike fun and excitement in me. Usually, every day is a form of spooky season for me, but during the Halloween season, it’s all over the place, everywhere I look. Just makes my heart pump as it did all those years ago.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Kristopher: Not too much of anything anymore. As a kid, I was superstitious about everything because my mother sometimes leaned that way herself. It’s just something I don’t put too much faith into anymore—superstition. I feel like if the day is going to be bad, it’s just going to be bad.

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

Kristopher: Jason Voorhees. I love all the iconic and not-so iconic slashers. Jason is my favorite, though.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Kristopher: I don’t know how many fascinate me over the other. My daughter reads and watches a bunch of true crime, so she tells me a lot about it. I’m curious about Jack the Ripper, of course. And the Black Dahlia, how her case exposed a side of Hollywood that nobody really knew about at the time.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Kristopher: I’m really not sure. There’s a few that are kind of terrifying. One that probably gets to me a bit, because I see it out here where I live, is the legend about the headlights. I’ve passed many cars with no headlights on. Not once have I felt obligated to flash them with my lights out of fear of being chased down and killed.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Kristopher: Ed Gein. Though he wasn’t technically a serial killer. I guess what sparked my interest in him was the fact so many of my favorite stories were based on his crimes. My own imagination began to run wild with Gein ideas and that was how The Vampire of Plainfield was born. To me, he seemed to be a very lonely, bored man who became consumed by his sick fantasies.

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

Kristopher: I was five and watched Friday the 13th on a summer Saturday while my mom was busy canning. I loved it. Friday the 13th part 2 aired that night and the following weekend, Friday the 13th part 3 was shown. It was all over for me after that. I was hooked on horror. Luckily, I had parents that were very vocal about explaining how its make-believe and the people in the movies were just pretending. I started drawing pictures of what I saw in the movies, using crayons and construction paper. My mom would hang them on the fridge. From then on, I spent a lot of time trying to turn my friends into horror fans. Most of the time, I succeeded.

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

Kristopher: I read a lot of children’s horror books like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, books like that. I read my first adult novel around the time I was twelve. It was King’s Gerald’s Game. From there, I read Night Shift. Then my father introduced me to John Saul. I read Nathaniel and Sleep Walk. Then my dad led me to Graham Masterton. I loved them all.

Years later, a friend introduced me to authors Jack Ketchum, Richard Laymon, and Edward Lee. I read Off Season and it changed my life. I’m serious when I say that. That book completely changed everything on how I viewed my own writing, and it let me know it was okay to have a good bit of gore and sex stuff in the story.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Kristopher: The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. It’s truly terrifying because of how real it is. It’s based on a true story that Ketchum took liberties with. Yet, he somehow manages to capture all the intensity and brutality while writing it in such a way you can’t stop reading it no matter how awful it makes you feel doing so. He was truly a master.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Kristopher: The Changeling with George C. Scott. That movie is just constant grim darkness for its entirety. Some of those scenes have stayed with me through the years. I’ve only watched it twice in all my life.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Kristopher: In the third grade, I dressed up as Jason Voorhees. My uncle had a shirt that looked a lot like Jason’s shirt. I had a bald cap and a hockey mask. This was when you could still wear masks at school for Halloween. I showed up with fake blood splattered on my clothes, carrying a plastic sword that was supposed to be my machete, dressed in total Voorhees Cosplay. I was very popular that day.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Kristopher: Monster Mash! I love it!

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

Kristopher: I know this candy isn’t the best candy in the world, but to me it’s not Halloween without Smarties. As a kid, I also enjoyed getting little paper treat bags filled with different goodies. Whenever somebody opened the door and held a large bowl with these small paper bags adorned with ghosts and witches, I knew I was in for something special. Sometimes there would be Halloween erasers or little plastic spider rings, fake eyeballs. All kinds of good stuff.

The most disappointing treat is that honey candy. I can’t remember what’s it called, but it’s basically like a small ruler made of sticky, honey-flavored puddy. Yuck.


Boo-graphy:
Kristopher Rufty is the writer and director of the movies Psycho Holocaust, Rags, and Wicked Wood, and also the author of Angel Board, PillowFace, and The Lurkers. He has a new book, The Devoured & the Dead, coming soon from Death’s Head Press, part of their Splatter Western line.

He used to host Diabolical Radio, an internet radio show devoted to horror fiction and film for five years and developed quite an archive list and following.

He is married to his high school sweetheart and is the father of two insane children that he loves dearly, and together they reside in North Carolina with their 120 pound dog, Thor, and a horde of cats. He is currently working on his next novel, script, or movie.

Angel Board
Not all angels are sane.

Someone saved David Barker’s life, but he doesn’t know who—or what—she is. Now he’s haunted by the image of that beautiful, nebulous vision with the features of a woman and determined to find out why she appeared when he almost died. David uses an angel board in hopes of contacting her, and unfortunately for him, he succeeds. This angel has loved him all his life, guarded him and protected him. And she’ll hurt anyone who interferes with that love. David’s guardian angel is obsessive, possessive…and homicidal. Her unyielding love for him will leave a trail of grisly “accidents” and murders as she eliminates all those who want to hurt David. Or love him.

Pillowface
Twelve year old Joel Olsen loves all things devoted to horror.

Movies, comics, books, and of course his true passion, special effects. Being raised by his older sister Haley after the sudden death of their parents Joel is in a world truly of his own. But at the launch of summer vacation Joel finds lying bloodied and near death in his backyard, a masked man that is the epitome of what he adores. A flesh and blood slasher maniac! When he invites the masked man into his home to recover from his wounds an unexpected friendship is born, but Joel quickly realizes he’s actually become involved in a true to life horror tale that he’ll be lucky to survive. This maniac known as Pillowface is not only an uncontrollable killing machine, but he also has others searching for him, and they will go to great and bloody lengths to find him.

The Lurkers
They’re waiting for you in the woods.

They’ve lived in the woods and cornfields for as long as anyone can remember. Small, humanoid creatures with sharp teeth and grasping hands. The people in what’s left of the nearby town live in fear. They’ve learned that if they let the creatures take what they want, they won’t be attacked. An uneasy peace has reigned. But no more. The leader of the creatures has decided his kind will be dormant no longer. To survive, they must kill. They will satisfy their unholy hunger with their favorite prey—humans. But some humans—females—will be kept alive in captivity…to breed.

The Vampire of Plainfield
Plainfield, Wisconsin. 1954.

Robbing graves to appease his malevolent desires, Ed Gein inadvertently sets loose an ancient vampire on the unsuspecting town of Plainfield. As the number of missing persons rises, Ed realizes the vampire’s ultimate plan has been put into motion, and to prevent his dastardly practices from being exposed, he decides to slay the vampire himself. But he soon understands that he’s all the hope Plainfield has. As the few people closest to Ed are sucked into the vampire’s realm, he’ll be forced to reach deep inside himself to bring the incredible nightmare to an end.

On this night, the Ghoul of Plainfield must battle the Vampire of Plainfield…to the death!

GUEST MOVIE REVIEW: Paul M. Feeney

When it comes to deciding what horror movie I am going to watch next (and even when I’m looking for book choices), Paul is my go-to guy. And he has been spot-on every single time. He has given us quite a few below… and I can’t wait to watch the ones I have not seen yet.

Halloween Horror Gems

Halloween is, of course, the spookiest of days and the month of October the spookiest of ‘seasons’ (though there is a valid argument for the Christmas period as an appropriate time for ghost stories, but this is a Halloween article, so…), and as such, it’s absolutely appropriate for the horror fan – or, indeed, anyone – to sit down to any number of horror films (and books) and give themselves a delightful fright. Now, it’s a known fact to those who know it that the horror fan will watch scary and horrific films all year round. But there’s just something extra special about viewing them around Halloween. An added frisson, a more delicious atmosphere.

What I want to do here, is highlight a few films that might have slipped under some people’s radar. They’re not specifically Halloween, and they won’t be completely unknown – especially to the hardened scare seeker – but I think, perhaps, they maybe don’t pop up on other people’s lists as much as I think they should. I also want to look at films that are wholly appropriate for the ‘season’, not just horror films but ones with that Halloween atmosphere; again, not specific to the holiday, just ones that have that certain shiver-inducing tone.

So, let’s dive in…

The Stylist – 2020, Dir: Jill Gevargizian.

I watched this recently – and it’s a recent film – and absolutely loved it. Claire, a talented and highly regarded hair stylist is socially awkward, insecure, alone and lonely, and unsure of her place in the world. She’s also a killer, taking the scalps of her victims to try on whilst quoting them as though trying to take on their personalities, too. When Olivia, a client she’s dealt with many times before asks for an emergency wedding hairdo, Claire reluctantly agrees.

What starts a tentative, budding friendship, inspiring Claire to try and give up her murderous ways, devolves into obsession, rage, and more killings. This film oozes atmosphere and class. Despite showing some rather brutal murders, it’s deeply sympathetic towards Claire’s plight. The horror here is mainly of the human variety, showing how painful and difficult it can be for some to move through spaces others do with ease. It’s sensuous, shocking, and an absolute delight of tension and dread.

Ghost Stories – 2017, Dir: Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson.

Despite being lauded on its release, this British anthology frightener seems to have largely passed many by. A shame because it’s utterly chilling. A debunker of mediums and spiritualists meets his childhood hero, a man who’s been missing, presumed dead, for many years. He challenges Phillip to examine three cases he himself couldn’t explain, cases which made him come to believe in the existence of the supernatural…

With a framing story that becomes more relevant as it goes on, the three tales here are all, in their own ways, completely terrifying. Even if some of the trappings of the original stage play are still evident, it doesn’t matter because this film is dripping with chills, infused with terror. The opening story detailing a night watchman’s last shift in an old, abandoned mental asylum is a masterclass in ratcheting tension and expectation. It’s worth the price alone. But don’t worry – the other two tales are just as affecting. A truly skin-crawling experience for those cosy, dark nights.

The Changeling – 1980, Dir: Peter Mendak.

Now to a classic from 1980, one which many younger horror fans may not be aware of. George C. Scott plays a man grieving the tragic loss of his wife and daughter. He moves to a secluded mansion hoping to find inspiration to compose again and process his bereavement at the same time. Whilst there, he comes to believe the house is haunted, and his investigations open up long buried, dark secrets.

Though made over 40 years ago, this movie is easily the equal of modern chillers such as The Conjuring or Sinister. It oozes dread and atmosphere, and some of the set-pieces are years ahead of their time in execution, creating tension and foreboding. It looks beautiful, makes full use of its setting, and adds an element of the occult detective through Scott’s determination to find the truth. A deserved classic and one that should be perfect for Halloween.

Come True – 2020, Dir: Anthony Scott Burns.

Another recent film and another that seems to have gone mostly unnoticed. Sarah, a teenager – an incredible performance by Julia Sarah Stone – prefers to sleep in local parks, on the street, or on rare occasions at a friend’s, rather than at home. She suffers from awful dreams, and her disturbed rest prompts her to take part in a sleep study that should give her weeks of uninterrupted slumber. But she and the other participants begin to share nightmares of a similar architecture, and of the same figure.

This is a fantastic, low-budget effort from Canada. It manages to make excellent use of its small-scale production, looking like a far more expensive picture. The designs are pleasingly retro at times, recalling some of the interiors of the spaceship from Alien, and both David Cronenberg and George A. Romero are referenced, the former through thematic elements, the latter with names. The dream imagery is stunning, monochrome and darkly beautiful, like an Andrei Tarkovsky SF feature, and the whole thing mounts steady dread till the nerve-shredding end. Slow-burning, artistic, experimental, with no easy answers, but absolutely worth your time.

Kairo (Pulse) – 2001, Dir: Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

Ah, now for something truly dread inducing. Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation to Akira) takes on the then booming, so-called ‘J-Horror’ phenomenon and both deconstructs and enhances that loose ‘genre’. Various people are dying in strange circumstances, apparent suicides, mysterious disappearances, and these deaths seem to be connected to strange phenomena on the internet or on recorded devices. A theory arises that spirits are returning to the world to be with the living and bringing with them unparalleled despair.

Like much of Kurosawa’s work, this film is baffling on first viewing. It doesn’t follow traditional or established narrative structure, it doesn’t spell out its plot; instead it unfolds in various seemingly unconnected scenes. The tone is also one of almost passivity, much like the characters themselves. Yet this serves to add to the atmosphere rather than distract. From the opening moments to the very end, Kairo is infused with dread, both existential and supernatural. It permeates every moment, making the viewer believe the events unfolding might actually manifest through their own screens, like Sadako in Ringu. No-one does this kind of thing quite like Kurosawa, and the sheer terror of this confounding film is something to behold. Check out Cure and Creepy by the same director for more mind-bending chills.

El Cuerpo (The Body) – 2012, Dir: Oriol Paulo.

Something a little bit different now, and here we have a horror/thriller from Spain, a country which has produced many an exceptional horror film over the years. A police inspector investigates the disappearance of a woman’s body from a morgue after the nightwatchman is found unconscious. Through the course of the investigation, many strange events occur at the morgue that suggest the possible supernatural, but the inspector is bound to pursue his all-too human investigation despite the mounting dread.

This was another film that seemed to fly under the radar for many. Moody, atmospheric, and full of twists and turns, this is a movie worthy of Hitchcock. Though it’s very much in the vein of a police thriller/procedural, there’s more than enough creepiness to push it into the realms of the supernatural – strange noises, unexplained goings-on, the missing corpse giving rise to some thinking the dead woman has come back from the dead or is a ghost. And when it resolves itself at the end, it does so in the most satisfying way. Definitely up there with the best of Spanish horror, such as The Orphanage, Julia’s Eyes, or Sleep Tight.

So there you have it. A bunch of spooky, dread-filled horror films to watch over a few nights in October, or binge on All Saint’s Eve itself. These movies are more about atmosphere and tone rather than out and out blood-fests, though a couple do have their violent moments. They are diverse, original, and dedicated in their intent, which is to unsettle, to scare, to terrify. But one thing binds them together – they are perfect Halloween fodder. Happy watching.


Boo-graphy:
Paul M. Feeney was born in Scotland, has moved all around the UK, and currently lies in Aberdeen. An avid and passionate fiction reader – his first love being horror and all things dark – he started writing in 2011, was first published in 2014, and has a number of short stories in publications or forthcoming. He has also released two novellas so far – The Last Bus (Crowded Quarantine Publications, 2015) and Kids (Dark Minds Press, 2016). In 2020, his novelette, Cursed, was released by Demain Publishing, the second published story featuring his shape-shifting PI Garrison Wake. Under the name Paul Michaels, he writes the occasional review or horror website This Is Horror, as well as writing less genre-oriented stories. He is currently working on his first novel, as well as numerous other short stories and novellas.

The Last Bus
We’ve all been there – the dreaded early morning commute.

The surly driver; the obnoxious teenagers; the guy who just has to invade your personal space; the awkwardness as everyone avoids any kind of social interaction with anyone else; the frustrations of snarled-up traffic and tail-backs.

For most of us, the trip on public transport is about as bad as it gets.

For these passengers, it’s about to get a lot worse.

Jonathon, Justine and Hanna don’t know each other but they’re about to be thrown together as a simple journey to work turns into a race for survival when a mysterious object falls from the sky, initiating an alien invasion. Mutated monsters, trigger-happy soldiers and personality clashes abound on:

The Last Bus.

Kids
Matt and Julie head to her parents’ big, remote house in the country, with their children Kayleigh, Carol and Robert, for a day out with friends and family. They intend spending the warm, summer’s day doing nothing more strenuous than engaging in light, casual conversation, eating lunch and drinking tea, while the kids play in the background.

At least, that’s the plan…

The kids disappear, only to return utterly, fundamentally changed. Something bad has happened to them, something very bad.

The day becomes a pitched battle between the adults and the violent psychopaths their children have become. How can the adults survive against such an enemy, how can they even fight back, when the very thing they have to fight against is their own flesh and blood?

Cursed
Garrison Wake, a shape-shifting PI, exists in a world where all the supernatural and paranormal stuff is real, albeit mostly hidden from humanity. He investigates a case where a woman believes she’s been cursed through a DVD (a la The Ring), but not all is as it seems…

Writing about Garrison Wake, author Paul M. Feeney said: “He lives and works in Detroit, with feet in the worlds of the supernatural, the criminal, and the human, but swearing loyalty to none. He’s kind of an anti-hero, vigilante, who hates injustice but operates outside the law most of the time. He believes himself to be ‘lost’, to be already damned, so doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty…I like his cynical, sardonic approach to things, but also share his sense of justice (though perhaps not the methods, something I touch on in this story and want to explore more in further tales). He’s big, six-and-a-half-foot tall, and looks like a cross between Keanu Reeves and Brandon Lee in The Crow; he also tends to dress like the latter character, though without the clown makeup. He’s older than he looks by a few decades, and has a shady, petty-criminal past (though I’ve yet to fully investigate that myself). And he’s a loner, though people have become almost friends with him over the years, and he has a good circle of close acquaintances…”