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: Jeff Parsons

Meghan: Hey, Jeff. I decided to wait and have your day as the last one in this year’s Halloween Extravaganza, so it’s been a wait, but I’m glad you’re here today. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Jeff: I loved taking my young girls out for Trick or Treating. The fresh mystery of experiencing this unique adventure through their eyes, well, it reminded me of my youth. It was a joy dressing up in costumes, visiting stranger’s Halloween-bedecked houses, and asking for candy.

[Spoiler alert] Nowadays, I like watching the interesting variety of movies that come out on television during the Halloween season. I’ll sometimes also deep dive into my personal stock of scary movies.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Jeff: As you know, I like watching scary movies, but along with that, I like splurging on a accompanying buffet of finger food, ice cream, and candy. Essentially anything contraband that violates common sense, my diet, and long-term health. Just sayin’, this includes chicken wings and home-made candy apples.

I haven’t done this yet, but I think going to haunted house events would be fun. I appreciate great acting and stage work.

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

Jeff: As a child, Halloween was second best, right behind Arbor Day Eve. Just joking, we didn’t worship trees. Much. The idea of getting Halloween candy was mind blowing for a kid. I’d run from house to house, carrying a shopping bag in each hand, nearing exhaustion but determined (can’t stop now). When I made it home, my loot was cross-examined by a board of family experts (hmmm, that large candy bar looks unsafe, we’d better eat it for you). After that, I was free to gorge myself silly into a weeks-long sugar frenzy.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Jeff: Black cats, ladders, step on a crack, nope, nope, nope, no superstition.

I really don’t think I’m superstitious about anything, but I’m very interested in seemingly unconnected patterns in the way things turn out. There are too many coincidences beyond direct cause and effect. It’s almost as if we’re tapped into a greater connectivity, aren’t fully aware of it, but it keeps reminding us from time to time. Resorting to a thermodynamics explanation, our planet is essentially a closed system, so everything affects everything else in various degrees of effect.

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

Jeff: I think Clive Barker’s Hellraiser Cenobites are interesting. They were once ordinary people. Turned into demons, their real selves were trapped inside, undoubtedly in a state of perpetual torment. Kind of like working in a dead-end job? All this happened because they were insatiably curious about something best left alone. How often does the voice in our head warn us about things like that for no real discernable reason? Maybe we should listen to it more? Ya know, like, take a pass on solving extradimensional puzzle boxes?

Dexter on Showtime is fascinating. He protects the innocent by killing evil murderers. Despite being a monster, lacking in many emotions, he does care about people in his own way, and he’s shocked at the depth of evil in this world. Essentially, he’s dealing with a great chasm of emptiness inside him. When he was young, he was troubled about feeling nothing. This apparently can be just as bad as feeling too much. That is the path he has chosen – seeking a way to be emotionally connected to others.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Jeff: The original unsolved case – Jack the Ripper. The killer terrorized the dark alleys of Victorian England, wielding medical instruments with great precision… crazy, dangerous, and unstoppable. It was the modern genesis of pure, unspeakable evil. What sickness would drive someone to do that?

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Jeff: This is more like a rural legend – the Night Hag – this scares me the most. The legend is part of my Newfoundland heritage. Hearing about it firsthand made it personal to me. Imagine a creature that attacks you when you’re most vulnerable: asleep, paralyzed, and helpless, but aware of everything happening to you.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Jeff: I don’t idolize serial killers. I’m fairly sure they don’t idolize me either. Well, maybe they could idolize my lifestyle, thinking, “Wow, I wish I could be boring too, maybe if I cut back on the killing, get myself into a good 12-step program.” But, all that said, I do find serial killers to be interesting. Evolution probably required sociopaths who could be fearless and unemotional. Good for dealing with sabre tooth tigers, telemarketers, and such.

For me, the most intriguing serial killer is John Wayne Gacy. He was an upstanding citizen in his community, yet he held such a horrible secret life. It’s frightening to know that we live alongside so many crazy people. Googled it – guesstimates ranged from 1 in 7 to 1 in 100 sociopaths amongst us. It’s quite likely you passed by one when you were at work, out and about, shopping, walking the dog… Hmm, might be a good idea to try your best to get along with people lest you anger the wrong one.

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

Jeff: First movie: Wizard of Oz. That’s uncut street-grade horror for a 5 year old. Flying monkeys. Haunted forest. Wicked Witch. Shiver.

When I was about 9, I started reading horror comics, but it took me until 13ish before I read my first horror book. To date myself, it was a short story anthology edited by Karl Edward Wagner. The pace of the stories was slower back then. That allowed for a bigger buildup of suspense that didn’t seem rushed or artificial. All the better to intrigue me…

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Jeff: City Infernal by Edward Lee. To actually experience what hell would be like is as disturbing as it is interesting. It’s like watching a slow train wreck – you can’t pull your eyes away from the overwhelming tragedy.

For cosmic level horror, most H.P. Lovecraft stories give me a lasting chill.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Jeff: The Exorcist. I’m spiritual, so anything intensely supernatural can have a lasting effect on me. I do watch many supernatural movies, sometimes out of curiosity or a face-my-fears kind of challenge.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Jeff: I never did this, but they have realistic skull faced masks now. Sold by King Trends. When going Trick or Treating, I’d wear a simple, black hooded cloak for simplicity, and keep my face hidden until greeting someone (then, the full skull face reveal). Of course, not in front of kids – don’t want to traumatize anyone.

Remember the clown frenzy a few years ago? Online, it almost appeared to be a supernatural manifestation. Think about this… If something evil wanted to appear to be harmless, a silly clown outfit would do the trick. Fodder for nightmares.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Jeff: Disney’s Haunted Mansion CD of sound bytes. It brings back fond memories of Disneyland. For truly scary, the classical Night On Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky is thought provoking.

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

Jeff: White chocolate covered Reeses are the bomb. The worst comes from the past – wax bottle candy, liquid sugar-fueled shots, instant manic energy with a subsequent crash and burn quicker than a paralyzed falcon falling from the sky.

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

Jeff:
Evil Dead, old and new
The Thing, old and new
Poltergeist
The Aliens series
The Witch
Sleepy Hollow
Hellraiser
Demon Knight

Family movies:
Hocus Pocus
The Addams Family series
The Haunted Mansion


Boo-graphy:
In addition to his two short story books, The Captivating Flames of Madness and Algorithm of Nightmares, Jeff Parsons is published in The Horror Zine, The Horror Zine’s Book of Ghost Stories, Aphelion Webzine, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 4, Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine, Chilling Ghost Short Stories, Dystopia Utopia Short Stories, Wax & Wane: A Coven of Witch Tales, Thinking Through Our Fingers, The Moving Finger Writes, Golden Prose & Poetry, Our Dance With Words, The Voices Within, Fireburst: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group, Second Flash Fiction Anthology 2018, SNM Horror Magazine, and Bonded by Blood IV/ V.

The Captivating Flames of Madness
This book’s title comes from the reality that – like a moth to the flame – we’re all just one event, mishap, or decision away from things that could change our lives forever.

What would you do if fate led you astray into a grim world where you encountered vengeful ghosts, homicidal maniacs, ancient gods, apocalyptic nightmares, dark magic, deadly space aliens, and more?

If you dare, why not find out?

Read for yourself the twenty-two gloriously provocative tales that dwell within this book – but be warned, some of my dear readers have experienced lasting nightmares…

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Steven L. Shrewsbury

Meghan: Hi, Steven!! It’s great to have you here today. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Steven: These days, there are a lot of classic horror films on TV leading up to that time. It also brings out the ghoul in everyone.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Steven: When the boys were younger, they’d get made up in their costumes and go trick or treating in town (I live way out in the country). Also, they would go through a local nursing home that had the residents all outside their rooms in costume.

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

Steven: I’d say Christmas is my fave, but Halloween was always fun growing up and then with the kids. My buddies & I used to dress up and go running around in town or wherever back in the day.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Steven: Oh, silly things like not going under a ladder and all that. I respect graveyards as some goofs will go out to them on Halloween or at night. Not me. I show some respect.

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

Steven: Prolly the Wolfman ala Lon Chaney Jr. I felt for the guy, plus, he was named after my ancestors, the Talbots. Wolfman/werewolf tales are cool. I need to write a book about them.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Steven: The Zodiac murders. I thought I read where they cracked his code at last recently. Jack the Ripper, of course. I’ve read a great deal about that over the years.  

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most? 

Steven: The stealing of kidneys is a good one. Slender Man creeps me out because a few years back I was working at harvest overnights in a Corn Dryer facility and thought I saw him. Not much scares me like that, and I told the guy I worked with I’d have hit him if approached. Dunno what that image was, tho. My dad told me of one he heard in WW2 about an undying pilot that waged war on the Japanese. In the late 80s (or early 90s) we happened to see the Philadelphia Experiment film and dad popped out, “Near the end of the war, we met some guys (sailors) who told us they can make a ship disappear now.” He wasn’t one for freaky tales, either.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Steven: Doubt I have a ‘fave’ but was amazed John Wayne Gacy got away with it for so long. Ed Gein is more likely, not because of his actions, but just that he was more rural and easier to hide his actions. Gacy was in town, for Chrissake.

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

Steven: I used to watch NIGHT GALLERY with my brother, Mark, when I was 3 or 4. I have vivid memories of this show. Film, prolly DIARY OF A MADMAN with Vincent Price as a kid, really scared me. I recall watching HALLOWEEN with my dad when I was 11 and checking every room upstairs when I went to bed. Book, THE OMEN by David Seltzer. I knew it was Bushwah by my own Biblical teachings (even as a kid), but it still creeped me out. It made me want to tell more of a story like that.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Steven: EXORCIST by William Peter Blatty. It’s a small book, but what stuck with me more weren’t the movie crazy parts everyone thinks of, but the description of the Black mass and other pagan things mentioned in the book. The stuff with the statues, ugh.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Steven: The original INVISIBLE MAN made me love horror. Claude Rains voice still rocks in that. I probably liked the original DAWN OF THE DEAD most, but no scars. Although not really a horror flick, I never wanna see CLOCKWORK ORANGE again. There was a screwy flick called BURNT OFFERINGS that scared me as a kid.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Steven: I dressed as Elvis in 1978. Alice Cooper when I was 19. Always wanted to be Gene Simmons. There are pics of me as a priest in the early 90s online somewhere.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Steven: MONSTER MASH, or Nick Cave’s RED RIGHT HAND. Several tunes by Alice Cooper.

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

Steven: Liked mini SNICKERS as a kid or candy corn. I used to put those in as fangs, but I digress. I don’t care for apples or fruit as treats from strangers, although I used to enjoy Carmel apples.

Meghan: It’s been great talking to you again, Steven. Before you go, what are your go-to Halloween movies?

Steven: Loved the original HALLOWEEN film. TRICK OR TREAT was cool. I kinda liked the HALLOWEEN 3: SEASON OF THE WITCH film as it dealt with a more mystic side of things. That’s the sorta thing I like, not just killers killing to kill. The mating of magicks and technology was a good idea. Plenty of great horror flicks not related to Halloween theme. I suggest ANGEL HEART with Mickey Rourke, as the punchline is pure horror. THE THING, THEATER OF BLOOD…I’m not so big on all the SAW gory modern stuff. Seems redundant, which is odd considering how violent the stuff is I write. I enjoy newer stuff that is more complex. It is rare. I also have a tough time seeing a new flick that I can’t figure out a mile away.


Boo-graphy:
Steven L. Shrewsbury lives, works, and writes in rural Illinois. Over 360 of his short stories have appeared in print or electronic media along with over 100 poems. 9 of his novels have been released, with more on the way. His books run from sword and sorcery (Overkill, Thrall, Bedlam Unleashed) to historical fantasy (Godforsaken), extreme horror (Hawg, Tormentor, Stronger Than Death) to horror-westerns (Hell Billy, Bad Magick, Last Man Screaming).

He loves books, British TV, guns, movies, politics, sports, and hanging out with his sons. He’s frequently outdoors, looking for brightness wherever it may hide.

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.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Jonathan Janz

Meghan: Hey, Jonathan. I don’t know if you realize this, but you have been a part of our annual Halloween Extravaganza long before it was named a Halloween Extravaganza. In fact, you have been part of every Halloween celebration since I started blogging, back in 2014, on The Gal in the Blue Mask. So thank you so much for all the support. And for once again taking part. Let’s begin: What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Jonathan: I think the general mood. I love the aura, the spooky, cozy, gloomy vibe of late-October/early-November. There’s something uniquely mysterious in the air, the feeling that anything could happen, will happen. Wet-black tree trunks and rain-shiny streets. Drooping leaves and shadows. No time can transport me back to elementary school like this time of year. Nothing can reproduce that shivery feeling quite like Halloween time.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Jonathan: Hmm… For me, the music plays a big role. The Halloween score is a central, seminal work there. I think not only of Carpenter’s incredible main theme, but of the other tracks, specifically the one we hear when Jamie Lee Curtis walks through the neighborhood when we first meet her. I hear the same music when I walk through my own neighborhood, which is like hers with more hills. I also love “This Is Halloween” from The Nightmare Before Christmas. I sing that one with my youngest daughter Peach.

So listening to the music is a big part of the celebration for me.

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

Jonathan: It’s my favorite non-religious holiday, I’ll say that. It’s just such a marvelous celebration of all the things I love about horror. It’s being joyful in the terror, it’s reveling in the macabre. It really is a time where what we love all year is normalized and appreciated by all, including the hobbyists. For a short time they can see through our eyes and understand the dark beauty we see all year. So there’s a sense of community with the full-timers and a moment of communion with the part-timers.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Jonathan: I’m really not superstitious anymore, but I used to be. Like catastrophically so. I was afraid to leave a room without first smiling into a mirror because I was sure the last expression I made in that mirror would determine the tenor of the day or evening. I had an intricate series of rituals I had to complete (everything in threes, everything pointing in a specific direction) that held a mystical power over me. Essentially, I was raddled with these superstitions, and they profoundly affected me in many negative ways. I eventually overcame them, but it took time.

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

Jonathan: Michael Myers still scares the daylights out of me. So does Jerry Dandridge from the original Fright Night. I love werewolves in general, so the one in Silver Bullet, for instance used to really give me the willies. Oh, and The Thing was awesome because it’s this hostile intelligence and always changing.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Jonathan: Wow. Tough one. There were a pair of murders in my hometown of Delphi, Indiana (which is known as Shadeland in Children of the Dark) that remain unsolved, so for several reasons I want that killer to be caught. Two adolescent girls lost their lives, so it’s an unspeakable tragedy.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Jonathan: I don’t know if this qualifies, but Spring-Heeled Jack has always fascinated me. I love the uniqueness of his powers and the mysterious, fantastical nature of his abilities. I’d like to write a novel about it someday.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Jonathan: Well, I probably wouldn’t say that any would be my favorite, but the most fascinating has to be Jack the Ripper. So much of that has to do with the surreptitious nature of the crimes, the Whitechapel setting, the myriad theories about the killer’s identity, and the fact that it remains unsolved. I also think the clothing of the time and the fog add to the mystique.

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

Jonathan: Probably something like The Omen, which scared the crap out of me. I vividly remember watching The Twilight Zone when I was little, especially Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. Also the one where there’s an alien in the café and the one where the woman is going to have plastic surgery because (supposedly) she’s so hideous. Those shows truly impacted me. They scared me to death but they absolutely absorbed me and compelled me to keep watching despite my terror.

As far as the first horror book, that one’s easy: Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers. That book changed everything for me. Not long after that, I read ‘Salem’s Lot, The Stand, The Dead Zone, The Shining, Night Shift, Carrie, The Gunslinger, Skeleton Crew, Pet Sematary, and It. Essentially, the first twenty books I read were all by Stephen King, so he’s the reason I’m where I am today. He made me a reader, a writer, and an English teacher. Regarding the way those stories made me feel…for the first time, I felt smart when I was reading those books. Obviously, I was entertained too. And mesmerized and unsettled and transfixed. Those books were revelations to me.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Jonathan: Ah, nice question! Let’s see…I’m going to say The Girl Next Door. Jack Ketchum/Dallas Mayr had a way of going to the core of an issue and showing us what he found there, without flinching. That book made me cringe, put it down, return to it reluctantly, despair for humankind, and weep for what happened to that poor young woman.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Jonathan: This one is easy, though it’s surprisingly recent. It’s called Lake Mungo, and it’s a slow-burn faux-documentary that’s at turns depressing, unnerving, and flat-out terrifying. There’s a moment in the film I keep replaying in my head to an unhealthy, obsessive degree. When I wake up in the middle of the night, I’m afraid to see this face coming out of the dark. So even though I’m an adult…I might just be permanently scarred by Lake Mungo.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Jonathan: I had a chintzy Godzilla costume when I was really little. Cheap as hell, the sharp plastic mask with the string. But I loved it, felt like I was a fire-breathing monster when I wore it. I loved that costume and love it still.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Jonathan: Got to be “This Is Halloween,” though some of the tracks from Halloween are in the running. The song I referred to earlier I think is called “Laurie’s Theme,” though I could be wrong about that.

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

Jonathan: My favorite candy altogether is Dots, so because I sometimes get to eat those on Halloween, I’ll go with Dots. Other favorites include Snickers, Twizzlers, Reese’s Cups, and Kit Kats. Disappointing candy? I can’t think of any.

Meghan: Thanks again for stopping by today. As always, it was an absolute pleasure having you here. Before you go, what is your go-to Halloween movie and book?

Jonathan:
Top Halloween Movie: Halloween (1978): I know this is an uncreative answer, but Carpenter’s original film is just perfect. What I appreciate is how Carpenter treats the quieter moments, not just the kills. That film just drips atmosphere.

Top Halloween Book: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. Look, there are many great Halloween stories, but this one feels perfect for Halloween. I love the evocation of the small town, the friendship, the father-son relationship, those cusp-of-adulthood themes, and of course the sinister elements in the book. Basically, it’s perfect. I taught it for a few years to freshmen, and they ate it up. It’s a timeless novel.


Boo-graphy:
Jonathan Janz is the author of more than a dozen novels and numerous short stories. His work has been championed by authors like Joe R. Lansdale, Jack Ketchum, and Brian Keene; he has also been lauded by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and School Library Journal. His ghost story The Siren and the Specter was selected as a Goodreads Choice nominee for Best Horror. Additionally, his novel Children of the Dark was chosen by Booklist as a Top Ten Horror Book of the Year. Jonathan’s main interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children.

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