GUEST POST: Matthew R. Davis

13 Fun Fright Flicks for Halloween

Halloween is as much about fun as it is frights, so here’s a list of films to get you cackling through the chaos. I’ve avoided the obvious choices, so no Shaun of the Dead, Scream, Trick ‘r Treat, etc. (even if Shaun is one of the best films of all time, hands down). Here, you’ll find a baker’s dozen of rollicking romps and silly shocks, all dressed in the finest Halloween regalia, and I’ve even included some streaming options if that’s your thing… but I should warn you, Halloween itself plays almost no part in these films. Themes are hard, man! Here’s your effing lot.

DEMONS (1985)
Lamberto Bava’s Demons lays on the cheese thick and fast, taking everything we’d come to expect from producer/co-writer Dario Argento’s oeuvre and amping the ridiculous action up to 11. A group of unsuspecting folk enter the Metropol for a free screening of a new horror flick, only to find the nightmare bursting off the celluloid to run amok in the theatre. Cue special effects that range from laughably daft to outright eerie, a soundtrack that cuts between a very ‘80s synth score by Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti and rockers like Mötley Crüe’s “Save Our Souls” and Billy Idol’s “White Wedding”, and outlandish elements such as a working dirt bike in the cinema lobby and an unexplained final-act helicopter crash in the amphitheatre. A perfect beer and pizza flick!

Stream Demons on Shudder

Featuring a standout turn from Tom Atkins as the endlessly quotable Detective Ray Cameron, Night of the Creeps delivers a fun 1980s update of 1950s SF/horror larks that never knowingly takes itself seriously. A college hazing prank gone wrong looses alien brain parasites upon a small town, turning the infected into murderous zombies whose rampage leads to college girls accessorising their prom dresses with flamethrowers. Writer/director Fred Dekker channels youthful joy into an enjoyable romp that throws in B&W ‘50s flashbacks, Hawaiian dream sequences, a disabled best friend who brings both laughs and pathos, and exploding heads by the dozen. If you don’t answer the phone with the words “thrill me” after watching this, you’re doing it all wrong.

Stream Night of the Creeps on Shudder

We’ll be moving on from the ‘80s in due course, but first, here’s a treat (or trick) for fans of cheesy heavy metal. Sneering hairspray rocker Sammi Curr dies before the release of his new album Songs in the Key of Death, but his biggest fan soon realises the gig he had planned for the local high school’s Halloween dance will be going ahead regardless – and Curr’s set is going to kill. Featuring cameos from Gene Simmons as rock DJ Nuke and Ozzy Osbourne as a fundamentalist preacher set on abolishing rock n’ roll, Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat brings a knowing wit to its cheap pyrotechnics as it follows many a disgruntled teen’s arc from investing whole-heartedly in rebel music to eventually discarding it for the trappings of maturity. Don’t believe that hype, though – metal is forever!

Ken Russell’s delirious adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 1911 novel is as outrageous and enjoyable as you’d expect, contrasting venomous visions of Romans ravishing nuns amidst blood and fire with the bucolic sleepiness of a small English village. When a giant serpentine skull is unearthed at an archaeological gig, the appetites of ancient worm deity Dionin accelerate to envelop humble innkeeper and rich gentry alike. A fresh-faced Peter Capaldi (twenty-five years away from headlining Doctor Who) brings the modest heroism, Hugh Grant plays his charming, dapper-but-practical toff to the hilt, and Amanda Donohoe is having such a blast as the seductive villainess Miss Marsh that her sharp turns into sheer snake-eyed terror are all the more disturbing. The Lair of the White Worm is a fever dream from which you’ll wake laughing… in a pool of cold sweat.

Stream The Lair of the White Worm on Shudder

You won’t find any frights here, but you will laugh your head off – and if you’re unlucky, someone will come along to sew it back on the wrong body. After an horrific lawnmower accident leaves his fiancée in pieces, a backyard scientist resolves to build her a new body, and what follows is an orgy of homemade super-crack, exploding sex workers, relaxation techniques involving trepanation by power drill, and a patchwork prostitute tottering around on stacked heels looking for fatal “dates”. Frank Henenlotter’s ludicrous body-horror is a welcome shock of lightning for those seeking bad-taste titillation on Halloween. Also, I just can’t help myself, so here’s a crap joke: Frankenhooker; or, the Modern Promiscuous.

Stream Frankenhooker on Shudder

If you’re only familiar with Peter Jackson through his epic Tolkien adaptations, watching his early films must be like discovering your favourite classical composer used to be in a smutty grindcore band. After she’s bitten by a Sumatran Rat Monkey, downtrodden Lionel finds his nasty mother taking a turn for the worse and must go to extreme lengths to keep her and her ever-increasing horde of zombie victims under wraps, even if it means strapping a lawnmower to his chest to cut swathes through the undead or stabbing his way free from a monstrous womb. Jackson masterfully steers this flick from a comedy of manners set in 1950s New Zealand to a hilariously over-the-top rampage that soaks the screen in more red stuff than any movie before or since. This is splatter that matters.

Stream Dead Alive (aka Braindead) on Vudu

When it comes to spooky fun, how can you go past the family-animation gateway to horror that is Scooby-Doo? The gang reunite to shoot some footage for Daphne’s TV show in New Orleans, only to find themselves up against a threat that, for once, proves to be much more than a small business owner trying to scare off competition by skulking around in a monster suit – this time, the creeps are real. Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island is highly regarded amongst fans for its (slightly) darker tone, which prefigures the show’s future exploration of more layered and “adult” plots in the excellent Mystery Incorporated. Jeepers, jinkies, and zoinks, oh my!

Stream Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island on Roku

CUT (2000)
Time for some tongue-in-cheek slasher hijinks, and you can keep your Scream franchise and subsequent knock-offs – Cut may not be better, but it’s at least a flavour you might not have tried before. An Australian film crew decides to finish shooting the incomplete horror feature Hot Blooded!, which has long been regarded as cursed, and naturally, slaughter ensues as the movie’s masked killer returns to wreak havoc on the set. If you’re not sufficiently intrigued by the casting of Molly Ringwald as a bullish diva looking to reignite her career, perhaps you’d be interested in watching Kylie Minogue meet a gruesome death – and this was all shot by Kimble Rendall here in my home state of South Australia. Frights, camera – slashin’!

Stream Cut on Vimeo

That’s right, my friends, we’re going there – I consider Ghosts of Mars to be an underrated and highly enjoyable horror flick, not a patch on John Carpenter’s prior classics but easily worth ninety minutes of your time. When a mining crew unleashes a horde of ravenous spirits on Mars, it’s up to Natasha Henstridge’s team to save the day, and if nothing else, it’s a whole lot of fun watching Pam Grier, Ice Cube, and a pre-fame Jason Statham chew the scenery like catering had taken the day off. Carpenter throws a bunch of intriguing ideas at the screen – a subtly matriarchal society, the use of illegal narcotics providing unexpected salvation for one character – as well as a whole lot of severed heads and tribal scarification. If you’ve heard about the toxic reception but haven’t tried it yourself, you might find that, like me, you disagree with the critical consensus.

Stream Ghosts of Mars on Hulu

If you’re in the mood for something crass and entirely lacking in socially redeeming features, look no further than Rob Zombie’s outrageous adventure in animated sleaze. Celebrity luchador lunkhead El Superbeasto follows his lust for super-stripper Velvet Von Black (and anything else with boobs and a pulse) into the path of Doctor Satan’s clumsy quest to gain all the sudsy powers of Hell, with his sexy spy stepsister Suzi-X riding shotgun to pull his irons out of the fire. Packed full of horror references, silly songs, and game-for-anything celebrity voices, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto threatens to throttle good taste at every turn. All together now: “Zombie Nazis, f**kin’ up my day now…”

Stream The Haunted World of El Superbeasto on Roku

Why be just one thing when you can be everything – that seems to be the driving thought behind Detention, Joseph Kahn’s sensory overload of a film. A grotesque serial killer called Cinderhella is on the loose, but that’s merely a distraction from time-travel shenanigans involving a stuffed bear, personality swaps, wardrobe malfunctions, and a character once teasingly nicknamed TV Hand. More of a teen comedy on steroids and hallucinogens than a horror flick, Detention throws so much at the viewer that they might end up wishing they too could time-travel, if only to make sense of the increasingly convoluted plot. Kinetic, crazy, and a whole lot of fun.

Stream Detention on Shudder

Here’s a slasher that proves more interested in character development and even – gasp! – a dash of pathos than outright slaughter. Self-centred college student Tree Gelbman wakes up in a boy’s dorm-room bed and takes a walk of shame that ends in her murder at the hands of a killer in a baby-face mask, only to begin the same deadly day again and again until she works out how to use her knowledge of events to combat her murderer, experiencing some much-needed personal growth along the way. Christopher Landon’s horror-comedy charms more than one expects, and for those who want to know more, there’s a sequel that flips everything on its head. Fun fact: this is one of those rare films that features a bong as a murder weapon.

Stream Happy Death Day on Netflix

SCARE ME (2020)
Telling scary stories is an integral part of Halloween, and here’s a film that builds upon that tradition in a most amusing fashion. When struggling writer/actor Fred finds himself trapped by a thunderstorm in a cabin with successful horror author Fanny, the two try to frighten each other by making up terror tales – but the biggest threat may lie in Fred’s frustration with Fanny’s acerbic nature and his own feelings of failure and entitlement. Writer/director/actor Josh Ruben’s Scare Me relies upon the rapid wordplay of its lead actors, and while he acquits himself well, it’s Aya Cash (Stormfront from The Boys) who carries the film with her vibrant performance of the acidic Fanny. Add an unexpected sting in the tail, and you have a funny and satisfying addition to the horror-comedy canon.

Stream Scare Me on Shudder

This animated segment – one half of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad – was something I saw a few times in my childhood, and it never failed to provide me with much amusement and a little healthy fear. Lanky bookworm Ichabod Crane vies for the hand of Katrina von Tassel, so his rival Brom Bones regales him with the tale of the Headless Horseman… and later that night, he discovers for himself just how much truth is held in the tale. The only selection here suitable for a family audience, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow comes highly recommended for anyone looking to pique their children’s budding interest in spooky fun.

Stream The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad on Disney+

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: 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.

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.


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

Patrick: Pumpkin beer. And pumpkin coffee. And also pumpkin English muffins. My favorite part of Halloween is all of it. It’s that you can walk into any grocery store or pharmacy and find at least one discount skeleton mask that’s probably painted with poisonous chemicals or one plastic rubber bat that’s probably…painted with poisonous chemicals. It’s that the entire world seems to be on my wavelength, which, lemme tell you, is quite often not the case.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Patrick: May I make this a two-for-the-price-of-one answer? If so, super! If not, this is awkward. I grew up in a horror household. My parents dug the genre and, lucky for me, they didn’t much care what I watched, R ratings be damned. So what we’d do is we’d go trick-or-treating but once the eggs started cracking and the tee-pee started rolling, we came back home and watched horror movies like they were going out of style. The real stars of the show were the snacks. I’m talking junk food like you’ve never seen. My mom persuaded me to eat relatively (insert air quotes here) healthy but on Halloween night, all dietary bets were off. We’re talking nachos, pizza rolls, and deviled eggs (emphasis on the devil). We’d shove snack after snack into our mouths until our bellies inflated and what’s better than that? What’s better than spending quality family time watching Kevin Bacon get his throat pierced with the sharp end of an arrow or Johnny Depp get swallowed by a bloody bed, all while eating things with more artificial ingredients than a can of paint thinner? Answer: nothing. It was during one of those marathons that I leaned over a lit pumpkin-scented candle and managed to catch my bangs on fire. I snuffed the flames out quick enough but have you ever smelled burnt hair? It’s a lot stronger than anything Yankee Candle carries. I surveyed myself in the mirror and yeah, there would need to be an emergency hair cut before returning to school, but you know what? Who cared? Burning bangs or no burning bangs, that night there were no problems. There were only slashers and junk food and is there anything else? To this day, if by some strange circumstance, I catch a whiff of charred hair, it zaps me back to that living room, to those snacks, to that wonderful night.

Which brings us to part two of this question, the newer tradition of carving a jack-o-lanterns with my wife and daughter. With my wife, we’ve been doing this since day one of us, but with my daughter, we’re coming up on Halloween II (the holiday, not the movie), so it’s about as new as new gets. Last year, I don’t think she was cognizant enough to understand why her parents were wielding chef’s knives and gouging large orange apples but this year—this year, all bets are off. She’s got about five non-mom and non-dad words in her vocabulary, one of which happens to be “pumpkin.” Really, it’s more like “pum pum” but she’ll get there. Any flash of orange, she lights up like a Halloween blow mold, so I’m thinking the carving will be one for the books this year. The best part is I’ve tried not to push the seasonal addiction on her, but the moment she saw her first Beistle cut-out, she smirked ear to ear. I think it’s been passed down to her, this addiction that comes from who knows where. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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

Patrick: Two words: spooky walks. There is nothing—I repeat—nothing better than taking a stroll around your neighborhood, town, city—whatever—once the leaves start to turn. What other time of year can you see gravestones and animatronic gargoyles in someone’s front yard? And that’s just one house, if you’re lucky. I adore pulling on a sweatshirt and grabbing a pumpkin beer and then hiding that pumpkin beer in a non-descript thermos so as to avoid being arrested, then going for a seasonal stroll. I always end up in a neck of the woods I never even knew existed. This one time, a few years back, I traversed a side street wherein every single front porch was decked out in Halloween bliss, but here’s the kicker: I could never find that street again, no matter how many times I searched, which begs the question: did I accidentally cross over into a parallel dimension or did I have a few too many of those non-descript pumpkin beers? Probably it’s the latter but a man can dream.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Patrick: Everything. But there’s this one thing in particular. It’s maybe more innocuous than walking under a latter or spotting a black cat (which doesn’t bother me, seeing as how I’ve owned two or five). What it is, is the number thirteen, specifically how that number appears on my Kindle. I mostly read ebooks on account of my glasses are trifocals and the font’s easily adjustable. If I’m reading and arrive at the 13% mark, I’ve gotta keep going, if only to reach 14%, because if I stay at that cursed number, something insane will happen. Dead birds will fall from the sky. Every tree within a five-mile radius of my house will shrivel and rot. And the sun itself will burn out, dowsing the world in a never-ending cycle of darkness.

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

Patrick: Freddy Krueger, full stop. Here’s the thing. Freddy’s the reason I’m a horror fan. Like I mentioned before: my parents didn’t give a darn what I watched, for better and worse (mostly better). Because of this lack of parental advisory, one of the first movies I remember watching is A Nightmare on Elm Street. And let me tell you: it did a number on me. I had actual nightmares for days, maybe weeks, on end. But I couldn’t stop thinking about that glove and that fedora. So I watched it again. And again. Then I watched the sequels. And my revulsion turned to fascination. I loved the sense of nightmare logic. Because we’re dealing in dreams, the rules are less rigid and more fluid. Doors don’t lead where they ought too. Steps are made from oatmeal for some reason. And is that a goat over there? Yes, that’s definitely a goat.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Patrick: The Zodiac Killer has long been a morbid fascination of mine and I think it has to do with reading too many Batman comics, specifically those with the Riddler and how he always left clues and if you could just decipher them, you could stop him from performing whatever villainy was on his mind. But the difference is that Batman always solved said puzzles and real life isn’t so squeaky clean. I’m not exactly writing my thesis on the Zodiac but from what I’ve read, part of me wonders if the puzzles were intentionally unsolvable. He promised answers in there somewhere, all jumbled up, but maybe there never were answers.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Patrick: I’m from a small fishing town named Gloucester. It’s on the north shore of Massachusetts. And in my small fishing town, there was this tale making the rounds when I was a freshman, sophomore, somewhere around there. People swore there was a group of kids that called themselves the Gloucester Vampires. They congregated in abandoned buildings and under bridges late at night, when the town slept, and they did unspeakable things, performed rituals from texts so evil, reading a single page could make your mind burst like an over-ripe cantaloupe. Or so they said. Probably, it was a bunch of kids who wore black and were in the thick of their Hot Topic phase. But to my over-active mind, there was a cult in my small fishing town, a cult searching for new members. Once they chose you, there was no canceling your membership. I was so perturbed by this (probably) imaginary cult, I wrote a novel about it. It’s called We Came Back. It’s about to go out of print as of this writing but it’ll rise from the depths in a new edition soon enough.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Patrick: Care for a deep cut, so to speak? My wife’s family has a vacation home in Cape Cod. We got there twice, maybe thrice times a year, and in the neighboring town of Truro, there was once a serial killer who went by the name Tony Chop Chop, which, as far as serial killer names go, has got to be up there. The killings had a slight ritualistic bend, insofar that the hearts were removed from the victims. The case never gained the popularity that other killers of the time did, but Kurt Vonnegut wrote an article about Mr. Chop Chop in Life Magazine of all places, so the situation didn’t exactly go unnoticed. I’ve traveled to one of the supposed murder locations—a crypt long since busted open and cleared out—and you can’t deny the dread. It sticks to you like Laffy Taffy. In reality, serial killer culture deeply disturbs me, so much so that I wrote a novel (Where Stars Won’t Shine) to get it out of my system. And while I’m not exactly going to start a Tony Chop Chop blog, I do find the case fascinating.

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

Patrick: I’ll echo my earlier answer here. It was A Nightmare Elm Street, which I saw at the ripe age of way too young. But I’m not complaining. Thanks again, Mom and Dad. For horror books, it’s got to be Stephen King‘s Skeleton Crew but that only counts on a technicality. See, my mother had an dog-eared, spine-creased copy on her bookshelf. The one with that wide-eyed monkey and the cymbals. I’d pull it down, half-cover my eyes so said monkey couldn’t stare into my soul, and flip to a page at random. I loved what I read but I couldn’t read for long because I knew the book was alive, that it had teeth in some secret compartment, so it was better to place it back on the shelf where I found it. Years later, I’d give it a proper read and it would become a favorite. I still have my mom’s copy. Thus far, I haven’t seen those teeth. Maybe they just haven’t come in yet.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Patrick: It’s gotta be The Grip of It by Jac Jemc. I don’t see this one getting as much love as it rightfully deserves. It’s a haunted house novel, which is probably my favorite sub-genre, seeing as how I grew up in one (a story for another time). The horror that makes me all shivery is when bad stuff isn’t easily definable. Masked killers are fun but you can see a masked killer. What you can’t see are invisible forces working to unravel our minds one cold spot at a time. That’s what The Grip of It is. It’s a series of inexplicable scenes with no clear-cut answers. We, as readers, aren’t even sure if the house is haunted. And if it is, we can’t begin to theorize what’s haunting it. I don’t like it when authors tie things up in bow. I much prefer when horror is kept vague and it doesn’t get vaguer than The Grip of It.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Patrick: Stick with me here. There’s this one scene in The Mothman Prophecies that’s always on repeat in my brain. It’s when Richard Gere is washing his face in the bathroom sink, huddled over the faucet. We see the mirror and in that mirror is a shape standing just behind Richard. The problem with that shape is you can’t see its face. It’s like a smear on the lens that became sentient. And I have this thing with smooth faces. The concept of person with no eyes, ears, mouth, just smooth flesh—heck no. So while The Mothman Prophecies isn’t exactly known a walk-don’t-run flick, that scene is burrowed beneath my skin. Even today, when I’m washing my face, I know he’s there in the mirror. Mothman’s there and this time my eyes are the camera.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Patrick: My favorite Halloween was when I dressed up as a zombie this one time in eighth grade, which in and of itself doesn’t demand bragging rights, but I wasn’t just any rotting corpse. I was fourteen and it was the early 2000’s. Nu metal was having a moment. The most infamous practitioners? Limp Bizkit. And since I was a super fan, I dressed as the lead singer. Let me say that again: one time, two decades ago, I walked around dressed as a dead Fred Durst and asked strangers for candy.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Patrick: Gonna cheat here and choose the original Halloween theme, composed by Mr. ball-of-sunshine himself, John Carpenter. Sure it’s not a Halloween-themed song but it’s a song in a film called Halloween. Take that, semantics. The thing with this theme is it makes anything sinister and brooding. Break it out at a party, and it’ll set the mood with those dueling notes and that odd time signature (I wanna say it’s 5/4 but my math could be wrong). But why limit yourself? Crank it while you’re washing the dishes. You’ll be surprised by the results. On their own, dishes are boring. But with John Carpenter in tow, suddenly that chef’s knife takes on a whole new meaning. It’s great for long drives, too, especially on a cool fall night when the trees are bare and the fallen leaves scuttle in the wind. And make sure you keep those high beams on because you know Michael’s out there. He’s always out there.

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

Patrick: My favorite Halloween candy is candy corn and the most disappointing is also candy corn. Hear me out. I love the OG kind. And yes, I understand it tastes like melted candle wax mixed with high fructose corn syrup but don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. And if you have tried it, and you still hate it, then it’s okay to be wrong sometimes. Which brings us to the disappointment. It’s like I said: I love the original candy corn, but these weird new flavors? These fruity-flavored knock-offs? These caramel-flavored monstrosities? Not on my watch. There’s something so pure about candy corn and to mess with perfection only ruins the allure. So give me some CC all day long but make sure it’s the kind that’s been on sale since the seventies and is probably from the same batch.

Meghan: I just can’t imagine Halloween without you, Patrick, and some of these answers made me laugh out loud. Thanks for stopping by!! We’ll have to make plans for next year as well. But before you go, what are your top three Halloween movies?

If you haven’t seen Hack-O-Lantern, stop reading this and go see Hack-O-Lantern. This thing is dripping with vintage Halloween goodness. You could make a drinking game wherein you pause and take a shot every time a retro seasonal decoration pops up in the background. Though, on second thought, don’t do that because I refuse to be held accountable. Also, it’s got heavy metal and satanic panic vibes, the chocolate and peanut butter of horror. If robed cultists, devil-masked killers, and incessant music video dream sequences are your thing (and they really should be), look no further.

Night of the Demons
Just the perfect movie to throw on for the big night. It’s got a spooky mansion, excellent demonic make-up effects from legend Steve Johnson, and a fantastic wraparound story in which a grumpy old man gets what’s coming to him. Director Kevin Tenney is on record saying he wasn’t even a horror fan when he came aboard the film. Could’ve fooled me. I watch it every October. And also every November and December.

Trick or Treat
Note the “or” as in not Trick ‘r Treat. This is another heavy metal horror flick and if you’re sensing a pattern, it’s because I’m a life-long metal head and horror head (which I’ve never seen in print and will most certainly not Google). In a nutshell, a high schooler’s favorite metal musician dies and inhabits our protagonist to then help him exact revenge against his bullies. Bad things ensue. Like the other two films, this thing is just begging to be watched on a cool autumn night in the presence of a pumpkin-scented candle. Unfortunately, because of legal issues with the heavy-metal-tinged soundtrack, this one can be difficult to track down. The DVD’s out of print and there’s no American Blu-ray, though there is a Spanish one with an English version of the film. What I’m saying is, it might take some effort to track down, but the pay-off’s worth it a thousand-fold.

Patrick Lacey was born and raised in a haunted house. He currently spends his time writing about things that make the general public uncomfortable. He lives in Massachusetts, in a hopefully un-haunted house, with his wife, his daughter, and his ginormous cat. Follow him on Twitter.

Sleep Paralysis: A Collection
Sleep paralysis: A transitional state between wakefulness and sleep, accompanied by powerful hallucinations and muscle weakness, preventing one from moving.

A website that specializes in suffering. A basement filled with secrets and bones. An apartment housing much more than just ghosts. These are the places between reality and the unknown. These are the stories that stay with you long after you’ve read them. These are the things that visit your dreams. And nightmares.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Kristopher Triana

Meghan: Hey, Kris. Welcome back to Meghan’s House of Books and our annual Halloween Extravaganza. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Kristopher: As a kid, it was being out on a cold night with the leaves blowing about, seeing the jack-o-lanterns glowing, running down the street in my costume and pretending I was a werewolf or vampire or whatever. That was even better than the candy! As an adult, I cherish those memories. Now, my favorite part of the holiday is its rich traditions, and the way adults can return to that childlike wonder for a night.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Kristopher: The horror movie marathon, especially when it’s with a significant other or a good friend. You carve pumpkins as the sun goes down, put on scary movies, and hope to get trick or treaters.

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

Kristopher: It is my favorite, hands down. I’m a horror writer, and also a horror fanatic. Halloween is the time of year everyone is into what I’m always into all year long.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Kristopher: Nothing, really. I don’t believe in that stuff. Give me a black cat to pet!

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

Kristopher: Oh, that’s a tough one. As for the old monsters, I’d have to say The Wolfman is my favorite. I’ve always related more to a tortured soul trying to contain his inner beast than some undead bloodsucker being all suave and perfect. I also dig The Blob!

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Kristopher: The Black Dahlia. It was such a brutal crime and so shrouded in mystery.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Kristopher: I’ve always loved the hook, with the teens at lover’s lane who hear on the radio about an escaped maniac with a hook hand, then find the bloody hook on the handle of the car door after they drive home.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Kristopher: I wouldn’t say I have a “favorite” one because I don’t like when people glorify someone like that. I see someone at a horror con wearing a Richard Ramirez t-shirt and I’m just like, “You know he raped and murdered old ladies, right?”. It’s just messed up. People need to differentiate between horror fiction and reality. But I do find true crime stories very interesting. Edmund Kemper’s story is so beyond messed up. Well worth a read if you can stomach it!

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

Kristopher: I can’t remember exactly, but probably eight or nine, watching the old Universal monster movies. I was about eleven when I saw my first slasher film, which was John Carpenter’s Halloween, and I was hooked.

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

Kristopher: I read the Crestwood Monster Series and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark as a kid. Then I moved on to Stephen King and Clive Barker. I think The Mist by King was my first adult horror story, and my first novel read was The Dark Half. Then Barker’s The Great and Secret Show opened my mind to the limitless possibilities the genre could offer. By the time I was fourteen I was devouring what is now referred to as “Paperbacks from Hell”, all the novels from the horror boom of the ’80s. I knew early on that I wanted to be a horror author too.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Kristopher: King’s The Shining was the first book I ever had to put down for a few hours because I was so freaked out. Since then, there have been many that got under my skin—brutal books like Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door and Off Season, or more recent thrillers like Come With Me by Ronald Malfi. There are even books that don’t qualify as horror but are deeply unsettling, such as Last Exit to Brooklyn and The Demon by Hubert Selby Jr. His books are incredible.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Kristopher: I saw part of Prince of Darkness when I was way too young and it scared the crap out of me! I never knew what is was, and then one day I’m watching this movie, and the scene I always remembered—the hobo impaling a man with a bicycle—comes on and I’m like, “Holy shit!”

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Kristopher: I loved being Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers, but dressing as Leatherface was the best because I hid in the bushes and then chased kids with a real chainsaw! I had removed the chain, so it was totally safe, but still loud and terrifying. They came back for more every year.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Kristopher: Again, it’s hard to pick a favorite. But I do love Tim Curry’s song in The Worst Witch.

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

Kristopher: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are my Halloween staple. Even the old school label screams Halloween with its autumn colors. The worst in the world is that horrible abomination known as candy corn.

Meghan: Thanks again for stopping by, Kris. Make sure you send Bear our love. But before you go, what are your go-to Halloween movies?

Kristopher: My ideal Halloween movie/TV marathon is:

John Carpenter’s Halloween
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
Ginger Snaps
Trick or Treat (1986)
A Nightmare on Elm Street
The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror episodes
Night of the Demons (1988)
Night of the Demons 2
The Exorcist III
The Monster Squad

Kristopher Triana is the Splatterpunk Award-winning author of Gone to See the River Man, Full Brutal, The Thirteenth Koyote, They All Died Screaming, and many other terrifying books. His work has been published in multiple languages and has appeared in many anthologies and magazines, drawing praise from Rue Morgue Magazine, Cemetery Dance, Scream Magazine, and many more.
He lives in New England.


And the Devil Cried
When Jackie is released from prison, his boss Pino sends a limo to pick him up. Even fresh out of the joint, ruthless Jackie is ready to work, collecting money for the mob and using his special training to take care of bad accounts—permanently.

But when a drunk driver kills Pino’s young son, he gives Jackie a task that goes against every moral code. The drunk driver has a pre-teen daughter, and Pino doesn’t just want vengeance—he wants an eye for an eye.
Jackie accepts the job, but once he finds the girl he starts making plans of his own…

And the Devil Cried is a dark thriller from Kristopher Triana, the award-winning author of Gone to See the River Man and Full Brutal. It is a vicious, unflinching novel that’s bound to keep you burning.


Meghan: Hi Edmund! Welcome to Meghan’s HAUNTED House of Books. I know you’ve been a bit under the weather, so I’m glad that you were able to take a little bit of time to sit down with us today. Let’s get started: What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Edmund: Decorating and family time. I love to put together a little impromptu party for my children and grandchildren every year. We decorate the house with scary and funny items and make soups and sandwiches. Then the kids watch scary movies. It’s such a great family time tradition.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Edmund: Trick or treating. My imagination was always on alert, and I would think of scenarios where things could happen while out on a trek. From going to haunted houses to watching the corn field for the scarecrow to come after me. In those days our TV options were limited, so a good imagination was a must.

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

Edmund: Probably the mystery of the time. All things are dark and dreary, and night comes on quicker. So, it only adds to the mystery. When I was a kid, me and my friends would deliberately find an old house to walk by and see who could go up and knock on the door. All the fun and costumes are great. A time of year you can be who you want and get by with it.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Edmund: Very little. I do pick pennies up when I see them lying on a parking lot, although in today’s time, probably not a good idea to be honest. I live in an area where superstition abounds, and science is looked on as evil. It’s backward and rural but the perfect back drop for many of my stories. The people are nice here and never back down from a good story.

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

Edmund: When I was younger my favorite would have been Freddy Krueger hands down. I loved his one liners and way he could turn into different manifestations of the persons fears. In recent years the new Pennywise is my favorite. Tim Curry’s was great, but Skarsgard delivers the goods for the new generation. Great stuff.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Edmund: The Lindbergh baby. Although a man went to the electric chair for the crime, the evidence against him was circumstantial at best. Just bad policing all around. It’s similar to the JonBenet Ramsey case.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Edmund: I have two. Bloody Mary is the scariest because I’ve tried it. Of course, nothing happened, but I feel she’s waiting somewhere ready to strike. The legend of the kidneys being harvested when you wake up. That one I think has some fact behind it. Very disturbing.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why? Aileen Wuornos. The one in the movie Monster. I thought she was kind of given to her circumstances. It makes you almost feel sorry for her. Richard Ramirez, The Night Stalker was another. His crime spree was on the news when I was a kid, so I remember it well. He would go in a house and kill the husband then rape and kill all the women. Pretty cold.

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

Edmund: I believe I was seven years old. My cousin made me stay up and watch Chiller Theater with him. The old Blob movie from the fifties was playing. Scared me to death. The first horror movie I remember watching the whole way through was The Thing. It gave me my first true love of horror films. I was hooked afterward and became an insatiable watcher. My sister remembers waking up to the sounds of screaming because I’d rented a bunch of films and spent the whole night watching. She wasn’t surprised at all when I became a horror writer.

I was late to the horror reading game. I cut my teeth on Edgar Allan Poe when I was around fifteen years old. A friend I lived next door to let me borrow his copy of the unabridged works. I read and read. It was so good. Then I moved on to the Books of Blood. Very unsettling but I couldn’t get enough of them. I read King’s Skeleton Crew. I liked it but wasn’t a big fan of King’s until I was much older. Clive Barker was the one I read the most then. It gave me inspiration to start writing short stories. Some I still have buried in notebooks.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Edmund: I don’t know if it’s technically considered a horror novel, but The Road by Cormac McCarthy would be the most unsettling to me, more for the subject matter than anything. The other I’d mention would be The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. The things that poor girl endured were horrible and hard to read.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Edmund: They were more like documentaries, but Faces of Death gave me nightmares when I was in my teens. I watched lots of horror movies then, but after seeing those, nothing really compared. Recently, a movie that disturbed me was The Green Inferno. It’s an indie film about a group of Greenpeace kids getting caught in the Amazon with a cannibalistic tribe. Gory and strange.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Edmund: Wow. I have so many. My mom was a seamstress. She could put together anything I wanted. One year I wanted to be the headless horseman. We came up with this elaborate cardboard and cloth get up with a plastic jack o lantern for the head. It was a great costume, but the head wouldn’t stay on.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song? Probably the one from Nightmare before Christmas. This is Halloween I think it’s called. That gets stuck in my head, and I can’t get it out. I love the Halloween theme too, so recognizable. When I was a kid, it was Monster Mash.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat?

Edmund: Mary Janes. I love those chewy peanut buttery treats. My kids couldn’t figure out why I always wanted to steal them from their stash. They would give them up no problem. What is your most disappointing? Gobstoppers or jawbreakers. I never had a like for hard candies.

Meghan: Thanks for stopping by today, Edmund. Before we go, what are your Top 6 things we should take the time to watch or read at Halloween?


  • Halloween movie. I love the Halloween movies and at least watch the first one during Halloween.
  • American Horror Story Halloween episode. The dead walk the Earth. Can it get any better?
  • Hocus Pocus. We always watched this one with the kids and now the grandkids.
  • Goosebumps. I read these stories to my kids when they were little around Halloween. I also told them scary stories so they would have a hard time sleeping.
  • Trick r Treat movie. I watched it last Halloween on a whim and it’s become a favorite of mine.
  • Tales from the Darkside Halloween pilot episode. It was called Trick or Treat. The one where the man ends up going to hell and the devil tells him he’s getting warmer. That creeped me out back in the day.

Edmund Stone is a writer, poet and artist who spins tales of strange worlds and horrifying encounters with the unknown. He lives in a quaint town on the Ohio River with his wife, a son, four dogs and two mischievous cats.


Tent Revival
Salt Flat, Kentucky is a sleepy town. Until a mysterious Tent shows up one day, with a charismatic preacher, inviting the people to an old-fashioned tent revival. Everyone’s mesmerized by his presence, entranced by the magic he performs.

Sy Sutton isn’t fooled by what’s going on. But as his son becomes entrenched in the craziness around him, he has no choice but to get involved. With the help of an unlikely friend, He’ll try to save his son and the town he’s fond of.

Unknown to him, something lurks below. An ancient being with an agenda. When she comes to the surface, all hell will break loose on the night of the Tent Revival.