Game Review: Munchkin Zombies

Munchkin Zombies by Steve Jackson Games

Munchkin Zombies game
Munchkin Zombies game

I love games. Board games, video games, card games, role-playing games… I dig them all. My only problem with games these days is that I don’t have the  time to actually sit down and play them. So when Halloween Forevermore opened the site up to horror product reviews, I jumped at the chance to have a great excuse to play games!

The folks at Steven Jackson Games were kind enough to send me the 1st edition, 7th printing of the card game, Munchkin Zombies.

Here is a breakdown of the game from the World of Munchkin website: Game Design by Steve Jackson. Illustrated by John Kovalic. Kill the Living! Eat their Brains! Braaiiinns!

It’s the sickest, silliest Munchkin yet! You are zombies, kicking down doors and eating brains. The “monsters” you’re attacking are people, some helpless and some hazardous, with a few rogue zombies thrown in. The armor is whatever you’ve blundered across during your lurching search for brains. So bravely you’ll go forth, with mousetraps on your feet and a bowling trophy protecting your poor rotting head . . . to level up, or to die.

Munchkin Zombies cards
Munchkin Zombies cards

This is the first Munchkin game I have ever played, and it is a seriously addictive laugh riot. Every player starts as a level one zombie and the object is to be the first zombie to hit level ten. To do this, you will kick down doors and gather treasures, items, weapons, abilities and armor with the 2 card decks that comprise the game. Drawing a card can either give you a tremendous benefit or drawback. The cards themselves are very amusing and, of course, there are chase cards you are going to want to… chase (Steve Jackson Games were kind enough to send me a promo Pitcher of Cheap Beer card with their press materials). I love this game! Now, I want the expansions and promo goodies and I feel like a junkie in the making that was given his first taste on the house.

Pitcher of Cheap Beer
Pitcher of Cheap Beer

There are currently four expansions to the Munchkin Zombies game and a ton of goodies and accessories available at the World of Munchkin site. There are several games on the site that would be of great interest to a horror/fantasy gamer.

Yes, this game comes highly recommended! More braaaiiiiinnnsssss…

 

 

 

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: HalloweenForevermore.com received one or more of the products or services mentioned below for free in the hope that we would mention it on this website. Regardless, we only recommend products or services that we use personally and believe will be of interest to our readers.  We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Movie Review: George A. Romero’s Martin (1976)

Chavez For Charity logo

Chavez For Charity BraceletsWe are Halloween Forevermore.  We love horror and things that make you sit up in bed at night and exclaim, “Holy Crap!  What was that?”  But like Frankenstein, who will scare the crap out of you if you encounter him under moon’s light, but who also melts at the sight of a sweet little girl with pretty flowers, we love the creepy and crawly with a heart.  We may like to don spooky, dark and gothic fashions, but we still want the world to be a bright and beautiful place.  Chavez for Charity has designed bracelets that combine the perfect “mwah ha ha ha” factor with compassion and generosity, donating 25% of proceeds to multiple charities.   In other words, Chavez For Charity is scary philanthropic.

They have a variety of bracelets fashioned with skulls.    These are made of weighty, quality materials strung together with a thin elastic cord, which stretches to fit any sized wrist.  These bracelets create a nice sound when they rattle against each other.  It’s the kind of sound that indicates quality – like when you know a set of crystal glassware is top-tier by the sound of its “clink.”  Worn in combination with other colors and styles, the bracelets make a trendy and spooky statement.  Each color supports a different charity.  Chavez for Charity also designs bracelets of other themes, sans the spine-chilling skull flavor, for the more traditional bauble-wearer.  They also make lovely necklaces of varying colors and designs.

From the Chavez for Charity website:

“When we launched our Chavez for Charity Collection in early 2013, our goal was to create a line of colorful bracelets that people would love to wear and at the same time allow us to contribute, in a significant way, to charitable causes that we care about…  What we’ve come to realize is that every color tells a story and that through our collection, we are able to facilitate conversations that unite, inspire, and motivate people to fight for what is right and to stand up to what is wrong.  mariechavez was established over a decade ago by designer Julie Marie Chavez.  Julie’s on-trend and distinct designs have earned raves from fashion-forward shoppers and celebrities alike. Julia Roberts, Jennifer Garner, Anne Hathaway, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Rosario Dawson and Kate Bosworth are just a few of the celebrities who have adorned mariechavez…  From playful stackable bracelets of graywood, jade and bronze, to a layered statement necklace of riverstone and agate, Julie’s talent for tastefully balancing colors and textures makes her unique collection consistently sought after.”

 

Red Riverstone Skull Bracelet

Chavez For Charity Red Skull Bracelet
Chavez For Charity Red Skull Bracelet – BenefittingVDAY Charity

 

Red riverstone bracelet with skull detail. Measures approximately 7.5″ in length. With the purchase of this bracelet, 25% of gross profit goes to V-Day.

 

 

 

Black Skull Bracelet

Chavez For Charity Black Skulls Bracelet - Benefitting Little Kids Rock Charity
Chavez For Charity Black Skulls Bracelet – Benefitting Little Kids Rock Charity

 

Black skull bracelet with silver “CFC” tube.  Measures approximately 7.5″ in length. With the purchase of this bracelet, 25% of gross profit goes to Little Kids Rock.

 

White Skull Set of Five

Chavez For Charity White Skulls - Benefitting Matthew Shepard Foundation
Chavez For Charity White Skulls – Benefitting Matthew Shepard Foundation

 

Assorted white skull bracelet set of five. Measures approximately 7.5″ in length. With the purchase of this bracelet set, 25% of gross profit goes to the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

Each bracelet comes with a pouch and a hang-tag detailing the charity’s mission.

 

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: HalloweenForevermore.com received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that we would mention it on this website.  Regardless, we only recommend products or services that we use personally and believe will be of interest to our readers.  We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Silent Night, Deadly Night Box Set from Fright-Rags

Silent Night, Deadly Night
Silent Night, Deadly Night

Controversial slasher Silent Night, Deadly Night turns 30 this year, and Fright-Rags has commemorated the holiday horror classic with a line of new merchandise. Prepare to be punished!

Any horror fan would be elated to find the Silent Night, Deadly Night limited edition box set under their tree this Christmas. Enclosed in a collector’s box, the set contains a shirt designed by Justin Osbourn, a Christmas sweater-style sweatshirt by Joe Guy Allard, a handmade resin ornament depicting one of the film’s most memorable scenes and a felt stocking. This set is limited to only 225 units.

The T-shirt and sweatshirt can be purchased separately to spread the yuletide fear. Osbourn’s design comes on unisex shirts, girls shirts and zip-up hoodies. The other items are available exclusively as part of the box set.

In addition to the Silent Night, Deadly Night collection, Fright-Rags has released Christmas-themed shirts inspired by Tales from the Crypt and Scrooged for the horror fan on your list this year.

These items are available now from Fright-Rags.com and ready to ship in time for Christmas. Domestic orders placed by December 19 will arrive by December 24. Quantities are limited, so these items may sell out early. You better run if you don’t want to end up on the naughty list.

The Silent Night, Deadly Night Box Set
The Silent Night, Deadly Night Box Set

Movie Review: The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook Poster
The Babadook Poster

The Babadook

Written & Directed by Jennifer Kent. Starring Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall. A Causeway Films and Smoking Gun Productions.

Going abroad for my horror films has really paid off. In recent years, France and Spain – and even Korea – have been my go-to countries for solid, original horror. However, several years ago, I stumbled across Wolf Creek, an Australian survival horror that ticked all the right boxes and provided a taut, thrilling ride. The home of the outback is no stranger to talented horror scribes and with The Babadook, they’ve really cemented their stamp on the genre. For a land known for its exotic locations, cheesy soap operas and laid back attitude, they really take their horror seriously.

How seriously? Well, this is only the second horror since 2000 to make me jump. I don’t scare easily, but the Babadook (an anagram of ‘A Bad Book’) had me on two separate, tense occasions. Jennifer Kent has studied her genre well. Be warned, this is sublime, but terrifying stuff.

The execution is very simple. Amelia (Essie Davis) is a lone, widowed mother to a hyperactive son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Her son is a constant, unwelcome reminder of her husband’s death, who died while transporting her to hospital to give birth. With his birthday fast approaching, her grieving is about to resurface, having never totally vanished. One night, she decides to read a bedtime story to Samuel, who chooses a mysterious book called Mr Babadook. After flicking through the pages, Amelia realizes that the book is not exactly kid-friendly, and promptly hides it. Soon after, strange things start to happen…that’s when Samuel advises her to not let Mr Babadook in…but is it really so simple?

The best horrors have an underlying message. Guilt and isolation wrack Amelia’s body and mind, both a result of her son’s existence. His unnatural, almost autistic, behavior both pushes away his friends and her only companionship, resulting in crushing isolation for them both. With only one another to reluctantly turn to, it’s a matter of time until the Babadook becomes more than a twisted fairy tale. Is the Babadook real, or a figment of Amelia’s fatigued imagination, her son’s active imagination, or a bit of both? This is the plight throughout the movie; one that draws genuine fear and scares from its darkened, emotional core.

The Babadook picAside from the strained bond between son and reluctant mother, the horror on display here is top notch. Figures hiding in corners, doors opening by themselves, dark shadows moving for no reason and, my favourite, the voice of the Babadook, one that will send shivers up your spine and have you turning the lights on within seconds. The film is an ode to the horror genre, never preempting a scare with music or sound effects or revealing too much to keep you in the know. The book itself is one such plot point, some of its pages remaining empty until later in the film when it makes a surprise appearance with said pages containing new material. This scene alone is testament to the director’s future in the genre, surprising and horrifying watchers in unison, and ratcheting up the final third of the movie to almost unbearable levels.

If it’s in a word or in a look, you can’t get rid of a Babadook,‘ is the eponymous line from the book itself. Sure, this isn’t Dr. Seuss by any stretch of the imagination, but the early book-reading scene puts you on notice early. The film is depressing and eerie, all blacks and greys and darkness. The combination of Amelia’s grief, social out casting and deniability of the Babadook itself are brewed together to create a palpable horror, one that simmers beneath the surface until the right moment. When these moments arrive, you’ll be terrified. The book is a foreshadowing of sorts, one that lays the film out for you. All you have to do it wait and see how it unravels…but you’ll still be surprised. Sleep deprivation, isolated spaces and foreboding silences all play a huge part here, catching you off-guard on several occasions. You live it with the characters, which always keeps you hooked.

Mister BabadookFans of classic horror will spot the education on display here. Wide shots revealing menacing darkness (Halloween), simple sound effects used to terrifying effect (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and a strained relationship that creates confusion and doubt (The Thing), Jennifer Kent shows an aptitude for the genre and breathes some freshness into the horror, ensuring the film doesn’t fall flat. The essential part of the movie though, is the cast.

Davis and Wiseman are phenomenal, both of their characters torn by emotional neglect and loss; Amelia is devastated; Samuel is too young to know just how crippling his father’s passing is to his shell-shocked mother. As a result, he doesn’t understand why his mother is so resentful and ignorant to his existence. This strained relationship is almost unbearable to watch at times, but both thespians create something special. Without this tension between them, the film might have been completely different. Fear grows by simply living their journey and being in their space, one so cramped and claustrophobic; you’re just waiting for them to turn on one another. By the time the Babadook makes its horrifying presence known, mother and son are on the proverbial and literal edge. This adds an air of menace and uncertainty to proceedings, creating a taut, nerve-shredding finale, which oozes class and terror. Unfortunately, you can sense a sequel in the making…if this film was left as a standalone, it’ll be a cult classic in no time.

Rating: 5/5

The BabadookA true horror film for true horror fans. If you want blood and gore, this isn’t for you. The Babadook relies on basic instincts to terrify you; a lot of the time, it’s about what isn’t there, leaving your imagination to play tricks on you. Darkened eyes, figures staring at you from the corner of a room or shadows dancing across your ceiling…the unknown that terrifies everyone. Add to that the emotional heart of the film, one of loss and grief that not only affects the characters but also skews their perception of normality. Sprinkle in a dose of supernatural horror that never outstays its welcome and you have all the ingredients for a classic film that will have people talking for years to come. I dare you to watch this with the lights off…

 

 

Watch the trailer:

The Top 5 Required Horror Christmas Viewing List

November 1st is always the worst day of the year for horror fans. Fall is quickly hardening into winter, and the creepy goodness of Halloween becomes just a memory as the more feel good holidays turn those grand creepy store displays into ones of green and red jolliness.

I am not saying that horror fans don’t enjoy Christmas, because I know a good portion do. But for many horror fans, it is easy to see the macabre blueprint for terror in December 25th. Saint Nick himself can go from benevolent toy bringer to horrifying entity of evil with just a change of light.

So, if you are like me, you enjoy a little dark undercurrent to the cheery festivities. I have compiled a list of the top five dark Christmas films for the horror fan to enjoy and counter that syrupy goodness of December 25th.

And I am going to start with an Honorable Mention that is not a movie, but an episode of a television series:

Honorable Mention: The Aquabats! Super Show! Holiday Special 

The Aquabats vs Krampus
The Aquabats vs Krampus

The Aquabats is a BRILLIANT kid’s show on the HUB network that centers around a rock band/superhero team and if you were a fan of the cool, off the wall freakiness of the late 60’s/early 70’s kid’s TV, you have to check this show out. I enjoy it as much as my six year-old, and he loves it. This episode makes the grade because of the smack down battle between Santa and his evil counterpart, Krampus!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas
How the Grinch Stole Christmas

 

 

5. How The Grinch Stole Christmas

 

No, not the Jim Carrey film. I am going back to the original 1966 animated special. Voiced by horror legend, Boris Karloff, the Grinch is a black-hearted monster out to destroy what he feels is the central fabric of Christmas. Of course, realizing that the holiday goes much deeper that the rampant consumerism associated with it, the Grinch’s tiny heart grows and he finally understands the true meaning of Christmas. For many children who grew up with this holiday classic, this is the first holiday special with a sinister air.

Gremlins
Gremlins

4. Gremlins

 Joe Dante and Steven Spielberg’s outrageous creature feature that was the first film to earn the PG-13 rating for its cartoon-ish violence. Filmed in 1984, Gremlins is a black comedy set near Christmas that concerns a young man receiving a strange pet from his never around father. Gizmo, the adorable Gremlin, is given to Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) with a specific set of rules. Of course, all are broken and in no time several evil reproductions of Gizmo run amok.

 

Black Christmas
Black Christmas

3. Black Christmas

 

Bob Clark’s extremely effective and moody 1974 chiller hits number three on my list. A sorority house is targeted by a psychopath who makes threatening phone calls and then begins murdering the sorority sisters. This film features an early performance by Margot Kidder and genre favorite John Saxon stars as well. Black Christmas is considered one of the earliest works to feature two horror film conventions: one, the slasher, and two, the killer calling from inside the house.

 

Silent Night, Deadly Night
Silent Night, Deadly Night

2. Silent Night, Deadly Night

 

If you notice, this is the only psycho Santa film featured on this list, and that is because I consider it to be the most memorable of Christmas/Santa slasher films. I am not saying it is a masterpiece, but for holiday horror fans, it is as necessary as mistletoe.  Charles E. Sellier Jr.’s cheap B-movie tells the story of Billy, a troubled teenager who witnessed the brutal murder of his parents at the hands of a psycho in a Santa suit (played by one of my favorite character actors, Charles Dierkop). Billy of course eventually dons the red and white suit and begins creating his own naughty list. Linnea Quigley appears in a very memorable death scene involving antlers.

 

The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Nightmare Before Christmas

1. The Nightmare Before Christmas

 

Okay, it is not a horror film, but nothing speaks to the horror fan around Christmas time like this classic Tim Burton animated film. It is a love letter to those of us who die a little inside every time we hear a Christmas song before Thanksgiving. You can take me to task over declaring Jack Skellington’s attempt to reshape Christmas for the lovers of the macabre as my number one pick, but I will insist that nothing warms my black heart as much as this classic.

All or Nothing by Stuart Keane now available!

All or Nothing
All or Nothing

Stuart Keane’s horror novel, All or Nothing,  is now available on Amazon! Stuart is an extremely talented new author and he has racked up some very impressive credits. He is also a contributor to Halloween Forevermore and his controversial piece, Vermilion: A Traveler’s Account, appeared in the Journals of Horror: Found Fiction anthology (tales written in epistolary form) which was created by Terry M. West.

Here is the synopsis to All or NothingThe Game. A lucrative pay-per-view that caters to only the richest and most extravagant of clients, those selected based on their wealth, social status and Government position. Organised and run by a secret conglomerate called The Company, and only viewable by the extremely rich and wealthy, it’s the epitome of reality television.  The Chronicles. Four twisted, egotistical, wealthy men with no remorse for the public or people below their social status. With complete control over The Choices, they can do what they want, when they want, however they want. Egos and pride clash in order to produce the best entertainment their unlimited funds can buy. The Choices. Four strangers chosen at random and ripped from their everyday lives, they are selected by The Chronicles to participate in The Game. Rules do not apply. There’s no law, no justice, no escape and no hope. The Company does not accept failure. With a client base exclusively consisting of the most influential people on the planet, their acceptance for anything but perfection is zero. When The Game begins, things start to go wrong. The Chronicles become obsessed with power, The Choices become caught in the cross-fire and The Company is overseeing everything. Tempers fray, confidence cracks and people ultimately start paying the price. The strangers begin to realise that anything is possible. Agenda’s seem random but as the night progresses, it becomes apparent that things are more personal than first thought. With The Company watching, The Chronicles pulling the violent, bloody strings and events spiraling out of hand, it becomes obvious that the outcome, and their fate, is beyond their control…

All or Nothing features a cover by legendary horror artist, Steve Crisp (read our interview with Steve here).

Article: The Bad Boys of Christmas

Krampus and Saint Nicholas art circa 1896
Krampus and Saint Nicholas art circa 1896

My daughter remains fearful of Santa Claus. Every year, she asks that the big man from the North leave the presents on the back porch instead of breaking in to sneak around the interior of our house. The Louis Armstrong tune “Is Dat You, Santa Claus?” makes me think she is not alone in this concern.

Santa is derived from St. Nicholas. This 4th century bishop possessed courage, strength, as well as supernatural powers. He freed slaves and prisoners, sympathetic to their plight after spending time incarcerated for his religious beliefs. Notably, he rescued a boy held by the Babylonian King. His fondness for children allowed him to hear the wrongs done to them. When a father felt inclined to send his dowry-less daughters to prostitution, St. Nicholas in secret and under cover of night sent bags of gold down the chimney to land in the girls’ stockings. They then possessed dowries, preserving their virtue. When walking through a market, he heard children crying out to him, but saw none. He tracked their calls to a barrel of pickling fish. Nicholas opened the lid and discovered their murdered, dismembered bodies. He kicked over the barrel and restored the children to life. Medieval iconography sometimes depicts St. Nicholas with a captured devil in chains.

After his canonization, his feast day became a celebration when the saint brought presents to reward good children and left switches or coal for the naughty. Some folk disliked the Saint’s stern stance and devised a teammate for his deliveries.

Knecht Ruprecht (translated loosely as Black Devil) in 17th century Nuremberg joined St. Nicholas. This staff-carrying, long-bearded gent handed out gingerbread, fruit, and nuts to well-behaved children, and beat the bad with bags of ashes.

Saint Nicholas and Zwarte Piet
Saint Nicholas and Zwarte Piet

Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) generated controversy in recent years in the Netherlands, Aruba, Belgium, Luxenbourg, and Spain. This 19th century holiday character dressed in Renaissance clothes and sometimes a blackened face. He proceeded Sinter Klaas in parades, scattering cookies and amusing children, but he also brought birch switches called “roe” or lumps of coal in his burlap sack for the poorly-behaved. In Holland today, whole fleets of multicolored Petes, including females, are part of an updated imagining of holiday icons such as this freed slave or chimney sweep who assists with gift giving.

Krampus
Krampus

One theory links modern images of Santa and his entourage with the Wild Men of Woden on their thrilling hunts. Woden, or Oden Allfather, with his long, white beard battled frost giants and sent his crows Hugen and Mugen to gather intelligence from around the world, including listening on rooftops around chimneys.

However, one of St. Nicholas’ companions generates such enthusiasm that the day of celebration no longer honors Myra’s bishop. Krampus Nacht many call the 5th of December, marking the day with parades, balls, plays, and frivolity. This terrifying, dark companion glories in punishing the naughty with blows from switches and rusty chains. Krampus carries a burlap sack to abduct the particularly bad and drag them to Hell. Krampuslauf, or Krampus Run, includes elaborately costumed, terrifying demonic Krampuses running amok with their punishments. Germany, Austria, Northern Italy, Finland, France, and other parts of Europe embrace the night of alcohol-consumption and nightmare generation. Krampus’ depictions vary from a sinister, black-clad gent to a horned devil or a hairy man-beast with a monstrous tongue. I’ve found Krampus celebrations here in the United States. Tonight is Krampus Gras in New Orleans. Dallas, TX, Honolulu, HI, Phoenix, AZ, and San Francisco, CA revel with the demon tonight, too. Tomorrow finds Krampus partying in Wellsboro, PA, Denver, CO, Kingston, NY, and Los Angeles, CA. He even makes a late-month appearance on the 13th in Philadelphia, PA and Los Angeles, CA.

Other dark companions for the saint include Certa, Perchten, Schmutzli, Pelznickel, and Klaubauf.

In all, though, remember, “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows if you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good. So you better watch out!”

My Top 5 Vicious Vampire Books

There is a blood sucker born every minute on the page. Well, that may not be an actual statistic, but if you are familiar with the ever-swelling ranks of vampire books (of all styles and sub-genres within sub-genres), it sounds accurate, right? While an argument can be made that the zombie is currently the most used supernatural creature in horror fiction, the vampire has appeared in the peaks of commercially successful horror fiction more often than any other monster.

And while there are a great many commercially successful books that have hurt the mystical essence of vampire horror fiction, there are still many books to dive into where the vampires are vicious predators without a romantic bone in their cold corpses.

So I have compiled a quick list of vampire reads that will wash the nasty taste of magical realism and romantic fantasy right out of your mouths! Some of my picks are here because they are lasting classics and some are here because they take the vampire concept in a unique direction. You won’t find Bram Stoker’s Dracula, because quite honestly it is the backbone of the modern vampire tale and in a class all it’s own. So, here are my picks:

 

Interview with a Vampire
Interview with a Vampire

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

I can’t say that I have read everything Anne Rice has written, but this is one book that has stuck with me since its release. What Rice did here was present the vampire as the cold predator who uses seduction merely as a colorful plumage to trap prey. And I also love that the vampire grows more distant from its humanity as it ages. Sure, some might have a spot of remorse here or there, but eventually the monster reconciles with its nature and violence becomes a reflex. Vampires don’t necessarily love; they hunger. And though they may wish for companionship (usually among their own ranks), they are asexual beings of pure impulse. Rice may have had added some sexual synergy to the mythos, but she never let you forget what Lestat and Louis truly were.

 

I Am Legend
I Am Legend

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Trying to describe the importance of this novel to the vampire and horror genre is like trying to explain the importance of the cordless phone to the phone industry. Besides being a ferociously different take on the vampire novel, I Am Legend was also a huge inspiration to filmmaker George Romero while crafting Night of the Living Dead. George substituted the vampire menace with the zombie, and NOTLD would go on to shape the modern zombie genre. So, in a weird way, without I Am Legend, we might not have The Walking Dead today! Masterson’s tale, written in 1954 and set in 1976, deals with the lone survivor of a plague that has turned the population into blood thirsty vampires. During the night, Robert Neville hides, boarded up in his home turned fortress. During the day, Robert destroys any slumbering bloodsucker he can get his hands on. The twist at the end of this story is monumental and all three film adaptations have failed to properly convey the role-reversal element where the last man on earth has now become the fearsome creature of legend. If you consider yourself a fan of horror and you have not read this book, you should have your membership card taken away and torn up!

 

 

Under the Fang
Under the Fang

Under the Fang by various

I just recently got my hands on a replacement copy of this great anthology from the (then) Horror Writers of America (now the Horror Writers Association). This 1991 shared world collection was edited by the great Robert McCammon and you can definitely find the seeds from which modern vampire fair like True Blood sprouted. The premise of Under the Fang is the terrifying concept of vampires taking over the world. Imagine this as a Gothic take on Planet of the Apes. With an impressive lineup that includes McCammon, Ed Gorman, Richard Laymon, Chet Williamson, Nancy Collins, Chelsea Quinn Yarbo and more, you can bet your ass that the only sparkling that vampires do in this collection is caused by the moonlight on their blood-soaked faces. This has been long out of print, but you can buy used copies which are reasonably priced (I scored mine for a penny and shipping costs) on Amazon. The Horror Writer’s Association recently reissued Freak Show, an anthology that followed this one in 1992, and I am sure a reissue of Under the Fang is forthcoming as well!

 

 

Some of Your Blood
Some of Your Blood

Some of Your Blood by Theodore Sturgeon

Though advertised as a crime novel upon its release in 1956, this book, written in epistolary form (as military files, doctor notes and transcriptions), centered upon a young soldier named George Smith. Some of your Blood takes the notion of the bloodsucker and points a starling light of realism upon vampirism (much like Romero’s obscure vampire classic, Martin). George Smith is a creature who does not morph or hypnotize or prowls only at night. He is as real as you or me; he just happens to enjoy the act of drinking blood. Though not explicitly a horror novel, this book should still be required reading for lovers of vampire tales of all styles.

 

 

'Salem's Lot
‘Salem’s Lot

‘Salem‘s Lot by Stephen King

Okay, now this is straight up my stranded on a desert isle with one vampire book choice. What is great about King’s novel is that he takes superstitions from ages ago to weave horror so thoroughly and deeply researched that those less astute with vampire lore would take it for King’s own set of rules. King took all of the actual myths that the vampire legend was built upon and he created a soulless, hungry creature with no conscience which taps on the foggy windows of friends or family members; looking for easy prey (like most predators). King didn’t create the concept of vampires appearing to their loved ones (neither did Stoker, for that matter). It was common folklore that vampires hunted their own family and they stayed in areas that they were familiar with in life. Among the rich characters that breath in King’s fiction, the vampires spread quietly and in shadows and the horror is dismissed as bad dreams or a flu bug until ‘Salem’s Lot is nearly sucked dry. It is King’s refusal to reinvent the wheel in this book that makes it special. It doesn’t read like a vampire novel; it reads like a King novel that vampires have been randomly dropped in to.

Zombie Run

Zombie Run pic oneWe held hands, my daughter, Dylan, and I, as we quaked with anticipation. We knew we could run 5K, but undead obstacles sought to prevent us.

“We’ll get through this together.”

She nodded, her throat working the fright through.

I checked her belt and tightened my own. “Keep the flags close. We’ll cluster. They won’t know who to attack if we stay in a group.”

Our nostrils flared, filled with wafts of hay, autumn leaves, mud, and sweat. The cool air caressed like a blessing. We anticipated heart-racing sweat for our toils. I confess to momentary reconsideration. My car, with its comfortable leather seats, waited parked nearby. My sprint could as easily restore me to it as run the obstacle course that lay before me.

Around me, people half my age stretched limber legs. I hoped my sports bra held up to the challenge to come.

An organizer yelled for quiet. We heard moaning from beyond the field, but in the interest of understanding the rules, I focused on her words. “Stay on the course. No contact. There are safe water stations at miles 1 and 2. If you lose all three flags, you can choose to finish or join the ranks of the undead. FX makeup artists from local schools are on-hand, volunteering their time. No charge, but they’d appreciate tips.” She glanced at her cellular phone. “Well, I guess that’s it. See you at the end, and have fun!”

I felt an intense desire to cry or throw up. “I’m too old for this,” I muttered.

A gun sounded the beginning of the race. People swarmed with swells of enthusiasm around my slower pace. My own footfalls betrayed me. Not only was I thereby committed to run a 5K, a challenge to my ailing body, but I needed to do so while scaling walls, wading through vats of red-dyed, cold water, and worst of all, being pursued by zombies.

Fight or flight kicked in when the first ambling bad-guys reached for our flags. I grabbed my daughter’s hand and sprinted. She squealed. I pressed my lips together in disgust, struggling to control my breathing. The makeup served to frighten, even on this bright, autumn afternoon. A swarm threatened to overtake us, but we kept moving, huddling into a group.

We thundered to a wall from which knotted ropes dangled. We scaled the ropes and drop to the other side. My shoulders burned as I pulled my bulk up and over, regretting every sweet I’d ever ingested.

Dylan looked refreshed when our feet touched the ground. She set off at a lope. I followed.

“This is all your fault, young lady,” I thought. I breathed, in through the nose, out through the mouth.

Zombie Run pic two“You and your crazy ideas. See if I introduce you to a subcultural genre ever again.” For years, we curled up on the couch to enjoy such shows as “The Walking Dead” and “Supernatural” together, sparking her interest and leading to this day.

Dylan begged, “Please, it will be fun!” As I dodged animated corpses seeking to seize the red flags looped over my belt, I realized the folly of her statement. Curling up on a couch with a good book, a cup of tea, and my children playing safely nearby was fun. This, this Zombie Run served as self-inflicted

Two nuns dripped gore from opened mouths onto their black and white habits and closed on us.

Dylan and I somehow separated, and both snatched a “life” flag from my waist. Two gone at one encounter. I pushed my tree-stump thick legs forward to the first check point, a safe place to get water.

Runners exchanged excited “war stories” about close encounters with lethal foes.

I leaned against a tent pole, hating the tight feeling in my chest. “I’ll just stay here. Come back for me at the end,” I said.

My bright-eyed nineteen year old laughed. “We’re a third of the way done! Come on!” She still had all three of her flags.

I sighed. We drained our clear plastic cups and set off.

As we rounded a corner, a crush of activity made me wish to break the rules. It looked bloody ahead, a knot of arms and legs and bodies. We skirted to the left. I imagined myself invisible, camouflaged by the trees and underbrush. We made it through unnoticed, I thought.

Just beyond, a group of three zombies with collected red flags tight-clenched in their fists spun and pursued. Fight or flight instinct operational, I fled. Primal survival instincts pushed me, and I felt tears roll down my cheeks from the exertion.

We avoided another crush and several straggling lone operators and reached checkpoint two.

Water cooled my burning throat and replaced the moisture pouring from my brown and down my back.

Zombie Run pic threeI paced as I sipped, hopped up on adrenaline and struggling with a stitch in my left side.

“Hope I don’t have a heart attack,” I huffed.

Dylan turned a critical assessment on me. “There’s an ambulance over there if you want to talk to the EMT?”

I brushed off her worry with a wave of my hand. “Let’s get this over with.” We set off to dodge more zombies. Dylan’s cheeks shone angry red from exertion, but we kept pace. In a knoll where birds sung, a dozen bodies lay, resembling a killing field. My stomach clenched. “Careful,” I said. As we danced through, careful to avoid the apparently dead, Romero’s nightmare closed in. I groaned. We picked our way through.

Dylan is just five feet tall. As she jumped a woman lying on the ground, the woman reached up and snatched a life flag.

We had no time to be horrified. We pressed on.

Another obstacle caused us to slow our pace. We crawled through metal tubes.

A sea of the undead bathed in fake blood blocked the finish line. My girl and I took a slide in the mud to sneak by. It felt dreadful, with mud creeping into crevices. My manicure alone would never be the same.

“Dead this way, living there.” We took the path to the right. “Congratulations,” a young woman said, draping our necks with thick, crimson ribbons hung with a cheap medals. We feasted on cold water, sliced fruit, and crackers, grateful for our survival.

The staff presented awards for best costumes, most kills, and the like at an after party similar to a Halloween bash on steroids.

“Will you do it again?” another guest asked.

“Me? No.” Been there, done that, earned the bloody medal.

Dylan looked disappointed, but she’s young. She’ll get over it. Besides, she has another year or so to work on my resolve. If nothing else, I can serve as civilian support and cheer her on from a hydration check point. I understand the runs always welcome fresh blooded volunteers.

Go here for more info on the Zombie Run!

Horror veterans Lynn Lowry and Debbie Rochon star in North Woods

North Woods poster
North Woods poster

Horror veterans Lynn Lowry (Shivers, The Crazies) and Debbie Rochon (Tromeo and Juliet, American Nightmare) star in North Woods, a motion picture of unrelenting terror. Inspired by the likes of Phantasm, The Evil Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, North Woods aims to bring the grindhouse horror ethos to a modern setting.

A teaser trailer for the film has been released and can be viewed on YouTube: http://youtu.be/Hs7ZvuhjqQU
The opening sequence, in which Rochon showcases her scream queen talents, is also available: http://youtu.be/U4ILX0ooAlg

North Woods is in its final 48 hours of crowdfunding on Indiegogo to raise money in order to complete production. To encourage last-minute donations, prices have been slashed. Backers can get autographs from Lowry and Rochon, a DVD, a poster and more in one package for as low as $15. Other perks up for grabs include screen-used props, producer credits and even percentages of the film’s profits.

The film is directed by Chris Moore, who co-wrote the script with Jason Kasper and stars alongside Lowry and Rochon. The cast also includes fresh faces Sarah McCraw, Andrew Roach, Amanda Grussaute, Brittany Mahaffey and J.K. Michaels.

“North Woods is the kind of horror film that people have been looking for,” explains co-writer/editor Jason Kasper. “But it’s also everything that they’re not expecting. It genuinely feels like a ’70s and ’80s horror film in the way that it’s executed, giving you a nostalgic familiarity. However, it takes the tropes and cliches of the genre and completely turns them on their heads.”

Official Synopsis:

Debbie Rochon
Debbie Rochon

From within the woods, a blood splattered young man, John Prescott, runs out in front of a car, terrified and muttering gibberish. Enter Dr. Pamela Alley, an esteemed psychiatrist, and Detective Morris, her contact and partner from the local police force, who have just been assigned the boy’s case. As the teen begins telling his diabolical tale of a local weekend vacation gone horribly wrong, it becomes clear that nothing is ever what it seems when a very troubled substitute teacher, with a webbed past of nightmares, emerges as the center of the proceedings. What keys does she hold to the nearly phantasmic events surrounding the area for the last several years?

Presented by Macabre Pictures and Flowtac Entertainment, North Woods will be released in 2015. For more information, North Woods can be found on FacebookTwitter and Indiegogo.

Check out the North Woods official teaser trailer: