Leaving Home by Nick Nafpliotis

leaving homeIt’s presently not much to look at, but the house that Father built used to be so much more than the burned out shell of a home that stands here now.

It was constructed deep within the forest in the hopes that no one would bother him. Of much greater concern, however, was that no one discovered what he was doing. Beneath its modest exterior, the house’s cavernous basement had been reinforced with absurdly strong defensive measures. I never saw the point in that. Just because your test subjects have had the empathetic portions of their brains removed doesn’t mean they’ll randomly developed super powers, too.

It was very well hidden, though. Aside from the occasional group of drunken teenagers or adventurous hikers, the house remained undisturbed. But one day, a little boy made the mistake of finding it and successfully breaking in. After hearing our pleas for help and opening the cellar door, he probably considered what he was doing to be an act of kindness. Perhaps even heroic. We certainly made it sound that way. It’s surprisingly easy to mimic things like despair and fear when you can’t feel them. Father taught us human emotion with cold, clinical efficiency. They were programs to him; different setting we could switch on and off. They would help a select few of us blend into what Father constantly referred to as ‘the real world’.

Unfortunately for him, that little boy was too sweet to ignore our pleas. I don’t even remember his name, but I do remember what his screams sounded like. It was the first time we’d ever been allowed to kill outside a controlled environment. No time limits. No boundaries. No tranquilizers. As you can probably imagine, things got quite messy. There was much we could learn about our biology this child who did not share our genetic makeup.

By the time Father returned home, the house had been destroyed along with all of his unfinished test subjects. There was no sympathy or feeling of kinship with them; they were simply competition in need of being culled. Father tried to run from us, but he didn’t get far. He still seemed surprised by the prospect of us doing exactly what we’d been bred for. I may have even detected a slight hint of betrayal in his voice before his throat stopped working. But as man as brilliant as him should have understood we were not seeking any sort of revenge. It was simply what we’d been bred to do.

Now, with the house destroyed and Father gone, we are free to explore. Free to discover all the weaknesses and vulnerabilities that Father tried to hide from us. Free to do what we were made for.

It’s time to go see the world.

A Patch of Broken Ground by Rebecca Lyons

rebeccalyonsThe two boys paused at the edge of the patch of darkness before them. Devoid of either natural or artificial lights, it stood between them and home.

“I don’t know….” Danny began.

“Oh, come on. We’ll hurry.” Johnny stepped from the broken concrete onto the lumps of dirt and tussocks of wind-bent grasses.

“But…but it’s almost dark! It’s too close to sunset. Johnny! Come back!”

Johnny was striding away from him. He turned and walked backward a few paces. “Will you come on! It is not sundown. The sun’s behind the mountains, but it’s not below the horizon yet.”

Danny hurried to catch up with his friend as he peered around with trepidation. “I don’t think it matters where the sun is, Johnny. I don’t think they care at all, just as long as it’s dark.”

Johnny glanced from one side to the other. Nothing moved around them. Even the wind had died down. “Let’s run.” He broke into a loping sprint, Danny not far behind.

They sprinted for some distance, then dropped into a fast walk. The buildings on the other side still seemed some distance away.

“We can make it,” Johnny said. His breathing came hard, and sweat sheened his forehead, dampening his hair.

“Johnny.”

“We’ll get there before full dark.” The mountains to the west were a mere silhouette, sable against azure. Before them, shadows cloaked the grass tussocks, and the boys’ feet twisted in unseen holes.

“Johnny?”

“It’s not that far. What?” Johnny turned to glance back at his friend in impatience.

Danny had slowed to a walk, staring wide-eyed at the uneven ground in front of his feet. “Johnny, when we started in, there were a lot of boot tracks going in. A whole slew of them. But look.” He traced the trail behind them with his finger. “They’ve dwindled.” He swallowed. “In fact…they’ve stopped.” The two boys stopped as well.

In the rapidly fading light, they could see myriad boot tracks behind them, dwindling until only two tracks, their own, led up to where they stood. Before them, there were none. The alien openness lay seemingly undisturbed.

No more than a shade of indigo outlined the mountain peaks to one side. The two boys glanced fearfully into the darkness. Eyes, tiny and many, stared back. Around them, the night began to whisper.

Love Lost Found by Ellen Denton

ellendentonEveline’s eyes were glazed with poisonous intent as she pulled aside the curtain and looked down the street. She hated the little brats and their stupid costumes, hated their high, piercing, kid voices as they yelled “TRICK OR TRICK!”, hated children in general.

What she hated most though was if a child got scared when they first saw her, or worse, laughed at her because they thought she was wearing a monster Halloween mask. Her face had been revoltingly scarred from third-degree burns suffered many years before.

She could see the first trick-or-treaters moving along the other side of the street, so angrily yanked the curtain shut and got the bowl of candy from the kitchen. She almost tripped with it on the hook rug in the living room, which rocketed her anger into suffocating rage. I Hope you all choke on this she thought to herself, as she kicked the rug back onto place.

It was the same thing every year. She closed her eyes and felt like screaming.

                            ***

After setting the bowl by the front door, she looked down at the candy bars and felt strange.

As though her body were being moved by a puppeteer, she got a pack of razor blades from the medicine cabinet and deftly slipped one into a piece of candy, then glued shut the hairline slit in the wrapper. A moment later, the doorbell rang.

She immediately opened it to three trick-or-treaters. One was a pirate and one was a cowboy. She felt like slapping them both in the face. Despite the Autumn chill, she was sweating profusely as she lifted the razor-candy out of the basket, and glanced at the third child.

It was a pretty blond girl of about four, dressed as an angel. She was costumed in a shimmery white dress and sparkly, pink chiffon wings.

She was about to drop the candy into the little silver shopping bag the girl carried, but the child looked up at her with shining blue-green eyes and said “You’re pretty!” She then stepped closer to Eveline, and took her hand.

Eveline suddenly became aware of the floor against her feet as though she’d just landed there, and of the razor-blade-filled candy she was still holding in the other hand. She tossed it behind the door, and got some fresh, safe ones from the basket.

She stared at the child. “You think I’m pretty?”

“Yes, like an enchanted princess under a spell in a dark forest.”

Eveline kissed her on the cheek, and gave her three pieces of the good candy, then dropped one into each of the boys’ candy bag

They were looking at her strangely, then walked away from the door. They hadn’t even tried to pick up the three chocolate bars that she’d dropped on the ground next to them.

She watched them walk down the street, then puzzled, turned and looked the other way down the street, wondering where the girl in the angel costume disappeared to.

Halloween Decorations: Jack O’the Mantel

halloween kiss

halloween recycleTo reinforce my kindergartner’s recycling and re-purposing lessons, I devised a simple Halloween art project. I patterned the project after holiday-themed jars sparking with tiny, festive lights, using as inspiration twinkle-lighted jars given to me by my husband.

My son and I decided on a smiling Jack O’lantern to grace our mantel.

Although many options presented themselves, including painting or pasting tissue to the container, we alighted on a simple solution.

First, we cleaned an emptied plastic mayonnaise jar, soaked off the label, and set it aside for later in the project.

halloween craftNext, we used safety scissors to cut simple shapes from black construction paper to use as eyes, a nose, and a smile.  We glued the shapes on the jar, making a face of triangular eyes, a smaller triangular nose, and a crescent mouth.

Inside the jar we stuffed sparkling orange material and couched within a battery-powered light.

In all, the charming effect pleased us. We had recycled and created an addition to our decorating repertoire.halloween mantel

RL Stine – The Stephen King of Children’s Lit

RL SteinOctober has been a big month for American writer and producer RL Stine. October 8, 1943 was the birthday for this “Stephen King of children’s literature,” and 16 October this year saw the release of his “Goosebumps” film starring Jack Black as a fictionalized Stine. Robert Lawrence (RL) himself cameos within the film as well.

Stine started writing at the age of nine in his Ohio home. In 1965, he graduated from Ohio State University where he wrote for and edited their humor magazine. He moved to New York to begin his writing career. His first written works were compilations of jokes, not the signature children’s thrills with which his name is associated. He wrote under the pen name Jovial Bob Stine. Another pseudonym is Eric Affabee. He wrote for and edited “Bananas,” a kids’ comedy magazine for ten years.

He published his first novel, “Blind Date,” in 1986. Three years later, he published his Fear Street series. Goosebumps, his best-known and award-winning series of kids’ horror, launched in 1992 with the release of “Welcome to Dead House.” Hollywood adapted several of his books for TV and film. Three video games feature Goosebumps themes, as do movie attractions at Sea World and Busch Gardens. The award-winning series was translated into 32 languages and earned acclaim for Stine. Over 200 novels later, RL Stine made the Forbes list of the 40 best-paid entertainers of 1996-1997. USA Today named him America’s #1 bestselling author, and People Weekly added him to their Most Intriguing list. In 2003, Guiness recorded him as the bestselling children’s author of all time. Over 400 million of his books sold as of 2008. He named his first adult novel “Superstitious,” and to his credit are numerous joke books, the Space Cadets trilogy, and game books.

Despite a busy appearance schedule and thriving film adaptations of his works, RL Stine continues to produce stories and work on projects peopled with murderous ventriloquist dummies, blood-thirsty pirates, and creepy clowns. Surprisingly, Stine claims his dreams are dull and provide no inspiration for his tales. Still, his prolific works continue to give his audiences nightmares of their own.

Movie Review: Crimson Peak (2015)

crimson peak posterGuillermo Del Torro waltzes his viewers through another visually stunning cinematic experience with his gothic tale, Crimson Peak. In it, aspiring novelist Edith Cushing (Mia Waikowska, Alice from “Alice in Wonderland”) asserts, “Ghosts are real.” Her first visitor from the beyond came with a warning when she was a grieving ten year old. Although she had no idea what the terrifying spirit meant, she never forgot its message. “Beware of Crimson Peak.”

After being dismissed by a publisher for writing ghost stories instead of the more socially acceptable romance, Edith asks to use her father’s work typewriters to disguise her feminine handwriting. While thus transcribing her manuscript, she made the acquaintance of Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston, Loki from “The Avengers”) who visited Buffalo, New York in hopes of securing an investor in his mining invention. Edith’s father, self-made industrialist (Jim Beaver, Bobby from “Supernatural”) distrusts the smooth-handed, slick-featured Baronet.

Sir Thomas then woos and wins the lovely Edith. They marry after her father is brutally murdered. The newlyweds move to the Baronet’s dilapidated ancestral home, Allerdale Hall in England, joining Sir Thomas’s stoic sister, Lucille (Jessica Castain). Lucille volleys from disdain for her new sister-in-law to fawning, offering tea and comfort to Edith. After taking up residence at her new home, Edith befriends a Papillion dog and is assailed by terrifying visions. She sets out to solve a mystery as her health begins to fail.

CP oneDel Torro combines includes all the classic elements of a Gothic romance. Brooding secrets, an innocent heroine, a dashing rescue come into play. Edith’s friend, Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) provides a foil for the mysterious bridegroom. Lush, Victorian costuming, haunting melodies (including a creepy lullaby), and enormous portraits of deceased family members couple with hidden pasts, secret marriages and murders, and the betrayal of long-held plans to provide the feel of a Hammer horror film. Most important for the genre, though, is the setting which assumes its own vibrant importance within the story; dripping in red and as thick with shadowy recesses as the secrets it holds, Allerdale Hall invites viewers to linger as its tale unfolds. Del Torro adds his own, distinctive touches, including an obvious respect and sympathy for the departed (mostly portrayed by Doug Jones, Paleman from “Pan’s Labyrinth), cinematic views, and a focus on insects.

cp 2Although Crimson Peak is not scary in the “clutch your seats and try not to scream” way, its subtle approach diverges with a few “avert your eyes” scenes of violence that warrant the movie’s “R” rating. Despite a couple of blips, including items dropped by actors that mysteriously disappear (notably a candelabra and a strangled dog) and a few problems with synching the words with the actors’ lips, the film was well-acted and a worthy diversion for an autumn evening.

Anchor Bay to Unleash GOODNIGHT MOMMY Dec. 1st!


GMA DVD FlatAustria’s Official Entry for Foreign Language Film for 2016 Academy Awards®

Available on Blu-ray and DVD December 1st  

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. – October 13, 2015 – “Unsettling.”  “Terrifying.”  “Sinister.”  The most talked about movie of summer and one of the most critically-acclaimed films of the year,
Goodnight Mommy arrives on Blu-ray and DVD December 1st from Anchor Bay Entertainment and RADiUS. The “masterful and artfully unsettling” film, which is generating strong Oscar® buzz as Austria’s official 2016 entry for Best Foreign Language Film, is written and directed by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, and stars Susanne Wuest  (Antares, Judas Goat, Thank You Mr. President), and brothers Elias Schwarz and Lukas Schwarz in their feature film debut. 

A worldwide festival favorite, Goodnight Mommy made audiences squirm at the Venice Film Festival, AFI Fest, TIFF, Sitges, Thessaloniki Film Festival and Fantastic Fest.

In a lonesome house in the countryside in the heat of mid-summer, nine year old twin brothers await their mother’s return from the hospital. When she comes home with her face obscured by bandages, nothing is like before and the children start to doubt whether this woman is actually who she says she is. What ensues is a terrifying struggle with fatal consequences on par with The Shining and Dead Ringers in what The Daily Beast calls “the most terrifying film of the year.”

Goodnight Mommy is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment on December 1st for the suggested retail price of $26.99 and $22.98, respectively, and includes the special feature “A Conversation with Filmmakers Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala.”

To learn more about the film, please visit www.anchorbayentertainment.com.

Happy birthday, Guillermo del Toro

He leads us through “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006) and along “The Devil’s Backbone” (2001) with “Hellboy” (2004 and 2008) as a guide, depositing us in “Pacific Rim” (2013). This talented Mexican director, producer, and writer discovered special effects when he was eight years old. Guillermo del Toro Gomez broke into the American film market by directing Blade II in 2002.

Guillermo del Toro’s distinctive work laces a lush beauty throughout, incorporating the fairy realm and the Christian underworld. He expressed, “Much like fairy tales, there are two facets of horror. One is pro-institution, which is the most reprehensible type of fairy tale: Don’t wander into the woods, and always obey your parents. The other type of fairy tale is completely anarchic and anti-establishment.”

Many of the heroes in his films are children. He feels their non-judgmental acceptance make them the best witnesses of the supernatural. In fact, he reports as a child he began wetting the crib because of a fear of the monsters hiding about his room, be it in the green shag carpet or the shadows of the closet. His mother grew angry, and Guillermo made a deal with the creatures. “If you let me go pee, I’ll be your friend forever.” The monsters stopped terrifying him, and Guillermo keeps his promises. He grew up watching Universal’s monster films and knew he wanted to be a horror film creator. Frankenstein’s monster is a particular favorite of his.
Guillermo Del Toro studied under famed makeup artist Dick Smith (The Exorcist.) He puts to excellent use his studies of special effects and make up. After 10 years working in the field, he formed his own company, Necropia. He also heads his own production company, The Tequila Gang, and co-founded the Guadalajara International Film Festival.

In 1997, Kidnappers held the Del Toro family’s patriarch, automotive entrepreneur Federico. After paying for his release, Guillermo Del Toro moved with his wife and daughters to California. Incredibly, Federico remained behind. Said Guillermo to Time Magazine of the incident, “Every Day, every week, something happens that reminds me that I am in involuntary exile.”

He often uses lavish, illustrated notebooks. He published his debut novel, The Strain, with Chuck Hogan in 2009. This awarded film maker keeps with him a registry of the world’s haunted hotels and stays at them whenever he has a chance. His latest film release is this month’s gothic ghost story, Crimson Peak. He expresses a keen interest in visually stunning video games and collaborates with many filmmakers. Guillermo proudly proclaims he’s arrested at childhood. “No one has the right to demand from you to grow up.”

Enjoy your day, Guillermo del Toro, and thank you for sharing your vision!

Movie Review: Devil (2010)

M. Night Shyamalan creates movies with glorious camera work and marvelous twists.devil poster

The twist with his 2010 “Devil” is the narrator tells the premise from the outset. A suicide paves a path for the Devil to take human form and sport with some victims.

Of course, any time the Devil plays, there is Hell to pay.

A group of flawed humans become trapped in an elevator with the Lord of Lies in a clever disguise. Claustrophobia and paranoia prey on them while the building engineer and security staff scramble to rescue them from the situation. Within the car are actors Logan Marshall-Green, Jenny O’Hara, Bojana Novakovic, Bokeem Woodbine, and Geoffrey Arend. Threats are leveled, music enrages, and the lights flicker and die. With the return of illumination, they find a passenger dead.

devil picLuckily Police Detective Bowen (Chris Messina) already on hand to investigate the rosary-clutching suicide comes to their aid.

None of the players lent credence to security’s Ramirez (Jacob Vargas) and his religious foreboding. He admonishes Detective Bowden, “Everybody believes in him (the Devil) a little bit, even guys like you who pretend they don’t.” He explains, “The lies we tell ourselves introduce us to him (the Devil).”

Rescuers need rescuing and the sins of the elevator’s inhabitants become known.

John E. Dowdle directed and Brian Nelson wrote the screen play for M. Night Shyamalan’s story.

“Don’t worry,” Ramirez relates, “if the Devil is real, then God must be real, too.”