In just a few days, I’ll be at the Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird at the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. Not counting a brief layover at LAX, this will be my first time in California, the only state west of the Mississippi that I haven’t visited, excepting Alaska and Hawaii, the “freak states.” At the time of this writing, you still have just over ten hours to support the Outer Dark Symposium’s IndieGoGo campaign, where you can snag copies of Never Bet the DevilThe Book of Starry Wisdom, and other, rarer delicacies while supplies last.

I’ll be around for the whole shebang, assuming that I don’t sneak off into the Mystery House early and get eaten by a ghost, never to be seen again. I’m not scheduled for any readings, though I will be present for the Friday night pre-party stuff sponsored by Word Horde.

On Saturday, when the actual Symposium itself kicks off, I’ll be moderating a panel on the Weird in movies, TV, and even video games. (Which, fortunately, there are some other panelists who seem eminently capable of tackling that last one, because I am way out on a limb there.) We’ll talk about some of the recent ones, and what they (hopefully) mean for more Weird on the big (and small) screen, but knowing me, we’ll probably also talk about some older stuff, too.

There are going to be a lot of great guests at this year’s Symposium, and if the last one was any indication, it should be a hell of a time. If you’re already headed there, I’ll see you in San Jose this weekend. If not, you can still support a cool program and pick up some great weird literature (or Kino Lorber DVDs or other stuff) by backing the IndieGoGo sometime in the next few hours!


I know that we’re not even quite to the halfway point on our trip back around to Halloween just yet, but if you’re already jonesing for a taste of the spooky season, Jason McKittrick recently turned me on to the existence of a little show called The Witching Season, which is streaming on Amazon Prime or available to watch on YouTube.


While the show’s humble origins and limited budget are apparent everywhere in its production, that doesn’t stop it from evoking the season better than most more expensive movies ever manage. The episodes themselves range from 9 minutes at their shortest to around 30 at their longest, and you could easily watch all five episodes in the time it would take to watch a regular film.

The end result is a series of short subjects that would feel right at home in the shorts block at any given horror film festival, connected together by a nostalgic yearning for Halloween and a shared style and tone, even as their subject matter ranges from high strange horror to masked killers, possessed toys, and haunted houses.

None of the episodes are necessarily any great shakes in the story department, though most feature a “twist in the tale” that is probably easy enough to predict going in, but satisfying for what it is. Where the show more than makes up for any ground that it loses in production value or originality, however, is in its Halloween atmosphere, which is effortlessly captured in lingering shots of decorations, pumpkin patches, and dead leaves.

There are some nice touches of local color, as well, as certain episodes bleed into each other, often through radio shows or late-night TV vaguely reminiscent of the WNUF Halloween Special or the wraparound segment of Ti West’s The Roost. Honestly, The Witching Season is worth your time for the opening titles alone, which summarize the season beautifully, in a series of shots vaguely (and, based on the rest of the series, probably intentionally) reminiscent of the great opening titles of Halloween 4.

It’s been a few weeks, but as you probably already know, February has been keeping us busy around here. Fortunately, we’ve had no more organ-related disasters for a few days, Grace has been recovering quickly and should go back to work next week, and I’ve gotten a bit of good news to help offset the bad. For starters, I’ll be a guest at the second annual Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird, which will be held at the freaking Winchester Mystery House on March 24! There’s an IndieGoGo live right now where you can get tickets, pick up cool books, and what-have-you!

Astute readers will recall that I was a guest at last year’s Symposium, as well, and it was a hell of a good time. This one promises to be even better, and I have it on good authority that I’m already the person earmarked to go missing on the tour of the Winchester Mystery House, so everything is coming up Milhouse.

That’s the good news. Here’s the better news: Ellen Datlow selected my story “The Granfalloon” for volume ten of her Best Horror of the Year anthology series! This marks my second time appearing one of Ellen’s Best Horror anthos, and I could not be prouder! (“Persistence of Vision” appeared in volume seven back in 2015.)

I’m particularly happy that “The Granfalloon” was selected, as it’s a story that I tinkered with for literally years before finally finding the right set of pieces to make it work. The story previously appeared in Darker Companions, a Ramsey Campbell tribute anthology from PS Publishing, edited by Scott David Aniolowski and Joe Pulver. I’m extremely grateful to Scott and Joe for giving my story a home in the first place, and to Ellen for selecting it for the Best Horror of the Year. You can bet that you’ll hear more about that as it gets closer to publication. For now, I’ll leave you with a peek at the cover, with art by Chenthooran Nambiarooran:

Best Horror


It feels like the height of ingratitude to complain about The Ritual: a quiet and slow-burning but ultimately satisfying horror tale that is superbly cast, well-acted, and beautifully shot, and which contains [SPOILERS] one of the best monster designs in recent memory. And yet, while all those things are true, I never felt like The Ritual ever quite became the movie it so very nearly was.

Trading in plenty of familiar horror tropes: the woods are scary, so are people who live in rural communities and keep to “the old ways,” The Ritual juxtaposes these early on against a backdrop reminding us that the brightly-lit modern world can be quite scary and dangerous, as well. The parallel comes up again and again throughout the film, in shots that are production designed beautifully, as the off-license that is at the heart of the film’s galvanizing moment is subsumed gradually by the forest in successive dream-like sequences. Yet for all that this reminder seems at the heart of the film, it never connects completely with the film’s final act.

For the first half or two-thirds of its running time, The Ritual is carried, in no small part, by the performances of its leads, and by their dialogue, which never feels strained, even while it conveys a relationship that is always straining at the seams. These early moments seem better than anything that the movie’s climax could deliver, and there’s the fear that we’re looking at another Autopsy of Jane Doe situation, but then, at the last minute, the monster shows up.

Much has been made online of the monster design in The Ritual, and rightly so. It’s something pretty special, a mix between Laird Barron’s “Blackwood’s Baby” and the Kothoga from The Relic. It combines uncanny folkloric resonances with the scope of the monsters in Trollhunter, though never quite deployed with the same devil-may-care success as that film’s many creatures. The monster in The Ritual–which the film calls a jotun–is seen both more than you expect and less than you want, and its implications are played up to be just as effective as its unusually solid execution, which suffers only a very little from the clutter which so haunts contemporary creature design.

Maybe it has to do with when I watched it–after an extremely long day, when I probably should have been in bed but was too tired to sleep– or maybe it’s something in the changes that, I’m told, have been made from Adam Nevill’s source novel, but while The Ritual is good, truly, genuinely very good, and while it has a creature that will be hard to top for best monster of the year, it feels like it is comprised of a bunch of parts, all of which are quite good on their own, but which never feed into one-another in the way that they need to in order to create a sum that is more than themselves. Which is, again, a petty and ungrateful complaint to lodge against a movie that does so much so right, but there you go.


Thursday night, we called 911 to get an ambulance to take Grace to the hospital. That’s the bad news. The good news is, the culprit turned out to be her gallbladder, a thing that I had forgotten human beings even had until that very moment, and she is now home, one gallbladder lighter than before, and seems to be recovering well.

Still, it was an unexpected couple of days in-between, and certainly just feels like one more straw on an already broken camel’s back. I have spent more time in hospitals over the last few months than in my entire life up to this point. Hopefully we have now hit our quota, and can take a well-deserved break for a while.

Both fortunately and unfortunately, Grace had just hit the magic six week point in her recovery from back surgery, and was supposed to go back to work (albeit just a few days a week) next week. Those plans have currently been scuppered, of course, but there is some hope that the recovery from this latest surgery will go quickly and will only delay her return by a week or two more.

In the meantime, and as has been the case more times than I can count these last few months: I may be a bit scarce, and if you need anything from me, or if I owe you anything, don’t hesitate to remind me, because there is every chance that I have forgotten.

CaptureOn social media I referred to this as a wrap-up, but that’s something of a misnomer, since this year’s Panic Fest proved too huge for one weekend and has spread into evening showings all this week, giving you another opportunity to see some of the best movies of the Fest, including Tigers Are Not AfraidVidar the Vampire, and Ruin Me all playing tonight, not to mention another shot at Tigers tomorrow and They Remain on Wednesday.

This year’s Panic Fest was, I think, my fourth one ever, and my second attending primarily as a civilian, rather than helping out with booths and stuff. I also doubled my previous weekend best when it comes to watching movies, and caught eight films at this year’s Fest, most of which were really good. Highlights include Ruin MeVidar the VampireTigers Are Not Afraid, and Lowlife. Of course, They Remain would be high on this list if I hadn’t already seen it at its world premiere at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival last year.

The list in full is: Ruin MeVidar the VampireThe CuredMohawkTigers Are Not AfraidLowlifeBirdboy, and Midnighters. I missed a few others that I heard good things about, including Mayhem and Mom and Dad, and I only watched one that I kind of hated myself for seeing, so that’s pretty good.

Tigers Are Not Afraid and Lowlife, in particular, are movies that I think you’re going to be hearing a lot more about in the future, while Vidar is going to be one of those bizarre sleepers that will become like a secret code for those who have seen it. I also saw the trailer for Ghost Stories something like three times, and it quickly climbed to one of my most anticipated movies of the year. For those who haven’t seen the trailer yet, it looks absolutely amazing, and like exactly my kind of thing. I am keeping my fingers crossed that it’s like the first half of Autopsy of Jane Doe, only the whole way through.

When not watching movies–and sometimes when I was–I got to spend some more time with Philip Gelatt and his producer Will, who were very gracious and a lot of fun, and who unfortunately opted to watch mostly the worst movies I saw with me. After seeing They Remain at the HPLFF, I had encouraged Adam and Tim to bring it to Panic Fest, and I was thrilled when it not only joined the lineup, but when Phil and Will decided to fly into town to introduce the film. I hope they had a great time in KC.

Other non-movie highlights include playing a Terminator 2 pinball game with Will and Phil, listening to Will’s Hollywood stories (which convinced me at last that nothing I make up about movie production will ever be as bizarre as the truth), intruding upon a couple’s very intense game of Connect Four (if either of you are reading this, hi and also sorry), saying hello to friends who I only seem to see at these events, and staying the night in a just-about-Banfield tier hotel with walls painted two different colors of brown, which really added to the horror fest ambiance, especially right after watching Lowlife. (It didn’t hurt that when I turned on the TV there was a women’s prison episode of Murder, She Wrote co-starring Adrienne Barbeau.) I didn’t take very many photos at this year’s Fest, and those I did take were a little odd, but I had an amazing time.

Panic Fest remains a great experience every year, and the Screenland Armour remains a great local movie theatre, run by great people who love movies as much as (probably more than) I do. If you aren’t from the Kansas City area, it’s worth your while to come in for Panic Fest some year. It’s always a hell of a time.

This may not be much of a wrap-up, and I may be making the trek back out for a few of the extended programming movies some evening this week, but for now I’m feeling a little worse for three days of wear, so this is about all I’ve got in me. More later…

Hey, I’ve been a little out of the loop recently, for one reason and another, but in the meantime I have been a guest on a couple of different podcasts. First, there was an epic two-part interview with me over at the This is Horror podcast, in which I talked with hosts Bob Pastorella and Michael David Wilson about monsters (of course), anxiety, finding your voice, tips for freelancers, and, yeah, even more about monsters. You can listen to the first half here, or find the second half here.


Sort of in-between, I was also a guest at the Spooklights podcast from Muzzleland Press, where I talked with hosts Jonathan Raab and Tom Breen about making horror fun, writing licensed fiction, The Last Jedi, and monsters (duh). You can listen to that one right here.  As a bonus, I believe it contains the first official mention of what is going to be my third collection, coming hopefully next year.

This doesn’t (necessarily) have anything to do with podcasts, but next weekend I’ll be at Panic Fest right her in KC, where I’ll be watching a bunch of movies and hanging out with cool local horror fans, not to mention director Philip Gelatt again. I think they are already sold out of tickets, but if you’ve already got yours, I’ll see you there, and if not, I dunno, find a scalper or sneak in or something. It’s going to be a hell of a thing.