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appearances

Let’s start with the bad news: I won’t be at NecronomiCon Providence this year. Which is a bummer for any number of reasons, not least because I’ve been helping out (in very small ways) with the film programming, and I’m excited to see that come together. But alas, this year it just isn’t in the cards.

(Also, my contributions to the film programming are borderline nonexistent, so all the good bits are going to be Phil Gelatt’s fault. You can blame me whenever something goes wrong. I won’t be there anyway.)

There are a lot of you that I’m going to miss seeing, which makes me sad. But with any luck we will mostly survive until the next convention (though that seems more touch-and-go than we’d all like these days) and I’ll see you all again soon.

With that out of the way, here’s some better news: It has recently come to my attention that I have not been sufficiently vocal about the fact that I have a new collection coming from Word Horde later this year.

You can expect to hear a whole lot more about How to See Ghosts & Other Figments, my fourth collection of short, spooky stories and, somehow, my seventh full-length solo book in the weeks and months to come, including cover reveals, a table of contents, and other goodies. For now, though, I can let you know that it’s going to be my longest collection to date, with 18 stories from across my writing career.

Also, if you happen to be a reviewer and you’re interested in getting your hands on How to See Ghosts a little early, you can reach out to the folks at Word Horde by emailing publicity[at]wordhorde[.]com, and they’ll hook you up.

That’s about it for now but, if you haven’t already, head over and check out the Kickstarter for the latest thing I worked on at Privateer Press. It’s in its final days and it’s pretty cool, if I do say so myself. You can also read a little more about my involvement in it here.

As we near the end of June, we are at the halfway point of what has already been both a very good and very bad year, sadly not always in equal measures. There have been some real high points, most of them personal, and plenty of low ones, many of them national.

I’m not here to talk about those, though. I’m here, as usual, to talk about movies. As of this writing, I have watched 158 movies so far in 2022. Of those, around 121 have been new-to-me, easily keeping to my goal of watching more new-to-me movies than re-watching ones I’ve seen before. In fact, I’m crushing that goal so far this year.

In spite of that, I’ve seen relatively few new-to-me movies that I really loved so far in 2022. The best new movie that actually came out this year that I’ve seen was Spider One’s Allegoria, which will be releasing on Shudder early next month and which I reviewed for The Pitch. As usual, I’ve been keeping a list of movies that I really dug that I saw for the first time over on Twitter, and while the list is relatively long already, I feel like the proportion of true favorites on it is fewer than would normally be the case.

Without much competition, the best new-to-me movie I’ve seen so far this year is almost certainly The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre, which I literally just caught earlier this month. Other standouts for me include The Pyschic (1977), Ghoulies 2, and finally getting to see War of the Gargantuas and The Unknown Terror, both for the first time.

My biggest month for watching movies was May, when I managed to catch 40. Hopefully, this all bodes well for the second half of the year, with even more new-to-me movies hopefully making the list, and more new favorites discovered.

I’ll also be continuing to host movies and podcasts at Stray Cat Film Center, though we’re taking a break for July, as usual. When we come back, we’ll be discussing what we did on our summer vacation and the 1997 “classic,” I Know What You Did Last Summer.

Of course, I’ll be reviewing movies periodically but, more to the point, if you would like to review some movies, I’m still movies editor at Exploits until they kick me out, and I’d love to get something from you. I’m particularly looking for pieces from marginalized voices, so please feel free to hit me up with a pitch for any movie you’d like to write about. We have a hard cap of 350 words and pay $10 per essay. I’ve got essays locked in for July and August, but I’d love to put a bow on the rest of the year.

Twenty years ago, I did something that remains the best thing I have ever done: I married the love of my life, my spouse and partner, Grace. We celebrated our anniversary over the last few days, during which time we stayed in an adorable cabin next to a mountain stream, where we were greeted by a rare sight of a heron eating a fish (a good omen, as it turned out). It was a wonderful trip.

The time away from the online world was good for me, but it also means I was away from the computer when a lot of things happened, so let’s tackle a few of those. My new column on folk horror launched at Signal Horizon. I’ll be discussing the subject every month, through the lens (at least for the first year or so) of the All the Haunts Be Ours Blu-ray set from Severin Films.

For this first installment (and the next one; the doc is long) we’ll be going over Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched, the extensive folk horror documentary from Kier-La Janisse that opens the Blu-ray set.

Speaking of columns, my others are still moving along, and the latest installment of my board game column dropped at Unwinnable, where I’m writing about Tiny Epic Dungeons this month, a recent Kickstarter acquisition. Meanwhile, in proper “me writing for Unwinnable” fashion, I also recently covered some… very disparate films over there, writing reviews of a pair of kung fu pictures and a “classic” erotic thriller from the late ’90s.

I’ve also been movies editor for Exploits, an Unwinnable publication, for a couple of months now, and my latest acquisition was actually the cover story this month, as David Busboom wrote an unmissable review of one of my favorite weirdo flicks, The Monster Club.

Finally, this one hasn’t happened quite yet, but later this month, Tyler Unsell and I will be hosting a live screening of The Mask (1961) at the Stray Cat Film Center, followed by a live episode of the Horror Pod Class. Will it be sssssssssmokin’? No, it will not. But it WILL be in 3D, complete with special stereoscopic 3D glasses at the door and giveaways, trivia, and vaguely academic discussion to follow.

If that sounds like a lot, think how I feel? I’m gradually getting back into the swing of things this week and there’s a lot more to come but, for now, why not have a drink at The Monster Club. I’m sure a member of the wait staff will be with you shortly…

Well, another Panic Fest is more-or-less over. Technically, there’s another night or two of programming, and there’s a chance I may go out tomorrow night to catch Watcher or The Sadness, but give or take, it’s done.

I saw a few good movies, the best of which was probably Spider One’s Allegoria, and I saw a few bad movies, the worst of which was definitely Dashcam, which I described on Letterboxd as, “An absolute torrent of bafflingly terrible decisions wrapped around an adequate V/H/S segment.” Seriously, Dashcam is a piece of shit, and not in any remotely fun way. Don’t watch it, definitely don’t give it any money, and I’m done talking about it, because I don’t want to give it any oxygen.

As you can maybe guess from the Allegoria review up there, I was covering the Fest for The Pitch this year, and there are a few more reviews where that one came from, including a review of Midnight and capsule reviews for a few other highlights. Assuming I don’t make it out to any more, I’ll have seen nine films from this year’s Panic Fest, several of which I watched online rather than in-theatre for various reasons that include because there’s still a fucking pandemic on.

I also watched a few short films. I typically miss the short blocks at festivals, and I did this year, too, but I caught a few of the shorts online, including some where the filmmakers had reached out to me. A couple highlights include “The Pey,” about an Instagrammer who shares a gif and unleashes a monster, and “They See You,” which had its world premier at the Fest.

Something I did see in theatres was the new Doctor Strange, which I watched this morning and which I’m not going to talk about here because of spoilers and because we’ll be talking about it on the next episode of the Horror Pod Class, which is also why I saw it today. So tune in for that or, if you’re local, join us at the Stray Cat Film Center on May 24 at 7pm while we screen the very best Dr. Strange movie – the 1992 Full Moon classic Doctor Mordrid.

As you saw in my last post, a lot has been going on lately. I mentioned a few things, all of them adjacent to the movies, and now it’s time to talk about them a little more…

First off, Panic Fest starts next week. For those who aren’t local to the Kansas City area, Panic Fest is our own homegrown film festival celebrating horror, sci-fi, and thrillers, and it’s grown up a lot in the half-dozen or so years I’ve been attending. This year, I’ll be covering the fest for another Kansas City institution – our very own dirtbag newspaper, The Pitch.

I’m not sure yet which movies I’ll be seeing when, but there’s a number that I want to catch, including Allegoria, Dashcam, Malibu Horror Story, and Midnight, to name a few. If you’re going to be at the fest, drop me a line and maybe we can catch up sometime.

Or, if you’re in the area and can’t wait for Panic Fest to kick off, you could always come by the Stray Cat Film Center as Tyler Unsell and I host another live episode of the Horror Pod Class on Wednesday, April 27, where we’ll be watching a made-for-TV movie from very early in John Carpenter’s career – that just happens to also be one of my very favorite Carpenter flicks.

As far as news relating to movies goes, I saved the biggest for last. Recently, I became the movies editor for Exploits, an Unwinnable publication. At Exploits, what we basically do is provide short blurbs about movies, books, music, games, and so on that we’ve been enjoying lately. They can be new, they can be old, they can be mainstream, they can be weird.

As movies editor, my primary job is to source a 350-word essay each month about a film. It can be any film, from any era. With me in the catbird seat, the odds are it’ll usually be monster movies. But that’s far from a requirement.

The news got announced on social media a while back, so I’ve already received a number of pitches and, indeed, filled out my first few months worth of essays. But, if you haven’t already and you have any interest in writing a little about a movie, feel free to send me a pitch. The 350-word cap is firm and we pay $10 per essay and beyond that, just about everything is fair game. Send me a pitch before you write, though, in case someone else is already writing about Attack of the Crab Monsters, or whatever.

I’ve also been helping with the film programming for this year’s NecronomiCon in Providence, which probably means I will also be in attendance there. That’s a few months away yet, though, and there’s a lot that can change between now and then. Regardless, the film programming is very much still a work in progress, but hopefully there’ll be some news on that front soon, too…

It’s NaNoWriMo and, for the first time in a year or two, I am not inadvertently participating simply by dint of having so much freelance work on my plate that I write well over 50,000 words in the course of the month – though I do still have a lot of work, so I may crack that number without breaking a sweat anyway.

Instead, I am going to be talking about writing some. Specifically, I will be talking about writing licensed fiction and work-for-hire stuff and how to take inspiration from the movies over at the Johnson County Library Writers Conference. It’s my first time as a presenter at said conference – and my first time presenting online pretty much ever – so I’m more than a little nervous, but you’re all still welcome to come check out one or both lectures/workshops. Plus, there’s lots of other cool stuff going on!

The conference is all online, so you don’t have to be local to the Kansas City metro, and it’s totally free. You can learn more at this here link, and if you want to stop by for my sections, I’ll be talking about writing licensed fiction TOMORROW at 4pm CDT and doing a longer workshop on how to write from movies, rather than for them on Saturday starting at 3pm CDT and running until 5.

The former will be a pretty straightforward talk about how I got into writing licensed fiction (primarily for Privateer Press), its relationship to fan fiction, how it differs from my regular work (and how it’s similar), and what my experience with it has been. The latter will be a more in-depth discussion of both the similarities and differences between film and prose, and how the strengths of one can be adapted to fit the other.

Anyone who has read much of my fiction knows that I draw a lot of inspiration from film, and I at least seem to do an okay job of it. But translating film to prose isn’t a one-for-one process, and knowing how to borrow is perhaps more important than knowing what to borrow.

Both sessions will be recorded and available on the library’s website in the future, if you can’t make it this weekend. In the meantime, I dunno, wish me whatever the Zoom equivalent of “break a leg” is…

October is the busy season for horror writers. That’s pretty much always been true, and this year is no exception. While the pandemic has put a damper on some of the season’s usual festivities, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still plenty to do.

I’ve been making a couple of appearances and I’ll be making a few more. For the most part, this means social distancing, masking up, doing things outside where possible, all the usual safety measures, even though I am double-vaxxed and all that jazz. But while last year these kinds of activities were functionally impossible, this year they’re happening, just under somewhat less-than-ideal circumstances.

Let’s start with the most pressing item: Tomorrow, I’ll be outside the Afterword Tavern & Shelves in the Crossroads in downtown KC, where I’ll be joined by a bunch of other local authors (including Jason Teal) in hawking my wares as part of their first annual Lit on Grand event. It kicks off at 11 in the morning and goes until we pack it in, so come on down and say hello!

Then, in about two weeks’ time, the Halloween event of the season is happening at the Screenland Armour as Magnetic Magic dusts off not one but two VHS oddities for a very special October #AnalogSunday where we’ll be screening The Boneyard (1991) and Hellgate (1989)! I’ve never seen either one, so I’m really looking forward to this. There’ll also be special prizes, custom intros, and the usual tape trading and other fun analog nonsense.

Finally, I’ll be hosting both a lecture and a workshop (that’s basically a long lecture) at the Johnson County Library’s writer’s conference the weekend of November 5-7. I’ll be discussing how to draw inspiration from movies for your prose writing, and working on licensed properties.

Naturally, other stuff is going on, too. My birthday will be in there (October 30, for those who don’t know) and I’ll be watching other movies and doing other fun stuff. Already this month I’ve knocked out this year’s Nerdoween, and over at Unwinnable, we’ve turned the place into a video store complete with employee recommendations for streaming flicks, with themes chosen by yours truly.

For seven years now, every October I have gone to a local event called #Nerdoween, hosted by my favorite local theatre, the Screenland Armour, and the fine folks from the Nightmare Junkhead podcast. The gimmick is always the same: one night, three horror movies, all on a pre-chosen theme, but you don’t get to know what you’re going to see until the movies play.

In past years, the themes have included demons, sequels, anthologies, “sleazy sci-fi,” killer nouns, and Satan. This year, to celebrate the fact that movie theatres are kinda, sorta able to be open again a little bit, the theme was movies that take place, well, at the movies.

And I’m gonna warn you, one of the three movies we saw is a film best experienced as cold as humanly possible, and just knowing that it’s included in this list constitutes a spoiler of sorts for it, so I’m not going to say the title. If you follow me on Twitter or Letterboxd you can figure it out, but there’s only so much I can do to protect you from a movie from 1987.

I am a skeleton of few traditions, and #Nerdoween is one of the things that brings me the most joy each year. Every one of those seven years, my friend and adopted brother Jay has accompanied me. Unlike me, he is almost always exposed to entirely new things – across 21 movies, we determined that he had ever seen three of them before. And even I get introduced to at least one new film more often than not.

In fact, every year save two (this year and “killer nouns”), I’ve seen at least one new-to-me film, and sometimes (indeed, on three occasions) two. This year, the poor hosts set themselves a nearly impossible task if they wanted to show a movie I hadn’t seen, given the theme they picked, as I think I’ve seen most of those. At the same time, they came surprisingly close, as I had only seen one of the films for the first time earlier this year.

We kicked off the night with Popcorn (1991), perhaps the most obvious choice given the theme but also a perfect way to start things off. It was a blast to see in a theatre, as a movie that has always felt more like a Halloween party in a movie theatre than an actual movie.

That was followed up with Porno (2019), a movie I had previously seen when it made its debut at Panic Fest. I wasn’t a fan then, and I’m still not, but it was a good crowd movie. (It may surprise you to learn that it is remarkably difficult to perform a Google image search for stills from the movie Porno and actually turn up pictures from that movie.)

The last film of the night is often the weirdest and/or the heaviest – as is only right and proper – and this year it was both. I’m gonna refrain from saying its name here because, again, I think that to even include it on this list is to lose something of its magic, but for those who want to know, feel free to drop me a line, or you can check Letterboxd or my Twitter, where I spilled the beans.

Perhaps more so than any of the others, it was a real pleasure to see this in a theatre, especially given that literally no one else there had ever seen it besides me and one other person. Also, the sound mix was amazing.

So props to the Nightmare Junkhead crew for always putting on a great show, and I’m already looking forward to next year, when hopefully COVID will actually be a thing of the past and the only anxiety will be what’s up on the screen.

This time, two years ago, I had recently been a guest on the Nightmare Junkhead podcast to talk about the then-new 2019 Hellboy movie from director Neil Marshall. Since then, I have not revisited the movie even once, which probably tells you all about the flick’s quality that you’ll ever need to know.

As has been a recurring theme of late, it feels indescribably surreal to discuss events at once so temporally near and yet which feel so impossibly distant. I saw Greg and Jenius (altogether too briefly) at Panic Fest, for the first time since October of last year and, before that, the last time I had seen them might well have been the October before.

This is all coming up because tonight is Walpurgisnacht, perhaps the closest thing we have to a second Halloween in the middle of the spring. “Walpurgisnacht” is also the title of one of my more popular stories, which originally saw print in the Laird Barron tribute antho Children of Old Leech and was later reprinted in my second collection, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, which came out lo these six years gone by.

Interestingly, I was reminded of that story recently for reasons other than the date. I’ve been reading the latest Junji Ito manga to receive English-language release, Lovesickness, and the title story in that volume discusses the phenomenon of the Brocken spectre, which figures heavily in my tale, taking place, as it does, atop the peak from which the phenomenon takes its name.

I don’t have any big plans for the occasion this year. Maybe I’ll play a solo game of Cursed City if I become extremely ambitious. More likely, I’ll just work until late and then watch a witchy devil movie like Curse of the Demon, City of the Dead, or Curse of the Crimson Altar. How are you celebrating witch’s night?

So, Panic Fest happened without a lot of fanfare from yours truly – sorry about that. I did get out to a (very) few movies, for my first excursion to a (socially distanced) movie theater since October. Call it a celebration of my also getting the first jab of the vaccine (Pfizer, if it matters) with no discernable ill-effects save a marked absence of any eyeballs in my shoulder, more’s the pity.

I saw three whole movies this year, which is down considerably from last year, when I saw something like thirteen in a single weekend. But also it’s virtually impossible to imagine that last year was only last year. It feels like a lifetime ago.

Of those three, only one was a miss for me, and the other two were movies about watching movies, which I obviously love. Censor was my first night out at the Fest – a feverish flick about a film censor working during the “Video Nasty” era in Britain, who stumbles upon a film that mirrors the disappearance of her sister. It performs several impressive conjuring tricks, including successfully lulling you into some misplaced identification, before delivering a last act coup de grace that serves as a cautionary reminder to be wary of even the best intentions of those who wish to protect us from ourselves.

The highlight of the Fest, though, I saved for last – The Last Matinee, in point of fact, a giallo-throwback set in 1993 about a killer menacing a mostly-empty screening of a crappy Frankenstein flick at an aging Italian movie theater. The gore and stalking are all handled well, but what really sells the movie is the heart that it puts into its sense of place. I said on Letterboxd that I could have just watched these people watch a crappy Frankenstein movie for 90 minutes and been happy, and I wasn’t kidding.

The Last Matinee was also a reminder that the magic of Panic Fest – especially this year – isn’t really the movies at all. It was getting to see some of my Screenland family again, both those who so often go to movies there with me, and those who work behind the bar. As movie theaters themselves have experienced a new constriction in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pathos of a film like Last Matinee, that is, as much as anything, a love letter to going to the movies, has a special resonance.

Here in Kansas City, our local Alamo Drafthouse has closed down (and good riddance to it, honestly, as it was apparently a wretched hive of scum and worker exploitation) and I’m sure even the bigger chain theaters are feeling the pinch. So far, though, the Screenland has managed to … not thrive, but at least drag itself on. I hope it will continue, because honestly, when it dies, a part of me truly will die with it.