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home_eyes_2019Once again, Panic Fest has come and gone. Well, not actually. As I write this, it’s still going on for two more nights of extended programming, but I’ve made it out for the last time, and not just because temperatures are supposed to get to literally below zero over the next couple of days, with windchills that can purportedly cause frostbite in minutes.

Panic Fest is a special time for me. Sure, it’s awesome to have a local horror film festival right here in my own town, let alone one that’s been named one of the best in the country. But that’s not the only reason. It’s not even just because all my awesome local film friends are in one place at the same time, even if we probably actually see each other less than we would the rest of the time, because we’re running around trying to catch as many movies as we can. It’s a special time for me because it marks an anniversary.

I’ve talked at some greater length about it in the past, but it was as I was leaving the house to go to Panic Fest 2015 that I got the phone call that set into motion the series of events which culminated in my dad’s death and several years worth of intervening therapy and… y’know, heavy stuff. Panic Fest felt like the last weekend for a long time where I got to just go be happy, and so every year it stirs up a lot of sometimes conflicting emotions, but I always love it, and I loved it this year, too.

Thanks in part to extended programming, not to mention the Screenland’s two fancy new screens, I got to see more movies this year than ever before. Total for the entire Fest was 11 films if you count Satan Place, which I watched at the kickoff event thanks to the folks at Magnetic Magic, plus one shorts block and about half of a live-reading of an adapted (we’ll say) version of the screenplay for Jason Takes Manhattan, which was a hoot.

Besides that I saw St. AgathaBook of MonstersGagsLuzThe LuringThe WindOne Cut of the DeadLords of ChaosThe Golem, and Starfish. Highlights of the Fest were definitely One Cut (which must be seen to be believed; go into it as cold as possible), Gags, and Starfish, but most of what I saw was good. The highs may not have been quite as high as last year, but the lows were also not as low, and overall it was a good crop. You may see me write more about Gags down the road, too. We’ll see.

Phil Gelatt convinced me to give Letterboxd a spin shortly before the Fest, so I’m on there. I haven’t reviewed the Panic Fest movies yet, and I may not, but if you want specific thoughts about any of them, feel free to DM me or email me or whatever.

One specific highlight of this year’s Fest was getting to meet Charles Pieper in person. He and I had been in contact via Twitter, and he invited me to take a look at his short film “Malacostraca” because we were both fellow monster aficionados.  I checked it out, dug it, and recommended that he sub it to Panic Fest, which he did, and it got in, and I got the pleasure of seeing it on the big screen and hearing a guy in the front row loudly exclaim “Jesus!” as the credits rolled. So that was fun.

 

This has been a rough year in the Grey demesne. We started 2018 on a raft of health problems that we rode well into the middle of the year. And even once they were (mostly) resolved–honestly, do health problems ever really get completely resolved?–we spent the rest of the year paying for them. I lost a big paying client. And in spite of my best efforts we still haven’t tunneled into the timeline where Howard the Duck is president.

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On the plus side, though we stand on the cusp of 2019 bruised, battered, and low on health potions, the teeth of the universe haven’t yet torn the charge from our atoms. I ran a game of Iron Kingdoms in 2018, and we just completed out last session. Two of the characters were incapacitated, and one of the two who remained standing was holding on by the narrowest thread. That’s kinda how it feels like we’re going into 2019.

Which is not to say that the year wasn’t full of good things, too. I went to Panic Fest and the Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird, which meant that I got to visit the Winchester Mystery House for the first time. I watched a lot of movies and made some new friends. I found a weird board game in the trash and took a picture of In the Mouth of Madness that I had always wanted to take. I became the Monster Ambassador at Signal Horizon and published stories in seven different venues, including my second appearance in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year. I had a whole book come out!

Of all the things I’m proud of in 2018, however, I think I’m most proud of the small things I did that were steps outside my comfort zone. I carved jack-o-lanterns at Halloween, made a necklace that I love, and made divinity, an overly sugary candy concoction that I remember fondly from my childhood. I didn’t do any of those things entirely by myself. Grace helped me with all of them, sometimes overtly, as with the divinity, and sometimes just by giving me the confidence I needed to try something that I might not be good at right away.

I watched 269 movies in 2018, 163 of which were new to me, keeping with my goal of watching more new-to-me movies than not each year. Of those, roughly 35 were released in 2018. My biggest months were October with 39 movies and, thanks to a couple of marathon days, December with 33. My favorite movies that were released in 2018 were, in no particular order, ErrementariLowlifeTigers Are Not AfraidAvengers: Infinity WarBlack Panther, and Apostle. There were a lot of movies I really wanted to check out that I haven’t gotten a chance to watch yet. The last movie I watched in 2018 was The Boxer’s Omen (1983), which was a good way to close out this weird and crappy year.

I didn’t read very many books in 2018, but of those I did read my favorite was probably Caleb Wilson’s Polymer, which I recommend very highly. The first book I read in 2018 was Kaibyo: The Supernatural Cats of Japan and the last was Matthew M. Bartlett’s Of Doomful Portent.

There’s probably a lot that I’m forgetting as I pen this end-of-the-year wrap-up, but honestly I’m just in a hurry to show this garbage year the door. Don’t let it hit you in the ass on your way out, 2018!

 

 

Christmas is behind us now, for those who celebrate, though the New Year is still a few days away and we’re now locked in the holiday limbo period between the two. For myself, I’m playing catch-up around the house and trying to fight off a (hopefully minor) illness in time to go watch Full Moon movies on VHS all day this Saturday, a more exciting prospect than any mere holiday could ever provide.

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So, what better time for me to mention a few things that have been happening while I’ve been busy with this or that. For starters, I made a second appearance at the Legends of Tabletop podcast where I was interviewed by Leah Bond and I was a guest at the Horror Pod Class podcast along with Sean Demory where we all talked about Candyman, Jordan Peele’s forthcoming remake of same, Clive Barker in general, “In the Hills, the Cities” in particular, and lots of other topics.

(Speaking of Jordan Peele, the trailer for his next film dropped on Christmas day and it is glorious.)

The Horror Pod Class is put on by the folks at Signal Horizon, who are good enough to have me on staff as a Monster Ambassador. In my ongoing efforts to sully the sanctity of that title, I recently reviewed the Arrow Video Blu-ray of Bloody Birthday and before that the Blue Underground release of Maniac, neither of which I had ever seen before diving into them. I promise that I’ll have some more appropriately monster-iffic content coming in the near-ish future.

Speaking of the not-too-distant future, Panic Fest is somehow almost upon us again already and, as I do every year, I will be in attendance making the rounds and watching awesome movies. If you’re local to Kansas City or planning to come in for the Fest, let me know and hopefully I’ll see you there.

Then, in March, I’m going to be a guest once again at the Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird, which is being held at the Silver Scream FX Lab in Atlanta, Georgia. First, though, I’ve got to survive the last few days of 2018…

 

So, last night I sat on couches detailed like the spacesuits from Planet of the Vampires and watched three John Carpenter movies that I have seen roughly 1,000 times each (and, in at least one case, been quoted in a book about) with a bunch of other movie nerds at the third annual CarpenterFest at the Screenland Armour and it was great. We saw Assault on Precinct 13 and Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness. It was hosted by Greg and Jenius of the Nerds of Nostalgia/Nightmare Junkhead podcast, who were kind enough to single me out for some praise before the last movie.

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Before the event, I called CarpenterFest the film fest that I am duty bound to attend while also being able to recreate it in my living room at a moment’s notice. That proved true in this case, but watching movies in my living room is a very different experience from watching them in a theater full of people. And in spite of the aforementioned having seen them 1,000 times, I had actually forgotten that Prince of Darkness ends on a “top still spinning” scene, just as The Thing does.

In the run-up to CarpenterFest, I had a couple of things drop that I haven’t gotten a chance to post about before now. My review of Torso and The Wizard of Gore went live over at Unwinnable, and while I’m not supposed to pick favorites from my own writing, I’m really happy with how this double-review turned out.

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Also, a little while ago, I was asked to guest-host an episode of Pseudopod. I was happy to do it, especially when they told me that the episode they wanted me to introduce was two stories by Manly Wade Wellman. As I say in the intro, there are three “old dead white guy” writers who I think are probably the biggest influences on the way I write today, and those writers are E.F. Benson, William Hope Hodgson, and Manly Wade Wellman. The two stories are “These Doth the Lord Hate” and “The Golgotha Dancers,” both pretty great, and the latter an excellent example of Wellman’s aptitude for weird creatures.

If you aren’t already familiar with Wellman’s work and this episode piques your interest, I cannot recommend him highly enough, and would suggest starting with his Silver John stories or the recent Shadowridge Press reissue of Worse Things Waiting, complete with the original illustrations by Lee Brown Coye.

Sunday, we went to our adopted mom’s house where we ate Halloween-themed cookies and carved jack-o-lanterns. Everybody else carved real ones, but I carved a couple of those carvable fake ones that you can get at the store, which, let me tell you, are the way to go.

I modeled mine on a little ceramic pumpkin that I got years back because it looked like Chris Sanders had carved it and then, when that one worked out much better than I had expected, I carved a second one inspired by the one that Stitch carves with a plasma gun in the closing montage of Lilo & Stitch which, honestly, turned out even better.

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I’ve never been a very crafty sort of person. I’m clumsy, as a rule, and not great at most stuff, so I’m really proud of these two jack-o-lanterns, and looking forward to putting them out on my front steps tomorrow night, even if I’m going to have to fill them with rocks or something because, while those carvable pumpkins from the store are great for carving, they are also light. They prompted me to change my user icon on Facebook and Twitter for I think the first time ever, if that tells you how excited I am about them.

Monday night I went to the Screenland Armour to watch the Are You Afraid of the Dark? marathon. Having never seen even a single episode of the show, and mostly only being familiar with its great title graphic, I was really excited, and I had a lot of fun, even if the show is Extremely ’90s in often not great ways.

Today is my birthday and, well, I guess you all know what tomorrow is. I kind of had to miss last October because of health issues, and the intervening year has not been easy or kind. As such, I tried to really enjoy myself this October, going to as many of the local horror movie events as I could, launching a brand new short story collection, and managing to watch at least one seasonally appropriate thing every single day for the entire month!

I had a good time. This has been a good October, this is a good birthday, and hopefully it marks a bookend to what has been a pretty tough year, kinda for everyone, if we’re honest with ourselves at all. No matter what tomorrow or the day after or the day after that may bring, here’s to a new world of gods and monsters!

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So, as you may have noticed by now, it’s October, albeit not for much longer. I kind of had to miss this season last year for health reasons, so this year I’m trying my best to celebrate accordingly. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve got a new book out this month.

One thing I do every year is attend the Nerdoween Triple Feature hosted by the guys from the Nerds of Nostalgia podcast. It’s a themed mystery-movie threefer that is always one of the highlights of my year. This is the fourth year they’ve put it on, and I’ve never missed it. Plus, every time I’ve seen at least one new-to-me film.

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The first year the theme was demons and, accordingly, I caught Demons and Night of the Demons for the first time. The second year was sequels and introduced me to both 28 Weeks Later and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. The third year may have had the best lineup. It was anthology films, which anyone who knows me knows that I love, and I finally caught Tales from the Hood. This year’s theme was sci-fi sleaze. They opened the gates with TerrorVision, followed that up with From Beyond, and closed out the night with the batshit fever dream that is Xtro, which I saw for the first time.

As a way to help keep myself in the holiday spirit, I’ve also been trying to watch at least one seasonally-appropriate thing per day, and counting down on the #31DaysOfHalloween hashtag on Twitter. So far the new-to-me highlights of the month include Island Claws (1980), Horror Island (1941), Forever Evil (1987), Apostle (2018), The World of Vampires (1961), and hands-down the best movie I’ve seen all month: The Company of Wolves (1984).

The end of the month is growing a little packed as freelance deadlines loom and various seasonal festivities approach. My birthday is still a few days away, though the celebration will probably take place on the weekend instead of the day itself, and I’ve got some cool stuff coming in the mail between now and then.

You can bet that you’ll hear from me on here at least once more before the Halloween season draws to a close, but in the meantime, stay spooky out there!

Launch02Sunday evening we had the official launch party for Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales. It’s the first time I’ve ever done an official launch party for one of my collections and I think it was mostly a success. I introduced a free screening of Mario Bava’s Black Sunday in what turned out to be the AIP cut, and afterward I went out to the Screenland Armour for Analog Sunday, where I caught Deadly Tales and Forever Evil projected onto the big screen from VHS tapes, so that was an experience and a half!

Unfortunately, my weekend festivities seem to have taken a lot out of me, and I’ve been playing catch up for the past few days, and also trying to conserve my strength because I still have the annual Nerdoween Triple Feature to attend this weekend!

In the mean time, however, the launch party means that Guignol is as real and out there in the world as it’s going to get. I still have a few copies, so if you’re local and don’t already have yours and would like to get it direct from me, just drop me a line, especially if we’ll be seeing each other at the movies this month. And if you do already have your copy, don’t forget that you can enter for a chance to win a movie from my collection simply by taking a picture of your copy of Guignol, posting it to social media sometime between now and the end of October with the hashtag #Guignol, and tagging me. Winners will receive a DVD or Blu-ray from my collection, along with a note about why I owned that movie in the first place.

While all that was going on, an interview that I did with Gordon B. White of Hellnotes went live, in which I discuss the secret connection between Katamari Damacy and my creative process. Gordon also posted a positively glowing review of Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales.

Reviews have also started to show up at Goodreads and Amazon, including one that calls Guignol “the perfect October collection,” and another that says, specifically of my story “When a Beast Looks Up at the Stars,” that it is, “Sort of like taking a walk with Ray Bradbury, and winding up at Laird Barron’s house.” If you already finished reading, why not leave a review of your own?