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I am not a person who has very many traditions. I don’t even manage to watch movies on a certain day every year, no matter how hard I may try to always catch The Fog on April 21 or Return of the Living Dead on July 3. But one tradition that I’ve managed to keep going for five years now–including the year I had an emergency appendectomy that nearly killed me–is Nerdoween.

Put on by Greg and Jenius of the Nerds of Nostalgia and Nightmare Junkhead podcasts, Nerdoween is an annual Halloween institution; one night, three horror movies that aren’t revealed until they’re shown, all following a theme. Nerdoween has been going for five years now, and I’ve been there every year, front row center. (That last part isn’t quite true. I sat in the second row this year because it was better for my shoulder. In other news, I am old.)

Every year, I’ve managed to see at least one film that I hadn’t seen before–until this year. The first year, the theme was demons, and I caught both Demons and Night of the Demons for the first time, believe it or not. The second year, the theme was sequels, and I saw both 28 Weeks Later and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 for the first time.

The theme for the third year was anthologies, which seems a likely place for them to strike out, but I actually caught Tales from the Hood for the first time that year. (The other two were a couple of favorites; Creepshow and Waxwork.) The fourth year was sleazy sci-fi, where I got to see Xtro for the first time.

This year’s theme, as you may have gathered from the title of this post, was “nouns that kill.” We started out with killer cars and Stephen King’s cocaine-fueled rampage Maximum Overdrive, which is really an ideal movie for this kind of event. We followed that up with killer kids and Cooties, which the audience seemed to go wild for.

The final film of the night would have been animals that kill in the form of Arachnophobia, but that was destined to fall victim to a one-two punch. My adopted brother Jay has gone with me to every one of these since I started, and this one was no exception. Thing is, though, Jay doesn’t do spiders. And me? I had literally watched Arachnophobia 14 days ago for work.

Even that might not have been enough to doom the enterprise, but I’m actually going out again tomorrow for Dismember the Alamo (it’ll be my first time), where I’ll be watching four movies. Then Analog Sunday the next day. Then probably another mystery movie night on Monday. Then possibly Horror Roulette. Then definitely a Ghoulish Evening with Orrin Grey and Signal Horizon at the Afterword Tavern & Shelves on Wednesday. So an early night wasn’t a bad call for me.

Even if I had stayed for Arachnophobia, this would have been the first year that Nerdoween didn’t introduce me to a new flick that I hadn’t seen before. For someone whose movie viewing–especially in the horror genre–is as prolific as my own, that’s a pretty impressive feat. And I’ll be there next year, whatever the theme might be, front (or maybe second) row center.

A few years ago, I did a thing where I picked a movie that would make a good double-feature with one of the stories in my then-newest collection, Painted Monsters. This year, for the Countdown to Halloween, I thought it might be fun to do the same thing, but with my now-newest collection, Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales.

As the name might imply, Guignol is not as beholden to movies as Painted Monsters was, but this is me, after all, so there are cinematic threads running all through the films. And even when there aren’t, there are plenty of opportunities for me to find movies that will make a good pairing. So, without further ado, here’s the first of the stories in Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales, and I’ll be doing another every day until Halloween.

“Dream House” begins at the 2014 H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, and follows the unnamed narrator (who is me) in my efforts to track down some “lost” episodes of a fictional Southern Gothic soap opera. As such, the story is crammed to the absolute gills with nods to various movies and TV shows, from Curse of the Crimson Altar to Virgin Witch to The Lurking Fear to that “Pickman’s Model” episode of Night Gallery and way, way, way beyond.

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Honestly, the best double-bill with “Dream House” would probably be an episode of any of the TV shows that it mentions, whether that’s Night Gallery or Renegade. Put an old TV show on in the background while you read, preferably in a hotel room, and you’ve got the “Dream House” magic going. But I didn’t say I was going to recommend ambiance, I said I was gonna pair movies, and the movie I’d pair with this story is probably John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness, another flick that gets referenced in the text, and has a similar logline to boot.

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be posting once a day through the end of the month, suggesting (usually) scary movies that pair well with all 14 stories in Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales. The posts are already written and scheduled because, frankly, the next 14 days are gonna be busy with work and watching countless movies of my own–I’ve got at least 8 on tap in the next three days, all at the theatre.

tod-brownings-mark-of-the-vampireSo, while my Countdown to Halloween duties may be adequately covered for the year, I didn’t feel right not leaving you with a little something extra during my absence. Since Revenge of Monsters from the Vault came out earlier this year, it only felt right to leave you with yet another movie list, this time slices of vintage horror that I covered in that book and its predecessor that make ideal viewing in the run-up to the big night.

For those of us who watch and read horror all year round–or, at least, for me–not every horror movie is a Halloween movie. While I may watch the sun-baked nihilism of Texas Chainsaw Massacre or the urban decay of Candyman during the month of October, the true Halloween movies are those that combine fun with fear. Those autumnal tricks and treats that take place in quaint little towns with dark secrets and in shadowed suburbs.

Halloween movies are the Gothic chillers of yesteryear, with fog-shrouded sets where rubber bats dangle on wires and painted shadows grow impossibly long. There aren’t many old horror movies that actually take place on Halloween, but that’s okay. There are plenty of overgrown graveyards and old dark houses, which are just as good.

Here are 14 (give or take) movies that I wrote up in either Monsters from the Vault or its sequel that will give you plenty of creaky chills for the long, dark nights until Halloween is here at last. Think of it as a haunted advent calendar, if you’d like. And stop back by every day for the remainder of the month for a devil’s dozen (plus one) of movies to watch on a double-bill with the stories in Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales.

On the 18th watch The Tingler (1959). I showed it to a crowded theatre at the Tapcade just a few nights ago, so I can vouch that it’s a good kick-off for the run up to Halloween. If you came out and saw it with me, feel free to substitute 13 Ghosts (1960).

On the 19th watch Fiend without a Face (1958), the most science fictional flick you’ll find in this list, which is why it’s positioned so far from the day itself. Those invisible crawling brain monsters can’t be beat, though.

On the 20th watch The Vampire Doll (1970). Any of Toho’s “Bloodthirsty Trilogy” of Dracula movies will do, but Vampire Doll is my favorite of the bunch.

On the 21st watch The Living Skeleton (1968), another Japanese import and an even weirder one than last night’s picture. There are mad scientists, rubber bats, and a chorus of skeletons. What more could you want?

On the 22nd watch Valley of the Zombies (1946), a Republic potboiler that’s just a short hop away from being a serial. There’s no valley and no zombies, but there is a great villain named Ormand Murks and, as if they were spoiled by that name, a guy gets killed off-screen whose name is Dr. Lucifer Garland.

On the 23rd follow that up with Night of Terror (1933), an old dark house picture from their heyday that features metafictional narration from its maniac killer and a guest turn by Bela Lugosi.

On the 24th we’re heading into the final weekend so it’s time to watch Blood Bath (1966), one variation on four movies all produced by Roger Corman. This version has a vampire, of sorts, and a particularly Halloween-y sequence in which the heroine and the vampire are both accosted by some costumed revelers.

On the 25th it’s Friday night so relax with a night at The House on Skull Mountain (1974), complete with voodoo and flashing skulls and one of the best matte paintings you’ll ever see.

On the 26th we head back into black-and-white territory with City of the Dead (1960). This chiller not only features a guest turn by Christopher Lee, but it’s got the foggiest little town you can think of, and plenty of witches and spooky graveyards.

On the 27th we’re winding down the last weekend with Return of the Vampire (1944). Bela Lugosi again in a film full of great bits, maybe most notable for the fact that it was made during the War and set in England in the midst of the Blitz. How many vampires were shaken from their tombs by falling bombs, after all?

The 28th begins our final countdown, and what better movie to kick it off than Mark of the Vampire (1935)? It’s cheesy, it’s creaky, it’s an unofficial remake of the classic lost silent film London After Midnight made by the same director. In short, it’s a treasure.

On the 29th watch House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula (they’re both pretty short).

The 30th is my birthday, so you’d think I’d pick a favorite movie for you to watch on this day. I thought about it, but I feel like the night before Halloween is maybe the ideal night to watch Spider Baby (1967) if you’re going to. It’s got one foot planted in the films of the past and one in Rob Zombie’s films of the present, and the theme song alone should be enough to make it a Halloween staple.

On the 31st watch The Old Dark House (1932). It’s the one I would have picked for my birthday, if I was going to. And whatever you watch or read or do this season, have a HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Now it’s All Hallow’s Eve, the moon is full…66a66c6b3b1d962dbe2636ae80b9c675

Okay, it’s not quite All Hallow’s Eve just yet, but hey, as the song says later, every day is Halloween and today is October 1, the first day of the month-long celebration that is the spookiest (and therefore best) time of the year. The time when the rest of the world finally dresses up at least a little bit like how it is in my head all year ’round.

As I have intimated before now, this October is gonna be busy for me. I did the math the other day, and while I’ll be around most days so that I can, y’know, actually work, there are only eight nights in the entire month of October when I don’t have something booked. Some of those somethings are things I’m attending, others are things I’m hosting.

As I’ve said before, I’ll be hosting a special screening of The Tingler on October 14 and The House on Haunted Hill on October 27, both at the Screenland Tapcade. There’ll be food and drink and ghosts… plus prizes and some William Castle-esque gimmicks. You’re all invited.

Also at the Tapcade, I’ll be co-hosting a special Weird Wednesday screening of Lake Mungo. So special, in fact, that it’s happening on a Tuesday, October 29 – the day before my birthday. Those are the movies I’m hosting, but I’ll also be joining Tyler Unsell and Signal Horizon for a Ghoulish Evening with Orrin Grey at the Afterword Tavern & Shelves in the Crossroads on October 23, and something else that’s brewing (pun possibly intended) on October 25 at the Big Rip Brewing Company.

That’s just the stuff I’m actually hosting. I’ll also be seeing Goblin live, scoring Suspiria and Deep Red, catching the infamous gore cut of Tammy the T-Rex, attending my annual tradition, the Nerdoween Triple Feature at the Tapcade, as well as Dismember the Alamo, which are on consecutive days meaning that, with Analog Sunday the day after, I’ll be watching at least eight movies on the big screen that weekend.

It’s all good stuff, but it’s also a lot. So hopefully you’ll hear from me throughout the month – as I said, I’ll be at home most of the time during the day, because I’ve gotta work sometime – and I’m doing the Countdown to Halloween, as always. But in case you don’t, know that I’m out celebrating and drinking deep from the Halloween season, and you should be, too, if you’re into that kind of thing.

As promised, here’s the full schedule for the Screenland‘s SHOCKtober event, which is taking over the joint for the entire month of Halloween. I’ll be hosting screenings of The Tingler on October 14 and House on Haunted Hill on October 27. Both are FREE, and we’re going to have a hell of a time. There’ll be treats and prizes and maybe even a few Castle-style gimmicks, you’ll just have to come out and see!

I’ll also be attending Suspiria and Deep Red with live scores by Goblin on October 8 and 9, the Nerdoween Triple Feature on October 18, Analog Sunday featuring The Basement on October 20, and the CarpenterFest triple feature on October 26, plus as many of the others as I can cram in there.

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September is here, and September is basically the First of Halloween. I don’t have decorations up yet in my house, but it’s just a matter of time. Mostly, I’ve been keeping myself hopping with deadlines since I got back from Providence. However, I’ve also seen a few movies, and written about some of them, so let’s talk about that real quick…

In recent releases, I caught Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (which I loved) and Ready or Not and Satanic Panic (which I liked) all at the Screenland Armour, not to mention the disappointing Itsy Bitsy via a screener and The Curse of La Llorona (which I didn’t review anywhere) on a plane.

At the risk of damaging my reputation as the guy who actually likes Conjuring movies, The Curse of La Llorona wasn’t anything to write home about, though Velma did her best and it was dark enough that “on a plane” was far from ideal viewing conditions.

What was an ideal viewing condition was seeing Satanic Panic in a crowded theatre of like-minded souls at the Screenland. Speaking of ideal viewing conditions, I also re-watched, for the umpteenth time, both Matango, which I was lucky enough to get to introduce, and Occult at NecronomiCon Providence.

Tomorrow night, I’m watching It: Chapter Two, which I’m excited about. Those of you who have been around for a while probably remember me being mixed on It: Chapter One, which I haven’t seen since I caught it in theatres a couple of years ago. But time has been kind to my memories of that movie and, even if it  hadn’t, Chapter Two is where the stuff that I’m more interested in starts to percolate to the surface, at least theoretically, and I’m hoping it gets real weird.

If nothing else, there’s a carnival midway in the trailer, and I am always on board for carnival midways.

I usually watch and review more older movies than newer ones, and while that hasn’t been the case the past few weeks, there have been a few, including the genuinely great Alice, Sweet Alice and the incredibly problematic but fascinating Cruising. Also The Legacy, to continue my parade of reviews of rich Satanist movies.

69534813_10156719537162947_5659868775516733440_nScreenland Armour has unveiled their Shocktober lineup for 2019, and tickets are supposed to go on sale sometime today, though I haven’t seen that happen yet. I’ll link when it does. There’s a bunch of stuff in there that I’m going to be a part of, including introducing a couple of my favorite Vincent Price flicks! I’ll post dates when I’ve got ’em.

I’ll also be attending some stuff that I’m not in charge of, including seeing Goblin score Suspiria and Deep Red live on the 8th and 9th, catching the Nerdoween Triple Feature (my annual tradition) on the 18th, going to Analog Sunday on the 13th, and attending the fourth annual (I believe) CarpenterFest on the 25th.

In non-movie-related news, I’ll also be co-hosting a shindig at the Afterword Tavern & Shelves in the Crossroads on October 23. We’re calling it A Ghoulish Evening with Orrin Grey & Signal Horizon. Costumes are encouraged, there’ll be books and libations for sale, and more details to come as the event draws closer.

 

2019Poster-Hyades1_rectToday is the birthday of Howard Phillips Lovecraft and, by this time tomorrow, I’ll be on the (proverbial, airborne) road to NecronomiCon in the home of the Old Gent himself, Providence, Rhode Island.

I’m on a fair number of panels and other special events, and so without further ado, here’s my schedule as fully as it has thus far been figured out. New things may be added, but these are unlikely to move…

Friday
10:30 PM Secret Screening

Saturday
1:30-2:45PM Manly Wade Wellman and the American Folk Horror Tradition
6-7:15PM Pluto in Furs Book Release Party

Sunday
9-10:15AM Films Made and Unmade: Adaptations of Lovecraft’s Contemporaries
1:30-2:45PM The Weird Writ Large: Kaiju as Device and Metaphor in Weird Fiction

If you’re going, I hope to see you there. I’ll be hosting movies and hanging out on panels, haunting the dealer’s room and wandering witch-haunted Arkham and trying to catch up with lots of people. If you see me in the wild, be sure to come say hi!

For those who won’t be in Providence, not to worry; I’ve left you with a passel of movie reviews to keep you company. Just a couple of weeks back I caught the premiere of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, which I loved, and just last night I saw a preview screening of Ready or Not, which was a lot of fun.

As is usual for me, I’ve also been watching a lot of older movies, and recently reviewed the Arrow Blus of Alice, Sweet Alice and Cruising. If I’m gonna see you at Providence, then I’ll see you soon. If not, hopefully those will tide you over until I meet you on the other side.