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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.

This is another story with a really obvious analogue. I could just point you toward Rosemary’s Baby, the parallels to which are obvious for anyone who has read this story of unwanted pregnancy and Scrabble tiles. But while Rosemary and the Black Bramford are the most obvious places to look, they’re hardly the only places you’ll find suitable companion films for “Haruspicate or Scry.”

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When I was writing about the seance scenes, I was thinking of Peter Medak’s remarkably grown-up 1980 ghost classic The Changeling, while the skeptic debunking ghost stories shows up nicely in the otherwise-kinda-disappointing 2017 anthology flick Ghost Stories. Meanwhile, the narrator was loosely inspired by my memories of Jessica Chastain’s performance in Andy Muschietti’s 2013 spook show Mama.

Finally, the three films that the narrator mentions seeing at the old revival theatre–LauraVertigo, and Forbidden Planet–weren’t selected at random.

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.

If “The Blue Light” was the hardest of these to choose a film to go along with, “The Well and the Wheel” was a close second. While I’m known as “the monster guy,” and that’s apt, I also have a fondness for serial killer stories. Not all serial killer stories, though. Only certain ones. The chilly, autumnal ones. The mythologizing ones, as much about obsession as they are about murder. Zodiac and Red Dragon and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

If you like those kinds of movies, too, pick your favorite one, and dive in, and call that your companion piece to “The Well and the Wheel.” I know that there must be a perfect one out there, just as I know I must have seen it, but I also can’t quite think what it is.

So I’ll recommend something that will work, in its stead: The TV show version of Hannibal. Really, the whole series will do, but for the ideal apertif try the first season. There’s echoes of Abigail Hobbs in the protagonist of “The Well and the Wheel,” though I can’t swear that I had actually seen Hannibal before I wrote this story, and I know that I wasn’t thinking about it as I wrote.

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Then there’s also that well, right? And its position as the fetishistic object at the heart of the story obviously owes something to The Ring and to the Japanese version that came before it. For my money, I prefer Gore Verbinski’s 2002 remake, but it’s been a few years since I saw the original…

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.

There’s a pretty obvious movie to tie in with “Programmed to Receive.” It was, after all, written in response to a call for stories inspired by Lovecraft’s “From Beyond” and by Stuart Gordon’s cinematic adaptation of same. And as much as I love Gordon’s take on the material, I’m going with a different companion piece for this one.

While From Beyond certainly left its slimy, sleazy thumbprints on “Programmed to Receive,” it wasn’t the only movie to do so. I also had the 2013 found footage horror flick Banshee Chapter, itself a sort of take on the same story, with the addition of numbers stations, conspiracy theories, and Ted Levine doing his best Hunter S. Thompson, in my mind as I was writing.

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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.

“A Circle That Ever Returneth In” is, above all else, my ode to the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories of Fritz Leiber, which remain my favorite sword-and-sorcery tales. But, in the course of trying to bring something new to them, and to the intersection of swords-and-sorcery and Lovecraftian Mythos tales, I pulled in elements from Poe and the King in Yellow, to name a few.

There are plenty of sword-and-sorcery movies out there, but most of them don’t manage to capture the rich weirdness of the actual stories. I could suggest something like Don Coscarelli’s Beastmaster, and was almost going to, when I remembered the existence of “El Bosque Negro,” aka “The Black Forest.”

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An early short film from director Paul Urkijo Alijo, whose Errementari is one of my favorite flicks of the last few years, “El Bosque Negro” brings a low-rent version of Errementari‘s signature aesthetic in front of the camera, and also echoes, to at least some extent, my story’s leitmotif of what Nietzsche called “the eternal return of the same.”

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.

This may have been the hardest one of these to pick a movie to go along with. I definitely didn’t have movies in mind when I was writing “The Blue Light,” a story that was penned to go into an anthology of fairy tales retold in a post-apocalyptic milieu. As far as I know, the anthology never happened, but I’m happy with the story. I like the weird setting with its ever-present dust, its decaying industrial aesthetic, and its perpetual war.

The fairy tale that I chose to retell was “The Tinderbox,” though it comes in a number of other variations. I picked it because it has good monsters–these giant dogs with saucer eyes that have haunted me ever since I first read the story as a kid. Besides the assorted versions of the fairy tale, and illustrations of same by the likes of H.J. Ford, Kay Nielsen, Harry Clarke, and others, I know that I was picturing a lot of the art of Jean Giraud, better known as Moebius, while writing this story.

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I wracked my brain trying to come up with the right movie to go along with “The Blue Light,” and I’m still not sure that I’ve done it. To capture the tone of the story, I imagine something like Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. If that’s not horror-y enough for Halloween, though, the rusting industrial aesthetic of the City is pretty well represented in Christophe Gans’ Silent Hill.

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.

Originally written for a steampunk ghost story anthology that it (rightly) didn’t get into, “Shadders” is the first original story in Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales. It’s also another tough one to assign a movie to.

I didn’t really have films in mind when I was writing this story, which is essentially a retelling of “The White Wyrak” by Stefan Grabinski, though the titular “shadders” are inspired in part by the critters in Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, especially the baby Otachi.

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However, the story is more than its steampunk setting or its monsters. It is a story that is deeply suspicious of the Industrial Revolution and capitalism, similar to my story “Black Hill” from many years before. In that way, with its monsters that are formed from the misery caused by industrialism, it would probably make a good double-feature with the much-maligned Tobe Hooper/Stephen King killer laundry press movie, The Mangler, which I have always liked, no matter how goofy it may be.

(He says, as though “goofy” is not pretty much always a selling point for him.)

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.

This is probably the easiest one in the book. While plenty of other stories in Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales owe moments or aesthetics to specific films, few of them have their roots sunk as deeply into one particular moment in one particular movie as the title story, “Guignol.”

The scene in question is one in the Stuart Gordon flick, Dolls, which also happens to be a favorite of mine. I love movies about creepy dolls, construct lifeforms, killer automata, you name it. And, of course, for anyone with those predilections, the various Full Moon flicks–the Puppetmaster series most notably, but there are plenty of others–are going to be significant.

Dolls feels of a piece with those, but also connected to Gordon’s early Lovecraft films, which were shot around the same time. And it also feels like a throwback to the old dark house films of the ’20s and ’30s. So it is my jam, is what I’m saying.

There’s lots of good stuff in Dolls, but the one scene in particular that formed the germ of “Guignol” is the fate of one of the film’s very British punk rocker girls, who is transformed into a doll via a particularly grisly process that has always stuck with me.

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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.

“The Lesser Keys” was written for a collection of novellas and novelettes set in the Roaring ’20s called Jazz Age Cthulhu. I did a bunch of research to try to bring to life a Lovecraftian version of 1920s Kansas City, when this place was still called the “Paris of the Plains.”

A lot of what went into “The Lesser Keys” owes its origins to that research, and to wandering around Kansas City itself, and to the writing of folks like Dashiell Hammett. To whit, probably the best movie to do as a double-feature with this story is a genuine noir film from the ’30s or ’40s–say one of the various Thin Man movies that were adapted from Hammett’s own work.

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That said, I’d be hard pressed to pick a single one to pair with “The Lesser Keys,” so here’s another possibility: Another story that combines hard-boiled aesthetics with Lovecraftian occult trappings, albeit this time to more comedic effect: The overworked, underseen, and frequently problematic Cast a Deadly Spell.

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.

Today, I finally made it out to the theatre to catch Avengers: Endgame, which means that I have now seen all 22 of the “Infinity Saga” (or whatever they’re calling it) films in the theatre, and I have done my duty by them (and they by me). I know that technically Phase 3 isn’t over until Spider-Man: Far From Home, but while I have every reason to assume I will see that in a theatre, too, this feels like the ending to me, and I’m good with that.

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I’m not really here to talk about Endgame, though. I’m here to talk about my books. Today is also the last day to pre-order Revenge of Monsters from the Vault direct from the publisher. The book will still be for sale through the regular channels when it launches in August, but we appreciate direct sales, and they put more money into my pocket. So if you’re thinking about buying Revenge of Monsters from the Vault (and I sincerely hope that you are) now is the ideal time to do it. But please hurry!

If you’re just coming here from… somewhere else, Revenge of Monsters from the Vault is the follow-up to my 2016 book Monsters from the Vault and, as such, it’s a collection of a whole bunch of essays about various classic (and not-so-classic) horror films from the silents to the ’70s, including such beloved and obscure titles as Condemned to LiveRevolt of the ZombiesThe Devil Bat, not one but two versions of The Black CatReturn of the VampireThe Giant ClawZombies of Mora TauDark IntruderX: The Man with X-Ray EyesBrotherhood of SatanThe Creeping Flesh, and lots more. If you’d like a taste of what you’re in for, you can read my essay on Toho’s “Bloodthirsty Trilogy” of Dracula movies right here.

Not already familiar with the previous volume? Not to worry, you can actually pick it up in a package deal with Revenge of Monsters from the Vault if you pre-order right now!

Today is also Walpurgisnacht. As most of you know, I wrote a story called “Walpurgisnacht” which originally appeared in the Laird Barron tribute anthology Children of Old Leech, and has since been reprinted in my second collection, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts. If you’ve already read that one, though, plenty of other seasonally appropriate stuff can be found in my latest collection, Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales. I think “When a Beast Looks Up at the Stars” would be particularly well suited to the evening’s festivities, don’t you?

Speaking of witches, I was also a guest on the latest episode of the Nightmare Junkhead podcast where I talked in some rambling detail about my feelings on the new Hellboy movie (which has more than a few witches), the comics, Brian Lumley, and lots of other topics of occult interest. Greg D. and Jenius McGee of the Nightmare Junkhead podcast are the same cool folks who put on the Nerdoween Triple Feature that has become my birthday/Halloween staple every year, so it was a real pleasure to finally sit down with them in their inner sanctum.