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halloween

Well, the last few days have been extraordinarily busy and draining for me, to the surprise of probably no one. On Saturday night, I stayed out way too late watching mystery horror movies with the fine folks from the Nerds of Nostalgia podcast, thanks to whom I can now say that Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is a thing that I have experienced. Then Sunday I was supposed to introduce a screening of the Vincent Price/Roger Corman/Richard Matheson adaptation of The Pit and the Pendulum at the Screenland, but I got caught in a horrible traffic snarl, and so I ended up talking afterward. (Extroducing it?) I had a book giveaway and did a reading of my story “Guignol.”

Yesterday was my birthday, though I didn’t do a lot more to celebrate than what I’ve already mentioned here, having kind of partied out the night before with the movie marathon. Today I’m not doing a lot either besides catching up from all the aforementioned, but that doesn’t mean that a lot isn’t going on. Since it’s Halloween, we’ve got some special Halloween treats for all of you, including a free story! Head on over to the Word Horde website to read my story “Strange Beast,” about ghosts and kaiju and maybe the ghosts of kaiju absolutely free! “Strange Beast” was one of the original stories I wrote exclusively for Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, and this is the first time it’s ever been available anywhere else!

Meanwhile, Simon Berman of Strix Publishing has fast-tracked a little Halloween treat for all those who’re waiting patiently for your copies of the new deluxe edition of  Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings. The book contains an all-new story that happens to be Halloween themed, and Mike Corley has been kind enough to show off the excellent illustration that he’s done to accompany it.

Meanwhile, Brian Lillie has assembled a whole passel of authors to make suggestions for suitably spooky Halloween reading. My humble contribution includes tales by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Jon Padgett, and Daniel Mills, all of which have been podcast by Pseudopod. That wasn’t an accident, and one of the reasons I chose to do it was because Pseudopod is currently running a Kickstarter. As part of that Kickstarter, they’re also putting together their first-ever anthology, which includes classic reprints along with all-new stories by yours truly, Damien Angelica Walters, A.C. Wise, and more! Here’s the newly-revealed table of contents, and we promise you, it’s true.

That’s just scratching the surface of what’s been going on lately, but I think for tonight it’s all I’ve got in me. Keep your jack-o-lanterns lit, have a happy Halloween, and always remember to check your candy…

I’ll leave you with what remains one of my all-time favorite Halloween illustrations by none other than the great Chris Sanders, and (unrelatedly) if you’re looking for something seasonal to do this evening,  you could do a lot worse than to plug a few hours into Halloween Forever!

chris-sanders-halloween

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Okay, it’s three days before Halloween, or will be by the time you read this. I’m writing it early, because I’m going to be busy the weekend of Halloween with one thing and another. For starters, the 30th is my birthday, and I’ll be hosting a FREE screening of The Pit and the Pendulum at the Screenland Armour at 2pm that day, if you happen to be local and want to drop by.

Normally, I would post this on Halloween itself, but this year Halloween night is on a Monday, which is just insult to injury, so if anyone is going to be celebrating with late-night horror movie marathons (as is right and proper) they’re probably going to be doing it today or tomorrow.

To help you out, I’ve gone ahead and programmed one for you that’ll run from dusk til, well, pretty late, anyway. Starting in at 6pm, just as the sun starts going down, and running until around 2 in the morning, by which time it’s safe to extinguish your jack-o-lanterns and start drifting off to bed or whatever else you might be doing. (Just a few minutes shy of 8 hours, to give you time to grab snacks, pause to hit the restroom, and rewind to watch particularly great scenes.) The theme of this year’s movie marathon is: horror movies that take place on Halloween!

6pm: Halloween (1978)
Arguably the Halloween movie (I mean, it’s right there in the name), John Carpenter’s classic is a good, restrained lead-in to the night, and may be at its very best when capturing the feel of Halloween afternoon leading up to the night itself, even while Haddonfield looks suspiciously non-autumnal for a town that’s supposed to be in Illinois (but is actually in California).

7:30pm: Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
Few things capture the Halloween spirit better than an anthology film, and when that anthology film is about Halloween, well, all the better. Mike Dougherty’s directorial debut may be the most Halloween-centric horror film ever made, and is the perfect movie to watch during the trick-or-treating hours.

9pm: Halloween 3 (1982)
It’s time. Don’t forget to put on your Silver Shamrock masks while you watch the big giveaway at nine, or just the most bonkers Halloween movie ever made, complete with, well, just about everything, from robots to Stonehenge to druid plots and masks that fill kids with crickets and snakes. Plus, the most nihilistic ending of the evening…

11pm: Night of the Demons (1988)
We’re heading into the midnight hour now, and so it’s time to dust off Night of the Demons. If Halloween captures the atmosphere of the night and Trick ‘r Treat conjures its spirit, then Night of the Demons is the closest you’re going to get to hanging out at a crappy Halloween party in a haunted house. Let it carry you through the witching hour, and then…

12:30am: The Guest (2014)
Blow out your jack-o-lanterns and get ready for  your Halloween marathon cool-down with The Guest, a movie every bit as rooted in Halloween as any other film on this list, but also one that’s standing at the edges of the party, making everyone uncomfortable. It’s a blast to watch, and a perfect way to end the night, easing out of Halloween mode without leaving the holiday behind completely.

By now it’s 2am, but if you want to keep the party going, feel free to drop a couple of other movies into the mix. Adding in Creepshow (1982) and The Midnight Hour (1985) ought to be enough to get you an all-night horror-thon that runs from dusk til dawn.

Tonight is Walpurgisnacht, which, if it means nothing else, means that we’re at the halfway point on our trip back around to Halloween. Along with your bonfires and whatever else, I recommend some seasonally appropriate reading to mark the occasion. As you probably already know, I’ve got a story called “Walpurgisnacht” that takes place tonight and which initially appeared in The Children of Old Leech, though you can also read it in my second collection, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, both of which are available from Word Horde. Want a taste? You can read an excerpt from the beginning of “Walpurgisnacht” right here.

And speaking of Word Horde, this auspicious day also marks the debut of Mike Griffin’s, well, debut collection, The Lure of Devouring Light, published by, well, you guessed it.

If your reading card is all filled out for the night, might I recommend a suitably witchy film for your Walpurgisnacht enjoyment? Suspiria is always a good bet, but may be too familiar. Hammer’s The Witches is a little less often-seen, and is a particular favorite of mine. And though I don’t actually remember much about it, I’ve now got an ingrained soft spot for Virgin Witch, thanks to a late-night viewing with Simon Berman of Strix Publishing on the heels of the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival a couple years back.

Whatever particular form your libation or revel may take this evening, happy Walpurgisnacht to all who celebrate! Tend to your bonfires, watch out for strange shapes in the sky, and beware of music from beneath the ground. See you all in May, when we’re on the downhill slope toward All Hallow’s Eve.

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I’m saddened by the passing of Wes Craven, though I don’t think I ever followed his career assiduously enough to be considered a fan. Like any other horror buff my age, Scream was a big deal for me when it hit theatres, even though prior to it I’m not actually positive I had seen more than maybe one or two Wes Craven films. Of course, I grew up with Freddy, just as I did with Jason and Michael Myers, but, like with those other two, I grew up with the sequels to the original movies, and never saw the ones that started it all until I was already an adult. I’ve still never seen any of Craven’s pre-Nightmare films, except the so-bad-its-good Swamp Thing. Maybe this will be the impetus I need to finally check some of them out…

If A Nightmare on Elm Street was the only thing that Wes Craven had contributed to our collective mythology, that would have been enough to cement his position as a legend in the field. While its legacy may have been diluted by sequels, the original Nightmare on Elm Street remains one of the weirdest and most potent horror films ever made, with imagery as indelible as any ever committed to celluloid, and ideas that are more surreal and bizarre than you would imagine possible in something that launched a franchise and effectively built a movie studio.

Of course, Nightmare isn’t Wes Craven’s only legacy. He’d already made a name for himself by the time Freddy Krueger slunk onto cinema screens, and he continued to create horror flicks long after, giving him one of the most consistent filmographies in the business. And while that filmography is loaded with as many duds as gems, it’s difficult to deny Craven’s impact on the genre. As Kim Newman said on Facebook, “Wes Craven reinvented horror at least four times – most directors don’t even manage it once.”

It’s impossible to talk about Craven without talking about Scream and Nightmare, but a big one for me from his “lesser” works has always been The Serpent and the Rainbow, starring a pre-Independence Day Bill Pullman. And of course, we need to mention best/worst movie contender Deadly Friend.  As Ross Lockhart observed, who else would have given us this ridiculous thing?

So here’s to you, Wes. Given some of the dominant themes of your oeuvre, it seems somehow inappropriate to say “rest in peace,” so instead I’ll content myself with celebrating the work of a master of horror, and second Thomas Boatwright‘s suggestion that we consider this the official kickoff of Halloween for this year.

Once again, Halloween has come and gone, and we’ve got a whole year to wait until it comes around again. Normally, this time of year leaves me feeling melancholy, but this year has been remarkably good. We’ve had an open house over the weekend, which has kept me busy and extended the feeling of the holiday through the beginning of November. Also, a realization that I had sometime last year is helping out a bit, too. In thinking about the tradition of ghost stories at Christmas, I realized that looking at Halloween as the end of a spooky season had it all backward. Halloween is the gateway to the spooky season, when nights are long and cold, and everyone huddles around the light and tells stories of why they’re afraid of the dark. November and December are ghost story weather, it’s as simple as that.

So this year I’ve tried to view the passing of Halloween as the beginning of the ghost story season, and that’s already helped to make the days a little brighter gloomier, and the nights a little spookier, so we’re off to a good start.

brideLast night, I sat in a full theatre and watched Bride of Frankenstein on the big screen. This morning, I woke up to gray, rainy weather. The day before my birthday, and two days before Halloween, and it finally really feels like October.

There’s nothing left to be said about Bride of Frankenstein, and if there were, I probably wouldn’t be the guy to say it. I love the movie by now, unabashedly, though I think Son or maybe House of Frankenstein are my sentimental favorites of the Universal Frankenstein flicks. Bride has so much great stuff going on, though, and for all that Elsa Lanchester is beautiful and iconic and amazing as the titular character, the best contribution that it made to Frankenstein canon, for my money, is the equally iconic Dr. Pretorius (“no such name”), who appears at the door as a figure of death as if summoned, and takes Frankenstein away from his marital bed to help him make monsters in the night. Whose name is invoked again and again, as if to conjure him. Who comes from nowhere, and who gets all the film’s most wonderful lines, save maybe a few gems left to Karloff’s monster or to Elsa Lanchester playing Mary Shelley in the beginning.

I went with a group of friends and fellow writers, at least one of whom had never seen the movie before. He had the same stupefied reaction that I’ve observed in everyone–myself included–who I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Bride with for the first time. It’s just that kind of movie.

In the opening sequence of Bride, Lanchester’s Mary Shelley is prompted by her husband and Lord Byron to finish the tale of Frankenstein’s monster on a dark and stormy night, which she agrees to do, saying, “It’s a perfect night for mystery and horror. The air itself is filled with monsters.” If that phrase doesn’t sum up Halloween perfectly, I don’t know what does. I’ve said before that Halloween is the one time of year when the world in real life most closely resembles the way it is in my head all the time, and I remember Eric Orchard once saying, “I could always use more bats and jack-o-lanterns in my world.” That goes double for me.

I’ve got one more post planned before the season is over, but the next couple of days are likely to be busy, so if you don’t hear from me again, happy Halloween all, and I hope you watch at least one scary movie and read at least one spooky book to commemorate the occasion.

Happy Halloween, one and all! I’ve been at work all day, and I’m going to a party this evening, so I’ll keep this short, but it wouldn’t be right to let Halloween go by and not say something. So I’ll give you some seasonally appropriate links.

For starters, however you feel about Trick ‘r Treat, there’s really no more seasonally appropriate movie around. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend giving it a look, and if you have, there are a plethora of short films from the same director produced by FearNET that are available on YouTube. There’s also the original animated short film that started the whole shebang off, which you can see right here:

If you’ve already seen Trick ‘r Treat, or are otherwise looking for more stuff to watch this most ghoulish of seasons, the Onion AV Club is doing their annual 24 Hours of Horror movie marathon list, this time with the great Joe Dante. And while you’re at it, you can also check out last year’s list with Edgar Wright. One of these years, I’ll do up my own list, but this year won’t be that year.

(I haven’t actually gotten to read all of Dante’s list yet, but I’m looking forward to finishing it up soon. And I think I own most of those movies, so if I was insane I could actually do the marathon!)

Maybe the most exciting thing to happen so far today, though, for me and anyone else who is unhealthily obsessed with the work of Mike Mignola, is that Dark Horse released a free 119-page digital sampler of a bunch of their horror titles, including a new Baltimore story, B.P.R.D. 1948, and, best of all, a new preview of Hellboy in Hell!

That’s pretty much it for me. Have a safe and happy Halloween, and I’ll see you back here in November for the start of my Hitchcock marathon, and more of the same. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a drawing that artist Chris Sanders (of Lilo & Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon, among others) shared on his Facebook, and that has become my new favorite Halloween drawing of the moment.