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October is an important month to me. I’ve talked a lot about this before. As a horror writer and person who predominantly consumes horror media, it’s a big time of year for me. Most years for the past decade or so, I’ve had a new book coming out in October, and this year will (hopefully) be no different, assuming supply chain issues don’t kick How to See Ghosts & Other Figments a little later into the season.

None of that is really why I love October so much, though. I love Halloween. It’s my favorite time of year. I love the grinning pumpkins, the autumn leaves, the fake cobwebs, and all that jazz. I love the fun of it, the carnival curtain covering the morbid reminder of our own mortality. I love autumn, the time of year that feels most right to me.

Every October, in various ways and for various reasons, I try to make the month feel special. For myself, for my friends and family, and for those who follow me online. This year, some things have come up. Nothing bad. In fact, some possibly quite good. But they’re going to change the dynamic of how I spend my time over the coming weeks.

Most years, I try to do a #31NightsofHalloween countdown on Twitter, running through what I’m watching, reading, and otherwise imbibing to celebrate the season. I’ll still be doing that, but there’s a real chance that I won’t be consuming quite as much as I otherwise would.

There are still some really exciting events happening in October. Nerdoween on the 15th, Analog Sunday on the 16th, and Tyler Unsell and I hosting Ghostwatch on the 27th at the Stray Cat Film Center. Not to mention my book which, hopefully, I’ll have more news about soon. And I’ll probably fit more other stuff in around that than even I am expecting. But if October is a little quiet this year, it’s not for any bad reason, and not for lack of enthusiasm.

The spirit, as they say, is willing.

In the meantime, I’ve seen a lot of folks asking for recommendations for movies to watch during the spooky season, and over on Twitter I’ve compiled a thread (two of them, actually) of some of the best ones I’ve ever seen that most folks never talk about. These are not just some oddities (that I love) that I have encountered over the years. These are, at least for my money, dyed-in-the-wool classics, every bit the match of their more famous counterparts, in various ways, and any one of them should be a guaranteed homerun for your Halloween viewing.

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.

Well, 2021 sure was a year, huh? I guess it was better than 2020, all things considered, but I think we all also hoped to be someplace better than this by the time we bid 2021 adieu, yet here we are. I have a lot to be thankful for from the year gone by, and a lot to look forward to in the one to come, but that doesn’t mean that getting here was exactly a cake walk.

I’m not really here to rehash everything that happened in 2021. It was a lot. I stayed pretty into tabletop gaming, in spite of mostly not being able to actually play. I wrote a bunch more stuff for Privateer Press, including the contents of a couple of very successful Kickstarters, with another on the way. I didn’t publish a ton of stories, but I had a few come out, and I’m proud of them all.

I kept a daily aesthetic thread on Twitter every single day for the whole year. For the entire month of June, I wrote a tweet-length “story” about a giant monster every day. I got lampooned by the Midnight Society. I largely quit using Goodreads. I read a lot of old comic books and watched a lot of movies, and occasionally wrote about both. I read fewer books than either of those other things, but not none. I did a presentation for the Johnson County Library and peer-reviewed a book for a major university press. I wrote regular columns for Signal Horizon, Unwinnable, and Weird Horror.

It’s been a lot, is what I’m saying.

But a lot of it has been good. My freelance work has kept my nose to the grindstone for much of the year, but I can’t really complain. In all, things in my life have been pretty great, even as the world around me doesn’t always come out looking so rosy.

I said I wasn’t here to rehash the year, though, and I’m not. I’m here to do my usual roundup of things that I watched and read. If you want something more like a proper end-of-the-year list, you can find me writing up a few of these items in various places online, or listen to me chatting with Tyler Unsell about them at the Horror Pod Class.

Now, let’s do the numbers. In the course of 2021, I watched some 270 movies. Of those, 173 were ones that I watched for the first time. Of those, roughly 19 were actually released in 2021. My busiest month was October, at 40 movies. My least was May, with only 13. The first movie I watched in 2021 was Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020), the last was Zeiram (1991).

As I’ve done for a couple of years now, I kept an ongoing Twitter thread of my favorite new-to-me movies of the year, as I watched them. Of those, the highlights not released in 2021 included (in the order that I saw them) Nightmare in Wax (1969), Night of the Devils (1972), Anguish (1987), Opera (1987), Death Ship (1980), City of the Living Dead (1980), Shadow of the Cat (1961), The Spider Labyrinth (1988), The Boneyard (1991), Possession (1981), Frankenstein 1970 (1958), The Snake Girl and the Silver-haired Witch (1968), and Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1972).

My favorite books that I read in 2021 include Jonathan Raab’s The Secret Goatman Spookshow, Stephen Graham Jones’ My Heart is a Chainsaw, and Richard Sala’s (sadly posthumous) Poison Flowers & Pandemonium.

My favorite movie released in 2021 (of the 19, remember, that I saw) was Malignant, which also gave us our Monster of the Year, that thing I do frankly sporadically because I don’t always remember to, what?

Gabriel is one of the best parts of a bonkers movie that I absolutely loved and that was definitely the best time I had in a theater all year – and I’m so glad I managed to see it in a theater, because damn.

There were a few other good monsters this year, to boot, many of them in horror movies. I also dug Antlers more than most people seem to have, and it had a great monster designed (at least partly) by Guy Davis. There are several other movies with promising monsters that I haven’t yet seen, including The Night House and The Green Knight. (Everyone else absolutely loved Raatma in V/H/S ’94, but it didn’t do that much for me, even though it looks a lot like a Trevor Henderson creep.)

Monsters also showed up in a lot of the big-budget movies of the year, too, with Starro from Suicide Squad deserving of a special mention, even though I haven’t actually seen Suicide Squad just yet. There’s stuff I’m looking forward to in 2022, but a lot of it isn’t necessarily new releases. Toward the end of the year, I got Severin’s All the Haunts Be Ours boxed set of folk horror movies, so I can’t wait to check those out, along with Arrow’s massive Shawscope boxed set. Plus, October of 2022 should see the release of my next collection from Word Horde, not to mention some other stuff that I can’t talk about just yet.

And that’s basically it for closing out what I inadvertently dubbed “the Year of Dumb Shit” over at Unwinnable. Here’s to hoping that shit in 2022 is maybe a little less dumb, even if the movies can stand to stay this dumb, that’s totally fine.

For those not familiar with the hashtag, #kaijune is for artists to draw illustrations of kaiju, as one might well imagine; one a day, for the entire month of June. This year, in spite of drowning in a deluge of work, I decided to play along. Except that I can’t draw my way out of a wet paper sack, so instead, I wrote a piece of Twitter-length flash fiction every day for the entire month, working off the list of prompts that Alan Cortes posted.

Thanks to anyone and everyone who followed along as I worked through the month, and for those who missed it, here are all my #kaijune pieces:

1. Brute

It came out of the sea, huge and indestructible. When it rose first, just eye stalks, we thought maybe, but as the battleships rolled off its chitinous shoulders, we knew better. Then we saw the first claw…

2. Fortress

Even when the planes and the tanks finally brought it down, what were we to do with it? The city was rubble beneath its bulk and there was no hope of a machine big enough to ever shift it, so we moved into what was left and made new homes within its bones.

3. Shell

I remember my son, asking how mountains form, as I tried to explain things like magma and plate tectonics. Looking out the window now, at the shell that rises up like a new peak from the sea, I wonder which of our other mountains are just waiting to move…

4. Burrow

When we finally defeated the thing that the leader of the mole people called Burrox, a ragged cheer went up from what remained of the defenders. Then we felt the rumbling of all the others beneath us…

5. Frozen

“How would you know a god if you saw one?” she had asked me. Looking up at the expanse of the thing, where it curled in the glacier, I finally knew why.

6. Apex

We thought we had seen the worst of it when they came, like trilobites large enough to bulldoze cities. Then the big one appeared – the new one, the different one – and began hunting the others…

7. Leech

It came from the swamp; black and green, yellow and red. They saw the top of it first, the suckers like eyes, the moving mouth parts, then it came up onto land. “I just didn’t expect it to have legs,” Toby said, as it waded into the city.

8. Colossal

The metallic purple worm crashed down into the Gulf of Mexico. Eyeless, blind, but so big around you couldn’t seen one side of it from the other, even with planes and choppers. Another followed, then another, and we realized they weren’t worms, but fingers.

9. Poison

“Sir,” he said, “the latest reports are in. It’s stopped moving but sir, that isn’t the main thing.”

“Out with it, private.”

“All the people who’ve come into contact with it; who’ve come into contact with places it passed over. Sir … they’re changing.”

10. Brittle

The rocks grew with the rain until they formed massive towers so tall they fell and shattered, littering the desert floor with more rocks that all began to grow in turn. The people in their path watched the weather report with horror.

(A nod to one of my favorite of the “big bug” and adjacents subgenre of movies popular in the ’50s.)

11. Insect

“How did you make the sound?” Tara was asking, her finger pressed up against the screen of the portable TV showing THEY CRAWL.

“You’ll hear soon enough,” was all the director said, his dark green raincoat hunched around his shoulders. He was right.

12. Shadow

It started at 115th Street. A pool of dark gathering between the buildings, growing, stretching, in spite of the noonday sun.

It wasn’t until it reached 87th Street that the buildings began to fall into it.

13. Amphibious

Frogor, King of Toads, crawls forth from the swamp. With three bulbous eyes, he scans his surroundings, where housing developments have grown up while he slumbered. Their tiny, pink inhabitants run and shriek as they spot him, and Frogor licks his lips…

14. Mutant

What came out of the portal was like a mass of chewed bubblegum, its surfaced studded with strange, metallic protrusions. “What is it?” Jiro asked, but even as he said it he thought he recognized a name on what he now realized were helmets…

15. Free Space

“It looks like… I don’t even know how to describe it, folks. Like geometry and trigonometry come to life. It’s making a sound that seems like talking, but not in any language I know. And everything it touches just disappears.”

16. Feathered

We once believed Venus to be a planet of lush jungles. We later learned that it rains sulfuric acid. What we were not prepared for was the serpent that came when our mining robots cracked open the planet’s core, its body shining with jeweled feathers.

17. Cosmic

Movies and video games had taught me to expect giant reptiles, mutated insects, anime robots. This… it was like a tear in the picture of reality lurching through the city, through which I could see only unfamiliar stars.

18. Prehistoric

Over time I guess we kind of got used to the occasional rampages of the atomic lizards, the titanic insects, the giant apes. It never occurred to us that there would be something that was to them as dinosaurs were to our modern chickens…

19. Mimic

I was walking down 117th, I guess, and the edge of the Warren Building just… peeled off, like. The shadows changed and we looked up and what had been windows were now a wing, and beneath that a mouth opening wider and wider…

20. Fungal

One needn’t cook up a giant fungus for #kaijune. It already exists, larger than 200 whales, spreading its hyphae beneath the west coast, waiting for the world above to die so it can feed.

21. Crowned

When the Summer Queen expired, the faerie folk all gathered to see who among their number would manifest the glowing crown. None expected the enormous gator that crawled from the swamp, exhaling butterflies as she came.

22. Laser

“What is a laser,” Professor Shimizu was saying, “but light applied to a minute point? Why not, then, light applied to something much larger?”

By then, however, no one was listening, because the Laser Beast was already blazing its way out of the warehouse.

23. Beast

Dr. Bradus had convinced me it was the only way to defeat the invaders. Transfer my intellect into the body of the giant ape he had created. Once inside that huge frame, however, I found myself wanting nothing but to destroy…

24. Atomic

We didn’t design 8-6, five meters of metal wrapped around a compact atomic core, to fight the trolls. We didn’t really design it for anything. But when the trolls invaded from Jotunheim, we hoped that maybe it had found its purpose, after all.

25. Horror

We knew we had killed it. The experimental bomb Dr. Kozen developed had done its job. So when the waters began to boil we wondered: did it have a child?

The truth was much worse. We had killed it, but we hadn’t stopped it…

26. Savage

“I thought that magnetic collar of yours was supposed to make it more docile,” General Murphy shouted over the carnage.

“Believe me, General,” I replied, “compared to its normal behavior, this is docile.”

27. Ablaze

Robo-17 threw Mozura into the reactors and in the explosion that followed we thought, we hoped, that would be the end of it.

What came out of the blaze, enraged and burning, was so much worse than what had gone in…

28. Conjoined

There is a hush as the two giants finally clash. Our last hope is that they will somehow crush one another.

Instead, their flesh begins to flow like wax as they come together, merge, become one, bigger and more destructive than the sum of its parts.

29. Maw

We always figured that there was something special about the big, red sandstone formation on grandpa’s land.

Then, one day, it opened its eyes, hinged upward from the ground, and revealed its teeth.

30. Transform

“I am Gorgoth,” it bellowed, its wings folding into its body as a second head sprouted above the mouth in its stomach, “the Master of the Id. I can be anything.”

And it was.

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!

In 2017 I watched 245 movies. Of those, I watched 152 of them for the first time, only keeping ahead of my “watch more movies that I haven’t seen before than ones that I have” goal by about 30 titles.

Of those, I watched 32 movies that were released in 2017 (depending upon how you count release dates). That’s actually a higher-than-usual number for me, which also means that, for the first time in a while, I saw enough good movies that came out in 2017 that I feel comfortable assembling a top ten list without just including every movie that I didn’t hate on it. So, with the usual caveats that this is a list of my ten favorite movies of 2017, certainly not necessarily the ten best, and that at only 32 movies, there are lots more that I haven’t seen than ones that I have, here are my Top Ten Movies of 2017 as they stand right now:

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10. Better Watch Out
I saw Better Watch Out back in August during a special theatrical screening and it blew me away; a vicious, funny, frequently surprising take on the home invasion formula and also a chilling look at male entitlement. If I was still going entirely off of that initial experience, this would be higher on my list, but a second viewing took off some of the shine. Still, if you’re going to see this one, see it as cold as possible, And whatever you do, don’t watch the trailer, which gives away many of the film’s best reveals.

9. Kong: Skull Island
There are plenty of better movies that didn’t make this list, but pretty much no matter what else I saw this year, Skull Island‘s complete and unflinching dedication to being a two-hour pilot for a gory Saturday morning cartoon meant that it was always going to have a place here. Plus, lots and lots of monsters.

8. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
This slot could basically be a tie between Three Billboards and the Netflix original I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore. But, gun to my head, Martin McDonagh’s third feature takes the edge thanks to incredible performances from its leads and an unexpected emotional through-line that takes the Coen Brothers-esque premise someplace perhaps less satisfying but ultimately more cathartic than it seems.

7. Gerald’s Game
When I initially watched Mike Flanagan’s passion project adaptation of Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game, I walked away with mixed feelings. But the more I thought about it, the more this intricate meditation on the long-term effects of trauma stuck with me. As someone who is still working through the aftereffects of childhood trauma, there were plenty of moments here that felt all-too-familiar.

6. Spider-Man: Homecoming
I’ve been waiting all my life for them to finally get a Spider-Man movie right. Guess it only took six tries.

5. Baby Driver
Baby Driver is an imperfect movie, especially in its last third where even its best elements begin to break down. But its central conceit — a musical in which the characters listen to the music rather than singing it — is so enjoyable that it carries the movie well beyond anyplace it might otherwise have crashed on its own.

4. The Shape of Water
It is maybe a little ironic that what is probably Guillermo del Toro’s most assured film to date is also the one that feels the least like a Del Toro film. In The Shape of Water, Del Toro channels his affection for The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Abe Sapien, 60s Cold War paranoia, golden age Hollywood musicals, and a whole lot more into a love letter to outsiders that feels as much like a piece of French fabulism as it does any of Del Toro’s Spanish-language films.

4. Blade of the Immortal
For his 100th movie (depending on how you count), Takashi Miike combines the over-the-top qualities for which he is perhaps best known with the beauty and control of his more stately samurai films to create the bonkers and beautiful Blade of the Immortal. I watched it while recovering from surgery, and wrote up my slightly-drug-addled impressions at greater length for Unwinnable.

2. Thor: Ragnarok
There are lots of better movies lower on this list, but I probably didn’t have a better time at the movies all year than I did with Thor: Ragnarok. The various Marvel Cinematic Universe films have always done a pretty good job of feeling like they occupied an ever-expanding comic book universe, but Thor: Ragnarok may be the first one that actually feels like reading a four-issue comic book arc, in all the very best ways. For various reasons, I seldom see movies more than once during their initial theatrical run. In fact, I can almost count the number of times I have done so on one hand. Sadly, I haven’t yet gone to see Thor: Ragnarok twice while in the theatre (and probably won’t), but I really want to, which maybe says all I need to say.

1. Get Out
When I left the theatre after seeing Get Out, one of the first things I said was, “I’ve got to stop watching the best movie I’m going to see all year in February.” (Last year it was The Witch.) I said it partly as a joke, but I also wasn’t kidding. From the minute I finished Get Out, I knew I wouldn’t see a better movie in 2017 because, let’s be honest, how amazing a year would it have been if we got two movies as good as Get Out?

My least favorite movie of the year has also remained the same since the moment I walked out of the theatre, and let us hope that it shall always remain so, because if I see a movie that I hate more than I hated Alien: Covenant in the immediate future, I will be very sad.

Besides those movies above, I had a lot of great experiences in the theatre watching revival showings in 2017. Once again, I made it out to Panic Fest in January, this time attending as a civilian for the first time ever, and I’m planning to go again this year. I caught the Nerdoween mystery triple feature with the Nerds of Nostalgia at the Tapcade for the third year in a row, in what has rapidly become my Halloween tradition. This year I saw Tales from the Hood for the first time, and got to introduce Jay to both Waxwork and Creepshow. And if Thor: Ragnarok wasn’t the best time I had at the movies all year, then seeing The Deadly Spawn for the first time ever on the big screen at the Alamo definitely was. Not only did I love the movie, but there was just that magic in the air that made the screening a particularly special event.

The last movie that I watched in 2017 was either The Last Jedi or Terminator 2, depending on how you count. The first movie I watched in 2018 was The Debt (2010), but the next one I watch is likely to be the much more on-brand Hell Night.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ve still got, like, a week left, but it’s highly unlikely that I’m going to publish anything more in those few days, so let’s go ahead and get this dumpster fire of a year behind us, shall we? (Remember when we all thought that 2016 was kind of the epitome of a bad year? We were so adorable.)

Given the way the last few months of this year, especially, have gone, with various health crises and escalating stress, it’s easy to forget that I accomplished much of anything at all during the rest of it, but I actually published a few stories and, hard as it is to believe, two books in 2017! And by “a few” I mean roughly five new stories of mine came out in 2017, six if you count the one new story in the deluxe hardcover edition of Never Bet the Devil. I had stories in The Children of Gla’akiFor Mortal Things UnsungTerror in 16-BitsTales from a Talking Board, and Darker Companions. (For those keeping score at home, that’s actually two Ramsey Campbell tribute anthologies, and not a single overtly Lovecraft-themed one. Maybe a record?)

On top of that, 2017 saw the release of my first novel, in a manner that I would never have expected in a million years. Godless, the first volume in a proposed series chronicling the adventures of Tristan, nicest of all the Protectorate of Menoth warcasters, was released by Privateer Press back in April. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I also got the distinction of being the first writer to permanently kill off a major in-game character, so that was pretty cool. The book was written in something of a rush to meet my deadlines, but it seems to have been received fairly well. I dedicated it to Ray Harryhausen, and earlier this month I got to visit an exhibit of Ray Harryhausen models, storyboards, concept art, and other ephemera in Oklahoma City, which was a rare pleasure indeed.

In non-licensed work, 2017 also saw the re-release of my first collection, Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings, in a fancy deluxe hardcover edition courtesy of Strix Publishing. The (jaw-dropping) cover design and pitch-perfect interior illustrations are all the work of Mike Corley, one of my favorite artists in the business and pretty much my first and only choice to work on this book. Besides adding new illustrations by Mike, I wanted to make sure that the deluxe edition had some added value for those who had already purchased the (now out of print) paperback original, so we also included two additional stories that weren’t in the first release. One of them, “Goblins,” was entirely original to the collection, while the other, “A Night for Mothing,” is a difficult-to-find rarity that was originally published in The Mothman Files all the way back in 2011.

Besides heading out to the Ray Harryhausen exhibit in early December, I managed to make a handful of convention appearances throughout the year, despite my wretched health. I attended Panic Fest here in Kansas City back in January for the first time as a civilian (previous years I had helped out with booths and other odds-and-ends), something I plan to do again this year. I was a guest of the Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird in Atlanta back in March and at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland in October, where we actually launched Never Bet the Devil & Other Warning. I’m told that no less a personage than Barbara Steele stopped by the booth to inquire about the book, but at the time I was out getting a burrito, which is probably just as well, so that I couldn’t pitch it to her by explaining that, “I think it’s got ghosts and stuff.”

In-between all of those, I also made a trip up to Minneapolis to see the Guillermo del Toro exhibit At Home with Monsters, and a trip to the Boulder area of Colorado, mostly to accompany Grace to a low flutes retreat, though I also used the opportunity to meet up with some writing acquaintances and do a bit of writing myself, including penning a story that I’m pretty proud of which is part of a lengthier story cycle that I mostly finished during the course of this year, though none of the new additions to it have seen print just yet.

Lots more stuff happened in 2017. I watched a lot of movies, read a few books, was sick a lot, had an emergency surgery, spent my birthday recovering from that, and did a whole host of the other usual stuff that you do in a year, even one where everything is on fire. I’ll have most posts about the movies I watched in 2017, as well as a Year in Creatures, most likely, but those will have to wait until the year is actually over. For now, that’s most of what I accomplished as far as writing and publishing go, and that’s what we’re here for.

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.

A few years ago, Neil Gaiman suggested this idea that he called All Hallow’s Read, in which we would all start a tradition of giving each other suitably spooky books on Halloween. I don’t think it ever really caught on, but I do know plenty of people who have annual traditions of reading a certain book every year around this time, whether it’s A Night in the Lonesome October or Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree.

So whether you’re looking for a scary book to give as a gift this Halloween, or just want something seasonal to read for yourself as the leaves start to turn, I thought I’d throw together a quick list of recommended Halloween reading, limiting myself pretty strictly to books by authors who are currently still alive and working.

Besides mostly avoiding books in which I had any hand (with one exception), I tried not to include books that I haven’t read myself just yet, though you can see that I missed the mark in some ways. That left out a number of books that might otherwise have made the cut, including John Langan’s The Fisherman and Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts or Disappearance at Devil’s Rock. I also limited the list to prose books, though I bent the rules a little bit there too with the last inclusion, leaving aside any of the dozens of graphic novels that might otherwise have dominated the list, and preventing it from being an All Mignola, All the Time list, as it otherwise would have been…

  1. Creeping Waves, Matthew M. Bartlett
    Besides being perfect for the Halloween season, Matthew M. Bartlett’s Creeping Waves is just one of the best weird/horror books I’ve read in years, full stop. And hey, it’s on a massive sale from the publisher for the entire month of October, so there’s no better time than the present to pick it up!
  2. All-Night Terror, Adam Cesare & Matt Serafini
    Really, pretty much any of Adam Cesare’s books could go on this list handily, and if you’ve already read All-Night Terror, I recommend subbing it out for Video Night. Either way, this nails that feeling of sitting down for a horror movie marathon with a big tub of popcorn and some of your best friends, while also bringing in a little of the feeling of those E.C. horror comics. Plus, it’s on sale for cheap on the Kindle for the month of October!
  3. Every House is Haunted, Ian Rogers
    The big news surrounding Ian’s short story collection from back in 2012 is that one of the stories from it, “The House on Ashley Avenue,” recently got optioned for an NBC TV series from the writers of Bates Motel and The Grudge! But long before that had ever happened, Every House is Haunted was already one of the best single-author horror collections out there, with an assured and enchanting mix of scary stories that are utterly perfect for autumnal reading.
  4. The Bone Key, Sarah Monette
    An old favorite, Sarah Monette writes some of the best contemporary ghost stories that you will ever read, and many of them are collected right here in The Bone Key, which bears the irresistible subtitle, The Necromantic Mysteries of Kyle Murchison Booth. Really, how can you go wrong with that?
  5. The Secret of Ventriloquism, Jon Padgett
    I’m cheating a little bit on this one, because I haven’t yet read the entire collection, and it’s not actually out yet. But it is available for pre-order, and it should be shipping soon, and while I haven’t read every single story in it, I’ve read enough to know how excited I am for this one. Creepy ventriloquist dummies, malformed skeletons, and plenty of Ligottian nihilism make this one a perfect fit as the days grow short and the nights grow tall.
  6. The Last Final Girl, Stephen Graham Jones
    What would Halloween be without a slasher flick or two? And Stephen Graham Jones delivers a slasher flick as only he can with his incredible novel, The Last Final Girl. When I first read it back in 2014, I called it “the book he was born to write, the book he’s been training for all this time.” I stick by that.
  7. Giallo Fantastique, ed. Ross E. Lockhart
    Speaking of slashers, here I am bending my rules just a little bit, this time by including a book that I’m featured in. And if I was gonna do that anyway and recommend a Word Horde anthology, I should probably be shilling the just-released Eternal Frankenstein, even though I haven’t gotten a chance to read it myself just yet. But for me, there’s no more brilliant concept for an anthology around than Ross’s incredible Giallo Fantastique, a vibrantly-colored mixture of crime, horror, and the bizarre that’s perfect reading for Halloween, or any other season.
  8. Dreams of Shreds and Tatters, Amanda Downum
    And while we’re on the subject of things that are yellow: Think of Dreams of Shreds and Tatters as urban fantasy by way of The King in Yellow and Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle. Or think of it as the coolest World of Darkness game you could ever imagine playing. However you think of it, pick it up. While the setting may be a bit wintry for October, it’s a perfect read for the end of fall, as the air starts to get that extra bite of cold to it.
  9. Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters
    Designed as a companion to the exhibit of the same name that’s currently running at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, At Home with Monsters is another book that I haven’t quite read from cover to cover just yet, but I don’t need to in order to know that it’s also a great companion for monster season. Full of images and insights from del Toro’s collection, it’s a perfect book for any monster lover.

monsters-vaultYeah, yeah, it’s already been October for a few days now, but I’ve been recovering from a tonsillectomy, so this is the first time this month that I’ve felt well enough to post anything. So consider this the official kickoff of my Countdown to Halloween this year!

This year it seems like everyone has been doing these “31 movies for Halloween” lists, to help people to watch a horror movie a day for the entire month of October. Which, to be fair, is something I come very close to doing most months of the year anyway. I thought that it would be fun to throw together a list, but with so many people doing them, it seemed impossible to think of a way to make my list stand out. And with so many movies to choose from, narrowing them down to just 31 seemed like a daunting task. So I hit upon a solution:

I would limit my list exclusively to movies that came out before prior to the release of John Carpenter’s Halloween in 1978. Part of the impetus for this decision was to make my job a little easier, but part was also to help draw attention to the fact that Monsters from the Vault, my collection of columns on vintage horror films, is on sale for only 99 cents on the Kindle for the entire month of October! (And is currently already sitting in the #1 bestseller spot on Kindle for “video guides & reviews.”)

So, to that end, not only did I limit myself to movies made before ’78, I also pretty much used the same criteria that I used when selecting movies for my Vault of Secrets column. No movies that felt too “modern,” for whatever ambiguous and subjective definition of that I wanted to use. So while my ’78 cutoff would technically let me include things like The Exorcist or even Suspiria, I ruled those too modern, and stuck to the stagey movies that dominated the horror scene in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s.

Which brings me to my other stipulation. I also tried to avoid the most usual suspects, so you won’t find many of the most respected “classics” on this list. No Nosferatu or Psycho, no Haunting or Rosemary’s Baby. If a title seemed to obvious, I tried to eschew it, with a few exceptions. That means you also won’t find some of the classic monsters on here. No Frankenstein, Dracula… not even a mummy. Instead, I opted for at least somewhat more obscure titles that felt like they captured that “Halloween spirit,” while also hopefully covering a pretty wide swath of different styles, tones, and sub-genres. (This also means that you won’t find many kaiju, 1950s atomic panic movies, or alien invaders here… though maybe a few.)

If you like my list, these are exactly the kinds of movies that I write about in Monsters from the Vault, and there’s no time like the present to pick it up. Anyway, without further ado, here are my 31 vintage horror films for the 31 days (and nights) of Halloween:

  1. Night Creatures (1962)
  2. Dead of Night (1945)
  3. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
  4. I Walked with a Zombie (1943)
  5. The Body Snatcher (1945)
  6. Night of the Demon (1957)
  7. The Devil Rides Out (1968)
  8. Black Sunday (1960)
  9. Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
  10. The Haunted Palace (1963)
  11. Die, Monster, Die! (1965)
  12. Mr. Sardonicus (1961)
  13. The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959)
  14. The Brainiac (1962)
  15. Santo and the Blue Demon Against the Monsters (1970)
  16. Fiend without a Face (1958)
  17. Curse of the Fly (1965)
  18. Matango (1963)
  19. Kill, Baby… Kill! (1966)
  20. The Legend of Hell House (1973)
  21. The Vampire Lovers (1970)
  22. The Plague of the Zombies (1966)
  23. Doctor X (1932)
  24. Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)
  25. The Thing from Another World (1951)
  26. The Undying Monster (1942)
  27. Return of the Vampire (1943)
  28. Mark of the Vampire (1935)
  29. Mad Love (1935)
  30. The Old Dark House (1932)
  31. House on Haunted Hill (1959)