The Demon (1979)

The Demon has to be the first South African film I’ve watch for this blog. In fact, outside of District 9, I’m not sure if I have seen any South African-made films before! Set is South Africa with foreign directors (ie Hollywood), sure, but that’s something else entirely.

This movie gave me big Day After Halloween vibes, which incidentally was also released in 1979. The Australian movie was linked to Halloween following the American slasher’s release. And here I saw many bits of publicity sayin that The Demon was a knock-off of Black Christmas. Now, Black Christmas is one of my favourite movies of all time, so any similar vibes were welcome. Alas, there isn’t much linking these two stores besides a few plastic bags.

There are nearly three entirely separate (and unfocused) threads through out this film.

The first follows a family whose daughter gets kidnapped from her bed one night. The parents hire Bill Carson, a psychic detective and former Navy man, to help them find their lost Emily. Or even to just learn if she’s still alive. Bill’s methods are unusual, including drawing the culprit, who has no face, and sitting in Emily’s room moaning.

The kidnapper is also a stalker, following the school teacher Mary.

Mary gets stalked, then gets stalked some more. She’s not very interesting but she’s out final girl, so just like her anyway.

Living with Mary is her younger cousin, Jo. The younger girl has a much less hesitant approach to life. She soon snaps up a wealthy American man to pamper her. Mary disapproves of the relationship, which is fine because both Jo and her boyfriend will get killed anyway.

The three stories seemingly come together when the killer attacks Emily’s dad, triggering a sequence of events including revenge killings and death by bathtub.

There isn’t much here that isn’t standard slasher fare combined with TV-movie drama. I was intrigued to see a South African film, but the shorts were so dark I couldn’t see much of anything. The cast had plenty of Americans in it, but I’m willing to allow it as one of them was Cameron Mitchell (Blood and Black Lace).

I think I would have felt less betrayed by the movie if its selling point was Black Christmas rip-off. Not that I can blame the movie itself for that.

There was one major different between the two stories. In Black Christmas, there were a lot of characters, but you knew who to care about and you cared about them! I was confused as to why so much of the screen time was dedicated to Jo’s love life in The Demon. You end the movie not knowing much about Mary at all other than she’s a teacher. She gets a surprise/convenient boy friend at the end of it, though.

Oh and there are no demons in this, by the way. Just in case you also get betrayed by this movie’s weird marketing.

WICKED WEDNESDAY: 100 HORROR FILMS IN 92 DAYS, WRAP-UP #2

Another month, and another 36 films were watched for the “100 Horror Movies in 92 Days“ challenge! I’m slowly crawling towards that 100 mark. Will I make it? Probably not! Will I keep trying? Sure will!

Since arriving in Texas a few weeks back, I haven’t watched many movies. Granted, I’ve seen My Little Pony: A New Generation about fifty times, but I’m not sure that fits the parameters for this challenge.

But it’s been nice not to watching movies for a bit. Shocking, I know. I felt like the challenge was making all the movies blend into one. That being said, writing up this list made me realise I watched a lot of very good movies in September.

Still didn’t watch any Asia horror this month, but I have a lot on the docket for when I return to the UK. There are lots of new favourites here – especially within the found-footage subgenre. Finally got around to watching a lot of the cornerstones. I continue to out myself as someone who always puts off watching the modern classics!

Films #36-72

36 Crawl (2019) dir. by Alexandre Aja

37 The Chill Factor (1993) dir. by Christopher Webster

38 Cuadecuc, vampir (1971) dir. by Pere Portabella

39 The Bloodstained Butterfly (Una farfalla con le ali insanguinate) (1971) dir. by Duccio Tessari

I was put off by Arrow’s hideous alternate artwork for this release. But I’m so happy I finally watched this, as this has to be one of the best gialli I have ever seen. Beautiful with a great, twisting plot.

40 Primeval (2007) dir. by Michael Katleman

41 Scare Package (2019) dir. by Noah Segan, Emily Hagins, Baron Vaughn, Aaron B. Koontz, Chris McInroy, Anthony Cousins, Hillary Andujar, Courtney Andujar

42 Phantasm II (1988) dir. by Don Coscarelli

43 The Wasp Woman (1959) dir. by Roger Corman

44 Creep (2014) dir. by Patrick Brice

45 Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood (1973) dir. by Christopher Speeth

46 Alligator (1980) dir. by Lewis Teague

47 Man Beast (1956) dir. by Jerry Warren

48 Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1972) dir. by Curtis Harrington

49 Prom Night (2008) dir. by Nelson McCormick

50 Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (1981) dir. by William Asher

A bizarre, queer horror story that completely took my by surprise! An incestuous aunt, a fake homosexual love triangle and in over-the-top corrupt cop. It’s like it the script was written by Stefon. *But actually, this is very, very good.

51 Monstrosity (1963) dir. by Joseph V. Mascelli

52 Mass Hysteria (2019) dir. by Jeff Ryan, Arielle Cimino

53 Lake Michigan Monster (2018) dir. by Ryland Brickson Cole Tews

54 Creep 2 (2017) dir. by Patrick Brice

A rare beast: a found-footage sequel worthy of its predecessor!

55 The Descent (2005) dir. by Neil Marshall

56 Malignant (2021) dir. by James Wan

My god. I LOVED this beauty. I cannot wait to watch it again! This is going to be a new favourite. An incredible final act unlike anything I have seen made by a major studio in the last thirty years (if ever).

57 Bloodbath at the House of Death (1984) dir. by Ray Cameron

58 Dead Silence (2007) dir. by James Wan

59 Parents (1989) dir. by Bob Balaban

60 The Mutilator (1984) dir. by Buddy Cooper

61 Superhost (2021) dir. by Brandon Christensen

62 The Touch of Satan (1971) (MST3K edition S9E8 – 1998) dir. by Don Henderson

63 The Ape (1940) dir. by William Nigh

64 The Outing (1987) dir. by Tom Daley

65 Polaroid (2019) dir. by Lars Klevberg

66 Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974) dir. by Brian Clemens

67 The Tingler (1959) dir. by William Castle

68 The Bat (1959) dir. by Crane Wilbur

69 [REC] (2007) dir. by Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza

I hate myself for not watching this earlier. What a masterpiece in the genre! One of the few movies I’ve watched for this that truly scared me – seemingly a rare feat these days.

70 Bluebeard (1944) dir. by Edgar G. Ulmer

71 The Unholy (2021) dir. by Evan Spiliotopoulos

72 The Mini-Munsters (1973) dir. by Gerard Baldwin

Wicked Wednesday: The Mini-Munsters (1973)

Children’s spooky stuff is a treasure. Trying to get my nephews to agree with this sentiment has been a challenge. How do you get kids to watch spooky things?

I guess the answer is: you don’t. My nephews had zero interest in watching anything horror-related with me this week. I explained that, no we can’t watch Nightmare Before Christmas. And no, Vivo and Minecraft don’t count for Auntie Krista’s blog.

So I ended up watching my children’s TV movie all by myself this week. A reboot of a favourite of mine, The Munsters, in animated form.

The Mini-Munsters is set sometime after the original Munsters show. Eddie is a petulant teenager here.

When his family get a letter from a Transylvanian relative, they learn that the cousin twins Igor and Lucretia are visiting. Eddie is convinced it’s going to be a drag, until he sees that they’re his age and totally groovy (my words, not his).

The three cousins start a band. They annoy the family, especially as the kids seem to do nothing but play. Herman gets them to finally stop once he mentions that Eddie gets to get a car for his sixteenth birthday. He picked out a hearse, much to the delight of his father.

Once the kids are out in the car, they quickly realise they’re out of gas…and the car is haunted by a funeral director. They play some music (because…they’re waiting?), and the car gets rolling.

Grandpa reveals to the family that his latest invention seems to be powered by music. It allows cars to run on fresh tunes instead of gasoline.

While this is great news for the environment (and Grandpa’s pockets), but it doesn’t bring joy to a group of local gangsters who own an oil refinery. The leader, Mr Murdoch, learns of the invention and challenges the kids to a race. Because the 70s.

During the race, the usual shenanigans and hijinks ensue. Cars in lakes. Cars stuck in high places. Cars running on music.

The win gets Grandpa’s invention publicity. It becomes a hit, and soon everyone’s cars are running on the music. Murdoch begins plotting his revenge, and ends up kidnapping the Munsters’ pet, Spot, for ransom money.

The kids find Spot eventually but are locked in a shed with him. They manage to escape (with the power of jokes!), but not before Grandpa destroys his invention to stop Murdoch’s evil plan. The kids become stranded in a tugboat, heading towards a falls. It’s up to Grandpa to fix his invention in time and save the day.

The pilot TV movie for The Mini-Munsters aired on ABC in 1973 as a Saturday Superstar Movie. Its life ended there, though, as it wasn’t picked up for a series. And it’s kind of easy to see why. On the surface, this has everything: Scooby-Doo meets Josie and Archie. Crime solving with music and monsters. Sounds perfect.

This story is a bit half-baked. Adorable animation (reminded me of Schoolhouse Rock on Halloween), definitely, but I found myself bored throughout most of this.

Also, where was Marilyn? A mistake to leave her off, for sure! But I was glad that Al Lewis’s likeness and voice was used here. He lifted everything. That man was seriously a treasure and already has an animated face in real life.

The Mini-Munsters will probably only be really interesting to completionists who want to watch all-things Munsters. This is definitely a cute idea, and it would be great to see it tried again. We can ax the band and focus on what makes us love this IP to begin with: the family.

Wicked Wednesday: The Lamp/The Outing (1987)

Howdy from Texas, ya’ll!

This is my second time visiting the Lone Star State. Man. It’s really it’s own country. Culturally feels so different to anywhere else I’ve been to the US (and absolutely not a toot like Wisconsin).

I haven’t spent much time here, so I can tell you only two things that are true about Texas. 1) Texans really do love being from Texas. There are reminders everywhere. 2) They really do say “ya’ll” a lot.

And both of these are very much true in this 1987 paranormal slasher movie The Lamp. Especially that first point. This movie reminds you that this is set in Texas a lot.

The Lamp is similar to a lot of slasher movies of this decade. A group of kids spend the night in X place and end up killed. Just like in The Initiation, The Funhouse, Chopping Mall, Sorority Babes… – even the first Night of the Demons would count. Kids just love breaking into places! This is a subgenre I love.

However, we get a fun supernatural twist with the introduction of a jinn.

In 1893, a group of passengers are all killed aboard a ship from Iraq to Galveston. But one little girl escapes with a lamp and a bracelet. In the present day, the woman is very elderly and bedridden. A trio of criminals break into her house, looking for her money.

But when they discover the lamp and bracelet hidden in the wall, one of the criminals awakens the jinn. They kill the elderly woman, but in turn are murdered viciously by the jinn.

The lamp and bracelet are discovered by police, who turn it over to a local museum to be studied. Alex is the daughter of the archeologist involved with the study. She immediately becomes intrigued by the lamp. When she puts on the matching bracelet, she finds she can’t take it off.

When Alex’s class visit the museum for a class trip, she can’t help but visit the lamp again. But with the bracelet on, she becomes possessed by the jinn. She convinces her friends to spend the night in the museum.

And, of course, this is the time for killing! The third act is fairly predictable, but the deaths are inventive and fun (and can be really brutal). The death of the two creepy bullies is particularly satisfying. And the design of the jinn is fun – pays off to wait to see him until the very end. The “be careful what you wish for” theme is pretty standard with jinn territory, but I think it plays out well in a heart-breaking way.

I was pleasantly surprised by The Lamp. It’s story is quirky, and the museum setting is interesting. The middle, where we’re setting up Alex and her father’s story, gets kind of slow, but it clips along nice and fast in when the jinn finally lets loose.

Yee-haw and all of that to Texas movies. Thanks for keeping it weird.

Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesday: Pt. 40 Lake Michigan Monster (2018)

A few weeks back, I went into a coffee shop. The two girls working there picked up on my accent, and enquired as to where I was from. Unusually, they wouldn’t just accept “the US” as an answer. And when I specified Wisconsin, the girls gleefully shouted, “HELLO WISONCONSIN” and proceeded to compliment our cheese.

And really, those are the two things we’re known for, I guess! Whether it be nationwide or the rare case anyone has heard of us outside of the US: it’s cheese and That 70s Show. There’s plenty worse things to be known for (err…McCarthy).

Beyond that, though, the state has a really weird, kooky soul. Think Violent Femmes, giant fish statues, hodags and Brady Street. It’s the part of Wisconsin that I always miss the most.

Lake Michigan Monster exemplifies exactly what I’m talking about. This movie is kooky as hell. It’s really incredible that Arrow picked this up for distribution, and I’m here for it.

The film follows the actually-not-a-sea-captain sea captain Seafield (played by writer and director
Ryland Brickson Cole Tews). Following the death of his father, Seafield assembles a team to help him kill the Lake Michigan Monster. Why? Well, the beast supposedly killed his father during a fishing trip.

Despite the team’s trust in Seafield, it’s quickly apparent that he’s not at all competent. Sailor Dick Flynn winds up becoming father to the monster’s baby. Sean Shaughnessy, weapons dealer, is killed off. All while Nudge the scientist unravels Seafield’s lies.

The later half of the movie veers from camp, low-budget fun to a wild turn involving ghost monks (?). It was at that point that I put down my pen and let the movie unfold without me taking notes. There’s no way for me to really describe the going-ons in the third act.

Its clear that inspiration was taken from many places, including other Midwestern weirdos like Sam Raimi and the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew. There’s certainly dashes of things much more psychedelic.

As always, it’s so good to see new regional movies being promoted, especially by a company like Arrow (see also, The Stylist, which loves highlighting its Kansas City local). I loved seeing iconic locations like the North Point Lighthouse and Street of Old Milwaukee making appearances.

Lake Michigan Monster is absolutely bizarre. It’s not going to be for every horror fan. But it’s creative, funny and has love bleeding out of each scene. Low-budget monster-movie lovers: this one is for us.

Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesday: Pt. 39 Demon Possessed/The Chill Factor (1993)

Boy oh boy. It has been a long time since we’ve had an installment of Wicked Wisconsin Wednesday! To be precise: since January of 2018. And before that, there had been a dry spell between The Monster of Phantom Lake and the last WWW in 2016. To my surprise, there is still plenty to cover here.

Wicked Wisconsin Wednesday was a project I loved working on. I aimed to watch every horror movie either filmed in or set in Wisconsin (plus the occasional rule-bender). There are a number of newer movies that have come to my attention in the last couple years. But this gem… I’m annoyed that it somehow escaped my notice back in the day.

Demon Possessed (probably better known by it’s original title The Chill Factor) is an early 90s slasher film made in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Like many movies made in Wisconsin, there’s a lot of snow here – plenty for SNOWMOBILE RACES!

A group of friends all head up north to have a snowmobiling vacation. Cannot confirm whether or not this is something anyone would actually want to do.

While out having a race during the day, one of the friends, Tom, crashes into a tree and is badly injured. The remaining friends all get him to the ruins of a nearby camp, hoping that they can help him survive the night.

The friends soon gather that the camp used to be a religious camp of sorts. Lots of crucifixes and, of course, a Ouija board of sorts. Tom’s girlfriend, Jeannie, claims to have some experience with the mystics, so she’s hesitant to try the board. But of course they play around anyway, resulting in Tom being possessed – unbeknownst to the rest of the gang.

Throughout the night, the friends are all lured to their deaths. It isn’t until the morning that Jeannie realises that everyone is dead but her. Will she be able to escape the demon on the back of her snowmobile?

This movie is so 80s. Sure, I know it says 1993, but you can’t convince me that this wasn’t filmed years earlier. It’s pretty ridiculous in a way that many slashers were in the late part of the boom. The premise is certainly memorable, and some of the death scenes are pretty fun. But this probably won’t be a slasher to go down in history as one of the greats.

It’s trash, but if you know what you’re getting yourself into, you’ll probably find something fun in this short running time.

And also -“Stay cool, Karen!”

Arrow recently released a Blu-Ray of The Chill Factor. This plus the box set of Bill Rebane films has me suspicious that either someone at Arrow is from WI, or they just really love regional horror. And really, I hope it’s the latter (or both!). Regional US horror is pretty dead these days. But next week’s film is hopefully a sign that it’s not completely gone.

Wicked Wednesday: 100 Horror Films in 92 days, wrap-up #1

Earlier this month, I mentioned I was participating in the Letterboxd challenge “100 Horror Movies in 92 Days“, created by Sarah Stubbs. The premise is simple: watch 100 horror movies in the months of August, September and October that you’ve never seen before.

Now I am an outfit repeater. I’ll watch one or two new movies a week (if that), but I love rewatching old favourites more than anything. So watching 100 new-to-me movies is 100% a challenge for someone like me. So I’m pleased that I haven’t fallen at any hurdles yet! That being said, we’re only one month in…

So here is a list of the first films I’ve watched. We’ve hit the 33% mark, which I don’t think is too shabby. Though I have to admit a lot of these movies were shabby. But a small handful have become new favourites.

Are there any titles here that you’re surprised I’ve never seen before? I think most people would say #32 would be surprising. But shhhh… I’ve at least seen #4 multiple times over the last decade.

My goal is to watch more foreign films in September. I watched a small handful, but they were all European still. Let me know if you have any recommendations! Asian cinema (outside of the cornerstones) is always a blind spot for me.

Films #1-35

1 Horror Hotel (The City of the Dead) (1960) dir. by John Llewellyn Moxey

2 Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) dir. by Scott Glosserman

3 Freaky (2020) dir. by Christopher Landon

A hilarious and fun return to teen slashers. I love it and was so pleased that this finally got it’s UK release date!

4 Scare Me (2020) dir. by Josh Ruben

Easily one of my favourites. Was absolutely shocked how much I loved this one!

5 Llamageddon (2015) dir. by Howie Dewin

And this one… 0% shocked by how much I hated this one.

6 Attack the Block (2011) dir. by Joe Cornish

7 Four Flies on Grey Velvet (4 mosche di velluto grigio) (1971) dir. by Dario Argento

8 The Flesh and Blood Show (1972) dir. by Pete Walker

9 The Screaming Skull (1958) dir. by Alex Nicol

10 Macabre (1980) dir. by Lamberto Bava

Honestly, I hate myself for not having watched this batshit-crazy giallo earlier. A completely bonkers film worth going into blind.

11 Witchcraft II: The Temptress (1990) dir. by Mark Woods

12 C.H.U.D. (1984) dir. by Douglas Cheek

13 The Funhouse Massacre (2015) dir. by Andy Palmer

14 Fade to Black (1980) dir. by Vernon Zimmerman

15 X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963) dir. by Roger Corman

16 Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005) dir. by Mary Lambert

17 Verónica (2017) dir. by Paco Plaza

18 Eaten Alive (1976) dir. by Tobe Hooper

Another Hooper movie that will be added to my favourites list.

19 Dark Water (2005) dir. by Walter Salles

20 Invisible Ghost (1941) dir. by Joseph H. Lewis

21 Piranha (1978) dir. by Joe Dante

22 The Haunted Palace (1963) dir. by Roger Corman

23 Bowery at Midnight (1942) dir. by Wallace Fox

24 The Dead Pit (1989) dir. by Brett Leonard

25 The Reef (2010) dir. by Andrew Traucki

26 Friday the 13th (2009) dir. by Marcus Nispel

This one took me by complete surprise. As someone who was never a major fan of the originals, I think this is a fun addition.

27 Nightmare Beach (1989) dir. by Umberto Lenzi, James Justice

28 Phantom of the Megaplex (2000) dir. by Blair Treu

29 Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire (2019) dir. by Stephen Cognetti

30 The Raven (1963) dir. by Roger Corman

31 The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) dir. by Roger Corman

32 Scream 3 (2000) dir. by Wes Craven

33 Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire (2000) dir. by Steve Boyum

34 The Found Footage Phenomenon (2021) dir. by Phillip Escott, Sarah Appleton

This was the only film I went to see at FrightFest in person this year. This documentary is a fairly in-depth look at the found footage subgenre, filled with the directors who created the iconic titles like Deodato, Øvredal, Sánchez among others.

There will be a wider release in the future, and I think anyone who is a fan of the subgenre will take something away from it.

35 Wishmaster (1997) dir. by Robert Kurtzman

Wicked Wednesday: Summer 2021 Horror reads

Since the start of all this pandemic business, I’ve been reading less than I have in previous year. I have no motivation and no boring, 1-hour commute on the train. But I still tried to squeeze in some horror novels over the summer. Now that September is drawing ever closer (!), I’ve made a brief wrap-up of the horror titles (and true crime) I’ve read in the last three months.

Pleased to say that all of these are good enough to recommend!

Adult fiction:

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

Lynette Tarkington is a real-life final girl, a woman who survived a massacre over two decades ago. She and the other final girls make up a support group, relying on each other while trying to overcome their trauma. But when Lynette realises that a new killer is targeting the final girls, she must do everything she can to keep them all alive.

It’s no secret that Hendrix is one of my favourite authors of all time. He writes with a beautiful balance of humour and scares that I love – all with great poignancy. Alas, this might be one of the weaker titles from him. I think that for me, it’s because this is more of a thriller than true horror – no supernatural elements this time. It clips along at a great pace with great characters, but the plot was lacking in some respects. Namely in the relationship-building of the support group.

But that being said, there’s still great messaging about survival and trauma. Everything Hendrix writes is gold. Seek out interviews with him about the origins of this story idea if you’re in the mood for a cry.

Bonus points that the audiobook is narrated by final girl Adrienne King!

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

Part fantasy. Part horror. This novella is a supernatural twist on American history during the height of the KKK’s reign. Maryse Boudreaux is a smuggler and fighter with a magical sword. With that sword, she can kill the “Ku Kluxes”, a type of demon. The demons are a creation of a hexed version of the film Birth of a Nation.

Clark fills a lot of action, folklore and mythos into the short page count. Easily a book you could consume in one night. One worth going into without knowing too much!

Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin

This was my first foray into Martin’s work. Incredible, really, considering just how prolific this man is. Fevre Dream is what happens when you mix Dracula with Mark Twain.

A steamboat captain and his unusual new business partner begin travelling down the Mississippi River in a steam boat in the year 1857. Unbeknownst to the captain, his new partner is on the look out for vampires.

This is a great, atmospheric version of the vampire story. It’s heavy and full of gothic air. Martin is terrific at building suspense, I was pleasantly surprised! Will certainly be looking at which horror novel (or short story) to read by him next.

Children’s

Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon

Daka Hermon’s novel is one of the best children’s books I’ve read in a long while. She manages to perfectly encapsulate children’s imaginations when they become a little dark and twisted.

When Justin’s friend Zee returns after going missing for a year, he knows something isn’t right. Zee isn’t himself. At Zee’s welcome home party, the children all play hide-and-seek. Only the game isn’t as innocent as they may think, especially when one of them breaks the rules.

This book reminded me of playing games with my multitude of cousins when I was younger. The games were always a bit morbid. It’s certainly a creepy story, though, about abductions and missing children. Thrilling, but within the comfort zone for Middle Grade readers.

One Day at HorrorLand by R.L. Stine

A classic in Stine’s repertoire. I decided this summer to revisit some classic children’s horror, and where better to start than with the master himself?

When a family accidentally wind up at the HorrorLand theme park, they decide to try out a few of the rides. But not everything is as it seems in the park.

This is some classic Goosebumps. There’s a twist…then another twist! Gleeful and quick to read. There are more in a spin-off series to read that I might get to…one day. There’s also an adaption for the original Goosebumps TV show that I’ll need to hunt down ASAP!

DeadEndia: The Watcher’s Test by Hamish Steele

Rarely do I get to read “nice” things at work. But this graphic novel written and illustrated by Hamish Steele was an absolute treat.

When Barney gets a job at the Dead End theme park, he’s in for more supernatural hijinks than he expects! His dog gets possessed, he meets plenty of ghosts, and he faces literal demons.

This is a really fun LGBTQ+ graphic novel with rep that feels natural. I really want to visit Dead End one day. Even if there is a chance my soul will be sucked by a Dolly Parton knock off.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz

A classic of children’s horror fiction. This collection of short stories, urban legends and poems has been haunting children since it was first published in 1981. My eldest sister had copies of all three collections, and my sisters and I would always look at the haunting illustrations like they were taboo.

These stories are meant for very young children, so don’t expect to be terrified by them as an adult. But Stephen Gammell’s illustrations are still perfection. I recommend reading these aloud at story time, as they were meant to be told.

Don’t Turn Out the Lights: A Tribute to Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark edited by Jonathan Maberry

This is a collection of short stories inspired by Alvin Schwartz’s books. While many of these stories were good at the time, I can’t say I recall any of them now. It was also difficult to tell what age group this was aiming for. Some were very dark, while others were silly enough for 9-year-olds. But there are so great names attached, and well worth seeking out if you love an old-school spook tale.

True crime:

Chase Darkness With Me: How One True-Crime Writer Started Solving Murders by Billy Jensen

Deep down, many true crime fans think they have what it takes to solve an unsolved mystery. Billy Jensen has proved that you can.

Jensen takes readers through his career from a small-time reporter at the New York Times to piecing together evidence with Michelle McNamara to his innovative way of using social media to solve crimes. It’s a fascinating and quick read. And if you’re really interested, he also provides a guide on how to solve mysteries yourself on the internet.

Green River, Running Red: the Real Story of the Green River Killer – America’s Deadliest Serial Murderer by Ann Rule

My first-ever book from the master of true crime herself, Ann Rule.

I have to admit, I didn’t really know much about the Green River Killer before going into this book. As far as serial killers go, he lacks “pizzazz”. And as Rule points out, it’s because he largely targeted sex workers – making his victims nearly invisible outside of those who loved them or were working to solve the case.

Rule gives a lot of the spotlight to Gary Ridgway’s 49 victims and beyond. She clearly is passionate about the case, but she does sometimes get a bit redundant in the way that she tells the stories of the victims. I did enjoy this one, even if it did feel dated already. And will gladly pick up more of the master’s work.

Wicked Wednesday: Eaten Alive (1970)

This month, I’ve opted myself into a Letterboxd challenge to watch 100 new-to-me horror movies by the end of October. Now, even though I mostly write about movies these days…I don’t actually watch that many movies. (I have other hobbies, you know!) But even though I’m only two and a half weeks in, the challenge has me getting to movies that I’ve been putting off for too long.

Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive has called out to me many times and for many reasons. But biggest of all? Killer crocodiles!

Eaten Alive was released between not only what are two of my favourite Hooper movies but two of my most favourite horror movies ever: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Funhouse. So there was certainly a bit of anticipation going into this one for the first time.

Thankfully, for me, this scuzzy little movie didn’t disappoint.

Judd is a lonely old man who runs a rundown hotel in the swamps of Texas. One night, his peace is disturbed by Clara, a sex worker who has been kicked out of the town brothel for refusing to have sex with a client. While he takes her up to her room, he decides to attack her.

Clara tries to protect herself, but she’s soon killed by Judd and is fed to his crocodile.

Days later, Judd’s peace is disturbed yet again by the arrival of a rather-whacky family. Shortly after the family’s arrival, their dog Snoopy is eaten by the croc. The young daughter, Angie, begins to have a meltdown. It doesn’t help that her parents begin to argue in the meantime.

To make Judd’s situation even worse, his other new guests are the father and sister of a missing young woman…who just happens to be the sex worker he fed to a crocodile.

The story alternates between the young family being attacked and chased by Judd, Clara’s family’s attempts to find her, and Robert Englund generally being a creep.

I seem to have the opposite opinion to many people. Some of the criticisms of the film include the lighting. But for me, I adore the red-saturated Argento-style lights. It feels so seedy and gross. Really, I loved the way everything looked. Unlike The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which has the vast emptiness of Texas, Eaten Alive feels very closed in. A very 1960s shot on-sets kind of vibe. It’s difficult to see what’s going on beyond the mists. And for me, that makes everything all the more unsettling.

There’s also a very good cast in this. Ranging from Hollywood icons like Neville Brand, Carolyn Jones and Mel Ferrer to future-icons of the genre like Englund, Marilyn Burns and William Finley (“SWAAAAAAN!!!”). Everyone is seemingly loosing their minds to perfection. It’s a joy to watch. I particularly enjoyed Brand’s performance as Judd. Completely unhinged, yet was pathetic enough to almost make you feel sorry for him.

Almost.

But even more, Eaten Alive was loosely based around the true story and myths of Joe Ball. In Texas folklore, Ball fed his enemies and ex-wives to his gator. In reality, most of this is probably not true – as there was never any evidence of it. Though I do think Hooper does a great job of spinning this tall tale into a truly horrific story.

I’m so glad I finally took the plunge and watched Eaten Alive. A fun movie that I can’t wait to watch again.

Wicked Wednesday: Ghosts of Fear Street Pilot (1998)

If there’s anything I love more than a made-for-TV movie, it’s lost TV pilots (or even better -TV movies that double as pilots). While reading up on the Fear Street movies on Netflix, I read about the mostly-forgotten pilot of the Ghosts of Fear Street show.

The TV show was meant to be based on R.L. Stine’s Ghosts of Fear Street series, a spin-off of the Fear Street series that was meant for younger readers. But in both series, the books take place in the town of Shadyside.

The pilot starts off with a classic twist: a story within the story. Author father PJ Murphy tests out his latest story on his children. The kids are unenthusiastic about his story of the bug people living next door (and if they’re bored – so are we!).

They three children learn that they are to help move their Grandpa out of his B&B in Shadyside. When they arrive, the family find the house full of quirky objects and ghosts. Each of the children set off to explore. Mickey meets an invisible dog. Kit meets the neighborhood goth, Kit. And Joe gets the fright of his life when he meets a bug man.

After Joe steals a car battery with the plans to “zap” the bug man, PJ stops him. He tells the children that things on Fear Street aren’t exactly normal.

But while moving out, mother Anne realises that she didn’t like the idea of her father leaving his home. So the parents announce that the kids will be staying on Fear Street for the rest of the summer.

The pilot for Ghosts of Fear Street was aired in 1998, apparently to some abysmal ratings. It’s strange to think of anything that Stine touched not being extremely popular – particularly in this era. Perhaps too much of a good thing? Or maybe this was the time when horror on children’s TV was declining?

If the Fear Street series was adapted initially, perhaps it would have found an audience that wasn’t already distracted by the original Goosebumps show. A teen Scream (as the Netflix trilogy feels like). Ghosts is a lot goofier than Goosebumps. More like a zany toothpaste ad. Not exactly something that would scare most children, unless they were really young.

The story itself isn’t strong. Especially for a pilot. While I’m always a champion for children’s horror, this felt flat. But with plenty of adaptions with Stine’s name on them, it’s not like we’re ever feeling cheated!