Occasionally I like breaking free of the feature-length shackles to watch something that can pack a punch in just a few short minutes. I did a mini short-film marathon the other night and happened to see a link between the three: all of them manage to create a very unsettling feeling by not doing much at all.
Other Side of the Box (2018) dir. by Caleb J. Phillips
So…what’s in the basket box?
Couple Rachel and Ben are enjoying a night in before Christmas when an unwelcome visitor arrives. Their not-quite-friend Shawn is invited in, and he gives a wrapped gift to Ben. Not wanting to be rude, Ben accepts the gift but is told not to read the card until after opening the box. Shawn skedaddles quickly after he’s sure the box has been opened.
In a similar vein to It Follows, Ben and Rachel realise that they’ve been saddled with a curse. The curse? A creepy man peering at them from over the side of the box. Shawn’s card warns them not to look away from the man at any point.
The man is a very simple visual, but it really made my skin crawl. No offence to the actor playing him, of course! It’s the hidden face and unblinking eyes that really set me on edge. Something about a Peeping Tom really unsettles me.
The Backrooms (Found Footage) (2022) dir. by Kane Parsons
Kids these days… I’m glad they’ll be running things when I’m old because these little ones know what they’re doing. They’re more competent than I’ve ever been!
Director Parsons was only 16 when he made this short. This is an impressive film without that fact, but it’s definitely worth noting because this kid accomplished a lot (with presumably little other than a phone and a computer programme…yes I’m aware of how old that makes me sound).
The Backrooms is a relatively new urban legend that is about an endless maze of empty rooms and liminal spaces. A person can find themselves in the Backrooms by accident and it’s never known how to escape. It’s all seemingly random, which adds to the uncomfortable atmosphere.
In The Backrooms (Found Footage) a cameraman is making a movie when he noclips into an empty office with an abandoned 1980s style. He wanders for ages trying to find a way out when he soon realises he isn’t alone.
This would have been my literal nightmare as a kid. What Parsons managed to do is incredible. He sets feels genuinely isolated and sad. A lot like my real office, come to think of it…
Atman (1975) dir. by Toshio Matsumoto
The final film of the evening was Atman by experimental director Toshio Matsumoto. It’s not strictly a horror short, but for some reason, there’s a sense of dread that permeates throughout.
A person in a hannya (a Japanese demon representing jealousy) mask sits in a chair while the camera revolves around them. The images are presented in a frame-by-frame manner, slowing speeding up while zooming in and out.
As the shots get faster, the shrill sounds become more and more intense. There’s really nothing else “happening”, but I do know that I would never like to be in this world or come across this person anywhere, let alone the seemingly isolated countryside where it was filmed.
Learning that today was already November 2nd shaved years off my life. Where did October go? It was possibly the busiest I have ever been around this time of the year. but there are no complaints from me! And yet, I managed to watch 110 new-to-me horror movies from August to October. It beats last year’s number, and I feel significantly better than I did at the end this time around.
One bit of guidance I had this year was Shudder’s latest show, The 101 Scariest Horror Movie Moments of All Time. It was a solid list of new and classic films to watch. And I became determined to watch as many as I could from it, meaning I finally ticked off missed classics like Rosemary’s Baby and saw recent hits like The Night House.
There were a lot of new horror films released in October as well. Seriously, an excellent month for genre fans. I saw quite a few family-friend movies this month with Wendell & Wild being my favourite. Easily. Henry Selick and Jordan Peele are icons.
Overall, it was a much more positive experience this year. I made lists and set goals for myself as to what I wanted to accomplish. Only one film was left on my checklist, The Velvet Vampire, which I hope to get to in November.
79 Hocus Pocus 2 (2022) dir. by Anne Fletcher
80 I Walked With a Zombie (1943) dir. by Jacques Tourneur
81 Cujo (1983) dir. by Lewis Teague
82 Train to Busan (2016) dir. by Yeon Sang-ho
83 Hollows Grove (2014) dir. by Craig Efros
84 Nightmare Weekend (1984) dir. by Henri Sala
85 Rosemary’s Baby (1968) dir. by a rapist
This might be my biggest oversight when it comes to classic horror. The plot such a part of popular culture that I didn’t think any thing could surprise me about this film. But it really did. Mia Farrow is absolutely incredible here. She alone is the film.
86 Evil of Dracula (1974) dir. by Michio Yamamoto
87 Black Rock(2012) dir. by Katie Aselton
88 This House (2022) dir. by Emma de Swaef, Marc James Roels, Niki Lindroth von Bahr, Paloma Baeza
89 The Tell-Tale Heart (1960) dir. by Ernest Morris
90 Fiend (1980) dir. by Don Dohler
91 Killer Piñata (2017) dir. by Stephen Tramontana
92 Werewolf by Night (2022) dir. by Michael Giacchino
I don’t know what I was thinking…
93 Gerald’s Game (2017) dir. by Mike Flanagan
94 Stage Fright (2014) dir. by Jerome Sable
When I got the notification that Stage Fright was available for streaming, I was SO excited. I have been dying to see Michael Soavi’s film for years. But lo and behold it was this Stage Fright starring Meat Loaf. But I will call this a happy mix-up. A bananas movie that’s a lot of fun.
95 The Curse of Bridge Hollow (2022) dir. by Jeff Wadlow
96 The Night House (2020) dir. by David Bruckner
97 Halloween Ends (2022) dir. by David Gordon Green
I really enjoyed this. Sue me.
98 Rocktober Blood (1984) dir. by Beverly Sebastian
99 Frightmare (1974) dir. by Pete Walker
100 The Suspicious Death of a Minor (Morte sospetta di una minorenne) (1975) dir. by Sergio Martino
101 V/H/S/99 (2022) dir. by Johannes Roberts, Vanessa & Joseph Winter, Maggie Levin, Tyler MacIntyre, Flying Lotus
102 All Hallows’ Eve 2 (2015) dir. by Bryan Norton, Antonio Padovan, Jay Holben, James and Jon Kondelik, Andrés Borghi, Ryan Patch, Mark Roussel, Elias Benavidez, Mike Kochansky
103 Saloum (2021) dir. by Jean Luc Herbulot
A stunning horror tale from Senegal. The fact that I haven’t seen more people talking about this film is a HUGE shame.
104 The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) dir. by Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney and James Algar
105 Significant Other (2022) dir. by Robert Olsen, Dan Berk
106 Blackenstein (1973) dir. by William A. Levey
107 Bad Hair (2020) dir. by Justin Simien
108 Cemetery of Terror (Cementerio del terror) dir. by Rubén Galindo Jr.
109 Saw (2004) dir. by James Wan
I put off watching this film for years and years. It was what gave birth to the modern “torture porn” subgenre. Nothing about it ever appealed to me, but I knew it was time to bite the bullet. You can always turns things off, right? But this was an entirely different film to what I was anticipating. Maybe I watched an edited version, but the gore was very light. The biggest shock? It had an interesting story.
I love horror anthology movies. Some of the best scary stories are quick, brutal and to the point. It’s often why the short film format is often one of the most effective forms of horror. Link them together with an excellent framing story, and you’ve got yourself gold.
And who better to listen to scary stories from than a mortician on a stormy night? Though if you’re a cheating man named Talmudge, it’s probably not going to be an ideal situation for you.
After fooling around with another man’s wife one night, Talmudge tries to head back to his hotel. Only his cab drops him off on the wrong street during a storm. He’s taken in by a mortician, who seemingly pities the man’s situation.
Inside the mortician’s place, Talmudge sees five caskets out. The mortician explains that he only takes in “interesting” corpses that have had unique deaths. He then explains each death in detail to Talmudge.
The first story is about a grumpy teacher who hates children. She’s a monster to them, but what happens when they become monsters themselves?
A second corpse is that of a man who was executed after being found killing women. The crimes he filmed himself doing.
The third coffin contains the body of a detective. One who was competitive with a fellow detective and was willing to put him to the test of wits. But which detective is in the coffin and whose remains were too little to be buried?
The fourth, but not final, story is about an office worker who cares for no one but himself. After harassing a homeless man, the office worker finds himself in a closed shop that he can’t escape. No matter what he does, he finds himself further and further into the shop – and into another form of torture.
As the mortician finishes his story, the only question left is – who is the fifth, and empty, casket for?
It’s a fun and morbidly gleeful ending to the anthology in the vein of anthology TV shows like Creepshow and Tales from the Crypt.
I really loved a lot about The House of the Dead. Director Sharon Miller manages to keep a consistent tone throughout. And yet each of the stories is very distinct and memorable – something I have to say is often rare for anthology movies. There are usually one or two segments that are weaker than the rest.
But here we are lucky enough to get four solid stories with a framing story that isn’t obnoxious to return to. Nothing is worse than just wanting to skip the framing story and get on to something else, only to have to return to it again.
This was a surprisingly little hidden gem. If you’re a fan of anthologies and have yet to see it, I highly recommend seeking it out.
Happy Halloween, everyone! The night might not the way we wanted but here we are. I’m simultaneously watching Grady Hendrix talk about Dracula’s penis on the Shudder Fest Live Stream and learning about England’s new lockdown from the PM’s announcement.
What a life, eh?
Despite the fact that this October was one of the worst I ever had, I still managed to watch some great movies, listen to some incredible people and read good books. As ever, everything might seem dark, but you have to appreciate the light where you can find it.
First of all, thank God for Shudder. All day we’ve had various panels to stream: from horror icons to a discussion on the future of Black horror to (of course) discussions on vampire books from Hendrix himself. While we can’t party, at least it’s nice to feel connected with fellow fans online.
Being a horror fan is the best. Following the new format of their August festival, Arrow Video FrightFest: October Digital Edition was entirely online this year. Just live streaming The Stylist on Sunday morning made me feel like I was hanging out with other fans again. Sure I was in my sunny living room, not a dark cinema, but we can only pretend.
I watched Jill Gevargizian’s short film back in 2017 and was completely in love with the entire thing. It’s easily my favourite horror short. It’s the perfect bite-sized bit of terror. The movie expands on the life of stylist/serial killer Claire (played by Najarra Townsend, who reprises the role). We get to know more about her inner life and her motives. She’s a dark and twisted woman. It’s both difficult to watch and impossible to look away.
The movie was so gorgeous, and it was great to see Kansas City as the setting. I can’t wait to see more from Gevargizian. More local horror from local authors!
One of the best books I read this month was John Boden’s Walk the Darkness Down, a Western horror. The characters are all twisted and the enemy is one of the most disgusting I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about.
On the nonfiction side of things, both Leila Taylor’s Darkly: Blackness and America’s Gothic Soul and John Bloom’s (aka Joe Bob Briggs) Evidence of Love were both obsessive reads but for very different reasons.
Taylor’s book looks at the goth subculture through the lens of a Black American woman. She looks at everything from Siouxsie Sioux’s questionable cover of “Strange Fruit” to the ‘haunted’ houses of derelict Detroit. She writes so conversationally that her memoir blends in seamlessly with her critiques of culture. Listen to this one in audiobook form.
Evidence of Love was just an endlessly entertaining bit of true-crime fiction. This is one best gone into blind, but coming full circle – it’s thanks to Grady Hendrix’s The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires that I learned about this book.
I hope you’ve all had a good October. I hope it was filled with plenty of good spooky things. I ate a gingerbread mummy and played about two and a half hours of Animal Crossing just to trick-or-treat with my ‘friends’. Now I’ll be indulging in whatever horror movie I want because that’s at least one thing I can control.
Ghostkeeper is weird. And I mean that in a good way.
It’s commonly classified as a slasher, but it’s sleeker in many ways. It’s one part The Shining and another part rooted in First Nations Algonquian folklore. It’s cheap, but it’s beautiful. It’s strange, and it’s actually kind of wonderful.
Initially, the atmosphere of the movie reminded me of Bloody New Year and Bill Rebane films like The Capture of Big Foot and The Game. This probably swayed me into thinking this was going to be of the same calibre because of that. And in some ways Ghostkeeper is because of similar eras and (presumably) budget constraints.
And it does start out on a familiar path: A group of friends leave their cosy lodge to go snowmobiling. They meet a Harbinger of Doom, who warns them to go back before an incoming storm.
Jenny appreciates the warning and insists that her boyfriend Marty heads back. But ol’ Marty has a thing for Chrissy, their pal from the lodge, and would much rather impress her by going off trail.
The three take a trail through some private property, leading them to a seemingly abandoned lodge. When they enter, though, they discover that it is warm. Despite the warm welcome, they realise that no guests had checked into the hotel for nearly five years.
When the storm does arrive, the kids settle in for the night with a bottle of wine by the fire. Their night quickly takes a turn when Marty bumps into a woman in the kitchen. While initially hostile towards them, Jenny is able to calm the woman down and convince her to let them stay in the lodge for the night.
That night, things take even more of an odd turn. Chrissy is nearly drown in her bath by the woman’s son, Danny. He drags her into the basement where there is a cell of ice blocks. She’s wed to a windigo, which is in the form of a man. Jenny and Marty are too busy to notice at first, as they argue about Jenny’s increasing paranoia.
The following morning, Marty and Jenny realise that the snowmobiles are not working. They also cannot find Chrissy. While Marty tries to repair the snowmobiles, Jenny searches for their friend. Instead she finds the older woman, who is evasive about Chrissy.
The woman drugs Jenny, who wakes up conveniently next to a book about Native American folklore. She reads about the windigo and links it to the murders from the surrounding area.
As she tries to return to the main part of the hotel, she is confronted by Danny. She tries to escape, but their scuffle leads to Danny’s death.
With Danny’s death, Marty begins to act strangely. He declares he won’t help Jenny, that she cannot escape being a murderer. He eventually leaves her to trudge off into the snow by himself.
Left all alone, Jenny tries to defend herself. She shoots the woman, but soon discovers that the deaths of the woman, Marty and Danny only spell out her own damnation.
It’s a perfect little movie for a snowy night in. The scenes are stunning, set in the snowy Canadian Rockies. The acting is also above-par, particularly Riva Spier as Jenny and Georgie Collins as the older woman (the titular Ghostkeeper).
Occasionally it’s easy to jump to conclusions from early scenes. It would have been very easy to turn it off, believing it to be another run-of-the-mill slasher. But Ghostkeeper has a bit more magic to it that sets it apart from others. Granted, I would have liked if the film dived deeper into it’s lore. It rarely takes the time to flesh out its story, instead focusing more on the movements of characters.
Maybe it’s because I was taken by surprise, but I think this Canadian gem is well worth the watch.
Can you believe I lived to this ripe-old age without knowing there was a Tales From the Crypt cartoon? I love almost anything horror-related that’s targeted towards children.
Unfortunately, I can’t say that statement extends to the first episode of this show.
Tales from the Cryptkeeper pretty much runs exactly like it’s live-action counterpart: the Cryptkeeper welcomes with several puns before introducing us to the week’s story. This week, the Cryptkeeper is off on holiday. Not-so-incidentally, the boys in his story are the sons of a travel agent. A unsuccessful one at that.
But when the boys overhear their father speaking to a wealthy man (who wants to go to Transylvania – money is no object!), the eldest realises they have an opportunity to rob the man. Why rob him, well, to get money for new bikes!
The youngest, Dwight, is much more nervous than the elder Stu. But he agrees to go along with the plan.
The boys arrive at the home only to realise that it’s more of a haunted mansion. They march in anyway and come face-to-face with a series of traps while trying to make their way around the house. First there’s a ghost in the painting, followed by tentacled monster, Frankenstein’s monster, vampires and zombies!
The boys quickly learn their lesson that it isn’t very nice to steal.
It’s pretty run-of-the-mill stuff. Considering this is the first episode, though, there’s very much a chance that it does improve. I’m probably not interested enough to continue on.
The show lacks the twisted humour that the original has. It’s been stripped down to be “horror lite” children, but it goes too far. I think incredibly young children would enjoy it – say 5 or 6. I’m not sure what the original intended audience was, but it’s not very sophisticated or scary in any way.
But my biggest gripe with this show is the animation. It’s truly some of the worst I’ve seen, especially considering this was made in 1993. It’s very uninspired character design with boxy movements. All very low-budget looking. Certainly not half as good as its contemporaries like Beetlejuice (incidentally produced by the same company) or Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.
I’m sure if you have nostalgia attached to the show, it will remain charming upon review. I could listen to John Kassir as the Cryptkeeper anyway! He’s easily the highlight here.
If you do think I should carry on watching. Let me know what episode I should move on to next! Otherwise, I might try to hunt down episodes of New Tales From the Cryptkeeper. You can’t keep a woman away from a Lite Ghoulish Tale (TM).
What is Christmas really without traditions? Emigrating to a new country meant that I gain a whole new set of them. There’s horrible Christmas cake instead of stollen. A new holiday with Boxing Day (though I still don’t get the point). I now enjoy bucks fizz while opening presents! It’s very novel.
About three or four years ago, I stopped going to my office Christmas parties. They’re a bit “too much” with someone with an anxiety disorder. But sitting by yourself all day feels a touch pathetic while everyone else is out partying.
So my first year at home, I started my very first only-for-me tradition: baking while watching cheesy Christmas romance movies followed by the most graphic or fun slashers I can find on my shelves. It started off by accident, but has quickly progressed to a day of the year I really look forward to.
Now, I’m not the type to be attracted to romance films. And I’m certainly not the type to condone enjoying things ironically. But the last few years I’ve started really getting into these Hallmark-esque Christmas fares. They’re not too bad at getting you in the mood for Christmas. And I’m someone who consistently lacks Christmas Spirit.
After all the drama surrounding Hallmark this year, I can sufficiently say with confidence: Hallmark – get stuffed. But thankfully, Netflix seems to have filled the holiday-film void with some of their own. Top ranked: Christmas Prince, The Knight Before Christmas and the ultimate wild and crazy shit show: Christmas Wedding Planner.
On the surface, it might appear as though holiday romances have nothing in common with horror movies. But it’s like grilled cheesy and jam: it shouldn’t work, but it really fucking does.
I present to you the following similarities:
They’re both formulaic. Slashers = people die. Holiday romances = people fall in love.
They have unrealistic situations. Average American woman becomes queen just in time to save the kingdom! Family of inbreds blow up their house for kicks!
The genres each focus more on plot than they do character-building. Sure, these people have jobs, but they’re really just shells to move along the story.
Um, maybe that’s it? But you get me – they’re genre films for a specific type of person.
This year, I indulged in maybe too many Christmas movies. Thankfully my friend was around to go out for drinks and pizza to break up the potentially mind-melting experience. We watched quite a few of them together. Could I tell you the plots of any of them? No. Do I remember what the differences were between them? Definitely not. I’m certain they’re all just one film.
Thankfully I watched quite a few gems at night after coming home with a bellyful of pizza. I like to mix my horror choices between a couple of giallos (early enough in the night while I can still read) and American slashers – great for the hour when your brain shuts off.
AND I got to enjoy this all while eating gingerbread scones. Who’s to say I’m not living the dream?
So I enjoy a wholesome, silly movies from time-to-time. And it might just be one day a year, but it’s a moment to savour…before ruining it with switchblades, bloody mysteries and ominous shadows. If you get a bit sick of the holiday spirit, I recommend you start a similar tradition of your own.
Tis the season for “it was really just okay but mostly forgettable” holiday films! Apparently, I guess.
I don’t set out to watch average films, but the heavy hitters of Christmas horror movies are far and few between. Jack Frost is certainly an average fare.
If you like the original Child’s Play but want more Christmas spirit and a lower budget, this movie is really made for you.
Jack Frost is a serial killer. A particularly nasty one at that. While he’s being transported to his execution, the van he is in collides with a truck carrying chemicals.
Jack’s body combines with the genetic material and the snow, turning him into a snowman.
As a snowman, Jack is able to terrorise a small town. The small town, in fact, where he was caught by the sheriff, Sam Tiler.
So as the townspeople begin preparing for Christmas, Jack wrecks havoc by killing them. Two men from the FBI arriving, looking for Jack but refusing to admit to anyone that they still believe he’s alive.
But Tiler soon realised something is amiss, especially when his son’s bully is killed in a freak sled-related accident.
Eventually, the agents must admit the truth when the snowman Jack appears at the police station. Ruler and the others try to fend the killer snowman off repeatedly.￼
When blowing up the police station or sticking Jack in the incinerator doesn’t work, Tiler has the idea to use antifreeze instead. The townspeople all believe it’s done the trick. Only, it’s a horror movie that demands a sequel – so of course it’s not the end of things.
When I was younger (I was six when this movie was released), the VHS cover terrified me at the rental shop. I thought about it constantly. Because of that fear, I never was keen to watch it. But turns out there is nothing remotely scary. It’s very much a comedy with gore.
I actually chuckled a little, whereas I never felt any sense of tension. That’s not to say the film doesn’t try its best. Some of the deaths are rather gross and one actually pretty humorous. Only, a killer snowman is so ridiculous it is so very hard to take seriously.
The same could probably be said about a certain killer doll, but there’s plenty of evidence that says otherwise.
If you’re looking for something ridiculous, this certainly fits the bill. It just depends on how much late-90s tastelessness you can handle.
You probably can’t tell from the films I tend to write about, but I love Italian horror. They just get me. But I tend not to write about these things. First of all, I prefer watching them subtitled in Italian (which makes note-keeping a bit trickier), and sometimes – just sometimes – I like watching movies for my own enjoyment.
I made an excuse for Paganini Horror, as my copy from 88 Films had sat on my shelf unwatched a few weeks too many.
This was a complete blind buy. I had never seen this 1989 film before but it had all the right ingredients: Venice, Daria Nicolodi, fictional bands, Donald Pleasence and Luigi Cozi. Plus the slipcase promised this would be my new favourite bad movie. What isn’t inciting about that?
And for one, this actually lived up to all my expectations and more!
Singer Kate is a bit washed up, and her manager isn’t happy with it. Kate continues to churn out uninspired music. But her drummer, Daniel, gets an idea and makes a trade with the mysterious Mr Pickett.
In exchange for money, Daniel is given a sealed, unpublished work by the Italian composer Niccolò Paganini. It was apparently written for some sect after selling his soul to the Devil (very Faustian of him).
Kate immediately takes to the music and agrees to use it. She’s inspired to create a “Thriller”-style music video and call the song (surprise!) “Paganini Horror”. The score sounds exactly like ELO’s “Twlight”, but I guess we’ll keep quiet about that (sorry, Jeff). Paganini was clearly well ahead of his time.
The band go to an old house in Venice to create the music video. They’ve got a larger budget than Bonnie Tyler for white cloths and a whole lot of mannequins. While the video seems to be going well, it doesn’t take long for things to start going south.
There are strange going-ons in the Venetian home. The group find a room full of strange light and noise that terrorises them. Band members and crew start getting killed off by the ghost of Paganini, dressed in a skull mask.
Though, this isn’t some typical slasher affair. The deaths are creative (even if they are off screen): death by violin mould, being incinerated next to an hourglass, electrocuted by invisible barrier.
When we spiral into explanation-territory, the story begins to become a bit of a head-scratcher. Kate discovers true secret to defeating Paganini: playing his piece backward. Why? Well, something about music being the key to the universe (I think).
Paganini Horror is an ambitious horror movie, quite clearly hindered by time and budget. It certain gets convoluted, but it’s worth it for the excellent Italian cheese.
Cozi apparently wasn’t happy with the film’s outcome, and if you read about the original story, it’s quite clear why. Paganini Horror may well be a part of the “horror movies that never were”, joining the ranks of Book of Shadows and Deadly Friend. We’ll never know what the film would have been like if producers allowed his original vision, but I certainly think what we did get is memorable and entertaining.
For me, Paganini Horror will certainly go down in the books as a classic. Maybe not for the reasons it wanted to be, but that’s fine, right? If you can parallel the mastery of Pod People, I really think you’re doing something right.
There’s heatwave in London this week. Being a born-and-bred Wisconsinite, I can handle -30 but melt at anything above “warm-ish”. And there’s no heat quite like city heat. Plus a lot less lakes and rivers to sit by in London than in ‘sconsin.
And that’s excuse number 108 why it’s way too hot to turn on the TV and watch a movie. Our PlayStation creates a bonfire’s worth of heat just by looking at it, so sitting next to it with pen in hand is just not happening this week.
But do you know what doesn’t create heat? Books!
This week is the annual Reading Rush reading challenge (formerly BookTube-a-thon). As per the definition of a read-a-thon, I’m going to try and read as much as possible this week. I’ve lined up a selection of graphic novels, shorter books and audiobooks (which by the way, if you’re still not using Scribd you’re behind on life) to indulge in.
But the summer has always been about reading a lot. We don’t need a reading challenge for that. And now that summer is reaching the halfway point, it’s time to talk about some recent (and future) horror reads.
1.Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Cailtin Doughty
So this non-fiction entry isn’t “horror” per se. But I guess that depends on how much you enjoy talking about cremation, corpses and death plans.
I’m late to the game when it comes to Doughty. This YouTuber/Mortician/death enthusiast/all-around-goddess first came to my attention only a few months ago. And it’s safe to say that in that short amount of time I’ve become thoroughly obsessed.
Doughty’s debut novel Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells the story of Doughty’s first job working in a crematorium. The stories can be sweet, funny, heart-breaking and informative. She certainly gets you thinking about your own mortality and about what really happens to your fats when you burn.
I particularly recommend listening to the audiobook, which Doughty reads herself. Her voice is fantastic. Filled with great inflection and humour.
2.Shadowland by Peter Straub
For years now I’ve wanted to read something by Straub, but his work is pretty intimidating. Poor Ghost Story has been sitting unloved on my shelf for ages now. But when I was in Wisconsin this summer, I was in the mood for something a bit scary. And who better to reach for than a fellow creepy Wisconsinite?
Well, turns out Shadowland isn’t a straight-forward horror story. In fact, there’s a lot of fantasy in the pages. But if anything, this story is unsettling as all hell. Straub creates vivid dream-like scenes that (to me) are simultaneously terrifying and confusing. It’s heavy with metaphors and imagery – and not at all in a bad way.
Shadowland follows two boys over the course a year. We’re introduced to them at the beginning of their school year before they are whisked away to New England where they spend a summer with a magician. As the boys learn more magic, the power they see becomes more dangerous and surreal.
I’ve never read anything like Shadowland before. And I doubt I will ever again. But I’m so glad I took the risk.
3.We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix
Last summer, I read my first Grady Hendrix novel, My Best Friend’s Exorcism. That book ticked all the boxes for me: 80s references, female friendships, demons. So when he released a new novel about a heavy metal band, I knew this one would be for me too.
We Sold Our Souls is about one woman’s desire to recollect her past. Having been thrown out of her semi-famous metal band decades earlier, Kris Pulaski is washed-up. The frontman of her band is immensely famous, but Kris hasn’t seen any royalties. She starts to suspect that he didn’t get his fame and power on his own. Kris decides traverse the country to put the band (and the puzzle pieces) back together. Though it’s a far more dangerous road than she things, there’s more than one demon along the way.
This is another horror novel that isn’t so straight-forward with its thrills. Really, it’s about how horrible humans can really be to each other in selfish pursuits. It’s about our fears and paranoias, and that’s very scary indeed.
Also, bonus for great music references.
4.Jughead: The Hunger vol. 1 by Frank Tieri
When Archie Comics released a one-shot about Jughead as a werewolf, all was magnificent. Only it wasn’t. There wasn’t enough.
Thankfully the people at Archie heard our lycanthropic prayers and made Jughead: The Hunger an ongoing series. I’m only halfway through the first volume, and it hasn’t really lived up to expectations thus far. But I do love how much fun Archie Comics have been having with their characters in recent years. This is a brand to always love.
5.Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe
This book, much like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, transfixed me as a young girl. Particularly that wonderful cover by Alan Daniel. Never have bunnies been more terrifying. Beware, Anya!
I sneaked this book out of my parents’ house to England wanting to reread this obvious masterpiece. And that reread is happening 100% soon…as in probably tonight.
6. The audiobook mystery thrillers
Upon discovering the Scribd app, I’ve gone a bit audiobook mad. Thankfully, because it’s easy to discard a book after starting it, I’ve been able to dabble in many different books I wouldn’t normally read. This has made create both good and bad outcomes.
I went into Riley Sager’s The Last Time I Lied with really high expectations. I’d heard great things about his other books. Unsolved murders at a summer camp? Yes please. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t care about the story. There was a fun little twist at the end, but it certainly was a lot to slog through for little reward.
Speaking of high expectations… From the summary for Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey, I thought this would be literally everything I wanted: magic school, murders, detective noir. But this was one seriously not-for-me book. I have never not finished a murder mystery. Even if I don’t like the story, I always finish. This was one solid exception to the rule. Yikes.
On a brighter note, I listened to two YA mysteries that I enjoyed: Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson and Little Monsters by Kara Thomas. I highly, highly recommend Little Monsters, even if you aren’t into YA that much. Plus it’s set in Wisconsin, so…
What will you be reading for the rest of the summer? Are you taking part in the Reading Rush read-a-thon? Hopefully you read some winners this year. I know I certainly have.