Rainbringer: Zora Neale Hurston Against The Lovecraftian Mythos

May 4th will see the release of my collection (really, a novel in eight stories) RAINBRINGER: ZORA NEALE HURSTON AGAINST THE LOVECRAFTIAN MYTHOS, which bundles together three previously published stories and five never before seen, all featuring the Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston (read about her here) reimagined as a Mythos detective.

You can preorder the book here. https://www.amazon.com/Rainbringer-Hurston-Against-Lovecraftian-Mythos-ebook/dp/B08YNH7JQ2/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=rainbringer+erdelac&qid=1616448793&sr=8-1

In the next seven weeks leading up to release, I’ll be posting a little bit about each included story as well as the opening paragraph, beginning today with LEAVES FLOATING IN A DREAM’S WAKE, which is an epistolary story I wrote to kick off this collection.

It finds Zora in New York City in 1925, having just transferred from the historically black Howard University in Washington, DC to enroll in Barnard College as its first African American student. She is pursuing her studies and aspiring to write, looking back at the love she left behind, and struggling to make ends meet when she experiences a peculiar prophetic dream during an earthquake on the night of February 28, 1925, a dream shared not just by several Harlem artists, but unknown to her, receptive creatives around the globe.

The earthquake in question is the 6.2 Charlevoix-Kamouraska earthquake which was felt in New York City (and, Lovecraftian afficionados will recognize as the likely source of the quake mentioned in THE CALL OF CTHULHU).
January 19th, 1925

Dearest Herbert,

Thank you kindly for your sincere well wishes on the occasion of my latest and what I hope will be my greatest run around the sun. I am well as can be and hope most ardently that you are the same. I was reluctant to write you. I wanted to give you your space after all. I guess the distance between Chicago and New York City should probably be all the space anybody would ever want, but of course, I meant time. I think of you more often than I like, if I am being honest, which, with you, I always am.

Tell me how your courses are going at Rush. I know Chi is the Windy City, so I can’t even imagine the level of gales that blow through your clothes. Here in Harlem it is cold, cold cold! And you know how my teeth used to chatter walking home from S Street! My Florida blood is too thin for these northern winds. I wish you were here to warm me.

Yet, I am not so lonely that I will be throwing myself from my window. No, not even over you, my doctor to be. Harlem is a dream, and calls to mind old Eatonville, but dressed up in grown folks’ clothes. My people here don’t slouch when they walk, and standing on the corner of Seventh and 135th is like people watching in front of my family’s house again.

Negroes flow by like a great muddy river, in every lovely shade of beautiful black, and it is tempting to jump on the running boards of the shiny cars or slip my arms through stranger’s elbows, just to lose myself in the current and float down whatever eddy is moving swiftest.

Oh, and I am. I am dancing with poets, singers, jazz men and other liars. Every tongue and every spine is loose. I saw none other than Duke Ellington play at a rent party last Saturday night. The next time you are in town I will take you to a buffet flat, but don’t ask what that is – I want to see the look on your face. I imagine it will be much like my own was the first time I went with Angelina Grimke.

Yes, I have reconnected with a few of the old Saturday Nighters here. James Johnson is only a few blocks down from me. Of course I am in contact with Dr. Locke, and have been over to Dr. Johnson’s home for dinner a few times. His wife is a lovely person and a tremendous cook. Whenever I dine with them and I at last push away in surrender from their bounteous table, I expect to see a bill waiting to be paid, but so far so good, which is good, because brother, I am broke and it is no joke.

I’ve been working as a manicurist again to make ends meet, wearing down my own nails at night on the typewriter. I’m working on a story, Spunk, which I hope Dr. Johnson will go for, and kicking around the idea of a play. Dr. Locke is guest editing an all-Negro issue of Survey Graphic in March and will be showcasing a number of Negro writers, so I hope to have something in that.

I’m not at the Nicholas Avenue address anymore. Use this one instead.


                                                                                                                            Zora Neale Hurston

In 1928 Zora Neale Hurston was in New Orleans collecting data for what would become MULES AND MEN, her monumental ethnographic study of African American folklore in the south. For me, that culminated in her chapters on the Hoodoo phenomenon.

Zora submitted herself to the tutelage of Doc Luke Turner, a prominent Hoodoo man and relation of legendary New Orleans Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. She spent sixty nine hours naked on a couch draped in snakeskin without food or water…

… I was stretched, face downwards, my navel to the snake skin cover, and began my three day search for the spirit that he might accept me or reject me according to his will. Three days my body must lie silent and fasting while my spirit went wherever spirits must go that seek answers never given to men as men.

I could have no food, but a pitcher of water was placed on a small table at the head of the couch, that my spirit might not waste time in search of water which should be spent in search of the Power-Giver. The spirit must have water, and if none had been provided it would wander in search of it. And evil spirits might attack it as it wandered about dangerous places. If it should be seriously injured, it might never return to me.

For sixty-nine hours I lay there. I had five psychic experiences and awoke at last with no feeling of hunger, only one of exaltation. – Mules And Men

In the end, the spirit she sought granted her the name Rain-Bringer, for which this collection is titled. It prophesized that she would ‘make her way with lightning and thunder.’ The secret name of her spritual patron will be familiar to readers of Lovecraftiana.

The second story in RAINBRINGER, BEYOND THE BLACK ARCADE, also originates in something from THE CALL OF CTHULHU. One of the scenes of Lovecraft’s story that stood out for me was Inspector Legrasse’s raid on the bayou worshipers. What if the New Orleans’ police confiscating the Cthuhlu idol had unexpected consequences for the surrounding area? What if the cult of Cthulhu was enacting its horrific rituals at that lonely spot in the swamp to hold back some other malignant terror?

Here’s the excerpt.

Under high arches of twisting, moss garnished cypress and through sucking, chill waters we waded, me feeling the cool, brackish slime on my bare legs and Doc Turner leading the way without any light but what stars could be glimpsed through the tangled boughs overhead. Things moved away from us in the water which I supposed were alligators.

Out of the dark came a high, child’s wail and a shout that made my skin prickle up. There was a commotion of cracking wood, like the sound of falling trees I knew from the lumber camps around Eatonville. I could not imagine who should be way out here in the bayou pitching such a fit, and I wished I had thought to bring the .44 I had toted around the turpentine camps to convince folks I was a bootlegger.

Two shotgun blasts boomed like thunder, and I saw the flashes of the muzzle a ways off.

Against common sense, Doc Turner made for the sound, though in no hurry.

This was to be my test, then; the test of Great Yig.

In EKWENSU’S LULLABY, it’s 1935 and Zora has teamed up with ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax and folklorist Mary Elizabeth Barnicle to gather and preserve the songs and stories of the Gullah people of St. Simon’s Island, Georgia.

After a brief, startling encounter with a shambling creature the locals call ‘Ol Cootah, they record the legend of the flying Africans, slaves who revolted aboard their transport and killed the crew. Then a mysterious man tells them the true history behind the tale, and of the existence of a creature sunk in the deepest point of the river, a creature whose cry instills the listener with irresistably violent urges…..


The first time the Georgia State Police pulled us over we were the subject of such intense scrutiny that we lost a good two hours of travel time and came upon the lights of Savannah bleary-eyed and half mesmerized by the road.

They were convinced our party, a young white gentleman with a Texas driver’s license, his mature white lady companion from Rhode Island, and I, a conspicuously independent Florida Negress, were some kind of Yankee loving rabble rousers come down to stir up trouble among their niggers. It took some shuffling on my part and not a little bit of the WPA’s money to convince the beady-blue-eyed deputy sheriffs that the sole purpose of our Airstream trailer full of recording equipment was to capture the songs and stories peculiar to the remote Negro communities of their state, mainly, I am sure, because they themselves could see no value in such an enterprise.

I presented myself in the manner to which they were accustomed, telling them the whole truth in the simplest terms they could understand, surreptitiously encouraging Alan and Mary to correct my rude, affected speech and deliberate omissions and explain more clearly that Alan was the son of the renowned folklorist John Lomax, discoverer of the nationally renowned Leadbelly, who had famously sung his way out of a prison sentence at Angola. Miss Mary Elizabeth Barnicle, professor of folk music at NYU, became his deferring assistant. Most importantly, I explained that I, a native of Eatonville, Florida, had been selected by ‘Mass Alan’ to act in the capacity of a native guide, a Sacajawea to he and Mary’s Lewis and Clarke, gone adventuring among the dark primitives.

I brought this across in the most common manner I could muster, bobbing my head meekly and averting my eyes as though I were addressing the burning bush and not some scowling cracker, saying all my ‘yassuhs’ and ‘nossuhs’ like they were ‘Amens.’ Thus realigned into a hierarchy the deputies could understand (and again, with their palms liberally greased), we became less interesting to them, and they agreed to let us pass.

When they finally departed with a genial ‘y’all have a good night now,’ and we stood by the side of the black road watching their taillights recede like the burning eyes of sated serpents slipping back into their deep dens, I straightened my previously hunched posture, lit a cigarette, stuck out my hip, and arched my eyebrow at my two astonished white colleagues.

“Good Lord, Zora!” Mary exclaimed, spreading her fingers over her heart with a nervous laugh. “If I didn’t know you, I would have believed you myself.”

Believed what? I wanted to say.

Now I, Zora Neale Hurston, am a grand champion liar, but like all accomplished liars, I get my feathers ruffled when I’m telling the truth and get accused of practicing my vocation. I had told no lies, but I knew what Mary Barnicle meant. She meant that had she not known me as an authoress and educated woman of the Harlem mode (a lie of omission to the deputies at best), she would have mistaken me for the dumb country woman I had been playing. I was not truly playing, however, nor, like most country women I have known, was I dumb. But the white unit of measure for intelligence is very different.

In 1935 Zora was on the cusp of the release of Mules And Men, her first seminal folkloric work, collecting the stories and traditions she gathered on her extensive southern travels. To make ends meet, she landed a job as a dramatic coach with the Federal Theater Project in New York City.

In King Yeller, Zora is assigned to first-time director Orson Welles’ all-black production of Macbeth staged at the Lafayette Theater in Harlem. Historically, Welles’ star-making production, nicknamed ‘Voodoo Macbeth’ was concieved as a reimagining of the Scottish play set in Henri Christophe’s Haiti, and starred Jack Carter, Canada Lee, Edna Thomas and Eric Burroughs. A rousing success, it defied the racist expectations of white critics, packed the house in Harlem, and cemented Welles early career.

But what if, in the six month span of rehearsals, Welles was anonymously passed a copy of another notoriously ill-fated play, and became obsessed with staging it instead? That’s the central conciet of King Yeller, in which Zora learns the secret of The King In Yellow and must prevent an obsessed Orson Welles and cast from enacting its terrible secret rite.

Tormented into desperation, Lear the frantic King tears off the mask, and speaks the sane madness of vital truth. – Herman Melville, Hawthorne and His Mosses from The Literary World, August 17 and 24, 1850 by a Virginian spending July in Vermont.

The past few months had been something of a brick lick to the jaw.

My turgid on again-off again love affair with my magnificent young minister-in-training Percival Punter had at last succumbed to the laws of gravity and come crashing down. In short order the two-year $3,000 Rosenwald Fellowship I had won to earn my anthropology doctorate at Columbia went tumbling after. I had just returned from an eventful trip with Alan Lomax and a certain NYU English professor who shall no longer be named collecting folk music down in Florida, which had soured in the end. All of this had conspired to leave me down on the whole notion of formal academia.

I was in a low valley and once again wished that damn fool Langston was still around to cheer me, but he and I had had a falling out over the authorship of our play, Mule Bone and he was off on the West Coast somewhere. I had also broken ties with my dear white Godmother in order to wrest the folklore I had gathered for Mules And Men out from under her terrible weight. With that book still a month away from publication and the residuals from my novel Jonah’s Gourd Vine now slowing to a trickle, I had no real means of drawing myself up from my rut. I had pressed Dr. Boas about my application for a Guggenheim to study obeah practices in Jamaica and Haiti, but having chased that rabbit before, it was as unreliable a prospect as a catching hold of a cloud in the breeze.

It was strange how a mundane thing like being broke of heart and pocketbook in an empty apartment can make one forget one’s self worth. Last June I had wrested young Alan Lomax from the wiles of a prehistoric creature. Only a few years earlier I had got the better of a fledgling god in the Louisiana bayou, and refused the call of Yig and the power of the Ring of Set. Hell, I had had a novel published! Now I found myself wishing I had hung on to that antediluvian doodad, for battling the cold indifference of an unfriendly New York City was very much like facing the cosmic indifference of a ravenous Old One.

The Rain-Bringer was bowing her head beneath the rain.

Unsurprisingly, listening to my Bessie Smith records didn’t help, so I ventured out into the September morning gloom of Harlem for a bite to eat, pining for the brassy brightness of New Orleans or the shady green trees of old Eatonville and for other, more intimate things I would not know again.

In 1937 Zora was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship which funded her research trip studying Obeah and Vodoun practices in Jamaica and Haiti respectively.

In GODS OF THE GRIM NATION, while attending the Fete Ghede celebration, she learns of an influential plantation owner who has enacted a ba moun pact that requires the sacrifice of a family member in exchange for wealth and fortune. The sorcerer has run dry of relatives and has turned to an obscure cult and its powerful patron entity to duck his spiritual debt – an entity it is death and madness to lay eyes upon. Zora and a handsome young Vodoun priest join forces to raise an army of the dead to push the fell god back into its own dimension…

Incidentally, GODS OF THE GRIM NATION was the first Zora story I wrote for Golden Goblin Press’ anthology DREAD SHADOWS IN PARADISE. I highly recommend reading Hurston’s fascinating account of her travels, TELL MY HORSE.

East of Port-au-Prince in early November the night was moonless. The clouds of a budding storm doused the green land in darkness. Each of the adepts was a god bringing forth light by their ignition of the twenty white candles surrounding Papa Ghede’s cross in the yard of the silent Hounfort.

I was by now used to the joyous noise and magic heat of the Voodoo service, and this solemn ritual at first seemed comparatively incongruous. Voodoo to me was shining bodies cavorting about the gaily painted peristyle in the closeness of the Hounfort, hidden from the white man’s eyes; it was the thunder of drums, beating out a divine rhythm which the hearts of humans could only aspire to, like the pulses of giant hummingbirds; the heartbeats of the gods of Haiti which the devoted hounsi hoped to accommodate as long as his or her mortal frame could withstand them.

This preparation seemed more in line with the Catholic novenas I had seen in New Orleans, replete with flickering votive candles, a cross, and the pious, white face of haloed St. Martin De Porres peering out from the oval frame of his portrait at the intersection of the cross. The warm breeze stirred our white and purple garb, and hissed through the trees.

Papa Ghede, León assured me, was an informal god. He was the loa of the penniless, unobserved by the upper class mulattoes and revered by back country peasants. He was the only loa to have sprung from Haiti herself.

I was nearly two months in the Black Republic on my Guggenheim Fellowship under the direction of Doctors Herskovits and Boaz. After finding myself traveling in the wake of Herskovitz’s other field researcher Katie Dunham, I had decided to strike deeper into the mysteries of Voodoo than my predecessor, so as to better differentiate my own work.

You got to go there to know there, I always say.

Published in: on March 22, 2021 at 2:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Cover Reveal: Rainbringer: Zora Neale Hurston Against The Lovecraftian Mythos

To mark the passing of HP Lovecraft (84 years ago today), Fantasy Book Critic has revealed the cover for my forthcoming eight story collection of Zora Neale Hurston-as-a-Mythos-detective stories, featuring art and design by Jabari Weathers and Shawn King of STK Creations respectively.

Give it a look here!

You can preorder the book on Amazon. It’s due out May 4th, in honor of (no, not Star Wars) the release of Zora’s first novel, Jonah’s Gourd Vine, back in 1934.

Published in: on March 15, 2021 at 10:39 am  Leave a Comment  

New Cover For Betrayal On Monster Earth

Betrayal On Monster Earth, #2 in Jim Beard and James Palmer’s sci fi anthology in which giant kaiju monsters take the place of nuclear arsenals in a worldwide cold war has a spiffy brand new cover image.

This one has one of my favorite stories I’ve done, A Haunt of Jackals, in which a pair of Rampage-inspired ‘suicide’ bombers inject themselves with a serum that turns them into colossal jackal men and sends them tearing through Jerusalem, while Israel’s enormous golem-man The Magen rushes to intercept.

More about that here –

And, you can read that in my collection, Angler In Darkness.

Published in: on February 22, 2021 at 7:42 am  Comments (1)  

Reviews for Conquer!

A couple of kindly reviews of my new collection CONQUER have appeared around the web.

“From Monster Librarian –

From Horror Buzz –

From Our Own Voices, courtesy of Night Worms –

Pick up a copy here –

Published in: on February 22, 2021 at 7:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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Happy Birthday, Zora Neale Hurston

Today is the birthday of one of my favorite writers, Zora Neale Hurston, a queen of the Harlem Renaissance, groundbreaking ethnologist, folklorist, and Hoodoo initiate.

In my forthcoming collection, Rain-Bringer: Zora Neale Hurston Against The Lovecraftian Mythos, I reimagine her as an intrepid folklorist, finding herself in opposition to Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones and their denizens at various points in her illustrious career. In Beyond The Black Arcade, she and her Hoodoo mentor deal with the repercussions of the Louisiana State Police smashing a Cthulhu cult deep in the bayou, a cult which was keeping a more terrible danger at bay. In King Yeller, Zora must prevent a young Orson Welles from staging an all-Negro production of The King In Yellow at The Lafayette Theater in Harlem. In Shadow In The Chapel Of Ease, an offshoot of The Starry Wisdom Cult rises up among the Sanctified Churches of Georgia. Gods Of The Grim Nation finds Zora in Haiti, working with a handsome young houngan to stop a bokor from persecuting the local Vodoun societies. Black Woman, White City has Zora chasing down the legendary City of The Monkey God in Honduras.

The real Zora Neale Hurston was born in Eatonville, Florida on January 15th, in (according to her, at various times in her life) either 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1902, 1903, and 1910.

Except she wasn’t.

She was actually born in Notasulga, Alabama on January 7, 1891.

Her birth year changed as it suited her purposes. She needed to apply for school, wanted to impress a younger man, whatever. She was somehow always vivacious and gregarious enough to sell her claims.

As to her hometown, you can’t blame Zora for claiming Eatonville. It was among the first all-black incorporated towns in the United States, and her father was once elected its mayor, helped write its laws, and was pastor of its largest Baptist church. Combined, these elements surely instilled in her a fierce sense of independence and pride that caught a number of her contemporaries later in life, black and white, by complete surprise.

According to her notoriously unreliable autobiography, Dust Tracks On A Road, she spent much of her idyllic and, it may be inferred, precocious childhood sitting on a fence post engaging strangers of every color as they passed by her house, and looking toward the horizon. As a child, like a young dreaming Joseph, she imagined that the moon followed her wherever she walked at night. Raised in a cradle of black achievement and black self-reliance, she claims she never even encountered racial animosity until she moved to a boarding school in Jacksonville. That became necessary following the devastating death of her beloved mother and untimely remarriage of her father to a woman she despised and purportedly nearly killed in a knock down drag out fight. When racism did rear its ugly head in her life, she was more bemused by it than blindsided.

She wrote, in How It Feels To Be Colored Me;

“Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”

She got a job as a maid for the lead singer of a traveling Gilbert and Sullivan troupe and wound up in Baltimore, enrolling in Morgan State University. In 1918 she attended Howard, and in 1921, joined The Stylus, a literary club founded by the first African American Rhodes scholar, Alain Locke. She spent Saturday evenings in a literary salon on S Street in Washington DC, in the company of W.E.B. Du Bois and James Weldon Johnson.

In 1925 she moved to Harlem and transferred to Barnard College in New York City, doing her first ethnographic work with Melville Herskovits, Franz Boas, and Margaret Mead. She was Barnard’s first (and at the time, only) black student, and graduated with a degree in anthropology in 1928.

It was also in 1925 that Zora made her legendary big splash on the Harlem literary scene. Her short story Sweat and her stage play, Color Struck, a look at the taboo subject of colorism in the African American community, were published in Opportunity Magazine, and placed second in their respective categories in the magazine’s annual literary contest, Sweat losing to John F. Matheus’ Fog (and, to illustrate the impression Zora made that night, that took some digging to figure out).

Arriving at the posh awards dinner on May 1st, Zora flourished her vibrantly colored scarf, struck a pose in the doorway, and yelled “Colorrrrrrrrrr Struuuuuuuuck!” instantly cementing her place as the star of the evening, whatever her placing.

Florida Frontiers TV - The Lost Years of Zora Neale Hurston | Florida  Historical Society

She forged a longtime friendship with the influential white socialite Fannie Hurst (author of Imitation of Life), and convinced the maître de of an upscale Vermont restaurant that she was an African princess so they could dine together. She also made the acquaintance of Langston Hughes, there with his prize winning poem, The Weary Blues.

It was Hughes (or possibly Locke) who introduced her to wealthy white philanthropist Charlotte Osgood Mason, who sponsored (and, to Zora’s growing annoyance, directed, down to the most minute detail) her anthropological research trips through the south from 1927-1932.

In New Orleans, gathering material on Hoodoo for a book, she was inducted into the mysteries of the magical folk practice by Luke Turner following a grueling three day ritual.

She wrote Langston Hughes;

“I am getting in with the top of the profession. I know 18 tasks, including how to crown the spirit of death, and kill.”

After a falling out with Hughes regarding the ownership of their stage collaboration Mule Bone, Zora also broke her ties with Mason. She spent 1936-1937 studying religious practices in Jamaica and Haiti on a Guggenheim Fellowship, and famously met and interviewed Felicia Felix-Mentor, the first photographed zombie.

In was during this period she produced the main body of her best-regarded long form work; her first novel, Jonah’s Gourd Vine (1934), the ethnographic books, Mules And Men (1935), and Tell My Horse (1938), her novel Moses, Man Of The Mountain (1939) and her oft-cited romantic masterpiece, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937).

After a series of failed ventures both financial and literary, a falsified charge of child molestation (she was out of the country and living in Honduras at the time the crime was supposed to have occurred), and her own outspoken and decidedly bootstrap conservative politics (she opposed school integration on the basis that the policy would hinder Afrocentric education, and that she saw “no tragedy in being too dark to be invited to a white school social affair.”) put her out of fashion and out of step with the growing Civil Rights movement, she gradually faded into obscurity, working as a teacher and again as a house maid on Rivo Alto Island in Miami Beach.

She suffered a stroke and died in the St. Lucie County Welfare Home in Fort Pearce, Florida, unable to find a publisher for a novel on Herod The Great. Her personal papers were saved from an inglorious end in a trash barrel fire by a passing acquaintance.

She was buried at the Garden of Heavenly Rest in Fort Pearce, her grave unmarked until it was rediscovered by the writer Alice Walker in 1973.

Zora was many things in the course of her life; anthropologist, author, teacher…she was probably never a Mythos detective.

As far as we know, anyway….

Published in: on January 7, 2021 at 7:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Print Edition of Conquer is Up!

Don’t sleep on this one! Shawn T. King did an amazing job of recreating the look of the old Ernest Tidyman Shaft books.

Published in: on December 24, 2020 at 5:59 am  Leave a Comment  

William Crain, A Father of African American Horror Cinema

Here’s a link to an article I did about William Crain, the director of Blacula and Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde for Ginger Nuts of Horror.


Published in: on December 21, 2020 at 2:09 am  Leave a Comment  

The Colors Of A Rainbow To One Born Blind in Tales From Arkham Sanitarium

Up for preorder from Dark Regions Press is Tales From Arkham Sanitarium.

There are things man was not meant to know and knowledge that burns those that learn it. As H.P. Lovecraft himself once said, “We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall…go mad from the revelation…” Knowing too much, getting a glimpse of the truth behind the curtain we call reality, casting aside the bliss of ignorance and succumbing to the insanity that follows in the pursuit of damnable truths, is at the core of many of the stories of the Cthulhu Mythos. Insanity is central to Lovecraftian horror, so there is no wonder that in his witch-cursed and legend-haunted town of Arkham, a cathedral devoted to mending broken minds was raised. Arkham Sanitarium. Where the screams and cries of the damned are commonplace. Where those that have seen the faces of cosmic entities gibber with regret over their curiosity. Where men and women are cosigned to never ending purgatory for knowing too much. The machinations of the Old Ones are beyond the mental capacity of mankind, and these are the tales of those who learned that too late.

This is one I’ve been waiting for. Peep the lineup!

The Crying Man by Tim Waggoner

Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation by William Meikle

Malformed Articulation by W. H. Pugmire

Bit by Bit by Don Webb

Let me Talk to Sarah by Christine Morgan

The Hunger by Peter Rawlik

The Colors Of A Rainbow To One Born Blind by Edward M. Erdelac

The River and the Room by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.

Veteran of the Future Wars by Orrin Grey

Folie et déraison by Nick Mamatas

Red Hook by Glynn Owen Barrass

Clicks by Stephen Mark Rainey

…& My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You by Edward Morris

Forbidden Fruit by Cody Goodfellow

Stained Glass by Jeffrey Thomas

Some good friends and great writers! I’m particularly honored to be sharing a TOC with the last offerings from the late great Joe Pulver and Willum Pugmire, two deservedly respected Lovecraftians whom I admired, and were just all around good folks to boot.

My story, The Colors Of A Rainbow To One Born Blind is one of my own personal favorite Lovecraftian offerings, about a shooting at Miskatonic University.

Here’s an excerpt….

He walks the crowded halls of Misktatonic U between classes, mind blazing brightly as a taper with unthinkable thoughts. His life is a fast dwindling wick. The light behind his eyes casts the other students with long shadows.

He avoids those shadows, shuddering when he must pass through them, knowing each is a dogged, stalking menace, ready to turn at any moment in suicidal rebellion on its originator.

The librarian taught him that, whispering in the lonely rasp of turning pages and the venerable book smell of almond, vanilla, and grass, scratching in the late night cathode flicker of his dark room.

He watches his own shadow very closely, and keeps a flashlight in his pocket as insurance against the black ghost which trails and mimics his every step. He stops and turns suddenly in an attempt to catch it moving independently.

He hasn’t caught it yet, not in plain sight, but he knows that the observer effect applies. The very act of studying the shadow alters its appearance, helps it hide its true nature.

His witless schoolmates know nothing of their danger. They are unaware of the things which wait with the patience of a hunter crouched in the dark, angled recesses, unaware of those things which hunt between the blinks of the unquantifiable observer. They are ignorant of how facilely the doors to tenebrous realms may be unlocked, ignorant of the ring of keys residing on their own campus, every hide bound book, every crumbling scroll under glass more deadly than any of the guns in his knapsack. The Miskatonic library is an arsenal of mass destruction tended by buffoons, as benighted to the destructive potential of their charges as the average beer swilling fraternity point guard is to the half-conscious woman who sighs beneath him.

‘Ye Shall Know The Truth And The Truth Shall Make You Free.’  – John. 8:32.

The motto above the doors of the hated library mocks him as he passes it on the quadrangle. The twittering of the chickadees among the chestnut boughs is indistinguishable in his thrumming ears from the chatter of the lounging students. It all mocks him, unbearably oblivious in the pregnant shadow thrown across the commons by the library’s clock tower. The laughter of the coeds is the lowing of cattle in the slaughter chute.

The clock tower above the library stands like an antenna, poised to broadcast terrible truths out into the fragile world of dripping ice that all he had ever known and once loved inhabits.


What is love, and who is he to think of it? But for the love of his late father he has been denied it all his life. Women have ever shunned him, turning their sweet faces away to share in the petty glories of dull, unworthy boys who make meaningless playground games the focus of their existence, and who will one day grow like overfed bulls into dull, unworthy men.

But they will not get the chance.

Preorder here –


Published in: on December 18, 2020 at 10:23 am  Leave a Comment  

CONQUER: Calm, Cool, Collected…

In 1976 Harlem, he’s the cat you call when your hair stands up….

December 22nd will see the release of my collection CONQUER, featuring my occult detective character John Conquer, a cross between John Shaft and Brother Voodoo. The Conquer stories are my homage to the blaxploitation horror movies of the 70’s – bona fide classics like Blacula, JD’s Revenge, and Sugar Hill as well as the novels of Ernest Tidyman.

Three previously appeared in the pages of Occult Detective Quarterly – Conquer Comes Calling, Conquer Comes Correct, and Conquer Gets Crowned. In these stories Conquer faces off against a Hoodoo hitman, solves the mystery of a skinned and decapitated gorilla lying in the Bronx, and investigates a creature stalking graffiti taggers in the NYC subways.

Included in this collection are four previously unpublished stories – the short introductory story, Who The Hell Is John Conquer? Conquer And The Queen of Crown Heights, and Keep Cool, Conquer. The e-version includes an exclusive preview of Conquer: Fear Of A Black Cat, the full length novel coming next year.

Here’s Who The Hell Is John Conquer in its entirety.

Lenox Lounge - Harlem, authentic jazz bar, unchanged since 1939. Miles  Davis, Thelonius Monk and other jazz greats used t… | Jazz bar, Zebra lounge,  The incredibles

The zebra striped walls had heard Billie Holiday sing You’re My Thrill in their mutual heyday, and Coltrane had blown Giant Steps once to a packed house. James Baldwin had celebrated his birthday here, on the anniversary of the riot kicked off by Margie Polite and Officer Collins in 1943, and Alex Haley had interviewed Malcolm at one of the tables only ten years ago.

Now the dingy, tiled dance floor was crowded with cheap red pleather seats and scarred, liquor stained tables. The stage stood empty and absurd on a Wednesday afternoon, the heavy air filled with Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic cranking out of an ugly old Wurlitzer Zodiac parked in a corner. The machine hadn’t seen a new record since Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book, and as Isaac’s platter wound down, Superstition came on to prove it.

Each table was an island, and bore a squat, ugly candle in a textured glass holder, glowing like an irradiated pineapple in the thick fog of swirling bar smoke. The dark patrons gathered as though around campfires, when they leaned back in their chairs, as indiscernible as nocturnal fauna, the glint of their watches and jewelry, the glow of their cigarette ends were like the shine of predatory eyes in the dark.

The owner shoved some of the table aside and brought in a three piece on Fridays and Saturdays, but nobody much felt like dancing during the week anymore.

Behind the bar was an old man in a purple bowling shirt, who’d bussed tables at Baldwin’s birthday party and would tell you way too much of what he knew about him and Bayard Rustin if you were foolish enough to get him going. On the business end of the bar there perched a broad-shouldered, stoic cat in an oxblood leather coat, and a young brother in blue jeans and a t-shirt pawing at the stack of business cards next to the register while he waited for his beer, reading each one and replacing them in disarray, to the old man’s annoyance.

“Who in the hell is John Conquer?” the young customer chuckled.

“Boy, give me that,” the old bartender said, snatching the red and gold business card from the young man’s hand and putting it back on the stack. “Where you breeze in from?”

“Center Point, Alabama.”

“Cen-ter Point, A-la-bama!” the bartender announced, loudly.

There were whistles and jeers from the men in the dimness, all except the quiet one on the newcomer’s left, sipping Black Label and smoking a Kool.

“Hey, you know how you know you in a hotel in Center Point, Alabama?” the bartender asked the room. “When you call the desk and say ‘I got a leak in the sink’ and they answer ‘well, go ahead.’”

There were a couple of laughs.

The newcomer shook his head.

“Well, Country, you need to be told,” the old man said, fixing his sights back on his young captive audience. “You in New York City now. This is the center of the world. The very best and very worst of everything, right here. This is the crossroads of eyes and ears and hearts and souls. It is nineteen hundred seventy six and we in a time of bankers and gangsters, liars and fools, con men and kings. You livin’ with the ghouls and ghosts, wizards and witches of the real N-Y-C now.”

And when he said those letters, he jabbed each one at the newcomer on the end of his finger.

“OK,” said the new man. “But who is John Conquer?”

“Let me finish,” the old man snapped, sliding him his beer in a smudged glass. “In the heart of this city you got the red bricks of Harlem. The home of the boogie woogie rumble, dig? God put Harlem on the map to give colored folks a place to go in a snowstorm, and He put John Conquer in Harlem with a shovel to keep back all that white the Devil throws our way.”

“How come it says on that card he a detective and he stay in the East Village, then?”

“He’s a detective, yes. Elliot Ness, Sherlock Holmes, Batman, and Charlie Chan ain’t got nothin’ on him. You don’t need to stay in Harlem to be of Harlem. Do Nina Simone live in Harlem? Do Sammy Davis Jr.? Lena Horne? Sugar Ray Robinson?”

“Sugar Ray Robinson’s from Georgia,” said the Alabaman, sipping his beer.

“His ass is from Georgia, but his heart belongs to Harlem. You stay here a little while, ‘Bama, maybe you understand some day. Now where was I?”

“In Harlem. With a shovel,” said the Alabaman dryly.

The old man poured himself a cold one and nodded.

“Maybe his ancestor was St. Malo, or Gaspar Yanga, or Dutty Bookman, or maybe the blood of all of ‘em and more soaked so long and so deep in the earth that John Conquer sprouted up from it. But he come to us armed with love and laughter, the son of Voodoo Queens and two-headed Hoodoo doctors, so tall he gets his hair cut in Heaven and his shoes shined in Hell.”

“Hoodoo,” the Alabaman grumbled. “Ain’t no such thing as no hoodoo.”

The old man looked like he would spit his beer across the bar top.

“Ain’t no such….? ‘Bama, what do you know about it? They is Hoodoo, they is Voodoo, and they’s other things besides. Plat-Eyes and haints, demons and saints. And when the Devil hisself comes knockin’ at your door, boy, that’s when you call John Conquer. Ask Big Bob!” he said, pointing suddenly to a bespectacled figure huddled with a beer in the dim corner booth, who raised his hand at the sound of his name. “Big Bob was DJ at the Empire Roller Disco in Crown Heights the night John Conquer rexed with a fine ass big-tittied vampire out in the middle of the floor till the sun come up and she crumbled to dust in front of everybody. Ain’t that so, Big Bob?”

Big Bob nodded, unsmiling in the candlelight, and there were words of assent all around the bar.

“Shit, man!” The old man said, and spat on the floor. “I seen John Conquer kill a werewolf in the street right outside that door with the silver hood ornament on his brand new Cadillac.”

“Yup! I seen that too!” someone called out.

The old man’s blood was up now, and he testified like a preacher, the other denizens of the bar affirming like a congregation between each testimony.

 “And didn’t he kung fu Frankenstein off the marquee of the Apollo, and bust him to pieces with John Henry’s hammer? And didn’t he come out the Victoria showing of Cleopatra Jones with the actual Cleopatra on his arm? He went fishin’ at the Meer and hooked the Creature From The Black Lagoon and thew him back ‘cause he was too small! John Conquer beat the Devil at spades in front of St. Andrew’s church and then went up 125th with the ghosts of Malcolm X and Dr. King! He played ball with Dr. J in Rucker Park and he let him win! He put Superman in a full Nelson and made that honky buy him lunch at Sylvia’s!”

By now the bar was in a fit of laughter again, and the Alabaman was laughing along.

The dude in the oxblood coat had had enough, though. He got up, slapped down his money, and said;


“Say what, blood?” the old bartender said, sweeping his money off the bar.

“First off, that wasn’t no vampire that night at the Empire. Second, silver don’t do shit to werewolves,” he said, slapping his pack of Kools and sliding one out. “That’s just the movies.”

“How the hell you know that?”

“Cause I’m John Conquer,” he said, lighting another Kool as he went out the door, the bell jangling. “And if I had me a brand new Cadillac I wouldn’t be drinkin’ here, blood.”


Published in: on December 7, 2020 at 9:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Scream, My Halloween Movie Repertoire, Scream!

OK ghoulie gang, it’s my favorite time of the year again! The bare branches are scraping the night skies, the pumpkins are in bloom, and there’s a crinkly carpet of red, gold, and yellow underfoot. And oh yes, Mr. Cochran, you bet your candy corns everybody’s got their masks. More so than ever.

Time for the marathon! Not just thirty one first time watch horror movies, but as many as I can fit in. So come along as I find the time to plunk my butt on the old scary sofa and pin my eyes to the booooooob tube.

Bulletproof Vest | Scream Wiki | Fandom

Day #1 – Scream 3 – So I had previously seen Scream 1 and 2. This year, watching the whole series with my eldest daughter. First time seeing part 3. We’re on location in Los Angeles, the meta-levels five feet high and rising as we tour the set of Stab 3, the latest slasher flick in the series based on the Woodsboro killings of the first two movies. Irrepressible Deputy Dewey is on board as a consultant, ostensibly keeping an eye on Sidney, who has gone into isolation after the rampage at Windsor College in the previous installment and a series of anonymous prank calls. When the cast starts dying in the same order as their real-life counterparts, LA detective Kincaid joins forces with Dewey, Sid, and mercenary reporter Gale to unmask the latest Ghostface killer. The trilogy ending (until Scream 4) twist isn’t bad, but the reduced budget is really showing on this one. Still, I’m invested in the characters and they carry it. Bonus points for Sid wearing Derek’s frat necklace from the last movie through this one.

LA CASA NERA - Spietati - Recensioni e Novità sui Film

Scream 4 – In this improbably entertaining sequel, Craven ups the blood and madness significantly. Sidney returns to Woodsboro riding the tide of a best selling memoir of her horrific experiences. Dewey is now sheriff, and still married to Gale, who, looking for a comeback and jealous of Sid’s newfound success, teams up with a couple of the local high school cinema club nerds to suss out a new Ghostface killer stalking the local teens. New faces to the series Rory Culkin and especially Emma Roberts as Sidney’s cousin Jill give really entertaining performances. Always good to see Anthony Anderson too. The meta is strong with this one, the kills are brutal and interesting, and the opening Stab cameos are a hoot. Good soundtrack too. Sadly, Wes Craven’s last outing as a director, but he went out on a high note.

The Little Shop of Horrors | Music Box Theatre

Day #2 – The Little Shop of Horrors (1960). The unique crossbred plant of an amateur botanist causes a stir in a low rent floral shop in LA’s skid row district. Its peculiar diet leads to a serious of local disappearances. Of course I had seen the musical 80’s version numerous times (both the upbeat theatrical cut and the downers extended version), but I’d never seen Roger Corman’s original, only been vaguely aware that Jack Nicholson was in it (he plays the Bill Murray role of the sadist in the dentist’s office from the remake). The movie is populated with an ensemble cast of bizarre, broadly comedic characters. Dick Miller (of Gremlins and a host of other appearances), a regular customer of Mr. Mushnick’s floral shop, habitually eats flowers with a helping of seasoning, and hurries home because ‘the wife’s having begonias tonight.’ Hapless protagonist Seymour (Jonathan Haze) lives with his crazed and highly medicated mother (Myrtle Vain), who seems to keep nothing but medicine in the house in terms of food and drink, and serves chow mein noodles with epsom salt and TCM herbs. The cops, Sgt. Joe Fink (Wally Campo) and Officer Frank Stoolie (Jack Warford), are flat-affect-no-inflection Dragnet spoofs (at one point placidly commenting “How are the kids?” “Lost one. Playin’ with matches.” “Tough break.”). Somehow this lends the whole grainy black and white enterprise a feverish, nightmarish air. Characters act in the name of dream logic, and feel less human and more like stand-ins. It’s genuinely funny, but also genuinely disturbing at times, particularly when the plant buds open at the end.

Antebellum Review: Janelle Monáe Deserves Better | Den of Geek

Antebellum – Spoilers in this one. Sometimes being a history nerd undermines your entertainment. In this case, I figured out the central twist of Antebellum about fifteen or twenty minutes in when the torch bearing Confederates traipsed around shouting a Nazi German slogan (with clear allusions to the tiki torch fiasco in South Carolina). Told out of order, we’re presented with the horrors of slave life on a small cotton plantation guarded by a group of Confederate soldiers. Right off there were little hints that this wasn’t what was going on. Why are soldiers concerned with slaves? Why were there so many slaves on this little patch of cotton? Why do they cremate the slaves and why is the cotton burned? I couldn’t tell if this was inaccuracy, limited budget, or deliberate (of course, later we learn it is deliberate), so that kinda took me out of it for a little bit. The big hand tip is when the slaves are ordered to whistle a Negro work tune and choose Lift Every Voice and Sing (and later Always And Forever). Then a ringing cellphone brings us to the present (actually a flashback) showing how Janelle Monae wound up in this fix. Here the movie lost me a bit more, only because I couldn’t relate as well to the characters. They were a bit too bougie for me. Yet, their daily lives are peppered with a number of subtle racial confrontations – a dismissive concierge, a thoughtless waitress, a mysterious correspondent who peppers her conversation with undermining racial digs (you’re so articulate!) and a racist talk show guest, which, I can see is a commentary on the fact that although they’re successful, they’re still subjected to this strange and pervasive white ego at all times. Antebellum tries to show the viewer how the past informs the present and how outmoded dogma still manages to survive in modern day, like a masked maniac unable to die. I just wish the execution was a little better. The villains aren’t memorable, and besides Monae, we really don’t know what’s going on with the other captives either. Gabourey Sidibe is a hurricane and always welcome, and though I kinda disliked her character it was also refreshing to see her in a confident, self-actualized role for a change. Some striking imagery (Monae in the Union officer coat on the horse with her hatchet, dreds flying is particularly indelible), but never quite feels like it earns it for some reason.

Schlock & Awe: Cushing and Lee Take on THE SKULL — Nerdist

Day #3 – The Skull – An occult scholar and collector (Peter Cushing) purchases the skull of the Marquis de Sade and skull-related shenanigans ensue. Always good to see Cushing and Christopher Lee together (Lee plays a friendly rival from whom the skull was originally stolen), but this Amicus possession flick is so low key it doesn’t really blip above a flat line. I really dig the ‘skull vision’ POV, even though the dastardly Marquis is looking out his own nose hole for some reason.

Vampires vs. the Bronx – Review | Netflix Teen Horror | Heaven of Horror

Vampires Vs. The Bronx – A trio of West Indian kids discover the shadowy real estate company spearheading the gentrification of their beloved Bronx neighborhood is a front for a group of bloodsucking vampires looking to establish new hunting grounds. Maybe the metaphor is on the nose, but I liked the concept, and there’s plenty of clever vampire references in this for me to love. The evil company is The Murnau Corporation (its logo a woodcut of Vlad Tepis). The bodega owner shows the kids ‘Blade’ to kick off their anti-vampire training, and they go the rest of the movie calling them suckheads. It’s low budget, and it overstays its welcome, but I really enjoyed the first half, and I like Shea Wigham as an oily familiar (though his character turn’s a little weird). Method Man plays a Catholic priest and Zoe Saldana shows up. Best line: “I’m Haitian! My grandma’s been preparing me for this my whole life!”

Day #4 –

Bug – Bradford Dillman is an overly curious science guy on hand when an earthquake splits open a piece of land outside Riverside, CA, spewing forth a horde of foot long D&D flame beetles (ash-consuming cockroaches that can rub their buggy bits together and ignite fires). The bugs gruesomely burn up a cat, ride in the tailpipes of cars, blow up a pickup, and proceed to attack people and burn down half the town in their all-consuming need to produce and devour cinder. After Dillman’s girlfriend Joanna Miles is burned alive by the things, he mysteriously takes them in to study, first naming them (Parmiterians, after himself, Professor Parmiter), then successfully communicating with them (they arrange themselves to spell out their messages to him on his wall), and finally, weirdly, breeding them into flying hybrids when he finally realizes he may have gone too far. I’m a Night of The Lepus/Food of The Gods kinda guy, so I enjoyed all the macro-lens camerawork and rampaging nature stuff, but to anybody else it’s a clunker for sure.

Host Review | Movie - Empire

Host – Ingenious and very entertaining horror movie entirely shot on Zoom, about a group of girlfriends who get together to hold a virtual séance online and swiftly get in over their heads when one of their number doesn’t take it seriously and invites the manifestation of a malevolent entity. I was really impressed at the creativity on display here, working in the confines of the central conceit. It’s genuinely shocking at times.

Day #5 –

Stranded in the depths

The Pool – Survival horror from Thailand about a guy, his dog, and his girlfriend, a model, who get caught in an empty 9 meter swimming pool with an increasingly ravenous crocodile. Sounds very simple, but thanks to the depth of character development and the masterful, incremental upping of the tension, it’s high effective. Reminded me a bit of last year’s Crawl, which I loved.

Phantom of the Opera (1943)

The Phantom of The Opera (1943) – So I got this as part of the Universal Horror boxed set and was a little put out to realize it wasn’t the original 1925 Lon Chaney version, which I have never seen. It’s fine. Claude Rains is set up as a justified (if misguided) Phantom, and I recognized all the familiar plot lines from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical version. However, the numerous, inscrutable (to me) operatic productions go on too long and frankly feel like padding. Cool to see Leo Carillo as somebody other than Pancho from The Cisco Kid, and a young Hume Cronyn. The leads are all likeable, the romantic interplay between Christine and her two suitors is entertaining enough, but this feels like an MGM musical. The Phantom himself is almost an afterthought.  The Technicolor is very beautiful and bright. Too bright and beautiful for a gothic horror movie.

CHILDREN OF THE CORN: King of Corny | by Rod Machen | Cinapse

Day #6 – Children of The Corn – I was obsessed with the commercial and poster for this movie as a kid but never did see it. Read the story in King’s Night Shift, which was always on my dad’s nightstand. In the little Nebraska town of Gatlin, one day the children rise up and slaughter the adults, following the prophetic edicts of Isaac, the new kid in town, son of some preacher somewhere. A boy, Joseph, tries to escape Isaac’s He Who Walks Behind The Rows cult, only to have his throat cut by the tall, gangly, red headed enforcer Malachi (the very memorable Courtney Gains – OUTLANDERRR!), the right hand man of Isaac, the diminutive, screechy leader (who is apparently supposed to be 12 years old, but in my head-canon works better as the 25 year old he actually is, well-played by the diminutive John Franklin). Joseph stumbles out of the cornfield onto the highway, where a newly minted doctor (Peter Horton) and his girlfriend (Linda Hamilton) run him down. They put him in the trunk and drive around looking for someone to report the accident to, only to wander into Gatlin and the juvenile murder cult. There’s a lot of cool ideas here hampered by Horton and Hamilton who are just silly as a couple of bumbling yuppies wandering from point A to point B, barely concerned with the dead kid in their trunk, and some dopey incongruous comedy. He Who Walks Behind The Rows, once revealed, fails to impress. Due for a solid remake I think.

Throwback Thursday: “Squirm” (1976)! | Eric Robert Nolan, Author

Squirm – The worms go in, the worms go out….a violent thunderstorm causes a transformer to discharge 300,000 volts of electricity into the muddy ground as millions of earthworms surface to escape the rainwater, and gives them the ability to swarm and tunnel into the flesh of the back country yokes of Fly Creek. Meanwhile red headed and red blooded Georgia cutie Geri (Patricia Sanders) coaxes her long distance boyfriend Mick (Don Scardino) down from New York City, eliciting a lot of city boy fish out of water encounters and the jealousy of local suitor Roger (R.A. Dow). Slow to get going, but when it does…boy, there are a LOT of worms. They drop from the ceiling, they flow on a tidal wave into a bar, they push wriggle out of showerheads, and fall in a literal avalanche. Again, the macro-lens work of the earthworms yawning their maws dubbed over with screeching really compounds the skin crawling. And where’d they get these squirming noises? Sounds like uncooked hamburger patties on spin cycle. The worms en masse are the real draw, and the grisly makeup of Rick Baker.

Film Freak Central - Wishmaster Collection: 4-Film Set [Vestron Video  Collector's Series] - Blu-ray Disc

Day #7 – Wishmaster –  When a drunken dock worker drops and smashes a 2,000 year old statue of Ahura Mazda (crushing Ted Raimi in the process), a red jewel containing an evil djinn (Andrew Divoff) pops out and finds its way to an upscale auction house where an appraiser (Tammy Lauren) sees something inexplicable and awakens the Djinn. After leaving the gem with a colleague, the Djinn escapes and begins to wreak bloody havoc in an attempt to get its discoverer to wish for three wishes, the third of which will unleash his army of djinn to rule the earth. A unique, inspired concept and some really creative gore and laugh out loud cursed wish fulfilments buoy the sometimes cheesy presentation. I loved all the Zoroastrianism and the final act really soars. Love love loved the ending.  A couple of Wes Craven regulars make appearances; Robert Englund as a rich bon vivant and Tony Todd as a doorman who falls for one of the Djinn’s irresistible offers.

The Eye – A blind violinist (Jessica Alba) receives a cornea transplant to restore her sight, but finds herself plagued by visions of death and the dying being escorted out of life. Since she hasn’t seen a thing since the age of 5, everybody convinces her her eyes are playing tricks, until she sees another woman looking back at her out of her own mirror. A classic, solid concept perfectly well done, even if it doesn’t have many surprises. I kept thinking about how I wished I was watching Body Parts with Jeff Fahey (in the movie. Not like, on my couch or anything).

Z — Русский трейлер (2020) – iVideos

Day #8 – Z – Joshua, a lonesome eight year old boy (Jett Kline), befriends an imaginary being named Z who becomes an increasingly bad influence on his behavior, to the mounting chagrin of his mother Elizabeth (Keegan Connor Tracy), who is trying to deal with the impending death of her ailing mother. As Joshua’s behavior becomes more destructive, his mother turns to the advice of their family therapist (Stephen McHattie), and she learns that there’s more to Z than she thinks. Good performances and definitely watchable. There’s at least one well-earned, extremely shocking moment, but the ending is a bit too prolonged and unfocused, and as a result the denouement ends up less than satisfying. Unless I missed it, I don’t even fully understand what Z is. There seem to be some plot threads that are left dangling throughout. Was Elizabeth’s father sexually abusive and is Z some kind of manifestation of that evil? It’s something I wound up thinking, but never really figured out. The movie works best when it focuses on Josh, and loses much when that focus shifts in the third act.

Spiral (2019) – Movie Review | Shudder LGBT Horror | Heaven of Horror

Spiral – A couple (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman and Ari Cohen) and their daughter (Jennifer LaPorte) move into a secluded rural community where one, a writer and former victim of homophobic violence, ghostwriting a conversion therapy proponent’s biography, begins to suspect their neighbors of undefinable wrongdoing. I love these kind of Rosemary’s Baby stories, and the set up for this one is really intriguing, the paranoia palpable, but I feel like it doesn’t really deliver in the latter half. The threat of anti-gay violence looms large and I understand the metaphor for the antagonists zeroing in on vulnerable communities to prey on, but I wish the ‘rules’ of this and the nature of the evil was more clearly defined because I was left kinda puzzled. In this case, maybe message overran story a bit.

Film review: Paul Leni's 'The Man Who Laughs' | Apollo Magazine

Day #9 – The Man Who Laughs – Every year I end up watching something I think is horror but isn’t. This year it’s definitely The Man Who Laughs. As a child, Gwynplaine (Conrad Veidt) the son of a political enemy of King James, has his face slashed into a terrible Chelsea smile grin so that he will always laugh at the folly of his foolish father, executed by Iron Maiden. The orphaned Gwynplaine saves a snow blinded baby from the frozen arms of her dead mother, and finally finds a home in the circus vardo of the kindly Ursus (Cesare Gravina). The girl grows up to be Dea (Mary Philbin), and she and Gwynplaine fall in love, but Gwynplaine is reluctant to marry her because he feels he’s taking advantage of her due to her blindness. Meanwhile, one of the men who conspired against his father Barkilphedro (Brandon Hurst), is working with a beauteous Duchess (the extremely sexy Olga Baklanova) to put the final touches on securing his father’s stolen lands and titles for himself….but then word of Gwynplaine’s nobility reaches the ear of Queen Anne (Josepine Crowell). Conrad Veidt’s rictus grin famously inspired The Joker from Batman, and Jack Pierce’s makeup really does the job. It’s quite ghastly, and I don’t know how it was done, but Veidt does an enormous job acting around that hideous smile. His eyes speak volumes of alternating sadness, pride, love and delight and I’m really glad I watched this, but it’s basically a melodrama in gorgeous expressionistic Gothic horror trappings with an incongruous third act dash of swashbuckling.

Nightmare Castle (1965)

Nightmare Castle – When a scientist (Paul Muller) discovers his wife (the beautiful Barbara Steele) having a tryst with the gardener (Marino Mase) in the greenhouse, he savagely beats, tortures, and electrocutes them both, cuts out their hearts, and uses the blood to rejuvenate his housekeeper Solange – Helga Line. When he learns that her inheritance is willed to her asylum patient stepsister Jenny (Barbara Steel, this time blonde), he marries her (Sure! No problem!) and then conspires to gaslight her into full blown madness. The ghosts of the murdered wife and her lover speak to Jenny in her dreams, reliving their demise, and bid her to be the vessel for their revenge. A little bit overlong, but lush atmosphere, some truly horrific occurrences, and a crazy grand guignol climax made this a creepy watch. 

Gonjiam Haunted Asylum Remake in the Works – /Film

Day #10 – Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum – A crew of spookhunting Youtubers vying for a million views and the revenue that engenders stream themselves live sneaking into and exploring a haunted, abandoned asylum. Self-explanatory found footage horror. A winsome cast and some goosebump-inducing imagery follow a long, but not unentertaining setup.

The Dark Half (1993) | Motion State Review

Day #11 – The Dark Half – A writer (Timothy Hutton) with literary aspirations is approached by a furtive blackmailer who threatens to expose him as the bestselling writer of a series of tawdry men’s adventure novels which he writes under a pen name, so he and his wife arrange the public funeral of his alter-ego. Then the bloody minded alter-ego decides he’s not ready to die. This is Stephen King at his most writerly. I love King, and I haven’t read this book, but it’s difficult to relate to an author poo-pooing his own success, and as much as I like Hutton, and as entertaining as his bad alter-ego is, this gets increasingly absurd as it goes along.

The Vampire Bat (Majestic 1933) - Classic Monsters

Day #12 – The Vampire Bat – Dr. von Nieman (Lionel Atwill) and police inspector Karl Breetschneider (Melvyn Douglas) investigate a series of murders plaguing a small German village. The victims are being found drained of blood, and von Nieman and several of the townspeople are convinced the culprit is a vampire; possibly local bat-obsessed simpleton Herman (good old Dwight Frye). As Inspector Breetschneider slowly begins to overcome his own skepticism, events take a surprising turn. I really enjoyed this oddball little mystery movie, which seems to be heading towards a Scooby Doo type plausible ending, but then veers into even weirder territory. Lionel Atwill and Dwight Frye are 30’s horror standbys, always reliable, and their characters are very quirky and memorable. Throw in Fay Wray and I’m sold.

Slacker Cinema: January 2020

Day #13 – The House That Dripped Blood – A host of familiar and delightful British actors populate this anthology movie, centered around the titular house and penned by Robert Bloch. The first story concerns a writer (Raiders of The Lost Ark’s Denholm Elliott) whose psychotic character Dominic (Tom Adams) begins to have a life of its own. In the second, Peter Cushing and Joss Ackland become enamored with a beauteous waxwork woman in a nearby museum. In my favorite, story, Christopher Lee plays the abusive father of a little girl (Chloe Franks) who gets her revenge in the end via a book on witchcraft in his library. In The Cloak, an eccentric horror actor (played wonderfully by Third Doctor John Pertwee), flabbergasted at his current project’s lack of realism, purchases a mysterious cloak which begins to turn him into a vampire. Stories are hit and miss, but when they hit they’re pretty good. I really liked Pertwee and Lee’s stories, didn’t care much for the other two. Very pulpy, EC horror type stuff. Got a giggle when Pertwee gets in a dig on Lee when he mentions Dracula and says “I mean the Lugosi one. Not the one with that new chap.” Also, Ingrid Pitt. Ye gods.

The Haunting of Bly Manor": Unlocking Secrets and Finding Hidden Ghosts  with Mike Flanagan - Bloody Disgusting

Day #14 – The Haunting of Bly Manor – The Haunting of Hill House was one of my top watches the year it came out, and yes, again, this is a miniseries, not technically a movie. When it began as what appeared to be yet another retelling of The Turn of The Screw (a la The Innocents), I kind of went half-lidded. It’s not as frightful as Hill House, but the ghost story (or is it a love story?) at its center eventually wrung tears from my eyes and won me over. I’m not familiar with James’ fiction, so I feel like this would play even better if I were. Either way, the threads eventually come together very masterfully, and the next to the last episode, told in the manner of a gothic horror story, is particularly well done.

Day #15 – We Summon The Darkness – Three rambunctious Indiana girls head to a rock concert in the middle of the 80’s Satanic panic and pick up a trio of horny guys, take them back to their father’s house, and without spoiling anything, the two groups find themselves embroiled in a cult murder-survival horror story. Charming cast and interesting twist halfway through, but once that’s out of the way, it doesn’t seem to have any place new to go. Still, a fun enough ride.

Alive #살아있다 (2020) Review - Casey's Movie Mania

Day 16 – #Alive – Oh Joon-woo (Yoo Ah-in), a plugged in gaming slacker is home at his parents’ apartment when the zombie apocalypse hits the city of Gunsan. Joon-woo does his best to survive on his own, but his hopes begin to dwindle until he finds another survivor, Yoo-bin (Park Shin-hye) stranded in her unit in another arm of the building across the street. Likeable enough zombie thriller with an emphasis on drone and phone-savvy survivalism, but nothing too groundbreaking.

Day 17 – Humanoids From The Deep – The fishing village of Noyo is invaded by a slimy army of amphibious humanoids intent on slaughter and rape and Doug McClure, Vic Morrow, and a bunch of other schlubby fishermen (oh and scientist Ann Turkel) are all that stands in their way. Pretty trashy stuff. Apparently the nudity and lasciviousness was added in post without the original director’s knowledge. The monsters are truly gross and creepy and hey, it’s James Horner’s debut. The graphic childbirth scene is fairly gruesome, I gotta say.

Review | Raising Cain (Blu-ray) | Blu-ray Authority

Day 18 – Raising Cain – A child psychologist (John Lithgow) discovers his wife cheating, which triggers his repressed multiple personalities to emerge and wreak havoc. Ehhh Brian de Palma tries really hard to make some kind of Hitchcockian psychological thriller, but all the math is wrong and it just comes off kinda embarrassing. Stylishly filmed. Always nice to see Frances Sternhagen, but pass.

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) Review |BasementRejects

Day 19 – Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Meyers – Michael Meyers is in the middle of being transferred to a new facility, having been comatose since the explosion at the hospital at the end of Halloween 2 and sleeping through the best entry in his series (Season of The Witch). Somebody mentions Laurie had a daughter, and this spurs Michael to break free and return to Haddonfield to go on a killing spree and get his young niece. Why, exactly? I have no idea. Apparently just cause he’s pure evil, mom and dad, don’t touch him. Ho hum. Michael Myers remains the most boring movie slasher ever, and Loomis the worst psychiatrist in history (though I still love Donald Pleasance). The characters are boring, the plot is boring, the kills are bloodless and boring, and Loomis’ facial scarring somehow changes throughout the course of the movie. I don’t even know why this was rated R. I guess the language.  I was gonna power through the rest of this series, but this was such a drag I had to go re-watch Friday the 13th 1-3 just to cleanse my palate.

Tearing Through Werewolf Cinema] 'She-Wolf of London' (1946) Marked the End  of the 1940s Werewolf Boom - KILLER HORROR CRITIC

Day 20 – She-Wolf of London – Talk about your bait and switch. So this was part of the Universal Horror Blue-ray collection, and I’m discovering some things about that collection that are pissing me off. First of all, you get three copies of Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein. You get it once in the Frankenstein case, once in the Wolfman case, and once in the Dracula case. You get three copies of House of Frankenstein, three of House of Dracula, and two of Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman. You get the Claude Rains Phantom (as reviewed above) instead of the Lon Chaney one, and you get She-Wolf of London….which has nothing to do with werewolves or the wolfman. I’m just gonna spoil this thing to save you the trouble of checking it out. Basically June Lockhart (of Lost In Space) is being gaslit out of her inheritance into thinking she’s a werewolf. It’s overly talky and it doesn’t belong in the collection or in this repertoire. Sorry!

Day 21 – The Long Hair of Death – Gothic horror about a count who wrongly executes a woman for witchery and kills her eldest daughter, taking in the younger daughter (Halina Zalewska) as his ward and eventually marrying her to his good-for-nothing son (George Ardisson), who instigated the whole affair in the first place with his treachery. When lightning strikes the mother’s grave, a woman appears, quite similar to the deceased elder daughter (Barbara Steele) and proceeds to seduce Karl, bringing about a long festering revenge. Very moody and sensual.

Birth of a Notion: A Clear Case of Mental Stalking

Day 22 – Fear – Ally Sheedy is a bona fide psychic whose expertise is called on to aide the police. When they come asking for help with a serial murderer, she discovers that the killer possesses abilities similar to her own, and can in fact draw her into his mind as he performs his crimes. Passable thriller with a neat premise, but not very noteworthy, beyond Sheedy, who’s always great.

Grave of the Vampire (1972) — Triskaidekafiles

Day 23 – Grave of The Vampire – A young couple is attacked by a vampire (OG Klingon Michael Pataki) in a graveyard. The woman comes away pregnant and soon gives birth to a bloodsuckling baby boy, who grows into Conan’s father, William Smith, who sets out to avenge his poor mother, dead and drained before her time (presumably by keeping him alive). This is not as lurid as it sounds and is actually a pretty decent proto-Blade kinda story (I wonder if Gene Colan and Marv Wolfman saw this), if a little plodding. Cool final confrontation.

Day 24 – Bad Hair – In 1989 Los Angeles, Anna (Elle Lorraine), struggling at a thankless job as an intern at an urban music video channel, is working hard to attain her dream of becoming a VJ host of her own show. She is repeatedly told she doesn’t have the right look however, due to her dark skin and natural hair. When a new programming director (Vanessa Williams) assumes control of the channel, she recognizes Anna’s diligence and creativity, and gives her a card for a beauty parlor to overhaul her look. Anna gets a weave (in a really excruciating sequence – Anna is notoriously ‘tender-headed’) and her new look turns head. Her life begins to turn around…..but the hair has a price. I. Loved. This. Movie. This year has been kinda bleak for Halloween, and it’s been reflected in my first time watches. Haven’t really seen anything that totally blew me away until this. I was smiling almost the entire time. It’s the perfect blend of horror and camp, incorporates African American folklore, and is wonderfully acted. Vanessa Williams especially gives a great performance. Totally unique. Very fun. Look fast for MC Lyte as a hair stylist and a small walk on by Nicole Byer.

Severin Sunday: The Uncanny (1977) - Morbidly Beautiful

Day 25 – The Uncanny – Peter Cushing comes to Ray Milland to convince him to publish his manuscript about the inherently evil nature of cats, and three anthology tales unfold in the form of his evidential anecdotes. The first concerns a wealthy heiress whose loyal clowder takes grisly vengeance on her murderers. The second involves a witch’s young daughter who goes with her black cat Wellington to live with her bratty, abusive cousin and winds up flipping through her mom’s old spellbook when the cat is endangered. The third is about a horror movie actor (Donald Pleasance) who orchestrates the accidental killing of his wife on set and moves his mistress into their house, only to have to contend with his dear departed’s disagreeable pet. I enjoyed this one. All three stories are pretty solid, and if you like cats, you’ll find it a fun watch for the season.

Day 26 – The Beast With Five Fingers – A wealthy man decides to leave his entire fortune to his nurse and is promptly murdered. Is it his doctor (Peter Lorre)? His greedy nephew (Charles Dingle)? And why has his left hand suddenly gone missing from his corpse? Neat little whodunnit with some pretty eye-popping creature FX.

Jamie Lee Curtis regrets Halloween H20: "I was going to get a paycheck" |  Consequence of Sound

Day 27 – Halloween H20 – Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) faked her death and is hiding out under an assumed name, working as a high school principal when her brother Michael gets wind of her survival and comes looking for her. LL Cool J is good as an aspiring writer of erotica moonlighting as a security guard, but goddangit I’m gonna say it again; Michael Myers is boring. Whenever I see him driving a car with that damn mask on I laugh.

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Day 28 – A towering, seemingly bulletproof uniformed policeman (the late lamented Robert Z’dar) is murdering innocent people on the streets of New York City, and Tom Atkins has to convince his superiors police officer Bruce Campbell is not responsible. Really nice slow-building mystery kinda gets worse as it goes along, actually lost me during the climactic car chase. I’m giddy over the possibility of a Refn remake.

Well – I doubled up on my early days so technically watched over 31 movies for the first time.

Top picks this year: Bad Hair is the clear winner. Then it’s Host, The Pool, Scream 4, Nightmare Castle, and The Long Hair of Death.

It’s a weird Halloween this year, but I hope you all find a way to make it a happy one.

Published in: on October 2, 2020 at 9:09 am  Leave a Comment