The Deferment: A Kolchak Story


Well, my Kolchack story was rejected from that antho. Not unkindly, but as I can’t do anything with it, here it is, free to read, as promised.

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At approximately 11:55 on the night of October the 6th, Gerald Fitzgerald, a twenty three year old student at Columbia College, rendezvoused with his paramour, one Miguel Pacheco, twenty two year old apprentice plumber, in a secluded, wooded area on the south end of Lincoln Park behind the Chicago Historical Society, which in recent years had gained a reputation as a meeting point for lovers of their particular persuasion.

It was while fumbling in the dark in a stand of bushes looking for a place to spread out a picnic blanket that the two ardent youths inadvertently stumbled into the penultimate chapter of what would prove to be one of the city of Chicago’s most unsettling family sagas, a story whose most macabre and fantastic elements had, in the nature of compelling narratives, been saved for last.

At some point close to the stroke of midnight, Fitzgerald and Pacheco perceived a strange muttering, and curious, followed the sound through the shrubbery to a manmade edifice which we now know to be the storied Couch Tomb. There, they perceived a feminine figure all in flowing white, luminous in the pitch black, facing its open doorway, arms upraised.

“Las tumbas pertenecen a los muertos, no a los vivos!” the ghost reportedly called out.

Mr. Fitzgerald, being of a more sensitive nature than Mr. Pacheco, cried out in alarm and found his exclamation echoed in a shrill, high voice by the ghostly figure.

Fitzgerald turned and ran through the bushes from the sight of the apparition, Pachceco in tow, and the two collided with Patrolman Anthony Diaz, who’d been assigned the unenviable task of dissuading the amorously inclined from further sullying the park’s long-suffering reputation.

The two did nothing to resist arrest, but entreated Officer Diaz to confirm what they had seen.

Diaz crept through the bushes, weapon and flashlight drawn.

He found no moon-white specter waiting for him at the now sealed iron door of the Couch Tomb, but there on the stone porch, he saw what he surmised to be seven neat, red drops of fresh blood….

Of course, I didn’t get this part of the story from Officer Diaz until a day after the events in question transpired.

Vincenzo, at his wits end after the pursuit of my last story had yet again failed to yield a publishable article for the INS, had assigned me an excessively boring task; covering the extensive renovation plans being enacted by the city to prepare Lincoln Park for the hosting of the Second Annual National Garden and Landscaping Convention next spring.

So, with my TC-40 over my shoulder, I made my way down to the Lincoln Park Cultural Center to the office of administrator Gus Skalka, whom I found engaged in a heated discussion with a woman of some official capacity.

“Gus,” the woman said, tiredly. “You’re not proposing anything new here. The city didn’t have the money to relocate the tomb in 1864 and it doesn’t have the money now.”

“Excuse me…tomb?” I interrupted.

“The Couch tomb,” the woman explained. “It’s the last remnant of the old cemetery.”

“You mean the park used to be a graveyard?”

“It still is, unless you believe the city actually relocated twenty thousand bodies. Who are you?”

“Ah sorry. Carl Kolchak Independent News Service.”

“My nine ‘o clock appointment,” said Skalka. “Apologies, Mr. Kolchak,” he said, looking at the woman pointedly. “It seems my eight thirty is running a little over.”

I planted myself in a chair against the wall.

“Oh go ahead, I don’t mind if you don’t mind,” I said, holding up my tape recorder.

“I don’t. Thank you, Mr. Kolchak,” said the woman.

 “Yeah, thanks a lot,” said Skalka, sighing and rubbing his forehead with the palm of one meaty hand.

“Carl, please,” I said, tipping my hat. “Uh…and you are?”

“Carol Davenport. I’m with the Historical Society.”

“Look, Carl…,” Skalka began.

“Hm?” I said.

“Um. Carol,” Skalka corrected himself. “OK, maybe we aren’t talking about relocation at all.”

“Surely you’re not suggesting demolition?” Carol exclaimed in disbelief.

“That thing is an eyesore.”

“That thing dates back to 1858!” said Carol, obviously impassioned. “It’s a van Osdel!”

“Excuse me, a van what?”

Skalka shrugged.

“John van Osdel?” Carol said. “The city’s first architect of note? It’s probably the oldest structure to survive the fire of 1871.”

“People don’t want to be reminded they’re picnicking in an old cemetery, Carol. Plus it’s become a hangout for junkies and a make-out spot for….”

He glanced at me and cleared his throat.

“Well, we’re supposed to be improving the park’s image. You know we had two arrests last night?”

“At the tomb?” I interrupted.

“Yes,” said Skalka. “Somebody tried to break in.”

“Did they get inside?” I asked.

“It would take a bulldozer to get inside,” said Carol. “It’s been sealed for over a hundred years.”

“Well, they claimed the door was wide open last night,” Skalka said, laughing into his coffee cup. “Maybe they really did see the ghost.”

“What ghost?” I asked, intrigued.

“It’s a local legend,” said Skalka, waving his hand. “Something about showing up at midnight and saying something and the tomb opens and you see the ghost of Ira Couch or his wife or something. The thing’s a magnet for all sorts of weirdness, especially this time of year. Dead animals and…”

“Dead animals?” I asked.

Skalka looked down at my tape recorder.

“Um. Mr. Kolchak are you recording?”

“Yes sir, I’ve been recording since I got here. The lady said she didn’t mind.”

He cleared his throat.

“Well, let’s just say it has a sordid reputation and leave it at that.”

Carol stood up, shouldering her purse.

“I have to go, Gus,” she said abruptly. “I’m late for another appointment.”

“Alright Carol,” said Skalka. “But listen, I’ll be pushing for removal at the next meeting.”

“And I’ll be petitioning for preservation,” she said from the doorway. “Good day, Mr. Kolchak,” she said to me.

I tipped my hat as she let the door slam shut resoundingly, her heels clacking off down the hall.

“Something I don’t understand,” I said, backtracking, “why is that tomb the only thing still standing from the old cemetery? I mean, there must have been other mausoleums.”

“Mr. Kolchak, wouldn’t you rather talk about the preparations for the upcoming National Garden and Landscaping Convention? I know I would. Anyway, isn’t that why you’re here?”

It was, of course, so I settled in for the long haul. I could almost hear Vincenzo laughing from his office.

As Couch’s tomb obstinately remained a part of the park, it settled into my craw as well, and I decided to take a closer look.

I found the tomb by asking around. It was just a stone’s throw from the back of the Historical Society where Ms. Davenport plotted like an enemy general against the machinations of Gus Skalka and the city parks and recreation department.

The tomb was a solid, grey bunker of cemetery stone, unadorned but for the name Couch over the iron door and various encroaching flora. Skalka’s talk about animals and a ghost and weird happenings interested me, but I didn’t see much of anything out of the ordinary beyond the fact that it was sitting in a public park only a few steps from the busy traffic of LaSalle Drive.

A city groundskeeper saw me taking pictures.

“Hey there!” I called to him. “What do you know about this old chestnut?”

“I know around this time of year I always end up picking dead chickens and such off the porch.”

“Dead chickens?”

“Yep. Throats cut and bled all over. Devil worshipping stuff, you ask me.”

“You ever see who’s doing that?”

“Nah, they come at night I guess, and they’re gone by morning. Doesn’t always happen. Just sometimes.”

“Mainly around this time of year?”

“Halloween. Yeah. Brings out the nuts.”

“You ever hear the ghost story? Midnight recitations and all that?”

“Sure. Two kids got pinched last night messing around here, said they saw it. Door open and everything.”

I looked over the vault door. It seemed pretty solid, and I didn’t see a hinge.

“What’s that thing you’re supposed to say?”

“The graves belong to the dead, not the living,” the groundskeeper said in his best Vincent Price voice, which actually wasn’t bad.

Curiosity was leading me to a midnight appointment in Lincoln Park. Maybe I could sell Vincenzo on a Halloween flavor piece.

I had a lot of time to kill, and as the Historical Society was only a few steps from the tomb, I decided to follow up with Ms. Davenport.

Her co-worker, Mr. Murray, informed me she had gone downtown to file the necessary paperwork to have the tomb in question declared a landmark, as she had said she would.

It turned out the Couch family was the subject of a book Mr. Murray was researching. As a man who seemed to spend most of his time perusing the lonely stacks of his dusty domain, when I asked him about the identity of his silent neighbor I found him excitedly forthcoming.

“Which one?” he said with a kind of macabre glee, so eager to speak into my mic for posterity that I had to pull it away a little to keep him from swallowing it whole.

“Well, let’s start with Ira Couch and go on down the line.”

“Ira was a hotelier,” Murray began. “He came from nothing, built the city’s first luxury hotel, Tremont House. Twice. It burned down once in October of 1839 and again in October of 1843.”

“October was an unlucky month for him,” I remarked.

“Very. It burned a third time in 1871.” He looked at me expectantly.

“The Great Chicago fire,” I said. “What month was that?”

“October again,” Murray chuckled, happy I’d picked up what he’d laid down. “The 8th. Same say as the other two fires.”

“Say that’s a little more than a coincidence. He must have made a bundle to be able to keep rebuilding. Is it still standing?” I asked.

“Oh yes. The family fell into dire straits and sold it to Northwestern University around the turn of the century.”

“I guess the university had more luck. So what happened to Ira?”

“He died suddenly while vacationing in Cuba in 1857. There were provisions in his will to cover the cost of the tomb, which was a good idea as it was something around seven thousand dollars, more expensive than most houses of the time…by far.”

“And his wife was interred with him? It’s a big tomb for two people. Looks like it could hold more.”

“It might,” said Murray. “Ira’s brother, daughter, grandson…there could be up to eleven bodies in there. Generations. Or none at all.”

“You mean it could be empty?”

“I don’t want to hurt Ms. Davenport’s chances at having the tomb declared a landmark,” Murray begged off. “You know Mr. Kolchak, the presence of corpses tips the scale in such matters.”

He leaned forward into the mic again and I had to bring it further back.

“But Ira and his wife have headstones at Gracehill Cemetery up north. Their corporate office is very stingy with the old burial records.”

“Why?”

“Some say the Couch family pays Gracehill not to divulge that information.”

“Why would they care?”

“That’s hard to say, because there hasn’t been a living Couch in the last few decades. The family’s fortunes dwindled and the last descendent died off.”

“But then who’s paying Gracehill?”

“Ms. Davenport told me confidentially that she learned from an employee that the cemetery’s discretion was paid for in perpetuity by Ira Couch himself. In his will.”

“That’s pretty forward thinking,” I muttered.

I gave Mr. Murray my card and asked him to tell Ms. Davenport I’d been by, and to call me if he turned up anything else interesting concerning the Couches and their eternal abode. I made my way back to my car, thinking to go home and nap before the appointed hour.

I found an angular sort of gent, black haired, with a wine dark suit whose price tag would have made my seersucker blush slipping a business card under my windshield wiper while he whistled a catchy little tune.

“She’s not for sale,” I said.

“I’m not in the market anyway, Mr. Kolchak,” the man said in an accent that I pegged for Latin American.

“You have me at a disadvantage, Mister…”

“Forgive me. Domingo Seaver is my name. I’m a collections agent.”

“What are you looking to collect on, Mr. Seaver?” I asked nervously, trying to think of the last time I’d bet on the Cubs and when my next paycheck was due in. I fumbled with my keys and dropped them.

Seaver stooped and handed them to me.

“Rest easy. No debt of yours, Mr. Kolchak. I am seeking tardy remuneration for services rendered. The debtor has gone to great lengths to avoid repayment, even going so far as to steal an object of remarkable value from another party in the hope of….”

“Robbing Peter to pay Paul?”

“Yes,” he said, smiling a row of fine, even white teeth. “They have since gone to ground. Assumed a false identity.”

“Well, what does this have to do with me, Mr. Seaver? I’m no private eye.”

“Nevertheless, I have reason to believe your current investigation has crossed over my own. I ask only that you contact me should you happen across the individual in the course of fulfilling your duties, so that I might in turn fulfill my own.”

“My current…I’m covering a story about park renovation,” I said, slipping past him. Something about him got under my skin. He had movie star looks but dirty fingernails.

He reached over and opened my door for me. I’d evidently missed seeing him put my key into the lock.

“Thanks. Well, who am I supposed to keep an eye out for?”

“That is difficult to say,” said Seaver, closing the door. “The surest method of identification would be their possession of the stolen collectible. It is quite singular in appearance. A porcelain tureen with gold accents, inset with cowrie shells. The lid would be sealed with black wax.”

I turned my engine over and laid my camera and recorder on the seat next to me.

“Black wax? Well, Mr. Seaver….,” I said, looking up at him.

But there was no ‘him’ to see. Seaver was gone. I looked up and down the street, but saw no sign of him. I shook my head, reached over, and pulled his card off my windshield. There was his name and occupation in gold lettering, but no number anywhere on it – a sure reason for getting a new printing company if ever I’d seen one.

I drove off, whistling Seaver’s tune. Like I said, it was catchy.

After a modest dinner and what I had proposed to be a nap, I found I had overslept. I arrived at Lincoln Park around 11:58 on the evening of the 7th, sure I was going to miss my appointment with whatever was scheduled to appear at the tomb.

In my hurry to reach it, I suddenly made the acquaintance of the aforementioned Patrolman Diaz.

“Park’s closed,” he informed me. “Didn’t you see the sign?”

“Well, it’s dark,” I said.

“Yeah well it closes at sundown. They all do. What are you doing out here?”

“Sorry, Officer, my name’s Carl Kolchak. I’m with the INS. I’m doing a story, a Halloween piece on the Couch tomb….”

It was at that point that we heard the spine prickling shriek, piercing at first, but then dwindling out in the dark.

We both ran towards it, towards Couch’s tomb, Diaz’s flashlight spot bouncing in front of us, until at last it fell like a stark stage light on some Grand Guignol performance. There, sprawled on the porch of the tomb, was a woman all in white, blood spilling brightly down the front of her dress, her dark eyes shrinking in the light of the policeman’s flash as she gasped her last breath.

Diaz went to her side to check her vitals, but hesitated. I saw his eyes go to a green and yellow bracelet on the victim’s wrist, and a series of colored beads around her neck. She was an older woman, Hispanic, and her dark face was marked with patterns of white paint.

Diaz checked her pulse and then recited something low in Spanish.

Then he arrested me.

“Kolchak, what the hell’s going on?” Vincenzo roared as I retrieved my camera and recorder from booking, having spent the night in a holding cell and playing dumb to a homicide detective with Oscar-worthy aplomb. “You’re supposed to be covering the prepwork for a flower convention!”

“I was, Tony, I assure you,” I said, scanning the station for Officer Diaz. “I was taking pictures of the grounds to accompany my piece. A before and after comparison. Should have been a literal walk in the park.”

“At midnight?”

“Night blooming flowers?” I suggested.

“What’s this about a murder?”

“Well you know, a good reporter, I think, has a nose for these kinds of things. He puts himself in the way and just attracts news.”

“I’ve got a nose for something too,” Vincenzo muttered. “And what you’re attracting is flies, Carl. What’s the story here?”

“Trust me, Tony! Good stuff for the Halloween edition.”

“Every edition isn’t the Halloween edition. I want the parks and rec story by tomorrow morning. Your extracurricular activities better not delay it.”

“You’ll have it and more, mein capitan.”

“And next time don’t spend your one phone call on me. It’ll be a waste.”

“Ja vol,” I said, saluting as we came out into the sunshine. “Hey I could still use a ride back to the park to retrieve my car.”

“Get a cab,” Vincenzo said, stomping off down the street. “I did.”

As fate would have it, Officer Diaz exited the station behind me in plainclothes, evidently finishing his shift.

“Oh,” he said. “Sorry about the detainment, Mr. Kolchak. We have to cover all our bases. No hard feelings, huh?”

“Not at all not at all,” I said, waving my hand. “Any word on who that woman was?”

He looked at me uncertainly.

“I’m not really at liberty to give you a press release,” he said, and began to walk.

“Off the record,” I said, keeping up with him.

“Off the record, no. But she had a Cuban passport.”

“Are you Cuban? I ask because of what you said over the body. Sounded like a prayer….”

“What are you asking me, Kolchak?”

“Well I noticed that woman had a green and yellow bracelet on….sort of like the one you’re wearing.”

“Pretty sharp,” Diaz said, holding up his hand so the bracelet showed on his wrist. “That’s an ide bracelet. It means that woman was a santera. A priestess.”

“Like a Voodoo priestess?”

“Santeria, man,” said Diaz.

“Her throat was cut wasn’t it? Is there human sacrifice in Santeria?”

“No, man. It’s a legit religion, not some kind of comic book jive. At least…not when it’s practiced for good.”

“Chickens, though?”

“We call it matanza,” said Diaz. “An ebbo – a blood offering to the oricha. The ancestral spirits.”

“Why would somebody make an ebbo at the door of the Couch tomb? Anything special about October the 7th? 8th?”

“Not that I know.” He stopped at an oldsmobile parked on the street. “This is me.”

“Oh one more thing,” I said snapping my fingers as he got in his car.

“I got two nights off, Kolchak. And I wanna get started on ‘em.”

“Do you use tureens in Santeria? Uh, fancy porcelain with cowrie shells…sealed with black wax?”

He looked at me sharply.

“You’re describing a sopera,” he said. “It contains the fundamentos of a Santeria temple. Sacred objects in which the patron oricha spirit dwells. But black wax? Nah, that’s not a thing. You should quit poking, Kolchak. This stuff ain’t for you, dig?”

As he pulled away from the curb and I began my long, thoughtful walk back to the car, whistling that tune.

I returned to the INS office to write up the parks and rec story, and while taking a break to grab a coffee, the regular thunderous passage of the L train outside the office windows nearly made me miss my ringing desk phone.

It was Mr. Murray.

“Mr. Kolchak!” he said excitedly. “I wonder if you’d be interested in drumming up interest in my book with an article on the Couch family.”

“Well I was thinking about a Halloween piece, Mr. Murray,” I said. “I’d be willing to cite you as a source and mention your book. Did you find something new to add?”

“I’ll say! Something revelatory,” Murray said. “Remember how I told you the last living Couch descendant passed away? I’ve found another and,” he said, lowering his voice to a whisper, “you won’t believe who it is. Miss Davenport. Right here in the Historical Society! Can you believe it? I feel like I’ve been working alongside hidden royalty the whole time!”

“How’ you figure this out?” I asked.

“Well the fortunes of the family did dwindle drastically in the last decade. That part’s true. But I was digging in the Cook County vital records and found her petition. She legally changed her name. Probably to avoid the back taxes the family had incurred over the years. Isn’t that fascinating?”

“Very. Is she in today?”

“No she called in sick. You know as her coworker I’d feel a little weird approaching her about this but as you’re a reporter…”

“Sure sure, that sounds swell, Mr. Murray! Why don’t we both compile a list of questions and you get back to me?”

I hung up.

Miss Davenport wasn’t in.

But I had a pretty good idea where she’d be.

I didn’t bother to sleep this time, so I arrived at the park at 11:45 with plenty of time to make my way to the tomb. It was surrounded by police tape and sawhorse barricades, but I got a good vantage to watch the action, whatever it was.

Some kind of ritual had been interrupted by the arrival of the santera the night before. I knew there was nothing stopping it tonight. Not even Officer Diaz.

I kept an eye on my watch.

11:55.

11:56.

Then at 11:58 I heard it. A low female voice chanting in Spanish.

I crept closer. The approach to the tomb was clear around the bushes but I hadn’t seen anybody enter.

No doubt somebody was there, though. The closer I got the louder it was. There was a faint orange glow under the lip of the door, flickering.

I crouched down, leaning against the door to slip my mic as close to the gap as I could get, so as to get a clearer recording.

And then I heard a grinding noise, and the door swung inward.

I tumbled inside.

I found myself inside a kind of small foyer lined with funeral drawers. I counted ten, made out Ira Couch’s bronze nameplate, others. Seated against each of the drawers was a hand sewn doll. Their costumes ranged from white Victorian gowns to modern suits. But what got my attention was a second door set into the far wall. Inside was a candlelit altar, blazing. In the center was the white tureen, the gilded sopera Seaver had described, draped in colored necklaces and surrounded by severed black chicken heads, deliberately arranged. There was a smoking cigar in an ashtray and a large botte of clear fluid.

I peered into the inner room. The chanting had stopped. I got out my camera to take a picture.

As I moved into the inner doorway, a horrific, painted pale face shrieked at me from the dim corner, and a blur of white came at me, brandishing a silver knife.

In surprise I triggered my flash, blinding the figure, and dove into the room to duck the knife. I fell against the altar, and tureen, beads, ashtray, and poultry head came crashing down in heap. Whatever was contained in the tureen exploded in a flash of light as blinding as a lightning bolt.

Then a tremendous, howling wind blew into the tomb, snuffing out the candles. It was a hurricane gale, so loud it sounded like the roaring of a great voice. It knocked me flat.

When I looked up blinking through the red spots, I saw the outline of a man standing in the tomb’s outer doorway.

Carol Davenport saw him too and screamed.

He stepped inside, and the dolls in the outer foyer burst into flame.

I couldn’t make out his face, but he held out his hand beckoned, and Carol Davenport went to him as if in a trance, taking hold of his elbow as though he were an old fashioned suitor.

They turned and left the tomb.

I picked myself up off the floor, found my camera, and stumbled outside between the burning dolls.

There was no on outside just the cool, dwindling wind.

At 6:30 in the morning after a sleepless night of listening to my tape recordings, I returned to the empty INS office, whistling that same tune that had been stuck in my head all day to keep my hackles down.

I poured myself a pot of coffee, threw my hat on the tree, missing as usual, and plunked myself down in front of the typewriter to begin punching out the events as best as I could parse them out. The only other sound in the place was the hum of a fan somebody had left on.

A feeling came over me as I hammered away at the page. A cold draft, as if someone had walked over my grave. There was a subtle shift in the dim morning light and shadows spilled into the room like black paint. The fan stopped. I couldn’t even hear the clock ticking.

And there he was, standing over my shoulder.

Domingo Seaver.

I could only stare. I was sure I hadn’t hear a door open.

“I thought perhaps you deserved an explanation, Mr. Kolchak,” Domingo said. “You and your readers.”

“That was you in the tomb tonight, wasn’t it?”

Seaver only raised his eyebrows patiently.

“Well, I said, leaning back in my chair to affect an air of nonchalance I did not actually have. “I’m all ears, Mr. Seaver.”

“Tell me what you think you know and I will fill in the blanks.”

“Why?”

“Because it amuses me.”

“Alright,” I said, swiveling in my chair and narrowing my eyes at the strange figure standing in the dark. “Ira Couch showed incredible fortune in managing to go from nothing to a wildly successful hotelier. I think he must have made some kind of high interest business arrangement with some extremely influential party. I think he attempted to renege on his end of the deal, whatever it was, and the person to whom he was indebted burned his hotel to the ground. He still had enough pull though to raise it up again. A remarkable feat. Maybe he convinced his unknown business partner that this time he’d be good for it.”

“Or he offered something more valuable as collateral,” said Seaver.

“OK…October 8th 1843 comes around. Seems like that’s the agreed upon deadline for him to repay his loan or whatever it is. The hotel burns again. But…Couch rebuilds again. Whatever he offered his business partner this time, it must have really been something.”

“It was,” said Seaver.

“But this time Couch develops a scheme to duck his debt. He travels to Cuba….”

“And?”

“Well Mr. Seaver, there I’m a little at a loss. Whatever it was, it involves Santeria. I guess it depends on what it was Couch was dealing with. What was his collateral?”

“First, his soul,” said Seaver. “The standard contract. The second time, to extend his contract, it was the soul of every subsequent generation of his family. A precious thing, an innocent soul. But the souls of generations? Incalculable. ”

“Souls,” I said quietly, gripping the arms of my chair. “Where was I?”

“Cuba.”

“In Cuba then, he steals what the santeras call a sopera. It contains the ancestral spirits worshipped by the locals.  He seals it by some method I don’t understand.”

“Couch was a nefarious and clever sorcerer,” said Seaver. “And he knew he could hide the souls of himself and his loved ones in the glow of a trapped orischa.”

“Sure,” I said. “I imagine his debtor had trouble even approaching something like that. But what about the fire of 1871? The hotel burned along with most of the city.”

“An attempt to flush a rabbit out of hiding, Mr. Kolchak. Quite unavoidable.”

 “Alright,” I said. “Each generation of Couches defends the hiding place of the Couch souls. Feeds the trapped orischa with blood every October to keep the wolves from the door. Who was the Cuban woman who was killed?”

“I told you I wasn’t the only interested party.”

“She’d come looking for the stolen sopera.”

“And Ms. Davenport stopped her.”

There hadn’t been any sign of the killer fleeing the scene because Carol Davenport had been inside the tomb. All she had to do was hide till the coroner hauled the body off.

“Tonight, that flash. The wind. The orischa broke loose.”

“Thanks to you. Very good, Mr. Kolchak. Very impressive.”

He looked out the dark window.

“Well, you have your story, and I at last, have my payment. Fair and square, as they say.”

I looked over Seaver’s shoulder at the clock on the wall. The second hand had stopped.

“Your payment. So you’re….” It was a lot to wrap my head around. “What happens now?” I asked.

Seaber smiled and raised his eyebrows.

“Now you decide how much to publish yourself, and how much to allot to Mr. Murray’s book. Have a good day, Mr. Kolchak. Be seeing you.”

He turned and crossed the empty aisle, went to the door, and out into the hall, whistling the same tune I had this morning.

The fan began to blow.

The clock resumed its ticking, and the sun came bright through the window.

I turned back to my typewriter and fished in my pocket for his business card.

D. Seaver.

As soon as I held it up to the sunlight it went up like magician’s flash powder in my fingers.


This was intended for Kolchack’s anniversary, so as you can see, I thought I’d come up with a story for what was going on in the famous opening sequence, and an origin for his catchy whistle. Oh well. C’est la vie!

Published in: on June 14, 2022 at 6:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Gymkata Test

What’s your Gymkata Test?

Gymkata, for those who don’t know, is a 1985 Action movie starring Olympic gymnast Kurt Thomas as Jonathan Cabot, an Olympic gymnast recruited by the US government to compete in a deadly survival game in the mountainous insular country of Parmistan. Those who win this ancient game, which is a kind of endurance foot race during which competitors must overcome various physical obstacles and navigate a walled village where Parmistan deposits its criminally insane, are allowed one request of the ruling Khan, which he cannot deny. The guvmint wants the Khan’s permission to install a satellite monitoring station. On a more personal level, Jonathan is out to learn what became of one of the Game’s previous competitors, his missing father. To prepare him for the ordeal, he is trained to integrate his natural agility and gymnastic techniques with the martial arts, and thus, as the narrator says in the trailer, “combine the discipline, the timing, and the power of gymnastics with the explosive force of karate, and a new, all-powerful martial art is born – GYMKATA.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Mkl9rtttog

Now, what is the Gymkata Test?

Gymkata is my least favorite movie. By that I mean, if I were to make a list of my 100 favorite movies, Gymkata would be at the bottom. It’s goofy and it’s unrealistic and some of the acting is not so great and I love it. I can hum the score. I own it, and have watched it multiple times.

All I ask of any movie I see is that it be as least as entertaining and rewatchable as Gymkata. It’s surprising (mostly to other people) how many movies tend to fall short of this simple, modest measuring stick.

I recognize that this is not a good movie, but it’s entertaining to me…and there is nothing in all of cinema like the Village of The Crazies sequence, which culminates in Kurt Thomas fending off an entire village of knife wielding lunatics whirling around on the back of a cleverly (?) disguised pommel horse. Gymkata is my comfort food.

I wore the hell out of this shirt until it disintegrated.

Combine the reliability, entertainment factor, and the utter uniqueness of this movie, and a new, all-powerful method of judging cinema is born….The Gymkata Test.

So I ask you, what is your Gymkata Test? What is your least favorite movie, the one you can reach for and unabashedly embrace over a movie like say, The English Patient, a distinguished, prestige motion picture laden down with awards and critical accolades, or even a massively popular bit of entertainment that just doesn’t do it for ya personally?

Published in: on June 2, 2022 at 2:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mindbreaker Is Back In Bond Unknown!

Paperbacks are few and far between, but April Moon has just put Bond Unknown up on Kindle.

Featuring William Meikle’s Into The Green and my own Mindbreaker, Bond Unknown is a mashup of Ian Fleming’s 007 and the Lovecraftian Mythos.

Read an excerpt from Mindbreaker here https://emerdelac.wordpress.com/2017/09/14/mindbreaker-in-bond-unknown-from-april-moon-books/

And pick it up in Kindle here –

Published in: on May 19, 2022 at 6:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Head Like A Jar, Appearing In Call of Poohthulhu from April Moon Books

No it’s not an April Fool’s joke, it’s an April Moon antho.

Yes, my beloved Canadian publisher April Moon Books, who put out my James Bond vs. Cthulhu novel Mindbreaker is back with another inspired and unlikely pairing, this time the roly-poly denizens of Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood and the nameless entities of old H.P.

The Celery at the Threshold by John Linwood Grant

The Very Black Goat by Christine Morgan

Back to the Black Bog by Lee Clark Zumpe

Where Howls the Edgog by Pete Rawlik

In Which We Discover the 101st Acre by Robert Ottone

Eeyore Makes a Friend by Jackson Parker

When She Was Very Tired by Lisa Cunningham

The Statement Of Eeyore Carter by Kevin Wetmore

Acrewood by Jude Reid

And my entry, Head Like A Jar, in which Piglet finds himself pursued by a Heffalump.

In addition, I’m over the moon to know that Carmen Cerra, an extremely talented artist I’ve been trying to get another book off the ground with for a while now, has been brought on board to illustrate. He’s really going to elevate this collection in a way I’m not sure it quite could all on its own.

Art by Carmen Cerra

I’ve had something of a rough couple of years. At first I sort of shook my head at the idea of this book, but I very quickly warmed to the idea of attempting to write a Milne-esque story. I read Winnie The Pooh and The House At Pooh Corner to my eldest daughter Magnolia in the womb, and later reread the stories to each of my kids, so I know them like Edward Bear knows the bottom of a honey pot. They hold a Very Special Place in my heart.

Writing this story was sheer joy and went a signifcant way towards alleviating some of the real-life burdens I’ve been feeling late. Gave me my happy back for a bit, and broke through an annoyingly long spate of writer’s block I’d been allowing myself to butt up against. I hope readers will glean something useful from this silly little story, at the very least enjoyment, just as I hope my children will one day pick it up and get a smile from it, knowing their father as they do.

Here’s an excerpt….a brief one, because I don’t want to give too much away.


Piglet tumbled head-over-heels down from the top of the Forest, over the close set grass, and didn’t stop tumbling until one of the sixty something trees that surrounded the clearing kindly stepped in his way.

He lay that way for a little bit, looking up and waiting for the grass and the darkening sky to decide which was on top. The sky was very cloudy and cross, so eventually it won out. The grass stooped and apologized for having given offense. Then the sky cracked a bit of strange, red lightning like a coach whip which told Piglet he had better get on his way. So he did, though he wasn’t sure just where he was going.

It got very stormy and dark, like a spilled inkpot spreading across a sky blue sheet, but it did not rain. That was something, at least.

As he scurried along through the spinneys Piglet heard a Very Loud Sound behind him, like a large animal Sniffling and Snuffling. He remembered just then that he had been going Away, and so he continued going there with all haste.

Piglet could not recall a Dark So Total in the Forest, though admittedly he spent most nights fast asleep, dreaming of what he would do the next day or what he had done the previous day, or things he might never do however many days he had. He wished he were dreaming now in his warm bed instead of running through the trees, for he had quite forgotten the way and it was getting so very dark it was hard to see by.

If he could not be asleep, then he wished at least that he were not Alone.

Eventually he came to a place he half-recognized, though it was not a place he frequented and not the one he had been wishing to get to, it being particularly Gloomy and wet here. However, it was Away from the Very Loud Sound, and so he supposed he musn’t be ungrateful.

“Hullo, who is that?” came a sad voice that he knew somehow belonged to this place (or was it the other way around?).

“P-p-piglet,” Piglet answered, hugging himself because being Alone there was no one else to hold onto.

“Good morning P-p-piglet,” said the voice, belonging to a low gray something standing with its neck bowed in the gloom. “If it is a good morning, or morning at all, which I doubt.”

Piglet thought hard. It was as if the Dark So Total had leaked into his thinker, and he had to strike a match to see his own memories by, and the match was all wet and soggy.

“Eeyore!” he said at last, and toddled over to find the gray donkey standing to up his knees in the bog, nosing at a thistle. “Oh Eeyore!” Piglet said, and threw his arms excitedly around Eeyore’s neck. “I am so happy to see you!”

“You are?”

“Yes!”

Me, Eeyore?”

“Yes! I was so scared, running through the Forest. I was just wishing I could find anybody at all.”

“Oh. Well. I suppose being anybody is better than being nobody.”

“Eeyore, there’s a Very Loud Sound back there,” Piglet said, nervously pointing back the way he’d come.

“What sort of a sound?” Eeyore said, cocking one of his ears in the direction Piglet had pointed.

“It’s like a sort of…Sniffling and Snuffling. I don’t want to stay here.”

“Not many do.”

“I mean, it’s so Very Loud, it hurts my ears. I’m trying to get Away, do you understand?”

“I understand wanting to be Away. Some can afford the luxury. Some can’t. But there it is.”

“There what is?”

Eeyore sighed, very long and very loud.

“Nothing. I think I hear your Sound, Little Piglet. It’s coming closer. My, all this Unexpected Company in the middle of the night.”

“I thought it was the middle of the morning,” said Piglet, nervously looking back the way he’d come.

“It may be,” said Eeyore, considering it. “One middle can look much like the other in a Dark So Total….”

Published in: on April 5, 2022 at 12:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Are We There Yet? Appearing In Horror On Holiday from Golden Goblin Press

Oscar Rios and editor Brian Sammons are bringing out a new Lovecraftian anthology from Golden Goblin Press called Horror On Holiday via Kickstarter, so head on over there and kick a buck –

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/golden-goblin-press/horror-on-holiday-tales-of-vacations-taking-very-dark-turns?ref=ksr_email_user_watched_project_launched

Peep the lineup –

A Gilded Butterfly by Glynn Owen Barrass
You Take It With You by Helen Gould
In Light Accessible by John Linwood Grant
Geneaology by William Meikle
A Palette of Honey and Amber by Andi Newton
Castles In The Sand by Peter Rawlik and Sal Ciano
Thin Ice by Oscar Rios
A Kingdom of Magic by Brian S. Sammons
The Isle of Ma’an Du by Sam Stone
The Fun Fair by Tim Waggoner
The Family In The Wood by Helen Yau
Summoning My Soul To Endless Sleep by Lee Clarke Zumpe

My own offering Are We There Yet? concerns a beleaguered father on an extended road trip with his family. They pull into a lonely gas station where the elderly attendant passes a brochure for a chintzy roadside attraction to his excitable son. As the boy becomes more and more obsessed with seeing the dubious wonders promised in the brochure, the father notices the compulsion spreading to the other members of the family, and finally to himself, as a series of increasingly insistent advertisements guide them further and further off their intended route.

Here’s the opening lines –

——————————-

Greg Trezvant signaled his exit.

Between Lisa’s shrill screaming over the kids’ cacophony in the backseat and a growing, paranoid suspicion that the GPS was somehow lying to him, the green turnoff sign that promised Gas-Food (probably in the wrong order, Greg reflected) looked like the emerald leaves of a shimmering oasis in an endless desert dotted with No Facilities cacti.

His seven year old, Robert, was pinching himself through his sweatpants and wailing for a toilet in a tone so high and resonating Greg was this close to bleeding out of his ears. A year ago they had had trouble keeping the kid from taking a leak in the bushes in front of the house, but Lisa had discouraged his habit of pissing in the open so effectively Robert was now unable to even fathom jumping out of the car and going in a ditch. Greg had pulled over and physically removed him from the vehicle at one point and yanked down his trousers only to watch his son dance in place screaming until Lisa had loudly demanded they both get back in and stop wasting time.

Jainey was exacerbating things, hollering for her little brother to shut up, presumably so she could hear every minute intonation of whatever was thumping in her earbuds. She was eleven and had apparently outgrown empathy somewhere around her last birthday.

Lindsey’s Filling Station was exactly that. Not a proper gas station, but a throwback to the days of yesteryear when mechanics would answer the ringing of the Milton bell and come swarming over your car to check the fluids and tires. The rusted old Pepsi Cola gas pump had no POS pad in sight, just a handwritten sign that said “Please Pay Inside Before You Pump!”

Inside looked a bit dubious. The building was as old as the gas pump, with thick, dusty glass. There was no chain fast food joint or ice cream place adjoining, but another exclamatory handwritten sign promised “Best Homemade Jerky On The Interstate!”

It was the restroom Robert was interested in, and he and Lisa hit the ground running like a couple of Green Berets disembarking from a Huey. They rushed in, jangling the sleigh bells over the door as it banged open, Lisa yelling, “Bathrooooom?”

Greg saw a gnarled finger on a liver spotted hand reach out and point through the doorway, and his wife and son wheeled and charged down that direction.

He cut the engine with deliberate slowness and turned in his seat, tapping Jainey on the knee to alert her that he was exiting the vehicle.

“Why’re we stopping here?” she shouted.

“Come on. You know why.”

“What?”

He tapped his earlobe and she rolled her eyes and turned down her music.

“I said you know why. Come on. Get out and stretch your legs, hit the toilet. I don’t know when we’ll see another one.”

“Why don’t we ever stop anywhere interesting?” Jainey whined.

Inside, the shelves of the little gas station were packed with crap; dusty quarts of oil, chintzy souvenir keychains and postcards, heaps of salty, sugary snacks. Crap, crap, and made-to-be crap. Jainey drifted in, sweeping the shelves with her bored eyes like a shark bloated from killing but still ostensibly in the market for a stray mackerel.

Behind the register, a long faced old man with a head of wavy, buttercream white hair grinned toothily. He was dressed in bib overalls and a red flannel shirt and a fisherman’s vest covered with a myriad of eccentric pins with pithy, folksy sayings like “Bless Your Heart,” “Southern Pride,” and “Fine ‘N Dandy.” A slat-eyed cartoon goat grinned at him from one of the pins.

“You the fella owns that thunderstorm that swept through here a minute ago?” the old man asked.

Greg held up his hands sheepishly.

“I just hope he didn’t drop any rain between here and your restroom.”

There was a loud industrial flush from a back hall.

“No, no, I think he made it alright,” the old man said with a laugh.

A door rattled open and Robert came skipping out as if nothing had ever been the matter. Lisa was in tow, looking haggard.

“Where you all headed?”

“Buckingham,” Greg said, fumbling for his wallet, figuring he’d fill up while everybody else drained.

“Vacation?”

“Yeah mainly, trying to get these guys out to see the sights. Get a little bit of nature. But you know kids. Everything’s boring. They hardly look out the car window.” He slid a twenty across the counter.

“Buckingham don’t hardly seem much of a vacation spot,” said the old man.

“Well, I’m headed over to the historical society there. Got an appointment with the curator.”

“You interested in history, huh?”

“Guilty,” said Greg. “This is actually family history. I had a great great grandfather, fought in the Civil War, went missing in action somewhere around here. At least, to me. See, I know what outfit he was in, that he was around here, but don’t know what happened to him. Thought it’d be fun to do some digging.”

“Fun,” said the old man, a little dubiously, doling out angel wings on the cash register. “For you. But how about them? Ya want my advice, don’t forget the ‘family’ in family vacation. Kids need to have their interests courted. Wife too,” he added, nodding to Lisa, who was perusing the magazine rack with the same dull expression as Jainey. “Got to appeal to the whole family unit or it ain’t really a family vacation….”

Map of Delirium Tremens, Arizona

Here’s a map I did for a PBEM (Play By Email) RPG (Roleplaying Game – it was Champions, a system I don’t really care for) wayyy back in 2001 or 2002 that I wound up using as a reference in a number of stories I’ve written since (and became the basis for the name of this blog). It’s a dinky little Arizona town with a population of about 180 in Cochise County on the eastern edge of the Huachuca Mountains. The geography and some of the names have changed slightly as needed.

If memory serves, Delirium Tremens has shown up in –

The Merkabah Rider series (novels) – The first and last books take place partially in the town, with the Todos Mis Amigos (named for Mickey Rourke’s catchphrase in the movie Barfly) Cantina, El Moderado, and Chains Are Broken Ministry (which I named after a little church I used to see through the train window off the Kensington stop in Chicago on the way to school every day) all feature prominently.
The Akeldama Dig (short story) – I changed the name from Bald Pate Hill Cemetery to Akeldama because it made for a snappier title. The Busthead Saloon also features prominently.
In Thunder’s Shadow (short story) – Mentioned only.
The Blood Bay (short story) – Centers on Famous Horses and Fitzsimmons’ Leather and Saddlery (and I think the grocer’s).
The Threefold Reckoning (unpublished short story) – Mainly centered on The Gone Green Saloon. Faustus Montague from Merkabah Rider shows up too.
The Chilibean Joss (unpublished wuxia/western novel) -Takes place almost entirely in the town and explores too many locations to list here. If the dang thing ever gets published I’ll come back and do it.
Meaner Than Hell (my 2009 western film) – The climax occurs in Delirium Tremens (played by Bodie, a ghost town here in California). The church steps are meant to be the steps of The Church of The Redeemer.

It’ll probably show up again.

Delirium Tremens, Arizona Territory circa 1880
Published in: on March 3, 2022 at 8:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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DT Moviehouse Reviews: The Black Hole

Time to blow the dust off my blog feature, DT Moviehouse Reviews, in which I make my way through my 200+ DVD/Blu-Ray collection (you can see the list right here) and decide if each one was worth the money. I was previously doing this alphabetically but decided, since I was watching some of these anyway, to review them out of order. Today I take a look at 1979’s very much maligned Disney sci-fi horror movie, THE BLACK HOLE.

Directed by Gary Nelson

Screenplay by Gerry Day and Jeb Rosebrook

Tagline: A Journey That Begins Where Everything Ends

The Black Hole (1979) - IMDb

What It’s About:
The crew of the deep space exploration vessel USS Palomino comes across the largest black hole ever recorded, and discovers a long lost ship, The Cygnus, once commanded by the brilliant Dr. Hans Reinhardt (Maximillian Schell), poised impossibly at the rim of it.

Why I Bought It:

Because I’m not entirely sure which year I saw Star Wars, I believe The Black Hole may have been the first live action movie I saw in a theater. 

As a kid I only remember loving the robots V.I.N.C.E.N.T. and B.O.B. and digging the villainous Maximillian, the double-blaster wielding S.T.A.R. and his pseudo-stormtrooper droids (that looked a lot like illegitimate children of Darth Vader). I also vaguely remember a sense of existential Roman Catholic dread at the apocalyptic heaven-and-hell ending when the characters pass through the black hole and experience their just desserts/punishments as warranted.

In my adult years I grew to appreciate the technicality of the sets and models. I adore the design of the Cygnus, essentially a massive haunted house in space. It’s one of my favorite fictional spaceships. It reminds me of Chicago’s Sears Tower (sorry, Willis Tower), a monolithic skyscraper in space, replete with suspension girders and antennae. Totally black and apparently abandoned when first encountered, the lights coming on in response to the diminutive Palomino’s trespassing has the ominous effect of a single light coming on in the upstairs window of a remote battlement. Welp, they know we’re here….

In recent years, I’ve seen almost nothing good written about this movie. Perennial joykiller Neil DeGrasse-Tyson famously ripped into its scientific inaccuracies, and aside from my friend John Kenneth Muir’s thoughtful review, I’ve been kind of amazed at the almost universal ridicule this movie seems to elicit (much as I was baffled at the general dislike of Halloween III: Season Of The Witch, a consensus that has thankfully been mainly rescinded in the past ten years).

I did a recent rewatch and felt compelled to resurrect my long comatose blog feature solely to add my voice to John’s in championing it.

As an adult and with only a little fog of nostalgia, I think this is a hell of a cool movie. The relentless, nightmarish opening theme by John Barry playing over the wheeling gridlines as they form the wire-diagram of an inescapable funnel against a cavernous star field sets the stage for the mystery and madness to come, giving one the sense of hurtling through the endless void with a broken tether.

The movie boasts a nearly all-star cast, with the late great Robert Forster captaining the Palomino, Roddy McDowall as an erudite R2D2, Anthony Perkins as a breathlessly optimistic scientist, Ernest Borgnine playing a self-centered journalist, and Slim Pickens as a winsome, folksy older model bot. I’m not too familiar with Yvette Mimieux (wait – she was Weena in The Time Machine!), but she does a fine turn as a telepathic scientist who unfortunately delivers one of the movies’ oft-mocked lines about “discovering habitable life in outer space” – I swear in forty years of rewatching this movie I never noticed that. That’s how science-minded I am I guess. Joseph Bottoms is admittedly a bit bland as Lt. Pizer, but with Forster’s Captain Holland there, he’s a little redundant.

Maximillian Schell is arresting as the megalomaniacal, Nemo-esque Dr. Reinhardt, a Kurtz-like psychopath who has not only refused his recall orders in dogged pursuit of his own ends, but technologically cannibalized his mutinous crew, literally lashing them to the controls of his derelict Flying Dutchman with the help of his crowning robotic achievement, Maximillian.

There is so much going on between the lines of this movie, that it appalls me how many people casually dismiss it as hokey or boring.

The Black Hole (1979) Directed by Gary Nelson Shown: Maximilian Schell

Why is Dr. McCrae able to telepathically communicate with V.I.N.C.E.N.T? Is he really a robot or some kind of cyborg? He claims to hate the company of robots, yet B.O.B. alludes to the two of them being a ‘series’ so are they post-singularity, conscious A.I.? V.I.N.C.E.N.T.’s thoughts can be heard among the rest of the crew when they pass through the black hole at the end. Even S.T.A.R. (incidentally, portrayed by Tom McLoughlin, who went on to direct my favorite Friday The 13th entry, Part 6: Jason Lives) seems to be really emotional for a ‘bot too, displaying pride, frustration, and jealousy.

And for that matter, what is going on with the red mystery monster Maximillian? Is Reinhardt in control of the Cygnus, or is he? Schell portrays him with a furtive distractedness. Is he never quite there in the moment because he’s preoccupied with his grand purpose, or because Maximilian is influencing him? I personally get the sense he is not fully the master of events. At one point, Reinhardt pleads to Kate, “Protect me from Maximillian!” What?! Wow!  Although this line was purportedly ad-libbed by Schell, one gets the sense that Reinhardt’s genius creations have gotten away from him. Maybe he built Maximilian as an enforcer to lead the Vader-bots against the mutinous crew….or maybe some strange cosmic force from within the black hole (or the black hole itself!) is at work in the big red ‘bot (and in Reinhardt’s miraculous energy source ‘cygnum’ which somehow allows the ship to resist the pull of the black hole), considering it not only physically subsumes Reinhardt in the weird confines of the hole at the end, but also appears to stand and rule over some hellscape within. Did an ineffable alien intelligence call to Reinhardt from the hole, urge him to kill his crew and build Maximilian and then join it? Consider that all of the other robots are generally humanoid in appearance, whereas Maximilian seems like some kind of alien form, possessing neither a face, nor hands and feet, as if he was concieved not by Reinhardt, but by something with only an approximate understanding of human anatomy. “Some cause must have created all this….,” Reinhardt muses, when confronted by his macabre crimes, “but what caused the cause?” The use of the color red in these later scenes appears to signify something. Schell dons a red suit in his final scenes, Maximilian is red, and in the wake of the meteor storm the Cygnus and the hole are cast in the same blood red tones, as though the hole as an entity has been influencing events and is now manifest.

I understand the tendency of less patient viewers to roll their eyes at the sometimes dated FX and action, and I accept the reticence of modern audiences to embrace the quasi-religious ending, where the good and the bad are quite literally separated into infernal and celestial cosmic experiences, though I don’t personally agree. Has everyone died at the end? Dr. Kate muses early on that black holes could possibly one day consume the universe – again, I don’t speak to the scientific accuracy of that, but it makes for a great death metaphor. Putting aside its bizarre ending, what you have in The Black Hole, Disney’s first PG film, is a neat little sci-fi horror movie with an excellent sense of building dread, some gorgeous sets and FX (the meteor storm sequence is fantastic, as is the running laser battle through the greenhouse as it’s occurring), and some interesting subtext worth reconsidering.

Best Dialogue/Line:

“It’s about time that people learned about their failures and my successes.”

Best Scene:

I can’t stress enough what a killer reveal it is when Anthony Perkins finally lifts the mirror-face shell off one of the purportedly robot crew to discover the slack, black-eyed human face beneath. It’s genuinely chilling and a well-earned payoff after Forster’s exploration of the abandoned crew quarters, the limping gardener, the robot funeral, and the explanation of what actually went down by B.O.B.

“He would be dead by now. They all would be dead. This was the only way to keep them alive – one of my greatest achievements,” says Reinhardt. In his mind, did he save the crew? And from what?

The scene ends with Perkins’ Durant memorably holding up his book of scientific notes and calculations against the whirring blades of Maximillian to no avail. Learning is scrambled in the face of Reinhardt/Maximilian/The Hole’s madness. Great stuff.

Would I Buy It Again?

Yes. A classic, and as what might have been my first live action viewing experience, personally seminal.

Star Wars Insider Fiction Collection Volume 2: Featuring Hammer

Today Titan has released the second hardcover collection of Star Wars Insider fiction, which includes my story Hammer, about a pair of Jedi scouts who discover an ancient Sith artifact during the last days of the Clone Wars.

This story originally featured in Star Wars Insider #147 and was accompanied by art from Joe Corroney and Brian Miller.

I went indepth on the inspirations behind it back in 2014 when it was originally published here.

https://emerdelac.wordpress.com/2014/01/21/hammer-time-star-wars-insider-148/

This was a fun bit of work and a highpoint in my career. The characters were intended to return and I actually had a novel pitch underway featuring the villain, Malleus, (who is, I think, the first ethnically black Sith villain in Star Wars) at Del Rey, but….it was in the early days of the Disney takeover and all this stuff was relegated to Legend status.

If you wanna read it, give it a look.

Published in: on November 9, 2021 at 1:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pan Returns in Perennial! Out Now!

A number of years ago I sold a superhero novel that the publisher decided to release under a different title, put together with a couple other authors in a shared world. They folded soon after and the book went unnoticed, so I’ve ripped out the shared world stuff, updated it a bit, and brought it out again under its own title, including a related short story called Wide Awake, partly developed by my daughter Magnolia, about a bullied girl oon the verge of enacting a school shooting who discovers an alien artifact that grants her super powers.

The main story is about a teen idol on a wildly popular TV show who discovers his producer is involved in a child exploitation ring and is ‘killed’ by a bomb when he attempts to expose it. In actuality the explosion triggers his latent superpowers, giving him the power of flight and arresting his aging process. Allowing the world to believe he’s dead, he takes to the streets of a fictional Los Angeles as Pan, a costumed vigilante who hunts those who prey upon children.

But, when he stops the attack of a powerful supervillain on live TV, an obsessed madman from his past draws him out, enlisting a small army of supervillains to take an entire high-rise hostage.

It’s sort of Die Hard with superheroes.

Anyway it’s out today, with design by the intimatable Shawn King and a brilliant cover by artist Russel Marks. I hope you’ll check it out and let me know what you thought.

Published in: on October 19, 2021 at 10:48 am  Comments (2)  

My Halloween Movie Repertoire Has Risen From Its Grave!

Black cats pause in their crossing to arch their ebon backs and hiss. Leaves expire and drift to earth. Pumpkins sprout grins of leering fire and the swollen moon is slashed by the passage of witches’ brooms. Yep, it’s my favorite time of year once again, when the sands bear the scars of mummies’ wrappings dragged from yawning tombs and the howls that pierce the countryside are not the cries of mere wolves. Halloween!

Regular followers will know every year I embark on a quest to watch as many horror movies as I can (used to be 31 movies for 31 days, but that began to feel like a paltry number). They have to be first time watches but they can come from any era.

So without further ado, let’s kick it off!

Malignant Review – A Strong Return to Horror For James Wan

Day #1 – Malignant – After her abusive husband wangs the back of Madison’s (Annabelle Wallis) favorite head against the bedroom wall, he becomes the first victim of a malevolent entity sharing a bizarre psychic connection with her which allows her to see and experience its increasingly grisly murderous escapades. I typically enjoy James Wan’s movies, and this was no exception…as a matter of fact, I think it may be my favorite. It goes so far off the rails (intentionally?) I was grinning and laughing at its gonzo absurdities….yet thoroughly enjoying myself. The reveal has been likened to Basket Case, and I get that, but in feel, it reminded me of The Eyes of Laura Mars and the Argento movie Phenomena with its so crazy it’s amazing climax. That jail scene with Zoe Bell is so eye-popping and unique! A strong start to the marathon.

Why Carnival of Souls is the greatest one-hit wonder in horror

Day #2 – Carnival Of Souls – Racing along a backcountry road against a car full of boys, Mary (Candace Hilligoss) and her friends run their car off a bridge and sink into a river. Mary surfaces three hours later disoriented. She relocates to a new town and gets a job as a church organist, but is plagued by strange visions of a ghoulish man and various eerie hallucinations compelling her towards an abandoned carnival ground where the dead dance. Innovative low budget camera work and nightmarish mood combine to successfully mimic the unease of dream logic, but don’t entirely compel or distract from the obvious plot twist. Definitely worthwhile for its time, but suffers a bit in the modern watch from all that’s come since.

Scanners de David Cronenberg - 1981 - Shangols

Day #3 – Scanners – Psychokinetic/telepathic ‘scanner’ Cameron (Stephen Lack) is recruited by defense contractor ConSec to infiltrate an underground band of renegade ESPers led by the psychopathic Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside), a scanner assassinating other scanners. Along the way, he uncovers a dark, deep-seated consipiracy. I had circled this movie at my video store for years and eventually seen the infamous exploding head scene. Michael Ironside finally induced me to put it on and when I saw it was David Cronenberg I knew I’d be in for an interesting watch. There are a lot of fascinating concepts at work; the notion that telepathy is the sort of wireless interaction of attuned nervous systems, and the idea that a human nervous system could somehow link up with a computer network (cyber-telepathy) were pretty cool. Cronenberg’s body horror FX are on display, perhaps not as much as with say, The Brood or Videodrome, but the telepathic battle at the end is pretty grisly and well realized and the setting of an avant garde scanner artist’s studio was particularly interesting….some of the pieces reminded me of the imagery in his son Brandon’s movie Possessor. The malls in Canada look hellish. Like the bathrooms of Stanley Kubrick.

100 years of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari: the film that inspired Virginia  Woolf, David Bowie and Tim Burton

Day #4 – The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – Francis (Friedrich Feher) relates the story of Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss), a roving mountebank who kept a strange, fortune telling somnabulist, Cesare (Conrad Veidt who I watched last year in The Man Who Laughs), standing in a cabinet on display, waking him to tell the fortunes of audience members, and a series of weird nocturnal murders which occured around the pair. The presentation of this twisty, somewhat unfocused story (the anti-authoritarianism of the central plot has the rug pulled out on it by the framing story reveal) via sharp, expressionistic sets, the innovative, almost animated proscenium, seemingly crafted in the deranged mind of the narrator, are the real draw of this picture, and lend the whole affair a nightmarish quality it might not have in the hands of a lesser filmmaker. It’s readily apparent that Tim Burton and Henry Selick drew much inspiration from the visuals of this unique Fritz Lang classic.

The Swarm (2020) - IMDb

Day #5 – The Swarm/La Nuée – Recently widowed Virginie (Suliane Brahim) is determined to raise her son Gaston (Raphael Romand) and daughter (Marie Narbonne) whilst making a go at starting a business of farm-raised-locusts-as-delicacies at all costs, even when she learns her strain of insectoid livestock has a prediliction for flesh and blood. Well-acted, engrossing psychological horror uses its central conceit as an allegory for the struggles and personal sacrifices of single parenthood to great effect.

Psycho Goreman Review Dragon Movie Guy - Review Nation

Day #6 – Psycho Goreman – Frenetic young Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and her beleagured brother Luke (Owen Myre) uncover a mystic gem in their backyard which keeps an intergalactic menace called The Archduke of Nightmares (Steven Vlahos) imprisoned. Liberated from his prison, the Archduke barely begins an outlandishly gory spree of mayhem when Mimi discovers she has total control of the fiend. She renames him Psycho Goreman and proceeds to command him to do a series of tasks for her own personal amusement, as somewhere out in the universe a pangalactic council of aliens scrambles to contain the threat. This bizarre shlockfest sends up the rubbery sci-fi horror movies of the 90’s and populates itself with an exciting array of GWAR/Power Rangers-type creatures and eye popping practical FX sets. It has a number of very funny moments, but ultimately doesn’t have too much to say….which is fine, really. As the dazed father says near the end, after high-fiving PG and compound fracturing his own wrist, “Wow. We really learned a lot today.” Then proceeds to swoon as the mom carts him off to the hospital. Rich Evans of Red Letter Media has a cameo as a kind of murderous industrial washing machine robot laden with body parts.

Firestarter' Remake: Blumhouse & Akiva Goldsman Reviving Stephen King  Classic – Deadline

Firestarter – Having developed telepathic powers during a government sponsored experiment in college, Andy McGee (David Keith) finds himself on the run from unscrupulous agents with his daughter Charlie (Drew Barrymore), an immensely powerful pyrokinetic in tow. A middling Stephen King adaptation with some of the flattest, most boring camera work I’ve ever seen. Martin Sheen is working on another heart attack as a government agent, Freddie Jones is quirky as the scientist who developed the ESP-boosting compound, and George C. Scott is weirdly cast as a manipulative but inscrutable, possibly Native American assassin who for no apparent reason seems to be immune to Charlie’s mind-reading. Moses Gunn, Antonio Fargas, and Heather Locklear are kinda wasted. The climactic scene where Charlie unleashes hell is alright.

The Lion Eats Tonight In This Exclusive Clip from Dick Maas' 'Uncaged'

Day #7 – Uncaged – A zoo veterinarian (Sophie van Winden), her cameraman boyfriend (Julian Looman), and a drunken, one legged big game hunter (Mark Frost) assist police in stopping the onslaught of a maneating lion rampaging through Amsterdam. Dick Maas won a lifetime of chances from me with The Lift, one of my top ten horror watches of 2019, so I pulled the trigger on this one right away. The characters are well written and engaging and the CGI lion is surprisingly well done (assisted at times by animatronics), though sparingly depicted. Much of the movie is after effect makeup and standing around talking, so it’s a good thing the cast is personable and their interplay amusing. Mark Frost’s quirky hard drinking hunter with his all terrain high speed wheelchair brightens the proceedings significantly and a scene where the lion gets aboard a slow-moving tram is a standout as is the climactic Aliens-style ending. Maybe a spoiler, but I can’t for the life of me remember if the reason for the lion running amok in Amsterdam is ever conclusively explained, which is as preposterous as it is amazing. Reminded me a little bit of one of my favorite creature features, Alligator.

Netflix's 'Midnight Mass' Review: Mike Flanagan's Latest Gothic Horror -  Variety

Midnight Mass – Fresh out of prison following a DUI killing of a young girl, a former venture capitalist (Zach Gilford) returns to the isolated island fishing community where he was born, reconnecting with his old flame (Kate Siegel). At the same time, a charismatic young priest (Hamish Linklater) arrives as a temporary substitute for the ailing old monsignor and enflames the parish with his humanistic homilies and a series of startling miracles. Every October for the past two years Netflix has impressed me with Flanagan’s Haunting anthology series. This year’s Midnight Mass didn’t disappoint….until the final episode, which gets just a tad plot heavy in execution and crams in some tie-ups for characters that I wish had played out more gradually (particularly Sheriff Hassan/Rahul Kohli). Until then, it’s an admirable, deeply nuanced tale of personal responsibility, faith, and the self delusion of religious fanaticism that really tickled this old Catholic boy. The acting is top drawer, particularly Linklater’s Father Paul, upon whom the entire story hinges, and the town drunk, played magnificently by Robert Longstreet. The scene where the latter is confronted by the young girl (Annarah Cymone) he accidentally crippled had me in tears. Flanagan solidifies his reputation as one of the finest horror filmmakers extant. Props for the Neil Diamond tunes.

Amazon.com: I Married a Witch (Criterion Collection) : Veronica Lake,  Fredric March, Susan Hayward, Rene Clair: Movies & TV

Day #8 – I Married A Witch – When father and daughter witches Daniel and Jennifer (Cecil Kellaway and Veronica Lake) are burned at the stake by Salem Puritan Jonathan Wooley (Frederic March, who also plays subsequent male Wooley descendants), the two disincorporated spirits are confined to a tree, but not before laying a curse on the Wooley line – they are always destined to marry the wrong woman. In 1942 lightning strikes the tree, releasing the spirits of Jennifer and Daniel, who proceed to make life hell for mayoral candidate Wallace Wooley on the eve of his marriage to the spoiled daughter of a powerful political backer. But love is stronger than witchcraft! This is a delightful, sexy screwball comedy/fantasy, with the absolutely ethereal Lake romancing bewildered Marsh and ultimately opposing her vengeful father. Imaginative, funny, and highly recommended.

Magic Sets Us Free: Lord of Illusions 25 Years Later - Horror Obsessive

Day #9 – Lord of Illusions – Private eye Harry D’Amour (Scott Bakula) investigates the death of a master stage magician (Kevin J. O’Connor) and becomes enmeshed in a strange, occult conspiracy. The premise of a stage illusionist doing real magic and people being unable to discern the difference is great and some of the ideas and FX were interesting, but I was hoping for an occult detective noire story more in line with Angel Heart or Cast A Deadly Spell, and this just wasn’t of that caliber. Daneil Van Bergen is a good villain and I always like to see Famke Janssen. Sheila Tousey of Thunderheart has a rare and welcome appearance.

Final Guys 181 - The Wolf of Snow Hollow

Day #10 – The Wolf Of Snow Hollow – An eternally frustrated small town sheriff with a volatile temper (Jim Cummings) struggles to put an end to a series of vicious murders that appear to have a supernatural origin. Jim Cummings, who also wrote and directed, is the lynchpin of this movie. Either you find his explosive antics hilarious or you hate him. I thought he was hilarious. He’s backed by a great cast, including Riki Lindhome as his sharp deputy and the late great Robert Forster in what might have been his last role as Cummings’ weary father, reluctant to be put out to pasture in the midst of the biggest trouble the town has seen in decades.

The Mystery of the Wax Museum Blu-ray (Warner Archive Collection)

Mystery Of The Wax Museum – A plucky, hard drinking reporter Florence (Glenda Farrell), investigates the death of a model and subsequent disappearance of her corpse, leading her to a mysterious wax museum and its wheelchair-bound proprietor (Lionel Atwill). This pre-code mystery-horror has a lot going for it in its outspoken, brassy Lois Lane-type heroine. At one point she storms into a police station and demands “Hey copper! How’s your sex life?” pulls a girly magazine out of his hand and says “Oh.” Farrell is a riot as is her machinegun dialogue with her bedraggled but smitten editor Frank McHugh. Atwill is creepy as the villain and there are some nifty, downright horrifying FX for the time (though it’s fun to pick out some of the ‘wax statues’ in the background blinking – Queen Victoria is shameless). This story’s been done lots of times, but this might be the most entertaining iteration I’ve seen. Michael Curtiz’s direction and the camerawork are to be commended.

Faces of Cinema - The Invisible Man Returns (1940)

Day #11 – The Invisible Man Returns – The brother of the original Invisible Man administers the invisibility formula to a wrongly accused Sir Geoffrey Radcliffe (Vincent Price) languishing on death row. Radcliffe escapes and sets out to clear his name, whilst the doctor (John Sutton) races to perfect a cure before the psychosis kicks in. Middling sequel with impressive effects and a good villainous turn by Sir Cedric Hardwicke. A bit toothless. I prefer my Invisible Man rampaging through town causing mayhem.

Train to Busan Peninsula trailer: Sequel to South Korean horror blockbuster  ramps up the frights

Day #12 – Peninsula – When the zombie pandemic from Train To Busan wreaks havoc on Korea, a Korean marine (Gang Dong-won) is forced to abandon his sister and niece in the race to evacuate to Hong Kong. Four years later he and his brother-in-law (Kim Do-yoon) return to the peninsula to retrieve an abandoned truck packed with US dollars and contend with numerous mercenary survivors as well as the rabid dead. This is a sequel to Train To Busan in the Dawn of The Dead vein. Same setting, same universe, different characters. I think it suffers a bit of the Halloween 3 curse being equated with its far superior predecessor. This is a decent zombie actioner with some really cool sequences and set pieces that unfortunately never quite achieves the emotional heights and mood of Train. Still worth a watch, and far less bleak than the animated Seoul Station, also in the Busan zombi-verse.

The Surreal Films of Curtis Harrington | Unframed

Day #13 – Night Tide – A sailor (Dennis Hopper) meets a sideshow mermaid (Linda Lawson) in a jazz bar off the Santa Monica pier and begins to believe she might be the real thing. Excellent, moody little low budget picture with a compelling central mystery and fine performances all around. Marjorie Eaton (who among other things, played the original Emperor Palpatine in Empire Strikes Back) is memorable as a fortune teller and Gavin Muir is good as the sea captain proprietor of the sideshow. The mysterious Sea Witch is Jack Parsons’ elemental woman, Marjorie Cameron, a lifelong Thelema practitioner.

V/H/S '94 Review: Time to Eject this Found Footage Horror Franchise |  IndieWire

Day #14 – V/H/S94 – A S.W.A.T. team raids a warehouse with a cameraman (why is there a cameraman?) and finds a series of disturbing videotapes. The latest installment of the found footage anthology series bored the hell out of me. The FX are pretty well done, but it’s so loud and gory and doesn’t really utilize the found footage conceit in any meaningful way. I guess the most interesting segment was The Subject, in which a kidnapped woman is ‘borged’ out by a mad scientist documenting his work. At least the continued use of video POV made sense, whereas through the other stories, I couldn’t stop questioning why anybody was still filming.

The Wasp Woman (1959) ROGER CORMAN - YouTube

Day #15 – The Wasp Woman – Women’s cosmetics entrepeneur Janice Starlin (Susan Cabot) enlists the aide of disgraced research scientist Dr. Zinthrop (Michael Mark) to breathe new life into her company with a revolutionary de-aging injection based upon wasp royal jelly, but when she insists on being the first human trial run (and starts upping her dosage to accelerate results), monstrous calamity ensues. This was an enjoyable Roger Corman outing earnestly enacted by a charismatic lead and serviceable supporting cast. The transformed Janice is ludicrous in conception but kinda creepy and cool in execution. Something about that mask and those claws paired with the beatnick black top and medallion. Big ending satisfies, though what’s it all saying about the male gaze’s effect on an aging woman? Turn off your brain, as they say.

The Spider Blu-ray (Earth vs. the Spider)

Day #16 – (Earth vs.)The Spider – When teenager Carol Flynn’s (June Kenney) father fails to return home one night, she enlists her boyfriend Mike (Eugene Persson)’s aide to find him. Together the couple discovers an enormous spider lurking in Carlsbad Caverns. It’s not quite all of Earth but a single town dealing with a giant rampaging tarantula. I had actually mixed this movie up with the other 50’s giant spider flick Tarantula. I enjoyed this a lot. There’s a great bit where the sheriff and the local egghead fill the cave with DDT and drag the apparently dead spider out, storing it in the high school gym till the miliary comes and hauls it off, only to have a teenage (though some of these ‘teens’ look to be pushing thirty) rock band wake the thing up with their music. Apparently it doesn’t much care for rock ‘n roll. The FX are pretty cool for their time, the spider sufficiently vicious. Quality kills and a nifty ending. Director Bert Gordon also did The Amazing Colossal Man and Attack of The Puppet People, and shamelessly has Mike plug both of those pictures in one scene (I believe June Kenney also starts in Amazing Colossal Man).

In the Earth review: Cosmic horror in the void between technology and magic  - Polygon

Day #17 – In The Earth – Martin, a scientist (Joel Fry), travels to a remote forest research outpost, ostensibly to facilitate the study of some sort of undefined global pandemic, but really to check up on his ex-girlfriend Olivia (Hayley Squires) who has gone incommunicado. He sets out with park ranger (Ellora Torchia) to find her and encounters a crazed researcher, Zach (Reece Shearsmith), communing with a standing stone and perhaps the forest itself. As with Dick Maas and The Lift, Ben Wheatley’s brilliant Kill List gave him a line of credit with me, but I have to confess thus far I haven’t been overly smitten with any of his subsequent output. This is no exception. I didn’t get much of the sense of foreboding and danger alluded to in the script. The woods seemed like any old pleasant national forest, and the deliberate obscurity of both the science and the occult mainly annoyed. I got the Covid allusions, but franky, Covid isn’t a sexy pandemic. It’s a pretty boring subject. A couple moments of grisly humor, but the story is so threadbare, even a quick cocaine bump of surreal visuals doesn’t quicken the pulse to any significant degree. In the end I was not only left without answers, I wasn’t really interested enough to have any questions.

Boys from County Hell' Review - Nothing Short of a Good Time

Boys From County Hell – A rural Irish community, whose modest claim to fame is an obscure legend based upon an ancient burial caern supposedly visited by Bram Stoker and become the basis for Dracula, bucks against an unpopuar bypass road construction being contracted by a local father and son construction crew (Nigel O’Neil and Jack Rowan). When the son’s best friend William (Fra Fee) is accidentally killed by a bull and his blood falls on the caern, the Abhartach rises with an insatiable thirst for blood. Strong characterizations and a winning cast do a lot for this little movie, as well as a fresh and interesting local take on the vampire legend. The vampire’s peculiar blood drinking power is awesome, but his various strength and weaknesses paint the writer into a corner a bit, and the particulars of dealing with him become a bit distracting. Still a fun movie.

Tear It Up: Revisiting the Rat-Infested Cult of 'Willard' - Bloody  Disgusting

Day #18 – Ben – Immediately after the events of Willard, the intelligent rat Ben leads his trained horde underground, emerging to raid for food and cause mayhem. Along the way, a kindhearted sick boy named Danny (Lee Harcourt Montgomery) befriends the rodent. This doesn’t have the punch and viscera of Willard (which I don’t remember having that much of a kick itself), and overall has a TV movie feel. The kid is pretty earnest and gives a great performance however. Not a bad horror movie for young kids, honestly as there’s no real cussing or sex and the gore happens off screen. Mainly just the peril of a whole lot of rats hanging on people. The mom from Family Ties (Meredith Baxter) is the older sister. A couple really bizarre moments made me scratch my head, like the kid who randomly squeals “I’M GONNA KILL YOU ALL!!!” at the scene of Willard’s death, and the otherworldly, almost Italian giallo acting of the crowd after the truck driver is attacked.

Dream Home | China-Underground Movie Database

Dream Home – When earnest havenot Cheng Lai-sheung (Josie Ho) takes two jobs and sacrifices everything in order to afford a nice flat overlooking the harbor, the elderly owners decide to pull the rug out from under her and hold out for a bigger and better offer, goading her into committing an increasingly psychotic and outrageously violent series of acts in order to win her dream home. This is one of the most astoundingly violent and cringe-inducing movies I’ve seen in years. The superbly shot, stomach-turning gore effects had me wincing more than once. It’s a savage assault on capitalist greed and the insanity of the mortagage racket, sometimes revolting, sometimes liberating. It’s difficult to know when we should be cheering Cheng and when we should be booing her. But I sure couldn’t stop watching to see what she’d do next.

We Love '90s Horror] Gory, Gooey 'Ticks' Will Make Your Skin Crawl - Bloody  Disgusting

Day #19 – Ticks – When a drug dealer (Clint Howard) gets sloppy with his steroid-induced marijuana plants, ticks become infected and mutated by the runoff, becoming monstrous, ravenous killer pests which a group of troubled teens on a wilderness retreat must then contend with. A host of familiar faces (Seth Green, Alfonso Ribeiro, Ami Dolenz) make for a likeable cast, and the practical effects are pretty great (and gross), particularly in the climactic siege when the ticks (who explode when confronted with fire) flee a forest blaze and besiege the cabin of kids and counselors.

Gonzo and Pepe Preview Muppets Haunted Mansion's Big Guest Stars

Muppets Haunted Mansion – Gonzo and Pepe bow out of the annual Muppets’ Halloween party to attend a scare event at a mansion where Gonzo’s idol, The Great MacGuffin (Will Arnett), disappeared a hundred yeas ago, only to find themselves locked in for the night with a bevy of real ghosts (and celebrities). I’ve loved the Muppets since grade school, when I sent a letter to Kermit inviting him and his friends to spend the weekend at my house (and got a signed photo reply – my only celebrity letter – “Thanks for the invitation, Eddie!”), so I’ll give anything they do a shot, like Dick Maas. This isn’t quite the holiday classic Muppet Christmas Carol is, and I wish the Henson Company would stop foisting that Prawn us. He’s OK as a background character but in terms of partnering up with Gonzo, I’m a Rizzo The Rat guy. It’s fine. I loved the ‘aging’ Gonzo – it made him look like a Skeksis. Funny that I watched two Alfonso Riberio movies in a row. Taraji Henson is enjoyable as the spirit of a killer bride and the Muppet cameos as her doomed husbands are funny. Pepe did deliver the one laugh out loud line for me when he called John Stamos something like Juan Estamos or something. I sure wish they’d bring back Muppets, that office-style show. It was brilliant.

House (1985)

Day #20 – House – Horror writer Roger Cobb (William Katt) moves into the house where his aunt committed suicide and his son Jimmy (Erik and Mark Silver) disappeared to write his Vietnam War memoir only to find himself besieged by strange entities. I love House 2: The Second Story unabashedly. Watched it with my grandmother as a kid and enjoyed it so much I dropped a reference to Bill Towner, Electrician and Adventurer into one of my Merkabah Rider novels. This….isn’t so hot. It’s almost as bizarre as House 2 but not nearly as fun. Night Court’s William Moll is the ghost of the guy William Katt left behind in ‘Nam. George Wendt as an inexplicably nosy neighbor is alright and Mary Stavin of Octopussy and A View To A Kill is weirdly trusting with her only kid. Writing is bad, creatures kinda goofy. Not too much to recommend.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007) Review |BasementRejects

Day #21 – The Poughkeepsie Tapes – A fictional found footage documentary about The Water Street Butcher and a series of videotapes the killer made documenting his crimes. Well made, in that it perfectly recreates the true crime documentary style, but some of the writing is a bit loopy. Off the top of my head, no 911 operator is gonna tell the mother of a missing eight year old they have to wait 24 hours before declaring her missing. That’s a TV trope and doesn’t apply to children in real life. The whole endeavor was very misogynstic (which I get, we’re following the exploits of a psychotic misogynstic sadist) and ultimately felt kinda meaningless. I’m not sure how this is meant to be entertaining or who the intended audience is. True crime enthusiasts will shrug and go watch an actual documentary. And to myself as a horror fan…I can appreciate the craftsmanship to an extent, but there’s nothing entertaining to me about the murder, humiliation, and rape of multiple women, including an eight year old girl and the near killing of a couple of girl scouts. One scene where the killer traps a woman in the back of a caged car by letting her assume he’s a policeman is inspired, but ultimately this made me wanna take a shower when it was over.

Review] 'The Block Island Sound' Is a Daring Horror Mish-Mash - Bloody  Disgusting

Day #22 – The Block Island Sound – When an increasingly senile fisherman (Neville Archambault) washes up dead on the beach of remote Block Island, his son (Chris Sheffield) becomes obssessed with the idea that his death was not accidental, especially when he begins to experience the same debilitating mental episodes as his father, accompanied by unnerving visitations of the man himself. An intriguing mystery well-acted and well-realized, with an interesting tail-end metaphor that’s hard to talk about without spoiling the story. Jim Cummings of The Wolf of Snow Hollow appears as a conspiracy theory-minded local and Michaela McManus is good as the skeptical but empathetic daughter/sister. Archambault is genuinely menacing at times.

Freaky review: New movie is part Freaky Friday, part Friday the 13th, and  part Jack Black in Jumanji.

Day #23 – Freaky – A 17 year old girl, Millie, (Kathryn Newton), switches bodies with a deranged, unstoppable killer (Vince Vaughn) and must figure out how to undo the swap by midnight or be trapped in the body of a hunted mass murderer forever. Meanwhile, the killer has not stopped his spree. This fun mashup of Freaky Friday and Friday The 13th has loads of inventive gore and makes an earnest attempt at addressing issues of female empowerment. It doesn’t always ring completely true somehow, but it’s very funny at times and an enjoyable watch all around.

089 - Wait Until Dark (1967) & Hush (2016) — Pod Sematary

Day #24 – Wait Until Dark – Through a complex series of events, Susy (Audrey Hepburn), a recently blind woman, winds up alone in the basement apartment she shares with her husband (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.) when a trio of criminals (Alan Arkin, Jack Weston, and Richard Crenna) posing as police and a friend of her husband initiate a convoluted plan to search her place for an antique doll crammed with stolen heroin. After an intriguing set up, the plight of Susy sort of becomes exasperating when the crooks start spinning increasingly farfetched lies instead of just killing her and turning the place over. Fine performances all around, especially from Arkin and Hepburn, but as disabled women in peril movies go, this ain’t no Lady In A Cage.

Paranormal Activity 7 Will Premiere Exclusively on Paramount+ - News  Concerns

Day #25 – Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin – Margot (Emily Bader), a young woman abandoned as a baby by her wayward Amish mother Sarah, returns to the insular community from which she sprang to film a documentary about her family but uncovers horrifying occult secrets. I’m a dedicated fan of the Paranormal Activity series, but admit I have trouble keeping track of the intricate internal mythos and its characters. Apparently this sets the series off in an entirely new direction with no real references to the previous entries (although my daughter noted that the website a character looks up information on has turned up in the other movies). This is still a well done found footage horror with a compelling mystery and some legit jump scares, though if you know anything about Amish people one of the twists is a bit obvious early on and the slickness of the GoPro camera robs it a bit of the grainy creepiness you’ve come to expect from the series. Still a solid entry, and I hear the next one is going to tie this story into the rest of the series, so bring on Part 8. And more of the kids from The Marked Ones. That remains my favorite.

And…..I’ve been a bad movie viewer this season. Apologies, but I started a new overnight job that robbed me of a lot of my watching time in the end. Though I did technically just manage to get in thirty one first time watches, it was only because I had the foresight to double up on a couple of days early on. I didn’t get to see the new Candyman, or Antlers, or a couple others as I intended. Next year.

Top 5 watches this year: Midnight Mass, Dream Home, I Married A Witch, Malignant, Mystery of The Wax Museum.

Published in: on October 1, 2021 at 8:35 pm  Leave a Comment