DT Moviehouse Review: The Cabin In The Woods

Time once more for my blog feature, DT Moviehouse Reviews, in which I make my way alphabetically through my 200+ DVD/Blu-Ray collection (you can see the list right here) and decide if each one was worth the money. Today, and a perfect fit for the Halloween season, I review Drew Goddard and Josh Whedon’s The Cabin In The Woods.

Directed by Drew Goddard

Screenplay by Drew Goddard and Josh Whedon

Tagline: You think you know the story.


What It’s About:

33d5bfc8College students Dana (Kristen Connolly), Holden (Jesse Williams), Marty (Franz Kranz), Jules (Anna Hutchinson), and Curt (Chris Hemsworth) depart for a secluded weekend at a remote forest cabin and ‘accidentally’ summon up an undead clan of pain worshipping murderers who begin to stalk and kill them one at a time. But is all as it seems, or are they being manipulated for some mindbending, sinister purpose by office managers Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford)?

Why I Bought It:

After a premature run-in (in a dark room no less) with the head twisting scene in The Exorcist when I was six or seven years old, I actively avoided watching horror movies for about nine years, finally breaking the ‘fast’ with, ironically enough, Exorcist III.

CITW_-_floaty_girlI’m really lucky that Exorcist III was such a great flick, or I never would have backtracked and sought out all the scary movies I’d missed.

And I never would have ‘got’ The Cabin In The Woods.

I never actually realized what a horror hound I had become until I saw this.

This is probably one of the greatest horror movies ever made, period. It’s so enjoyable it almost seems like every single horror movie that has gone before was created specifically so this could come into being.

Make no mistake, to fully appreciate the greatness of this movie you have to have at least a passing familiarity with Hellraiser, The Shining, Dracula, An American Werewolf In London, The Mummy, HP Lovecraft, It, The Ring, Suspiria, Evil Dead, Halloween, Juh On, David Cronenberg, George Romero, Scream, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Troll, Poltergeist, Alien, and Friday The 13th.

5pR6aThis is really a movie that benefits in a huge way from going in entirely blind. What a hard movie to cut a trailer for! Being kind of jaded about the summer slasher movie genre, the very title The Cabin In The Woods was a turnoff for me. I’m not into the torture porn genre made popular by stuff like Hostel and Saw and assumed this was going to be more of the same. It looked like yet another vanilla cookie cutter teens in peril flick. There would be some topless scenes, some beer drinking and pot smoking, and in the end, the smartest guy (or more likely, girl) would go through hell at the hands or claws of some inbred hillbilly stereotype or a zombie or plague crazy gutmuncher and maybe get away in the end, maybe not.

Then a couple people whose opinion I trusted started sounding off that this was great, but wisely (and I thank them) refused to give details as to what was so great about it.

Just watch it, they said.

So after a long time of not thinking about it, I finally rented it.

Little did I know that Cabin In The Woods would contain just about every clichéd trope in my aforementioned laundry list….and yet still somehow manage to be entirely original. Thrillingly, awesomely original, and more, a hilarious, subversive in-joke directed solely at horror fans.

This is not to say that you have to be a horror junkie with an all-encompassing knowledge of everything the genre has to offer. It’s just that it offers so much more if you’re a nerd.

Surface-wise, the plot alone is entertaining and the tag line says it all. Going into it, you think you know what’s going to happen. The very title evokes a paint by numbers scenario. Early on though, you realize something weird is going on, when the movie opens not with the teens gearing up for their weekend, but a couple of middle-aged salarymen in suits preparing for some big to-do at their white, sterile workplace.

Of course, then we get the obligatory scenes where get to know who’s who and who’s with who, which is the jock, which the brain, which the burnout. Yet there’s still something just a little off. Our football hero has in-depth knowledge of socio-economic theory. Our stoner and his wild conspiracy theories make more and more sense as the movie progresses. The boy’s aren’t slavering pussy hounds – when one discovers a two-way mirror looking into the object of his desire’s room and she starts to undress, we don’t get the voyeuristic topless scene. He knocks on the wall and lets her know what’s going on (does she do the same for him later on?).

As we go deeper down the rabbit hole of Cabin In The Woods, our expectations start unraveling. A bird hits an invisible force field. The office guys are shown to be having some effect on the behavior of the kids. There are tantalizing hints toward some greater purpose being fulfilled. And when the kids start acting like we expect them to, it’s unexpected.


W.T.F! Yeah, Cabin In The Woods is kinda like this.

By the time a character we thought was dead returns, we know this same drama is being enacted all over the world for some strange reason and I doubt anybody who hasn’t seen this movie or read about it beforehand can guess what the heck is happening. Yet it’s not all some fly-by-night-pull-it-out-of-your-ass-make-it-up-as-you-go-along thing. By the time Sigourney Weaver shows up to explain it all, it’s like the last piece of a puzzle is fitting into place and you think to yourself, “Ahhhh that’s perfect.”

It’s a real treat to be surprised by a movie, and it’s even better to be totally delighted by it as a genre fan.

cabinboardFor me, the movie really takes off when they go down into that cellar and find it packed to the gills with thinly disguised items from other movies. The puzzle ‘ball,’ referencing both Hellraiser and perhaps Phantasm. The diary with the incantations right out of Evil Dead. It’s all intercut with that wonderful whiteboard the office workers are all betting over, crammed with achingly great references to threats from across the horror spectrum. When that scene passes and you realize what’s about to happen, you love it, but a small part of you thinks in the back of your head, “Aw man, it would’ve been so great if they’d gone with the BLANK instead.”

And then, maybe twenty or thirty minutes later, they hit the Purge button and it’s Christmas morning, as every monster and beast, every ghost and murderer on that board floods your screen.

The_Monsters_The_Cabin_in_the_Woods-1024x426Cabin In The Woods that does the impossible. It’s a flick with a one off plot twist so great you can’t possibly expect it to be rewatchable once you know it’s coming. But you do watch it again. And you rewind and pause and slow mo it to death to see all those white board monsters tear their way through the complex. Geez there’s even a 50 foot woman in one of those cages.

One of the most supremely satisfying movies I’ve ever seen.

And, like the complexity of the plot itself, it’s smart. You can still delve a level deeper beyond the monsters and uncover a rich examination of the movie fan himself. There’s a great scene when Hemsworth and Hutchinson are being manipulated via hormone gasses, temperature, and lighting to have sex in the woods, and the team of manipulators are shown hanging on the scene from their viewing room, waiting for Hutchinson to show her breasts and groaning when she initially defers. How many guys have sat together watching a horror movie at home or in a theater and experienced the same audience reaction? It’s a funny scene, and yet the makers bring it back a step when Hadley and Sitterson dismiss the greater portion of the crew and put their full resources toward getting Hutchinson to disrobe, ostensibly for the viewing pleasure of the Old One (is the band of randy office drones a stand in for the moviegoing audience, which is funny, or is it the Old One, which suggests something more unseemly). Their expressions completely change. They’re almost sad to do it. But the Old One must be appeased. The tropes of the ritual must be adhered to.

When Marty says early on that the world needs to crumble, but everybody’s afraid to let it crumble, he speaks of the loss of privacy, the invasion of nebulous government watchers and dropping of sanctions on private life. This foreshadows the situation of the kids in the cabin, but doesn’t it also reflect on the fears of modern life in America?

What is the change Mary is calling for if we apply it to ourselves? Should the Old One rise up to completely tear down the system? Is popular entertainment an opiate used to keep that giant from waking up and breaking out? Maybe this is ham-handed political commentary to some, but then again how many of the general movie going audience came away with this message from something as innocuous seeming as a summer horror movie?

Cabin-In-The-WoodsIt also cleverly breaks the horror movie cliché down into a thematic, seemingly ancient codification. The athlete, the fool, the whore, the virgin. These are mystical concepts that really do occur throughout the history of human storytelling, and are most clearly represented in the cards of the Waite Tarot. The fool is often considered the stand-in for the questioner in a card divination. In Arthurian literature it’s the fool, often Sir Dagonet (as in Tennyson), Percivale (Perfect Fool) or in some cases (TH White) Merlin, who can look beyond the confines of his own story to comment on the greater meaning. The fool sees the strings, and can follow them to the storyteller. The fool attains the Grail, the greater, hidden knowledge, often to his detriment, as is the case with Marty here.

One wonders what cultural tropes the Old Ones in Japan need to see to keep them sleeping.

A thing I’ve said this in other reviews, but a good movie is entertaining. A great movie ‘moves’ the watcher, either moving their heart to experience some emotion, or moving the mind into a previously unconsidered mode of thought.

I would say The Cabin In The Wood is a great movie.

Best Dialogue/Line:

Marty’s weirdly funny and cryptic (and ultimately prophetic):

Cops will never pull over a man with a huge bong in his car. Why? They fear this man. They know he sees further than they and he will bind them with ancient logics.

Best Scene:

Without a doubt the best scene is the monster Purge I’ve already described above. This flick has a lot of funny moments amid all the horror. Mordecai on speakerphone comes to mind.

But if I had to pick a scene that never fails to make me laugh because it’s totally indicative of the multilevel enjoyment I get out of this movie, is when Hemsworth’s Curt tries to escape the area by jumping the gorge on his motorbike.

6487After their camper is blocked from escaping through the tunnel by an unexpected explosion which results in a cave-in, Curt devises a plan to jump the gorge and escape on his motorbike, vowing to return with the police, the national guard, the ghost of Steve McQueen the LA Raiders, and ten thousand Roman gladiators to get his friends out, and especially to avenge the horrifying death and post mortem beheading of his girlfriend.

He assures them he can easily make the jump, and cuts a heroic, Thor-like figure for a moment, revving his bike and nodding to them his assurance.

“You can’t hold back,” his friend Holden warns him. He has to achieve maximum velocity to make this leap to freedom.

“I never do,” Curt growls.

He cuts loose, leaps the bike into the air, and it looks like he’s going to make it, until he smashes head on into the invisible honeycomb field enclosing the area. His bike explodes in a fiery ball and we sees his lifeless body tumble down the long length of the shield wall, bouncing as it goes, giving us a glimpse as to how deep it really goes (perhaps it’s there to keep the Old One penned in?).

For the victims in the story, it’s a horrible, hope-smashing moment.

For the guys in the control center, it’s a sigh inducing close call, which if you think of the movie in the terms that they are actually the ones trying to preserve the world and all human life on it, is kind of a time bomb cut the blue wire hero moment for them.

And for me, I just burst out laughing. Is it a guilty laugh? Maybe upon multiple viewings, but the first time, no. I just found the failure of Curt’s heroics unintentionally hilarious, like a somebody calling their shot in a game and then fumbling utterly, or Jack Burton exuberantly shooting in his gun in the air before the big fight in Big Trouble In Little China and then getting knocked out by the falling plaster.

I wonder if this made the Old One chuckle in his bed too?

Next In The Queue: The Call Of Cthulhu

Bell Book And Candle: Famous Monster Hunters Of Film (and Book) Land

Over at the HWA’s Halloween Blog, I’ve posted a list of scholarly monster hunters. Did I miss anybody? Did your favorite make the list? Check it out at http://www.horror.org/blog/?p=2609

We’re not talking Buffy and Blade, more Rupert and Van Helsing (the real one, not ‘Gabriel’).

You can also read an excerpt from my forthcoming novel Terovolas and enter to win a paperback copy.

HWA Halloween Haunts Blog

Hey all,

For the month of October the Horror Writers Association is running a cool blog feature with thirty one guest posts a day from thirty one different writers, sharing stories of Halloweens past, excerpts from their latest works, giveaways, and cool Halloween related stuff.

Take a look at the lineup and schedule!

Oct. 1 James Chambers
Oct. 2 Russell James
Oct. 2 Laura Benedict
Oct. 3 John Taff
Oct. 4 Allyson Bird
Oct. 5 David Riley
Oct. 5 Kenneth Cain
Oct. 6 JG Faherty
Oct. 7 Roy Robbins
Oct. 8 Lisa Morton
Oct. 9 Annie Neugebauer
Oct. 9 Cher Green
Oct. 10 Rocky Wood
Oct. 11 Stefan Petrucha
Oct. 12 Rebecca Cantrell
Oct. 12 Marty Young
Oct. 13 Linda Addison
Oct. 14 Ed Erdelac
Oct. 15 Carol Jahme
Oct. 15 Nancy Holder
Oct. 16 Lincoln Crisler
Oct. 16 Adrian Ludens
Oct. 17 Derrick Hussey
Oct. 18 Jennifer Harlow
Oct. 19 David Annandale
Oct. 19 Brick Marlin
Oct. 20 Brad Hodson
Oct. 21 Benjamin Kane Ethrdige
Oct. 22 John Skipp
Oct. 23 Greg Chapman
Oct. 23 Peter Salomon
Oct. 24 Bryan Thao Worra
Oct. 25 Teresa Lo
Oct. 26 Douglas Wynne
Oct. 26 Max Booth III
Oct. 27 James Kendley
Oct. 28 Joe McKinney
Oct. 29 Patrick Thomas
Oct. 30 Charles Day
Oct. 31 Hugh  Sterbakov

October 14th I’ll be on there, talking about my latest book, Terovolas, and talking about Abraham Van Helsing and others of his ilk. There’ll also be a giveaway, so be sure and check it out.

Just click on the cool banner below, created by Greg Chapman.

Don’t Forget Your Masks: The Greatest Halloween Movie Ever Is….

Halloween III: Season of The Witch is the greatest Halloween movie ever.  In terms of the holiday and in terms of the series.

Yeah, I said it.

Time to go to guns.

Why’s it the best in the series?

We have Jason Voorhees, we have Freddy Krueger, the other two top tier 80’s horror icons. Now in layman’s terms, I would liken Jason to Sylvester Stallone and Freddy to Arnold Schwarzenegger. One guy was the silent kill ‘em all type, the other sure killed ‘em all but always made with the snappy puns.

Michael Meyers is the Jean Claude Van Damme of horror. What does he bring to the table? Well he looks like Schwarzenegger, he talks worse than Stallone, and he can do the splits. IE, Nothing. He’s just not as interesting to watch. Jason’s mask is cooler, his motive is more compelling (just why is Michael Meyers indestructible anyway?), and Meyers shares his name with the guy who played Austin Powers. Oh and Freddy? He’s got a great look, a signature weapon, and he can enter your dreams. Forget about it.

Uh…anybody down there? It’s me. Mike.

He’s comin’ home tonight…YEAH BABY!

I know there’s a lot of love for the original Halloween, I know it was innovative in terms of mood and editing and invigorating the slasher genre and all that, but I’m gonna say it now. It’s just not very interesting. It’s a lot of stalking and cheap jump scares and glimpsed stabbings without any rhyme or reason. Psycho without the Janet Leigh subplot, or the great acting, or Hitch to pull it together.

Now I’m not knocking John Carpenter. The man is responsible for movies that are beloved in my home. Big Trouble In Little China. The Thing. Escape From New York. Christine and (see where I’m going?) Halloween III: Season of The Witch.

I know, I know, he barely had a hand in this one. Just produced and did the (awesome) score.

I maintain that had this movie been released simply as Season of The Witch and not under the Halloween series banner, it would not have been so venomously panned, so perennially derided by Michael Meyers fans, who believe me, are an angry lot when they wanna be. Nope, the Halloween series moniker actually sullies this movie.

The Night NOBODY Came Home

It’s the quintessential Halloween movie.

How can I say that?

‘Cause it’s like a really good Christmas movie. It takes place during the season, it’s decked with all the trimmings you’d expect, and indeed, the holiday is an important part of the plot. Finally, it leaves you with a feeling appropriate to the season.

But this is Halloween, not Christmas.

Does it take place during the holiday? Check. It’s even in the title, champ.

 Does it feature all the tropes and idioms we associate with Halloween? Let’s see, kids in masks getting candy? Check. Masks that kill them actually, so double check. Spookie movies on TV? How about (in a really cool self-reference move) Hallo ‘Michael Meyers’ ween itself? Spooky black magic type stuff? How’s a charmingly sinister toy company CEO whose actually grand poobah of an international witch cult bent on enacting an ages old mass child sacrifice using freaky magically charged chips of one of the Stonehenge triptychs in kids’ masks on Halloween night grab ya?

Uh…check. And is the holiday itself integral to the plot? We covered that already. Does it leave you with a feeling appropriate to the season?

Oh hell yes.

Because it’s scary (what’s scarier than the impending, grotesque death of millions of children?), it’s got a cool John Carpenter score, and it’s fun. It’s fun as hell.

The great Dan “Niceshootin’what’syournameson?” O’Herlihy as the villainous Conal Cochran

When I tell people the plot they roll their eyes. But this is a GREAT Halloween movie. It’s obviously not meant to be taken entirely serious. It’s a conspiracy based in a town of smiling Irish people who use clockwork people as muscle!! The deaths are over the top violent and bloody – one chick tampers with one of the masks and has her face melted! And they’re using a piece of freakin’ Stonehenge to cause BUGS TO POP OUT OF CHILDREN’S FACES!

How’d they get this giant triptych over to America without anybody noticing? Well, the bad guy just says you wouldn’t believe the amount of trouble it took. That’s the only explanation we get. But come on, if you watched this much of it, does it really matter?

Oh yeah, and who’s the hero? Who’s the George Bailey equivalent in a Halloween holiday movie from John Carpenter? Who’s the would-be savior of little children everywhere? Tom M.F.’n Atkins. An odious, tail chasin’ surgeon whose kids ignore him and who knocks back the sauce in nearly every scene.

Tom Atkins pleads with the networks as Dr. Dan Challis

This movie is such a cool departure from the usual chase ’em and cut ’em snoozefest that is Halloween the series! Because seriously, after Part II, what does Michael do differently?

I dare anybody to watch the video below and not be humming the jingle all day…..

Seriously, you need to re-think your avoidance of this movie. Go to the video store or get it offa Netflix. I almost guarantee it’ll
be available. I won’t be hoarding it, ‘cause I own it. Love this movie.

And I’m not the only one.


Happy Halloween, y’all.

A Sit Down With Author Greg Mitchell

So this week at DT, to kick of the Halloween season, which is a big deal over here obviously, I’m interviewing the coolest Protestant I’m not married to, Greg Mitchell, author of The Coming Evil Trilogy. I met Greg over on the Star Wars.com blogs when we both wrote winning entries for The What’s The Story contest they had going over there a few years back. His entry on The Dusty Duck, a beat up old star ship which appears in the background of The Phantom Menace ranked at number 79 in The Coolest Things About Star Wars…Ever! that ran in Star Wars Insider magazine.

Dusty Duck

But he hasn’t stopped there. Besides forays into comics and horror fiction, he’s also making headway as a screenwriter now.

Und now, on mit der probing qvestions!



When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I think I always wanted to be a storyteller—but the decision to be a writer took a little longer. I remember growing up and telling these sweeping war epics with my G.I. Joes. I’d have dialogue, cliffhangers, slam-bang action, heroic sacrifice. Of course it was all on my couch with no one around to appreciate it but me, but I still wanted to tell a story. As a small child, I wanted to be a Disney animator. In my adolescent years, I considered being a comic book artist. After high school, I largely put aside my drawing and wanted to focus on making movies. When that proved too expensive, I at last decided on converting my movie concepts into prose. Not that I’ve given up on film and comics, but right now novels are where I’m at.

 What made you decide you wanted to write horror specifically?

I’ve always been a fanboy, no doubt. I don’t think I chose to be that way, it just chose me. I was hardwired for the fantastic for whatever reason. But, as much as I was attracted to the weird, I never could get into hard science fiction like the other fanboys I knew. Star Trek never did a thing for me. I’ve never read Heinlein (I know, I know). I think it was about high school that I realized I was more of a horror fan. Why? In sci-fi, even in fantasy, you have to go somewhere. If you want to be where the action’s at, you’ve got to get on a space ship and go to some distant star system. Or you’ve got to go to the future, or travel to a mythical realm. But, being a broke kid living in a small Southern town, I wasn’t going to go anywhere. I wasn’t even going to go to college. But in horror, the excitement comes to you. You’re living your quiet life, then a werewolf jumps out of the bushes. You’ve got to face it; you’ve got to run or fight. That base characteristic of horror really appealed to me because anyone can become the star of a horror story. It’s just a matter of timing and some bad luck, perhaps :p

But, as I’ve said in other places, even as a little kid, I was subconsciously drawn to monsters. I wouldn’t realize this until much later in life, but all my favorite super heroes had a tinge of the supernatural or monstrous to them. All my favorite movies did, as well. I suppose all little kids love monsters to a certain extent, but my love never went away. Monsters—horror—gave me a way to face my real life fears. It’s a powerful cathartic release and I’m a pretty tightly wound guy. I need that. 🙂

How would you describe The Coming Evil?

Pure awesomeness.

 Okay, I’ll elaborate a little bit. The Coming Evil Trilogy—begun in The Strange Man, in stores now, and continuing in Enemies of the Cross, on sale in February—is the story of a small town under siege by a demonic horde led by the enigmaticStrangeMan. The first one to encounter the Strange Man is Dras Weldon, a twenty-two year old college dropout. His is a life of horror movies and video games, lived selfishly without any thought to those around him. When the Strange Man sets his sights on Dras’ best friend Rosalyn, the town loser has to grow up and discover what it is he believes in, in order to fight the Strange Man. That confrontation culminates in Book One, and Book Two is the aftershocks of his dramatic stand and how it impacts those closest to him. War is coming and no one can hide from it. But are there enough good people left inGreensboro to fight the devil?

To the chagrin of my publishers, I describe The Coming Evil Trilogy as a Christian Horror epic. Those are my two passions and they collide here, full force. It’s an exploration of my faith—almost a journal of my own spirituality—and it’s a B-movie monster extravaganza.

So, you know, pure awesomeness :p

What’s the plan for the series? How many installments?

It’s a trilogy. My publisher and I have got a special little surprise to go along with that trilogy, but I’m not ready to formerly announce it yet. I’ll be announcing it later next year. I always loved the Back to the Future trilogy and wanted to make my own three-part story, so that’s what I set out to do. Beyond that, I don’t know. I’ve got ideas for other books in The Coming Evil series but I suppose that’s up to God if I ever get around to writing them. They would be all-new stories with (mostly) new characters. We’d explore new corners of the mythology and see what bogles lurked there. Rest assured, though, that the story of these characters will be wrapped up in Book Three of The Coming Evil. I like cliffhangers, but at the close of a series, I like the lion’s share of my loose ends to be wrapped up. I need that closure. I want readers to walk away from the trilogy feeling really satisfied with where it ended, and if that’s all I ever get to write of The Coming Evil mythology, then so be it. It stands on its own.

You probably get this a lot, but you told me once you’ve gotten your fair share of flak attending horror conventions because of the Christian subject matter in your series. I’m curious about this because although I toy with it a little, there’s a definite monotheistic slant in Merkabah Rider, and it has turned a few reviewers off. Why do you think it is that some people don’t like their chocolate in their peanut butter, and what do you say (or wish you could say) to those detractors?

Well, it’s tough. Horror, by its very nature, explores good and evil, the divine and the profane. The Exorcist has got some hardcore pro-Christian elements! I don’t think horror fans have any problem with a little “power of Christ compels you”, or a fundamental belief that there’s one God, or that there’s a devil. Faith is not the enemy, here. Plus, you don’t have to believe any of that stuff to write it. Holding up a cross to repel a vampire is just a horror trope, by this point. But, when, as an author, you start showing that you actually believe in one God or Christ or whatever in real life, then people start to slowly back away from you.

Where I got into trouble was that my book goes deeper than the religious imagery and trappings of mainstream horror and we start talking about Jesus. We start talking about what the Bible actually says. Look, Jesus is a controversial figure, even now, two thousand some odd years later. I get that, totally. People just don’t want to talk about him. They get all sweaty and nervous and—even most Christians!—are waiting for the conversation to be over. I’ve been accused of hijacking horror as just a vehicle to spread my propaganda, which I find insulting. Every writer has a message that they’re trying to convey. Every human being has a worldview that guides their living. I’m not going to deny that I believe in Christ and that, in a book about monsters, I’m going to talk about how faith in Christ is your weapon against the devil. That’s the mechanics of my story. My demons are ripped right from the Bible, so naturally the way to fight them has to come from the Bible as well. That’s the “mythology” I’m using here. Beyond that, though, I’m writing a book about the Church. Sometimes it’s a celebration of the Church—a lot of times it’s an indictment of her shortcomings. But the majority of my cast are Christians dealing with struggles that Christians can relate to. They deal with doubt, faith, despair, hope, anger, mercy, rebellion, and restoration. They’re going to talk about Christ and how He relates to them and their struggle. That’s a part of their natural lives; that’s a part of my natural life. If I was writing a book about cancer survivors, we’d talk about cancer. If talk about cancer offends you, I don’t know what to tell you—that’s the nature of the book. It’s not my intention to write a preachy story to get people in a church pew. I’m trying to communicate my own faith journey openly. I don’t want to sugar coat anything in my book—not the horror aspects, not the “God” aspects. I’ve got to be true to myself. Some people are going to love that, some people are going to hate that. I’m naturally a kind of guy who wants everyone to like him, but that’s just not always going to happen.

What about on the flip side? Do you have to defend your horror work to people in your church, or Christians in general? What do you say to them?

I got a little resistance from some of the Christians I knew initially, but as they got to know me better and what I’m trying to accomplish, they’ve become very accepting. The Christian reviewers who have read The Strange Man have run the gamut. I mean, no one’s called me “blasphemous” (I’d probably get more sales if they did :p), but a few of them thought the book was too dark or scary or gory or intense. A few months ago, I was the featured book for the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour. At the time, I was told that I was the scariest book that ever made the rounds in their tour—which I take as a huge compliment! I’m hoping when Enemies of the Cross is released in February, I can return and see if I top my record 🙂


Who are some of your inspirations in both the Christian and secular communities?

I think, as far as writers go, one of the Christian writers I respect the most is Eric Wilson. That man is open and honest about his life—both the good and the bad—and he’s got a real heart for reaching out to the kinds of people that most “typical” churches shy away from. He’s got street cred, man, and he’s living it as well as writing it. And, really, I respect that about any Christian—writer or not. I’m looking for genuine people. There are so many bad examples of “Christians” plastered all over the news, but then I see some of the people of my own church. The world, at large, will never know their names, but I see them taking care of children, I see them going on mission trips to build homes for low income families, I see them feeding the homeless in soup kitchens, counseling young mothers. I see them reaching out. They’re not perfect. They struggle and they fall sometimes, but they are there for each other and they really want to just lead simple, hardworking lives and do something worthwhile with the time God has given them. The media won’t talk about them, but those guys are Christ’s legacy. Sometimes there’s a temptation to water down the faith aspect in The Coming Evil so I don’t offend anyone or so I can get more mainstream sales. But then I look at their hard work and sacrifice and it emboldens me. I can’t be ashamed of my faith when I look at them.

 Back to writers: I would be kicked out of the horror fanboy club if I didn’t mention Stephen King. Ray Bradbury. Richard Matheson. I really love John Carpenter movies. Steven Spielberg. Lovecraft is always great. And I’m hooked on author Bob Freeman. He’s like the prose version of a 1970s occult movie or a Hammer flick. I love it.

 You’ve had some success as a screenwriter as well. Anything you want to plug in the pike?

Yes! As a matter of fact my first movie is shooting as we speak! In quite the departure from my usual fare, it’s called Amazing Love: The Story of Hosea. I wrote it with Christian filmmaker Rich Christiano for the family film market. It’s a sweet little story about a church youth group going camping. They come from different backgrounds and don’t always get along. Their youth leader—played by Sean Astin no less!—tells them the Old Testament (I love the OT) story of the prophet Hosea, who was called by God to love an unfaithful woman. It’s a story about forgiveness and understanding and all those warm, fuzzy things. It’s very safe entertainment, designed to draw the same types of crowd that movies like Fireproof and Courageous do. It’s directed by Kevin Downes, who incidentally stars in Courageous. We’re looking at seeing it released early next year. Sadly no monsters in this one. Maybe next time.

What advice would you give to a screenwriter or writer just starting out?

Quit. If you can’t quit, then don’t quit. The writing business, to me, has always been like a game of Jenga. You’ve got this tower of blocks and the goal is to take the blocks from the bottom and stack them on top. You want to see how many blocks you can stack on top before the whole thing comes crumbling down. That’s not the writer part though :p The writer part is that, when you go to move a block, you test it first. Because of the distribution of the weight in the tower, some blocks are wedged in and you’d be a fool to press it, because the whole thing is balanced on it and it’ll just fall over. You want to find a block that’s already loose. Then you can easily slide it out from underneath the weight and lay it on top. But you have to test them. You tap, tap, tap at each block until you find one that moves. That’s writing. You tap each story until one starts moving. Then when you want to get published, you tap each publisher. Some are locked in solid and will not budge. Don’t fret. Just keep tapping until you find one that moves. Besides, as the weight shifts, some of the blocks that were solid before become pliable. It’s all about timing and seizing the right opportunities.

I would say to write from your heart. I would also say finish. So many people talk about being a writer and say they want to write. But writers write. More than that, they actually finish a story. Finish a lot of stories. Just write it until the thing is done. Worry about if it’s good or not later.

What was your favorite Halloween costume ever?

My mom made a homemade Wizard of Oz scarecrow costume for me one year, using yellow yarn for straw. It was pretty rockin’. I think I was in a parade that year?

What’s the worst thing you ever got in your candy sack? What was the best?

Anytime I get Whoppers or Butterfinger, I make a “yak” face. No good. Best thing would probably be gummies of some sort. My kid and I wrestle over who gets the gummy eyeballs.

What bit of horror scared you the most as a kid? What scares you now?

Two things: Well, okay three things:

Chickens. My uncle chased one for me to pet and it was running and sqwaking and going ballistic, and by time he caught it, I was terrified.

The fictionalized Joan Crawford from Mommy Dearest. No joke, that was my “monster in the closet”. I lived in fear of Joan Crawford busting out of my closet with her cake makeup on shouting, “No more wire hangers!” I have never watched that movie, but I caught a commercial for it on HBO when I was a wee boy, and was traumatized.

Peeping Toms. I had a deathly fear (still do, a little bit) of someone watching me through my bedroom window. I actually had a couple neighborhood kids do that to me as a prank when I was a child and I was scarred for life. Coupled with that is the nightmarish scene in the amazing movie Lady in White, where this creepy old woman is watching little Frankie sleep. Yeesh. I’m still fearful of looking out the window at night, dreading that I might see something staring back at me.

What scares me now, well not to be put a damper on our fun talk here, but losing my kids. As much as I was afraid growing up, I didn’t know real fear until I had children. Something happening to them is by far more horrific than anything I could cook up in my mind.

What are your Halloween plans?

I really want to dress as Dracula this year! Like, old school Bela Lugosi Dracula. A cheap cloak from Wal-Mart, some fake fangs, and a flimsy plastic medallion if I can find it. I’m really excited about it! I’ve never been Dracula before.

Halloween is a big deal in my family. We always bring out a mixed CD of spooky songs to listen to while we dance around the house, putting up our decorations. On Halloween night, we play the music from a stereo in the window so all the kids can listen while they trick-or-treat. I’ll put on a classic Universal Monster movie on the TV so that, when folks come to our door, they can catch a peek at a good old fashioned monster movie before they go on their way. My wife usually stays behind to pass out candy for awhile, and I’ll take my daughters door to door. Our goal is to be outside as long as possible. After the trick-or-treating is done, we’ll come back and sit on the steps and enjoy the night, watching all the kids in costume until everyone goes home.

Halloween really doesn’t get any better than when you have kids. And when they’re little, it’s like you don’t have to pick just one costume – you can pick as many as you have bods to throw ’em on! I don’t want to say it was the reason I had kids, but I won’t say it wasn’t a factor either. 

Thanks to Greg for stopping by DT to chew the rag. Don’t fail to visit his blog over at http://thecomingevil.blogspot.com/ to keep up with his latest news.  He’s also been a good enough egg to let me take over his space for a couple days, and I’m going to give away some .pdf copies of my short Lovecraftian blues story The Crawlin’ Chaos Blues over there, so if you missed reading my ramblings, take a gander.

Merkabah Rider 2: The Mensch With No Name Yom Kippur Giveaway

Hey all, so for those of you on Goodreads, keep an eye on the giveaway feature as I’ll be putting up signed hard copies of my books throughout the month of October, including copies of Tales of a High Planes Drifter and The Mensch With No Name.  I’m also going to do the rounds of some friends’ blogs and pass out .pdf copies for those of you with e-readers.

For those stopping by this space though, I’ve got one copy of Merkabah Rider 2: The Mensch With No Name, specifically for fans of the series. Drop an email to EMErdelac(TAKE OUT THIS NO SPAM MESSAGE IN PARENTHESES)@gmail.com and tell me the Rider’s true name in the subject field.

On October 7th well before sundown on the Day of Atonement (big day in the Rider universe) I’ll toss the respondents’ names in the old kippah and send one lucky dog a signed copy of book two.  

Read a bit about the book here – https://emerdelac.wordpress.com/2010/09/01/merkabah-rider-2-the-mensch-with-no-name/

Hey, and let me just say for a minute….authors depend on readers and the buzz they generate among each other, whether they’re working under a big house name or duking it out in the indie press field. So please, not just with this giveaway, but in any book you read….if you like something, tell people! Tell ’em on Goodreads, tell ’em on Amazon, or whatever forum you frequent – tell your friends and family or your book club or the guys at the comic shop or LGS. Spread the word! It’s the best thanks an author can get.

Ah glick ahf dir!