<![CDATA[Ginger Nuts of Horror - FEATURES]]>Mon, 19 Feb 2018 09:44:07 +0000Weebly<![CDATA[THE ORGANISM IS GROWING: 30 YEARS OF THE BLOB ‘88 BY NICK LA SALLA]]>Mon, 19 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/the-organism-is-growing-30-years-of-the-blob-88-by-nick-la-sallaby Nick La Salla

 “There’s nobody in here but us monsters.”
-- Sgt. Jim Bert, The Blob ‘58

It’s been thirty years since The Blob ‘88 was released.  I remember seeing the big movie poster in the supermarket video rental store: those irregular purple waves of Blob, and beneath it the dissolving face and hand of a man who was being slowly broken down and eaten.
But by the time I’d seen the remake, I’d already watched the original -- which, by the way, is celebrating its sixtieth anniversary this year. 
To appreciate the new ground the remake broke, I’m going to trace the steps the first film made in 1958, when under the watchful eyes of producer Jack H. Harris and director Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr., Steve McQueen and Aneta Corsaut made first contact with The Blob, attached as it was to the arm of an unsuspecting hermit in the middle of the woods . . .

“We’re going to find this thing, and we’re going to make people believe us.”
-- Steve Andrews, The Blob ‘58

​McQueen and Corsaut play Steven Andrews and Jane Martin, two silly but headstrong Baby Boomer teenagers whose Greatest Generation parents -- and other authority figures -- are so convinced of their own intellectual superiority that they dismiss Steve and Jane’s eyewitness accounts of The Blob outright.  Therefore, the task falls to Steve and Jane and their friends to save the city and, as the situation worsens, the entire planet by waking up the population to the existence of The Blob in their midst before it’s too late.
There are two police officers, Lieutenant Dave (Earl Rowe) and Sergeant Jim Bert (John Benson), with the former a well meaning and kind man, while the latter hates teens and dismisses their every request for help outright, regardless of merit.  Lieutenant Dave, to his credit, at least investigates when Steve and Jane say they witnessed The Blob murdering the town doctor -- but Sergeant Bert initially refuses to even look into it!
Who cares who the kid says did it, a man has been killed!
What kind of police department is this?
Sergeant Bert does at least have a reason for his distrust of teenagers.  His wife died in a terrible car accident where a teenager was at the wheel of the other vehicle, and ever since he’s hated teens.
I didn’t say it was a great reason, or that it made a ton of sense.  But hey, it’s a reason, so you have to give the writers that.
Lieutenant Dave gives Steve and Jane the benefit of the doubt throughout the film.  It’s through his support -- and finally seeing The Blob in its final, movie theater size incarnation that both police officers and the entire city sign on to the Let’s Beat Some Blob Ass team, and together, old people and young people unite, they finally take care of some big business that would have been a whole lot smaller business if they would have just listened to Steve and Jane when they warned them a half hour into the movie.
But nobody ever listens when kids say a jelly monster eats their doctor, do they?
Speaking of jelly monsters, the special effects look pretty silly in this film, which is to be expected considering the film was budgeted at $120,000 according to Turner Classic Movies.
About those special effects: The Blob itself was a special compound mixed with dyes to give it the red coloring.  For a while there, you could actually buy a bucket of it on EBay.  Extensive use of miniatures provided the scenes toward the end of the film.

“Has everyone in this whole town gone crazy?”
-- Henry Martin, The Blob ‘58

​So at the end of the day, what do you get with The Blob ‘58?  A group of good, clean American kids lead their well meaning but condescending older generation to save the world from an extraterrestrial threat.  It’s pretty silly stuff when you think about it.
Suzanne J. Murdico wrote in her book, Meet The Blob, that The Blob was intended to be a metaphor for the growing threat of communism at the time, but I’m not convinced of that.  Just because a film was released in the ‘50s does not mean it was about communism -- that theme was definitely present in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, no argument from me.  But The Blob strikes me much more of a cypher -- it as a creature means nothing.  It’s faceless, it has no way to express itself.  You can assign any meaning you want to it and bend the rest of the film to make your argument work. 
If any purposeful theme is to be derived from The Blob ‘58, it’s much more of a generational commentary.  It’s to do with how the Baby Boomer generation related to the Greatest Generation, and perhaps a growing resentment at the lack of respect there.  After all, the teens do the most in the film.  Their lives are on the line, they get no thanks for it and everybody considers them idiots.  And who dies in the film?  Adults who should know better.  The teens are hip to the problem.
But in the end, their parents and the Powers That Be are good and just, and they listen because that’s what good people do.  Steve and Jane are good people too, and so are their parents and so are Lieutenant Dave and Sergeant Burt.
The Blob ‘58 is silly and at times a bit saccharine, and the film is so dated that it takes a little imagination to get into, but The Blob itself is a terrifying monster.  There are still a few hair raising moments tucked away in its run time.  

“It’s a lie.  All of it.”
-- Brian Flagg, The Blob ‘88

​So we’ve covered the original, and that leads us to the spectacular Chuck Russell helmed 1988 remake starring Shawnee Smith and Kevin Dillon.  Made for an estimated $19 million according to IMDB, it’s no surprise that it’s light years beyond the original in terms of production quality.
The Blob ‘88 opens in small town middle America and feels faithful to the original in that it’s still about teen hijinx, albeit transferred to the 1980’s, so it’s injected with a healthy dollop of sex comedy.  Smith plays Meg Penny, and Paul (Donovan Leitch, Jr.), the high school quarterback, takes Penny out for their first date into the country to make out.  This also happens to be the same stretch where Brian Flagg (Kevin Dillon) pops wheelies.  Flagg’s a motorcycle drivin’, hard livin’ high school outcast.
Unfortunately for all of them, a lonely hermit just discovered his new friend -- The Blob -- who wastes no time getting acquainted with the hermit’s hand and then his whole arm.  Flagg spooks the already shocked hermit into the road, where Paul hits him with his car.  The three teens, suddenly united in purpose, drive the hermit to the hospital.
Instead of being able to help, the nurses and doctor make notes of the hermit’s condition, purse their lips and look pensive, and leave the teens to watch as his condition deteriorates. 
Paul sees The Blob eat through the hermit’s lower body and surge up the old man’s throat in a truly stomach churning shot.  He gets the doctor, but when they return, the body’s gone.  While the doctor stands there incompetently, Paul runs into an adjoining office to call for help.  The Blob, now man sized, drops from the ceiling and engulfs him.
This is the moment that defines the film for many viewers, myself included.  Paul’s demise is one of the most horrifying scenes I have ever seen committed to celluloid.  Director Chuck Russell expertly shows everything: Paul’s smothered and held in place by The Blob’s gummy body, and every orifice -- his nose, his mouth, probably even his eyes, every part of him is assaulted by The Blob’s acidic body which dissolves and eats him in what must be the most agonizing death imaginable.  

“What we do here will affect the balance of world power.  Of course there are lives at stake -- whole nations, in fact.  And that's far more important than a handful of people in this small town.”

-- Dr. Meddows, The Blob ‘88

​The original film felt basically harmless -- even toward the end, where death for Steve and Jane seemed certain.  They never addressed the true terror of what a creature like The Blob was capable of -- well, this remake addresses this unapologetically, and plunges us into full on body horror territory.  In this regard, it’s not dissimilar to, say, David Cronenberg’s own remake of The Fly
The Blob ‘88 shows the body being broken down in an extremely graphic manner, to the point where it is uncomfortable to watch.  It’s not just bloody or gory.  It makes you feel how insignificant and how tenuous a hold our joints, muscles and skin really have over us, and how easily it can all be torn asunder.  The Blob is far more powerful than our anatomies, and with every kill, it grows in power and size.  It sprouts tentacles to seize its prey and manipulate its environment.   
That’s arguably the biggest improvement of this film over the original: the special effects here are really and truly special, and it took a large crew -- called The Blob Shop -- to pull it off right.  The creature and puppetry effects are spectacular and hold up with the best of any film, even today.

“The organism is growing at a geometric rate. By all accounts, it's at least a thousand times its original mass.”
-- Jennings, The Blob ‘88

For insight into the unique demands of this film, I talked to two special effects wizards behind The Blob ‘88.  Blob Movement Designer and Effects Crewmember Trey Stokes has since moved on to work on Starship Troopers, Team America, The Polar Express and directed the George Lucas approved Star Wars homage Pink Five.
But in his early career, he had a whole lot of fun working on The Blob ‘88.  The Blob, he said, was mostly sheets of silk bags filled with goo called “Blob quilts”.  He mentioned to me that director Chuck Russell gave his team three “Blob Commandments”: The Blob should always be aggressive, muscular and busy.
“‘Busy’ was the minimum requirement -- if any piece of The Blob wasn’t moving, it immediately looked like a lifeless bag of goo again.  ‘Muscular’ we achieved via tricks like twisting several Blob quilts together, dragging them apart, and then running the shot backward so it looked like The Blob was pulling itself together.
“‘Aggressive’ . . . a predator’s intent is shown by what it’s looking at, but The Blob couldn’t ‘look’ at anything in a conventional way.  It helped that by this point we had rough cuts of scenes to look at, so we knew what The Blob was supposed to be doing in each shot.  It was usually a case of just rehearsing different moves until we had something that worked.”
Jeff Farley has become indispensable to horror and sci-fi since being a Creature Effects Crewmember of The Blob ‘88.  He’s worked on Pet Sematary, Demolition Man, and Wolf, in addition to numerous other genre efforts.  When he wrote me about The Blob ‘88, he explained a lot about how those tentacled shots were performed.
“Pretty much every type of effect was used to create the sentient look of the creature.  [Blob quilts] were further enhanced with veins and other painted details.  Quite a few people would be underneath undulating the sheet and performing choreographed movements.  The tentacles were sometimes mechanical and other times, just wiggled by a crew member in front of the camera.  It would take a whole day to get just a handful of shots if we were lucky as numerous takes were common.”
Beyond the intense demand for complicated special effects -- which would extend to miniatures and even groundbreaking early green screen work, there’s an interesting additional subtext to this film, which was noticeably absent from the original.  It’s that delightful cynicism of the late ‘80s, and it’s here in full force.
No longer are the authority figures well meaning.  Now, they are downright antagonistic.  The police department immediately zeroes in on Flagg as Paul’s murderer, even though the victim’s body is gone except for his steaming severed arm.  How’d some teenager melt off limbs and escape the hospital without anyone noticing, apparently taking the body with him on his motorcycle?
Very imaginative police work.

“I never thought I'd go out of my way to find a cop.”
-- Brian Flagg, The Blob ‘88

​This version of The Blob isn’t even extraterrestrial -- it is a bioweapon created by a government agency that has zero concern for the people it is supposedly protecting.  There’s even a random religious subplot thrown in for the promise of a sequel that never came.
In other words, every trusted institution is, at best, not to be trusted -- and, more often, out for the blood of the citizenry.  Similar to the original film, the only people who can act to stop The Blob are the teens.

Gone, however, is the love story.  Gone are the teams of teenagers working together to save the world -- now it’s just a cheerleader and an outcast, coming together and solving the world’s problems. 

Gone are the well meaning parents.  Gone is any semblance of the previous generation coming to their senses. 
There’s no assistance, no mediation between the teens and the adults, no coordinating efforts like in the original film. 
The Blob ‘88 seems to be saying that the teens of Generation X have no hope of being accepted as adults by the narcissism of the Baby Boomer generation, and that if they ever want to take the reins of this world, so to speak, it will take one hell of a battle.

“You know, plenty of people in their right minds thought they saw stuff like flying saucers.  The light was just right in the angle of the imagination.  And, oh boy, if that's what this is, this is just an ordinary night and you and I are going to go home to sleep, and tomorrow, the sun will shine just like yesterday.  Good old yesterday.”
-- Steve Andrews, The Blob ‘58

The Blob ‘88 is in many ways the complete opposite film to the 1958 original, but it moved the story into darker, more graphic territory that spoke to the general unrest and cynicism of the times.  It did exactly what the original did -- it held up a mirror to the teens of the moment, and let them see what they were thinking, acted out on the silver screen.
So . . . it’s been 60 years since The Blob ‘58, and 30 years since The Blob ‘88.  It would seem inevitable that another remake should be on the way . . . right?
Oddly enough, yes.  Glad you asked.
Starring Samuel L. Jackson (I’m not joking), The Blob ‘19 is on its way courtesy of Arclight Films, directed by Simon West (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, The General’s Daughter), and he’s promised an immersive experience with the latest and greatest in special effects including CGI -- so make of that what you will.  The story is slightly different, apparently skewing away from the teen market -- coal miners unearth it and then town residents work together to defeat it.
Since the previous two movies have been about the difficulties of one generation relating to the next -- “changing of the guard” films, in a way -- I hope they address that in any subsequent film they do make.  It’d be a shame not to shine a light for this generation as well, and continue the films’ celebration of youth.
In any case, I say thank goodness for a new film.  It’s been too long since we’ve been able to see The Blob wreak havoc on the big screen, and I personally have never seen any of them theatrically.  I’m sure there will be plenty of haters who will condemn the film before it’s even filming, but just remember that it can’t be any worse than 1972’s Beware! The Blob -- which you’ll notice I’m not including as Blob canon for reasons which will become obvious if you choose to sit through it -- and this new film may even become a classic in time. 
We’ll have to wait and see.
Until then, heed what a wise man with a smooth voice once said over a particularly memorable title card:
“POP!  Beware of the Blob . . . “


<![CDATA[THE YA STOKER AWARD:A SCHOOL LIBRARIAN DISSECTS THE SHORT-LIST]]>Tue, 13 Feb 2018 06:57:02 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/the-ya-stoker-awarda-school-librarian-dissects-the-short-listBy Tony Jones 
It’s time for our annual review of the books featured on the short-list for the YA Bram Stoker Award. Last year’s choices were dull and there was little for teenagers to get excited or scared about. Unfortunately, this year we get another dose of the same, except for one blood-filled, unsettlingly creepy title which keeps the YA horror flag flying high. Many school librarians keep a close eye on prize lists, so it is very disappointing to see four middle-of-the-road novels featuring on such a prestigious short-list which are not the best advert for the YA genre.
If the HWA wish to increase the profile of this award within the wider YA community, they need to feature much stronger titles and improve the quality of their judging to select the best from the international horror YA world, not just the USA. Apart from the Amy Lukavics novel “The Ravenous” the other four featured are not going to turn the heads of school librarians, parents, interested book professionally and most importantly, teenagers. For the most part they are perfectly acceptable, but standard-bearers for YA horror? Not a chance.
If you do want a standard-bearer or poster-girl for YA horror then look no further than Amy Lukavics, this lady is the real deal, with three terrific horror novels under her belt, the HWA should be begging the Queen of YA horror to come to their party. I’m already getting excited about her fourth novel “Nightingale” coming later in 2018 which the early whispers say crosses Sylvia Plath with David Lynch!  More on Amy later…
Last year Ginger Nuts of Horror featured an ‘alternative’ Stoker list of titles we loved which didn’t feature on (yet another) all-American horror short-list. My personal expertise in lovingly compiling these collections is based in working 24 years as a secondary school librarian as a YA specialist and as a life-long horror enthusiast. We’re delighted that three of the books we previously championed have since been picked up and recommended by major reading agencies. “The Nest” by Kenneth Oppel was given away free to thousands of children in British schools and was hailed as a future classic and both “The Call” by Peadar O’Guilin and “The Wrong Train” by Jeremy de Quidt are currently featured on the influential Book Trust website used by schools all over the country. And what of the novel that won the ‘Official’ Stoker last year? It has undoubtedly disappeared into deserved oblivion and obscurity. Does anyone even remember what it was?  And apart from me did anybody even read it? In a couple of weeks, Ginger Nuts of Horror will be publishing our latest ‘alternative’ list and, be rest assured, it will be top loaded with books teenagers might genuinely actually want to read. And are currently reading and enjoying in my own school library.
Now for our reviews of the five nominated books: (and if any take your fancy click on the rating or the cover image to purchase via our universal Amazon purchasing links)

Amy Lukavics: The Ravenous

 Amy Lukavics has written the stand-out novel of the five on the short-list which is strong enough to stand tall with the best YA horror has to offer. This is her first nomination, however, both her previous novels “Daughter Unto Devils” and “The Women in the Walls” were also tremendous and the HWA missed a trick by ignoring her previously. Ginger Nuts of Horror has been a fan of Amy for some time and this book deserves to win the YA Stoker. We love this book. We dug the blood, the bone-crunching, the family dynamics, the weirdness of it all.
This terrific horror story has complex family issues beating at its dark heart, much more than twitching goes on beyond the curtains in this broken household. I don’t think there is any better YA writer anywhere in cross-pollinating the issues of everyday life, damaged teenagers with that of the supernatural than Lukavics. It’s also the only book on the short-list which also has a healthy amount of gore, as the eldest sister makes good use of the family hammer, as her unhealthy interest in serial-killers develops and he body-count increases. The Stoker is a horror prize after all, and the gore value on offer here sails pretty close to adult horror, teens will love it.
The Ravenous” is told from the point of view of Mona, the middle of five teenage sisters. Getting into the head of a teenager, making it convincing, is incredibly hard to do but the author totally nails the isolation felt by the girl. The eldest of the sisters acts as a surrogate parent to the others, as their mother is an alcoholic. However, tragedy strikes when their mother causes a drunken argument and the youngest falls into the deep basement, tumbling to the bottom and dying instantly after breaking her neck. This was one of many brutal sequences, the family staring at their broken sibling, her head twisted at a wrong angle.  In her madness, the mother claims she can “Bring Rose back” and then disappears for a few days with the body. When she returns she is not alone and Rose is alive again. But at what cost? Brutal until the unforgiving end.
This exceptional exploration of teenage isolation and loss works equally well as a horror novel and as a dark twisted family drama. Nobody does this sort of stuff better than Amy Lukavics.


Kim Liggett: The Last Harvest

The Last Harvest” was a decent page-turner which was a slight step-up in quality from the old Point Horror novels many of us will have read in our youth, one other review name-checked it as “Rosemary’s Baby crossed with Friday Night Lights” which I found rather amusing. Clay Tate is the retired high-school star quarter-back for his small town in Oklahoma, not having played football for a year after the mysterious death of his father. Living in a very Christian town Clay struggles to cope with the whispers about the death of his father and the powerful local organisation the Preservation Society which his dad had runs in with after accusing them of being devil worshippers. Along the way we have some teen romance, family drama and of course the Preservation Society has its own secret agenda driving the book.
It’s fun, fast paced stuff which might engage with 12-14-year olds, but ultimately it was shallow, and I saw the ‘twist’ ending coming a mile away. It does have some decent emotional pulls which teen readers will tap into and it jogs along at a jolly speed. It’s also going to remind you of lots of other books and films. One wonders how devil worship will sit within some of the southern US states and I’m guessing many school libraries will be giving this book a wide berth!  Fair play to the author for taking a stab at a touchy subject. Overall, it’s a solid attempt at spinning a countryside devil-worship yarn in small town America which both boys and girls might get a kick out of. I’m pretty sure a twelve year old version of me would have enjoyed this.


Sarah Porter: When I Cast Your Shadow

 When I Cast You Shadow” initially had a lot going for it, with a cleverly written tale which ran out of steam. Initially it is narrated by Ruby and Everett, twins, struggling to recover from the death of their older brother who died of a drug overdose. Other points of view are gradually added as the novel progresses. Ruby has taken the death particularly badly, but Everett is looking out for her and will do anything to protect her. Here’s where things get a bit confusing, brother Dashiell is most definitely two months dead, but his ghost still lingers around, as he is on the run from another supernatural spirit. His siblings can also feel him close, particularly Ruby, he can also temporarily possess the living for short periods, initially Ruby by entering their bodies. In one sequence he jumps into a body and has sex with his ex-girlfriend. The body jumping becomes the focus of the plot but becomes tiresome.
As the dead brother continues to jump into bodies the narration got over complex and perhaps over ambitious. As it dragged on I found many of the characters irritating, often making dumb decisions and it lacked any real sense of threat which reduced tension. The teenagers also came across way older than their sixteen years and the ghost himself, Dashiell, was a real unlikable arsehole. In parts it read as a dreamy kind of novel which tackled a lot of themes impacting teenagers, from drugs, suicide, family problems, but in the end the characters were bland. Also, the glimpses we had of death (the ‘borderlands’), or what exists beyond life, was undercooked and could have been explored more. The book has lots of very pretty sentences, but was just too long, and lacked any real sense of horror. It’s not paranormal romance, but was probably more aimed at a female audience, I couldn’t see a boy touching it. I did wonder who it was aimed at?  Did it have anything close to the hammer scene in the Lukavics novel? No is the simple answer.


Tom Leveen: Hell World

 Hell World” bills itself as an apocalyptic novel, but as apocalypses go this is a pretty dull one. Abby Booth is trying to come to terms with the disappearance and death of her mother five years earlier. She was a co-presenter on a TV show that investigates hauntings and vanished without trace in a deep unexplored cave in Arizona. In the years since the disappearance her father has sunk into a deep depression, and seeking closure she and her friends go to visit the cave seeking answers after discovering clues that indicate they haven’t been told the full story. The novel then splits into two-time sequences ‘now’ and ‘then’ which were both samey and dealt with the goings on in the cave and what they find there. The problem is the creatures they find there are very bland and when they start rampaging around I struggled to keep interested. As the discovery of hell beasts go, this was pedestrian.
The novel also lacked a proper ending, a curse in YA fiction, leaving everything open for a book two I certainly will not be reading. It has snappy enough dialogue, but it really is tame stuff aimed at kids aged around 12-13, any older would probably find it unchallenging. Ultimately, for a horror novel it lacked any real scares or fright and although the connections with Noah’s Arc and that period was interesting enough it failed to ignite. In an apocalypse you fight for your life, these kids sleepwalked through it.  If the HWA believe a novel as bland as this worthy of winning a Stoker, then the YA section really should be put out to grass and discontinued.


Gillian French: The Door to January

 I seriously struggled to get into and ultimately finish Gillian French’s paranormal thriller “The Door to January” and although two genres were blended together well enough I found myself drifting off whenever central character Natalie had one of her uninvolving dreams. Natalie and her cousin have returned to their old town after a few years away as she feels the nightmares she is plagued by are connected to a violent incident which led her to leaving the town in the first place. 
Along the way she stumbles upon another mystery involving an abandoned house which becomes central to the plot. Although there was nothing wrong with the writing I found the book pedestrian and the different fonts to signify the varying time sequences, including the murders in the 1940s, particularly irritating.  The mysteries come together well enough, and the characters develop, but once again I wondered who exactly this book was aimed at? I just cannot see teenagers engaging with it at all as there was little to tap into and I think it will struggle to find both a niche and an audience. There wasn’t much on offer here except for some paranormal suspense, which again came across as another book aimed at a female audience.  And where was the horror? I must have missed it.
I’m not going to bother going into the voting procedures of the HWA, but as one of the few people likely to have read all five books, there is only one winner, Amy Lukavics with her grisly tale of a family in crisis, with cannibalism, dodgy soup, killer teenagers and life after death. Proper horror. Bring it on.
The YA Stoker Award deserves a real bone-cruncher as its winner and the Ginger Nuts of Horror hope Amy picks up the big one. And what of my own school library? “The Ravenous” is already featured on my recommended list, “The Last Harvest” might find an audience, but I would struggle to know who to recommend the other three books to and recommending books is a crucial part of my job.
Tony Jones



<![CDATA[THREE VINCENT PRICE RECIPES TO KEEP THE VAMPIRES OFF]]>Mon, 12 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/three-vincent-price-recipes-to-keep-the-vampires-offby David Busboom
In 1964, Vincent Price turned in one of his best and most underrated performances as Dr. Robert Morgan in The Last Man on Earth, the first and most faithful adaptation of Richard Matheson's classic vampire game changer, I Am Legend. A year later, Price and his then-wife Mary released their first cookbook, A Treasury of Great Recipes. In 1971, he had a short-lived cooking show, Cooking Price-Wise and accompanying, second cookbook.
Anyone who's seen The Last Man on Earth knows that Robert Morgan uses of a lot of garlic in the film, but what did he do with it when it wasn't hanging over his door or around his neck? If Morgan was anything like the real Vincent Price, he probably tried his hand at a few of these gourmet recipes when he was tired of making stakes.

Garlic Sauce
Though Price specified this as a fondue sauce for dipping cubes of beef, Morgan probably would’ve used it like medieval hot oil and poured it over the vampires’ heads as they battered at his door.

  1. Mash: 4 large cloves garlic with 2 egg yolks.
  2. Add: 1 cup olive oil, drop by drop, until sauce is the consistency of mayonnaise. Stir in: 1 teaspoon lemon juice, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper.
Sopa de Ajo (Garlic Soup)
In his introduction to this recipe, Price points out that garlic soup is a “triumph of experiments over experience” and stresses that “your garlic must be absolutely fresh, and you sauté it very gently—don’t burn it.” According to Price, this recipe makes enough soup to poison six vampires.

  1. Chop finely: 8 cloves garlic. Sautee in: ¼ cup olive oil until lightly browned.
  2. Add: 1 quart beef stock and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a rapid boil.
  • Break a fresh egg into each heated soup plate. Strain the hot soup over the raw egg and serve immediately.
Spinach and Eggs Grisanti
This one is a personal favorite of mine, and very easy to make. The recipe calls for bacon, cheese, and a fair amount of sodium, but if you’re trying to stay healthy—or just short on such luxuries post-vampocalypse—a vegetarian and dairy-free, low-sodium version is possible, being almost as delicious and perhaps even more vampire-repellent. This recipe serves two and is great with hot garlic toast.

    1. Cook: 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach according to package directions. Drain thoroughly, pressing out as much of the liquid as possible.
    2. Sauté: 2 slices bacon until crisp. Drain on absorbent paper.
    3. Heat in skillet: 3 tablespoons olive oil with 1 small clove garlic, minced. Cook until garlic is golden brown. Add: the spinach, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and ¼ teaspoon monosodium glutamate and mix. Spread the spinach mixture over bottom of skillet and sprinkle with: 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Cook, turning spinach over until very hot.
    4. Break in: 2 fresh eggs and keep turning the spinach until eggs are cooked. Crumble and add the crisp bacon, stirring to mix.
  • : Drain off any excess oil from skillet. Turn spinach onto warm serving platter and sprinkle with: 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese.

Sixteen-year-old Isaac just wanted to see a midnight movie. He didn't expect to meet the woman of his dreams: more beautiful, mature, and intelligent than any of Isaac's high-school crushes, and (best of all) willing to fulfill his fantasies! So what if she didn't have a computer, a phone, a car, or a job? So what if she shares an isolated farmhouse with a half-dozen insatiable, love-crazed people, all aching for her attention? She was ready and willing.

NIGHTBIRD by David Busboom

166 pages – Unnerving – 02/14/2018

“Busboom has a way with words. Nightbird exhumes the Lilith myth and animates it in a timeless present day where folklore and isolation drive a dysfunctional couple to the brink, and beyond. The language is confident, the people feel real, and the menace manages to be Potently sexy and utterly creepy in the same short book. Nice to see such a promising writer stretching out into longer, and more personal territory.” –Nathan Carson author of Starr Creek


<![CDATA[My Life in Horror: Adolescence: Survival Horror Part One]]>Wed, 31 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/my-life-in-horror-adolescence-survival-horror-part-oneby George Daniel lea 
It might be difficult for present day video gamers to credit, but there was a time when the original Resident Evil was the high watermark for horror in the medium.
Shortly before its ousting by the likes of Silent Hill, Resident Evil and its sequel were the video games de jour for horror fans; wry pastiches of B-movie horror tropes, zombie apocalypse traditions and various species of monster cinema, the franchise provided in the early days of 3D, 32-bit video gaming the kinds of experiences we had never had before.
Being an adolescent at the time of its release was particularly fascinating, as it allowed us to assess the game in context with what had gone before: the medium of video games was maturing as we were, becoming a  medium synonymous with our generation. As such, those of us that were teenagers in those days had, perhaps, an exaggerated reaction to the game, shocked by the quantum leap not only in graphics, music and atmosphere, but the subject and content it contained.
There had, of course, been attempts to encapsulate or refer to horror in previous generations of home computers and consoles, but the culture of video games during those periods meant that any effort was necessarily truncated: certainly in Western markets, video games were strictly a children's medium, meaning that Super Nintendo players missed out on such horror classics as Clock Tower and Sweet Home, both of which became instant classics in Japan and other territories, and have garnered something of a mythic status in the decades since.
Home computers here in the UK were a little more adventurous, as such systems tended to be marketed towards more adult demographics, hence the existence of rarities such as Darkseed and Waxworks.
But, until Resident Evil, there had never been a specific genre of horror within video games, and certainly not a title that had risen to such prominence: alongside the likes of Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy VII and Crash Bandicoot, Resident Evil (or Resi, as its fans have christened it) became one of the original Playstation's flagship titles, the talk of playgrounds and schoolyards throughout the UK, and, no doubt, the inspiration for more than a few nightmares. 
​For my part, I came to the game somewhat late on, long after I'd discovered the likes of Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy VII, when most had moved on to its spiritual successor, Silent Hill.
One of my fourteenth Christmas's stocking fillers, the game quickly became the reason why I wasn't present for the vast majority of the celebrations, sequestering myself in the cold, dingy room where the Playstation resided, not even feeling the cold, pangs of hunger and thirst...barely even breaking to use the bathroom, so engrossed was I in the b-movie, science-fiction world the game conjured.
To a boy who'd grown up adoring horror in all of its forms, who'd already seen practically every canonised horror “classic” made since the 1960s, Resident Evil was a revelation; a digital hellscape into which he could disappear, taking an almost perverse delight in its escalating tensions, its blood-viscous atmosphere, its body-horror grotesquery.
Whilst undoubtedly crude to present day eyes, the pre-rendered backgrounds and polyganal sprites conjured a strange sense of verisimilitude players hadn't found in video games up to that point. Whilst comic-book absurd in many respects, the Arklay Manor in which the game takes place felt more like a real environment than any we'd wandered in the medium before.
For my part, I was obsessed by the minor, domestic details the environment boasted: studies filled with random books, ornaments, keys and ephemera, bedrooms with dishevelled closets, bed-side cabinets, abandoned books, kitchens and cellars and gardening sheds, all of which felt like environments that functioned beyond the parameters and situations of the games itself. 
Whilst it would be a year or two before that boy threw himself into writing proper, his imagination was already a florid and conspicuously verdant place: almost all the material that obsessed him provided grounds and fodder for imagined scenarios that unfolded during his idle hours; the long darkness of insomnia that persisted almost every night, the idiot, hopeless moments in schoolyards and classrooms, when he couldn't wait to be out from behind his desk, out of those sweat and despair-stinking places, and somewhere where the horror was of far more mythic kind.
More than anything, I remember the atmosphere; becoming so immersed in the game and its environments, it almost felt as though I was walking there, with the characters; a factor that ramped up the tension immeasurably, making for some truly horrific moments (I will never forget the sense of utter dread when the game screen cut away whilst I explored the kitchen beneath the main house, to a stairwell I'd just passed by, to a point of view shot of something, something, slouching and slumping down the stairs, reaching for the door that I stood behind...).
Resident Evil stands as not only the game that solidified and enshrined the conventions of what would later come to be known as “Survival Horror” (i.e. video games in which the player character finds themselves trapped in potentially lethal situations, usually with little in the way of time, health or defence, hunted by various unlikely abominations), but became my -and, indeed, our- entry point into the fledgling genre; one that would sustain and obsess us for many years to come. 
The game's original sequel, Resident Evil 2, quickly capitalised on the original's success, aping the George Romero zombie films that the franchise derives clear inspiration from, in that Resi 2 removes the action and horror from a single locale -in this instance, the Arklay Manor- and into an urban setting, with an entire city of zombies, mutants and suspicius characters to deal with.
Resi 1 has a peculiar focus as a game; its atmosphere derives from claustrophobia, tight corners, blind corridors etc: the comparatively limited number of actual in-game monsters is made up for by the sheer tension of not being able to see what's coming; what might be shambling or groaning behind the next corner.
Resi 2 takes a different approach; throwing the play area wide and populating each screen with numerous hordes of enemies, as well as a far greater variety of creatures and mutants to tackle. The game's creatures, as well as being more numerous, are also more dynamic, some, such as the iconic “Lickers,” able to scale walls and ceilings, dropping down from above, others utilising air-vents and sewer pipes to harass the player. The dread that the game cultivates is far less intimate than that of the first game; a much more fraught and wide-ranging sense of society breaking down, of being lost and alone in a world where there is no hope or help to be had.
As an adolescent, the game not only terrified me in the most pleasing and enduring of ways, but also demonstrated the potential of video games in environment building, cultivation of atmosphere and narrative. The game is far more ambitious with its story, characters and creations than the original, building on throw-away suggestions in Resi 1's narrative to swell the back mythology of the series.
Of all the many, many new elements that snared my attention, the most enduring -the shades of which linger to this day- are the monsters. 
Resi 1 featured its own familiar bestiary, creatures generally derived from classic horror and b-movie science fiction films (the iconic zombies complented by mutant, gigantic spiders and snakes, undead dogs, genetically mutated plants, reptilian predators, to name but a few), but Resi 2 looks to more abstruse sources for inspiration: The Thing, H.R. Giger, the films of David Cronenberg, the “body horror” sub genre: whereas the original game was intent on providing players encounters they might recognise from film, TV and literature (thereby evoking dread and horror by association), Resi 2 establishes a more abstruse and experimental style, its monstrosities more fluid and disturbing in design, not to mention stranger, more elaborate and surreal. Even the iconic zombies are given an enormous makover, foregoing the stock models from the original game to present hordes of unique and idiosyncratic designs, from recognisably female specimens to those of cops, kids; tall guys, short guys...
The game marks the evolution of “survival horror” into a dominant sub-genre in its own right, taking everything that made the original successful and ramping it up to the power of N.
For those of us that were enamoured of the b-movie shocks and silliness of the original game, this one blew our barely-formed, adolescent minds: a play environment that's vaster, more detailed and dynamic, a more elaborate and expansive storyline, so many monsters, they're impossible to catalogue here, and a sense of atmosphere that, if anything, is even denser and darker than before.
For my part, I recall being enamoured, totally enamoured of the game's environments; the pre-rendered districts of Raccoon City feeling as close to real places as we'd come in video games up to that point, the genuine uncertainty as to what lay behind each and every corner, at the top of every flight of stairs, every unlocked door, keeping us on the edge of our seats, almost glued to the TV screen, in anticipation of what fresh horror the game would throw at us.
As for the horror itself, the game foregoes the more proscribed, cinema-derived shocks and set-pieces of the original game for far more subtle and inventive situations: an excellent example comes early on, when the player finds themselves sealed inside the Raccoon City police department: wandering down a corridor, you see...something crawl past one of the outer windows; something that moves far too quickly to make out, but that is clearly not human. Entering the next area in a state of breathless tension, you hear...dripping, finding a pool of blood round the next corner. Cut to an FMV sequence in which the player character bends to examine it, noticing the drops of blood falling from above...glancing up to find the flayed and mutilated form of the “Licker” splayed out across the ceiling like some hideous hybrid of human and spider.
The general tension of the game is also ramped up by having the player character pursued by various entities; unlike the previous entry, in which creatures were generally confined to set play areas, here, certain monsters and entities pursue you throughout the game, the most notable being arguably my favourite monster in the entire franchise, the constantly mutating William Birkin, creator of the original virus responsible for the escalating calamity and now host to its even more onerous derivative, the “G-Virus.” 
​Birkin is worthy of particular note, here; as well as being a character in his own right -not only the creator of the virus, but also Father to Sherry, a little girl who will become one of the major characters in the game-, he's far, far more than a mere abomination; a tragic entity that calls out to its daughter as it pursues her and the player through the depths of the city, leaving mangled, mutated abominations in its wake with its parasitic capabilities.
Not only is Birkin visually stunning, given the graphical limitations of games at the time, he also features in some of the most tense and terrifying moments in the game, including a descent into a subterranean facility beneath the police department in which he constantly reaches for the player through the walls of a mechanised carriage with bony, scythe-like talons, a sequence in which he physically swells into a quadrapedal mass of teeth, eyes and barbs, and -if you happen to complete both scenarios in the game within an allotted time limit- a Lovecraftian mass of tendrils, eyes and flesh that marks the ultimate encounter in the game.
Beyond that, the game was enormously generous, in that, as well the two primary scenarios, it also included two “B” side situations that altered the game's structure and dynamic: in scenario B, the players are pursued throughout by the mysterious, trench-coated “Mr. X,” a giant, unkillable entity that smashes through walls, erupts through floors, drops down from rooftops...often terrifying the player out of their wits, before a final encounter in the lab complex below.
Resi 2 obsessed those of us that played it at the time, becoming one of the most beloved and talked about games on the system: everything, everything we loved about the original game was here, but refined, exaggerated and generally improved upon. 
For a time, nothing could oust it: we couldn't even conceive of anything that might.
Then, Silent Hill.
Silent Hill. If Resident Evil marks the early adolescence of video game horror, then Silent Hill is its maturation towards adulthood: technically and stylistically similar to Resi (thus solidifying “Survival Horror” as a sub-genre in its own right), but deriving inspiration from far more abstruse subjects (ranging from Jacob's Ladder to Alice in Wonderland, from the abandoned US mining town of Centralia to 1980s pulp horror fiction), Silent Hill blindsided all of us: none of us, none of us expected anything so remarkably “adult” in tone, so emphatically disturbing or distressing as this.
The contrast between Resident Evil and Silent Hill can be most readily drawn by a comparison between George A. Romero and directors such as David Lynch: whereas Resi is more “popular” horror, Silent Hill is surrealism and disturbia; supernatural, psychological and densely, densely symbolic:
Unlike Resident Evil, Silent Hill has no intention of making the player laugh or leap out of their skin: earnest rather than ironic in its desire to disturb.
Whereas the original Resi begins in a fairly familiar situation (if you happen to be at all experienced with horror fiction of any kind), Silent Hill is a little more abstruse: swerved off the road to avoid what appears to be a little girl, player avatar Harry Mason wakes to find himself on the outskirts of Silent Hill, his daughter Cheryl missing, a strange fog blanketing the town, something falling from the sky that might be snow or ash. 
Exploring the town, he finds it abandoned; homes locked, boarded up, derelict, stores and services closed, their shutters drawn.
It's only when he follows footsteps down a narrow alleyway that the game's patent weirdness starts to become apparent: whereas Resi has always made use of fixed camera angles in pre-rendered environments to instill a sense of claustrophobia and disorientation, Silent Hill has a dynamic camera that swoops and swerves, that pans at strange angles around the player to frame scenes and sequences in the strangest manner.
Distantly, a siren begins to wail, the mist gives way to a strange, unnatural darkness. Stone and cement peels away, revealing rusted metal.
It's at this point that the player begins to encounter imagery that echoes that found in the novels of Clive Barker, the films of David Cronenberg: a hideously flayed and mutilated dog's corpse, what appears to be a hospital bed, bloodied as though from surgery.
And then, a dead end: a corpse ritualistically strung from the rusted wire fence, elaborately mutilated, flayed, stretched open. 
​The atmosphere unlike anything encountered in the Resident Evil titles; a strange sense of spiritual grime and dirt; as though the player is somehow being infected by the images onscreen, polluted by them.
Then, the babies appear; mewling, naked, deformed infant-things, wielding knives with which they hack and slash at Harry's ankles, dragging him down...
All the while, the score clashes and shrieks and escalates: not exactly music, more the rhythms of a breaking down engine, some ancient surgical device, setting the player's teeth and nerves on edge.
None of us were prepared. None of us truly comprehended what was happening, which made the experience all the more traumatic.
Silent Hill became the talk of schoolyards and sleep overs; the game that obsessed us in the manner of a sceptic scab, that distressed and disgusted, but that we couldn't leave alone.
For the longest time, most of us didn't even comprehend what was happening in the game, its style, its narrative, its aesthetics so abstract, so symbolic; a factor enhanced by the ropey dialogue, the poor Japanese to English translation...
Unlike Resident Evil, which was a horror movie translated to video game format, Silent Hill was a nightmare; more intimate, more traumatic, infesting and transforming us in far more profound ways.
For many of us, it was the first time we realised that we couldn't simply be shocked or frightened by a video game, but disturbed by it; that the medium has artistic and aesthetic potential far and beyond anything we'd encountered or experienced up to that point.
Resident Evil might have made us jump at noises or shadows, but Silent Hill got into our heads; it followed and whispered to us, and whispers to us still, informing the shape and nature of our imaginations in ways only the very finest of horror films or literature can boast. 
But it wouldn't be until the next generation, and the game's genre-defining sequel, that horror in video games -and its audience- would take their first, uncertain steps into adulthood.
End of Part One. 


<![CDATA[BOOK EXTRACT: Only the Devil is Here by Stephen Michell]]>Wed, 24 Jan 2018 10:00:44 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/book-extract-only-the-devil-is-here-by-stephen-michell
When six year-old Evan is kidnapped from his foster home, he is dragged into a world of shadows, monsters, and fire. At first, all Evan can think about is how to escape from his violent captor, a man who calls himself Rook; but Evan quickly learns that Rook is the only person with the power to protect him against a host of more horrible dangers. As Rook’s true nature is revealed through mysterious, magical acts, Evan must wonder if Rook is indeed a person or rather a monster himself.
Pursued across the wintery Southern Ontario countryside, with the baying of police dogs at their heels and deeper horrors lurking in the woods, the orphan boy and the roguish man begin to understand each other. Evan admits that he also has mysterious, magical powers, but doesn’t know how to control them. Rook becomes more intrigued with the boy, and Evan, a child that has never felt at home, begins to believe in a place where he belongs—with Rook.

Stephen Michell is a freelance writer and editor based out of Toronto. His writing has appeared in The Good Men Project, as well as in the Exile Editions speculative fiction anthology Those Who Make Us, with his story “As Worlds Collide.” He has also written many entertainment reviews for Step On Magazine.

“You think you know where Only the Devil Is Here is going . . . and then it goes somewhere else. Super-creepy northern gothic with terrific pace and scares.”
—Andrew Pyper, author of The Only Child and The Demonologist

Excerpt from Chapter 12 & 13 of Only the Devil is Here

Evan woke in a fetal position on a frozen, jagged floor, and at first the distance between dream and waking was hard to cross. He came from a faraway feeling of flowing ice and drifting snow into a sudden, shocking sense of his cold, naked, shivering body. He opened and closed his eyes. A deep impenetrable dark surrounded him, the dark of nowhere and nothing.
In a panic, he sat up and tucked in his legs. The jagged floor scraped his skin, and it felt like he was lying on a metal grate. From beyond, the dark rattled and clanged. 
He stuck out his hand and his palm hit a lattice of cold steel. His fingers went through the spaces and grasped it like chain link. The tang of rusted metal came under his nose but even more overwhelming in the air was a rotten stink of death and sodden earth. 
He swivelled and in doing so felt his toes scrape against cold lattice behind him. He stuck his hand to his right and felt the steel links and reached to his left where his fingers grasped the same. He put his hands up above his head and they extended in a cramped arc over him before encountering the steel roof of the confinement. He was trapped in a cage.
His heartbeat stopped, or so it felt. Then it started again at a feverish pace. He scrambled. Having swivelled around he had forgotten which way was forward, which way he had been facing when he woke. He felt, trembling, for the nearest wall of the cage and shimmied against it and gripped the links with both hands. He pressed his face against his knuckles like a prisoner peering from behind the bars of his cell into the pitch dark.
For some time, Evan sat still against the edge of the cage. Slowly he began to shiver in the cold. Then he shook harder—his entire body gave way to a violent convulsion and he screamed and slammed his body into the wall of the cage. He rocked back and slammed again, screaming, scraping his shoulder against the jagged steel. Blood ran down his arm. 
His energy wore out fast. Weary and hurting, he hung limp against the cage with his fingers gripping the links. His breathing came as a long, crippling whine. He closed his eyes.
The cold sodden stink of the dark clouded around him and he felt numb. It was as if the darkness was inside his head, blotting out all else and leaving him empty. And yet, with a small sense of surprise and pride, he noticed that he was not crying.
It was then Evan heard a voice. His eyes flew open and he lifted his head. The dark rose before him like a blank wall. He saw nothing. 
Then he heard the sound again and for a moment he thought it was the hiss of a snake. He drew up his legs and sat with his arms wrapped around his knees. He waited. 
The strange sound came again.
Sss . . . 
It was faint, but Evan was sure now that it was a voice.
“Hello?” he called.
Sss . . .
“Who’s there?”
At that moment, the darkness split open and Evan ducked his head and covered his eyes from an almost blinding light. He heard the stomp of feet coming down a short set of steps. When he peered from under his arm he saw there had been a door opened from above and a tawny light spread within the room, defining the walls and floor. A man had come down and was lumbering back and forth, his path sloppy. The stinging smell of liquor moved with him, mixing with the chamber’s foul rot. It was Al. Evan could see the man’s green gown hanging past his knees as he staggered around the space. 
It was a dirt-dug chamber with rough pinewood boards framed against the walls to keep the earth at bay. Evan saw now the fine steel links of the cage in which he was trapped. The links were rusted and stained. The cage had double-pinned locks on the front gate. 
Around the perimeter of the room there were other cages. He counted six of them, each also rusted and jagged-looking. In the centre of the chamber, there was a cylindrical construction of stones, but Evan was at a loss as to what it was.
Most of the cages appeared to be empty, but not all. When Evan saw the first pair of eyes he shrank away in fear, but he crept forward again after a moment and looked again. 
There were two other kids, each in a separate cage. Evan was unsure whether they were girls or boys but they seemed about his age. Their hair looked long and dark and matted, and their faces were small and dirt-smeared. Only their eyes were bright. A glossy luminance as if the tawny light was bouncing from them before it could enter. An expression of sheer hopelessness was echoed on both of their faces. Evan wondered how long they had been down here.
All of a sudden, a shadow shifted past Evan’s cage and Al crouched in front of him and stuck his bowl-shaped face up against the links. Evan drew back.
Al peered into the cage, as might a spectator at a zoo. “Hey,” he said. “Don’t be scared.” His breath was rancid, his face haggard, plastered with drunken sweat. He rubbed his forefinger and thumb together, making a soft clicking sound with his tongue against his teeth. “Hey, little guy,” he said. “Come on, don’t be scared. How do you like your new home?”
“Let me out,” Evan said.
Al laughed. Then he steadied his gaze and looked straight at Evan. “I don’t like when you bark,” he said. “It won’t do you any good.”
Evan screamed. “Let me out!”
Al lunged at the cage and grabbed both sides with his hands. His thick fingers wrapped through the links. 
“No!” he yelled. “I caught you. By my blood, it’s what I was destined to do. You’re not going anywhere.”
Evan stared out at the man and his eyes burned with a rusty colour as a wave of fury overtook his terror for a moment. Al registered Evan’s eyes with a slight tilt of his head. Then he drunkenly wiped his mouth. 
“We have the power to be gods,” Al said. “But we live like animals.” He levelled his thick finger at Evan and said, “You are an animal and animals need to be controlled. When an animal species gets out of control, you know what happens? It gets culled. Intelligent forces come into play. But you don’t kill the adults. No. Killing adults isn’t going to solve the problem. Instead, you have to kill the young.” 
Al stood and crossed the room. His walk was crooked, bent forward and turned back to keep his eyes trained on Evan’s. He stopped in front of one of the other cages. The child inside squirmed to the back and the cage rattled.
Al knelt and looked back at Evan again. “This is a great work,” he said. “One to save the human being. Pure almighty human intelligence will become again, and we will reclaim this place. You, I think, will come to understand. Maybe you will even help. Like you said, you’re special. But not all of these little beasts are special like you. No. Most of them are just animals. Most of them are dead already.”
Al turned and pulled up the pins of the gate and opened the cage and reached in. Right away, the child started screaming. Evan shrank away from the sound, but still he heard the cage rattling and the child screaming and crying and kicking and then he glanced up and saw Al dragging the naked, squirming child out by the ankles. 
Evan shut his eyes. He cupped his hands over his ears to shut out the awful noises. Al stomped up the wooden staircase. The door closed with a thud and hushed the chamber back into darkness, but still Evan could hear the screaming.
He sat cupping his ears. The cries shot out in bursts, burning horrible images into Evan’s vision in the dark. 
When the screams finally stopped, there was another sound that was somehow equally as horrible. Silence. A raw, unbearable silence, in the cold, in the dark.
Whatever length of time passed, Evan had no real way of knowing but for the slowly calming measure of his breath. The cold dark enveloped him and he shivered. His earlier sleep had been short and given him no rest. He felt the pull of his fatigue, and yet he had never in his life been more awake and alert. He sat with his eyes open, his arms wrapped around his knees, watching every tiny shift and ripple in the blackness. 
When the door opened again and the tawny light cut through the dark, it was not Al who entered but the young girl, Maeve. Her footsteps sounded on the wooden stair. Evan saw her shadow first, long and thin. Then the girl appeared in the light. In her arms she carried the child, lengthwise as she might have carried a bundle of firewood. The child’s pale limbs hung limp.
She crossed to the centre of the chamber and stood before the stonework construction. Evan still could not figure out what the stone formation was, but the way the girl stood in front of it made him think of churches and candles. A crude altar. 
The girl leaned over the stonework, holding out the child’s body. Evan watched her. She lowered her arms, her head bowed, and then in a swift and graceful motion, she dropped the child’s body and it disappeared from sight. 
Evan’s mouth fell open, as he realized the truth of the stonework structure. It was the mouth of a deep pit. 
There had been a faint whoosh and the tumble of the body falling, and then nothing. No thud or splash when it hit the bottom. No echo. Nothing at all.
The girl turned and Evan saw her face in the light. It was wet. The jagged scar across her nose was livid and her small eyes sparkling with tears. 
As she crossed in front of his cage, Evan asked, “Why are you doing this?”
The girl stopped short and turned her head, searching at first, as if ignorant of Evan and his cage. Then she saw him and their eyes met and locked.
The girl said nothing. She had a shocked, almost petrified look on her face. Evan wanted her to speak. He wanted her to tell him why this was happening. He remembered her name and said it in his head: Maeve, Maeve, Maeve . . . why are you doing this? 
. . . I was his first, she said.
As if against his will, Evan slid up to the gate of his cage. He had heard Maeve’s voice, but not in his ears. She had spoken right inside his head. He could feel Maeve’s voice moving through him like a small snake slithering up his spine. It was a discomforting sensation. Maeve’s voice—small, terrified, alone—was being drawn to Evan in his special-thinking way.
I hear you, he said in his head.
Maeve’s lips were still, but her voice came clearly.
. . . I was the first he ever took. He said I was unique. He said I was blessed. He said I was destined to help save the human being. He never meant to hurt me. I was the first he saved.
The girl’s eyes narrowed as she felt a faint tingling go up her spine. A warm sensation popped and spread across the left side of her brain. 
As a little girl she had gone to play by the river. . . . 
I remember the willow trees looked like old witches washing their long hair in the water. They had just cut the grass and it was damp and the loose bits of grass clung to my ankles and in between my toes. There was a hill that went down to the river. All across the water, these little bugs skated making ripples. . . .
Her voice went away and Evan felt a quiet weeping. Then her voice returned.
. . . Obey him. Be helpful. Give him everything. . . . 
He told me I had to go with him. My mom was worried and she’d asked him to come get me. He’d take me home. He told me to get in the car. 
He can show mercy. One day we are going to die.
Maeve stood still in front of Evan’s cage and stared down into his rust-tinted eyes and then she blinked and shook her head. She looked at the ground as if she had lost something and then she straightened and turned away, crossing the room through the light. She went up the wooden steps and pulled the door closed with a slam.
Evan squatted in the dark. His body was humming and he had a strange, sour taste in his mouth. The girl’s voice lingered in his head, in his whole body, as if flowing in his blood, gathering and revolving in his chest. He wriggled with the discomfort of it but there was no getting away. It felt like someone was digging a hole in him. 
He buried his face in his hands. But where a feeling—a compulsion—to cry had once lived in him, there now existed a stark solemnity. He was reminded of the song he had heard in the cave and he cringed and wriggled to get away from the hollowing pain. He saw Rook’s face in the dark and he wanted to scream. 
At that moment Evan heard another voice speak.
“Hello?” it called.
Evan lifted his head. He sniffled and listened, doubtful, suspicious.
“Are you there?” the voice asked.
Evan felt his own voice come up like a tremor. He said, “I’m here.”
There was silence. Evan waited. He had heard the voice in the air, in his ears, a real speaking voice. One of the other kids. It had to be real.
A cage rattled. “You can’t talk to them,” the voice said. “It’s not allowed. They’re going to come for you now.”
Evan said nothing. His heart started to race. Rather than fear, the warning had filled him with excitement. An impatient rush. Thoughts of escape. 
“Did you hear me?” the child asked.
“I think I can get us out of here,” Evan said.
Silence. Then, “You shouldn’t have talked to her. She’ll tell about it. She always tells. They’re going to hurt you for it. To train you. Just do whatever they say.”
Evan heard footsteps thump across the floor above. He was breathing fast, the cold air like a strange ignition, and he was wondering how long it would be before they came for him. Every moment felt so long in the dark. He wished he could see the other child who spoke to him.
“What’s your name?” Evan said.
The child refused to answer. Doubt flooded Evan’s senses, and he wondered if there had even been a child speaking at all. 
The door swung open and the tawny light cut across the dirt floor of the chamber. 
Evan looked out to see who was coming down the stairs. The steps were slow and soft on the boards. He huddled against the gate of his cage and took a deep breath. 
After a moment, he saw the frail, feeble legs of the one called Kinny emerge at the bottom of the stairs. His small, pigeon-toed feet staggered into the chamber. Evan closed his eyes.
Okay, you can do this. 
He said the man’s name in his head, Kinny, and he said it again, thinking Kinny, Kinny, Kinny . . . 
He heard Kinny’s slow steps drag across the dirt floor, heard him wheezing and sniffling. It went around in a circle and then crossed to Evan’s side of the chamber. Then Evan’s cage rattled. He heard Kinny groan as he bent down. His knees cracked. The cage rattled again. 
This is it.
When Evan opened his eyes, Kinny was kneeling in front of his cage. The man’s patchy-bearded face was eye-level with Evan. He was grinning, his top lip peeling back above his gums.
Evan looked right back. He stared straight into Kinny’s green, murky eyes, thinking Kinny, Kinny, Kinny . . . 
And then it seemed as if someone had taken a pair of scissors and cut some invisible stitching from Kinny’s vocal chords, threads that had bound him to silence for a long time, and Evan heard the man’s inner voice pour out. Broken and tormented, Kinny’s words erupted in Evan’s head with heavy sobs. 
I’m so sorry, Kinny blubbered.
Evan listened. He felt Kinny’s voice slide along his spine and he followed it, figuring it out, trying to speak back.
I’m so, so sorry. Kinny’s voice poured out. He made me do it. He always makes me do it. I can’t stop him. . . . I don’t know how. . . . 
The sense of Kinny’s voice, his fear and pain, swirled in Evan like a rotten stench and it made him gag. He nearly vomited what little he had in his stomach onto the floor of his cage. But he kept his eyes locked on Kinny’s and listened and followed the man’s voice as it slithered through him and then he caught it and he answered.
He spoke slowly at first: Kinny. Kinny, listen to me. It’s okay.
. . . I wish I could stop him. . . . I wish I could make it stop. . . . I want to go back with Miss Tolson. . . . I want to go back. . . . 
It’s okay, Kinny. . . . 
But the man’s horrid, pained voice flooded out. She was so nice to me. She didn’t make me do the bad things. She was nice. She let me peel the apples in the fall time. I could do them really good in one long peel, round and round. And she’d let me peel one extra and I got to eat it when I was done. It was fuzzy without the skin and it went all brown, but I liked the brown parts the most. Miss Tolson was nice to me. . . . 
When she died I didn’t know what I . . . Then Al said I could come with him. I could help him. I didn’t know how to stop it. . . . 
Kinny, listen to me. It’s okay now. You can help make it stop. Now’s your chance to make it all better. I want you to open my cage and let me out.
I’m so, so sorry. . . . 
Open my cage, Kinny. Now.
Kinny’s hands rose to the double-pinned lock and pulled the topmost pin and then his hands lowered mechanically and he pulled up the second. The door of the cage gave way with a pop.
Good, Kinny. You’re helping. Now go stand in the corner.
I’m so sorry.
Go. Don’t come out until I tell you.
Kinny stood and turned and walked with his arms flat at his sides straight to the corner of the chamber between two empty cages and faced the pinewood boarding. Evan waited and then pushed open the cage door and crawled out. The dirt floor was cold but it felt alive and fresh and he was glad to touch it. He looked up the stairs in the light. The door was open. He couldn’t see much of the room above, didn’t know where it would lead him, but he wasn’t going to give up.
You can get out of here.
He squatted at the edge of his cage for a moment longer and waited. The creak of a chair and other vague noises carried from the floor above, but it was mostly quiet. He crawled farther into the chamber.
Straight ahead of him was the stonework pit. Evan skirted it and crawled across the ground to the other side of the chamber. He passed an empty cage, then came to another and stopped. Inside was the child that had spoken to him. A red-haired boy about Evan’s age. 
Evan glanced once at Kinny, who stood still in the corner as commanded, then back to the boy. He put his finger over his lips. The red-haired boy sat on his haunches with his knees up. Evan could smell him but he tried to ignore it as he felt along the frame of the cage for the pins. He drew up the first. It made a dull ping sound. 
Evan stopped and looked over his shoulder and waited. Footsteps creaked from above. Nothing crossed in the light of the doorway. He turned back to the cage and reached to the second pin and started pulling it up--
Sss . . .
Evan turned around fast. He looked to the corner, but Kinny stood as before. Evan looked around the rest of the shadowy chamber. There was nothing else there.
The boy in the cage shifted and the cage rattled and Evan turned back. He looked in at the boy and they nodded to each other. Evan reached back to the second pin and started again. Then he stopped once more and glanced over his shoulder. A low, whispering hiss rolled towards him.
Sss . . .
Evan turned his back to the cage, leaving the final pin still locked. The boy inside rattled the gate, but Evan ignored him. He moved in search of the sound, drawn by a will not his own, drawn by a knowledge that what he heard was a voice.
“Where are you going?” the other boy whispered. 
Evan knew he should turn back. He should pull up the final pin and let the boy out. He knew it. Go back, he told himself. Stop!
But he moved as if by a power beyond him. Like curiosity coupled with an innate sense of return, blind and mindless as the last few steps taken when arriving home. The voice called to him.
Sss . . . Sss . . . Sss . . .
It led him to the stonework at the centre of the chamber. When he reached it he placed his palms flat on the cold stone rim and leaned over the mouth and looked down into the dark hollow pit. 
The sound rose up from below, and Evan heard many tongues speaking at once. He could feel them reaching along his spine, like the voices of Maeve and Kinny. They pleaded. 
Such suffering . . . he butchered us and left us to rot . . . avenge us . . . 
Entranced by the voices, Evan did not notice the shadow that cut through the light on the stairs. He didn’t hear the heavy tread on the wood boards, and he didn’t hear Al’s rasping breath until it was too late. 
“What the fucking hell do you thinking you’re doing?”
Evan turned around as Al’s fist cracked against the side of his head and he landed flat on his stomach in the dirt. Bleary-eyed, he saw Al’s bare feet stomp before his face. A sweaty hand gripped the back of his neck and he was yanked to his feet, trying hard not to scream.


<![CDATA[GINGER NUTS OF HORROR HOLDS A REQUIEM WITH KRIS MRKSA]]>Tue, 23 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/ginger-nuts-of-horror-holds-a-requiem-with-kris-mrksa
Requiem is a new supernatural drama premiering on BBC One on 02 Feb.  To mark the launch of this new series Ginger Nuts of Horror is running a series of posts.  Today we welcome Kris Mrksa,  the writer and creator of Requiem to talk about the show.  

For me, stories often coalesce when several apparently unrelated ideas collide, and I suddenly notice that they might actually be part of the very same story. Requiem grew out of just such a collision.

The first element was my lifelong passion for scary movies. I don’t mean the kind of in-your-face horror film that seems to be so ubiquitous these days. I’m talking about subtle-scary, the kind that trades on mood, and a sense of disquiet, slowly building to something that is ultimately far more disturbing and unsettling.  There are a string of movies that do this beautifully but Don’t Look Now and Rosemary’s Baby sit on top of my hit list.

I found myself wondering whether that sensibility, with its sophistication, restraint, ambiguity, and psychological complexity might be transplanted into longer form television drama. Was there a way of maintaining it over 6 hours?

The second key ingredient was a fascination with the nature of personal identity. There seems to be a popular obsession with identity right now, with the idea that you might be able to find out who you “really” are, whether that’s through DNA testing, studying your family tree, or doing some sort of personal actualisation course. I’m doubtful about the value of this stuff, but I found myself pondering the compulsion that underlies these activities.

Most particularly, I found myself wondering about how a person might feel if they did get a definitive answer to the question “who am I, really?”, but it was not at all what they expected?  If it turned everything they thought they knew about themselves on its head?

We’ve all seen stories that are kicked-off by the hero losing a loved one, but what if this story began with the hero losing herself?

The final element was not so much a story idea, as a mythological underpinning. I’d been reading about an alchemist and mystic, and I discovered that they had some very intriguing beliefs, based on a world view that was both idiosyncratic, yet surprisingly coherent.  Suddenly, everywhere I looked, these philosophies started cropping up, in books and newspaper articles, on TV and in museum exhibits. And it just seemed too good to ignore.

You can see what I meant when I said that the three elements were apparently unconnected.  It’s when I suddenly saw how they might all fit together, in a way that was surprising, yet also satisfyingly neat, that I knew I had a TV series.  And so Requiem was born.


In 1994, a toddler disappeared from a small Welsh village, never to be seen again.

23 years later, rising cello star Matilda Gray while looking through   her mother's possessions, Matilda discovers tantalising evidence, linking her mother to the Welsh girl’s disappearance all those years ago.
Matilda travels to Wales, determined to explore this mystery, even if it means unraveling her own identity. In the process, she uncovers long buried secrets in this remote community – including  one  secret  more  bizarre, terrifying  and  dangerous  than anything  she  could  have  imagined:  Dark  otherworldly  forces  are gathering – they have been waiting many years for Matilda to arrive. 
If every life is a story, then for most of us, it’s our parents who write the opening chapters. They record and remember our early childhoods as we cannot, acting as trusted witnesses to our lives.
But what if you discovered that your parent might have lied to you? That almost everything they’d said about their own history, and yours, might have been untrue?
Requiem takes its inspiration from the psychological horror films of the late 1960s and ‘70s - Rosemary’s BabyDon’t Look Now, and The Innocents, avoiding easy answers, and instead playing on uncertainty and ambiguity.
It’s also a rumination on the nature of memory, identity, and loss, hinging on a universal truth: that when a parent dies, a part of you dies with them.
Requiem is written by Kris Mrksa (episodes 1-4 and 6) and Blake Ayshford (episode 5). The series is directed by Mahalia Belo, produced by Susan Breen and executive produced by Willow Grylls, Elaine Pyke and Charlie Pattinson for New Pictures, Kris Mrksa and Christopher Aird for BBC.

By creator and writer Kris Mrksa

Read our review of requiem here


<![CDATA[TWISTED PUBLICATIONS NEEDS YOUR HELP]]>Wed, 17 Jan 2018 06:42:31 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/twisted-publications-needs-your-helpby Amber Fallon
​As a fairly new writer, getting your name (and your story!) in the right anthology can open serious doors for you. That’s the kind of exposure that’s actually good for your career. Readers will buy anthologies if writers they like are included, which will mean lots more eyes on your story… and if people like what they read, they may just seek out more from you. As you can see, that could be a huge help to someone struggling to gain recognition in a tough market.

Unfortunately, anthologies are a tough sell to most publishers. Trust me, I’ve been trying to pitch one to anyone who’ll listen to me for 2 years now with no luck! I’ve been told that anthologies cost more money than they make, that they’re a headache to produce and even worse to market, that they don’t sell, that readers don’t respond… and so on and so forth. This is sad for readers, like myself, who love anthologies and look at them like getting an appetizer sampler at a new restaurant: a way to try lots of different things without a big commitment.

When you do find new anthologies to read, it’s always the same big-name writers filling up the Table of Contents; writers whose names carry weight with the public and are all but guaranteed to sell books. Gone are the anthologies of the 1980s and 1990s, wherein you could discover gold within the pages between standbys like Ramsey Campbell and Peter Straub. I can’t tell you how many authors I discovered just that way that are now among my favorites. But with publishers’ insistence on only having those big names, some of that magic is gone. As a reader, it’s a little sad because I love finding new books to read and anthologies were always such a great way to try before you buy, so to speak. As a writer, it’s VERY sad because I simply won’t be able to get that level of exposure and discovery for myself…

Enter Christopher Golden, James A. Moore, and John MacIlveen with their new project, The Twisted Book of Shadows. These guys, all great writers themselves, wanted to level the playing field. The idea behind this project is an anthology that welcomes submissions from anyone and everyone regardless of how big (or small!) their name is. Quality of story is the sole criteria, and to that end they’re reading blind. They’ve also enlisted a diverse panel of amazing people to help ensure that multiple perspectives are addressed.

I sat down with the creators of The TwistedBook of Shadows and asked them a few questions:

James A. Moore

ALF: Tell me a little bit about you.

JAM: I've been writing for over 25 years, and I have a deep seated love of all things horror. 

ALF: Where did the idea for the Twisted Book of Shadows come from?

JAM: Chris and me were discussing the legacy of truly amazing horror anthologies that simply don't happen in this day and age, chief among them Charlie Grant's SHADOWS anthologies, which always had amazing stories and usually had a few names we'd never heard. Charlie had a policy of reading any submission that came into him, and sometimes he found new surprises. We wanted to do the same thing. We want EVERYONE to have a chance to wow us, and then if they do we want to publish those amazing stories.  

ALF: What are you hoping to achieve with the book?

JAM: We want the absolute best anthology of horror around. If we can help a few people get published in the process, that's an absolute bonus. 

ALF: Why have you chosen to read the stories without knowing who the authors are?

JAM: It's too easy to have a bias. even when you are trying not to, and we want to make absolutely certain that we pick the best stories without being influenced by someone we admire or some we call a friend, None of that. Take off the names and all we get to read is a story with potential.

ALF: How are you going to ensure that you have diverse contributors?

JAM: We're doing our very best to make sure that the news of the anthology gets out into the world at large. diverse groups, groups that specialize, and groups with an open door policy. We want the best. The best isn't always written by the peers we know., so we need to give signal boosts to make sure everyone is aware of this anthology.

ALF: How many submissions are you expecting?

JAM: More than I'd ever want to read. I'm sort of scared by the potential run of takes we might encounter. 

ALF: Why should people submit?

JAM: Because we're paying professional rates, we'll have solid distribution and it's going to be a lot of fun. Because it's a chance to be in an anthology where you have to EARN the right to be in there. You have to give us your very best.

ALF: What does this project mean to you, personally?

JAM: When I was starting out there were places where you could get published without having a lot of background credits. Where you could actually have a story picked up and read by an editor without an automatic shift of your chances that was caused solely by your track record. We want to pay that forward. We want to have the best stories. I think it's a way of honoring those who went before, like Charles L. Grant and Karl Edward Wagner, and it's a chance to see fresh voices. It means a level playing field and that's always been important to me.

Christopher Golden

ALF: Tell me a little bit about you.

CG:  I’ve been a full time writer for twenty-five years or so—novels, short stories, screenplays, comics, video games, an animated series…you name it. I’m also an anthologist, editor, podcaster, father, husband, chocolate enthusiast, and a person who has been known to burst into song without warning. New York Times bestseller. Stoker Award winner. Nominated for yadda-yadda…you get the idea.

ALF: Where did the idea for the Twisted Book of Shadows come from?

CG:  I’ve edited a ton of anthologies over the years, but I’ve always wanted to do one that was open to ANYONE. To sell one to a mainstream publisher these days, you have really curate your list of contributors. I’ve done a lot of great anthologies that way, if I do say so myself. But I know so many talented or promising writers who can’t find markets that pay pro rates, never mind royalties. So many pay a nominal fee, and many of those don’t pay royalties at all. That’s why we went with crowdfunding. We’re inspired by so many of the anthologies we read when we were young, but we wanted to take it one step further. Zero slots in this book are being reserved for marquee names. Better than that, we won’t even know who the authors are. It’s a totally level playing field. We want authors to send us their very best, the greatest horror stories they have in them, no matter who they are. We just want the best.

ALF: What are you hoping to achieve with the book?

CG:  A great anthology. An open market with pro rates. A spotlight on authors who might not otherwise get that spotlight. We want people to rise to the challenge, to really give us their best, and to know that if they’re chosen, it will be because their story was among the best, and for NO other reason.

ALF: Why have you chosen to read the stories without knowing who the authors are?

CG:  Jim and I—and John McIlveen, who’ll be publishing through the Twisted imprint of his Haverhill House—know so many people. We’ve all been in the horror field a long time. We don’t want to be tempted to choose stories by our friends, and we especially don’t want to be tempted to choose stories by authors whose names will help us sell more copies of the book. That’s the whole point of a level playing field.

ALF: How are you going to ensure that you have diverse contributors?

CG:  Jim and John and I know that as white, straight, cisgender guys, we come to the table with a certain inherent, unconscious bias. Even TRYING to read more widely, to keep an open mind, we can’t be assured that we won’t miss something that should have gotten a second or third look. To that end, we decided to assemble an editorial committee of writers to read along with us, a group of incredibly talented people in their own right, who also happen to represent a pool of diversity that Jim, John, and I can’t lay claim to. People of color, or members of the LGBT community, yes, but first and foremost people whose work has earned them the respect of their peers. They’re going to be reading along with us, helping us choose, and God, what an incredible group. Billy Martin, Nadia Bulkin, Rachel Autumn Deering, Lee Thomas, Lamar Giles, KL Pereira, Gabino Iglesias, and this year’s HWA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Linda Addison. 

ALF: How many submissions are you expecting?

CG:  No idea. Hundreds, at least. Maybe far more.

ALF: Why should people submit?
CG: Fortune and glory…but more importantly, a fair shake. If your story is chosen, it’ll be the power of the story that did it.

ALF: What does this project mean to you, personally?

CG: It’s a labor of love. Jim and John and I…not only will none of us make a dime unless there are royalties, but we’re putting our own money into it. The three of us are donating a shared $1000 on top of the GoFundMe crowdsourced funding. It always costs the publisher money to produce a book, but never in my career have I put my own money into buying stories for an anthology I’m editing. There’s a solid chance I won’t earn any of it back, but it’ll be worth it to provide this opportunity and have an anthology full of the best and the new and of stories that nobody can ever say didn’t earn their place.

 John McIlveen

ALF: Tell me a little bit about you.

JM: I am John McIlveen, author of the paranormal suspense novel HANNAHWHERE. I have more than fifty published short stories, many of which can be found in the collections INFLICTIONS and JERKS. A third collection is in the workings. I have five daughters, a step-daughter, and a greatly outnumbered step-son. I am owner and Editor-In-Chief of Haverhill House Publishing, though MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory owns me. I live in Haverhill, MA with Roberta Colasanti, who is very beautiful, very Italian, and very understanding.

ALF: Tell me a little bit about Haverhill House Publishing.

JM: Haverhill House Publishing is the rebirth of my original publishing Bradford House Publishing, which in 2007 was sentenced to death in a divorce. Haverhill House is the "mother ship" of the imprints Twisted Publishing, Mystical Words, and two forthcoming imprints YAP (Young Adult Publishing) and YAP jr. (childrens' titles). We are committed to bringing the best titles to their most anxious readers.

ALF: What are you hoping to achieve with the book?

JM: With Twisted Book of Shadows, we aim to present a collection compiled solely for the quality of the stories, not by the author's name attached to the story. All submissions will be read blind, and author identification will be removed by a third party.

ALF: What does this project mean to you, personally?

JM: Everything. My name will be on it!

ALF: Is this book something you'd like to see more of, as a reader and as a publisher?
JM: We are hoping TBoS will become an anthology series in tradition of Charles L. Grant's Shadows, which was landmark. Who wouldn't love something that is created solely on quality?

ALF: A lot of publishers have said that anthologies are risky. Not having any marquee names seems even riskier. What do you think about that?

JM: A lot of publishers are right, but I think the novelty of a pro-rate anthology that relies on quality alone will be appealing in many aspects. Often (in my experience) there are anthologies that tout billboard names, but disappoint the reader with either reprints, trunk stories, or stories that are simply not very good. We want to offer a top-notch collection of stories, and in the process give a few hopeful authors an even playing field and possibly a breakthrough opportunity. 
You can help make this project a reality by donating to the Twisted Book of Shadows on GoFundMe!


<![CDATA[CHILDHOOD FEARS LAURA MAURO]]>Tue, 16 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/childhood-fears-laura-mauroby Laura Mauro 
​Children are afraid of all kinds of strange and inexplicable things: monsters under the bed, strange shadows on their windows at night, that blank, empty space at the top of the stairs at night-time. Sometimes, their fears are more concrete. They might be scared of dogs, or clowns, or the possibility of ghosts, or He-Man (yes, really.) Or they might be scared of something completely different. Something that leaves you wondering how a child might even happen upon that kind of knowledge, much less develop a genuine phobia as a result.

I was the latter kind of child.

In 2014, a major Ebola outbreak seized West Africa, and subsequently the imagination of people thousands of miles away, separated from the dead and dying by oceans. Newspapers printed panicked headlines and doomsday scenarios, predicting a devastating pandemic which, in the end, did not occur. The sad truth is, while Europe and America indulged our wildest apocalyptic fantasies, over eleven thousand human beings died – all but one of them in Western Africa, where the outbreak began and eventually ended. It would’ve been hypocritical of me to have condemned the hysteria, though. There are not many arenas in which I can claim any kind of hipster credential, but in this I am unfortunately confident: I was terrified of Ebola before it became popular.

It was almost two decades before the Ebola outbreak which ravaged West Africa that I encountered the disease for the first time. I was nine, maybe ten. I should say this: I was already an anxious child, probably exacerbated by my parents’ recent divorce, and so it’s likely that my mind was already ripe for the sowing of some kind of weird phobia; it was probably only a matter of which terrifying thing I happened to encounter first.

As it happened, it was a magazine. I was a voracious reader as a kid (not much has changed) and would generally read anything to hand – newspapers, magazines, a Roy Chubby Brown jokebook which I didn’t really understand, but read cover-to-cover anyway. I was at my dad’s for the weekend, and the magazine just happened to be there. I remember it was one of those ‘weird science’ type magazines, a little like Fortean Times. It was the mid-90’s, pre ‘The Hot Zone’, and Ebola was still only a footnote in the annals of contemporary pop culture.

The article was terrifying. I recall it was presented as somewhere between a feature article and a short story. It was about a man – a scientist, I think – who’d gone to Africa for some reason or another and had contracted a mysterious illness. The article made such an indelible impression on me that nearly two decades later, I can still remember an entire paragraph describing the way the man’s intestinal lining sloughed away from the inside. The thought that such a profoundly terrible disease might exist was mind-blowing: that, out there in the world, there was a virus which could cause you to vomit black blood, to haemorrhage from the inside out, and to die in excruciating pain.
(My adult mind, having been to therapy for OCD, now understands that this is an extreme, sensationalised version of how the Ebola virus operates. My child mind was not quite so logical.)

The part that stuck with me most, though, wasn’t the gouts of blood or the excretion of internal organs, but the ending. A different man, who had been in contact with the Ebola victim, had boarded a plane back home. The very end of the story shows him exhibiting the same early symptoms of the man who died: a pounding headache. It wasn’t the possibility of spreading the virus that scared me – the idea of a vector or a ‘Typhoid Mary’ didn’t occur to me – but the fact that this terrible disease started with a headache.

From then on I became incredibly paranoid, not so much about my own health, but those around me. I was convinced my parents would die, probably of Ebola. It probably doesn’t take a psychologist to figure out the underlying reasons for this sudden, extreme phobia, but I was nine, and frightened, and I could not stop thinking about the article. Things escalated until I started having physical panic attacks. The full whack: shaking, crying, unable to breathe, unable to calm down. My parents did the sensible thing and took me to a psychologist. I don’t remember a great deal from that time, but I do remember the psychologist commenting on my vivid imagination…

(It took me a long time to become comfortable reading and watching things with a ‘pandemic’ setting. Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’ took considerable steel to keep ploughing through. Some things never go away completely. I still haven’t read ‘The Hot Zone’.)

The thing is, it could have been anything. I could have read about UFOs or Ted Bundy or nuclear war, and those things might have imprinted themselves upon my anxious nine-year-old brain instead. It just so happened to be Ebola. It’s an incredibly mundane process, when you think about it.
Fast forward twenty or so years. It’s 2014. Ebola panic is rife, and I am strangely calm. I’ve been here before; I know what it’s like to be convinced your loved ones are going to die from a deadly, uncontrollable virus. Still, I avoid the newspapers, and I try not to think too hard about the people standing next to me on the Tube. I work in a medical laboratory, and my supervisor keeps cracking jokes about the blood samples we receive. He does it in that slightly too jovial manner that people adopt when the jokes are only kind of a joke. And I feel a little jolt of empathy for my nine-year-old self, whose strange childhood fear I have dismissed all these years as ridiculous fantasy. 


<![CDATA[8 BEAUTIFUL HORROR FILMS]]>Mon, 15 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/8-beautiful-horror-filmsby Jonathan Butcher 
For casual observers, horror probably seems unconcerned with creating works of beauty, and far more likely to induce nausea than wonder.

This is a shame. Without horror we would have none of the morbidly gorgeous work of Poe or Clive Barker, no unsettling art from Goya or Bosch, and none of the harrowing delights of these pieces of music.

In a genre so driven by aesthetics and powerful emotions, horror is the perfect vehicle for creating visions of dark beauty. Alongside fantasy, the horror genre contemplates the unknown and reaches out to touch the paranormal and mysterious – and sometimes, horrific imagery becomes even more uncomfortable when cosied beside something visually pleasing.

Of course, you won’t find beauty in every horror film out there, so where amongst the popping brains, teen slaughter-frenzies, blood-sprayed titties and lumbering demons can we unveil something that shines with grace and elegance?

Let’s find out.

As usual, this is anything but a definitive list, and just represents my own narrow field of view. I just hope that anyone reading this will offer their own examples in the comments, and let the rest of us discover ever more unsettling and beautiful horror.

Let the Right One In

 I’ll start with modern masterpiece that is as simple as it is unique. Sombre, unsettling, and peppered with unforgettable imagery, Let the Right One In is equally like a dark fairy tale as it is a horror film.

Set against a gorgeous backdrop of the snow-buried Swedish winter, this tale of the eternally-12-year-old Eli and her troubled new companion Oskar is tragic and violent, but told with aching tenderness. It is hardly a story about a child who loses his innocence; the first time we see Oskar, he is holding a lethal-looking knife and fantasising about murder. Oskar’s parents and bullies have already taught him neglect and cruelty, so, rather than falling from grace, Oskar finds love and perhaps obsession in its stead.

Some of the beauty here comes from the story’s take on the “coming of age” trope, as well as the persistently vivid white of the snow which contrasts with the darkness at the tale’s heart, and the glutinous reds that often stain the screen.


Let’s not pretend here: in many ways, this is one of the ugliest films I’ve ever seen, both image-wise and theme-wise, as well as one of the most distressing, and most violent. However, there are also images here that are ethereally beautiful, and camera shots that step way beyond typical horror to venture boldly into art.

Lars von Trier’s Antichrist makes up one part of his “Depression Trilogy”, and focuses on the decision a grieving couple make to hide themselves in a shack in the woods to overcome the loss of their baby. Seeing as this is a horror film directed and written by Lars von Trier, things do not go well.

This is another tale of contrasts, where violent sex and the ravages of mental illness rest naturally alongside some of the most astoundingly gorgeous cinematography I’ve ever seen. The opening in particular, where the couple’s lovemaking takes place alongside the falling death of their curious baby, is near-perfectly composed. It’s arguably a pretentious scene, playing like a cross between a fragrance advert and an arty porno, but its unsettling beauty can’t be denied.


 For me, Candyman triumphantly stands the test of time. Tony Todd’s iconic portrayal of the tragic, terrifying, inescapable Candyman stands at the centre of the film, and it could have been a far lesser movie with the titular role in the hands of someone else.

Phillip Glass’s haunting piano score adds an eerie sense of inevitability to the proceedings, and the dreamlike shots of the city architecture contrast well with the all-to-real visions of urban decay seen throughout the film’s fictional project neighbourhood, Cabrini Green.

There is a beauty to the structure of Candyman, where belief and rumour, death and the newly born, redemption and revenge all intertwine in the most eloquent of ways.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

With its legendary director and all-star cast, even Keanu Reeves’ clunky English accent couldn’t overshadow the sumptuous wonder of Francis Ford Coppola’s interpretation of Dracula.

Teeming with style, romance, and Gothic grue, the film is an exaggerated personification of the horror genre. Countless tropes were invented in the book and are faithfully translated to the screen here, and while the “I vahnt to dlink your blaaaaaahd” cliches are dated, they are filmed with panache and performed with full-throttle dedication.

This is big-budget horror at its most overblown and visually sublime.



I was 50/50 about whether to include this one, because of how opposed it seems to traditional
versions of beauty.

It was a comment in a review that changed my mind which, paraphrased, read something like:

“Pause any moment of 
Tetsuo and you will find a fully realised, perfect image that is ready to be framed.”

It’s true. Shinya Tsukamoto may have had a low budget, but money could never have bought the kind of care and attention that he delivered to his grotesque vision of sexualised blood and metal.
On the surface, the plot is simple: a man encounters a metal fetishist, accidentally kills him, and then gradually becomes a being partially composed of rust and metal. However, this appraisal does nothing to suggest the hyper-kinetic, surreal, bizarre, industrial and artistically-composed nightmare of Tetsuo. 

It may last just over an hour, but this remains one of my most intense movies, even after repeat viewings.

There’s also a drill-dick and a bloke getting bummed by a metal snake. Brilliant.

Pan’s Labyrinth

Another pick that isn’t quite a full-blown horror, but is just as grisly and disturbing. If anything, this is the darkest of fantasy films, and feels almost like a Henry Fuseli painting come to life.

Guillermo del Toro’s direction is exceptional here, adding an other-wordly feel to every scene, regardless of whether it takes place in the “fairy realm”, or reality, or perhaps both.

Melding the grotesque with the graceful, scenes such as the one featuring the child-eating Pale Man, with his detachable eyes and unnatural frame, and any that feature the enchanting but creaky, unnerving faun, encapsulate what I consider to be beautiful horror.

Del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone could have easily made it to this list instead, but Pan’s Labyrinth tops it for me.


I’ve seen Excision three times, and so I now feel like I can “officially” call it one of my favourite films.
Pauline is not your average young woman. She is obsessed with, and aroused by, blood and the dead. She wants to become a surgeon, and practices her fledgling craft on roadkill. She is also plagued by some seriously deranged – and yet, to me, quite beautiful – visions, and it is these lushly composed, sometimes sexy, sometimes funny, always disturbing sights that qualify Excision to appear in this article.

The contrast between the dullness of suburbia and Pauline’s graphic imagination is balanced and disconcerting, and the cutting dialogue shared between Pauline and her mother is hilariously well-observed. While I would suggest that all of the films listed here are well-made and unique, the genre-bending nature of Excision, as it veers from awkward comedy to drama to coming-of-age tale to delirious full-blown horror make it entirely unique – yet for all its eccentricities and surreality, I don’t think there is a single moment that forces me to suspend my disbelief. It’s a tragedy about a disturbed young woman whose isolation and presumed mental illness propel her ever closer to something terrible, and the strength of the cast along with the masterful direction and carefully-observed script raise what could have been a poorly-handled mess into a spectacular, and at times visually-blissful, triumph.

Lady Vengeance

To state the obvious: Park Chan-Wook knows how to direct. The South Korean auteur has a distinctive flair for brutal, poignant films, and uses style-soaked imagery to tell stories that I would argue always include substance as well as unique aesthetics.

With an awesome array of films under his belt including Oldboy and Thirst (which could all be called beautiful), it should have been difficult to choose a favourite. However, Lady Vengeance resonated with me to a heavier emotional degree than any of the others, and was for me unforgettable.

Lady Vengeance was the third and final part of Chan-Wook’s “Vengeance Trilogy”, and is a shattering experience. Striking from start to finish, the film begins in a disorientating fashion and ends with a blunt, unflinching finale that is difficult to shake off.

I’m no film student, but the colour palette and composition of shots used throughout makes this, and every other of his films, a poetic experience.
Which horror films do you think of as being “beautiful”? Which would you put into your list? Let us know in the comments!


<![CDATA[CHILDHOOD FEARS: TIM LEES]]>Thu, 11 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/childhood-fears-tim-leesby Tim Lees 
Sounds scared me: the scream of the power saw at Billy Williams’ woodyard, and the honk of toucans in the local zoo. Other than that, it was the usual stuff: clowns, ghosts, policemen... and the big bad wolf.

The wolf was really just a single picture, in a book which otherwise I loved. But that one image used to scare the hell out of me, every time I saw it. The wolf wore dungarees and a straw hat, and he was staring, straight off the page, straight at me, greedy, drooling and lascivious. This wasn’t just some dressed-up animal. This was the perv who hangs around the school gates, twitching and lunging: “I’m going to gobble you up!”

Do children have a special fear of being eaten? It figured in so many of those early stories. Unable to control their own lives, constantly subject to the whims of adults, the threat of being swallowed, consumed, might well take on a grim, if not entirely literal significance. But I digress...

I loved the book, and quickly worked out when the wolf was coming up, so I could flip two pages and avoid him. But sometimes I’d fumble, miss, and catch a glimpse. Ugh! Then other times - this is the weird bit - other times, I’d look. Deliberately. Purposefully. And if I could see the wolf, so childhood logic ran, the wolf could see me, too...

Of course, a lot of things just never scared me. Moving on a few years: Dr. Who, not even once. Not Dracula or Frankenstein. Not H.P. Lovecraft. But The Pan Book of Horror Stories - yes. I didn’t mind the monsters, but the stories about leprosy, or medical horrors, or anything I thought might actually happen... they scared, and sickened.

And I went on reading.

The hypothesis, I suppose, is that on some level, we’re drawn to things that frighten us. Eros and Thanatos, slugging it out. Life and death, love and horror, fear and fascination, all wrapped up in one.
So let’s find something really scary.

The scariest thing of all is - well. It’s you, isn’t it?

You, or me. Whichever way you want to look at it.

The chance that maybe we’re not who we think we are; that the monster isn’t out there, shut behind the door, but in here, with us - and we don’t even know.

I’m going to tell you something now that I have never told a soul, not when it happened, and not since. This is the joy of the internet - that it feels intimate and personal, while being just about as private as sky-writing.

Here, then, is my confession.

I don’t recall how old I was. Seven or eight, perhaps. Small enough, I’d got my own special child-sized chair, and through the day, especially in winter, I’d pull it up as near the fire as I could get. We had an open fire - coke, not coal - and I just loved the heat of it against my shins, feeling the skin grow pink and tender, running my hands over my legs to shield them if they got too hot; but never, never moving back.

I was a solitary kid. I liked to sit and read, maybe write or draw. My Mum was in and out, though sometimes she’d be gone a while - to the neighbours’, or the local shops. And it was then, when I was totally alone, it happened.

It started out as such a silly, stupid little thing - a thought that seemed to jump into my head, as if from nowhere:

Put your foot in the fire.
The fire was right in front of me. All I’d have to do was stretch out -
Put your foot in the fire.
It wasn’t a voice. It was an impulse. A need. And suddenly, it wasn’t quite so silly, either. It was sharp, urgent, and demanding.
Put your foot in the fire.
Put your foot in the fire.

It happened maybe half a dozen times, always the same way, always when my Mum was out. It never even dawned on me to try and break the spell, get up, go somewhere else. Maybe I couldn’t. All I could do was try and hold out, just a few more minutes, begging that my Mum would get home, quickly, quickly - before I gave in.

Put your foot in the fire.

I’d be practically in tears sometimes, fingers clutching at the fabric of the chair, squirming back, all else forgotten. Put your foot in the fire. I’d stare at the ornaments on the mantelpiece. I’d stare at the vase and the china dog. Put your foot in the fire, put your foot in the fire -

Then the back door opened, and my Mum was home. And it was over, just like that.

I never talked about it. How could I? “Something’s trying to make me put my foot in the fire.” It was ridiculous. It made no sense. Besides, it wasn’t “something”. It was me. I knew that even then.

It was like a game that had got out of hand, a dare that somehow spiralled up into this horrible ordeal, and I had no idea why.

It lasted - well, probably about a week. Then, like any other childhood ailment, it was gone, and never bothered me again.

What caused it? I don’t know. I wasn’t, so far as I’m aware, particularly stressed or anxious, and in the years since, I’ve suffered neither OCD nor command hallucinations; and while I’ve done a few things that might well call into doubt my judgement, if not my sanity, I’ve generally been no more psychotic or delusional than most people. And never again have I had a thing like this, coming, as it did, out of a clear blue sky, with such power, and such - this was the nasty bit - such intimacy.
Like I say: it’s not the monster outside that’s the scary one.
Tim Lees is a British author living in Chicago. He is the author of Frankenstein’s Prescription (Tartarus, UK) and the Field Ops novels for HarperVoyager (The God Hunter, Devil in the Wires and Steal the Lightning). His last published story was “The Shuttered Child” in Black Static #60.
He tweets @TimLees2, posts on Instagram as tim.c.lees, and occasionally posts on his website at https://timlees.wordpress.com/.
You can find his Amazon page at https://www.amazon.com/Tim-Lees/e/B006E4I288 (US)
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tim-Lees/e/B006E4I288 (UK)
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