Greetings from the Republic Idiots.
Here’s our collaborative spotify playlist. Hopefully you discover a few gems.
Greetings from the Republic Idiots.
Here’s our collaborative spotify playlist. Hopefully you discover a few gems.
I don’t believe in ghosts. I’ve never witnessed anything paranormal in my life, bar the weird noises my cats make at night. Yet still, I lie there in bed some nights, covers pulled tight, imagining all manner of nasty things. Not necessarily things that can hurt me, but things I wouldn’t want to see. Visuals that would scar me forever.
That has never happened, thankfully, and I eventually go to sleep and then wake up for work, and life goes on. But it has happened in fiction, in ways that terrify me in otherwise banal films, books and video games.
I scare easily. I’ve stopped watching films because of jumps-scares, and the night was a little too dark. I got about five minutes into Silent Hill 2 before switching it off (it was too full of dread, and unbearably sad). I have enormous respect for the creators and artists of these works, who can affect us in awful ways. I think one of the reasons I’m always drawn to horror is because it does affect me. If it’s meant to be scary, it will probably make me cower. And I may not make it all the way through.
One of my favorite scary movies is The Haunted. Not the 1999 version with Liam Neeson, but a more obscure 1991 made-for-TV film that I caught by accident late one night as a teenager. It’s based on a true ghost story; a family in Pennsylvania that claimed to have been haunted by a demon. I will never claim it’s an amazing film, and the special effects are cheap and not-entirely convincing, but somehow the filmmakers managed to create images that have stuck with me for decades.
If you like haunted house stories, you’ll find nothing in the film that surprises you, apart from a scene where the father of the family is sexually assaulted by the entity. The acting is fine, but nothing to write home about. The ending, from what I remember, feels unsatisfactory, and it relies on genre clichés a little too much. But the ghost/demon itself is what gets into your mind.
We see it quite early in the film, when the mother (and main character) is doing laundry. The soundtrack changes and a bass rumble fills the speakers. The atmosphere has changed, so we know something ominous is about to happen. Strange occurrences have already unnerved us. We’re ghost story aficionados, ready for the next level. She looks up, and stares at a black shape floating through her living room. There’s no form to it, nothing that looks remotely human or recognizable. It sounds like squealing pigs as it drifts along, and we know it is pure malevolence.
Maybe people who’ve actually seen ghosts will correct me, but The Haunted frightens me because it looks like how I imagine a haunting to be. The rest of the film is well-made, but nothing special. It accomplishes what it sets out to do, and does it pretty well. However, I keep coming back to that ghostly, demonic shape. I’ve seen more terrifying films, for sure, and better stories about haunted houses. But I love how the entity in this film is presented. I love the lack of comprehension we get when we witness it floating through the house, its lack of humanity and even shape meaning there will be no easy reckoning. Other ghosts have stories, tragic pasts, human frailties. This is simply an amorphous thing—it exists only to scare, and make us think of the other. It’s the kind of thing I dread seeing at night. Even though I know I probably never will, I can still imagine it happening, just like I can imagine every creak and bang after midnight is actually done with malicious, otherworldly intent.
I don’t know how much thought went into the film, or if anyone else was affected by it like I was at sixteen. I’ve had a love of weirdness in fiction as far as I can remember, and there are better examples of it out there in books (such as House of Leaves, or the awful “funhole” in Kathe Koja’s The Cipher.) But I think it’s important to remember that some of the most effective horror out there works because it defies our understanding. Even before Lovecraft, we enjoyed exploring worlds and situations that made no sense, that defied all laws of physics, and that left us reeling with their lack of explanations.
And sometimes cheaply-made TV movies can be surprisingly effective in creating images that delight, surprise and scare.
Ah, ScareFest. Truly the most wonderful weekend of the year.
This was a big one. For the 10th anniversary of the convention, they held a Nightmare on Elm Street reunion. Robert Englund, Amanda Wyss, Ronee Blakely, Brooke Bundy, Tuesday Knight, Lisa Wilcox, Andras Jones, Ricky Dean Logan, Miko Hughes and more, all there to help celebrate the 10th anniversary of this incredible con.
There were a lot of non-Nightmare celebrities in attendance as well. Dee Wallace, Danny Trejo, Kristy Swanson, Barry Bostwick, John Kassir and the normal assortment of ghost hunters that I have passing familiarity with.
I always get excited to see what celebrities are coming to the conventions I’ll be attending. To be honest with you, I don’t know why I do it. With the exception of a couple moments – like, say, the chance to get Joyce Summers to wear Wolverine claws – I never go up and talk to celebrities. It’s a combination of not having money and not knowing what to say. I know I’ll end up talking like I’m hosting The Chris Farley Show. “Hey. Remember when you killed that guy? That was awesome.”
I’ll go to the occasional panel, but I spend the bulk of my time walking the floor talking to people. People running the booths. People dressed up as their favorite horror icons. People eating lunch. Just people, man.
So let’s get to it. Who did I meet this year? What wonders did these eyes uncover? And, more importantly, who will survive and what will be left of them?
I met this gentleclown last year. His name is Calypso and he has been doing this for a very long time. See that black thing he’s carrying? That’s his homemade air cannon. He walks around the floor on stilts, blasting the air cannon at unsuspecting passerbys. But he doesn’t just shoot at anyone: he’s into the psychology of it. He likes to read people. If they seem like they won’t enjoy being messed with by a 7’5″ clown with an air cannon, he moves onto the next person.
If you happen to encounter him when he’s not terrorizing the villagers, I highly recommend starting up a conversation with him. He’s terrific.
Also, it’s worth noting that I have issues walking the floor as a regular person. Putting on stilts and navigating through the horde? No thank you.
Billy the Puppet likes JIGsaws, not CHAINsaws, you halfwit.
As always, Circus Envy and the Deadly Sins were at their normal booth. I feel like I talk about them every year, but I cannot stress this enough: they are some of the friendliest people you could meet. When they’re not putting on their show, you can find them talking to anyone and everyone who comes up to them, whether that’s at their booth or while walking the floor. They seem to love being there and they love interacting with people.
Here is Creepy Ronald “Pennywise” McDonald. She’s the best. They’re all the best. Best best best.
Speaking of Pennywise, here we have BFFs Pennywise and Georgie. Terrific costumes, but I didn’t care for the way Pennywise was looking at me.
It was odd. I turned around for a minute and when I turned back, it was just a giant spider. Crazy world, man.
Pennywise waiting in line to meet Robert Englund. Just goes to show you that even your heroes have heroes.
This was my favorite moment of the weekend. The man crouching is Andras Jones. You may know him as Rick, the karate-loving high school student in Nightmare on Elm Street 4. This was immediately after the Nightmare on Elm Street panel and he was making his way back to his table. A lot celebrities that go to conventions make a beeline for their table and don’t really interact with fans unless they’re back there.
Andras saw a little girl dressed like Rick on the way back. Not only did he stop to chat, he crouched down to get on her level; to make sure he was eye-to-eye with her. I absolutely loved this. I’m not going to lie: I think a speck of dust got in my eye as I was taking this picture.
Hey. Speaking of the Nightmare on Elm Street panel…
It was a tremendous amount of fun and I learned a lot about the series as a whole, but there was one other thing I learned: when you have a long-running series and one actor is firmly in the center of every one, the vast majority of the questions are going to be answered by that one actor. Granted, when you have a star as well-known and charismatic as Robert Englund, it’s going to be a good panel. But I began to feel bad for those who weren’t as involved.
Amanda Wyss was in maybe 15 minutes of the first movie, but she was the first of Freddy’s on-screen victims, so she got to answer a couple questions. Andras Jones didn’t get any questions directed his way, but he was sitting next to Englund and is an outgoing guy, so he piped in on some questions that weren’t directed his way. Brooke Bundy proved herself to be extremely adept at comically cynical one-liners. But Miko Hughes – the son of Heather Langenkamp in New Nightmare – sat at the end of the table, silent as could be. Not a single question came his way, nor did a single opportunity to jump in on someone else’s question.
It was a fun panel – it was my first time seeing Robert Englund in person and that dude can command a room like few others I’ve seen – but I left feeling slightly bad for those who were less involved in the series.
One final note on this panel: Andras Jones repeatedly referred to Lisa Wilcox as “sis.” I love that.
This is just perfect. I can’t imagine it would be comfortable to walk the hot convention floor in a plastic bag, but I’m glad she did. I sincerely hope Amanda Wyss saw this.
This guy was standing in the entrance, staring like a maniac and moving his fingers in a supremely unnerving fashion. I loved him.
This Killer Klowns costume was…
[Don’t do it, Dusty. Don’t do it.]
I’m not even sorry.
More from Circus Envy. I cannot stress how much I love this group.
Dinosaur trainer and her dinosaur OH MAN LOOK AT THE LITTLE GIRL’S FACE!
The costume is too big for her, so that T-Rex shuffled all around the floor. Maybe the cutest thing I saw all weekend.
(Please take note of the discoloration in the bottom left corner. HAUNTED FLOOR!)
Also in the running for cutest thing I saw, this little girl with her hand on R2-D2. She wants to be Luke Skywalker in Rey’s vision so bad.
Absolutely my favorite costume of the weekend. She’s Beauty and The Beast. It’s so simple and so clever and so perfectly done. Words cannot stress how much I love this outfit.
If you’ve ever talked to me or read anything I’ve written, you know how much I love Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. I know I’m not alone; it’s highly regarded by a lot of horror fans. That’s why it’s so strange that I rarely see anyone dressed as the titular villain/hero/killer. So, when I come across someone dressed as Leslie Vernon, I proceed to get super excited, jump up and down and take pictures.
Such a cool looking costume. I need more Leslie Vernons at my conventions.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but Freddy’s eating the pizza filled with meatballs with human faces is one of my least favorite scenes in the series. It makes my skin crawl.
Anyway, here is Freddy serving up some “soul food.” I did not look closely at the pizza, so I cannot confirm if there were faces. For my own peace of mind, I’m going to go ahead and assume that it was just a normal pizza. No faces at all, no sir.
This was at the back of the floor. This man was huge and had arms that didn’t seem capable of doing anything but sticking straight out. I have no idea how he made it through all the aisles and I don’t particularly care. I’m proud of you, Mr. Count Chocula, sir.
I would also like an official Count Chocula meddallion. No rush or anything, but Christmas would be cool.
Like the terrible journalist I am, I neglected to get this artist’s name. Every time I walked by, he was working on this charcoal piece of Nosferatu. It’s incredible.
Jareth, The Goblin King. More approachable than I would have though, given the whole “goblin” thing.
They’re looking at me. They’re both looking at me. My time has come. Tell my family I love them.
Oh, nevermind. The Purge isn’t for another month or so. GET LOST, HIPPIES.
This was a husband/wife team. I’ve seen them before and I’ve never bought anything. I have no idea why. The paintings are amazing, but it’s the wood burning that really drew me in. All of them are done by hand. They have a perfect recreation of the poster for Freaks – you can see it a little to the left of the man in the picture – that took them over a week to create. It’s perfect. It’s all perfect. Next year I’ll be all moved into my new house and I will be buying at least one thing from this table.
One of my favorite things of going to conventions is seeing characters from different movies interacting with each other. Pinhead and the Ghostbusters? Sure. Why not?
This was the last picture I took before I left the floor. I saw them quite a few times, but it was always on the other side of the floor from where I was. So I stalked them across the convention floor. I was tired and my feet hurt, but I needed a picture of Tucker and Dale so I kept it up. I was relentless. And when I finally got my picture, I was not disappointed. Their facial expressions are absolutely perfect.
I don’t know about you guys, but those legs look pretty heavy for half a guy.
One final story, sadly unaccompanied by a picture.
I have a system at conventions these days. It’s relatively dead on Friday, so I hit the floor on Friday and scout everything. If I see something I can’t live without, I buy it. I stop and talk to a lot of vendors. I’m relatively free to roam and look around. I take a few pictures, but not many, mainly because there aren’t a ton of people around.
But Saturday? Oh, Saturday. My only agenda is to roam the floor and take pictures of everyone in costume. I stop and talk to people if they’re up for it. But, mainly, I just walk the floor a dozen times looking for good costumes.
So there I am, walking the floor aimlessly. I feel a little pressure on my back, but I think nothing of it. I feel a little more pressure and it’s clear that someone is pushing me to the side. I turn around, ready to give a disapproving look, and find myself looking directly at Danny Trejo. He could have killed me with his mind if he wanted to, but he spared me. Danny, I thank you and my family thanks you.
It was another tremendous year at ScareFest. If you ever get a chance to go, I can’t recommend it highly enough. The floor is huge, the panels are great and everyone is amazing. And if you happen to see a guy with a camera around his neck, grinning like an idiot the whole time? That’s just me. Stop me and say hey.
I’m already counting down the days until next year.
Papercuts: A Passage In Black
By Ryan “HB” Mount
**Spoiler Free Review**
As the fall approaches and the cool air fills the night, we all start to think about what lies ahead. For many, Halloween is around the corner and horror movies begin to dominate our watching experiences. However, this year, the best scary stories won’t be on film, but will be told on black and white pages. That is because author, Cullen Bunn, releases his newest work, A Passage In Black.
Cullen Bunn may be most known for his works in comics. Currently he is writing Marvel’s X-Men, but has been working in comics for years not only at Marvel, but also at DC, Oni, and Darkhorse. However, he is no stranger to the horror genre as he is currently writing Harrow County which perhaps has the title of best ongoing horror comic being currently published.
A Passage in Black is collection of 27 short stories, which include 8 brand new, never published tales and 19 previously only available in small press.
If you are like me and grew up on Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series, you have been wanting to more of these tales since your childhood and every time there is mention of reviving the series or bringing it to screen, you scream in delight. If you are like me, then you know it has been awhile as well. And A Passage in Black fills that similar of itch of feeling terrified one moment and grossed out in another, whether by words or haunting imagines.
The themes of the tales are all over the place. There are stories if old women in the woods, cannibals in the country, and ghost children who come out in the rain. There are also completely absurd chapters than include mutant testicles and killer frogs. No matter your brand of horror, there are stories that you will enjoy.
Not only will you enjoy the actual stories, but Bunn gives readers a peak behind the horror show curtain. At the conclusion of most stories, Bunn lets the readers in on his inspirations behind them. Sometimes, it’s about a pond near his childhood home and other times it all started with one line or one small concept. While, some may wish to not know, you can read them as if you were watching directors commentary on a movie. It is not for everyone, but I will say, after reading “Cold Snap” I was glad to have it there as it may have been the scariest one in the world for me, a soon to be father and Bunn himself shares those reservations after writing it.
While A Passage In Black is certainly not a graphic novel, the book does include 23 illustrations to accompany most of the stories. These are certainly reminiscent in style to the Scary Stories, the art from Tim Mayer is the perfect pairing. All the illustrations are black and white and scratchy which gives it an unfinished look. The unfinished style is like looking at the difference of a brand-new home versus one that is decaying and run-down. It tonally made sense for the book and will help give you nightmares if you are reading before bed.
I promised to keep this review spoiler-free, so any more information would lessen the absolute joy I had while reading A Passage In Black. It is very hard to compare this full length book to what we normally review for this column, but this was the absolute best work I have read since launching the column.
This is a must own for any real horror fan.
I implore everyone to order their copy.
And please check out the other works by the wonderful work from Cullen Bunn at cullenbunn.com and follow him on twitter at @cullenbunn. You can find Tim Mayer’s work over at timmayerart.com . And an additional thank you to Tim Benson at OmahaBound, who got this into my hands, and make sure to follow him on twitter @TBRAMBLIN to see all the great projects he has going on.
And if it was not obvious…
Ratings: 5 out of 5 (actually, can I give a 6 out of 5?)
If you like what you read, make sure to like it and share it on all your social media platforms. If you want to suggest a book to review, make sure to tweet at me @hebruise . Make sure to follow me and check out all my comics work at horror-writers.com (@horror_writers) and over at twoheadednerd.com (@twoheadednerd)
The fire alarm down at the paper mill goes off again, and enters the world through every earhole in the city. Large and sustained, a signal for an imminent danger neither us had to be concerned with. I let myself out of the car in our driveway, and get out my key for the front door. Push it forward into the open concept kitchen, where I don’t do the dishes.
I put the black kettle on a reddening burner. Wait for steam. Think about you back at the field, and inch my bleacher-chafed arse around the cool until I could get warm enough to slip off my toque. I uncurl onto the futon in the living room, press my face down onto its synthetic fabric. Breathed dust and tiny plastic fibre. I start trying to build demarcations in my memories again, to determine when the futon stopped being mine and Karen’s, and started being ours. When everything in the apartment stopped being mine and Karen’s and started being ours.
Like always, I can’t determine it. But tonight it seems most logical the place is actually ours. The three of ours.
The kettle starts harmonizing with the murder cry of the fire alarm down at the mill, so I get up to take it off. My mug is white and thick and deep and porcelain when I pour white liquid into it. This is why I came back to our tiny apartment, to fill the thing with warmth; drag it back to the bleachers with me; something to furl my hands around in the unseasonal cold.
It’s August. I’ve taken to wearing hoodies again.
Karen was killed in our bathroom about a year ago.
When I sneak back to the field, I make sure not to drip any liquid on our floor. I was hoping you hadn’t scored. Hoping you would score after I got there.
See, Karen never wanted me so bad until she found the stains your blood left on our bed, after the first night you slept there. And I liked the way she looked at me, as she pulled off the cover layer and saw them. I thought I heard everything click in her head. I was a fucker. I’d never been fucked by anyone like Karen when she was that jealous, and all I wanted was to keep it going.
That first night, before you bled onto our bed I spurted blood onto your boyfriend’s bathroom mirror, pulled my face toward the glass and popped a pimple. It had been nesting above my left eye, I’d seen in my reflection in an empty glass.
I stumbled out of the bathroom and walked hammered amidst loud Jamiroquai; amidst human bodies pressed together in tight clusters, sweating and talking about me. They were all talking about me, like they start to do at every party, eventually, and I kept my head down and walked into your boyfriend’s chest, spilling his drink down his belly, onto the floor.
Get a rad, he’d said, half-grinning. Instead, I walked straight through the kitchen, down the hard wood hallway, and out the back door. You were out there because you wanted fresh air, standing around pulling the closest thing to it into your lungs. I said you wouldn’t find fresh air around here, if that’s what you were looking for. You were wearing a cheetah-spotted coat, and stockings. Your shirt was way too big and it draped down onto your bare thighs. I could see muscle pulling lines into them when you rested your weight onto one leg and looked past your exhale of grey, towards me.
You asked if I was bored, too. I said “yeah, you wanna go for a walk?”
My apartment was a few blocks away. We ended up outside the front door. I didn’t know where Karen was.
You wanted to try something you hadn’t done with anyone since you were small enough to do it with your dad; I hunched down and let you climb onto my shoulders your legs stretching down to my waist as I stood up. I held you aloft like that and tried to stay as still as possible, fishing around in my pocket for the key. You were crying out because you thought I was going to drop you, and I got scared thinking someone from the party was going to hear us, that they had followed us here.
I got the door to open and it swung forward into the big space of the kitchen. Like it’s always done.
The continuum of nights, of letting myself in, these memories are like weeds uncoiling outwards around the memory of not being unable to open the bathroom door. When it was still my bathroom, not yours, and I had to wait outside, pounding and screaming until Jake stopped torturing Karen and slit her throat. And her screaming fell into silence as her life ended.
Sometimes I see myself as the progenitor of the movements enacted in her death. Like my past decisions were the soul reason she died. I let jealousy out of its cage, and it turned back on me and bit my hand off.
You were there that night she died, uncoiled on my bed, waiting for her to stop screaming. And you were the one that invited Jake over, to keep her busy while we fucked around. I didn’t know Jake evaporated and something else took his place after enough blow and liquor.
When I bring you home from soccer, the firemen have gotten to the mill, and unwound their magic through the vacated halls. Through a signal of silence, they have set another demarcation through our perception of time. One squat between the moment a fire has ended and the impending moment another one begins.
You change out of your soccer uniform and we let ourselves onto the bed. When we’re this close, our hearts beat our minds unhinged.
Sometime later I dream I’m at Karen’s funeral and my mom is there and her blonde hair flows out from under her black hat and she looks into my face and tells me you don’t exist. And I try and argue but when I open my mouth a ringing fills the air and men are dragging me backward towards a police car and I wake into a room filled with the racket of the fire alarm down at the mill. Karen’s there like she sometimes is to tuck me back in, and calms me into quiet. It’s like she knows it’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted.