Archive for Ghost

New MINUTE MORBIDITIES: CUDDLE

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Happy Hallow’s Eve, ghouls! As the dark day approaches, a new episode of MINUTE MORBIDITIES has been released. This one’s called CUDDLE.

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Happy Halloween, folks.

Short Story: TRICK FOR TREAT

Posted in Halloween, Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2015 by smuckyproductions

In time for Halloween, here’s a little story about a different kind of trick-or-treating.

TRICK FOR TREAT

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Dressed in a white sheet, the shape went out at sunset, when the bare branches were black against a sky of fire and the cries of children lilted on the wind. No one looked twice at the shape. Gliding behind the other costumed children, he looked like any other little boy. He did not speak and was not spoken to, until the group he followed reached the porch and rang the doorbell. Creeping up the steps, past fresh pumpkins leering with ephemeral faces and false spider webs drifting in the brittle air, he waited for the tribute like the other children, but did not say “thank you” and flee giggling to the next house as they did; and the adults, looking down at what they thought was a child, would pause, smiles fading, and speak. When they went quiet and had shut the door, he was free to dissolve into another group, and at the house next door, would do the same.

When the adults leaned down and looked into the holes in his sheet, expecting to see the glint of eyes, they spoke in soft voices. They said, “Well, no, I’m not sure I do love him;” or, “I meant to throw those dirty magazines away, but I couldn’t stop staring at them, I couldn’t look away.” He listened as they went on – “He doesn’t look at me anymore;” “I never wanted to touch that student, but he was so, so beautiful;” “You know, sometimes I do wonder, I do want to know what she would look like dead.” In their whispered tones the words had no more substance than the autumn wind that curled around them. They flitted off into the leaves, into the moonlight, and into the holes in his sheet, where they twisted and hardened into something material. Once the words could no longer sustain themselves, he left. The speaker would stand frozen for a moment, frowning and staring at the ground, trying to understand the hollow that had formed inside their chests. It never took them long to realize that they would never understand, so they trailed back inside. He did not know what happened to them after that.

The violet evening and black night shrouded him for long enough, and allowed him to visit many houses, hiding in the folds of plastic devils or cheap satin witches, who he knew did not see him. Only the adults, herding their children down the street or stumbling on their way to a neighbor’s party, would stop and watch. Once the moon began to peak in the sky, and the children were dragged back into their homes, he would no longer be safe roaming in the open. With no one left to camouflage him, he faded back into the night, from whence he had come. The sheet fluttered away and stuck in the branches, a ghost of its own; and he, uncovered, became an It, blended seamlessly with the dark. Under the cold moon and the black branches, he could feast on the treats he had plundered, the breathed secrets that had been tricked from the mouths of those who refused to acknowledge them.

Film Review: CRIMSON PEAK

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2015 by smuckyproductions

One of the most anticipated genre releases of the year, CRIMSON PEAK is a gorgeous and impassioned return to form for Guillermo del Toro. This was at the top of my list ever since rumors and stills began leaking through the Internet catacombs. And I was not disappointed.

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The story is nothing terribly original – a young woman marries a mysterious man and follows him home to a decaying mansion, which is filled with ghosts and deadly ulterior motives – but del Toro plays it out sincerely and powerfully, making sure each emotional moment hits at the right time. He’s a terrific storyteller. And with such an amazing cast – Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, and Tom Hiddleston, to name a few – the story becomes vivid. But that’s not the best part. (What also might be said is, contrary to most Gothic stories, this one does not punish or weaken its women. The female characters are the strongest ones, which is refreshing and necessary.)

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What comes as no great surprise, but is still an absolute joy, is the production and costume design. Every image of the film explodes with color and detail. It’s a deliriously beautiful homage to the master of Grand Guignol lighting Mario Bava – sickly greens, vibrant reds, and cloying blues are all used boldly and to great effect. The success of these visuals is a testament to how ingenious Bava was as a filmmaker, and to see him referenced is joyous. Roger Corman also comes to mind, of course, but del Toro’s haunted house is more surreal than that.

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I don’t want to spoil too much, but the design of the ghosts was also profoundly original – it continues on del Toro’s concept from “The Devil’s Backbone,” but as if that film dropped acid. They’re polarizing, I’m sure, but I found them both fascinating and strangely terrifying. It’s rare that showing the monster can in itself be scary – usually the golden rule is to keep them in the dark – but in this case, every time they came on screen, I was frightened.

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It’s important to address, however, that del Toro did not make a horror film. This is not meant to be scary or shocking. There is violence and terror, but the main emphasis is placed on the theme of love, and the romance between the characters. So, don’t expect a traditional horror film. Del Toro himself said: this is a Gothic Romance. And that genre has been neglected of late. I am thrilled to see storylines that echo Sheridan Le Fanu and Nathaniel Hawthorne play out on screen. Del Toro is a huge nerd, just like me, and it comes through that he’s done his research.

While “Crimson Peak” certainly isn’t for everyone, it is a dream come true for people who love a classic ghost story and appreciate the beauty of cinema. Del Toro crafted this film with immense love and passion, and that shows on every frame. He loves his monsters and in turn, so does the audience. Beautiful, chilling and exhilarating, “Crimson Peak” is a macabre delight.

Forbidden Tomes (Halloween edition): GHOST STORIES of M.R. JAMES

Posted in Forbidden Tomes, Halloween with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2015 by smuckyproductions

One of the most ancient, and perhaps overdone, horror subgenres is the ghost story. No matter how oversaturated the market becomes, we always look for truly spine-tingling and chilling tales of the supernatural. For the best offerings of this tradition, I argue that it’s best to go back to the roots – those creepy Victorians, and most wonderful of all are the GHOST STORIES OF M.R. JAMES.

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With his first two collections in particular, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary and More Ghost Stories, James explores what happens when innocent explorers stumble on something from the other side. Usually the consequences are a fainting spell and a good shock, but sometimes the ghosts are more dangerous. Set in crumbling cathedrals, dreary manor homes and drafty seaside inns, his stories are full of the best sort of atmosphere. Their protagonists are hardly unique or memorable, but what happens to them in these spooky locales is always hard to forget, especially late at night.

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James is one of those authors who, if you haven’t actually read a story of his, you’ve seen them referenced or redone. If he’s not the inventor, he’s the popularizer of the white-sheeted, object-cursing, revenge-seeking spirit in popular culture. His stories are simple and often tongue-in-cheek, but there’s something about their subtlety and lack of grotesque flair that makes them far too easy to believe. James is blunt about his supernatural occurrences, which makes them all the more frightening.

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By today’s standards his images are basic and silly – but he handles them in a way that makes the horror visceral and undeniable. It’s worth noting as well that James introduced some of our standard ghost tropes, too – evil dolls, man-hungry spiders, and child demons, amongst others. His almost sardonic treatment of these images is strikingly modern. He has a great sense of sadistic humour, torturing his audience with gossipy grotesqueries and blurted horrors. One can imagine him watching the reader from afar, smirking in delight as the goosebumps rise.

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His best stories – such as “Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad” and “A Warning to the Curious” – have sustained amazingly, still frightening after all these decades. Their wind-swept climes and shadowy twists are best navigated in the dark of an October night – they were traditionally read by James in pitch-black rooms as an after-dinner form of entertainment. And somehow, across the crawl of time, his autumnal voice still echoes.

Films That Haunt Me (Halloween Edition): DEAD OF NIGHT

Posted in Films That Haunt Me, Halloween with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Happy 2nd of October! Continuing on the theme of the month, I present the first of our Halloween-themed Films That Haunt Me.

When we think of classic horror from the 30’s and 40’s, we tend to recall the Universal monsters or Val Lewton’s psychological thrillers. My personal favorite from that era is a far cry from any of these offerings. Ahead of its time, brilliantly written, and ultimately, surprisingly terrifying, today we discuss DEAD OF NIGHT.

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This is perhaps one of the earliest anthology films, and it’s clear how it set the standard for the ones to come. It is structured around a house full of people, gathered for an undisclosed purpose, telling stories of their encounters with the supernatural – all to soothe the fears of a man who repeatedly dreams that he murders someone. Each story mounts in deadliness and terror, until the line between fiction and reality is blurred, then obliterated.

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It’s tragic that this film isn’t more readily available. Once you’ve seen it, you recognize how heavily it’s influenced everything else in the genre – from the Twilight Zone to Creepshow to any psychological-surreal horror out there. And it was made decades before most of its tropes were made standard. There’s creepy dreams, undead plot twists, one hell of an evil dummy, and a tremendously unsettling ending. I had a vague idea of what the film was when I sat down to watch it, and I did not expect it to frighten me so much. Subsequent viewings have not lessened that effect.

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What makes this film truly remarkable for me is the circumstance under which it was created. A British studio struggling to survive after World War II decides to make a horror film, a genre seen as sinful trash back in that day. What they end up creating is something so ambiguous and psychological, predating that subgenre of horror by perhaps twenty years, and changing the genre forever. That is something remarkable to me.

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As for the relation to October, this film captures the traditional spirit beautifully – an old dark house, telling scary stories, doubting the line between real and unreal, et cetera. The individual tales are ingenious, but the arching story is what really evokes the creepy atmosphere. This film holds up amazingly well, considering its age, and is perfect for a quiet night when the wind is moaning. Watch out – it might start circling your dreams, too.

Fool’s Gold is available in paperback!

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2013 by smuckyproductions

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“Fool’s Gold,” a new vision of horror, is now available in paperback. Click HERE to buy now!

Fool’s Gold will be available for purchase TOMORROW!

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2013 by smuckyproductions

My debut novel, “Fool’s Gold,” will be available on ebook devices through Amazon and other venues tomorrow afternoon. Stay tuned for the links and get ready to download!