Tuesday, December 24, 2019


KRAMPUS - Krampus is a demon/ goat who punishes naughty children in pre-Christian Germanic folk tales. He’s celebrated on Krampuskarten with festivals, greeting cards and parades. Sounds great. But, in large part, Krampus -- the movie --disappoints. It attempts to capture the spirit of the 80s horror/ comedy classic film entitled Goonies. What’s wrong with it? It’s too gimmicky, there are too many jump scares and the CGI images are overdone. Forty minutes into the movie nothing has happened other than a dinner and a snow storm. Moments that have horror potential are actually missed opportunities. I really wanted to like this movie but it wasn’t funny and it also wasn’t scary. A cool idea? Yes. A good movie? Clearly, no. 

Friday, December 20, 2019


Review of The Merchandiser by Myra G – “In this case, the Merchandiser is a department store decorator. It is almost Thanksgiving and Fred Dorman's job is to dress the store for Christmas. Fred is a loner, but not by choice. He knows he's an ugly man who has had no luck with women. He thinks it's perfectly alright to sleep with a mannequin that he's smuggled home. The store decorations and windows are so perfect he is sure he will get a raise. Instead, when he reaches out to the store's pretty bookkeeper, what he gets is a domino effect as things get hopelessly out of control. I can see this story being presented by Alfred Hitchcock. Very well done.”

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Phantastes by George MacDonald (1858)

PhantastesPhantastes by George MacDonald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Phantastes by George MacDonald (1858)
A young man is pulled into a dream world, hunting for the Marble Lady, an idealized beauty. After many adventures and temptations he gives up his ideals.

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Friday, December 6, 2019


JOKER - This material has been fashioned into comic books, merchandise tie-ins, live action flicks, animated movies, TV series, books and video games. The Joker was created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson, in Batman’s debut issue, published in 1940 by DC Comics. Directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix, the setting of Joker (2019) is razor sharp:  Manhattan in the early 80s. Imbued with sleazy porn theaters, sidewalk assassinations, garbage strikes and police corruption. Many character defects contribute to his craziness: jokes that don’t land, his childhood abandonment, weird dance moves, bizarre sense of style, and uncontrollable laughter at inappropriate times. Joaquin Phoenix takes exceedingly challenging material for an actor, and transforms himself. He’s pitiful at first, but becomes the embodiment of the Joker, in a swirling descent into madness. The film has many critics, complaining it condones violence. I will offer an alternate opinion: it can’t be gratuitous if it’s essential to the plot. Joker is a triumph of originality in movie making, in an era of cookie cutter comic book remakes. Yes, you heard that right. An original remake. An antihero becomes heroic, and accomplishes this solo, for all the wrong reasons. Somehow 80 year old source material has been formed into something fresh and new. In this nihilistic world, society steps over the most unfortunate, or does worse. You might think the audience would dislike Arthur Fleck. But you’d be wrong. Who is to blame for the Joker’s atrocities? Perhaps it’s a little bit on all of us. 

Sunday, November 24, 2019


GRAFFITI SONATA by gene o’neil - Imagine the loneliness you’d feel, if your classically trained flautist of a spouse moved out, and took your young daughter with her. Flip through the artist’s sketchbook, as his images transform from love, to loss, and give way to grief. The story is organized in a sonata structure, with dream sequences blending ghost-like visions with the natural world. In ‘Graffiti Sonata’, the reader delves into an unfocused mind, sinking into despair as he loses everything he ever loved. This story first appeared in Dark Discoveries Magazine issue #18, Winter/ Spring 2011, and was reprinted in Best of Dark Discoveries, published by Dark Regions Press in 2015.

Want to read more? Check this and other good horror for a great cause, in Tales for the Campfire by following this link:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Q4Z32VP/

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (1844)

The Three Musketeers (The D'Artagnan Romances, #1)The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (1844)
A young man leaves home to join the Musketeers of the Guard. Unable to join the elite corps, he befriends the three inseparables.
The Three Musketeers (The D'Artagnan Romances, #1) by Alexandre Dumas

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Saturday, October 19, 2019


THE ROAD - The Road is a post-apocalyptic film (2009) based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning book (2006) written by Cormac McCarthy. Directed by John Hillcoat, the film stars Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee as a father and his son. The story flips back-and-forth between past/ present, as an unspecified cataclysm destroys almost all life on Earth, ending civilization in the process. Somehow, the father and son are optimistic, in a bleak landscape of almost unimaginable grief and loss. The narrative’s pace is lumbering and plodding, punctuated with brief glimpses of terror. Shot in real locations, mostly around Pittsburg PA, deliberate choices were made to avoid using CGI to enhance its stark realism. Featuring an eerie score heightened by loops and percussion, including violin piano and wind instruments written by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

Monday, October 14, 2019


john wilson by clifford brooks - Part abstract poem, part dream world, part monologue: ‘John Wilson’ by Clifford Brooks is a highly unusual short story. It’s hard to define but that’s what makes it so great. An unsatisfied hairdresser mind melds two boyfriends together, and is visited by a conjoined spirit requesting a haircut. Sign said haircuts, he said. This story was originally published in in Cemetery Dance #49 in 2004. Find this and other really good horror/ paranormal shorts in Tales for the Campfire. All profits go to the victims of the November 2018 Camp Fire. 

Want to read more? Check out Clifford’s site: https://www.cliffordbrooks.com/

Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (1387)

The Canterbury TalesThe Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (1387)
Mostly written in verse, Chaucer describes a wide range of classes in English society. As a courtier he wrote poetry for the nobility. In the Knight's Tale, he leads crusades against pagan leaders in many countries.

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

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Friday, September 27, 2019


DEATH'S PARADE FILM FESTIVAL - Just in time for Halloween: Death's Parade Film Festival, a series of shorts and feature films, including gore, ghosts, killers, monsters and dark comedy. The festival runs from 2 to 11PM Pacific at the following address: Towne 3 Cinemas at 1433 The Alameda in San Jose. Enjoy the virtual world of Sansar on October 3rd, then attend the festival in person, on Saturday October 5th. I was a panel selection judge, along with judging the award for best writing. The festival is sponsored by the Horror Writer’s Association, so stop by and say hell-o-ween!

Thursday, September 19, 2019


IT CHAPTER TWO MOVIE REVIEW - This is a two-part review, see below for an earlier post. In 2017, I watched ‘It’ on opening weekend, and also mentioned I’d previously seen the 1990 mini-series.  The film is adapted from Stephen King’s book of the same name. ‘The Loser’s Club’ are adults now, and everyone has moved away from Derry, except Mike. He fears Pennywise has returned, 27 years later. People in Derry start disappearing, so Mike calls club members, and asks them to meet up with him. It’s at this point that plot problems with the movie begin to creep in. As adults, the ‘Losers’ don’t remember the clown battle which occurred in ‘It Chapter One’. This begs the question: Why drop everything and immediately rush back to Derry? Since only Mike knows Pennywise has returned. The ending isn’t great either. King acknowledges this, and it becomes a running joke. King pokes fun at himself, when he’s featured onscreen, in a cameo appearance. I don’t like ruining movies with spoilers, so read on at your own peril. In the climatic ending, the ‘Losers’ (or at least Mike) know Pennywise represents their greatest fears. The solution is as simple as: “just don’t be afraid anymore”. If it’s that easy to defeat the monster, why not do that a lot earlier? And finally: the opening. A homophobic hate crime occurs, that does come right out of the book. I think that scene is a throwaway which has nothing to do with the movie. I found the scene to be a random afterthought, unnecessarily gratuitous and not connected to the plot in any way. The production was better, and there was less CGI than part one, but overall there are some pretty glaring missed opportunities.

Sunday, September 15, 2019


STILL LIFE WITH SHATTERED GLASS BY lOREN rHOADS  - Horror writers are often asked – Why are you so fascinated by the macabre? In ‘Still Life with Shattered Glass’, Loren Rhoads explores motivations of people who share those particular predilections. 
When a college junior finds herself stranded at a party, she hitches a ride and spends the night with a photographer.  It’s a little bit sexy, with a touch of dark humor, and comes together with a scary (of course) twist ending. A different version of this story was originally published in Cemetery Dance #54 in 2006. Don’t forget that profits from this anthology go to victims of California’s greatest disaster, the Camp Fire of 2018. 

Want to read more? Sign up for her mailing list at https://lorenrhoads.com/.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill 2007

Heart-Shaped BoxHeart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill 2007
An aging collector of the macabre gets more than he bargained for when he buys a heart-shaped box.
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

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Thursday, September 5, 2019


THE DARK CRYSTAL - Based on a 25-page story written by Jim Henson entitled The Crystal, The Dark Crystal (1982) is a puppet animated dark fantasy film. A young Gelfling goes on a quest to heal the crystal, before Thra’s three suns align, to prevent the Skeksis from ruling Gelflings forever. Directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz, The Dark Crystal relied on groundbreaking animatronic puppets instead of human actors. The most recent installment in the franchise is entitled The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019), available to stream now on Netflix. Development on the new series was based on rich notes, archival puppets and set designs, that were developed for the original feature film. In keeping with the original, actual puppets and sets are used, instead of CGI.