Category Archives: horror

RetView #59 – 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Title: 10 Cloverfield Lane

Year of Release: 2016

Director: Dan Trachtenberg

Length: 87 mins

Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallacher Jr.

10 cloverfield

Apart from Quarantine 2 – Terminal I haven’t covered any sequels in this series thus far. There are reasons for that, but it might change in the not too-distant future. For now, you’ll have to make do with this, that rarest of things; a sequel on a par with the original. In fact, 10 Cloverfield Lane isn’t a bona fide sequel at all. In the words of uber-geek producer JJ Abrams, it’s more of a ‘blood relative’ of Cloverfield. The original script was called The Cellar, and had nothing whatsoever to do with the original movie. It was written by Josh Campbell and Matt Steucken back in 2012 before being acquired by Abram’s production company, Bad Robot, and adapted to suit.

When the first Cloverfield movie, a found-footage monster flick, was released in 2008, it became an unexpected smash hit, prompting Abrams to turn it into a loosely-connected franchise which, to date, consists of three films all taking place in the same universe, known as the, ahem, Cloververse, with a fourth in production. Each movie deals with creatures from different dimensions attacking earth as a repercussion of experiments carried out aboard the Cloverfield Station in outer space.

If it’s monsters you’re after, though, you may be disappointed with this particular instalment as it would be more accurately defined as a very effective psychological thriller. It follows twenty-something Michelle (Winstead, who previously starred in Final destination 3 and the 2011 prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing, also called The Thing, confusingly enough ) who, after splitting up with her boyfriend, is involved in a car accident. She wakes up in an underground bunker with a broken leg and is told by the bunker’s owner Howard (Goodman) that he took her there for her own protection because the air outside has been poisoned as a result of earth coming under some kind of attack. Suspecting Howard deliberately ran her off the road and abducted her, Michelle is immediately suspicious but has little choice but to play along. The mystery thickens when she is introduced to the bunker’s third occupant, Emmett (Gallacher Jr), who tells her he had been employed by Howard to help him build and stock it. He saw an explosion in the sky and, fearing for his safety, forced his way inside, injuring his arm in the process.

Still dubious, Michelle makes up her mind to steal the keys to Howard’s truck and make good her escape. But before she can open the hatch leading to the outside world, she sees a woman outside covered in skin legions and begins to think Howard may be telling the truth. Bunker life isn’t THAT bad. They have plenty of food and water, and enough books, DVD’s and board games to keep them occupied. However, as the unlikely trio settle down to ride out the metaphorical storm, certain troubling details begin to emerge about Howard. What happened to his missing daughter? What kind of ‘waste’ is he disposing of in that vat of acid in the bunker? What made him flip out playing charades? And why does he dislike Emmett so intensely? All this, added to the tension, growing cabin fever, and general air of paranoia, makes for a powerful movie with a nerve-shredding climax. I’m not going to give away the ending here, but suffice to say it’s one of the most unexpected and breathtaking in recent memory.

Perhaps surprisingly, the movie was met with generally favourable reviews, levelling out at an impressive 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Guardian said it was “More Hitchcock than Xbox” and Jeannette Catsoulis of the New York Times praised the cast and cinematography, saying, “Sneakily tweaking our fears of terrorism, ‘10 Cloverfield Lane,’ though no more than a kissing cousin to its namesake, is smartly chilling and finally spectacular.” Its critical success was replicated at the Box Office, where it grossed over $110 million from a $15 million budget. Not quite as impressive as the first instalment, but close enough.

GO HERE for more RetView entries.

Trivia Corner

In one scene, Howard is watching the 80’s classic Pretty in Pink. In this movie, Molly Ringwald’s character has a hobby of making dresses. This is a subtle reference to Michelle, who had earlier confided to Howard that she dreams of being a fashion designer.


Drabbledark II

I’m pleased to announce that my story The Hungry is included in Drabbledark II: An Anthology of Dark Drabbles, out now on Shacklebound Books. The anthology, edited by Eric Fomley, promises, “A ton of amazing dark horror, science fiction and fantasy drabbles.”

The Hungry was inspired by Dan Simmons’s The Terror, itself a fictionalized account of Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition to the arctic. I’ve always thought they should’ve known better than to get on a ship called HMS Terror. They may as well have called it HMS You’re Fucked.

Check out the amazing cover art:

Go here for the full ToC.

Drabbledark II is out now on ebook and paperback.


Trigger Warning – Speaking Ill

My short story Eeva is included in the new anthology Trigger Warning – Speaking Ill, edited by John Baltisberger and published by Madness Heart press.

From the blurb: “Through strange, terrifying, and disgusting horror, these 9 authors ensure that death is no safe space. No corpse will escape their due through death, but will instead be allotted the full measure of what our authors have in store.”

This is your trigger warning.

Eeva is ostensibly a story about getting a Facebook friend request from some murky figure in your past and all the memories that it might dredge up. That’s probably something we’ve all experienced. On a more personal level, its about a Finnish exchange student I met (who wasn’t called Eeva) at university who may or may not have been a vampire. Vampire or not, the bit about her inviting three blokes on a weird group date simultaneously really did happen. By the end it turned into a ‘last man standing’ scenario. Maybe they do things differently in Finland.

Writing for Horror Tree, Rebecca Rowland said, “For those readers trapped in the monotony of working “stuffed in a corporate box,” C.M. Saunders’ “Eeva” revisits the youthful excitement and nostalgic novelty of strange desires. The narrator receives a friend request from a woman he knew briefly in college. Most of his social media inquiries are from “obviously-fake catfish accounts made in the image of busty Russian beauties called Layla, or Filipino women who tell me they love me then ask me to buy them a new phone,” but this notification piques his interest, and that’s because Eeva isn’t a textbook case of lost love. Hidden beneath her bohemic façade was a primal nature that went deeper than the narrator ever could have imagined. To reveal any more would be to spoil the climax, but be warned: readers should go forth with a strong stomach.”

You can read the rest of her review here.

Trigger Warning – Speaking Ill is out now.


RetView #57 – What a Carve Up! (1961)

Title: What a Carve Up!

Year of Release: 1961

Director: Pat Jackson

Length: 87 mins

Starring: Sid James, Kenneth Connor, Shirley Eaton, Dennis Price, Donald Pleasence, Michael Gough

Okay, this isn’t strictly a horror film. It’s more of a comedy in the Carry On Screaming vein. By coincidence, it even features some of the ‘Carry On’ lot. Though leaning more toward comedy, it was effectively marketed as a comedy horror, and is therefore worthy of a place in this series, the purpose of which is not only to celebrate the classics, but also the derided, forgotten and overlooked. If anything, I lean more toward the derided, forgotten and overlooked in an effort to make them slightly less so. What A Carve Up! is intentionally crammed full of old-school horror tropes and cliches from misty moors and an old haunted mansion, to secret passages and clandestine murders, and is all done with that distinctively quaint English charm. The film was loosely based on the novel The Ghoul by Frank King, which had been adapted for the screen in 1933.

When affable yet unremarkable Ernie Broughton (Connor), who spends far too much time with his head buried in horror novels, recieves word that a distant uncle of his has died, he travels to a secluded country mansion for a reading of the will with flatmate Syd Butler (James). There, the duo meet an eccentric selection of distant relatives, a butler (Michael Gough in the same kind of role that later defined him in the Batman films), and a mad piano player. Soon after they arrive, one of their number is found murdered, forcing the others to spend the night in the company of the killer, who doesn’t stop at one. The night quickly descends into a riotously funny battle for survival, and a hunt to unmask the crazed killer. One of the funniest moments comes when someone calls the police and an Inspector accuses Ernie of not being as much of a fool as he makes out. “But I am!” he protests. All this leads to a predictably preposterous ending and final unveiling, but by then you won’t even care who the killer is because arriving at that point is such good fun.

The title itself works as a pun on carving up (dividing) the deceased family estate, and ‘carve up’ as in cutting meat, a reference to knife murder, one of the ways one of the victims are dispatched. In America, the title was changed to, “No place like a homicide!” which is obviously a play on the phrase “No place like home” which also works as its set in an ancestral family home. The phrase had been buried in the American psyche since popularized by the character Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz (1939). I do love a good pun. Perhaps surprisingly, the movie didn’t fare so well in America, and wasn’t helped by a spate of indifferent reviews, like the one to be found in the New York Times on 13th September 1962, which stated, “The fact that a film of this degree of vulgarity and ineptitude should have managed a week’s booking at neighbourhood theatres throughout Manhattan demonstrates just how acute the motion picture product shortage really is.”

Even so, over the years What a Carve Up! has deservedly won cult status in the genre labelled ‘dark house’ by some. In truth, it’s a parody, and a very effective one, which is hardly surprising given that it was co-written by the king of the double entendre, Ray Cooney. Incidentally, the director Pat Jackson went on to lend his skills to The Prisoner and the Professionals, among other things, and it was a huge influence on the 1994 novel of the same name by Jonathan Coe which won the John Llewellyn Rhys prize, one of the oldest literary awards in the UK. Its current overall score on Rotten Tomatoes stands at a respectable 66% while it has been ‘liked’ by 91% of Google users. It’s also notable for a late, uncredited cameo from teen idol Adam Faith. You can watch What a Carve Up on YouTube.

Trivia Corner:

The butler Fisk is pictured reading a copy of DH Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.” In 1961, this was a subtle, yet timely gag as its publishers Penguin Books had been prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act in a widely-publicized trial at the Old Bailey the previous year.


Don’t Fall Asleep podcast

I’m bloody excited to have one of my stories, The Others, featured on the near-legendary Don’t Fall Asleep podcast put together by those amazingly gory folk at Bloodbound Books!

The Others is about a Tinder date going wrong. Very wrong. You can read more about the furry-themed story and where it came from HERE.

Listen in to Don’t Fall Asleep on Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts, for a chance to win a paperback Burnt Fur, the anthology the Others was originally published in. You can also find it on YouTube.

Don’t forget to check out the Bloodbound Books website for a ton of free content including my splattery short Siki’s Story.


RetView #56 – Fright Night (1985)

Title: Fright Night

Year of Release: 1985

Director: Tom Holland

Length: 106 mins

Starring: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Roddy McDowall, Stephen Geoffreys

Something occurred to me recently. So far, I haven’t covered many vampire movies in the RetView series. In fact, the only ones I’ve featured have been Lost Boys and Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Personally, I just find the whole vampire thing a bit naff and predictable. If you’ll excuse the pun, it’s been done to death. Hurrah! That’s why, to my mind, the vampire legend is best done with a splash of humour, like both the aforementioned did with great success. Another vampire comedy horror classic is Fright Night from 1985, the year of Brothers in Arms, Live Aid and Miami Vice. It became the second highest grossing horror movie of the year behind A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge, and is notable for being the directorial debut of Tim Holland, who went on to direct Child’s Play (1988) and Thinner (1996) as well as episodes of Amazing Stories and Tales from the Crypt. The movie also benefited from a Big Eighties Soundtrack featuring the likes of the J Geils Band, who performed the title track, Autograph, April Wine and Ian Hunter, the irony being that most of these artists were already streaking into irrelevance having peaked long before. Much like the vampire itself. If the producers had been a bit more adventurous and signed someone a bit more contemporary (like the Elm Street franchise did a couple of years later when they hired Dokken to record the seminal Dream Warriors, or when the makers of Shocker persuaded Megadeth to get involved) it could’ve made all the difference. Still, Fright Night didn’t really need the Big Eighties Soundtrack, it was a massive hit anyway, winning three Saturn awards and grossing over $24 million, despite Columbia having very low expectations of it.

17-year-old Charley Brewster (Ragsdale) is a fan of horror films and a late-night TV series entitled Fright Night hosted by former ‘vampire hunter’ Peter Vincent (McDowall). One evening, Charley discovers that his new next door neighbour, Jerry Dandrige (Sarandon) is the blood-thirsty sucker responsible for several mysterious disappearances. In desperation, he alerts the authorities but, unable to find any evidence, they brush off Brewster’s claims and leave him at the mercy of an angry and vengeful Dandridge. Fearful for the safety of himself and his girlfriend Amy (Bearse) and with no other choice, Brewster goes to best friend Evil Ed (Geoffreys) and his idol, Vincent, for help. Together the motley crew battle the forces of evil. Or try to. But far from being a fearless vampire hunter, Vincent turns out to be a bit of a scaredy cat, as well as a fraud, Brewster’s best friend is a bit of a dick, and his girlfriend appears to have the horn for his nemesis.

The writing in Fright Night is top-notch, as are some of the performances. Stephen Geoffreys (who, ironically, went on to star in 976-EVIL a couple of years later) is brilliant as Evil Ed, but it’s Roddy McDowall who steals the show. One of those saturn awards went to him for ‘Best Supporting Actor.’ His character was named after horror icons Peter Cushing and Vincent price, for whom Holland had specifically written the part. However, at this point in his career, Price had been so badly typecast that he had stopped accepting roles in horror movies. Hollywood badboy Charlie sheen auditioned for the part of Brewster, and I can’t help feeling he would have been amazing as the bumbling teen, but Holland thought Sheen was a ‘hero’ while Ragsdale was, quite literally, “the guy next door.” For her final transformation as a busty vampire, Amanda Bearse wore a prosthetic breast plate to enhance her cleavage. Legend has it that in 2012 she took it to a horror convention and encouraged fans to ‘feel her boobs’ while she signed autographs. Brilliant.

Fright Night as a franchise has grown to include a sequel, imaginatively entitled Fright Night Part 2 (1988) and a remake in 2011. When later asked his thoughts about it, Tom Holland said, “Kudos to them on every level for their professionalism, but they forgot the humor and the heart. They should have called it something other than Fright Night, because it had no more than a passing resemblance to the original.”

Ouch.

The remake was itself followed by a sequel Fright Night 2: New Blood (2013), as well as numerous comics, graphic novels and a video game. Interestingly, the movie even made the crossover to Bollywood in 1989 with a version called Kalpana House (1989), and was adapted for the stage in 2018. Proof positive that, just like the vampires of myth and legend, Fright Night lives on. And on.

Trivia Corner

The makeup for Evil Ed’s wolf transformation took 18 hours to complete. While he had the wolf head on, the crew began pouring what they thought was Methylcellulose into his mouth to create the illusion of saliva, but when Geoffreys began to complain about the taste, the crew realized they’d been using prosthetic adhesive, which was gluing his mouth shut. Doh.


The Plague Pit

So… my latest book Back from the Dead: A Collection of Zombie Fiction recently dropped. It contains two complete novellas (Dead of Night and Human Waste) alongside several short stories that were previously published in Morpheus Tales, Crimson Streets and the anthology Digital Horror Fiction Volume 1. You can read a review by Ginger Nuts of Horror HERE.

The centre piece of Back from the Dead, is a new novelette called The Plague Pit. When I wrote it a couple of years ago, the original intention had been to sell it to a magazine or anthology as I do most of my stuff, but at around 8000 words it was just a bit too long for most markets. Then, I planned to publish it myself as a stand-alone, but wouldn’t you know it, at around 8000 words it was just a bit too short for that. Rather than ask readers to pay for what amounted to little more than a short story, I decided to package it with some other similarly-themed stories.

During the Black Death which swept through Europe 14th Century, people were dying at such a rate that they were often disposed of in mass burial sites. These burial sites, which were usually located away from town centres for obvious reasons, were colloquially called plague pits. Local legend maintains that there’s one such plague pit situated near an abandoned chapel somewhere in the hills overlooking main character Owen’s home town and one summer’s afternoon, he sets out on a hike to try to prove or disprove the myth. What he discovers is far, far beyond his imagination.

Incidentally, the town in the story is Wood Forge, a fictitional place loosely based on my own home town of New Tredegar which I’ve used as the setting for several of my stories over the years including What Happened to Huw Silverthorne, What Happened Next and Never Go Back. Some of these stories are interconnected, while others just reference each other or some past work, the ultimate goal being to compile all the Wood Forge stories together into one book some day. I guess you could say Wood Forge is my version of Castle Rock, kudos to you if you get the reference.

Back from the Dead: A Collection of Zombie Fiction is available now on paperback and ebook.


X5 is OUT NOW!

The fifth volume in my X series featuring ten (X, geddit?) slices of twisted horror and dark fiction plucked from the blood-soaked pages of ParABnormal magazine, Demonic Tome, Haunted MTL, Fantasia Divinity and industry-defining anthologies including 100 Word Horrors, The Corona Book of Ghost Stories, DOA 3 and Trigger Warning: Body Horror.

Meet the local reporter on an assignment which takes him far beyond the realms of reality, join the fishing trip that goes sideways when a fish unlike any other is hooked, and find out the real cost of human trafficking. Along the way meet the ghost which refuses to accept that death is the end, the office drone who’s life is inexorably changed after a drug trial, and many more.

Also features extensive notes, and original artwork by Stoker award-winning Greg Chapman.


Table of Contents:

Demon Tree

Revenge of the Toothfish

Surzhai

The Sharpest Tool

Something Bad

Down the Road

Coming Around

Where a Town Once Stood

The Last Night Shift

Subject #270374

Afterword

WARNING: Graphic Content

X5 IS OUT NOW!


X5 – Cover Reveal!

My new volume of short stories, imaginatively entitled X5, is up for pre-order now! Dropping in a matter of weeks, it is set to feature ten previously-published pulse-pounding slabs of hoffific fiction, extensive notes, and original artwork from the Stoker award-winning Greg Chapman which I can show you right now.

Let me know what you think!

X5 will be available exclusively on ebook, and is up for pre-order now.


The Colour out of Deathlehem: An Anthology of Holiday Horrors

Season’s greetings, come all ye faithful and all that jazz. Christmas is supposed to be about giving, a sentiment that often seems to get lost in these capitalist, consumer-driven times. It just feels good to do things for other people. Sometimes.

Anyway, back last year, I was about 700 words into this cool little Christmas horror story I was writing about a dude that finds an old Santa suit, puts it on, and then finds he can’t take it off. It starts to grow on him, fusing with his skin. Not only that, but his behaviour starts to change. He’s not the man he used to be. For starters (sorry) he’s hungry all the time. No matter how much he eats, he’s still hungry. He eats, and he eats, and he eats. The story was going well. Right up until the point where I realized I’d subconsciously nicked the plot straight from the Eli Roth film Clown (2014) and just replaced the clown suit with a Santa suit.

Bugger.

I posted in a horror writing group on Facebook complaining about my wasted efforts, prompting Michael McCarty to PM me suggesting what he called a ‘quick fix,’ which between us we adapted into a killer twist. The resulting collaboration, Finders Keepers, can be found in The Colour out of Deathlehem, the latest charity release from Grinning Skull Press. By my reckoning, this is the eighth volume of holiday horrors they have published to benefit the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

The Colour out of Deathlehem is out now on paperback and ebook.


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