Book Review: MORE LORE FROM THE MYTHOS

Leave a comment

more lore from the mythos
Fractured Mind Publishing
2019

  • Fourteen fresh tales of madness and monsters from Fractured Mind Publishing that will leave you wanting more while you thank the Old Gods for the Mythos that inspired these stories.

A friend of mine recently just had a short story published in an anthology collection of stories inspired by the great nightmarish mashup of horror and science fiction that H. P. Lovecraft foisted upon the literary world in the early 20th Century: More Lore from the Mythos. With a title like that, it sounds like this may have been a sequel to an earlier anthology book, but no–it looks like this is a stand-alone collection, not tied in to any anthology series. Yet.

Anyway, the fact that my friend got published here means two things to me: 1) I really need to get my middle-aged butt in gear and get something published that isn’t a review of something, and 2) I have an excuse to buy another book to read. As much of a Lovecraft enthusiast as I am, I also enjoy reading other authors play around in ol’ Howard Philips’ sandbox. Let’s see what we have, here…

  • “Everything That Was Before” (Edward Morris)

A disturbed man recounts how his former girlfriend transformed from human to…something else entirely… As the lead-off story, I have to admit at least it wasn’t your standard cut-n-paste writing style going on. Took me a bit to find the rhythm reading this, but overall was an interesting take on the Deep Ones.

  • “Little One” (Valerie Lioudis)

A demon offers a girl her most fondest wish in exchange for her soul…well, that was the idea, until he realized–far too late–who (or what) he was dealing with…and what her fondest wish really is… Oh, I rather adored this story. It has vibes of Clive Barker’s story “The Yattering and Jack” from the Books Of Blood collection, only here the twist is that the “human” is something far older than the Devil himself.

  • “The Call” (Aaron White)

Detective David Carter–great-grandson of one Randolph Carter–investigates a strange case of several dozen people–men, women and children alike–all just up and drowned themselves in the cold waters of the Atlantic ocean for no apparent reason, and it seems to be affecting everyone investigating the situation… Well, it was good to see a shout-out to Lovecraft’s recurring protagonist Randolph Carter, and in a story that’s genuinely eerie and heavy with the oppressive atmosphere and imagery. I could almost smell the ocean in this one, really.

  • “The Damned of Eldritch Creek” (Jon Tobey)

A young heir to a mysterious land that is not on any modern-day map decides to go and destroy the dam that his grandfather built, in the name of bringing back the natural ecology…only, it seems the dam is there for a purpose beyond electricity… Here we have a story that emulates Lovecraft’s more formal reportage style of writing, almost coming off as reading a 19th Century diary, only the story is clearly set in the modern times. It works, especially when the horrific beasties rear their unnatural heads.

  • “The Flood” (Oliver Lodge)

A brief yet rather bleak Southern Gothic style tale of a prostitute that’s haunted by the memories of her dead brother/lover, as she goes to spend her final moments of life with his remains during a torrential late summer flood. This story doesn’t necessarily reference the Lovecraft mythos directly; as a matter of fact, even after chewing over the story, I still haven’t figured out the connection. Other that it being set in New Orleans, a city that, in an of itself, can be considered a living entity within the mythos, I guess.

  • “Sweet Oblivion” (Michael Clark)

An immortal man sworn to fight the infestation of the Old Ones has a bit of a chat over coffee with one member of his enemies… Nifty how this story ties in key tragedies in history (the Salem witch trials, Jack the Ripper) with being influenced by the elder horrors the protagonist is fighting against. Also, I couldn’t help but picture actor Navid Negahban (Legion) as the possessed antagonist holding a conversation with the protagonist of the story. Such is how my mind works.

  • “The Mines of Innswich” (Ryan Colley)

In the small, obscure New England town of Innswich, in the late 1920s, a research assistant from Miskatonic University stumbles upon a secret chamber deep in the abandoned mines, and goes mad from what he sees… Halfway through the collection, and we finally get a proper tie-in to Miskatonic University, as well as a jolly-good old fashioned style Unspeakable Horror tale with a bit of a twist at the end.

  • “The Time Guardian” (L. E. Harrison)

See, there’s this Time Guardian named Julian, whose mantra is “Rescuing Rainey Sullivan is going to be the death of me.” The Rainey in question being the 14-year-old daughter of the chief of the Time Guardians, who likes to send Julian in to rescue her from whatever misadventure she gets herself in… This story kinda feels like it’s not whole, like there’s more to this story than what we got. Entertaining for what it is, but it’s almost like craving a steak, but only being given a slice of summer sausage.

  • “The Wyrd Voyage” (Kari Leigh Sanders)

Three Norwegian witches from about the middle of the first Millennium AD head out to sea to confront a new Old God about his shenanigans…and then Loki shows up… This is a nifty mash-up of Lovecraftian lore and Norse mythology, which is always fun. However, thanks to recent pop culture, I can’t help but picture Tom Hiddleston appearing as Loki while reading this…which probably means I owe Disney royalties or something…

  • “Last Orders” (Dale Drake)

Two would-be grave robbers are in search of the fabled Necronomicon, supposedly hidden within the crypt of an eccentric rich man; what they find is a bit more than they bargained for… Lovecraft loved his dank, hidden underground passages and rooms, and here the imagery is used to good effect. The ending made me want to take a long, hot shower, muttering “unclean, unclean, UNCLEEEAAAN…”

  • “The Maze” (Charles Reis)

A college student uses a public restroom, only to discover that it’s a portal to an alternate realm, where he and a handful of others are stuck traversing a labyrinthine maze, filled with unspeakable horrors and controlled by an unseen Puppet Master… This story reminded me of Brian Lumley’s novel The House of Doors, and its sequel The Maze of Worlds…only, this story was written better and got to the point far more efficiently.

  • “Growing Just Beneath” (Steve Van Samson)

A homeowner takes on some yard work removing a parasitic vine that has infested his dogwood tree and lawn; it’s not as simple as it sounds… I have to say, this one reminds me of one of the more classic Stephen King short stories from the early days, one from maybe Skeleton Crew, or even Night Shift; something that takes a seemingly innocuous everyday grunt task and turning it into a nightmare.

  • “The Shed” (Patrick Rahall)

An old farmer has been feeding and caring for some…thing in his shed, and one night he discovers–a bit too late–that it’s about to reproduce… Another story that made me want to take a long, hot shower after reading, despite a key scene involving a shower. Unfortunately, I was at work when I read this, so I couldn’t. Probably for the best.

  • “The Gate Keeper” (EV Knight)

A collector of skeleton keys suddenly finds themselves in possession of a key to the gates of Hell, and as such saddled with a Hell-ish responsibility…that was an attempt at a pun… Anyway, this final story was a good way to end the collection, as I was rather amused at the image of someone being followed around by a bunch of dead souls like lost puppies.

Overall, I found More Lore from the Mythos to be, for the most part, an entertaining collection worthy of the mythos. I say, “mostly”, because I really don’t think the story “The Flood” ties in with anything Lovecraft had established. If anything, it seemed more on-par with a Poppy Z. Brite short story than inspired by H. P. Lovecraft. Also, there’s that incest aspect there that may be problematic for some people. One could argue that “Growing Just Beneath” also has nothing to do with the Lovecraft mythos; however, the mind-bending insanity that results is key to the aesthetic of a good Lovecraft tale, so I can see why it was included.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering which of these authors is the friend I was talking about at the start of this article: I’m not telling. You’re going to have to guess. Otherwise, yeah, I would recommend checking out More Lore from the Mythos. My Kindle edition was only $4, so you get some good chills for your buck.

Movies+Beer: ENS RATIONIS + Top 5 Favorite Horror Movies Talk

Leave a comment

ens rationis movie banner

James is joined by Kari once again to discuss the new short film Ens Rationis, as well as chat a bit about their Top Five favorite horror movies. It’s in the title, there. What makes the list? Are there some hidden gems to check out? Only one way to find out, tender listener…

ENS RATIONIS on Amazon Prime

Movie Review: HORROR HOTEL The Movie

Leave a comment

horror hotel the movieIndie Rights
2016
NR

“Dairy farms in Oregon aren’t cheep.”

The anthology series continues dishing out short slices of sci-fi/horror/mystery tales with plenty of quirky characters and twisted endings. Aliens, psychos, brain robbers, clones and more are caught up in extraordinary situations at this mysterious hotel located in rural Georgia.

I came across the Horror Hotel movies (there are two of them…don’t worry, tender reader, I’ll get to the other one in due time) by way of Amazon Prime streaming. They’re both available on the site to watch for free for Prime members. And of course I would put them in my watchlist. If it turned out to be incredibly bad, at least I didn’t pay anything extra for it.

Spoilers: I still wanted money back after watching this. So you can imagine how the review for the “sequel” is going to go. But, I digress.

So, from what I could glean from the interwebs, Horror Hotel began life as a web series anthology show, obviously inspired by the likes of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and Tales From The Crypt. There are three-ish seasons available, and after going through the episode titles, it looks like the first movie was essentially consisting of the second season of the show. This may sound a bit lazy, but for those of us where we were unaware of the series, this is as good as any an introduction to what’s out there. If one was morbidly curious. So help me, I was morbidly curious.

There’s no wrap-around story with this anthology. The movie wastes no time with leaping into the stories, beginning with “Aliens Stole My Boyfriend”, where we’re introduced to the titular boyfriend being tossed out one of the rooms of the Horror Hotel (technically, this is more of a motel, but I’m guessing the creators wanted to go with alliteration or whatever) by his girlfriend because of not being satisfied with their quality of life, when a couple of blonde female aliens crash into the girlfriend’s car and immediately begin flirting with the boyfriend. It doesn’t waste time getting to how bad the quality of these selections are, and it doesn’t help that the two aliens’ whole thing is that they learned about Earth culture by watching old television broadcasts from the 1960s, what with their means of dress, talking, and dancing to the radio. Seriously. The next short, “Coma Girl”, is slightly less painful, and involves a groundskeeper of a nursing home who has fallen in love with the titular lady in a coma, and tries to steal her away from her loving husband as they celebrate their wedding anniversary at the hotel. The following short, “The Problem With Clones”, follows a bounty hunter skip tracer wearing an outfit that will make your eyeballs bleed as he tries to find a particular woman who has skipped out on her trial for murder of her clone “sister” over a lottery ticket. In “Brain Robbers In Love”, the CEO of a book publishing firm is looking to do some espionage into a rival company, by swapping brains with a younger lady who works for said firm. “Four Eyes” finds a man who is trying to hire a paraplegic hit-man to kill his ex-wife, brainstorming the best way to do so. Finally, “Life After Men” takes place in a non-descript future dystopia, where almost all of the men have been hunted to extinction in the female-dominated society in which life is controlled by The Server. Two women are staying the night at the “hotel”, while a couple of agents of The Server show up due to rumors of a man being in the area.

While watching Horror Hotel The Movie, I couldn’t help but think–more than once–that there was very little by way of actual horror in this anthology, making the title a bit of a misnomer, issues with this being set at a motel notwithstanding. I mean, the whole thing starts off with an attempt at science fiction comedy, the second story implies that the janitor may have done some unspeakable acts with a comatose woman, and the third story is once again an attempt at science fiction comedy, with a bit of noir thrown in for…reasons. The two positives I could glean from this were “Life After Men” and “Brain Robbers In Love”, both of which had some interesting concepts going, and one wonders if there was some script doctoring and a decent enough budget behind them, fleshing things out, we could have had a good one-two punch. “Four Eyes” is just…dull. Predictable. Forgettable.

The acting is, as you may have guessed by now, rather bad, but at least it falls under the Unintentionally Hilarious kind of bad. The stories suffer from a combination of an ultra-low budget and some half-baked scripts with incredible leaps of logic that takes you completely out of the movie. Honestly, had the filmmaker been able to procure an actual budget and get to redux maybe three of the stories for the big screen, like with the Twilight Zone movie, fleshing things out and maybe, I don’t know, inject some horror into them, Horror Hotel: The Movie would have been at least a worthwhile watch. Instead, we get a repurposed bundle of crud in a shiny new wrapper. I understand there is a remnant of those who are fans of the Horror Hotel series, but I cannot for the life of me understand why. Watch only if you have the cast iron stomach for things like this. Otherwise, pass.

Movie Review: PRISONERS OF THE LOST UNIVERSE

Leave a comment

prisoners of the lost universeDimension Films
1983
NR

“I think you should know, I can’t stand hights, they give me a headache.”

Three people are transported into a parallel universe. There they find that they must use modern technology, but medieval weapons, in order to save the citizenry from a murderous warlord.

You might have noticed, but coming across and watching obscure low-budget sci-fi and horror movies is kind of what I do. It give my dark, lonely nights meaning. A reason to continue to live, if you will. My theory is that, by witnessing these train wrecks, the very act of existence doesn’t seem so bleak. I’m an optimistic nihilist. And if your head just didn’t blow up from that conceptual paradox, let’s discuss the early 80s scienc fiction fantasy movie Prisoners Of The Lost Universe, shall we?

Prisoners Of The Lost Universe is a sight to behold. And by that, I mean it’s a cheep-looking visual cheeseball that seem to may have spent the majority of its overall budget on getting the original Captain Apollo from Battlestar Galactica as the lead. I say “may have”; the original Battlestar Galactica wasn’t exactly a special effects extravaganza, but compared to this movie, that makes the show seem like Star Wars.

The cheese levels on Prisoners Of The Lost Universe rivals that of Star Crash, only this one lacks both David Hasselhoff and a sassy robot sidekick with a bizarrely specific southern accent. It’s interesting in a trainwreck kind of way, but still gets tedious long before the end credits roll. I wouldn’t necessarily say “pass” on this one; mileage may vary, but for me, it’s a case of one-and-done.

Book Review: DOCTOR WHO: Scratchman

Leave a comment

scratchmanTom Baker
BBC Books
2019

‘Having friends is nothing to be afraid of,’ I reassured them. ‘They’re there for the small things in life — laughing at your jokes, drinking your tea, rescuing you from dungeons. Friends remember you how you’d like to be remembered, and forget the rest. Friends turn up at the last moment, friends tell you to keep running.’

The Doctor, Harry and Sarah Jane Smith arrive at a remote Scottish island, when their holiday is cut short by the appearance of strange creatures – hideous scarecrows, who are preying on the local population. The islanders are living in fear, and the Doctor vows to save them all. But it doesn’t go to plan – the time travelers have fallen into a trap, and Scratchman is coming for them. With the fate of the universe hanging in the balance, the Doctor must battle an ancient force from another dimension, one who claims to be the Devil. Scratchman wants to know what the Doctor is most afraid of. And the Doctor’s worst nightmares are coming out to play…

What’s all this, then? An all-new novelized Doctor Who adventure, featuring the Fourth Doctor and his companions, Sarah Jane and Harry? All written by the man who played the Fourth Doctor himself, Tom Baker?

I believe the phrase you’re groping for is, “Shut up and take my money.” At least, that was my immediate response when I read of this recent publication on the list of Science Fiction Books being published in February of 2019. Den Of Geek is such a wonderful resource, that.

So, I went and immediately bought the Kindle edition of Scratchman, and read through half of the novel in a handful of hours at work, when I made myself reign in things to keep from scarfing this all down in one setting. Take some time, enjoy it at a more leisure pace.

That’s why I waited until the next day to finish it. Totally worth it. Anyway…

If you’re a Doctor Who fan, I shouldn’t have to explain who Tom Baker is. His portrayal of the Doctor is the iconic version for many a Whovian, myself included. He was my first Doctor. He’s known mostly as an actor; he has written a couple of books: One autobiography, and one dark humor novel entitled The Boy Who Kicked Pigs.

Interestingly enough, Scratchman isn’t technically Baker’s first stab at writing for his character; the book actually started off as a rejected script he wrote with James Goss as a Doctor Who feature film. Forty years later, and we finally have that vision in book form. Which…let’s face it, this is probably the best way to present this story, using the reader’s imagination to come up with the special effects. They’re not as skinflint as the BBC would have let them back in the 70s.

The story of Scratchman is told in first person by the Fourth Doctor, who takes on the role of the Unreliable Narrator in this instance. He weaves a tale of how, beginning with standing trial in front of his fellow Time Lords (won’t be the last time that happens, sorry to say) to answer to the crime of…saving the universe. Again. His very existence is threatened to be wiped away permanently, lest he convinces the jury of peers that his actions have merit. So, he tells them a story of learning fear, of a time when he and his two companions — Sarah Jane and Harry — come across a village terrorized by living scarecrows, which leads to finding themselves in an alternate dimension where a powerful entity calling himself the Devil is wanting into our universe to feed off of. Mainly because his own cosmic all-you-can-eat buffet is nearly dry. Trust me, the Time Lords are a tough crowd. And it doesn’t help that the Doctor was late to his own trial, or that there was a literal Sword of Damocles dangling over him, waiting to wipe him from existence at the snap of the Time Lords’ fingers. In other words, it’s a typical day for the Doctor.

As to Tom Baker’s writing style, I described it to a friend as being like Terry Pratchett if he wrote for the Scholastic crowd. It’s in the same vein as Pratchett and Douglas Adams, but more whimsical, like a Roald Dahl after a couple of pints. As a matter of fact, the whole of Scratchman has that feel of a great-uncle (or what have you) spinning a spell-binding yarn; you can almost see the twinkle in Baker’s eye as he writes this all out for us.

So, yeah, Scratchman was a rather enjoyable Doctor Who story. It takes some interesting twists and turns, and satisfies that empty void that is always there while waiting for the next season series of Doctor Who to broadcast. Also, there’s a bit of a passing of the torch to Number Thirteen buried in there, somewhere. I’m not going to say where, you’ll have to read to see what happens. Which you should. Read it, I mean.

Movie Review: The GALAXY INVADER

Leave a comment

galaxy invaderMoviecraft Entertainment
1985
PG

“What’s dad gonna go huntin’ for, mom?”
“Let’s play Scrabble!”
“I hate that game.”

A drunken redneck encounters a newly arrived visitor from space while wandering in the woods. He recruits a whole gang of rednecks from the local pool hall, and they charge off into the woods to capture the creature. A college professor and one of his students are the only ones sympathetic to the plight of the Galaxy Invader, and they must match wits, if that is the word, with this army of backwoods slobs in order to keep the alien from being taken prisoner.

One of my favorite episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 was the Pod People episode. If you haven’t seen that particular classic, stop reading this now and go watch it. Go ahead, I can wait.

Finished? Good. Now, you may have noticed at the beginning and end credits of the movie itself, there were clips of a movie that had nothing to do with the actual movie itself. For years, I kept trying to find that particular movie, if it did indeed exist. Well, it does. It’s called The Galaxy Invader, and hoo boy, am I glad I found this.

An obscure low-budget direct-to-video sci-fi flick it’s easy to see how this escaped my attention back in the day. I don’t recall ever seeing it at the Applause Video where my family rented our movies (it would be another 10 years before Fremont would get an actual Blockbuster); I certainly never saw a copy for sale at any of the department stores. Just as well; something tells me I wouldn’t have appreciated such a momentous cheeseball like I do now.

Wow, where to begin with this movie? How about the main antagonist, the redneck Dad who’s always drinking, yelling at everybody for no apparent reason, threatening violence against his family at the very slightest provocation, all the while wearing a dirty white t shirt with a giant hole torn in the middle of it. Classy. Or how about the unintentionally hilarious dialogue, like the exchanged I decided to use as the quote up top of this review? Yeah, I had to pause the movie to let sink in that I just heard that exchange. Or the slapdash nature of the plot. Or, perhaps the alien costume that seems to be a cast-off reject from the Creature From The Black Lagoon set. The dime store special effects. Or that ending that really wants to get the feels out of you, but just ends up cheesy.

Whichever way you slice it, Galaxy Invader is amazingly bad, the kind of movie that you really want to watch with several of your friends just to take the brunt of the intensity of the cheese factor. If you do, you might want to get sufficient amounts of adult beverages and/or pain killers. Also, watch this on the RiffTrax edition to lessen the pain.

Movie Review: AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS

Leave a comment

await further instructionsDark Sky Films
2018
NR

It’s Christmas Day and the Milgram family wake to find a mysterious black substance surrounding their house. Something monumental is clearly happening right outside their door, but what exactly – an industrial accident, a terrorist attack, nuclear war? Descending into terrified arguments, they turn on the television, desperate for any information. On screen a message glows ominously: ‘Stay Indoors and Await Further Instructions’. As the television exerts an ever more sinister grip, their paranoia escalates into bloody carnage.

I know what you’re thinking. Maybe. You’re probably thinking, “Hey, according to that description blurb that Uncle NecRo stuck up there, this sounds something like that “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street” episode of The Twilight Zone.” And I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that. After having watched Await Further Instructions, though, I would liken the movie to more of an extended, feature-length episode of The Outer Limits. The 1990s revival version, not the 1960s classic, mind you.

So what we have with Await Further Instructions is a very tense science fiction psychological thriller that may be as subtle with the social commentary as a cinder block with the word SUBTLETY written on it being heaved through a window and hitting you square on the forehead, but it’s a well-made and well-paced bit of British science fiction that manages to wiggle and burrow its way underneath the skin and embed itself there long after the end credits roll. The movie deftly leaves you with more questions, but in a way that adds to the tense atmosphere and paranoia that ensues. That ending show itself still chills me when I think about it.

In the end, Await Further Instructions is a small sci-fi flick that deserves to be sought after and checked out.

Older Entries