I’ve done a lot of digital dress up for horror themed articles on my site. Here’s a collection of my best computer generated costumes for Halloween.
Submitted for your approval, a photo application with a very unique function. Through its lens, you’ll see into another world. A world not too far from our own, where vanity is condemned with words but embraced with pictures, where self esteem depends on the perception of one’s peers. There’s only one subtle difference; this app goes beneath the skin to bring our true selves to the surface.
The subject can try to hide, show their most symmetrical side, cock their hip to look slender, but our digital mirror will make the facts clear. It erases slight squints, sucked in cheeks, and upturned chins. It takes fish lips, frog tongues, and duck faces off the menu. It shows the cracks beneath the glamour, the sadness beneath the humor, and the cowardice beneath the peacock feathers. It expands the frame to show the whole picture.
While most photo applications are exhibitions of vacant expressions, ours is a gallery full of empathy. Each portrait invites the viewer to peer through the windows of the subject’s soul, to see through the eyes of their storm, to get lost in the surrealistic cyclones swirling in their thought clouds. Other platforms distill those dark spots, ours shines a light on them, our only filter is the truth.
While Instagram has users staging candids, rehearsing off the cuff poses, and engineering their all natural looks, Insta-Damn shows their spirits. They can go through the chore of looking like they’re having fun, pain themselves to seem laid back, inflate themselves to seem down to earth, but Insta-Damn shows users for what they really are.
These are not the aura pictures you get at the fair. These portraits lay all of your personality’s deformities bare.
Early adopters have little reason to embrace the humiliation, but when they see everyone in their feeds using it, they’ll come. If peer pressure doesn’t get to them, curiosity will. Who doesn’t want to know what they look like on the inside? Who doesn’t want to see their ideas take shape? Who doesn’t want the purity of their heart graded?
It’s been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Insta-Damn sees you with eyes that are utterly clear.
Submitted for your perusal: your dirty little soul. Look upon it at your own risk, because these selfies come straight from the Twilight Zone.
Just in time for Halloween, comes five flash fiction stories about modern monsters taken out of their element. Each one is dark, fiendish, and utterly comedic.
Be sure to check out part 1, right here.
Pinhead finds the Rubik’s Cube
At this point, the Rubik’s Cube wasn’t a threat to Theodor’s intellect, it was a threat to his masculinity. The orange side had been solid for half an hour. The other colors refused to go along with the program. His solution was more wine.
Randomly twisting the puzzle, Theodor managed to make a blue T shape. Reverse engineering the process, he replicated it on the other sides. Turning the bottom, he made a red cross. Digging into those lower corners, another strategy came to him. Downing his glass, he applied this method everywhere.
All that was left were a few straggling colors on the edges. Turns out, these were the bastards of the bunch.
Theodor chucked the cube into the fireplace, topped off his glass, then struggled to get it out without searing his fingers. He’d beat this thing, even if he had to get creative.
Several glasses passed. When Theodor turned the final piece into place, the room began to shake. The chandelier swung back and forth, scattering crystalline patterns. Either Theodor was drunk, or there was something wrong with the shadows the lights were casting. Those dark spots didn’t stop at the walls, they pushed through them, making holes, holes that grew with the swaying of the chandelier. The pendulum motion eroded the room, revealing four long caverns beneath the bricks.
Peering in, Theodor saw four figures approaching. They were dressed like clergymen in some kind of bondage gear. There skin was pallid, the color of death. As they neared, the light revealed tears in their garments, where fresh wounds gushed in torrents.
A hulking creature entered the room. The skin of his upper lip was stretched over his head. His teeth chattered. A bald, but feminine figure, entered beside him. She had a vanity tracheotomy with wires holding her throat open for all the world to see. A mountain of blubber crossed the room to join them. His eyes were sewn shut. The gashes in his chest were wide open, basting his belly in blood.
The trio made room for a final figure, who took his time stepping into the light. There were slits in his robes where a network of piercings zigzagged across his chest. His face was covered in a grid of pins, meticulously hammered into his skull.
Shaking, Theodor fell over the arm of the chair he’d been sitting in. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
Pinhead stepped forward. “We are connoisseurs of suffering, looking for fresh gashes to suit our palates. You solved the Rubik’s Configuration and we came, so that you too may taste our pleasures.”
Theodor ducked behind the chair. “No thanks, we’re all good on pleasure here. Feel free to leave the way you came in.”
The female licked her lips. “This one teases, claiming ignorance.” Her throat opened and closed as she spoke.
Pinhead reached out, the cube flew into his grip. “We cannot return alone, not without some fresh flesh.”
Theodor pointed over the armrest. “There’s some ground chuck in the fridge. Help yourself.”
Suddenly, the chair filled with a series of hooks, linked to chains drooping from the ceiling.
With a flick of the wrist, Pinhead flung the chair across the room. Twirling his fingers, he directed the chains into a holding pattern over Theodor’s head.
Pinhead passed the cube from hand to hand. “All right, you’ve whet our appetite. The time has come for the main course.”
Raising his hand to direct the hooks, Pinhead noticed a red square shaped sticker on the tip of his finger. He examined the Rubik’s Cube. It was missing something. “Did you peel some of these blocks off and switch them around?”
Theodor tried to speak through panicked breaths. “Does, does that matter?”
Pinhead spun around on his heel. “Cenobites, return to the Labyrinth.”
The female balled her hands into fists. “But he solved the box, we must play with him, pierce his flesh, draw his pain out into exquisite pleasure.”
Pinhead shook his head. “It doesn’t count. He cheated.”
Pinhead tossed the counterfeit cube at Theodor’s feet. Then they were gone.
The Clowns of America International Vs. Pennywise
Pennywise was already gnawing on the microphone by the time the attorney for the plaintiff approached the bench.
She folded her glasses. “Now that was a fine story. If this was the first time I’d heard of Pennywise: the dancing clown, bringing balloons to kids at the hospital, I’d say you were a hero.”
The defense attorney shot up. “Objection: badgering.”
The judge twirled her finger at the attorney for the plaintiff. “Get to the point.”
The attorney tongued the inside of her cheek. “Could you tell the court what those balloons were filled with?”
Shrugging, Pennywise fluttered his eyes. “Blood, but that’s just because helium is so unhealthy for young lungs. Still, my balloons float. They all float down here.”
The attorney nodded, unfazed. “In addition to offering laughter therapy, what are your other contributions to the hospital?”
Pennywise straightened his posture. “I deliver bodies to the morgue when the staff is occupied.” Smiling, he showed a mouth full of shark’s teeth.
Rushing to her desk, the attorney grabbed a folder. Six hobo clowns sat at the table, gripping their bindles in anger.
The attorney waved a document. “Isn’t it true that under your watch at St. John’s, seven bodies have gone missing?”
The defense attorney slapped their desk. “Objection: leading.”
The judge rolled her eyes. “Sustained.”
The attorney for the plaintiff approached the bench. “Permission to treat the witness as hostile.”
“On what basis?”
The attorney looked to the demon clown, leering at her with those glowing amber eyes.
“He keeps flashing his fangs at me.”
The judge looked to the stand to find Pennywise pulling a series of knotted snakes out of his pocket, discarding the slithering pile on the courtroom floor.
She nodded to the attorney. “Okay, I’ll allow it.”
The attorney for the plaintiff waved a document in Pennywise’s face. “Isn’t it true that you were the nurse responsible for delivering each of the missing bodies?”
Making puppy dog eyes, Pennywise shift his head back and forth. “May-haps.”
“So what happened to those bodies?”
The court erupted in laughter. Honking his nose, Pennywise gave the gallery a little wave.
The judge struck her gavel. “Order! Order!”
The attorney snapped her fingers to get Pennywise’s attention. “Are you familiar with the term coulrophobia?”
Biting his lip, the clown shook his head. “Nyuk-nyuk.”
“It means fear of clowns.” The attorney motioned to the frowning hobos behind her table. “Clowns like the Clowns of America international, who feel misrepresented when someone claiming to be one of them takes a position in a children’s ward with the sole purpose of feasting on cadavers.”
Yawning, Pennywise plucked out his eyes and started juggling. “I get peckish, after a couple of cartwheels. So sue me.”
The attorney for the plaintiff waved her hands over the clown’s empty eye sockets. “Um, Mr. Pennywise, that’s exactly what we’re doing here.”
Nosferatu Goes on a Cruise
The passengers should have known something was wrong when they found bathrobes in the ballroom, slippers in the internet café, and jewelry in the buffet.
It wasn’t until crew members vanished in the middle of their duties, that people started complaining. Barbers left men with shaving cream dripping down their beards. Estheticians left facial masks to harden. Acupuncturists left patients full of pins. It was like they’d gone out for smoke breaks and never came back again.
No one noticed when the DJ went missing, because his playlist kept right on going. No one thought much of the skull in the miniature golf course, it fit the pirate motif, everyone just played around it. No one noticed the Blue Man Group’s changing lineup, but when passengers came for an encore performance of the onboard musical, they were surprised to find the cast had been replaced by their understudies.
At night, passengers said they saw a strange shadow on the jogging track: a hunchback with ears like a bat. Others reported seeing something in the spa, waiting beneath the bubbles: a pale face, with glowing yellow eyes, and big buckteeth. Others saw the figure in the atrium, in a long black coat, riding the elevator up and down, keeping its hollow sunken gaze fixed on them.
The ship’s final meditation session was cut short when a passenger opened her eyes to find the person next to her with a gaping neck wound.
The chief security officer couldn’t deny it any longer, they were riding with a killer. The C.S.O. set a sundown curfew. The crew found his remains smeared across the corridor: his severed arm still hanging from the railing, his fingers discarded in potted plants, his head yawning inside a life preserver. What little flesh remained was lathered in pepper spray. It seemed like he fired it at his attacker and they acquired a taste for it.
That night, the creature stalked from cabin to cabin, smearing blood across the port holes, drenching luxury linens, and brutalizing mini bars.
The communications officer tried to contact the mainland, but something had gnawed through the equipment. The crew found his mangled corpse on top of the funnel, surrounded by discharged flare guns. When they discovered burn marks on the upper decks, they realized he was firing at someone.
By the time the wave pool ran red with blood, it was too late for everyone. The masts filled with bodies, with the flesh stripped down to their calf implants.
The few survivors barricaded themselves in the crew’s quarters. They were forced to make a last stand when one of them crawled through the wreckage to retrieve her Botox injections.
By the time the toilets overflowed with sewage, there was no one left to complain. The ship was a ghost, haunted by a stowaway sleeping between the engines. Hiding in the dark, it waited for the vessel to run aground.
Freddy Krueger has that Dream Again
Freddy watched his prey from the shadows of the Nightmare Factory. The kid was a bookish little dweeb, in a tweed jacket with leather patches. Walking through a steam vent, the pressure revealed his teenage combover.
Freddy’s guttural laughter echoed off the equipment. He chuckled until he felt something on his tongue, like a piece of gravel that fell in while his mouth was open.
Swishing it around, it felt like his cheeks were full of stones. Spitting them out, he saw they were actually teeth. Tonguing the holes in his gums, he felt a set of fresh molars coming in. They too fell from their sockets. Spitting again, he felt a tooth get stuck inside his gullet.
Freddy coughed, but it wouldn’t come out. He slit his throat, catching the tooth in his glove. It was too large to fit in his face, like a toy a dentist would keep on his desk.
He smirked. “Well, that was Freudian.”
Freddy usually dug through his prey’s subconscious, pulling out props, costumes, and sets, but this kid was pushing things onto him, a white blood cell attacking a virus. The dweeb had himself a powerful imagination.
Freddy had to assert his dominance. He listened to the factory floor, hearing footfalls around the corner. He turned to find his quarry just beyond the brim of his tattered fedora.
The kid squeaked at the sight of Freddy’s charred peeling face. Freddy opened his glove, flashing the blades that made up his fingers. He ran them along the pipes, drawing out sparks, leaving steam in his wake.
The dweeb sprint down the tunnel, charging right through the Door of Dread. Sunlight shined over the threshold, casting the boilers in an awkward light. The little runt was leading the way to his deepest fear.
Freddy ran through the door to find himself in a high school class room. The students burst into laughter at the sight of him. Usually, the dream demon had full reign over the extras in the nightmares he was running, but these kids were improvising.
The teacher removed her spectacles. “Mr. Krueger. Where are your clothes?”
Freddy looked down to find he was wearing his glove and nothing else. His burnt skin was exposed to the breeze. “I must have forgotten them.”
She rolled her eyes. “I trust you remembered to study for your final exam?”
Freddy scanned the students’ faces. Sure enough, the dweeb sat in back, hiding when he should’ve ran. Freddy made a beeline for him, when the teacher grabbed his arm. He spun around to slice her belly, only to find his claws padded with apples.
The teacher plucked one off and directed Freddy to his desk.
Freddy turned around to sneer at the sniveling twerp, who was holding onto his pencil for dear life.
“Eyes on your own paper, Mr. Krueger.” The teacher snapped.
Fine, he’d play along. If only to let the little bastard twist in the wind.
Freddy read the first question:
“12 friends agree to stand guard while the others sleep in shifts. They assume that everyone will need a minimum of 4 hours of sleep. School starts in 6 hours. How many groups will they need to break into if only 1 group volunteers to take 2 separate sets of 2 hour naps?”
Freddy sliced through the page, reducing the desk to splinters.
“Something wrong with your test, Mr. Krueger?” The teacher folded her arms.
Freddy shot up, “Listen here, you stupid bitch. I’m about to give you an education in pain–”
The teacher pulled a lever on her desk. The tiles fell out from under Freddy’s feet. He found himself falling through the clouds right beside his prey.
Rolling his eyes, Freddy shouted. “Seriously, we go from losing teeth, showing up to school naked, to falling through the sky?”
The dweeb flailed his arms. “What’s your point?”
Freddy shrugged. “Nothing. I just had you pegged for a writer and this all seems rather uninspired.”
The dweeb nodded. “Oh, I am a writer. I’m just kind of a hack.”
Freddy shrugged. “Fair enough. Hey, which would you rather fall into: a pit of snakes or a pit of spikes?”
Weighing his options, the dweeb cocked his head. “Surprise me.”
Beetlejuice Messes with the Ghost Hunters
Steve, Jason, Adam, and Amy huddled around their audio equipment.
At first, the Ghost Hunters assumed a radio signal had bled onto their electronic voice recordings, but when the playback said, “Hey buddy, did the redhead come with you or is that cherry ripe for the picking?” they changed their minds.
Reviewing the audio, the team discovered the same grizzled voice answering all their questions. Back at the old mansion, they’d waved their micro-recorders in the air, hearing nothing, but now this entity sounded like it was speaking right into them.
Steve’s voice blared over the speakers. “If you’d like to communicate, please complete the following rhythm.” On site, Steve had knocked on a wall to the beat of Shave and a Haircut, stopping just shy of Two Bits.
No one recalled hearing anything at the Deetz estate, but on the recording the entity didn’t just complete the rhythm, he sang along, “Shave and a haircut, no shit.”
Usually they had to loop an EVP over and over again, picking each word out of the static until the answers made sense, but this voice, grizzled as it was, came through loud and clear.
There was a piercing whistle. Adam jumped back from the audio equipment.
The whistle was followed by a full marching band stomping through a can-can with the brass section blaring and the cymbals crashing.
Steve turned to Amy.
“Is that Offenbach?”
Amy nodded, it was.
The grizzled voice returned with a southern drawl. “Come on down to the grand opening of Beetlejuice’s Emporium of the Paranormal. We’ve got your residual hauntings, we’ve got your poltergeists. Demons? We got ‘em. Every suite comes with HBO, vibrating beds, and a portal to a dark oblivion. Spend the night and get a wake up call from a shadow person.”
Adam paused the tape. “This has to be a joke, right?”
Amy shook her head. “The EMF meter spiked in that room.”
Adam’s finger hovered over the play button. “Yeah, but there was something strange and unusual about that home owner. Miss Lydia Deetz, she was talking to herself the entire time we were there. She could’ve had an earpiece tuned into a confidant who was jamming our equipment.”
Amy didn’t buy it. “Did you get cellular reception in that house?”
“No, but come on, ghosts don’t know about paranormal investigators, let alone advertise to them.” Adam hit play.
On the recording, Steve asked, “What do you want?”
The music faded back in behind the voice. “Beetlejuice is the name, and all I want is to hear you say it. What’s that Walter White?” The voice shift into a spot on impression of actor Bryan Cranston. “Say… my… name.” Then it shift back. “What’s that Florence and the Machine?” A woman sang, “Say my name” dragging out the last note on the word “name.” Then it shift back. “What’s that Destiny’s Child?” Three female voices harmonized. “Say my name, say my name. When no one is around you, say Beetlejuice I love you.”
Beetlejuice’s southern drawl came back thicker than before. “That’s right, all you gotta do is say my name. Not once, not twice, but three times and admission is on me.”
There was a horn like a New Year’s noisemaker.
“Come on down to Beetlejuice’s Emporium of the Paranormal. Bring your unwed teenage daughters for a free season pass. It’s beetle mania.”
Before anyone could debate it, Amy did as he instructed.
“Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice.”
The studio’s fluorescents flickered off. A spotlight blinked on in the center of the room.
Beetlejuice boomed over the speakers. “Ladies and gentleman, please welcome your host with the most, a man who thinks The Exorcist was a comedy. If you haven’t had him inside you, then you haven’t been possessed. Here’s… Beetlejuice.”
The figure slid into the light decked out in a striped suit. His long thin hair flowed behind him. His eyes were encircled in dark spots. His smile revealed a set of yellow teeth.
Throwing his arms open, his palms burst into flames.
May I present Part 2 of my Obscure Horror movies suggestions series:
Found Footage and
Found footage movies are such a polarizing sub genre of horror that many moviegoers have written it off entirely. Most critics treat it like a gimmick rendering their verdict before sitting through an entire flick. Some of these movies don’t even bother maintaining the effect throughout, resorting to floating cameras and mood music.
Produced on shoestring budgets, found footage movies always earn a modest profit. This guarantees annual Paranormal Activity entries. The abundance of these movies has devalued the format. Three found footage possession movies premiered this October.
Still, I’m a sucker for the few films that make the technique work. Here’s my list of obscure entries worth watching.
If you’d rather watch something that’s more cerebral check out Part 2 of this collection:
If you’re brave enough to explore the spicier side of horror check out Part 1:
Just in time for Halloween, comes four flash fiction stories about classic monsters in compromising positions. Each one is dark, fiendish, and a bit more risqué than my usual fare, but those aren’t the only things they have in common…
Dracula Gets a Checkup
Dracula worked the thermometer between his canines. When he took it out, it read seventy-degrees. The mirror over the sink hung open, reflecting an indentation where the vampire was sitting. He slammed it shut.
Maybe one of those bright young things from last night was into holistic skincare. They could’ve covered a zit in garlic. It could’ve run down their neck. Maybe they played a little too rough, threw out a tendon and rubbed garlic on to keep the inflammation down. Maybe it was still on their breath when they swapped tongues. That’s the trouble with masked affairs, you never know what you’re going to get.
Lying on the exam table, Dracula replayed the masquerade in his head. He did an inventory of everyone he’d touched and everyone who’d touched him. He counted bodies like sheep. The longer he waited, the heavier his eyes got. When he woke up, the walls were covered in plastic.
A doctor stood over him in a hazmat suit. “Mr. Alucard?”
Dracula sat up.
The doctor flipped through a chart. “It’s not food poisoning.”
Dracula sighed. His bright red eyes traced the borders of the hermetic bubble. “What’s all this then?”
The doctor ran his glove down a long list. “When the blood work came back, you tested positive for a couple of things.”
Dracula examined his hand. “It’s not silver poisoning is it?”
All those buckles and gags from last night, he’d just assumed they were stainless steel.
The doctor consulted his chart. “Argyria? No, but you did test positive for diphtheria, malaria, measles, polio, and typhoid fever, but it was the smallpox that got you on the CDC’s radar.”
Dracula stroked his chin.
“Mr. Alucard, have you visited any virology labs recently?”
Dracula shrugged. “Not that I can recall.”
The doctor’s mask did little to conceal his skeptical squint. “Think on it. There’s two places you could’ve contracted it. Maybe you can remember if the guards spoke English or Russian?”
Dracula twiddled his talons. “I haven’t been to the motherland in a long time.”
The doctor nodded, “Okay, that narrows it down. Do you recall wandering into any subterranean layers sometime this week?”
Dracula clicked his nails together. “The bondage dungeon might have been underground.”
“I was blindfolded, escorted by a choke chain through a field of glass, nails, and razor wire.” Dracula shook his head. “All and all, it was a pretty tepid affair.”
The doctor nodded matter-of-factly. “Do you think you might have come into contact with any bodily fluids at this gathering?”
Dracula chuckled. “Might have? I was swimming in them.”
The doctor tapped his fingers to the muzzle of his mask. “Now this is important, do you think any blood might have gotten into your mouth?”
Dracula looked to his feet, dangling over the exam table. “Well, I do partake from time to time.”
The doctor dropped his chart. “How long have you been drinking blood?”
Dracula tilt his head back and forth. “Since, maybe say, the rise of the Ottomans.”
Rolling his eyes, the doctor threw his hands up. Walking to the border of the bubble, he turned on his heal. “Mr. Alucard, you might not want to give me a straight answer, but the CDC will want to know all about your bondage and bloodletting gathering. If you can’t tell me where it was, can you at least tell me the name of the group who was running it?”
Dracula was already shaking his head, when it came to him. He snapped his fingers. “The Aristocrats.”
Frankenstein’s Monster inquires about his Donors
Victor watched the monster gaze beyond the balcony. The creature seemed less interested in the village below than the stars above. “Father, where did I come from?”
Victor joined his creation, swirling a large glass of wine. “I thought that was self-explanatory. You were stitched together from dead bodies.”
The monster squeezed his forearm, feeling for the place where the threading linked it to his bicep. “Yes, but where did these pieces come from?”
Victor gurgled the wine in his mouth, before gulping it down. “Well son, there once was a family of traveling performers…”
The parents were escape artists and magicians, while the children specialized in gymnastics and juggling.
They wandered from town to town, chasing traveling circuses. Every time they caught up with one, they performed for the management, and every time they were left in the dust behind the caravan. Until one day the father came up with an act so stupendous he knew the next traveling show would have no choice but to hire them.
Back then, I was not the surgeon I am today. I’d spent my residency giving first aid to carnies: treating animal bites, scorched throats, and unspeakable sexual maladies. I happened to be in the management’s office when the traveling family came.
The father was a born hustler, promising fear, intrigue, and titillation while his wife, son and daughter stood with frozen smiles behind him. Management tapped his pocket watch. That’s when the father reached into his sack and pulled out a pair of axes. We examined the blades, while his family brought out axes of their own.
At first they simply passed their axes back and forth, like hot potatoes, but then they started heaving them, working themselves up to a fluid motion. Soon the entire family was juggling.
When the first blade slipped, it claimed the young man’s arm. Fluid shot out of the wound in angry bursts. He bit his lip without making a sound. His father instructed him to use the pain. The lad powered through until he collapsed. We figured it was part of the act, because the others kept their axes in play without so much as batting an eye.
It wasn’t long before an ax chopped off the daughter’s leg. Now she must have been a tightrope walker in an earlier incarnation of their show, because she hobbled along on one foot without skipping a beat. Her fresh stump sprayed blood into management’s spectacles. He worked the droplets in his fingers, tasting them.
I’d suspected blood tubes and prosthetic limbs, but when the stench of rotten meat hit, I doubted my hypothesis.
When the young woman collapsed, her parents kept her remaining blade in play. They now had six between them. The few seconds where they kept those axes flying were truly amazing, but it wasn’t long before the father had lopped off his wife’s head and her ax flew straight into his sternum.
Management sat petrified, realizing he’d witnessed something authentic and not some macabre magician’s trick.
My horror was overtaken by my desire. Here I’d been paying grave robbers for fresh corpses when four of them were delivered to my doorstep. The family might not have been the best performers, but they were generous donors.
I was already wrapping up the bodies, when the father reached out and grabbed my ankle. Blood gushed over his lips as he drew his last breath.
I don’t know why, but I had to ask him, “What were you planning on calling this grizzly act?”
He smiled faintly, opening his arms wide. “The Aristocrats.” Then his eyes rolled into the back of his head.
The monster peeled back his sleeve to examine his skin, spotting the scars where the axes left their impressions. “Father, I don’t like this story very much.”
Victor nodded into his wine. “You know son, I don’t like you very much.”
The Hunting of the Wolfman
The Wolfman ran through the forrest. His pursuers were hot on his heals, breaking twigs, hooting and hollering. What they lacked in strategy, they made up for in numbers. He’d never backed away from a fight before, but there were so many of them in the clearing.
Spotting their silhouettes in the moonlight, the Wolfman had mistaken them for a heard of deer. Charging headlong, he watched as they stood on their hindquarters. Spinning around, he realized he was surrounded by bipedal beasts, much like himself.
Their human frames had paws, claws, and big furry ears, but they weren’t werewolves, they were werelions, weretigers and werebears.
A pair of ears rose from the underbrush, followed by whiskers, and big buck teeth. It looked like a giant rabbit feeding on a fox. It was clear, the food chain didn’t apply here.
The Wolfman felt a breeze on his neck. He turned to find a weregiraffe looming over him. He fled before the creature’s hooves could come crashing down.
The Wolfman sprint downhill. When he heard the sound of rushing water, he thought he was in the clear. There was secret path across the river. Soon the rapids would be between him and his pursuers.
At the riverbank, the Wolfman searched for the rocks beneath the water. That’s when a werezebra tackled him. The zebra held him down as a werepig undid his belt.
All of his pursuers rushed out of the woodwork, but rather than snap at his jugular, they feasted on the sight of him. The werezebra bent the Wolfman over as the werepig pulled down his pants. The crowd gasped.
The Wolfman felt his tail wagging in the breeze, a nervous reaction to the situation.
The creatures bickered.
“How is he doing that?”
“Maybe it’s animatronic.”
“Do you recognize that costume?”
“Are you sure this guy’s a furry?”
“If he is, he’s not a member.”
“He’s got to be, we rented every camp ground from the highway to the river.”
The Wolfman snarled. Slobber oozed from his fangs. The werezebra let go.
Spinning around, the Wolfman bit the pig’s snout clean off. He thought he’d taste blood marinating the raw pork he’d bit into, instead he tasted cotton. Spitting it out, he spotted a wire frame sticking out.
Scanning the other monsters, the Wolfman spotted zippers, sneakers, and open butt flaps. Shuffling to his feet, the man in the pig costume returned to the group.
Tucking his tail back into his pants, the Wolfman cleared his throat. “You think I’m a member? Member of what? What do you sick people call yourselves?”
They all spoke in unison. “The Aristocrats.”
Cthulhu Crashes the Monster Mash
The nightwatchman shivered beneath the blanket. One side of his hair was black, the other had gone white. From where I stood, his head looked like a Yin-Yang.
He sang, “I was doing my rounds, late last night. When something moved into my flashlight. A creature from the lagoon began to rise. And suddenly to my surprise…”
Then he stopped.
Detective Greywood shined his light in the watchman’s eyes. The poor bastard didn’t blink.
Detective Greywood snapped his fingers. “This is how he’s been answering all our questions. We ask, he takes a few minutes to compose a verse, then he sings. It doesn’t matter if anyone’s around to hear it.”
The watchman perked up. “He did the mash, he did the monster mash. He did the mash, it was a graveyard smash–”
Detective Greywood tugged me out of earshot. “You don’t want that knocking around in your head all day.”
“Was there a verse about a lagoon in the original song?”
“No, I think he’s trying to tell us the assailant emerged from the pond.”
“And the victims?”
Detective Greywood pointed to three sets of tire tracks. “I’m betting these lead to a hole in the fence.”
We followed the tracks to three mountain bikes. One was handlebars deep in the muck, one was wrapped around a headstone, and one was dangling from a willow tree.
“I don’t know art, but I know what I like.” Detective Greywood pointed to a statue in the distance.
Its robes were brown with blood. There were cracks in its sides. Someone had driven severed arms into the granite. The statue’s wings lay in the grass, next to its head. Its face had been replaced, presumably, by the heads of all three of our victims. I say, “presumably,” because they were wearing masks.
Detective Greywood tilt his gaze back. “It’s not every day you see a totem pole made from Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman.”
I didn’t realize my teeth were chattering until I tried to speak. “It’s got eight arms, like Ganesha.”
Greywood chuckled, “Or an octopus.” Slapping on a pair of latex gloves, he pulled something out of one of their hands. “Yoink.”
It was encrusted with blood. I didn’t realize it was a video camera until he opened the viewfinder.
While Greywood watched the video, I investigated the scene behind the statue. There was a makeshift alter made from pizza trays and beach towels, fragments of candles sticking out of wax puddles, and an ancient book. Its leather binding was warped. It almost looked like a face.
“Detective Greywood, I found something.”
Greywood stepped around with his head in the camera. He shut it the moment he spotted the book. “Well well well, old leather face, we meet again.” He pressed his radio, “Call the bomb squad, tell them we need the remote disposal unit.”
“What is that?”
“The remote disposal unit is a robot with tiny metal arms.”
I shook my head. “No, that.”
“That’s the Necronomicon: an account of the old ones and the means to summon them. Open that up and we’ll have tentacles up are asses within the hour.”
“What are you talking about?”
Detective Greywood sighed. “The elder gods created humanity as a punchline to an elaborate joke. Every so often, they like to get into people’s faces and do a little insult comedy.”
I shook my head. “I’m still not following.”
“That book is full of heckles by Abdul Alhazred. Read them and you’ll find yourself in the old one’s spotlight. If the watchman’s song is true, those kids summoned one of the water beings.”
Greywood slid the camera into an evidence bag. “These boys were filming themselves reading from it, probably as a framing device for a video full of graveyard BMX tricks.”
A strong gust upended the book, skipping it across the graves, until it fell open at my feet. The arcane script was so large, I could see it from where I was standing.
I still don’t know why I thought I’d understand those words if I read them aloud, but I did. “That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die.”
Detective Greywood drew his weapon. “You stupid son of a bitch!”
The cemetery shook. Headstones shot out of the ground like corks. Steam rose from the pond as it boiled over. Tentacles shot out from the water, wrapping around tree trunks, pulling something up from the depths. Water splashed across the crime scene. A giant figure blotted out the sun.
“Down here, you squid faced bastard!” Detective Greywood kept shooting until he’d emptied his clip.
The book washed up onto my shoes. I felt the pages flipping at my ankles, compelling me to read further, so I did.
“The outer ones, the old ones, and the sunken ones will come together, a cosmic collective of indescribable power, and you shall know terror by its true moniker: the Aristocrats.”
May I present Part 2 of my Obscure Horror movies suggestions series:
Reality Warping Reels and
Romance from the Twilight Zone
Hardcore horror movies can be a little too spicy for some viewers. That’s why I put together a list of suggestions that are more cerebral than gory, and for those of you with a zero tolerance policy for all things scary, I’ve put together a list of obscure supernatural romantic movies.
If you’re brave enough to explore the spicier side of horror check out Part 1:
Next week, I’ll be exploring the best obscure Found Footage and Mockumentary movies so stay tuned. Continue reading
Once a year, my demon seeds rise from the soil to corrupt the innocent and harvest the souls of the damned, and once a year they’re persecuted for honoring tradition. They return to the pit telling stories of houses with lights out and signs saying, “No trick or treat this Halloween.”
As a practitioner of the ancient rites, I’m sad to see the PC police sanitize the season, safety-proofing torture chambers, and whitewashing the blood spatter off of everything.
Gone are the pillars of goat skulls, livestock bonfires, and mile long threads of chicken’s feet. They’ve been replaced with scented candles, costumes for cats, and Chia pet zombie heads. Gone are the jars of deformities, the spirit boards, and seance tables dripping with ectoplasm. They’ve been replaced with bobblehead banshees, slime flavored fruit drinks, and friendly ghost cartoons. The Casper-fication of the season leaves no room for demons.
Time was there were cloven hooves leading to every doorstep, robed carolers chanting incantations on every lawn, and wicker men filled with philosophers burning all along the horizon.
Now pagan deities pace abandoned shrines, kicking the dirt, waiting for a sacrificial offering to wander across their altars, only to be stood up by their once loyal followers. Your plane of existence used to be the best party in town. Now you’re casting our idols out of your schools and town halls. Macy’s ignores the season entirely, rolling out the tinsel and mistletoe long before it even starts to snow.
Maybe I’m looking at the bronze age with ruby colored glasses, or maybe people just don’t build effigies like they used to. Call me old fashioned, but those pagans knew how to make an entity feel welcome, filling our cauldrons with the ashes of their loved ones. These days demons are lucky to get Pixy Stix as an offering.
Humans keep removing the curses from the occasion. Not too long ago people proudly displayed captivity scenes on their front yards, where wise men chained up the innocent. They decorated trees with toilet paper, decked their halls with cobwebs, and strung crime scene tape from mailboxes to rooftops.
They turned CPR dummies into disemboweled corpses, gluing cereal to rubber abdomens, painting the flakes red to look like scabbing. They smeared kayro syrup along plastic pipes, laying them out like entrails, leading to trenches filled with dry ice that never stopped smoking.
They hung ornaments of eyeless dolls, severed limbs, and good old fashioned asphyxiated corpses.
My little hellions skipped up driveways hungry for poisoned candy corns and apples filled with razor blades. That all changed when people started giving them dental floss and teeth whitening gum. None of these Saccharin sweets had passed through witch’s hands, been soaked in virgin’s tears, or dipped in the bowls of unbaptized infants.
People need to put the heresy back into Hershey’s, the necromancy back into Nestlé, and blaspheme back into Cadbury. They need to taste the mark of the beast in their Mars Bars, black magic in their Blow Pops, and sorcery in their Sour Patch Kids.
Every year candy bars keep getting smaller. They’ve gone from “King Sized” to “Fun” to “Mini.” Now all that’s left are tiny droplets that give a vague hint of chocolate. My demon brethren keep pumping rock music full of subliminal demands, but it doesn’t seem to be getting top 40 rotation. What we want is either chocolate or blood. It’s not in your interest to keep narrowing our options.
One house gave my little hell spawns baby carrots, claiming it would help improve their vision. These people were oblivious to my children’s glowing eyes with their healthy red bioluminescence. As if vegetables weren’t bad enough, one house dared to give them raisins. Raisins, that’s one grape state away from the holy sacrament. They might as well give them garlic bulbs, dipped in holy water, with silver crucifix centers.
What the hell is wrong with people up here?
They’ve turned their backs on their heritage. They’ve taken the occult out of their culture. Costumes celebrating gruesome grotesqueries have fallen out of fashion. This will sound like a cliché coming from a demon, but I blame the children. Human children have lost their imaginations. They don’t have the attention spans to let their nightmares in.
Kids get their costumes from cartoons, rather than the Boogeyman in their closets (who ought to know something about fashion, considering where he spends all his nights). Kids wear cheap plastic smocks with pictures of who they’re supposed to be on them.
There was a time when they were all ghouls and goblins. I used to have trouble picking out my kids from the ferrel bands of blood crazed humans. These days they’re all princesses and super heroes, trailed by chaperones in big puffy coats. It’s only college kids that go out alone, and their costumes don’t leave room for demons to hide their exoskeletons. It seems like only succubi stand a chance of blending in.
People have forgotten the reason for the season is Satan, and to a lesser extant the elder gods that came before him, but really the old ones don’t even bother anymore. Cthulhu sleeps through it without so much as lifting a tentacle to hit the snooze button, and Dagon only gets up to catch the latest Tree House of Horror episode of The Simpsons.
Halloween is under siege by progressives. They want to pacify this time of possession. They want to cast out our dark sacraments from the halls of government, claiming a need to separate church and state, but debauchery isn’t a religion, it’s a philosophy.
Their agenda to secularize the holiday knows no shame. They want everyone to start saying, “Happy Harvest Festival.”
It’s Happy Halloween! With a hard H. H for Heathen, H for Heretic, H for Hellfire. Just because you rebranded something doesn’t mean it will protect you from my offspring. That’s them ringing your doorbell right now, with pumpkin pales and flaming bags of poo in their hands. You can try to civilize them, see if that gets them off your lawn, but my advice to you is just give them what they want.
It’s hard to discover new movies for Halloween, when the net is full of top 10 lists packed with the same usual suspects: Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, and The Shining. They’re safe bets if you haven’t seen them, but if you want fresh scares they’re roadblocks on the information super highway. If you’re looking for a detour, let me welcome you into the realm of the obscure.
Some of my suggestions are recent straight to streaming releases, while others had limited theatrical runs. These films aren’t cult classics, they’re still looking for their audience.
Over the next three weeks, I’ll share my recommendations, everything from pitch black horror to paranormal romance, blood soaked cinema for some and mind bending motion pictures for others.
Today is Part 1: Real World / Supernatural Horror
Later I’ll post:
Part 2: Reality Warping Reels / Romance from the Twilight Zone
Part 3: Found Footage / Mocumentary
If you have any recommendations, please share them in the comments. Continue reading
A story about what happens when an intimate selfie gets sent to the wrong person.
Tess slid down the wall. The bricks offered little in the way of traction. She crashed into a puddle and didn’t bother moving. She couldn’t bring herself to look at James. Her focus shifted between the fire escape and the dumpster. She hated the way he’d been looking at her all day. He had a twinkle in his eye, like a child expecting a present. She hated the hang dog expression he was wearing now even more.
Wrapping her arms around her legs, ducking between her knees, Tess folded in on herself. “This is what I get for following my heart when it’s shit faced.”
She sobbed into her hoodie. In one day she’d shown James the broad spectrum of her: from an unhinged exhibitionist to a humiliated wreck.
“Who did you send it to?” Tess shouted into her belt buckle.
James’s coat scraped down the bricks. “I didn’t.”
“Bullshit,” Tess scoffed. Her face already stung with tears. The bouncer probably wouldn’t let her back in now that her eyes had gone bong-hit red.
Tess scratched the bridge of her nose to find mascara dripping down her fingers. She streaked it across her cheeks like warpaint. When she peeked out, she wanted James to know he was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.
“Give me your phone.”
Tapping in his passcode, James gave it up without a fuss, knowing it was contraband.
Tess scrolled through his messages. He hadn’t sent a thing for months. The last message was a time-off request for a funeral. His missed calls alternated between his mother and a 1-800 number, likely a creditor. She checked his photo gallery. The pictures were all closeups of dewdrops, sunsets through treetops, and color swatches of leaves changing. There were no human subjects, not even in the background.
“I deleted them already,” James showed his palms. “I might be gullible, but I’m not that stupid. We all use our phones on the sales floor. We all show off the photo filters. I couldn’t have customers ogling you, even if it would help my numbers.”
James was giving Tess an essay answer. Volunteering too much information, to keep her from asking the right question.
Wiping her cheeks, Tess flicked her tears. They streaked like ink across the pavement. “Did you sync it with your computer?”
James rolled his eyes looking for the long way around the answer. He gave a half nod, a child caught steeling from his mother’s wallet.
“Fucking hell.” Tess kicked the asphalt.
“Of course I did. I thought I was supposed to.” James’s tone rose to meet her anger.
“They weren’t for you, James.” She told the bug zapper buzzing overhead. “They were for Jason. You just happened to be one name higher in the alphabet.”
James sighed. “Well with all your cold shoulder maneuvering in the break room, I didn’t realize the two of you were still on sexting terms.”
Tess gave that a sad chuckle. “We’re not. I just saw him hitting on this jailbait jezebel, with tights for leggings, twirling her pigtails, sucking her thumb. When he setup her phone, he added his number. I know it. I wanted to remind him of the fire still burning just around the corner from his apartment.”
James couldn’t help but smile. Not the smile that came from hearing a joke, but the involuntary smile that came from being overwhelmed. “I should’ve forwarded them to him.”
Tess scowled. “You should’ve known.”
James ran his face down his palm, “How? I thought you and I were kicking at the tires of something. I figured you were sick of Jason looming over us, so you fast forwarded to selfie sexts.”
Backhanding the bricks, Tess bit her lip. “Don’t call them that.”
James put his hands up. “Fine, these tasteful nudes-”
“I wasn’t nude!” Tess cut in.
James shook his head. “You’re counting the devil horns? When you play strip poker do you count your hairpins too?”
“No, there was a red corset in the first few shots.” Tess spun her hands through the air. “There was a succession.”
Tess realized how premeditated her actions sounded. “Fine, call them selfie sexts.” She wiped her nose down her sleeve. “I’m going to need access to your computer. I’ll need your backups, thumb drives, everything. Not tomorrow, but tonight.”
James went red. “That’s overreaching.”
Grabbing him by the collar, Tess spoke slowly and deliberately, over annunciating each syllable. “That doesn’t matter. You’ve seen me at my most personal. I think I am entitled to see you at yours.”
James muttered, “I thought you were just being forward. I figured that’s why you’d asked for my number.”
Tess let go. “I asked for your number because you said you could help with my Halloween costume. Remember, I wanted to build the exosuit Ripley wore in Aliens and you said you had a bunch of cardboard.”
James’s hands circled each other. “I know that’s what we said, but I figured…”
James shrugged. “Listen, all I’m saying is there was coffee and daylight in the fantasy I was having.”
Scurrying to her feet, Tess backed James into the wall. “You figured what?”
He put his hands up. “That you already had a Halloween costume, which you clearly did. I have proof.”
She nodded. “Right. Let’s do something about that.”
James’s apartment was a little too clean. There were fresh vacuum lines on the carpet, every surface was dusted, and the dishes were still wet in the rack.
“Hold back.” He stopped Tess at the door.
“There’s some things I’d rather you not see.” Rushing in James, scooped balls of yarn off the couch. Spinning toward the coffee table, he grabbed a pair of crochet needles and a scarf with orange and maroon stripes. Balling it all up, James tossed everything into a basket.
Tess stood on her tiptoes to see. “Were those the Gryffindor colors?”
She followed her host’s eyes to a pair of round spectacles and a whittled wand on the far end of the coffee table. She ducked under his arm.
“Are you going as Harry Potter for Halloween?”
James got out in front of her. “I’m not not going as Harry Potter.”
Tess gave that a long nod. She thought he could pull it off, but didn’t want to say anything reassuring. There was something about watching him squirm that was just too much fun.
Doing a lap around the living room, she wandered into the kitchen. “Where’s the cardboard?”
James turtled up. “I haven’t picked it up yet.”
Tess squint. “But you do have it?”
He tilt his head back and forth. “I asked around.”
“But you knew where to get it when you gave me your number, right?”
James gave that a quick nod.
Tess raised her head. “But you had to ask around? I’m still unclear about your timeline.”
His eyes darted back and forth. “I knew where, eventually, on that day, yes. Do you still want to make it?”
Tess rubbed her eyes. “What do you think? Of course. I want to go to a bunch of different Halloween parties, just so I can kick down the door and shout ‘Get away from her you bitch!’”
With that Tess kicked the bedroom door in.
She rubbed her hands together. “Alright boy, fetch all your tech. I want your jump, flash, and thumb drives right here.” She snapped at the bed.
“You do realize those are all the same thing, right?”
“Oh, and if you have any USB sticks, them too.”
Setting his laptop on the bed, James gathered a pair of thumb drives from the nightstand, an external backup from the closet, and the phone from his pocket. “That’s everything.”
Tess ran her fingers down the sheets. “Do you always make your bed?”
“Why wouldn’t I make my bed?” James stood in the doorway.
Tess smirked. “Well, I just sent you those photos. Maybe they inspired you to make your bed.”
“I’m struggling to see a correlation.”
She crossed her arms, taking a step toward him. “Really?”
He shrugged. “What? Sometimes I watch movies in my bedroom.”
Looking from the flat screen in the living room to the tiny tube TV on the dresser, Tess raised an eyebrow, taking another step forward. “Really?”
James looked guilty as sin. “Yes, I occasionally make my bed.”
“Occasionally.” Tess winked. “Well, it’ll make a fine office for my purposes.” Shutting the door, Tess pushed the lock in. Opening the laptop, she plugged James’s phone into the first port and his backup into the second, then she plugged his thumb drives into the back of that.
“You’re shutting me out?” James spoke to the door.
Tess’s response was the startup gong of the laptop.
James’s shadow paced the carpet. “You won’t even know where to find them.”
The desktop loaded a picture of a Jack-O-Lantern made to look like it was puking seeds onto the sidewalk, followed by the drives. The first thumb drive was filled with resumés and cover letters for various employers, the second was all college essays.
Every folder on the backup drive was dated. “You know, you haven’t backed up your computer in three months.”
The doorknob rattled. “Right, I should really get on that.”
Opening the photo application, Tess caught herself gasping.
There was flesh onscreen, just not her own. In every thumbnail, James was standing shirtless, looking awfully serious. He wasn’t bulky or broad shouldered, but damn was he toned.
The camera had taken pictures in bursts, in some James was posing, squinting with his cheeks sucked in, in others he struggled to keep his cowlick down. Tess wondered how his abs could be sopping wet, while his hair still defied gravity. She spotted the free weights peaking out of the closet. So that’s why he didn’t respond right away. He had to pump himself up first.
Tess could’ve scrolled through the gallery, found what she was looking for and been done with this whole incident, instead she explored James’s self portraits one at a time. She couldn’t help but notice how the hairs on his shoulders disappeared the further she went, or that his bed went from a heap of laundry to a nice flat comforter, or that the direction of the light source changed. She looked up to find, the desk lamp still aimed at the foot of the bed.
Tess watched a slideshow of James spinning around searching for an angle. She watched him flex and go slack. He was cut for a skinny dude with boyish features.
The last few shots were of James in his underwear: boxers at first, then boxer briefs. He hadn’t been brave enough to go the full monty, still these pics were something to see. When it came time to present his manhood to the camera, he broke character, blushing, laughing, and messing up his hair.
These were the photos she sent to herself in an email.
When James rattled the doorknob again, Tess returned to the task at hand. Scrolling through the gallery, she found the shots of herself unlacing the corset that cut off her circulation, unwrapping the red satin number that might have fit when she was younger, and wearing nothing but horns and a smile.
Tess couldn’t help but notice how poorly that smile complimented her eyes. That was her smile for Jason, as authentic as Saccharine. It didn’t say “come-hither” it said, “come-hither, please.” She highlighted the photos and hit DELETE.
When James gave up on the door knob, Tess sat in silence.
Running the cursor over the applications on the bottom of the screen, she paused on one. Taking a deep breath, she double-clicked. When the photo booth opened, she saw herself through the webcam, a hot mess with face paint like a quarterback. Licking her fingers, she wiped the mascara from her cheeks. Running her hands through her hair, she flattened her bangs. Unzipping her hoodie, she evened up her collar.
It felt wrong to take James’s self portraits and leave nothing in return, so Tess sat up and smiled for the camera. This time it was genuine.
Most people live within 30 miles of their birthplace. I’ve been living in the same neighborhood for 15 years. I wrote this poem when I was 24. I’d been living on my own, in Minneapolis, for 6 years. I wasn’t making it in the city. No matter where I went, I felt like I was on the outside looking in. My outlook was bleak. Of all the unpublished pieces in my archives, I’m sharing this one for National Poetry Day because of its harsh brutal honesty.
In the Mouth of Minneapolis
Your check bounces at the impound lot
The city repossesses your job
You’re a convicted pedestrian
Serving out your community service
Not by the hour
But by the blister
Automatic teller machines scold you
Like a mother wielding a report card
The city shrinks down
With each negative digit
To its lakeside parks
And wooded bike paths
Now food and shelter have an expiration date
Your bar tabs condemn buildings
Beer pitchers turn from brown to yellow
From yellow to “Thanks guys, I’ll get the next one”
Traffic lights flash red as you cross the street
Lamp posts dim as you walk beneath them
Minneapolis does not want you to know where you are going
Minneapolis does not want you to leave
Your list of cabbies and escorts
Dwindles in your cell phone
Menu, options, erase
Menu, options, erase
The city shrinks down
To its chained table sets
To its three legged love seats
With the springs at your back
Now all you order is water
The man behind the desk
Looks at your wheatgrass hair cut
Your brown moss stubble
Your wild berry pupils
Last months employment history
Tattooed to your face
Minneapolis garnishes your wages
Before you could even offer up a clammy hand shake
Minneapolis wants you to work for her exclusively
Girls walk by with their pastel cardigans
Stitched to their shirts
With their eyes so big and blue
You know they’ve seen Europe
You’re invisible in your frayed shoe laces
Your tan line for a wrist watch
Minneapolis has laid a claim to you
Minneapolis wants to go steady
When you walk under bridges
When you pass through bus stations
You feel like you’re viewing homes
Your hands in your pockets
Eyeing the benches
Kicking the dirt
Checking for outlets
You thought you were just passing through
On your way to someplace bigger
Thought you could get by on your looks
On your youth
Thought you could sweet talk
A record contract, a publishing deal
A bachelors degree, and a wedding ring
Out of this city
But Minneapolis will digest you
In her seedy underbelly