Book Review: The Corpse Queen

A different brand of body snatchers…

Hello, friends and foes! It’s time for another book review! I post about one of these a month because I read about one book a month. At least, one spooky book that’s fit for the blog. Shockingly, I do have other literary interests outside the macabre.

I finished Heather M. Herrman’s sophomore novel The Corpse Queen in about a day and a half. One of those, “if I put this book down right now it’s all I’m going to think about for the next few hours so I might as well just not put it down” type of reads. It was fast-paced, witty, topical (who knew we would still be facing the same sexism in modern day as we were in 1855!!), and just the right amount of gritty and gory. I’m a sucker for a period piece, and this book about an 1850’s orphan in Philadelphia was exactly what I needed to quench my thirst for something I could only comp as Jack the Ripper x Body Snatchers x grave robbers.

We meet down on her luck orphan Molly at a strange time in her life. Her best friend Kitty has just been murdered, presumably by the young doctor-in-training with whom she had recently fallen in love. Molly doesn’t think she has any family left to claim her – but she’s wrong. A long-lost aunt brings Molly to her rich, gated estate in high-society Philadelphia. Molly is shocked at a member of her family having so much wealth when all she has ever known is poverty. How could someone from the same roots as her family be so rich??

By robbing graves and selling the corpses to medical schools. That’s how.

Molly joins the family business and does her best to collect the bodies alongside practiced grave-robber Thomas. But she learns more from her strange aunt than just how to steal. Molly learns the true value of a corpse, and in turn the value of the person they were when they were living. Every body gives the medical students a chance to make impressive scientific and medical discoveries. Every day they come closer to uncovering the great biological secrets of mankind. It wouldn’t be possible without the work of Molly’s aunt and her system of grave robbery.

But Molly’s aunt isn’t the only person in Philadelphia with a liking for the dead. There’s a killer on the loose, somehow connected to Molly’s family business. There’s a menacing figure called the Tooth Fairy who, you guessed it, takes only the teeth from found cadavers. There’s love and drama and intrigue and a mystery that culminates into a final grave being dug, once and for all – and if Molly can outsmart all those who told her she was worthless, the grave won’t be her own.

I loved 99% of my reading experience with this book. I found Molly’s character to be a bit stand-offish (in the best way – like how would you act if you found out your long lost aunt made a fortune scavenging dead bodies?) but very intelligent. It was rewarding to watch Molly grow from a grief-stricken and penniless orphan into a confident young woman who wants to break free of the grave-robbing business and study to become a doctor – an incredible feat for American women of the time.

The plot had some super interesting twists and turns that held my attention from beginning to end. No spoilers (because we don’t do spoilers here) but the BIG REVEAL was, like, HUGE. And very well executed, in my humble opinion.

I don’t tend to write negative reviews (if I don’t like a book I just don’t review it but I will still mention it in my Twitter thread here ). I actually don’t even tend to mention the negative qualities of books I’ve read because, overall, I really really liked them. I’m pretty quick to DNF a book I’m not into.

All this is to say that there was only one aspect of The Corpse Queen that threw me off – the mad dash rush to the end. Maybe it’s a YA thing, maybe it’s a me thing, but I felt like there was such a massive push to explain everything and get as much last minute action as possible in the last four or five chapters that just left a weird taste in my mouth. The Epilogue set that taste right again, however!!! It was very good and, in my opinion, very necessary and satisfying. Maybe I have to do some of my own soul-searching and think about why I just don’t like the rushed and dramatic endings of some of my recent reads.

In any case, I’m 100% happy I read this book and would absolutely recommend it to anyone looking for an eerie and bloody read about a girl, her family, and some dead bodies. And a deranged doctor, some guy named the Tooth Fairy, and a Vaudeville performer/prostitute with a pet duck.

4 stars overall, 3 stars on the scare scale

Reader beware, you’re in for a scare! Or, not. Trick-or-treat, after all.

xo Allison

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER:

Book cover art is used Pursuant to 17 U.S. Code § 107 under the “fair use” defense.

All other images are certified public domain.

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Book Review: Clown in a Cornfield

As if being the new girl in town isn’t hard enough already!

Two scary subjects are the backbone of this blog. If you’ve been around for a little while, you’ll know how much I love a good exorcism/possession story. What you might not know (because I haven’t finished my History of Clowns post yet) is that I LOVE clowns. They’re funny, they’re scary, they’re a symbol of the vaudeville days of yore. If you also love clowns- and slashers and mysteries and cornfields, all wrapped up in entertaining YA prose- then this is the book for you.

Adam Cesare is no stranger to the horror space. He boasts a long list of shorts and novellas along with several acclaimed horror novels, perhaps most notably 2014’s The Summer Job. Cesare is a Bram Stoker Award winner, graduate of Boston University, and (certainly least notably) my mutual on Twitter. Clown in a Cornfield has been praised by the likes of Clive Barker (yeah, that Clive Barker), Paul Tremblay (!!!!!!!), and Madeleine Roux (author of the Asylum series). And I can see why. This book was such an unsettling and deeply entertaining read that I couldn’t put down.

The novel follows plucky main character Quinn Maybrook as she navigates being the new girl in a small town, new friends (and new enemies), and potential new crushes. Oh, yeah, and a deranged factory mascot named Frendo. Quinn and her father moved to Kettle Springs at an odd time in the town’s strange life. The teens of the town are blamed for everything; vandalism, arson, the death of big-shot Arthur Hill’s daughter. The adults of the town are fighting to keep their beloved traditions in tact; Make Kettle Springs Great Again, if you will. Frendo’s homicidal return from obscurity is just confetti compared to the turmoil that’s already brewing.

Quinn and her newfound clique (think Breakfast Club but with cell phones) are quickly wrapped up in the whirlwind of Frendo’s return. Strange happenings culminate on the night of a major party in the cornfield where the deadly truth is eventually revealed.

We don’t do spoilers on the blog (for the most part) so that’s all you get for now. Except for my trademark vague praise, that is.

And I have a lot of vague praise for this book. It’s a funny and bloody high school slasher- like a movie in a book. It was like reading Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, or like a really scary Mean Girls where Pennywise is the new girl in town. Rumor has it (I actually got this information from Wikipedia) Clown in a Cornfield has been optioned onto the silver screen! Someday we’ll have an actual film version of this dope slasher book and, personally, I can’t wait.

The beginning of the book is like every classic horror flick- we watch Quinn and her dad move into their new house. We watch Quinn meet her new clique of friends. Then, slowly, things start to get weird. A clown sighting here, an ominous adults-only town hall meeting there, and suddenly WHAM!: a murder. The pacing was on par with a film experience (in my unprofessional opinion) and, I think, that’s what I appreciated the most. A lot of horror books I’ve read lately really relish in the slow, slow, SLOW build up. A lot of atmosphere, a lot of suspense. Clown in a Cornfield has a different kind of suspense. A special, fast-paced suspense that comes from characters being hunted (like, literally) by a homicidal maniac clown.

And it was scary, sure, but in a really enjoyable way. The gore was… actually kind of surprising. You can get away with some crazy stuff in YA, apparently! But it fit the narrative and really drove home the fear- for Quinn et. al and for the reader.

It wasn’t all just fun and scares, though. There’s an undercurrent of politics between the blossoming friendships and killer clowns. That hostility between teens and adults isn’t just manufactured for good dialogue and tension. It’s a mirror image of what’s going on in the world today. Tradition vs modernity. Town hall meetings vs livestreams. Boomers vs Gen Z. And, most importantly, a homicidal clown vs gun-wielding teens.

All in all, I’ll be recommending Clown in a Cornfield to anyone who asks for a read-in-one-sitting, can’t-put-it-down, bloody-good YA horror book.

I’ll also be waiting for a casting call for extras in the movie. 27 is the new 17, right guys?? … Right guys?

5 stars overall, 3 stars on the scare scale.

Reader beware, you’re in for a scare! Or, not. Trick-or-treat, after all.

xo Allison

Spoiler Alert: Frendo Lives! Clown in a Cornfield 2 coming August 23rd!

Buy Adam Cesare’s books here !

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER:

Book cover art is used Pursuant to 17 U.S. Code § 107 under the “fair use” defense.

All other images are certified public domain.

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Book Review: Hide

Hide and seek like you’ve never seen it before!

Abandoned fairground? Check. Game of hide and seek with fourteen strangers competing for a cash prize? Check. Ominous feeling that this game isn’t as innocent as it seemed in the beginning? Check.

Why the actual hell have I never read anything by Kiersten White? She’s a New York Times best seller and Bram Stoker Award winner and, according to her website, has a pet tortoise named Kimberly (which is all I need to know, everything else is just confetti).

Hide is White’s brand new Adult horror debut that I bought on a whim (and because creepy carnivals/fairs/clowns are my favorite) but she has a crazy impressive bibliography to back it up: the MG Sinister Summer series, right now with one installment aptly titled Wretched Waterpark (anyone else getting Edgar & Ellen vibes?), the wildly successful YA Camelot Rising trilogy, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein (which is apparently being made into a TV series!), and so many more.

I read this book in two days. It would have been one day but I got too scared to read it before bed. Hide made my skin crawl, it made me check around shadowed corners, it made me feel like I was being watched. Sought. Hunted.

The novel follows a troubled young woman named Mack into a game of hide-and-seek. Mack doesn’t have much to lose; lost and sort of hopeless, haunted by a horrific and violent childhood, and self-admittedly really, really good at hiding. Like her life depends on it. Mack and thirteen strangers- a wounded veteran, an FLDS castaway, a failed social media influencer, etc.- are brought to an old amusement park that was abandoned after the tragic disappearance of a child decades earlier. Some competitors are in it for the money, some are in it for the fame that could come from vlogging their success, and some have no idea why they agreed to take part in the competition at all. They were all invited, individually. Like they were all meant to be there. Like they were all, in some way, important to the game.

The objective is simple- hide for seven days among the rusted and dangerous amusement park rides. Two competitors get out each day until only one remains. The competitors ask questions; like, who’s seeking? why don’t our cell phones work? why two people per day? why is this amusement park set up in such a maze? what’s with the giant fence and scary-looking gate? They don’t get any answers. Not really, anyway.

And that’s it. We get to watch the game unfold. We get to watch as competitors are taken from the competition. Tensions rise. Alliances are forged and betrayed. Bonds are made and severed. Blood is shed.

It’s hard to dive any further without spoilers and- as seasoned readers of this space know- I don’t do the spoiler thing. Not usually. And definitely not with this book. You just have to BE there. You have to read it. You have to neglect all your other responsibilities to turn the page and cover your eyes and sit on the edge of your seat and gasp for breath when each new chapter brings a new horror and new answer to the competitor’s questions. It’s hard to describe the book other than creepy, tingly, whip-smart, socially relevant, and just damn scary. It’s not about the creepy amusement park. Not really. It’s about the horror of people, capitalism, entitlement, family secrets. …and a little about the amusement park. I mean, it was built for a reason, right?

If my vague praise isn’t enough to get you excited for this book, the dope cover art and inside-cover art should do the trick. The map of the amusement park is such a cool feature, and chock full of Easter eggs and hints and strange declarations.

In the end, I guess, Hide is about the games we play to get through life. Social climbing, social media, the bonds we make with family and friends. The horrific things people will do to get ahead, in life or in a simple game of hide and seek. What would you do for a cash prize? What would you do if you couldn’t afford to lose?

Come out, come out, wherever you are!

Five stars overall, four stars on the scare scale.

Reader beware, you’re in for a scare! Or, not. Trick-or-treat, after all.

xo Allison

Buy Kiersten White’s books here !

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER:

Book cover art is used Pursuant to 17 U.S. Code § 107 under the “fair use” defense.

All other images are certified public domain.

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Book Review: The Boatman’s Daughter

The Devil All the Time Feat. Baba Yaga

Do you love southern gothic? Do you love Baba Yaga? Do you love being inexplicably spellbound by a book with as many twists and turns as a Texas swamp? Then this is the book for you! Andy Davidson has created a dreadful, sticky, muddy atmosphere so demanding of attention you won’t be able to put it down. The Boatman’s Daughter is a masterpiece of southern gothic horror and the dark magic of Slavic folklore.

Not much is known about author Andy Davidson (or I need to brush up on my investigative skills). He resides in Georgia with his wife and a bunch of cats (the real question here is- how many cats make up a bunch?)

His debut novel In the Valley of the Sun (2017) was a finalist for the Bram Stoker award for superior achievement in a first novel. Davidson has been hailed for his writing chops by the likes of Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, and fellow renowned horror writer Stephen Graham Jones.

The Boatman’s Daughter, too, has been drowned in praise since its 2020 release. Paul Tremblay said the novel “…put an arrow through my head and heart.” Same.

For all its twists and turns and dripping sweat, this book is… weird. At its core, it’s a wild ride down the river on a little metal boat, trying to outrun some great and vaguely biblical evil. A weird and wild and wonderful ride. Oh yeah, and like really, really scary. That creeping dread scary, that something-lurking-in-the-shadows scary, that can’t-see-in-the-murky-water-of-the-bayou scary. The heat of the bog suffocates you, the greatness of the earth and its ancient magic overwhelms you, the journey of Miranda Crabtree and the family she finds along the way tears your heart in two and stitches it back together with a needle and thread.

Many POV’s run through this book – Miranda Crabtree, a strange boy named Littlefish, a Slavic witch named Iskra who has ties to the land older than time itself.

Miranda Crabtree is the boatman’s daughter (they said the name of the book in the book!!!!!) and she runs illegal errands for a corrupt police officer and a mad preacher. The bog is her river Styx and she – after the bizarre death of her father – is Charon. Well… so to speak. Her father’s death, left behind in fractured memories seen through a child’s eyes, has haunted Miranda for all the years she has lived in the bog on Iskra’s secluded island.

An errand must be run that Miranda can’t complete, and thus begins (or rather, continues) this strange tale through time and dreams and fractured beliefs. It’s tough to dig deeper without spoiling anything, but just know the pieces may seem tattered… until they come together in a tangled web of sins and death and southern heat.

I clung to this book for two days, reading as fast as I could because I literally had to know what Miranda was going to do to vanquish her foes of Slavic folklore, biblical proportions, and evil, gun-wielding men. She finds family and love despite the gloom of the bayou, and this, I propose, is the heart of the book. Family ties, blood running thicker than murky swamp water, secrets tying strangers together in ways they can’t fathom until they’re brought into the burning light of day.

The family relationships reminded me a lot of Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky. Strange little kids wrapped up in – and in some cases at the center of – the grand, evil schemes of adults. Kids are closer to other worlds, people say. They can see what grown-ups can’t. Creepy little things. My mouth was hanging open when The Boatman’s Daughter revealed the family secrets lurking within its pages. Like, literally, hanging open as I was reading in my garden. I think I swallowed a fly.

At its core, The Boatman’s Daughter is a beating heart of family, love, and loss. Gaping wounds are left behind when our loved ones leave – and even more so when they are ripped away by strange forces beyond our control. How far would you go to heal those wounds? What would you do to fill the metaphorical graves of those you lost along the way? Miranda’s tale – and Iskra’s, and Littlefish’s, and the mad preacher’s, and the dwarf named John Avery’s – is a creeping tale of love growing in the strangest of places. Tangled roots of lies and sins, meeting beneath the ancient earth in a pounding, beating heart.

And also nightmarish beasts of Slavic folklore, drugs, fire, and lots and lots of murder. Not for the faint of heart. But damn, is this book awesome.

Five stars overall, three stars on the scare scale.

Reader beware, you’re in for a scare! Or, not. Trick-or-treat, after all.

xo Allison

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER:

Book cover art is used Pursuant to 17 U.S. Code § 107 under the “fair use” defense.

All other images are certified public domain.

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13 Punny ICE NINE KILLS Lyrics

I am very funny and will not be taking feedback

Hello, friends and foes! I’m easing back into blog work by treating myself to an article about something super fun – puns. I’m a big pun fan (see: any previous post, basically) and the metalcore band Ice Nine Kills writes lyrics almost exclusively in puns and wordplay, so… I dig it.

Ice Nine Kills (sometimes stylized as INK) is a metal/heavy metal/metalcore band from Boston, Massachusetts. (We literally cannot escape the horrors of New England on this blog.) They’ve been releasing music since the mid-2000’s but didn’t see commercial success until they signed with Fearless Records in 2015. That success absolutely exploded with the 2018 release of The Silver Scream and then exploded AGAIN with the 2021 release of The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood.

At the band’s helm is Spencer Charnas, devastatingly handsome lead singer and creative director. His vision for the band and their records is crystal clear: horror, horror, horror. They’ve tackled literary greats (i.e. Stephen King, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde) and film giants (Psycho, Saw, Candyman) and they’ve totally killed it. They’re scary good at what they do, from concept to production to merch design, and I’m honored to highlight some of their best (and scariest) lyrics.

Also this served as an excuse to listen to their discography and that was fun for me.

These aren’t in any particular order but I did save my personal favorite for last. Also, check out the end for some honorable mentions. If I didn’t include your favorite track or lyric, let me know in the comments or on Twitter dot com (@AllisonKrebel).

13 ) Hip to Be Scared (The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood, 2021)

“Casually cleaving without ever grieving / but wait, let me give you my card / “That’s bone!” / there is no real me, just this dark entity / that cannot be redeemed so it’s time to say goodbye”

This track is based on the 2000 film American Psycho (which is based on a book but we’ve been over that already: http://www.littlebookblogofhorrors.com/2021/10/10-horror-movies-you-didnt-know-were-based-on-books/). The song is in the perspective of the main character, literal psychopath Patrick Bateman, as he comes to terms with his emotionless, cold-hearted and let me reiterate- psychopathic, killer tendencies. This line, as do many in the track, references an iconic scene where Bateman and other banking execs are trading business cards. The color of Bateman’s is ‘bone’, and he won’t let you forget it.

Listen Here: https://open.spotify.com/track/1tBghD5Z8rBeN7eHDXLamy?si=14668e9c226d4c99

12 ) Enjoy Your Slay (The Silver Scream, 2018)

“Come drain or shine / I’ll hit your whole bloodline / Shall we tell Old Jack what he’s won? / A chopping spree around the family tree / where you can hang once all the work is done”

Our first Stephen King mention on the list, this track is inspired by the 1980 film The Shining (based on King’s 1977 novel of the same name). This song is chock-full of mentions of shining (young Danny’s mysterious supernatural ability) and axes and hotel vacancies. This particular stanza refers to the protagonist Jack’s descent into madness and subsequent attack on his wife and son with an axe. Personally I think the writer-gone-mad trope never gets old. Also, shout out to the chorus: “Welcome to your last resort, don’t overlook the past”. Get it? The Overlook Hotel? Heh…

Fun fact about this song: it features vocals from Sam Kubrick, the grandson of Stanley Kubrick, director of The Shining. The band has also played this track at the real life Overlook Hotel.

Listen Here: https://open.spotify.com/track/20WSWrWhZgiEMvVWu5XuFl?si=b1c96c107dd54487

11 ) Assault & Batteries (The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood, 2021)

“And once he’s planted his seed / you’ll know your life’s been uprooted / ’cause safety’s not guaranteed / assault and batteries included! / Stitched back together it seems / by the evil bride of his dreams / heaven help you if you hear him scream”

The signs are all there: the seed, the bride, the heartless assault of innocent consumers – it’s Good Guy Chucky! This one’s inspired by the classic 1988 horror flick Child’s Play and the CCU (Chucky Cinematic Universe). It was tough to cherry pick a single part of this song because the whole thing is just wicked hilarious. Chucky is an icon and this song totally did him and his killing spree justice.

Shout out to this line, which I quote on the daily: “Hidey-ho, bitch!”

Listen Here: https://open.spotify.com/track/49pK9QQ6zYLM8xMTliDYQl?si=740c414eadb74ffe

10 ) Stabbing in the Dark (The Silver Scream, 2018)

“Where blood’s thicker than water / I’ve carved up quite a scene / With your worst fears cast on this white veneer / I’ll change the face of Halloween”

It only takes one mention of Halloween to know this banger is about Michael Meyers and the Halloween franchise, started in 1978 and spanning nearly three decades. Blood is thicker than water as Michael is on the deranged hunt for his sister Laurie through the picturesque town of Haddonfield. On Halloween night he carves up anyone he can get his hands on, all while wearing an emotionless white mask (which was made from a cast of William Shatner’s face???). I think we can all confidently say Michael Meyers’ mask is, without a doubt, the face of Halloween. Honorable mention to: “You can’t kill the boogeyman!”.. I mean, literally. How many sequels is he going to survive?

Listen Here: https://open.spotify.com/track/7H5q9RsWBDRrKq2qCdv2HG?si=6059bee528f646fd

9 ) The American Nightmare (The Silver Scream, 2018)

“They all think it’s just pretend / you’ll never ever sleep again / all your friends are fucking dead / you can’t turn down your own death bed”

If the creepy nursery rhyme didn’t give it away, this one’s based on Wes Craven’s 1984 classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street. The song is written from the perspective of the dream-villain Freddy Krueger as he slashes his way through unsuspecting teens. I love a straight-up pun – all they want to do is sleep, but they can’t close their eyes without Krueger appearing in their dreams to gut them. Death bed, indeed. Poor Johnny Depp!

Listen Here: https://open.spotify.com/track/04K2bMi2vyOBwxr5EjDq5O?si=9042129466ef4c2c

8 ) The Jig is Up (The Silver Scream, 2018)

“I saw through the selfish but saw no soul / they saw through skin, they saw through bone / Out on a limb to save my city / They’re all just gears in my machine / I savor every puzzled scream / a piece of them to carry with me”

Lyrical genius has been achieved in this track based on Saw (2004) and it’s decades’ long span of sequels. The song is written (according to my calculations) from the perspective of John Kramer, AKA “Jigsaw”, the villain of the film. Kramer’s initial desire is to simply see if his victims have the will to live, not to kill them on his own. His traps are designed to push the victim to recognize the value of life – even if they have to kill someone else to survive. Puzzled screams, pieces to carry with him, very “Jigsaw” things to say. Also, OUT ON A LIMB? If you know… you know. (Poor Westley. This was surely not as you wished.)

Listen Here: https://open.spotify.com/track/6sLLOGba3eASfNam3bA8wV?si=7601398fda954af7

7 ) Funeral Derangements (The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood, 2021)

“It all began with a skid on the pavement / it ends here with funeral derangements / The flesh is living but the souls have spoiled / The wrath of God lays beneath this soil”

I’m biased in my affection for this song because Pet Sematary (both the 1989 film and 1983 Stephen King novel) is one of my favorite pieces of media of all time. But you can’t deny the absolute power in these proclamations of God’s abominations, risen from the grave when they should have just stayed buried. Sometimes, dead really is better. The protagonist of this deranged tale is Louis Creed, a young father who discovers an ancient burial ground that brings the dead back to life, as evidenced by the family cat, Church. But the living return… wrong. The souls have spoiled, leaving them nothing more than murderous shells of the people (and cat) they once were. Honorable mention to Louis’s internal debate on whether or not to bury his dead son: “still I can’t escape this struggle / driven when push comes to shovel”. Incredible.

Listen Here: https://open.spotify.com/track/1m2kn7VbKCD7jKaDq975SQ?si=5812e8245f4b436e

6 ) Me, Myself & Hyde (Every Trick in the Book, 2015)

“I’m the devil on your shoulder but I’ll always be your better half / we might share one body but the spine is fucking mine”

This track is from an earlier album with songs based on horrific works of literature. This one, if not evidenced by the title and mention of evil other-halves, is based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It’s a classic for a reason; the timeless power struggle between Doctor Henry Jekyll and… himself. The good doctor found a scientific way to transform himself into an evil alter-ego, the sinister Mr. Edward Hyde, in order to indulge in his darkest desires without marring his good reputation. This track is a love-letter not just to Stevenson’s tale, but to our own inner battle between the good in us and the undeniable evil. “I’m waging war on myself / a captive casualty”. So haunting, so beautiful, so metal.

Listen Here: https://open.spotify.com/track/2D2buW67QmZHuPEv70EipT?si=88991e89377a4cb2

5 ) Merry Axe-Mas (The Silver Scream, 2018)

“Now Santa’s claws are out / the sinners scream and shout / I made sure the noose was yuletide tight / so much for a silent night”

Christmas and horror! This song is based on the 1984 Christmas/horror flick Silent Night, Deadly Night. Santa’s claws (get it… sandy claws) are out as traumatized, grown-up orphan Billy goes on a killing spree the night before Christmas. The film itself had a rocky start; heavily criticized for painting Santa in a negative (and murderous) light. That didn’t stop it from developing a cult following, however. Looks like Spencer Charnas is among the faithful, because he wrote this killer track about Santa’s not-so-holy night. (Also, yule-tied tight!! I don’t have to explain how amazing that is.)

Listen Here: https://open.spotify.com/track/2kM94CiYjbN4932wToEMJo?si=a47b7b2c6c6c400b

4 ) A Rash Decision (The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood, 2021)

“But the truth hits like a truck / all bottled up / so hard to swallow now that it spreads so quickly”

It was SO HARD to choose a line from this song! It’s inspired by horror icon Eli Roth’s directorial debut Cabin Fever (2002), starring Rider Strong from Boy Meets World (which made it 100x more scary in my opinion.) As so many good horror stories begin, a group of dumb college kids head into the wilderness for a relaxing weekend of sun, booze, and skin-eating blood infection. Turns out, the river (the water supply for the nearby town) has been infected with a disease that turns sufferers into rashy, bloody, flesh-dripping time bombs. The protagonist, Paul, tries in vain to save his friends and, ultimately, himself. This line is in reference to the end of the movie (so, spoiler alert) where a truck full of bottled, infected river water is driving away to be sold, potentially infecting countless others with this terrible disease. The perfect not-so-happy ending for an early 2000’s horror classic.

Listen Here: https://open.spotify.com/track/7qj50SMPriiu33KIqJjjoE?si=c93c77eb871a43d5

3 ) The World in My Hands (The Silver Scream, 2018)

“He made the cut but she deserves a better man / I won’t rust like the liars and letterman / hedge my bets ’cause it can’t hurt to pretend / until the end”

This track is inspired by my favorite Tim Burton movie, Edward Scissorhands (1990). The film is a tragedy at its core – a man who can feel but not touch, an unreachable girl who can never be with him, a town that just doesn’t understand the struggle of being different (having scissors for hands). This song picks apart Edward’s pain, how he feels like he’ll never measure up to Kim’s letterman jacket-wearing boyfriend. Also evidenced here: “It cuts deep ’cause our hearts are still attached / a deadly touch spreads an itch that can’t be scratched”. The yearning, the pain, the horror! I’m not going to explain why “hedge my bets” is so perfect but it really, really is.

Listen Here: https://open.spotify.com/track/3SNRCldu3OREo61p4KQDIa?si=95222c29ef374a20

2 ) The Plot Sickens (Every Trick in the Book, 2015)

“Sixteen souls left in the cold / to be alive is a miracle / it all comes down to flesh and bone / it’s hard to swallow the unthinkable”

Okay – judging by this line alone, you might think this song is alluding to the horrors of The Donner Party (book review of Alma Katsu’s The Hunger, coming soon!). It’s actually based on Piers Paul Read’s 1974 book Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors (or rather, it’s based on the true events that inspired the book). The true horror story, not unlike that of The Donner Party, follows the survivors of a plane crash. Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashed in the middle of the Andes mountains on October 13th, 1972. The flight was chartered by an Uruguayan rugby team. Those who managed to survive the two month ordeal did so by… well, you read the lyric. It’s a fascinating and horrific story of brotherhood and survival, a true terror of the real world. If this type of story interests you, check out Showtime’s original series Yellowjackets (Season One review coming soon!), about a field hockey team that meets a very similar fate.

Listen Here: https://open.spotify.com/track/3yIKic907FpVd5TWAPKi5m?si=cb8607e815024cdc

1 ) IT is the End (The Silver Scream, 2018)

“You know what makes me smile? / Devoured juveniles / Their innards tangled in my twisted grin / chuckled so hard I choked / call it an inside joke / they say that laughter’s the best medicine”

I mean, come ON. This track is based on Stephen King’s It and the subsequent films. Pennywise, a killer alien that takes the form of a clown, lives in the sewers of Derry, Maine. He terrorizes a group of childhood friends by preying on their greatest fears. 27 years later, guess who’s back, back again? It’s Pennywise, come to scare the (now grown-up) kids all over again. The song itself is a masterpiece of theatrical, big-band metal (which is definitely a thing) that showcases Pennywise the Dancing Clown’s penchant for eating children, piece by piece. “Just like Georgie / it’s all out of hand”. Groovy.

Listen Here: https://open.spotify.com/track/19u5pVvN3Ud0u3bPaq6Lnn?si=8dbed4fb2b0b4a79

i love you Bill Skarsgård

Honorable Mentions

“Left to die under the sun / the hive never spared anyone / how ’bout a hand for the honey bees? / hooked on the creed of their colony” Farewell II Flesh (The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood, 2021). The urban legend of Candyman (1992) follows the story of the son of a slave left to die by a lynch mob, right hand cut off and body smeared with honey that led to his death by bees. This whole track is depressing, lyrical genius.

“Now you’ll choke on your words / swallow this” Ex Mørtis (The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood, 2021). Ash Williams of The Evil Dead (1981) is known for his killer one-liners, and “swallow this” is no exception.

“‘Cause on this trip there are no survivors / and in this club your life don’t mean Scheiße” Würst Vacation (The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood, 2021). We can thank Eli Roth for the Hostel franchise that inspired this gruesome track. A sadistic club of killers who purchase tourists to maim and kill. Upon first listen I thought it was about Human Centipede because of the line “kiss your ass goodbye”… if you know, you know.

“Bitch I’ll leave your body on the cutting room floor / all bets are off / I just buried Drew Barrymore” Your Number’s Up (The Silver Scream, 2018) A gracious nod to Barrymore’s brutal slaying in Wes Craven’s 1996 classic Scream. The line really speaks for itself.

Movies/Shows I Want Ice Nine Kills to Write Songs About

The Blair Witch Project, Apostle, The Haunting of Hill House, Corpse Bride, & Midnight Mass

Where to Find More Ice Nine Kills

Well, there you have it. This piece was so fun to put together and I hope you enjoyed the puns and lyrical mastery of Ice Nine Kills. I’m stoked to be back to blogging and excited to share what’s next!

And, as always… Reader beware, you’re in for a scare! Or, not. Trick-or-treat, after all.

xo Allison

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER:

All images are used Pursuant to 17 U.S. Code § 107 under the “fair use” defense.

All other images are certified public domain.

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6 Horror Movies You Might Have Overlooked

Alternate title: 6 horror movies with mixed reviews that might actually be good

We all love a good hidden gem. Those movies that haven’t sold out theaters or won Oscars, films that haven’t hit the front page of Netflix, and great scares you can introduce to your friends. Every now and then it’s nice to be the one who saw the movie “before it was cool”.

I’ve compiled a list of 6 movies that I think flew under the radar. They’re weird little diamonds in the rough I found while watching Chiller TV after school (or while I was skipping school) back in the day. Strange films I’ve come across in the darkest recesses of off-brand streaming services. They all deserve a little more time in the sun, and I’m happy to be the one to bring them to the light.

And if you have seen these films, let me know one of your undiscovered favorites in the comments.

1) Death and Cremation (2010)

So many great things to be said for this creepy little movie. One of my favorites discovered via Chiller TV (rest in peace, forever in our hearts) and absolutely worth checking out if you want a story about death and, you guessed it, cremation.

Crematorium owner and operator Stan (played by the horror legend Brad Dourif – you may know him as Chucky from the Child’s Play series, Billy Bibbit from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, or Sheriff Lee Brackett in Rob Zombie’s Halloween) doesn’t care about making money or living a lavish lifestyle. All he wants to do is burn bodies in peace… and if he burns some problematic people along the way, that’s good too. Goth teen outcast Jarod (played by the incredible Jeremy Sumpter of Peter Pan and Friday Night Lights fame) seeks a part time job at Stan’s crematorium. While working together to provide a final service to the dead, they both have a hard time dealing with the pesky living.

It’s a fun watch with a good amount of violence and little gore. It was met with positive reviews upon release but never won any awards. Except my award for favorite movie to watch while skipping school.

2) We Are What We Are (2013)

This is an obscure streaming site favorite. It’s a remake of the 2010 Mexican film of the same name and certainly worth checking out if you like a slow build-up of atmospheric, small-town vibes and loads of religious trauma.

The Parkers are a reclusive religious family in what appears to be rural Appalachia. When Mrs. Parker suffers a medical emergency and dies, her daughters Rose and Iris are tasked with handling her less-than-pleasant duties in regard to their religion and the sacrifices made on behalf of their beliefs. When human remains wash up on the banks of the river, the town doctor starts to investigate – could the washed up bones belong to his long-missing daughter? And why did Mrs. Parker really die? The autopsy pointed to Parkinson’s, but now he’s not so sure. Perhaps something in the Parkers’ diet might point him to the answer…

There’s a bit of a slow build up that leads to a great twist. The ending is pretty brutal and tends to get the brunt of negative reviews; like Michael O’Sullivan at The Washington Post calling it, “predictable and gross”. But in that delightful, horror movie way. The film premiered at Sundance in 2013 and features some relatively unknown actors. Head to your local sketchy streaming site to check it out ASAP. Reminds me in many ways of Ania Ahlborn’s horror novel Brother. You can read my review of Ahlborn’s Appalachian horror here: http://www.littlebookblogofhorrors.com/2021/10/book-review-brother-by-ania-ahlborn/.

3) My Soul to Take (2010)

Another Chiller TV gem directed by none other than Wes Craven – you know, just the guy that did Nightmare on Elm Street. This film is generally considered to be Craven’s biggest failure, with no success whatsoever at the box office and poor ratings on several film rating websites. Don’t let the critics fool you, however; there is a lot to love about this strange little film. At least watch the opening sequence of Abel Plenkov – a serial killer dubbed the Riverton Ripper with multiple personalities – killing his pregnant wife and several others before eventually disappearing. Sixteen years later, the Riverton Seven (all born the night Plenkov died and alleged to have pieces of his multiple souls within them) gather for an annual “killing” of a puppet of the Riverton Ripper. Shy outcast Bug (played by Max Thieriot of Bates Motel fame) is selected to complete the “killing” but ultimately fails to destroy the puppet due to police intervention. When the Riverton Seven are killed one by one, they can’t help but blame Bug’s unsuccessful sacrifice. Is the Riverton Ripper at it again? Or is it one of the Seven, possessed by his deadly soul?

You have to admit this sounds like the coolest YA horror novel of all time. If this was made as a Netflix original series it would absolutely blow up. Why did it flop upon release? Well, it came out at the same time as the Facebook biopic The Social Network, so that might have something to do with it. Oh yeah, and it released in the dreaded 2010s 3D. Maybe people were expecting another Elm Street and not this departure lacking in killer dream sequences. Either way, it’s worth checking out for the masterful opening sequence and the turkey vulture scene. If you know, you know.

4) Last Shift (2014)

Unlike the last entry, this film has relatively good reviews across multiple platforms – it even has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes! So, what gives? Why hasn’t anyone heard of it?

Rookie police officer Jessica Loren (played by Juliana Harkavy from The Walking Dead and Arrow) takes her first assignment; the last shift at a police station before it is permanently closed. At first, the shift is boring. After all, it’s a desolate police station, mostly empty of contents and completely devoid of other people… right? Strange noises ring through the empty halls and rooms – knocking, screaming, the occasional laughter of a young woman. Furniture appears to be moving on its own, driving Loren to points of frustrated confusion. Eventually Loren learns that a famous cult akin to the Manson Family committed a group suicide in the police station after being apprehended; a fact that was covered up by police, as it was reported the group was killed in their residence. Loren calls her superior and begs to be relieved of her post, but… well, spoilers.

This movie is just so, so good. It’s intimate, filmed on a small set with great emphasis on the sound and scares. The paranormal activity in the station is delightfully demonic and the mystery of the deceased cult unravels into a grisly and unforgettable finale. Tubi is the place to go for this one – or Amazon Prime Video if you’re feeling fancy.

5) Clown (2014)

Everyone’s terrified of clowns. I think we can thank Stephen King for that. This film, produced by a host of big names including horror giant Eli Roth, capitalizes on the horrors of, well, clowns.

Kent McCoy is a real estate agent and family man who just wants to throw a birthday party for his son. The clown he hired can’t make the party, but as luck would have it, Kent finds an old clown costume in the basement of a home he’s selling and takes it upon himself to be the birthday party clown. Note to self: don’t put on the clown costume you find in a creepy basement. McCoy soon realizes that he can’t take the costume off. Not only that, but he’s experiencing strange hungers and urges. He contacts the costume’s previous owner and discovers the skin and hair of the costume are crafted from the flesh of an ancient Icelandic clown demon that has now fused with McCoy’s physical frame. There are ways to get rid of the demon and take off the costume, but none of them are without a little bloodshed. And one of them involves a Chuck E. Cheese’s.

So this is basically a grown up version of R.L. Stine’s The Haunted Mask but with way more murder and clown demons. Eli Roth actually referred to the film as a version of The Fly, which also makes sense, but you know I can’t pass up a Goosebumps reference. It has pretty scattered reviews, with some critics citing strange pacing and boring build-up as downfalls while others praise the humorous elements befitting of a demonic, killer clown. There are some really interesting ideas here that might have been explored a bit strangely but, hey, at least they were explored. Run, don’t walk to your local sketchy streaming site and behold the killer clownery of your dreams.

6) Shelter [Alternative title: 6 Souls] (2010)

This film is the definition of underrated. It’s well-acted, short on the jump scares, and rife with suspense and true psychological torment. It was released in the UK and other countries as Shelter, later taking on the title of 6 Souls when released in the United States for a limited theatrical release in 2013. It features powerhouse performances by well-known actors like Julianne Moore (you don’t need an example because she’s been in dozens upon dozens of films, but I loved her on 30 Rock) and Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Velvet Goldmine and Vikings).

Dr. Harding (played by Moore) is a psychologist tasked with studying Adam (played by Meyer), a young man suspected to have dissociative identity disorder. Dr. Harding soon realizes Adam’s personalities are those of real people who have passed away under various circumstances – none of them good. One of these personalities leads Dr. Harding down a rabbit hole of blood sacrifices and Appalachian granny magic (what’s with me and Appalachian horror? I don’t know). Religious trauma abounds as faithless souls become simple playthings to those who can control – and consume – them.

All in all, this film is virtually overlooked and I’m not happy about it. The tale is intelligent and suspenseful and rife with the horrors of possession, Appalachian granny magic (stay tuned for this feature article, coming soon!), and unexplainable psychiatric conditions. This one is tough to find but if you can dig it up on the web somewhere, give it a chance. It’ll be worth it for Meyers’ performance alone.

There you have it, friends and foes. A handful of horror films that I think deserve some attention. It seems like most box-office horror films are remakes or continuations of beloved classics – not that I’m complaining. I loved Halloween Kills. But sometimes it’s nice to explore paths less traveled and dig up some under-appreciated gems.

Reader beware, you’re in for a scare! Or, not. Trick-or-treat, after all.

xo Allison

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER:

Movie poster art is used Pursuant to 17 U.S. Code § 107 under the “fair use” defense.

All other images are certified public domain.

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I Know, I Know. Where Have I Been?

Hello, friends and foes! It’s been a while. Let’s talk about it.

Sometimes, real life gets in the way of the things we love to do. I love reading books and writing reviews, researching spooky historical figures and folklore, and talking about pop culture, horror or otherwise. Contrary to my wishes, I do have a real life outside of my beloved blog and social media sphere, and it has been such a struggle to feel creative while juggling life’s pressures. All that being said, I’m settled in my new home (I bought a house. I guess they just let anybody do that these days!) and I’m ready to do the things I love again. That means reading, writing, and the blog!

Some housekeeping items: I’m going to deactivate the Little Book Blog of Horrors Twitter account. Dry your tears! You can still find me at @AllisonKrebel. Head over there for blog updates and general writing and book related tweets. I guess there was only one housekeeping item.

There will be a fun new post tomorrow about horror movies, and early next week I’ll be back at it with another book review. It feels so good to be back. Even if no one’s listening. And to those that are… hi.

And, as always, reader beware, you’re in for a scare! Or, not. Trick-or-treat, after all.

xo Allison

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Top 5 Scooby-Doo Animated Movies

Scooby-Dooby-Doo, where are you?

In an effort to celebrate spooky season and to reconnect with our favorite childhood frights, let’s revisit the classic Scooby-Doo animated films. These films were a staple in my Halloween movie rotation as a kid. Let’s take a walk down a memory lane lined with witches, warlocks, and werecats (oh my!).

The sprawling Scooby-Doo franchise began as a cartoon in 1969, called Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! The show was created by Joe Ruby and Ken Spears for Hanna-Barbera Productions. It follows meddling kids Fred Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley, and Shaggy Rogers, solving supernatural mysteries in their trusty van, the Mystery Machine, along with their doggy pal, Scooby Doo (short for Scoobert Doobert). In 2013, TV Guide named the cartoon as the 5th greatest cartoon of all time. A rank well-deserved, that’s for certain. And we can’t forget about the 2002 live-action masterpiece of a remake, Scooby-Doo, starring Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard and Linda Cardellini. The well-loved live action remake got a sequel in 2004, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.

The live action films aren’t included in this list, as evidenced by the title. I’ve also left out the television movies and television specials; like the 1988 classic Ghoul School. Although they’ve been omitted from this list, we don’t love them any less.

5. Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase (2001)

Don’t be mad that this is at the bottom of the list – at least it made the top five. A virtual creature called “The Phantom Virus” emerges from a new video game based on the adventures of the Mystery Inc. gang. The gang is transported into the game and must defeat 10 dangerous levels by finding boxes of the dog treats, Scooby Snacks. The best parts of this film are the cameos made by classic Scooby villains like the Creeper, the Tar Monster, and Old Iron Face. I’ve ranked it fifth on the list because it didn’t strike me as scary when I watched it as a kid – I mean, the monster isn’t even real. This one might not strike a chord with kids who aren’t into tech or video games. The main song (every Scooby movie has a main, karaoke-worthy song) “Hello Cyberdream” pales in comparison to some of the big hitters later on this list. All that being said, it’s still a fun take on the Mystery Inc. gang, bringing their 70’s style into the 21st century.

4. Scooby-Doo and the Legend of the Vampire (2003)

I was surprised to find in my research that Scooby fans aren’t as familiar with this totally tubular installment of the gang’s misadventures. The Mystery Inc. kids head to Australia for vacation. Goth girl-band The Hex Girls (recurring characters in the Scooby franchise, originating in the film Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost) are playing a music festival at a place called Vampire Rock. The previous year, a band called Wildwind performed at the festival and went missing – presumably turned into vampires by a local vampire called the Yowie Yahoo. The gang enters the music festival as a band to lure the Yowie Yahoo from the caves of Vampire Rock in the hopes of finding out just what – or who – he really is. It’s so cool to see The Hex Girls again, and the music in this one is top notch early 2000’s rock (I mean, it does take place at a music festival). As the most recent film on this list, it’s also the first to have the newer animation style of the What’s New, Scooby-Doo? television series. Stylistically, it is much brighter than its predecessors. But don’t let that fool you – it’s just as spooky.

3. Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders (2000)

The Mystery Inc. gang stumbles upon aliens while driving through Roswell, New Mexico (who would have thought!?). Shaggy and Scooby are abducted by aliens and later awaken in the middle of the desert while the rest of the kids are stranded at a creepy roadside diner full of alien skeptics – and even more alien believers. In the desert, Shaggy and Scooby meet Crystal and her dog, Amber, and immediately fall in love. The gang must solve the mystery and government conspiracy that is Area 51, and potential life on other planets. No spoilers, but this one actually shocked me when the truth was revealed – and it still hits as an adult. The flower-child montage of Shaggy and Crystal, Scooby and Amber falling in love is an adorable jaunt through a colorful 70’s aesthetic. And there’s a jackaloupe! This film is the last installment in the franchise to feature Mary Kay Bergman as the voice of Daphne before her death, and it is lovingly dedicated to her memory.

2. Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998)

The gang investigates an allegedly haunted bayou island in New Orleans, Louisiana. They are reunited after a hiatus, having become disenchanted by their constant run-ins with masked bad guys rather than real, supernatural monsters. Ghosts and zombies abound in this colorful ride through the American bayou south as the gang sets out to solve a 200 year old mystery steeped in gumbo, voodoo, and… werecats. The soundtrack on this one is killer, with acts like Third Eye Blind and Skycycle on the original tracks. The main song, Terror Time Again, is an instant classic that will get you in the Halloween spirit – and in the mood to run around the bayou away from some terrifying monsters. There’s also a sequel that was released in 2019, which I didn’t know about until doing research for this article. It premiered at San Diego Comic Con and can now be found everywhere digitally and on DVD.

1. Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost (1999)

Obviously at the top of this list, this film follows the gang on their travels to the fictional New England town of Oakhaven (think off-brand Salem, Massachusetts) after being invited by horror writer Ben Ravencroft. They have to solve the mystery of accused witch Sarah Ravencroft, who was executed by the Puritans in 1657. Ben, Sarah’s descendant, claims Sarah was an innocent wiccan, using her powers for healing rather than evil witchcraft. The gang soon realizes they’re in for more than just a Halloween festival and some tasty treats when it becomes clear the witches didn’t all stay in 1657… Ruh-roh. Also in this film we meet The Hex Girls, the greatest fictional band of all time. This is the perfect Halloween movie for young and old witches, warlocks, and wiccans alike. It made little Allison want to be a horror writer and a witch… halfway there.

I hope this article helped you reconnect with where your horror fixation might have started. Whether it was Goosebumps, Are You Afraid of the Dark, or the Scooby-Doo cinematic universe, it’s always nice to pay homage to the frights that started it all.

Want more Scooby-Doo content?

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero (2017): The gang’s grown up… Well, not exactly. Inspired by Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Inc. gang, this novel follows a reunited group of grown-up detectives who try to solve a Lovecraftian horror mystery that traumatized them when they were kids. Book review coming soon. https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/548337/meddling-kids-by-edgar-cantero/

Jonathan Young’s cover of It’s Terror Time Again: https://open.spotify.com/track/5zO9iNow0MEBtBIjvTogTi?si=c394911420e3499e

Moon Sisters, The Nostalgia Girls’ cover of Earth, Wind, Fire & Air: https://open.spotify.com/track/1kGvwKNeDpTuMDw0KWqT92?si=678b8ac0c90e44ef

Dreadlight, Maiah Wynne’s cover of Hex Girl: https://open.spotify.com/track/7F6B0eGSuPpDin9yCK6Zh7?si=6b7b87a9ee384573

Simple Plan’s What’s New Scooby-Doo?: https://open.spotify.com/track/6DD5beNG6Ji3AYp5WrYnwD?si=3d5502cf4f474f91

AllSTARS’ Things That Go Bump in the Night: https://open.spotify.com/track/4dyoQtmjsgoTuF4VIReyE1?si=14e0a1d18520466f

Reader beware, you’re in for a scare! Or, not. Trick-or-treat, after all.

xo Allison

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER:

Art is used Pursuant to 17 U.S. Code § 107 under the “fair use” defense.

All other images are certified public domain.

Feature image citation: Still frame from the debut episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: “What a Night for a Knight”. (original airdate: September 13, 1969). Copyright © 1969 Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc.

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Book Review: Brother by Ania Ahlborn

Bloody horror in the Appalachian wilderness. Groovy.

Have you ever seen the Wrong Turn movies? That fun-to-binge horror film franchise with 10 sequels about a cannibalistic family in the hills of West Virginia? Those films have nothing on the mind of Ania Ahlborn, and the bloody Appalachian horror she created in 2015’s Brother.

Ahlborn hails from Poland but currently lives in South Carolina with her family. She’s a prolific horror and thriller writer with an impressive bibliography – her 11th title is soon to be released. Other popular works of Ahlborn’s include The Bird Eater, I Call Upon Thee, and Within These Walls. She began her career as a self-published author with 2011’s Seed, which eventually reached #1 in Horror on Amazon and landed the author a multi-book deal. And thanks to that deal, we were given Brother.

The Morrow family lives a simple life in rural Appalachia – if you consider kidnapping, dismembering, and eating young women as ‘simple’. Michael is a normal teenager, wondering if there is more to life than his gruesome reality. Movies, girls, Big Macs. His overbearing, tyrannical mother and domineering bully of a brother make sure he rarely sees life beyond their personal hell. His attachment to his little sister Misty Dawn makes him weary about running away to see for himself… if he could outrun his brother, that is.

Michael’s been told time and time again that there’s nothing in the world for him outside of the Morrow way of life. No one wants him but the Morrow’s – and even with them, he’s on thin ice.

Why does Michael’s brother Rebel hate him so much? Why is he such a relentless bully, reminding Michael of how worthless and unloved he is? That’s one of the greatest mysteries of this family story, and Ahlborn expertly plants the seeds leading to the reveal of why Rebel has hated Michael for the majority of his life. When the truth of Michael’s origins and Rebel’s disdain for him is revealed, the shock is palpable. The reader is left breathless, hopeless, utterly disheartened. But, don’t worry. It gets better. Rebel takes Michael out into town. Rebel lets Michael talk to girls, see a movie. Get a Big Mac. And then, things get worse. Oh, holy hell, do they get worse.

If you want to feel dirty, grimy, hopeless and lost, this book is for you. Sick and bloody imagery aside, it’s a roller coaster of emotion right up until the insane, movie-worthy finale. Dread truly drips from every page as you wait for the other shoe to drop. What will be Rebel’s breaking point? When with the Morrow’s killing end? Will Michael ever find happiness away from the only wretched life he has ever known? Only one way to find out.

If I’m being 100% honest (which I always am), I almost DNF’d this book because of the overwhelming despair alone. I love horror movies (even the Wrong Turn franchise), and I love horror books, but Ahlborn paints such a gruesome and tragic picture of a rural hellscape that truly left a rotten taste in my mouth every time I closed the book. I had to talk myself into finishing it because I was rooting for Michael, silently begging for him to escape his miserable existence. It’s also toeing the line of splatter horror (think torture-porn films like anything Eli Roth has ever made, Hostel, etc.) which is totally not my gig, at all. Most of the gore is subtle but Ahlborn throws in a sick detail every now and then that just makes you say “ew”, or “Oh my God”, or “time to read Goosebumps to cleanse my palate and fend off the nightmares”. And, when I finished the book, the rotten taste in my mouth remained. For days. But… no spoilers.

Horrifying, thrilling, and truly mind-blowing when all of the nasty pieces come together, Brother showcases the depths of human depravity and just how thick blood is when compared to water.

3 stars overall, 4 stars on the scare-scale.

Reader beware, you’re in for a scare! Or, not. Trick-or-treat, after all.

xo Allison

SOURCES:

https://www.aniaahlborn.com/novels

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER:

Book cover art is used Pursuant to 17 U.S. Code § 107 under the “fair use” defense.

All other images are certified public domain.

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10 Horror Movies You Didn’t Know Were Based on Books

Well, I didn’t know they were based on books, anyway.

I hate articles that start like “YOU DIDN’T KNOW THIS THING! LET ME EXPLAIN IT TO YOU!” Because, when the reader does know, the title and information come across as so condescending. That being said, I thought it would be fun to write one of those articles but be really honest about it. I found 10 horror movies that I really didn’t know were based off books that maybe, just maybe, you didn’t know, either.

There aren’t any Stephen King books on here, because we already know the chokehold his stories have on horror film.

1. In The Tall Grass (2019)

Okay, I lied. This one is based on Stephen King and Joe Hill’s 2012 novella of the same name. To be fair, I didn’t know this was a King-related production when I watched it on Netflix. It honestly didn’t even feel like one. It was beautifully filmed, twisted and mysterious, and criminally underrated. It stars Harrison Gilbertson, Laysla De Oliveira, and Patrick Wilson (you know, the guy from all The Conjuring movies).

The film does have some criticism, most being that it had limited source material that felt stretched a bit too thin. I don’t necessarily agree, but that could just be because I didn’t know it was a novella and just thought it was a rad horror movie with weird pacing. It was nominated for Best Streaming Premier at the 2020 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards but lost to a film called The Perfection. I’d recommend checking it out if you like time-warping, bloody, cult and alien-related horror. Oh yeah, and cursed fields of really tall grass.

2. The Ritual (2017)

This one is a British horror film based on Adam Nevill’s 2011 novel of the same name. It follows a group of four friends taking a short-cut (never a good idea) through the forests of northern Sweden. They’re hiking in the memory of their friend who was killed in a tragic attack. If you love forest horror, creepy abandoned cabins, and cults that worship the ancient beasts of the woods, then this one might be for you. It’s a love story to atmospheric horror, low on jump scares but high on stunning cinematography, honest and moving acting, and the terror of being totally lost and off the grid. I get anxious when my cell phone has less than 50% battery, so needless to say this would not be a horror film I would survive.

The film stars Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, and Sam Troughton. It premiered at the Toronto Film Festival but was sold to Netflix for streaming shortly thereafter. The novel won the 2012 August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel. Definitely worth a watch, and a read.

3. The Wicker Man (1973)

I could write an entire article on the horror that was the 2006 Nicholas Cage version of this movie, but I am choosing not to for my sanity and for yours. The 1973 version was inspired by David Pinner’s 1967 novel Ritual. A policeman travels to an isolated island in search of a missing girl, only to find a colony of former Christians practicing a form of Celtic paganism involving sacrifices and other horrors. Film magazine Cinefantastique described this film as “The Citizen Kane of horror movies”. If that’s true, then the Nicholas Cage version is any Adam Sandler movie made after 1999.

There’s a sequel to the novel called The Wicca Woman that was published in 2014. Not sure why the books were published nearly fifty years apart, but I think they’re both worth a read if you’re interested in the origins of this famous (and infamous) film.

4. Jaws (1975)

I have seen Jaws probably 25 times, and I had no idea it was based on a book until researching for this article. We’re all familiar with the horror-thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss. . It was the highest-grossing film until the release of Star Wars in 1977. It tells the story of a small Massachusetts beach town that is terrorized by a man-eating great white shark.

Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel of the same name was on the bestseller list for 44 weeks and sold millions of copies worldwide. The movie focused solely on the shark and the three men hunting it and omitted the majority of Benchley’s subplots. That didn’t hurt the film’s success, however. The sequels are a horror story for another day… Of course, the literary elite will explain that it’s not about the shark, it’s about the greed of capitalism and how the rich will sacrifice the lives of the poor in order to make a quick buck.

5. The Exorcist (1973)

I guess I did know this one was based on a book, but I didn’t know until embarrassingly late in life. William Peter Blatty wrote the novel in 1971 of the same name detailing the demonic possession of a little girl named Regan and the priests who are charged with performing her exorcism. You already know I love exorcisms and possession. This film is actually one of the first horror films I ever watched. Regan and I were the same age, which both terrified and fascinated me as a budding horror fan. How could my parents forbid me to watch a movie if myself and the main character were the same age??

Blatty also wrote the screenplay for the film, earning him an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Aspects of the novel were actually inspired by a real life exorcism performed in 1949 of a young boy in Maryland. I guess it’s true that the most terrifying stories are based in reality.

6. The Amityville Horror (1979)

Speaking of stories based in reality, this is one of the first wildly successful horror franchises based on a “true story”. Of course, this claim has led to decades of controversy and lawsuits debating how “true” it really is. Still, it’s terrifying nonetheless. The novel of the same name was written by Jay Anson in 1977 and was reported to be based on the paranormal experiences of the Lutz family of Amityville, New York. According to the book, the Lutz family moved into a haunted house and claimed to be terrorized by evil left behind after a murder took place in the home one year prior.

The first Amityville film was released in 1979, and there have been dozens released since. The most famous remake of the 1979 original might be the 2005 version starring Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George. None of the films since then have been particularly exciting, as they all pretty much chronicle the same series of events in pretty much the same exact way. It would be interesting to have a film more about the controversy surrounding the book – like how the book falsely claimed the home was built on a spiritual site of the local Shinnecock Indians, or how everyone who’s owned the house after the Lutz family have reported no problems at all (other than morbidly curious horror fans stopping to take photos).

7. Candyman (1992)

Another novel adaptation that I had absolutely no idea about. I don’t blame myself. This film is based on Clive Barker’s short story The Forbidden from his horror anthology collection Books of Blood (1984), about a grad school student studying urban legends and folklore. And the movie was only made because the director Bernard Rose had a chance run-in with Barker, where Barker eventually agreed to license the rights. The original film starred Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, and Xander Berkeley. There were two sequels, released in 1995 and 1999 which were not met with the same critical acclaim as the first.

Never fear, for an actually good direct sequel was released just this year, in August of 2021! It’s written by Jordan Peele (a true pioneer of evolving modern horror) and directed by Nia DaCosta. Though it’s the fourth film in the series, it’s a direct sequel to the 1992 oroginal. It stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Teyonah Parris. If you’re looking to get into the Candyman franchise, start with Barker’s short and work your way through the films (yes, even the crappy sequels. That’s part of the fun.)

8. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

Did you know this cult classic was based on Lois Duncan’s 1973 novel of the same name? Well, loosely based. It’s actually a Young Adult novel that was regarded at the time of publication as well written and cleverly mysterious. Criticism included calling the novel’s plotting basic, which (in my opinion) is pretty standard in the Young Adult genre. It follows a group of high school friends who are being tormented by an anonymous person who, you guessed it, knows what they did last summer.

The film starred Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillipe, and Freddie Prinze Jr. I mean, come on. Talk about a stacked cast. The film was a departure from much of the inspirational material, as the novel isn’t really a slasher and doesn’t feature the graphic deaths of several characters. Duncan herself was pretty critical of the film, stating that she was actually “appalled” that her story was turned into a slasher film. Despite the author’s poor reviews, the film went on to have two sequels, one in 1998 and one in 2006. Not too shabby.

9. Hellraiser (1987)

And I was worried about too much Stephen King – turns out, I should have been worried about Clive Barker all along. I’m not a huge fan of the Hellraiser franchise in general, but I was fascinated to know that it, too, was inspired by a Clive Barker novella (The Hellbound Heart, 1986). The film serves as Barker’s directorial debut. The plot is basically about this group of beings called Cenobites who cannot tell the difference between pain and pleasure. You might know the leader of the Cenobites, played by Doug Bradley, as “Pinhead”. The original film was met with mixed criticism, but was followed by NINE sequels, so… I guess criticism doesn’t really matter.

The film was initially given an X rating, so Barker had to cut multiple scenes to get it down to an R. Cut scenes included a hammer murder, a naked murder, exposed entrails, and a closeup of an exploded head. Gnarly. Apparently the source material is just as gory and visceral, as is much of Barker’s work. The novella also has two sequels and several spinoffs to check out, if you’re interested. Barker uses a lot of the same horrors throughout his different tales, so you might spot a Cenobite or two across his massive bibliography.

10. American Psycho (2000)

Here’s another one I’m a little embarrassed about. Bret Easton Ellis published the novel of the same name in 1991, telling the story of Patrick Bateman, a serial killer by night and investment banker by day. The novel was wildly successful when it released, though controversial. Ellis himself claimed everyone thought the book was going to end his career. And if the morbidly curious reader didn’t go absolutely nuts over it when it came out, it just might have. American Psycho is the 53rd most banned and challenged book in the U.S. between 1990 and 1999, and sales were restricted in Germany and Australia due to potentially harmful subject matter. Feminist activist Gloria Steinem vehemently opposed the book due to its portrayal of violence against women. Coincidentally, Steinem is the stepmother of actor Christian Bale.

The same Christian Bale who portrayed Patrick Bateman in the 2000 film adaptation! The film was marketed as a dark but comedic film. It starred Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe and Reese Witherspoon. It premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival where it was alleged to be “the next Fight Club” (that came out in 1999, also based on a novel). Upon its theatrical release, the film was met with positive reviews by most major outlets. There was even a straight-to-video spin-off made (aptly titled American Psycho 2) that no one watched. The novel is certainly worth the read, if only to figure out what all the fuss was about when it came out.

Well, there you have it. Ten horror films I didn’t know were based on books. Did you already know any of these? Good for you.

Reader beware, you’re in for a scare! Or, not. Trick-or-treat, after all.

xo Allison

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER:

Art is used Pursuant to 17 U.S. Code § 107 under the “fair use” defense.

All other images are certified public domain.

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