Cinema Paradouche-o (or How to Behave in the Movie Theater)

So I’ve been to the movies twice this week (to see IT and MOTHER!, both of which were excellent), but both occasions were marred by the behavior of other people in the theater. Now I’ve bitched about this before, but not often, because such instances weren’t all that common. This no longer seems to be the case. I’m absolutely expecting some of you to defend disruptive behavior in movie theaters because, well, someone always does, and that’s pretty much where we are as a society now.

“People should be allowed to check their phones during a movie.”

No, they really shouldn’t. That’s why there’s a giant notice to that effect on the screen before every movie. I’m not paying $20 to see a movie I’ve been looking forward to for an age just so I can be forced against my will to have my attention drawn to your phone because your bae wants to know where the bong is or because your child exploded in Target.

godupdates strangers help screaming woman in grocery store fb

“I don’t care that you’re at the movie theater. Billy’s like, spread across three aisles!”

 

During IT, the woman sitting right next to me had some weird, blinding stroboscopic light on her phone that went off every ten minutes until she eventually left the theater an hour into the movie to take a call.

During MOTHER!, the woman (note, I didn’t say teen, because she was at least in her forties) seated right in front of me spent the entire running time of the movie scrolling through Facebook. Which meant that while I’m looking at the movie screen, I have this glowing white oblong of light right underneath it.

Solution? If you absolutely have to be on your phone during a movie, turn the brightness down. Way, way down.

godupdates strangers help screaming woman in grocery store fb2

Like, this much.

Back to IT: when the flash-phone lady wasn’t guiding ships through the fog with her fucking Samsung, she was talking loudly with her boyfriend. Now, it’s important to note that I’m not someone who complains often, and never in public. I don’t even send my food back if they mess it up at a restaurant.

Arcadia_Restaurant

“I ordered the onion rings, but whatevs.”

But this couple were so loud and so distracting, that I eventually asked them–politely–to keep it down. And they did, but not without the boyfriend glaring at me for the rest of the movie as if I’d asked him if his balls had a strobe light too.

During MOTHER! the women seated next to Facebook-phone lady decided to MST3K the movie about 30 mins in, right about the point they realized it wasn’t a jump scare movie. When they weren’t doing this, they were standing up and blocking the screen so that they could discuss what food everyone wanted from the concession stand.

And still, STILL there are people who defend this behavior, and as a result it’s now a pleasant surprise when a movie ISN’T disrupted by some scuttlefart with a cell addiction.

Talking in the theater

“What did you say about, Billy? Sorry, hun, there’s a bunch of quiet people being rude to me.”

It’s not about the variety of reasons you ABSOLUTELY OMG HAVE to have your cell phone with you (babysitters, relatives in need, 7 days since you watched that weird videotape in the cabin), rather it is, like so many of the issues affecting us today, about nothing more than common courtesy.

And we appear to be running low.

Turn off your phone, turn off your mouth, or stay at home. You have a wealth of entertainment options at your fingertips. There is no longer any excuse for you to ruin mine.

EDIT: A lot of you are suggesting weekday screenings as a way of avoiding this behavior. I saw IT at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, MOTHER! at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

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BLANKY

My new novella Blanky is now available for preorder on Amazon, with an official release date of September 12th.

Here’s the official synopis:

Blanky2“In the wake of his infant daughter’s tragic death, Steve Brannigan is struggling to keep himself together. Estranged from his wife, who refuses to be inside the house where the unthinkable happened, and unable to work, he seeks solace in an endless parade of old sitcoms and a bottle of bourbon.

Until one night he hears a sound from his daughter’s old room, a room now stripped bare of anything that identified it as hers…except for her security blanket, affectionately known as Blanky.

Blanky, old and frayed, with its antiquated patchwork of badly sewn rabbits with black button eyes, who appear to be staring at the viewer…

Blanky, purchased from a strange old man at an antique stall selling “BABY CLOSE” at a discount.

The presence of Blanky in his dead daughter’s room heralds nothing short of an unspeakable nightmare that threatens to take away what little light remains in Steve’s shattered world.

Because his daughter loved Blanky so much, he buried her with it.”

Preorder the book via any of the following links:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon CA

DARK CITIES

Dark CitiesThe Titan Books anthology DARK CITIES, edited by Christopher Golden and featuring stories set, as the title suggests, in cities just this side of normal, has officially been released upon the world.

And, as books like this generally don’t get much in the way of a marketing push, it would be great if you could help spread the word. Of course, buying and reviewing the book is an even better strategy, but any assistance raising awareness of the title would be much appreciated, if only so we get to do more of them.

 

Here’s the table of contents:

THE DOGS by Scott Smith
IN STONE by Tim Lebbon
THE WAY SHE IS WITH STRANGERS by Helen Marshall
WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS by M.R. Carey
GOOD NIGHT, PRISON KINGS by Cherie Priest
DEAR DIARY by Scott Sigler
WHAT I’VE ALWAYS DONE by Amber Benson
GRIT by Jonathan Maberry
DARK HILL RUN by Kasey Lansdale & Joe R. Lansdale
HAPPY FOREVER by Simon R. Green
THE SOCIETY OF THE MONSTERHOOD by Paul Tremblay
THE MAW by Nathan Ballingrud
FIELD TRIP by Tananarive Due
THE REVELERS by Christopher Golden
THE STILLNESS by Ramsey Campbell
SANCTUARY by Kealan Patrick Burke
MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH by Sherrilyn Kenyon
GRAFFITI OF THE LOST AND DYING PLACES by Seanan McGuire
THE CRACK by Nick Cutter

You can grab a copy of the book here.

Cheap Candy

For the next day or so, you can pick up SOUR CANDYSour Candy - Resized at a discount at Amazon. 99 cents today and tomorrow, $1.99 for a few days after that until it returns to its regular price. So, if you haven’t read it and want to, now’s the time to grab it for less than the price of a cup of coffee. And hey, it’s #WorldBookDay, so you have two reasons to grab it.
 
“an excellent terror-filled novella….a stomach-twisting ride through the depths of horror, breathing new life into an often-stagnant part of the genre.”
Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
 
Sour Candy is spectacularly good. A brilliant premise, marvelously executed, it’s as close to a perfect story as I can remember reading. I only wish I’d written it myself.”
— Bentley Little, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Resort, and The Store.
 
 

Short Stories: 2017 Edition

It’s been quite a productive year for me already, and while (as per usual) I can’t spill the beans on everything that’s cooking right now (as much as I’d love to), I can at least share some news about stories that are on the way in various publications.15319120_1192194820869660_8567178783653999739_n

My story of dwarves tasked with finding their errant brethren in territory governed by the dead, “Down Here with Us” will appear in Tales of the Lost Citadel, a shared fantasy world anthology edited by C.A. Suleiman. There’s no release date yet, but as I’ve already received a sample copy, I imagine it can’t be too far away. More news on this as I have it.

“Andromeda”, about a technological and possibly cosmic plague, will appear in an upcoming chapbook from Sinister Grin Press.

ebookcover

The wartime story “Go Warily After Dark” about a family who pick the wrong place to seek shelter during an airstrike, will appear in Crystal Lake Publishing‘s forthcoming anthology Tales from the Lake Volume IV, edited by Joe Mynhardt and Ben Eads, due August 30th.

One of my rare erotica pieces “She Comes” is slated for publication this month in Great Jones Street‘s My Bloody Valentine series.

“Traveler”, a nasty little piece about a body-hopping entity who uses his unwitting victims to commit unspeakable crimes, will be featured in Dark Fuse Magazine in March.

hbyaoh-tpb-cvr-solMy novelette “A Wicked Thirst”, about an alcoholic whose date goes gruesomely wrong, will appear in Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror, edited by Mark Matthews. As a rather cool incentive, the first 25 people to order the book can choose a free book by any of the authors listed on the table of contents.

“Sanctuary”, about a child sent to retrieve his father in a city forgotten by the rest of the world, will appear in Dark Cities, edited by Christopher Golden, and published by Titan Books. Look for it in May.

“Verstedkt”, in which our titular hero is sent to an Alpine village to investigate claims of a witch, will appear in the prose anthology Hellboy: An Assortment of Horrors, edited by Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola, due in August from Dark Horse Books.

Lastly, I have just turned in a short story “The Mannequin Challenge”, about an antisocial man who reluctantly agrees to attend the office Halloween party, and quickly wishes he hadn’t, to the Halloween Carnival anthology, edited by Brian Freeman, to be published by Cemetery Dance Publications and Random House.

I’ll update this list as more news develops…

Hellboy & Me

hbyaoh-tpb-cvr-solAs reported by Entertainment Weekly, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy returns in the prose anthology An Assortment of Horrors, edited by genre stalwart Christopher Golden. The lineup includes stories by Chelsea Cain, Jonathan Maberry, Seanan McGuire, Richard Kadrey, Chris Roberson, Paul Tremblay, Delilah Dawson, Laird Barron, Angela Slatter, Chris Priestley, Michael Rowe, Rio Youers, E. Lily Yu, Weston Ochse, and me.

In my story “Verstedkt”, Hellboy is called to a remote region in Europe to investigate a village in which the people are regularly forced to sacrifice one of their own to pacify a witch. But from the outset, all is not quite what it seems.

The book will be released in August via Dark Horse Books. You can preorder it here.

 

The Ten Best Horror Movies of 2016…So Far

This has been a great year, arguably one of the best in recent memory, for the sheer number of solid horror movies we got, and that’s a cause for celebration. And though we’re not done with 2016 yet, here are my picks for the ten best horror movies of the year so far.

the-boyTHE BOY

Bad horror is easy to create; good horror is not, which is why we end up with such an abundance of the former over the latter in all forms of media, so if every reviewer on the planet tells me a film is terrible, I tend to end up agreeing. In this case, however, I didn’t. I found the almost universally panned THE BOY a lot of fun, with just enough style and creepiness to keep me engaged, even if the central conceit was handled much more deftly in 2014’s Aussie comedy-horror HOUSEBOUND. Plus, Lauren Cohan!

 

THE CONJURING 2

While I still sometimes suffer from an inability to tell this series apart from the INSIDIOUS films (no doubt due to the stylistic similarity, not to mention the presence of Patrick Wilson in all of them), THE CONJURING 2, like its predecessor, is a solid example of how a cliched story can be elevated by the talent involved. And if you can overlook the fact that the films essentially use as heroes a duo of charlatans who notoriously exploited their victims, there’s plenty to enjoy here. James Wan’s movies draw me by virtue of their mood and his creativity when it comes to the scares, and in that respect, THE CONJURING 2 doesn’t disappoint.

 

10 CLOVERFIELD LANEimages

Though the surprise reveal and dubious marketing generated more excitement than it probably deserved, resulting in disappointment for those expecting to see a cameo from CLOVERFIELD’s excellent kaiju monster, 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE nevertheless works as a superior claustrophobic thriller with some horror/sci-fi overtones it might actually have worked better without. The scant cast, led by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, are in top form, but John Goodman steals the show as the man who owns the shelter in which Winstead awakes to find herself imprisoned.

 

HUSH

Another surprise announcement and another concept that on paper is reminiscent of something we’ve seen before (in this case, the 1967 Audrey Hepburn home invasion thriller WAIT UNTIL DARK), the material here is elevated both by Mike Flanagan’s stylish direction and a breakout performance by Kate Siegel as Maddie Young. Particularly impressive are the scenes in which we see the world via the filter of Young’s disabilities, and her resourcefulness in fending off her aggressor.

 

THE PURGE: ELECTION YEARimages2

When it comes to sequels, THE PURGE series seems immune to the rule of diminishing returns, both in terms of quality and its box office. While I liked the first film just fine, I felt it squandered the possibilities of its irresistible setup by choosing to focus on a single crime rather than exploring the government sanction that makes such actions legal: The Purge itself. Thankfully, it addressed this shortcoming in the sequel and builds further on that in the third installment. Seldom has there been a horror series so primed to mirror the societal malaise and economical disparity of its times and thankfully, with each sequel, THE PURGE embraces that rather than just using it as a springboard for 90 minutes of mindless murder.

 

DON’T BREATHE

I loved Fede Alvarez’ remake of EVIL DEAD, and while I know many didn’t, it’s hard to deny the technical proficiency he brought to the table. It also had a wicked mean streak and that’s present again in Alvarez’s sophomore effort, DON’T BREATHE, which inverts the home invasion setup by making the intruders the ones in danger. It’s not a perfect film, particularly toward the end, but it’s fun, tasteless, and features a great villain in the form of Stephen Lang’s The Blind Man. There’s also a nice dash of social relevance to add weight and some justification to the crime that sparks it all.

 

THE WITCHimages3

With remarkable authenticity and attention to detail some found off-putting, THE WITCH (and no, I won’t write it with two Vs instead of a W) is arguably one of the year’s best films, one whose strength and appeal lies in being deeply unsettling on a primal level, no matter whether you choose to interpret the antagonist as either religious fervor itself, or the devil made manifest. It’s beautifully (and creepily) shot, with an evocative score, and strong performances all around. It’s also notable for somehow making a horror icon out of a goat.

 

GREEN ROOM

Like BLUE RUIN before it (but absent that film’s dark humor), Jeremy Saulnier’s GREEN ROOM was already a tense and gloomy experience before news of Anton Yelchin’s tragic death made the news. And while one might wish for a cheerier swan song for the talented young actor, he was seldom better than he is here. A deeply disturbing story of a band who witness something they shouldn’t at a bar run by Neo-Nazis, and subsequently find themselves trapped in the titular room, the film is also notable for a rare villainous turn by the wonderful Patrick Stewart.

 

LIGHTS OUT

Reminiscent of John Carpenter’s THE FOG insofar as it feels like an old-fashioned campfire tale, director David F. Sandberg (working from a script by Eric Heisserer) adapts his own creepy short into a fun and concise horror film. Adding to the appeal is an unusually clever story which treats neither the characters nor the audience as idiots, terrific performances from all concerned, and some genuinely cool scares which make inventive use of light and dark. One scene in particular drew applause from the audience I saw it with by virtue of its creativity and humor.

 

THE INVITATIONimages

The term “slow burn” can mean one of two things when it comes to film: either the burn builds to an explosive climax, or lack of oxygen extinguishes the flame. So many examples of the latter have stigmatized the term that a lot of horror fans actively avoid movies that feature those words in the review, but for evidence of a slow burn utilized to maximum effectiveness, one need look no further than Karyn Kusama’s brilliant THE INVITATION. It’s a taut, unnerving film about a man, Will (Logan Marshall-Green) who, along with his girlfriend, is invited to a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife and her new husband. That would be awkward enough, but rather quickly, Will begins to suspect that there’s an ulterior and sinister motive behind the invitation. Whether or not he’s right, or whether he’s just gone crazy, remains a mystery right up until the film’s final act, and what a final act it is.

* * *

So there you have it, my list of what I consider to be the best horror films of the year so far. There are still a few months to go before we see 2017, so I will amend this list as needed for my year-end summation. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions of films that belong on this list, or that I might have missed, feel free to let me know below.