Seven Days Until Halloween!


If, like my husband, you can read at the speed of a maglev bullet train, you probably have plenty of time to read several scary books between now and Halloween.  If, like me, you read roughly at the pace of a sleepy tortoise, you should have a creepy back-up plan.

Watch a movie!

Each of these movies won a Bram Stoker Award for Best Screenplay.  I took the summaries from the Internet Movie Database, parentheticals are mine.  Here are my personal top 3 faves from the awards list:


2014: THE BABADOOK (JENNIFER KENT)–A single mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son’s fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.  (atmospheric old-style horror, with plenty of creeping madness and a sympathetic lead)


2012: THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (JOSS WHEDON AND DREW GODDARD–Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin in the woods, where they get more than they bargained for. Together, they must discover the truth behind the cabin in the woods. (I wrote a whole post about this! Read it here)


2004: SHAUN OF THE DEAD (SIMON PEGG AND EDGAR WRIGHT)–A man decides to turn his moribund life around by winning back his ex-girlfriend, reconciling his relationship with his mother, and dealing with an entire community that has returned from the dead to eat the living.  (this duo can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned.  This movie is funny, smart, scary, and moving, with great actors filling every role)

If you need more ideas, check out Daniel Kraus over at Booklist.  He wrote two of my favorite scary books, Rotters and Scowlerand for the past several years he’s run the “31 Horror Films in 31 Days” Challenge. Great suggestions there!


Halloween Read: “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” by Grady Hendrix


You might remember Grady Hendrix from such quirky horror novels as Horrorstor, in which retail employees fend off ghosts and torture devices in a big box store.  In My Best Friend’s Exorcism, a night of drugs and skinny-dipping leads to demonic possession.


Abby and Gretchen have been friends since they were kids.  But now that they’re in high school, something between them has shifted.  Gretchen’s acting awfully weird, and despite everyone saying it’s just a teenage girl phase, Abby’s convinced it’s something much darker than that.  And she’s willing to do anything to save her best friend.

This novel does a lot less with framing than Horrorstor, but the yearbook endpages are spot-on gold.  And the exorcism scene toward the end is suitably disturbing and moving.  Hendrix is great with blending creepiness, action, and humor, and it’s all used to very good effect here.

At its heart, this is the story of a friendship, and that core holds the novel together.  You really care about Abby and Gretchen, and you want their friendship to succeed against all odds.  Possession works incredibly well as a metaphor for adolescence, and while Hendrix doesn’t beat you over the head with it, that element plays a big part in the story.

If you like 80’s flicks and possession stories, give this one a try!


Halloween Watch: Kittens!



The only thing I love more than Halloween is kittens!

I tend to forget the non-Horror fans during the Halloween season.  So this is for all of you. Watch adorable fluff-trons act out iconic scenes from classics like The Shining and Psycho.

Enjoy!  Please visit the good people at the ASPCA’s website.  Click here to learn more about the history of black cats and Halloween.  And here are a couple of articles about adopting black cats, given the season: Photographs of black cats by Casey Elise, and Black Cat Rescue, an organization in Boston.


In closing: More cats!  Specifically, a reading of Poe’s short story, “The Black Cat.”


Halloween Read: “Every House is Haunted” by Ian Rogers



Every story in Every House is Haunted is like an eerie short film.  There are haunted houses, sci-fi experiments, and psychic powers.  What ties everything together is Rogers’ cinematic, absorbing style, and great ear for dialogue.  You’re dropped into these little snapshots of surreal horror, which makes them all the weirder and memorable.  It’s like watching The Twilight Zone.

A cat goes to great lengths to be of service to his household.  An odd sort of spider infests a house through the TV set.  A haunted house is so dangerous it’s on a paranormal watch list.  A group of explorers set forth into the gray boundary between life and death.  A mysterious facility in the desert deals in ancient, dangerous boundary-breaking.  A man inherits the old family house…along with its long-buried secrets.

And that’s just a taste.  There are twenty-two stories in this quirky collection.  A lot of them would be perfect Halloween read-alouds.  Surreal, entertaining, deftly told, this collection has a Halloween treat for everyone.



Halloween Read: “Through the Woods: Stories” by Emily Carroll


I first became acquainted with Carroll’s work when I followed a link to her website a couple of Halloweens ago.  The link was to a creepy comic about guilt and murder called His Face All Red.


That comic appears along with four others in her collection of horror comics, Through the Woods.


All of Carroll’s horror comics have the feel of dark fairy tales.  There are abandoned children, mysterious strangers, dangerous husbands, vengeful ghosts, and monsters in the woods.  Every piece is shrouded in mystery and a sense of foreboding.  Her art evokes small villages of bygone eras, with lots of stark whites, deep blacks, and startling blood reds.

My particular favorite in this collection is the Bluebeard-esque story of a young bride who uncovers a grisly secret in her new husband’s house.  It’s called A Lady’s Hands Are Cold, and I found it terrifically creepy and incredibly well-told–the art and script work perfectly together, and the sense of place is fantastic.  It’s visibly gory and has several beautiful Gothic touches.  It’s a perfect dark, gruesome fairy tale.


A Lady’s Hands are Cold

If you enjoy old-fashioned horror, give Emily Carroll’s work a look!  And be sure to visit her website for more.  While you’re there, check out Out of Skin.  You’re welcome in advance for the nightmares.


Halloween Read: “Children of the Dark” by Jonathan Janz


A group of teens, an escaped serial killer, and an ancient evil in the woods.  An opening line which reads: “The week I saw seventeen people die didn’t begin with blood, monsters, or a sadistic serial killer.  It began with a baseball game.”



I regret only that I didn’t read this in time to put it on my Scary Reads list.  The story is about a small town in Indiana called Shadeland, home to Will Burgess.  Will is a seventeen-year-old in a rough situation–fatherless, mother addicted to painkillers, responsible for his little sister Peach.

On top of that, the notorious Moonlight Killer has escaped from prison and made a beeline for Will’s town.  And as if a serial killer lurking weren’t enough, there’s an even more ancient evil lurking in Savage Hollow, the area just beyond Will’s house.  Monsters of all types collide, and it’s up to Will to save everyone he cares about.

The narrative voice is strong, the characters are likable, and the horror is built with atmosphere and building tension as well as some nicely gory scenes.  Part human horror and part monster story, this is a scary novel with plenty of blood and a very high body count.  The open, foreboding ending is great, too.  It’s also got its funny moments to relieve some of the tension.  If you like slasher flicks and monster movies this time of year, give this a try.

Careful out there, fellow Halloweenies.  Don’t let the Wendigos bite.


Marie’s Favorite Scary Books, Part V: The Incredibly Strange Scary Books That Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombie Books


Kudos to you if you get the reference.   More than kudos.  Have an MST3K episode:

Each Halloween brings a new crop of Marie’s favorite scary reads of the year.  Here’s the list for 2016!  A few new titles, a few old, all creepy.  Enjoy!

Marie’s Favorite Scary Books Part V: The Incredibly Strange Scary  Books That Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombie Books


Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Dave McKean.

Okay, this one is a Batman comic that definitely falls under the Horror heading.  I know nothing about Batman, not a lifelong fan, The Long Halloween was the first Batman comic I ever read.  So then I picked up Arkham Asylum.  Goodreads told me that lots of readers have lots of problems with this comic, and I can see why.  It’s not so much a Batman story as it is a set-piece, an experiment in art and storytelling, an exploration of madness.  At least that’s how I, a non-fan, approached it.  At any rate, with its disturbing, nightmarish visuals and content to match, Arkham Asylum is a good choice to pick up at Halloween.


My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Gary Hendrix

What’s really terrifying about this is how well Hendrix describes what being a teenage girl is like.  I had wicked scary high school flashbacks.  But seriously, this is a perfect creepy read.  What would you do, how far would you go, if your best friend was possessed and no one believed you?  And can deep, abiding love beat the devil?


Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay

Creepy, atmospheric, and compelling, this story about a boy who goes missing in a state park is all about how we create our own demons.


Every House is Haunted by Ian Rogers

A collection of chilling short stories.  Atmospheric and strange, each story is a little different than the others.  Some have sci-fi elements, a few could be classified more as “fantastic” fiction, and then there are straight-up ghost stories.  A great mix!


Revival: A Rural Noir by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton

For one day in rural Wisconsin, the dead come back to life.  Now this small town has been quarantined by the government, the so-called “revivers” try to go back to some kind of “life,” and Officer Dana Cypress is put in charge of dealing with those who came back from the dead and the media attention that came with them.  Haunting, compelling, and gruesome where it needs to be, Revival works as a police procedural, as a horror story, and as the story of an isolated and struggling small town.


Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

Weird, creepy, and full of secrets, this book is the first in Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy.  I read it as a stand-alone, though, and it totally works–in fact, it’s even  more unsettling for the ambiguous ending.  The story concerns an expedition of four women–an anthropologist, a psychiatrist, a surveyor, and a biologist (our narrator)–who go to a contaminated area called Area X in order to investigate it.  They are the twelfth such expedition–none of the others came back.


Thus concludes Part V.  See you next year for Part VI: Return of the Scary Book.