Halloween Read: “20th Century Ghosts” by Joe Hill

ghosts

A troubled teen awakes and finds himself transformed into a giant insect.  An inflatable boy deals with schoolyard bullies.  A girl haunts the movie theater where she died.  A boy is locked in a cellar with a phone that connects to the afterlife.

The stories in 20th Century Ghosts are a fantastic blend of horror, weird fiction, and dark fantasy.  Several of them have references to classic works, like Dracula and The Metamorphosis (and those are just the most clear-cut ones).   They’re all very subtle and strange, and have a range of tone and mood.  Hill’s style, as always, is incredibly absorbing and completely readable–he puts you right there in the tale he’s telling, and he can create a world of amazing detail in just a few pages.

This is a fantastic collection for readers who enjoy their Halloween reads more on the weird fiction end of the Horror spectrum.  If you’ve enjoyed Hill’s novels, give these stories a look!

 

 

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Halloween Read: “Little Heaven” by Nick Cutter

little heaven

Little Heaven is an intense read.  Three bounty hunters are hired to save a boy from a cult called Little Heaven in New Mexico.  It’s obvious something is very badly wrong in Little Heaven–monsters lurk in the woods and children have been disappearing.  Our bounty hunters, Micah, Ebenezer, and Minerva, just want to get the job done, but they find themselves drawn into something dark and otherworldly, threatening everyone’s lives.

The narrative goes back and forth in time from the 1980’s to the 1960’s.  In the present, Micah’s daughter has been lured away from home by a creature.  And in the past, we get the history of Micah, Ebenezer, and Minerva’s first encounter with this same creature, and how they ended up bound together as well as bound to the darkness.  There’s also the story of Little Heaven itself, and the Reverend Amos Flesher, who founded it (and who has his own dark secrets and leanings).

Little Heaven is gory and dripping with dread all the way through.  There’s also a feeling almost like a Western.  The sense of foreboding, and of an otherworldly threat, saturate the story, but the mercenaries are lone-wolf types who just do the jobs they’re hired to do.  The desert setting is gritty, vast, and lonely, well-suited to the bleak mood.

Yet, the ending has a tiny, tiny shred of hope, both for the characters and for humanity.  It’s not happy by any stretch, but there is that hope.  There’s also some black humor throughout which helps to balance the dark imagery.

If you like gory horror with great action, monsters, and an intense mood, give this one a try this Halloween!   There’s also a lot to like if you’re a fan of vintage Stephen King–the tone and themes are pretty similar.

 

Halloween Read: Two by Susan Hill

The Man in the Picture and The Small Hand today on a ghost story double feature!

Both of these tales are little gems of revenge from beyond the grave.  In The Man in the Picture, a mysterious painting of a Venetian scene becomes a tool for malice.  And in The Small Hand, a ghost reaches out of the past and quite literally touches someone.

Hill has a very elegant but spare style that suits these stories well.  Both employ lots of wonderful tension-building and atmosphere, and a fantastic sense of the strange and foreboding.  They’re slim stories, and Hill manages to pack a lot into a small frame in each one.

There’s a sort of dusty old feel to these, as if you’ve uncovered a box in an attic with a lot of forgotten, oddball items inside.  And then those items somehow unleash the supernatural on you.

Pick these stories up this October if you like barely-there scares and old-fashioned strange tales.  They’re straightforward ghost stories with some elegant layering, perfect for an afternoon during the witching season.

Marie’s Favorite Scary Books Part VI: Get Freaky

I used a Creepypasta name generator to come up with this year’s title, as I’m sure countless horror movie screenwriters have done before me.  The title I used is the one that made me laugh first.  (“Marie’s Favorite Scary Books Part VI: Pull My Finger” was runner-up)

I started my creepy reading nice and early this season, so I’ve got a whole bunch of favorite freaky reads for you this time around.  There are some ghost stories, some haunted houses, some cannibals, some crazy VHS tapes, and some cartoon kids solving mysteries.  I think this year’s list covers a broad area of different kinds of Horror, so no matter what your taste, you might find something you like here!

Several of these will have posts of their own this month, so stay tuned!  This list is also up on the Suggested Reading section of the blog, which you can find here.  If you’re the type who must enjoy things in order, you can begin with the very first Marie’s Favorite Scary Books and work your way up.

Marie’s Favorite Scary Books Part VI: Get Freaky

Brother by Ania Ahlborn
It’s obvious fairly early on that this family is a family of cannibals.  But the story is tragic and gruesome and sad, with one of the most downer endings I’ve ever read.

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle
Creepy and weird.  It’s extremely unsettling, particularly if you’ve got a vivid imagination.

The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill
A taut and atmospheric tale of revenge.

This House is Haunted by John Boyne
A deliciously old-fashioned ghost story, with shades of The Turn of the Screw.

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
Atmospheric and disturbing, a great tale of monsters and science in the 19th century.

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
A delightful mix of weird fiction and horror, with plenty of truly unsettling images and stories.

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
Scooby Doo meets Lovecraft in this comedy of horrors, all about a crack team of kid detectives who have grown up and have one last mystery to solve.

 

Halloween Watch: “Over the Garden Wall”

Just as everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is from New England on Halloween.

The colors, the graveyard imagery, the artwork, the historical touches, the sense of folklore.  Over the Garden Wall (created by Patrick McHale) evokes New England in the autumn beautifully, with all the melancholy and wistfulness of the season.

over the garden wall

There’s nostalgia, beautiful animation, wonderful songs, scary bits, and a touching story. It’s also jam-packed with references and jokes.  On repeated viewings you realize how intricate Over the Garden Wall really is, how the stories and themes and images feed into one another and build upon each other.

The story: Greg and Wirt are lost in a forest, and they need to find their way back home.  Along the way they encounter several strange people and a few threatening ones.  Each installment is stand-alone, and only lasts ten or fifteen minutes.  By the end they string together a complete story, which I will not spoil at all for you because you should go in knowing as little as possible.

over

Like the best folktales, you can come up with your own meaning and lessons from Over the Garden Wall.  You can also take away a survey course in animation history, which is pretty awesome.

It’s only three years old, and already it’s a Halloween classic.  Give it a watch this year!

 

 

 

 

IT’S OCTOBER!


its-october

Welcome to our 6th Annual Horror Month, fellow Halloweenies!  For the month of October the blog will be devoted to all things Horror and Halloween.  Check back often for suggested reading, viewing, the latest installment of Marie’s Scary Reads, and much more!

…no, not much more.  That’s about it, really.

But Happy Horror Month all the same!

Halloween

 

Please join me in singing along to our traditional Horror Month opening number:

 

Not-So-Horrific-Horror: “Security” by Gina Wohlsdorf

Okay, that’s a lie.  It’s pretty horrific for a thriller.  I’m talking blood, slashers, more blood, chase scenes, Michael Myers costumes, and yet more blood.  But it’s not straight-up Horror so I’m putting in the Not-So-Horrific category.

It’s also a quick, compelling read, so you might even finish it before the big day tomorrow!

wohlsdorf

Manderley, an expensive luxury hotel, is in the final stages of preparation before its grand opening.  Several employees are inside the building.  There’s also an unexpected early guest–a knife-wielding murderer who takes out the employees one by one.  And all the while, a mysterious first-person narrator is watching everything on Manderley’s state of the art security system.

It’s a very complex book stylistically–the formatting of a page will sometimes reflect all of the many things going on in different cameras, to different characters.  Black humor and a love story play out against the gory backdrop.

Really, I’m not kidding you.  Gory.  Blood in the elevators, bodies in the bathtubs, bits  of employee strewn around various rooms.  But even so, the characters are wonderful and the story is so compelling you get past it.

The narrator is revealed slowly over the course of the story.  As the story unfolds and you learn more about the narrator and his background, as well as his present circumstances, you realize how elegant and original the “twist” is.

Enjoy, and see you tomorrow, pals!  I’m putting candy out again this year, so come on down to the library!

–Marie