SHORT FILM: THE BIRCH

The Birch movie poster

The Birch movie poster

Happy 2017!

In the tradition of Amanda Makepeace’s short film reviews, I am sharing and reviewing:

The Birch (2016) – Horror Short Film

Sword and sorcery speaks to me. Those never-existed fantasy worlds and characters speak to me. In my regular blog series, I write about my quest to buy a resume that will elevate me from a tabletop role-playing game wanna-lancer to freelancer. I want to enter that field because I have sword and sorcery stories that I want to tell.

Where does The Birch fit into that? [SPOILER WARNING – The film is linked below so skip ahead, watch the short and then come back for my thoughts.] The movie takes place in the modern-day UK so you have to squint just a bit to see it as fantasy sword and sorcery. If you squint you’ll see a spellbook and magic and an elemental and the enemy uses a knife and the final battle takes place in the woods. Sword and sorcery veiled by modern clothing and backpacks and streets and a bedroom.

In D&D* terms, The Birch is about a young wizard who is given a spellbook by his dying mother in order to protect him. He is being bullied and she cannot save him but she knows a secret that can. After studying the spellbook, he uses magic to summon an earth elemental to be his protector and surrogate mother.

The Birch

The Birch

If this were D&D, it would be an excellent backstory of what drove a character to become a wizard. It delves into the origin of their spellbook, their mystical lineage, what motivated them to cast their first spell and why they can never turn back from that path.

This origin story leaves open future campaign plot points. Did the boy get away with the murder? What happened to the birch? Does it still obey the wizard or is there a darker, more tragic end to their relationship. The deepest reach might be, what killed mother? There are worlds of possibilities generated by 4 minutes and 31 seconds of story. Need a bit of horror magic for the New Year? I recommend:

The Birch (2016) – Horror Short Film
Directed by Ben Franklin and Anthony Melton
Written by Ben Franklin and Anthony Melton and Cliff Wallace
Full credits and production details at BloodyCuts and at IMDb.

4 minutes and 31 seconds of horror:

*For sword and sorcery, Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) provide so much of the glossary.

Dragon Con Art Show Tomorrow!

The time has come! This afternoon I’ll be heading off to Atlanta with a car full of art for the 2016 Dragon Con Art Show. Drusilla and I have been hard at work in the studio preparing for what will be an amazing art show. I kid you not….

Drusilla is a little bummed I’m not letting her attend Dragon Con. She was totally up for a Kiki’s Delivery cosplay, which I admit would have been fun, but I would have to cut my hair super short–not happening. Sorry, Dru. On a more serious note, the 2016 Dragon Con Art Show is going to be an amazing show! This year’s Artist Guest of Honor is Stephan Martiniere, with guest jurors Daren Bader and Scott Fischer. You can check out the complete list of artist guests and participating artists in the show on the Dragon Con Art Show page. Below is where you can find me in the art show. I’ll have art for sale in the Gallery and for sale in the Print Shop.

Art Show Gallery

Art Show Print Shop

If you’re attending, don’t forget on Monday at 2:30 I’m hosting a panel on digital painting. I’ll be taking attendees through my process from sketch to finish!

A Few Hidden Movie Gems for The Week of Halloween

Getting right to the meat…

zombie-honeymoon_0

Zombie Honeymoon

I’m not saying it doesn’t have some eye-rolling moments. It may very well not live up to this on rewatch.

But…

We all know that zombie movies are never only about the zombies as much as they are a device to tell a story about people and the world they inhabit. And this movie is no Apocalyptic Wasteland, but more or less a normal life with one small twist:

The husband is slowly turning into a zombie.

So the movie asks you one question: if you truly loved someone, how far would you go for them? And not in an action movie “gotta save my wife/daughter/husband/son” sort of way. This is your husband turning into a creature who kills people. Do you cover it up? He still can have conversations with you. He’s still seems to be the man you fell in love with… only he now eats people.

Do you kill for him?

When is love not enough?

 

Teeth_poster

Teeth

I’m going to get crap about even mentioning this movie. I brought this one to a Halloween movie night and it did not go over well with everyone. Doesn’t mean it isn’t worth watching once.

In a ton of ways It Follows delivers on Teeth’s original promise. They both are views on sexuality and how both sexes view the issue differently. They both attempt to capture the old Horror movie standby that SEX = BAD = DEATH.

Except that in Teeth they aren’t saying it is outright bad, only that aggression will be met with aggression. That if you decide to stick your piece somewhere unwanted, well… BAD things are going to occur. Suddenly the woman has the power to defend herself in an unexpected way.

But mostly it is about growing into an adult. How you deal with the changes – both physically and emotionally.

 

the signal

The Signal & Pontypool

I’m grouping them together because they both deal with the idea of communication gone wrong.  I’m reminded of an Twilight Zone episode from the 80s version of the show. Two reporters come to a town to investigate some strange things going on, but what they find is that someone has figured out the Secret of Life. The only problem is that our minds cannot handle the truth, and so we snap.

I’ve always loved that idea of ideas as a virus.

Pontypool deals with the very idea our words can be the thing to cause us to go mad. A DJ, trapped in his station by a snowstorm getting these various updates of madness. And him slowly beginning to understand what might be causing it.

pontypool

With The Signal you get more of the traditional zombie movie, with a strange signal driving the madness. People turning on one another. Divided into three sections, the movie shows how we need to keep our loved ones safe… and how that ultimately may not even be possible.

George Carlin had a routine where he talked about the idea that given how we mistreat the Earth, perhaps our sexually transmitted diseases are the way the planet fights back. That anything related to sex was a no brainer since we all do it, want to do it, or perhaps are currently doing it. Sex is the ultimate delivery system to spread the madness.

So are words.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Night Stone by Rick Hautala

Night Stone by Rick HautalaWhen I first caught the reading bug in my early teens, it was horror fiction that grabbed hold of me and changed my life. I use to be one of those kids that hated reading. It was torture. A kind soul introduced me to Stephen King and it was then I realized I’d just been reading the wrong books.  In 1990/91 I stumbled across a copy of Night Stone by Rick Hautala. It was the paperback edition with the holographic image. I can’t recall now where I found the book, but it looked creepy so I decided to give it try. The book ended up giving me nightmares. But I kept reading! I suppose reading a scary book just before bed, on the floor, peering under a large bed with darkness creeping across the your blanket, could have played a role.

I read Night Stone while my grandmother was visiting and when my grandmother came to visit I always gave up my bed. Was it just the timing of it all? Reading a horror novel and imagining monsters under the bed? I’ve decided to see if the book that scared me silly back then would do the same 24+ years later. I no longer have the paperback, but the book is now available for Kindle. Look for my verdict next month!

Until then…

Night Stone by Rick Hautala (Kindle)HIDDEN TOYS

The old house in Maine gave Beth the creeps. She couldn’t believe they were really moving in. If it weren’t for the wooden doll she had found in the closet of her new bedroom, she would have been miserable. But the strange hand-carved figure fascinated her, and she sensed with a child’s instinct that she had to hide it from her parents…

HIDDEN EVIL

It was a house of darkness and shadows, but with her secret doll, Beth wasn’t afraid. Not even when she heard the scratching and whispering at night. Not even when the tall, massive stones of her dreams began to ooze with blood. For as she stared into the eyes of the wooden doll, she heard it call to her and felt the force of its evil power. And she knew that it was about to tell her what she had to do…

True Horror

I want to write about things which go bump in the night. I want to embrace that certain time of year where we all yearn to be scared for some primal reason that we might not ever understand. I want to discover the next horror movie or book or comic or tv show I should be watching in order to get my fix during this month.

I want to talk about all of those things, but I am forced to focus on a different sort of horror this year. The sort of horror that haunts you as it unfolds, but then sticks with you for the remainder of the week… only to happen again and again. The truest horror for any sports fan.

The horror of the wasted season.

Miami_Dolphins_2013

That’s what I’m dealing with 4 weeks into the football season this year. The Miami Dolphins have already fired their coach. This was a team some people thought would not only go to the playoffs, but could/would compete for some glory. A team that was 8-8 last year and whose personnel had gotten better (in theory at least).

Instead it has become the dysfunctional party we all know and love for the better part of a decade. And I can take a team being bad IF (and that’s a big IF) there is a chance for light at the end of the tunnel. IF there is a way for this to be a temporary measure. In fact, that’s basically what this last Baseball Season was for me. For the first time I don’t think I watched a full Atlanta Braves game. Oh, I still kept up with them on a near daily basis, still read the articles, read the blogs, watched at the trade deadline to see what moves they made.

But I knew this season was going to be bad. I knew there was almost 0% chance of them being in any race other than one of the poorer records in all of baseball. And I can deal with that. Next year needs to be better, and then the year after they should be in the hunt for a playoff spot (if the powers that be are to be believed).

Here’s the difference with the Dolphins, I go through this every 3 or 4 years with them. They either get a new coach or a new system or a new “something” and suddenly they are the vogue pre-season pick to do grand things. You’d think that after falling for this multiple times over the better part of a decade I would have steeled myself from such stupidity, but NOOOOOO, I am clearly a glutton for punishment. I buy in. “This is going to be the thing that pushes us up to the top, just you wait and see.”

Only to watch it all crumble and die on the vine.

I mean, our head coach was fired on Monday. And as much as I think that was the right move for the team at this point, what do I honestly think is going to come of this season? We’re 1-3 with a schedule that I thought we could be at least 5-1 after 6 games. Our next two opponents are weak (compared to us though they might be world-beaters). So what is realistic? 4 wins? 5 wins over the course of a season?

And don’t think me “fair-weathered” here. I watched every game of our 1-15 season. I will watch every game of this season. I’m just tired of the same things happening over and over and over again.

Sigh.

And the worst part is that I’ve dragged my wife down on this ship with me. She could have found a nice guy who liked deflated balls and won Super Bowls, but she got someone who liked the team from south Florida.

When Do I Get To See The Sailboat?

When Do I Get To See The Sailboat?

We joke in the house about when will we get to see the sailboat – meaning, when will one of our teams win the big one. But right now we are still like Wilhem from Mallrats…

Still looking for that damn boat.

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the recently released anthology Beyond the Gate, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Cryptids – The Strange and Weird

Top 5 Cryptids

What’s that? You don’t know what a Cryptid is? They are the creatures that we all know exist, deep down in our heart, but there is actually no real evidence that the beast exists. All we have is possible sightings, hearsay, and rumor from the past. And yes, as the world gets smaller and smaller by the advances in technology, the very idea that any of these things could actually be out there seems to be more and more a dream. Still…

When I was younger I remember a book I had. I’m not sure where I got it, though I suspect it was at one of our school’s book fairs. It talked about monsters, both in movies and those that might exist in real life. So you had everything from Godzilla to Bigfoot and anything in between. I love this kind of stuff. The idea that we both know the world around us and yet, at the back of our minds, there is that question. Maybe they do exist?

And before you dismiss them outright, consider this… when the first people reached Australia they described a creature that stood on 2 legs, jumped like a frog and sometimes had 2 heads.

Obviously a horror like that couldn’t exist… right?

kangaroo-663272_1280

Obviously doesn’t exist in the real world.

 

So, before October and Halloween greets us properly, I thought I’d reflect on a few of my favorites.

Loch Ness – I know that there are other ones out there, but Loch Ness is the first one I read about. And the one I wonder how it could still be a possibility. I get that the lake is huge, but come on, with our modern technology we can’t find a dinosaur in there, somewhere? Nobody has decided to chum the water hoping the thing will take a bite and show himself.

No, this one I have written off a long time ago. I mean, it would just be too cool to have a real life dinosaur still exist somewhere out there. Just too cool… can’t let that happen.

Mongolian Death Worm – Electrical discharge. Acid Spewing. Big old red worm that lives in the desert.

Check, check, check.

I don’t know if this is one I love like many of the others below, but I certainly am terrified by the possibility of such a creature. Where most cryptids have maybe one ability, this one comes like a nightmare. Or maybe it is the most “little kid creature”. Almost like someone asked a 6-year old what would scare them the most, and then didn’t stop him when he kept going.

“And then he would be able to turn things yellow… and then…”

Kraken – It would have to appear on this list for one reason alone:

“Unleash the Kraken!”

THE KRAKEN CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981)

Still, the old stories from pirates and seamen about this great squid creature that might live in the depths below. They stirred something in my brain, conjuring up images of great tentacles grabbing a hold of ships and ripping them in two. And then I read Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

There is already so much underneath the surface of the ocean, why not be fearful of one more thing.

“We’re going to need a bigger boat.” Indeed.

cemetery-395953_1280

Beast of Gevaudan – I’m sorry, but this is just one step away from werewolves, honestly. A bunch of larger, stranger wolves terrorize the French countryside in the 1760s to the point that the royalty have to issue a decree in order to deal with them. In fact, something has to be going on with the wolves over in France as that wasn’t even the first time they had terrorized the nation. In the 1450s a pack of wolves (again, obviously werewolves, right?) attacked the Parisians to the point that they named the pack leader (Courtaud) and ended up luring them into the city and stoned them in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Heck, I even read a book about the later incident which turned me on to the Beast’s story. Which I did a brief review of here.

I mean, you can never go wrong with werewolves.

Bigfoot – I think this is the one that started my love of these mysterious creatures on this list. Up there along with dinosaurs, this was one of those creatures my 10-year old self was convinced had to exist, and my 39-year old self isn’t 100% on it either.

In my mind I still see that footage from the 70s? (is that right? – turns out it was 1967) with the “Bigfoot” walking, taking a moment to regard whomever is recording the video, and then disappearing into the forest. And while that video is probably a fake, I have to believe that somewhere, in the undiscovered wilderness is a small population of these creatures who have occasionally been encountered and mistaken for a bear or large gorilla or even a hairy man. All these other cultures have their versions from North America to Asia… it can’t just be a hoax. It can’t just be fantasy.

Can it?

Maybe I just want things to be real. Maybe I like the idea of a world where a tiny bit of magic still exists in the unexplained.

Maybe…

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the recently released anthology Beyond the Gate, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Short Film: Dark Origins

One of the highlights from Dragon Con 2014 (besides being in the art show!) was taking some time out to enjoy the Dragon Con Independent Film Festival. I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t even know there was a film festival. Dark Origins is from the Horror track (Demons, Ghosts, Aliens, & Monsters). This 12+ minute film was one of my top three.

A psychologist discovers the terrifying trauma haunting her young patient may in fact lurk beyond the girl’s fractured mind.

Directed by Evan Randall Green; Produced by Evan Randall Green; Written by Evan Randall Green

 

DARK ORIGINS – Short Horror Film 720p from Evan Randall Green on Vimeo.

Look to the sky, lest you doubt…

The end is near. After so many years of studying, of waiting for a sign, it becomes apparent to me that the return of darkness is a planned event, a spoke in the universal clock waiting to be ticked.  Heed me well, my friends. The Sleeper walks among us. His presence in our world, long-awaited, is a grave warning that the Ur will soon assail us. He may come to us in any guise, be it a man, a woman, even a child.

It matters not. He must be found. 

If we do nothing, if we lie on our laurels and ignore him, he will draw the curtain of night forever down upon us.

Final “Letter to the Lords of Grae” by the warlock Dank

* * *

In other words, the Kindle Edition of Nether Kingdom is here.

Click Lady Makepeace’s dark, dark cover to check it out.

Devourer of Stars by Amanda Makepeace

Tyrants of the Dead.

The world’s end.

J Edward Neill

From the Darkness

You’ve listened to the playlist and you’ve seen the cover, now you can feast your eyes on the full painting behind J Edward Neill’s Nether Kingdom. You’re going to want to click on the image below…

Devourer of Stars by Amanda Makepeace

They move from star to star, swallowing every planet in darkness, building black towers on every surface, and turning oceans to deathly broth.

I think it surprises people when I create a piece of dark art (literal in this instance). I’m known for my love of nature and animals, but those that truly know me are aware of my fascination with the dark. From about the age of 9 I would scour the tv guide for classic horror movies. And as someone who’s survived cancer, I’m no stranger to darkness. Here are several more examples from my childhood (pre-teens) if you’re not convinced!

1. The Labyrinth – My favorite character was Jareth, The Goblin King, of course. I wanted Sarah to stay with him, to hell with the crying baby!

2. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – I was secretly thrilled by the possibility that Luke would join his father.

3. Giger’s Xenomorph – I’ve talked about this obsession numerous times. I have movies, comics, and my own fan art.

I love monsters and villains. I have a life-size God of Mischief hanging out in my studio. So, yeah. When J Edward asked me if I was up to the challenge, I needed only to look within, find that inner darkness and breathe it into my painting.

What if…? The Wizard of Oz were a dark fantasy movie

Witch

 

Welcome to the fourth installment of the What if…? series. Previous entries include dark remakes of The Lord of the Rings, Sleeping Beauty, and Star Wars. Like Mick Jagger, I see a red door and I want to paint it black.

Recently, I sat down with my son to watch The Wizard of Oz. I had plans to let him watch while I cooked, cleaned, and otherwise carved my way through the day. He’d watch a classic, and I’d get stuff done. It was a perfect plan. Etched in stone. Stronger than the foundations of the world. Right?

Wrong

Twenty seconds in, we were both hooked. I’ve never seen a kid so rapt and silent, and I’m not even talking about my son. Every cool memory of watching The Wizard of Oz as a boy flooded my wee black little heart. I never got to my chores. We sat there, my son and I, and soaked the movie up in all its glory. We loved it. There’s no other way to put it.

So what’s the deal? How could The Wiz get any better? How dare I dream of what it’d be like to change it? It’s already perfect in every way, right? Right??

Maybe…

What if I tweaked the movie? A lot. What if it was a dark fantasy epic, an adult, R-rated, midnight-hearted feast? What if, instead of an American classic families crowd on couches to watch every year, it was a movie that dropped your jaw open, terrified you, and made you geniunely fear for Dorothy and her friends? What if…indeed?

 Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up. First and foremost, and I know I’ll get killed for this, but the dark version of The Wiz can’t be a musical. It just can’t. Instead of songs about rainbows and yellow brick roads, dark Dorothy needs to dream these things. As in dream them between her nightmares. Because let’s face it, this poor little girl almost lost her dog, ran away from home, whirled through an imaginary (or real?) tornado, and fell under the constant threat of a wicked witch. If she has dreams, at least some of them will be bad. So instead of cheery songs, I want scenes of her dreaming of the good life sandwiched between scenes of her dreaming of the horrors (let’s face it, Oz is a pretty messed up place) surrounding her.

Now that the singing is gone (or at least changed) we move along to the Witch. The bad one. The bad one who doesn’t have a house on her. She’s pretty creepy in the original. She’s got the evil castle, an army of flying monkeys, another army of British-guard looking dudes, and some nasty ideas for using her magic. So yeah, the foundation is laid. What we need now is screen time. More of it. I want to know why everyone hates her. I want to know why she’s wicked. Moreoever, I want her to win once in a while. Instead of getting walked on by Glinda, mildly splashed by Dorothy, and dismissed by Oz, I think she needs to kick some ass first. Why do the Munchkins hate her? Is it her green face and hook nose, or did she enslave an entire Munchkin city to build her castle? Why does Oz want her gone? Because she’s un-dateable as a fellow practitioner of magic? Or because she’s threatened to use her spells to corrupt all he’s worked to build? Give us 700% more Witch. And let her F things up in ways that obnoxious Glinda can’t just dismiss with a wave of her wand. Please?

And while we’re on the subjects of Glinda and Oz…

I’m fine with Oz the way he is. A megalomaniac. A king by way of opportunity, but not birthright. A techno-genius in a otherwise medieval-ish land. A liar and a faker, but ultimately not too terrible a guy. But once again, I need more of him. The movie is named after this dude, so let’s give him his due. I want secret labs beneath Oz. I want technological devices meant to destroy the Witch (and her sister) but not yet ready for service. If she has evil spells and armies of nasty critters, perhaps he has equally formidable forces. Fewer critters, but better weapons. More power, but more reluctance to use it. C’mon Dark Oz. Step it up.

And Glinda… Oh Glinda. If you can undo anything the Witch does with a wave of your wand, maybe you should do more. As in lots more. As in use your magic to take the bad Witch down. Otherwise, I need a reason. Maybe Glinda is a coward at heart. Maybe she’s only allowed to (total cop out) use her magic for good. Or maybe she once was a bad witch, and now she’s having doubts about destroying someone she used to be. Or maybe, deep down, she knows the Wicked Witch would crush her in a duel. Yeah. That’s the reason I’m going with. Glinda’s good ain’t good enough. She’s nothing but a meddler, a poker in the fire, but ultimately unable to stop the bad girls.

OzDirtRoad

The brown-scale stays. Eeriest part of the movie, in some ways, the colorless plains of Kansas.

Who lives:

Since it’s all just a dream (I think) and Dorothy’s friends are manifestations of the people she knows in real-life, we can’t kill off as many good guys as I usually would in a dark fantasy movie. So…the Scarecrow, Lion, Tin Man, ToTo, and Oz are all spared, as is Dorothy herself.

Who dies:

 Enslaved Munchkins who build the Wicked Witch’s fortress. Glinda’s sister, in a flashback being cooked by the Wicked Witch. Some of the flying monkeys and Oh-E-Oh! soldiers, cut down by the newer, badder Tin Man.

  And last but hardly least: the scenery. To grit up The Wiz, we need sharper, more monolithic representations of the wholesome set pieces in the original. The Wicked Witch’s Fortress: Smoking, haunted, macabre, and surrounded by a poisonous lake. The Emerald City: Huge and bustling, stuffed to the nines with Oz’s devices, inventions, and gadgetry. The Munchkin Village: Cute and merry as ever, but lying in the shadow of the previous village, turned to ash by the Wicked Witch. The Yellow Brick Road: Clear and easy to follow in some places, shrouded in darkness at others.

Oh, and btw, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion are at heart magical beings. I mean…a metal man, a dude made out of horse food, and a talking lion…I figure all three were created either by Oz…or quite possibly even by the Witch herself. Dark Wiz of Oz will explain. Even if briefly.

Final disclaimer: the original movie kicks the shit out of my dark imagining. Don’t for second think I hope otherwise.

Catch you later,

Buy this.

J Edward Neill

 

 

Duane Jones: A Horror Film Pioneer

“Now get the hell down in the cellar! You can be the boss down there, but I’m boss up here!”-Duane Jones as Ben/“Night of the Living Dead”

Growing up in Chicago, we had one of those late night B-movie programs, where some obscure horror flick would get shown every once in a while. This is where my love of zombie flicks beganwith George Romero’s “Night of The Living Dead.”

NOLD1

This film was my introduction to one of the greatest horror films of all time, and a film that gave birth to a sub-genre that has influenced the creation of numerous films, television series, novels, comics, video games, and even music videos.

At the age of 28, Romero and writing partner John A. Russo crafted a solid script that followed a group of individuals who find themselves trapped in a remote farmhouse, as the dead rise around them.

The film featured some of the most suspenseful filmmaking of its time. It was a forerunner for the use of gore effects in horror films, and featured an omnipresent sense of despair that left viewers tense throughout the film. In light of all this, what sealed the deal for me with this film was one character: Ben.

BenPlayed by Duane Jones, Ben was the take charge survivor, who used his wits and resolve to get through the hellish night. One thing that was awesome about this guy, outside of being such a resourceful and intelligent badass, was the fact that he was Black.

We often find African American characters being the first to die in such films. It’s even become something of a joke. If they weren’t inspecting a dark corner where the killer obviously was, the character was often relegated to being the comic relief or sidekick. This got old pretty quick.

Imagine how it felt to finally see a strong Black male lead taking hold of the catastrophic situation, attempting to keep things from getting worse. Add to this, and I know it’s been pointed out numerous times before, that it’s amazing that a film like this was made during the late 1960s. This was during a time where the idea of a competent African American character as a leader was anathema to a large swath of America.

In the film’s script, Ben was described as a blue collar truck driver, where his race was not specified. The character wasn’t fully fleshed out until Duane Jones was cast in the film, causing Romero and Russo to perform rewrites for his character. Romero explained he simply cast the best actor for the role, highlighting the amount of acting skill that Jones brought to the role of Ben.

As Jones explains in an interview featured on Dimension Films 40th Anniversary release of “Night of The Living Dead,” “Ben didn’t really have a biography. Ben was just passing through.”

As Jones further explains in another interview, “It never occurred to me that I was hired because I was Black. But it did occur to me that because I was Black it would give a different historic element to the film.”

Ben never falters in his resolve to survive the night, even coming to verbal and physical blows with the other NOLD3survivors. Now I know in today’s world we have a wide variety of African American leaders in a host of industries, but once again, you have to place this in the context of the time in which the film was made.

Others might even argue why even focus on something like this? What’s the big deal when we’ve got countless examples of African Americans making it to the finish line of many of today’s slasher/horror films?

Whether it’s Naomie Harris in “28 Days Later” or Ving Rhames in the 2004 remake of Romero’s “Dawn of The Dead,” there are a number of individuals making it to the end of the major studio films. This doesn’t even include numerous examples that may abound in independent films.

I’ve just taken the time to just show some appreciation for the guy who set the standard (whether he meant to or not), for those who’ve come since.

If you’re looking for a great horror flick, with a standout performance courtesy of the film’s star actor, definitely check out “Night of the Living Dead.”

 

Ben 3

And a Child Shall Lead Them…

October is more than half over and yet I don’t feel like I’ve gotten much of my horror business done for the month. And I was doing so well a couple of weeks ago. I had watched a couple of movies with the horror bend to them, but since catching about 1/2 of the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, I’ve seen nothing that would disturb my soul. Nothing which would freeze the blood in my veins.

But a movie did come on the other day which set my mind spiraling back to a simpler time… to a time when I was much younger. The first time I remember being truly afraid.

ChildrenoftheCornPoster

The TV glowed from its perch atop my dresser.  My room was wrapped in complete darkness other than that solitary light (and perhaps what little could trickle under the door from the hallway). At the elderly age of 10, Saturday night meant that my bedtime could be extended to at least midnight, and if I was careful about the volume, I could push it past if need be.

This night, though, was a little different. I had become fascinated with horror movies earlier in the year. Somehow, perhaps with the help of HBO streaming into our household, I’d managed to watch Nightmare on Elm Street. The sight of those knives on the end of Freddy’s fingers shook me up, in a way I had never understood before. I didn’t know that a movie could do such things.

It was a gift.

So now, there I was, alone in my room, preparing to watch another horror movie. Something called Children of the Corn. Whether it was the soundtrack of the movie, the basic premise of an entire town’s worth of adults missing – leaving only the kids in charge… a thought which certainly seemed interesting to this 10 year old.

Or it could have been that the villains turned out to be the kids. Whatever it was, I was entranced. Completely enthralled. I glanced at the clock, seeing that it was well past ten o’clock and the sounds from outside my room had died down at some point during my seclusion. That was ok by me. I loved the idea of being there and letting the fear wash over me.

Being only a one story house, my room sat facing the subdivision road which ran in front of our house.

Somehow, between the movie and the soundtrack and the sound of my own breathing, another sound filled my ears… from outside the house.

My heart slammed faster in my chest, but I did what every 10-year old would naturally do: I pulled the covers up to just below my eyes. That age old idea that the monsters in the dark can’t possibly get you if you are protected by an inch of comforter. I closed my eyes and blocked out everything else. Surely it was just something from the movie that I’d heard.

Under the Bed copy

And then it came again.

There was no doubt in my mind that time. It had come from outside. I needed to figure out what it was. The idea of being afraid of something on a television screen suddenly became a distant memory. I slid from my place in the bed, slinking down to the floor beside it. Keeping low, I crept towards the window. Even while every synapsis in my brain fired to tell me to run out of the room, to go pound on my parent’s bedroom, and to let them deal with it… I continued until I was at the window. Slowly, I raised myself up, peering just over the window sill.

Outside he darkness chose not to reveal any potential secrets. Growing a little bolder, I managed to get my whole face up to be able to look.

And a light flashed directly in my eyes.

Flashlight

Somewhere I heard a scream, and my own fight or flight instincts kicked in. Had I been stronger, my door might have come off the hinges with the force I ran out of the room. Then I heard the scream again, only this time I understood that I was the one making the noise. Turning the corner, I found my mom in the living room and I proceeded to tell her everything I could through gasps and wheezing. I needed her to understand that there was something outside my window… that this wasn’t just the overactive imagination of a 10 year old who was watching scary movies.

I need not have worried. She hugged me, smiled, and said, “Your step-father is outside. He probably did it.”

The next sound I heard was one of laughter as my step-father rentered the house. His whole body shook as he relayed what he had seen. In light of this knowledge, I crept back to my bedroom, shut the door (but left a crack open), turned off the tv, and hid under the covers once more.

***

It’s that same fear that sometimes still gets me when it is very late and I am all alone in my house. A stray sound at 3 in the morning on a Friday night… I still find that I am comforted by ducking under the covers.

Perhaps there is some magic in that thought after all.

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is currently in week six of its 6-part release. Each episode is only $0.99. But you can go ahead and purchase the full novel (all 6 episodes) right now for $4.99 with the above link!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Episode 4 – Hollow Empire – Night of Knives!!

Halfway through Season One of Hollow Empire…

…life looks dire for the four survivors of the Lichy plague.

Murgul the Maggot gets a visit…and new orders…from the man who nearly executed him.

Cassidy is terrified of Isidora’s latest vision.

Nadya and Marik hide when the Inquisitor comes to Tiev.

And the Crone continues to torment Vadim.

HollowEmpireEP4

Episode Four is out now! Click the skull to buy for only $0.99!!

Oh, and the Smashwords version (for e-readers other than Kindle) is here!

Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

By John R McGuire and J Edward Neill

Episode Three – Hollow Empire – Night of Knives!

HollowEmpireEP3

 

In case you’ve missed it, Episode 1 and Episode 2 are out already.

But if you’re caught up…

Episode 3 of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives is on the market. Snag the Amazon Kindle version here. The Smashwords version will be out in a few days.

In Episode 3: Vadim stares down a hard, hard truth. Nadya faces the Gallows Boys. Cassidy and Isidora race for Othis. And poor Murgul the Maggot learns just how Luka healed all his children.

Pick it up. Our grimmest episode yet…

J Edward Neill

My Top Ten Horror Movies

Ah, October (I’m a week early, forgive me.). This month is one of the best of the year. Football season is a go and we’re beginning to see where our favorite teams stack up. Baseball playoffs are in full bloom (or for some we are looking forward to Spring as there is always next year). And yes the leaves are falling, but I am called to focus on something else:

Fear.

I’ve talked about Fear before… mostly as it relates to writing and my own personal goals. But in October I like to focus on that external Fear. Those movies and books and video games which scare me in a way that I not only don’t always understand, but that I actively search out.

These are my horror movies of choice. Some because they were the first movies to scare me, others because I was so blown away by what I saw it disturbed me for days, and then a few that I just love even when they no longer offer the scares they once did. Some I’ve seen only once and others I’ve seen dozens of times (one I might have seen over 100 by this point).

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Scream

I don’t think Scream ever “scared” me. From those opening minutes I wasn’t scared. Through the twists and turns of the movie I wasn’t frightened. So why is it on this list?

Because I think Scream did something for Horror movies that had never been done before. It deconstructed the late 70s and 80s slasher movies in a way that poked fun but still allowed it to cap off that era. The idea we all sat around and discussed (why are they running back into the house? why do they wander off alone? etc.) – Williamson and Craven made that movie. They made “our” movie.

I saw this twice in the theaters. The first time was an advanced screening at Georgia Tech by myself. As soon as it was over I made sure to get a couple of friends to go to its release. And after that first scene ended my buddy Lee leaned over and said “If nothing else happens for the rest of the movie, that one scene was worth the price of admission.”

jaws

Jaws

I joke and say that Jaws prevented me from becoming an Oceanographer or marine biologist, but really it is just that terror of the unknown which truly does it for me. Again, what I want to be able to see and hear – all of that disappears under the water’s surface. Every moment of control you have is an illusion, and really it is only luck that a large predator doesn’t have its way with you.

I don’t randomly go into the jungle and hope to avoid large predators, but for some reason I do it at the beach every year. And yes, I know the odds are slim… but…

That’s why, even after maybe 100 views, this movie sticks with me.

the strangers

The Strangers

“Because you were home.”

That’s why that movie frightens me on a level I cannot even fathom. Why do bad things happen? Is it luck? Is it just a matter of doing sketchy things that eventually catch up with us? Horror movies like to pose that question. And they give us the answers.

Don’t stay in the haunted house.

Don’t have underage sex.

Don’t drink and do drugs.

Don’t have your car break down in the middle of no where.

Don’t mess with things that you hear dark rumors about.

And if you follow all of those rules… guess what? The Strangers let you know that it might not be enough.

“Because you were home.” chills me like no other line could.

The-Conjuring-2013-BluRay

The Conjuring

I was surprised by this one last year. I expected another run of the mill haunted house movie. I figured it would be ok at best, and at worst we’d get a good laugh in our annual horror movie night.

The Conjuring was legitimately good and scary.

Color me shocked.

All the tricks of other movies seem to be used to better effect in this one. All the things we’re accustomed to in “these types of horror movies” still gave me the creeps when I watched this one. They hit all the notes. Definitely one of the best in the last few years.

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The Ring

The image of the woman after she’s watched the video. That’s the one.

This movie sought to disturb me. And it did an excellent job of exactly that. And yes, I’m only referring to the American version, and that may be blasphemy, but I have to go with what I watched.

The image of the woman crawling out of the tv.

Yes, this one ushered in the J-Horror movies for better and worse, but still… something about the Ring.

The images presented in the video itself.

Maybe that’s just it. It is disturbing. And sometimes that’s enough.

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Dawn of the Dead (Remake) & 28 Days Later

The speed zombie movies. The beginning of the current zombie craze in films. The end of the world.

Post-apocalyptic movies like these show me the best and worst of humanity. They show how quickly all our work and dreams and desires could be ripped away. And while I don’t believe that zombies are going to do us in, I think ever since we discovered the ability to destroy on the level of a nuclear bomb, ever since we’ve found diseases with no cures, and space rocks that could create another extinction event… these are things outside of our control. And that’s what this is – if there is no control, no rules left, then what does it mean to be a person? What does it mean to be human?

In the mouth of madness

In the Mouth of Madness

I’ve written about this one before. Check it out.

invasion of the body snatchers

The Thing (John Carpenter’s version) & Invasion of the Body Snatchers

The idea of something not being who or what they say they are hits me in a way that I’m still not 100% sure of. It is one of the oldest fears available to us, because we want to trust those very people who we know and love. And when that gets taken away from us. When we are no longer sure who we can or cannot trust. When our hearts and minds cannot rationalize a way out… then we are truly screwed.

The thing about both of these movies is that even though they take place in two very different environments, the story is still one about isolation. Sure it is more blatant in The Thing, but Invasion pushes it to the point where surrounded by a street-full of people, you still are not sure who to trust.

These are ideas that will always be there, regardless of the current climate of life.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is currently in week two of its 6-part release. Each episode is only $0.99.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

New Release!! – Hollow Empire – Night of Knives – Episode 1

HollowEmpireEP1

 

Six weeks. Six episodes. Six chapters per episode…

Ladies and gentlemen, Episode 1 of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives is now available on Amazon for only $0.99Hollow Empire is co-authored by J Edward Neill and John R McGuire, the creators of Down the Dark Path and The Dark that Follows.

Join Vadim, Nadya, Cassidy, and Murgul the Maggot as they struggle to survive in the aftermath of the world’s deepest, darkest plague, the Lichy. Hunted by aristocrats, chased by outlaws, sought after as supper for the vicious, zombie-like Iritul, the four survivors must fight for every moment of their lives.

For otherwise, they’ll join the rest of the world in its grave…

On the fence about Hollow Empire? Think post-apocalyptic medieval dark fantasy opera. Yeah. All of that. It’s deathy, dark, and terrifying, sprinkled with a bit of horror, a dash of western, and even a little extra superhero on the side.

We’ll be releasing one episode per week, each for $0.99. Get in on this. You won’t regret it.

Hollow Empire – Night of Knives – Season One/Episode One – Now available for e-readers everywhere…

J Edward Neill