Constantine returns!! (to CW Seed)

Excellent news:

Read my original review of the Constantine.

Read the original article reprinted below:

The CW has just announced it has picked up Constantine as an animated series for CW Seed during its Television Critics Association panel.

The show will feature Matt Ryan, who starred as the title character in the fan favorite but short-lived NBC show.

Fans can expect the episodes to be 10 minute in length similar to the Vixen series that ran on CW Seed. Right now, episode count is expected to be either five or six. The show, like Vixen, will exist in the Arrow-verse which consists of Arrow, Flash, Legends Of Tomorrow & Supergirl.

While fans were expecting another live-action cameo from the character, they will be more than pleased with this. Back at New York Comic Con, Ryan told our own Russ Burlingame that while he was at the time doing the voice for Constantine in Justice League Dark, he’s learned “not to rule anything out.” He said that in terms of an Arrow return, he’s open to it because: “I love the character.”

Both Constantine and Arrow, like all of DC Comics-inspired TV series, are produced by Warner Bros. TV.


Article written by James Viscardi- 01/08/2017.

Malfeasance Here! A new short story!

A new short story just in time for Halloween!

Mealfeasance Here

What stalks this town?

Judge Lamentations Dewe was a Royal Witch Hunter duly appointed by His Majesty. His brief was to judge and, if necessary, execute the laws against witchcraft, cannibalism, sorcery and other unholy mannerisms used as tools of the devil at the turn in 17th century England..
But when he arrives in Bradford-on-Tyne, he finds a town haunted by a force that might mean the village’s doom … as well as his own!

An Unexpected (#174) Bicentennial Banner Blog!



The Unexpected #174

The title is prefaced with “Have You the Nerve to Face …”


Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist: Luis Dominguez

Editor: Murray Boltinoff, Asst. Ed: Jack C. Harris


            Tales of the Unexpected was a science fiction anthology debuting in March of 1956 and lasting until issue #222 (May 1982). It changed its title to The Unexpected as of issue #104 in January 1968 and slowly changed formats from science fiction to horror. Online comic shops and guide books refer to this series as “Unexpected, The (1968)”. It became a Dollar Comic with issue #189 (February 1979) and merged with The Witching Hour and House of Secrets until issue #195 (February 1980) before returning to its standard format. The Witching Hour/House of Secrets merger was abandoned as of issue #206 (January 1981). Most of these last issues featured the adventures of Johnny Peril, detective of the occult.


Before that, the only lasting feature of note was in the mid-1960s with Tales of the Green Glob.

green glob

            I’ll bet you weren’t expecting that…


“Gauntlet of Fear”, George Kashdan (w), Don Perlin (a)

            Dr. John Terril, world-renowned psychiatrist, is hired to analyze the paranoid president of a foreign republic. He is informed by Scorbo, the president’s lackey and an obvious germophobe that there really IS a plot to kill the president (it is not said what his position is or relation to the president)! If Terril can withstand the Gauntlet of Fear, he can infiltrate the organization led by the Great Bajir. He is thrown into an underwater cave and attacked by a giant squid and piranhas. He panics, faints and wakes up in a cell. Scorbo is really the Great Bajir and he is brainwashing Terril into one of his thralls to kill the president!

            The brainwashing continues: bats, spikes and skulls haunt Terril. Even the roaches in the cell panic him. But he has an idea. He starts crawling in his cell like a baby. Bajir enters his cell, thinking his plan worked. Terril tosses handfuls of roaches onto Bajir, panicking HIM! The thralls see their master in panic and snap back to their old selves and hurl Bajir from the window of his castle.


“Sands of Time”, writer unknown, Rich Buckler (a).  A man sentenced to be executed at dawn escapes. But while escaping he suffers a severe bullet wound. He breaks into a cabin to hide out the day. He shoots a clock, “You won’t be able to tell me the time anymore!” Collapsing from the pain and too weak to move, he then shoots a giant hour glass. “You won’t be able to tell me the time, either.” The sand slowly falls onto his face. By dawn, the sand suffocates him. He died at dawn anyway…


“The Long Arms of Death”, Weshley Marsh (Murray Boltinoff himself) ( w ), Fred Carillo (a)

            Gerald is the new English secretary to millionaire Raj Simha of an unnamed Indo-Asian country. Gerald is warned to stay away from the Raj’s daughter Kaleli. But Gerald delivers flowers and breakfast in bed to Kaleli, walks with her in the garden and falls in love.

            Simha refuses to allow Gerald to marry and forbids any further contact.

            Gerald steals money and gems from Simha’s vault to raise enough money for two tickets back to England. Simha catches Gerald and is killed. Simha’s guards attack Gerald but are pulled back by many arms. It is Kaleli – she is the ten-armed goddess of death – Kali! She hugs Gerald with all her arms, crushing him. She tells the guards to call the police and report two dead bodies…



Unexpected Mail: the letter column does not necessarily comment on previous issues, but instead, like Ghosts, readers submit brief tales that fit the genre of the comic. Damian Brokaw of Denver, CO tells us of pygmy chimpanzees – the possible missing link! Janet Fadel of Hollywood, CA notes that issue #172 features an exorcism as well as an article about the upcoming film “Exorcist 2” and discusses the film, Robert W. Chan of Edmonton, Canada writes about a 1969 case in Louisiana when water turned blood red.  Ronald Vias of Dover, NJ discusses an Allied WWII plan to plant incendiary devises on nocturnal animals and bats and sic them on Nazi strongholds.  Other articles discuss upcoming movies about the Loch Ness Monster and “Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde”.


Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #29: Detective Comics #461


Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.



Weird War Tales #47: DC’s Weird Bicentennial Salute!



Weird War Tales #47


Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist: Joe Kubert

Editor: Joe Orlando

WWT logo

          The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups of comic books. “You got your horror comic in my war book!” “You’ve for your war book in my horror comic!” I loved this comic book, just LOVED it! It combined the two genres at which DC excelled!

            Weird War Tales debuted in September 1971 and lasted 124 issues until June of 1983. It was an anthology of supernatural stories set during a war. Any war. Vikings, Nazi’s, Yanks & Rebels and post-apocalyptic tales were represented.

            Although not a “personality” such as Cain, Abel or Destiny, the comic was “hosted” by death – a skeleton dressed in a uniform appropriate for the story.

            By the 1980s, regular features or “stars” were introduced – alternating between GI Robot, the Creature Commandos and the War that Time Forgot (dinosaurs) – sometimes alternating between features, sometimes teaming with each other. By that time, though, it had lost some of its horror pedigree in favor of more quasi-superheroics.


Bloodbath of the Toy Soldiers”, George Kashdan ( w ), Rubeny (a)

            In a post-apocalyptic world, despotic General Arax’s son Zeron plays with toy soldiers, exactly matching both sides’ moves in the next day’s battle. Arax’s aides, secretly loyal to the opposing force’s democratic leaders, change Zeron’s next battle plans, leading to a huge defeat.

            In a fit of pique, Arax destroys the toy soldiers. When Arax finds Zeron playing with one last toy soldier the boy kept hidden, the general, Arax throws it in the fire.

            Arax melts along with the toy replica.


            “The Day After Doomsday”, Steve Skeates ( w ), Paul Kruchner and Tex Blasdell (a)

            The sole survivor of the Great Atomic War hears a cry for help in the rubble. He digs and digs and finds a tape recorder accidentally turned on in the shifting debris replaying a radio soap opera, “Help! Help! Unhand me you brute!” In frustration, he bashes the tape recorder against a wall, causing the fragile masonry to give way and crush him.

This two-page tale is reprinted in the trade paperback “Showcase Presents: the Great Disaster featuring the Atomic Knights”.





The Warrior”, Jack Oleck ( w ), Ricardo Villamonte (a)

            Hulgar, the elderly Viking, duels Godfred to prove he still is a warrior. Eric, son of their leader Ottar, begs for mercy for Hulgar. Ottar grants it.

           During his first raid, Eric panics and is branded a coward. Holgar gives Eric the Shield of Thor that will make him invincible! With the shield, Eric defeats Godfred to earn his place in the next raid. Eric fights bravely against the British, but is killed.


WWT Viking 2 WWT viking


             Holgar mourns and begins forging another ordinary “Shield of Thor” in case anther youngster needs to find his courage from within…


APO Weird War Tales, letter column for issue #44:

            Linus Sabalys, Lavel PQ, Canada; positive comments on some stories, negative for others.

            Mark Schmieder, Concord, MA; the editor points out that Mark has the opposite view as Linus Sabalys on every story.

            John Elliott, New York, NY, positive, but requests novel-length tales instead of serializing stories over multiple issues.

            The column has a plus for Star Spangled War Stories #200 starring the Unknown Soldier and Enemy Ace.  ), but with no mention of any Bicentennial connection (see my previous blog about the missed opportunity to hype a 200th issue during the Bicentennial)


            Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #15: Four Star Spectacular #3.


Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.

House of Mystery #243 – DC’s Bicentennial issue #10

Do You Dare Read …

hom iconic 



House of Mystery #243

 HOM 243

Published monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist: Ricardo Villagran

Editor: Joe Orlando

            House of Mystery was the most successful of the many excellent horror anthologies DC released in its catalogue. The first issue was published in December 1951 and lasted 321 issues until (appropriately) October 1983.  There have been various revivals of the title since with mixed success.

            Because of the Comics Code, HoM changed formats in the mid-1950s to more science fiction/suspense stories.  It soon became a home to superheroes – Martian Manhunter and Dial H for Hero mainly. By July 1968, the Code weakened its grip allowing DC to hire Joe Orlando to bring the magazine back to horror stories with issue 174 (a reprint issue – new stories resumed with #175). #175 introduced the House’s caretaker, Cain, whose own “adventures” occasionally book-ended the issues. He would introduce most stories and provide a comment in the final panel.




            “Brother Bear”, Bob Haney ( w ), Franc C Reyes (a); Zebulon Hunt heads to the electric chair, having been found guilty and convicted for murder.

            In his resort in the far north, he used his airplane to hunt down and chase polar bears. He would land after the bears were tired out to shoot them for trophies. His manservant, the Inuit named Umiak, protested. This got him a smack from Hunt for his trouble…

            Hunt later killed a bear Umiak was himself hunting … although it looked more like the manservant and the beast were communicating with each other … somehow…

            Hunt finally found the huge bear rumored to be in the area – the biggest on record! He chased, it, shot it, decapitated it and took the head to be stuffed as a trophy. When the taxidermists opened the crate they found the head … of Umiak!


            “Things Like That Don’t Happen”, Sheldon Meyer     ( w ), Jess Jodloman (a)

            Sid and Millie Barnes were found dead on the beach.

            Flashback to Sid finding Millie on the boardwalk after hours in front of her favorite attraction – the fortune-telling machine containing the wooden mannequin of a Gypsy King. Sid begs her for $2000.00 – the last of her inheritance for yet another “investment” scheme.  After an argument she relents and gives him the money.

            The Gypsy King dummy falls over and Millie sets it upright again. A fortune card pops out of the machine: “24 Black Gets It All Back”.

            Millie discovers Sid’s “investment” was a roulette table! Sid is already down to the last $50.00 of the $2,000.00 as Millie swoops the money away and puts it on 24. A winner! She lets it ride. Another winner! She wins back her $2,000.00 and leaves. Sid follows.

            They argue on the beach. Sid knocks Millie down, killing her accidentally. Since no one would believe it was an accident, he buries her on the beach. A third party sneaks behind Sid and kills him! The police find tracks in the sand leading to and from the boardwalk and the fortune telling machine. The Gypsy King’s shoes are filled with sand…



Cain’s Mailroom. Managing Editor Paul Levitz answers letters as Cain on issue #239.  Linas Sabalys of Laval, PQ, Canada had both positive and negative comments, Arthur Grance of Staten Island, NY (positive), Sam MCHendley of Berkeley, CA requested Cain no longer host Plop as it is beneath him…


Next: DC’s Bicentennial Banner #11 – Batman #277!




Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry


Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.

Ghosts #48



Ghosts #48

ghosts 47

Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Editor: Murray Boltinoff

            Only the most ardent Marvel zombie would refuse to admit that of all the possible comic book genres published by both DC and Marvel, DC at least led in the horror division. Marvel published many a horror title, but with a few exceptions, they featured reprints from the 1950s and early 1960s. Most comics of their line rarely lasted over a year.

            DC’s horror titles featured new stories with rare exceptions. Ghosts differed even from the DC fare in two ways: until its last few issues it did not have a “host” introducing the stories or otherwise having a framing segment to introduce and finish a tale (other than text boxes on the first and last panels) and until issue #75 (April 1979), it claimed its stories were true!

            Ghosts was published from September-October 1971 until issue #112 (May 1982). (Boy is my spell-checker going berserk over the first two words of that last sentence…).

            Neither the Grand Comics Database nor the DC Comics Database state who did the cover or wrote any of the stories…


Showdown with a Specter”, Terry Hensen (a)

            In 1968 Villem Kruger and his family visit his grandfather’s diamond mine abandoned decades before. When Villem moves away stones blocking the mine – he releases the ghost of a worker killed in the mine. The ghost vows to destroy the descendant of the evil Kruger. Villem’s son Jon offers to take the place of his father for the ghost’s revenge.

            The ghost explains he cannot take Jon’s life as he was adopted and not a descendant of Grandfather Piet Kruger . As the father of an adopted child I am rather irked by this…

            The ghost decides since Villem adopted a child and raised him with so much love that the child was willing to sacrifice himself for his father, Villem does not have the evil that was in his grandfather and spares the family. As the father of an adopted child the ghost redeemed himself from his narrow-minded statement from the paragraph before…


The Phantom Head”, Buddy Gernale (a)

            July 1505: Michelangelo is haunted by a floating head – every painting and sculpture he tries to complete has the head of the ghost. If he does not complete the portrait of Cesara Borgia by the end of the week, Borgia will likely take Michelangelo’s head! Even the pope cannot help!

            The ghost stops visiting Michelangelo after his disappointing visit to the pope and all is well.

            The painting of the floating head is found 288 years later and identified as the head of King Louis XVI, who was decapitated during the Revolution!


The Girl Who Inherited a Ghost”, Gene Ureta (a)

            In France in April 1957, the mother of painter Gaston Poulard is angry at him for marrying Californian Becky. Rightly so – Becky is a gold digger who is after the mother’s fortune! Becky stands by during the mother’s fatal heart attack; holding the mother’s heart medicine. The mother’s ghost haunts Becky – throwing plates at her and chasing her through the house!

            Mrs. Poulard sends a letter to a ghost hunter, Henry Thorson-Jones (they don’t call him a ghost hunter per se, but you know …) to rid the house of the intruder. The ghost tricks the hunter into pushing Becky down the staircase, killing her. Thorson-Jones discovers the letter sent by Mrs. Poulard was NOT his wife, but his mother – written and mailed after her death. The intruder written about in the letter … was Becky!


Text feature: The Jigsaw Ghosts. Written (presumably) by Murray Boltinoff.

            Guests at a resort in northern Britain in 1904 see the top half of a woman floating through their room. The servants see the bottom half of the woman walking through their quarters. It seems a prior owner chopped his wife in half, and …

            In 1923, a visiting minister wakes to find a disembodied girl’s hand tugging on his. Later he discovers the prior owner chopped off his daughter’s hand and hid her body in the wall of that room…

            New owners of a Providence, Rhode Island home in 1960 heard footsteps in a sealed-off section of their home. Opening the unused room revealed fresh footprints leading to a chest. Inside the chest were the prior owner’s last will and testament and a pair of boots – whose footprints fit exactly with the fresh prints on the floor …

            This text feature was in the place of a letter column.


 Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

             Images used are copyright their respective holders and and reproduced here under the “fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.



A National Adoption Month (dark) Spotlight: The Son of Sam

November is National Adoption Month! Throughout the month I’ll feature famous folk who have been adopted!

 Sometimes the Spotlight shines darkly…


Culled mostly from Wikipedia:

 David Richard Berkowitz (born Richard David Falco, June 1, 1953), also known as the Son of Sam and the .44 Caliber Killer, is an American serial killer convicted of a series of shooting attacks that began in the summer of 1976. With a .44 caliber Bulldog revolver, he killed six victims and wounded seven others by July 1977. As the toll mounted, Berkowitz eluded a massive police manhunt while leaving brazen letters which promised further murders. Highly publicized in the press, he terrorized New York City and achieved worldwide notoriety.

After his arrest by New York City police in August 1977, Berkowitz was indicted for eight shooting incidents. He confessed to all of them and claimed a demon that possessed his neighbor’s dog had commanded him to kill. In the course of the police investigation, he was also implicated in many unsolved arsons in the city.

David Berkowitz was born Richard David Falco on June 1, 1953, in Brooklyn, New York. His mother, Betty Broder, grew up in an impoverished Jewish family and later married Tony Falco, an Italian-American Catholic. The couple ran a fish market together. They separated before Berkowitz’s birth: Falco left for another woman, and Broder later had an affair with a married real estate agent, Joseph Kleinman. When she became pregnant, Kleinman threatened to abandon her if she kept the baby, so she put the child up for adoption and listed Falco as the father.  Within a few days of his birth, the infant boy was adopted by Pearl and Nathan Berkowitz of the Bronx. The Jewish-American couple were hardware store retailers of modest means, and childless in middle age. They reversed the order of the boy’s first and middle names and gave him their own surname, raising young David Richard Berkowitz as their only son.


Be sure to visit Abby’s Road on Facebook for more Spotlights!


“Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.


Winner, Honorable Mention, 2014, Great Midwest Book Festival

Abby’s Road is available at Amazon here:

at Barnes and Noble here:

and at Smashwords here:


Copyright 2014 Michael Curry






Walt Whitman and the Amityville Horror – an Abby’s Road anniversary!

Walt Whitman and the Amityville Horror

Five Years Ago Today … an Abby’s Road anniversary


            September 30, 2009. The baby was due tomorrow. Of course, by now the baby’s delivery date had been delayed and cancelled more times than a Jeff Beck concert, but we were cautiously optimistic. As with our visit to Theodore Roosevelt’s home several decades before (Esther insists it was only ten days), we … well. I … wanted to get in some last bits of sight-seeing…

Starting at page 143:


            “We spotted the signs for Walt Whitman’s birthplace on our Sunday drive. It was closed that day and Monday and Tuesday, so we went back on Wednesday. It had a small museum but it was packed with information about a person of which I knew very little. I read “Leaves of Grass” in high school. That was it.

            His father built the home over 200 years before (between 1810 and 1814) and Esther and I enjoyed walking through it. It was just she, me and our tour guide. He was a very nice gentleman who could not be budged from his rehearsed lectures. He ignored some of my questions until we got to that part of his lecture.

            We had fun befuddling him, though. You could tell he was used to school children or adults who were not raised as lower-class mid-westerns. 

            He picked up a piece of wood. “Can anyone guess what this is?” “A bootjack” said Esther.

             “Umm, that’s right… This?” He held up a large metal cylinder with a rod in the middle.

             “Fireplace rotisserie.”

            “Ummm, yes… “




            Also during our Sunday drive we found Amityville. Yes, that Amityville. I was tickled. I am a horror fan from way back. I wanted to go back and find … the house.

            During the week I found out what I could about “The Amityville Horror”.  The story generated a lot of controversy in Amityville. The city itself wants nothing to do with the publicity and sides with the debunkers. The city changed the address and the house was extensively remodeled. Horror fans still found it – the back of the house still retains the distinctive peaked roof.

            Esther went with me and smiled at my joy in finding the street. We drove it a few times until I was sure I had found the house. I went to the next street around the estuary where I spotted the dock, the boat house and peaked roof unchanged. I took photographs from the car. I didn’t want to get out in case it annoyed the neighbors. If they were as kind as other Long Islanders we met, I suspect they would let me take my few pics as long as I left when I was done. I did.

            Amityville is a lovely town! Lots of boutiques and places to eat.  When we go back in years to come we’ll spend more time there to thank them for their patience in letting a giddy horror fan snap some photographs from his car.”



“Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.

Abby’s Road is available at Amazon here:

at Barnes and Noble here:

and at Smashwords here:


Copyright 2014 Michael Curry






My Favorite Horror Films, or Why I Can’t Sleep at Night

or, Why I Can’t Sleep at Night
                There is an interesting article in a recent Entertainment Weekly stating that January and February are now the prime time for horror movies to show in theaters.
                This is a complete reversal of the usual trope from decades before – horror movies belonged in October. January was the dumping grounds for trash on which the Oscar contenders and leftover holiday blockbusters sat.
                I suspect one or two horror movies made a splash in January and the trend caught on. October is now the dumping ground – a metaphoric breathing-in between summer and holiday blockbusters.
                I have been thinking about horror movies lately. I Tivoed a cheesy program called Monsters and Mysteries in America from the Destination America network. It is a step-child of the Discovery Channel family and airs mainly white-trashy reality shows. But amongst the Cracker TV fare are a few cheesy gems: UFOs over Earth, When Ghosts Attack and Alien Mysteries.
                Yes, these shows are mainly about rednecks discussing being anally probed by aliens after their sister/wives ran off with Bigfoot, but they also feature authors and … um … “scientists” taking this schlock seriously.
                I admit to being a sucker for anything about Bigfoot or aliens. I consume any book by Zechariah Sitchin or Erich von Daniken. I am a faithful viewer of Ancient Aliens on the “History” Channel.
                This episode of Monsters and Mysteries in Americafeatured Momo the Missouri Monster. I’ve heard of and read about Momo, so I wanted to watch the show. Momo was the first feature. The third (last) feature was about a bat-creature that terrorized a mining town in Iowa in the early 1900s. The middle feature was about the Shadow People in Maryville, Missouri.
                Here’s a good blog about the show:
                The Shadow People segment pushed all my buttons. Dark figures with glowing eyes standing next to your bed as you sleep; whispering …
                I was awake until two that morning afraid to open my eyes. I knew; I KNEW I would see one standing next to my bed. A “real” one? No, but my active imagination was going on all cylinders that night.
                I see figures standing in my room or next to my bed quite often. That’s been the case since I was a kid living with my parents. I frequently saw a lady in a red dress sitting in a chair across the room from my bed; I saw a winged creature hovering over my bed. The latter was my hat collection and other wall-hangings through my still-bleary-myopic eyes – my mind making sense of a blurred shape. The former … well, where did the lady in the red dress come from? A teenager with raging hormones imagining a woman in his room? Oh my goodness, someone call Dr. Freud…
                Just a few weeks ago I dreamt someone was grabbing me while I was in bed. I screamed so loud my wife was afraid I would scare our daughter in her bedroom. She slept through it. Once I dreamt I was lying in bed next to my wife as a vampire stood over me; keeping me hypnotically frozen. My wife said I was saying, very calmly, “Esther wake me up, Esther wake me up,” as I slept. When she nudged me I jumped up and out of the nightmare.
                It reminded me of a post-college nightmare when my roommate ran into my room after I screamed bloody murder when a vampire at the foot of my bed leapt at me. It was the ceiling fan.
                Before that, in college, I saw a man in a blue-and-red-striped shirt walking through my room. I called out the name of my roommate – “Scott, what are you doing?” – and the figure turned and walked toward me. By now my roommate (Scott) walked into my room. He heard me call his name and woke me up by asking me what I wanted. The figure disappeared as I gained consciousness.
                So the Shadow People were right up my fearful alley, if you know what I mean. Add to this my love of horror movies and stories and you can see why I was up most of the night. I could start quite a cause-and-effect argument here.
                My reading and viewing of all things horror have been curtailed by my marriage and my daughter. I don’t want either of them walking in during The Exorcist, for example.
                My wife is getting more accustomed to it: she’s become a fan of Sleepy Hollow … fairly light-weight in the horror department (although they’ve had some good shows) and just about at her tolerance-level.
                So I’ve missed out on a lot of horror-themed TV series and movies in the past decade.
                During my sleepless evening I compiled a list of my favorite horror movies. These aren’t the critically best (although some are) and not the most financially successful (although some are); these are mine. To repeat the phrase – the ones that press the right buttons; sometimes much to my regret.
                Except for the first on the list, these are on no particular order:
1.       The Haunting (1963). It’s a black-and-white movie with a plot that in these “modern” times is something out of Scooby-Doo (spending the night in a haunted house to see if it really IS haunted), but this fifty-one-year-old flick is the scariest thing I have ever seen. The scene in the girls’ bedroom where the ghost (or whatever it is) pounds on the walls, making pictures and plaster fly, and watching it head to the door that pulses and creaks … I get chills down my back just thinking about it.
2.       The Exorcist (1973). A very canny choice, I know, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a genuinely terrifying movie. The movie went straight for the throat (or vagina if we’re talking crucifix) – there was no doubt little Regan was possessed by the devil. If they remake it they should do more of the book – we were never sure if she was possessed or had a psychotic breakdown while the terror was merely a ruse by the housekeeper to cover up a murder.
3.       Prince of Darkness (1987). John Carpenter movies make up a quarter of this list. A priest finds a cylinder of swirling green liquid in the basement of an abandoned church. He brings in a team of scientists to examine the cylinder. The liquid is the anti-Christ’s ectoplasmic form. It squirts at the scientists one by one causing them to go insane in beautiful Lovecraftian fashion. It awoke in time to summon its father – the anti-god. A movie that includes scientific method, intergalactic elder things and Alice Cooper? How can it be bad?
4.       In the Mouth of Madness (1995). John Carpenter takes on an even more Lovecraftian-themed work. An insurance investigator looks into the disappearance of horror author Sutter Cane (a very thinly veiled Stephen King) and tracks him to a town that appears in one of the author’s horror books – a place that should not exist. Ends up the author was channeling real horrors from eldritch dimensions who are ready to take over the earth. Can Sam Neill (the investigator) stop the coming apocalypse? Are you kidding?
5.       Halloween (1978). Another John Carpenter movie. Another canny choice. But this is one of the scariest flicks ever made. Carpenter’s soundtrack alone brings chills – I usually cringe in horror when I hear cheap Casio music anyway, but this is genuinely scary music! And there’s not one startling moment in the movie – we see Michael approaching and stalking Lady Hadin-Guest (Jamie Lee Curtis) and we know where he is and what he will do at all times – it is all suspense in the best Hitchcockian style.
6.       Blair Witch Project (1999). Not the first movie of the “found footage” genre, but the one that put the genre on the map. A lot of people hate this movie, but I am a big fan. Creepy, scary and realistic. Movies like this HAVE to be realistic. The more founded it is in reality the scarier it is. I would put this movie above Cloverfield (2008) another found-footage movie only in a science-fiction vein based on a what-if-a giant-Godzilla-like-thing-REALLY-attacked-New-York story.  I think Blair Witch has aged well (as all of these movies have) and Cloverfield was creepy even on cable in between long commercial breaks and watched over three days (when the wife and daughter were elsewhere).
7.       Evil Dead (1981). Evil Dead II is one of my favorite movies, period. II combined spooky stuff with humor – humor and horror go VERY well together when done right – but the original was cheaper and scarier. This movie put Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell on the movie map and rightly so. Very Lovecraftian – it includes an appearance by the Necronomicon – and the fact that it was made on a small budget only adds to the realism. True story: I saw this in college with assorted roommates, friends and girlfriends. Being college cool cats, we had our TV set up through the stereophonic hi-fi. In one scene a rescued victim (who had been maniacally giggling throughout a scene) stopped giggling. The surviving cast look at her. She looks up and sings “We’re going to get you; we’re going to get you…” We screamed and shuddered. I had enough and jumped up to turn the TV off. Trouble was, it was on VHS. I turned off the picture, but the tape was still rolling and the speakers were still playing. “We’re going to get you; we’re going to get you…” If the neighbors weren’t in the house watching with us, they would have called the police.
8.       Night of the Living Dead (1968). Speaking of small budgets adding to the realism … Do you REALLY need me to describe this movie? And its impact on the genre? Really? Turn on the TV or scroll through your Facebook wall for about two minutes. Did you NOT see something about zombies? You’re lying …
9.       Pandorum (2009). I saw this movie on the SciFi Channel and loved it so much I bought the DVD. You‘ve might not have heard of it. I’ve discussed the synergy between science fiction and horror in prior blog ( and this one, to me, hits all the right notes. Something that Event Horizonsomehow missed.  The premise was a great one and almost made it. A two-man (originally three-man) crew was revived from their deep-space hibernation to take their shift in a generational/colony ship. We learn that in the meantime earth had been destroyed and these colonists are all that is left of humanity. Trouble is, our crew is revived to find their ship lost and out of power. Making their way out of their assigned department, they discover the ship is overrun with flesh-eating superhuman humanoids. Where did they come from? Is there anyone else alive on the ship? Can they escape or at least get the ship up and running so they can defend themselves? It is a claustrophobic and intense thrill-ride. I think the secret of the Hunters is disappointing when finally revealed. But the final twist at the end more than made up for it. The ending and final solution took me completely by surprise. It was meant to be a trilogy but was unsuccessful at the box office – although it has gained quite a cult following. Myself included.
10.   Alien (1979). Speaking of science fiction and horror … I go into a lengthy discussion of how this movie works so well in my blog about Event Horizon (hyperlink is above). I won’t repeat it here.
11.   The Thing (1951 & 1982). Both the Howard Hawks and John Carpenter versions are included here. The original is more cerebral and the horror is left off-screen. Carpenter’s gore is front and center. Both are excellent in their own way and both are scary-scary. Arctic scientists find a spaceship with a frozen alien inside. The alien thaws out and chaos ensues. Great stuff!
                Honorable Mention: Silence of the Lambs (1991). This could be better described as a police thriller rather than horror, but there are parts that are intense as hell and it won an Oscar for chriss’ sake! The early scene where Clarisse is walking past the inmates (including one played by the actor who also played Chef Brockett on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood) until we see Hannibal Lecter for the first time – standing quietly and politely in the center of his cell; watching, as if he knew she were coming. Anthony Hopkins deserved his Oscar. He stole every scene he was in and his character cast his shadow over every scene in which he was not.  The serial killer Buffalo Bill was creepy; Lecter was creepier – and all he did (until his gruesome escape scene) was talk quietly. And stare blankly. And smile sweetly. And suck air between his teeth. The sequels lessened his impact. Forget them.
                Se7en (1995) compares favorably to Silence … it ups the gruesomeness ante, making it more horror than police thriller. A great cast helps – Kevin Spacey hasn’t been this sinister since he played Sonny Steelgrave.
                Movies I have not seen, but probably would be on the list include The Ring (2002) and Paranormal Activity(2007). I’ve heard lots of good stuff about these two in particular. Someday when I have three hours of uninterrupted TV or online-video-streaming time I will give these a chance.
                I feel bad not listing 28 Days Later (2002) and the classic Phantasm (1979), but the former and its sequel I consider more action films (great as they are) dressed as horror and the latter just weird, weird fun! “BOY!!!!”
                Then there are the classics – not as heart-pounding as those on my list, but classics! Without these movies, most of which have aged quite well, I wouldn’t have a subject to discuss. I’m talking about the Universal Monster movies (I include The Black Cat (1934) and White Zombie (1932) here), the American/International Poe pictures (and their ilk) and of course movies from the Hammer Studio. God love you, Hammer Studio.
                These movies are not the horror vein, but are damn scary and want to mention them: Jaws (1975) makes the list of course – you KNOW the plot to Jaws, come on…
                Look for Dead Again (1991) a Hitchcockian thriller that will keep you guessing until the end. I went with my friend Jon (who accompanied me to Event Horizon – see the aforesaid blog about that film) and Peyton to see Dead Again. Here were three fairly seasoned horror/thriller movie goers. Yet one scene was so intense I turned my head and lifted my legs from the theater floor. Jon did a face-palm and said, “Oh God.” Peyton said, “Jeee-sus” and gripped the arms of his seat. The rest of the theater shouted or gasped. It wasn’t gory, but it was the most intense part of the movie – you’ll know it when you see it. That single scene put the movie on this list.
                Some television shows have given me “the creepies” – to quote the character I play in the Sparta Community Chorus’ latest production “Murder in the Magnolias”. Doctor Who’s “Blink” won a Hugo. They don’t give Hugo’s to television shows (do they?). Aliens shaped like angel statues can only move (and attack you) while you are not looking at them. If you turn your head, you’re dead. Blink. The statues come closer. Blink. Closer. Blink. Closer. Absolutely creepy.
                Night Gallery’s “The Cemetery” scared me as a youngster and thrills me to this day. A man murders another to inherit his mansion. On a wall in the mansion is a painting of the house complete with cemetery next door. The killer (Roddy McDowell) walks past the painting (on the staircase landing) – the grave of the man he killed is open. Later, a figure is sitting in the open grave. He walks past the painting later – the figure is climbing out of the grave. Then it is standing next to the grave. Then it walks to the house. It is on the steps. It is at the door. It is knocking on the door. There is a real knock at the door. Is it…? I don’t know if this is intentionally based on a short story by M.R. James – but he wrote a similar tale seventy years before.
                The X-Files’ “Beyond the Sea”. Scully’s father dies and (in an unrelated matter) a shyster-medium is caught. He claims to be able to channel her father. Is he for real? The scene where Scully’s father appears in her house, staring into space and moving his mouth is quite creepy. She gets a phone call that he had died. “But he’s right here sitting on my …” but he is gone. X-Files has a lot of creepy moments like that.
                Maybe I can finally get some sleep tonight. But with all these movies and TV shows running through my head … I can expect another night where I don’t want to open my eyes.
Copyright 2014 Michael G Curry

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The Synergy of Science Fiction and Horror: the lost potential of “Event Horizon”.

The Synergy of Science Fiction and Horror: the lost potential of “Event Horizon”.
                The film “Event Horizon” was on television over the weekend. I saw it in the theater when released in 1997 and I wondered if it was really as laughably bad as I remembered it.
                Time has mellowed my opinion of it. It wasn’t bad.  It wasn’t good either, but it wasn’t bad.
                Some of the movie’s worst crimes mellowed on the small screen; by that I mean the cheap scare tactics weren’t as bad when not amplified. When I left the theater in 1997 I told my friend (and fellow movie-attendee) Jon, “Next time let’s save some money. Instead of paying to see this movie, we should just randomly startle each other every two or three minutes and achieve the same effect.”
                This led throughout the night and the next week or so with our conversations peppered with the following routine.
                That was the total sum of the scariness of “Event Horizon” – build-up, build-up, build-up, soundtrack getting more and more ominous … and then … and then …
                The music stopped, the character’s fear was unfounded. The strange thingie he thought was approaching him was … nothing. Sigh of relief.
                Boo!  Oh no! The thingie attacks!
                Actual scene – Sam Neil hears his dead wife’s voice. The lights fade in and out. “Sara?” Lights on, Sam is on the right of the screen. Lights go out. Lights go on. Sam is still alone. Music swells.
                “Get it over with!” I shouted.
                Lights go up. Nothing. He turns to his right. Oh no! The ghost of his dead wife is to his right, not left! Music swells! He screams! The horror! The horror!
                A member of an as-yet-undiscovered tribe in the Amazon would see that coming. And the movie is filled with this tactic.
                I still dislike the movie despite the amazing cast. Sam Neill, Lawrence Fishburne, Kathleen Quinlin, Joely Richardson, Sean Pertwee (the son of Doctor Who’s Jon Pertwee) and a pre-Draco Malfoy Jason Isaacs.  Richard Jones overplays the black crewmember in all his token glory. He was the first one I wanted to go… Of all the shortcuts taken in this movie his was the worst. The other characters at least TRIED to appear three-dimensional. It was obvious the writers, producers and directors could not handle horror. They apparently can’t handle a black character that possesses dignity and self-respect either. The film made LL Cool J from “Deep Blue Sea” seem like Poitier…
                I was (and am) disappointed. With the right tweeking here and there it could have been a horror masterpiece up there with 1963’s “The Haunting” and perhaps even passing that OTHER famous scary sci-fi movie … the mother of them all … but more on “Alien” in a moment.
                Horror and science fiction fit very well together. It’s like peanut butter and jelly. Some like peanut butter with other things, some like jelly with other things, some like only one and not the other, some like neither. But you cannot deny their popularity as a team.
                Or compare it to two brothers who are identical yet a decade apart in age.  They go together even though at times they are vastly different.
                “Frankenstein” is arguably the first science fiction novel. If so it is definitely the first science fiction/horror novel.
                Of course, a movie or a book with science fiction elements doesn’t make it science fiction; no more than a book or movie with scary moments makes it a horror flick.
                If that were the case “Godzilla” and almost every monster movie would be labeled “sci-fi/horror”. They are monster movies. Some are very good monster movies, but not sci-fi/horror.     (“Deep Blue Sea” could be considered a sci-fi/horror film, but it was more of a monster flick…)
                Any sci-fi/horror blend has to be compared to the movie “Alien”. Isn’t that a monster movie too? In a way, but only in the way that a serial-killer movie is a monster movie. If “Alien” is a monster movie, then so is “Silence of the Lambs”.
                “Alien” had horrific situations folded in science fiction trappings. Want an easy way to describe it? “Jaws” in space. Or better – “Halloween” in space.
                But making it that simple misses the greatness of the movie. In “Alien” we have solid characters (not necessarily likeable one, which is important) and truly frightening and/or intense scenes. Hitchcock would have approved of the monitor scene. The alien is shown as an electronic blip slowly approaching the captain in an access crawl space. We see it coming and all we can do is what Ripley did, “Run! He’s getting closer!”
                It is good science fiction and scary as hell. The sequel “Aliens” is also a good movie, but it is works better as an action movie than a horror movie. That’s not a bad thing, but it does make a difference. You watch “Aliens” to be thrilled and cheer on the good guys, not to be scared or creeped out.
                The bad guys in “Event Horizon” were originally written to be an alien race. The movie-makers wanted to wisely avoid the “Alien” comparison and decided to get their horror from another vein. They went Lovecraftian.  The pitched it as “The Shining” in space.
                This is why I had such high hopes for the film. The few moments of true creepiness were overshadowed by “the startle” – the cheap way to get a scare (“Boo!”).  They should have let a horror writer come up with ideas.
                Ironically, Sam Neil appeared in one of the most genuinely scary movies out there – “In the Mouth of Madness”. A flick firmly ensconced in the Lovecraft/Stephen King mold. Plus it was directed by John Carpenter. That kind of fear-making should have been incorporated into “Event Horizon”.
                I’m reminded of an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” called “Night Terrors”. The crew finds a missing Federation starship as a derelict with the crew missing (except one). They discovered that the crew of the missing ship killed each other and the Enterprise crew starts exhibiting the same symptoms – paranoia, violence and hostility. That’s the plot of “Event Horizon” too…
                There are moments when the “Star Trek” could have been horrifying. When Dr. Crusher was in the morgue with the dead crew of the missing ship, she hallucinated the bodies had sat up (the audience never sees the bodies move). She clenched her eyes shut and the scene pans out to show the bodies lying on their slabs again.  I waited for the next inevitable moment, but it never happened. The show moved on to the next scene.
                The bodies should have flailed.  They should have thrashed around while the doctor screamed her pretty red head off. A scary moment missed.
                That was “Event Horizon” – the scary moments were right there. Right. There. Ready to be exploited. But it went for the “Boo!”
                Or it went for the gore. Evisceration is not scary. The before and after, if done right, can be.
                A shame, really. Such potential. That’s why I still don’t like “Event Horizon”.
Copyright 2013 Michael G. Curry