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the horror zine's book of ghost stories

The Horror Zine’s Book of Ghost Stories is delighted to present to you original, never before seen, spine-tingling tales from Bentley Little, Joe R. Lansdale, Elizabeth Massie, Graham Masterton with Dawn G. Harris, Tim Waggoner, and the very best up and coming writers in the genre. Includes a foreword by Lisa Morton. Find it HERE

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Horror hit-maker Jordan Peele is continuing to add to his next ambitious super-secret project.  According to a post by Deadline (and supplemented by The Illuminerdi), the comedian-turned-wildly successful writer/director is bringing both Keke Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya into the fold for his third directorial effort, which has yet to be named.  The two will star in the next Peele film for Universal Pictures, which will also be produced by Peele along with partner Ian Cooper for their company Monkeypaw Productions.

Palmer is familiar to horror fans for her work in two popular television series, Fox’s Scream Queens and MTV’s Scream: The TV Series.  While she is tapped as a lead, her role (and character) in the film is unknown at this point.  She will be starring alongside Kaluuya, who did a magnificent job of playing main character Chris Washington in Peele’s box office smash debut Get Out.  That film went on to gross $256 million worldwide on a meager budget of just $4.5 million.  It would seem that the Peele/Kaluuya re-team was inevitable, thanks to the smashing success of their first shared project.

This will mark the third directorial effort for Peele, following Get Out (2017) and the equally-successful Us (2019).  The Mad TV alum has also had his hands on many other horror-related projects in recent years.  He both produced and hosted the CBS reboot of The Twilight Zone, and is an executive producer for HBO’s genre-bending Lovecraft Country.  Peele is also a producer for the anticipated remakes of The People Under the Stairs as well as cult classic Candyman, which are due to be released in the latter half of 2021 or early 2022.  For the latter film, he also wrote the screenplay.  There is speculation that Palmer and Kaluuya have been hired for the Stairs reboot, but that has not yet been confirmed or denied by Peele or Universal.


Overlooked Moments of Terror in Classic Disney Animation



It’s often remarked that Disney has a penchant for scarring the psyches of infants. Whether they’re orphaning little baby Bambi, taking us on demented pink elephant acid trips, or having evil queens perform grotesque body-horror transformations, they don’t seem to have any qualms about inflicting sleepless nights upon younger viewers. 

Whilst these childhood traumas have each left an indelible mark on pop-culture, there are a handful of scares in the Disney vault that have managed to fly under the radar. This is usually because they’re nestled within more obscure outings, or because they derive from the studio’s 1980s era rough patch (aka ‘’The Dark Age’’). Either way, these black sheep just never quite get the credit that they deserve. 

With that in mind, it’s about time that somebody paid homage to the studio’s overlooked frights. Don’t expect any of the usual suspects – i.e., Pinocchio, Fantasia or Snow White – here, because this list is reserved purely for the deep cuts. On a related note, we’re only looking at moments from animated releases here, so if you do want a broader overview of Disney’s spooky content, then this piece should have you covered. Anyway, let’s dive in. 

The outbreak of WW2 disrupted the entire movie industry but had a particularly crippling effect on the House of Mouse when most of its top talent was drafted into military service. Not only was the company deprived of its key workforce, but they also took a serious economic hit, given that their overseas market basically disappeared overnight. To cope with these financial blows, Walt was forced to scale back production to short cartoons only, which he cleverly bundled together into full-length releases, so that he could still turn a marginal profit. 

Generally speaking, these relics of the so-called ‘’package era’’ haven’t left much of an impact on the Disney canon, and even hardcore fans would struggle to name half of them. Yet there is one notable exception! The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad is an utterly delightful double feature, adapting the works of two literary heavyweights (Kenneth Grahame and Washington Irving) with a surprising reverence for the original texts. The Sleepy Hollow segment is especially faithful, carrying over much of the book’s antiquated narration and resisting the urge to embellish things for the sake of kids in the audience. 

As such, the climactic appearance of the headless horseman plays out almost identically to how it was written on the page. Directors Jack Kinney and Clyde Geronimiget get everything absolutely spot-on, from the moody build up (in which our lead mistakes various woodland noises for ghosts ‘n goblins) to the dramatic reveal of the hessian spectre himself, astride his furious stead. The ensuing chase through the glen is properly intense as well, with the demonic rider cackling and violently slashing at Ichabod’s neckline in a way that makes you wince. They don’t hold back either, going so far as to retain the haunting ending that leaves the pedagogue’s ultimate fate up to interpretation. 

When you think of scary moments in Disney, your mind automatically jumps to larger-than-life bad guys and supernatural threats. The Rescuers is an anomaly in this respect, as it thrusts viewers into a comparatively grounded scenario, wherein helpless orphan Penny is lowered down into a cramped pothole, in order to retrieve a coveted diamond. You see, the cave system is far too narrow for adults to squeeze through, hence why the nefarious Madame Medusa has abducted a young girl to do it on her behalf. 

Hauled down in a flimsy bucket, Penny is tasked with rummaging around for the precious jewel in pitch-black darkness, all whilst sidestepping treacherous chasms and the skeletal remains of other, ill-fated treasure hunters. The unbearable claustrophobia is heightened further by an urgent ticking clock element, that necessitates our heroine must escape before the next high tide – lest she risk drowning when the tunnels are flooded with seawater. Although the ordeal doesn’t contain any wicked hags or monstrous demons, it’s still legitimately distressing. No matter what age bracket you fall into. 

Near the end of Tarzan’s opening act, the eponymous wildman catches a glimpse of something in the corner of his periphery, hidden in the dense jungle foliage. We then cut to a shot from his POV and, if you look intently enough, you can just make out a hungry leopard waiting patiently in the leaves. Almost perfectly blending into its surroundings. 

The world of Dinosaur is extraordinarily harsh. Within the first 30 minutes alone we get an oviraptor pilfering eggs to crack them against rocks and a meteor shower wiping out an entire island of adorable lemurs. From there things get crueler still, as the film presents us with a straggling herd collapsing from dehydration, junior dinos being picked off by scavengers, and the protagonist regularly bleeding from gaping wounds.

Difficult as it may be to believe nowadays, ventriloquism has not always been marred with sinister connotations. On the contrary, the act was a favourite of music halls around the turn of the 20th century and truly blossomed in popularity with the advent of vaudeville shows. Which is to say that, when the package release Fun and Fancy Free hit cinemas in 1947 (long before things like Dead Silence, Magic and Goosebumps recast dummies as archetypes of terror), the performance style was still in vogue.

Over the years, The Black Cauldron has garnered itself a cult following and a dubious reputation for being Disney’s edgiest flick. Which just goes to show that we must all have very selective memories, because the sword and sorcery tale is, on balance, rather family-friendly. A significant position of its running time is devoted to the misadventures of a happy pig, there’s ample comedy relief supplied by a legion of sidekicks, and it’s got a farcical subplot about a bard resisting the advances of a horny witch coven. 

See the entire article HERE


by Rob Caprilozzi

See the trailer HERE

A brand new Evil Dead game is on the way courtesy of Saber Interactive and Boss Team Games. Announced last night at The Game Awards ceremony, Evil Dead: The Game is a co-op and PvP multiplayer title in development for PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

Not only will the game feature Ash and plenty of Deadites but the trailer gives us a glimpse of characters all across the Evil Dead timeline including Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) from Ash vs. Evil Dead, Lord Arthur (Marcus Gilbert) from Army of Darkness, and Scott (Richard DeManincor) from Evil Dead.

Boss Team Games is working in collaboration with Renaissance Pictures, Studiocanal, Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM), and Lionsgate to create the game. The game has sights and sounds inspired by the films The Evil DeadEvil Dead II: Dead by Dawn, and Army of Darkness, as well as the STARZ original Ash vs Evil Dead television series.

“I’m excited to be strapping on the chainsaw one more time,” said Bruce Campbell, who has given life to Ashley J. Williams across multiple films and the recent STARZ original “Ash vs Evil Dead” television series. “Boss Team and Saber Interactive are planning a huge immersive dealio, and I knew I had to come back. You’ll be able to step into my shoes and kick some Deadite ass!”

Players can work together as a team of four survivors, exploring, looting, crafting, managing your fear, and finding key artifacts to seal the breach between worlds. In addition to being the hero’s, players are also able to take control of the powerful Kandarian Demon to hunt Ash and his friends while possessing Deadites, the environment, and even the survivors themselves as you seek to swallow their souls.

Evil Dead: The Game will also feature many memorable locations including the infamous cabin in the woods, brought to life with tons of terrifying visuals and all-new dialogue from Bruce Campbell. Discover more than 25 weapons, including Ash’s Gauntlet, Boomstick, and chainsaw, and advance in a variety of skill trees to grow stronger and survive in this fun co-op and PvP experience. con

See more HERE

Are you a fan of Netflix's Bly Manor? Here is why there have been so many versions made of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw

On Netflix, The Haunting of Bly Manor is the latest in a long line of adaptations of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw (1898) that began in 1954 with Benjamin Britten’s opera. Since then, there have been more than 25 others. Adaptors’ enduring fascination with James’s “irresponsible little fiction” can be summed up in a word: ambiguity.

It is the story of a young governess who comes to suspect that her deceased predecessor, Miss Jessel, and the late valet Peter Quint, are exerting a continued influence over her orphaned charges, Miles and Flora. This influence is not only spectral but quite possibly sexual in nature.

As James’s opening line predicted, “the story … held us”, and its readers quickly fell into two main camps. Metaphysical readers chose to “believe the governess” and believe in the ghosts, while psychological readers – most famously American writer Edmund Wilson in his 1934 essay – maintained that “the ghosts are not real ghosts … but merely the hallucinations of the governess”. She, in turn, was a “neurotic case of sex repression”, possibly acting out of a sublimated desire for her employer, the children’s uncle.

Yet neither metaphysical nor psychological readings proved able to contain this story, whose details stubbornly refuse to be explained away. If the valet Quint is a hallucination, how is the housekeeper able to identify him from the governess’s description? But equally, if he has an independent existence, why, as the literature academic Sheila Teahan has noted, does the governess associate him with the act of writing? The governess suggests that Quint is only as real as “the letters I form on this page”, implying that he is her creative construct.

James’s novella thus demands a third approach, of which literary critic Shoshana Felman’s Turning the Screw of Interpretation (1977) is among the finest examples. Rather than attempting to scare the tale into consistency, this reading recognises that its ambiguity is fundamental to its effect.

With this in mind, The Turn of the Screw’s appeal to adaptors might seem paradoxical. How can the ghosts’ objective reality remain uncertain when we see them walk, talk, and, in Britten’s case, sing a 12-tone opera? Yet adaptors have used a range of innovative strategies to maintain the text’s ambiguity. The term is usefully defined in a cinematic context by director Alexander Mackendrick, not as “a lack of clarity” but as a contrast between “alternative meanings, each of them clear”.

On-screen ambiguity

Director Jack Clayton recruited Stanley Kubrick to rework the original script for The Innocents (1961) with one clear remit: to maximise the tale’s ambiguity. In the resultant film, the scene at the lake offers at least two alternative meanings for the appearance of Miss Jessel.

We see the governess (Deborah Kerr) react to a figure standing among the rushes, but a few frames later, Jessel has vanished. Has she appeared and then disappeared, or has the governess simply imagined her? Flora’s troubled face is inconclusive, reacting as much to her governess’s agitation as to any apparition.

In The Others (2001), an oblique adaptation, creator Alejandro Amenábar takes an innovative stance on the ghosts’ reality. Marooned in an isolated house in post-second-world-war Jersey, Grace (Nicole Kidman), a staunch Catholic, resists her children’s claims to hear ghosts. It transpires that they are actually hearing the house’s new owners and that it is the children and their mother who are the ghosts. Overwhelmed by grief at her husband’s death, Grace, we eventually learn, smothered the children before shooting herself.

The Others thus combines metaphysical and psychological readings of its source. The ghosts are, in a sense, “real” (though not what we are led to believe), while at the same time, the “governess” figure, Grace, is also established as untrustworthy.

In Tim Fywell’s 2009 BBC adaptation, the governess (Michelle Dockery) is a patient in a post-first-world-war mental institution, a frame narrative that invites viewers to question the legitimacy of her testimony. Yet when, having implicated herself in Miles’s death, she is taken away in a prison van to be executed, her psychologist briefly hallucinates that the guard is Peter Quint. Such details left me wondering, as the psychologist seemed to be, whether the governess was indeed guilty, or was being prematurely and irrevocably silenced.

The teaser for The Haunting of Bly Manor reprises the eerie O Willow Waly song from The Innocents, paying homage to this foundational adaptation. The line “we lay, my love and I, beneath the weeping willow”, sung in Flora’s (Amelia Bea Smith’s) treble, chillingly captures the novella’s preoccupation with childhood innocence exposed to adult sexuality. In many of the adaptations, these shivers are compounded by our inability to entirely trust what we see, generating unanswered questions that keep the adaptive wheel turning.

We are likely to see many more screen translations, and more of the literary appropriations I discuss in my book, of which AN Wilson’s A Jealous Ghost (2005) and John Harding’s Florence and Giles (2010) are examples. Viewers and readers will continue to find what Virginia Woolf found in 1921: this is a story that “can still make us afraid of the dark”.


The next StokerCon will be held May 20 – 23, 2021 in Denver, Colorado, USA



The internet’s scariest alternate reality game: The devil in New Jersey

by Susan Leighton

The devil is in New Jersey or at least that is what a scary new internet alternate reality game wants you to believe.

The devil has a residence and apparently, it’s in New Jersey. This past weekend, social media has been hooked on a scary new alternate reality game. We even tried it.

A mysterious post featuring a 908-area code telephone number has been making the rounds on Facebook. Random scraps of paper have been left all over various parts of the Garden State encouraging people to call it.

Most of the responses have ranged from people thinking that if you dial the digits you will get a call like in The Ring saying you have seven days to live to others cracking jokes about what could possibly happen. However, in reality, it is the beginning of a scavenger hunt of sorts.

After you call the number, you will hear a busy signal. That fades and then the next thing that happens is a man (who sounds an awful lot like Jeffrey Combs) comes on the line and asks the following eerie question, “Who is the grey man hungry for human flesh?”

This query references the notorious serial killer, Albert Fish a.k.a. “The Brooklyn Vampire.” If you aren’t familiar with his tale, it is a chilling and gruesome one. Fish, who was also known as “The Gray Man,” was a psychopath who lured unsuspecting children to their deaths and then cannibalized them. His life was made into a movie in 2007 starring Patrick Bauchau as the sadomasochistic murderer.

Once you answer correctly via text message, you will be prompted with a video link which takes you here. The film that plays is filled with ancient cartoons and footage of Valentine’s Day cards. Pay close attention to the end of the dialogue because listeners will be asked another question.

Okay, this one is tricky and took some research. It involves a man named Toby Rasputin who is a patient at the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital. He escapes the facility and then hotwires an old pick-up truck. Heading out to County Route 579, the voice asks what is the speed limit so that the fugitive can elude capture and make it to his destination undetected. 65 m.p.h. would be the answer.

Some astute players noticed that in a particular social media post, which can be found at this link, the person behind it is employed at The Basement Escape Room. Which has everyone wondering if this is an inventive advertising campaign for an upcoming virtual event?

If it is, then hats off to the marketing department at The Basement because this is inspired. Check out the following video which is a nice introduction to this haunting ARG.


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