I’ve been working a lot lately. Between the job that pays my bills and all the freelance work I’ve been picking up, I’ve had quite a bit on my plate and I just keeping adding to it. Lately, there have been lots of books about screenwriting and the philosophy of horror. Wanting to move forward in my career while taking it to a new level, I also want to preserve a measure of artistic integrity inside the gruff, sarcastic humor that pervades everything I write. The Screenwriter’s Bible has proven to be a huge benefit, helping me to understand style, format, and structuring while Thinking Horror: Volume One and Horror Philosophy have been making me think about the why behind scary stories. What is it that makes us crave fear and is it possible that all fiction is in itself a subgenre of horror? Both books have brought up wonderfully curious thoughts and ideas in my head. I also read my first manga this past week, a collection of several horror stories by Junji Ito titled Tomie.
Tomie is a masterpiece of bizarre, brutal horror surrounding a horrific creature that looks like a gorgeous young girl. She exudes some sort of unnatural power over men of all ages, making them fall so desperately in love with her that they become her slaves until, too jealous and obsessed with the notion that she could become the object of another’s affection, they chop her up into pieces. This is exactly what Tomie wants, however, as she is a virulent sort of creature who uses these acts of rage and murder to spread and propagate, each broken bit of her body eventually regenerating into a fully realized Tomie. The only thing more terrifying than the creature itself is the artwork that brings her to life. The style is visceral, unnerving, and beautiful all at once. It catches the eye and holds the reader in place, desperate to flip the page to reveal the next work of art and the story it tells.
My serialized adaptation of Ed Wood’s classic Z movie bomb, Plan 9 from Outer Space started it’s initial run on the film’s 58th anniversary.
Author’s Note: This story is meant as a tribute to Ed Wood’s unfortunate classic Plan 9 from Outer Space. Recognized by many as one of the worst films ever made, I’ll offer no argument defending the production. The execution of the story was abysmal, however, the story itself was ahead of its time in some regards. This is a tribute to what could have been the greatest science fiction horror classic of Hollywood’s Golden Age. I’ve taken exceptional liberties with character and location, however, the overall story remains the same.
Plan 9 – The belief that humanity must be shocked into acknowledging that it is a danger to itself and the greater universal community. The penultimate solution to the “human problem.”
What you are about to read is a warning issued to us by intelligences far beyond what you or I would commonly be able to understand; a sentience beyond comprehension. It is a warning for the present that speaks of a grim future should we refuse to bring about a change in ourselves and our societies. The story has been hyperbolized, fictionalized and embellished where needed to protect those who suffered through the horrifying encounter, who endured the crucible and lived to share a message not only of terror but of hope.
It was like something out of a nightmare. The monitor flickered with images, from grainy black and white to high definition color of some of mankind’s greatest hits. War, famine, pestilence and genocide blazed in shades so vivid and tangible that it was almost nauseating. Pundits and priests in every spoken language cast blame and flowed their hate filled rhetoric in a torrent through television signals and radio broadcasts towards the steadily growing flames charring the edges of society. Ghetto scenes and slums littered in half-starved bodies gave way to evangelicals in stadium sized chapels demanding money for gods who had never done anything to help those suffering masses, gave way still to rioting in the streets and impulse buy ads for the latest smart phone. It was a sickening parade of greed and cruelty that made the Observer ill. With a long, slender arm it reached up to the dial beside the screen and gradually muted the brightness until it was transparent.
The lower appendages lifted it up until it stood nearly as tall as the ceiling. The Observer was monolithic while standing, a collection of thin, branching pieces that formed legs, arms, and fins to help it move through the confines of the craft. It was a deep maroon color except for the places near each joint and knuckle where jeweled in clusters of shimmering eyes that monitored everything around it. From somewhere within the confederation of moving pieces, a croaking, gurgling noise began to reverberate. From a low growl to a terrifying roar it raged to itself over what it had witnessed. Its lower extremities clattered and clicked carrying it fluidly through the sharply angled corridors towards the center chamber of the vessel. Climbing along tiers within the center of the craft, it reached a honeycombed chamber where dozens of other, similar creatures had woven themselves together into an even larger mass.
The Observer’s limbs began to separate, its body unwinding as it wove itself into the tangled assemblage of its crewmates, of the other portions of itself that were at once individual and a part of the collective whole. Within minutes the entire vessel rang with the agonized, guttural howling that had first filled the observation room as memories of what had just been seen carried their way through the branching sameness of the homogenous cluster. The decision was immediate and unanimous. The vessel lurched once then began its descent into the atmosphere. If humanity was so keen on inflicting horror upon itself, the Observer would bring them great joy.
I have found quite a few lazy typos that I left in Act 1 so part of the next few weeks will be devoted to cleaning those up and correcting them. I’m writing the chapters as flash fiction length pieces, around 1,000 words Act 2 of Plan 9 should be up on 52 Weeks of Horror later next month.
Meanwhile, researching an article for Psycho Drive-In’s Page to Screen column, I came across Peter Crowther’s short story Eater about a Creole killer with supernatural powers and a rookie cop tasked with stopping him. I recognized the story from the short lived 2007 horror anthology Fear Itself but what I didn’t realize is that the Duffer Brothers (Stranger Things) also did a short film adaptation of it the same year. Once the story is read, I’ll be comparing both adaptations to see how they compare and contrast to the source material. I’ve always loved seeing what makes the cut and what gets left behind when a story is adapted to the screen, not to mention the sort of artistic liberties that filmmakers take when making that leap from the page.
At 52 Weeks of Horror I had the opportunity to interview directors and writers from two of my favorite budding new franchises. Ben Rock and Bob DeRosa of the horror-comedy web series 20 Seconds to Live took some time to talk to me about the unique premise behind their show and what the future holds as Season Two kicks off. You can read the full interview here and make sure to subscribe to the Ariescope YouTube channel which is a proud host to this unique series.
I also got the chance to talk to director/writer Lowell Dean who created the phenomenal, 80’s styled B horror Wolfcop and the upcoming sequel Another Wolfcop.
What’s better than a schlocky, B horror extravaganza? A schlocky, B horror extravaganza with a bizarre, sarcastic sense of humor and a -barely- functional alcoholic police officer/werewolf as the lead character. I first experienced Wolfcop in early 2016 streaming it off of Amazon and I wasn’t totally sold before I hit play. The cover art was cool and it looked like it had that 80’s B horror style but looks can be deceiving. What followed, however, absolutely obliterated any doubts I had about this being, quite possibly, the best werewolf movie since Ginger Snaps. The writing was on point, the acting solid, and the story was entertaining and kept me hooked right from the start. The gore, sarcasm, and beautifully crafted practical effects were all just icing on the cake. Now, three years after its initial production in 2014, the highly anticipated sequel Another Wolfcop is coming out and writer/director Lowell Dean was kind enough to take time out from what is no doubt a hectic schedule to talk about everyone’s favorite lycanthropic lush.
DAN – I’m going to start out with that old gem every writer will hear at least once in their career: where did the idea (for Wolfcop) come from?
LD – Ah, yes. The age old question. A few years back, I was trying to decide between writing a cop film and a werewolf film. The idea of smashing both concepts together was too good to resist.
Unfortunately, the week wasn’t as light hearted and exciting as it could have been, despite the impending torrent of trailers and announcements that would come from San Diego Comic Con. George A. Romero, Godfather of Gore and Father of the Modern Zombie Movie, passed away at the age of 77 while still in production on what will now be his final film, Road of the Dead.
Horror has seen a renaissance in the last century that has pushed it from an obscure, almost taboo lust shared by a small group of fringe fetishists to a truly vibrant and thriving subculture around the globe. No one has done more to shape this terrifying landscape than legendary filmmaker George A. Romero. I was eight when I saw his seminal classic, Night of the Living Dead for the first time. I’m hard pressed to think of any intangible thing that ever frightened me more. And yet, for the horror I felt there was this giddy curiosity as well. By my early 20s I’d become a devotee of monster movies and those shambling, inarticulate, instinctually homicidal ghouls became the inspiration for my very first published short story.
Romero himself had been inspired by Richard Matheson’s novella I Am Legend in which a disease turns the entire human population into bloodsick vampires. It would become the Vincent Price classic The Last Man on Earth and would inspire a young Romero to make an independent film on the outskirts of Philadelphia that would change history. The nation was embroiled in turmoil. The Civil Rights movement was battling against long held racist principles while Cold War hysteria had left Americans fighting and dying in a seemingly unwinnable war in Vietnam. The psychedelic movement was calling into question old social norms and the world itself seemed to be spinning out of control.
Meanwhile, I continued the parade of disappointment that followed Romero’s passing by seeing the film adaptation of the French sci-fi/fantasy adventure Valerian and Laureline. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was a visually stunning but narratively insipid take on this cartoon classic that, simply put, couldn’t decide on a story to tell.
Pandering. Pedantic. Just a couple of dressy words to help you understand the faux intellectual travesty that is most of the dialogue and story of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
I wanted so badly to like this movie. The visuals were stunning, reminiscent of another science-fiction epic by Luc Besson, The Fifth Element, with a plethora of inventive-looking aliens and concepts based on the equally inventive (and delightfully campy) science fiction/fantasy comic series Valerian and Laureline from the early ’70s. What could have easily been the best genre film of the decade became another completely forgettable film in a slew of big-budget summer blockbusters over the last few years designed to appease a demographic of self-involved, pseudo socially conscious hipsters and high school-aged Millennials.
The story, itself, focuses on Valerian and Laureline, a couple of federal agents in a paramilitary organization responsible for the protection of the various races (mostly humanity, though) living aboard the gargantuan space station, Alpha, drifting aimlessly through the cosmos. Played by Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne, the duo are more like Gap models or Twilight extras dressed in leftover wardrobe from Besson’s 1999 cult sci-fi classic and dropped into the middle of a highly developed and woefully under-explored world. With acting as unemotive and inexpressive as the homogeneous and forgettable characters themselves, we have Valerian, who is supposed to be a suave, confident and highly skilled agent of the Human Federation (don’t worry, I’m coming back to that name), who instead gives us a slightly rapey, chauvinistic Keanu Reeves impersonation. But that’s OK, because Laureline, a highly skilled, highly educated and strong independent woman comes off as an equally emotionless, Kristen Stewart/Bella Swan lacky and Girl Friday, who spends the entire movie chasing after Valerian, only to become the damsel in distress needing him to rescue her again and again.
This weekend I announced that I will be starting a podcast here on this blog. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while but, until recently, I wasn’t sure what the format would be or what my goal was. The goal itself is pretty clear, though, being another vehicle to self market and advertise the work I am doing from this page and the others that I write for. As for the formatting, each episode will consist of myself an a guest or guests from the creative and horror communities in and around Nashville discussing topics about horror, science fiction, gaming, fandom and anything else that we might find amusing during an hour long bull session. And, of course, keeping up my personal tradition of being both salty as hell and broke, I present to you:
Still gearing up for Dragon Con in September as well as recently teaming up with some talented people in the area on a horror short film script to eventually use as a pitch for a feature length film. The script is still being drafted and worked on so it will be months yet before anything is really out there to officially share, but I can tell you that it looks damned fine. Working on a second edition and print run of Those Things”ll Kill Ya’ and a new short fiction collection, Random Fears, but I have no idea when I will be done with those at the moment. I’ll probably have another, slightly smaller update towards the end of the week but, until then, stay spooky.