Well, October certainly came on fast.
I spent a big chunk of the summer working in northwestern Ontario. It’s a beautiful part of the country, with vast forests and countless lakes and inlets dotted with campgrounds and lodges. (I was reminded of a certain type of eighties movie we all love). I saw lots of wildlife, including a moose on the highway, a bald eagle perched on top of our office, and a black bear fifteen feet from me on the downtown sidewalk.
Oh, and did I mention that our office was haunted? So yeah, I had a blast.
On the road, I was also pleased to drive by both an Elm Street and a Camp Crystal Lake. Which was pretty apt, considering slashers seemed to be the theme of the summer.
Grady Hendrix and Stephen Graham Jones both released slasher novels, Candyman and the Fear Street trilogy were the most talked-about movies of the season, and synth-pop band CHVRCHES even put out an album called Screen Violence with a song entitled “Final Girl.”
The serendipity of it all motivated me to finally finish the slasher tribute flash fiction story I’d been playing with forever (which you can read below).
Read on, if you dare, for:
- My thoughts on The Final Girl Support Group, My Heart is a Chainsaw, Night of the Mannequins, etc.;
- Reviews of Candyman and Nicolas Cage’s insane new movie;
- New music you should be listening to;
- Photos from Northern Ontario (including a giant musky)
New Story: Final Girls Anonymous
The survivors of a murderous woodsman accept an invitation to a mysterious healing retreat…what’s the worst that could happen?
I assure you, this isn’t a rip-off of The Final Girl Support Group. (It’s also not as good, but hey, it’s flash fiction). I came up with the concept of this story several years ago and have been fiddling with it ever since. I initially conceived it as a quick 500-word thing, considered expanding it into something much longer, and finally compromised with myself on this 1500-word version.
Read it here! If you dare, I guess.
Old Story: In the Death House [Weird Mask]
My short story “In the Death House” was reprinted this summer in Weird Mask‘s big 25th issue.
This one has a sort of old-timey vibe (think Weird Tales or Hammer Horror), with a grisly twist.
The issue also reprints my poem “U.F.O. Ridge,” which is one of my absolute favourites.
You can buy it here.
Grady Hendrix – The Final Girl Support Group (Penguin Random House)
A killer targets final girls in this action-packed feminist take on slasher tropes. Hendrix, as usual, assembles a cast of flawed but sympathetic female characters, from hard-drinking Texas debutante (and chainsaw massacre survivor) Marilyn to unstable Heather, who escaped from the Freddy-esque “Dream King.”
Heather’s monster is the only supernatural slasher of the lot, although we only get a few tantalizing hints of his true nature. Hendrix, after all, is more interested in the survivors. He also avoids the low-hanging fruit of having his final girls picked off by a stereotypical masked killer, instead concocting a mysterious conspiracy.
Stephen Graham Jones – My Heart is a Chainsaw (Simon & Schuster)
The book is essentially Jones’ version of Scream, a mystery slasher about people who know they’re in one.
The story is built upon nightmare logic and told in the voice of a horror-obsessed teenager who is the first to suspect a slasher may be loose in her town.
Jade is a fantastic protagonist, and Jones serves up red herrings by the jarful, with no character (living or dead) above suspicion.
In anticipation of My Heart is a Chainsaw, I went on a bit of a Stephen Graham Jones kick and read the following:
Stephen Graham Jones – Night of the Mannequins (Tor.com)
It seems like a premise fit for a Goosebumps book: After a prank involving a department store dummy goes wrong, a teenager sees the jilted mannequin get up and walk. But as Jones’ protagonist takes disturbing steps to end the dummy’s rampage, the story morphs into an intimate slasher.
Stephen Graham Jones – Zombie Sharks With Metal Teeth (Lazy Fascist)
An eclectic group of stories, most crossing well into bizarro territory. The must-read here is “Sea of Intranqulity,” a sci-fi noir that reads like a more outlandish version of the classic Heavy Metal story “The Long Tomorrow.”
Stephen Graham Jones – Attack of the 50 Foot Indian (Simon & Schuster)
Exactly what the title suggests, rife with Jones’ trademark wit and rapid-fire dialogue. I laughed out loud a bunch of times, particularly a passage in which a group of interpreters hired by the US government bicker about the giant’s fate: “He’s not a turtle in an aquarium.” “Turtles go in terrariums.”
Candyman (dir. Nia DaCosta)
This sequel to the 1992 classic expands the mythos of the original in interesting ways, even if it doesn’t totally connect all of its narrative threads. Candyman (2021) boasts dynamic characters and a smart script that comments on trauma, violence, and the stories we tell about it. Candyman’s first kill (which sees the spirit stalking through an art gallery, hook hand slicing through a projector slide, causing the screen on the opposite wall to be slashed in half) does more than establish him as an unstoppable force; it cleverly represents the film’s preoccupations with history and the subjectivity of image.
Admittedly, the rest of the murders leave something to be desired; while stylishly shot, they tend to lack the tension and speed that make good slashers crackle. The film’s final scenes, however, are immensely satisfying.
Prisoners of the Ghostland (dir. Sion Sono)
I got back to Ottawa in time to catch this one at The Mayfair, and it’s the kind of movie I’m glad I saw with a game crowd.
This deranged samurai-western is like a mashup of Mandy, Mad Max, Escape from New York, and Army of Darkness, with side of Kill Bill and The Hills Have Eyes.
We get peak Nic Cage here, owning each bit of weirdo dialogue, and horror icon Bill Mosley (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, The Devil’s Rejects) steals every scene as the lecherous Governor.
The Mayfair crowd, for what it’s worth, delightedly scream-laughed the whole way through, and applauded as the credits rolled.
This movie is more bizarre than I can convey in writing and I’m so glad it exists.
New Music Showcase:
CHVRCHES – “How Not to Drown” ft. Robert Smith
I dug the horror movie vibes on this record, and CHVRCHES really turn up the goth vibes on this one.
Billy Talent – “End of Me” ft. Rivers Cuomo
If you ever wanted to know what Billy Talent doing Weezer (or vice versa) would sound like, here you go! It’s an earworm.
Snotty Nose Rez Kids – “Wild Boy” ft. Polo Brian
If these recent singles are any indication, the new SNRK album is going to be epic.
I’ll probably add a few more spooky books to my TBR for Halloween season, but this is what I’ve been digging into lately:
- Roland Blackburn – Seventeen Names for Skin (Weirdpunk Books)
- Algernon Blackwood – Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories (Penguin)
- Shirley Jackson – The Lottery and Other Stories (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
- Ed. Kevin Eastman – Heavy Metal: Greatest Hits (Heavy Metal Magazine)
- Jody Wilson Raybould – The Indian in the Cabinet (HarperCollins)