A Hauntingly Good Time: Five Indie Novels with Wraiths and Ghosts - Dread Central
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A Hauntingly Good Time: Five Indie Novels with Wraiths and Ghosts

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Generic Ghost

For whatever reason, our society, and popular culture in general, seems preoccupied with death. Whether it’s watching a group of survivors fend off zombie hordes or it’s a rag-tag group of scientists busting ghosts, death is all around us.

Even though this concept is something that humans have had to deal with for literally hundreds of thousands of years, the looming specter of the afterlife permeates everything we do. While we make plans for the future, we all know, in the back of our mind, that we could die at any moment. In fact, I could die ri…

While death comes to us in many forms, one of the most popular methods for showcasing the afterlife is through tales that invoke ghosts or wraiths. Whether it’s talking about ghosts around a campfire or watching eerily convincing paranormal activity videos on YouTube, spiritual beings are a major part of our collective psyche. For that reason, today we’re going to dive into some fantastic ghost stories of which you may or may not have heard.

Strap yourself in, and get ready to cross over. Here are five amazing indie novels that delve into the world of wraiths and ghosts.


Collected Ghost Stories by MR James

Collected-Ghost-Stories-cover

Long before the likes of H.P. Lovecraft or Stephen King came around, there was a man named M.R. James. No, that’s not Mr. James, but rather his initials. Since the early 1900s, James’ work has been printed and published, and it has even gone so far as to influence titans of the horror industry. Perhaps we never would have had a dog named Cujo, or a god named Cthulhu if James hadn’t written so many ghoulish works. This encyclopedic novel showcases some of James’ best works, including A View from a Hill, The Ash Tree, and A School Story. While you may not be familiar with any of those tales, trust me when I say that after reading them you’ll realize where many horror authors got their inspiration.


Dark Matter by Michelle Paver

Dark Matter Cover

If you liked the movie The Thing, then you may like Dark Matter by Michelle Paver. This book is a historical novel that details the exploits of an explorer named Jack, who travels to the Arctic Circle in the name of science. Set in 1937, this book creates incredible tension as Jack soon realizes that the mission has been damned by evil spirits, which forces him to reconcile not only the eternal darkness of the North Pole but also the chilling reality of death. Overall, the setting, tone, and pacing of Dark Matter make it one of the best ghost stories around, even if it doesn’t feature a human head with spider legs bursting out of it.


The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Turn Of The Screw Cover

When you read the synopsis of this novel, it almost seems like the story, which takes place inside a large estate, was the inspiration for a modern horror movie. The tale centers around a governess (nanny) who takes care of a couple of spoiled brats that seem to act out in a very peculiar manner. The nanny soon realizes that she and the children are not alone and that the house is a haven for evil. Unfortunately for her, the kids seem entranced by the dark spirits and don’t want to leave. All in a day’s work, though, we guess. If you like ghosts of the haunted house variety, then The Turn of the Screw is an excellent novel for you. Experience overwhelming dread as the governess slowly realizes that no amount of hazard pay will make up for two kids who want to play with dead people.


The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The haunting of Hill House Cover

If the name of this novel sounds familiar, that’s because this book was the inspiration for a couple of horror films, both creatively titled The Haunting. The last iteration of this story was a Liam Neeson/Catherine Zeta-Jones movie that opened to mixed reviews when it was released in 1999 (almost twenty years ago!!!). Fortunately, however, the reviews of the original book, which debuted all the way back in 1959, are nothing but stellar. For those who haven’t seen the Neeson movie (or the 1963 original), this tale follows a strange doctor who investigates a possible haunting at Hill House. Accompanying him are a diverse group of people, including his assistant, a young woman who has been haunted before, and the heir to Hill House, who presumably doesn’t want to deal with squatting ghosts. The tone and pacing of this novel are superb, and it holds up surprisingly well for a modern audience. If only the film did too…


 Hell House by Richard Matheson

Hell House Cover

From Hill House to Hell House, we finish off our list with yet another haunted dwelling. This time, the place is Belasco House, and much like Shirley Jackson’s tale of unwanted apparitions, Hell House follows a group of investigators hoping to probe the secrets of such a disturbing home. Previous inquiries ended up with murder and mayhem as the grand prize, but will this time be any different? Something tells me you already know the answer, but you’ll have to read it to find out if you’re correct. If you like your ghost stories with a side of blood, guts, and good ole’ fashioned murder, then Hell House is a treat for you and your depraved soul.

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Last Toys on the Left

Funko Giving Jurassic Park the Pop! Treatment as Only They Can

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It is no secret we’re BIG fans of Funko’s Pop! Vinyl line here at DC HQ, and now they’ve announced a new series that has made our hearts just about burst… read on for a look at Pop! Movies: Jurassic Park, heading our way in February. The regular figures are awesome on their own, but wait until you see the exclusives!

From the Funko Blog:
Jurassic Park fans, get excited! To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the iconic film’s appearance on the silver screen, Jurassic Park is coming to Pop!

This series of Pop! features paleontologist Dr. Grant, Jurassic Park CEO John Hammond, mathematician Dr. Malcolm, and embryo-smuggler Dennis Nedry. (Keep an eye out for Dr. Ellie Sattler in Pop! Rides coming soon.)

We couldn’t forget the Jurassic Park dinosaurs! Featured in this line are the great T. rex, Velociraptor, and Dilophsaurus. Look for the Dilophosaurus chase, a rarity of 1-in-6.

Be on the lookout for exclusives. At Target you can find a wounded Dr. Malcolm, and the Dennis Nedry and Dilophosaurus 2-pack is available only at Entertainment Earth.

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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

Directed by Colin Bemis


Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

  • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
3.5

Summary

Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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