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Feast of Frights from the Horror Zine, A (Book)

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Horror ZineEdited by Jeani Rector and Dean H. Wild

Foreword by Ramsey Campbell

Published by The Horror Zine


Jeani Rector’s The Horror Zine returns with another collection of stories, articles, poetry, and artwork in A Feast of Frights. Their previous compilation, What Fears Become (review here), was a very solid collection with some flaws. I’m glad to say that this collection is better, even if some of the flaws do remain.

The biggest improvement is in the stories. It’s very hard to find a short story collection that doesn’t have some clunkers, but this one is solid throughout. There’s not a bad or misplaced tale in the book. As before, Rector has chosen well-know writers such as Graham Masterton and Joe R. Lansdale and mixed in new or lesser-known authors, focusing on the quality of the work rather than the strength of the name. It’s a wise choice because some of the best stories are from the lesser-known authors.

“Filmland” by Stewart Horn is one of my favorites. An odd tale about reality and fantasy colliding, it made me want more tales in its universe. “The Dead Wall” by Michael Wolf packs a big punch in a very few pages with a tale that would fit well in the pages of EC comics back in the days of the Cryptkeeper.

The bigger names don’t fail us, however. “The Story of My First Kiss” by three-time Stoker nominee Jeff Strand is my absolute favorite tale in the book. It’s delightfully twisted, wickedly funny, and completely warped. Genre vet Ed Gorman contributes a sweet, sad tale of fandom and fame colliding in “Scream Queen”. The only horror it offers is the real kind, the kind that comes when you watch lives and relationships come apart.

One of my main gripes with What Fears Become was the art section. The art on the Horror Zine site is amazing. It just doesn’t translate given the way these books are published. Downsized, black and white, with a shabby dot-matrix-like printing method, the pieces just aren’t done any justice at all. Thankfully, the art section here has been reduced to just a couple of pages and mostly replaced with a new section, a collection of articles.

Unfortunately, this new section contains the only real missteps of the collection. While some of the articles are interesting and themed appropriately, especially John Gilmore’s discussion of his relationship with Elizabeth “The Black Dahlia” Short, others are just completely out of place. Kasey Lansdale, as I understand it, is quite an excellent country singer. However, other than being Joe R. Lansdale’s daughter, I have no idea why an article discussing her life and history in music would interest prospective readers of this collection. There are a couple other similar examples, but suffice it to say that while it’s better than the botched art gallery in the first collection, it still needs some refinement to justify its inclusion here.

A poetry section is included as well, and as before it’s hit and miss. I find poetry incredibly hard to critique to any value, as all I can really say is if it’s incredible or terrible. It’s so subjective. Best I can say is that this collection has nothing I found incredible and nothing I found terrible.

Closing out the collection is the Editor’s Corner, a section of pieces by Rector and her co-editor, Dean H. Wild. Both of Rector’s tales are solid, and Wild’s contribution, “The Bond”, is extremely creepy. All three are a good way to close out this collection.

With A Feast of Frights we have another strong collection of material from The Horror Zine. While the sections that don’t feature short fiction are the weak points, even removing them entirely, there’s still enough value here to recommend a purchase. It’s a good short story collection with some extras that are so/so. Buy it for the stories; read the extras if you like.

3 1/2 out of 5

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Us and Them Review – Fantastic Acting Bolsters a Tense Standoff

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Starring Jack Roth, Andrew Tiernan, Tim Bentinck, Sophie Colquhoun

Written by Joe Martin

Directed by Joe Martin


The age old debate of “Is this movie actually horror?” has been around for decades and will probably carry on for the rest of eternity. As Kristy Puchko recently tweeted, “Just because you think it’s also art doesn’t mean it’s not horror. It just means your definition of “horror” is too damn narrow.” Horror should be able to cast a wide net, just as films in the comedy and drama genres are able to. Where that goes awry is when a film simply doesn’t know its own identity, as is the case with Joe Martin’s feature-length directorial debut Us and Them.

The film follows Danny (Roth), a young man struggling in his lower class status and bristling with untapped rage at the 1% who use the downtrodden as footstools for their enterprises. Hatching a plan with his pals Tommy and Sean to break into the home of a wealthy banker, that scheme quickly becomes unraveled as thread after thread beings unraveling from the original tapestry. Determined but without a Plan B, Danny attempts to use the opportunity to drive home a message to the masses via social media to show that the 99% need to rise up against the 1% and create, as he says, some consistency. But as tensions arise within Danny, Tommy, and Sean, it’s questionable whether or not the night will end in triumphant rebellion or sadistic revenge.

Clocking in at a lean 83 minutes, Us and Them doesn’t waste any time getting straight to the point. Within the first few minutes, we’re already deep mix and ready to watch Danny take on the “man”, to see him wage war against the establishment. But as the film goes on, his mission begins to feel empty as his lack of a plan is mirrored by the misdirection of his anger towards a family that, for all intents and purposes, might be snobbish but haven’t been shown to hurt anyone personally.

This resulting conflict then raises questions about the greater fight that Danny has decided to undertake and champion. Who is the real villain of this story? Who is the hero? Who are we even supposed to care one bit about? While Danny spouts on and on about the injustices of the world, his tortuous methods are cruel and manipulative, undermining his own self-righteousness.

Us and Them practically screams its Ritchie, Tarantino, and de Palma influences. From split screen scenes to “hip” and “cool” licensed background music, Martin clearly wants to be seen in the same realm. The problem is that his script leaps around with reckless abandon in an attempt to overly explain the simple story instead of finding ways to break it into new and exciting territory.

Despite these issues, it must be said that the performances are fantastic across the board. Roth shines as Danny, torn by his own personal griefs that can easily draw sympathy, while Bentinck’s almost frothing, slobbering disdain splashes across the screen. Even with only a few lines each, both Colquhoun as Phillipa and Carolyn Backhouse, who plays her mother, Margaret, revel in their terror. And while I have my critiques about the violence Danny inflicts, I cannot deny that it is brutal and makes for a squeamish experience. Martin milks every drop of the family’s fear to great effect.

While Us and Them comes at a time when financial inequality is undeniably an issue, the film loses its purpose just as it fails to cement itself as a heist thriller, a horror home invasion, or even a black comedy. Its unwillingness to embrace any, or even all, of these genres makes it a lacking film experience.

  • Us and Them
2.5

Summary

Us and Them is anchored by stellar performances, Roth especially, but it can’t decide what it wants to be or whom it wants to champion.

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SockMonster Short Film Review – The Day The Laundry Fought Back

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Starring Briana Evigan, Derek Mears, Soso Bianchi

Directed by Wesley Alley


While some might detest the prospect of doing laundry, I personally find it quite therapeutic – the act of separating the whites from the colors, the perfect amount of detergent to spruce up that awkwardly funky favorite shirt of yours, and then there’s the dryer…a beast all its own. Too long a cycle will have your garments shrunken down to the point where they could become a fashion accessory for a chihuahua – too short will have them wet, wrinkled and limp to the touch, kind of like grandma tucked away in the basement – okay, forget that last part. But what if one day, your laundry had just enough of your shit and decided to strike back in blinding semblance?

Enter Wesley Alley’s short film, SockMonster – produced by Darren Lynn Bousman, this 4 minute front-row seat to “laundrycide” if you will stars Briana Evigan as a grieving woman who looks longingly into the tumbling cylinder of her cellar dryer, almost as if something of hers has gone missing. Crouched on a cold-slab cement floor, she awaits for the door to open as soon as the appliance has run its course…and the results are less than spring-fresh. Alley’s direction coupled with the horror know-how of Bousman all add up to a seriously fun few minutes, and toss in the towering, menacing form of one Derek Mears, and you’ve got yourself an insanely concocted quickie that only has one glaring negative – it’s too damn short! Overall, I can’t recommend this one enough to those wanting a little blood with their bleach…just make sure to use the appropriate amount of stain-lifter, or that shit will NEVER come out.

  • Film
4.0

Summary

Hate doing the wash? Well, maybe for one hot minute did you think about how much your wash hates you right back?

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep159 – Demons at the Door

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For the last year, Producer Shane has been bugging the shit out of us to give him a “Producer Shane Pick”. After doing everything in our power to get him to forget about “his pick” Shane got his wish. This week we’re discussing 2004’s Demons at the Door, a movie who’s entire soundtrack is provided by none other than the Insane Clown Posse. Yup, it’s gonna be one of those shows!

You think you’ve got what it takes? I’ve been guarding my gate for a long time, bitch. It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 159!

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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