Published by TTA Press
If there’s one publication out there that can always be relied on to consistently deliver the goods, it’s Black Static. A morbid critical will for an issue to come dropping through the letterbox that fails to scratch that spine-chilling urge seems to find itself repeatedly thwarted on a bi-monthly basis, and Issue #36 isn’t content to buck that trend with its deft mix of the visceral, the ghostly, and the metaphorical.
Opening up the fiction in this issue is Jacob A. Boyd’s hugely enjoyable No Kill, No Pay, which, moving from the spectacle of a snow-laden plane crash, enters into a space of more personal musing, melding the supernatural world of lycanthropy with the similar pack hierarchy of the high-flying business world. Looking to join the upper echelons of management, protagonist Howard accepts an invitation from his boss to attend a hunting party at his remote cabin, joined by other members of the supervisory team. The lycanthropic twist isn’t difficult to see coming, but Boyd’s sense of place is impeccable, drawing the snow-covered surroundings and tense survivalist atmosphere with aplomb. Howard’s actions form the core of the tale here and are unlikely to be just what you’re expecting come the jaw-dropping finale.
Stephen Bacon’s Apports weaves a tale of vengeance on both sides of life and death, as a bereaved father figure sets out to deal violent revenge on the man responsible for the death of his girlfriend’s young son in a failed suicide attempt. Tracking down his prey through less-than-legitimate means, our would-be vigilante finds himself coming upon a man already reduced to a state of tortured limbo – trapped in a daily existence from which death would prove a welcome relief. Bacon’s story is a very short one, but all the more effective for it – weaving guilt, grief, existential dismay and realm-breaching rage into a package that will have the hairs on your arms standing up with one simple line: “You should see his face at night. Fucking terrifying.”
Tim Waggoner’s Day 12 reads like an unfilmed episode of “The Twilight Zone” or a forgotten EC Comics entry, recounting the desperate fight of the final survivor trapped on a plane that has seemingly become a living, sentient entity – draining the life force of its passengers as it bids to stay in the air. With his strength waning, our narrator sets about attempting sabotage from within – like a malignant infection in the belly of the beast – but this strange new breed of creature has an immune system of its own: the resurrected corpses of the drained victims still resting in their seats. Waggoner’s tale is well paced, punchy, fantastical and schlocky in just the right manner. Like a weird tale of old, it’s a fine example of horrific escapist fare ending on a pitch-perfect note.
In somewhat of a tonal slip for the issue, we come down from the adrenaline-fueled high of Waggoner’s ending and into Christopher Fowler’s more sombre The Scent of Roses. A marrying of historical reality (the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand) and fiction, Fowler’s entry proves the weaker link in this edition. While undeniably well written, and teeming with guilt and heaviness of the heart, it feels incongruous amidst the other included stories with an ending that is disappointingly flat and predictable in its introduction of supernatural elements.
Heading towards more modern social settings, V. H. Leslie’s Namesake sees a seemingly successful online dating meet-up between relationship seekers J and Andrew taking a trip down a very bleak road with the revelation of a certain secret hidden in the attic of Andrew’s flat. With the constraints of the short format, Leslie puts a good effort into maintaining a slow burn for the initial build-up with demonstrable skill; yet, the emotional lengths to which our leads’ involvement stretches is less than convincing by the time the finish arrives, feeling more hyperbolic than genuine – though it must be said that it doesn’t manage to thwart the bleak brutality of the denouement.
Taking a similarly bleak and realist approach, imbued with the fantastical, is Ray Cluley’s The Festering – easily the darkest and most disturbing entry in this edition of Black Static. A story of a young life ruled and twisted by parental neglect and forced maturity before it’s due, The Festering is unremitting in its desolate outlook on the base functioning of a broken home and the summary effects on the attitude and world view of a barely teenage girl. With the festering of the title being an unsettling representation of hatred, spite and despair made pulsating flesh, Cluley builds to a finale loaded with insidious, low-key malevolence and hopelessness, effective in both a social realist and a genre approach. It’s heavy, challenging and uncompromising stuff, and it’s an excellent piece of work.
Also packing out this issue is a Q&A with author Nina Allen, alongside the usual swathe of quality film and literature reviews. Stephen Volk’s regular column also proves as insightful as is to be expected, and Lynda E. Rucker’s excellent column from Issue 35 reaches its conclusion. It looks like there’s simply no stopping Black Static when it comes to standing as the cream of the crop for bi-monthly genre writing, quite frankly.
Black Static and its sister magazine, Interzone, are available from the TTA Press Online Shop with subscription options available worldwide. Digital editions are available at Amazon UK (below left) and Amazon US (below right). Various book stores across the globe also carry the publication, so be sure to keep an eye out.
4 out of 5
Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review
Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne
Directed by Charles Martin Smith
I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.
Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.
Now let’s get to it.
First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.
Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.
I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.
Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.
It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!
And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.
Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.
This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.
And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.
Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!
In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?
That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.
Rockstar lighting for days.
Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.
Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.
More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.
Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcorn, and if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.
Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.
All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!
Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!
Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.
AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters
Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill
Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk
** NO SPOILERS **
It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.
To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.
That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.
Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.
Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.
Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.
Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.
But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.
But let’s backtrack a bit here.
Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).
And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.
Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.
With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.
Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.
I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.
Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!
Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.
Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?
On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.
That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.
In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.
While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.
Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.
Bring on season 12.
The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.
The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror
Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro
Directed by Nicholas Woods
The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).
The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.
The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.
The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.
The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.
The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.
- Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
- Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
- If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
- “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
- The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
- As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
- “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
- The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
- Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.
SOMA Sailing to Xbox One on December 1
Thelma Is Fantastic and Now You Can Watch the Opening Scene
Award-Winning The Child Remains Playing Tomorrow at the Blood in the Snow Festival
Tony Timpone’s Elegy – AFM: A November to Dismember
Wanna See Something REALLY Scary? Gruesome Demonic Possession Video
Mindhunter Review: The Best Netflix Original Series to Date
Director Says New Suspiria Film Isn’t a Remake
What if the Best Synth Scores Are For Horror Films That Don’t Really Exist?
7 Freddy’s Nightmares Episodes That Should’ve Been Movies
Exclusive: Dark Horse Announces Three New Hellboy Collections and We Have the Covers
Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation – First Trailer and Artwork!
The Walking Dead Season 7 Limited Edition Box Set – Unboxing Video
Desolation Trailer Goes Off Trail
More Exclusive Stills from Devil’s Whisper
Talent to Attend Dread Central’s Bicoastal Screenings for The Night Watchmen Next Week in NY and LA
Join the Box of Dread Mailing List
From Around the Web
News6 days ago
Danielle Harris Tried to Get Jamie Lloyd into New Halloween Movie
News5 days ago
Whatever Happened to Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving?
News4 days ago
Horror Movies to Be Thankful for on Thanksgiving
News4 days ago
Paul Feig On Why His Ghostbusters Reboot Failed
Reviews6 days ago
Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review
News5 days ago
James Cameron’s Terminator Reboot/Sequel Hires Screenwriter
News4 days ago
First Plot Details on Quentin Tarantino’s Sharon Tate Movie
News4 days ago
Three 1970’s Horrors That Remind Us Why We Enjoy Getting Mental at the Movies