Serial Saturday Update and Happy Halloween!

So as some of you may know, I was away from home last weekend, which is why there was no upload/blog post, but I’m back now and likely to remain firmly rooted to my home until after the holidays, because holiday travel sucks. The one great thing about chronic illness is that I always have that crutch to fall back on as an excuse why I can’t go see anyone, when the reality is, I’d just really, really rather stay home and drink cocoa and watch TV.

Drats. My secret is out.

 

I have to admit, I feel a little bad for all the traveling I did, because even though I had a BLAST seeing my friends and getting up to shenanigans, I had plans for all the spooky blogging I was going to do this month and pretty much bailed on most of it. Still, I have one more chance, so let’s talk about my favorite Horror movies.

I was going to make this list about my favorite HALLOWEEN movies, which is a completely different thing from HORROR movies. Nightmare Before Christmas is not a scary movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it just wouldn’t be Halloween without it. Or Christmas. Or Easter. Oh hell, who am I kidding? I watch that movie at least once a week. And still wave my arms during the La-la-las. So don’t look at this list to plan your Halloween party, because you’re not going to find Ghostbusters or Sleepy Hollow. Also don’t look at this list to find critically acclaimed films like It Follows. In my unpopular opinion, a good horror movie isn’t supposed to make you think, it’s supposed to look behind you when you know damned well you’re alone in that long, dark, dimly lit hall. And again, there are ten items on this list for the simple reason that ten is a nice round number for a list, and they are not structured in any particular order.

Ringu/The Ring

I might as well start off with another unpopular opinion, just to let y’all know who you’re dealing with, and say that I do not prefer one over the other. To me, a movie is not inherently ‘better’ just because it came first, or because it’s in subtitles…or because it’s in English or because it may have more money thrown at production. Horror is built out of the harmonious juxtaposition of atmosphere, acting and a solid story. Both Ringu and The Ring score high on those fronts. They are NOT interchangeable, but they are both damned good movies. And the movie is freaking terrifying. It combines so many of my least favorite things: grotesque immortality, little kids, and technology. Plus, no spoilers, but the way the little boy asks his mother, “Why did you do that?” will NEVER not give me chills. It is the ultimate kick in the gut feeling, when you think you done right, but you really fucked up. Big time.

Ju-on/The Grudge

I swear this is not going to just be a list of Japanese horror films, although I probably could do one. Without even looking over at my DVD collection, certain flicks leap to mind: Audition, Suicide Club, the Guinea Pig series, Marebito, Dark Water, Kwaidan…but no. We are just going to focus on a few movies that fucked me up and left a lasting emotional scar, and man, this one was THE ONE. Although I saw The Grudge before I saw Ju-on, and technically it is the one that really got into my head, I have the feeling it’s only because I saw it first and not because it’s ‘better’. Really, as with the above entry, I do not favor one over the other…for the first film. Honestly, the American sequels are HOT GARBAGE, but I could binge-watch Ju-on movies all night and even if none of them have quite the same punch as the first one, they ALL bring something disturbing to the table.

The guests that want to sit at the table are even more disturbing.

Jeepers Creepers

I’m going to take some flack for this, but whatever. It’s a fun horror movie, with one of the best modern movie monsters. I don’t know, there’s just something about that reveal of his House of Pain…the time it must have taken to do it…the artistry…the planning…The Creeper himself never speaks, so those scenes are all we get of his personality. I find that kind of atmospheric storytelling fascinating. Even the sequel is pretty good (although the third one is only just barely Meh). Also, this was the first movie I had seen in a long time (I saw it in 2001) to really effortlessly blend horror and humor. Prior to Jeepers Creepers, horror and humor were more along the Nightmare on Elm Street path, with a Bad Guy cracking wise in between slaughtering teens, and yeah, that was also pretty groundbreaking in its time, but it gets old fast when either the monster (or the joke writer) can’t pull it off. The Creeper never speaks at all, but he clearly has a sense of humor, one born of tremendous age and (over)confidence. That was fun. The protagonists also had some humorous moments (most memorably the line: “You know that part in the movie where the hero does something stupid and everyone hates them for it? THIS IS IT!”) but NOT to an unrealistic degree, where they end up cracking jokes where screams are more appropriate. I wouldn’t see that happen again with the same success until Cabin In the Woods.

The House on Haunted Hill (1999)

I have said before that on certain movies, when it comes to remakes, I don’t value one over the other. They may be very different movies, but they can both be very good. However, on certain OTHER movies…Okay, real talk here. A lot of older movies, classic movies, movies that are usually upheld as the gold standard to which all modern movies are held to and fall short of…these are terrible movies. I’m sorry, but they are. And the original The House on Haunted Hill is a prime example of a truly, TRULY terrible horror movie. Watch it without the nostalgia glasses and it’s got a solid zero, with not a single shiver of fear to be wrung from it, no matter how high you are. It’s just a bad movie. Now watch the 1999 remake. Still a bad movie, but bad in a glorious, fun, spooky way. There’s Geoffrey Rush, pretending to be Vincent Price, sniping away at Famke Janssen in some of the best bitchy love-to-hate-you dialogue ever put on screen. There’s GREAT atmosphere, a splash of gore and a smidge of humor. Plus Sweet Dreams, which was my introduction to Marilyn Manson, back in the day.

The Thing (1982)

For the longest time in the dark ages before internet, I thought I had imagined this movie. We used to rent movies almost every weekend, and it is no exaggeration to say that I saw every horror movie rented by every shop within 10 miles of my house. That’s probably not as impressive as it sounds, since we were rural, but still, I saw a LOT of horror movies and The Thing was SO different, SO intense and completely mind-blowing, that I seriously thought I had to have dreamed it. It wasn’t until the SyFy Channel’s….Was it the SyFy Channel?…I don’t know, but SOME basic cable channel released their version of the 100 best horror movies of all time and I watched that thing and wrote them all down, just in case there was one I missed (their taste was debatable; the original The House on Haunted Hill was on there, as was the original Haunting of Hill House, and both are extremely unscary), and The Thing was there. And it all came flooding back to me. By then, of course, the internet WAS a thing, and I immediately got a DVD and watched it again, and what do you know? That movie is STILL freaking terrifying. It’s probably even worse, now that I’m old enough to really appreciate the mounting paranoia as much as the jaw-dropping effects (and they still hold up. I don’t hate on CGI, as a rule, but when I watch The Thing’s prequel, there is really NO comparison).

Alien

Man, it’s hard to find a good horror alien movie. There are plenty of intense sci-fi movies with aliens, and plenty of soft sci-fantasy monster movies, but sitting here in my living room, staring at my massive DVD collection, I genuinely cannot think of another really good, scary horror movie with aliens. 10 Cloverfield Lane was amazing, but more of a psychological thriller, as the aliens were just tacked on at the end. The Fourth Kind was awesome, but doesn’t really hold up to repeated viewing. The Thing is obviously incredible, since it’s on this list, but it’s less an ‘alien’ movie and more of a ‘monster’ movie. Alien is one of a very, very few movies that solidly embraces both its sci-fi and horror elements equally. The result feels like a haunted house movie in space, and it’s freaking amazing, STILL, after all these years. It’s a slow burn, but once the alien bursts onto the scene (heh), it does not let up until the credits roll.

Even this adorable little fella is still pretty awful. (And yes, I own one) 

Train to Busan

I only saw this movie a month or two ago, having heard about it for two years. I admit, I put off seeing it because of my disappointment with certain other overhyped STD PSAs masquerading as horror movies. And I want to be very clear about something right up front: I’m not a fan of zombie movies. I’d probably have trouble coming up with a list of even ten good ones. Just ten! Out of the hundreds, nay, thousands of zombie movies that exist. They’re the U-bend of the horror toilet, where the very worst crap collects. Alas, my problem is, I know that when they’re done right, they can be amazing, so I keep watching them and they keep being generally boring and unimaginative, and I have to sit and seethe my way through them, slowly building up scorn and frustration until I explode in a 600 page rant that somehow turns into my best-selling book. But seriously, Train to Busan is an awesome zombie movie, combining 28 Days Later and Snakes On A Plane into a genuinely scary and weirdly emotional movie.

The Fly (1986)

I know what I said about those nostalgia glasses, and I’m aware that much of my love for this movie comes from the fact that it was my introduction to my favorite horror movie genre–body horror–but even so, I can watch this movie again right this instant and still get the chills. Okay, the special effects are showing some age, but they’re not unwatchable. I’ve seen plenty of worse effects in way more recent movies (looking at you, The Mummy II). Also, the concept of the movie is still pretty terrifying to me. Brundle wasn’t ‘wrong’. He wasn’t even doing anything particularly hinky in his experiments. He wasn’t ‘asking for it’ and he didn’t ‘deserve’ it. A fly got in the pod. That’s it. That’s all. A fly got in. Do you know how many times a fly has gotten into my house and I didn’t know it? Like, a lot of times! And the only reason my face didn’t fall off is because I wasn’t testing teleportation pods at the time! There’s a big deal made out of the fact that Brundle wasn’t ready to test and didn’t have permission, or whatever, but honestly, this could have happened anywhere. Flies get in. That’s what they do.

Martyrs

I don’t have any other what I would consider ‘gore’ movies on this list, because for the most part, a gore movie doesn’t have anything else to carry it except that squick-factor. Braindead (Dead/Alive) is a GREAT movie and I love it (watched it last week, in fact, out of sentiment), but it only works on that level. It’s not a horror movie in the sense that I don’t feel horror at any point watching it, or terror or even suspense. I’m just giggly and grossed out. Great movie, again, I’m not bashing it, but it’s not a horror movie. There are, of course, fantastic thinking-man’s gore movies, like Drag Me to Hell, Cabin Fever, and Hostel. These are primarily there for the gross out, but also have a story to tell and tap into a very real fear (eating disorders, infection and abduction). Then you have movies like Saw, with the concept of torture used as an instrument of rehabilitation, or, more accurately, used by someone who genuinely believes that’s what they’re doing, and that is one hell of a difference. If, on the thinking-man’s gore spectrum, Hostel is a 1 and Saw is a 5, then Martyrs is a solid 10. The horror is there from the start, as a fairly standard abduction movie, and then comes the torture porn, but it’s the ending that really elevates this movie to an art.

Jaws

Man, there was a rousing debate here in the ol’ Smomestead tonight, trying to decide what was ‘horror’ as opposed to merely ‘suspense’ or ‘scary’, but the one film that everyone agreed should make this list was Jaws. In a lot of ways, it hits the same notes as The Fly. It’s not a monster. Its victims don’t ‘deserve’ to die. Ignoring the sequels, it’s not malicious or vengeful or even all that smart. It’s just a big, hungry shark. And it’s the reason my sister wouldn’t go into the ocean, lakes, creeks, public swimming pools or large mud puddles until she was 30. And as much as I tease her about that, I have to admit, that when that movie comes on, no matter where or how far into the film it is, I stop and watch it. It not only still holds up after all these years, but still GRIPS. And it’s one of the few movies where I can honestly say it’s better than the book.

 

Making this list has been a challenge, not to come up with ten horror movies I would recommend to all my readers, but to limit myself to ten and not to write a hundred pages’ review of each one. But there is another reason for this blog post and I suppose I should get to it. The latest chapter of my FNAF fanfic, Everything is All Right is up on fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org, and those of you who missed it last week will be happy to know that it’s an extra long chapter, like twice as long, like I should have cut it in half, but what the heck. I owe you. So head on over and check it out, and if you don’t have the time to read a whole double-sized chapter or if you’re a newcomer here and want to know what this whole fanfic thing is about, here’s a snippet to whet your appetite! Enjoy, and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

The old man slept for hours and eventually, so did Ana. At some point in the night, one of the staff brought a blanket and covered her over against the chill of the air conditioning. She roused now and then, but never really woke. The sounds and smells of the hospital unearthed long-buried memories in which she was small and hurt, but safe. She slept easily, her breaths aligned to the rhythmic whirr of the IV pump, and dreamed she was a child with a broken shoulder and then a teenager with the pneumonia that had been her runner-up prize for surviving her mother’s attempt to murder her. Nurses came and went, often exchanging a few words with one another or with the patient, if he happened to be awake for their rounds. Ana slept through dozens of these exchanges before the sound of a voice softly speaking woke her, first into the pizzeria, because that she thought it was Freddy talking, and finally into reality.

Once she’d dragged her eyes open and convinced them to focus, she saw Mr. Faust sitting up in bed with the amenities menu open in his lap. He saw her, said, “That will be all, thank you,” to the phone in his other hand and set it aside. “Will you do me the honor of joining me for breakfast, Miss Stark?”

“Breakfast? You even allowed to eat? You were NPO last night.”

“As a precautionary measure, yes. I was cleared earlier this morning following a lengthy evaluation. You don’t recall?”

“I don’t think I woke up for it.”

“No? I thought you had,” he remarked, “especially as you distinctly said, quote, ‘If I’ve got to wake all the way up to tell you to shut your muzzle, I’m going to kick your plastic ass,’ as I was speaking with the doctor.” It was difficult to know for sure, since he was already wearing those damned dark glasses, but she thought he glanced at her, the kind of glance that feels as heavy as a touch. “Plastic?”

She shrugged. “Apparently, Sleep-Me thought you’d had one of those newfangled ass replacements we’ve all heard about. I don’t know, I was out of it. Sorry about that.”

He accepted that with a nod and perused the menu for several seconds before saying, “And muzzle?”

Ana was waiting for that and had her innocently quizzical face polished up and ready to go. “What, you don’t say that here? Shut your muzzle? Huh. I guess it’s a West Coast thing,” she said, making a point of checking her watch, only to see that it was a quarter to six already. “Sorry, I’m going to be late for work as it is. No, wait!” Pressing the heels of her hands over her eyes, she sorted back through the events of the previous day to the scene at the office when she’d received her unexpected promotion. “No, I guess I’m not. New hours. Barely any hours. What the hell am I going to do with myself all day?”

He raised the menu a little higher, as if in answer.

“Sure,” said Ana, getting up and stretching the stiffness out of her limbs. “Get me some coffee and something to take the taste of hospital coffee out of my mouth. But then I got to get going, seriously. I am not showing up to work in yesterday’s clothes. I get enough side-eye around here without giving people reasons to wonder where I’ve been all night.”

“Tell them the truth.”

“What, that I’ve been with you all night?” She had to laugh, unaware that she would soon be saying just that to Sheriff Zabrinsky and most of the rest of her co-workers, not only willingly but with a shell-shocked sort of gratitude that on the one night she needed it, she actually had an alibi. For now, the thought only gave her a good-humored flare of annoyance for the gossip mills of Mammon. “Yeah, I get enough of that, too.”

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Serial Saturday Update

Well, I’m home! I actually arrived home a few days ago and have been slowly recuperating from our many, many sordid adventures, but apparently my brain still thinks we are on vacation, because it neglected to inform me that it was Friday night until Saturday morning.

My bad.

Anyway, my plan was to have an awesome list of my favorite horror movies as we count down the days until Halloween, but I am woefully unprepared, and while I could easily rattle off ten or a hundred or maybe even a  thousand horror movies right here and now, I am way too tired to think of pithy things to say about them.

However, I DID ultimately remember to update my FNAF fanfiction, so if nothing else, you can always head on over to fanfiction.net or archiveofourown.org and read the latest chapter of the series, Everything is All Right, Part IV: New Faces, Old Bones. And yes, I do have an excerpt!

Hospital beds had a way of making even the biggest men look small. Mr. Faust, although tall, was not a big man. Among the monitors, machinery and rigging that supported his arm and leg, he had all but disappeared.

Ana moved closer, doing her best to walk quietly in heavy work boots determined to squeak away every drop of rain she’d picked up on the way in. Sounded like she was walking on a carpet of mice, but he never moved. His eyes were sunken, bruised…and closed. His thin chest rose, hitched, and fell. His hair was a mess, sprouting out in all directions like it was physically trying to crawl off his head, and of all the unsettling things there were to see on him, that was the worst. He had always been so meticulous in his appearance.

She hadn’t thought to bring her day-pack in, but there was a comb in the bathroom, along with a number of travel-size toiletries: unwrapped soap, untouched safety razor, even a plastic case with his dark contact lenses floating inside. No styling gel, but she made do with a little bottle of tearless shampoo and a cup of plain water, lathering up her hands and smoothing back his hair as she combed.

The door opened as she was finishing. “Knock-knock,” the woman who entered whispered. “Are you Ana?”

“Yeah, um…” She looked at her hand, sticky with shampoo and flecked with fine, white hairs. “Give me a second.”

The woman followed her to the bathroom and stood outside as Ana washed her hands. “Did you have a chance to speak with the surgical team at Mercy?”

“Uh…no? No, I was at work.”

The woman nodded and consulted her clipboard. “Well, we had a quite a bad fall. There’s a bit of swelling and discoloration around the face, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, but it all appears to be thankfully minor. He did have some damage to his mouth. The dental surgeon has done some of the work there, but…ah, more removals may be necessary. We’ll just have to see what develops. Let’s see… Displacement and fracture of the elbow, dislocation of the wrist, some bruising of the ribs, but again, for the most part, very minor damage from what could have been a much more serious fall. The most critical injury involved the comminuted fracture of the patella—that’s the knee, his right knee—and, ah, he’s come through the initial surgery quite encouragingly, but he’ll need to have further reconstructive surgery after the swelling has gone down and he’s a bit more stable.”

“More stable?” Ana turned away from the sink, hands wet, frowning. “What’s wrong with him?”

“Nothing in the way that you’re thinking, but you need to understand that any break is a concern at his age,” she said softly. “We’re being cautious right now, but he’s in good health overall and the doctors are optimistic. I just need to warn you that rehabilitation will be a long hard road and he may never regain his full mobility. Physical therapy will be very important.”

Ana opened her mouth to say that she wouldn’t be having anything to do with the road of his rehabilitation, long or otherwise, then just closed it again and nodded.

Serial Saturday Update and a Brief Hiatus

As I write this, a half-packed suitcase sits in the back bedroom, awaiting a few more shirts, clean socks and a tasteful selection of hats.

Like this one.

I am off for an extended stay with a very good friend and while I am gone (at least a week, maybe a little longer, if we start drinking and hitting casinos), I will be giving my hosts my undivided attention and taking a break from both this blog and my writing. This means I’m going to miss next week’s upload of my FNAF fanfic (and maybe the week after that, if we get the stripper pole installed and the shipment of blacklight paints comes in), so this will be the last chapter for at least a little while (and maybe a little while even longer if the administrators of the aquarium don’t appreciate our sexy octopus costumes as much as we do).

Until then, you’ll just have to content yourself with this chapter of Everything Is All Right, Part IV: New Faces, Old Bones, available over at fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org. See you when I get back!

 

As the old man had said, it was not difficult to climb onto the balcony from the roof of her truck, even with the rain drumming down. The door to Faust’s master suite was indeed unlocked. The light was on. A black suit jacket had been draped over one arm of the chair beside her, a man’s pale grey pajamas over the other.

The master bathroom door was open. Through it, she could see the sink, along with a number of items arranged around it: a contact lens case and a bottle of solution, a pill caddy with Monday’s compartment open and empty, an old-fashioned shaving set, including a straight razor and brush. The bath lift Chad had insisted upon had been pushed to the wall as much as possible and the seat that Mr. Faust had so memorably used for a play-swing transformed into a shower caddy, so he was using it after all, despite his assertion to the contrary, just not the way his grandson intended. There was nothing particularly ominous about any of this, but she turned away from the sight with real dread knotting up her guts.

Ana checked the bedroom next. The light had been left on and the ceiling fan was turning, just wasting electricity to illuminate and cool an empty room. The bed had not been made. There was a glass of water on the nightstand, half-empty and gathering dust, if there was any dust in this house. Hardly neglected, but still…like the bathroom, even these little hints of disarray appeared uncharacteristic for a man who cut his onion rings with a knife and fork.

Ana went out into the hall. It also appeared empty. Apart from the rain on the windows and the pounding of her heart, the house was silent.

“Mr. Faust?” she called and heard, faint with distance (and only distance, she hoped), “Here. Can you hear me?”

“Yeah.” And although she didn’t know what she would find, some prescient part of her guessed, because she added unthinkingly, “Don’t move. I’m coming to you.”

“Mind…Mind the stairs,” he said again and that was all he said.

Ana ran down the hall as buried memory struggled to rise, trying to tell her she’d done this before—exactly this, right down to the panicked tightening of her throat—even though she knew damn well she’d only ever been in this house once, to install the stuff in the bathroom, hardly a panic-inducing experience. Yet her hand struck a door as her wet boots lost traction on the hardwood floor and she came to a stumbling stop in the doorway, staring at a long empty table, a dozen empty chairs, and three evenly spaced table lamps with long fluted necks and carnival glass shades in a delicate smoky-amber color with a pattern of grapes on the sides that would look, when lit, like bubbles rising in champagne.

For a moment, she imagined she could smell cigarettes. In the distant thunder, she imagined she heard the echo of her mother’s voice: Where is he? Where is the son of a bitch?

 

Serial Saturday Update

Ah, Autumn! Season of cool hat weather, colorful leaves, that smoky smell in the air that doesn’t mean emergency evacuations, and pumpkin pie spice…pumpkin pie spice everywhere! And (do I even need to say it?) HALLOWEEN!

I love Halloween, for all the obvious reasons–it briefly becomes socially acceptable to dress up like a witch or a unicorn when you do your shopping, I love pumpkin (and let me drag out the soap box for just a few seconds to say there is absolutely no reason why fresh pumpkin cannot be made available year-round, the same as corn or tomatoes or any other produce), I love candy corn, and I love horror.

I love horror. I love horror in every color of its dark rainbow. I love horror-comedy, I love campy horror, I love psychological horror, I love body horror and splatter-gore and gothic horror and Lovecraftian, and monsters and ghosts and vampires and lycanthropes and aliens and parasites and zombies and rampaging beasts and crawling blobs and grotesqueries of all kinds. Doesn’t matter how it’s served to me–film, print, art or game–I will happily take a slice and wash it down with a cup of hot cider. So I am always ready to talk about my old faves and to discover new faves, and it is in the latter vein that I would like to introduce you all to Sorrowvirus.

Please believe you will be hearing me say more about this game as it gets closer to release.

This is an indie game still in development, but that trailer is all the best kinds of creepy, and I have been speaking to one of the creative minds behind it, so hopefully I’ll be able to share more with you soon. For now, do click the pic and watch the trailer, preferably in the dark and all alone (extra preferably with a creepy little clown doll watching you from a nearby shelf with its soulless black glass eyes).

While we’re on the subject, let’s talk about some of my favorite horror games! And bear in mind, the games on this list made the cut (heh heh) simply by giving me the creeps through one reason or another, and not because they were given high scores by expert horrologists. Maybe they did! I wouldn’t know. I only know they got me pretty damn good, and I love that feeling, so allow me to share it with you. Oh, and no, Five Nights at Freddy’s will not be on this list. Why? Because I figured I should limit myself to ten, which means a lot of hard decisions, and since I’m writing a 5-book series on FNAF, you should all already know how much I love it. Also, while there are ten items on the list, this is NOT a Top Ten List in the classic sense of the word, because I just couldn’t rank them. One game may do one thing better than another, but they are all good. So here, in no particular order, are Ten Scary Video Games Recommended by R Lee Smith!

Alien: Isolation

Of all the games I’ve ever played or seen played based on a movie, this is the ONLY one that ever truly felt like a continuation of the story, merely told through a different medium. Isolation is at the core of all horror, if not physically, then mentally. And in this game, it’s a bit of both. You’re on a space station, with no way to really ‘get away’ from the monsters. All you can do is try to stay ahead of them as long as you can while the aliens pick off your friends and paranoia takes the others. If you like the movies, I guarantee you will love this game.

Little Nightmares

Sometimes, horror games score on what they show you–The blood, the monsters, the journal entries that explain it all–and sometimes, the horror comes from what they don’t show you and what they never explain. This game reminds me a LOT of Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away, as seen through a very, very dark mirror. In it, yo. You play as Six, a little girl in a yellow raincoat, making her way through an ominous structure known as The Maw, which appears to be under the command of a mysterious Lady for even more mysterious purposes. If that sounds like not a lot is known, that’s because, well, not a lot is said. In fact, nothing is said. Not one line of dialogue is spoken and not a single note is there to be read. The story is there, in whispers and shadows. You have to want to listen. You have to want to look.

Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth

I’m reasonably sure when I play the Call of Cthulu: The Official Video Game, I will be adding it to this list retroactively. I can remember playing Shadow Over Innsmouth back in the day, but I haven’t played it recently and don’t know how well it’s held up. I do know Dark Corners is a delightfully freaky addition to the Cthulu Mythos and trailers for ‘the Official’ game knocked my proverbial socks off. I have always had a special place in my heart for Lovecraft, and these games perfectly capture the creeping dread and madness that are hallmarks of his genre.

Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs

Most people go straight to The Dark Descent when it comes to Amnesia games. I liked DD; I freaking LOVED Machine for Pigs. This game got deep, deep in my head. It’s another stealth game…you’ve probably noticed there aren’t a whole lot of FPSs on my list. I like good storytelling, not so much the bang-bang. This game has a lot of puzzle-solving, back-tracking, journal-entries and an unreliable narrator, but the pay-off is well worth it.

Layers of Fear

This is a relatively short and sweet horror game that I’ve often heard described (somewhat dismissively) as a ‘walking simulator’. I mean, they’re not wrong? There’s no monsters to hunt or be hunted by, just a man wandering through the rooms of his empty house, looking for painting supplies so he can finish his dead wife’s portrait. I mean, what could be scary about that?

P.T.

Ah yes, the infamous P.T. This is also essentially a walking simulator, but I think I can say with confidence that if you go into it without spoilers and play it alone in the dark, it will be a walking simulator you will NEVER forget. Equal parts Silent Hill: The Room and Eraserhead, this game will stick with you for a while.

Detention

I’ve been a big fan of Asian horror for a long time now, but I’ve only recently started getting into their video games, and this one in particular hit me like a brick. Limited graphics and very basic side-scrolling gameplay set me up with rather low expectations, but once I got into it, it really got into me. Intensely atmospheric, with a story that really snuck up on me.

Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly

There are four or maybe five games in the Fatal Frame series, but this is hands-down the creepiest for me. At its most basic level, it’s a shooter, using a camera instead of a gun. The players follows the story of twin sisters who wander into a seemingly deserted village and get trapped by supernatural entities and an ancient ritual.

Resident Evil: Biohazard

I loved the Resident Evil zombie-shooters when I was a kid, but I have to admit, I outgrew them a long time ago. Or thought I had. Honestly, I was not enthused about playing this when it came out, but I ended up watching a Let’s Play on YouTube and had to seriously rethink some life choices. This game is INTENSE. It made me feel all the feels I felt shooting zombies in my living room so many years ago. It’s exciting as much as it is scary, and while it really never ‘horrified’ me, it did terrify me on more than one occasion. Monster design is seriously good. On a scale from Undertale to Bloodborne, it’s easily a Silent Hill 2. As usual, it’s the story that really sells me on a game, and this one told one HELL of a story, something I thought Resident Evil stopped doing in the 00’s.

The Park

I’m told this one is a spinoff from another game called The Secret World, but I knew nothing about that and still loved this game. I suppose I should look into the other one, maybe it would help me love it even more. I think I first heard about this game from someone who thought I’d like it because of my love for FNAF, which had come out earlier by maybe a year. I could see a surface similarity, sort of. It takes place in a scummy-looking theme park instead of a pizzeria and has to do with a missing child, but there the similarities end. You play as a single mom who has lost her young son after hours at the theme park, and you’ve gone in to look for him. As you explore the park, you find a number of disturbing things that hint at the park’s dark history, but you also learn some pretty dark things about the character you play. I have to admit, I saw the end coming, but I still had a hell of a fun time getting there. There are moments (looking at you, swan boat) that I will probably remember for years.

 

Okay, we have fun with that? Good, because the closer we get to Halloween, the more you’re going to hear me prattle on about the horror I love. But in the meantime, I have another chapter of my FNAFic, Everything Is All Right Part IV: New Faces, Old Bones, up on archiveofourown.org and fanfiction.net, so if you’re reading along, trip on over and enjoy! And as usual, I have a small snippet to share!

The sun was rising in a fairly clear sky when Ana stepped out of Freddy’s with her box of baked sugar, but the air had that thick, damp feeling and she was not surprised when the first raindrop splatted across her windshield on the drive up Coldslip. By the time she’d had her shower and was on her way to work, the mountainside had become a vast network of channels and frothy falls washing away down to the quarry. Lawn-mowing was out of the question, but if Faust had really come through on the shopping list, Shelly might be moved to show his appreciation. She wasn’t holding her breath for that outcome, but she lived here now and had a giant stuffed ostrich to prove it, so it didn’t pay to be a pessimist all the time.

The cakes went over fairly well, although Bisano accepted his with a, “Haven’t you kissed enough ass around here yet?” and Big Paulie wouldn’t take one at all. Neither would he take her. When Shelly came to her name on his assignment list, Paulie didn’t even wait for an order he could refuse, he just said, “No.”

Shelly set the duty-sheet down on the reception desk with a meaty slap. “You were hanging on me just yesterday on how you needed more bodies to get back on track.”

“Not more bodies, more men.”

Shelly flushed and hitched at his belt. “I run an equal opportunity company, you know that. Unless you’ve got an objection to the quality of her work—”

“I don’t suppose I can do that,” Big Paulie said, looking her up and down with undisguised contempt. “Seeing as it just bought you one hell of a nice tractor, but the paver’s still working just fine, so I don’t need her and I won’t have her on my crew.”

Ana couldn’t get angry, so she did the next best thing and laughed. “I wouldn’t take orders from your incompetent ass anyway. You couldn’t even knock down the last building on schedule and you’re already, what? Six weeks behind on a simple resurfacing job? I could have had the whole damn building up by now and you don’t even have the fucking foundation in.”

“Watch your mouth, missy,” Shelly warned.

“Watch my mouth?! What about his?”

“I’m not using mine to keep my job,” Paulie declared. “He wants to talk about the quality of your work…You’re doing your mama’s work, that’s all. And her mama’s and hers and all the way back to the very first Blaylock who ever raised her skirts in the alley behind the miners’ saloon.”

“Are you still talking?” Ana scoffed. “The hell do I care what you think of me? You can’t even get my name right.”

“Oh, but I got your number,” Paulie shot back. “And you are nothing but your whoring bitch-mother’s whoring little pup.”

Serial Saturday Update

Tis the Season for painting pumpkins!

Following the tutorial by the amazing Cinnamon Cooney on her Youtube channel, The Art Sherpa. Click the pic and paint one too!

This tutorial was from The Art Sherpa’s 13 Days of Halloween event from…last year? The year before? I dunno. For those of my readers who may also be painters, this year’s 13 Days event has been subtitled The Boys Are Back In Town, and includes Halloween hunks like Pennywise, Dr. Frank N. Furter, and Jareth the Goblin King. Just think, in a month’s time, you could have a gallery of Scare Kings decking your halls with bloody murder. Fa lalala la la, lala la la!

Also, for those of my readers who are, you know, readers, The Last Hour of Gann has joined Land of the Beautiful Dead in being made available in paperback on Amazon! The price is heavily influenced by the page count, so…heh…it’s an investment, but hey, good news! If you would like a chance to win a FREE, SIGNED COPY of either LHoG or LotBD, listen up!

Some of you may know that I have a fan group on Facebook (man, there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write). They try to meet up once a month or so to discuss one of my books and generally sigh dreamily at the thought of lizardmen or aliens or whatever the heck Azrael is. The next book up for discussion is the first installment of my FNAF fanfic, Everything Is All Right, Part I: Girl on the Edge of Nowhere. How does this relate to winning a copy of Gann or Beautiful Dead? Simple! First, you have to join the Facebook group. Don’t worry, we’re a fun bunch of people. Second, you have to show up for the Live Chat on September 26th, beginning at 9 pm PST, and LEAVE A COMMENT UNDER THE CHECK-IN THREAD with the hashtag #SWAG. At midnight, I will be drawing ONE LUCKY WINNER at random from my Freddy Fazbear unofficial top hat!

So, to recap, September 26th, from 9pm PST to midnight, find the CHECK-IN thread under the LIVE CHAT discussion (it’s usually the first one), and leave a comment that includes #SWAG. One lucky winner gets a free paperback copy of The Last Hour of Gann or Land of the Beautiful Dead, signed by yours truly, shipped to your door. Hope to see you then!

In the meantime, please enjoy the next chapter of EIAR, Part IV: New Faces, Old Bones, available to read now at archiveofourown.org or fanfiction.net, whichever is your fanfic platform of choice! Do I have a snippet? I sure do!

 

The bed still smelled of sawdust. The sheets smelled of the plastic they’d been wrapped in. Everything was too new to really be comfortable, but it was hers.

As she lay there, facedown and fully-dressed, too tired to even take off her boots, she savored her body’s exhaustion. This had always been the best part of her days—this imperfect blend of pain and the pride of work done well, seasoned this time with the rare pleasure that came from knowing this was her place, her things. Sure, she was trespassing, but only in the sense that the building and everything in it belonged to Fazbear Entertainment in the person of Fred Faust, condemned by the township of Mammon and off-limits to all. In another sense, the truer sense, this was Freddy’s house, and he had brought her in and given her a place, and it was a good place and all her own.

Mostly her own, she silently amended as she heard the door creak open. Had to oil that, she thought drowsily, listening to Freddy’s distinctive footsteps shuffle-drag across the floor. The curtain rustled. The light of his eyes came on, showing red behind Ana’s heavy eyelids. Too tired to speak, not even to say goodnight or ask if he couldn’t read the no-bears part of the sign posted on her bedroom door, she simply lay still with her eyes closed and listened to the whine-grind-hiss, whine-grind-hiss of his cooling system breathing for him.

After a short while, he let the curtain drop and limped away. She thought he was leaving until she heard decayed padding wheeze and old metal groan. He wasn’t leaving; he was coming closer, climbing the three short stairs onto the party room stage.

Ana sighed, but she didn’t sit up and tell him to turn his plastic ass around and push on so she could sleep. He probably thought she was already out and if he thought he had a reason to wake her up, he’d have done it by now. No, he didn’t want to wake her, he just wanted to look around and find a reason for her to keep wasting time in here instead of getting to the real work in the rest of the building. Hell, he’d probably have a list waiting for her tomorrow morning. Fresh coat of paint, which meant replacing the walls. New carpet, which meant resurfacing the floor and rebuilding the stage. New ceiling, which meant—

Freddy stopped there, right next to the bed, close enough that she could feel the heat venting through his joints as he bent over her. She had time enough to wonder what the hell he was doing, but not enough energy to ask him…and then his fingers slipped carefully around her left ankle.

He lifted her foot a few inches, plucked at the laces, and pulled her boot gently off. Then her sock. Then her right boot and its sock, arranging her legs one over the other, so that all he had to do after that was nudge at her arm just a little and she just sort of naturally rolled over. He pulled the blanket up and folded her in its clean-sheet smell, and when she was all covered up, he smoothed back her hair and let his hand rest just for a moment on her head. A heavy hand, cracked and pitted and none too sweet-smelling, but gentle. His thumb moved once, stroking along the lie of the first knot in her braid. Then he turned around and limped away, leaving Ana smiling in the dark.

She fell asleep, sore but safe, and dreamed she woke up to a nightmarish re-enactment of that moment, only this time it was the Puppet tucking her in, its long black claws combing through her hair in horrific mockery of tenderness. She had dreamed this so many times in the last few weeks up at Aunt Easter’s house, but it had always been in shadow before, illuminated by nothing by the moon peeking through the window. Here in Freddy’s, with the curtain pulled back and the camera on, she could finally see it clearly. There were flakes of older color beneath this layer of paint. There were chips and cracks in the porcelain face, and a large divot in the top of its head where, long ago, someone had split it open with an axe. Its throat had been ripped open, leaving a crater from which wires protruded; when it leaned over to press its painted lips to her sweating cheek, she could feel them tickling at her skin.

Serial Saturday Update

So a couple days ago, I took my dog, Dobby, out for her morning constitutional around our front yard. It was a typical September day in the Midwest, which is to say it had been raining buckets off and on since midnight the previous day. Dobby does not like to walk when it rains, because her delicate Dobby-paws get wet, so it is vital that I take advantage of every break in the weather to walk her, otherwise she will politely pee somewhere in the house so as not to be a bother, because she’s thoughtful like that. So I walked her and–and I want this on the record–and all was well.

Immediately after bringing her into the house, it rained, and so we sat together on the couch and watched a movie. Train to Busan is amazing, by the way, and deserves every iota of the praise it has received. I am not one for zombie movies, but absolutely give this one a chance.

As the movie ended, the rain let up, so I took Dobby outside again.

There was a hole in the lawn.

I did not take pictures of the hole, but it was roughly the size of this happy sheep. Look at that smiley boi! Who’s a happy sheep? You are!

Not a big hole. At first glance, I thought it might just be a shadow, except that nothing was around to cast one. So Dobby and I went over to investigate, whereupon we discovered it was not only a hole, but a DEEP hole. The sides of said deep hole were also incredibly straight and sheer and–and this took a long time for me to fully grasp–there was no mound of earth nearby to indicate digging. And as I contemplated this development, it occurred to me that our septic tank was somewhere in this general area…

Yeah.

So, backing up for a second, you should know that, due to chronic health issues, I live with my sister. And because of age-related health issues, so does my father. And he’s just spent the last few weeks dramatically ending his lifelong relationship with his gall bladder, and has only just begun to feel better following surgery. This was, in fact, the first morning in well over two months that he felt totally-pain-free and cheerful about eating. He had bounded up the stairs with energy and enthusiasm, grilled himself a sandwich while chatting with me about Big Hero 6, and then bounded back down the stairs to go watch some FullMetal Alchemist, because my dad is awesome. He looked so good. Remember that. We had just been through the wringer with his gall bladder and subsequent complications, and now, at last, he was on the road to recovery, and it was on this day that I, at the ripe old age of I’m-not-going-to-tell-you-how-old-I-am, had to knock on his door and tell him I was about to absolutely wreck his day.

We went out to look at the hole, only to find that our ‘happy sheep’ had grown.

In keeping with the animal analogies, we’ll call this one the ‘angry bull’ size.

We called the appropriate people and got the expected answer–that it was too late to do anything about it now, and someone would be out in the morning to have a look and see if it was a septic tank problem or if an old well had caved in or if there was an ‘instability beneath the property’ that might, ya know, make it necessary to evacuate the house.

There are many times in a person’s life when it becomes apparent that they have become an adult. Times when all the good things that you know exist just…don’t…matter that much right now and the future is a dark gaping hole that threatens to open up at any moment under your feet and swallow you up. I spent a largely sleepless night, listening to the house for the innocent creak that might herald a total collapse. It was a very bad time. As soon as it was light, I went outside to look at the hole.

Oh, for the halcyon days of the angry-bull hole.

However, it did appear that the hole had undergone its final evolution, and when the septic guy showed up later that day, he gave us the good news that the septic tank had merely caved in, and holy shit, do you KNOW how dark the dark place you are in has to be before ‘the septic tank has caved in’ is GOOD news?!? So that’s where I’ve been. And it really made me think, in between thoughts of the house suddenly collapsing all around me and crushing me in debris, and what it made me think the most (well, second-most, after wondering if our homeowner’s insurance covered sinkholes) was how friggin lucky I am to have the life I have, and to be able to do what I do for a living. I never want to take that for granted. I am a writer because of my readers. Thank you all.

There’s no good segue to follow that, so let me just take a hard right turn and say the next chapter of my FNAF fanfic, Everything Is All Right, is up at fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org for those of you who are reading along. See you next week!

In the dining room, she found Bonnie sitting on the edge of the stage, good leg propped up and bad leg resting at a painful-looking angle on the floor. The fingers of his left hand moved hypnotically on the neck of his new guitar while his other hand rested on the strings. His ears were folded forward, relaxed and intent. And he was smiling, just a little.

“Morning,” he said, still ‘playing’.

“Sure is,” she agreed and went on into the kitchen to start the magical process by which water became coffee. Once she got the brewer hissing and dripping, she came back as far as the doorway to watch Bonnie’s fingers move on the guitar. He’d played her like that, once. She’d told him to let her body be his instrument, thinking it would be fun, a joke. But he’d played her, making music only he could hear but which she could almost feel, if only for that brief moment…

Now Bonnie’s hand stilled as he noticed her watching him. His ears shifted, broadcasting uncertain concern. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” she said and followed immediately with, “Where is everyone?” so as not to give him the chance to press her further. Things were weird enough between them without her having to think up awkward lies to innocent questions. Or worse, awkward truths.

Bonnie shrugged, his attention successfully deflected back to his guitar. “Chica’s been in the arcade all night. If Foxy’s not still with her, he’s back in his cabin. And Freddy’s walking around somewhere. You know how he is.”

He played. Her wrist tingled. His thumb twitched once, forgetting not to strum. Unplugged, the strings produced a flat thumping noise when plucked, but the secret threads in her stomach vibrated.

“Ana?”

She startled out of her open-eyed trance, blinking rapidly and probably blushing. “Huh? What?”

“I said, do you want me to go find him?”

Now she was sure she was blushing. “You did?”

He laughed. “What, were you so overcome by my rocking good looks that you didn’t hear me?” he teased, then glanced at her and his ears snapped up. “Whoa, really?”

Serial Saturday Update

Woo, I completely lost track of time! I thought it was much, much earlier than it turned out to be. As in, Thursday. And I have five calendars in this house, TWO of them in the room where I do all my writing, so I have no excuse. All I can do is apologize for being so late getting the latest chapter of my Five Nights at Freddy’s fanfiction uploaded, especially as it comes one week after I was traveling and didn’t even post a chapter. Hopefully, the fact that the chapter is super-long will make up for it. And I mean super-duper-long. ‘The bar scene in Heat’ levels of long. Long enough that it qualifies as a full-length book in some circles. Like, five times the length of the average fanfiction on fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org (or at least, the average before I wrote three 200k+ novels, which I’m pretty sure grossly threw off the curve).

So enjoy this extra-crazy-long chapter of Everything Is All Right, Part IV: New Faces, Old Bones and please accept my humble apology for being so late. I promise to buy another calendar. And look at it once in a while (Although, let’s be honest here. The calendars in question are, first, my FNAF calendar and second, Markiplier’s tasteful nudes calendar, so LOOKING at them is not the problem. Noticing there are days scribbled out beneath the pictures and that time as meaning is the problem and another calendar is not going to fix it).

“Ain’t autonomy great?” Bonnie said aloud and tossed the neck of his guitar into the back corner of the stage.

The camera, unblinking all this time, swiveled to track it, then came back to Bonnie.

“Did you say something?” Chica called.

“No.” Bonnie pushed his ears up against the overwhelming gravity of his mood. “I mean, yeah, I did, but it’s nothing. I don’t think she’s coming, that’s all.”

“Oh.” The happy noise in the kitchen lulled. “Oh gosh, what am I going to do with all this?”

“All what?”

“Um…”

Funny, how Bonnie could listen to Chica putter around in there for a good three hours without the slightest curiosity as to what she was doing, but one ‘Um’ and a lot of quiet could bring it on to an irresistible degree. He got up, slapping his bad leg into working order when it balked on him, and limped over to the kitchen, where his sagging ears snapped upright without any effort at all. “Jumping jackrabbits, Chica!” he blurted, the normally-hated good-ol-bunny expletive popping out of him unnoticed. “What in the living fuck?!”

Cakes. Cakes everywhere. Cakes and cookies and tiny pies and iced scones and muffins, but mostly cakes. The pizza oven occupying the middle of the kitchen floor had become a staging area, loaded with trays covered in frosting roses and cups of sprinkles or colored sugar and other edible decorations; the conveyor belt at either end, a cooling rack for confectionaries still awaiting filling and frosting; while every inch of available space on the prep station was taken up by brightly-colored cakes awaiting the chef’s finishing touch.

“She said I could play with it,” Chica said weakly, closing the open door on Ana’s toy oven.

“Did you use all her little food mixes up?” Bonnie demanded, limping toward the cupboard where Ana kept her food.

Chica quickly closed that too and positioned herself in front of it. “No no no,” she said in her most convincing I-am-not-lying voice. “It looks like more than it is.”

“Well, that’s great, because it looks like all of them!”

Chica squirmed a little, avoiding his eyes and tapping her fingers. “It was getting late. I thought she’d be hungry.”

“So you make her one cake, you don’t make all of them! When have you ever heard Ana say, ‘Gosh, I’m so hungry, I could eat all the food!’”

Chica put her hands over her eyes. “I know, I know. I didn’t mean to. It was an accident.”

“How do you accidentally make one cake, let alone thirty of them? I have tripped and fallen a thousand times and made exactly zero cakes as a result.” Bonnie picked up a cupcake with white frosting and confetti sprinkles surrounding the words Let’s Eat written in yellow icing, one of Chica’s birthday classics on a miniature scale. “What were you thinking?”

“I don’t know. I made one and it felt so good to just be doing it again and…I don’t know!” Chica watched helplessly as he put that cake down and picked up another. “I thought maybe she didn’t like vanilla, so I made her a chocolate one.”

“She bought it, didn’t she? Why would she buy something she didn’t like?”

“And then I thought maybe she didn’t like cake, so I made some cookies and…you know, other stuff…so she could have a choice.”

“Well, you sure gave her that.”

“I really thought she’d be here before I finished, but she wasn’t, so I thought I’d keep going and…I don’t know.” Chica took the cake out of his hands and put it on the counter, fussing with its precise placement. “As long as I was busy, it didn’t feel like it was taking that long.” Chica backed up, her eyes shifting from one cake to another, and sighed. “It’s really late, isn’t it?”

“She probably had a long day,” said Bonnie and wished it felt even a little like a lie. At least then he’d know he was starting to get over her. But he didn’t. He still thought she was coming back. He may never be her man again, but she’d always be his girl and she was coming back. “I’m sure she’ll be here tomorrow,” he said. Big dumb bunny.

“We should probably put these in the fridge, then.”

“Yeah.”

They each picked up a cake and turned to look at the cooler. Behind the scales of black mold on its inner glass face, the irregular shapes of the food that had stocked it more than a decade ago could still be seen.

“We should probably clean the fridge first,” said Chica.

“Yeah.”