Friday, May 5, 2023

Werewolves and chupacabras — best of both worlds?

By Michael Picarella Staff ‘Human World’ Columnist

Happy Cinco de Mayo! And a merry Full Moon!

This evening we can expect chupacabras and werewolves to be out and about, on the prowl and wreaking havoc on some human beings near you — maybe even on you. These beasties certainly have been in my thoughts the last few days.

I typically like to watch the 2013 “classic” made-for-TV movie “Chupacabra vs. the Alamo” on this day each May, but as the full moon was drawing closer this week, I dug into a new book that’s now got me stuck on werewolves. Ronald Kelly’s “Undertaker’s Moon,” which has been described as a graveyard feast under the summer moon about a rural Tennessee town facing a hellish lycanthrope from ancient Ireland, has sunk its teeth into me. While reading it, I’ve also been taking in a few full moon classics on Shudder.

As of this writing, the horror streaming service is offering various collections under the heading “Tales of the Supernatural.” One of the collections in that grouping is called “Full Moon Fever,” and there are currently 10 titles — movies and a TV series — that feature lycanthropes. In the last week alone, I’ve watched 1985’s “The Company of Wolves,” 1996’s “Bad Moon” and 2015’s “Howl.”

The latter film was a real treat. It kind of reminded me of the great zombie flick “Train to Busan,” which actually came out in 2016, a year after the release of “Howl.” “Howl” is a British horror film about the last train out of London on a dark stormy night that breaks down in a forest filled with — hint, hint — some creatures of the night that howl. I thought this film was made in response to the success of “Busan,” which is a South Korean action horror picture about passengers trapped on a train during a zombie outbreak, but it looks like “Howl” had it licked.

“Busan” is probably the better film, though “Howl” is a great, atmospheric, creepy werewolf tale with some grisly lycanthropes and lycanthrope action that you shouldn’t overlook.

And while I’ve been feasting on werewolves, and still wanting more, I did want to pay my respects to the goatsuckers of the world for Cinco de Mayo. Yesterday I discovered the werewolf-like chupacabra (perhaps the best of both the werewolf and chupacabra worlds) in the 2022 Netflix series called “The Imperfects.” This show is about three young adults who, after an experimental gene therapy that’s turned them into a human that transforms into a chupacabra, a banshee and a succubus, band together and hunt down the scientist responsible.

Perhaps “The Imperfects” is a bit too flashy, even for me — I love excessive style. Maybe it’s just too loud, too noisy. It’s a very cool idea, and I loved the monsters, especially the chupacabra. It could just be that the execution didn’t work for me. Or maybe I didn’t want to follow these characters. But after one episode, I haven’t been itching to watch another one. I hate to write that. Hey, the urge to jump back into the series might strike at midnight. 

Until then, however, I’m chomping at the bit to read more of “Undertaker’s Moon.” I’m reaching the halfway point in the novel, and as of now, I’m highly recommending it, for what that’s worth. Order the book on author Ronald Kelly’s website, and he’ll sign your book with an illustration. Totally digging what he put in mine ...

Now, if you must go out tonight to celebrate the full moon or Mexico’s 1862 victory over the Second French Empire, please watch for beasties. Track werewolves who may be near you with the Werewolf Locator app. As for tracking chupacabra, you’re out of luck there. I recommend brute force — strong blows to the creature’s noggin and hard kicks to the chest.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Happy Alien Day 2023! Or: What Am I Going to Do Today?

By Michael Picarella Staff ‘Human World’ Columnist

I was up at 12:02 this morning. Two minutes into Alien Day and still no chestburster.

April 26th (4-26 draws its origins from the 1979 film “Alien” and the exomoon “LV-426” where alien life is discovered) has become a day I actually look forward to each year. It’s kicked off with a bouncing baby chestburster that comes ripping and tearing out of some poor fool’s chest a la the scene in “Alien” where USCSS Nostromo Executive Officer Thomas Kane, who is previously attacked and impregnated by a facehugger, “gives birth” to a chestburster. The little darling screeches “Surprise!” before scurrying off to grow into a full-size Xenomorph, which then — and always — attempts to eliminate the human species. At 12:04 this morning, I was more than eager to get this party started.

Call me weird. It’s OK, I’m proud of the description. But I wholeheartedly celebrate Alien Day. I’ll typically watch an Alien movie or two. Maybe I’ll read some sort of comic book with aliens or martians. One year I listened to the first few episodes of the “Strange Arrivals” podcast about the mysterious 1961 alien encounter and abduction as experienced by Betty and Barney Hill.

This year, as I tossed and turned in bed — anticipating that first chestburster — I thought about what I’d watch or read ... or do(!) for Alien Day. Probably a victim of ADHD (never diagnosed), I needed something that wouldn’t take me days to consume. In other words, I didn’t want some long TV or podcast series or Stephen King-sized novel that requires weeks if not months to complete. You see, as I previously alluded to, my interests change on a dime — Sasquatch! Seriously, I’m already thinking about chupacabra for Cinco de Mayo. Gotta watch “Chupacabra vs. the Alamo” with Erik Estrada every 5th day of May. Love that movie and all its cheesy goodness!

But I digress. 

I need something just for the day only, I thought. Alien short stories would be cool. 

I’ve recently been growing my collection of short-story anthologies. Those that have piqued my interest are the ones collected by theme. For example, I just bought one collection called “Flight or Fright: 17 Turbulent Tales,” edited by Stephen King and Bev Vincent, which is an anthology that, as described on Amazon, is about “all things that can go horribly wrong when you’re suspended six miles in the air, hurtling through space at more than 500 mph, and sealed up in a metal tube (like — gulp! — a coffin) with hundreds of strangers.” I purchased that book just before boarding a plane over spring break. Doesn’t that sound like fun? (Got the strangest looks when people saw what I was reading in the airport.)

Then there’s “Fearful Fathoms (Seas and Oceans)” and “Fearful Fathoms II (Lakes and Other Bodies).” I spent a couple years during my childhood living near a lake. That second collection of horror stories is a real treat that brings me back to those days when I knew for a fact that something lay beneath my swimming feet. I especially like these books of terror when planning trips to the water.

I’ve also got Halloween anthologies (I had fun with Ronald Kelly’s “The Halloween Store and Other Tales of All Hallows’ Eve”), a werewolf short story collection, one with noir stories, another with stories about mad scientists, and yet another with tales of terrifying Christmas monsters from around the world (obviously for Christmas time only). 

There’s another really cool anthology called “Hell Comes to Hollywood” for when I’m thinking about my time in Tinseltown, and I have two other collections that I like to turn to when I’m taking long drives on the interstate where I’m forced to share lanes with those road-hogging truck drivers (God, I love ‘em!): “18 Wheels of Horror” and “18 Wheels of Science Fiction.” Who doesn’t want a trailer full of trucking terrors and fantastic fiction?

Oh, I’ve still got more collections. There’s “Ghosts” for when I’m home alone at night and the rain is slashing away at the window panes, or “The World of Mystery Fiction” for when I’m itching to solve a crime. 

I recently picked up a zombie short story anthology called “The New Dead” that I’ve yet to sink my teeth into. And I’ve got another one I’m still waiting for in the mail from Cemetery Dance Publications called “Midnight Under the Big Top,” which is described as “the world’s grandest tales of murder, madness and magic set in and around the circus.” Bunch of clowns.

But, as I try to reel this thing back in, I have no alien short story anthologies. That would’ve been the perfect antidote for what I was feeling this Alien Day morning! I could’ve gotten up and out of bed for a 15- or 20-minute story, then maybe devoured a few tales throughout the day as I ate breakfast or took down my lunch. 

And as I rolled over yet again to check the time — 12:07 — the thing I was waiting for happened. A chestburster! I’d just remembered a book I received in a Halloween box I got from a friend last year: “Sightings: UFOs” by Susan Michaels. This is a collection of stories drawn from the 1990s syndicated television program “Sightings” that, as it reads on Amazon, “recounts the purportedly real encounters of humans with extraterrestrials.” 

And so, with the first Xenomorph of the day out and on the warpath, I cracked open my reading for the day and began with: “There were more reported sightings of UFOs in 1952 than in any other year before or since ...” and the story of the great lights over our nation’s capital back when, as Michaels writes, “air-raid shelters were replacing the backyard barbecue as suburbia’s most sought-after home accessory.” My morning reading: “Saucers Over Washington.”

Happy Alien Day to you and yours! May it be out of this world.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

The Fog comes in tonight!

By Mister Machen Staff Fog Writer

It’s April 20th. Enough time to warn you! 

At midnight, it’ll be the 21st of April. It was many years ago on the 21st of April, out in the waters closest to your home, a small clipper ship drew toward land. Suddenly, out of the night, the fog rolled in. For a moment, they could see nothing, not a foot in front of them ...

Listen to my story HERE.

You’ve been warned. And you should warn all your friends and loved ones.

Watch for that fog tonight, and the clipper ship — the Elizabeth Dane — that comes in with it, its vengeful crew of murderous ghosts dead set on disembarking to get you!

Friday, December 23, 2022

Podcast shares gift ideas for your lists to Franken Claws

By Franken Claws

Staff Horrorday Writer

I’ll keep this short ... Have a happy horrific holiday with this special podcast HERE about me from the Jack-o’Lantern Press Podcast! Send me your lists. And don’t forget to put out those Sant-o’-lanterns.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Give yourself the bird

By G.I.V. Thebird Staff Thanksgiving Writer

Let’s face it, Thanksgiving places heavy emphasis on a bird. And filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock cooked up one heck of a film about birds — “The Birds” from 1963. 

It’s only fitting, then, that Thanksgiving and Hitch come together this month for a movie marathon to fill your appetite for a tasty helping of mystery and murder.

Those interested in marathoning Hitchcock films this Thanksgiving season can do so on the day or throughout a number of days leading up to Thanksgiving.

The following is a lineup of Hitch films we at Jack-o’-Lantern Press put together with both the programming schedule for the day (should you choose to devour your meals by the plateful) and also for the days leading up to the day of the bird (should you choose to cherish each small bite by the spoonful):

1946’s “Notorious” at 6 a.m. (or the Friday before Thanksgiving)

1951’s “Strangers on a Train” at 7:45 a.m. (or the Saturday before Thanksgiving)

1954’s “Rear Window” at 9:30 a.m. (or the Sunday before Thanksgiving)

1958’s “Vertigo” at 11:30 a.m. (or the Monday before Thanksgiving)

1956’s “The Wrong Man” at 1:40 p.m. (or the Tuesday before Thanksgiving)

1959’s “North by Northwest” by 3:30 p.m. (or the Wednesday before Thanksgiving)

Main course on Thanksgiving Day for sure: Not one bird, but many -- 1963’s “The Birds” at 5:50 p.m. 

Dessert: 1960’s “Psycho” at 7:50 p.m.

So, there you have it. Bon app├ętit. Mangia!

For more about Hitch for Thanksgiving and other fun freaky traditions for all you creepy kooks out there looking to infuse all your holidays with monsters and Halloween, check out the “Jack-o'-Lantern Press Podcast” Thanksgiving episodes linked below:

-Episode 21. Thanksgiving Monsters

-Episode 78. Monster Mondays: Tom the Turkey Terror

And look for a special helping of Thanksgiving horror coming soon to the podcast ...

Monday, October 31, 2022

It's Halloween!

By O. Thurtifurst Staff Halloween Writer

It’s almost time … the clock is ticking … 

It’s Halloween!

We at hope all you ghouls and goblins out there aren’t ready for the big night. We love the surprises! 

To get your day started with a Boo!, be sure to play the Halloween episode of The Weird Network's "Halloweeniacs" podcast HERE, where Mike and Tom from Jack-o’-Lantern Press, and Matt and Greg from Nightmare365 talk about Halloween haunts, attractions and events.

The guys explore traditional haunts — click on the following links for some best-of lists that they discuss, rate and tear apart:

-The 14 Most Terrifying Haunted Attractions

-USA Today’s 10 Best Haunted Attractions

-America Haunts

Then they debate extreme haunts — click HERE to watch “Haunters: The Art of the Scare,” a 2017 documentary about haunters across America, featuring some of the most extreme haunted houses ever created. 

And the guys also touch on the family-friendly kind of Halloween events that are becoming more popular. This month, Matt and Greg offered a video through Haunt o’ Ween in New Jersey on their Nightmare365 YouTube channel. Greg eats a mean ice cream sandwich.

Other family-friendly Halloween events include Carved at Descanso Gardens and Nights of the Jack in Southern California. The guys don’t talk about too many of these types of events, but they’re certainly worth checking out and considering — this is the last night of the year to try.

Did everyone — and thing — have a happy Mischief Night? The Halloweeniacs launched their YouTube Channel yesterday with an animated Mischief Night short. Check it out HERE, and be sure to subscribe and stay tuned for new content coming soon.

And if you haven’t been up to date on the scary stories from the Scary Story Society YouTube channel, there’s a really fun one that just dropped, one that you can use at Halloween parties tonight. Click HERE to watch.

Now it’s about time … The clock is ticking …

Happy Halloween!

Monday, August 1, 2022

Halloween season is here!

By Hal O. Weeniscoming

Staff Halloween Spirit Writer

Monsters, ghouls and goblins were more than excited to get the Halloween season started last night, according to Witches Meadow sorceresses.

Bewitched witches opened Transylveinya’s Great Portals right at midnight at Spell Willows in Transylveinya’s Witches Meadow during The Witching Hour Fest-evil, the annual event that’s highlighted by spells and chants that take place between 12 and 1 a.m. every July 31st (technically Aug. 1) in order to open up the pathway between now and Oct. 31 from the monster universe to the human world.

“Haunters from our side were stomping, clawing and flying over each other to get to the other side and begin preparations for Halloween,” said Hagatha, one of the witches who helped organize the evening’s opening ceremonies. “These creeps were so eager to slip inside human closets, under their beds and into the shadows that many forgot their own purpose in life — or afterlife.” 

Gil men and women took speed boats. 

Mummies weren’t dragging their feet. 

The Great Pumpkin bypassed pretty much every sincere pumpkin patch. 

Evil vehicles veered around bikers and pedestrians. 

Gorgons, with locked focus on where they were headed, turned no one to stone. 

Vampires went without blood. 

Ghosts forgot to boo. 

Zombies skipped pushcart salesmonsters peddling brains. 

Deadly spiders got in no one’s hair.

Killer bees buzzed no one’s head.

Evil geniuses set aside current plans to take over the world.

Killer tomatoes rolled around obstacles.

Graboids grabbed nothing.

Skeleton can-can girls couldn’t-couldn’t dance, but ran.

Werewolves forgot to howl at the full moon.

Black cats took the path straight on.

Terminator machines forgot to say they’d be back.

And giant apes, oversized insects and humongous reptiles passed up perfectly good skyscrapers. 

“Yup, it’s unsafe to say that the monsters of Halloween are headed to the human world with a vengeance,” Hagatha said. “Humans, beware. Halloween season is here!”