Mailbag: June 20, 2016

Welcome back to the HW Mailbag.  I apologize for my absence.  I forgot to put out a call for questions last week.  I’m sure all 6 of you who read this were crushed.

We’ve got two questions today, both from former writers from the site.  They’re lovely people.  If you’re not following them on Twitter, you should probably fix that as soon as possible.

To the questions!

Brother, what is a scene that absolutely wrecked you?  Either emotionally or the violent nature was more than you could take? – @lcfremont

I’d like to thank my horror sister for taking me down some dark paths.  I reached down deep to remember those moments I took great pains to bury deep.  Thanks Lisa!

I’ve got a few that spring to mind.  The first one I always think of is the ending of the original Night of the Living Dead.  Seeing as how the movie came out in 1968 and this is a horror site, I assume everyone has seen it.  But, if you haven’t and you have not yet had it spoiled for you, don’t let me be the person who does it.  I’mma throw a little SPOILER ALERT here for ya.

notld - ending

We make it through the entire movie with Ben, only to watch him – the lone survivor – get shot in the head and thrown on a bonfire.  That ending absolutely gutted me.  I remember watching it for the first time and just staring at the screen, unable to move.  I stood up and just kind of stumbled around for a while.  When I think of movies that emotionally wrecked me, Night of the Living Dead is at the top of the list.

The scene in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer where Henry and Otis calmly watch a video of a family they terrorized and killed earlier.  That scene made me ill.
The end of that movie was pretty gut-punchy, in a weird way.

henry - on couch

Martyrs.  Pretty much everything in Martyrs.  It’s such a beautiful movie and it absolutely destroyed me for days.  It’s so good (SO GOOD), but it’s unlikely I’ll ever watch it again.  (I’m speaking to the original.  I haven’t seen the American remake yet.)

martyrs - lucie

Since we’re on the topic of French horror, let’s throw Inside into the mix.  That movie messed me up, man. Now that I have a child myself, I don’t know that I would be able to watch it again. It’s kind of the same thing as Martyrs: I could name a scene that really wrecked me, but the majority of the movie had that effect on me.  To name one or two would be to ignore the others. It’s a great movie that everyone should see, but man…


As far as those of “violent nature,” I have a few things that get me.  Anything involving fingernails, teeth or eyes is no fun.  Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is not a great movie, but I will always remember the beginning, when a man chisels out his own teeth.  Just takes a hammer a chisel to them.  That’s what I see when I try to sleep at night.
One of the other big ones is rape.  I don’t feel like I need to explain this too much.  It’s just…ugly.  Lisa has watched a lot of rape revenge movies, so she can probably speak on this more than I can, but I find that a lot of movies with rape tend to linger a bit too long on the scene.  I’ve never seen a rape scene that didn’t make me want to turn off the TV and just do something else for a while.  Maybe that’s the point.

I can watch a man take a machete to the face and not even flinch.  Stick a nailgun to someone’s temple.  Take out someone’s knee with a shotgun.  But shove toothpicks under fingernails and I’m useless for a day.

Manhunter or Red Dragon, which is the better film? – @Foxxy_Gilley

It has been a long time since I’ve seen either one of these.  I’ll say that I liked Red Dragon better, but that may be because Ed Norton and Ralph Fiennes absolutely crushed those roles.  Also, I watched Red Dragon before Manhunter, so that may have something to do with it..  You can’t really go wrong with either one, though.

Have something on your mind?  Send us your questions!  Hit us up on Twitter or through email.

Mailbag: June 6, 2016

Welcome back to the HW Mailbag.  Only one question this week, but it’s a good one.

Current debate that’s going on at work…What’s scarier, ghosts/paranormal or slashers/killers and why?  Your thoughts? – @kcguru23

@kcguru23 works at a hotel and they have these debates during slow moments.  I wouldn’t mind working in a place like that.  Instead, I’ll just sit alone in my office, telling ghost stories to myself.  As it turns out, my scenario is still more interesting than The Innkeepers.

This question comes down to personal preference/beliefs.  I consider myself a believer in the paranormal, with a healthy helping of skepticism.  That is to say that I believe in ghosts, but, I don’t think they’re as prevalent as the wide array of ghost hunting shows would have us believe.

I also believe that there are malevolent spirits.  I’ve heard enough stories from people who have visited Waverly Hills Sanatorium if nothing else.

Still, ghosts/paranormal movies have never really scared me.  Those kinds of movies can be creepy, but they never really stick with me.  Recent installments in this genre seem more intent on hitting the viewer with jump scares more than anything else.  If there’s anything that screams “fleeting scares” more than movies crawling with jump scares, I don’t know about it.  There is such a thing as a well-done jump scare (the sheet flying off the clothesline in The Conjuring is a recent example), but far too many of them just seem cheap and lazy.

That’s not to say that all paranormal movies are bad, I just tend not to find them very frightening.

So, for this debate, I’ll side with slashers/killers.  I grant you that most things I just said about paranormal movies tend to hold true for slashers: they’re not very scary and like to rely on jump scares.  More recent movies like the “fake jump scare” jump scare, which I’m not a big fan of.

I’m siding with this because well-done movies about killers tend to get under my skin.  When I think of some of the most unnverving movies I’ve ever seen – the ones that really grabbed hold of me and left me looking over my shoulder for weeks – I think of movies about serial killers.  The Poughkeepsie Tapes.  Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.  Even Zodiac to some degree, and that wasn’t even really that scary.

It’s something real.  Something I feel could actually happen to me.  I don’t necessarily expect a killer will be hiding in my garage, but I could always be wrong.  On the other side, I’ve been living in the same house for almost 10 years and have witnessed exactly zero paranormal events.  No violent deaths have occurred here, and it’s not built on an old burial ground.  I have no fear of ghosts in my day-to-day life.  But killers could be anywhere, man.  Just waiting to strike.  Maybe one of them has been living in my attic for a couple months, just hanging out until the time is right.  I’ll never know until it’s too late, which is why I have various weapons stashed in random places in my house.  YOU HEAR THAT KILLER IN THE ATTIC?  I have weapons that you don’t know about, and they’re EVERYWHERE.  I may not have much training, but I can swing wildly with the best of them.  Find another filthy attic to call your home.

The concept of the home invasion subgenre scares me, but I’ve yet to come across one that has really stuck with me.  The first 45 minutes of The Strangers was pretty cool, but it all just kind of fell apart.  I recently watched Hush – which I really liked – but it didn’t really affect me.  The idea that someone could randomly break into my house and torture/kill me is terrifying, but I’ve yet to see a movie that has really been able to harness that terror.

A quick story about serial killer movies.
As we all know, Zodiac was based on a true story.  The Zodiac Killer was an actual killer who was never caught.  Still, the murders took place in California in the late 60s.  After watching Zodiac – again, not really a scary movie – I checked my garage to make sure he wasn’t hiding out in there.
To repeat: I checked my garage to see if The Zodiac Killer – a man who, if still alive, would likely be well into his seventies – was hiding in there.  I live in Kentucky and have a very loud garage door.  There is no reason he would be in there, but I just had to check.

A view from my garage

In closing, I’ll roll with slashers/killers over ghosts/paranormal, and it’s not particularly close.

Have something on your mind?  Send us your questions!  Hit us up on Twitter or through email.

Mailbag: May 23, 2016

Welcome to another exciting installment of the Horror Writers mailbag!  Thanks for the questions.

Did you see the Rec saga? – @NicoLasaigues

I have seen the first three, and I really enjoyed all of them.  Like a true American, I saw Quarantine first (USA! USA!), so I think that colored my judgment of the first Rec.  I enjoyed it, but I thought Quarantine was better, mainly because I love Jennifer Carpenter and thought she absolutely CRUSHED that role.

The first two were good.  It has been a while since I’ve seen them, so details are a bit scarce.  I’m a fan of any sequel that is able to expand upon the world of the first one without feeling tacked on.  We went deeper into the mythology of the infection and learned exactly what it was.  The mood of the two matched up perfectly.  I probably need to go back and rewatch those.

The third film was a marked departure from the first two.  The fundamentals of the infections were still there, but the feel was totally different and it involved a completely different scenario.  No longer were we confined to the apartment complex.  It felt more like a Return of the Living Dead movie than a Rec movie. It started off found footage, but switched roughly 20 minutes in when the groom, after asking, “Why are you still filming?” smashed the camera – and a well-worn found footage trope – into oblivion.  That allowed the movie to expand.  No longer were we bound to a hand-held camera for the duration of the film.  Which was good, because I didn’t want shaky footage of the groom donning a suit of armor; I wanted that crystal clear, and I got it.
Rec 3 was bonkers crazy and I loved it dearly.  Also, for a crazy zombie movie, they did a great job making me care about the two leads.  I was really rooting for those crazy kids to make it.  Plus, they’re beautiful people.

rec 3 - wedding
What are your top ten horror series on TV (cable or otherwise?) You can include mini series, too – @Real_Cesca

1. The X-Files – Sure, it begins to wane in season six and never recovers, but this was still five solid seasons of creepiness.  (It’s worth noting that the season 10 comic book run is a lot of fun.  I still haven’t dug into season 11, but it’s on my list.)
2. The Twilight Zone – Being an older show, some of the ironic twists can induce eye-rolling, but this show still holds up.  There are a ton of iconic moments/episodes.
3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer – You can debate whether this is horror or not, but there are lots of monsters involved, so I’m making an executive decision.  The descent starts in season 5 (thanks Dawn), but there are still great moments scattered throughout.
4. Twin Peaks – Again, you can debate whether or not this is horror, but it revolves around murder committed by a possessed man, so I say it fits the bill.  Combine that with the owls not being what they seem and The Black Lodge, and I feel comfortable calling this a horror series.  Agent Dale Cooper is one of my all-time favorite TV characters.
5. Hannibal – A beautiful, beautiful show.  The fact that this lasted 3 seasons on network TV is a miracle.
6. Penny Dreadful – Like Hannibal, this is a beautiful show.  It’s a perfect setting to bring monsters to life in a way that actually feels real.  The acting on this show is tremendous.  Eva Green deserves every award ever made.  I’m fully convinced that she is totally out of her mind.
7. The Walking Dead – I honestly don’t think I believe it should be this high.  What am I doing here?  The first season was dynamite, and there have been enough great moments since then to justify putting it at 7.  I guess.  I don’t know, man.  This last season was great up until the last two episodes, so maybe there are even better things to come?  I think I just talked myself out of this ranking, but now I’m too lazy to change it.
8. iZombie – It’s basically Psych, except the fake physic is a zombie who gets visions from the brains that she eats.  It’s fun, and justifies this ranking based on Ravi alone.  That dude kills me.
9. Tales From the Darkside – It’s basically George Romero’s Twilight Zone.  I don’t know why, but I spent an entire week watching a ton of these episodes and I really enjoyed it.  That was a good week.
10. Sleepy Hollow – It had some plots that threatened to take the show off the rails, but it always righted itself.  I enjoyed every season of this show.

Just missing the cut:
Ash vs. Evil Dead – The first season was good, but I’m not ready to have it crack the top 10 based on one fun season.
Damien – Ditto Ash vs. Evil Dead.  I love the tone of this show, but I want to see more than one pretty good season.
Tales From the Crypt – I know, I know.  I will probably have to turn in my horror fan card after leaving it off the top 10.  I caught a couple episodes as a kid, but I didn’t grow up with it.  I’ve gone back and watched a couple episodes as an adult and it just didn’t do much for me.  I can appreciate what it did, but it doesn’t crack the top 10.
Millennium – It ran for three seasons, but they were all pretty good.  There were quite a few legitimately creepy moments in this show.

Movies that, sadly, DO NOT hold up and then ruin your nostalgic feelings of them. – @lcfremont

I’m not gonna lie to you guys: this was a pretty sad list to make.  Let’s just get to it.  I’m having a hard time writing through my tears.
I didn’t want to just go with “a product of the time,” movies, because that can’t really be helped.  Plus, it would basically be a bunch of computer movies (The Net, Hackers, Swordfish, etc.) and that’s really uninteresting.  I also don’t have many horror movies on my list, as I didn’t watch many growing up.

Highlander – Sweet fancy Moses this movie is bad.  Like, REALLY bad.  First of all, I was convinced that MacLeod was played by Vigo the Carpathian for a decent portion of the movie.  So that was confusing.  The soundtrack is comprised of music by Queen, so it should be decent, but it’s the worst of Queen.  “Who wants to live forever?”  Apparently this movie does, because it’s 116 minutes long for reasons known to nobody.  The only entertaining part of this movie is Clancy Brown as The Kurgan, and that’s because he seems to be the only one who knows just how bad this movie is.  He’s chewing scenery like it’s his job, which I guess it kind of was.

The NeverEnding Story – Let me start off by saying this: the scene in the Swamps of Sadness is still heartbreaking.  So it has that going for it.  Or going against it, depending on how you want to look at it.
Anyway, this movie is super cheesy and doesn’t look great.  I understand that “cheesiness” comes down to the fact that it is a sci-fi children’s movie.  It wasn’t really meant for adults.  As an adult who has seen a fair share of movies, I not only dislike this movie, but I look down on the younger version of myself for ever liking it.  For shame, Young Dusty.  For shame.

The Princess Bride – I thought this was a fun movie.  I enjoyed it.  I never gave it a whole lot of thought, but it was an enjoyable movie.  Then I went to college and, for some reason, every single person there thought this was the best movie of all time.  All of them.  Granted, it was a small Christian college, but there were still several thousand people there.  So I watched it with a group and hated it.  HATED it.  I tried watching it again afterwards and was just annoyed.  Part of my dislike is a product of that experience, but part of it is just that I don’t think it’s a very good movie.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan – As a child, it was all, “Jason punched someone’s head off!”  Then you grow up and realize that this movie is awful.  For “taking Manhattan”, Jason spends precious little time in the city.  For over half the movie, we are stuck on a boat with the worst kinds of high schoolers.  One girl is just trying to make a terrible music video the whole time.  And yeah, the head punching scene is fun…

friday13th-head_punching…but it’s not worth the rest of the movie being garbage.  Watching this taught me that a movie needs more than one scene to make it a good movie.

Troll – I know that Troll 2 is a laughingstock, but I feel like too many people are sleeping on the original.  I remember watching this as a child and being scared.  I recently rewatched it and was horrified – HORRIFIED – that I ever found this remotely scary.  It’s not even in the “so bad it’s good” category.  It’s just bad.  Listen: I still love Ghoulies and Critters, so it’s not like I hate these odd, mid-80s creature movies.  But Troll is bad.  Really, really bad.

Event Horizon – I remembered this as being a ridiculously scary movie, but now all I see is Sam Neill hamming it up all over the place.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – The majority of children are dumb.  I was one of those dumb children.  I liked this because there was punching and they had monkey brains on the table.  Those were the only two reasons.  As it turns out, the monkey brains aren’t that cool and lots of movies have punching in them.

I’m sure there are more, but I’ve ruined my childhood enough for one day, thank you very much.  Chime in with your own in the comments.

If you want to submit a question to the mailbag, you can hit us up on Twitter (@horror_writers) or over email (

Mailbag: May 16, 2016

Welcome to the Horror Writers mailbag!  I’m hoping to make this a weekly column, but it all depends on how many questions I get.  I didn’t get many for this edition, so I was forced to make up some questions.  Please don’t make me do that again.  It’s pretty sad.

If you have questions you’d like to have answered, send them along.  You can hit us up on Twitter (@horror_writers) or over email (

@sairentohiru: Has there ever been a horror movie where NOBODY gets killed?

Here’s are some rules I set for myself
1. Animals count just as much as people.  If our main characters all survive but the dog doesn’t make it to the credits, it’s disqualified.
2. All death matters.  If we see someone die, it’s out.  For example, none of the main characters in The Amityville Horror die, but we see the previous family get killed.  Since we see the deaths that set up the present day story, it’s disqualified.  Now, if we just hear the story, I would accept it.
3. No “it was in the person’s mind the whole time,” or “they only killed off their other personalities,” stuff.  If we see someone die and, in the moment, it is real to us, it’s disqualified.
4. If death is all but certain but we don’t actually see it, it’s disqualified.  Technically we don’t see anyone die in The Blair Witch Project, but let’s be real: those people are dead.
5. No classic Universal Monster movies.  If we take Bride of Frankenstein as an extension on Frankenstein, then we know Frankenstein’s Monster wasn’t dead at the end of Frankenstein.  But the deaths were a product of the time; monsters had to be defeated by the end of the film.  If the film was popular enough, the death at the end of the previous movie had to be explained away at the start of the next one.
6. One last rule: if we’re dealing with a, “They were dead the whole time,” situation, it is disqualified.

That doesn’t leave many.  I’m sure I’m missing some, but here is what I have:

April Fool’s Day (original)
The Conjuring
The Entity

It’s not a very long list, but I couldn’t think of any others.  Feel free to chime in with any I may have missed.

Best horror movies of the past 5 years?
This is a list I told someone (@brywhitney I think) I would make.

I decided to make a top 15, going back to 2010.  And so, counting down, here we go:

15. Oculus (2014) – In the simplest terms, this is a movie about an evil mirror.  I could try to describe it, but it’s nearly impossible to do in a limited space.  It’s good and creepy and you should totally watch it.

14. Final Destination 5 (2011) – I love this series.  The fourth installment was easily the weakest, so I thought the series might have been over.  They came back and nailed it with this one.  Lots of good deaths and a terrific ending.

13. Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead (2014) – After making a ton of money with Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Tommy Wirkola decided to make a sequel to his Nazi zombie comedy.  With a larger budget, Wirkola went all out.  He basically looked at the original and said, “More of everything!”

12. What We Do in the Shadows (2015) – Found footage comedy from Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), following a group of vampires from different eras all living under the same roof.  Insanely funny.

11. The Crazies (2010) – One of the few remakes that is better than the original.  This one by a pretty wide margin, in my opinion.

10. The Woman in Black (2012) – An atmosphere-laden return to form for Hammer Horror.  This movie freaked me out.

9. You’re Next (2011) – A really fun home invasion movie (words I never thought I’d type), with one of the best final girls in recent memory.  It has some really great kills and some very funny moments.  The big reveal was telegraphed early, but that didn’t take away from the fun I had.

8. The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014) – A combination remake and indirect sequel to the 1976 original.  I expected nothing from this movie, and came away absolutely loving it.

7. The Final Girls (2015) – A loving and hilarious homage to the slasher genre, with a surprisingly strong emotional core.  I loved this concept, and it was carried out to perfection.

6. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010) – So ridiculously funny.  The two leads (Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk) are perfect.  It helps if you go into this movie with a healthy knowledge of slasher movies (“rednecks in the woods,” specifically), but you can go in with no horror movie history and still enjoy it.

5. The Witch (2016) – Dark, atmospheric movie set in 17th century New England.  After a family is banished from their village, they build a home on the outskirts of a forest.  When a member of the family dies, witchcraft is suspected and the family begins to turn on each other.  The movie is filled with a slow, creeping dread.  It didn’t immediately grab me, but I spent the next two weeks thinking about it.  The soundtrack is incredible.

4. The Babadook (2014) – The trailer made this look like a monster movie.  It is most definitely not that.  It’s really more of a psychological thriller.  The first 30 minutes can be a little rough, but it’s worth it.  This is an extremely tense, creepy, uncomfortable movie.

3. Evil Dead (2013) – This movie held true to the nastiness of the original instead of the comedy of its sequels, and it worked really well.  Lots of fun and extremely bloody.  I love every minute of this movie.

2. The Cabin in the Woods (2012) – A perfect deconstruction of the genre, followed by 30 minutes of absolute mayhem.  I wasn’t crazy about this one the first time I saw it, but I’m madly in love with it now.

1. It Follows (2015) – A slasher movie with a twist.  It had the look and feel of John Carpenter’s Halloween.  I love this movie more every time I watch it.

And now, a hodge-podge of others that just missed the cut.

Frozen (2010) – Not the “Let it Go” one.  The “We’re stuck on this ski lift and we’re freezing to death and there are wolves below us,” one.  Shout out to Hatchet II (not on this list because it’s not very good) for referencing this movie in a news segment.

The Silent House (2010) – Shot in one take, this is either the story of a home invasion or the story of a woman’s mind unraveling.  I honestly don’t remember how it ends, but I remember loving it.  The American remake (starring Elizabeth Olsen) is also quite good.

The Awakening (2011) – This feels very much like The Orphanage (right down to the fact that it takes place in an orphanage), but it is very much its own movie.  It’s quiet and spooky and perfect for a rainy night.

Scream 4 (2011) – Sequels that come more than a decade after the previous installment are tough to nail, but this one did it.  It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s enjoyable and it fits perfectly with the rest of the series.  With the death of Wes Craven, we’re all but assured that this was the final installment.  If that’s true, it’s a great way to go out.  (I absolutely loved the opening of this movie.)

American Mary (2012) – I’m not as high on this as a lot of people are, but I enjoyed it.  Starring the wonderful Katherine Isabelle, this is a story about a woman trying to make her way through med school by performing body modification surgery.  She also doles out some pretty sweet revenge.

The Battery (2012) – One of the more realistic zombie movies I’ve ever seen.  It follows Ben & Mickey, two former baseball teammates (comprising the titular battery) as they attempt to survive in the zombie wasteland.

Maniac (2012) – The original is a grimy, sleazy movie that you will need a shower after watching.  This remake is much slicker, but that sleazy feeling is still there.  Elijah Wood is our killer, but pretty much the entire movie is from the killer’s perspective, so we don’t actually see his face very much.  The feel of this reminded me of Drive, but with more scalping.

Sinister (2012) – Not so much out-and-out scary as supremely unsettling.  There’s a spot in the middle that almost lost me, but it quickly dragged me back in.

Starry Eyes (2014) – Body horror mixed with Hollywood and a Satanic cult.  What’s not to love?

Crimson Peak (2015) – Guillermo Del Toro haunted house movie set in the early 1900s.  It’s beautiful to look at, the cast is incredible and the story is a lot of fun.

Deathgasm (2015) – New Zealand comedy about a metal band who raises a demon army.  There was one scene in this movie that had me in tears from laughter.

Krampus (2015) – Great cast and terrific creature effects.  In my house, it’s already a Christmas classic.

Since we just got our only Friday the 13th of the year, how would you rank the Friday the 13th series?

I am excluding Freddy vs. Jason for this list.

1. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
2. Friday the 13th (1980)
3. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
4. Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
5. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
6. Jason X (2001)
7. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
8. Friday the 13th (2009)
9. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
10. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
11. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)

I am willing to discuss my rankings, but it’s doubtful I’ll actually change them.  I’m a stubborn man.

How did you get into horror?

I didn’t get this question from anyone in particular, but it is one I get quite often.

I believe my story differs from many others.  I was not allowed to watch horror as a child, and I rarely found myself doing so.  The times I found myself watching a horror movie, I never really cared for it.

The first horror movie I remember liking was The Ring.  I was 22 years old at the time.  I didn’t delve too deep into the world of horror until 2004’s Dawn of the Dead.  That’s what kind of piqued my interest, and I began attempting to catch up everything I had missed.  I found myself drawn to zombie movies and slasher movies.  Zombies drew me in because I loved thinking about how I would survive in such a situation.  Slashers drew me in because that’s what everyone I went to elementary school talked about.  They talked about “Freddy” and “Jason,” and I wanted to understand why they loved these killers so much.

In 2007 I went back to college for an accounting degree.  In an attempt to get to 150 credits to sit for the CPA exam (which I never took), I took a class titled Intro to Horror as a Pass/Fail.  I had loved horror before, but this little intro class took that love to another level.  It taught me new ways to watch horror, and gave me more knowledge about the history of the genre.

Part of me wishes I had grown up with it; that I had all the nostalgia that a lot of people I interact with have.  But another part of me is glad I took this path.  I can look at older movies for what they are.  I don’t have the nostalgia for them, so I can just evaluate them as movies.  Some of them hold up and some of them do not, but I am able to see them all from an unbiased perspective.