Planning West Manor 2008


Well, Halloween is just around the corner, and I'm hard at work on plans for this year's haunted house. This season, I'm going all out with new props, a new look to the waiting line, and some nifty new scares. Bobo and Mr. Smiley (above) are anxious to meet all the trick-or-treaters, and I can't wait to see the little tykes' faces. :-X

I can't go into specifics (don't want to ruin the surprises), but look for a complete report and many, many pictures to be posted after the big night. ;)


John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978)


Working title: The Babysitter Murders
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: John Carpenter and Debra Hill
Produced by: Debra Hill
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles, Nancy Loomis, Charles Cyphers, Kyle Richards, Arthur Malet, David Kyle, and Nick Castle

I’ll admit it: I’m a creature of habit…of tradition, if you will. Every year, I must watch It’s A Wonderful Life sometime on or shortly after Thanksgiving. Call me sappy, but it just doesn’t seem like the Christmas season unless I’ve seen that flick at least once. The same is true about my beloved All Hallow’s Eve. Sure, I can carve a pumpkin and put graves in my front yard, but I’m just not fully into the festive spirit of the holiday until I watch John Carpenter’s Halloween.

This film is terrifying from the very first frame. The camera slowly pushes in on a Jack-O-Lantern—the only light on an otherwise black screen. Names flash around the blazing pumpkin, and we hear music. Chilling music. Carpenter’s main theme is one of the most memorable in motion picture history and sets the stage for the terror that follows. After the last credit appears, we are welcomed to Haddonfield, IL. It is Halloween night, 1963, and the camera rushes toward an innocent looking house—beginning a single, continuous POV shot that rivals Orson Welles’ opening to Touch of Evil. We see what Michael Myers sees as he grabs a butcher knife from the kitchen, creeps up the stairs, and slips on a clown mask. We then watch helplessly through the eyeholes of the mask as he walks into his teenage sister's bedroom and stabs her repeatedly. His act of murder complete, Michael walks out the front door and onto the lawn where a man and a woman wait. They remove the mask and we see that this killer has been a six-year-old boy.

Fast forward to October 30th, 1978. Myers is now an adult and must appear before the court. When his psychiatrist (Donald Pleasence) arrives to escort him, Michael steals the car and heads back to Haddonfield. He arrives on Halloween, finds three teenage friends to stalk—Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), Annie (Nancy Loomis), and Linda (P.J Soles), and picks up where he left off 15 years before.

John Carpenter’s Halloween was a terrifying experience in 1978 and it remains just as frightening today. If you have never seen it in the widescreen format, however, you have never truly experienced it. Carpenter knows how to use the scope aspect ratio to the fullest. Characters will be walking or talking calmly in the foreground while something lurks off to the side or in the window behind them. Sure, the slasher films that followed have copied this technique, but none have been able to duplicate the artistry and execution Carpenter achieves here.

The writing in the film is also key to building suspense. Debra Hill and Carpenter have fashioned real teenage girls with strong friendships and real-life problems. We grow to care about them, and that makes the danger they are in far more palpable.

Acting is often the sore spot in a horror film. Not here. Despite the fact that Christopher Lee was originally offered the role, it is impossible to imagine anyone but Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis. He delivers Carpenter and Hill’s long soliloquies on the nature of evil with a soft voice that draws you in. Like Robert Shaw’s Indianapolis story in Jaws, you are riveted to every spine-chilling word. Pleasence also uses his eyes to great effect. They are always looking—always searching for his elusive foe. And Jamie Lee Curtis is perfect as Laurie. She is shy and vulnerable, but she is strong when she has to be. There have been countless “virginal” heroines in slasher movies. They are all trying to be Jamie Lee, and they all pale by comparison.

John Carpenter's Halloween is simply flawless. This is what every horror movie aspires to: atmospheric, fun, frightening, and relentless. Required viewing for everyone who considers themselves a fan of the genre. Light the Jack-O-Lantern, grab a bowl of candy corn, turn out the lights, and let the season begin!

5 out of 5 stars.


My Birthday and Context

First, to all those who have wished me a happy birthday...Thank you so much! ;D

Second, I am off to Context 21 in Columbus, OH for the weekend. I will be on panels and signing copies of Dark Harvest and the very few remaining City Slabs with my short story "Jiki." I will also be celebrating my birth at the various parties put on by APEX, Shroud, and others. ;)

Pictures will follow, and I hope none will feature me in compromising positions. :-X

Have a great weekend everyone, and I hope to see some of my faithful readers at the con. :)

Horror Hound Weekend (August 2008)

Another Horror Hound Weekend. My third this year. And yet, I find that I am just as excited today as I was last year, when the magazine launched its series of conventions here in Indianapolis. While there are some returning friends--the great Tom Savini, Kane Hodder (Jason of Friday the 13th VII-X), and some of the zombie actors from George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, there are many new faces.


The first person we see as we enter the hall is anther West, Dr. Herbert West, Jeffrey Combs of Re-Animator (Above).

"Where did you get that shirt?" he asks.

"Fright Rags," I tell him.

"That's great...with the hands holding the heart, and the head up there with the bat wings."

"You're on here too," I tell him, pointing to a shadow in the background, holding a glowing syringe.

He laughs, then signs my Re-Animator poster and an Australian mini for Frighteners.

"So..." I ask, "Is House of Re-Animator still a possibility?"

He shakes his head, looking disappointed. "It's dead."


"Yeah. Too many people with money saying 'no.'"

When he signs my Frighteners mini, he uses his line, "My body is a roadmap of pain."

I smile. "Not, 'I'm an asshole with an uzi?'"

"I have written that before," he laughs.


Next to Jeffrey is his Frighteners co-star, Jake Busey (Above).

"How are you?" I ask.

"Fine," he says. "It's early."


"No, not really. I'm just not a morning person."

You would never know it. Busey has a wide grin and is quick to share the fun he had making The Frighteners. He turns to Dee Wallace (Below), his love interest in the film, "We adlibed that whole thing, didn't we? Jackson just let us go."


Dee Wallace is wonderful. Just wonderful. She's funny, and very honest. I show her a lobbycard I have from The Howling, one Director Joe Dante signed many years ago with a funny comment. In the time since, Robert Picardo and Producer Mike Finnell have added to it, and now it is her turn.

She points to the poster image in the corner. "You know, that's my mouth."

"Is it?"

"Yeah, you can see my fillings." She then shares with me a behind-the-scenes story that relates to the still, and as she writes, says, "This is going to sound so catty."

"No," I tell her. "Go for it."


Next...a real thrill. The legendary Dick Miller (Above). Dick has been in just about everything over the years. Piranha, The Howling, The Terminator, V, Gremlins, Night of the Creeps, Pulp Fiction...you name it, and he has probably had a supporting role or cameo.

"Sir...it is a real pleasure to meet you." I hold out my hand.

He shakes it. "And it's a pleasure to meet you. I've been waiting for you all day."

We laugh, and he starts to sign my items, but when I unroll my Night of the Creeps poster, his jaw drops. "Oh my," he says, "that's amazing!"

And that's exactly what I'm saying on the inside when he signs it.

Then he moves on the Howling lobby card, and his co-star, Belinda Balaski (Below) leans over.

"Look at this," Dick says, showing her what others have written.

"I know," she says, "I've heard about it. Now I have to think of something."


Belinda is so sweet, and so much fun. We chat about everything from HD television to the films she has done for Joe Dante. On her table is a still from Amazon Women on the Moon, and I let her know that it was just on HBO2 last week.

"Was it?"

I nod. "I got it on TiVo. I hadn't seen it in widescreen before."

"Oh, that's wonderful," she tells me. "That means a residual check is coming."

And then we both laughed.


Next came another moment I was waiting for: a chance to see director Joe Dante (Above). Being a child of the 80s as I am, I have grown up with Dante's films. Each one became like a family reunion. Dick Miller, Robert Picardo, Kevin McCarthy would be on the screen, and the late great Jerry Goldsmith would be guaranteed to provide one of his best scores.

After he signs my Gremlin's poster, I show him the Howling lobby card. He reads the comments others have added to it over the years, and his smile grows wider and wider.


Afterward, we meet the star of Gremlins, Zach Galligan (Above). He signs my poster, and the ear of a Gizmo belonging to my son's friend. It has been almost 25 years, but Galligan look the same as he did when he played Billy Peltzer.

"Is this your first time in Indianapolis?" I ask.

"You know, it is," he says. "This is the first time I've ever been to Indiana."

"Well, I'm glad you were able to come."

"I am too. I'm enjoying it."


Next, we find the Wishmaster himself, Andrew Divoff. Andrew is a great guy. Very friendly, and he obviously loves what he does. He has had roles in everything from Neon Maniacs to Indiana Jones, but we mainly talk LOST.

"Are you back this season?" I ask. "Or will you have to shoot me if you say anything?"

He laughs. "There are rumors, but I haven't heard anything yet. I would love to do it. I love that character."

Fans of the show might wonder how his character, Mikhail Bakunin, could come back, seeing how he was shot with a speargun, then blown up by a grenade. But this is LOST we're talking about. Anything is possible. ;)


There are so many vendors at Horror Hound; rare posters, T-shirts, and collectibles around every corner. Sure, there are some CDs and DVDs that are bootlegged, just as there are at any genre convention, but there are also some real finds. My favorite: a statue of the ALIEN emerging from the bowels of the Nostromo, complete with hanging chains.

Speaking of chains...

It is while we are trolling the booths that we meet the Asylum House ladies. They are nice enough to pose for a picture (Above)...


...right before they put me in the stock and whip me within an inch of my life. :-X


We then see Doug Jones (Hellboy 1-2 / Pan's Labyrinth). Doug (Above) is a native Hoosier, and one of the nicest, sweetest men you will ever meet. I hand him a copy of this week's Indy.com newsweekly, one that features interviews with both of us.

(For the interviews and related Horror Hound story, follow these links:




"When I walked up to the writer for my interview," I tell him, "You were just getting off the phone with him."

He laughs. "Oh, how funny! Thank you so much for this."

We talk shop a bit, but the line is long, the longest of the convention, and soon we have to move along. He signs a still of the Angel of Death from Hellboy II. The photo has a golden tint to it, and he decides to use a gold paint pen. "You'll have to let this dry a bit longer, but it really looks great."

And boy, does it ever. ;D


One of the real highlights of the weekend was Michael Biehn (Above). Earlier, when the lines were long, there was not much time to talk. He signed posters from ALIENS, The Terminator, and Grindhouse, we shook hands, and I was on my way.

Later, however, as the crowds died down, my sons and I are talking nearby, and Michael strikes up a conversation with my youngest about his Karate.

"Show me what you got," Michael tells him, standing up in a fighting stance. After my son throws a few punches, the actor smiles and asked him if he wants a picture.*

It is about this time when Tom Savini walks over with a cell phone. "Someone you know wants to say 'hi.'"

Michael takes the phone from Tom, then looks up at him, questioning. "Hey, Arnold," he says into the receiver.

The conversation goes on for a bit, but it soon becomes obvious that this is not actually the Governor. Michael hangs up and hands the phone back. "Whoever that was, he was good."

My young son then asks me for money to buy a "Zombie Hunter" cap from one of the vendors.

"What's he want?" Michael asks.

My son explains, in great detail, what it is that he's found.

Michael then hands the boy $5.

"You don't have to do that," I tell him.

Michael shrugs. "Hey, it means nothing to me, but it's going to give him something he can remember."

My son looks up at me, wondering if it is OK.

"What do you say?" I remind him.

"Thank you!" And then he is gone in a blur. When he returns, he shows Michael his hat, a small werewolf action figure, and some zombie warning signs.

"You got all that for $5?" Michael asks him, just as amazed as I am.

My son nods excitedly. "Now I have seven things to remember you by."


It is now close to 6pm, and the new film Dance of the Dead is showing in the screening room. The room is packed, and when the film hits the screen, it is pure demented joy. This is, hands down, one of the best horror comedies ever made. EVER. And I cannot wait until the DVD release in October so that I can add it to my collection.

The movie is followed by a sneak peek at footage from the Friday the 13th reboot, due out Friday, February 13, 2009. This is the same teaser that was shown to audiences at Comic Con. You might have seen it on the Internet, all blurry and tilted. It was wonderful to be able to watch it clearly. When the lights came up, Derek Mears (Above), who plays the new Jason, spoke at length about the experience of making the film (Below).

Derek is a film geek at heart, and the joy he feels playing a horror icon is clearly evident. When asked how it felt to put on the mask for the first time, he grinned and said, "It was like taking Excalibur from the stone."



When the Q&A ends, my youngest still has a question, one Tom Savini had drummed into his head over the years. He wants to know how there can be a Jason when the boy drowned in the very first film.

I say, "Go ask him."

And so my son, who has never had a bashful day in his life, walks up to Derek (Above. My son is the short one on the left, still wearing the "Zombie Hunter" hat Michael Biehn bought for him).

"This is what they call a reboot, or a relaunch," Derek explains. "Have you seen the new Batman?"


"It's like that. It's starting over, like the other films didn't happen."

This satisfies my son, and from what I've seen, I'm hopeful the film will satisfy us all.

And with that, it is time to leave. It has been another Horror Hound Weekend to remember, and with a Night of the Creeps reunion looming in Detroit, I'm certain it will not be the last.

*Author’s note: As always, pictures featuring my children have been cropped when possible. When not possible, I have chosen views where their faces are obscured, or have not posted them at all. I hope you understand.

There and Back Again

July was quite the busy month. Did a lot of research on Tibet and wrote a story, "Sanctuary," for an upcoming anthology. It turned out very well, much better than I expected, and my first readers have all sung its praises, but it's out of my hands now and in the editor's inbox. *fingers and toes crossed*

Also in negotiations on another project that I'm very excited about. Hope to have news on that soon, and of course, when I know...my faithful readers will know too. ;)


With a few projects done, and a few others at breaking points, finally got a chance to take the family on a nice, long-overdue vacation. Flew up to Wisconsin Dells and stayed in a cabin in the hills. (I know, I know...made all kinds of Evil Dead/Cabin Fever references...especially during the pancake breakfasts. :P )


Took a boat ride (above) down the Wisconsin River and got a good look at the odd rock formations that make this area such an attraction. (below) I was here once before, when I was as old as my oldest son. At that time, the boats and souvenir shops were all the place had to offer. How things change.



Now they have a huge theme park, Mount Olympus (above). A huge water park and five Greek mythology-themed roller coasters, including Hades (below), which dives hundreds of feet into underground tunnels and unseen twists and turns before racing back into the light of day. It's rated number three in the world. Makes me wonder if I could survive numbers one or two. :-X



Got to spend the afternoon heat riding water slides and splashing around in the giant wave pool, well...until Poseidon showed up. Boy, was that guy pissed! (Above. My son actually took this photo. Probably the best one any of us took all week long!)

Once we got dried off, we went racing on the various go-cart tracks in the park (below). In the past, the tracks I've been to have been ovals or mock road courses. Not so at Mount Olympus. They actually have multi-level tracks that go below lakes and up through huge Trojan Horses. Very cool. ;D



Spent one night at the Ho-Chunk Nation casino (above). The running joke among the locals is that you go in with money, but the games take the "Ho-Chunk." ::) In my case, it was the truth, but the wife was able to win some back. :)


It was nice to get away from it all and just hang out with friends and family (above--I'm the one on the right). My wife kept after me about always checking my cell phone for a signal (there wasn't one for most of the week), and I was going through major Internet withdrawal, but it was a good time. A much needed break from work and day-to-day obligations. ;D

Well, now I'm back. West Manor is still standing, the Internet is still working, and my laptop is all warmed up--ready to churn out more stories for everyone to enjoy. I better get started. ;)


Loss of Wisdom

 Had a wonderful time at InConJunction last weekend. Met some faithful readers and found some new ones. ;)

Full report coming soon. ;D

In the meantime, I've been dealing with my wisdom teeth. :'(

Yes, I still have them. My dentist has been trying to get me to have them taken out for years, but I hate dentists, and I hate surgery, so I've been hoping to keep them in my head, hopefully be buried with them, but it doesn't look like that will happen. Nope, in a week, I will have to have them cut out. >:(

Bad news= Surgery :-X

Good news= Good drugs and maybe some uninterrupted time to write. :)

Will keep you all posted. 

"To Know How to See" can now be seen LIVE!

As faithful readers may know, APEX: Science Fiction and Horror Digest issue #12, featuring my story "To Know How to See," sold out in record time. But fear not! The story is now featured on the on-line version of the magazine. You can read it by clicking on the link below:


Enjoy! ;D