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Halloween horror movie round-up!

Scary greetings <<First Name (optional)>>,

A few years ago, I stopped watching horror movies.

I think this was down to a couple of things.

One, I became a dad. This does lots of things to your brain, and so for a while, I really didn't want to watch man's inhumanity to man, or be reminded of how horrendous the world can be. 

Two, the pandemic hit. I've written before about how this stopped my writing for several months, but it also curbed my love of horror full-stop, whether that horror was supernatural or super-violent. After all, the prospect of my friends and loved ones dying while hooked up to ventilators was way more terrifying than anything a movie could serve up. Life seemed full of horror and I didn't fancy any more. Mind you, that didn't stop me playing Doom for days on end.

In time, though, you remember that horror movies offer catharsis. They are an opportunity to safely experience the very worst. Sometimes, you just can't handle that kind of psychological ghost train ride and sometimes you can. Sometimes you even crave it. And so, even though humanity's tribal cruelty still horrifies me and makes me fear for my children's future, and the pandemic is still very much present-tense in my world (the strength of human denial feels almost as worrying as human cruelty, in fact), I've come back around to watching full-blooded horror films that disturb the hell out of me and yet somehow cleanse me at the same time. In particular, I've got back into slasher movies.

Here's my spoiler-free account of what I've seen during October:

A harsh, bleak slasher movie starring Art, the sadistic psycho clown (pictured above) who made his debut in director Damien Leone's film All Hallows' Eve. This is such a nasty piece of work, even though Art's mute slapstick mannerisms do add a fair deal of dark humour to the grim and bloody proceedings. Set largely in some kind of rust-caked industrial warehouse, the film gets bonus points for making you distinctly unsure as to who's going to live and who's going to die. One set piece involving a rusty saw has to be seen to be believed. 

TERRIFIER 2 (2022)
Against all the odds, Terrifier 2 is even more horrible than the first movie! Even less expected is the fact that it's been playing a whole host of US cinemas over the last few weeks, with its takings boosted by reports of cinema goers fainting and throwing up. I can well understand why Terrifier 2 may have sickened a good proportion of its viewers - one prolonged Art-attack in particular, which takes place in a bedroom, brought even me out in a cold sweat and had me watching from between my fingers. I actually sought out a YouTube interview with the actress in question, just to remind myself that it was all just make believe! Make no mistake, this is a hardcore horror movie, but extremely well made, with good effects and acting. Even the running time, which initially seems ludicrous at almost two and a half hours, feels about right while you're watching. Pay no attention to the Guardian newspaper review which bizarrely called the film "absurd fun rather than being completely cruel".... Terrifier 2 is cruelty personified! 

I haven't seen Hatchet III, but suspected that there's hardly much of a story arc running through Adam Green's slasher series, so decided to go straight to Part 4 on Prime Video. Much like the first two movies, it's a fun horror/comedy that is clearly low budget but still belies the fact that it was shot in an astonishing 11 days. Despite being fun, there are plenty of really grim and gory moments, including a disturbing claw-hammer-to-face assault that very much stays in the memory. 
X (2022)
Director Ti West brings us a distinct and nicely unusual slasher film in X (actress Mia Goth, pictured above) Set in the 70s, it sees a posse of adult movie makers descend upon an elderly couple's farm to shoot their latest titillating title. Things do not go to plan, and people start to die. The gore may not be as outrageous as the above movies, but the characters are better drawn and more distinct, and there are plenty of jolting moments. The film also does some interesting and touching work with the concept of growing old. I suppose the closest thematic comparison over the last decade would be M Night Shyamalan's The Visit. Turns out this is the first film of a trilogy, with a prequel in Pearl and a sequel to come, but I'm currently unsure if my interest in the overall story will quite stretch that far. 

This allegedly final entry in the Halloween franchise sadly turns out to be a misfire. Without wanting to giving too much away, the film bizarrely introduces a brand new character who grabs more screen time for most of the movie than Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and an older Michael Myers combined! This is a baffling decision for a movie that should have been a grand final showdown between Laurie and Michael. I think it really highlights the fact that Halloween didn't have a trilogy left in it. Two movies, or even one, would have done the job. The last 10 minutes of Halloween Ends are pretty good, though. And it really does feel like the end... until next time.

SCREAM (2022)
How I loved the Scream trilogy, back in the 90s. Each movie felt like a real cinematic event. After the underwhelming Scream 4 (2011), though, I wasn't exactly psyched for this fifth instalment, but thankfully I had a good time! You can feel the writers straining to make this one a postmodern satire of something - namely horror's reboot cycles - but the movie just about retains its meta edge. The murders are also more vicious than in previous Scream outings. One moment in particular will have long-time fans in uproar! Say no more...

Having enjoyed director Marcus Dunstan's very nasty movies The Collector and The Collection, I was looking forward to catching up with this one. And while I really enjoyed it, fans of those previous two movies may be disappointed that The Neighbor is more of a violent thriller than a straight horror movie, with villains who come across as more human than they tend to be in these films. The only real issue is a somewhat overly capable protagonist in drug dealer John (the brilliantly eerie Josh Stewart), but he still gets a run for his money when his neighbour turns out to pose a threat to him and his girlfriend Rosie. Definitely recommended for a tense Halloween watch, despite the relative lack of wall to wall gore. 

Watch me read Jack Sparks

Been a while since I took part in a book event! Was happy to turn up for the recent Halloween edition of Virtual Noir At The Bar, given that it was purely online, and the hosts Vic and Simon are lovely.

I read part of the exorcism scene from my novel The Last Days Of Jack Sparks, among various other fine authors who read clips from their own work! Most of us then came back onscreen at the end to recommend a read and a movie for Halloween. I did my best not to cough too much (been ill with an infuriating cough and cold for the past three weeks now). If you watch that end section, you can see me cough silently a few times after muting my mic! 

Watch the full archived event on YouTube here.

My Halloween video failures! :)

Over the last few years, I've made a special effort to make a horror-themed video each Halloween. None of them have done as well as I'd hoped, ha! Here's a reminder of what they've been so far...

This was my 24-minute video diary, made during the week of release for my 2019 novel Ghoster. Like so many YouTube videos, this one felt pretty good when I was making it, but I suspect it was just too long for most YouTube viewers and the average viewer only hangs around for six minutes, with only 300-400 views in total over the last three years! Ouch. Still, that's the YouTube game for you - and perhaps it will find a second wind at some point. Could certainly be interesting for up and coming authors to see what it's really like to have a book published and go to London MCM Comic Con a guest, as I do in this video.

Watch my Ghoster video diary here

I had never put so much work into a YouTube video as I did this one, and haven't again since! I arranged my filming with Brighton Pier, then was surprised and delighted when their chief engineer of rides gave me a guided tour of the train and let me film all the secrets within! I sourced drone shots of the pier, secured permission from photographers to use images of it and found archive footage of a fire that once took place on the pier. I loved the finished result, but viewers didn't seem to share my glee... not at first, at least. The video limped out of the gate last Halloween... but has thankfully since notched up a respectable 2.3K views! Thank God for that.

Watch my ghost train guided tour video here

Family illness has prevented me from making any new YouTube videos at all for months now, sadly. But thankfully I did make a kind of Halloween video this summer, when an artist sent me a scary, mysterious painting! I devoted a fair deal of effort to this one, and people seemed to like it, but for some reason it stalled at 1.1K views and has barely moved since. The YouTube algorithm moves in mysterious ways!

Watch my scary painting video here

I should point out that, despite my belly-aching above, I am truly grateful for each and every view I do get on my videos!

If you enjoy any of the above videos, please do share them around this Halloween and beyond! Would be great to see them get some kind of second life.

Essential author software!

If you're an author who self-publishes on Amazon, then here's a reminder that Publisher Rocket strikes me as a downright essential tool for categories, keywords, etc.

There's a 30-day guarantee, so you have nothing to lose. Oh, and you're a writer, so the price of the software may be tax deductible, depending on whereabouts in the world you live.

Boost your Kindle book sales with Publisher Rocket here. I am a proud affiliate of this thing!

Sincere Warning boost!

My short story A Sincere Warning About The Entity In Your Home has received a welcome sales boost this month, both in its ebook and physical paper incarnations!

Scary books usually see an uptick in sales come Halloween, I guess. But I mainly attribute this one to both versions of the book having featured in BookTuber CriminOlly's lovely round-up of 10 Of The Best Horror Books You've Never Heard Of. Thanks Olly!

It's been fun, in the lead up to Halloween, putting together the 'bespoke deluxe' physical paper editions of A Sincere Warning..., which people have mostly bought for others! One buyer bought one for his wife, which arrived yesterday. He emailed me to say: "That worked perfectly! And when I say "perfectly" I mean she was terrified and very upset. She's finally talking to me again but totally worth it."

"Very upset"? Ulp. That's clearly a strong marriage, right there, to survive such mischief. 

As I type, the same buyer has sent me a testimonial for the paper letter as follows: "This is the most wickedly original gift you could get for a loved one. Creepy as hell and guaranteed to scare the bejeezus out of a loved one." I'll buy that for a dollar!

If you'd like to get your order in for a Christmas gift for a loved one, then best to book it in now while I still have the capacity. And remember that, as I said in the last newsletter, my eligible Patreon supporters get a discount! 

Hope you found this newsletter scarily enjoyable!

Thanks so much for reading this far and for staying subscribed. As always, if you want to reach out to me and ask any kind of question (well, almost any kind), all you have to do is reply to this email. 

Bye for now! Have a great Halloween and an awesome November. See you at the end of the month. 

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