Year of the Worm: Detective’s Notebook #2 – Rosie

01/31/2017

Gotta break in the case this morning, turned out a woman reported being assaulted not too far from the warehouse where the cats’ were killed. According to the report it happened a few nights before.

The woman’s name was Rosie and she had a few priors, mainly prostitution and possession. A minor leaguer by criminal standards, but pretty common for that part of the city.

Unfortunately, Rosie had no permanent address and the flat-foot that took the report did a half-assed job of questioning her. Based on the account he took Rosie’s assailant could’ve been anyone. One thing that stuck out to me was that her cat had gone missing earlier that day and Rosie claimed that her assailant had her cat when she encountered him on the street. She tried to get it back, and an argument ensued which escalated to violence.
Jones and me hit the streets to find her. Lucky for us she’d been arrested for hooking last year, so her mug shot was fresh. Rosie was barely twenty. She should’ve had the cherubic face of a girl, but the hard life of the streets had etched lines into her face and despite the makeup she had the pallor brought on by a fast food diet and drug addiction. Her lost innocence was a pallid ghost dressed in a thrift store sundress and worn out sneakers. The saddest thing were her eyes, they were like an empty well.
We went to the usual hang outs. Neighborhoods that were full of porn shops and pawn stores. Chinese food and liquor stores. We spotted her outside a food truck selling burritos. She tried to rabbit on us, but Jones was hot on her heels so she didn’t get far.
“Let go of me,” she screeched while trying to pull her arm free from Jones’ iron grip. “Ya’ll should be out there looking for that sicko, not harassing me.”
I gestured to Jones to let her go. “That’s why we wanta talk to you.”
“I already told your boys everything downtown, and they didn’t give two shits.”
I glanced at the greasy slop the food truck was dolling out for five dollars a pop. Just the sight of it made my heartburn flare up. “I tell you what, you come with us and talk and I’ll buy you some real food.”
Rosie stared at me with her abysmal eyes ringed with smudge eyeliner. “Just talk and then you let me go?”
“That’s right. Now c’mon, let’s get outta here before I lose my appetite.”

***
Rosie took a sip of her strawberry milk shake and leaned back in her seat like it was an orgasmic experience. I couldn’t help but wonder when she had eaten last. The stack of empty plates piled in front of her and the cluster of empty glasses answered that question for me. Looking at her across the table, past the smudged make-up and hair dye, I could see the sweet girl underneath. How’d a girl like that end up here? Drugs, sexual abuse, teen-age pregnancy, or something else? Street rats like Rosie were a dime a dozen in the city, but they were still people. Flesh and blood. Hopes and dreams. Fears and failures. It was easy to lose track that they were people and not just a nuisance or a suspect.
The slurping of Rosie’s straw shook me from my thoughts. I caught her giving me the stink-eye and shifted my attention to my half-eaten steak and eggs. “So, tell me about the other day, I read the report but I want to hear it straight from you.”
Rosie shrugged. “Like I said, my cat was missing so I went out looking for her. Stupid fucking cat, I should’ve just stayed in bed. But I was down by the river, you know the old warehouse district, calling its stupid name. I was about to give up, when I heard this hissing and growling coming from an alley. I figured that might be her, and when I got into the alley I saw my cat, and this big fucker trying to catch her.”
Jones shifted anxiously next to me and pulled out a pad of paper and a pen. “Do you remember what he looked like?”
“Oh yeah, he was big and ugly. Maybe six foot or more, and walked funny like he had a bad leg or something. He dressed funny too, like in a bathrobe or something.”
I pushed my plate over to Rosie.“Bathrobe?”
“Maybe an over-sized hoodie, I don’t know for sure, but he wasn’t dressed like the homies in the hood.”
I gulped down the last of my black coffee and gestured to the waitress for more. “What about his face, did you get a good look?”
Rosie grimaced. “Yeah, I did. He was a white dude, which was weird. White folk don’t come down there, not even the homeless, ya know?”
Jones peered over her horn-rimmed glasses. “We need specifics. Something I could use to create a sketch of the suspect.”
Rosie glanced at the clock on the wall. “How long’s this going to take, I got work to do.”
I tossed a couple fifties on the table. “Take the night off.”
Rosie’s hollow eyes darted between me and the money before she snatched it. “Why’re you guys so interested in this dude, he just stole me cat is all.”
Jones cleared her throat. “What did he look like?”
“Okay, whatever,” Rosie said, rolling her eyes. “Like I said he was a white dude. Big head on him like a block. A busted up nose like he’d been busted in the face too many times. He had heavy eyelids and long greasy hair that was a mess. Scruffy beard, and his face was too thin like he was a junkie or sick or something.”
“Anything else, anything that stood out like tattoos, scars, birthmarks?”
“Yeah, he had ink, a lot of it too. I saw some on his neck and his hands. It looked like high quality stuff, not the shitty prison ink most of these wannabe gangsters got.”
Jones peered up from her pad. “What type of tattoos?”
Rosie fiddled with her fork. “I don’t remember all of them, but I remember he had a big one on his throat. It freaked me out when I saw it, it looked like a big eye and had these squiggly lines around it. The rest of them, I don’t remember exactly, maybe more squiggly lines? I … I don’t know.”
I pulled out my note book and showed her the drawing I did at the warehouse. “Like this?”
Rosie’s eyes bulged. “Yeah, that’s it!”
“Have you ever seen it before, not just as a tattoo?”
Rosie shrugged.
Jones held up her pad. “Does this look like him?”
“Yeah, that’s him.”

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With a face like that, he’s gotta stand out among the  gangs, hookers, and pimps. Has he attacked anyone else?

I waited until the waitress refilled my coffee. “What exactly happened in that alley?”

“I started yelling at the fucker to leave my cat alone,” Rosie said, while chewing on some ice from one of her empty glasses. “But he snatched her up by the scruff of her neck and shoved her into a canvas bag. By the looks of it he had other cats in there, too. Then he came after me. I ran, but he managed to catch me from behind. I thought he was going to rape me or maybe even kill me. He tried strangling me, and I nearly blacked out but I managed to get my mace out of my coat pocket and sprayed him. That got him off me, and he took off with my cat. I got out there and called the cops from a pay-phone down the street.”
“Anything else?”
“Well, he was screaming at me while he was chokingl me. Some weird shit I didn’t really understand. Maybe cause I couldn’t even breath. Something about ‘He’s coming or he’s waiting’ and how ‘I must be cleansed’ or some shit.”
I grunted and exchanged a knowing glance with Jones. Rosie’s account confirmed what we’d already suspected. This nut job wasn’t going to be satisfied with killing cats. He was working his way up to people, and that made him far more dangerous. Underneath all the bullshit of ‘He Awaits’ and the eyeball graffiti there lurked a potential serial killer. Me and Jones had to get to him before he killed anyone, if he hadn’t already.
“What way did he go, after you maced him?” I asked.
“Down the alley, toward the warehouses.”
“Where is this alley, exactly?” Jones asked, while slipping her notebook back into her pocket.
“I can show you if you want,” Rosie said. “It’s not far from where I’ve been squatting lately.”
I got up from the table, grimacing at the twinge of pain in my knees as I did so. “Good, let me pay the bill and then we’ll head over there.”

The Problem with a Bookworm

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The Problem with a Bookworm; Kevin Hurtack 2016; gouache an ink on birstol plate.

But what about Japanese Werewolves?

Despite taking several art history classes during college, I’d never heard nor seen any representations of horror in traditional Japanese artwork. So, I was pretty intrqiued when I came across the article Goblins, Ghosts, and Ghouls in Japanese Prints over on Hyperallergic.com

Some fantastic stuff to check out if you’re into that kinda thing. Use the links above to check ’em out.

Gaunt – Finished Drawing

 

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GAUNT, prismacolor premier markers and gouache on bristol plate 2016.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything with gouache. The first time I used it was when I was going to community college right after high school. I was taking a introductory painting course that focused mainly on watercolors. Midway through the semester the professor introduced gouache to us as an alternative. I did a few projects with it and frankly like it much better than watercolors. The main reasons being was the matte quality and boldness of the color when it dried. As well it tended to dry a lot faster than watercolor. I also liked that you did not need linseed oil or other mediums that pose health issues as well as plainly speaking – stink up the room. Although you cannot get some of the interesting visual effects or the atmospheric qualities with it as you do with watercolors, it can be used with acrylic mediums for textures and etc that you cannot use with watercolors. It also has a tendency to reproduce digitally or photographically much better than watercolors, hence it was often used and still is used by illustrators and designers as well as traditional artists.

During my college years I went onto paint with acrylics and oil. Although oil painting is the rock star of the fine art world it never really appealed to me as an artist. In fact traditional painting never appealed to me. One semester when I was taking an upper level oil painting class the professor said that I may as well be painting with sticks rather than brushes. I suppose that could have been perceived as an insult, but my brain is not wired to ‘see’ in planes of color. Lines, detail, shapes. That’s what lures me into creating imagery.

Overtime, I started creating line drawings with pencil and ink and shading them or coloring them with various mediums. In a lot of ways the old school illustrations of the weird fiction artists of the ‘pulp era’ influenced me. In particular the work of Jack Davis on Tales From The Crypt is/was a huge influence. Unfortuantely, Jack died back in July but he left behind a plethora of work behind. Besides Jack, others influence me like contemporary artists  Coop and Pus Head.

I chose to do this piece in black and white, and future ones, because I like the contrast and the subtle nature of the shading. It also does not distract from the quality of the line as would full color. Plus, for most of us we see full color everyday and by portraying something bizarres, such as this Gaunt, in black and white it gives it an even  more surreal/strange quality. Black and white is like one strong voice projecting itself across a room while color is an orchestra. Both are valid when used with precision and purpose but for myself, I prefer black and white.

This particular drawing was loosely based on the poem ‘The Night-Gaunts’ by H.P. Lovecraft.

Out of what crypt they crawl, I cannot tell,
But every night I see the rubbery things,
Black, horned, and slender, with membranous wings,
They come in legions on the north wind’s swell
With obscene clutch that titillates and stings,
Snatching me off on monstrous voyagings
To grey worlds hidden deep in nightmare’s well.

Over the jagged peaks of Thok they sweep,
Heedless of all the cries I try to make,
And down the nether pits to that foul lake
Where the puffed shoggoths splash in doubtful sleep.
But ho! If only they would make some sound,
Or wear a face where faces should be found!

H. P. Lovecraft, Night-Gaunts

Scarlet Screams The Phoenix; A Flash Fiction Story

This is a short piece that I wrote about ten years ago. I did a little bit of editing to it and tweaked the ending just a bit, but overall it’s as it was when originally written. The original genesis of the idea came about by trying to put a spin on the same old same old vampire story. Also at the time there was an arsonist in the city I lived in setting fires to abandoned houses/industrial buildings. The outcome was this bit of flash fiction.

I post it here for your amusement, I still like the story although its a little rough around the edges from a ‘writerly’ point of view.

Be forewarned there are certain elements that some may find offensive …

 

SCARLET SCREAMS THE PHOENIX

BY KEVIN HURTACK

2006/2016

With the subtle flick of her wrist the match head came to life with a delectable hiss and a heady aroma.

Celia placed the flickering flame between her bone thin thumb and forefinger letting it burn until it caressed her flesh.

Celia felt nothing.

She let the charred corpse of the match stick descend like Lucifer. It smoldered on a floor covered with crumpled fetish magazines and empty cans of lighter fluid. Celia pulled another match out and lit it while she walked over to a thread bare couch Old VHS tapes and dog-eared paperbacks laid haphazardly on a milk crate that served as her coffee table.

Celia studied the back cover of the movie, The Hunger for a moment before tossing it over shoulder. The movie was useless, it held none of the advice she sought for her condition. Although Celia found David Bowie insanely hot, his character in the movie seemed just as confused and misdirected as her. But then again she shouldn’t have expected to find salvation from a rock star.

What had happened to her was nothing like the Stephen King, Anne Rice, or Richard Mathewson novels, either. No seduction followed by a blood letting. Not a charming man, or affable woman. There was no primal beast like Max Ernst in Nosferatu.

All Celia could remember, when she tried hard, is the fire. All about her. Suffocating, and embracing. Smoke thicker than the night. The anguished screams. The gut-wrenching stench of burnt hair and broiling flesh. The charred bodies surrounding her. Men crying like little boys. Old women begging for a miracle escape. Hysterical mothers clutching the unnervingly still bundles of their babies.

Then she saw It. It came through the wall of flames cloaked in ash and fire. All Celia remembered was the embrace of an unearthly flame.

Since that fateful night her skin has been one immense burn scar. Cracked and wrinkled like old leather instead of the fair complexion of her former teen age self. Celia found out soon that the sunlight burned horrendously, forcing her to dwell in the night.

She knew she wasn’t dead, she still breathed and pissed. Although she could eat food, something in the bowls of her soul yearned for something more. It sang in her ear, lingered inher memories like echoes in a deep canyon. Celia spent endless nights writhing in agony as It sang to her. Her feverish head filled with heinous images of charred flesh and hot blood. Flesh ripped from a man’s femur. The visceral onslaught made her wretch, but something deep down inside her grew agitated like a chained dog outside a butcher’s shop.

One night when Celia woke she found a box of matches and a can of lighter fluid beside her. A note was scrawled on a pack of cigarettes ‘Scarlet Screams the Phoenix’. She didn’t know why, but it seemed familiar to her.

Celia took the stuff outside, intending toss it in the dumpster. She didn’t know where to go, or who would help her but she couldn’t live like this any more. Before she got a few yards from her door, the deep down writhing sensation hit her like a sledge hammer. She doubled over and fell to her knees.

She sucked air through her clenched teeth as sweat dripped from her furrowed brow. She wondered if this was what death felt like. Perhaps her injuries from the fire had finally caught up to her. Yet something urged her to her stumbling feet. Each foot fall felt forced, as she were a marionette controlled by some ambiguous puppeteer.

Celia staggered across the street to the local seminary school. She watched as her charred hands curled into fists and busted out a back window. She watched in stupefied horror as her body doused the room with lighter fluid. Even more disturbing was the way the stench of the fluid aroused her. A warmth grew between her legs and rushed up her withered body. Her head spun and a soft moan escaped her broiled lips.

Her hips writhed as she flicked her wrist and lit the match. A wave of ecstasy rushed over her, consuming every inch of her scorched body. A primal groan rattled out of her ruined throat as she staggered backward. She leaned against the wall and gasped for breath as the flames danced across the floor and lapped at the walls as teasingly as a lover’s tongue. The fire washed over her, she was no longer dead flesh and bone. She was purified by its pain. Cleansed by its carnage.

As the flames consumed the building, she consumed the dieing. Mortal blood flowing down her parched throat was immaculate.

When she woke up the following afternoon, guilt caught up with Celia. She forced herself to puke up the blood and flesh of the dead until her stomach felt like it had been turned inside out. Yet she knew her resistance wouldn’t stay this strong for much longer. She would be a slave to a diabolical master.

The dark hunger came back that night and it was worse than before. The taste of the dead the other night seemed to intensify its power. Celia attempted to fight it, and tried to keep herself from committing more heinous acts. In the end it grew too strong, and Celia gave into it completely. So much easier to give in. All the pain went away. There was only sheer pleasure, no need for troublesome thoughts or feelings. It put her in such a daze that she barely remembered sneaking into the orphanage where she was raised. The squealing of the children before the smoke snuffed out the air in their lungs was a sadist’s symphony.

The years, decades, and centuries swirled by quickly in a haze of fire, blood and ecstasy. She burned down crack houses and fed on the numb blood of the dead junkies. Brothels were the scenes of firery orgies.

But her frail body could no longer contain the dark hunger that fueled it. It began to crumble into ash and charred chunks. The slightest of touch blew her flesh away like soot. Then she found him, young and strong, laying under the covers of his bed. Safe and secure. Something rose up inside her, spilling out of every crack and hole in her decrepit body. Tendrils of flames surrounded the boy like serpents. Blankets erupted into turbulent waves of fire. His body convulsed and his screams pierced like arrows until the smoke filled his lungs.

As his flesh boiled, the dark hunger slipped away from Celia, lingering for a moment like a departing lover, before she crumbled into a pile of ash.

The End.

She’s Got The Devil In Her … Again?

In case you missed it, I almost did, the television network Fox recently rebooted the Exorcist franchise into a series. I debated whether I wanted to watch it or not. I love the original movie, I’ve seen it countless times and even owned a super-delux-wit-cheese-and -special-sauce director’s cut on VHS (If you were born in the 90’s ask your grandparents what VHS is). In fact its probably collecting dust right now in the basement. I even watched the mediocre to horrible sequels of the original movie. I am not a fan of reboots, but after reading some online spoiler proof reviews I decided to give it a shot.

There are minor spoilers in the following paragraphs, avoid them if you are or planning to watch the series…

The Good: The scenes that really stood out to me were the ones that took place in Mexico  City and centered around Father Marcus’ difficulties with the exorcism of a young boy. The setting of the barrio was symbolism, with its derelict buildings and foreboding atmosphere, for the emotional state of Father Marcus. The exorcism scenes themselves were surprisingly graphic but perhaps more realistic than the split-pea soup spewing ones in the original movie.

That aside what really appealed to me was the scene between Father Marcus and Brother Bennett, which almost gets violent/deadly. I think that this scene really did a lot to show how frustrated and desperate Marcus is, not only by the demon inside the little boy but perhaps by the Church itself. Also, I thought it was interesting how the Church seemed to be opposed to Marcus’ work. Although it was a short scene, it did well to develop his character and perhaps set up future conflicts.

 

I also liked the scenes with Father Tomas in his apartment with his sister and nephew. Again, it was short but it showed that Tomas was not the pure innocent man who had no flaws or desires that were not Godly. Although his past was only hinted at, it suggested here was a man that was not always compelled to live the life of a Catholic priest. There’s also a later scene where he seems at least open to the idea of questioning/doubting God during a conversation with Angela Rance. All of which makes him relatable and realistic to me.

 

The Bad:

Despite the good character development and introductions of Tomas and Marcus, I felt that the writing of the show rushed too fast with the Rance family. I never had a feel for who they were and what they are about as individuals. Instead it felt like I was suppose to identify with them because they are an upper middle class white family living in ‘the city’. That they’re good people cause they go to church. That I was supposed to be sympathetic for Dad and his undisclosed generic mental disorder, just because I have a father or am a father myself. Sorry, I need more than that. I need to be shown who/what these people are.

I did not feel anything for them, and they felt like plot furniture rather than characters. Although I understand about Angela’s past, it still felt too quick for her to run to her priest and it felt like lazy writing for her to simply tell Marcus what was going on in the house. It would’ve been way more interesting and entertaining if the events she talks about were shown on screen.

I also found Casey and Kat to be incredibly annoying, which makes me care about them even less.

I think if the writers had spent a little more time showing me this family prior, I could have identified with them a bit more so that when problems start, I would actually care about their fate.

I also found the idea of a teen age/college age girl being the supposed victim of a demonic possession to be cliched. I mean seriously, there are countless movies out that do this same thing. Why not change it up and have Dad possessed? Why not add a grandmother to the family and make it her? Using a ‘attractive’ young woman is just gimmicky and trite. Frankly, it’s eye rolling inducing for me.

I know that there’s the potential for more to the series than just this family,  but right now it just feels like lazy writing.

I feel that the show missed a great opportunity to present exorcism in a new way. It would’ve been  far more interesting to see the events unfold either in Mexico City, or in a Latino neighborhood where the culture and belief system would be different than that of a middle class white family. Unfortunately, Fox decided to go all-white in this series so far with only a few token characters/scenes of other cultures and what they end up with is just more of the same that I’ve seen countless times in other movies/shows. Fox has reputation for ‘edgy’ shows and they should have pushed things with this series, but unfortunately it does not seem like they’re willing to go that route. I figure the most they’ll do to ‘push’ the boundaries is show some explicit gore or some sexually suggestive scenes with the girl and priest or even her younger sister. Just enough to rile up viewers and increase the ratings, but nothing to really push the plot or characters into new territory.

Summary: Exorcist is a well produced, and acted series with a solid cast. Much like American Horror Story it feels like it’ll be an ensemble story line rather than focusing on one character, which I like. The set designs feel contemporary but at times still have the visual feel of the original movie without being overly nostalgic or over the top.

Based on what I’ve seen in the pilot episode I’d say that the show understands the value of subtle creepiness, a la the homeless man outside the church, and explicit shock value,such as the boy in Mexico City. If it can keep this balance it could be a good horror series.

At this point I am not entirely sure if I’d watch another episode. If I do it will be because of Fathers Tomas and Marcus, rather than the Rance family. I feel like the strongest point of the series could be both priests’ personal struggles and backgrounds as well as the relationship/partnership they develop to help the Rance family.

 

 

I

 

 

Thanksgiving with Cthulhu

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Photo by Rusty Eulberg

So you’re probably wondering WTF? Well, here in the USA it is Thanksgiving this Thursday. That special time of year where we gorge ourselves all day and then fall asleep on the couch while American football blares on the flatscreen tvs. It marks one of the few days of the year where you have to socialize with relations that you normally only see at funerals and the occasional wedding. Some argue that the holiday goes all the way back to the days of the Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock. Others claim its a time to celebrate family and reflect back on the past year and what you’re grateful for. I’m not gonna debate the pros and cons of  colonializm or Freudian psychology over our national over eatting holiday.

Oh right, the photo. You can thank Feind Gottes (@FeindGottes) of Thy Demons Be Scribblin (a great heavy metal/horror site if you’re into that sorta thing…) He shared it with me a few weeks ago. After a bit of googling I found out that this thing (turkey, octopus, crab legs) was created by this dude Rusty Eulberg a few years ago. His wife is a big H.P. Lovecraft fan apparently and that’s where they got the inspiration for this monstrosity. Lovecraft had an elder god character by the name of Cthulhu which was a tentacle/octopus headed creature with a humanoid body and bat-like wings.  Lovecraft’s writings often dealt with bizarre transformations as well, so this ‘Cthurkey’ is a great homage to old Lovecraft’s mythos. They say that turkey causes people to become drowsy and Lovecraft is known for drawing upon dreams/nightmares in his stories. It’d be interesting to know what sorta of dreams/nightmares you’d have after eatting a Cthurkey.

You can read a brief interview of Rusty and the origin of his Cthurkey in an article at Gothamist.com by clicking HERE

Unfortunately, I won’t be partaking in a Cthurkey this year, maybe next. My family and I will be having turkey enchiladas instead. A fair trade off, I figure.

 

 

Free Fiction: No Exit

photo credit: Cristal roto // Broken Glass via photopin (license)
photo credit: Cristal roto // Broken Glass via photopin (license)

The window mocked him. It could’ve provided an exit from the room but it was too small to squeeze through. Only meager light could pass through it. It oozed through the shattered glass and illuminated the gore that had splattered the wall like a Jackson Pollack painting.  Thankfully, the feeble light didn’t pierce the darkness that filled the rest of the room.

Even if he could get through it where would he go? They lurked outside, waiting for some fool to wander out. He had no desire to encounter them, again. Too much running had nearly broke him. He couldn’t do it any more, especially now that he was alone. 

Her ghost drifted through his memory. The warmth of her body, the tenderness of her touch. He found it hard to remember how she felt in his arms, the taste of her kiss. She had faded like an echo.

The stench shoved him back to reality. Coppery and rancid, like a charnel house in Hell, the putridness permeated the room. Despite the darkness he knew the source of the foulness. Her corpse’s pallid flesh laced with blue-gray veins. Eyes as murky as stagnate water. Coagulated blood on her thin lips. A bullet hole just above her left eyebrow.

It amazed him that such a simple circle had ended her life. Standing back and squeezing the trigger proved simple and quick. Like flipping a switch. At least from the physical aspect, but the twitch of his trigger finger had gouged a hole in his soul the size of the Grand Canyon.

But what choice had he had?

None. Choices didn’t exist, not in this world, only instinct and fear.

But her death was his fault, not the act of shooting her, she was long dead before that. He’d failed to protect her from them, despite his promises.

“Until death do we part,” her voice said from somewhere within his tattered mind.

But no one had told them that death wasn’t a permenate thing. Witnessing her death was bad enough, but when her corpse rose up and tried to devour him it drove him to the brink of madness.

The gun in his trembling hand was an anchor dragging him down into the fathoms of despair. He pressed the barrel of the revolver against his head, just below his ear. A simple squeeze of the trigger and it would be over. The bullet would tear through sinew and shatter his skull. Pulverize his brain stem to pulp. Unlike her, he wouldn’t slip through the ice-cold hands of death. He wouldn’t come back as one of those things out there.

The rattle of the door sent a bolt of adrenaline through him. A prickling sensation like needles down his spine washed over him. 

 They had found him, somehow. It came as no surprise.

He tightened his grip on the gun. How many bullets remained? 

Thunderous thuds filled the room. The wood door creaked and groaned under their assault.  

He lowered the antiquated revolver from his head and fiddled with it. One bullet left. He rummaged through his pockets.

The door burst open, a flash flood of light filled into the room.

He squinted, the intrusion of light felt like shards of glass digging into his eyes.

Six silhouettes lurked in the doorway.

His fingertips brushed against the cool metal of five more bullets. His heart leapt in his chest like a startled rabbit. His trembling hand scooped the bullets up.

Six silhouttes shuffeled into the room.

He backpedaled toward the far wall, into a pool of pallid light below the window.

The silhouettes stood in a semi-circle before him, blocking off the door.

The gun rattled in his shakey hand as he struggled to load it. The revovler’s cylinder spun like a roulette wheel.

They rushed toward him like a pack of wolves.

A jolt of fear seared his spine. He gasped through his clenched teeth as the bullets fell from his hand.

The pallid light illuminated the silhouettes. Gaunt men in tattered clothes with ashen faces laced with blue-gray veins. Their murky eyes narrowed. Their mouths bloody scowls.

He jammed the gun barrel under his ear and squeezed the trigger.

The metallic click of the revolver’s hammer striking an empty chamber was as loud as thunder.

The gaunt men pounced on him like ravenous beasts. 

His warbling screams were drowned out by the sickening snapping of his bones and the tearing of his flesh.

A Trip Down Bloody Memory Lane

First off, Happy Halloween. For me one of my earliest memories of Halloween goes back to when I was in elementary school. Like most American school kids we all dressed up as our favorite comic book heroes or traditional Halloween characters and that day was generally a fun one. But what still sticks with me to this day, some forty years later, is the fact that the school janitor and a few other the other male teachers at school took upon themselves to scare the ever living shit out of us. They did this by waiting until the festivities were in full swing and storming into the class room or cafeteria while wearing rubber monster masks and raggedy costumes. The end result was a bunch of little kids going bat shit crazy and screaming. Of course their reign of terror was shortly lived, but that rush of andrenaline and fleeting sense of ‘oh shit’ left a lasting impression on me. Perhaps its what drew me to horror, or at least contributed to it. That terrifying expereince in what normally was a safe environment. I doubt they’d let the school get a way with something like this today, but I’m glad that they did it back then.

Regardless of how you spend your Halloween this year, have a fun and safe one.

Digital Popcorn: Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead

I love zombies (Romero, Sean of the Dead, Zombieland and even the Dawn of the Dead reboot) but lately it seems like the living dead are the fast food of movies and they have a budget and talent pool just as dissatisfying and greasy.

But every once in a while there comes along a movie that makes me rejoice in exploding heads and disembowelment. Case in point, Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014). This Australian entry into the zombie niche grabbed my attention right away with its explosive beginning, three dudes in body armor and low on ammo facing off against a mob of zombies.   Those of you who’re gore hounds won’t be disappointed. It’s a kick in the face in terms of action and special effects, all of which seems rather old school – in a good way.

But as much as I love me some zombie decapitation, I need something more to hold my interest. Fortunately, Wyrmwood takes the time to give background stories to the three main characters. This is done via flashbacks to a time prior to standoff you see in the beginning of the movie. To be honest, the transition to the flashbacks was a bit jarring and could’ve been written and edited better. But none the less the bits about Barry, his sister Brooke, and Benny does a good job giving insight into each character. Unfortunately, the story tends to focus on Barry more so than the other two. He’s an interesting character, but honestly, I would’ve liked to have seen more about the other two.

The basic gist of the movie is Barry has lost his family, except for his sister, Brooke. His sister in turn has been kidnapped by a crazed doctor and his military goons. I won’t give too much away in terms of what happens to Brooke but I will say she’s no ‘damsel in distress’. The chick can kick some ass, and I’m grateful that they didn’t go the exploitation route with her character. It was refreshing to see a strong female character in a genre where traditionally women are zombie fodder or only there to be saved by their man. The crazed doctor is one of those characters that’ll either annoy the hell out of you or you’ll love to hate him. Personally, I hated him and loved the fate he suffered in the end. The dude was seriously bat-shit crazy.

The general atmosphere of Wyrmwood is gritty and dark, but at moments there is dark humor. In particular there was a scene where Benny mistakenly blows another survivor’s head off. Those of you who are fans of the Evil Dead movies will notice some subtle references to its cinematic style, quick edits and use of gore. It’s subtle, but a nice touch, especially the scene where Barry is gearing up for combat.

Wyrmwood does feature fast zombies. I know that’s the source of many bitch-fests amongst horror fans, but they actually have an explanation for why the zombies are fast. They also have a reason for why the zombies slow down. All of this is learned through the characters’ experiences. There’s no wise old man to explain everything to them or the viewer. There’s also only a loose explanation as to how/why the plague started. It’s things like this that piques my curiosity about Wyrmwood’s world.

Wyrmwood manages to present itself as a classic zombie movie, while adding some interesting spins on the zombie archetype. Most of these occur during Brooke’s scenes. The whole idea of controlling or manipulating the zombie mind is an interesting one and the end results of these experiments prove to be more than just weird/disturbing scenes between Brooke and the doctor. In fact, they play a major part in the final climax of Wyrmwood.

The plot of Wyrmwood is pretty simple stuff – survival and finding Brooke. It works well and is entertaining. I didn’t feel that the movie dragged at any point or had any needless filler scene. The climax of movie is intense and has one hell of a conclusion.

When the time the movie ended, I wanted more. I wanted to know more about this fictional world and the characters. I wanted to know more about the crazy doctor and the goons that worked for him. Were they part of something bigger? Fortunately, a part two is currently being made and the actors that portrayed Benny and Brooke are returning. It’ll be interesting to see where they take the ideas started in this movie. If they can do a quality job on the second film I would love Wyrmwood become a cult classic trilogy. I think horror fans need something like it after a serious drought in quality zombie horror.

I would suggest this movie to gore hounds and zombie fans in general. The plot moves at a good pace and there wasn’t any scenes that I felt were merely filler or too long. Wyrmwood manages to take the great things of old school zombie horror while keeping it fresh with its characters and unconventional twists on the zombie archetype.