Where Nightmares Come From, A Must Read for Horror Buffs

Where Nightmares Come FromWhere Nightmares Come From

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a must-read collection of essays for anyone who:
• wants to write horror literature or scripts (or entertainment in various forms)
• wants industry insights that would otherwise take decades of trial/error to learn
• is a connoisseur of horror who wants richer perspective on how creators work

All the essays are well-done. There is plenty to learn from the ones focused on script-writing, even if you’re more interested in horror fiction like me. So do read them. However, based on my tastes and biases as an aspiring horror writer I’ve selected three standout essays from Where Nightmares Come From.

Pixelated Shadows: Urban Lore and the Rise of Creepypasta by Michael Paul Gonzalez

A brilliant, original exploration of how the Internet has paradoxically taken humans back to primal methods of storytelling. By osmosis, it’s also a useful guide on crafting creepy shorts for marketing purposes!

Bringing An Idea To Life Through Language by Mercedes M. Yardley

As a person who has read volumes on crafting characters and finding your writer’s voice, this is by far the most beautiful and effervescent essay I’ve read on the topic. Yardley’s personality is a bonus, though, not a gimmick–this short essay about word choice/character/voice deserves to be taught in Fiction 101s and MFAs.

The Process of a Tale by Ramsey Campbell

If you’re a fiction writer, at some point you’ve no doubt read a story and thought, I wish the author could take me step-by-step through how they pulled this sorcery off! Good news, kids! Ramsey Campbell, horror fiction icon, uses his story “The End of a Summer’s Day” to take us from idea germination to draft-by-draft processes and rewritten passages to final product. The lessons are conveyed with remarkable accessibility and humility.

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Behold The Void–Nay, Behold Philip Fracassi.

https://www.amazon.com/Behold-Void-Philip-Fracassi-ebook/dp/B01N7WAWGG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1519578936&sr=8-1&keywords=behold+the+void

Buy. It. Now. $7.

Philip Fracassi is the next big name in horror. Get in on the ground floor and be a “horror hipster” who discovered him first–before he is so mainstream.

This short story collection renewed my faith in fiction as entertainment. Especially in the short fiction form.

Too many short story writers think we pay the price of admission for wispy tales, with depressed characters who stare out windows, and end on “subtle,” “ambiguous” notes.

*fart sound*

Behold The Void by Philip Fracassi delivers the goods–each story stands alone as a bolt of lighning. His characters and the plots they’re unfortunate enough to be in make you give a shit.

There isn’t a single bad story. Here are my top three (light spoilers):

  1. “Altar”
  2. “The Horse Thief”
  3. “Mandala,” the capstone novella

“Altar”

I read “Altar” on my Kindle in a cafe. People shot me dirty looks because I kept fidgeting in my seat and swearing in disbelief under my breath. That was only the second story in the book. I knew I was in the presence of a special horror genre talent—a master.

Fracassi handles three dynamic characters, a feat in itself in short fiction: a mother, her adolescent daughter, and her ten year old son. He captures their broken home, split fresh by divorce, and the swirling confusion of growing up/raising kids deftly, all while ratcheting up a tower of tension. The culmination–glorious, glorious cosmic horror!–where we literally see a community pool open up into a void, where a demon who eats children waits, mouth salivating.

Think H.P. Lovecraft without the social ineptitude and misanthropy, and you’ll appreciate how amazing this story (and Philip Fracassi, generally) is.

“The Horse Thief”

I have a special connection to this yarn. My favorite literary writer is Cormac McCarthy, author of Blood Meridian, arguably the greatest novel of all time. Many try and fail to imitate McCarthy’s mystical and effusive style and fall short at the man’s feet.

I haven’t a clue whether he was trying to evoke McCarthy in this story or not. But my God. Pitch wise and thematically and lyrically, it was close. The main character is a Mexican immigrant who steals horses, who gets roped in with a sadistic buyer, so content-wise, the shoe also fit.

I finished the story and thought to myself, if Philip Fracassi ever crosses paths with Cormac, that wise old imp is going to clap him on the back like an approving father.

“Mandala”

This novella is worth paying for as a stand-alone book. You know that tired-ass cliche people throw around about being grabbed by the throat? This novella leaves choke marks.

I can’t remember reading such taut, compelling prose. This story involving two families at their summer homes in Washington State, dealing with two intertwined tragedies, is harrowing. Literal connotation. What separates Fracassi from other writers (in any genre) is the artful way he develops his characters.

Here, the central tension is whether or not our main character Mike is going to drown. His friend leaves him handcuffed to a railing at the shoreline–when the tide comes in he must fight to keep his head above water.

In Fracassi’s hands, Mike is a real boy. We feel each excruciating physical and mental struggle that he goes through–it’s grueling. The act of reading almost leaves you to suffer the shortness of breath and the brutal sunburn that Mike does. I haven’t rooted for a character to survive as much as I did with Mike in “Mandala” since I first started reading fiction as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed pup.

Buy Behold The Void

Philip Fracassi is brilliant. I’ve bought all his other work already, and intend on ripping through it like the characters in this collection hurtle headlong into the void.

The Ritual, A Netflix Horror Gem

Main characters of The Ritual, Netflix film.

The Netflix original film The Ritual, based on Adam Nevill’s 2011 namesake novel, is a must-watch for connoisseurs of horror. Especially my breed of horror fan, trolling the depths of Netflix like a starving bottom-feeder for quality horror films.

I decided to illustrate how amazing The Ritual is by way of contrast. I will tell you the common folks-lost-in-woods horror tropes that David Bruckner’s film does not resort to. And in fact, breathes new life into.

No spoilers, either.

Meeting Characters Without Cheeseball Grabass

Bruckner establishes his use of economy, seriousness, and respect for his audience’s intelligence within the first five minutes. We get our main character Luke, and his three mates, Phil, Hutch, and Dom, talking about this year’s guys-getaway over a pint. Further, the traumatic event that serves as Luke’s backstory, also occurs at act one’s starting gate.

No corny-ass young couples! What a relief.

In my opinion, more horror script writers should have either all male or all female casts, or to put it in an LGBQT+-friendly way, an all platonic ensemble. This lends films a more serious atmosphere since sex is off the table. More fruitful soil for real terror.

Directors almost always rely on exploiting women with raunchy jokes and having the couples play grab-ass for the first half hour. The cheap characterization makes my unintentional B-movie radar ding.

The Ritual does not.

There Is Not One Single Forced Jump Scare

Thanks to the cinematography, the tension is real.

Shots of stark trees linger, causing the mind to start conjuring things moving between them. They also portray the vastness of the landscapes in an emotionally resonant way. The long frames are refreshing in the found-footage and shaky-first-person saturated sub-genre of lost-in-woods/witchcraft horror.

Bruckner doesn’t rely on quick cuts to disorient the audience. Nor does he rely on background music. The first time we partially see the creature stalking the four gents, the shot lasts around a minute, the tension roiling around in the viewer’s guts.

A sidelong glance into the thin trees, a loud bout of silence. Fingers wrap around one of the trees, and your mind screams “THERE, I SEE SOMETHING–WAIT, WHY AREN’T THE FINGERS MOVING, DID THE FILM FREEZE? DOES THE CREATURE KNOW I ALMOST SEE HIM?” More silence. More stillness. Then the body the fingers belong to sweeps across your view, takings its time.

You feel almost like a voyeur getting caught on its territory, a sensation of terror only the best cosmic horror can illicit.

I was left as unsettled as Luke, the scene’s POV character.

Questions Answered/Monster Seen

Many creature-features and witchcraft films struggle with a balancing act of these three things:

  1. The audience wants to know the monster’s 5 Ws
  2. We want everything that gets set up to pay off
  3.  Viewers want to see the monster–we don’t want to dance with shadows, but we also don’t want overexposure

The Blair Witch Project worked because of its originality. People granted them leeway with this balancing act because the tropes and cliches hadn’t been bludgeoned to death yet, necessitating the balance.

You boil Blair Witch down to its essence and you get: vague witchcraft happenings and kids scared about it.

The Ritual begins its third act with a well-executed explanation of all the things, as the kids say.

The witchcraft has been substantive throughout the film. Now you understand the 5 Ws of the creature. The time with it on the screen is also meaningful for Luke’s character arc, which elevates the creature’s visual presence above mere scare-bait.

Other films simply rely on vague creeps. Explaining this without describing the plot is tough, but trust me. The 3-point balance is achieved, leaving the audience satisfied.

Go Watch The Ritual & Perhaps Read The Novel

This isn’t your average horror film. A number of the overused tropes seen in so many movies in the genre-at-large, as well as the sub-genres The Ritual falls into, are reinvigorated here. The result is a damn good movie, and an emotionally wrought experience.

The Novel

The Trailer

My story “A Little Poor Taste Wartime Humor” is in issue #6 of Bone Parade

You can read my latest short story, “A Little Poor Taste Wartime Humor” here.

The story is about a couple and their young daughter coping with the on-set of WWIII. I thought it would be fun to write a mid-apocalyptic storyThere’s dark humor and high emotional stakes, along with vivid descriptions of warships roaring across the Atlantic and the mountains of Appalachia.

It’s also a quick read.

What else could you want, right?

If you like the story, it would mean a lot to me if you shared it on Facebook or Twitter. I’ve given up on social media myself because all of the political vitriol is bad for my mental health.

Salad Fingers Explained: 30 Mind-Blowing Minutes of Horror

You remember Salad Fingers from the early 2000s?

This ten-part series of Youtube videos by creator David Firth disturbed us all back in the day. Whether it was the sickly green series character talking to finger puppets, orgasming while rubbing rust, or lactating through a swollen nipple, these videos fueled the nightmares of plenty of kids as friends dared each other to watch them alone in the dark.

What I didn’t realize–I was an 8th grader at the time–was that Salad Fingers creator David Firth was actually a horror genius and that the show was rife with deep meaning.

What if I told you that Salad Fingers was a shell-shocked World War One veteran with a mixed-race lineage that got him abandoned by his parents and that he now suffers from schizophrenic delusions while trapped in his own mind as he comes to terms with his life?

I know. Holy shit, right? I thought it was just a few creepy scares from when I was a kid.

Two videos explain this Salad Fingers theory.

The Youtube Channel The Film Theorists covers every mind-blowing detail in the two videos I’ll put below. It’ll take about half an hour. But trust me, it’s worth every minute.

 

I know, Salad Fingers Explained, is a bit overwhelming.

After you gather your thoughts, leave me a comment about what you think.

Recommendation: Unacknowledged, a documentary on Netflix

Unacknowledged is a documentary film centered on Project Disclosure and its founder Dr. Steven M. Greer. Ostensibly, this film is about the UFO, or UAP (unidentified aerial phenomenon) as John Podesta and other Washington insiders now refer to it and extraterrestrial visitations. The claims are backed by witness testimony and interviews from former officials and experts, as well as overwhelming amounts of declassified documentation from within the military industrial complex (MIC).

The film provides perspective on power in Washington

The film is more important as an expose on the power of the MIC. For instance, a motif in the film is that the most powerful people, from presidents to four-star generals are denied access to this information because they are not deemed “need-to-know.” The MIC running Black Budget operations with the corporations that manufacture the technologies of war and aviation are the ones truly seated in power. A few powerful names on the list of people denied entry into the exclusive “Know” include the following presidents:

  • JFK
  • Reagan
  • Carter
  • Clinton
  • Obama

Unacknowledged makes conspiracy theorists look good

I appreciated what this film did for the poor public image that a lot of conspiracy theorists suffer from. That is, we are dismissed as kooks who label the Government, in its entirety, as the perpetrators of certain conspiracies. As if it were possible or fair to lump the millions of federal employees or corporate employees as one boogeyman. An equivalent would be people who rage against the “1%” as if it were a secret society. A unique quality of this film is that it addresses specific though technically anonymous players in the conspiracy, and in fact tells its audience that presidents, senators, and members of congress, aren’t out to get you… at least not in this situation, anyway.

Some of the most thought-provoking evidence that Dr. Steven Greer presents documents CIA psychological warfare operations (Psy-Ops) on the American public.  Two topics alluded to in the film that I use in my own fiction are predictive programming and false flag operations. Here’s a brief explanation of the two concepts:

  • Predictive programming is when the media, like news, Hollywood, literature, are all used to desensitize the mass public to an idea. The point being that when the idea comes true it’s almost expected.
  • False flag operations are when governments attack themselves in order to then garner support from the masses of their country in rage against a common enemy.

The big(gest) question

The film poses the question of whether or not the Deep State and MIC is holding extraterrestrial disclosure close to the vest because it’s their ultimate false flag event. After all, sources in the film state that Black Budget military operations involving the advancement of aviation technologies have progressed at least fifty years beyond what the public is told. They fake an alien invasion either to cripple America and the world. Or in the aftermath of say, using politics to completely destabilize us and then faced with the threat of a chaotic World War Three, try to unite all of us around a common enemy: aliens!

For true believers in ET, hopeful that they’ll “come in peace,” the film makes the next point abundantly clear: the anti-gravity technology needed for interplanetary travel would be 40,000 times more advanced than the technology that gave us the atom bomb. Therefore if ET was hostile, we would’ve been blown to smithereens already, because destroying Earth would be equivalent to the difficulty a baby has stuffing a chubby little foot in its mouth for them.

Where you can watch Unacknowledged

Check out the trailer below. It’s available through this link for $4.00, but it is free on Netflix.