It’s 1939 and the Spanish Civil War rages. Even a remote orphanage is bombed – only the device doesn’t explode. It stands tall, firmly planted in the courtyard, undetonated. This is how you enter Guillermo del Toro’s thrilling, gothic tale, The Devil’s Backbone. Carlos is new to the orphanage and has a hard time making friends. Carlos soon meets Santi, the orphanage’s ghost, but Santi isn’t so much a friend as a terror that will not stop haunting him. But who is Santi? Why is he lingering at the orphanage? Carlos answers these questions and more in a movie that is both elegant and dreadful.
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The darkness that spills from Joe Hill’s pen should be read in October while dead leaves rustle, tree branches scrape at window panes and ghouls seem to climb out of long shadows. Start with Hill’s short story collection, Twentieth Century Ghosts, with its museum of last breaths and forlorn specters that haunt theaters. Want something scarier? Try Heart-Shaped Box and you’ll meet a musician being attacked by a vengeful spirit through a suit bought online. Not in the mood for ghosts? Have a look at Horns, Hill’s newest novel, where a young man tries to figure out why he woke up with devil horns. Whatever Joe Hill book you choose, be ready for a tale best told at twilight.
Beware when somnambulists and their keepers come to town. Caligari displays Cesare, the ever-slumbering man, as a carnival attraction. When Cesare is awakened Caligari says he can answer any question. Francis, our narrator, and his friend Alan visit Caligari’s booth where Alan asks how long he will live. Cesare tells Alan he will be dead before dawn…and he’s right. Thus begins the eerie tale of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Made in 1920, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a masterpiece of silent-era German Expressionism. Flat sets with distorted angles and painted-on shadows give an alien-art nouveau feel to the film, which is considered to be one of the greatest horror movies of all time.
One day a hallway appeared in the Navidson’s living room wall, a hallway that should have extended into the yard, but instead led to unending cold and dark. How could a house be bigger on the inside than it was on the outside? This house is the focus of The Navidson Report as read and footnoted by a tattoo artist named Johnny Truant. There are multiple narrators in Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, but Johnny Truant and Zampano, the dead man who wrote The Navidson Report, are the most important. Be ready for a psychologically twisted tale with an unorthodox structure that includes everything from mirror image text to codes and unusual appendices.
H.P. Lovecraft was a writer of the weird. Lovecraft’s tales usually involved the idea that reality is a thin veil and when it is torn, those that see the horrors and truths behind it often go insane. In Lovecraft Unbound, Ellen Datlow has collected twenty stories framed in Lovecraftian elements. Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon and National Book Award winner Joyce Carol Oates both appear. “The Crevasse” by Dale Bailey and Nathan Ballingrud is a standout story about an arctic exploration with a monster that stays at shadow’s edge. Laird Barron’s “Catch Hell” unearths occult rituals performed in a magnolia-lined small town. No one here is trying to be Lovecraft, but they are giving his themes of fate and forbidden knowledge new life.
Johnny the Homicidal Maniac is best friends with a dead rabbit. A young neighborhood kid named Squee is his second best friend. Johnny has to keep his wall coated in fresh blood, else wise a monster of untold terror will break free. His house sits on an extensive cluster of caverns and labyrinths. It is here he kills people. Johnny is, generally speaking, a very bad man. Yet Jhonen Vasquez creates a sympathetic antihero as, over the course of seven comics, Johnny mocks and questions not only the world around him, but his own behavior. JTHM is a horror comedy and not for the squeamish, but if you like gallows humor, it is black comedy at its blood splattered best.
Shirley Jackson is most widely known for “The Lottery,” a short story that she meant as “…a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity” in people’s lives, which caused subscription cancelations and hate mail to The New Yorker in 1948. Jackson continued her themes of societal unease with an added layer of agoraphobia in her novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle. The local village hates the Blackwood family. Merricat Blackwood only leaves her home to go to the library and the market. Merricat lives with her older sister, Constance, and her decrepit Uncle Julian. The rest of the family is dead. Murdered. But by who? Sympathetic magic, riots, a fire, repressed hatred and everlasting love all lead to the answer.
It begins as an itch that will not go away. Soon blue triangles are visible under the skin – and they are growing. Podcasting author Scott Sigler has earned comparisons to Chuck Palahniuk and Stephen King for his new print novel, Infected, in which a vicious disease turns average Americans into psychotic killers. The government seems to be two steps behind in finding any explanation, and the graphic crime scenes are multiplying. In the meantime, a former football player is waging his own personal war with the triangles in his body, even as they begin to talk to him. This fast-paced story of paranoia and terror will make your skin crawl in a whole new way.
Some days it doesn’t take that much effort to imagine the end of the world. The 2007 Warner Bros. release I Am Legend brings to life the frightening idea that mankind’s own hubris will bring about the destruction we fear. Will Smith shines as Robert Neville, possibly the last survivor of a plague that has eradicated the earth’s population. Neville is valiantly trying to develop an antidote to the miracle cure that started it all while at the same time fighting off the feral Dark Seekers who viciously slaughter any living thing they find. I Am Legend is the third film adaptation of the classic science fiction book by Richard Matheson. The first, The Last Man on Earth starred Vincent Price, and 1971′s The Omega Man featured Charlton Heston.