Thursday, November 2, 2023

Stephen King's If It Bleeds Read-Along - If It Bleeds and Rat

This is a read-along so be aware of possible spoilers ahead.

I apologize for having to combine the final two novellas in one discussion. October flew by, and I couldn't keep up. I enjoyed both of them very much. I hope you did too!

News flash: The Life of Chuck (the second novella in this collection) is being made into a series and the series creator is none other than Mike Flanagan. Pretty exciting, as Flanagan's work is always good. Not sure what network it will stream on yet.

If It Bleeds

Let me first say that Stephen King's The Outsider is one of King's best, in my opinion. I was riveted through the entire book, and I really enjoyed the HBO series as well. I also agree with King about Holly Gibney. She is one of my all time favorite characters. (Still need to get my hands on his new novel all about her.)

It's intriguing how SK came up with the premise for this story. Not the part where this being is similar to the one in The Outsider, in that it can change it's appearance (skin-walker comes to mind), but how the idea was sparked by seeing the same reporters reporting on all the disasters on the news. Genius! In this case, it is relatively harmless...its only negative trait is thriving on disaster. It's when it starts causing the disasters that we (Holly) have a problem.

The reason I think Holly is such a great character is her quirkiness, yes, but also how she has persevered through so much, and is carrying on healthy relationships with friends, and achieving success. She still has her moments of anxiety and self-doubt, but she thinks back to those who have taught her and helped her along the way (Bill Hodges, Ralph Anderson), and relies on her friends who care so much for her. These things help her stay grounded so she can do what she does best - catch monsters, save people, and protect her friends.   

That ending had me on the edge of my seat, and also wondering if there are more "skin-walkers" in Holly's future. I can't wait to continue on with what SK has cooked up for her next.


Okay, so I'm a writer, and I'm not sure if you've heard of it, but there's a little writing challenge that goes on every November called NaNoWriMo (Google it if you're not familiar) and I'm participating. I'm not so sure this was the story I should be reading right about now. 

SK sure knows how to write about something that may seem perfectly mundane (a writer who loses his shit every time he tries to write a novel), but for those of us who write, it is horrific. Although I will say that I kept thinking "Dude, get over it." So maybe I'll be okay. lol 

I'll admit, when the rat spoke, I jumped a mile. Was it real, or was Drew's fevered mind playing tricks on him? Was the death of Al and his wife truly just an accident, or was it truly the fulfillment of Drew's bargain (wish) with the rat? SK leaves it open for our interpretation because, even when the rat shows up again, we still don't know for sure if Drew is still imagining it. I'm coming down on the side that the whole thing was real, and I certainly would never trade finishing writing a novel for someone's death, terminal (supposed) cancer or not. Having made that choice, I can certainly understand why Drew decides to never write another novel.

So what did you think about these two novellas? Share your thoughts on the two novellas in the comments, or leave a link to a post. 

I'd like to thank those of you who joined in on the read-along, and Something Wicked Fall. We will be back next fall with more scary and another read-along. Until then, happy horror reading!

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Monday, October 23, 2023

National Horror Movie Day - The Night Slayer

Today I'm featuring the upcoming 2024 release, The Night Slayer from creator Michael McQuown.
Below is a Q & A with the creator. Be sure to check out the trailer at the end of the post.


Just before graduation from college in spring of 1990, a couple I knew wanted me to call their single female friend in the fall as both of us were moving to DC. About a month after arriving in DC, I hadn’t called her yet. I think I misplaced her number as this is pre-cell phone time.

One night I met two college buddies at an irish bar in Capital Hill. It was a weeknight and very slow. The entire time they were talking about people from work, none of whom I knew at all. After about 30 minutes of boredom, I did something I almost never do. I went up to a woman sitting at the bar by herself. We talked for quite awhile without exchanging names. Suddenly, it hit me. I said your name is such and such. She looks at me shocked. Turns out it was the woman I was supposed to call.

A few nights later, while trying to fall asleep, I thought what if she disappeared after that night. The police would never believe my story in that a city of 700,000+ that I randomly talked to the one person I was supposed to call (without even knowing it was her!).

So that’s the genesis of this murder-mystery. A guy talks to a woman that mutual friends are setting-up who then vanishes. Of course the police would suspect him. Over the course of many sleepless nights I pieced together the details of the story and plot way back late in 1990.


I am pretty sure The Night Slayer is the only narrative (that is, non-documentary) film shot with the same actors over multiple decades. The shoot was mostly done on and off from 1993-1995. And then I shot additional footage with one of main actors, Paul Webster, in 2023. So for 26 of the 30 years there was no filming.

I made a cut in 1998 to show agents and managers, but no one would sign me because of an upcoming WGA writers strike. So it’s ironic that now it’s finally done in 2023, we are in another WGA strike! During the 2000’s, I thought maybe I could put the film on YouTube or something like that. But after reading about Neural Reconstruction and what early A.I. could do during COVID lockdowns, I realized we had a plot point that would justify the look and style of the film.

I got in touch with Paul Webster after many years and drove up to his house in Delaware from Florida to shoot the 2023 footage over two days. The 90’s footage I had a crew of one – just producer Melissa Robison and myself. The 2023 footage I shot with no crew, just myself.


Neural Reconstruction is a real-world science that is, for lack of a better descriptor, mind-reading by a computer. Since 2011, computers have been able to interpret with increasing accuracy, fidelity and resolution what you seeing into still photos and now video by analyzing brain scans in real-time. They can also synthesize speech accurately that you are just thinking, as well interpret stories from what you are listening to. The Night Slayer uses this as a plot point for the 1990’s footage.

What we shot in 2023 hypothesizes that in 2024 you can be hooked up to a portable Neural Reconstruction scanner that will output something like a grainy, surreal, independent art-house-like movie. Paul Webster, playing the same character I shot him as in the 1990’s, is now being paid in 2024 to read a script about events that happened to him 30 years ago in 1994, the idea being if it really happened to you then the computer will reconstruct a more accurate video output.

With this concept, I now had a reason why the footage of the 1990’s looks the way it does, as well as the use of tilted dutch angle camera shots, jump cuts, mixed media like 8mm film, 16mm, video, etc. etc. (See bottom of this page for links to real-world articles on Neural Reconstruction)
CLICK HERE and scroll to the bottom of that page for the links mentioned.


Just like how we shot over 30 years, I am pretty sure The Night Slayer is the first completed narrative feature to make significant use of A.I. shots. There have been plenty of shorts made in 2023, but nothing that I have seen implemented into a feature film.

We used mostly Gen-1 from, which basically completely changes something you shot. For example, one of the characters in mid-motion changes from the actor into a demon and the interior of what shot changes into something most would think is hell.

We used a bit of Gen-2, which is creating a shot out of nothing except a text prompt like you can do with A.I. generated stills. Both types further added to the surreal nature of the film and go along with the plot line that the 1990’s footage is a computer algorithmic interpretation (Neural Generation) of what someone is thinking. In generative artificial intelligence video anything can go, and with The Night Slayer, it certainly does too.


A good chunk of the movie takes place in two locations. The Main character Michael Jacobs’ apartment and the police interrogation room. We actually shot those at the same place, which was the apartment I was sharing with lead actors Fred Zelinka, who plays Michael Jacobs, and Victoria Gallegos, who plays Kristin Thomas. Fred had experience constructing sets while he was acting in Los Angeles, so he built a portable two-way mirror wall we could set up and take down easily. By moving some furniture and replacing a light, we could change a corner of the apartment into the police station. We also converted the apartment into the scene with nightclub owner Nicholas DeBarge.

The next major portion of the movie takes place in various locations at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. One scene is in a fundraising call-center phoneroom. That was the phoneroom I was the manager of at age 25-26 and those were my callers in the background. The chase scene was through the bowels and side stages of the Kennedy Center, and we also shot in the box seats in the Concert Hall as well as the main lobby just as a show was getting out with 100’s of people nearby. I asked my bosses if I could shoot and they said fine, so we took advantage of the place at nighttime.

Everyone in the Washington D.C. area that we asked to shoot at said yes and didn’t even ask for money. We shot at two nightclubs while they were open, an adult shop, an abandoned school, my younger brother’s apartment and more. In public places we didn’t ask, we just showed up and shot, like in DuPont Circle, various parks, the US Capitol Steps and more. I don’t think with today’s security you would get away with shooting on the Capitol Steps and Congressional Offices unannounced and without permission like we did back then. But again, it was just myself, producer Melissa Robison as the crew and 2-3 actors.

The flashback scenes were shot in Beach Haven New Jersey in a small cottage during the off-season when no one was there so the yelling and screaming would not bother anyone.


With all the firsts that the film contains, combined with its unique stylized look and a murder-mystery that keeps you guessing until the very end, I am convinced that there is a significant audience for The Night Slayer.

Although this was a film shot for only $14,000 with a two man crew, myself being one of them, I think everyone did a great job and we have a solid movie. And now that I have a reason for the way it looks (Neural Reconstruction) combined with the latest A.I. tools that weren’t available until 2023, plus all the post-production plugins you can use to clean up/change/enhance your shots and sound, the film is something that should garner attention. It’s ironic that the footage in 1990’s wasn’t distribution worthy, but 30 years later we have the tools to make it so. I bet other people in the next few years will be able to resurrect projects like this.

While it is nothing like 2022’s horror film Skinamarink, that film would be a good example of how something creative and unique can find an audience. My hope is that The Night Slayer will do so as well and can reward all the hard work everyone put into it.


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Saturday, October 14, 2023

I Read Horror Year-Round Reading Challenge - 2023 Third Quarter Check-In

So sorry I'm late with this check-in! With all the scary events going on, it completely slipped my mind. 

How are you doing on the challenge?

Here's my progress on the Chilling level (12 books in a year)...
All I have left are three categories and I already have planned reads for them. I'm hoping to get to them this month, but we shall see. Planned reads...
  • Fairy Tale Retelling - Gretel by Christopher Coleman
  • Written by a woman - Hummingbird by T.C. Parker
  • Debut Horror - Awake in the Night by Shauna McEleney
I hope you're enjoying your horrific reading! Share your progress in the comments (update, links to posts/reviews, etc.).

Important: I'll be working on next year's challenge soon and I want you to help me come up with the categories. If you are actively participating in this year's challenge, please post your category in the comments. Thank you! I can't wait to see what you come up with. 

Happy Horror Reading!

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Monday, October 9, 2023

Gothic Horror - Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher

I've decided to do away with the Gothic and Horror Master posts, as no one (including me) utilizes them. For a wider audience's sake (if I have a wide, I will do individual posts and anyone is welcome to discuss in the comments and/or share stories you've been reading.


This is one of my favorite Poe stories. Probably in large part due to my love of Vincent Price and having seen the movie long before I read the story (I've read this many times). Of course, I can also credit Price with sparking my entire love of and fascination with Poe's works. I've read and reread so many of his stories, and my favorite poem of all time, Annabel Lee.

At the center of this story, in my humble opinion, is mental illness, and some of the factors that can bring about "madness" as they called it back then. Fear, dread, guilt. All are apparent and so expertly illustrated in Poe's Gothic tones. Also, the fear of being buried alive (Taphophobia), which was prevalent in the days before modern medicine. So much so that in the 18th and 19th centuries there were "Safety Coffins." William Tebb and Edward Perry Vollum even published a book titled Premature Burial and How It May Be Prevented. There were coffins affixed with a string attached to a bell outside the grave. If a person found themselves buried alive, they could simply ring the bell (surely not so simple, and how many of those bells were actually heard...yikes!). Later inventions were more elaborate. (Read the entire article on Tebb's book and the various inventions here.)


So, why am I talking about premature burial? Precisely because that is what happens to Usher's sister. But for her there is no escape because she is not buried in a grave. She is entombed in a vault in the donjon keep! There is no bell for her to ring, or some other apparatus to make someone aware. Yet, when she somehow finally breaks free from her tomb, we learn that Usher had heard her..."I heard her first feeble movements in the hollow coffin. I heard them--many, many days ago--yet I dared not--I dared not speak!" Why did he not speak up? Was it the guilt of burying her alive in the first place? Who knows, but she does manage to break out and the state of her, of what she endured, scares Usher to death. As Usher's friend flees, the house literally cracks apart and falls into the ground. A metaphor for the destruction of mental illness, and the fear of death? Those are my thoughts anyway. 

The reason I wanted to read this story again is because one of my favorite horror (TV) series creators is bringing a new take on the story to Netflix. Mike Flanagan, the mastermind behind The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor, and Midnight Mass, does it again with "A contemporary horror series based on multiple works by Edgar Allan Poe. To secure their fortune — and future — two ruthless siblings build a family dynasty that begins to crumble when their heirs mysteriously die, one by one." 

Here's a short trailer. Get ready to watch...the series premiere is October 12. 

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