As a horror and dark fiction fan, Halloween is a very special time of year. There is something about the month of October that fills me with joy, and although this month has been a pretty shitty one for me and my family, I am still here to present you with a selection of fiction recommendations and even a couple of recommendations from the worlds of music and film. Few of these recommendations have a Halloween theme but they are all similarly dark in nature. Please comment at the bottom if you have any suggestions of your own. Thanks, as always for stopping by.
Book: The End in All Beginnings – John F. D. Taff – Grey Matter Press.
Whenever somebody asks me to suggest a really good short story collection, I always think of this book. The End in All Beginnings collects 5 novellas that pull at the heart-strings, exploring themes of regret, love and personal pain. There isn’t a dud amongst them and the final story, Visitation, made me weep like a baby. Visitation isn’t a horror story, as such, it probably fits more comfortably into the science-fiction genre, but damn it is so good. This is a varied collection from one of the very best writers around. All hail modern horror’s King of Pain.
I don’t watch movies too often, but I’d heard good things about Spring, and boy was I pleased I gave it a watch. Spring is a body horror story, but it’s also a love story, and one that is wonderfully shot and well-acted. It has scenes of gruesome transformation alongside moments of touching beauty. I was really late to the party with this one, though since watching it I have gone on to give it repeated viewings. I had a few tears in my eyes at the end of the movie and if you haven’t seen it then see it you must. A horror story with genuine emotional depth.
Music: Antichrist Superstar – Marilyn Manson.
For me, this is Manson’s finest hour. I remember the furore that surrounded this album and Manson himself back in the 90s. He was a figure of hate and ridicule, but hot damn, this album is chock full of great songs. The production is perfect, raw and uncompromising, the fire in the lyrics and the performances is immense. I was lucky enough to see him live in the UK on this tour and it was a great show. He has made some good albums since this, but for me, this is his masterpiece.
Book: Under a Watchful Eye – Adam Nevill – Macmillan.
Few writers exist today where every book they put out there needs to be snapped up immediately. Stephen King, Joe Hill perhaps? Adam Nevill is the author for me. I first discovered Nevill when I picked up The Ritual. Wow! what an incredible read, terrifying and brutal, The Ritual takes place in the Scandinavian wilderness will send shivers down your whole body. I chose his latest novel, Under a Watchful Eye, because I love it equally. Few can write in such beautifully horrific style as Nevill does. He paints terrifying pictures and is a master at creating a deeply unsettling atmosphere with his writing. This novel is incredibly creepy and will have you looking over your shoulder for days afterwards.
Seems a bit obvious, I know, but I was pleasantly surprised by this cool remake. Yeah, there was some pretty average characterisation and a sole reliance on jump-scares, but overall I really enjoyed it. The acting was good, the effects were very good, too, and I think Mr Skarsgard does a great job as the evil, child-killing clown. I’m also pleased they didn’t try to cram everything into one movie. In fact, the running-time felt good (and I don’t generally enjoy long movies). I am definitely keen for the second part. This is one of the better remakes I’ve seen in recent years.
Book: We Are Always Watching – Hunter Shea – Sinister Grin Press.
This is one of my favourite books in 2017. This is a character-driven psychological horror story that leads you into believing that it is just another haunted house tale. But, We Are Always Watching is much more than that. The small but well-developed cast suits the story well and the final third of the book sees things take an unusual turn. I thought I had it all figured out, then suddenly Hunter Shea pulls the rug out from under my feet. The ending is truly superb and this is Hunter’s best book by far.
Album: E – Enslaved – Nuclear Blast Records.
A black metal band that effortlessly blends the genre with progressive rock and in doing so comes out way ahead of their peers. This album mixes themes of Norse mythology alongside crushing guitars, soaring melodies, guttural vocals, clean vocals and superb musicianship. The bands sound has metamorphosed dramatically over the years into what they are now, which is one of the most inspired metal bands on the planet. This album is simply perfect from start to finish-a huge sounding record and one that will be tough to beat.
Book: Baby Powder and Other Terrifying Substances – John C. Foster – Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.
I wish a lot more people knew about John C. Foster and his fiction because I love what he does. If you haven’t read any of John’s work before then this short story collection is dynamite and a perfect introduction to his writing. John’s stories often blend genres but remain rooted in the darker regions of fiction. You want cosmic horror? Cool! John can accommodate you…what about some dark science-fiction? Yep! We have that too. seriously, go get this, it’s a cracking collection.
Movie: Dawn of the Dead.
Yes, the remake is pretty good, but it’s not a patch on the late George Romero’s classic from 1978. Dawn of the Dead is the perfect Zombie movie. It features great performances, some really great ideas (going to a shopping centre, locking yourself in! It’s genius). Behind the obvious battles with the living dead lies a tale of consumerism and dependence. I actually prefer this to Night of the Living Dead. I’ve watched it over 100 times and I simply never get tired of it. If you think there is a better Z movie than this, you’re wrong.
Album: Deep Calleth Upon Deep – Satyricon – Napalm Records.
Satyricon has been around for many years now and they are still leading the way (alongside Enslaved) in black metal. Their sound has changed quite a bit since their earliest album but they are still unmistakable and excellent. This album is their best since Rebel Extravaganza in my mind. Frosts’ drumming is the heartbeat of the bands sound and Satyr sounds better than ever. The music is immense and the songwriting is top, top drawer. This is a very accessible album for newbies, too. Essential listening.
Book: Video Night – Adam Cesare – Black T-Shirt Books.
This is still my favourite Cesare read to date. I love the pulpy vibe to it. I love the characters, the monsters, everything about it. If you enjoy shows like Stranger Things and have a fondness for 80s style body horror then Video Night is a must read. This is the perfect book for Halloween. It is heaps of fun and even though this is Adam’s first written novel it still holds up really well.
Movie: Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Yep! I actually prefer this second instalment to the first one. This was the last decent movie to feature the iconic Pinhead. The following flicks saw the Hell Priest become cartoonish and the franchise lost its ability to truly scare. Hellbound: Hellraiser II also features the best cenobite ever in the doctor. There are some stomach-churning scenes in this movie and the doctor is a truly terrifying villain. Gore galore!
Movie: Return of the Living Dead III.
Yes! Yes! Yes! This is comfortably THE best of the Living Dead movies. You can file this one under “so bad it is good” because the acting is bad, the plot is almost non-existent but the gore is plentiful and I just adore this movie. I’ve watched this movie so many times and for some odd, perverse reason I can’t stop loving it. Worth watching alone for the scene when Melinda Clarke is eating from a dead guys head whilst saying “Brains, brains…”
Album: In The Nightside Eclipse – Emperor.
Extreme metal does not get much better than Emperor’s masterpiece, In The Nightside Eclipse. This album blew away the competition with its relentless sonic assault, amazing musicianship and some of the best songwriting the genre has ever seen. Emperor did away with the raw, tinny production that other bands were using and instead went for a symphonic, bombastic, full-blooded sound. They paved the way for a new wave of black metal bands such as Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir. In The Nightside Eclipse showed that extreme metal can have real substance. A mind-blowing sonic masterpiece that should be in every metal fans collection.
Movie: The Fly.
David Cronenberg’s 1986 sci-fi horror masterpiece is still a bloody good watch today. The special effects are excellent and horrific. Jeff Goldblum is superb and the movie was a massive success. Again, it is another movie I have watched hundreds of times and I never get bored with it. The sequel lost focus a little and relied a little too heavily on gore, but it isn’t a total disaster. However, nothing compares to this. An absolute classic horror movie. Like the tagline says “Be afraid, be very afraid.”
Book: Salem’s Lot – Stephen King
Another obvious choice perhaps, but it’s my list, so fuck it. I only read this for the first time a couple of years ago and just like all of King’s classic books it oozes quality. Quality atmosphere, great characters, terrifying scares. This book has it all. So good, I will be reading it again in the not too distant future.