HALLOWEEN HANGOVER: Sale extended through All Saints’ Day!

Our Halloween sale has been a big success. I’m extending it ONE MORE DAY. Today, November 1st, you can shake off your Halloween Hangover with a few more inexpensive but high-quality horror books, include our latest release Hive, the critically acclaimed Creeping Waves, and our most popular title High Strange Horror!

Click here to check out the sale… before it’s too late!

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4. Halloween

4. Halloween (1978). A re-telling of classic urban legends, made classic itself. It re-invented the modern slasher, established tropes and techniques that are still used today, and remains an incredibly enjoyable, simple-yet-scary film. Almost too simple, I suppose, for people who mistake horror for jump scares. And that’s too bad. Donald Pleasance is sublime as the apocalyptic Dr. Loomis, and Jamie Lee Curtis is both vulnerable and capable. Sometimes, the best movies are the ones that do one thing (in this case, create a sense of impending doom), and do that one thing flawlessly. What makes The Shape so terrifying is that we don’t really understand who or what he is, beyond a few paranoid, rambling declarations of doom from Dr. Loomis. That makes him very frightening—he’s a ghostly figure that simply shows up in your life, unbidden and uninvited. Rob Zombie’s recent remake isn’t bad, but it undercuts the mystique around The Shape by giving him an extensive (and occasionally sympathetic) backstory, and trades the suspense of the original for bloody violence.

19. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). Tobe Hooper’s legendary film “inspired by true events” (not even close) isn’t actually all that gory or violent, at least in terms of what is shown on screen. It feels like pretty standard fare at first—young people act stupidly on a road trip in deep Texas, bad things happen—but quickly goes off the rails. It’s wild, unpredictable, and feels like a survival experience, not entertainment.

27. Phantasm II (1988)

27. Phantasm II (1988). One of the few sequels on my list. It takes the Phantasm epic into action-adventure territory, and expands the mythos in new, weird, and bipolar directions. More maniac Jawas, a double-super-shotgun, killer silver orbs, horrific body-horror monsters, the menacing Tall Man, and, yes, a chainsaw duel! Angus Scrimm (an Oscar-winning liner note writer, natch) is equal parts ridiculous and menacing. Half the time he doesn’t look like he quite understands what’s going on, like he stumbled into an iconic horror movie role on his way to the opera – which makes him seem all the more alien. If you want to get nitpicky about it, there’s plenty to criticize, but I think this movie is pure weird, spooky fun. Believe it or not, these movies have had a pretty strong influence on my writing lately, too. Here’s hoping Phantasm: RaVager lives up to the legacy of the first two films of the franchise. I mean, 4 was okay, but 3? Just awful. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOY

Video Game Review: Why Didn’t We Bring Actual Flashlights?

Vanish developed by 3DrunkMen

With Halloween fast approaching, it’s always fun to dive into interactive horror. Mainstream horror releases in the last few years have trended more toward action-oriented, gory gameplay, eschewing atmosphere and dread in favor of cheap thrills.

Exploring the indie PC gaming scene, however, we find plenty of original and varied gaming experiences relating to that oldest and most powerful of mankind’s emotions.

Vanish is a freeware game that looks and feels professional. To tell you too much about it would be to spoil the fun. But I can tell you that you begin the game being dragged into what appears to be a cell in a sewer or tunnel system. You wake up to find a hole in the metal barred door, and crawl out into the tunnels.

The story is told, a la games like Slender, through notes scattered around the dark corridors. The first pieces seem innocent enough, but as you progress, environmental clues and the notes themselves become more and more bizarre.

This is a game without a “shoot” button. You can walk, crawl, run, or pick up objects. That’s about it. The game is more interested in setting up a slow-burn approach to scares. The sound design is fantastic. As you begin the game you may be a bit bored… but as time goes on, your stress level will definitely climb. I’ve only played the game for a few minutes at a time at night, quitting before I got too freaked out… or having my neck snapped. Each playthrough seems to be randomly generated, which is a nice touch. However, I’m not sure that, once you go through the game a few times, there’s much left to return to.

This is a fun, spooky, and *free* game that you should try. Play in the dark with your headphones on and some candles lit. Vanish relies on atmosphere, immersion, and simple techniques to develop honest-to-goodness dread in the player. Do yourself a favor and avoid any “Let’s Play” videos on YouTube before playing.

If you’re looking for something with chainsaws and bullets, you might as well keep moving. Here, the scares come slow and steady, if you’re willing to immerse yourself in the dark and mysterious tunnels of… wherever the hell you are.

4/5 Dying Glowsticks

Vanish is available for free from the developer’s website.