Top 10 Favorite Horror Films Part 4: Zombies!

This week’s list details my favorite zombie features. Enjoy, and feel free to post your favorites in the comments section.

Please be aware that I tried to not have any repeats on these lists, so if you see something missing, it might be elsewhere.

Previous Halloween Horror Lists:

Part 1: The Classics

Part 2: Books

Part 3: Slashers

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10) House of the Dead

Yup, you read that right. Uwe Boll’s camp “masterpiece,” House of the Dead, made the list. Why? Because I laughed my ass off the entire film. Plus, it’s gory as hell and unabashedly strange. I kinda love the big shootout in the middle of the film, not to mention the hilariously awful flashback to the big shootout that happens not five minutes after the scene is over. So bad it’s good, folks.

9) Warm Bodies

This is a newbie so it’s ranking a little lower, but I can see it rising in the coming years. Warm Bodies takes zombie conventions and spins it in new, refreshing direction. It’s a tender, sweet and clever film that shouldn’t be missed. For another new(sih) zombie film, check out ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction or the Canadian hit, Dead Before Dawn.

8) Cemetery Man

A trippy piece of Italian cinema that’s required viewing for any zombie lover. This one is quite strange. I highly recommend checking it out in the middle of the night, when your mind is ready to travel elsewhere.

7) Day of the Dead

George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s damn close. The effects are incredible, and Bub is probably one of zombie cinema’s finest creations. If you like him, also check out Fido. Also give Land of the Dead a look. It’s grown on me over the years, and while I wouldn’t rank it as one of my favorites, it’s well worth a midnight screening.

6) Braindead (Dead Alive)

Here’s a film that starts out slow and unsuspecting, but quickly escalates into the absurd, the wacky, and the positively gonzo. The finale alone is worth the price of admission. I wonder where director Peter Jackson ended up with his career? Also check out Re-Animator for something equally gory and off-the-wall.

5) 28 Weeks Later

I loved 28 Days Later, but I found the sequel a far more riveting, character-driven film that took the genre in a new direction. Plus, 28 Weeks Later was Jeremy Renner’s first memorable role, ahead of The Hurt Locker and a little thing called The Avengers.

4) Zombieland

Of all the zombie comedies, this one is my favorite. I could pretty much watch it every day. It never ceases to entertain. The cast is awesome, the gore is great, and the story is clever as hell. VERY honorable mentions: Shaun of the Dead and Dead Snow. Both almost made the list, but they weren’t quite my favorites.

3) Zombie

Zombie vs. shark. Eye vs. wood shard. Zombie barn battle. These are the reasons why this one ranks so high. There’s a scene where a zombie fights a real shark. Yup. The film’s epic finale, a showdown of man vs. zombie, is positively one of the best ever put on film. This one is a masterpiece of zombie cinema, and one of the best Italian “Dawn of the Dead” knockoffs out there.

2) Dawn of the Dead

Dawn of the Dead is probably one of the very best horror films ever made. It is everything that we know and love about zombies all tied up into a fun package filled with gore, horror, comedy and brilliant characters. The remake is also pretty great, and well worth a look. And, of course, the original cult classic, Night of the Living Dead, deserves some love, too.

1) The Return of the Living Dead

Hands-down my favorite, go-to zombie feature each Halloween. It’s clever, funny and that middle act switch from comedy to flat-out horror is simply fantastic. But don’t start here. Watch Night of the Living Dead first, then watch this. Skip the sequels (okay, watch the second one). Also, check out Night of the Creeps.

Next week: My top ten favorite obscure horror films! We started with the most obvious horror choices (The Classics), let’s finish with the obscure.

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If you own a Kindle (or have the free Kindle app on your phone), check out my thrilling short stories, The Stray Cats and The Horror. Both are just .99 cents. CLICK HERE to buy your copies today! And be sure to follow me on Twitter.

Different Perspectives: Movie 43 Isn’t That Bad

In early 2013, Movie 43 was unleashed upon audiences. Don’t remember it? Really? It starred pretty much ALL of Hollywood, even the likes of Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Emma Stone, Seth MacFarlane, and Oscar darling Kate Winslet … among dozens of other accomplished, likable stars and up-and-comers. In fact, there are so many stars in the film, I could spend an entire blog post just listing their names.

No, you don’t remember Movie 43.

Well, maybe you do, but most people don’t. The film came and went in a matter of weeks. It was trashed by pretty much every living, breathing critic, and forgotten by most audiences. Even some of the cast wanted little to do with the film.

Curiously, Movie 43 actually did make some bank. According to Box Office Mojo, the film cost roughly $6 million to produce, and grossed close to $30 million worldwide, with a mere $8 million of that coming from the U.S. But it was still a moneymaker, kind of. And it’s more than likely made money on home video, the rental market, and through TV distribution deals.

Still, there isn’t a whole lot of love for Movie 43. For just a moment, let’s focus on the hate. The film ranks a dismal 4.4 out of 10 on IMDb, a 4% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a 19 out of 100 on metacritic, and a 26% approval audience rating on Flixster.

In less words, people don’t like Movie 43.

But I have a confession … I kind of loved it.

No, it’s not a flawless film. And there are plenty of things to complain about. For example, the film is annoyingly flat. There are more misses than hits in this one. The sketches tend to end on weird notes, and most of the jokes aren’t much different from what you can get for free on sites like College Humor, Funny or Die, or even Youtube. In truth, you could probably collect ten or twelve of the best shorts from any of those sites and put together a better, funnier sketch anthology picture.

But I still dig Movie 43.

There is some rather potent, and oddly subversive, humor in the film. I get a sense that the picture was meant to spoof blander-than-bland anthology comedies like New York, I Love You, Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve. It was sold to comedy lovers as a “Kentucky Fried Movie” for the modern age. While Movie 43 hardly ranks as high as that wonderful cult classic, it’s clear that a great many people involved cared deeply about this project and wanted it to succeed, even when actors like Richard Gere allegedly tried to vacate the film at all costs.

For a detailed, and rather sordid, look at the history of the making of the film, check out Movie 43’s Wikipedia page. It’s an interesting read.

I struggled to put a finger on what I loved about the film, but I do love it. I admire the writing. There’s a lot going on under the surface of this disturbing, crass little picture. A great many of the film’s more impressive metaphors seem to have gone over people’s heads. That’s probably because most focused on the obvious gross-out aspects of the humor. This was certainly not a film for everyone’s taste, in that regard.

A great many of my absolute favorite actors, writers and filmmakers worked on this project. And the project itself is so wacky, crass and gonzo, I relish in watching the actors involved go to the extremes to find a laugh. And while many of the jokes don’t always work, I love watching actors dare to be different. It’s refreshing and enticing.

For example, there’s a sketch in which Stephen Merchant and Halle Berry go on a date and end up competing in an EXTREME game of “truth or dare.” The sketch isn’t all that funny, but watching Halle Berry mock her picture perfect persona by doing something crass, and even a little vile, felt almost … human.

Allow me to explain. Our stars strive to create images for themselves. Brands of painted perfection. They are flawless. Their skin is perfect. Their hair is trend setting. Their clothing is staggeringly beautiful. And their personalities are ones that everyone strives for.

But that’s not who people are. That’s all an image. All spectacle. Actors are real people. That sounds absurd to even write, but so many fans honestly forget that. It’s especially noticeable when someone asks an actor to recite a line from a movie they did 25 years ago, like they’re some kind of trained puppy doing tricks.

When I watched Movie 43, I saw the people behind Hollywood. I saw human beings having a fun time exploring the comfort zones of their image, and taking audiences along for the ride. I saw a film where Hugh Jackman wasn’t afraid to put a prosthetic pair of balls on his neck just to get a rise from his fans. Or a sketch (writen and directed by Elizabeth Banks, mind you) in which Chloë Grace Moretz has her first period, and the men all around her act like … well, the fools who control women’s rights in congress. It was a gross sketch, but there was something deeply revealing about it, too.

And here is a look at one of my favorite sketches in the film:

There is a lot going on in this scene outside the beaten-into-the-ground joke. Did you catch the real point of the skit?

Movie 43 is not a win by any stretch, but it’s a fascinating look at the edges of comedy, where the crass, disturbing and subversive meet and do some rather dark, rather bad, and rather wonderful things. There is a lot more going on in Movie 43 than people give it credit for. There’s a hidden theme in nearly every sketch, a hidden message — a metaphor that went unnoticed. And that’s where the film’s strength derives. Movie 43  is not a masterpiece, but it is a work of controversial art. And like all works of that style, it has its haters and it has its fans. Count me as one of the latter.

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Shameless plug time! If you own a Kindle (or have the free Kindle app on your phone), check out my thrilling short stories, The Stray Cats and The Horror. CLICK HERE to buy your copies today! And be sure to follow me on Twitter.

The Horror is Out Now!

My latest, terrifying novelette, THE HORROR is now available on Amazon Kindle (BUY HERE).

NOTE: You don’t need to own a Kindle device to read the story. All you need is the Kindle app, which is available on your desktop, laptop, phone or tablet.

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Synopsis: 

What if the horrors of a seemingly innocent and fun haunted house attraction were real? What if someone were inside with you, stalking you and feeding on your fear? What if every corner of the maze were deadly? What if you couldn’t get out?

The Horror tells the story of Lisa and Alan, two college teens visiting a theatrical haunted maze themed after local urban legends. Once inside it becomes clear that the macabre sights are not just smoke and mirrors, and gallons of fake blood, but the gory work of a deranged psychopath who is inside the house, hunting them. The two lovers must attempt to escape before this crazed lunatic tracks them down and completes his grisly ritual.

Background:

With The Horror, I wanted to craft a special short story for the Halloween season, and I wanted this story to be something “balls to the wall” scary. Ultimately, The Horror was inspired by one of my wife’s worst fears: that someone inside a haunted house might have nefarious plans for the guests. While the core story of The Horror has been swimming around my noggin for close to a decade, the plot began to truly form this September, when my wife and I visited the haunted houses at Universal Studios.

The result is a haunting, atmospheric ride through a terrifying, nail-biting narrative that simply doesn’t let up. But it’s also a story designed to make you think. The Horror explores the nature of trauma and death through brutal metaphor. It examines what we really fear and how our culture deals with disaster. The story is a response to those who criticize horror as exploitation or entertainment, all while fueling a reader’s fears through thrilling set pieces, unnerving suspense, vivid description and meaningful characters.

I hope you will enjoy The Horror as much as I enjoyed writing and editing it. Keep in mind, the story is quite scary, so I would definitely recommend this one to hardcore horror readers, especially lovers of the slasher genre.

Happy Halloween!

Top Ten Favorite Horror Films Part 3: Slashers

In honor of my latest slasher-themed novelette, THE HORROR (click HERE to buy your copy), my Halloween Horror Lists feature continues with slashers!

I tried to go a little obscure(ish) with this list so we won’t see any repeats from other lists.

Please be aware that I change my mind often. The ability to change one’s mind on any subject is paramount for our culture’s growth and development. With that in mind, don’t be surprised to see another version of this list next year, with totally different books on it … what can I say, I absolutely love the genre.

Be sure to comment below and let everyone know which films are your favorites.

10) Midnight Movie

A surprisingly clever spin on the slasher genre. A similar premise to Demons (which may appear on another list). This low-budget indie manages to succeed where so many other recent indies have failed. Honorable mention: the Hatchet series.

9) The Prowler

A freaky slasher from Joseph Zito, who would go on to direct the best Friday the 13th film in that franchise. The final jump scare is a memorable one!

8) Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers

This hilarious slasher send-up doesn’t offer much more than some base thrills, but it’s a comfort food of mine. Pamela Springsteen is just awesome. I wish she would have done more horror films.

7) Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

Friday 8 doesn’t get much love. It actually gets no love at all, which is a shame because it’s really quite good. It sports the best direction of the bunch, with clever set-ups and great pay-offs. The finale is a bit of a letdown, but that scene between Jason and the punk kids in Times Square makes it worth it.

6) Slumber Party Massacre

Not what you’d think from the title, Slumber Party Massacre is actually a pretty subversive, somewhat funny pro-feminist slasher, that also happens to be an exploitation flick. The first sequel is also worth a look, but don’t expect a film that’s anything like the first.

5) The Burning

Had Jason not taken off, The Burning would probably be the slasher everyone remembers from the 1980s. There’s a ton of great actors in this, and it features some fantastic gore effects, courtesy of Tom Savini.

4) The Hitcher

The original film, not the shitty remake. I’m not exactly sure this film meets the title of slasher, but I’ve always loved The Hitcher for its intense, moody narrative, and nail-biting suspense. Rutger Hauer is easily one of my all-time favorite screen villains. Great stuff, with a dream-like atmosphere that will surely get under your skin.

3) A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

I must confess, I absolutely adore A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, if only for the awesome pool party scene. But also for all the not-so-subtle sexual references and equally not-so-hidden homoerotic subtext. It’s a genre classic in its own way, and a great second outing for Freddy, critics be damned.

2) Black Christmas

This 1974 hit was the first real slasher, outside Psycho and Peeping Tom (both worth watching, BTW). Black Christmas is the perfect film to watch during the cold winter months. It was also the inspiration for John Carpenter’s Halloween.

1) Scream

Looking back, this series has probably influenced more than any other slasher out there. I just love it. Wes Craven crafts a perfect blend of horror and clever comedy in this send-up of the slasher genre. Ignore Scream 3 and 4 and stick with the first installment and the underrated sequel.

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Next week: My top ten favorite zombie films! So grab some brains and head back here next week.

Review: Kindle Fire HDX

I just wanted to share my thoughts on Amazon’s latest flagship reader, the Kindle Fire HDX, ahead of its Oct. 18-28, 2013 US release date.

I’ve been a lover of Amazon since the site launched. Their service is cheap, easy, intuitive and their customer service is typically excellent (from my experiences). I have been a Prime member for more than four years (get Prime, seriously) as well. So, naturally, it wasn’t difficult to fall in love with Amazon’s tablets when they launched just a few short years ago. My wife owns the original Fire tablet and I have owed the Fire HD. They are wonderful products for reading, for internet and for most games and tablet uses.

Since buying the Kindle, I find myself reading more than ever before. As a writer, I love Amazon’s text-to-speech function (and its many awesome voice options), as it quickly helps me find mistakes, grammar issues, spelling and other problems in my stories as I read along. In brief, the device is handy, portable, fun, efficient and enormously easy to use.

The new HDX isn’t a major improvement over the Fire HD, but it’s a worthy upgrade, especially for potential new buyers.

This new device is significantly faster than the previous version thanks to a quad-core Snapdragon processor. Internet browsing is vastly improved and games run a little smoother as well. The screen resolution has also been upped to 1920×1200, and looks gorgeous. And, as before, the tablet’s Dolby audio is absolutely astonishing.

The HDX is fairly customizable, so for more information regarding specs and details, feel free to hop over to Amazon, where you’ll find photos, videos and more.

The tablet’s redesign is quite spiffy. Simply moving the power button away from the volume buttons was a big improvement (power is on the opposite side now). With the old device, I continually found myself pressing the power button when I meant to press the volume buttons. That is no longer an issue. The tablet is also a little easier to hold than before, thanks to the squared design.

One negative of the new model: the mini HDMI port has been removed. But Kindle’s OS now allows users to flip what they’re watching on their tablet to your home device (like a PS3) using Amazon’s Video app. Netflix also allows users this ability. So the mini HDMI port is a bit of a wash, though I imagine some will be disappointed by this missing component.

The best aspect of the redesign is the weight. The Fire HD wasn’t a particularly heavy tablet, but for those who binge read (like me) you probably know that the tablet can wear you down after a while. The new HDX is about 30% lighter than the Fire HD, making it an easier tablet to hold for long hours. It’s also a tad smaller, too, while retaining the same 7-inch screen size.

My only major gripe with the HDX thus far has been a persistent blue border that surrounds the vertical sides when there’s a white screen present. I’m guessing it’s a reflection of the white against the black plastic surrounding the glass, but I do find it a bit distracting — far more distracting that the previous Fire or Fire HD. I’ll have to check out another HDX at Best Buy soon and see if they have this issue, too. If not, it could mean I have a defective screen. I’ll update this article as soon as I know for sure.

UPDATE 10/22/13: Amazon has now officially addressed the blue border. Here is their explanation: “We want you to know… The Kindle Fire HDX 7″ has perfect color accuracy (100% sRGB), and we wanted to share more details around our display design decisions that helped us achieve this.

You may notice a very narrow, faint blue tint around the edge of the device when looking at items with a white background, such as books or web pages. All displays have some level of light emission around the edges, and the light on the Kindle Fire HDX 7″ is blue due to the technology used to render perfect color accuracy. Most LCD displays use white LEDs, and then apply filters to extract the desired color. The result is oftentimes a compromise to tone and color accuracy, or—if attempting to address these compromises—an increase in battery consumption and, thus, device weight.

We’ve taken a different approach. To achieve the perfect color accuracy on Kindle Fire HDX 7″ at the lowest possible battery consumption and device weight, we used blue, not white, LEDs. Blue LEDs allow for a much more accurate  and rich representation of color and result in an up to 20% improvement in power efficiency.

So there you have it. It sounds like a logical response, and the reasoning is sound. Blue LEDs were used to save weight and improve battery and color accuracy. It could also be total BS, that I am not sure. I imagine we’ll hear more as the tech community dives into this statement and dissects Amazon’s reasoning. That said, I have gotten used to the screen over the past few weeks. The image display truly is remarkable, even with the blue or purple border distraction.

Back to the original review:

The HDX also includes a charger. For some inexplicable reason, Amazon opted not to include a wall charger for the Kindle Fire HD last year. Instead, they sold the charger as a separate accessory, which felt a little cheap. The HDX rectifies this problem, but creates another – the plug is too damn cumbersome, taking up two plug spots instead (on a surge protector) and nearly taking up two slots on a wall socket. It’s not a bulky plug, either. In fact, the plug looks quite similar to the Apple wall charger, except it’s larger all the way around, instead of perfectly square with a wall socket. Here’s what they look like side-by-side:

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It’s not a major issue, but it’s a silly design choice that’s sure to piss off some buyers.

I can’t wait to see what comes next with the Kindle readers. I’m hoping to see a tablet that has an HD (maybe 3D) screen on one side, and e-ink on the other. Perhaps that’s a pipe dream, but I’m hoping it’s coming in the next year or two. We’ll see.

For those looking for a great electronic reader that’s also useful and effective for portable gaming, media playback, video chatting and tablet uses, the Kindle Fire HDX is certainly a great option, second only to Apple (and catching up). Build quality is outstanding, the processor is quick and the redesign is great. And there’s plenty of value to be found with the tablet, like customer-friendly goodies such as Mayday, a live video customer service chat line. (I did not get to test Mayday, but it seemed quite functional.)

UPDATE 10/24/13: Mayday review … I finally had a reason to try Amazon’s latest customer service app, “Mayday,” last night. After a rather brief 30-second wait, I was connected with a rep who walked me through how to access and use Amazon’s pre-installed Officesuite. I thought the app was something you would just open, similar to other apps like Silk or Amazon Store. Rather, Officesuite has been integrated into the Kindle, which proved somewhat confusing to configure and use.

The CS rep guided me through the whole process in a timely, efficient manner. He seemed to know what he was doing and was able to give me the tutorial with ease, though he did seem a little annoyed. I’m sure this is one question he gets a lot; that and “why is my screen border blue?” I placed my Mayday call in the middle of the night, so the service may not run as smooth during the day, but I can’t knock the experience yet. It was smooth, easy to use and kinda fun. Thumbs up, Amazon. I wonder how long until Apple follows this groundbreaking system of customer service.

Back to the original review:

The HDX is not an iPad killer, but it is a pretty great competitor that stacks up well in many aspects, especially when it comes to cost and ease of use. If you’re in the market for a tablet, give it some consideration. And if you’re on a budget, I’d definitely check out the previous Fire HD. It’s still an awesome tablet.

Shameless plug time! If you own a Kindle (or have the free Kindle app on your phone), check out my thrilling short stories, The Stray Cats and The Horror. CLICK HERE to buy your copies today! And be sure to follow me on Twitter.

Why I Write: The Benefits of Short Stories

 

WHY I WRITE #1 – Welcome to the first entry in this ongoing blog series designed to offer my perspective on the subject of writing. I also hope to inspire and aide fellow writers and readers to explore their creativity in new, exciting ways, and to help others achieve their goals and get their work published.

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“Why are you writing short stories?” I’ve gotten this question plenty of times from friends, fans and family. Some might blindly assume I’m either too afraid to write a full-length book, or simply too lazy. The reality is unequivocally neither. I’ve written three full-length books and two screenplays this year alone, and I plan on releasing six or seven short stories by year’s end, with about a dozen or more slated for 2014. All told, I probably write, or work on writing, for about 50-60 hours a week, if not more.

In truth, I just can’t stop writing. I write every single day, be it a blog entry, tweets, a screenplay, a book or a short story. Writing is like air to me, I can’t live without it. It doesn’t help that I’m an idea machine and I’m always jotting down stories, film and book ideas.

But why short stories? Well, my real goal with shorts is to create a base of writing samples that I can share with new readers, fellow writers, fans and potential agents and publishers who might be interested in reading or buying my work.

But also, my decision to focus on shorts is intentional beyond those motives. We live in a very busy time. Our attention is more divided than every before. There is so much content to consume, and more entertainment options. And, as much as some might argue to the contrary, we are also living in an economically depressed climate. It might not be labeled as such by the powers that be, but trust me, we are. If you’re in the middle class, or lower, you are likely feeling the damning effects of this on nearly every single aspect of your life. You are working hard to pay bills, pay off debt and still have enough coins to have some kind of fun on the weekends. In some cases, people are working two or even three jobs to pay for what little free time they have.

Between having no money, and having so many entertainment options, many have little-to-no time for things like books, or even movies or television. Taking this into consideration, I decided I would focus on bite-sized stories that can be read in a matter of hours.

This, I feel, is satisfying to readers because they get that sense of accomplishment from finishing a story. But also, a shorter story fits into our cramped schedule much better than a longer one. And, let’s be honest, not many people know who I am just yet. That will certainly change, but for now I’d prefer to give new readers a tasty bite of my writing abilities before asking them to indulge in a full-length book. I’ve also found that many readers feel the same way. They want to know if they even like my style, or the genres I’m working in, before they take the big plunge and dive into one of my books.

If you’re a fellow writer, I highly recommend trying your hand at a short story. If nothing else, it’ll get you writing every day and it’ll get you exploring your boundaries. Try a new style of writing, a different perspective, a type of character you aren’t familiar with, or even a different genre. When you’re finished (editing included – this is important), you can sell these stories for cheap (about a buck) on Amazon, and they’ll help your career in the long run. Binge readers can quickly enjoy your entire body of work, and the stories may lead to bigger things, like an agent or possibly a publishing contract. If nothing else, it allows you to have a body of work for sale on Amazon that readers, fans, friends and family can explore and enjoy.

And yes, you can charge for your work. Don’t be afraid of this. Even though I’m speedy and efficient, I spend around 80-120 hours (at least) prepping just one short story, from writing to editing to building the Kindle file to designing a cover and promoting the title. People work hard at their jobs. There is no reason you should not get paid for your hard work, either. But keep your stories cheap, please. I prefer the price point of $1. Anything more than $2 is excessive for shorts.

That’s essentially why I write short stories. I plan on publishing my books in the near future, but I am still in the very long, very taxing process of searching for agents and publishers. But, in the meantime, I am building an incredible body of work that will only help me achieve my goals. And I’m having a blast writing and sharing all my stories and ideas with you. So thanks for reading and please, if you publish a short, share it in the comments section below and I’ll be sure to promo the hell out of it to aide you in your own personal goals. Good luck!

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On the next, WHY I WRITE, I will discuss creating book covers for Kindle Edition books. Stay tuned!

–Also, if you haven’t already, check out my first short story, The Stray Cats (BUY HERE)!

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Top Ten Favorite Horror Films Part 2: Favorite Books

A new week, a new list! This time I’ll be discussing some of my favorite horror books.

Please be aware that I change my mind often. The ability to change one’s mind on any subject is paramount for our culture’s growth and development. With that in mind, don’t be surprised to see another version of this list next year, with totally different books on it … what can I say, I absolutely love the genre.

Feel free to list your own favorites in the comments!

Also, for more books, check out this list of 11 Creepy Novels.

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Legion - William Peter Blatty

10) Legion 

Legion is a sequel to William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. It’s a great follow-up, though not as haunting as The Exorcist. I included it here over The Exorcist because it’s a worthwhile sequel that fans of the series should seek out. While I’m on the subject, also check out the late Gary Brandner’s The Howling series. They’re also quite fun.

Zombie Survival Guide - Max Brooks

9) The Zombie Survival Guide

A lot of zombie fans loved World War Z, but I’m more fond of Max Brooks’ first zombie endeavor – a step-by-step guidebook for surviving a zombie apocalypse. It’s rather funny, but also extraordinarily helpful … if one were ever to come face-to-face with the walking dead, that is.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter - Jeff Lindsay

8) Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Dexter Morgan’s first tale is still his best. In fact, Jeff Lindsay’s book was so good that it got turned into an award-winning TV series (that later petered out and sputtered to a tragic death, but I digress). The book is a clever mixture of American Psycho and police procedure, with a reluctant anti-hero at the helm, steering the audience in the darkest, most macabre places. Gripping, tense and awesome!

Lord of the Flies - William Golding

7) Lord of the Flies

This one might not strike you as horror, but a book about a bunch of children who slowly succumb to the horrors of their own darker instincts is ripe material for horror, and no other book does it better than William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. You might have hated it when you read in school, but give it another shot. It’s outstanding.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

6) The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

I kept going back and forth about which book to include here: Dracula or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Both books are tremendous achievements in horror, and stupendous pieces of writing to boot. Ultimately, I went with Dr. Jekyll because never before, and never again, has a book so perfectly encapsulated the duality of man. For me, that holds more water than the first vampire tale. But read both books, please.

Sphere

5) Sphere

Michael Crichton’s Sphere is one of very few books I find myself reading every couple of years. The science behind the story is fascinating, but even more chilling than the sphere itself, is the manifestations of evil we hid within ourselves. A deeply terrifying book for anyone seeking something to get under the skin, with just a dash of science to back things up.

The Stand

4) The Stand

A great many horror fans might pepper a “favorite horror novels” list with Stephen King, but I’ve opted to include only one, The Stand. The Stand was the first “big” book I ever completed (I read it when I was about 10 years old). And, honestly, of all King’s books, The Stand really, umm, stands out as a mythical tale of Americana’s survival in the face of an apocalypse. Epic stuff … and very scary. I’d also recommend It (a close second) as well.

Scary_Stories_to_Tell_in_the_Dark_cover

3) Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark (Series)

I primarily grew up on two writers: Shel Silverstein, who crafted the beauty of my youth through poems; and Alvin Schwartz, who helped shape my nightmares. But the real winner of the Scary Stories series is the artwork from illustrator Stephen Gammell. His work on these books still scares the ever-loving shit out of me. There are (crappy) versions of the Scary Story books without his artwork, replaced with toned down “kid friendly” artwork. Boo! Skip them and seek out the copies with Gammell’s imagery. It’s perfect!

Frankenstein

2) Frankenstein

Mary Shelley’s staggering nightmare of death, romance and reanimation is existentially rich and still quite beautiful, not to mention frightening. It also stands as one of the finest pieces of gothic writing ever committed to paper. The only writers who come close are Lovecraft and Poe, who are also (obviously) well worth reading.

The Demonologist

1) The Demonologist

Never has a book freaked me out more. You may think Ed and Lorraine Warren are a bunch of nutters, but after reading this book, I’m not entirely convinced. The horrors they walk their audience through is immeasurably terrifying and shockingly real. It might all be phooey, but it certainly made me want to hang some crosses up in the house, and that’s power no other horror book has ever conjured from me.

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Next week: My top ten favorite horror slashers!