Sunday, March 31, 2024

Gothic Noir, Horror Companion, Fire Blades From the Tomb, and More

Things that brought me delight in March, 2024:

Gothic Noir

Criterion has a collection of "Gothic Noir" films up on their streaming site. I knew I'd enjoy them, but I had no idea that once I started watching them I wouldn't be able to stop. Here's a run down of my thoughts on all twelve of them:

  • The House on Telegraph Hill: This was a strong start, with a woman assuming an identity not her own to enrich herself and getting herself in over her head.
  • The Sign of the Ram: This was a clear stand-out to me; a woman confined to a wheelchair schemes to keep her family close; real sense of unease here.
  • Lightning Strikes Twice: Love the psychosexual elements in this tale of a man who may have killed his first wife and may now be compelled to kill her.
  • The Seventh Veil: Another one with twisted psychosexual vibes, a woman raised by a second cousin to be a concert pianist loses her ability to use her hands and must turn to hypnotism to confront her trauma.
  • The Ministry of Fear: This is the only one I had seen before; it's a two-fisted spy story.
  • Woman in Hiding: A woman is indeed in hiding from her murderous husband.
  • The Upturned Glass: A surgeon takes it on himself to avenge the death of his beloved; really liked the downer philosophy that permeates this one.
  • Kiss the Blood Off My Hands: Tense thriller about a man drawn to violence.
  • My Name is Julia Ross: Another great one; this is perhaps the most "Gothic," what with its premise of a woman abducted and forced into a role in an insolated manor house.
  • Lured: Weird hybrid crime story and comedy starring Lucille Ball (!!!)
  • Undercurrent: Katherine Hepburn falls for the wrong scientist.
  • When Strangers Marry: A whirlwind marriage to a man who may be a murderer--and the weirdest part is how ride or die the heroine is.

Savage Worlds: Horror Companion

I got the printed book of the Horror Companion for Savage Worlds in early March from the crowdfunding campaign. I had access to the pdf for quite some time, and had already gotten a ton of use out of it in my ongoing Krevborna campaign. There's a lot of stuff to use in this book, no matter the subgenre of horror you're exploring or the era your setting takes inspiration from: tons of monsters, magic items, powers, new edges and character "species," and genre-specific rules that will definitely help you round out your game. If you're running a Savage Worlds game with dark elements, this book is practically essential.

Ponte del Diavolo, Fire Blades From the Tomb

Fire Blades From the Tomb is the debut album from Ponte del Diavolo, an Italian band deftly combining doom-y metal with deathrock-style vocals. If that heady mix wasn't enough, they also spike the punch with some occasional unexpected instrumentation such as synth, theremin, and clarinet. This is a very exciting, vital album, and the band is certainly one to watch; it would be crazy if this ended up as my album of the year this early on, but I'm nuts for Fire Blades From the Tomb right now.

Luke Dumas, The Paleontologist

I had picked up Luke Dumas's The Paleontologist last year when it was on sale, but when a friend on my Discord started reading it and had positive things to say about it I decided it was this novel's turn in the reading pile. She was right, this is a fun book. Written in a somewhat breezy style, this is my idea of a beach read: a paleontologist takes a job at the run-down museum his kid sister traumatically went missing from in their youth. Besides being haunted by the memories of his missing sister, the museum itself may be harboring the primeval ghosts of the bones it has on display. Ghost dinosaurs! Can you dig it?

Hannibal, Season One

Hannibal has long been on my list of things to watch, especially given how popular it is among my extended circles, and it really has lived up to the hype so far. That said, I wasn't prepared for how silly and fun the show is due to how seriously a lot of people seem to take it. From Hannibal's serial-killers-as-superhuman-predators to its grotesquely beautiful set piece crime scenes, there is a a lot of improbable camp in the show. You've just got to roll with it and enjoy the ride.

Ashes of Malifaux

Ashes of Malifaux is the new supplement for my favorite miniatures wargame that I may never get to play again. Still, the expansions for Malifaux are always worth it to me for the art and the ideas alone. There's a lot to love here, like a six-armed robot shootist, a giant albino alligator, and a gremlin-based Fury Road riff. Not going to lie, I wish I had come up with the Leech King and Sightless Snow. No matter, I'll simply swipe the ideas and throw them into my campaign; forget this admission.

Rotting Christ, A Dead Poem and Triarchy of the Lost Lovers

In early March I decided it was time to revisit two classic albums from Rotting Christ's back catalog: A Dead Poem and Triarchy of the Lost Lovers. Both are generally mid-tempo records and both are crucial moments where Rotting Christ was adding Gothic aesthetics to their standard extreme metal sound. These records are classics for a reason; they have definitely earned their status as stand-outs in the Rotting Christ discography.

Dune: Part Two

I have DUNE THOUGHTS. The second half of Dune is pretty incredible. It's even more visually stunning than the first installment. It feels epic. Costume design is on point. The run time is long, but I didn't even feel it. You know the effects are good when I'm not even thinking about the fact that I'm seeing effects on screen.

That said, and I hate to say it, but the two leads just aren't very good actors. I also understand the need to condense the plot, but choosing to reduce the story from unfolding over years to what felt like a month or two was weird; this also means that Paul and Chani don't have a kid in this and Alia hasn't been born by the end. (And the cameo of Anya Taylor-Joy as Alia felt a little pointless.) Maybe Dune is the thing I'm a purist about because I found some of the changes mystifying or even a little galling. It's me, I am the Dune grog.

Soska and Flaviano, Black Widow: No Restraints Play

I don't want to alarm anyone, and this isn't a cry for help, but I read a Marvel tpb in March. It's kinda off the chain. I don't know what kind of content Marvel is putting out these days, but I assume this is on the more extreme end of things. Black Widow heads to Madripor because she feels like killing some bad guys and she's tired of Captain America giving her shit for it on US soil. And boy does she find some bad guys. The "No Restraints Play" of the title is a dark web site where rich sickos pay to watch kids being tortured, mutilated, killed, and (it is implied) sexually abused. Black Widow goes after them with a vengeance, feeling very few compunctions about dispatching lethal justice. This is grottier stuff than I expect from Marvel, but they must have known what they were in for when they hired the Soska Sisters to write this comic.

Mark Dawidziak, A Mystery of Mysteries: The Death and Life of Edgar Allan Poe

A Mystery of Mysteries is a book that admits that we will never know as much about its subject as we would wish to. Although Edgar Allan Poe was a known figure in American letters during his lifetime, his own biographical fabrications, poor documentation, and a literary executor out to paint him as an utter blackguard conspired to render Poe's death an essentially unsolvable mystery. That said, Mark Dawidziak's book pulls together what we do know about Poe's life and death, busting myths along the way while allowing a few of the stronger theories to hang in the air for consideration. The book's structure shifts between the events of Poe's life in chronological order and an examination of the final days of his life. I'd definitely recommend this book as a go-to biography of Poe.

Monica Brashears, House of Cotton

Monica Brashears's House of Cotton is a strange modern Southern Gothic novel that really makes you feel the sweat and grit of desperate existence. The protagonist is a teenager who is on her own after her grandmother's death. She's particularly vulnerable: her landlord immediately takes advantage and her convenience store job is a dead end. She engages in a lot of casual sex to fill the void and finds herself drawn to the troubled misfits of the world. To extricate herself, she takes a gig that is too good to be true; a chance encounter leads her to an aunt and nephew who operate a funeral home and who have a side hustle in which she is tasked with pretending to be various dead or missing people for their relatives and friends who want to talk to their absent beloveds on a livestream. This eventually gives way to live performances for the bereaved and her life becoming tangled with the funeral home owners. 

Call of Cthulhu: Arkham

I'm generally a bit skeptical of city-based supplements for role-playing games, mostly because there are so many bad ones out there. I was pleasantly surprised by the new version of Arkham for the latest edition of Call of Cthulhu. This book both makes a compelling case for why city supplements are worth the trouble and provides a great example of how this kind of supplement can be done right. There's a wide variety of information here: new skills and optional rules that make sense for an urban environment, nefarious cults, the history of the area from settlement to urban hub, etc. The essential part: everything is dripping with potential plot hooks. All that and it comes with a fake Arkham newspaper!

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francaville, Afterlife with Archie

I re-read Afterlife with Archie in March. It's not just good for an Archie comic, it's honestly kinda great for a horror comic. What makes Afterlife with Archie great is that it takes full advantage of the comic format. For example, the scene in which Archie has to beat his zombie-fied dad to "death" with a baseball bat is told in panels intercut with panels of Archie and his dad sharing golden times in his childhood. That shit works visually in a way that only comics can really do. It also, forgive me, goes for the jugular. The stuff with the dogs falling victim to the zombie outbreak really gets to me. Of course, the weak point of the Archie horror comics lies in completion--or lack thereof. It's a shame that this title and the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina never got wrapped up.

Dimmu Borgir, Inspiratio Profanus

Cover albums usually aren't my bag at all, but Dimmu Borgir's Inspiratio Profanus is pretty fun. None of the tracks are that surprising, as this is Dimmu Borgir paying tribute to their inspirations, yet you really can't go wrong with Dimmu Borgir turning in populist black metal covers of Venom, Twisted Sister, Celtic Frost, Bathory, etc.

L'amante del Demonio

This Italian Gothic horror flick is an odd duck. The heroine, played by the ever-lovely Rosalba Neri, falls asleep in a castle rumored to be haunted by the Devil. In her dream (or is it?), she's transported back in time to a dreamlike tapestry of all the medieval Gothic hits: vampires, witches, diabolic temptations, etc. (The teleporting hooded swordsmen are a novel touch, though.) Essentially, L'amante del Demonio has a gimmick that feels quite similar to The Undead, though when Neri's character awakens--there's curiously no real payoff. Our heroine simply wakes up, leaves the castle, gets in her car with her friends, and speeds away!

Ed Piskor, Red Room: The Antisocial Network, Trigger Warnings

I initially wrote Red Room off as a comic with somewhat weak storytelling that mostly existed to be a vehicle for gory art in the splatterpunk tradition that sometimes veered into adolescent edgelord-ism. And I still don't think I was entirely wrong about that; there's something weirdly puritanical in this exercise in excess, where bodies are torn apart in preference to a mix of carnality and carnage. If you're just in it for the gross-out gore gags, you'll be pleased, but if you want something more compelling those first issues probably won't hit. 

That said, you can see the storytelling chops improve in real time. The second batch is much stronger; the "Pumpkinz" story in the second collection is actually pretty clever and I really liked the folk horror riff. Red Room has risen in my estimation when considered as an artistic response to the dark early days of the pandemic; the anxiety of that moment is captured on the page in overt and subconscious ways that are truly fascinating. But one thing still bugs me about the collections: why don't they include all the cover art, especially the dope variants by other artists?

The Gorgon

You could put just about any Hammer Horror joint with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee on the tv and I'd sit and watch contentedly. In The Gorgon, instead of the usual Gothic monsters such as vampires, werewolves, and mummies, we have a snake-haired lady who turns people to stone as the central figure of terror. There’s a fun wrinkle with the monster here too–an otherwise normal looking woman becomes a gorgon on nights of the full moon! You will have no trouble figuring out who the gorgon is (there just aren’t that many women in the movie), but you’re sure to enjoy the schlocky thrills of a Hammer movie made from a story submitted to the company by one of their fans.

J. Michael Straczynski and Colleen Doran, The Book of Lost Souls

I kept hitting up the bins at the comic shop like a complete addict in March. Anyway, I got The Book of Lost Souls from some dusty, forgotten corner. I knew nothing about it, but I'd been wanting to check out more of Colleen Doran's art. The art is generally pretty good in this, with some moments of greatness. The color palette is a bit dark, but I think that's down to the tone of the book. It's hard to believe that this is a 2006 book because it really does feel like a vintage Vertigo riff. The main conceit is that a suicide is brought back to life and entrusted with the task of turning people who are at a pivotal moment in their lives toward taking the better path. There's a talking cat and also an eyeless character that really feels like a rip of Sandman's The Corinthian. Icon, the imprint that published it, is actually a Marvel subsidiary, so it really feels like Marvel wanted their own Sandman--predictably trying way too late to jump on that train.


Apparently the far right is saying that Immaculate "debases the Mother of the Christ," which to be perfectly honest is exactly what I liked about the movie. I went into Immaculate with fairly low expectations, which were completely blown out of the water; generally, I find "Catholic horror," especially the many Exorcist knock-offs, to be watered down--but that is not a problem that Immaculate shares. Immaculate goes hard and pulls no punches. We have an early contender for movie of the year on our hands, so don't miss out on seeing this is the theater.

Frank Frazetta

I've got an idea for a sword & sorcery story brewing, so of course that's a great excuse for going back to the wellspring of inspiration that is Frank Frazetta's art. I'm actually hoping to make it to the Frank Frazetta museum this summer, but for now I will content myself with drinking in all the mighty thews, buxom maidens, and primordial beasts. 

Stephen King, Wizard and Glass

My attempt to re-read Stephen King's Gunslinger saga continued in March with Wizard and Glass, though if I'm honest I have to admit that I got bogged down in its ~700 pages. The meat of the story is great; King is really on a tear as he takes the story back in time to a pivotal moment in Roland's life. The Weird Western aspects of Wizard and Glass bring the heat and the tragedy. The end of the Weird Western bit evolves into folk horror territory, but those are two flavors I think work really well together--and I'd love to see more in that vein. But I had forgotten that the end does a weird Wizard of Oz riff that feels like an insane tonal shift.

The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll

The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, aka Jekyll's Inferno or House of Fright, was a pleasant surprise. This movie has some really strange elements in it. For example, there is an extended snake dancing scene. The dancer puts the snake's head in her mouth, simulating fellatio, and you should see the look on Mister Hyde's face. Dude is loving what he's seeing. Speaking of Hyde, usually he's just a brute in films based on Stevenson's novel, but in this one he's a charming maniac, not unlike Alex from A Clockwork Orange, just absolutely gleefully evil.

Frank Beddor (with Liz Cavalier) and Ben Templesmith, M Hatter Volume One

My addiction to painted comics continues without cure. M Hatter is about an agent of Wonderland, festooned with blades and a hat that just won't quit, who is traveling through space and time to find Princess Alyss--who escaped from a coup in her kingdom. The Hatter's quest puts him into conflict with a secret society that wants to sap all creativity and imagination from the world. There are hints of greater schemes afoot, but I suppose those will be unveiled as I dig further into the series' six volume run.

Vampire: The Masquerade, Blood Sigils and Blood-Stained Love

I picked up two supplements for Vampire: The Masquerade: Blood Sigils and Blood-Stained Love. Blood Sigils provides mechanical expansion for people who want a lot more blood sorcery in their chronicles. Blood-Stained Love is geared toward ways of adding themes of sex and romance into your chronicle. The latter is particularly interesting, as in my experience that particular focus was the big draw for a lot of people when it came to Vampire: The Masquerade in the first place, though its long been the case that the game hasn't really acknowledged that in any official capacity. 

Bodies Bodies Bodies

I was really expected to not like Bodies Bodies Bodies, but I was pleasantly surprised by it--though perhaps I shouldn't be too shocked that I enjoyed this horror film about clueless zoomers dying off one by one when the power goes out during a storm and they're holed up in a mansion. This is one of those movies where you get to sit back and feel like a Roman emperor saying shit like "Yes, kill any of them, it will amuse me." Fun movie? Yes. Hate crime against Gen Z? Probably also yes. And that's fine by me.

Shin'ichi Sakamoto, #DRCL: Midnight Children 01

#DRCL: Midnight Children is manga artist Shin'ichi Sakamoto's take on Bram Stoker's ubiquitous vampire novel. The art is exhilarating; every other page has an image, if not a full-page spread, that is absolutely jaw-droping. The writing is...weird. Weird as hell, actually. For some reason the main characters are made younger and all attend the same school. The "John Seward" character is a Japanese photographer, and he keeps Renfield, who is inexplicably a nun, as a sort of pet in his dorm room. There's a fuckton of bullying subplots in the first volume. Let's be real, the draw here is the art so all the strange interventions in the familiar story are really just the price of admission.

Yellowjackets, Season One

Yellowjackets follows two timelines: in the past, we follow the survival horror-meets-folk horror travails of a high school soccer team stranded in the wilderness after their plane goes down, while in the present we see how the adult survivors from the incident try to deal with the trauma of it. There's a lot of clever writing in the first season, and the production features some stellar performances. For the record, I am #teammisty all the way. Can't wait to start the second season--I badly need to fill in the narrative gaps, though I suspect that the second season still won't hold all the answers.

The Silver Bayonet: Canada

I also picked up the Canada supplement for The Silver Bayonet miniature wargame. Taking place during the War of 1812, this supplement has solo, cooperative, and competitive scenarios. It has new military units, new foes drawn from Canadian folklore, new wartime equipment--everything to get you going with a fresh regiment. Canada has never seemed so interesting. Luckily, it also has rules for recruiting American units, so maybe Canada isn't a lost cause after all? I kid, I kid.

The Three Musketeers: D'Artagnan

I love Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers, so I'm pretty picky when it comes to film adaptations of the swashbuckling classics. (To be honest, many of them are straight corn dog in execution.) But this recent French version is fantastic. It plays up the darkness inherent in the original, the fight scenes thread the needle being flashy and brutal, and it preserves the "everyone is horny and it's fucking their lives up" throughline of the original novel. Much like Dune, a two-part feature film is a pretty big ask, but I will happily line up to see Milady when I can.

Caitlin R. Kiernan, Dean Ormston, and Sean Phillips, The Girl Who Would be Death

I read the four issues that comprise the Girl Who Would Be Death miniseries over the course of a lazy Easter morning; perfect time for a story about coming back from the dead, right? I'm a mark for this era of Vertigo anyway, but I do think these were some pretty excellent issues. It's a shame they were never collected in a tpb because between the art (the style of which lingers in between Mignola and Ted McKeever, somehow) and Caitlin R. Kiernan's writing (and I don't think she's ever gotten her due as a comics writer), this is a great adjunct to the Sandman universe. Sort of hard to believe that I hadn't picked them up before, given how hard they advertised them in all the goth mags back in the day, but I'm glad I finally got around to them.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Tarot

Big fluffy candy corn models the newest addition to my collection of oracular devices: the Legend of Sleepy Hollow tarot. 

Calico Critter blind bag

The cute kitten I got in a Calico Critter blind bag came with an extremely creepy folk horror-looking mask, which is fantastic.

Vampiress Carmilla and Shudder

I have continued to keep current with both Vampiress Carmilla and Shudder, as well as continuing to work my way through the back issues. The cover for issue #20 of Vampiress Carmilla is yet another piece worthy of framing.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

At Sea Once More

In the last session, the party successfully rescued Lenore and Emily from the machinations of the Convent of Our Lady of the Blood Reborn. In this session, they chose to direct their attentions toward getting the Brineblade into the hands of Scylla, the eldritch "goddess" of the sea responsible for raising Asudem from the dead and whom Catarina reveres as her patron.


Catarina, unconventional prioress

Pendleton, rogue anatomist

Raoul, necromancer

Geradd, swashbuckling nobleman

Daytona, dhampir gunslinger

Panthalassa, empowered feral child

Asudem, undead antiquarian


On the way to Lachryma, the party deposited Emily and Lenore at Chateau Frankenstein for safekeeping. Serafina and the Widow also left the party at this point; Serafina promised to dig up information about where the Skarnesti Circus was headed, as that was to be their next destination once the business with the Brineblade was at an end. 

Every night on their journey to Lachryma, Panthalassa and Catarina had the same dream: they approached an island by sea, and once they was upon it they found themselves ascending the tower of a fortress. The tower's roof was compromised; rain was pelting down from above and running down the stairs. Drops of blood were mixed in with the rain. Looking up, they could see a winged humanoid suspended from chains at the top of the tower--the blood was coming from several wounds on the creature's torso. The dream's perspective then shifted. They could now see the blood dripping into the sea, where it hardened into a cage that kept Scylla trapped in the depths. 

When the group arrived in Lachryma, they found the town in a state of turmoil. They had spotted people on the road fleeing the town, taking whatever worldly possessions they could load onto wagons or carry on their backs. From the vantage afforded by the hill, it was clear that a few ships were on fire in the harbor. Daytona stopped a man who was leaving the town to ask him what was happening. The man told them that the Church had stepped up its efforts to reclaim Lachryma from Scylla's cult and the chaos they saw was the result of Church terrorism.

As they hurried to the temple presided over by their ally Belle Silvra, they saw a towering angel with a sword of flame also making its way to the temple. Correctly ascertaining that the angel meant to destroy the temple and all within it, Panthalassa ran forward to strike at the angel with her maul. What really got the angel's attention, however, was Daytona unloading a devil's blood bullet into it. It made a beeline for the gunslinger and very nearly dealt him a crippling blow. The angel was ultimately destroyed by one of Raoul's necrotic bolts. Daytona recovered what was left of the flaming sword--merely a hilt they did not yet know how to activate. 

Inside the temple, they were escorted to Belle Silvra's sitting room. There was a pistol laying on the desk in front of her--less a method of self-defense and more insurance that she would not be taken alive should the angel have breached the temple. In their conversation, it turned out that Belle had been having the same dream as Panthalassa and Catarina. As to why that would be, Belle conjectured that the primordial sea spirits that Panthalassa had forged a pact with were possibly Scylla's children and that Catarina's possession of the Brineblade drew her into connection with Scylla.

Asudem managed to piece together the dream island's location from their description of it and his recollections of his own travels at sea. Belle summoned Captain Laurant to give the party passage aboard her ship, the Dawnrazor. Captain Laurant's presence was the cause of some nervousness among the party, as they were not sure how much of a grudge she nursed against them for blowing up not one, but two of the ships she had captained. 

Wanting to get underway as soon as possible, the group made their way with Captain Laurant to where the Dawnrazor was docked. The Dawnrazor proved to be a man o' war bristling with armor and cannons. Half of the ship's crew were human pirates and fish-man hybrids. The other half were undead under Laurant's control. Speaking of awkward interactions, on the second night of their voyage Captain Laurant sent her zombies with invitations for the party to dine with her in her cabin. It became clear what she thought of several party members: she respected Asudem's navigational abilities and saw him as favored by Scylla; she was intrigued by Daytona and Geradd's capacity for violence; she still held enmity toward Pendleton, who was responsible for planting the explosives that scarred her body.

Soon after, the night was interrupted by the sound of cannon fire. Everyone rushed on deck and discovered that the Dawnrazor was under attack by a vessel flying the flag of Churchmen. Captain Laurant gave orders to her crew to engage the ship; meanwhile, two rowboats were prepared for the party to make their way ashore and enter the fortress. However, the party saw that their rowboats were being pursued to shore by a similar boat launched from the Churchmen's ship. The party fought the interlopers on the beach, with Panthalassa staving in one of their heads with a well-thrown rock. 

However, Daytona and Catarina's pistol shots had alerted the guards at the fortress that they were about to be infiltrated; the group could hear the sound of a warning bell clanging madly. As they looked up toward the fortress, they could see a number of armed combatants spilling from within.

We will find out how they deal with that obstacle next time.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Live Girls

Bad Books for Bad People, Episode 75: Live Girls

Ray Garton’s 1986 horror novel Live Girls may have the perfect bad book pitch: vampire hookers in seedy vintage Times Square. Jack and Kate travel back to a golden age of sleaze and encounter smokeshow bloodsucking strippers, donut-inspired dirty talk, and dancefloor remixes of “The Old Rugged Cross.”

What perverted compulsion makes a vampire turn the worst dudes in the world immortal? Why are nightclubs never, ever as cool as the ones in bad books? What do table tennis and the Anarchist’s Cookbook have in common? All these questions and more will be explored in this episode of Bad Books for Bad People!

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Two Kinds of Game I Have Little Love For

This might be what the kids call a "hot take": there are simply too many small games out there with names like Tunnel Jerks or Tomb Losers or Die in a Damp Cave or just Mound that all essentially do the same thing. They all seem to be bought by the same people too. I find their existence and proliferation mystifying.

This might be an even hotter take: I think one of the biggest scourges in the indie rpg space are games that are actually more like graphic design projects than actual games. It often feels like all the effort went into the presentation and visual tomfoolery instead of the making the game feel complete or even fun. The folks behind that stuff seem like the kind of nebbishes who spend more time figuring out the perfect placement of the band patches on their "battle vests" than on actually listening to metal.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Helena and Ivara Graymalk

Hemlock Hollow’s most powerful villains are Helena and Ivara Graymalk, two Devil-bound witches.

Helena Graymalk
Helena Graymalk is the matriarch of the Graymalk family and the unofficial burgomaster of Hemlock. The townsfolk look to her for guidance, as it is acknowledged openly that her witchery keeps the town and its mines thriving. 
    • Appearance: Helena appears to be a comely woman in her mid-thirties; she is especially proud of her mane of curly auburn hair. 
    • Personality: She finds pleasure in exercising power and bending others to her will.
    • Motive: She hopes to summon the Devil from Hell so that he might bring the world under his sole dominion.
    • Flaw: She knows that if she were to ever displease her master, he would revoke her longevity and let time ravage her body.

Ivara Graymalk
Although she plays the part of a bookish and naive young woman, Ivara Graymalk is an accomplished witch who does the Devil’s bidding. She is unafraid of using others to get what she wants. Ivara is currently Helena Graymalk’s favored child, but they both know it is inevitable that they will strive against each other.
    • Appearance: Ivara poses as innocent and scholarly girl, dressing like a prim and proper schoolteacher, but this guise is calculated to make her appear harmless or perhaps even in need of protection. 
    • Personality: She is a patient schemer.
    • Motive: She desires to replace her mother as matriarch of the Graymalk witches.
    • Flaw: She burns with impatience to to recognized as a powerful witch in her own right.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

The Philosophy of Hellraiser, Devil's Rejects: Anatomy of a Franchise, The Crow

Three videos that I think are worth your time:

The Morbid Zoo, The Philosophy of Hellraiser
Really solid analysis of Hellraiser and how it transcends a Judeo-Christian understanding of its main themes.

In Praise of Shadow, The Devil's Rejects: Anatomy of a Franchise
I don't agree with everything in this retrospective on Rob Zombie's "Firefly Family" movies, but there's a lot here for fans of the movies.

Cartoonist Kayfabe, The Crow
This is pure appreciation of a classic comic. It makes me want to dig it out and read it again.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Our Lady of the Blood Reborn

After a big cliffhanger last time with the arrival of a mysterious stranger, we had to wait a week to pick up our Savage Krevborna campaign. We are definitely in the part of the campaign where the consequences of prior adventures are now coming home to roost. 


Catarina, unconventional prioress

Pendleton, rogue anatomist

Raoul, necromancer

Geradd, swashbuckling nobleman

Daytona, dhampir gunslinger

Panthalassa, empowered feral child

Asudem, undead antiquarian


Catarina, Panthalassa, and Serafina approached the Convent of the Blood Reborn from the road. They found the gate in the outer wall guarded by two templars, who relieved them of their more obvious weapons before letting them inside. Upon entering the convent's chapel, they found a nun, Sister Bronwen, praying at the altar. Posing as folks in need of healing, Catarina and Panthalassa expressed interest in taking advantage of the convent's sanitarium treatments. Serafina posed as their servant, but took the first opportunity to sneak away.

Sister Bronwen took the pair on a tour of the facilities, which included some grim, asylum-like treatment rooms and an operating theater, and also performed an examination of both women--though she could find nothing physically wrong with either of them. Panthalassa had to distract the nun while Catarina stripped to make sure that Sister Bronwen didn't notice Catarina's hidden pistols.

After signing themselves over into the convent's care, Panthalassa and Catarina were shown to their lodgings in the infirmary ward. Inside was a tall young woman who bore a resemblance to Raoul. They had discovered where Lenore had been stashed away in the convent! Once the nun had left, they introduced themselves and told Lenore that they were friends of her brother and that her rescue was immanent. 

Meanwhile, Geradd had independently made his way to Selvik's Hollow because his great enemy, Cardinal Radinov, had been spotted headed for the town. (Cardinal Radinov had a habit of extorting noble families for tithes to the Church; Geradd's family had suffered the Cardinal's depredations.) As Geradd approached the Green Cauldron inn, he saw Raoul, Daytona, Pendleton, Asudem, and the Widow talking to a very tall, pale man of military mien out front. 

The stranger was exceedingly polite and introduced himself as "Count M." Count M. invited the group to dinner; Daytona wanted to decline, but he felt the Count bending his will. Count M. remarked, "Extraordinary how quickly the fog rolls in." When the group turned to look, they watched as a solid wall of gray fog sped down the valley, obscuring everything from view.

Once the group retired to their rented chambers, Daytona was able to divulge Count M.'s identity: they had come face-to-face with Count Magnus Draghul, one of the more powerful and feared vampire nobles of Sibersk. During this conversation, part of Daytona's history was revealed: he outed himself a dhampir. Later, during dinner hosted by Count Magnus, the vampire lord made it clear why he had taken an interest in the group: when they killed Countess Vlodeska, they killed a vampire of his bloodline. As recompense, he wanted one of the party to take her place as one of his vampire vassals. However, he was willing to give them time to think over who the sacrificial lamb shall be; after all, he has eternity on his side.

Catarina and Daytona communicated via the psychic connection enabled by one of the bone daggers in the prioress's possession. Daytona informed Catarina about Count Magnus. Asudem brought a very excellent plan to the fore here as well: he had Catarina summon the convent's matria, tell the nun that the real reason they had sought sanctuary was that there was a vampire afoot, and pleaded with her to send templars to hunt the undead beast in town. This would at least keep Count Magnus busy while they attempted to rescue Emily and Lenore from the convent.

Under the cover of the unnatural fog, the rest of the group was able to make their way to the convent unseen. They found a hastily constructed rope ladder thrown over the convent wall. Once again utilizing the psychic connection, the group was able to locate the infirmary. However, they saw that there was a figuring lurching toward them down the dark hall; the figure was dragging something heavy with it. When the figure heaved into Daytona's eyeline, it was revealed to be Serafina, who was dragging Panthalassa's maul--which she had managed to steal from the guards at the front gate. 

Raoul and Lenore had a touching reunion. The Widow was put in charge of Lenore's safety while the group searched for Emily's body in the convent. Exploration led them to an elevator guarded by a nun and several templars. After battling their way down into the next level of the convent, the group were confronted by another nun and more templars. The nun used her miraculous prayers to bolster the armor of the templars, making them quite difficult for the party to put down. 

Things went from bad to worse as waves of enemies began to stream in from adjoining doors. Sister Mary Augustine, the convent's matria, arrived with templars in tow. Catarina managed to put two bullets into the matria, but before she died she uttered a prayer and struck Catarina with a cat o' nine tails; the lash blazed with holy light and sent Catarina to the ground incapacitated. Cardinal Radinov also arrived with a squad of templars. "Geradd, I should have known that you would be involved in this!" he bellowed as he attacked the swashbuckler with a poisoned sword. Geradd was grievously injured, but he managed to rally and plunge his glaive through the cardinal's heart. 

After a harrowing battle, the group stood victorious and was able to tend to their wounded. They quickly explored the remaining chambers of the convent's cellar until the found a ritual chamber with twelve incorruptible corpses in glass caskets arranged in a circle. At the center of the circle was an empty pedestal. They quickly identified the casket that held Emily's remains. Before they made their escape, Pendleton sawed the heads from the rest of the corpses so that they could not be used in the ritual; he took them as objects of scientific curiosity for Viktoria Frankenstein to examine.

Before leaving Selvik's Hollow, they stopped in to see the apothecary. Irena had packed up all of her belongings and moved on, but she left behind a letter for them under a rock painted with peonies. The letter read:

If you want to return the dead to life, you may wish to seek the Mantle of Iron Tears–a magical artifact crafted by the first members of the Crucifuge. As I am sure you are well aware, the ultimate goal of restoring life to the departed requires a tremendous amount of arcane energy and occult mastery. It’s also an endeavor fraught with peril. Even the slightest mistake can prove catastrophic. The Mantle of Iron Tears can mitigate that peril.

If you wish to lay your hands on the Mantle of Iron Tears, it was last known to be hidden among the oddities of the Skarnesti Circus.

Will the group find the Mantle of Iron Tears and be able to restore Emily to life? Will they choose one of their number to join Count Magnus Draghul among the undead or will they stand defiant against him? When will Dorian Margrave call upon them to honor their commitment to him as he plans for conquest? And what of the Brineblade and its ties to the Cult of Scylla? 

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

The Liturgy of the Twelve Radiant Apostles

"Theory board" made by Pendleton's player
After a cliff-hanger in our last Krevborna game, we reconvened a month or so later to see how our "heroes" deal with the new twist that promises to complicate and comprise their lives. We left off last time with Raoul receiving a letter that caused him to visibly pale; at the start of this game, the rest of the players found about about the contents of the letter: the magically preserved corpse of Raoul's beloved, Emily Rosaline Daae, had been stolen from the secret crypt in which she rested. 

The Characters

Pendleton Torst, rogue anatomist

Catarina Redmoor, prioress of an unusual convent

Panthalassa Laurentide, a very weird orphan

Raoul Carathis, necromancer

Daytona Midnight, dhampir gunslinger

Asudem, a drowned antiquarian brought back from the dead


Once the party left Port Omera, the warm, sultry trade winds gave way to a howling tempest that buffeted and rocked the vessel they had booked passage on. Despite the violent gales, which did their best to send their ship to a watery grave, they eventually reached Piskaro. When they disembarked, the weather hadn’t improved. It was now the tail end of winter, and the pounding rain turned the snow and frozen earth to a morass of mud and slush. The group opted for speed over comfort, hiring horses and sleeping rough in the cold to make their way to Creedhall in haste.

The Widow was waiting for them with Viktoria Frankenstein's boat and dry cloaks. After the Widow ferried them to Viktoria's island at the center of Loch Riven, they had a brief encounter with Father Prim, the strange fey creature employed as guardian of the isle. He dragged a metal pail from his cottage because he had something to show Pendleton. After rummaging around in the pail, and tossing out a severed foot and an unidentifiable chunk of meat, Father Prim produced the head of the leader of the Black Rats gang--his mouth still hanging wide open in a silent scream. According to Father Prim, the remaining Black Rats had become desperate to locate and apprehend Pendleton, so they came to the island in search of him. In Father Prim's words, this was "a big mistake."

At Chateau Frankenstein, they were fed and given a place to rest before setting off to investigate the theft of Emily's corpse. The Widow and Serafina offered to accompany the group on this quest, but first Viktoria had her construct servants bring forth a number of belated Khristmas presents for each member of the party. Panthalassa received a maul made from galvanic stone; Catarina was given a number of pretty (and armored) corsets; Daytona was gifted a masterwork pistol and several special bullets; Pendleton was given what appeared to be a sheaf of paperwork; Raoul was presented with a reanimated draft horse to pull his cart; and Asudem was entrusted with a reanimated cat. 

Under the cover of night, the group stole into the secret tomb Emily had been taken from within Blackwater Estates. Catarina found a dropped medallion depicting St. Filiona; the medallion was identified as being from a convent known as Our Lady of the Blood Reborn. Asudem examined the secret door and determined that it had not been forced; whoever broke in might have shown some respect for a place of burial. Daytona could tell from the footprints in the dust that six figures wearing military boots were behind the theft; he also knew from the color of the some soil tracked in that the inreuders had recently been in the town of Selvik's Hollow in the Vespermark. Lastly, Raoul noticed that the arcane symbols he had scrawled upon the walls of the chamber had been "defaced" with holy symbols in an act of reconsecration.

Before they left, Raoul held a seance to contact the spirit of Emily Rosaline Daae. The temperature dropped in the chamber and swirls of green and purple eldritch energy lit the room. Emily did not appear as a spectral apparition, but Raoul could feel her presence in the room. She was able to relate that her body was still whole, that she was being kept in a holy space, and that there were eleven bodies in a similar state to her own wherever she was. The party's working theory was that her body had been stolen by religious zealots--quite possibly in league with both Raoul and Emily's families--and taken to the convent to be venerated as an incorruptible saint.

The group left Blackwater and lit out for the territories of the Vespermark. Selvik's Hollow was a small town nestled in a forested valley; they could see the Convent of Our Lady of the Blood Reborn perched on a hill above the town. Their first stop was the local inn and tavern, the Green Cauldron, which was owned by a man named Rogan Sheriday. They party ordered beef and stout stew, as well as ale from the convent. Also within the common room of the Green Cauldron was an acne-scarred young scholar, who had rented one of the inn's rooms, and a teenage girl with pointed ears who was busy scrubbing the dining tables with a rag.

The mention of the incorruptible corpses caught the young girl's attention; she seemed to know something. The group booked four rooms for their use in the inn; they also discovered that besides the scholar, a servant had rented two rooms: one for himself and one for his wealthy master who had yet to arrive. 

With lodging acquired, the group explored the town a bit, plying the shrine maiden at the Chapel of St. Vionka, Irena Gravloski (proprietor of the local apothecary shop), and Elusia (the barmaid, who they later found writing poetry in the graveyard). From their various sources, the group managed to put together the following picture:

  • The Convent of Our Lady of the Blood Reborn was an obscure ascetic site and sanitarium, until the arrival of Sister Mary Augustina.
  • Sister Mary Augustina was afflicted with holy visions, possibly madness, and had been thrown out of her previous convent for delving into forbidden tomes in the convent's archives.
  • Irena was able to tell them that one of the tomes kept in the convent archive was the Adeptus Gnostica, a book that contained a ritual known as the Liturgy of the Twelve Radiant Apostles. 
  • The purpose of the Liturgy of the Twelve Radiant Apostles was to infuse twelve incorruptible corpses with holy entities who would then scourge "evil" from the land.
  • Templars had been arriving at the convent over the last few years; the templars were patrolling the woods around the convent.
  • Elusia had seen the templars moving casket-shaped boxes on carts from parts unknown to the convent.

It seemed that Emily's body had been stolen to be used as one of the twelve corpses needed for the Liturgy of the Twelve Radiant Apostles. 

Irena managed to glean Raoul's plans to resurrect Emily; she asked him if he knew of the Mantle of Iron Tears. He did not. She told the group to return to her shop if they managed to rescue Emily's body.

Speaking of rescuing Emily's body, Catarina, Panthalassa, and Serafina hatched a plan to infiltrate the convent and figure out a way to get the doors open to the rest of the group at night. Meanwhile, the remainder of the group returned to the Green Cauldron. However, the mysterious guest had arrived in their absence was busy directing the porters unloading his carriage. The man, a very tall, muscular man of military bearing, caught Daytona's eye. Daytona recognized the man and felt his heart sink within his chest--their mission in Selvik's Hollow just became infinitely more complicated and dangerous.

We'll find out who this newcomer is next time.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

The Tyranny of Faith, Infinity Pool, Malenka, and More

Things that brought me delight in February, 2024:

Richard Swan, The Tyranny of Faith

I read Richard Swan's The Justice of Kings last month and was so enamored with it that I immediately ordered The Tyranny of Faith as soon as I had finished it. The Tyranny of Faith does not disappoint. Told from the perspective of Helena Sedanka, Sir Konrad Vonvalt's clerk and apprentice Justice, we get a view of the unfolding threat to the Empire of the Wolf. And theremany moving parts involved in the intrigue: the Emperor's grandson is kidnapped, someone is arming insurgents with gunpowder, the church has stolen the secrets of ancient magic, and Konrad Vonvalt, the Empire's best hope, has been cursed with a life-ending demonic hex. But beyond all the momentous events converging, The Tyranny of Faith is still a very human tale: despite his acuity, power, and remit, it's Vonvalt's fallibilities that lead to the most tragedy in the novel.

Infinity Pool

I love a speculative movie that is a total feels-bad experience. Infinity Pool takes place in and around an elite resort in the fictional country of Li Tolqa. When a chance accident takes the life of a native, the Western tourists involved learn firsthand the strange legal workings of the nation: to avoid death, the wrongdoer is allowed to pay an exorbitant amount to be cloned so the copy can be executed in their stead. What follows these events is hedonism, commentary on exploitation of the developing world, and a heady cocktail of sex, violence, loss of personal identity, and betrayal.


Malenka, aka Fangs of the Living Dead, is a late-60s horror movie that might be have the distinction of being the first Spanish vampire film. And it's a doozy. A beautiful young model, played by Anita Ekberg, discovers that she has inherited a title and a castle...and perhaps the curse of vampirism as well. Or has she? It could all be a be honest, it could be anything because the tacked-on ending goes a long way toward contradicting everything else in the film. It hardly matters; you go into Malenka for Gothic nonsense, not a rational film that makes sense, and it provides Gothic nonsense in spades.

Stephen King, The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands

While waiting for the third book in Richard Swan's dark fantasy trilogy to make its way to me, I decided to pick up the third volume of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series to make a little headway in my very lackadaisical re-read of the saga. This is the one with the very fun encounter with the giant cyborg bear and the riddle-loving insane AI train. I read this six-hundred page beast over three days, which more than anything illustrates that when King is on his game he is extremely readable and fun.

Shudder #1, 2, 3, 12, 15 and Vampiress Carmilla #5, 6, 17, 18, 19

Anyone who listens to Bad Books for Bad People will already know of my affection for the Shudder and Vampiress Carmilla comics. I delved into the back issues as well as catching the latest issues on the rack. Issue #15 of Shudder is a great standalone illustration of why I love these titles and a fantastic place to start if you want to hop on this train. This issue has all the good stuff. In just one issue you get witches, vampires, grave robbers, seaside tales, cowboys, a Poe homage, and the Devil's own nightclub. And that cover! Look at that cover! If that doesn't speak to you, I don't want to know you.


Hellbender is less a straightforward horror flick and more of a bildungsroman with horror elements. A mother and daughter live in seclusion on their forested mountain, happily making metal music (???) and going on hikes, until the daughter encounters another teenager and begins to pine for the life she's been sequestered away from. What follows is a discovery of her familiar connection to witchcraft and a strange generational contest between mother and daughter that is part and parcel of her growth into maturity. What's really fascinating about this film is that it was a family project (it was directed and stars a married couple and their children) made during the pandemic lookdown in their Catskills home. It's low-budget for sure, but the rough-and-ready nature of it adds to its truly unique charm.

Mike Mignola, Angela Slatter, Valeria Burzo, Michelle Madsen, Castle Full of Blackbirds

I'm going to have to be completely honest here: you can probably skip Castle Full of Blackbirds if you aren't already immersed in the Hellboy-verse. I wasn't aware that this comic slotted into Mignola's wider world when I bought it, but the story of a young runaway possessing strange powers ending up in a fiendish school for witches is pretty easy to parse even if all the connections don't necessarily mean anything to you. To be even more honest, the art here didn't thrill me, but I suspect that this is more of an issue with the colors than the inkwork. That said, the covers from the individual issues (here used as chapter breaks in the collection) by Wylie Beckert are phenomenal. 

Kaori Yuki, Fairy Cube Vols. 1-3

I have to admit, even as a big fan of Kaori Yuki's manga I didn't think Fairy Cube was going to be a series for me. The cover makes this manga seem like it's very much Not My Thing. As it turns out, however, this is actually a pretty sinister series! A kid with the ability to see fairies ("Cottingley fairies" style) gets mixed up in a fey plot to overthrow humanity when his "evil double" possesses his father and has his dad knife him to death. When he comes back, his spirit now inhabiting the corpse of a young boy, he finds that his double has taken over his body and is now courting the girl he loves. Although this doesn't rank up there with my favorite Kaori Yuki manga, Fairy Cube has some really interesting and provocative ideas to it that I wasn't expecting. 

Dr. Frankenstein's House of 3-D

I found this 3-D comic from the early 90s in one of our trips to the antique market. The interiors are the blue-and-red line art you'd expect, and the 3-D glasses are still unpunched! The content basically takes one of two forms: pin-up art of Frankenstein's monster (much of it by cover artist and monster aficionado XNO) or an origin story comic for the creature by Dick Briefer. Both ends of the spectrum are done up in underground comix-style art. Although I bought this as something of a novelty, it's actually really well done with some great art I hadn't seen before. I'm calling this one a win for the "random treasure acquired for a few dollars" pile.

Chelsea Wolfe, She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She

It's probably reductive to think of She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She as Chelsea Wolfe's "Bjork" album, but I can't shake that feeling. Of course, Wolfe's cold industrial backdrop is more menacing than most Bjork tracks, but the delicacy, effortlessness, and bravura vocal work are what render the similarities here for me. This is a record that easily slips into a kind of conjured soundscape, but it's worth clearing your head of the haze to take in all the particulars. 

Essie Fox, The Fascination

Essie's Fox's The Fascination starts off with two narrative strands. In the first, a young man is booted from his grandfather's estate when the old tyrant suddenly marries and produces an heir of his own. Meanwhile, a pair of twin sisters (one who develops normally and one who is stuck at a child-like size) are forced to accompany their shyster father as he shucks a snake oil remedy at fairs. The narrative paths cross at a chance meeting, then diverge: the young man comes to work at a London museum of oddities, while the sisters find themselves "adopted" to a house of "freaks." The threads converge again when a pleasure cult of depraved aristocrats abducts the diminutive sister for their own sinister purposes. I was looking forward to reading The Fascination for quite some time (I had to wait for a US release of this one, which was pure torture) and let me tell you: it was completely worth the wait. The Fascination is Dickensian Gothic grotesque at its finest.


Now that I've watched it, I regret not seeing Men in the theater. There are so many things I love about it that I didn't realize were present at the time: I didn't know Jessie Buckley, who I loved in Taboo, stars in it; I didn't know that Rory Kinnear, who of course was great in Penny Dreadful, plays multiple characters in it; I had no idea it was one of the better modern folk horror movies out there. 

The premise is simple: a woman decides to spend time on her own in a rented cottage as she deals with the trauma and guilt of her estranged husband's possible suicide. But from there, her encounters with various men of the village take increasingly ominous turns until the whole thing climaxes know what, you need to see it to believe it.

Richard Swan, The Trials of Empire

Now that I've finished The Trials of Empire, the last book in Richard Swan's The Empire of the Wolf trilogy, I can heartily recommend the series to anyone with the stomach to make it through a dark fantasy trilogy of somewhat chunky books. (The second and third books weigh in at over five-hundred pages apiece, for fair warning.) If you do possess that kind of stamina, I think you'll find a lot to love in the entire series, from the first to the last. As an endpoint, The Trials of Empire avoids a lot of cliches, even some hinted at in previous books, and it's the rare series that culminates in a legal trial after the dust has settled from the big, horrible, gritty battle scenes, and manages to actually make the trial pretty entertaining.

Norman Partridge, Dark Harvest

Part of me wishes I had saved Norman Partridge's Dark Harvest for the Halloween season, as it would be a perfect read for October. (You may want to buy a copy now and tuck it away in anticipation.) Dark Harvest concerns a small town with a strange contest held every Halloween: boys aged sixteen to nineteen are forced out of their homes to hunt, and BE HUNTED BY, the October Boy--a pumpkin-headed scarecrow that's out for blood. Dark Harvest is a fun, and surprising, short novel that really captures the madness of Halloween, the small-town experience, and a particularly American flavor of folk horror.

D. Alexander Ward and Gina Scapellato (eds.), Strange Echoes

Strange Echoes is an anthology of short fiction, and like most anthologies it is a mixed bag. The oddest thing about Strange Echoes is that the stories within it don't really feel united by style, theme, or fictional mode; it was a little difficult to see why these particular tales live under the same roof. That said, while none of the stories are poor quality, to my mind there are three standouts. Things start strong with Pamela Durgin's "Canyon Country," which is more of a mood piece about a particular hell-blasted landscape and they very broken young woman moving through it; the mood is pretty rancid, which I mean in a positive way. I also thought Kristin Peterson's story about conjoined twins and the uncanny life they share was excellent. Now, I may be biased as Mattie is a friend who plays in my game group, but I think Matilda Lewis's "Honey, Blood, and Hellfire" is the real stand-out in the collection. This one's a treat, like Hawthorne unencumbered by his era and allowed to be horny on main.


Admittedly, my expectations were pretty low going into it, but Marrowbone was a pleasant surprise. This Gothic drama is about a British family who has fled their monstrous, abusive, serial killer father for their mother's childhood home in Maine. As they attempt to start over under a new name, they grow insular--only allowing a farmgirl living nearby into their inner circle. Of course, they've been pursued by their father--or are haunted by his ghost--but the truth of things is far more wicked. Marrowbone has a bit of a VC Andrews feel to it, which is an uncommon flavor that works nicely with this kind of film. Even though I saw the gimmick coming a mile away, Marrowbone really gave me the kind of Gothic nonsense I like.

Becky Cloonan and Tula Lotay, Somna: A Bedtime Story, Books One and Two

You can tell that I was excited for Somna, a new erotic horror comic from Becky Cloonan and Tula Lotay, because I broke down and started buying the single issues--something I rarely do. My expectations were quite high for this book and against all odds it met if not exceeded my hopes for it. Somna is the story of a woman married to her town's bailiff, a position that is changing into that of a witchfinder. But as he is hunting the darkness, her dreams are plagued with sinful, demonic erotic reveries that push against the repression she faces in public and at home. Add to this that her best friend is involved in an illicit affair with a handsome young man (and widower of an executed witch), and that her friend's husband is mysterious found murdered, and things are heating up on all fronts. I can't believe I have to wait until the end of March to see how Somna concludes. Sometimes life is cruel.

Lisa Frankenstein

Lisa Frankenstein doesn't seem to be getting much in the way of positive reviews, but I had a great time watching it! It really does do a good job of capturing the tone of an 80s teen comedy, and I have to admit that I laughed out loud quite a bit seeing this in the theater. Also, I always love a story about outsiders being outsiders and remaining outsiders even at the end of things--no Breakfast Club style makeover here in Lisa Frankenstein and none of the reconciling with the status quo either. Oddly, this teen movie probably won't mean much to modern teens; this one is probably aimed at people who can actually remember the 80s.

The Long Hair of Death

The Long Hair of Death has become something of a comfort movie for me, and I genuinely consider it to be a classic of the black and white European Gothic genre. It's got witches back from the dead, rapacious noblemen, scheming seductresses, and a creaky old castle complete with hidden passages and eerie tombs. If that wasn't enough, you get the incomparably beautiful Barbara Steele and a truly horrific looking corpse crawling with worms. The comeuppance in the ending scene of The Long Hair of Death feels sadistically satisfying to boot. If you ever want to do a double-feature of great Euro Gothics, considering pairing The Long Hair of Death with Black Sunday for a Barbara Steele-fueled one-two punch.

Alexis Henderson, House of Hunger

In Alexis Henderson's House of Hunger, a young worker from an industrial slum leaves her life of poverty behind to become the "bloodmaid" of a "night lord" named...Liveta Bathory. Although the novel never uses the v-word, Bathory and her fellow night lords employ young women to provide them with the blood that keeps them healthy. House of Hunger attaches many themes to its central idea; it touches on labor exploitation, classism, and above all the pain and turmoil of obsessive love. I enjoyed Henderson's previous novel, The Year of the Witching, but House of Hunger fires on all cylinders. More than anything, I appreciated that House of Hunger confounded my expectations and wasn't afraid to get a bit grimy. 

T. Kingfisher, What Feasts at Night

I gave T. Kingfisher another shot after being distinctly underwhelmed with A House With Good Bones, which is decent read but far too light for my particular tastes, and picked up What Feasts at Night in February. What Feasts at Night is the sequel to What Moves the Dead, Kingfisher's riff on Poe's "Th Fall of the House of Usher," so it's interesting to see what she does without an allusion to another author's work to fall back on. This one has a slow start, but once it gets off its ass and starts moving in the final third, it work pretty well. There's some surprisingly horrific imagery--especially since I thought she soft-peddled the horrors in A House With Good Bones--though I still wouldn't necessarily call the work "horror" as a whole.

Peter Milligan, Piotr Kowalski, Brad Simpson, Simon Bowland, God of Tremors

God of Tremors is a one-shot comic I can heartily recommend to fans of both Victorian horror and folk horror. The comic has the same form factor as the recent books I've been enjoying from DSTLRY, such as Somna, which is quickly becoming my format of choice for these deluxe-feeling single issues. God of Tremors is the story of a young man stricken with epilepsy, though his zealous and hypocritical vicar father interprets the ailment as demonic possession. His father's attempts to purge the demons through brutal beatings and exorcisms have no effect, of course. And then the boy finds a strange stone idol in the woods that could offer him freedom from his father's tyranny...

Justin D. Hill, Pilgrims of Fire

Sometimes I just need my 40k novel fix, so I turned to Justin D. Hill's Pilgrims of Fire. There is a lot of nuance to the battle between heretics and Sisters of Battle trying to protect the relics of a saint in the early bits of this surprisingly complicated novel. There's a conflict between duty and a bloodthirstiness that covers itself under religious zeal, a willingness to sacrifice common people to protect what are essentially just symbols of the faith, and also something clever going on with the use of conscripted prisoners as soldiers. One of my favorite bits: the Imperium tries to send a war ship into the warp and it immediately comes back; it's clearly fucked up, no signs of life, and then they realize that a huge alien life form is wearing it like a fucking hermit crab. I wish I had thought of that.

Hung, Drawn and Executed and Nightmare on One Sheet

I picked up two art books showcasing the horror art of Graham Humphreys in February. Both feature a great selection of his work, from movie posters, commissioned art, book covers, etc. If you keep an eye out for deluxe Blu Ray reissues of classic horror flicks, then you've definitely seen his work. It's awesome having so much of it in bound form. An embarrassment of riches, really.