Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Free Story for Halloween

Well, it's the week before Halloween, so I decided to publish a flash fiction story I wrote a few weeks ago called Fitting In. Every year I have the desire to write Halloween stories this time of year, but I always have a difficult time rendering original ideas. For a holiday that celebrates the dark side you would think I'd be chock full of ideas, but that's not the case. I've always found Halloween a difficult subject matter for fiction. This year, however, I ended up writing two Halloween themed stories. One is an as yet unpublished story called The Beauty Mark and other is here for you to read for free. I hope you enjoy it. Happy Halloween!

Fitting In

By Robert Essig

It wasn't until my sixteenth birthday that I really fit in with my family.

Sounds crazy, I know, but, no matter how generous my mother, father and older siblings were, I couldn't help but wonder why I looked the way I did. Why did I look like the people outside walking on the sidewalk and those I saw on TV, yet the people who raised me and taught me kindness and trust were monsters?


I was born on Halloween night.

We all were.

So far as I know it has been some sort of ritual handed down over the years. Just don't ask me how that figures into the unpredictable nature of human conception.

We have a grand party every year on Halloween in celebration of all our birthdays as well as the holiday that celebrates the damned. Yes, I'm well aware of the Samhain roots (and yes, I know how to pronounce it!), but my family's origins came much later, and to us Halloween is a celebration of the damned.

"How'd your mask turn out?" my mother asked.

I gave her a cursory look and then a glance toward the hatbox on my nightstand in which the mask in question was concealed. I finished it weeks ago.

"It's perfect," I said.

My mother nodded. She was so beautiful with her beady eyes like the dark centers of olives in a face of dead green flesh. Her best attribute was her protruding nose, all crooked with the perfect wart on the tip, off centered just to the right.

There would be a lot of kids in witch costumes tonight. They would attempt to look half as good as my mother. As I look into those gleaming little spheres I see all the love she has given me and I hope that someday when I have kids I could be half the mother she is to me.

"I can't wait to see it," she said before patting my knee and walking out of the room.


Everyone crowded around the front door at the sound of the flat noted chimes that bellowed down the foyer.

It was midnight.

"I was afraid we wouldn't get even one trick 'r treater this year," said Uncle Rich. Bolts protruded from either side of his neck, one a half an inch lower than the other. His head was flat like someone had cut the top off with a guillotine. He'd never been all that creative.

"It's Julia's sixteenth birthday," said Aunt Patricia. "Of course there's going to be one. I never doubted it."

Aunt Patricia's face was smooth like a porcelain doll, half of it the perfect image of something like a Geisha, the other half cracked with chunks that had fallen out revealing the scaled flesh of the creature beneath.

I'd always admired Aunt Patricia's artistry.

The hatbox with my mask waited for me on a table at the front door.

"Go on," said my father, flashing me a fanged smile.

He and Mother had gone traditional, much like Uncle Rich, but with far more attention to detail.

My brother and sister stood like grinning sentinels, Jim with horns on a head of red flesh and she like a Disney villain of her own creation.

I opened the box. My hard work, blood, sweat and tears were inside. I'd spent almost a year working on the mask. There was a lot a of detail, after all, and I wanted to be sure that my destiny would be as pleasing to the eye as Aunt Patricia's masterwork.

I pulled the mask out of the box and held it up to my face. I didn't turn to face my family and show off my exquisite artistry for that wouldn't matter until the ritual was complete.

The doorbell rang again.

I opened the door, the fingers of my other hand firmly grasping the chin of the mask, holding it up to my face.

The kids were maybe fifteen. Both boys. One with a smeared skeleton face of white and black grease paint; the other with a deadpan Michael Myers mask.

They both took one look at me and dropped their hefty pillowcases of candy. Couldn't see Mike's face, but Mr. Smeary Skull looked like he might need a change of underwear.

Their fright caused my mask to tighten like someone was pulling plastic wrap over my face. I felt an instant of fear, even claustrophobia as the eye holes began to deepen and the mask seemed to want to swallow me up and lock me behind papier-mâché and latex. I let go of the chin. The mask remained fixed to my skin. Soon enough the hollows I had been peering through sank away and, after a feeling like someone had smeared clay across my cheeks, I felt comfortable in my new skin.

I turned from the lonely sacks of candy adorning the porch to face my family.

Aunt Patricia smiled and tilted her head to show the flawless half of her doll face, as if to praise me on my attention to detail. My mother and father smiled as well. My siblings grinned wider as if remembering their own sixteenth birthdays not so long ago.

The snakes that now roiled atop my head hissed their approval. My forked tongue darted over the elongated teeth that now racked my jaws. I put a hand to my cheek, running it down the fine layers of delicate, soft scales.

I have always been apart of this macabre family, but now, after my transformation, I truly fit in.


I hope you enjoyed that little Halloween tale. If you are interested, check out my novels Through the In Between, Hell Awaits, and People of the Ethereal Realm.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

31 of My Favorite Horror Flicks

In honor of the month that celebrates all things horror, here are 31 of my favorite horror films, in no particular order. Most of these films are serious favorites and other might drop off the list from time to time, replaced by a great film I have momentarily forgotten about. These days I'm not even remotely as immersed in horror film as I was maybe ten or fifteen years ago. When I was a teenager I had hundreds of horror films on VHS. I even set up two VCRs and taped movies from TV or the ones I rented that were hard to find. Lots of good stuff, lots of schlock, and many classics for the ages. Here's a sampling of my favorites:

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) My favorite horror film. Simple as that. I first saw this gem at my best friend's house when I was fifteen. It had a profound affect on me. I was jaded as far as horror films go, having cut my teeth on such nasty treats as Hellraiser, Dead Alive and Evil Dead (all of which have earned a spot on my list), but TCM scared the shit out of me, and I'll never forget that.

Night of the Living Dead (1968) So much to say about this one, but I'll keep it short. Best zombie flick ever, and probably the most shocking ending in horror, even after all these years. This one holds
Castle of the Walking Dead aka Dr. Sadism's Torture Dungeon I love cheesy fifties and sixties horror. This one fits the bill, though done very well even considering the bizarre forest of paper mache trees that have limbs protruding from them. Christopher Lee, an old castle, lots of sound stage echo...who could ask for more

Dead Alive This one has buckets of blood, enough cheese to top a pizza the size of Alaska, and memorable lines like, "I kick ass for the Lord!" Dead Alive goes great with copious amounts of alcohol and greasy Mexican food.

The Hills Have Eyes Texas Chainsaw Massacre in the desert. That sort of simplifies this film, but I'm going with it.

Freaks Tod Browning's crowning achievement. Better than Dracula. You couldn't make film like this one these days, not with the actual performers of old timey freak shows. From my understanding, the bearded woman was the only one who harbored any resentment about the film.

House of Wax (1953) The film that made a life-long Vincent Price fan out of me. I watched this one with my dad when I was fourteen or fifteen. I wanted so badly to watch The Elephant Man and I made it just in time to see the famous ending. I was bummed, but my dad said House of Wax was coming on next and that I should watch it. I'm glad I did.

A Nightmare on Elm Street I was a Freddy fanatic as a kid. I've probably seen part three more than any in the series, but the first one is by far the best. Creepy as hell, particularly the body bag scene.

Poltergeist Most people are shocked when I say this movies still scares the hell out of me. I'd seen it when I was young and though I found it startling it didn't do much for me. I bought it in my late teens, went home and watched it in an empty house and goddamn if it didn't freak me out.

Madhouse My favorite Vincent Price film from the 70s (yes, I like it better than The Abominable Dr. Phibes). This is sort of a period piece, which makes it all the better all these years later. Not only a horror movie, but a mystery to boot. This movie will lead you off in seven directions trying to figure out whodunnit.

The Fly (1986) Probably my favorite remake. Most remakes are a waste of time, a mere cash-in based on a cult favorite and familiarity with a title, but this one updated what is actually a great novelette and kind of a cheesy-ass 50s flick (nope, didn't make the list).

Last House on the Left (1972) This is one of the most shocking films of its time. Parts of this movie make you feel sick to your stomach (kind of how I felt after reading Ketchum's The Girl Next Door). The score is lame and the comic relief scenes with the huckster cops are cringe-worthy, but everything else about this movie is quite effective (the remake wasn't too bad either, but is ultimately unnecessary).

Halloween (1978) Some of the younger folks complain that this movie is slow. Some even (dare I say it) claim that Rob Zombie's remake is ... better. Naw. Carpenter's original is a classic, and I guarantee that more people watch this one on Halloween night than Zombie's version.

White Zombie My favorite Bela Lugosi film. He was my favorite before I was introduced to Vincent Price. The plot is insidious and evil and this could very well be remade into something that fits modern days, under a different title, of course (not by Rob Zombie though...).

Return of the Living Dead Next to Night of the Living Dead this is my favorite zombie flick. The gooey zombie that starts it all is fucking disgusting. Makes you laugh and feel repulsed simultaneously. Horror and humor at its best.

Re-Animator Now here's a nasty little flick. "Herrrrr-Berrrrrrt." I don't know if anyone else noticed, but Dr. Hill looks a lot like John Kerry. I had a hard time, back when Kerry and Bush were battling for the Presidency, not looking at Kerry and seeing him with his own head in a pan, walking around going, "Buuuuush. Buuuuush."

Hellraiser Everything about this move is great. The story, the score, the actors, the sadistic Cenobites, the gore. Part two was pretty good, but I can do without the numerous sequels that followed. I was, unfortunately, introduced to Pinhead via Hellraiser III. At the time I liked the movie, but now I realize how bad it is.

The Skull Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in an adaptation of a Robert Bloch story about the possessed skull of the Marquis De Sade. I haven't looked for this one in a while, but it has been hard to find. I originally watched it on the Sci-Fi channel during a midnight movie matinee feature they used to have on Saturday nights way back when. I taped it, then watched the VHS so many times that the tape snapped. I haven't seen the movie since, sadly.

Creepshow 1 & 2 I cheated here, but what the fuck. I like both of these movies. My favorite anthology films. Recently I've heard a lot of negativity about part two. Someone even complained about the thing floating in the water in "The Raft", saying it looked like a sheet of plastic. Yes, yes it does, a sheet of plastic with a mind of its own and dead things captured within.

In the Mouth of Madness One of my favorite Carpenter films, and a great way to continue the Lovecraft legacy. There are some genuinely creepy moments in this one, particularly the weirdo on the bicycle and, of course, the nice old lady in the motel.

Evil Dead Way better than the beloved sequel. I never understood why so many people seem to prefer the second instalment. It's good, don't get me wrong, but the first one has it all and doesn't rely on hokey comedy routines like a severed hand running around like It from the Adam's Family.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space I imagine a lot of people groan when they read the title, but this is one of my all-time favorites. The Killer Klowns are absolutely gruesome and hilarious at the same time, and the cotton candy cocoons...gold! The 80's were responsible for so many terrible direct to VHS movies and hackneyed slasher junk, but this one breaks that lame-ass mold.

House Always liked this movie. It's weird. I've always found old houses unsettling. It's an over used trope these days and the shit that is put out bores me to tears, but this movie always puts a smile on my face.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 Not a sequel fan, but this one is loaded with win. There's some humor in it, particularly with Chop Top and that corpse he's always dragging along wherever he goes. Just don't ask what's in the chili.

The Gates of Hell I could lump this one with Fulci's Zombie and The Beyond, but really it's the one of the bunch I like best. Fulci seemed to be most interested in killing off his characters in unusual and memorable ways. I tracked down a lot of his films just to see how the people were going to die.

Tales of Terror This one is a collection of three Edgar Allan Poe tales starring Vincent Price, directed by Roger Corman. I have a great fondness for Corman. He truly was the King of the B's. This is my favorite of his Poe adaptations (next to The Fall of the House of Usher and The Raven). The Black Cat is especially good thanks to a wonderful performance by Peter Lorre. He and Price had great chemistry on that one.

Altered States A mind full of hallucinogenic drugs wile floating in the salted water of a deprivation tank? Yep. The intro to this movie is, particularly the title sequence, one of my favorites. I love the idea of tripping out in a tank and love where this movie takes the scientific idealism of the sixties. Ken Russel's movies are hit or miss, but this one is goddamn amazing. My favorite scene is the ceremony with the Indians and the mushrooms. The trip out scenes were creative as hell, all things considered. Nowadays someone would remake this gem and muck it up with CGI.

Dawn of the Dead (1978) Another worthy sequel. There's so much to like about this movie even if the blood is orange most of the time. Even the cheese-ball music feels right. I'm so burnt out on zombies now, but I'll take this classic over The Walking Dead any day of the week.

Videodrome Way ahead of its time. Great special effect and such an interesting plot. I was kind of confused by it the first time I watched it, so I rewound the VHS and watched it again. The imagery alone is worth the ride.

Bowery at Midnight This is a vastly underrated film, tucked in the shadows of Lugosi's Dracula image. One of a few films I think could be remade if done right. I'd love to write the script. Seems like some of the inspiration may have come from H. H. Holmes (that could be a stretch, but, well, this is my blog and I'll stretch if I want to).

House of Dracula & House of Frankenstein Oh look, I cheated again. These movies are pretty much the same, and they're a lot of fun. My favorite Universal monster movie sequels (or whatever you call 'em). Better than all those weak Son of... Daughter of... run of the mill sequels. Only the Bride of Frankenstein, in my opinion, was a sequel worth its salt, and it could very well be in place of these two. The idea to put several Universal monsters in one movie errs on the ridiculous, but these are fun to watch.

So there you have it. I realize there's a serious lack of modern horror. Hardly anything from the 90's and nothing at all from the 2000's. That just reflects my tastes. I rarely find newer horror worthy of repeat viewings. There's something about the older stuff that talks to me.

Be sure to watch your favorite horror movie this Friday (if you're not partying, that is) and have a Happy Halloween!