My Top 10 Favorite Horror Things in 2018, Other Than Films
With several of my fellow Ghastly Grinning writers discussing their favorite scare-fare films of the year, I decided to focus instead on some of my favorite horror-related books, comic books, podcasts, and games instead. It was a banner year for horror movies, to be sure, but plenty of other horror pop culture offerings were there for the offing, too.
Any one of these items could top my numerical rankings on any given day, depending on my mood, so I will simply use alphabetical order here.
The Creeps comic magazine
Fans of such classic Warren black-and-white horror comic magazines as Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella, rejoice! Readers not yet familiar with those old-school titles but who love a good illustrated terror tale have reason to be thrilled, too. The Creeps is an anthology magazine (previously published quarterly, but it goes bimonthly in January 2019) from Warrant Publishing that marvelously captures the vibe of the Warren titles, with gruesome stories of monsters, murder, and mayhem written by crackerjack authors and illustrated by top current artists as well as long-time favorites, including cover artists Ken Kelly, Sanjulian, and Frank Frazetta. Ordering information can be found at http://www.thecreepsmagazine.com/.
DragonKing Dark podcast
Veteran podcaster Karl Stern takes thoughtful, rational looks at the supernatural and the scientific in his DragonKing Dark show. For a recent episode, he poses the question, “People with certain mental disorders and illnesses like dementia seemingly experience real events in the their minds that aren't actually happening in the real world so is this evidence that supernatural experiences are all just inside our own minds or are our minds amazing receivers to a realm beyond our own?” Fear fans will find such topics as modern horror icons, the mythos of werewolves and Dracula, and “The Fear of Fear” intriguing. Free episodes galore are available at http://www.whenitwascool.com/dragonking-darker-podcast/. Patreon subscribers also get exclusive access to the bonus DragonKing Darker episodes.
Drive-In Asylum fanzine
Bill Van Ryn, curator of the Groovy Doom Facebook page (see below), offers up a superb quarterly fanzine chock full of interviews with horror filmmakers, essays and analysis of fright fare cinema classics and clunkers, and reviews of movies that graced the outdoor screens in the previous century. Examples include extensive interviews with actresses Marianna Hill and Anitra Ford about Messiah of Evil, a chinwag with director Douglas McKeown about his The Deadly Spawn, and an entire special issue dedicated to the 40th anniversary of The Incredible Melting Man. Loads of newspaper drive-in and other blast-from-the-past ads appear in each issue, as well. The quality of the writing is conistently high, making the already low-priced zine an even bigger bargain. For more information, visit https://www.etsy.com/shop/GroovyDoom.
Goosebumps Horror Town phone game
I never had interest in city builder games until I discovered this beauty. I shared the Goosebumps reading and viewing experiences through my son, so though I am older than the target market for this game, I still get a kick out of the nostalgia factor involved. Loads of favorite characters and creatures from the books, TV series, and movies are included, from Slappy the Dummy and the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena to Andrew Craw (of The Headless Ghost) and Professor Shock. Be warned, this game is addictive, and you will have a blast sending your town’s citizens on missions — when you aren’t sending monsters after them, it is.
Groovy Doom Facebook page
See! . . . Vintage black-and-white newspaper ads of horror and genre films! You will marvel at drive-in ads with jaw-dropping double bills! You will scream in glee at forgotten horrors and popular favorites alike! Bill Van Ryn’s outstanding Facebook page focuses on different areas around the country, settling down in one spot for a while and posting newspaper ads from that locale from the 1960s through the 1980s. These posts are fun blasts from the past, cool history lessons, and often displays of movie advertising that run the gamut from the lurid to the loveable. Visit https://www.facebook.com/GroovyDoom/.
Manifest Destiny comic book series
Within the pages of Image Comics’ Manifest Destiny lie the tales of Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark that you never learned in history class. Their expedition runs into all sorts of mutated monsters, cryptozoological creatures, and psychological horrors. This series from writer/creator Chris Dingess and artist/creator Matthew Roberts has been my favorite ongoing comic, regardless of genre, since its debut issue. Exciting, gorgeously illustrated stories with a dark sense of humor make this a must-check-out for fans of horror comics.
My Favorite Horror Movie: 48 Essays by Horror Creators on the Film That Shaped Them book
Four dozen of today’s brightest talents in the field of fear-fare cinema weigh in with essays about the movies that compelled them to become filmmakers, writers, editors, artists, film festival directors, and so much more in editor Christian Ackerman’s My Favorite Horror Movie: 48 Essays by Horror Creators on the Film That Shaped Them. Examples include Matt Mercer (Dementia Part II; Beyond the Gates) discussing what John Carpenter’s Halloween means to him, Jonathan Martin (Creatures of Whitechapel; Kiss the Devil in the Dark; FilmQuest festival director) examining the impact that Drag Me to Hell had on him, and Trista Robinson (Purgatory Road; The Human Race) tackling how The Evil Dead led her into the field.
Portland Horror Film Festival
With the exception of five months earlier this year, I have lived and worked in South Korea since 2008. There is an amazing genre film festival here every summer, known as the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFAN), and although I love covering it as a press member and attending as a fan, I just don’t get a communal feeling from it. Almost a year ago, Portland Horror Film Festival directors Gwen and Brian Callahan invited me aboard as a festival judge, and I was honored to become a part of the fest. I was living in Portland, Oregon, in spring and summer, so I could attend the festival in person in June, and from the folks behind the scenes to the fans who attended, I found the communal scare-fare-fan vibe I was sorely craving. Big enough to host world premieres but intimate enough to talk with fans, filmmakers, and cast members between screenings, Portland Horror Film Festival is a must for anyone living in or near the Pacific Northwest. This year’s fest included such guests as the legendary Barbara Crampton (who was hilarious in her Q&A session, and charming and welcoming during her meet and greet) and renowned special effects and makeup artist and film director Chris Walas. The feature films included the world premiere of the Oregon-made Bigfoot creature feature Big Legend and the Pacific Northwest premieres of The Ranger, The Laplace’s Demon, and Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich. The festival featured loads of superb short films, too. The Callahans are also the directors of the wildly popular H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. For more information, visit https://portlandhorrorfilmfestival.com/.
The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema book
Author Michael Vaughn, who has written for Fangoria and Scream, among other places, has crafted a compendium of 300 offbeat films in The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema (Schiffer Publishing). This book is not just a collection of reviews of unusual films, it is a true labor of love. Plenty of horror is on tap, but a dive into this tome also finds a wide range of jaw-dropping titles in the comedy, action, science fiction, and fantasy genres. Vaughn’s reviews are insightful and written in a conversational style, sometimes punctuated by humor. The book is perfect for poring through genre by genre, or randomly flipping pages to see what cinematic surprises Vaughn has in store. No matter how big of an obscure film fan you are, I am confident that The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema contains reviews of some films that you have never heard of before, so be prepared to hunt down some wild titles when you read this book.
Host Richard Maclean Smith takes listeners on captivating journeys through the realms of historical mysteries. He meticulously researches each episode, providing shows that are rich with detail. From Jack the Ripper to haunted houses, to unexplained disappearances to time travel, and beyond, Unexplained takes rational, fact-checked looks at stories that fill us with wonder, and occasionally dread. Now is the perfect time to catch up on the show’s first three seasons, before Smith kicks off season four in January, at http://www.unexplainedpodcast.com/episodes/.
I hope you have made some new discoveries thanks to my list, and that they become some of your favorites during 2019. Happy new year, fellow horror hounds!