A collection of animated short stories that span various genres including science fiction, fantasy, horror and comedy. – IMDB
Season 3 of Love Death + Robots has finally landed. For those who don’t know what it is, its basically an anthology series full of short stories revolving around the themes of love, death and robots sometimes touching only one of those domains and sometimes multiple ones. The big draw of the show does have to go to its production by David Fincher and Tim Miller who also does helm at least one of these episodes each. As a recap, Season 1 was a fantastic selection of shorts that created an incredibly memorable season. Season 2, while a step down from the first, changed its tone a little bit but not so much the variety and also delivered some pretty good shorts. Some had very good discussion points and some were simply meant for entertainment value. Season 3 comes up right in the middle of the two: Its not quite as good as the first but is a step up from Season 2. The stories are more equal in their execution and context and most of them are fairly entertaining
While I won’t go through each of the episodes one by one, here’s a quick rundown of how I’d rank this year’s episodes from most to least favorite. I don’t usually do it and honestly, not exactly why I chose this rather balanced season to do the ranking but here we go. It probably would change if I thought about it a little more depending on my mood as well.
Night of the Mini Dead
Three Robots: Exit Strategies
In Vaulted Halls Entombed
Kill Team Kill
The Very Pulse of the Machine
Going quickly through what stands out in this group despite its rankings, Bad Travelling is David Fincher’s contribution and not so surprising it made the top of my list mostly because the story was like a creature feature and was on a boat. While not exactly unpredictable, it also included some good voice acting especially with Troy Baker part of it.
The second one is Tim Miller’s contribution Swarm which has to be one of the more detailed and vivid world building about a future where the arrogant humans have destroyed their world and are trying to find a way to rebuild using alien technology from the organic creatures around them.
Night of the Mini Dead is basically a small little world, almost like watching toy figures enacting the whole zombie apocalypse. This one is pure entertainment, packed with laughs and explosions in the most cartoon way possible and yet that is what makes it unique.
Another worthy mention does have to go to the middle of the group and the last episode of the series, Jibaro. This one is very odd and yet, the story it delivers is one that is very gripping even with its lack of dialogue and mostly visual value as it revolves around a lot of dancing to express the story of these two characters. The myth that it delivers along with the mystical creature at hand does bring in just enough lore to make it intriguing. Its definitely one that would be potentially a fantastic full length film.
As I try to stay fairly spoiler free with the stories themselves, since it would be horrible to spoil a short as is, the different stories here bring in a ratpocalypse, a space discovery, a lot of different creatures and a decent amount of action. There’s a lot to discover in the stories and probably some that might even bring in some discussion points.
Love Death + Robots, regardless of the season, is usually fun time. It stands out because of the shorts compilation which are all very creative in one element or another. It reflects on humanity, post-apocalypse and usually is in a world much different from our current reality whether its set on Earth or in space.
Expected Publication Date: October 29th, 2021 Genre: Horror/Anthology
Ékleipsis: The Abyss is the second short story collection by the award-winning author.
Tales of depravation and insanity are woven together with unrelenting style and depth, scrutinizing human nature’s degeneration when compromised by tragic, vicious circumstances.
These complex, wretched individuals and the irremediable conditions they are desperate to claw out of—or into—invoke the unfathomable question: What devastation are we truly capable of when left with no way out but down . . . into the obscurity of the abyss?
” It is at times appalling, strange and outright frightening, but Wino’s way with character development is outstanding. The display of artistic creativity and character creation really sets “Èkleipsis: The Abyss” apart in the field of short story collections.” ― Reader Views
“The stories are well-packaged and generally have the feel of watching a syndicated crime drama. Fans of this form of entertainment will likely enjoy these well-crafted stories about everyday people whose lives are shattered by lunatics.” ― The US Review of Books
“Wino’s writing is vivid, unsettling and filled with brilliant hints that contribute to the exhilaration of its pacing. Ékleipsis: The Abyss is a clever and creative horror offering worth checking out.” ―Independent Book Review
” Tamel really captured that essence of society and the dark side of people. Readers will appreciate the dark undertones of this horror anthology. Ekleipsis: the Abyss will surprise you more that you can imagine.” ―Literary Titan
Ekleipsis: The Abyss navigates through six different stories of insanity and vulnerability as it goes through the horrors of human nature. The six stories all differ in the content and the skeletons that are hiding in each of their closets making them all relatively intriguing reads. As with most anthologies, there are always stories that stand out more than others. Looking quickly over them, they each do have their own sense of unsettling and sinister moments.
You can group the stories into two different styles. The first three stories having more resolved endings, while the second half consisting of the last three stories all have more a open-ended approach. Right off the bat, it starts off with “Marlene” which feels like a much more familiar tale of paranoia and delusion. Its one of the more normal unfolding of its premise but does show its craft and the writing that makes its a rather fun read and sets up a great tone for the rest of the stories to come. “No Place Like Home” takes a turn to dive into a warped family unit full of replacement, manipulation and suspense. Its one that does grab rather well but the ending does feel a little abrupt. However, the premise is rather solid. “En Prise” is where the strength of dialogue and tension truly builds the best as it lingers around two characters that are developed really well through their conversation. The conversation is an odd and dangerous one and yet, so intriguing as its almost like two people seeing whose bluff works the best and who is actually telling the truth and whether this tactic will work in the end. Its both a clever approach and very well-written.
The second half of the anthology kicks off with “All Day and A Night” which is a rather intense story as prison guards talk about their extreme schooling program to tame the new inmates to two people on a hunting trip when things during the trip take a turn for the worse when things get out of their control. In terms of story development, this one does take a more predictable path however, the whole descriptive element of very vivid right down to the ending. “Blue Devils” is a different type of story and probably in the whole group feels like it falls a little short. Its premise is rather similar, the description is done well and yet the characters also feel a little empty. It is still a dangerous situation and there is some intensity to it but it all feels fairly familiar that it loses its exciting element a little. The whole anthology ends with “The Descent” which dives the deep into human nature/psyche as the main character experiences this hero complex or adrenaline rush that changes his perspective of life and finally spirals into something much more insane. In some ways, this one does pack a lot of surprise especially in how it ends.
Ekleipsis: The Abyss is really quite an outstanding horror anthology. Human nature is a great premise for horror as a lot of other horror writers have proven before as its hard to grasp the extremities that the darkness and instability and insanity can take a person. There’s a good variety demonstrated in each of these stories which also dive into different settings and premises. It keeps the read very refreshing as it moves from one story to the next. Each has decently executed twists and while one or two felt like it had some little issues, the overall feeling was still a rather entertaining and intriguing read.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tamel Wino is a Canadian fiction writer from the resplendent British Columbia whose works focus largely on degeneration of sanity and morality. He studied Health Sciences and Psychology, which only furthered his interest in human nature.
With inspirations including Alice Munro, Joe Hill, Stephen King, Margaret Atwood and Edgar Allan Poe; Tamel’s expositions are strongly grounded in traditions of dark fiction. Yet, with his bold narrative voice and incisive plot construction, Wino is paving a new movement within the space.
When he’s not reading or scribbling away on his laptop, Tamel loves listening to jazz, rewatching good ol’ classic shows and traveling.
The highlight franchise for this Halloween marathon is here as we dive into the first V/H/S.
Directors: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence
Cast: Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett, Hannah Fierman, Drew Sawyer, Mike Donlan, Joe Swanberg, Sophia Takal,
When a group of misfits are hired by an unknown third party to burglarize a desolate house and acquire a rare VHS tape, they discover more found footage than they bargained for. – IMDB
V/H/S is a 2012 American horror anthology film which features a selection of found footage horror shorts linked together by a mainframe story which shows a group of misfits that go to burglarize a home owned by an old man to get a valuable VHS tape and one by one as they search through the house and through the tapes, one by one they disappear. The mainframe story itself isn’t exactly anything to call home about. In fact, it feels like its a background story that frames up these other stories well but feels a little more empty. It has a lot to do with the misfits really being shown as very unlikeable starting with their parking lot prank pulling up a girls shirt and their goal to earn more money going further doing bad things. There is a lot of suspense but its mostly unresolved. The mystery and creepy vibe does give it space for further sequels, of course.
Being a rather big fan of found footage style horror films, V/H/S has a decent variety of horror subgenres in its shorts compiled here. Not to mention its list of directors involved do have a lot of familiar names mostly with Adam Wingard (directing the frame short mentioned above), Ti West and Joe Swanberg. Another director in this group is David Bruckner which when this anthology released had directed primarily short films in 2012 but is more familiar now as he’s gone on to do Netflix British horror The Ritual (review) and recently, The Night House. Glen McQuaid is probably the lesser know director in this group with only a few films to his credit while Radio Silence rounds up the anthology and is probably now best known for its group of filmmakers making the awesome film, Ready or Not (review).
The first short in V/H/S that gets shown “Amateur Night” directed by David Bruckner is perhaps one of the most appealing ones which also ends up getting turned into a full feature called “Siren” afterwards. Amateur Night is a fantastic little creature feature of sorts as these guys try to get it on with these girls they pick up at the bar and it includes an odd girl Lily who eventually turns into some mythical creature or something. The found footage is from the angle of some surveillance glasses so making everything at eye level for the most part with the character wearing them. Its a great first horror short to kick off this anthology series and for myself, perhaps the highlight until it reaches the big finale.
“Second Honeymoon” by Ti West and “Tuesday the 17th” by Glenn McQuaid are a little odd overall or perhaps feels a little less surprising overall although the latter definitely has an interesting premise especially with the ‘slasher’ style that it chooses and the idea and design of the whole character that is the major threat. Its basically called “The Glitch” which tells all about what it is. The whole part is very static-y for the most part and it makes a lot of the details harder to grasp as its flashing through. Its a good idea and yet something about how it starts feels so hard to get into.
“The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger” directed by Joe Swanberg is an interesting premise. The endgame is a little abstract, at least in my interpretation compared to what I learned after some research. This type of story is odd but still has a sort of suspense where it lingers between the mystery of whether its supernatural or whether its something else. It plays well with the darkness and the whether there’s some other plot hidden. These sort of stories are pretty intriguing overall as it leaves a lot of room to guess. Its found footage style is through a computer screen which is the “screen life” style that I absolutely love as well.
Wrapping up the anthology is “10/31/98” directed by Radio Silence which is one of the longer stories as it sets itself on Halloween where some friends goes to the wrong house for a Halloween party and what they thought was part of a realistic haunted house set-up turned out to be some exorcism ritual being performed which takes them for a whirl when they need to figure out how to leave before they get caught. The whole setting really comes to life here. There’s a lot to love here. Apparently, there’s an alternate ending this segment which was shot as a joke that has a better ending.
Overall, V/H/S is pretty decent as a horror anthology. Most of the segments are pretty fun overall and have some clever twists and premise in general. As with most anthologies, there are some that stand out a lot more than others. For myself, the best ones were Amateur Night and 10/31/98 with The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger all working well.
Creator: Enzo Tedeschi Directors: Denai Gracie, Joshua Long, Rosie Lourde, Megan Riakos, Enzo Tedeschi, Rachele Wiggins Cast: Nicholas Hope, Anni Finsterer, Gemma Bird Matheson, Ryan Morgan, Lauren Orrell, Naomi Sequeira, Barbara Bingham
A series of six short horror stories anchored by a woman who receives a ‘mystery box’ from the dark web, and then discovers the sinister secret it hold – IMDB
Deadhouse Dark is a 2021 horror anthology mini series where it takes six horror shorts to create each of its episodes. Unlike horror anthology film, this one doesn’t have that linking main story that pulls together all the pieces instead this all feels like different stories set in its own sort of darkness with different horror elements added to each of the stories giving each of them a new set of characters and a different subgenre to tackle. Its not a bad idea to that as a lot of the great horror directors do start of directing shorts and its a great way to share some great premises (just look at another recent Shudder Original release, Martyr’s Lane which also started off as a short story premise and turned out to be a fantastic full length feature).
Of course, the issue here is that what makes things a tad more confusing is that it tries to link certain elements specifically in one episode, the fifth one which has items from a previous episode and a character from another previous character and pulls together those pieces to give a feeling that there is an interconnected feeling while it more instills a feeling of whether there is more connection in the other episodes that were missed prior which at least for myself, I couldn’t seem to pinpoint. Put the interconnected issue aside, each of these shorts are still pretty good. The twist it takes and the surprise element mostly lands in execution. Some leaves a space for the unknown and others have its own purposeful ending. It definitely feels like most of them are still pretty unique and creative in how its all scripted.
Doing a quick breakdown of the episodes aka each of the short films, the first episode “Halloween” set in Halloween that has this fantastic play on time and darkness. It has a very strong twist that connects all the bits together from the beginning and ending. The second episode “No Pain No Gain” is one of the weaker episodes as it feels like a more familiar type of story even if it is inspired by the Blue Whale social media challenge which tells the story of a competitive track runner who is willing to do anything to win leading her to accept the training from a renowned coach who gives her a dangerous progression of daily tasks to complete. The pacing and execution is not quite as engaging. “The Staircase” feels like a found footage that ends up discovering more than they bargained for with some lurking in the unknown depths. “A Tangled Web We Weave” that follows a man on a date dealing not so subtly with a rat problem (for gamers, it has some serious reminders of Layers of Fear strictly from the rat problem angle and whether its real or in his mind) which takes a rather intriguing turn.
Much like “Mystery Box” which is is probably the most intriguing of the whole batch as it has a strong element of suspense and mystery which unfolds into a rather unexpected reveal at the end. Its a solo performance with a woman who opens a mystery box at her doorstep. The cinematography and atmosphere is my favorite even if the horror element is much more subtle. Ending the series is “My Empire of Dirt” that sees a ‘death midwife’ helping a sick elderly woman clean up her apartment in preparation for a peaceful death. This one has its own shock value and actually is the most disgusting of the batch since its rummaging through a dirty environment especially when there’s something hidden which is haunting this place.
Deadhouse Dark is a pretty fun overall. One or two of the snippets is a little subpar whether its acting or execution however, they are all rather creative and have some decent twists which land fairly well. It also has a lot of different subgenre which is always fun in any horror anthology format. In a nutshell, my favorite has to be “Mystery Box” which isn’t exactly pure horror but it stands out the most as it gave me the most unexpected twist. Deadhouse Dark might be like many anthologies where it has its hits and misses but its still well worth a watch.
They say that blood is thicker than water, but you may wish it weren’t, if your mom has to drink animal blood to survive. Home is where the heart is, even if your sister lives in another city–and is a shape-changing monster. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, so how can you know who you’re supposed to be if your parents are a human and a vampire? – Goodreads
Following the previous anthology Wayward Sisters, this next Toronto Comics anthology is Wayward Kindred which expands to all kinds of creative stories stemming from kins. Much like its other anthologies, this one has probably the greatest diversity and variety in its stories bringing in different types of monsters and creatures, which without further research, stems from different country’s lores and such (mostly from memory from other things I have read or heard about). There are different art styles and different forms of execution for its stories.
Consisting of 17 stories in this graphic novel anthology with a diverse group of writers and illustrationists, there’s a lot to love and probably the anthology so far that has a lot of stories that stand out in comparison to previous anthologies released. With that said, while I won’t be reviewing all the stories in the anthology, here’s a quick rundown of the ones that stood out to me and a little capsule review in no particular order.
Long-Distance Sisters: This story circles around an older sister that only finds the courage to tell her younger sister about her differences. The younger sister promises to be there for here and in the end, as the older sister has to go away and their communication becomes less, the siblings love is still there. This one shines absolutely from the poignant story that it tells between these two sisters and just through simple words and illustrations, the connection between the two exceeds their differences or distance.
The Egret Widow: Beautiful illustrations pair this story where an aunt recounts the story of her past to her niece while taking her Egret form to fight the serpents to protect the land. Whether its the illustration or the story itself, there’s a lot to love about it. Almost reminds me of the Fantasy Chinese Dramas where it involves people taking forms of other beings as their spirit.
The God of Roadside Memorials: A lovely art style shows off this story about mourning the death of a loved one from a roadside accident as the god takes them away. This story has no dialogue and just its illustrations that tell the story from one panel to the next.
Grain Mother: While I’m not exactly sure what the story is for this one, it rides a parallel between a story shown at the bottom of the page in a blue strip of comic panels and the more dark camp setting on the top. It looks like some kind of lost children or something but while I can’t quite piece the two together as the blue portion doesn’t really have any dialogue, the kids and the interaction at the top definitely shows something a little more and was pretty enjoyable to read overall. Plus, I think the whole parallel story is pretty unique.
Black, White, And Walks With The Night: As a vampire halfling approaches her sixteen year old birthday, her family holds a party that invites her prep school friends, her home friends and her vampire family. As she fears putting the two separate parts of life together and how they wouldn’t get along, she also needs to think about whether she has the vampire element in her that should awaken on her sixteenth birthday but she soon realizes that both parts make up her as a person and a vampire. The art style here is really nice and the colors are very vibrant. Plus, the story takes a fun and positive angle.
That’s something like the Top 5 of this anthology for Wayward Kindred. To be fair, I swapped stuff around quite a bit to get that list since every story has its own merit and most of them were pretty fun and unique. Some had some oddity to it but the whole execution with how the comic is shown is pretty unique like From The Ground Up. Demons from the New Dimension and Cursed Uncle Teoscar is more comedic and light-hearted overall. Then there’s a cute friendship from Words between a creature and a little kid. Last one to mention which almost is like a different type of belief in creatures and spirits (maybe?) is Common Grounds and Various Teas which was pretty cool also.
The point is that there’s a lot to discover with this anthology. While most anthologies will have better and worse stories, this one overall was ranging from good to awesome, nothing that really felt off or didn’t seem to work or anything, which is always great.
Other graphic novels reviewed from Toronto Comics:
A collection of animated short stories that span various genres including science fiction, fantasy, horror and comedy. – IMDB
The first season of Love Death and Robots (podcast discussion) was an absolute treat with its 18 episodes or so and having a variety of different short films that explores the three themes: Love, Death and Robots. Thinking back to it now, there are still many segments that are memorable. In comparison, the second season is much shorter running at a swift 8 episodes with some stories feeling more familiar however, the animation style has shifted to some refined visuals that for some almost look real and also, some unique animation art style. The stories itself also has overlapping themes in some in some interesting settings.
Anthology volumes are always going to have hit and miss. The good news is that the second volume of Love Death & Robots is overall pretty good with some segments landing better than others but nothing that is lackluster. Looking at more specific segments, the art style and story of a few do stand out like the horror creature feature of The Tall Grass which had painting-like illustrations or Ice with its world building and comic book/graphic novel illustration style that brings in creative designs and a outer space setting with normal humans being in a world of modded humans. There’s also a Christmas short All Through The House which has its characters almost like dolls while playing with who Santa is and leaving it with a rather troubling question.
In terms of overall stories that seem to be a great basis for a bigger scale movie to some kind of full-length feature, some of these definitely have the basis and foundation for it. Coincidentally, these also have some good voice cast behind it and some more renowned names. The first, of course is for Pop Squad which sets up a future where humans have traded the rights to have children for living forever and being young forever also where having children is now a crime and when found, said children will be killed in order to maintain the population balance. Its a well-structured story with a lot more to explore especially when its voice cast includes Nolan North and Elodie Young. Much like Snow in the Desert which also has a barren wasteland setting and manages to blend all three themes of this volume together.
Two other ones well worth mentioning is the starting episode and the final one which both contrast from the rest of the series in tone. The first called Automated Customer Service carries in a different setting of a futuristic senior residence where a cleaning robot goes rogue and packed with a comedic element mocking the future of automated customer service. Its one that sets an upbeat yet sinister tone but is rather entertaining overall and pretty fun. The final episode, The Drowned Giant is a slow-paced one that leaves room for reflection on humanity in general as it circles around the discovery and gradual deterioration of a drowned giant washed ashore with a monologue from the scientist that observes it over time. Its one that might not fit the general one of the entire volume but does end with a more meaningful and thought-provoking point.
Overall, the second volume/season of Love Death and Robots is a pretty good one. Most of them are well worth a watch and each have their own value whether from visuals and art style to storytelling and world building. It is a short season but one that is still bingeworthy.
Publication Date: November 17th, 2020 Genre: Thriller/Suspense/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Anthology Publisher: Suspense Magazine
The sun sets. The moon takes its place, illuminating the most evil corners of the planet. What twisted fear dwells in that blackness? What legends attach to those of sound mind and make them go crazy in the bright light of day? Only Suspense Magazine knows…
Teaming up with New York Times bestselling author Jeffery Deaver, Suspense Magazine offers up a nail-biting anthology titled: “Nothing Good Happens After Midnight.” This thrilling collection consists of thirteen original short stories representing the genres of suspense/thriller, mystery, sci-fi/fantasy, and more.
Readers’ favorites come together to explore the mystery of midnight. The ‘best of the best’ presenting these memorable tales include: Joseph Badal, Linwood Barclay, Rhys Bowen, Heather Graham, Alan Jacobson, Paul Kemprecos, Shannon Kirk, Jon Land, John Lescroart, D. P. Lyle, Kevin O’Brien, and Hank Phillippi Ryan.
Take their hands…walk into their worlds…but be prepared to leave the light on when you’re through. After all, this incredible gathering of authors, who will delight fans of all genres, not only utilized their
award-winning imaginations to answer that age-old question of why “Nothing Good Happens After Midnight”—they also made sure to pen stories that will leave you…speechless.
“NOTHING GOOD HAPPENS AFTER MIDNIGHT is a treat—dark, chilling, and delicious. Grab it.” —Meg Gardiner, Edgar Award-Winning Author of The Dark Corners of the Night
“Something very good happens after midnight…just pick up this brilliant book and be transported—and very afraid!” —Peter James, UK #1 Bestselling Author of the Detective Superintendent Roy Grace Series
Anthologies are a great way for authors to share some short stories and to show off their writing style. With any anthologies, its always a bit of a mixed bag. Nothing Good Happens After Midnight is also somewhat of a mixed bag however as a lot of the writers are much more experienced, they all showcase an array of suspenseful stories that have rather good premises. The stories offer a different set of characters that range in age and the context which gives it a different setting and spin showing off each of the author’s different approach to their writing and story ideas. Across 13 stories from 13 different authors, there is quite a lot of creative ideas. Overall, its a rather enjoyable read.
As with any anthology, there are its own standouts. This will be probably different for each reader. For myself, the standouts are the stories that are more memorable than the others whether on story structure/execution preference or decent angle or the characters itself as well as the ideas all coming together along with a good setting. The first that comes to mind is Easy Peasey by John Lescroart which structures its story in an engaging way about a home invasion plot and jumps from one point of view to the next via its different characters and their different intentions. Night Shift by Linwood Barclay is a type of story that plays on a call that turns into a “negotiation” sort of deal as the characters work with police to try to talk a man out of their killing spree plans all culminating to a fantastic ending (the type of ending that I particularly enjoy).
Midnight in the Garden of Death by Heather Graham, A Creative Defense by Jeffery Deaver and All Aboard by Hank Phillippi Ryan also craft some brilliant stories. The first one crafts a story in a great setting, the second takes a fantastic musical angle of a musical piece that has the power of hynopsis and the third is set on a train as someone overhears a phone conversation. The final story of the anthology called ATM by Jon Land is also a decent one mostly for its unique angle of taking it on a suspenseful route but having a different approach.
A rather successful compilation of short stories in this anthology. While I listed six of the thirteen stories as more memorable. The others not mentioned are also fairly decent. Perhaps the only one that didn’t appeal to myself as much was the first short story since it felt a little familiar. Overall, a fun little suspense anthology. For a fan of suspense stories, this one fulfills.
JEFFERY DEAVER is an international number-one bestselling author. His novels have appeared on bestseller lists around the world. His books are sold in 150 countries and translated into twenty-five languages. He has served two terms as president of Mystery Writers of America.
The author of forty-three novels, three collections of short stories and a nonfiction law book, and a lyricist of a country-western album, he’s received or been shortlisted for dozens of awards. His THE BODIES LEFT BEHIND was named Novel of the Year by the International Thriller Writers association, and his Lincoln Rhyme thriller THE BROKEN WINDOW and a stand-alone, EDGE, were also nominated for that prize. THE GARDEN OF BEASTS won the Steel Dagger from the Crime Writers Association in England. He’s been nominated for eight Edgar Awards.
Deaver has been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, the Strand Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Raymond Chandler Lifetime Achievement Award in Italy.
His book A MAIDEN’S GRAVE was made into an HBO movie starring James Garner and Marlee Matlin, and his novel THE BONE COLLECTOR was a feature release from Universal Pictures, starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. Lifetime aired an adaptation of his THE DEVIL’S TEARDROP. NBC television is airing the popular prime time series, Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector.
His latest novel is THE GOODBYE MAN, a Colter Shaw thriller.
JOSEPH BADAL grew up in a family where storytelling had been passed down from generation to generation.
Prior to a long business career, Joe served for six years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army in critical, highly classified positions in the U.S. and overseas, including tours of duty in Greece and Vietnam, and earned numerous military decorations.
Joe is an Amazon #1 bestselling author, with 16 published suspense novels. He has been recognized as “One of The 50 Best Writers You Should Be Reading.” His books have received two Tony Hillerman Awards for Best Fiction Book of the Year, been top prize winners on multiple occasions in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards competition, received gold medals from the Military Writers Society of America, the Eric Hoffer Award, and Finalist honors in the International Book Awards.
He writes a regular column titled “Inspired by Actual Events” in Suspense Magazine.
LINWOOD BARCLAY, a New York Times bestselling author and with nearly twenty novels to his credit, spent three decades in newspapers before turning full time to writing thrillers. His books have been translated into more than two dozen language, sold millions of copies, and he counts Stephen King among his fans. Many of his books have been optioned for film and TV, a series has been made in France, and he wrote the screenplay for the film based on his novel NEVER SAW IT COMING. Born in the US, his parents moved to Canada just as he was turning four, and he’s lived there ever since. He lives near Toronto with his wife, Neetha. They have two grown children.
RHYS BOWEN is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of two historical mystery series, as well as three internationally bestselling standalone novels. Her books have won multiple awards and been translated into over twenty languages. A transplanted Brit, Rhys now divides her time between California and Arizona, where she escapes from those harsh California winters.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, HEATHER GRAHAM, majored in theater arts at the University of South Florida. After a stint of several years in dinner theater, back-up vocals, and bartending, she stayed home after the birth of her third child and began to write. Her first book was with Dell, and since then, she has written over two hundred novels and novellas including category, suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult, and Christmas family fare.
She is pleased to have been published in approximately twenty-five languages. She has written over 200 novels and has 60 million books in print. She has been honored with awards from booksellers and writers’ organizations for excellence in her work, and she is also proud to be a recipient of the Silver Bullet from Thriller Writers and was also awarded the prestigious Thriller Master in 2016. She is also a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from RWA. Heather has had books selected for the Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild, and has been quoted, interviewed, or featured in such publications as The Nation, Redbook, Mystery Book Club, People and USA Today and appeared on many newscasts including Today, Entertainment Tonight and local television.
Heather loves travel and anything that has to do with the water, and is a certified scuba diver. She also loves ballroom dancing. Each year she hosts the Vampire Ball and Dinner theater at the RT convention, raising money for the Pediatric Aids Society, and in 2006 she hosted the first Writers for New Orleans Workshop to benefit the stricken Gulf Region. She is also the founder of “The Slush Pile Players,” presenting something that’s “almost like entertainment” for various conferences and benefits. Married since high school graduation and the mother of five, her greatest love in life remains her family, but she also believes her career has been an incredible gift, and she is grateful every day to be doing something that she loves so very much for a living.
ALAN JACOBSON is the award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of fourteen thrillers, including the FBI profiler Karen Vail series and the OPSIG Team Black novels. His books have been translated internationally and several have been optioned by Hollywood. Jacobson’s debut novel, FALSE ACCUSATIONS, was adapted to film by acclaimed Czech screenwriter Jirí Hubac.
Jacobson has spent over twenty-five years working with the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, the DEA, the US Marshals Service, SWAT, the NYPD, Scotland Yard, local law enforcement, and the US military. This research and the breadth of his contacts help bring depth and realism to his characters and stories.
For video interviews and a free personal safety eBook co-authored by Alan Jacobson and FBI Profiler Mark Safarik, please visit http://www.AlanJacobson.com. You can also connect with Jacobson on Facebook (Facebook.com/AlanJacobsonFans), Instagram (alan.jacobson), Twitter (@JacobsonAlan), and Goodreads (alan-jacobson).
PAUL KEMPRECOS is the author of eight novels in the Aristotle “Soc” Socarides private detective series, including COOL BLUE TOMB, winner of a Shamus award from the Private Eye Writers of America for Best Paperback, and SHARK BAIT, nominated for a Shamus in the same category. Grandmaster of Adventure writer Clive Cussler blurbed: “There can be no better mystery writer in America than Paul Kemprecos.” Paul became the first fiction co-author to work with Cussler when they created and wrote the New York Times bestselling NUMA Files series. After collaborating with Cussler on the first eight books in the NUMA Files, Paul wrote two adventure novels including THE MINOAN CIPHER, nominated for a Thriller award by the International Thriller Writers. Paul lives on Cape Cod with his wife Christi, a financial advisor.
SHANNON KIRK is the international bestselling and award-winning author of METHOD 15/33, THE EXTRAORDINARY JOURNEY OF VIVIENNE MARSHALL, IN THE VINES, GRETCHEN, VIEBURY GROVE, and short stories in four anthologies: THE NIGHT OF THE FLOOD, NOTHING GOOD HAPPENS AFTER MIDNIGHT, and BORDER NOIR. Shannon is also a contributor to the International Thriller Writers’ Murderers’ Row. Growing up in New Hampshire, Shannon and her brothers were encouraged by their parents to pursue the arts, which instilled in her a love for writing at a young age. A graduate of Suffolk Law School in Massachusetts, Shannon is a practicing litigation attorney and former adjunct law professor, specializing in electronic-evidence law. When she isn’t writing or practicing law, Shannon spends time with her husband, son, and two cats. To learn more about her, visit http://www.shannonkirkbooks.com.
JON LAND is the USA Today bestselling author of more than 50 books, including the award-winning, critically acclaimed Caitlin Strong series, the most recent of which is STRONG FROM THE HEART. He has also penned six novels in the MURDER, SHE WROTE series and has recently taken over Margaret
Truman’s CAPITAL CRIMES series as well. He’s a 1979 graduate of Brown University, lives in Providence, Rhode Island, and can be reached at jonlandbooks.com or on Twitter @jondland.
JOHN LESCROART is the author of twenty-nine novels, nineteen of which have been New York Times bestsellers. Libraries Unlimited places him among “The 100 Most Popular Thriller and Suspense Authors.” With sales of over twelve million copies, his books have been translated into twenty-two languages in more than seventy-five countries, and his short stories appear in many anthologies.
John’s first book, SUNBURN, won the Joseph Henry Jackson Award for Best Novel by a California author. DEAD IRISH, THE 13TH JUROR, and THE KEEPER were nominees for the Shamus, Anthony, and Silver Falchion Best Mystery Novel, respectively; additionally THE 13TH JUROR is included in the International Thriller Writers publication “100 Must-Read Thrillers of All Time.” HARD EVIDENCE made “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Ultimate Reading List.” THE SUSPECT was the American Author’s Association 2007 Book of the Year. THE MOTIVE was an Audie Finalist of the Audio Publishers Association. THE MERCY RULE, NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH, THE SUSPECT, THE FALL, and THE RULE OF LAW have been major market Book Club selections. John’s books have been Main Selections of one or more of the Literary Guild, Mystery Guild, and Book of the Month Club.
P. LYLE is the Amazon #1 Bestselling; Macavity and Benjamin Franklin Award-winning; and Edgar(2), Agatha, Anthony, Shamus, Scribe, and USA Today Best Book(2) Award-nominated author of 22 books, both non-fiction and fiction, including the Samantha Cody, Dub Walker, Jake Longly and Cain/Harper thriller series and the Royal Pains media tie-in novels. His essay on Jules Verne’s THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND appears in THRILLERS: 100 MUST READS, his short story “Even Steven” in ITW’s anthology THRILLER 3: LOVE IS MURDER, and his short story “Bottom Line” in FOR THE SAKE OF THE GAME. He served as editor for and contributed the short story “Splash” to SCWA’s anthology IT’S ALL IN THE STORY.
He hosts the Crime Fiction Writer’s Blog and the Criminal Mischief: The Art and Science of Crime Fiction podcast series. He has worked with many novelists and with the writers of popular television shows such as Law & Order, CSI: Miami, Diagnosis Murder, Monk, Judging Amy, Peacemakers, Cold Case, House, Medium, Women’s Murder Club, 1-800-Missing, The Glades, and Pretty Little Liars.
Before his thrillers landed him on the New York Times bestseller list, KEVIN O’BRIEN was a railroad inspector. The author of 21 internationally-published thrillers, he won the Spotted Owl Award for Best Pacific Northwest Mystery, and is a core member of Seattle 7 Writers. Press & Guide said: “If Alfred Hitchcock were alive today and writing novels, his name would be Kevin O’Brien.” Kevin’s latest nail-biter is THE BAD SISTER.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s WHDH-TV, winning 37 EMMYs and dozens more journalism honors. A USA Today bestselling author of 12 thrillers, Ryan’s also an award-winner in her second profession—with five Agathas, three Anthonys, and the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. Critics call her “a master of suspense.” Her highly-acclaimed TRUST ME was an Agatha nominee and chosen for numerous prestigious “Best of 2018” lists. Hank’s book THE MURDER LIST is an Agatha, Anthony and Mary Higgins Clark Award nominee. Her newest standalone is THE FIRST TO LIE (Forge Books August 2020). The Publishers Weekly starred review calls it “Stellar.”
SUSPENSE MAGAZINE was founded in 2007 on the premise that every author in the genre needed a platform to have a voice. From that original concept, Suspense Publishing was born in 2010 to publish high quality books in the suspense/mystery/horror/thriller genre. Suspense Publishing’s goal is to be a leader in producing the highest quality books in the genre.
Next up in the Halloween movie marathon as we get to the final third of the marathon is a horror anthology double feature with 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat which has been highly recommended to me years ago and 2017’s XX, which is directed by 4 female directors. Let’s check it out!
Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
Director (and writer): Michael Dougherty
Cast: Dylan Baker, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Tahmoh Penikett, Rochelle Aytes, Lauren Lee Smith
Five interwoven stories that occur on Halloween: An everyday high school principal has a secret life as a serial killer; a college virgin might have just met the guy for her; a group of teenagers pull a mean prank; a woman who loathes the night has to contend with her holiday-obsessed husband; and a mean old man meets his match with a demonic, supernatural trick-or-treater. – IMDB
Trick ‘R Treat is quite a fun little horror anthology. It sets itself in one neighbor and the surrounding areas as it looks at characters that have their own little story and then cross each other’s path in the story and being interconnected in their own ways. The stories don’t flow in chronological order but it doesn’t need to because each of their own horror style whether its supernatural or a creature feature twist or creepy children, etc. In one way or another, there is something about each of these stories that bring a different twist to something that might have been seen plus it grasps the atmosphere of the situation fairly well.
The five stories here definitely bring in some familiar faces. Anna Paquin’s segment in Surprise Party is the one that I definitely liked the most because of the story being a rather nice twist and a subgenre that I love seeing. At the same time, he’s in this Little Red Riding Hood costume that takes a turn for a nice power change in the characters involved. Although the School Bus Massacre did have some great cinematography and atmosphere as its set in a quarry and a Halloween prank gone wrong. Of course, the design of Sam, the little burlap sack covered pumpkin head has a great reveal in one of the stories and appears in all the stories (if I remember correctly) and has a fantastic design (although reminding me a little of The Orphanage).
Trick ‘r Treat is a well-executed horror anthology. A lot of the stories are quick to the point but also has a little twist or tension to them and blends well together with the characters being interconnected, making it both fun and cleverly scripted.
XX ( 2017)
Directors (and writers): Roxanne Benjamin, Sofia Carillo, Karyn Kusama, Jovanka Vuckovic, Annie Clark
Cast: Natalie Brown, Jonathan Watton, Peter DaCunha, Melanie Lynskey, Sheila Vand, Casey Adams, Breeda Wool, Angela Trimbur, Christina Kirk, Kyle Allen, Mike Doyle
Four short horror films that are directed and written by women. – IMDB
XX highlights four directors (actually five if you include the title segment as a story) in a venture through their different stories. XX is a little bit more unusual as the title segment that cuts between each story actually doesn’t relate to the different short films presented but acts more like a bridge but still has its own story that unfolds by the end with this nifty little stop motion animated film with a dollhouse moving around finding bits and pieces here and there and feels incredibly random until it reaches the conclusion where everything makes much more sense and goes into place.
Looking at the 4 stories, its a good mesh as it moves through different subgenres of horror from a dark suspenseful and more psychological horror to horror comedy to creature feature and ending with an evil spawn sort of concept. Rounding up these female directors who all their won accord has done some good movies before brings out a new eye where its easy to see their differences in style and their voice in horror. Jovanka Vuckovic brings a great adaptation of a story by Jack Ketchum that has some fantastic visuals of the dark and psychological atmosphere while Roxanne Benjamin brings a fun creature feature of a friend turned into creature by a mysterious encounter in the isolated desert camping trip and Annie Clark (known on IMDB as St. Vincent) in her debut directorial film brings a neat dark comedy about a birthday party gone wrong. All very unique visions both in their storytelling abilities and cinematography choices.
XX is a pretty neat horror anthology and definitely highlights these female directors for what they can offer, much emphasized if you look at their filmography before and/or after this and one well worth checking out.
Cast: Clancy Brown, Caitlin Custer, Christine Kilmer, Jacob Elordi, Ema Horvath, Jennifer Irwin, Jame Bachman, Barak Hardley, Sarah Hay, Ben Hethcoat, Mike C. Nelson
On the cusp of retirement, an eccentric mortician recounts several of the strangest stories he’s encountered in his long career, but things take a turn for the phantasmagorical when he learns that the final story – is his own. – IMDB
While horror anthology are far and few, they always luckily tend to pop up at Fantasia Film Festival. The Mortuary Collection is the latest offering and its one that the poster caught my eye instantaneously. The art style and color palette of it reflects in the movie itself. The Mortuary Collections tells 4 tales with the 5th one being the one that strings them together at the Raven’s End Mortuary over the span of decades starting from the 1950s all the way to the 1980s. All of them are fairly diverse but uses the different situation of people. As with many anthologies, some stories probably land a little more than others however in my opinion, they were all fairly entertaining in their own way with each other having a little bit of dark humor and increasingly creepy to watch all building up to the last tale set in the present.
The Mortuary Collection uses the conversation between mortician Montgomery Dark (Clancy Brown) and a potential hired help Sam (Caitlin Custer) as the basis as he shows her around the mortuary while fulfilling her desire to tell her stories of the dead that has passed through Raven’s End Mortuary. After each one, she will criticize them for their predictability or lack of extremity. The first tale told, set in the 50s, is rather short and gives a good taste of the style. In reality, its definitely a catchy dose whether its the color scheme or the single actress in one setting of poking their nose where they shouldn’t as she finds a creature in the medicine cabinet. I’m a big fan of creature features here so the small dose of this was exactly what made it a fun start. Of course, the 60s takes on a different term with a male lead that I recently saw in The Kissing Booth 2, Jacob Elordi plays a college boy trying to build up his count of girls he sleeps with and it all comes down to a rather scary end and warning about safe sex. Its probably not my personal favorite but the ending was slightly disturbing yet a tad creepy. If anything, this was the lesser one although it had a nice premise and had us wondering what creature this girl is that leaves a little space for the imagination to go off. The 70s one is probably the creepiest as a husband contemplates killing off his sickly wife to get out of this dead end situation. Things go horribly wrong as it usually does and it also gets incredibly creepy although to be fair, another anthology (maybe Creepshow on Netflix) might have had a similar sort of segment with a different backstory. The 80s one is titled The Babysitter Murders, told by Sam as she tells a story close to her heart. It might seem like one of the more predictable tale among all of these but in reality, it takes a rather unique twist of events.
Aside from the stories, Montgomery Brown and Sam’s conversation about stories, their greatness and lacking elements while also the lessons that it discusses all brings a lot of fun. The dynamic between the two characters works really well. Clancy Brown does a great portrayal of Montgomery Brown and Caitlin Custer is a rather engaging Sam which gives both of them some subtle depth. At the same time, Raven’s End Mortuary also seems to come alive as they go through the different rooms. There’s is fantasy-like entity to the space that almost feels like something more is just lurking around the corner.
The Mortuary Collection is a really fun anthology. Sure, not all the stories are perfect but they all have this great entertainment value that gives a nod back to series like Creepshow or Tales of the Crypt. They have their own keeper of tales and it even has this fantastic color palette that makes some colors pop in their gloomy environment. The setting and the stories spread across the decades all have their own genre and leaves a little space for mystery plus the stories all connect as supporting characters will overlap between each tale as well. Its such a well thought out anthology that brings a lot of entertainment and amps up the creepiness with each tale. Its one that I’d definitely want to watch again while also hoping that they make another of one of these to see what other stories they have to tell.
And Then We Vanish: Collected Stories By: D.H. Schleicher
Eleven twisting tales curated from nearly a decade of work, And Then We Vanish features five new stories and six previously published stories from acclaimed independent author D. H. Schleicher.
In these stories we encounter characters who are victims of their own poor decisions…These characters might be longing to disappear or left behind by those who already have, and their stories challenge us to connect with them while they navigate the waves of mystery, violence, and the absurd that filter into their everyday lives. – Goodreads
*Book received in exchange for honest review*
And Then We Vanish is a collection of stories which is exactly as its title implies, about people who vanish in one way or another. The stories all have their own backdrop and range in different sort of characters. Its quite the box of chocolates to open and discover. Each of the characters in this story are more than they seem and as their characters reveal, most of them are rather displeasing personalities.
One of the elements that stand out in all the stories of And Then We Vanish are its characters. Each of them in their own backgrounds and their own settings and backdrop. In some cases, these characters take a rather extreme path and the story will leave it with some room to contemplate on the overall situation of the story. Knowing when to end a story shows how clever this author is. Doing it with short stories and having a certain pacing to make it all mostly work together that these characters reveal enough to be relevant and criticize their course of action but still think further about it. The best part is that these characters are all living in the everyday lives of the society whether its a parent, child or colleague, etc.
Some of these stories shine because of the setting. The specific one that comes to mind, especially as a Canadian and having vacationed there a few times in my life, is the incredibly creative take on Niagara Falls (which personally is the story that I liked the most) called When Night Falls on Niagara. There’s some other stories like: A Ballerina in Battery Park, Upon the Unfortunate News of My Death, The Pumpkin Thief , Somebody You Used to Know and Anthrax and Cherry Blossoms are some of the my other favorites from this collected stories.
D.H. Schleicher crafts each of these stories in a vivid writing style. The characters all come to life and it all has some kind of lingering effect for the characters that leaves room for reflection. The clever combination of the everyday characters and their settings gives them each a nice twist. You can tell from the titles above that there is always a twist of effects. Much like other anthologies and collected stories, some stories do land better than others and have the clever angle that makes it memorable however, they all deliver fairly well overall.