Stories For Ghosts

Horror for the Discerning Fan

All Spirits Carry Messages in Petra’s Ghost by C.S. O’Cinneide

The majestic peak of Alto del Perdón, also known as the Mount of Forgiveness, overlooks one of the most idyllic and picturesque countrysides in all of Spain. Located on the storied Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, between Pamplona and the town of Puente la Reina, Alto del Perdón basks in brilliant sunshine. An eye-catching metal sculpture, erected to honor past, present, and future pilgrims, sits at the top of the mount. The pilgrimage route itself leads to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, where Catholic lore states that remains of the Apostle Saint James the Great lie. The Camino is always filled with pilgrims determined to complete the 500-mile journey to on foot. It appears to be no more than a chalky and rocky dirt trail. But the trail itself is revered as a spiritual journey, one that will open the pilgrim’s heart and mind to some long-awaited truth.

Alto del Perdón does not, at first glance, seem like the kind of setting in which to open a traditional ghost story. But C.S. O’Cinneide did not set out the write a traditional ghost story with her debut novel, Petra’s Ghost, out now from Dundurn Press. Though O’Cinneide draws upon both travel tales and ghost stories for her debut, Petra’s Ghost is a refreshing spin on both of these classic narratives. (You can learn more about O’Cinneide’s inspiration for her novel by checking out the interview I conducted with her.) The result is an engrossing, creepy tale of the people who run away from the dark secrets haunting them and seek forgiveness on the Camino.

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August Horror Movies – The Horror Cup Runneth Over!

Guys, what did we do to deserve this many horror movies in a single month?!?! I’m overwhelmed with all these new August horror films! From a ton of VOD films (of varying quality) to some solid theatrical releases, the August horror cup runneth over.

For my part, I’m excited for Ready or Not, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Tigers Are Not Afraid, and The Divine Fury. Watch those trailers and many others after the cut!

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Stranger Things and Nostalgia: More Than Just 80s References

With summer drawing to a close, I find myself contemplating how the meaning of “summer” has evolved throughout my life. As an adult, summer means vacation, renewed gratitude for Texas-proof air conditioning, and drinking copious amounts of rosé poolside. As a teenager, summer was consumed with plans to drop the ten pounds that held me back from being irresistible, scrape together spending money, and secure a sensitive-but-jocky boyfriend. As a kid, summer was dominated by summer sports camps, vacation bible schools (blergh), and babysitting gigs. Whatever my plans, summer means watching tons of TV shows and movies, which prevent me from getting too bored and getting into too much trouble.

As a kid, I watched so many movies. Everything from old black and white classics to mediocre romcoms to trashy teen slashers. I especially adored those adventure movies of the 80s, the iconic films where a group of scrappy latchkey kids, preteens like I used to be, face a fantastic and dangerous challenge. Just like with the enticing and taboo slashers where teenagers talked and acted like adults, so too did those 80s movies suck me into dream worlds where kids answered the frightening and tempting call of adventure. The threat of injury and death were always very real. The threat lingered constantly, and the vicarious possibility of being the casualty, of never making it back home, of becoming stuck in the nightmare world, was all too compelling.

Those stories have always spoken to me as well as an untold number of my contemporaries. This is the reason why Stranger Things, fueled by what critics merely assume to be nostalgia, enjoys immense popularity.

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“You are followed.” Interview with C.S. O’Cinneide, Author of Petra’s Ghost

Petra’s Ghost, written by C.S. O’Cinneide, has a U.S. release date of August 13, 2019. It will be published by Dundurn.

Petra’s Ghost starts off with a young widower standing on a windswept hill. He holds a plastic baggie. It is filled with the ashes of his deceased wife, Petra. He has carried her all the way to Spain, to the sun-baked and arduous Camino de Santiago, so he can complete the pilgrimage and scatter her ashes. To say goodbye. It should be easy—find a picturesque spot, open the baggie, and let his wife fall from his fingers.

But it’s not that simple. He feels guilty; he’s the only one who knows how Petra really died, the only one who knows he’s responsible for her death. Now, he keeps seeing strange things. A shadowy figure out of the corner of his eye. The apparition of Petra in broad daylight. She seems to be following him. She seems to be getting closer. The widower knows that, sooner or later, he will have to make peace with Petra. And he’s not the only pilgrim who is haunted by the ghosts of the past.

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Midsommar: Stunning But Very Cerebral Folk Horror

I live for provocative horror movies—the more beautiful, the more imaginative, and the more messed up, the better. Like so many, I want to be challenged by a horror movie. I want it to make me question why I have specific reactions, why I squirm in my seat, why I cheer when someone meets their deserved bloody end. This the expectation I carry into any movie, including into Midsommar, the latest effort from Ari Aster (Hereditary).

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July Horror Movies – Beat The Dead Heat with These New Horror Flicks

The heat is settling over the country, and so too are the July horror movies creeping onto the big and little screens. This new crop of horror movies is overtaking us all with a cloud of weird VOD releases and an eclectic mix of theatrical releases. To be honest, July horror is a crapshoot every year–for every sumptuously shot arthouse horror film like Midsommer, you have a cheap looking The Strangers rip-off like They’re Inside. For every enigmatic and dread-inducing foreign film like Luz, there’s a survival horror flick about a killer croc during a hurricane (which feels somewhat-opportunistic given all the damn hurricanes recently, Paramount!) But hey, there’s something on this list for everyone!

And I’m going to call July horror a success for no other reason than Critters Attack! is in my life now. I must see it.

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Don’t Keep the Wicker Man Waiting: My Favorite Folk Horror Films

With the release of Midsommar, Ari Aster’s follow-up feature to last year’s Hereditary, folk horror is enjoying much deserved time in the spotlight. While the niche horror subgenre is known to many a horror fan (folk horror is one of my favorite subgenres), many curious viewers are at a loss when it comes to folk horror. What is it exactly?

Of course, as many folk horror fans will try to explain, the subgenre is difficult to pin down. Some consider it a subset of religious horror, and while I see and respect that viewpoint, I don’t necessarily agree with that. The two subgenres are related; I see them as distinct. Perhaps folk horror and religious horror are sisters. They both explore man’s fear of his beliefs, of one’s faith being tested, and of watching religion corrupt its practitioners. But folk horror has a particular flavor, a certain aesthetic, which religious horror does not replicate.

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“Your Friend Till the End!” The Scariest Creepy Dolls

Dolls, by their nature, are weird.

Think about it—they’re (often) miniature representations of people meant to be played with. They’re inanimate objects. With another person or an animal, there’s an exchange, an actual relationship of some kind. But with a doll, there’s nothing inside the doll to interact with. Yet we design them specifically to encourage that interaction. In fact, we craft dolls specifically to invite children and adults alike to construct identities for their dolls, to feel like there’s some kind of relationship there. Because dolls demand that the person invent a personality for the doll, a narrative for the doll, a ghost of a person to live within the doll.

That’s weird, right?

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Totally Rad: Mandy (2018) Review

If you’re feeling the 80’s revival happening in recent horror movies, check out Mandy (2018), starring Nicolas Cage and directed by Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow). Fresh off its screening at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, Mandy might be Nicolas Cage’s best performance, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he makes another horror movie that’s as good as Mandy is.

Streamable on Shudder and available for rent on Amazon, Mandy starts as a love story that is then manipulated by hallucinogens, a psycho cult leader, some slashing, a little fantasy, and beautiful, bold colors.

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June Horror is Mostly Fizzle, Not Enough Sizzle

Horror fans, I’m back!

Not to dwell, but life has been a little crazy for me lately, and I had to take some time to take care of family stuff (mostly taking care of an adorable new human who is utterly dependant on others). I had to put my love for horror on the back burner, unfortunately. But the flame of horror love burns eternal, and I kept obsessing over the latest horror trailers even while changing poopy diapers and helping my new baby learn to grab stuff.

Now that things have settled a little bit, I am so excited to start up again. Let’s start with the June horror releases.

But you know what’s not so exciting? The slate of June horror movies. Of the big releases, only The Dead Don’t Die and MAYBE Child’s Play seem worthwhile. The Dead Don’t Die is fresh from its premiere at Cannes Film Festival, which would be a promising sign if it weren’t for all the less-than-stellar reviews. As for Child’s Play, I wasn’t super impressed by the trailer (though I like the tech updates they’ve made to the premise), but then I learned that Mark Hamill was voicing the Buddi doll, and now I really want to see it.

Annabelle Comes Home (alternate title: Conjuring Sequel 432: Electric Bugaloo) is…also coming out this month. Because somehow these movies keep making money. At least Patrick Wilson’s fine self stays employed.

As for smaller releases and VOD films, I’m disappointed, to say the least. Usually, there are a couple of hidden horror gems dumped into VOD land during June, but June’s offering does not inspire confidence. The only one that might have potential is Recovery. While that story could work so well for a horror film, I’m not convinced this low-budget effort makes the most of its promise.

Le sigh.

Here’s hoping July’s horror movie releases are more exciting. In the meantime, check out the trailers for June’s horror releases.

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