Horror films to the rescue: coping with a trump presidency

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Long ago, much longer than I shall admit to you now, I worked at a tiny, independent video rental shop in the college town of Olympia, Washington. One of my fellow movie geek co-workers had found a list of poorly-translated subtitles from Hong Kong movies, and taped it up by the registers. There was one line that stuck out to me; one line from the litany of grammar snafus that struck me as particularly poetic. That line is:

“How can you use my intestines as a gift?”

That line sums up the magic of this genre for me. Horror reflects our current anxieties and offers us a comforting catharsis. It pulls out our glistening guts and shows us how to read them like tea leaves. In fact, that particular Hong Kong subtitle is what I originally wanted to name this blog. However, I soon realized that Google search engines would end up sending me poor souls seeking solutions to various gastrointestinal maladies.

I’m an American so as you probably know, my country is a festering shit-show right now. Some days are terrifying; each humiliatingly stupid action made by our new administration expedites the normalization of things that were once dystopian fiction. Yet, on other days it feels exhilarating; like every stone is being upended to reveal all the disgusting maggots that ever hid in the wet muck below; sunshine exposing it and burning it all up. Always there is this confusing roller coaster of despair and optimism. At least there are horror films to help us through it. Because who has money or insurance for therapy now, anyway?

The following articles explore some of horror’s latest attempts to find meaning in the fears caused by our current societal climate. Oh, and one is just straight up about the actual climate. Happy gut-gazing.

6 New Cinematic Monsters That Will Emerge in 2017

“Looking back at 2016, a year of potent fears, our art responded with potent films. From the Nazi murderers in Green Room to the invasion thriller of 8 Cloverfield Lane, our films reflected a scarily accurate, if heightened, image of our reality. If Donald Trump’s campaign can find an overlap between their political “message” and the people who watch The Walking Dead, there has to be a truth to the pseudoscience of pop culture anthropology. In this noble pursuit, what monster will scare us the most in 2017?”

The Post-Donald Trump Horror Films Are Going to Be Epic

“As a Mexican filmmaker, Cuarón has made an undeniable political statement by painting illegal immigrants his heroes and white American southerners as the horrifying monster. It’s a shot across the bow of alt-right voters everywhere; it’s also bound to get more than a few of them into the seats.”


Karyn Kusama On Making Horror Films and Fighting Evil in the Age of Trump


“Horror, almost better than any of the other genres, pits the will to live against the will toward nihilism,” Kusama explained. “I just think that’s worth exploring. I don’t know what is more important, actually, to explore than that very dynamic.”

Jordan Peele explains why his horror movie about racism is what we need in the Trump era

“I’ll say this: The scariest monster in the world is human beings and what we are capable of, especially when we get together. I’m working on these premises about these different social demons. These innately human monsters that have been woven into the fabric of how we think and how we interact. Each one of my movies is going to be about one of these different social demons. The first one being “Get Out,” is about race and neglect and marginalization.”

‘Inconvenient Truth’ Sequel Is a Horror Movie for Trump’s America

“One sequence about 40 minutes into the film is particularly alarming. It starts with Gore telling some followers that the fossil fuel industry has spent years trying to convince (and bribe) politicians into ignoring climate change. That’s not news, but the next two scenes are particularly painful now. First, Trump makes an appearance on Fox News, admonishing President Obama for focusing on global warming instead of defeating ISIS. Then, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman meets with Gore to discuss his investigation into Exxon-Mobil and its allegedly fraudulent representation of climate change science going back to the 1970s.”

The Man Behind #PitDark: An Interview with Jason Huebinger


#PitDark logo by Saren RichardsonHey you! You with your mind full of beautifully scary things, sulking there at your laptop, pouting over a world ignorant of the words poured out of your twisted, sexy soul. There is someone out there trying to improve your plight at this very moment, so let me tell you about him. I know Jason from my work as an editor for Pandamoon Publishing. He is a talented author with a debut supernatural novel just out, a fellow member of the Horror Writer’s Association, and a dedicated and supportive peer in the writing community. He also seems to keep his whip-smart sense of humor at all times, despite his busy life of practicing law, writing excellent fiction, and getting ready to be a new dad. When he came up with the idea for #PitDark, I was one among many who jumped at the chance to help promote it. He has put in a great deal of hard work securing agents and editors for participating authors, as well as putting his mighty Twitter following to good use in getting the word out. I will be one of the editors reading pitches for Pandamoon Publishing on May 12th, and my creepy little heart can’t wait.

So, what’s a Twitter Pitch Party?

It all started with Brenda Drake’s #PitMad: a brilliant use of Twitter where authors can sum up their novel in 140 characters or less, and “pitch” to the publishers, editors, and agents currently interested in acquiring new projects. Just another way modern social media can help an author circumvent the slush pile. After the success of #PitMad, numerous pitch parties have cropped up to serve specialized genres and demographic representation.

How is #PitDark different? Well, I’ll let this excerpt from the rules/info page say it:

#PitDark is the first and only Twitter pitch event to highlight literature of a “darker” nature.  Importantly, this is not limited to horror works; however, any pitched manuscript must contain an element of horror or darker writing.  Examples of such categories include pure horror novels, dark fantasy, murder mysteries, psychological horror stories, non-fiction works about darker subjects, etc.  MG, YA, NA, and adult age categories are welcome.

I can tell you that as a horror fan/editor who has read pitches for pitch parties before (of which there are now many), I have found the lack of horror pitches frustrating. Horror (and its comparative genres) offers an expansive opportunity for literary genius, and still the majority of the mainstream seem to throw lazy tropes full of werewolves, vampires, and zombies at it. I hope #PitDark will encourage a flood of authors to see dark literature as an esteemed place to hang their categorical hat, so to speak. While the Big Six may not be obviously clamoring for it, there are legions of fans who are and publishing professionals that realize that.

Jason took some time out of his very busy schedule to answer some questions for all of you, so have a look:

S: Tell me about your inspiration for #PitDark.

J: Well, I am the product of a pitch contest—when I was first sending out my manuscript to agents and publishers, I stumbled across a Twitter event called #PitMad. At that time, I was new to Twitter and unfamiliar with #PitMad. So, I decided to send out a couple tweets about my unpublished horror manuscript, FATE’S PAST. To my surprise, my tweets were favorited a few times. A month later, I signed a publishing contract with Pandamoon Publishing. And because a pitch contest changed my literary life, I’ve always wanted to get involved in some manner with a pitch contest.

S: As a horror author, what are some of the struggles and stumbling blocks you both directly encounter and see your fellow horror authors dealing with when seeking publication?

J: I think there are misconceptions about horror. Many people think of horror in the “blood and guts” sense. Horror is not so limited; in fact, I could argue that horror is the broadest of all genres. Also, there are fewer agents that represent horror; for example, if you put in “thriller and suspense” as a category in QueryTracker, it will present you with 377 agents representing that genre. On the other hand, if you search for agents who represent horror, only 70 agents will pop up. This is especially interesting as there is a great deal of cross-over between the horror and thriller genres. The benefit, however, is that people who are into horror tend to be very into horror. My only advice is to really know your book and comparable works. If you are going to pitch your work as horror, you better be able to explain why it fits into that genre.

S: How do you see #PitDark serving the community of both writers and publishers of dark literature?

J: There simply wasn’t a pitch contest that targeted writers of dark and horror works. #SFFPit does a great job of highlighting Science Fiction and Fantasy writers; we hope that #PitDark can do the same for its target audience.

S: Can you share the names of some of the participating publishers and agents?

J: Over *twenty agents and editors have confirmed they are participating in #PitDark! Confirmed participating agencies and publishers include, among many others, The Bent Agency, McIntosh & Otis, Writers House, ChiZine Publications, and Pandamoon Publishing.

S: Your debut supernatural novel comes out soon. What steps did you take to get published?

J: I pitched in #PitMad! My biggest hope is that someone else finds the same publishing success I have because of #PitDark.

S: Do you have any advice for fellow writers looking for the right publisher?

J: There is no one “right” way to get published. For me, I’ve loved working with an indie press like Pandamoon because I’ve had a great deal of input into things like my cover design and marketing. Others may be more interested in having a larger press do everything. And, of course, there is self-publishing for those who want total control. My only advice would be to really think about how you want to be published before you start submitting, because once you sign that dotted line, there’s no going back.

S: In the horror/dark literature genre, what themes and “big questions” inspire your writing the most?

J: Regret, destiny, and the fear of death.

S: What is Fate’s Past about and what inspired the story?

J: The idea for FATE’S PAST came to me as I was driving with my wife on a beautiful road in Oregon. The original concept was about how someone would react to driving on an endless, unchanging road. That morphed into the current story about a couple on a road trip to New Orleans who are hunted by their biggest regrets.

S: When and where can readers get their hands on Fate’s Past?

J: FATE’S PAST is available on Amazon in print, on Kindle, and for FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

*30+ agents/editors at time of this post


#PitDark promo image

So, if you are an author of dark literature, please head directly to the rules and info page for #PitDark and start getting your pitches ready. The #PitDark page has all the info and advice you need, as well links to help you craft great pitches. If you are not an author, but would like to support the Dark Lit community, please share this post via social media and help get the word out. The more authors that get signed, the more great books you will have to read and have your art/film/life inspired by.

I’ll be reading pitches (maybe yours?) for Pandamoon Publishing on May 12th! I’ll be using my editing twitter handle: @Saren Richardson.


The Witching Season



Today, I am reviewing The Witching Season, an anthology-style horror web series. As you may have noticed, I do not bother reviewing big-budget horror films. There are too many talented and eloquent folks out there doing that already, and far better than I could (like this brilliant lady). Frankly, with respect to my beloved Fangoria subscription, I think too much attention is paid to feature-length films in general by horror fans. There is an incredible wealth of art, indie comics, podcasts, poetry, music, online writing communities (CreepyPasta, anyone?) and short films that are able to touch aspects of this genre that the medium of a feature film simply cannot. So, speaking of short film…

James L. Morris of Witching Season Films sent me info and links to a new horror web series called (you guessed it) The Witching Season that he and his talented team have been working on. In his own words:

“I won’t lie and say that we were trying to make a social statement, but I think the way we have created the episodes will speak volumes towards our desire not to portray the same old “Lets go see what made the noise in my panties” kind of mindset we all too often see.”

Well, after I immediately went out and had “Lets go see who made the noise in my panties” printed on 100 t-shirts (so I never run out), I snuggled in bed with my laptop to watch the first two episodes of The Witching Season. I really enjoyed them, and I think you will too. Let me tell you why.

Within your dark little heart resides the memory of Halloween, experienced as only a child can. You yearn for the glow of jack o lanterns, the sound of fall leaves crunching beneath your feet, the blustery winds chilling your small frame amidst the speckled October sunlight, and the strangle tingling mix of hopeful fear as you look for (dread) ghosts and masked slashers in every shadow. You will not admit this, of course. You’d rather impress everyone with your bootlegged Fulci collection and share gleeful and cynical laughter over craft beers while watching The Human Centipede for the tenth time with your equally iron-stomached friends.

But it all began with Goosebumps books and Tales from the Crypt, didn’t it?

The Witching Season will take you back there. The opening credits are a beautiful collage of Halloween décor dripping off of trees and hanging off of houses. Seriously, it’s fucking gorgeous.  Slasher Dave delivers a great score that is both classic and nostalgic.

Episode 1: Killer On The Loose


A young woman flees from some mysterious, pursuing enemy through the woods at night. As a flashlight searches the trees behind her, she comes upon a seemingly deserted house festooned with Halloween decorations. She enters the equally-Halloween-adorned interior of the house and shuts the door behind her. She looks down at her wrists and rubs at the raw skin there (from ropes? from handcuffs?). Several of the decorations seen can be recognized as being from the opening credits, which strikes me as a brilliant way to both cut set design costs and create an enduring and continuous atmosphere. Her white shirt is spattered with what looks to be blood; as it is obviously Halloween, we are left to wonder if it is real or not.

What follows is an all-too-familiar scene of “girl hides from unknown bad guy” reminiscent of Scream/Halloween/mostslashersevermade, but it is all polished up like a revered idol. The shots are pretty remarkably seamless for an indie work. The lighting and shadows are spot on. Actress Hailey Nebeker delivers a tense and believable performance. Randin Graves scores the action with music that is an effective blend of scene-centric drama and classic slasher-film homage. You start to wonder if it will all play out as expected; and of course, it doesn’t. The twist isn’t ground-breaking, but it is clever and grin-worthy. And once revealed, you find new meaning in previous scenes because the dual perspectives were handled with care.


Episode 2: Princess

Same great credits with another classic set-up: A mother and daughter move into a new house. Mom is full of hope for the future and kid is full of trepidation at the big change. Again, you’ve been here and seen this all before, but the Halloween atmosphere and classic/homage score (again from Randin Graves) keep it from feeling redundant. It is more like revisiting something well-known and well-loved. The little girl (very impressive performance by young actress Emily Broschinsky) hears noises in the night that draw her down to explore the basement. There she finds…of course! A creepy doll! A very creepy half-doll, half-bunny thing that looks like a promotional toy for The Island of Dr. Moreau. Predictable plot points follow, but the ending managed to be both bad-ass and hilarious. I laughed out loud at something that should have made me wince, and when a film is able to pull a reaction out of you that surprises yourself, I call that an achievement.

Last but not least, this delightful bit of entertainment is free: served fresh from their talented team and onto your plate (youtube). If you watch these episodes and enjoy them, help make sure there is more to come by taking some time to give them love via social media shares/likes and even donations if you can. The trailer for Episode 3 comes out this weekend, and the full episode should be available early-mid April.

Now go on. Gets to watching!

visit them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/witchingseasonfilms

check out their website: www.witchingseasonfilms.com