Five More Offbeat Picks From Matt's Horror Vault

by: Matt Malott

Last year I provided our readers with a list of ten horror films that were reasonably under-the-radar by the standards of the casual horror fan. I assume you all went out and immediately watched those ten, and find yourself in the lamentable position of needing to watch something spooky tonight while also demonstrating your horror hipster cred. With that in mind, I present: five more often-overlooked horror flicks that I guarantee will satisfy your Halloween lust for suspense, jump scares, and melting hobos (that one’ll make sense in a couple minutes, I promise).

Matt's Horror Vault

The Films:

Street Trash (1987)

Directed By: Jim Muro
Written by: Roy Frumkes
Starring: Mike Lackey, Bill Chepil, Vic Noto

Street Trash is one of the more surreal and campy entries in the goopy horror subgenre of “melt movies.” Put simply, the film’s primary focus is depictions of people dissolving into soupy puddles of Technicolor ooze. But that’s not all Street Trash has to offer: it’s also a darkly comedic take on the hopeless circumstances of homeless people. And it casually tackles subject matter that is downright disturbing (most notably domestic abuse, necrophilia, and rape) with equal parts serious social commentary and bizarre slapstick comedy. Street Trash isn’t necessarily an easy film to watch, but its unique, darkly campy ambiance and its supremely inventive practical effects make it an important part of the 1980’s horror tradition.

The Power (1968)

Directed By: Byron Haskin
Written by: John Gay
Starring: George Hamilton, Suzanne Pleshette, Richard Carlson

The Power is an often-overlooked gem that has greatly influenced the development of scifi-horror. Eschewing the flashy and shocking creature effects that had been the hallmark of the genre in the 50’s, The Power instead took its cues more from Psycho and the burgeoning psychological thriller scene. The story follows a secret team of government scientists who realize that one of their colleagues possesses superhuman psychic abilities and is bent on destroying them. The Power delivers an amazingly understated and subtly chilling atmosphere: everything is methodically measured, with no shot, no line, no frame wasted. The pseudo-minimalism of the production only heightens the tension. The film is notable as one of legendary British actor Michael Rennie’s last appearances before his death in 1971.

Hardware (1990)

Directed By: Richard Stanley
Written by: Richard Stanley
Starring: Dylan McDermott, Stacey Travis, John Lynch, Iggy Pop

Those who know me know how much I love scifi-horror, so it’s unsurprising that I managed to include a couple such titles in this list. Hardware was South African filmmaker Richard Stanley’s first foray into feature-length productions after he had made a name for himself producing music videos for English goth and punk bands in the mid-late 80’s. Though it did eventually find North American distribution through the Weinstein brothers, Hardware did not garner much critical or commercial attention, a situation made all the more unfortunate by the fact that the film definitely deserves attention. Stanley, as one might expect from his path to the film industry, has a knack for producing sumptuous, evocative visuals, and this talent is on full display in Hardware (if perhaps slightly encumbered by the film’s small budget compared to Stanley’s second feature, 1993’s Dust Devil). The film blends some of the best elements of the cyberpunk and post-apocalyptic aesthetics that had developed over the course of the 80’s, and it’s possible that the fluidity with which Hardware approaches genre boundaries may have contributed to its lack of attention: genre dogmatists have always had a tough time figuring out what to call it. All the same, it remains an overlooked classic.

Les Diaboliques (1955)

Directed By: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Written by: Jérôme Géronimi, Henri-Georges Clouzot
Starring: Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse
Based on the Novel: Celle qui n’était plus by Boileau-Narcejac

Before Psycho, there was Les Diaboliques. Often touted as one of the very first psychological horror thrillers, the film had an immense and obvious impact on Hitchcock’s 1960 film. Indeed, anecdote has it that Clouzot managed to secure the film rights to Boileau-Narcejac’s book just hours before Hitchcock, who had wanted to film it himself, and instead had to “settle” for Psycho. Robert Bloch himself, the novelist who wrote Psycho, has called Les Diaboliques his favorite horror film. Les Diaboliques tells the story of two women- one wife, one mistress- who conspire to murder a cruel and abusive boarding school headmaster, only for his body to disappear amidst strange and eerie occurrences. The film features incredible photography, with Clouzot masterfully manipulating light, shadow, contrast, and framing to produce one of the most visually-interesting thrillers in cinema history. In addition, Véra Clouzot turns in one of the most sensitive and believable horror heroine performances ever.

Versus 2000

Directed By: Ryuhei Kitamura
Written by: Yudai Yamaguchi, Ryuhei Kitamura
Starring: Tak Sakaguchi, Hideo Sakaki, Chieko Misaka

Versus is the kind of manic, gleefully hyperactive film that could only have come from Japan. Zombies, samurai, and yakuza collide in this insane romp about a portal to hell in an isolated Japanese forest. Explaining the plot of Versus is however, mostly pointless. If your first thoughts upon seeing it are “hmm, yeeees, the exploration of criminal impulses in contemporary Japanese society were thought provoking etc etc yadda yadda…” then you’re DOING IT WRONG. Versus is one of those films that might have some kind of purpose, but no one cares, because it’s a stylish and extremely over-the-top gore-fest replete with flashing katanas and lots of John-Wu-esque gunfights. Watch it, love it, indulge in it, and then file it under “things we’re thankful to Japan for, even if we don’t have a clue why they exist.”

November 2014 Book Releases

by: Janea A. Schimmel

ed. by: Gayle Cottrill

Every month when I sit down to do this list, I notice a few trends. It’s like publishers theme every month with different types of releases. September was anthology month. November is Science Fiction month, though again we have more than the average number of anthologies. Even if you’re not much of a fan of Science Fiction, there are some real gems listed below that make up for the releases being so one sided this month.

Returning Contenders:

Debuts:

Returning Contenders:

1. Lowball: A Wild Cards Mosaic Novel ed. by George R.R. Martin and Melinda M. Snodgrass

Release Date: November 4th, 2014
Series: Wild Cards #22
Genre: Science Fiction

Decades after an alien virus changed the course of history, the surviving population of Manhattan still struggles to understand the new world left in its wake. Natural humans share the rough city with those given extraordinary—and sometimes terrifying—traits. While most manage to coexist in an uneasy peace, not everyone is willing to adapt. Down in the seedy underbelly of Jokertown, residents are going missing. The authorities are unwilling to investigate, except for a fresh lieutenant looking to prove himself and a collection of unlikely jokers forced to take matters into their own hands—or tentacles. The deeper into the kidnapping case these misfits and miscreants get, the higher the stakes are raised.

Edited by #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin and acclaimed author Melinda M. Snodgrass, Lowball is the latest mosaic novel in the acclaimed Wild Cards universe, featuring original fiction by Carrie Vaughn, Ian Tregillis, David Anthony Durham, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Mary Anne Mohanraj, David D. Levine, Michael Cassutt, and Walter John Williams.

Perfect for old fans and new readers alike, Lowball delves deeper into the world of aces, jokers, and the hard-boiled men and women of the Fort Freak police precinct in a pulpy, page-turning novel of superheroics and mystery.

2. Tarkin by James Luceno

Release Date: November 4th, 2014
Series: Star Wars
Genre: Science Fiction

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .

Bestselling Star Wars veteran James Luceno gives Grand Moff Tarkin the Star Wars: Darth Plagueis treatment, bringing a legendary character from A New Hope to full, fascinating life.

He’s the scion of an honorable and revered family. A dedicated soldier and distinguished legislator. Loyal proponent of the Republic and trusted ally of the Jedi Order. Groomed by the ruthless politician and Sith Lord who would be Emperor, Governor Wilhuff Tarkin rises through the Imperial ranks, enforcing his authority ever more mercilessly . . . and zealously pursuing his destiny as the architect of absolute dominion.

Rule through the fear of force rather than force itself, he advises his Emperor. Under Tarkin’s guidance, an ultimate weapon of unparalleled destruction moves ever closer to becoming a terrifying reality. When the so-called Death Star is completed, Tarkin is confident that the galaxy’s lingering pockets of Separatist rebellion will be brought to heel—by intimidation . . . or annihilation.

Until then, however, insurgency remains a genuine threat. Escalating guerrilla attacks by resistance forces and newfound evidence of a growing Separatist conspiracy are an immediate danger the Empire must meet with swift and brutal action. And to bring down a band of elusive freedom fighters, the Emperor turns to his most formidable agents: Darth Vader, the fearsome new Sith enforcer as remorseless as he is mysterious; and Tarkin—whose tactical cunning and cold-blooded efficiency will pave the way for the Empire’s supremacy . . . and its enemies’ extinction.

3. Willful Child by Steven Erikson

Release Date: November 4th, 2014
Genre: Science Fiction
Speculative Post Review: Willful Child

These are the voyages of the starship, A.S.F. Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to seek out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life life-forms, to boldly blow the...

And so we join the not-terribly-bright but exceedingly cock-sure Captain Hadrian Sawback - a kind of James T Kirk crossed with 'American Dad' - and his motley crew on board the Starship Willful Child for a series of devil-may-care, near-calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through 'the infinite vastness of interstellar space'...

The bestselling author of the acclaimed Malazan Book of the Fallen sequence has taken his life-long passion for Star Trek and transformed it into a smart, inventive and hugely entertaining spoof on the whole mankind-exploring-space-for-the-good-of-all-species-but-trashing-stuff-with-a-lot-of-hi-tech-kit-along-the-way type over-blown adventure. The result is this smart. inventive, occasionally wildly OTT and often very funny novel that deftly parodies the genre while also paying fond homage to it.

Dan gave a four star review of Willful Child which you can read here.

4. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, Ken Liu (Translator)

Release Date: November 11th, 2014
Series: Three Body #1
Genre: Science Fiction

With the scope of Dune and the commercial action of Independence Day, Three-Body Problem is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience this multiple-award-winning phenomenon from China’s most beloved science fiction author, Liu Cixin.

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

5. The Collected Stories of Frank Herbert by Frank Herbert

Release Date: November 18th, 2014
Genre: Science Fiction

Frank Herbert, the New York Times bestselling author of Dune, is one of the most celebrated and commercially successful science fiction writers of all time. But while best known for originating the character of Paul Atreides and the desert world of Arrakis, Herbert was also a prolific writer of short fiction. His stories were published individually in numerous pulps and anthologies spanning decades, but never collected. Until now.

Frank Herbert: Collected Stories is the most complete collection of Herbert’s short fiction ever assembled—thirty-seven stories originally published between 1952 and 1979, plus one story, “The Daddy Box,” that has never appeared before.

6. Heritage of Cyador by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Release Date: November 18th, 2014
Series: The Saga of the Recluse #18
Genre: Epic Fantasy

Scarcely a year after the events of Cyador’s Heirs, Lerial uses his mastery of Order and Chaos, the competing natural forces that shape his world and define the magic that exists within it, to utterly destroy an Afritan military force crossing into Cigoerne.

Five years later, Lerial, now an overcaptain and a field commander of Cigoerne’s Mirror Lancers, must lead three companies of troops into Afrit on a mission of mutual interest: neighboring Heldya is threatening to invade Afrit, and if that nation falls, Cigoerne is certain to be next.

The mission is both delicate and dangerous; Lerial’s value in the effort to repelling Heldya is undeniable, but his troubled history against Afrit may reopen old wounds that will never truly heal.

7. Black Widow by Jennifer Estep

Release Date: November 25th, 2014
Series: Elemental Assassin’s #14
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance

There’s nothing worse than a cruel, cunning enemy with time to kill—and my murder to plan.

With wicked Fire elemental Mab Monroe long gone, you’d think I could finally catch a break. But someone’s always trying to take me down, either as Gin Blanco or my assassin alter-ago. Now along comes the Spider’s new arch-nemesis, the mysteriously named M. M. Monroe, who is gleefully working overtime to trap me in a sticky web of deceit.

The thing is, I’m not the only target. I can see through the tangled threads enough to know that every bit of bad luck my friends have been having lately is no accident—and that each unfortunate “coincidence” is just one more arrow drawing ever closer to hitting the real bulls-eye. Though new to Ashland, this M. M. Monroe is no stranger to irony, trying to get me, an assassin, framed for murder. Yet, as my enemy’s master plan is slowly revealed, I have a sinking feeling that it will take more than my powerful Ice and Stone magic to stop my whole life from going up in flames.

8. Dead But Not Forgotten: Stories from the World of Sookie Stackhouse ed. by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner

Release Date: November 25th, 2014
Series: Sookie Stackhouse
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Charlaine Harris' smash-hit Sookie Stackhouse series may have reached its conclusion, but the world of Bon Temps, Louisiana, lives on in this all-new collection of 15 stories. Written by a killer lineup of authors, including New York Times best-sellers Rachel Caine, MaryJanice Davidson, Jonathan Maberry and Seanan McGuire, and with introductions read by Charlaine herself, Dead but Not Forgotten puts your favorite characters center stage.

The stories included in Dead but Not Forgotten are:

"Nobody's Business" by Rachel Caine (featuring Kevin Pryor & Kenya Jones)

"Tyger, Tyger" by Christopher Golden (featuring Quinn)

"The Real Santa Claus" by Leigh Perry (featuring Diantha)

"Taproot" by Jeffrey J. Mariotte (featuring Andy Bellefleur)

"Knit a Sweater Out of Sky" by Seanan McGuire (featuring Amelia)

"Love Story" by Jeanne C. Stein (featuring Adele Hale Stackhouse)

"The Million-Dollar Hunt" by Jonathan Maberry (featuring Mustapha Khan)

"Borderline Dead" by Nicole Peeler (featuring Desiree Dumas)

"Extreme Makeover Vamp Edition" by Leigh Evans (featuring Bev & Todd)

"Don't Be Cruel" by Bill Crider (featuring Bubba)

"What a Dream I Had" by Nancy Holder (featuring Alcide Herveaux)

"Another Dead Fairy" by Miranda James (featuring Claude & Claudia Crane)

"The Bat-Signal" by Suzanne McLeod (featuring Luna)

"The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars" by Dana Cameron (featuring Pam Ravenscroft)

"Widower's Walk" by MaryJanice Davidson (featuring Eric Northman)

9. Endsinger by Jay Kristoff

Release Date: November 25, 2014
Series: The Lotus War #3
Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk

A TREMBLING EARTH

The flames of civil war sweep across the Shima Imperium. With their plans to renew the Kazumitsu dynasty foiled, the Lotus Guild unleash their deadliest creation—a mechanical goliath known as the Earthcrusher, intended to unite the shattered Empire under a yoke of fear. With the Tiger Clan and their puppet Daimyo Hiro in tow, the Guild marches toward a battle for absolute dominion over the Isles.

A BROKEN REBELLION

Yukiko and Buruu are forced to take leadership of the Kagé rebellion, gathering new allies and old friends in an effort to unite the country against the chi-mongers. But the ghosts of Buruu’s past stand between them and the army they need, and Kin’s betrayal has destroyed all trust among their allies. When a new foe joins the war tearing the Imperium apart, it will be all the pair can do to muster the strength to fight, let alone win.

A FINAL BATTLE

The traitor Kin walks the halls of Guild power, his destiny only a bloody knife-stroke away. Hana and Yoshi struggle to find their place in a world now looking to them as heroes. Secret cabals within the Lotus Guild claw and struggle; one toward darkness, the other toward light. And as the earth splits asunder, as armies destroy each other for rule over an empire of lifeless ash and the final secret about blood lotus is revealed, the people of Shima will learn one last, horrifying truth.

There is nothing a mother won't do to keep her children by her side.

Nothing.

10. The Clone Apocalypse by Steven L. Kent

Release Date: November 25, 2014
Genre: Military Science Fiction

Earth, A.D. 2519. The clone soldiers of the Enlisted Man’s Empire, formerly members of the Unified Authority’s powerful military, believe they have finally secured their freedom. They may not live to learn how wrong they are…

After launching an unsuccessful invasion of Washington, D.C., the Unified Authority is on the verge of defeat. Then the clones intercept a message detailing the U.A.’s last ditch plan for survival: a super weapon, a virus designed to attack the clones’ internal architecture. Only one clone was created without the fatal flaw—Wayson Harris, an outlaw model with independent thoughts and an addiction to violence.

As his empire collapses and his comrades die around him, Harris begins a one-man war against the government that created, betrayed, and ultimately destroyed his brothers. Fighting the war becomes more difficult, however, as the rush from the constant combat has reached its peak—and is driving Harris slowly insane…

The Debuts:

1. Empire of Dust: A Psi-Tech Novel by Jacey Bedford

Release Date: November 4th, 2014
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia

Mega corporations, more powerful than any one planetary government, use their agents to race each other for resources across the galaxy. The agents, or psi-techs, are implanted with telepath technology. The psi-techs are bound to the mega-corps -- that is, if they want to retain their sanity.

Cara Carlinni is an impossible thing – a runaway psi-tech. She knows Alphacorp can find its implant-augmented telepaths, anywhere, anytime, mind-to-mind. So even though it’s driving her half-crazy, she's powered down and has been surviving on tranqs and willpower. So far, so good. It’s been almost a year, and her mind is still her own.

She’s on the run from Ari van Blaiden, a powerful executive, after discovering massive corruption in Alphacorp. Cara barely escapes his forces, yet again, on a backwater planet, and gets out just in time due to the help of straight-laced Ben Benjamin, a psi-tech Navigator for Alphacorp’s biggest company rival.

Cara and Ben struggle to survive a star-spanning manhunt, black-ops raids, and fleets of resource-hungry raiders. Betrayal follows betrayal, and friends become enemies. Suddenly the most important skill is knowing whom to trust.

2. Arcana by Jessica Leake

Release Date: November 18th, 2014
Genre: Fantasy, Romance

A romantic, suspenseful, genre-bending debut set in Edwardian London.

Amid the sumptuous backdrop of the London season in 1905, headstrong Katherine Sinclair must join the ranks of debutantes vying for suitors. Unfortunately for Katherine, she cannot imagine anything more loathsome—or dangerous. To help ease her entrance into society, Katherine’s family has elicited the assistance of the Earl of Thornewood, a friend and London’s most eligible bachelor, to be her constant companion at the endless fetes and balls. But upon her arrival in London, Katherine realizes there will be more to this season than just white gowns and husband hunting.

Through her late mother’s enchanted diary, Katherine receives warning to keep hidden her otherworldly ability to perform arcana, a magic fueled by the power of the sun. Any misstep could mean ruin—and not just for her family name. The Order of the Eternal Sun is everywhere—hunting for those like her, able to feed on arcana with only a touch of the hand.

But society intrigue can be just as perilous as the Order. The machinations of the fashionable elite are a constant threat, and those who covet Katherine’s arcana, seeking the power of her birthright, could be hiding behind the façade of every suitor—even the darkly handsome Earl of Thornewood.

With so much danger and suspicion, can she give her heart to the one who captivates her, or is he just another after her power?

3. Superheroes Anonymous by Lexie Dunne

Release Date: November 18th, 2014
Genre: Superhero, Urban Fantasy

Everybody in Chicago has a “superhero sighting” story. So when a villain attacks editorial assistant Gail Godwin and she’s rescued by superhero Blaze, it’s a great story, and nothing more. Until it happens again. And again.

Now, the media has dubbed her Hostage Girl, nobody remembers her real name, and people are convinced that Blaze is just Gail’s boyfriend Jeremy in disguise. Gail’s not so sure. All she knows is that when both Jeremy and Blaze leave town in the same week, she’s probably doomed. Who will save her now?

But when the villains miraculously lose interest, Gail is able to return to her life… until she wakes up strapped to a metal table by a mad scientist who hasn’t read the news. Escaping, and now more than human herself, she’s drawn into a secret underground world of superheroes. She’ll have to come to terms with her powers (and weakness) to make it in the new society, and it’s not easy. After all, there’s a new villain on the rise, and she has her sights set on the one and only Hostage Girl.



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