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Stars

“There’s something I have to tell you,” she said.

Junior high – lunch period, hiding in the school library. Surrounded by the smell of aging pages and the warmth of the heating system as it breathed its hot breath and kept the gripping frost at bay. I hid there because it was a reprieve from forced and miserable conversation, from anxiety with tearing teeth and horns, from the noise and haste. A reprieve – except when she was there.

“I wasn’t sure who else to tell,” she said.

Her name was B., B. for broken, B. for bruised.  Long dirty hair, ripped clothes in black on black on black. Wide eyes that would have been beautiful but for her cracked and empty thousand-yard stare. I loved to read, especially horror; she loved to watch movies, especially horror, most especially the gut-churning gorefests I wouldn’t grow to stomach, let alone love, for another couple of years.

“It’s a secret,” she said, her voice pitched just above a whisper. “You can’t tell anyone.”

I didn’t want to be B.‘s friend. I certainly didn’t want to be her confidante. In those days, I wanted little more than to be invisible, to be left alone to read during the one hour of solace I could eke out each hellish day. To be able to disappear inside of the horror novels that I consumed so voraciously. I’d made B.‘s acquaintance in home economics, when we’d been assigned pancake-making duties together. I was awkward and polite. She was lonely. Lonely and cracked somewhere deep inside.

“The thing is,” B. said, and her stare was a long steel fork that held me, a bleeding piece of meat, in place. “I’m a vampire. Like, a real vampire.”

I was the one she went to when the tattoo she gave herself became infected. She had kept her left hand wrapped in a bandage for a few days; when she peeled it back and showed me her handiwork, it broke my heart. B. had tried to give herself a pentagram tattoo – I say “tried” because out of some combination of ignorance and the misapplication of what little knowledge she did have, she had instead inked a small Star of David. The pentagram, for the uninitiated, looks like this:

…and is a widely used symbol in the occult. Satanists, Wiccans, and many others use some variant of this symbol, either two-points-up (“inverted”) or two-points-down.

This, on the other hand, is the Star of David:

…which has nothing whatsoever to do with witchcraft or Satanism. It’s the oldest and most widely-recognized symbol of Judaism. B., needless to say, did not intend to give herself the Star of David, and yet there it was, drilled into the pale flesh of her hand with black ink and a sewing needle. Her knowledge of religious symbolism may have been lacking, but I couldn’t fault her for cowardice or lack of commitment. By the time she showed it to me the skin had swollen taut and turned an angry, dangerous red. I was quiet but emphatic in my advice: she needed to go to the emergency room immediately. It was the right call, and she knew it. I think she just needed to hear someone else say it.

After that, it felt like I couldn’t shake her. It was a month or two later that she shared her secret with me. I thought she might have been joking, but I’m glad I didn’t force an awkward laugh. She wasn’t much for joking, and I realized moments after she told me that she wasn’t kidding, and either believed what she was telling me or – at the very least – thought I would believe her. I bumbled my way through some sort of tepid response; “well isn’t that interesting” being the upshot. I found a different place to read, even more secluded than the library, and I didn’t see much of B. after that.  I hope things worked out for the best for her, but my hope is tempered by the knowledge that her life sprang from a particularly rocky patch of ground and was watered by the herbicide of poverty beneath the burning, punishing wormwood sun of suburban despair. Star of David or pentagram, B.’s attempt to mark herself as different was unnecessary in a place where difference was viciously focused upon. There weren’t a lot of Jews where I grew up; there weren’t a lot of Wiccans or Satanists, either. If I could say anything to B. – if I could re-live that moment – I would tell her that it doesn’t matter which kind of stars illuminate the darkness of our lives. Only that they do.

Horror fandom has a way of connecting people who might otherwise have a hard time fitting in; misfits, dissenters, morbid dreamers, and those who have lived through crucibles of pain that would kill a normal human. We should embrace a sort of cemetery solidarity, a comradeship of outcasts and contemplators of darkness. In the darkness that permeates life sometimes, perhaps we can be light – stars in the night, if you will – for each other.

Editor’s note: As a Jew, I am always flabbergasted by the amount of times people connect the Star of David with Satanism and Witchcraft.

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Jurassic Shark: The Cure for Insomnia

Once in a while a shark movie comes along that makes me really proud to be a sharksploitation reviewer. Makes me feel like I am doing God’s work. This was one of those films. Not because it was good. But because I really took a bullet for you people, watching this shit sandwich so you never have to. You’re fucking welcome. 

Also I found the cure for insomnia. You’re fucking welcome again. 

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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Pumpkinhead’ (1988)

Required Horror Viewing…

God, I love this fucking movie. First off, Pumpkinhead is one of the all-time greatest rubber monsters ever created. The practical effects are what this movie is all about. I mean, yeah they can be a little hokey, but that’s why they used the setting and filters they did. They used the atmosphere by layering it over the practical effects. It’s what made this movie. It’s just a damn cool monster.

I also appreciate the fact that they didn’t just throw a monster onto the scene but actually built up its mythos. Pumpkinhead isn’t just some rubber monster, it’s a rubber monster with history, reason, and a process. I guess I shouldn’t go too deeply into that outside of the spoilers.

Yeah, the acting wasn’t the greatest. It’s on par with horror though, so you can expect it to be a little hammy. Of course this has Lance mother fucking Henriksen, one of the most iconic actors in horror. He is really solid at what he does, but he can’t carry the whole movie.

The Story is simple, even if it is a little forced. Not that they drag it kicking and screaming, or that it’s offensively forced. It’s subtle but often just a little too convenient. I often accuse movies of spoon feeding the villain. This movie almost spoon feeds the victims. Again, more on that in the spoilers.

Pumpkinhead is a classic and required viewing for true horror fans, but I submit that even casual viewers will enjoy this movie, even today. It holds up to the test of time and is a must watch.

SPOILERS!!!

Yeah, I get it, something bad had to happen to drive Lance’s character to revenge. Yeah, you do kinda have to lead the plot in order to set up the circumstances that will end in the death of his son. But are you seriously telling me that three able body adults couldn’t outrun and tackle an eight year old? Just do something else to set up the kid’s death. I mean, one second he’s running past them, the next second he’s almost a football field’s length away. And the only person who thinks to stop the kid trips flat on her face, because of course she does. And rather than running after the kid, her two friends practically tackle her. Why? Did they think jumping on their friend was more important than preventing the injury of a little kid?

I also don’t exactly understand why Pumpkinhead needs to kill all of the dumb bastards. Only the one guy was actually responsible for the death of the little kid. Mind you, that’s not the guy who Lance’s character sees with his dead son. So why doesn’t Pumpkinhead go after him instead? What exactly are the rules of how it chooses the people who are marked? Lance’s character Ed Harley is what focuses Pumpkinhead’s actions, right? So, it would sort of make more sense that Pumpkinhead would go after either the guy who actually killed the kid or his brother who Ed Harley saw with the dead kid. Now, Pumpkinhead does kill the brother first. But we can’t have the movie end there, so it could make sense that Ed want’s Pumpkinhead to kill them both. But, if that’s the case, they would need to sell the concept that both the brothers are who Pumpkinhead was actually after, and only attacks the other characters because they interfered. Once they all clearly interfered with Pumpkinhead’s vengeance, then it could just start wantonly picking them off. They just needed to get there first.

Finally, having the random dog bite Ed Harley was also a bit forced. Yeah, they needed to show that injuring Ed meant injuring Pumpkinhead, but there are so many other seamless ways they could have done that. Ed could just as easily gotten injured in a tussle with any number of the cast, or with the big drooly demon itself. There wasn’t any need to force that scene.

But these infractions are just so minor. This movie is really a gem in the horror book.

Fans! I’m pleased to announce that “Inhuman Error” my new novella and collaboration with James Lief, is currently on sale for pre-order for only $2+tax, for the e-book. The official release date is 09/07. Check out the free sample at the link below and consider buying a copy.
https://horror.media/sample-inhuman-error-first-of-the-upd-series-by-james-lief-and-reed-alexander-2019

And please join me for the official online release party that night at 8pm on FB.
https://www.facebook.com/events/482927039195529/

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Madness Heart Press Patreon Launched

We want to pay our authors more. We want to bring you fresh new horror, to this end we have created a Patreon. Of course, we would never ask for anything without offering something in return. Here are some of the things we are offering for our patrons:

  • Exclusive Flash Fiction
  • Exclusive Access to Reed Alexander’s Horror Review Serial fiction
  • Exclusive Patron Short stories
  • Bonus Episodes of Madness Heart Radio
  • Digital copies of every book we publish
  • Proof copies of new books delivered to your door, BEFORE they are available!
  • Bespoke horror created just for you from a prompt YOU dictate
  • Opportunity to have us advertises for you on Madness Heart Radio
  • Listed as Supporter on the MHP webpage
  • Shoutouts on Madness Heart Radio

As you can see, we’ll be doing a ton of content on Patreon for those who want to show their support, but we won’t be taking away any of the content we already publish through our free channels. Our goal is to expand what we offer, and by doing so be able to support the authors and artists who make amazing horror media.

Become a Patron!
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How Not to Horror Addendum: Premises

In a previous piece here at Madness Heart Press (“How Not to Horror”), I pointed out a few pitfalls that a creative person embarking on a horror project should avoid. I suggested that people not trust the industry to have their best interests (or, indeed, those of readers/viewers) at heart. I also pointed out that a cool plot or good set location is not enough, on its own, to breathe life into a story. This week, I’d like to add another entry to my list of traps to avoid, this one the inverse, in a way, of my last one. It turns out that acting, directing, and even writing aren’t enough to save a story – a premise – that is just plain lame.

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House Shark: Don’t Knock It!

I feel that I need to start by revisiting the sentiment from my first blog. These types of movies are not everyone’s cup of briny tea. It takes a person with an ample sense of humor and lowered expectations to enjoy a “so bad it’s good” sharksploitation film. I am always baffled by the one star reviews for these. Who the hell thinks that House Shark is going to be a benchmark for cinematic achievement? Lighten up. 

Continue reading House Shark: Don’t Knock It!