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The Horror of Isolation

Why is solitary confinement considered torture? Groups ranging from Amnesty International to the American Psychological Association have declared it such, and they ought to know what they’re talking about. It’s torture because we humans are highly social animals, dependent on one another not only for the smooth functioning of society but for contact, touch; reassurance that we are not — in the end – in this thing alone. To be cut off from all of those ties and locked in a box with nothing but one’s increasingly deteriorating thoughts… well. Dante may have had his fantastical interpretation of what true torture is, but I think he was a bit more dedicated to grand guignol than he needed to be. True torment is locked inside of all of us, locked deep inside our minds where – if we’re lucky – it will stay, benumbed by novel stimuli and soothed by the loving social attentions of our fellow humans.

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Empire of the Sharks: Soggy and Savage

I am really starting to like this Mark Atkins guy. He directed the prequel called Planet of the Sharks and it wasn’t bad. It’s not necessary to view that one to understand this one, but a back to back viewing of Planet and Empire might make for an entertaining afternoon. The Asylum sharksploitation films are always a little bit slicker than your average bear. This one is no different. Also two words: kamikaze shark. 

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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Alien Abduction’ (2014)

AKA: The first ‘Shaky Camera’ movie since Cloverfield I didn’t hate…

You know, I did a review of this movie way back when I started doing reviews, and it was part of the ramp-up when I went professional with my reviewing as well as my writing. Basically, when this film first dropped on Netflix, I was still largely focused on political commentary, and movies like Alien Abduction (2014) were part of my transition into taking horror seriously.

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Getting Over

2020-04-12 (2)

If you know me personally, or if you follow me on Twitter, you know I’m a huge wrestling fan. I don’t get to watch it as much as I’d like these days, but I still follow AEW, NWA, and WWE pretty closely. Mostly, I listen to podcasts and watch highlights. I admire the art so much as a form of storytelling. The character work, when done right, can be even more effective and believable than what we see in movies, on TV, or inside a book.

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Russell James Goes Ape for King Kong

Russell R. James writes, “monster books.” These cross the genres of horror, thriller, and sci-fi. “Monster books are the most fun,” he says. Since James knows monsters, King Kong is one of his favorites.

James has a “sentimental” place for King Kong. The love affair with the giant gorilla started during childhood. He says that the movie introduced him stop-motion movie making. “I fell in love with it,” he says. James reminiscences that during his childhood in New York, a local TV station showed King Kong, Son of Kong, and Mighty Joe Young back to back on Thanksgiving. “I looked forward to Thanksgiving more for that than the food.”

King Kong finds himself on the shelf with other movie monsters, like the Gillman from Creature from the Black Lagoon. He is a natural “monster,” who is not inherently evil. “He’s just an up-scaled gorilla,” James says. “Kong is a tragic figure in every version.” Speaking of the different versions of King Kong, James states that every remake or revision of the movie changes to “reflect the times.” In the original 1933 RKO film, Skull Island, King Kong’s home, is exploited for the benefit of the adventurers. James notes that the film takes place in a time when “trophy hunting” is something people see as part of upward social movement. He states that nothing on Skull Island is recognized for its “scientific” breakthroughs. Things like dinosaurs are treated like elephants on safari with the main villain, Denham, killing several with no repercussions or expectations that the audience would “condemn” the character for it.

By the 1976 remake, the movie focuses on money-grubbing executives who go to Skull Island looking for oil. When there is none, they take King Kong to “save their bottom line.” In the mid-seventies, audiences see Kong as a completely sympathetic character instead of some mindless killing machine. “The bad guys are bad, and they die for their efforts.” This movie even has Jessica Lange begging King Kong to not put her down for his own safety. King Kong takes another giant character change for the recent Kong: Skull Island film. In this movie, the giant gorilla is no longer exploited by humans. He becomes the protector of the humans. This means that King Kong is “physically” monstrous, but “emotionally, he can be sympathetic.”

James believes that King Kong’s sympathy factor sets him apart from other giant monsters. He has “an expressive face with human characteristics. You never know what Godzilla is thinking, or what emotions are churning within Mothra. Their faces are fixed.” James says that Kong tells the viewer everything that he is feeling with a “twitch of an eyebrow or tilt of his head.”

King Kong is such an essential creature to James that he has used it and other giant monster movies like Valley of Gwangi and The Lost World (not the Jurassic Park sequel) to draw upon for inspiration for his books that could be called creature features. Despite how much James loves King Kong, he feels like the original RKO film’s time might be passing. “I think the nostalgia factor works for the Boomer generation and a bit beyond. But I’m not sure if you plant a six-year-old in front of a black-and-white anything that you’ll get their attention. I’m afraid that means this classic’s life span may be waning.” Even if the classic movie fades into obscurity, King Kong will continue to live on in humanity’s collective unconscious.

As mentioned, several times, James writes monster books. His latest is called Forest of Fire. It’s about paleontologist Grant Coleman’s attempt to find his missing mentor. You can check the book out here:

Please check out more about Russell R. James at his website:

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Madness Heart Press and the Kaiju Poet Raises Money for Texas Creatives Through Kickstarter

In an effort to raise money for Texas creatives, we have teamed up with Dusk Comics and Cheerleader Karate School to create an amazing kickstarter campaign staring comics and Texas horror.

And at the $20 level you get an entire slew of Madness Heart Press books, and several items from editor John Baltisberger’s personal website. So check it out and help keep Texas creatives striving in this time of hardship!

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Deep Blue Sea 2: Drowning in the deep blue!

As expected, this sequel to one of the funnest sharksploitation films ever made is quite inferior. However, I was equal parts horrified and tickled to hear the theme song for this travesty of a film. It comes right after the opening scene, and boy howdy, it’s a doozy. With magical and haunting lyrics like “Swimming through the riptide of life” or something similar (my mind shut down somewhere during the third lyric) it reminded me of a song one could find in a Baywatch episode or an After School Special. The main hook was “Drowning in a deep bluuuuuue seeeeeeeaa!” That part is important to note. 

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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Tremors’ (1990)

One of the best B-Movie ever made


I know when my reviews start with the spoilers, that usually means the movie is garbage and I’m about to tell you how bad. Not Tremors (1990). This movie is fucking epic! However, considering the general tone and style of the movie, it’s appropriate to treat it like a trash film, so spoilers away.

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