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Marianne Halbert Goes Over the Deep End for the Gillman

Marianne Halbert is a horror writer from Indiana, the scariest state in the Union if you’re trying to get anywhere on the interstate because of the constant construction. Her most recent collection of short stories, Cold Comforts, was released in July. Cold Comforts has been called “a piquant mixture of the whimsical and the terrifying.” In this blog interview, Halbert discusses her favorite classic monster, Gillman from TheCreature from the Black Lagoon.   

Halbert says her favorite horror is the kind that “breaks your heart.” She puts The Creature from the Black Lagoon into this category. For her the Gillman “manifests” longing and loneliness “that will break your heart.” This puts the movie and the monster squarely into the horror that Halbert likes the best.   

For her, the Gillman isn’t a traditional Universal Monster, although he is considered the last of the legendary line of creatures from that studio. Halbert says that he isn’t a creature that started off human, but a natural creature. “He just is and has always been the other,” she says.   

The Gillman is the last of his kind and only becomes violent to protect his habitat. He is an actual creature that has been forgotten by time. Only when he is forced to react to the human invaders into his world does the Gillman become anything close to a monster.   

The true monster of the film is Dr. Mark Williams. While all the other characters seem to have a genuine scientific curiosity or are sympathetic toward the creature, Dr. Williams is exploitive only worrying about “the money and fame.”   

The takeaway from The Creature from the Black Lagoon can be similar to other “monster” stories about natural creatures. The animal is not the inherent monster. Humans provoke the monstrousness out of them. Halbert feels like The Creature from the Black Lagoon is similar to King Kong or even Beauty and the Beast. “To switch it up and make this a Gill Man removes him even more from other beings that we might feel we share a closer genetic link with (like cavemen, apes, and Bigfoot). It also creates an additional element of challenge and suspense when we have to go into his underwater lair where he has the upper fin,” Halbert says. This might be what has made it a classic.  

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Scott Johnson Still Haunts This Blog

Last week’s post was with author, Scott A. Johnson. He talked about why ghosts are his favorite monsters. This week’s blog will continue with Johnson discussing ghost stories and haunted house tales. In the way of a brief re-introduction to this author, Johnson has published 14 novels, three true ghost story books, a chapbook, and a short story collection. His latest novel: Shy Grove: A Ghost Story received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly

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Elsa Carruthers Loves Werewolves

This week I talked to my friend, Elsa Carruthers. She’s been busy editing a book of critical essays on Westworld and preparing a critical essay chapter for Not a Fit Place: Essays on the Haunting of Hill House. She also has works in Amazing Stories Magazine Spring 2019 edition and NonBinary Review 19. Fortunately, Carruthers took time to discuss her favorite monster—the werewolf.

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Teacher Talks Zombies

This week I talked with an old classmate, Tracy Tidwell, about zombies. In high school, I never really knew he liked horror movies as much as he does. Strange the things you find out so many years later. 

Tidwell is a TV Production and Technical Theatre teacher at Opelika High School in Opelika, Alabama. For those unfamiliar with the geography of the state of Alabama but are acquainted with its football teams, Opelika is the city next to Auburn where the state’s other football team plays. He has been a horror movie buff since the age of 5 when his parents let him watch Poltergeist

Zombie films became a fast favorite after watching the remake of Night of the Living Dead. The love of the genre also comes from Tidwell’s fascination with apocalyptic fiction and films. He feels that zombie films and stories capture the feelings of desolation that apocalyptic fiction is predicated on. With zombie movies being like apocalyptic film, he says, “[I]nstead of being alone, there are these dead things that make it more challenging to survive in an already impossible situation.”

With so many zombie movies and stories in the world today and more being written and created every year, Tidwell thinks there are still some good zombie stories being told. He points to television shows like The Walking Dead as a litmus test proving “the subgenre is alive and well.” He does believe, however, that zombie fiction and film are beginning to mix the horrific with the comedic. “Shaun of the Dead was able to make me laugh and is still a film about a friendship and love. It’s both scary and hilarious at the same time,” he said. Tidwell says that he feels the low-budget quality of a lot of zombie movies and some of the subgenre’s reliance of straight horror is making many of those pieces of fiction fall flat. 

With that being said, Tidwell has some other opinions about his zombies. He prefers them fast and victims of a viral infection like in 28 Days Later, which he states is his favorite zombie movie. “I went to see 28 Days Later, which was being shown on the Quad lawn by Auburn University’s student organization. It blew me away and was the first fast zombie films I can remember seeing,” he recalled. “We got there just as the opening scene played, and so I felt lost as far as the plot was concerned, and the next thing I knew, I’m seeing a singular figure wake up in a hospital equally lost as to what had been happening around him. It mirrored my confusion and made a powerful connection.”   

Tidwell also stated that he likes a zombie world where there are two kinds of zombies co-existing in the same place. He said that fast zombies are “alive and victims of a virus” and that the shambling zombies are the reanimated corpses of dead fast zombies. His favorite zombie book series The Morningstar Strain brought this grim zombie worldview to his attention. “Unfortunately, the author died before he completed the series, so I’ll never know how it ends,” he stated. He prefers flesh-eating zombies over those who seek out brains, stating that brain-eating seems “campy and goofy,” but he also finds the fleshing eating “a little thin” as well. 

As a teacher, Tidwell says that he has discussed the previously mentioned film 28 Days Later when teaching about planning a production and how music can set a scene. He further stated he discusses other zombie films when talking about subgenres. 

There is nothing like a teacher who appreciates a good zombie movie, except maybe a teacher who is a zombie. The last time I checked Tracy wasn’t trying to gobble down any brains, but I wouldn’t put it past him. 

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Madness Heart Radio: Jeremy Megargee, a Short Story Master

Find our anthologies with Jeremy’s stories below!

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Talking Horror with Wytovich: Part II

Last week, my blog post was an interview with Stephanie Wytovich about her use of horror in the classroom. During the course of that interview, we discussed the importance of diverse voices in the horror genre. Today’s post is going to involve that discussion. 

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