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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Flash Fiction- The Man on the Train by London Clarke


The Man on the Train

Over the course of her lifelong search for the perfect man, Devon had learned two things: 1) There were perfect men in the world, and 2) they were not interested in her.
Those men usually went for her best friend, or they already had a girlfriend, or she just wasn’t their type. “You’re too nice,” a “perfect” guy had told her once. “I need someone who’s a little less … nice.” He wanted the bad girl. Devon had tried to be the bad girl, but it hadn’t worked out so well. Leather made her hot and itchy, and she’d nearly thrown up while sitting in a chair waiting to get a tattoo. In the end, she’d fled the scene, inkless.
She assumed this meant she was destined to be alone like her Aunt Mary, who she was on her way to visit by train this very evening.
The man sitting across from her on the train was perfect. She could tell. Maybe it was just that he looked perfect, but that was enough for the moment.  He stared out the window, his hand fisted and pressing against his chin and mouth. His brows sank low over his eyes, and his dark, curly hair hung just over the collar of his long, gray trench coat.
Devon wondered if he was traveling to Scotland, as she was. Or would he disembark at Darlington or Durham? It hardly mattered. She would never know him. She’d only have the luxury of staring at him for the few remaining hours that the train was in motion, and then they would part ways, and she’d never see him again. Wasn’t that the way it always was?
When she’d boarded the train at King’s Cross Station that evening, the train had been standing room only. Now, two hours later, the train had cleared out, and she’d taken a seat next to this heartbreakingly attractive man.
But it was Halloween, and she was on an adventure. If she’d been at home, she’d have been sitting with her flatmate in their tiny flat, eating popcorn, and watching horror films.
The train’s brakes squealed as it began to slow, and her purse fell from beside her and onto the floor. Her cell phone shot from the opening and under the seat of the gorgeous man sitting across from her.
He had not quit staring out the window, even as the train howled to a halt and stopped altogether.
Devon shifted forward. “Excuse me.”
The man turned. His dark eyes touched hers, and something in her belly flipped. Yes. Definitely perfect.
“I-I’m sorry, but my phone slid under your seat.”
Without dropping his gaze, he reached under his seat and retrieved the lost phone. He handed it to her.
“Thank you.”
He smiled a little. “We’ve stopped.”
Devon nodded, glanced out the window into the darkness. “We’re somewhere near Darlington, I think.”
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the muffled announcement reverberated through the carriage. “Due to unforeseen circumstances, we will be stopping here momentarily. Please do not leave your seats. If you are in the food car, please remain there until we give you further instructions. As soon as the situation is resolved, we hope to be on our way again shortly. Alternatively, we will move you to another train if the need arises.”
“Must be mechanical problems,” Devon said.
The stranger nodded slowly, his eyes fastened to hers. “Must be.”
Moments ticked by. The couple in the seat behind her grumbled about the delay. Everyone was in such a hurry. But she wasn’t. No, once the train was on its way again, the beautiful stranger would be that much closer to parting ways with her.
“Are you going to Edinburgh?” Devon asked.
“Not quite that far. Just to Newcastle.”
He had a low, melodious voice that rippled through her. She swallowed. The man’s dark stare was so intense. “Family there?”
“No.”
She waited, but he didn’t elaborate. Okay. Obviously, he wasn’t going to reveal much about himself.
“I’m headed to Edinburgh,” she offered. “Visiting my aunt.”
He nodded, his gaze remained fixed on her.
She looked away. Her body heated as weird, wild snippets of fantasy ran through her mind. The lights going out in the train, two strangers grappling in the dark, kissing, unclothing one another, silent writhing in the darkness. She shook her head. Where had that come from? When she glanced up again, he was still staring.
“Do you ever wonder about the safety of public transportation?” he asked. “I mean before you get on a train or a plane or a bus, do you ever stop and think—this could be the last time I do this? There could be a terrible accident. I might not make it off of this.”
“Not really.” Strange line of conversation, but she was willing to go for it. Anything to keep talking with this guy.
“Is that because you’re young?” He continued, arching a dark eyebrow. “You assume you’ll live because you’re too young to die.”
Devon shrugged, and a strange, prickly sensation prodded at her skin. “I don’t know. Maybe. How old are you?” She would have guessed he was mid-twenties. Thirty at the most.
“Older than I look.”
“Okay.” She’d never been good at determining ages anyway. It really didn’t matter how old he was. He was perfect. Whether he was twenty or forty, he still made her heart flutter.
The train began to move again, but slowly.
“We’re moving again,” Devon said, slightly disappointed. She turned back to the man, determined to maximize whatever time they had. “What do you do … for work, I mean.”
His mouth twitched into a smile. “I’m a vampire.”
Oh, ha-ha. Right. It was Halloween. Even so … wow. This guy really didn’t want her to know anything about him.
The train inched into the station, and as Devon glanced out the window, she glimpsed the sign for Darlington.
Another garbled announcement vibrated the walls of the carriage. “Passengers for Darlington, please disembark at the station. Passengers traveling on to Edinburgh, please disembark and transfer to the train on the opposite platform.”
Devon locked eyes with the vampire sitting across from her. “I guess that means we’re switching trains.”
He nodded. “Yes.”
He stood, and so did she. The back of his tall, lean body was in full view as he turned and filed down the aisle. Devon quickly followed, but when she reached the luggage receptacle, her bag jammed against another’s, and it took her a few minutes to pull it from the tight space. In the meantime, the perfect vampire had left the carriage and disappeared into the mix of people milling around the station.
She suppressed the disappointment. Now she’d have to look for him in the next train. Otherwise, so much for her shot at the perfect man.
A crowd had gathered just in front of the train, and Devon stared down the length of the platform, where police darted in and out of the last carriage, calling out orders for everyone to keep moving, stay away from the carriage car. Emergency technicians quickly followed them, and all around, the air echoed with sounds of concern.
Devon turned to a middle-aged woman standing next to her. “What happened?”
The woman stared at her. “Did you just get off that train, love?” She pointed at the door from which Devon had just exited.
Devon nodded. “Yeah.”
The woman patted her arm. “You’re that lucky.
Devon glanced again at the last carriage as two emergency techs carried two stretchers out … and were those … bodies that they were transporting, covered with sheets? “What happened?” she asked again.
The woman’s brows knitted. “I overheard one of the police say that there were four dead people on that carriage. Killed. A Halloween murder spree.” She shook her head.
Devon felt a chill run through her. A murder spree. How was that possible? On the very train she’d been sitting on moments before… talking to the perfect man.
The woman continued. “All of the bodies drained of blood.”
Devon’s breath caught in her throat. “What?” At that moment, she looked up at the train on the opposite platform. In the window of the first carriage sat her perfect man, his dark eyes staring out at her, a slight smile gracing his lips.
She found she couldn’t move until the man in the window had passed by her, and she’d missed her train.




The Meadows
Legacy of Darkness
Book One
London Clarke

Genre: Gothic suspense; supernatural thriller


Publisher: Carfax Abbey Publishing

Date of Publication: October 2018

ISBN: 9781386765233


Cover Artist: Stephen Lee Designs

Tagline: Bed, breakfast, and blood.

Book Description:

A decades-old murder. A strange, blood-thirsty cult. And a house full of spirits.

It was supposed to be a new beginning, a fresh start in the Shenandoah Valley, where Scarlett’s memories weren’t riddled with drug addiction and rehab. But after purchasing an abandoned house with a checkered past in the hopes of transforming it into a luxury bed and breakfast, strange things start to happen. Disturbing voices and noises interrupt her new life. Strangers appear to her, bearing cryptic warnings. A tunnel is discovered underneath the house—one historically used for a local cult’s rituals. After several of Scarlett’s guests are hospitalized after visiting the underground, she finds herself targeted by violent spirits.

Driven to the edge of despair, Scarlett vows to fight back—but she has no idea what she’s really battling. And her nightmare is just beginning…

The Meadows is a gripping supernatural thriller in which the monsters may be vampires, demons, or flesh and blood. It is a nightmare that will make you believe it could easily happen to you.


About the Author:


Obsessed with vampires and haunted houses from a young age, London grew up reading gothic tales featuring romantic and tragic heroes. Wuthering Heights and Dracula are her favorite novels, and although now happily married, she readily confesses that she is a recovering runaway, who once moved to England in search of a man who was the perfect amalgamation of Dracula, Hamlet, Heathcliff, and Mr. Rochester. London holds a B.A. in Music and M.F.A in Creative Writing. She’s had an eclectic array of jobs including receptionist, legal secretary, literary assistant, high school English teacher, and freelance editor.

London lives in a Washington, DC suburb with her husband and three greyhounds. She’s happiest when she’s writing novels, reading books, or binge watching her favorite programs like The Vampire Diaries or Being Human.









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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Friday the 13th 3D: 36 Years in the Making Guest Blog by Thomas S. Flowers


Friday the 13th 3D: 36 Years in the Making
Guest Blog by Thomas S. Flowers

As a horror fan I feel rather fortunate that so many of my favorite thrillers released on the year of my birth. A quick Google re-search will reveal a VHS candy store of goody gore and lovable murderers, from The Thing to Poltergeist to Halloween III (the one without Myers) to Amityville II: The Possession (the one that was like The Exorcist but with incest) to The New York Ripper to Pieces, Parasite, The Slumber Party Massacre, and... Friday the 13th...PART 3D (cue groovy disco music). And among the other entries in the franchise, PART 3D is I would say my second favorite. There are many factors that play into my rating but unless you've seen it you probably won't understand. So, do me a solid and go pop in that flayed VHS cause this review will be chopped full of SPOILERS. Readers...you have been warned!

Directed by: Steve Miner
Writing Credits:  Martin Kitrosser, Carol Watson, and Sean S. Cunningham.
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Special effects: Martin Becker
Release Date: 13 August 1982 (USA)

"Having revived from his wound, Jason Voorhees takes refuge at a cabin near Crystal Lake. As a group of co-eds arrive for their vacation, Jason continues his killing spree."

Among many reasons why I love Friday the 13th part III, one would be that it is the first true Jason Voorhees slasher. Yup. Obviously part 1 was really about mommy Voorhees, a character who wasn't even given a first name until...what, part 2? And while fantastic in its own right, it was not a "Jason" movie, not yet anyway. Now some would say, "But hey, Tommy, what about part 2? Isn't that considered a Jason Voorhees movie, it does have Jason in it after all?" And I would of course nod my head knowledgeably. Yes, part 2 does have Jason...but not the Jason. What we got was a backwoods deranged potato sack wearing weirdo who at times certainly had classic Jason mannerisms, but in the end still just an inbred acting mongoloid. Now that said, part 2 has its charm and some really excellent kills, but if you want Jason as we love him today (hockey mask and all), you gotta start with part 3.

Part 3 is also really awesome because it has what every good indie horror movie should, a cast a unrecognizable actors and actresses. While still young, parts 1 and 2 had some fairly recognizable cast members, including Kevin Bacon, John Furey (a known TV actor), Harry Crosby (son if Bing Crosby), and not to mention the late great Betsy Palmer who was one of the most veteran and highly respected actors on set. Part 3? Nadda. They didn't even have Chong, of the Cheech and Chong variety, star as the lead stoner, instead they dressed some dude named Chuck in a blue bandanna, green button down, and red pants with not quite as much weed as Up In Smoke.

I'd be amiss not to comment on what PART 3 has no other addition does. Shelly. Shelly is the best part of this movie. From humble awkward to cartoonish to a astonishingly flamboyant runner, Shelly is still by far my favorite character in the film. Sure, he fails to get the girl Vera and he's socially immature, who isn't?!? Shelly does have a few things going for him. Sweet yo-yo skills and a magic box that is literally "his entire world" full of tricks and gags to annoy the entire gang of friends, and the largest white-boy fro ever shot on a 3D film.  On a low par, I wasn't all that thrilled with leading lady Chris Higgins (Dana Kimmell).  She seemed too annoyed at times. Bored. And too drawl. The best part about her, I thought, was her really strange back story of a previous "unfilmed" encounter with Jason Voorhees. An encounter that sounded almost as if it were some kind of sexual assault. Going back to the amazing documentary
Crystal Lake Memories, actress Dana Kimmell confirms this backstory, but she says that producers did not want to pursue it in any kind of depth. This revelation is kinda dark for a Friday the 13th film as they typically follow a blood, guts, and gags methodology.

So, we've covered the more manly killing machine Jason. We got the actors. Next is the music. Harry Manfredini, who scored most of the Friday the 13's, including the original, crafted one hell of a soundtrack for this third installment. Part disco, part horror, 100% awesomeness. It is also one of the few, if not only, horror sound track to garner its own cover band by the name of Nilbog. Check them out on YouTube. Link provided below.

But like any horror slasher flick, there's gotta be a seemingly solid foundational plot. In PART 3, Chris Higgins invites a gang of friends to include a pregnant bestie (who gets slaughtered later btw...also a very dark moment for a Friday the 13th movie), two stoners, a Mexican chick, and Shelly. They met up later with lurch looking boytoy Rick (Paul Kratka). Events escalate into a series of weed smoking, beer drinking, skinny dipping, practical jokes, and heartfelt life lessons until Shelly and Vera end up pissing off a low-level biker gang. After Shelly runs over some of their motorcycles, the b-squad gang vows revenge that never really materializes. Instead, after following Shelly and Vera back to the cabin, they are quickly dispatched by Jason.

After Chris goes off with Rick to blow off some steam, the night consummates in more weed smoking and beer drinking, a sexual encounter, and Shelly in a wet suit. I know, sounds amazing doesn't it? Where does all this debauchery go? To one of the coolest kills. Once Shelly is dispatched, Jason finally obtains his moniker look by putting on the hockey mask that Shelly was so kind enough to bring along. Jeez, imagine if he brought a faded Captain Kirk mask? Talk about a lawsuit! Anyways, with Jason now complete, he causally strolls out on to the deck where a waiting Vera is fishing for Shelly's dropped wallet on the edge of the lake. He aims at her, much to her confusion, as she thinks he's Shelly. Just as she says, "Wait...who are you?" Jason pulls the trigger on the speargun popping her eye out the back of her head. Simply amazing. Its the small things folks.

More killings ensue until finally Rick and Morty...oops, Rick and Chris arrive back at the cabin. With everyone gone and blood everywhere, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to put two and two together. During the attack, ole handsome lurch Rick gets his eyeball popped out his socket, which must have been a real thrill for kids who matched this back in 1982 in 3D. And finally, Chris and Jason go toe to toe. During the struggle, one of the surviving bikers revives just to be killed again, but distracting Jason long enough for Chris to throw a noose around Jason's neck and shove him out the barn. When that proves useless, she plants an ax deep in his skull. That seems to have done the trick and as the credits roll, the cabin is surrounded by police and paramedics.

For me, my horror appetites are not hard to please. And PART 3D, given some of its flaws, is a groovy good time for a slasher flick, and especially a Friday the 13th slasher flick.




The Last Hellfighter
Thomas S. Flowers

Genre: Historical Fiction/Horror

Publisher: Darker Worlds Publishing

Date of Publication: Aug 10, 2018

ISBN: 1724369202

ASIN: B07FFND86J

Number of pages: 277 (Kindle)
410 (paperback)

Word Count: 78K

Cover Artist: Michael Bray

Tagline: They thought vampires were fantasy. They were wrong.

Book Description:

In the year 2044, reporters from the Public Relations Ministry gather at the home of Benjamin Harker, the last surviving member of the Harlem Hellfighters. At the age of 144, he is the oldest recorded man alive. Hidden among them, Clyde Bruner is looking for a different kind of story. Across the United States, despite the Great Walls and patrol drones built to keep America secure, something has found its way in. And now towns are vanishing during the night. Entire populations, gone. Only to return after the sun sets, changed, unholy, and lethal. And whatever this evil is, its spreading west.

According to a bedtime story Bruner’s grandfather told him when he was a boy, Benjamin Harker has seen this before. He’s faced this scourge. Fought this evil. Survived them. Killed them. From the trenches of the Great War to the jungles of Vietnam to the sands of Iraq, Harker will search his past to save our future.

But as each city light extinguishes across the country, is there no time left to stop what’s coming?


Excerpt:

“Hey, Mr. Green. Any ships due in tonight?”
“Huh?” the older man grunted, his full attention glued to the small box television set. Family Feud was on and Silas never missed an episode. As long as Julius had worked with him at least, in these past four months on the night shift, the seasoned longshoreman who acted very content with his life—who moved slow and never liked causing “trouble,” as he called it, to his superiors, could recite the most complex trivia questions.
Julius looked back to his monitor. Part of his job was to watch for ships that may have wandered off course, or even scheduled docks on the quay. The program displayed on his monitor was linked to AIS Marine database that monitored all vessel traffic around the world. He kept the screen displaying his assigned port—which showed a few red, which meant docked and inactive. The one that concerned him was another ship, inbound and blinking green.
“Mr. Green?” Julius pressed. 
The older black man sighed loudly, turning away from his small TV screen. “What? Why the hell would—listen son, you can’t let this job spook you. Working nights on the dock, I know, the long hours can get to you. But trust me, this sure beats working days out in that sun all day offloading ships.”
“But look,” the younger longshoreman pointed his screen.
Frowning, Silas rolled his chair over to the computer monitor. The green blinking ship reflected off his thick glasses. He pushed them back up on his nose, “That ain’t nothing, probably just a glitch in the system.”
Julius looked at the screen and then out the large window that overlooked the Port of Jerusalem. He’d just moved to town not more than six months prior from Bangor and he wanted to make a good impression.
“Okay,” the younger man said.
Silas nodded in quiet victory and rolled back over to watch his show.
Julius continued glaring at the blinking green ship as it approached the port on the screen. He swallowed hard as it inched closer and closer. He glanced at the old man as he howled at some man on the TV having missed a question that Silas thought was a “no brainer.”  On the monitor, the green blinking ship was upon them. Beads of sweat dripped down his forehead.
Closer.
And closer.
“Mr. Green, I don’t think is a glitch,” Julius protested.
Exhaling loudly, Silas stood and turned. “Listen, young blood, I’ve been doing this job for twenty years and I’ve never heard of no ship coming in that wasn’t on the manifest.”
Julius shrugged. “Yeah, but…” he gestured to the screen.
“There is no ship coming—”
Just outside, a large wave crashed against the port levee walls. A thunderous metallic screech vibrated off the walls of the little trailer office on the wharf. Manuals and notebooks and ship logs fell from the shelves as the ground itself felt as if it was opening. The small TV still playing Family Feud rattled off the table and crashed to the floor, sizzling out. The florescent bulbs above them burst raining shards of glass and casting the room into a yellow gloom. The horrendous grinding seemed to go on forever, shaking and shuddering the world.
And then it was over.
Silas Green was the first to prop himself off the floor. Looking around cautiously, as if any wrong move would send the world into chaos again.
Julius propped himself up, moving into a crouch. He peeked through the blinds. “What the heck was that?”
“Shit!” the older man hissed.
Julius glanced over his shoulder at him. “What? You okay?”
Silas held up what remained of his TV. “No, damn tube is busted.”
Shaking his head, Julius peered back out the blinds. “I think we should go check the dock.” He stood, not waiting for approval and went through the door of the office.
“Hold on, young blood.” Silas gave the TV a final kiss—he’d had the device for more years than he cared to confess, and then set it down on the floor as gently as he could. Standing, he opened the bottom drawer of his desk and retrieved a flashlight.
Outside, Silas trotted to catch up with Julius who was standing at the edge of the wharf looking up into the gloom.
“Somethings out there,” the young man said.
Silas wafted the fog around his head. “Can’t see shit out here.”
“Use the flashlight,” Julius suggested without taking his gaze from in front of him.
“Oh,” Silas grunted, flicking on the switch. A beam of bright white broke apart the misty smoke like haze. He shined out toward the wharf and at first still could not see anything. And then the fog parted as if controlled by some unknown force, separating and unfolding around a large cargo ship.
Silas traced the hull to the edge of the ship deck. “Mother of God,” he whispered, taken back by the sudden massive size of the ship. He’d never been this close to one. The larger vessels normally dock at Freeport. 
Julius stepped toward him, asking, “What do we do?”
The older man couldn’t think—this wasn’t on the schedule, the ship manifest, nothing. This ship shouldn’t be here. The harbourmaster would have said something. Hell, his superintendent would have damn sure said something. It would have been on the log. Silas moved the beam of light to the wharf itself, noting the broken shards of rock in the thick cement and the thick crack in the hull of the ship. It was taking on water for sure—it hadn’t even bothered slowing down. It ploughed into the quay. But why? Wasn’t there someone steering this damn thing? This wasn’t right. Something about this—everything about this wasn’t right.
“Mr. Green?” Julius pressed, whispering hotly.
Silas looked at him, the kid was rattled; he was rattled. He took a deep breath. “Okay, listen, I’m going to call this in—pray the lines in the office are still operating. Here, take the flashlight.” He handed it to Julius. “Stay put, yell out if you see anyone. Some dumbass is going to pay bigtime for this screwup and it ain’t going to be you or me.”
He gave one final glance at the monstrous freighter and started off for the office. Inside, he could use the phone on the floor. He scooped it up and dialed his supervisor.
“Green, there better be a good fucking reason why you’re calling me at—” Silas’s superintendent started through the speaker of the phone.
“A ship crashed into the port,” Silas blurted.
“What?”
“A ship, some damn cargo ship. Large motherfucker.”
“Are you fucking with me?”
“No, I ain’t fucking with you, sir. A cargo ship crashed into the port, took a good-sized chunk out of our wharf too.”
“Was it on the manifest?”
“No—that’s what I’m saying. This ship ain’t supposed to be—”
A scream from outside on the dock jarred Silas from the phone.
“Julius, what the hell was that?”
“Green, what’s going on?” his superintendent asked, sounding more and more irritated.
Silence.
“Green?”
“Hold on, sir.” Silas set down the phone, ignoring the muffled protest from his superintendent on the line. He glared at the open door and crept toward it. There were no other sounds, and he didn’t like that one bit.
Stepping outside he called, “Julius?”
It was hard to see through the fog as it rolled across the walkway.
Silas squinted, peering through the gloom turned yellow by the glow of the dock lights. “Julius, what’s going on?” he called to the dark shape in front of him.
And then he heard it.
A sucking sound.
He stopped.
The dark shape unfolded.
The fog parted slightly, revealing a tall, bald woman with pale skin. Her eyes burned red. She was looking at him with an expression of mild satisfaction, the look of a thirsty soul finally getting a cup of water. She was holding Julius, cradling him almost as if they were dancing.
“Who are—” Silas started, until he saw her teeth, her large fanged front teeth, salivating in blood. He took a step back as she let Julius go. His body crumbled to the wet dock.
“No,” Silas managed to say, like a child refusing to go to bed.

And then she was upon him. 

About the Author:


Who doesn't love a good story? Thomas's favorite books include All Quiet on the Western Front, Salem's Lot, and Hell House.

In his own writings, he aspires to create fantastic worlds with memorable characters and haunted places. His stories range from Shakespearean gore, classic monster tales, and even stories that hurt him the most to write about, haunted soldiers and PTSD. Residing in the swamps of Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter, Thomas's debut novel, Reinheit, was eventually published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with Lanmò, The Hobbsburg Horror, FEAST, Beautiful Ugly, and Planet of the Dead.

His veteran focused paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Series, filled with werewolves, Frankenstein-inspired monsters, cults, alter-dimensional insects, witches, and the undead are published with Limitless Publishing.

In 2008, Thomas was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served three tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston-Clear Lake with a Bachelors in History. He is the senior editor at Machine Mean, a site that reviews horribly awesome and vintage horror movies and books from guest contributors who obsess over a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics.






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The Last Hellfighter by Thomas S. Flowers - Haunted Halloween Spooktacular


Them! (1956)
Guest Blog By Thomas S. Flowers

The most foreboding title among the horror and science fiction lexicon, besides perhaps IT or They (which is just a cheap knockoff of the more impressive film we're about to discuss), is the 1954 masterpiece known as Them! Among the many different creature features, be it swamp critters or critters from space or super mutant hybrids, bugs freak me out the most. As defined by the omnipotent Wikipedia, "Entomophobia (also known as insectophobia) is a specific phobia characterized by an excessive or unrealistic fear of one or more classes of insect and classified as a phobia by the DSM-5. More specific cases included apiphobia (fear of bees) and myrmecophobia (fear of ants)." Now, that being said...I think my "fear" can be measured by mass. The smaller the insect, the less I get "freaked out." Hence, small little pests like flies and mosquitoes are simply put...pests, easily swatted or shooed away. But on the other spectrum, the bigger they get, the more I'm opted to run away screaming. If someone were to make a monster movie with the intention of provoking the mass amount of fear from yours truly, Them! would be the quintessential experience of terror.

But it cannot be done in a silly way. If you want a serious reaction, the movie will need to have a serious undertone. Them! is a perfect example of this. As a fan of most dubbed "classics," basically timeless pieces of cinematic history, be it 1930s or 40s or 50s or 60s or even those in the Silent Era, I took double pleasure in the fact that this now 63-year-old movie can still capture that tension, that wonderful feeling of dread so fantastically. Them!, not too sound too fan-girlish, is utterly amazing. By modern standards, Them! easily tops what producers consider to be blockbusters in not just storytelling and characterization, but also special effects. It makes me curious what original audiences thought when they first sat in their parked fin-tailed red and chrome Chrysler's at the local drive-in, WITHOUT having been desensitized by years of modern computer-generated graphics.

Alas, those day's are gone forever.

All we can do now is cherish the time we had.

Sad.

Well...

For those who have not had the pleasure, here is a quick synopsis of Them! from IMDb:

"The earliest atomic tests in New Mexico cause common ants to mutate into giant man-eating monsters that threaten civilization."

Boom. You don't really need anything more than that, do you? Needless to say, IMDb isn't wrong. In a nut shell, those are the stakes. A mutated strain of ants are multiplying in the New Mexico desert and could very well threaten civilization. And not just any mutated ant species, but a mutation of the Cataglyphis genus, better known as Desert Ants. These sand dwellers are among the most aggressive of ant. The perfect bugs to supersize for a horror/science fiction movie, right?

One of the fun aspects of Them! is how the movie starts off and is treated more or less throughout the entirety as a "detective" story. The movie opens with a patrol car doing their normal patrol and pickup a little girl, no more than six years old, strolling through the desert alone dressed in a nightgown and cradling a broken doll. They try talking to her but she is catatonic, speechless, staring blankly out at the brown sand. That feeling of dread we talked about begins to weave slowly into the movie and as the policemen investigate a nearby trailer, finding it mostly destroyed, pulled apart from the outside (they deduce) the tension builds even further.

The next scene certainly adds to not only the mystery but also the horror when police sergeant Ben Peterson's (played by the very awesome James Whitmore) partner "disappears" off screen investigating a strange sound. He get's off a couple of shots and then screams, that kind of scream that sends chills down your spine. The sound the officer investigates permeates throughout the entire movie. A familiar nature melody for anyone living in suburbia or out in the country. The sound of cicada or crickets singing in trees or in tall grass. Come summer, that sound is still quite pleasant to me, despite this film's attempt to ruin it. Though, there is a lingering feeling of "what's really making that sound? Are they, Them! watching me?"

And I love how, despite the excellent movie art on the  poster, knowing there will be giant ants in this movie, the story stalls the BIG reveal, forgive the pun, until the absolute right moment. And that moment, much how the newly brought on character, FBI agent, Robert Graham (played by man's man James Arness), to its frustrating conclusion through the "comic relief" of sorts Professor Harold Medford (played by Santa himself Edmund Gwenn) and his "if a boy can do it a girl can do it too" daughter Dr. Patrica Medford (Joan Weldon). The Dr. Medord's are not really that comedic, the old man is sort of how we might think brilliant old men are, a tad absent minded to every day tasks, but a genius in their preferred fields of study. And the female Dr. Medford, despite her strong grace of femininity, wasn't overpowering or preachy. She was meek but smart and willing to go places most men wouldn't dare go. In a decade before feminism really took off in America, it's hard to place the purpose of her character. Regardless, I was and am very pleased with her performance, second to her father perhaps, how she was not the ditsy romance how most other movies place actresses. Harold may have been love struck, but everyone else called her Pat, a genderless name, and I prefer it that way.

The reveal was perfect, as I said. A sandstorm kicks up and everyone's goggled and stumbling around for clues. Somehow Pat get's separated from the group. That chilling buzzing, ringing, clicking cicada sound starts again, getting louder and louder, and everyone is looking around wondering what that noice is and where it's coming from. Above Pat on a dune, emerges a large black head with giant orb eyes long furry antenna and large sharp looking mandibles. She screams, alerting the others who begin opening fire, destroying the ant's antenna (to the suggestion of Dr. Medford). The ant is killed and while the others are staring at this impossible horror, Dr. Medford makes a statement, the inspiration and message of the entire movie, I think. He says, "We may be witnesses to a Biblical prophecy come true - 'And there shall be destruction and darkness come upon creation, and the beasts shall reign over the earth.'" He says something very similar towards the end of the movie, stating, "When Man entered the atomic age, he opened a door into a new world. What we'll eventually find in that new world, nobody can predict."

The Atomic Age...

Full of sparking large logos and flashy gadgets and a new generation of fast food and drive-in theaters and modern jazz and rock-in-roll, but this was also an era of uncertainty. Hiroshima and Nagasaki awakened something in humanity. Something more than just awes and dread. Something darker and more pious than religion. The Atomic Age was this new fear of the bomb. Uncertainty over world powers, the growth of the Cold War, and a horizon in modern science to which many did not understand. Not knowing is the greatest fear of all, at least according to H.P. Lovecraft. The Atomic Age also gave birth to this very feature we find ourselves enjoying (hopefully), the birth of unnatural monsters such as Godzilla and Them! Better known as Creature Features.

Them! acts as a cautionary tale. Be warned, what will await us on the other side of the door. Will science bring upon us destruction and darkness? Will man's ignorance? Them! isn't about the dangers of real giant bugs, it’s about consequences. That in everything we do or strive to bring about, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, as Newton had once said. Its a message every new generation hears, right? Cautionary warnings from the old folks rocking on the porch, talking about how things used to be.

The rest of Them! takes on that similar detective story we were introduced to in the beginning. They hunt down the hive and destroy the giant ants with poison, only to discover a few queens had escaped prior. Now the once localized investigation turns into a global event. Hush hush, of course, to avoid widespread panic, the team with the added benefit of the military and select government officials quickly work to destroy Them! But the movie doesn't end like some monster movies with the creatures being destroyed...there is a feeling of uncertainty, astute given the era, and we are left wondering if perhaps there are more giant mutated ants out in the desert thanks to atomic weaponry. And as Dr. Wedford said, "nobody can predict."



The Last Hellfighter
Thomas S. Flowers

Genre: Historical Fiction/Horror

Publisher: Darker Worlds Publishing





Date of Publication: Aug 10, 2018

ISBN: 1724369202
ASIN: B07FFND86J

Number of pages: 277 (Kindle)
410 (paperback)

Word Count: 78K

Cover Artist: Michael Bray

Tagline: They thought vampires were fantasy. They were wrong.

Book Description:

In the year 2044, reporters from the Public Relations Ministry gather at the home of Benjamin Harker, the last surviving member of the Harlem Hellfighters. At the age of 144, he is the oldest recorded man alive. Hidden among them, Clyde Bruner is looking for a different kind of story. Across the United States, despite the Great Walls and patrol drones built to keep America secure, something has found its way in. And now towns are vanishing during the night. Entire populations, gone. Only to return after the sun sets, changed, unholy, and lethal. And whatever this evil is, its spreading west.

According to a bedtime story Bruner’s grandfather told him when he was a boy, Benjamin Harker has seen this before. He’s faced this scourge. Fought this evil. Survived them. Killed them. From the trenches of the Great War to the jungles of Vietnam to the sands of Iraq, Harker will search his past to save our future.

But as each city light extinguishes across the country, is there no time left to stop what’s coming?



About the Author:


Who doesn't love a good story? Thomas's favorite books include All Quiet on the Western Front, Salem's Lot, and Hell House.

In his own writings, he aspires to create fantastic worlds with memorable characters and haunted places. His stories range from Shakespearean gore, classic monster tales, and even stories that hurt him the most to write about, haunted soldiers and PTSD. Residing in the swamps of Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter, Thomas's debut novel, Reinheit, was eventually published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with Lanmò, The Hobbsburg Horror, FEAST, Beautiful Ugly, and Planet of the Dead.

His veteran focused paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Series, filled with werewolves, Frankenstein-inspired monsters, cults, alter-dimensional insects, witches, and the undead are published with Limitless Publishing.

In 2008, Thomas was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served three tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston-Clear Lake with a Bachelors in History. He is the senior editor at Machine Mean, a site that reviews horribly awesome and vintage horror movies and books from guest contributors who obsess over a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics.






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