Charly says always tell…


It has been 6 years since Charlie went missing. I don’t think many people miss him.

I was interviewed by the police endlessly at the time, but when police busted in his dormitory door, and discovered two Glock 34s and a manifesto detailing his desire to end “all the bitches, whores, sluts and undesirables” who had made his life so difficult the day after he vanished was enough to mute any sympathy for the missing 21 year old.

I had had a hard time convincing the police that I knew nothing of the potential crimes, or of his disappearance, but as a search of my own room had turned up nothing in either case, and the weeks stretched to months with no sign of Charlie, I was let go, although I felt a particular sense of being watched for the next two years or so.

Maybe this document will vindicate those tireless, irritating cops who knew that I knew something else; that I had more to tell. Because of course I did. I couldn’t say with absolute certainty what had happened to him, but I knew enough to keep me awake and sweating at nights, and enough for the more perceptive investigators to sense it and shadow me.

Something else shadowed me through those long months. Readers may come away from this story thinking it little more than my own guilty dread, but I have seen the woman again, standing on the corner of Robie and Quinpool, and I know that she sees me too.

My hands sweat as I type this. Let me return for a moment to Charlie, and more mundane horrors.

I had known Charlie since I was six years old. We like to pretend that we choose our friends, and that certainly becomes easier as we age, but for children accidents of proximity take precedence over almost anything else.

He wasn’t repulsive then, not yet. Certainly as he grew into a teenager there was an arrogance there, born out of the fact that he was very clever, at least academically, but many would have said the same thing about me at the time – many still do – but the true ugliness emerged among the ravages of puberty.

There are obvious exceptions of course, but the poisonous chalice of hormones that ravage a small boy’s (and girl’s!) body do have some unpleasant side-effects. Myself, I could not stop squeaking for a solid two years, and frequent eruptions on my nose and chin plagued me well into my twenties. Charlie, however, was something else. There’s a kind of acne that looks almost diseased, turning the skin a darkish purple and mottled. I thank the stars every day that I was not affected as badly, but Charlie was not so lucky.

It was then we had our first rude awakening to how the world works. Every piece of media aimed towards children emphasises that it’s “what’s on the inside that counts”, but in the cruel, closed world of High School, that noble lie is trampled into the dust. We weren’t bullied, as such – there was no single perpetrators, but those who have been through a similar experience will know of that miasma of unfocused hate that teenagers direct towards their social inferiors. If you explained it to them, the caste system of pre-modern India would seem a perfectly reasonable analogue.

I have never thought of myself as a realist, but all of this seemed perfectly obvious to me, even at the time. Charlie, someone who approached the world as he thought it should be, lived in the semi-delusional belief that rather than being at the bottom, we were at the top. We certainly were academically, but by any other bar we ranked somewhere near the kids with learning disabilities. He even convinced himself that romantically there was no one at the school “worth bothering with”. The fact that this was a reaction to none of them bothering with him seemed to have been swept under the rug.

I had grown apart from him in my later school years, and by the time I graduated I seemed, by luck rather than by design, to have stripped most of the unnameable, undesirable qualities that I had apparently possessed. I even had a girlfriend, a sweet, timid girl who I loved spending time with.

Charlie, however, still seemed to be stuck in a holding pattern. Whatever had allowed me to break from the loop had not broken him, and I found him an increasingly bitter individual to be around. He had begun to rail, in a way that was to become familiar, against the women around him – abandoning his former position of aloof non-interest to an angry, cynical view of those he went to High School with. I wondered what had changed him, and eventually a girl we had both known for some time admitted that she had had to gently rebuff him and this hadn’t gone well.

I suppose, in our own ways, we had wanted university to be a fresh start. I had broken up with my girlfriend amicably, and was eager and excited to meet new people at Acadia. I had learned that I had to share a sink with another person in the next room, but was delighted to discover that I had my own space.

Charlie had jealously guarded his applications from me, despite the fact I didn’t care, and on the day I moved in I found out why. He was in the room next to me, and we had to share a sink. I friendship had fallen a long way – I felt a twinge of revulsion at the idea.

He acted like nothing had changed, and while he was a good guy to game with at other times he was extremely difficult to be around. He held forth long winded rants on any and every subject, ridiculing those of us who dared disagree with him. His ego grew to gigantic heights, as he declared himself a genius and started calling those of us who disagreed “poor, deluded fools”. He was a rampant conspiracy theorist.

Obviously this alienated anyone I brought back, and new guy friends I coached carefully or went and hung out at their place. With girls, there was no question of bringing them back. At best, he was a figure of fun among my friends and course mates, but for me there was less and less humour with every passing day. He was an active nuisance.

As his ego grew, his attention to his appearance and cleanliness fell away. He had never been a skinny kid, as opposed to me who had always looked like a recovering heroin addict, but a poor diet of kebabs and fried chicken swelled him to an enormous size over the course of a few months.

Worse though was the smell. An adolescence spent in a crowded school had taught me the value of deodorant and regular bathing, but the lesson had been lost on Charlie. A stale, rank odour hung in the air between our rooms, solidifying into a tangible taste in his room itself. After a few months I stopped going in there, and stopped inviting people around altogether. The ones who knew, understood.

People often wonder at my strange hobby of burning incense, assuming it’s an affectation with a whiff of cultural appropriation, but in truth I now work best with something burning nearby simply because there was no other way to work in my tiny dorm room.

He sometimes came out with us. Those occasions I dreaded the most, because he inevitably invited himself and covered himself in some foul-smelling cologne. The trouble was, this was the time that social media had only just taken off, so hiding events and parties from him was tricky.

He was rude, difficult, whiny, abrasive, offensive and unpleasant.

It was on one of these occasions, buoyed up by one too many beers, that I finally told Charlie to fuck off. I had endured him for over a decade and I was done with him.

He moved out a week after that.

I didn’t see Charlie for eighteen months.


It was the middle of finals week in my second year that I saw Charlie again. I almost didn’t recognize him. He was sharply dressed, and had shaved his head and beard. He had lost a ton of weight, and then seemed to have put some of it back on as muscle. He looked almost, well, normal. At least until he opened his mouth.

“Good morning! And how are you?”

He had caught me by surprise, and now held one of my hands in a death grip. He talked like a politician. I responded that I was fine. Something seemed off.

“Excellent, Excellent. Still skinny I see!”

With that he grabbed at my forearm, and I instinctively pulled away. What was going on here? There had been a harsh glimmer in his eyes as he’d spoken, followed by another faceless grin. As he’d said it his line of sight had momentarily flickered to a group of girls stood nearby. I had a sneaking suspicion that this conversation was for their benefit.

“Listen.” he put an arm around me, and there was that cologne again. “We’re friends. I want to help you out.”

I was still too shell-shocked from his barrage that I didn’t come out with some snarky comeback. I just nodded, wondering what he could help me with.

“I’ve got to run, but there’s a book you should read. I’ll drop it around your dorm tomorrow.”

With that he let go, and sauntered off. Absurdly, he had a cane that he twirled. I didn’t know how I hadn’t noticed it.

Later that evening, I returned to my dorm to find a book propped up against the door. There was no note, but I had no doubts as to who it was from. I picked it up, and it took a few seconds to work out what it was.

A few weeks before, one of my less romantically successful friends had been talking to us about something he called ‘game’. He’d been reading some stuff online, and thought that these guides on ‘picking up’ would help him out. We’d laughed at him then, and Bear had first tousled his hair and then set him up on a date with a girl from one of his labs. They had got on like a house on fire and John hadn’t mentioned it again.

This however, looked similar. I read it over the next three days. It was a strange mixture of sound advice about personal hygiene and appearance, solid confidence boosters, truly bizarre ‘pick up’ techniques and a couple of things that in retrospect sounded suspiciously close to date rape.

He called me a week later, almost breathless with excitement.

“Did you read it?”

I confirmed that I had, and was about to voice some concerns when he interrupted.

“Well then, let’s hit the town! I’ll be round about eight.”

I went that night, more out of a sense of genuine curiosity than anything else. We hit a bar first, and as we went in Charlie silently indicated a group of girls at the bar. I hung back at first, just watching. He went up and, to my astonishment, pulled a bunch of fake flowers from his wrist. The girls laughed, delighted, and before long I had joined them around a large table. There was one girl in particular I really liked the look of, and she returned my shy smile with one of her own. Meanwhile Charlie was regaling the table with stories of our school days, most of which never happened.

The shift was subtle, but I could feel it when he started to lose the room. Under the nice clothes and the muscles there remained a tiresome blowhard, and he interrupted the other girls when they tried to speak. Eventually, I went to pee, and when I came back they were filing out of the door. I did run into the shy girl again some time later, though. We had a little boy last June.

Charlie didn’t understand what had happened. He had followed the rules proscribed, and yet still wasn’t getting anywhere. He sat down heavily, and to my astonishment, started crying right there and then. It all came tumbling out. He was still a virgin. The book hadn’t helped. He was going to die a virgin, and he had been a perfect gentlemen and they only wanted assholes, so fuck them and he would have his revenge.

I put it down to drunken rambling, but that last phrase still haunts me to this day.


I didn’t see him again for another six months. I didn’t think he was dangerous, not then, but I didn’t want to be around him. Chloe had got the full story out of me on our third official date, and felt sorry for him, but my pity and my patience was through. He had put up a facade, and that facade had cracked and revealed the ugliness beneath. Maybe one day he would grow up, but for now, I was done.

The same as before, he got in contact with me. He cornered me when he saw me going into a shop. He asked me if I was still dating ‘that bitch from the bar’, and it took an incredible amount of restraint for me to not hit him. There was something off about him, an anger covered with placidity that frightened me. I said yes.

He told me with a sickly smile that he still wanted revenge on those girls, and all the other girls at the university. I didn’t know what this meant at the time, but now I do I still shiver when I think about it. He had met someone online, he told me, an older woman, who agreed with his plans. He had apparently let his heart out to this stranger, and been responded to in kind.

The day after he met up with her for the first time was even stranger. He knocked on my door almost absent-mindedly, and seemed vaguely distant the whole time. He even seemed this way when I asked about his date.

“She’s … wonderful.” he said, in a singsong voice. “I’m seeing her tonight.” His head turned slowly to the window.“I should be going.”

He left, and as far as I told the police, that was the last time I saw him. I was apparently one of the last – there are a few witnesses who saw him get on the bus and get off on Quinpool, but other than that, nothing.

I lied to the police. The true story of what happened that night, insofar as I know it, is as follows.

Something was seriously wrong with Charlie. That much was obvious, but at the same time I had no idea how he would react to me following him on his date.

It was cold outside, so I bundled myself up and pulled the hood on my jacket as far forward as it would go. I lurked in the shadows near the bus stop, and slipped on just before it pulled away. Charlie had gone upstairs. I followed him.

The stairs came out around a third of the way down the bus, and to my relief I spotted Charlie in front of them, facing forward. My cover wasn’t blown yet. I stared at the back of his head the whole way, and he didn’t move once. Eventually, when the bus lurched to a stop, he stood and, still with that dreamy look on his face, headed down the stairs. I waited a few seconds, and then followed.

By the time I got off he was some distance down the street, talking to a woman. She caressed his face, and to my surprise, wasn’t wearing gloves or anything on her sleeves. She was very pale, and very tall. She put a hand on his back, and as they turned to walk away, she looked down the street straight at me. Instantly I knew that while Charlie might still be oblivious, she knew what I had done. The look, a terrifying, penetrating look from two black pools, was one of almost idle curiosity. And then, they swept off, and were around a corner before I recovered.

I ran, and slipped, and ran again, reaching the corner to see Charlie being ushered into a boarded up house. The woman had her back to me, and she followed him in.

It was by now almost completely dark. Street lamps buzzed and came on as a crept up to the house. I stepped over a waist high fence and looked through the cracks in the shutters.

A single streetlamp behind me served to illuminate the gloom. I saw Charlie standing, facing the window, and the woman sultrily stepped behind him. There was a strange, shifting quality to her now, and as she left the light she seemed to be taller still.

A few seconds passed, and then something large and bulky got between Charlie and the window. The street light still shone, and it illuminated something black and scaly at my eye level. I could hear the woman talking now, a low level hissing sound that froze my blood. She was angry, and the bulk in front of my eyes swayed slowly from side to side.

It was only when it moved completely that the truth dawned on me. The black scaly thing blocking my eyes and the woman were one and the same. I fell at that, and only through youthful stupidity (masquerading as willpower) did I force myself back to the window.

Charlie was stood, alone in the room. He still had that dreamy expression his face, lolled to one side, but the strange purple lips and bloody drool suggested he was dead.

The woman, or whatever it was, was nowhere to be seen, at least at first. A pair of hands with white insectile fingers appeared out of the gloom and placed themselves on Charlie’s shoulders. He collapsed slowly, as if whatever had killed him had made him rigid and immobile. The creature bent over him, and cooed softly, a long black tail curling around his body.

Oh my dear. My poor dear. You will feed my sisters who cannot yet stray from the nest. But, my love, what shall we do about the one outside? Time, my dear, time. We must give it time to mature.




When I received the telegram from Sir Walter Hawthorne, I must confess I was surprised. We had had some short acquaintance in during the Great War, both serving on the staff of General, now Viscount, Byng, and as far as I had remembered we had shared little in common, despite our roles as medical professionals in a war that made a mockery of such.

There was one thing, however. Both of us had expressed an interest in so-called spiritualism – although as I recalled, his studies had taken a far more occult bent than my own more casual dabbling. It was to this his telegram alluded:

My dear Julian (our acquaintance had obviously meant more to him!)

I have reached a critical point in my studies and require some help to make the next stage a success. Please attend as soon as able.



I considered his request carefully, but having no patients in the immediate future, at least none that could not be put off. I packed my suitcases, left instructions for the housekeeper, and headed up into the wilder reaches of the Annapolis Valley.

As the motor car rattled northwards, I tried to remember what little I knew of Sir Walter. He was married, certainly, and I remember distinctly the impression that she was a foreigner of some kind, due to vague references he had made. More definite was his daughter – his face had lit up when he talked about her and he had even had shown me a wrinkled browning photograph of a stern looking girl in a floral dress.

The girl stuck in my memory because of a peculiarity of her features. She was not an ugly child, but a certain elongation of her face leant her eyes a strange look. I would have put it down to her foreign parentage if I had not seen mixed race children on my travels. If her mother was some form of foreigner, I had no idea from where she came.

The other oddity was the picture itself. It was the fashion in those days for the picture of a child to be fully in the picture, or else a close-up of the face. This was neither, and instead there was the upper half of the child in the lower half of the picture and an eternity of brown space above her head. This was more easily explained, however. Sir Walter had clearly taken the picture himself, and as an inexperienced amateur, had not framed her in it correctly.

Eventually the road gave way to a rutted track, and then a sharp right turn up a steep driveway brought me to Sir Walter’s abode. It was a handsome house of Georgian vintage, with high windows and a certain solidity of structure houses of that era possess. After passing dozens of farmsteads that could be described as little more than shacks, the house was a reassuring sight, and I at once pictured a roaring fireplace and a hearty meal.

When Sir Walter answered the door himself, something felt amiss. He was a man of considerable means, and therefore answering his own door must have been an eccentricity rather than a necessity. There didn’t appear to be any other staff around either.

As I stepped over the threshold, I was immediately hit by a wave of heat. Instead of the relief I expected, I almost staggered and gagged. This was not the heat of a fire – it was a wet, almost tangible thing, that stifled the air and filled it with a smell not unlike rotting fruit. As I stepped into the kitchen there seemed to be no source for this miasma. It was foul.

It even seemed to bother Sir Walter a little, and he mopped his brow as he led me towards an armchair. When we sat, I properly examined my old wartime companion for the first time.

He was a stooped, quiet man, who owed his title more to ancestral fortune than to any merit on his part. A shock of grey hair shot out from each temple, and to my astonishment I noticed he was wearing rubber boots. He was nervous, and avoided eye contact with me. Instead he removed his spectacles, repeatedly rubbing at them and putting them back. After a few minutes of this – he standing, I sitting, to add to the awkward atmosphere – he seemed to focus on me properly for the first time.

“Well, Julian, shall we begin?”

At this a certain degree of anger hit me. He had dragged me up to his house with little to no explanation, and now was expecting me to proceed in a matter I knew nothing about!

“Look, Sir Walter (he waved his hand at this as if the title meant little), I have driven a long way with little to no rest, and I believe the very least I am owed is an explanation for why I am here.”

He crumpled at that. He suddenly looked very old, and very tired. He indicated towards the mantle.

“I…” He stopped and composed himself. “I wish to see Cynthie again.”

On the mantle was a copy of the same photograph I had seen years before, beautifully framed and lined with black velvet.

I regretted my anger immediately. My own spiritualism had withered in the face of too many frauds, but obviously his had not, He had contacted me in the hopes of conversing with the dead.

“I’m terribly sorry, Walter. I had no idea.”

“She’s with her mother now.” he said, and there was a strange hint of malice in his voice as well as grief. “But with your help, I hope that tonight I will see her again.”

He had become distant again, so I stood and indicated that he should lead on.

He led me down into a cavernous basement. It was from here that I realised the smell was coming from, as some glutinous mixture of enzymes covered the entire floor. He indicated that I should put on another pair of rubber boots he had at the top of the stairs.

Down at the bottom the smell was almost intolerable. I had spoken to a handful of people who had the misfortune to inhale mustard gas and this was similar to how they described the sensation. It seemed to cling to my very clothes, and penetrated into the furthest reaches of my sinuses. There was something else to it now, something worse than rotting fruit. Something … burnt.

In the centre of the room a small platform was raised, and on it, arcane symbols had been carefully drawn out in chalk. I had seen some of them before, in books I dare not mention, but others were unfamiliar to me. I examined them for a few minutes, before Sir Walter busied me away from it.

“No, no, no. You stand here.”

He indicated a spot on the far side of the cellar. Here I was far from both the platform and the curious array of equipment that Sir Walter went back to adjusting. He switched on an electric spotlight above the platform, and plunged the rest of the basement into pitch black.

“In a moment,” he cried out, “I will run a current through the substrate on the floor. Whatever you do, don’t touch it.”

I affirmed that I understood, and he flipped the switch. There was a buzzing of an enormously powerful generator, and around the platform a sickly glow, lit by flashes and sparks, spread from the liquid. It glowed, to the extent that I could see Sir Walter’s grim face by his machinery, concentrating intently on the centre of the room. This went on for what seemed like several minutes, and I was just about to yell that Sir Walter had better power down or risk burning out his equipment, movement caught my eye at the edge of the illumination.

Into the spotlight stepped Sir Walter’s daughter. Cynthie had grown into a young woman, with thick black hair cascading down her front. Her eyes were closed, and I thanked god in that moment that they were, for as she stepped forward again, the rest of her body came into view.

From the waist up she was normal, or at the very least, human. She was naked, and her long hair preserved her modesty. Her hands were clasped in front of her in a mockery of prayer. From the waist down, there was something … else. She had not come fully onto the platform yet, and I could only see a hint of a scaly blackness below her waist.

Two giant arachnid forelegs came out in front of her, and pulled her snake-like rear fully onto the platform. I shrieked in that moment, and she opened her eyes and stared at me curiously with fully human eyes. Below her waist her limbs moved again, and four insectile legs clasped the edges of the platform, supporting the bulk of what was behind. Dear God! No wonder he had taken the photograph in such a way!

She turned from me and looked at Sir Walter.

“Father.” she said, silky smooth and without a hint of affection.

“Cynthie!” he said, stepping forward.

The final horror came as a shadow detached itself from the wall behind me, and moved around the edge of the room with inhuman speed. I never saw it clearly, but as Sir Walter reached towards his daughter, something foul and insectile reached around and lifted him clear off the floor and spun him around.

A dozen eyes glittered in the darkness. Thus far I was rooted to the spot, but the final thing that sent me careening from that house of horrors was when the second creature spoke. It was a raspy, cooing noise, and infinitely horrible and alien, yet also undeniably female. Sir Walter screamed at what she said, and as I ran up the stairs there was a ragged, tearing noise and the screams died.

However, it was the words themselves that would keep me from sleep for countless nights to come. I would play them over and over again, and marvel at the nightmare I had narrowly escaped:

Foolish Lover. Did you really think that someone else could pay the price for you?


There has been much speculation on the nature of my experiences in Northern Wales. I have been reluctant to speak for fear of ridicule and professional ruin, but now I feel the time has come. My anxieties have been overcome by a greater dread following the announcement of the proposed expedition to the dark and forbidden valley in which my partner Sir Henry Grayle and I made the initial discovery amongst the barrows. His subsequent disappearance and my lengthy hospitalisation are a matter of public record, but there has been little else for the gossip columns on Fleet Street to go on.

Seeing as the few facts known don’t seem to have disturbed the minds of the men behind the current proposal,  I will state this as clearly as possible: the barrows must not be opened.


Perhaps I had better start at the beginning. My schooling was laid out from an early age, through King’s College School through to the University of the same name. I was tempted to take up theology, but ultimately washed up on the shores of the Faculty of History.

There were, at this time, several lines of study open to me. At the time, Egyptology was in vogue, and this seemed to be the most intellectually profitable direction I could take. However, one season in the baking Arab sun cured me of my misconception, as I had no desire to be a mere relic hunter and the relentless heat drove down my spirits.

It was with some surprise, then, that I quickly discovered another line of enquiry closer to home. The semi-legendary Kings of Britain’s Dark Age past reached out to me from the pages of Gildas and Geoffrey of Monmouth to grip and fascinate me. Shadows of vanished kingdoms danced in front of me, haunting my dreams.

However, outside of these excellent sources, the evidence was less than substantial. In fact, it was non-existent. Instead of the later, clear narratives of the Anglo-Saxon chronicle, there was a deafening void, filled by puerile tales of King Arthur.

Nevertheless, I was content, and much to my surprise in this time I somehow acquired a protege. Sir Henry Grayle was a tall, wiry man whose eyes were so pale blue that people mistook him for being blind. He was a good man, and fine company, and given the scarcity of material he was soon up to a similar level of comprehension and we collaborated on many papers.

However, his historiographical methods differed somewhat from mine. While I was content mostly with academic work (my sojourn in Egypt having cured me of my delusions of adventure), Sir Henry felt the pull of the natural outdoorsman. In some ways I feel as if he lacked imagination – he could not conjure the lost realms of Ancient Britannia without sensory input.

It was at this time I noticed another worrying trend. His desire to work in the field, so to speak, and his obsession with recovering artifacts of that era, began to resemble the rapacious treasure hunters of Egypt I had so despised. In Sir Henry’s case, I believe he was innocent of their baser desires, the Grayles being an exceptionally wealthy family, but I fear he searched for something greater. Prestige, perhaps.

He also gave much more credence to local legend than I felt appropriate. His first instinct upon entering a town or village was to frequent the local pub, conversing with the locals and asking about the traditions of that particular part of the world. The fact that he was able to do so was due in no small part to his effortless charm, a skill I envied him, and that may have influenced my attitude.

It was late last August, when I received word from Sir Henry from just outside Beaumaris. The telegram was opaque, and unfortunately the original is lost, but one word stood out to me among the confusing talk of great discoveries. The word was Maglocunus.

A shiver went up my spine. I am not sure if it was excitement or fear. The word means a great deal to scholars of Brythonic Kings, but for the benefit of lay readers I will briefly outline the reason.

Maglocunus was the name of a Brythonic King from around the middle of the 6th Century. Unlike many of the semi-legendary kings of this era, he is known from a contemporary source, indeed the only contemporary source – De excidio et conquestu Britanniae by the British monk Gildas.

The document, a polemic of brutal condemnation, targets the contemporary clergy and ruling class of Britain, identifying the moral failings of the British people for their slow conquest at the hands of the Saxons. He saves his most bitter recriminations for the ruler of Anglesey, a king he refers to as the ‘Dragon of the Island’. To this person he ascribes many foul deeds, including the murder of his nephew and wife, claiming he had sunk to ‘the lowest depths of sacrilege’. His name, as given, is Maglocunus.

For years, the overwhelming condemnation heaped on the subjects of Gildas’ sermon has been assumed to have a political, as well as spiritual edge. The clergy, nearly untouchable to the Britons even in the face of Saxon apocalypse, were not aloof from the world, and the world has known men of god scheme and plot as well as the ungodly.


There is, however, something more serious present in these passages. The bitter recriminations heaped with scorn on other kings here take on a hysterical edge, and as such the shadow of a tyrannical king looms large behind the whole document. It was with some trepidation, then, that I had essentially received word that Sir Henry had found some evidence of him.

As I resolved to leave my comfortable quarters to journey to meet him at the expedition site, I received another telegram. This one I have to hand:

Have found it stop there are at least twenty mounds stop this may be the british valley of

the kings stop come immediately end


Clearly Sir Henry was having some sort of mental collapse. A British Valley of the Kings was on the surface preposterous, not least because Britain had been a fractured state of many competing ones and there was nothing contemporary to suggest such a place existed. I now felt I needed to travel all the more quickly, to make sure my friend was all right.

The train pulled into the tiny station which was proclaimed by a grubby sign to be Rhosneigr. On the platform, an excited Sir Henry bobbed up and down, and as soon as he was in range he grabbed my hand at shook it violently.

“So glad you’ve come, so glad.” he said cheerfully, but under his pale eyes there were heavy bags. He also kept glancing over his shoulder in a way that suggested there was someone following him.

He could barely contain himself, however, and even as I began to unpack he burst into my room bringing with him a large cardboard box.

“I’ve been inside one of them, Charles.” he said. “One of the barrows. I will take you up there tomorrow. But for now, look at this.”

With a flourish, he removed the lid of the box. Within there was a rusted sword hilt. His smile faded slightly when I looked nonplussed. “There.” he said, jabbing impatiently at the hilt. I leaned in, then looked at him in sudden shock.

Carved in the hilt was Maglo-us.

“It’s his, isn’t it.” he said, sudden desperation in his voice.

“I – I believe so.” I replied. I came to my senses. “You really should have left it where it was.”

Sir Henry dismissed that with a wave of his hand. “I documented its location. It will be returned.” He seemed to say the second sentence to the room at large, rather than just to me.

After these stunning revelations, he returned to his room, leaving the hilt for me to examine. It was certainly of the right design. If it was fake, it was a very clever forgery. My earlier dread was gone. In its place was a sense of nervous excitement.

Eventually, after what seemed like hours, my candle guttered. I looked up, and realised that it was brightening outside. Somehow I had studied the handle all night.

I also noticed something else. Outside at the edge of the lawn of the hotel, stood a figure. He was very tall (for I am almost certain it was a man) and he seemed to stand unnaturally still. He appeared to have some kind of heavy cloak draped around his shoulders. It was still far too dark to see his face, but I got the distinct impression that he was looking straight at my window. He seemed ethereal, as if he would fade if I went outside to approach him.

I retired to bed, deciding that I was imagining things, and that the groundworkers probably started early so as not to be seen by the guests. I had been asleep for half an hour, when I awoke with a start. It took me a few seconds to realise it, but the door had been opened, and it was the noise of that opening which had awakened me.

I lay facing the wall, overcome with a sudden sense of dread, I resisted turning over, even when I heard the creak of the floor as someone entered. Eventually however, I plucked up enough courage to turn and face my intruder.

The door was indeed open. Outside, in the hall, stood the figure I had seen on the lawn minutes earlier. Again, the eyes bored into mine from beneath a hood, even though they were not visible. The cloak, for at this point I confirmed that was what it was, was tattered and dirty. And he now had it circled around him, seemingly to hide what was underneath. The apparition didn’t move, not once in the time it stood there.

However, it, was the creature that had entered the room that caught most of my attention. It was a grotesque, twisted thing, seemingly shrivelled and dried out and yet still somehow, horribly alive. It was looming over the box containing the hilt. It looked back at the apparition beyond the door, as if for instructions, and then bent and picked the box up. It limped back to the door, hobbling strangely on its shrunken legs. At that moment, it looked back at me.

If I had ever been able to die of fright, that moment would have been it. I shrieked, even as it turned away and the door shut behind them. I was still shrieking when the landlady burst in, demanding to know what the noise was. I somehow passed it off as some sort of nightmare, jabbering at her until she left me alone.

I then packed, and immediately left. Somewhere in the journey back to London, I fainted on a platform, and it was in this state that I was rushed to hospital where I remained for some considerable time.

You may be wondering why I was so precipitous in the abandonment of Sir Henry, given his disappearance on the same night. Of the apparition in the doorway I can say little, but of his hideous familiar, I can say only this: it had the palest blue eyes I have ever seen.

I say again: The barrows must not be opened!

An Old House on Raglan Street

Every town thinks they have a house like the one at the end of Raglan Street. They all have some run-down shack with an overgrown garden, or a maisonette collapsing into ignominious decay: a place that can attract the local town legends and mysteries, a mythology in which children pass on fearful tales of murder and mayhem, each more lurid than the last.

In reality, these houses rarely radiate more than a sense of forlorn melancholy. The house on Raglan Street was different. It had no gate, no collapsing front deck and no weeds. It was barely talked about, and was instead avoided instinctively, as if the brooding building squatting at the point the road became track barely existed.

Unusually, there was more than one empty building on Raglan Street. The church stood empty, the white planks peeling paint and a faded sign proclaiming “-esus -igh- of the worl-” was disquieting, but paled in comparison to its baleful neighbour.

I was maybe ten when my mother sat down to tell me why I shouldn’t enter the house on Raglan Street. As a sensitive child the idea that I would go anywhere near the place scared the hell out of me, but apparently some boys in my class had thrown rocks through one of the windows and my mother wanted to make sure I wouldn’t take part in a similar expedition.

“You know about not letting people…touch you, right?” said my Mum. She was nervous, and anxiously searched my face.

“We had a policeman come into school and talk to us about it.”

“Good.” The relief was obvious. “And you know not to go near the house on Raglan Street? Or the old church?”

“Yes, Mum.”

“Good.” She looked into her mug of tea for a second before continuing.

“A long time ago, there was a bad man at the church. He was supposedly a Man of God. He did…he did what that police man said was wrong to some boys and girls from around here. He did…other things as well. Violent things.”

I didn’t really understand her, but she went on.

“The priest would take them to that old house.” she said, her voice wavering. “One of them didn’t ever come out again. A boy called Tommy. They searched the house.”

“What happened to the priest, Mum?”

“He…he was supposed to get reassigned. But he disappeared before then.” Venom I had never heard before entered her voice. “Bastard skipped town.”


When I returned to the town as a property developer, the strange, horrible conversation with my mother twenty years before returned fully formed to my memory. The church had been demolished, but the house was still there, a little more run down and a little more filthy, a few more broken windows, but substantially the same. Somehow, the garden was still free of weeds. Nobody had ventured inside it for years.

Seeing the land was for sale, curiosity got the better of me, and I headed to the door. Old, childish fear rose up inside me, but I pushed open the door and went inside.

A sickly sweet smell assaulted my nostrils. The house was extremely dusty, and cockroaches clicked across the floor as I walked in. The kitchen was at the end of the hall, and I headed in that direction.

Rotten herbs and weeds hung from a rack and old pans sat in the sink covered in cotton-like mold. Moths flapped lazily in the airborne dust. The kitchen smelt of mulch and soil, and it was almost fresh, compared to the mustiness in the entrance hall. The awful sweet-smell was stronger too, and it was coming from a door in the corner.

Steps led down into a cellar. As well as the first smell, there was a vague hint of ash in the air, as if a fire had been burning below. It was pitch black, and as I bumped into the bottom step, I pulled my phone out to see what I was doing.

I swept my tiny rectangle of light over the cellar, and my heart stopped, and I left rapidly to re-enter a saner world.

By the time the police had cleared out the cellar they had discovered the remains of a fire pit and a primitive altar. The desiccated remains of a man’s body, still clad in vestments, was slumped behind it, and hadn’t been moved for some time. Another body had been found, a malnourished, naked, fifty year old with rotted teeth lying sprawled near the cellar steps. The time of death of the wretch had been impossible to determine due to his disease-ridden state, although he appeared to have suffered some sort of cardiac arrest relatively recently. He had clearly been living down there for years.

All of this I could have coped with. But the nightmares come for one simple reason, and one reason alone. In the sweep of that tiny rectangle of light, something near the steps had moved, and reached its pitiful arms towards me.

The Strange Mrs Dandridge

Mrs Dandridge had been one of a dozen old ladies living in the row of terraced houses known to the post office as Honeybee Avenue but to everybody else, it was known as the Hive.  She was presumably a widow, although Mr Dandridge had been dead such a long time that nobody could ever remember seeing him.
At one time, she had been friendly with the other older ladies living on the street, but her reluctance to invite any of them inside her own home and her extreme reticence about standard subjects, (such as the degenerate youth of the rest of the town with the notable exception of some grandson or other, or the influx of a small Polish community that threatened to overthrow the natural order of things), meant that she had experienced a gradual ostracism from the rest of the street. A year before she died, in the manner of outsiders the world over, she had instead become the subject of lurid gossip.
The nosy Mrs Beasley said she had seen Mrs Dandridge wandering around her back garden at an ungodly hour in some kind of haze, muttering strange things to herself (what Mrs Beasley was doing looking into someone else’s garden at this time was not discussed).
The magnificent Mrs Cole said she had heard strange noises from one of the upstairs windows; in the manner of an actress who really knew her audience, she refused to elaborate further – she simply raised an eyebrow and repeated ‘strange’.
The excitable Mrs Allen had confirmed Mrs Cole’s story, and added that at one time she had seen a green light blaze suddenly from the spare bedroom for a few seconds at the crescendo, but Mrs Allen was known to be a tad imaginative.
The final nail in terms of approval came a week before – a large package had arrived for Mrs Dandridge, and when there was no answer, the postman had delivered it to Mrs Allen next door and pushed a note through the letterbox. Mrs Allen, whose active imagination had been running riot after every discussion of Mrs Dandridge, couldn’t resist the opportunity to find out more, and opened the heavy box to “have a looksee”.
Inside was an extremely large, extremely ancient book with a set of symbols unlike anything Mrs Allen had seen before. The lettering and patterns seemed to weave together and shift on the cover and, after a few seconds, Mrs Allen’s head began to hurt. She couldn’t take her eyes off it.
A furious hammering at the door interrupted her trance. A full quarter hour had passed.
A wild eyed and wild haired Mrs Dandridge stood on the doorstep.
“You didn’t open it!”
Mrs Allen’s eyes widened in indignation “Certainly not!” Mrs Allen did not expect to be accused of such things on her own doorstep. The fact that she had was beside the point.
“Give it to me.”
It wouldn’t hurt to say please, thought Mrs Allen as she hastily shut up the lid and awkwardly carried it to the front door. Mrs Dandridge interrogative tone had vanished, and been replaced with a vague, dreamy look.
“Thank you, m’dear.”
And she was gone.
A week later a heat wave had struck. Mrs Cole’s dutiful grandson Paul had been visiting his grandmother and her friends in the way all good grandsons should – telling slightly risqué stories, pouring the tea, and flattering Mrs Allen. He was on his way home when he caught the edge of a very strange smell. Paul had never been around a body before, so he had little idea that, left in the heat, the smell becomes overpowering in a confined space and leaks out of windows and doors to pollute the street. He approached the house that seemed to be the source.
Unable to get any response from knocking, and remembering that this was Mrs Dandridge’s house – a woman he had found odd, but not known well enough to form the concrete opinions of his grandmother – he went around the back and found the back door ajar. Curiosity and concern overcoming trepidation, he pushed it open and went in.
The smell was overpowering, invading his nostrils and seemed to coat him in a layer of grease. Acutely aware that he was potentially trespassing, he called out.
“Mrs Dandridge?”
She wasn’t downstairs. He began to ascend.
“Mrs Dandridge?”
The smell was worse on the landing. He pushed open the door to the spare bedroom.
“Mrs Dan-“
The tableau before him was in many ways simple, but it took his eyes several seconds to process it. The simplicity itself underlined the stark, revelatory sense of horror he experienced.
A mirror was at one end of the room. On it had been scrawled a series of symbols and patterns in what was now a brown, flaky substance.
In front of the mirror was an emaciated corpse, a mummy that had been carefully dried out and preserved – this was later identified as the late Mr Dandridge.
In the far corner, a pizza delivery boy sat upright with a surprised expression and a cut throat.
In the middle of the room, a large book was opened at a page showing a horrific image of a demon that seemed to shift on the page. The two dimensional drawing seemed to have its own depth, and the mocking expression of the creature itself seemed to stare straight into Paul’s soul.
Finally there was Mrs Dandridge. The medics would later state that the expression of exquisite horror frozen on her face suggested that she had died immediately of fright. Paul could only hope that was the case, because whatever the strange Mrs Dandridge had seen that had taken her life had taken her eyes along with it.

The Hum


Good morning, Doctor.

Yes, I am feeling much better. How are you?

Good. What would you like to talk about today?


If you insist.

The problem began, I suppose, when my motorbike hit the side of an articulated lorry. At least, that’s what they told me happened afterwards. I don’t remember, of course. I broke three ribs, both my legs, collapsed a lung and badly fractured my skull. They told me I was lucky. So did Mary.

No, she doesn’t visit any more.

I was in hospital for a few weeks before they discharged me, claiming me to be largely recovered. I was still in a wheelchair, of course, but they assured me the metal plate in my head had solved the most pressing threat to my continued wellbeing.  I was to have a nurse visit me twice a week to get me walking again, and a doctor’s visit every month to make sure I didn’t present any, how shall I put it, neurological oddities.

Of course, you already know all this. I am merely providing context. Narrative, if you will. It makes the whole thing seem tidier, don’t you think?

It didn’t start until about a month later. On the day I came home, Mary had gone out and bought me several DVD box-sets of TV shows she knew I liked. It was while I was watching one of these – honestly I don’t remember what. To a man with my condition, television seems like such an abstract now. Anyway, I first noticed it beneath the dialogue. It seemed to be present in moments of quiet, in between what the actors on screen were saying. A low, vibrating hum.

Naturally, I assumed there was something wrong with the cables at the back. When Mary got home, I asked her to check them for me. There didn’t seem to be a problem at all, so when she went out next, she bought a replacement cable for the link between the DVD player and the television.

It was still there the next day.

The television set and player were both fairly new – less than a year old. I thought it might just be me, so I did my best to ignore it from then on. It got worse, however, and by the end of the week, I could barely hear what was being said above the drone. Eventually Mary (to whom television is mostly a noisy distraction anway) sat down to watch something with me. After a few minutes, she declared she couldn’t hear anything at all. By this point the noise was starting to give me the headaches you have undoubtedly read about in my file.  I responded rather sharply that she must be deaf.

The next day, both the TV and the DVD player were unplugged and put into the garage. It had become a point of contention for her and more than a niggling problem for me. It was probably the right thing to do, because unbeknownst to her, I had even begun to hear the hum when the television was switched off.

The neurologist didn’t help at all. He said that the plate in my head was settling in and that there was bound to be a few odd occurrences here and there. If I waited a couple of months, I would probably be able to watch it again.

I asked him about people picking up radio signals on their fillings. He said that that was an urban myth.

A few days later, when I was more mobile, I wheeled myself into the kitchen to get a drink. There it was again. Below the slow natural hum of the refrigerator was a sharper buzzing. My hum.  I couldn’t believe it. I wheeled back into the lounge.

I think that was the first time I really panicked. The first thought that crossed my mind was if I was unable to go into the kitchen, I was unable to feed myself during the day when Mary was at work.  The second, far more terrifying thought was that the Hum was spreading to other appliances.  What if it spread to every electrical device? What if it didn’t stop? Many people talk of going back to nature or a simpler, more agrarian lifestyle. That was one thing. To be bodily forced into the 19th Century against my will was quite another.

Mary was very understanding when she came in. Her soothing tone and use of phrases like “crossing that bridge when we come to it” lulled me into a sense that perhaps everything would resolve itself. This sense was only surface deep, however, and beneath that black thoughts still danced.

The Hum got worse. Soon I was afflicted with it wherever I was in the house. By this time I had started walking again, thanks to my nurse, but the digital blood pressure machine she insisted on using sparked inside my head.

Phones were now useless to me. All entertainment that was anything other than a book or a pen and paper was also now out. I couldn’t even visit museums, once a simple pleasure, as a car ride was torture and the automated security systems clawed at my retinas. I was an outcast.

In the end, Mary and I had to make that literally true. Mary found a cottage out in the depths of Wales that was perfect for this. It wasn’t hooked up to the mains; it had a gas-burning stove and an open fire. At the other end of the garden was a small shed, which Mary hooked up to a phone line and generator. She’d organised it to work out of there from now on, so she could keep her job and I wouldn’t be disturbed.  For the first time in nearly a year, I could relax.

There is little else to tell. One week, while Mary was at a set of important meetings in London, she hired a housekeeper to come in on the Wednesday to give the house a once over.

I don’t remember her name.

I had been reading steadily through The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes when The Hum hit me full force as it had never done before. It burned, it rasped, it gripped my spinal column like a vice. I was tormented, almost writhing in agony. Ah! It was all I could do to stand and reach for the poker by the fire.

I still don’t understand the screams of the woman, or Mary’s when she came in.

Don’t you see, doctor?

I had to stop that damned woman’s pacemaker somehow.


Hellevator & Release the Hounds; or First Floor: Housewares, Fake Blood, and Schadenfreude

Hello and Hallowelcome to the last of this year’s Twofer Tuesdays, where you get two screams for the price of one! You join your solitary blogger, Lilly, as she leaves some vaguely European forest to step onto an elevator that surely doesn’t meet Health and Safety Standards.

Today’s Offerings: Release the Hounds & Hellevator

To start off, surprise on two counts, readers! First off, it is only me, Lilly–due to some scheduling issues, Andy couldn’t join us for this last Hallowfest review. Second, we are ending this season of Hallowfest with two gifts that keep on giving. Rather than two movies, this Twofer Tuesday, I am going to talk about two of our favourite reality television shows–Release the Hounds and Hellevator (both available on Netflix)!

Before I dive in, for those of you who turn your nose up at reality television, I have no hopes of converting you through these reviews, but I do hope you check out both these shows–the amount of writing and creation of worlds and narratives needed for each challenge is admirable, and truly, if you are a ‘any horror is good horror’ type of person who digs haunted houses come October, these shows are for you to enjoy!

So, let’s start with Release the Hounds!CcUy1yd2

Premiering in time for Halloween in 2013, Release the Hounds was a British television show with a basic premise: send three people out onto the supposedly haunted and horrific grounds of a mad man who hid his fortune and made sure it was guarded by, you guessed it, vicious hounds. Lucky for all of us, the show has had three seasons plus this year’s Halloween episode (and we can only hope for more), the third featuring the theme of ‘Famous and Freaked’–though, unless you watch British reality shows or youtube, ‘famous’ might be a stretch in the case of the celebs got onto the show to be frightened.

The premise of Release the Hounds is relatively simple–do a challenge in a certain amount of time, find the key, and the time you take to find the key makes all the difference due to the fact that the longer you take, the further away the gate gets from the end of a dog run you are going to be made to do with the titular hounds what that get released. Yes, the last part of each challenge is one person going to a run, each round with a heavier backpack full of cash, trying to outrun a pack of German Shepherd-type dogs who have nothing better to do than chase down that red backpack to munch on.

Before I talk about the dog run too much, let’s talk challenges. This isn’t do a puzzle and raise a flag Survivor style games, oh no. The very first episode kicks it all off with a challenge that features a wall of washing machines that the contestants had to open up to find the key. Inside was everything from soiled sheets to organs and back again. All fake, of course, but you can tell the props department had a field day with this gig and smell was definitely made to be part of the gags. Other episodes feature a man hung by hooks in his back having to be hauled closer and closer to the contestant so they could take something from his mouth. Phonebooths filling with water, clowns appearing over and over to shock you while you try and remember something for a nasty game of memory, and coded clues to help unlock something that might save your friend’s life are all part of the game. It’s like going through a haunted house that also demands you to do basic math or word puzzles to get out of it at the same time.

Hosted by Reggie Yates, a cheeky chap who cannot help taking the piss out of the contestants now and again (as we are all doing from the safety of our living rooms), Release the Hounds then has a fantastic final challenge to be faced by all the contestants. The dog run.

First off, brilliantly, the contestants are made to walk by the dog enclosure to get the money that is theirs to keep if they survive the last task. Naturally, it is a cacophony of barking while the shaken player loads up the red bag the dogs are clearly trained to want a piece of. Then, having looked their soon-to-be-attackers in their furry little faces, the contestant goes to stand behind the gate that will raise when the siren goes, letting them make a break for the end of the run where a ladder (and Reggie) are waiting. This is the point where many realize that 60 metres of a head start in front of the barking beasts isn’t all that much.

The third season, the show thought ‘well, these people aren’t being eaten by the hounds nearly enough!’ clearly–though it was a pretty fair ratio of winners and dinners–so they added in another element to the run portion. At the gate, the runner is offered more money for them to take home/for their given charity in the case of the celebs. The only catch is that they have to move back x amount of metres to be closer to the dogs and further from the exit. Of course they don’t take it, right! Right? Wrong. Some do, and seeing who it is is part of the fun. Adding in the next element of money hanging from trees along the run (which jumping to would only be advantageous if you were a star basketball player with high reach and long legs to keep ahead of the hounds) to grab if you want, and you get to see people at war with themselves about whether it is worth the risk of the far more gruesomely depicted ‘death’ of the later season.

Release the Hounds is as funny as it sounds, and it is well aware of it. While the show is played as real events with tragic loses of those who are caught by the hounds, there is a definite element of tongue in cheek in the writing of the challenges and in Reggie Yates’ presenting style. Definitely worth sitting down for forty minutes to try out!

HellevatorNext, we have Hellevator!

This is a reality show birthed from great minds of horror the Soska Sisters (American Mary, Dead Hooker in a Trunk) and Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions (Get Out, Insidious, Paranormal Activity) and features an elevator that is literally the worst way to get between floors in any building and that is counting stairs that are literally on fire.

The premise of the show is three friends go into the Hellevator to take a ride through the floors of a haunted building (which changes every episode, again the elements of storytelling baffling to really think about with each episode having a different backstory for the home of the Hellevator). Each floor, only one contestant is permitted to leave the Hellevator, going out to do a challenge then make it back to the Hellevator before the doors close and they are left forever.

Hellevator is hosted by the Soska sisters, twins Jen and Sylvia, who clearly have open disdain for all those who enter the Hellevator, laughing at their screams and generally showing open disgust when any celebratory moments are shared. They make jokes about corpses and giggle when people are lost behind the closing doors of the Hellevator, and they are a huge part of what makes the show enjoyable.

When it comes to the writing, I might surprisingly think Release the Hounds has a one up on Hellevator, if only because there is some moments of repetition through the series of the latter. Why does every other story feature a furnace? And the last run always looks so familiar. They did make it a bit more varied in the second series of the show, with the Inferno Run, but even then, the rooms were the same, and I was a bit bored by the third time I saw any of them. Of course, when it comes from a company which specializes in making franchises and stand out characters people want to see more of, I suppose this style is welcome. It reminds me a lot of old adventure style game shows where the audience can call out the name of the room as the contestant is entering it.

The contestants of Hellevator are certainly more varied–from nursing students in it to win it to cheerleaders (much to the hostesses with the mostesses dismay), you don’t have to worry about knowing any of them as there are no celebs here, but one can hope a special gets done and maybe we’ll see more horror faces hitting the close door button to go down to the depths of where ever on the Hellevator.

If you are interested in reality television, these are must watches that are well produced and written. If you aren’t interested, then you aren’t going to be won over by any amount of attention to detail or shared laughter with the host over some guy up to his waist in blood trying to find a bag of cash that he had pushed out of the tub while getting in. I highly suggest giving both of these a go, especially with a group of friends, because nothing quite adds to the fun like a crowd to help cheer on those poor people trying to out run dogs or beat the clock to return to a haunted elevator.

So that’s it for this year’s Hallowfest! Thank you so much for joining us, and make sure to keep an eye on the site for more additions throughout the year! We are looking to keep adding as it goes along, with audio additions as well as more writing! So stay tuned to this channel, readers, and hope you have had an excellent Hallowfest season!





Flesh For Frankenstein; or Andy Warhol Should Have Stuck to Soup Cans

Hello and Hallo-welcome to our last Sorry Mary! Monday,where we come to the conclusion that the video nasties list may not have been completely overzealous. You join your traumatised bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they … wait, where are you going Lilly?

Today’s film offering: Flesh for Frankenstein aka Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein

Lilly: I’m out. Mary Whitehouse was right. The censors were right. Bye.

Andy: But Lilly, we’ve got to warn people about…

Lilly: NOPE every man for himself. Women and children first. Please do not block the fire exit. Lilly out.

Andy: Lilly? Lilly? Don’t leave me alone with it!

She’s gone, isn’t she. Fine.

Flesh_for_Frankenstein_(1973).jpg1973’s Flesh for Frankenstein is yet another version of the classic story of science gone awry, but with some important differences. First, this one has Udo Kier in it. Second, this one is perverted beyond all reason. You remember how this one has Udo Kier in it? He has sex with a gall bladder.

He. Has sex. With a gall bladder.

If you’ll pardon my language, WHAT THE ABSOLUTE FUCKING FUCK.

Anyway, leaving that aside (how?) for one second, the plot is pretty straightforward. The titular Baron has been experimenting on a pair of creations, in the hope of getting them to mate, but the ‘dude’ doesn’t seem that interested. Realizing a replacement head may be in order, they visit the local brothel and hang about outside with a large club and a hacksaw. Unfortunately they get a dude who’s about to take holy orders, and was only dragged along to the brothel by his randy friend.

Meanwhile, the Baron’s sister/wife is apparently some kind of sex fiend, and hires a new house boy (and aforementioned randy friend) to service her needs. Oh what wacky hijinks will ensue! Especially when he realises his friend’s head is now sewed onto … another … I’m not sure I can do this. I’m gonna go stare at a wall for a few hours.

OK, I’m back.

Meanwhile, the housekeeper’s snooping; Otto, Frankenstein’s assistant is getting bitter that HE doesn’t get to bone any internal organs (no, seriously); aaand there’s two creepy kids wandering about who may or may not be the product of incest. That’s, like, the least messed-up thing here.

The trouble is, in the kindest of possible lights, you can sort of see what they were going for here. The characters are libido and sexual liberation taken to an absolutely insane extreme, and in the aftermath of the 60s, I can see Warhol wanting to satirise that. But instead we got this thing, that swings between boring and badly acted, to gross, to softcore porn, to REALLY gross, to ‘I physically can’t look at the screen’.

Plus, Frankenstein seems like a really weird choice to adapt and then put in a bunch of sexual shit (awesome “I’ll be with you on your wedding night!” moment from the novel notwithstanding).

Ultimately though, it fails in almost every aspect. It’s disgusting rather than disturbing. It’s gross instead of horrifying, and when it isn’t, it’s dull.

There are only two groups of people I would recommend this picture to. The first are Rocky Horror fans, because I’ll eat my own gall bladder if the lab from that wasn’t inspired by this. The second are people that complain that horror movies got pointlessly nasty and artless after the year 2000. Look on Udo Kier’s works, ye mighty and despair!

I mean, if this is going to bastardise Mary Shelley’s work, I can at least do the same to her husband’s.


I’m going to go shower.

Jaws: The Revenge; or Ding Dong Merrily on Die

Hello and Hallo-welcome to Sequel Sunday, where we check out a film that follows up with characters we know and love or hate and fear! You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they kick up their flippers and go back in the water because this time, it’s personal.

Today’s Film Offering: Jaws: The Revenge

Andy: Lilly whyyy,

Lilly: I’m curious and like Michael Caine!

Andy: But it’s so baaad.

Lilly: Hey man, I am a connoisseur of terrible shark movies.

Andy: I’m pretty sure not watching this was in our wedding vows.

Lilly: I didn’t know then what I know now!

Jaws_the_revenge.jpgJaws: The Revenge is the story of, well, the revenge of Jaws, the original shark from the first film in the franchise. Specifically against the Brody family because I figure Hooper was smart enough to get out of ocean related shenanigans and Quint, well. It wasn’t like he had a widow. Loads of lovelorn bow-legged women, sure, but no one settled down with that scamp! Anyway, Jaws: The Revenge takes the idea of ‘what if sharks remember?’ and…I don’t know. Makes it a thing? Or wait, was the shark just related to the shark from the original film? A child of it? Was the original shark a female and so the whole thing with Ellen Brody protecting her family was maybe a parallel storyline? Which child did Dennis Quaid play in the third one again? Why did the shark wait so long! Is Michael Caine a drug runner?

Andy: Yeah, I’m just going to skip the marine biology here for a sec for the sake of my own SANITY. Suffice to say that sharks can neither a) roar, lacking both lungs and vocal chords, and b) SEEK REVENGE.

Lilly: That’s Marine Biology 101 right there.

Andy: This is an amazing movie that somehow recognized how godawful Jaws 3D was and safely ignore it, and yet lacks the self-awareness to know itself is somehow worse.

Lilly: Right? It didn’t even know what tone it was trying to set! Is it the tale of a vicious shark who has a vendetta and can recognize certain members of a specific bloodline/zip down from Maine to the Bahamas in no time? Is it the story of the sadly lacking funding system for marine research, specifically outside the sexy topics of sharks or whales–doesn’t anyone care about snails?


Lilly: … Or is it the story of a widow trying to get her groove back with Michael Caine (as you do) to only be lady-blocked by her over-protective son and a murderous shark?

Andy: Or is it the tale of an increasingly deranged woman, who encounters two completely different sharks and insanely reasons it’s the same shark out for her family.

Lilly: This film has one of those narratives that had multiples stops to get off the horror train yet the characters insisted on keeping chugging along towards doom. It is the equivalent of the babysitter hearing a sound in the basement, going to explore it, to only see blood coming from the wine cellar, going to explore it, to only see her best friend’s head in a jar and going to look for the rest of her body parts in the pantry. Stop. Going. In. The. Water. Done. Shark rendered useless. Story over. Go get some with Michael Caine. Easy! Yet no. No. To get over the death of her son in the beginning of the film due to a murderous trap set by our shark/vengeance machine, Ellen doesn’t go to middle America to take in some farm scenery, she doesn’t go camping in one of America’s beautiful national parks, she doesn’t even drive two hours or so to go to New York or Boston and stay far from the water front. Nope, she goes and stays with her son, the marine biologist, who lives on the beach and is so bad at marine biology that he doesn’t get that sharks can happen where he is. So no, Ellen Brody, I don’t feel bad when that shark shows up, roaring in your face. In fact, I’m delighted, since shark roaring is one of my favourite bad film tropes.

Andy: How do you feel about exploding sharks?

Lilly: I assume the shark was filled with vengeance gas. Highly flammable.

Also, what’s with the sepia memories that Ellen keeps having, some of which she wasn’t even present for and most of which are from an infinitely better film, Jaws? I get it, you are friends with Jaws, Jaws: The Revenge, but the fact that you have to keep proving it is sad. Though, hey, you did get me when a few ladies from Jaws showed up at the beginning, including Woman Who Thinks Your Idea is Bad from the town meeting, and the grieving mother who slapped Brody for letting her son die by shark but apparently it’s all cool now since she was there for Ellen.

Andy: Lilly is more eloquent when it comes to these real bottom-of-the-barrel movies, so all I’ve got to add is that it’s bad. Really, really bad. It killed the franchise and genre so brutally effectively, that for my entire lifetime, there has never been another Jaws movie, nor even a particularly well-regarded shark movie. That’s … kinda impressive, actually.

Plus the shark only kills two people! BAD MOVIE SHARK. NO COOKIE FOR YOU.

Lilly: It’s hard to say what exactly is bad about all of this film–besides saying ‘all of it?’ with a shrug–but it was just magnificently awful. The acting was good, given that part of it was acting like a shark could have a bone to pick with your family, and Michael Caine always delights me to see, even though I was pretty sure he was going to either Catfish Ellen Brody somehow or murder her. Both ideas likely came of wanting a better film, admittedly, but come on, wouldn’t YOU watch Michael Caine trying to catfish Ellen Brody? Well? That said, I’d actually love to see those two crazy kids make it.

Which might be a problem given that I wasn’t watching a rom com, I was watching JAWS. Why am I making up fanfictions about Ellen and Hoagie when there should be some heavy shark-on-person action happening with intrigue and–oh my god, if they say conch one more time.

I can barely finish this review for wanting to google that fanfiction, that’s how bad it was.

However. That said…

It was entertaining. A shark roared! Michael Caine told rambling old man flirtation stories! I learned a bit about conches! There was some need in the narrative for me to know it was Christmas, which lead to so many out of key carols being worked into scenes! And I laughed. A lot. And if a film can’t be scary, can’t be what it was meant to be (I assume), then at least it should do that. And oh did it ever. There were moments I will joke about for years now. Like Michael’s wife cosplaying the girl from Jurassic Park six years before the movie come out. Or Michael Caine, in general, trying to get some from Ellen Brody because apparently he’s tired of his bevy of hot women that only talk about nonsense, and not about the death of their son by a specific shark who was bent on revenge. Or just the concept of a shark working with conchs to lure the object of its revenge to his dooooom.

Plus, I liked it more than Jaws 3D, sooooo.

Andy: I think they call that “damning with faint praise”.

Lilly: It’s no Jurassic Shark, is all I’m saying.

Andy: Aaaand I think they call that ‘insanity’.

Lilly: YOU like that crappy shark movie where they get into a supermarket. Just sayin’.

So ‘recommend’ seems like a steep word here, but hey, if you got time and a lack of respect for what goes into your eyes, then by all means! Enjoy this film as we have. As in laugh for a ridiculously long time after watching it, trying to stop yourself from forcing others to watch it so you can have a group pain to share and overcome. Go, do that, and enjoy!

The Phantom of the Opera; or How to Make an Impression on a First Date

Hello and Hallo-welcome to our last Silent Saturday! After Lilly tackled 1922’s Nosferatu a couple of weeks ago, Andy decided to strike out on his own, and tackle 1925’s The Phantom of the Opera. You join him, as he rises nobly over medieval torture chambers, hidden dungeons, long forgotten.

Today’s Film Offering: The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

I imagine many filmmakers, cinematographers, editors and makeup artists have moments where they want to create something truly iconic, really make an impact in film history. Imagine, then, making a reveal so shocking, so well-done, that it’s still effective 92 YEARS LATER.

Lon Chaney as the grotesque Erik is, for my money, one of the best makeup jobs, well, ever. And he did it himself!

Phantom_of_the_Opera_lobby_card.jpgAnyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. For those of you who don’t know the plot of this 1925 silent classic, or the 1911 French novel it’s based on (written by Gaston Leroux), the plot follows the young, innocent Christine at the Paris Opera house, her career and her engagement to the handsome young Raoul. But there is another interested party, her “angel of music” who speaks to her through the walls, encouraging her and ultimately knocking off her competition.

Of course, this is the titular Phantom: not a phantom at all, but a deformed musical genius obsessed with Christine – a terrifying legend among the stage crew and backup dancers, and an amusing anecdote to the new owners, at least until things start to go wrong.

Erik is a surprisingly relevant character in the modern world. His promotion of Christine gives him power over her, at least in his own head, and even horrifying moments, like when he drops an enormous chandelier into the crowded theatre are temper tantrums of a childlike mind, not the works of the genius mastermind he clearly thinks he is. Every single woman will have come across some idiot like this. I know I have, and I always think “there but for the grace of God…”

Of course, Christine rejects Erik, seeing as he’s, you know, hideous and kind of a douchecanoe, and plans to run away with Raoul. Erik, overhearing their plans, kidnaps Christine, and it’s up to Raoul and a man who’s been investigating Erik in the cellars (and been mistaken for the Phantom for that reason) to try to rescue her.

I’ve got to say, I was surprised by this one. 116 minutes is a long haul for a silent movie, but a cracking pace and plenty of humor kept me engaged. The humor also lulled me into a false sense of security – when the movie amped up, it caught me with my guard down, and I was genuinely creeped out at a few moments. And it did it without feeling tonally dissonant, which is incredibly difficult to pull off.

Case in point: the Phantom has been strangling people with something called a “Punjab Knot”; essentially a quick tightening noose. You forget about this, until Raoul’s companion in the cellar tells Raoul to keep his arm up by his head at all times, because a noose could drop at any moment and having an arm inside it could save his life. Sinister stuff, and not something modern horror movies do very well – it never comes close to happening to them, but this one observation had me yelling “Arm UP Raoul” every single time he dropped his guard.

So, in short, it’s really good. Certainly my favourite adaptation I’ve seen of the story (I read the novel as a teenager). Yes, including the musical, Lilly.