While I hate to pigeonhole myself, I find that, with the Haunted Hollow Chronicles, I’m very much considered a splatterpunk/retro-eighties style author. At least for now.
Not such a bad lot in life, actually. I grew up on 80s horror, metal, and action cinema, and it’s still very much a part of who I am. Films and shows such as STRANGER THINGS and IT FOLLOWS bring me a deep sense of… completion, for lack of better.
I have already addressed how I wrote The Haunted Hollow Chronicles (book 3 is essentially finished, pending publisher approval) with a very deliberate exclusion of modern internet-focused technology so that the characters feel the isolation and vulnerability I remember as an 80s kid. There were plenty of desolate backwoods parking, partying, and “rumble” (we didn’t call it that — I mean, how quaint) spots that attracted us, the southern American trash teen.
Places with no adult supervision, let alone police presence. Spots where one’s B-movie fueled imagination could easily cast one’s adolescent sense of self as a character in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday The 13th, or -if you’re really imaginative- MAD MAX, and its numerous, mostly Italian post-apocalyptic imitators. Places where one might feel a sense of peril where there wasn’t any — but could be.
All the cliche’s – parking with your girl behind an abandoned factory, running out of gas, being chased by crazed hillbillies, meeting your rival to settle a score in a circle of hooting classmates and headlights — not so inconceivable. We did these things, or knew kids who did.
So I’m led to wonder — what draws the younger folk to the trappings of this era? Because surely to Godzilla, my decrepit age group is not the only one consuming al this nostalgic horror media.
2015’s THE TURBO KID could have come right out of 1986, with it’s synth soundtrack, gory practical effects, and grungy post-apocalyptic setting (complete with Michael Ironside, THE go-to villain for the best and/or worst of the eighties exploitation classics) yet it’s makers let all us 80s survivors in on the joke, sometimes with the subtlest of winks, sometimes with a billboard. It makes perfect sense that BMX bikes will be the chief mode of transportation when the gas runs out — yet it is sublimely hilarious to see the film’s hulking, scarred thugs hunkered over and peddling around on a whirring two-wheeler, same as the titular kid.
It’s set in the future — which is 1997 to the film’s internal hapless post-nuke scrabblers. It feels “80s” because it’s made very deliberately like an 80s movie. Scanning through the user reviews on iMDB, it’s not hard to spot who’s been around long enough to know this is a loving homage and who are the whippersnappers inclined (rightfully from their view) to sneer at the low budget and the quirky acting. Yet even those detractors admit it has a powerful charm. This point I make to illustrate my own curiosity regarding the 80s nostalgia fad.
Take the Netflix dramedy G.L.O.W. It nails the era and its values, yet… still seems like an all-knowing look back somehow. “Those people are naive, and oh my God, do they not know how different, silly and meaningless this will all be in a few years???” we are led to think.
Not that that’s bad. It’s a great show. It’s just — I find that I don’t want the real 80s; a time when, not only nuclear apocalypse but the other more insidious apocalypse of corporate domination stood as looming threats, influencing our daily lives for better or worse. The 80s we geezers are feeding to today’s iPhone-addled youth, is decidedly better than the real thing.
At least, it looks much cooler on film.
If I had a nickel for every upcoming horror film synopsis or blurb that used some variation of the term “80s throwback/homage/celebration” the total would come to $8, 677.05, adjusted for a circa 1985 economy. Enough for about three VHS movies back then.
Still, getting into the head of a genre nerd born in say 1995 and feeling how they feel when they listen to Duran Duran or watch The A Team, The Fly, or even, say, Rocktober Blood sounds like a good time.
Doubtful we’ll have the of technology for such recreational brain-vading until at least 2025 though, and by then everybody will be marking out over the early 2000s, leaving the 80s about as irrelevant as the 50s, an era with which, for the record, I was quite enamored during the 80s.
But enough ramble-niscing. Here in the deepest catacombs of North Carolina’s nights, your ol’ pal Pattie doesn’t get a chance to spend much time around younger schlock culture geeks. I’d love to hear from some post-eighties babies who dig the vibe of that decade. What’s cool about it? What’s ludicrous? Help me help you help me be the best retro-recaller I can, so I don’t have to write fifty scenes of characters whining about their smart phones not working.
GRIM HARVEST has descended upon the land like a gloriously putrid prose plague. It represents some milestones that are worth mentioning.
It’s a follow up of course, to last year’s Red Harvest. The word “sequel” doesn’t seem right, since, though it’s set in the same place with the same people – it’s very much a stand – alone story. Nonetheless, it’s my first continuation from a previous work.
From the first draft of Red Harvest (then called The Death Of October), I knew Ember/Haunted Hollow would be a place I’d re-visit in my writing, and thanks to my deal with the maniacs at Lyrical Press, I have had the opportunity to settle there for a while — and make things really intense for the Lott and Barcroft families, Reverend McGlazer and his psychic assistant Stella, and of course, resident band The Chalk Outlines — not to mention you, The Reader.
Some of my favorite horror stories in page and film are The Halloween Tree, The Hellbound Heart, Pet Sematary, Trick R Treat, The Void, House Of Frankenstein, etc. If you’re sharp, you’ll not only have been used in a horrific murder or two, you’ll also have noticed that these spookers have a common trait and that is their “smorgasbord” format of multiple horrors, supernatural and otherwise, which affect one another and cause our put-upon protags no shortage of hard times.
The goal was to create a literary – and I use that word with tongue well in cheek – haunted attraction, complete with fresh scares around every corner. This being the written word, the scares are meant to be not so much sudden as creeping. Unsettling. Upsetting in the long term.
Yet I hope The Haunted Hollow Chronicles can evoke more than just the in-your-face fright of a spook house. I wanted teen pals Stuart and DeShaun to express the kind of friendship kids have at that age, when they sense things are changing for them soon, and they’re trying to resist the forces that pull them apart — knowing they will succumb in the end.
I hope you’ll feel what I felt in regards to the Lott family, and its strength in the face of incomprehensible perils. I ask you to struggle along with Reverend McGlazer as he walks the razor-wire tightrope of religious obligation and personal truth. Ember Hollow’s band The Chalk Outlines could use your support too, as they try to figure out just what the hell they’re supposed to do with their drive, talent and love, when the bodies start to hit the floor all over town.
Given all that’s going on in Grim Harvest, not to mention the trilogy as a whole, it’s difficult to distill it into a cohesive synopsis. One or two sentences will never suffice to cover all the interweaving story threads. Thus, like a spook house, much of it will emerge as surprises.
I’m pleased to see that The Haunted Hollow Chronicles’ offbeat (slightly) alternate universe setting was not a deal breaker for readers. Cell phones and internet access are unavoidable in contemporary horror. Every fright flick is obliged to address, the issue of reception or battery charge, much the same way as martial arts films produced and set in the modern U.S. must address the ubiquity of firearms.
All the best ideas for getting instant contact with the outside world have been used and re-used. 30 Days Of Night went so far as to have a lackey for the vamps round up all the town’s cellphones and burn them. I think one of the reasons people love eighties horror so much is that there was still a sense of isolation in being alone in a house, or just a few miles from the safety of civilization. Poor Laurie Strode and her young babysitting charges were daunted by the very prospect of just running across the street. And where would Sally Hardesty be if that trucker hadn’t happened by at such a fortuitous time?
These days, all involved would just take out their phones and quick-text the police while simultaneously posting the whole affair on their Instagram.
It’s not that I’m unwilling to address the electronic elephant in the room. It’s just that, for this series I didn’t want to.
As for the matter of returning to previous ground: it’s hard to say why I’ve never done so before. As a naive screenwriter, my priority was to produce original content. For a moment my omnibus script THE DAMNATION PARADE was in discussion to be reworked as CREEPSHOW 3. Given the universal disgust directed at the eventual completed CS3, I like to tell myself my script was too smart, or subtle, or something positive like that, for the producers.
The vampire universe of The Crimson Calling was, and is, intended as a series. Liv Irons and her pale pals will be back for more supernatural-powered asskickery in due time. Progeny still gets plenty of love and requests for continuation. My upcoming novel Under Wicked Sky, also slated as a film project, had some characters who stubbornly insisted on surviving the first go-round. If you guys like that one, maybe they’ll get their chance.
Meantime, sink your talons into the first two entries of The Haunted Hollow Chronicles and let me know what you think.