I get asked this question a lot, and I always feel like I’m being asked why I like strangling small furry animals (I don’t actually like strangling small furry animals — I much prefer feeding them and turning them against their owners!). So, while I was listening to the Beyond the Pale radio show on my way to sit and watch Paranormal Activity 4, all the while reading a little Jack Ketchum in between everything else … I paused and tried to think for a moment what it is about all that stuff I find so compelling.

I don’t want to waste a lot of words explaining why I love what I love. Fans of romantic comedies don’t have to justify why they like pap. But horror fans are singled out; it’s a bit unfair, but it doesn’t seem like it’ll ever change. So fuck it. I’ll answer the question.

A large part of what I love about horror is not necessarily being scared, but rather I just fucking love being in a world that feels more like home to me than anywhere else. Being scared is part of it, though, because being scared and feeling overwhelmed by a dangerous, powerful world is also more recognizable to me than the world depicted in your average Ashton Kutcher flick.

And really — that’s it. It’s that simple for me. Sometimes the monsters are my heroes, something they’re my nightmares, but all of it feels like it’s part of a world where I came from, a world that makes sense to me.

In other words, it always feels like home.

It may not for you. And that’s cool. We’re just not from the same place, capice?

I originally found out about this game from Kotaku. Since then, I’ve downloaded the game, played it maybe six or seven times, each time for probably less than ten minutes before screaming, getting chills, ripping my headphones off, and stepping away from my computer.

It’s a free game. You can download it right now and try it yourself.

The creator, AgentParsec, says via YouTube: “I didn’t expect this to be popular; I made it for practice so I could learn Unity, and was only really intending to post it to a few forums I frequent.”

Sometimes, beautiful things are created by accident. The game’s modest design works in its favor. Sometimes, the simpler you make your horror story, the scarier it becomes. I even like how when you die, the game just flat-out quits. No ‘play again’. No ‘new game’. Just blip. You’re done. Like not only did the Slenderman get you, he fucked with your computer, too.

Honestly, Slender may well be the scariest game I’ve ever played — and I’ve played a lot of horror games. Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Dead Space–all are great series with a lot of great scares, but nothing so far has been this effective from the very first seconds.

You have a flashlight. The batteries will run out, so you should shut it off when you can. You’re in the woods and need to collect eight pages, scattered around the area. You’d better keeping moving, though. He follows you. And he’s fast. I don’t know if he walks. It seems to me more that he jumps forward once you spot him.

Be careful, though … his blank white face can look a lot like a page from twenty feet away.

I have yet to collect more than three pages. The first one is easy, usually. After that, he starts to come after you.

It’s funny how many of my rules for horror this game follows: it’s really hard to win, making the bad guy pretty lethal and dropping a serious feeling of doom over the proceedings; there are no cops, no guns, no monologuing villains (in fact, there’s no dialogue at all); and atmosphere? It has that in spades, but it doesn’t overdo it.

If you like being scared shitless, try playing this game. It’s an amazing testament to the power of independent games.

love it.

Now I’m going to have to go try it again …

(fuck you, Slenderman, those pages are MINE!)

Fifty Shades of GreySifting through the Fifty Shades trilogy, I started paying more attention to patterns than to the plot. Perhaps E L James (choosing to respect her apparent wishes to drop the periods after her initials) repeated the phrase “you are one fucked up bitch” six times in Fifty Shades Darker in order to aid rote memorization, perhaps not, but I’m sure Homer wouldn’t have done it any differently. At any rate, I embarked on my own odyssey in search of something all the books in the trilogy shared; something which could pull the whole series together.

Well, I think I’ve found it. Appearing at least fifteen times in each book as simply “I shake my head,” the phrase runs through E L James’s book like a true idée fixe, sometimes appearing only a sentence after its last appearance!

But E L James is nothing if not creative, and she shows us many different ways of shaking one’s head. Here are more than fifty cumulative ways of shaking one’s head, as found throughout the Fifty Shades series. (And, yes, it’s possible I missed some. I shake my head at science!)

From Fifty Shades of Grey:

  1. “I shake my head, disturbed at the direction of my thoughts…”
  2. “I shake my head to gather my wits.”
  3. “I shake my head, because I just don’t know.”
  4. “I shake my head, and he heads to the counter.”
  5. “I shake my head at her in a back-off now Kavanagh way – but I might as well be dealing with a blind, deaf mute.”
  6. “I shake my head, not daring to tell him and keep my eyes on my food.”
  7. “I shake my head. Not for food.”
  8. “I shake my head, so much to think about.”
  9. “I shake my head in defeat.”
  10. “I shake my head to concentrate on the task at hand.”
  11. “I shake my head in disbelief.”
  12. “I shake my head, and she rolls her eyes at me.”
  13. “I shake my head as I wander back inside.”
  14. “I shake my head resigned and grasp Christian’s toothbrush.”
  15. “I shake my head at the realization.”
  16. “I shake my head at his largesse, and I frown as a scene from Tess crosses my mind: the strawberry scene.”
  17. “I shake my head as the thought crosses my mind that Christian might have purchased the adjacent seat so that I couldn’t talk to anyone. “
  18. “I shake my head amused, and before I realize it, I roll my eyes at him.”

From Fifty Shades Darker:

  1. “I shake my head and flush before taking a less confrontational approach.”
  2. “I shake my head, confused.”
  3. “I shake my head, equally puzzled.”
  4. “I shake my head, but my heart is in my mouth.”
  5. “I shake my head in disapproval because of the expense, but deep down I love it.”
  6. “I shake my head, trying to clear my mind.”
  7. “I shake my head—Christian Mindfuck Grey.”
  8. “I shake my head, disgusted at myself…”
  9. “I shake my head sleepily. No way.”
  10. “I shake my head, remembering my body bowed and wanting beneath his expert hands.”
  11. “I shake my head in disbelief.”
  12. “I shake my head at the screen, but figure I cannot continue to argue with him over e-mail.”
  13. “I shake my head to reassure him.”
  14. “I shake my head and stare out my window at the gray Seattle day, feeling forlorn.”
  15. “I shake my head as I realize I need to start communicating.”
  16. “I shake my head and clutch José’s hand.”
  17. “I shake my head and clamber unsteadily to my feet.”
  18. “I shake my head at him—he’s actually being serious?”
  19. “I shake my head thinking about my mythical father.”

From Fifty Shades Freed:

  1. “I shake my head slowly, deliberately, trying to look as serious as possible. He closes his eyes and shakes his head then tilts his head back in surrender.”
  2. “I shake my head . . . one day, maybe.”
  3. “I shake my head, causing him to release my ear and gaze up at him.”
  4. “I shake my head to emphasize my point.”
  5. “I shake my head in frustration but I’m grateful that he’s telling Miss Provocative-And-Unfortunately-Good-At-Her-Job just who’s in charge.”
  6. “I shake my head vehemently.”
  7. “I shake my head, and his brow furrows once more.”
  8. “I shake my head in resignation.”
  9. “I shake my head in denial…”
  10. “I shake my head and reach up to caress his lovely face.”
  11. “I shake my head, unable to speak.”
  12. “I shake my head as I recall my distressing, tense encounter…”
  13. “I shake my head mutely.” (Ed. note: is there any other way?)
  14. “I shake my head and sigh loudly.” (Ed. note: shouldn’t have asked!)
  15. “I shake my head, exasperated at myself and at Hannah . . . “
  16. “I shake my head as Taylor sets off toward the hospital.”
  17. “I shake my head and pick up his socks and tie, and fold his jacket over my arm.”
  18. “I shake my head and gingerly get out of bed.”
  19. “I shake my head slowly, deliberately, trying to look as serious as possible.”

This kind of laser-like thematic focus is rare, folks.  Truly impressive stuff.

If you haven’t seen one of my favorite films, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover … well. The loss is yours. It is everything I ever want from a film. Beauty. Ugliness. Fantastic horrors. Powerlessness, rebellion, and goddamn satisfaction.

Not for all tastes. (Well, okay … that’s an understatement AND a pun!)

In the meantime, please to enjoy this rousing cinematic score.  I listen to this music, and I get inspired to do better.

(If you’ve seen the film, it’s even more delicious.)

The heart of a champion. A hard worker with a strange stance and a hell of an eye. Not to mention, he holds the Red Sox club record for number of times hit by a pitch (he was pelted eighty-six times). Additional details from the email I just got from

“Youkilis, 33, has hit .233 with seven doubles, a triple, four home runs, 14 RBI and 25 runs in 42 games for the Red Sox this season. A three-time All-Star who was selected by the Red Sox in the eighth round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft, Youkilis owns a .287 career average with 239 doubles, 17 triples, 133 home runs, 564 RBI, 594 runs, 494 walks and 26 stolen bases in 953 career games with Boston. Youkilis won World Series titles with the club in 2004 and 2007, earned a Gold Glove in 2007 and was the 2008 AL recipient of the Hank Aaron Award.”

Yeah. I say thank you for that.

Watching his final at-bat today, I wanted to be at Fenway, on my feet and cheering for him. Youk’s long been my favorite player, and he went out today with style, hitting an RBI-triple and digging in for a great slide to third, proving once again his willingness to end the day covered in dirt.

I hate Bobby Valentine a little for the disrespectful comments, but that’s Bobby Valentine for you. He’s not one to watch what he says, and that makes him more fun to listen to than, I don’t know, say, Bill Belichick? But yeah — I wish he hadn’t made Youk his enemy.

Because Youk represents what the Red Sox are about. They’re a team that can be the best and the worst, all at the same time. Last year was an absolutely stellar season for the Red Sox, bookended by an atrocious beginning and an historically terrible collapse. People can focus on the fried chicken and beer stories all they want, but what I refuse to forget is that in between all the tragedy, they were unstoppable. A great player in a slump … man, that’s just Red Sox baseball to the core. The potential is always there, but every damned day it’s anything can happen day.

The club fought through the curse. But fight they had to. And that’s the hardest part: it’s stepping up to the plate with all the voices in your head and not giving up. Working hard, no matter what your average or your stats may be, no matter if you’re feeling cursed or not — that’s something I love to see in my Red Sox players, no matter how bad the season gets. And Youk had it in spades.

As for the new guy, Will Middlebrooks, whose blazing talent has sort of pushed Youk out of the lineup … I’m looking forward to watching him continue to light it up.

I just won’t forget Youk. Guy has the heart of a champion, and I’m sorry to see him go.

I’ve been following this film for a long time (it was originally filmed in 2009, but its release was delayed by MGM’s bankruptcy), protecting myself from spoilers, dreaming of a fresh new genre deconstruction that’s also a great horror film in its own right.

Having now seen the film, I don’t understand the media embargo regarding spoilers. The entire plot of the movie has, actually, been given away by the official trailer. And if it hadn’t been given away in the trailer, the basic conceit is given away in the first five minutes of the actual film. Written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard and directed by Goddard, the film looks to be a clone of The Evil Dead, but ends up being more like The Evil Dead mashed together with the Initiative from season four of Whedon’s Buffy, except instead of being run by Lindsay Crouse, this paramilitary group is run by — well, I guess I can’t say. The day-to-day operations are handled by Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins (my favorite characters), with Amy Acker saying some lines over their shoulders.

I wanted a lot from this movie, perhaps too much. When I saw the 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I thought I was in for a treat. Sad to say, I was let down. The Cabin in the Woods is not a bad film; it’s just not a great one, and it’s disrespectful of its own genre. I enjoyed it far less than last year’s Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. Cabin is slicker and savvier, but it’s also lacking any really likable characters, which given Whedon’s presence as co-scriptwriter, surprised me. Kristen Connolly’s Dana is no Sydney Prescott, and Fran Kranz’s stoner Marty is such an obnoxious, selfish twit he nearly ruins the film single-handedly (I also hated this actor a lot in Whedon’s Dollhouse, and my opinion of him has only grown worse).  The film is also not very scary or funny (it made me laugh a couple times and scared me not once). The trouble with the movie’s monsters is that they seem like the off-brand versions of villains we know too well. Instead of Hellraiser‘s Pinhead, we get a vaguely S&M-ish guy holding a puzzle sphere with saw-blades in his face. The film ends up less involving than if someone took the posters of a thousand horror films, cut them up, threw them on the floor, and then pissed on them to make them less recognizable.

Now I’m going to discuss the specific things I didn’t like about the movie. In detail. Get out now if you want to see this for yourself; spoilers after the jump.

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Maybe you’re one of the people who wondered why I Held My Breath as Long as I Could started off with one of the worst stories. Maybe you want to know more about why someone would self-publish. Maybe you’re just bored and have nothing better to do. Whatever the case, the following is an interview examining and explaining the thoughts behind the stories included in an admittedly strange collection.


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It was one of the best nights of my life.

We’d been to the Alamo Drafthouse Open Screen Night before, and we’d been gonged. The we here was myself, Scott Raulie, Justin Tunkkari, and Jason Rude. The Alamo allowed anyone to bring a movie to screen, and every film would be given at least two minutes, after which time, the audience was free to clap or boo, with the hosts determining whether the response suggested to keep the movie rolling or bang a gong on the stage and move on to the next. At the end of the night, a winner would be chosen based on audience reaction.

We were determined to win the audience award, which came with a cash prize of $100. We were gonged.

The video we presented, which was gonged, was called Heisters. Here it is (I play the guy with the burlap over his head).

Heisters – watch more funny videos

Shameful, that gonging. But, you know, it was pretty scripted, what we were doing. And what can I tell you? All those continuity errors and the wedding rings on the guys … that was all intentional. All for laughs. I still think Heisters is pretty funny. But we licked our wounds and regrouped. We decided that next time, we would make something that had a running time under two minutes, so that there would be no way possible for our film to be gonged.

So we went and made Curious George and the Mysterious Box. I have to admit that I was giggling furiously the entire time we were filming it. Scott at one point said, “I’m getting a little sick to my stomach,” which only made me laugh harder. I can’t say for certain, but my euphoria over the project might have resulted in some distance between me and my soon-to-be-ex wife.

But a month later, we returned to the next Open Screen Night with our second film. Watching this play on a movie screen in front of a real audience that had no idea what was going to happen–and hearing them react in real time–was one of the single best things that has ever happened to me.

And what do you know–the second time around, we won.

To my friends I left in Austin–guys, I miss you, and I’ll always love the stuff we put together.

Happy Halloween!


It’s time for Halloween party-planning, so I figured it’s a good time to take a stroll through some of my favorite Halloween / horror film theme songs. Here goes …

13. Tales from the Crypt

Another classic theme from Danny Elfman. It was a bit of tough call which Elfman piece to go with for this article, the other strong contender being something from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Either way, no Halloween mix is complete without something from this guy.

12. The X-Files

It might’ve ended ingloriously, but this theme still recalls years of pleasant creepiness. The best episodes of The X-Files still hold up, and I’ve yet to find a good replacement for the hole left by its slow dissolution.

11. Ghostbusters

The song that became a cliche, and yet … it’s still fun, just like the movie. Of course, it’s also unintentionally hilarious in places, such as when Ray Parker, Jr. sings, “Bustin’ makes me feel good!” I mean, I’m sure it does, but c’mon, Ray, there are children here.

10. Unsolved Mysteries

Ever since I was a young kid, this theme has filled me with the uneasy sense that something terrible is at work in the world. It doesn’t hurt that the show was about awful things happening in the real world that were always left disturbingly unresolved.

9. Hellraiser

Now it’s time to start getting a bit more scary. Christopher Young’s theme sounds exactly like the kind of horrible, revelatory stuff you’d hear playing when someone opens a gateway to Hell. Perfect for any party!

8. Pennywise the Clown Theme

Ha ha ha! C’mon, everybody loves a creepy clown theme that almost sounds like it could be a jingle for an ice cream truck. And really, I might have just loved this photo of Pennywise, one of Stephen King’s finest creations. “We all float down here …”

Oh yeah.

7. 28 Days / Weeks Later

This adaptation of “East Hastings” by Godspeed You! Black Emperor is the perfect theme for an apocalyptic nightmare spinning out of control. I listen to it all the time while I write.

6. Thriller

Arguably the best music video ever made, I might sometimes think I don’t need to ever hear this song again … until it gets to the Vincent Price part.

5. Scream, “Red Right Hand”

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand” was on endless repeat after I saw the first Scream film. Nick Cave is really at his best writing songs about murderers. Special points awarded to the editor who timed Deputy Dewey closing the car door to one of the dramatic musical hits in this song. Nicely done!

4. Halloween

John Carpenter not only wrote and directed a movie that spawned a franchise and gave endless fuel to the bogeyman/slasher film sub-genre, but he also created one of the single best scary movie themes ever made. This one is not only a must for a Halloween mix, it’s also probably a given.

Did I mention it’s what I programmed into my phone’s to wake me up every day?

3. Dead Man’s Bones, “My Body’s A Zombie For You”

Not technically from a movie or TV show or whatever, although it was originally planned as a kind of musical, Ryan Gosling’s odd side-project is actually amazing and perfect for Halloween. I can’t get enough of the album, and this song in particular is especially great. As if being a good-looking, talented actor wasn’t enough, Gosling has to go and make one of my favorite creepy cool albums …

2. Rosemary’s Baby

Never has a lullaby been put to such good effect. The way this theme is woven into the film through several clever variations is masterful. This is gorgeous, creepy stuff!

1. The Shining

I mean, you could try to do better than this opening music to one of the best horror films of all time.
You could try …