Nothing makes us happier than seeing how far we can get from the campfire before we get scared. Horror cinema has been around almost as long as cinema itself and whether it’s Nosferatu walking jauntily through Bremen, Ellen Ripley discovering exactly how little she matters to her employers, or Laurie Strode running from the blank, featureless evil of Michael Myers, it’s given us some of the most enduring images of film history.
Which is where we come in. Pseudopod’s new film review section will be looking at the best new movies, the acknowledged classics, and the cult films we know you need in your life. Japanese survival horrors, very English armageddons, and masked killers bent on revenge — we’ve caught and caged the lot for your listening pleasure.
So join us, on this first episode, as we look at the slasher movie patient zero, the film that has spawned countless sequels and arguably a subgenre all of its own: John Carpenter’s Halloween.
By Ken Goldman
Read by Alasdair Stuart
An intermittent brightness from above allowed Shelby a study of her captor’s lumpish face that seemed more pockmarked with each new illumination. Standing near, the man stank like raw sewage. He polished off what remained of a sandwich, licking brown grease from stubby fingers that somehow remained filthy.
Shelby struggled against the knots at her wrists and those inside her stomach. Attempting some semblance of composure she breathed deeply, filling her lungs. It didn’t help much. A rotted smell imprinted itself inside her nostrils. Near her, shelves housed a grotesque assortment of stinking pumpkin heads, maybe a dozen of them reduced to disintegrated lumps surrounding the room, one-time jack-o’lanterns whose carved smiles had long since decomposed.
Fighting the urge to gag Shelby focused outside where the black ink of the Atlantic heaved in the darkness. Distant lights of the Jersey shore towns glimmered like painted stars, but nearby no lights shone. Rotating from a pedestal above, a huge beacon scoured the circular room. Its single ray flittered upon the ocean’s whitecaps and exposed a beach that turned to marshland, impossible to traverse. A small boat had been dragged away from the surf, its tracks upbeach indented in the sand near a small shed. The bastard had removed the outboard, probably locked it inside that shack. He had tendered her to this middle-of-nowhere light house, as isolated as it was remote, dragged her to its lantern room to fuck her and then kill her.
Or maybe he would kill her first, and then . . .
Shit . . . oh shit . . . breathe . . .
Happy Halloween, everyone!
By John Hayes
Musical production by Toby Chappell — now available for your podcast soundtracking needs. Ask him while he’s feeling generous.
Story read by Ben Phillips
Pop some shrooms and get a load of this:
Each night I have the same dream. I am sitting on a white donkey and a noose fashioned from strong Asian hemp is tightened around my throat by six laughing women. The smile fades from the tallest woman and she leaps onto a hickory tree and scampers along a stout limb. Carla’s sister tosses the rope to the tall woman who knots it about the limb. I lean forward and shield the donkey’s eyes. A cowgirl removes a derringer lodged between her breasts. She places the weapon against the donkey’s head and shoots. The donkey falls and my body swings in the thin night air of the third moon of the fifth planet from Being, the blazing star.
Check back Halloween night at midnight (EST) for our third and final October bonus story.
By Tara Kolden
Read by K.J. Johnson
“You are a thief,” the native translator repeated. “There are two things my people say about the tree god. The first is that no one who steals from him goes unpunished.”
Heglund’s eyes narrowed. “And what is the other?”
Callala looked at the dirt floor inside the priest’s hut. His voice was quiet. “They say the taste of a man’s blood stirs the heart of Tu’a Halaita. After a single bite, he will have no satisfaction until the whole man is eaten.”
Wikipedia has a nice picture of a baobab tree you can gaze upon to enhance your listening experience, if only to give you an idea of the size of the thing. (At least it’s there at the time of this writing — with Wikipedia, you never know.)
By Michael A. Arnzen
Read by Sheila Unwin
The secret to growing a man-eating plant is the same as it is with any plant: you must enrich the soil.
By David Malki !
Read by Dani Cutler
The sisters sat in the back seat, bundled up against winter, as the car idled in the driveway. Julie hunched low, staring at the seat in front of her; Emma slumped against the opposite window, staring at the snow that blanketed the world, staring at her friends, lying silently asleep.
“You’re such a freak,” Julie snarled. “You’re always causing such problems. Why can’t you just be normal.”
“I’m hot,” Emma croaked.
“Well, it’s like thirty degrees out there, have at it,” Julie said, and unclicked Emma’s seat belt.
Emma bounded from the car and ran to join her friends, feeling the refreshing rush of snow on her face. They cheered as she rubbed the ice into her skin, feeling weight lift from her lungs. She breathed in the cold deeply, and became more alive: she noticed the tang of pine in the air; smelled the dirty heat of the car’s exhaust.
She felt a deep hatred for her sister rise. Her friends felt it too. They didn’t need to be told what to do.
By Alaya Dawn Johnson
Read by The Word Whore
They worship him. Or, perhaps more accurately, they are afraid of him. They keep him in one of their shelters, where he sits rigidly day after day, surrounded by the tiny, shriveled heads of their enemies. His dull, open eyes–two different shades of brown–stare at nothing. His stolen lungs do not breathe, his pilfered heart does not pound. Yet his crudely stitched patchwork skin does not rot any further–the monster has stopped, but he is not dead.
I despise him for being so pityingly self-assured, so brave. He descended to the darkness, but I still chased the lightning, wishing I could stop even while that surreal light coursed through my body. He says that Christians are supposed to love their creator, but how could I love mine? I am an abomination, a wild assembly of wasted, fetid things–a whore of borrowed parts. How could I want this life? And yet, how can I end it?