Thursday, January 30, 2014

Original Fiction - "Crawlies" Part 3

The itsy bitsy spider,
Wiped out humanity!

Admit it, you were singing along, weren’t you?  Maybe it’s because you have been so eagerly awaiting the third installment of Crawlies.  Well, wait no longer, because here it is!  See what fresh horrors await our survivors, if you dare!
In case you missed them, or want a refresher on how humanity ends, you can read parts 1 and 2 of Crawlies here:
Crawlies - Part 3
              The wound was moderate in size and circular with slightly torn edges.  Besides that from the initial stabbing, there was little blood around the wound as the crawlies had a powerful coagulant in their stinger that could be used to accompany the delivery of their eggs into a host.  After all, it would do them no good to inject a host just to have it die.  Sammy lie on the ground panting and going into shock.  Bob loaded another clip into the rifle and shot the handle off of one of the doors with little consideration for what he might attract or what could be behind the door itself.   With everyone else’s attention diverted, no one stopped him.

Bob scanned the darkened room and saw no sign of crawlies.  He entered with a little more caution then he had shown in opening the door.  He quickly found what he was looking for and drug it out into the hallway.  Bob used the chair to prop up Sammy’s feet.  When Callie looked at him questioningly, he simply stated, “To prevent shock.”  Callie just nodded and turned her attention back to Sammy. 

“Shhhh,” she cooed, “It’s going to be all right.  Everything will be fine, you’ll see.”  She gently stroked his long hair away from his face.  She had no romantic feelings for him, but felt that he deserved the kindest of treatment given the circumstances.  Sammy looked up at her and managed to slow his breathing and nod.

Sammy croaked out, “You know what you have to do.”  He reached into the chest pocket on his jacket and pulled out a small package.  With shaking hands, he tore the package open and a small vial of gasoline and matches fell out.  Callie shook her head and looked away.  She wanted to scream at the injustice of it all.  The whole situation sucked and she was tired of watching good people die because humans had been bumped down a few notches on the food chain.  She wanted to sink deep within herself and pretend that none of this was happening.

Sammy’s voice brought her out of her denial.  “Please, don’t make me do it myself.  I don’t want to go to hell.”  Callie was disgusted at the very notion of heaven or hell at the moment.  How could any God allow such a plague to overcome his creation?  Humanity may be fucked up, but they didn’t deserve this.  Again, however, she did not see any need to upset the man.  He was essentially dead.  Now that he was a host, it was just a matter of time.

Callie nodded and reached to Bob for the rifle without looking at him.  When she felt nothing enter her hand, she looked back towards him.  He just shook his head and aimed the rifle at Sammy.

Bob’s voice was choked with tears, “Any last words, buddy?”  His aim never wavered from Sammy’s head.

“At least I’ll see Patricia again.”  Sammy managed to say.  None of them knew who Patricia was.  Sammy had never really talked about his past prior to the outbreak.  Now, they would never know.

Bob kept his eyes on Sammy as he pulled the trigger.  The left side of Sammy’s head exploded in a rush of blood, brains, and skull.  He instantly fell still.  Bob and Callie carried the corpse into the side room with as much care as they could.  Once the had him situated in the middle of the room and were sure that there was nothing around him that could  catch, Callie opened the gasoline vial and spread it over the body as well as she could.  She lit a match, closed her eyes, and dropped it onto the corpse.  There was an instant rush of flames and the body began to be consumed.  Bob and Callie left the room without looking back.

Bob stepped out of the room in an apparent daze, but quickly looked around and saw Ben cowering across the hall.  Before anyone could react, Bob grabbed Ben by his shoulders, lifting him off the ground and slamming him into the wall in one fluid, forceful motion.  Ben could not meet the angry man’s gaze.  He shook, although Callie didn’t know if it was from fear or from whatever had been wrong with him from the moment he had joined their group.  Bob did not seem to care.

“Where the fuck where you?” Bob screamed, the spittle coating Ben’s face yet not causing a reaction in the man.  “You throw that fucking thing at him like your passing a football and then you run?  I should put a fucking bullet through your fucking head!”  Bob’s face was crimson and the veins on his neck and forehead were standing out in his fury.  Callie didn’t think that Bob and Sammy had known each other prior to meeting at the beginning of the outbreak, but they had been through a lot since that time.  They had as close of a friendship as people could hope for during this whole mess.

“I didn’t know,” Ben feebly tried to argue his defense.  “I didn’t know it would infect him.”  He continued to shake.

“What did you think the thing was going to do, give him a fucking kiss?”  Bob shook Ben as he yelled at him.  Callie expected the smaller man’s neck to snap with the ferocity of Bob’s attack.  All of the others in the group just stood watching the whole thing play out, but for different reasons. 

Natasha was tending to Will and his injured leg.  She had managed to stop the bleeding and they were lucky that the bullet had gone straight through his leg.  It had miraculously missed hitting any major arteries from what they could tell.  Will was unable to get up without help.  It was doubtful that he would have helped Ben even if he was able to do so.  Will, Bob, and Sammy had been a team and he felt the same way about Sammy’s death as Bob.  Additionally, he blamed Ben for the bullet that had injured him and would likely turn into a death sentence.  Given the condition of the world, a person who was unable to run was not likely to survive long.  Callie was torn. 

Callie didn’t want to see Bob hurt Ben.  It wasn’t that she didn’t think he deserved it for what he had done, she simply felt some degree of pity for him.  He had reacted in fear and that was all.  At the same time, she had not liked him from the moment she had met him and believed that they might be better off without him.  Overall, her desire to please made her hesitant to choose sides.  She had thought that her need for approval was a handicap when the world was fully functional, but now it was crippling. 

There really was a physical need to be with a group that accompanied with psychological one.  She couldn’t picture surviving very long on her own.  She had not realized just how soft she had been in her life prior to the outbreak.  How much she had taken for granted as a natural part of her daily routine.  She didn’t have the knowledge or skills to survive something like this on her own.  Her conscious and her survival instinct were at opposition with each other.  Finally, she found herself deciding on the best course of action without having to take sides.

Callie cleared her throat and spoke loudly enough to make sure that Bob would hear here through the fog of his anger.  “If you are going to kill him, do it quickly so we can move on.  The longer we stay here, the less chance we have of finding Jacob and Elizabeth.”  She didn’t really think that Bob would kill Ben and she was desperately hoping that stating it in that way would snap him out of the rage trance he seemed to be in.  At the same time, it did not place her against Bob, so she felt that it was a safe move.

Bob seemed to hesitate and then get a hold of himself.  He released Ben, who sank back to the floor and curled up into a ball.  Bob looked down at him in disgust.  “This guy isn’t worth the extra time it would take to kill him.”  Bob spat on Ben and walked away towards Will and Natasha.  Callie looked down at Ben with a mixture of pity and revulsion.  After a brief moment, bent over and tapped him on the shoulder.

“If you are planning on coming with us, you had better get up,” she said.  With that she walked over to Bob, Will, and Natasha.  She felt that her conscience was assuaged at the attempt.  “Can he walk?” She asked Natasha as she reached them.

“We’ll need to help him, but I think he’ll make it.”  Natasha confirmed.

“Don’t bother,” Will stated as unemotionally as if he were telling them to go to a movie without him.  “I’ll just slow you down.”

“The hell with that,” Bob sneered as he lifted Will up.  Will accepted the help and managed to limp down the hall with Bob’s help.  Bob handed Will the spiked club and took the machete for himself.  He handed Callie the rifle and commented “Better for someone with two open hands to handle this.”  Natasha still held the flickering torch.  As they started down the hall Callie noticed that Ben had rejoined them but was hanging a few feet to the rear of the group.

As they walked down the hall, Callie could hear their footsteps echoing through the corridor.  Her heart pounded and she swung the rifle from left to right.  She expected something to jump out at them any moment.  After a few minutes and some more twists and turns towards the center of the building, she began to wish something would attack.  It was too quiet.  The building was disturbingly unguarded for a nest.  With each step her tension built until she felt the irrational urge to start banging on walls and objects they passed in order to prompt something out of hiding.  She resisted the urge, but when Will coughed, she turned quickly and almost fired at him.  Seeing what she was about to do, Bob shoved the barrel of the rifle towards the floor without a word.

Callie managed to keep herself from pulling the trigger, but it was close.  She took a deep breath and steadied herself for the continued trek through the building.  They still followed the blood trail, although it had started to taper off and become inconsistent.  Callie knew that there was no way that Elizabeth was still alive and wondered how long it would take Jacob to come to the same conclusion.  She was about to round another corner when she heard a loud grunt of pain from behind her.

Callie, along with the rest of the group, turned and saw Ben bent over gripping his stomach in pain.  She shined her flashlight right at him and saw the look of pure terror on his face.  What she did not see was confusion and all of a sudden all of her questions were answered.  Bob must have sensed the same thing.  He passed Will off to Natasha.  Before Ben could react, Bob slammed him up against a wall and tore his shirt open.  Callie instantly saw the reason for Ben’s closed, secretive nature.

The injection wound on Ben’s chest had long since healed over, but it was still as clear as it had probably been on the day he had been made a crawlie host.  Callie watched in disgust and horror as his stomach actually bulged outward with the stretching of the creatures’ legs and bodies.  Bob took several steps back and growled some incomprehensible swear words.  Callie raised the rifle to shoot Ben and end his misery.  Her hesitation allowed Bob to take action.

Bob reached into the back pocket of his pants and pulled out his gasoline and matches.  Before anyone in the group could stop him, Bob twisted the cap off of the small bottle of gasoline and doused Ben.  He quickly struck a match and touched it right to Ben’s chest.  Ben became a pyre of burning flesh in an instant.  As his screams quickly became shrieks of agony, Callie thought she saw a smile on Bob’s face.  She didn’t hesitate any longer.  Callie pulled the trigger and ended Ben’s suffering with a single bullet to the head. 

Ben’s corpse dropped to a burning pile on the ground.  Will limped over and added his gasoline to the fire and the popping sound of Ben’s burning flesh was now accompanied by the high pitch squeals of the trapped and dying crawlies still in Ben’s body.  They all watched until the fire died down.  Bob’s smile did not fade.  Callie gazed at him.  She wanted to hate him, but she could not allow herself to do so.  Despite, what Bob had just done, she still needed him and the rest of the group.  She tried to placate her guilty conscious over what she had just allowed to happen by reminding herself that Ben had been lying to them the entire time.  By doing so, he had put them all in danger.

“I guess that explains why we haven’t seen any crawlies in a while,” Bob said, nodding to the blackened corpse on the floor.  “We better go find Jacob and Elizabeth before the rest of the hive finds us.  They are going to be pissed.”

- - -

Although it could never be verified, it was a widely held belief by most of the scientists studying the crawlies that there existed in them some kind of swarm mind.  Observations and reports from the field seemed to suggest a connectivity between the minds of the creatures that bordered on telepathic.  Since it was too dangerous to gather them in large groups in order to test this theory, all that the “experts” had to go on was speculation based on circumstantial evidence and anecdotal reports.  Two main sets of evidence pointed strongly towards this conclusion.

It had been noted by clean up teams each time there was a specimen escape and subsequent overrunning of a laboratory that every crawlie containment unit was empty.  It did not seem to matter how far apart the cages were or even if they were separated by walls or sections in the facility.  Every containment unit would be empty, the same previously unknown weakness in the unit being exploited on every one of them.  It seemed obvious to the scientists conducting the after-incident reviews that it would not have been possible for any known method of communication to pass along this information in such a widespread and consistent manner.  The general conclusion, although “officially” dismissed, was that there existed a telepathic link between the crawlies.  This link was dubbed hive-mind.  The theory was also backed by reports from the field.

Many soldiers around the world reported a similar situation when crawlies were encountered.  It would not matter if one or a dozen were initially encountered.  Within a few minutes, crawlies would come from every corner and crevice in the surrounding area.  This was one of the reasons it was so difficult to collect live specimens.  Soldiers seldom had time to safely capture a specimen without risk of being overwhelmed.  The surviving soldiers often said it reminded them of a scouting team being sent out to locate then enemy and then calling in reinforcements.  Anyone who voiced this opinion aloud was quickly reassigned to a location where they would not stir up any panic.  By this time, most of the governments of the world realized that they were fighting a losing battle.  The focus was starting to shift away from research and containment and towards keeping the public calm while doomsday scenarios were developed and debated in secret.  Things were coming to an end.

- - -

As they moved through the dark corridors, they could all hear scuttling sounds coming from behind the walls.  Each one of them knew what that meant.  The crawlies had been keeping their distance because they knew that Ben was a host.  They had sensed the growing creatures within him that were preparing to emerge and did not want to interfere with that or risk them being harmed in any attack.  Now, however, Ben was dead and with him the creatures that he had carried.  The crawlies not only no longer had any reason to stay back, but they were likely going to be seeking revenge for the death of their own. 


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Interview - A Talk about Horror with Pinhead - Doug Bradley

There are few examples of a minor movie character who was elevated to star status by an actor’s phenomenal performance.  The “lead cenobite” in Hellraiser was one of these characters.  Most people better know this character by the name Pinhead.  The actor who took Pinhead from unnamed character to predominant role in seven additional movies was Doug Bradley. 

Doug Bradley was born in Liverpool, England on September 7, 1954.  Following high school, Bradley and long-time friend Clive Barker started the “Dog Company,” a progressive theatre group.  Barker focused on writing while Bradley turned his attention to acting.  The rest is movie monster history.  Bradley is among only five actors to ever play a role at least six times.  His performance as Pinhead has made for legendary horror movie moments and earned him a spot in the Movie Monster Hall of Fame.

In addition to his incredible performance as Pinhead, Bradley has been active in the horror industry.  He has worked with Barker on Nightbreed and Books of Blood.  He has been in The Prophesy:  Uprising, Pumpkinhead:  Ashes to Ashes, A Vampire’s Tale, and Wrong Turn 5.  In addition, Bradley has written a novel on the history of masks in society and their use in horror movies, titled Sacred Masks: Behind the Mask of the Horror Actor.  He has provided narration on various albums for English extreme metal band, Cradle of Filth.  Bradley has also narrated nine volumes of horror stories on CD titled Spine Chillers covering the works of such horror masters as H.P Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, Ambrose Bierce, and many others.

I had the chance to talk to Doug Bradley about his work and the horror industry in general while at Horrorhound in 2011.  He had a lot to share about his experiences and insights.

Ira Gansler:  As someone who has worked in the horror genre for so long, how do you define horror?

Doug Bradley:  I don’t really.  I’m often asked in interviews to justify horror.  A similar kind of question.  What people are particularly driving at there is that given this war or that war or this natural disaster news story, with so much real horror in the world why do we need any more horror.  I guess what I tend to do is often throw the question back and ask people “why comedy?”  And they kind of look a bit blank and they say “because its funny” which is no justification.  But if that’s an answer then the answer to what is horror is easy.  It’s what scares us.  It’s what frightens us.  So that’s the simple answer.  Obviously once you start to explore that any further it becomes very complicated story because what scares me doesn’t scare you and vice versa.  There are given fundamentals that we are all afraid of, which is our mortality and fear of death, fear of dark, fear of the unknown, fear of how tiny a speck of dust we live on in the enormity of the universe and the terror that all of our endeavor may be, as far as the universe is concerned is neither here or there.  Or its wasps, or giant sea creatures, or invaders from mars.  Whatever it is.  And that’s what makes horror so wonderful and vibrant is that there is no end to discovering the things that scare us.

IG:  What draws you to horror?  Why the horror industry?

DB:  Well, I was a fan of horror movies when I was a teenager, before I knew I wanted to become an actor.  When I became an actor it was not with any ambition to work in the horror genre.  Hellraiser happened and as a result of that I’ve continued to work in the genre.  And that’s fine with me because I’m still a fan.  As a kid, it was ghost stories, they scared me stupid, but I could not get enough of them.  Then I don’t know what is it that draws us to horror.  For me, in terms of horror movies, I cut my teeth on the Hammer movies, it was Dracula and Frankenstein.  But I think that horror belongs in a larger frame which is called fantasy and imagination.  There is a lot in the work of classic art and classic literature, in the work of people like William Blake, john Webster, even Shakespeare.  World mythologies, folk stories, they are all kind of using the same building blocks as horror.  So all of that has always drawn me and attracted me.

IG:  What do you think of the shift of emphasis of horror in the last ten years or so in horror from more of the frighten and the scare to almost more of the in your face gore?

DB:  You’re talking about torture porn?

IG:  Yes, sir.

DB:  I’ll take gore with the best of them.  It’s not really what draws me to horror in the first place, but it is certainly part and parcel with it.  I have no problem with it.  But for me, there always needs to be something else going on.  Actually, the first Saw movie, I had a really good time with it.  I thought that it was a really clever film.  As the movies went on it became more about that.  Hostel, I didn’t care for, it seemed to be just an excuse for bloodletting.  I’m not going to get steamed up about that.  You don’t really need an excuse for bloodletting as far as I’m concerned.  I think it would certainly be a shame if it meant that horror was losing its imaginative roots, its roots in fantasy, its roots in mythology, its roots in something that, dare I say it, is something more meaningful then ripping bodies up.  I always say, by the way, that the worst example of torture porn was not a horror film, as far as most people were concerned, it was that odious piece of crap that Mel Gibson foisted on us, The Passion of the Christ.  I came out of – it actually occurred to me that we spent twenty minutes watching Jesus be flayed including them switching from a whip to a cat of nine tails.  They show us the bits of metal cutting into wood.  So if you’re now whipping somebody with that you’re ripping chunks of flesh off his back.  By the time the guy comes to pick up the cross and carry it to Golgotha, I’m sorry but he’s bled out.  He’s not carrying anything anywhere.  Gibson is then unrelenting about the crucifixion.  It was the point at which the Roman Centurions panic and leave and they want to make sure he’s dead.  They stick the spear in his side and this power shower of blood comes pouring out of Christ’s body.  No idea where it came from, because he’s already lost all but about five fluid ounces of blood, I think.  And the centurion is kind of luxuriating in this shower of blood.  I was almost expecting him to get the loofa out and start scrubbing his back and singing Bing Crosby songs to himself.  And that was actually the point where I thought to myself “this is exactly like pornography.”  Because pornography has no interest in tiresome things like plot, and narrative, and character development, and tension, and so forth.  It is only interested in showing us the act over and over again in as much detail as possible.  That’s why we love pornography.  That seemed to me to be exactly what was going on in Passion of the Christ.  It was completely empty.  There was no passion, no drama, no psychology, no dramatic tension, no nothing.  Just this orgy of bloodletting, but it’s all put in this safe context because it’s about Jesus, it’s religious, it really happened, which is debatable.  So it’s okay.  And that annoys.  If horror makes a movie like that, there’s all hell to pay.  If you make a movie like that about Jesus, it’s fine.

IG:  So do you think horror can ever go too far in terms of what it portrays to us?

DB:  No.  Obviously, in terms of what you can and can’t portray, you are bound by what is acceptable on screen and what you can put on film.  But I would personally say, no.  I mean we are all very nervous about anything involving children, animals, and so forth, but certainly no.  I would say it is the responsibility of horror to probe everything and everywhere. 

IG:  Why do you think characters like Pinhead, Jason, Freddy, the big ones people think of when they think horror franchise, continue to resonate so much with the fans over the years?

DB:  I don’t know.  I can only say that I think there’s a kind of mythological level on which these characters work.  We are, all of us, Jason, Freddy, Michael, me, Chucky, Captain Spaulding, etcetera, we’re all manifestations of the boogey man one way or another.  There is a trickster element to the characters as well.  I guess maybe I’m too close to the wood to see the trees because I’m part of the process.  But I just think it’s that element.

IG:  When you look at the research on fear, a lot of the common acceptance is that one of the biggest things that generate fear in people is fear of the unknown and fear of things that we are unable to adapt into our own schema of reality and what there is in our world.  With that, how do you keep a character like Pinhead, who has been around for so many years, scary?

DB:  I think there’s kind of two levels on which the big things that scare us develop.  I grew up as a child in the 60’s.  For my generation and the generation slightly older that grew up in the 50’s, there was that immediate fear of nuclear war and nuclear annihilation.  We’ve kind of moved forward from that now.  There are a whole new level of things that take the place of that red menace and the fear of nuclear annihilation.  It’s now called terrorism, and dirty bombs, and global warming.  And our knowledge and our understanding of our planet and our place in it and the solar system and the universe we are a part of has expanded so exponentially in the last thirty/forty years.  And with it comes a whole other trench of fears.  We now know that Yellowstone Park is a super volcano and it will blow and it will destroy us when it does.  We now know that Grand Canarias is going to fall into the ocean at some point soon and it will create the mother of all tsunamis when it does and will drown most of the east coast.  We know that the big one is going to hit the west coast of America sooner or later and it’s probably going to make Los Angeles an off-shore pacific island when that happens.  We know that we are going to be hit by an asteroid at some point which is going to cause greater or lesser damage to the planet, possibly wipe us all out the way the dinosaurs went.  And we now have a concept of the distances involved in the universe we live in.  We know that planets and stars are dying and being born all the time.  We now know that our sun is roughly middle-aged and is going to die in roughly four billion years.  There’s nothing comforting in this news.  These are not cheery thoughts.  But these are kind of the profound terrors and fears that underpin our daily lives.  We get up in the morning and we go about our business knowing that our lives, and ourselves, and our concepts of ourselves hangs by the thinnest of threads.  We know that we are a heartbeat away from dying in a car crash every time we get in a vehicle.  We know that our sanity hangs by a string.  It’s very easy to undermine our sanity.  We carry all of this with us.  You put all of that on one side because these are real and immediate things.  A character like Pinhead really goes back to me talking about us being manifestations of the boogeyman.  A mythological figure.  We’ve always had the devil and the devil has always been conveniently there for us to hang everything we don’t like onto him.  I am an atheist.  The devil doesn’t work for me.  I don’t believe in the devil.  But the devil is a reflection of the darkness in our own heads.  That’s what people respond to when they respond to Freddy and Pinhead and so forth.  Those characters are out of time and those fears are primeval.  You don’t need to keep them fresh.  It’s always fresh.  You don’t need to do anything.  It’s always there. 

IG:  Just to finish up, Mr. Bradley, what do you think is the future of the horror genre?

DB:  I don’t know and I wouldn’t pretend to try to predict it.

IG:  Do you have any hopes for it?

DB:  I don’t know that horror needs any hopes.  It’s fine.  I’m really not worried about it.  It’s ever-present, it’s always there.  It is a genre that has never gone out of fashion.  It never goes out of fashion for one good reason; it reflects our psyches.  Westerns have gone out of fashion and so forth, horror will never go away and it will never go out of fashion.  And it will always be re-invented.  It will always be finding new avenues to explore and new paths to go down.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Movie Review - Hellhounds

“Notions of chance and fate are the preoccupations of men engaged in rash undertakings.”
- Cormac McCarthy

After finishing the film Hellhounds, I believe I can fully understand why writer/director Eric Widing chose this quote to begin his movie.  In Hellhounds we see through the eyes of Ross Graves.  As the movie progresses, we learn that Graves is being hunted by a group of demons known as Hellhounds as the result of a deal he rashly made.  To say too much more would risk giving away the true impact of this movie, which is the way the story unfolds through the perspective of Ross Graves and the fantastic film-making talent of Eric Widing.

A dream-like quality permeates throughout the entire film as we join Ross on the run from his demons.  For the first third of the movie, it is hard to be sure exactly what is going on, but sticking with it is well worth the wait as everything begins to come together.  Soon, we begin to see that Ross is being hunted and is on the run from his own past, some of which he can’t even remember.  Every rash choice he makes worsens his situation and brings the Hellhounds closer.

The performances are very well done and range from good to great.  Josh McElfresh plays the protagonist, Ross Graves, and does a fantastic job of portraying a man who is struggling to grasp what is going on while existing in a dream-like state.  Even though he is the lead character, we do not see McElfresh on screen much since the majority of the movie is shown from the first person.  This does not prevent McElfresh from really selling the role throughout whether we are seeing his actions from a third person view, or simply hearing him interact with others.  Another excellent performance in the film is given by Erin Ryan.  Those who have seen Ryan’s previous films know that she tends to play likeable characters who we quickly become invested in throughout the film.  Immediately from her first appearance on camera, we can see that this will be a very different role for Ryan.  Living, her character is aggressive and completely contrary to her typical character as well as her real-life personality.  As a demon, Ryan, with the help of fantastic make-up work, will haunt your nightmares.  This is a performance that really gives Ryan the chance to prove her range as an actress and the vast talent she possesses. 

Perhaps one of the most impressive things about this film is the amazing make-up work.  Each of the Hellhounds is outstanding and demonstrates a real attention to Widing’s uncompromising vision for his film.  These are creatures straight out of our worst nightmares.  In addition to the great make-up, Widing’s use of a mixture of color, black-and-white, and inverted colors in the various scenes add a surreal nature and an added layer of quality to the Hellhounds.  His shots tend to be very deliberate and artistic, taking notice of the smallest elements around the characters, drawing your attention right where he wants it throughout the film.  Widing’s use of light and dark contrast are another demonstration of his skills as a film maker.  He maintains the dream-like state of the movie by exposing the elements on which he wants to focus and creating the atmosphere he desires by not limiting himself to a single method of color and filming.  The blood and gore effects are decent and become more impressive when you realize that Widing made this film on a very small budget.

When you add in the music, the film really comes together as a great work.  The tone is set carefully in each scene by lighting, color styles and choice, the hard work of the actors, and the music which ties it all together, better allowing the viewer to experience Ross’ emotional and mental state at any given point in the film.

I will not say that everything was perfect.  A few minor criticisms do stand out during the film.  The character of Ed Thorton is never really fully explored.  By the end of the film, I am still not sure if he is the devil or just another demon.  The performance given Sonny Burnette as Ed Thorton comes off a little dry and unemotional.  It is possible that this was what Widing intended, but it seems like the character could have been more animated.  The pacing is a little slow at times, but the payoff makes those moments well worth the wait and adds to the overall build-up of the movie.  There are a few spots where the blood effects seem a little overdone, particularly in Erin Ryan’s death as the blood that flows from her mouth looks too thick.  Finally, at a few points in the film, it can be difficult to follow the action, as it does not seem to always follow chronologically.  However, if you continue to stay focused on the film, most things do come together and make sense by the end.
Overall, I was very impressed with Eric Widing’s work on this film.  He obviously had a very clear vision for what he wanted to do with this movie and he pulled it off well.  Even with my minor complaints about the film, I would definitely say that it is a great addition to the horror genre.  One thing that must be kept in mind before major complaints and critiques are made regarding this movie is that Widing was working with a budget of $400 in producing this work.  That’s right, I said $400.  For what most people spend on two car payments, Eric Widing managed to create a surreal vision of horror to share with fans.  When you take that into consideration, it elevates your appreciation of this movie and what Widing accomplished.  I would challenge those who are critical of this movie to do better.  If you are looking for a high budget blood fest filled with multi-million dollar special effects and editing, this movie is not for you.  If you are looking for a unique horror movie that will grab you and not let go until the end credits, you have found it.  Let’s just hope that this is only the first of a long list of movies to be created by such a talent film maker as Eric Widing.

On a scale of 1 - 5, I see the breakdown of this movie as follows:

 Acting - 4/5

 Story - 4/5

 Effects - 4/5

 Camera Work/Production Skill - 4/5

 Overall Entertainment Value - 5/5

 Total Score - 4.2/5 - HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!!
Where can I find Hellhounds, you ask?  Check it out tonight!
Available World Wide -
Also available on DVD through Storenvy -

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Original Fiction - "Crawlies" Part 2

For Crawlies Part 1, go to

Part 2
            Callie, Natasha, the Trio, and Ben stared into the building where Jacob had just run screaming.  Each of them felt their skin rise in gooseflesh at the thought of going in after him.  The blackness was like an open mouth just waiting to swallow them whole.  They knew, without a doubt, that it was no coincidence that there appeared to be only one way into the building that would not involve tampering with the web that covered the structure.  They had suspected it before, but the crawlie’s ambush had turned that suspicion into a certainty.  The crawlies wanted them to enter.
            “No fucking way,” Natasha said, her breath coming fast and threatening to quickly go out of control.  “There is no fucking way I am going in there now.”  She backed up as she spoke, but quickly jumped when she felt the bushes at the back of her legs.  She took a single step forward and wrapped her arms across her chest, embracing herself in a tight hug. 
            “We can’t just leave him,” Ben insisted.  Callie knew he was right, but she also knew that he was likely lying about his reasoning for wanting to continue in despite the drastic turn of events.  Ben looked at each of them in turn.  “He would have done it for any of you!”
            “He had a death wish,” Callie mumbled.  She was shocked at her own willingness to speak up against the will of one of the group, but she was becoming more and more convinced that Ben did not have their best interests at heart. 
            “What did you say?”  Ben stared at her with a mixture of anger and incredulity. 
            Callie dug deep within herself and forced her voice louder.  “I said, there was a part of him that wanted to die.  Especially considering that the only thing keeping him alive got drug into that building.”  She pointed as though there were a question of which building they were talking about.
            “All the more reason to go in there!” Ben shouted at her now.  “We have two people in that building all alone.”  His eyes shone with hatred for her at that moment and Callie was taken aback at the ferocity of his glare. 
            Bob stepped forward and spoke up.  “We were going in there anyway.”  He would not quite meet Callie’s eyes at this remark.  “We could go in now and set a smaller fire then we had originally planned.  That way it won’t get out of control.”
            “He’s right,” Ben said, his eyes showing a feeling of vindication at a member of the group agreeing with him.  “Besides, at this point, who cares if the entire city burns?  We’ve been here for two months and not seen a single sign of another survivor.  Let’s torch the place and move on!”
            Callie turned and stared down the high-rise lined street.  She could think of no reason why they needed to save it.  True, there might be other survivors out there, but they were not likely to outnumber the crawlies that they could kill by doing this.  They had planned on moving on anyway.  What was stopping her?  She turned back and watched Ben fidget.  She quickly realized that what was holding her back was her intense distrust for the man who was demanding they risk their lives for a plan she had never believed in.  She tried to take an objective measure of the situation and put her feelings about Ben aside, but found herself unable to do so.  Her mind was made up for her as both Will and Sammy stepped forward and agreed to back Ben.
            Sammy looked to her with sympathy in his eyes.  “It’s for the best,” he tried to assure her, but she knew he was simply unwilling to pass up the chance to do some damage.  Just as Jacob had lived for Elizabeth; Sammy, Will, and Bob lived for the rush of the hunt and the kill.  Callie envied them in a way.  That same quality that would likely one day lead to their deaths was providing them with reason to really try to live.  She felt for a long time like her only goal was survival.  It was becoming harder and harder each day to accept that as a sole reason for going on.  She thought she had sensed the same feeling in Natasha as well.
            Callie looked to Natasha.  The teenager’s eyes begged her not to agree to go with them.  Callie knew that, in a way, she was not only making the decision for herself, but for Natasha as well.  The young girl did not want to enter the building, but she was too scared to remain the only one left outside alone.  Callie surveyed the scene around her and thought of the crawlie leaping out of the bushes to grab Elizabeth.  She had a false sense that they were no safer outside the building then they were inside of it.  Reluctantly, she shook her head in agreement and prepared to follow the rest of the group into the building.  She could hear Natasha’s sigh of surrender as she followed the rest of them into the nest.
            They slowly stepped into the darkness and felt like they were entering another world.  In this world, darkness reigned and the creatures who could see in that darkness were far superior to any other.  Crawlies could see in the dark.  It was unknown exactly how they did it.  Scientists had not made it far enough with their research before the plague of arachnid like creatures had reached epidemic proportions.  It was possible that they drew in on what little light was available like a cat, that they utilized radar like bats, or even that they possessed some completely never-before-seen sixth sense.  The only certainty was that they moved as efficiently in the darkness as they did in the light.  Natasha removed a lighter from her pocket and a home-made torch from her backpack.  She lit the torch and the blaze illuminated the hallway in front of them, causing the shadows to retreat to the recesses far in front of and behind them. 
            Callie nodded at Natasha and stepped up next to her with the trio right behind them and Ben taking up the rear.  Natasha had made it clear from the start that any macho chauvinism masquerading as chivalry would not be tolerated and she often took the lead in the groups despite her age.  Her eye sight was keen and she often caught things that the others missed.  Callie knew that, in this instance, she could use the extra support at her side, but that she would never request it from any of the men.  Natasha nodded back at Callie and they started forward.
            The hall way quickly t-boned and the group paused for just a moment before Natasha caught sight of the blood trail towards the bottom of the wall.  Apparently, the crawlie was moving along the wall and dragging Elizabeth with it.  When it came down this hall with its prize, she was still bleeding, but the uniformity and neatness of the blood stains made it clear that she was not struggling.  Callie put a hand on Natasha’s shoulder and after a brief second, Natasha took a deep breath and moved on. 
As they moved down the hall, they were standing two-by-two.  Natasha and Callie continued in the lead.  The trio had been split by the formation and the need to allow for some ease of movement were they to be attacked.  Will and Bob were in the middle, armed with a thin club with nails protruding from it and a machete, respectively.  Sammy and Ben took up the rear.  Ben carried a small 9mm pistol that Callie highly doubted would do much damage.  Sammy was a little better prepared, in Callie’s opinion, with an M-4 Carbine he had taken off a dead soldier somewhere along his path.  They continued to follow the blood trail through the hallway.  They passed closed doors to their left and right and quickly noted that the handles were standard twist-knobs, meaning they did not have to worry about a crawlie suddenly opening a door.  The creatures would be physically unable to manipulate these type of knobs. 
As they progressed, Natasha suddenly slung an arm across Callie’s chest and stopped in place.  She said nothing, but turned her canted head slightly to the left and right as if trying to pick up a sound.  Callie threw up her arm with her hand in a fist to signal the rest of the group to stop and they immediately did so.  Callie tried to listen intently.  She thought she might have heard the sound of scratching from above them, but it could have been her nerves playing tricks on her.  However, she had not survived this long by ignoring her instincts.  She tapped Natasha’s arm and pointed up towards the ceiling.  They both looked up at the crisscrossing beams that held up the tiles above them.  Callie was certain she saw several seem to shift slightly right behind Sammy and Ben.  She pointed to Sammy and then to the ceiling.
Sammy nodded his understanding and raised his rifle to aim at the tiles.  He looked back to Callie with his weapon still aimed at the ceiling.  He mouthed the words “what should I do?”  Before she could reply, the tile directly above Ben burst and a crawlie dropped onto the unsuspecting man.  He screamed a shrill, high pitched shriek and managed to grab the cocker-spaniel sized creature by its body and throw it onto Sammy.  The boy didn’t have time to properly react or defend himself.  The crawlie flexed its legs around Sammy’s back and dug all eight claw-ended appendages into on either side of his spine, piercing the flesh and muscle beneath. 
Will rushed back to try to help Sammy.  In his panic, Sammy squeezed the trigger on his rifle and the shots went wild, spraying the hallway.  Two of the bullets caught Will in the leg and he went down yelling in pain.  Everyone else hit the ground until the weapon’s clip was empty.  By the time they felt safe to get up, Sammy was on the ground with the crawlie on top of him.  Bob and Callie rushed to help Sammy while Natasha went to Will’s aid.  Ben simply tried to make himself as small as possible, pressing himself back against the wall behind him as if he could merge through the wall and into the room it protected.  No one took any notice of him at that point as he shook uncontrollably and began to whimper.
Bob slashed and hacked at the back of the crawlie with reckless abandon, but little effect.  Each hit almost sounded like the clink of metal on metal as his blade hit the exoskeleton.  Callie could see small dents and chips in the back of the crawlie, but knew that if Sammy was still alive, he would be dead by the time Bob made any impact with his methods.  She pushed Bob back and snatched the machete out of his hand.  She was aware that the fact that the crawlie had yet to change position or try to maneuver itself away from the attack could only mean one thing.  She carefully lined up the machete and plunged the blade deep into the creature’s head all the way through the bottom of its mouth, almost impaling Sammy at the same time.  The creature shuddered and loosened its grip on Sammy.  Bob grabbed it around its middle and flung it off of his friend.  What they saw the moment it was on the ground confirmed Callie’s fears.
- - -
            It was generally agreed upon by all of the experts that in order to be able to stop the spread of the crawlies, it was vital to understand how they reproduced.  Each major country in the world that was contributing to the solution to the “crawlie menace” had a division assigned to this task alone.  In an unprecedented show of cooperation, each countries head scientists in these divisions held weekly video conferences in order to share any information that had recently discovered and see if their pieces could be put together to form a useful whole.  It was the British scientists that showed the greatest breakthrough.
            While studying several dead specimens and one live one that a Special Forces unit had managed to bring back with them on a recent mission, one of the scientists was able to determine that the crawlies were actually hermaphrodites.  They asexually reproduced and then located a place in which to lay their eggs.  It was unknown what conditions the crawlies needed in which to lay their eggs or how long the incubation period lasted.   This is where the British’s information ended, but the Russians were able to provide an important piece of the puzzle. 
The Russians had been sending out their own military units to escort teams of scientists across their country in order to answer any reports of crawlie outbreaks.  On one of their recent missions, an Outbreak Assessment Team arrived at the home of a man who claimed to have been bitten by a crawlie.  The team was skeptical at first, as there had not been any reports of people being bitten a single time and then left alive prior to this.  The man was insistent and showed them the bite mark on his chest.  The scientists studied the injury and noted that it appeared as if something had stung the man in the chest.  The wound had healed but was red and agitated.  The man seemed to be suffering from nervous ticks and shakes as they examined him.  When questioned about these, he claimed that they had started after he had been bitten.  The commander remained unsure of the situation. 
As the team commander was conversing with his lead scientist, the victim began to go into violent convulsions.  Before the team could react, the victim collapsed and almost seemed to burst apart in sprays of blood and skin.  Four crawlies, each the size of a small cat, rushed from the corpse and immediately scurried out of the house before a single shot could be fired.  All of this had been recorded by one of the scientists and the video was shared during the video conference.  The British scientists took a single look at this video and became convinced that they had the answer as to where the crawlies laid their eggs.
The British shared this theory with the rest of the group and then set about a series of experiments.  Teams were sent out to collect mature crawlies and bring them back.  Forty-seven lives were lost in the missions that resulted in the capture of seven mature crawlies.  The crawlies were each put in a separate containment unit with twenty-four hour video monitoring.  Different mammals were placed in each containment unit varying in size.  Within one week the first crawlie was observed to implant their eggs into a host.  The crawlie injected its fertilized eggs into the host, a small beagle in this case, by means of a stinger that came out of an opening in their abdomen just above the anus.  It then left the host alone and the team of scientists removed the host from the crawlie containment unit and set it into its own.  Within the next week, the other six crawlies had also injected their provided hosts.
It turned out that the incubation period varied by animal.  The larger the animal, the longer the incubation period.  The periods seemed to range from two weeks for a small rat to six weeks for a large dog.  In each case, the end was the same for the hosts and mirrored what the Russian team had observed.  The animals seemed to explode and five to six crawlies would come out of the host’s corpse.  Perhaps the most disturbing fact ascertained from these experiments were that the size of the crawlies varied with the size of the host.  The larger the host, the larger the crawlies that were born from the death of the host.  The experiments were repeated and the results confirmed with the crawlies that had been born of the first set of experiments.  The results were shared via the next several video conferences.  The British were getting ready to incinerate the majority of the crawlies that had been generated from the experiments, the quickly growing population was making some of the higher-ups nervous, when someone got careless and several crawlies were able to escape their containment.  Since the crawlies were not yet mature and had no need for hosts, the result was the death of every person working in the facility.
PART 3 COMING IN ONE WEEK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!