Shock Totem #10 (Jan 2016)
- Closing for Submissions
- Shock Totem Returns!
- Apex Publications Acquires Shock Totem Book Line
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 8
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 7
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 6
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 5
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 4
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 3
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 2
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Author Archives: M. R. Czarnowski
Every year about this time, I get excited. Not because I’m eagerly waiting for holidays such as National Beheading Day* (although it sounds cool) or Fight Procrastination Day** (why fight it?), but because I know that October is just around the corner; and that means that haunted houses will open around the city. Like any other city, Las Vegas offers your run-of-the-mill haunted attractions, built inside semi-truck trailers and parked in strip mall parking lots. Circus Circus Hotel transforms their indoor amusement park, Adventuredome, into a family-friendly haunt featuring multiple haunted houses (supposedly the best in Vegas).
This juggalo thing has gotten way out of hand.
Each October, I gather any friends brave enough to join me and venture out into the world of strobe lights, prerecorded screams and monster sounds, and zombies jumping out from behind plywood doors. It is the best month of my year. Then, after Halloween, the doors close for the year and the trailers are pulled away to be tucked into storage for another eleven months. I spend those eleven months sulking on my couch, wishing that someone would make a decent horror movie already.
Enter The Goretorium, Eli Roth’s premium haunted attraction on the Las Vegas strip. I no longer have a reason to cry into my bowl of burnt popcorn. When it opened last year, I thought I was dreaming. For 365 days a year, there would be a place for me to get my haunted house fix.
Need a break from writing? Go to the Goretorium!
Dog chewed through the bedroom wall? Go to the Goretorium!
Girlfriend can’t get enough of America’s Got Talent? Go to the Goretorium!
Life got in the way a bit since then, but I finally had my chance to visit recently. Without giving away any details of the actual attraction (you’ve got to experience it for yourself), I thought I’d share some of the details of this special place.
The idea behind The Goretorium is that it used to be a hotel on the Las Vegas strip (The Delmont), but has been condemned for many years following the discovery that it was a place of murder, where many bodies of locals and tourists alike had been found. The lobby was designed to look just as it would if it were still condemned and closed to the public. Cobwebs hang from an old chandelier; paint peels from the walls. All guests are greeted by animatronic ghouls in the entryway, which I felt was a little hokey and took away from the overall creepy ambiance of the place. I hoped the attraction itself would offer more of that atmosphere, and less Disney.
Please excuse our appearance. We are murdering people.
I was not disappointed. From the beginning, I felt as if I just needed to get out before something bad happened; of course, something bad did happen, and then I had to get out before something worse came along. The design worked well, as each room felt cohesive within the scheme of the hotel, but still offered a unique experience. It was obvious that the owners spent a lot of money on this place to fulfill Roth’s dream.
That’s not to say it didn’t have its flaws, though. At times, the actors lacked enthusiasm and sometimes slipped out of character. It also lacked a proper ending for me, as I was looking for more closure to the experience (I’ll leave it up to you to check it out and decide for yourself).
Most places like this would spit you out into a gift shop, expecting you to pay obscene prices for stuff you don’t need, but this is Vegas. We do things a little different in this town. Upon exiting, you will find yourself in the middle of a bar. Sit down and have a drink while you make fun of your best friend for screaming like a little girl halfway through. Don’t forget to check out your picture on the way out.
Overall, I had a good time, and I recommend everyone visit this place at least once. You may even be able to find half-off deals through travel sites or Groupon.
* September 2
** September 6
Devil’s Island, by C.M. Saunders, is a slow-burning psychological horror novel set in the UK. It is the story of Davon Rice, a soldier who has just returned from active military duty. Acclimating to civilian life again has proven extremely difficult. He spends most of his days in and out of the unemployment office, searching for the right job. With no qualifications to do anything but night security, and no car to do even that, he feels trapped and frustrated.
When he happens upon a strange email, an invitation to be the sole inhabitant and caretaker of a government facility on a remote island off the coast of Scotland, he thinks he has finally found what he has been looking for. After a short time there, though, he realizes he isn’t alone. There’s something else living on the island. Davon can feel it. It’s stalking him and aching to get inside.
Saunders writes a very believable character in Davon Rice. It is an intimate and sometimes scary picture of what life is like for soldiers returning home from war. Saunders paints the settings of the facility and surrounding island in vivid details, which made me feel like I was right there with Rice, experiencing everything right along with him. At every page, I felt Rice’s solidarity, loneliness, and paranoia; it reminded me of watching Sam Rockwell’s character maintain the space station in the movie Moon, minus Kevin Spacey’s AI, Gerty.
The majority of the story unfolds slowly, taking on a pace more reminiscent of literary fiction, building character slowly through monotonous routines, flashbacks, and internal conflict. I felt that this slow burn took too long to retain any external conflict, and I often lost interest in the story. Despite his flaws, I liked the character, and I understood what drove him to take the job on the island. Unfortunately, I spent pages and chapters wondering when something was going to happen. When it finally did, though, the story moved at a swift pace, and it sucked me right back in.
Devil’s Island has many unexpected elements, some executed better than others (the ending definitely caught me by surprise). If you’re looking for a short, psychologically-driven story, then go ahead and pick this one up; but if your reading aesthetic requires something a little more action-driven, this may not be a story for you.
There is nothing more pleasurable than becoming so engrossed in a book that, at the end, I look out the window and wonder: What happened to the sun? What time is it?
I consumed Wrath James White’s Sacrifice (Sinister Grin Press, September 2011) in one sitting. White is quickly becoming one of my new favorite horror writers, and for good reason. Known for his extreme take on the genre, this book has everything for anyone who enjoys that overwhelming feeling of uneasiness, like bugs crawling over your skin, and you can never seem to brush them off.
The story starts with a bang, and never relents. After a man’s eerie encounter with a young girl, his dog (along with nearly every other living creature around) eats him alive. Detective John Malloy, Las Vegas Homicide, hurries to the scene, only to find that there is little left of the man’s body. None of it makes sense. Weird cases like these are the ones he hates the most, and though this isn’t the weirdest he’s seen, it ranks right up there.
The bodies start piling up, each one attacked and eaten by animals, insects, and children. And, if he didn’t already have enough on his plate, he and his partner, Mohammed Rafik, are assigned to a series of missing persons cases involving little girls. When they hear about a voodoo princess named Delilah, who may have the power to remove people’s fears and anger, Malloy believes his cases are connected, and this woman might be the key to how.
With over-the-top gore and violence, White delivers a tale that will leave his readers begging for Delilah to come and take their fears away. Yet, when I finished the book, I felt strangely satisfied—a feeling delivered by only a handful of the contemporary horror writers I have read.
If you’ve got the stomach to handle the blood and guts of White’s extreme horror, this is definitely a book you want to read.
“’Til death do us part” takes on a whole new meaning in the wedding-themed anthology, With This Ring, I Bleed, Dead!, edited by Charlotte Emma Gledson and Lyle Perez-Tinics for Rainstorm Press.
In this short collection (just shy of 140 pages), ten authors share tales of love and loss, murder, lust, supernatural beings, and revenge. Like most men, marriage scares the hell out of me. The horrors within these stories definitely reinforce that fear.
As a reader, I have a love/hate relationship with new anthologies. They expose me to variety of authors and styles, but so many of the stories within tend to range from “I’d love to see more from this author” to “Can I have the last fifteen minutes of my life back?” Unfortunately, this collection is no different. After reading the first couple stories, I wanted to throw my Kindle through the drywall. It read like so many of the self-published works out there that have never crossed an editor’s desk. But I wanted to be fair to all of the authors and read through to the end.
I was glad I did. There are a few real gems in this book that gave it some redemption. While I’m not going to offer a review of each individual story, I will say that my favorites here include “Wendy,” by Bruce Turnbull; “The Axe Bride,” by The Nightmare Jane; and “The Bonds of Love,” by Danica Green.
As a whole, the concepts behind the stories were great. I really wanted to like every one of them; however, I must admit that some authors’ sub-par writing (point-of-view slips, plot holes, etc.) really made it difficult to do so. I wish I could endorse this one, I really do. Even at the $2.99 e-book price (the paperback sells on Amazon for almost $13), I don’t think the few well-told stories here are worth paying for—and sifting through—the rest.