Jack Ketchum

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HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Sixteen – 10/16/18

10/16 – 2002: MAY

“If you can’t find a friend…MAKE ONE.”

Not the exact tag line, but it does capture the main idea behind what I have come to regard, as the best film that writer/director LUCKY MCKEE and his main muse, ANGELA BETTIS, have ever collaborated on. And we’re talking about a duo who also gave us the excellent MASTERS OF HORROR episode, “Sick Girl”, and the movie that almost ran people out of the theater, THE WOMAN, McKee’s excellent team-up with late, great horror author JACK KETCHUM (THE GIRL NEXT DOOR).

I have always been of the half-joking opinion, that there should be a law that states that Angela never be allowed to do movies with any other director but Lucky, and MAY is the reason why. It’s a brilliant, horrific and heartbreaking meditation on loneliness, self-hatred and just that overall feeling of “not being able to fit in.” What would have happened in CARRIE, how would the story have played out if she’d still been bullied, maligned and ostracized, but she had no telekinetic powers to lash out with? MAY provides one truly unsettling and yet also depressingly dark answer to that question.

Bettis, of course, plays the title character, but before that, we see her as a young girl – lonely and isolated, and her condition with a lazy eye doesn’t help things at all.  Her mother gives her a “friend’ to keep her company: a doll in a glass case. But not just any doll.  This is one of the creepiest dolls I think I’ve ever seen in film history – it makes ANNABELLE look like Raggedy Ann!

The grown-up May, some years later, loves to sew and make things. That aptitude translates into what she does for her day job, working for a veterinarian, helping with the animals and even with some surgeries.

Her lesbian co-worker, Polly, (ANNA FARIS with one of her great, subtly funny turns) has something of a crush on May, but things between them stay mostly in the ‘friend zone’.

It’s only when she meets a hunky mechanic named Adam (JEREMY SISTO), that May begins to see the possibilities of having a life beyond her mostly solitary existence. It’s her ‘uniqueness’ that draws both Adam and Polly to her, who consider themselves to be equally “weird” people, but there’s more than a bit of miscommunication going on here.  While their own “off-beat-ness” is something of an affectation, what they’re reading as “quirky” and “interesting” about May is a whole hell of a lot more than that: May’s sanity is hanging on day-by-day, by the slenderest of threads, and it wouldn’t take much at all for it to snap like a rotten twig.  As Adam and May begin to date, he soon realizes because of certain behaviors she exhibits, that this poor girl just simply isn’t ‘all there’ and breaks it off with her.

Then, Polly decides that it’s the perfect time for them to take their friendship to the next level, until she, too, begins to see and sense what Adam did, and she also shuts May out of her life.

Remember what I said about her sanity, and about how it wouldn’t take much for her to lose it? Seems like bald-faced rejection is what finally does the trick.

I don’t want to say anymore than I have to, except that it all leads to an inevitable, bloody and devastatingly sad conclusion. All this girl ever wanted was a true friend, and even at the climax, she never really gets one.  If there were any justice in the cinematic world, Bettis should have gotten an Oscar nod out of this singular and unforgettable performance, but I doubt that the Academy, even though they recognized a movie like THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS – they weren’t quite ready for a film like MAY.

McKee knows at all times exactly what kind of audience he’s aiming for, and he hits the bull’s-eye every time. He does character-driven pieces like no other filmmaker I know, and MAY offers a seductive promise of a neo-Gothic brand of horror, to those fans who are always hungry for something that ventures pretty far off the beaten path of “mainstream” thrills and chills. He likes to examine the human condition in a way that is unapologetically blunt and in-your-face. You can see these attributes in most of his work, but not as sharply defined as it is in MAY.

Sisto, Faris, as well as indie fave JAMES DUVAL and WILL ESTES, all give great performances as friends or friends of May’s ‘friends’, but the responsibility for reaching out and touching the audience most profoundly, rests on Bettis’s slender shoulders, and she is more than capable of handling that task. I don’t hear too many people discussing this movie anymore, which is a damn shame. If any film is deserving of a much wider audience, MAY is definitely one of them.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT:  This is also the year that gave us RED DRAGON, DOG SOLDIERS, BUBBA HO-TEP, JU-ON: THE GRUDGE, THE RING, DARK WATER, SIGNS, THE EYE and 28 DAYS LATER.


Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, OPINION, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, WOMEN IN HORROR, 0 comments
Nick Younker – Interview With A Horror Author

Nick Younker – Interview With A Horror Author

Hello, horror fans! Horrormadam here to tell you about one of my favorite authors Nick Younker. His short stories and novellas run the gamut of themes from Native American curses, to sociopaths, vampires, unnatural chaos, and the Zombie Apocalypse. They are so intelligent and engaging and give you a complete story in a concise manner. I love them so much that after completing I am compelled to review on Amazon. Before we talk to Mr. Younker, I wanted to show you the synopsis for my favorite of his Don’t Bury Me:

Evan, an activist hell-bent on exposing corruption within the pharmaceutical industry, accepts an invitation to go on a daring mission to Croatia in search of an ancient corpse that fell victim to a 14th-century plague. The mission becomes a stunning success with the discovery of a femur bone, but it comes with a price when he takes it to Indiana University in Bloomington for independent research.

After it reanimates, the outbreak takes a supernatural turn and the government responds by quarantining five states in the Midwest. The terminal virus, also known as the Rip Tide, forces people to self-cannibalize near the end. Evan, who seems to be immune to the Rip Tide, travels up and down the deserted roads of Southern Indiana to help people die peacefully.

Aided by both FEMA and the CDC with a satellite phone and airdrops, Evan encounters a young girl who was abandoned by her parents. To make matters worse, a 14th Century witch appears to him as an apparition, taking the form of a dead Goth-Rock Star he admires to manipulate him into spreading her lethal spores. But Evan has other plans and he starts to break through her supernatural code, finding unique ways to keep the young girl alive.

If that doesn’t get you interested I don’t know what would!

House of Tortured Souls: When did you get the writing bug and what made you want to be a writer?

Nick Younker: I never got the “writing bug,” per say. But I did write some prose in college and found out that I had some skills inherent to people in the industry. Honestly, I only wanted to be a news writer when I was in college and that’s what I did after I finally got my BS. But the more time I spent in the television industry, the less I liked it. So soon after I started working for Turner in Atlanta, I also began doing small projects at home. Just a short story here or a screenplay there. Eventually, my flow began taking me in the direction of prose, which is a world apart from screenwriting, and I started producing stories one after the other. I did write a novel and a few novellas but found short stories to be the most fulfilling work. They contain less filler and I write in Grunge Narrative style, so that’s extremely attractive to me.

HoTS: Who were some of your early writing influences?

NY: I’m assuming you’re asking about novelists, but I have a long list of writers that have influenced me from different mediums. In the literary industry, novelists like Bukowski, Vonnegut (both used Grunge Narrative style), Ketchum, Blatty, Irving, Larsson and Algernon Blackwood were the most attractive scribes for me.

But my influences in movies and music include Alan Ball, the Coen Brothers, Cobain, Springsteen, Vedder, Cornell, Cantrell, Jett, Hetfield, Hendrix, Morrison and most importantly, Roky Erickson. The works of these fine names have exploded my ability to think critically, fourth dimensionally, and allowed me to pursue creative works that have far surpassed my expectations.

HoTS: Why the horror genre?

NY: Why not? I have frequently been asked that by my family and friends, who do not seem to share the same love of horror that I do but never miss an opportunity to download one of my works.

Horror entertains a reader the same way drama, literary fiction, romance, sci-fi, young adult (vomit), thrillers and human-interest stories do. I don’t think anyone sits down to read a book that they already know what happens at the summit. Everyone wants to be shocked, to see some originality. I would argue that horror is the premiere genre to achieve such goals. It is much broader and the freedom to shock a reader is virtually limitless.

HoTS: Who are some of your favorite authors and books?

NY: Well, I’m not a big fan of playing favorites, but The Willows by Algernon Blackwood did for me what The Blair Witch Project did for horror movie fans. I should also add that 1984 has been a big hit in my playbook. But my all-time favorite book(s) is the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo).

HoTS: Have your influences changed as you’ve grown older?

NY: Not really. I rarely buy new books from mainstream authors, instead opting for indie writers who have a good following from people I know and trust. Even though I write primarily in horror, I like books that feature characters who struggle with poverty, especially poverty in the richest nation in the world. I suppose you could say that I identify with them, given my chosen “career.”

HoTS: What are some of your favorite horror movies?

NY: There’s a laundry list of those, but I will try to condense it. Let The Right One In, What We Do In The Shadows, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Rawhead Rex, Return of the Living Dead, Zombieland, An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, Candyman, Dawn of the Dead (1978), The Conjuring, Rosemary’s Baby, Demons, Demons 2, Spookies… oh shit, I got carried away.

HoTS: Tell us about some of your favorites that you have written?

NY: Out of all my stories, Don’t Bury Me is perhaps my best work to date. Although there is a special place in my heart for the others, that one really tugged at my heartstrings. I have a new one I’m working on right now that’s a passion project, titled The Birth of an American Vampire. It features a character who was turned by immaculate conception following the death of his mother and the extreme grief that left him vulnerable to the curse. He has no sire, just a victim of natural selection following a perfect storm of internal and external conflicts gone violently wrong.

HoTS: Are there any author’s quotes that keep you going?

NY: I wouldn’t say that the quotes keep me going, but there is one that I really admire from Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption:
“Get busy living, or get busy dying.” ~ Andy Dufresne as written by Stephen King.

HoTS: For young writers out there, what words do you have for them?

NY: Embrace poverty and love the poor because they’re going to be your brethren.

HoTS: Where do your ideas come from?

Nick Younker: Thick air… cause I find it hard to breathe or think, in thin air.

HoTS: When they make a film about your illustrious writing career, who do you think should play you?

Nick Younker: The late, great Chris Farley. I can’t say for certain, but I think he’d return from the grave for an opportunity like that.

HoTS: Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

NY: Not really, but I would like to take this opportunity to address the rise of Grunge Narrative writing style. Writers like myself use it and I find it to be the best way to read any great short story. I wrote an article about the many different tenets of the style that you can read here.

If anyone wants to check out my works in the horror genre, you can visit my Amazon page.

You can catch up with him on Twitter (@NYounker) where he publishes over 20 smart-ass tweets and horror images every day. You can also connect with him on his website, FogstowJamison.com, where he publishes articles on news in the horror, sci-fi and dark fantasy industry.

Thanks for speaking with me, Jaye! You rock girl!

And I want to thank Nick Younker so much for answering my questions and giving us such great reading material! Nick, you are an inspiration to me and my writing!

Posted by Alan Smithee in BOOKS, COMICS, AND PUBLICATION REVIEWS, INTERVIEWS, PARANORMAL, SCI-FI HORROR, STAFF PICKS, THRILLER, VAMPIRES, WEREWOLVES, 0 comments
In Memoriam Jack Ketchum

In Memoriam Jack Ketchum

Jack Ketchum

(Dallas Mayr)

10 November 1946 – 24 January 24, 2018

More sad news in the world of horror as Pollyanna McIntosh broke the word of author and actor Jack Ketchum’s death at 71 of cancer:
Jack Ketchum Instagram Pollyanna McIntosh

Ketchum’s own Twitter account confirmed it:
Jack Ketchum Twitter JK

And Ketchum’s good friend and fellow writer Christopher Golden commented on his passing:
Jack Ketchum Twitter Christopher Golden

Ketchum, whose works The Lost, The Girl Next Door, Offspring, The Woman, Mail Order, Olivia, and “The Box”, have been adapted for film and video, had been battling cancer for a long time.

XX (2017) The Box-Jack Ketchum
The Woman (2011)-Jack Ketchum
The Lost (2006)-Jack Ketchum
The Girl Next Door (2007)-Jack Ketchum
Olivia (2013)-Jack Ketchum
Offspring (2009)-Jack Ketchum
Mail Order (2011)-Jack Ketchum

The Bram Stoker Award winner was an actor as well as an author, appearing in Offspring (2009) and Red (2008) under his given name Dallas Mayr and The Girl Next Door (2007), Header (2006), and The Lost (2006) under his best-known writing pseudonym Jack Ketchum.

Ketchum received a BA in English from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, and worked as a soda jerk, lumber salesman, high school teacher, and literary agent in addition to his work as an author and an actor. Like many in the horror industry, Ketchum found solace in horror during his childhood, even beginning to make up stories at a very young age and using his toys as characters in them.

[m]y interests [were] Books, comics, movies, rock ‘n roll, show tunes, TV, dinosaurs […] pretty much any activity that didn’t demand too much socializing, or where I could easily walk away from socializing.

As a teenager, Ketchum became friends with Psycho author Robert Bloch, who became his mentor, supporting Ketchum’s work in the same way H.P. Lovecraft supported his.

Ketchum primarily supported himself by selling his short stories and articles to magazines – many under the pen name Jerzy Livingston – before finally concentrating on his novels. Like Stephen King, Ketchum had the problem of too much at one time. Thus, to prevent flooding the market, he would submit under his own name and the pen name in case both pieces were accepted for publication.

Awards

  • “The Box” (1994) Bram Stoker Award for Best Short Story
  • “Gone” (2000) Bram Stoker Award for Best Short Fiction
  • Peaceable Kingdom (2003) Bram Stoker Award for Best Collection
  • Closing Time (2003) Bram Stoker Award for Best Long Fiction
  • World Horror Convention Grand Master Award (2011)

Nominations

  • Right to Life (1999) Bram Stoker Award nominee for Best Long Fiction
  • The Lost (2001) Bram Stoker Award nominee for Best Novel
  • The Haunt (2001) Bram Stoker Award nominee for Best Short Fiction
  • I’m Not Sam (2012) Bram Stoker Award nominee for Best Long Fiction (with Lucky McKee)
  • I’m Not Sam (2012) Shirley Jackson Award nominee for Best Novella (with Lucky McKee)

Jack Ketchum was a unique talent and, from all reports, a wonderful person. Rest in peace, sir.

Posted by Alan Smithee in EDITORIALS, HORROR NEWS, OBITUARY, 0 comments