Stephen King

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Ghosts – Winter Romance

Published December 24, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

It is a time of despair and worry. The man at the socially distanced break room table is energetically talking with a female supervisor. Until recently he was an international sales director for a 5 Star Hotel, a position he frankly admits will never exist again. After decades of rising through the ranks, he now wipes down self-serve checkout counters and is grateful to her for the extra hours that she has allowed him to stay tonight. His dogs will miss him he jokes, but the security of another shift or two assures them of receiving the name brand kibble and chewy treats that they so expectantly crave. In the face of such inoperable, life altering changes, he is surprising resolute, upbeat…and I try to take my cues from him in the days that follow.

For despite it all, people are still celebrating. Our first pandemic dictated Christmas is coming soon and the lights and twinkly stars are disappearing from the shelves in the store’s seasonal boutique. I restock those aisles often, growing less and less surprised at everyone’s insistence on clinging to the predictable joys. I, too, start to take a distant comfort in the comical Santa’s and cheery cartoon elves that are popping up in window displays of the storefronts that I pass on my daily neighborhood jog. All those bright and glorious neon shades of red and green are comforting – but I can still feel something else lurking. Flickering shadows. Hazy specters. Seasonal ghosts.

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I am 19 and I am waiting for my boyfriend at his place. He gave me the keys to his apartment earlier and I bustled through the February frost to his one bedroom loft. Now, I am feeling suspiciously adult, like a big city mistress of some high-ranking business exec – although, I do legitimately belong here. I am not a secret. Everyone at work knows about us. They are aware that I am happily anticipating his presence as he finishes up his bartending shift. Anxious for our romantic evening to begin, I pore through his box of VHS tapes, trying to find something to distract myself. It is all porn videos. Well, porn videos and a bootleg copy of The Color Purple. But we have just recently watched that sterling Spielberg-ian example of Oscar bait…and I know better than to throw in a sex tape. I did that last week, and while I tried to resist jerking off to Jeff Stryker pounding some smooth curly haired model-type in an alley, I eventually couldn’t help myself. Thus, making for a less than receptive offering when AJ finally arrived home. I don’t want that to happen again. So, I turn on the television and settle on Saturday Night Live, already in progress. Just after the cast bow, he arrives. I greet him, happily. He receives my kisses mutely, situates himself on the couch, telling me that we have to talk. Valentine’s Day is a week and a half away and I am sure that he wants to make plans. This is the first year in what seems like an incredibly long life that I will have someone to celebrate with and I am thrilled. But instead, after a deep sigh, a Dear John monologue softly peters out of his lips.  Murmuring something about needing space and the strange curves of life and time, he breaks up with me. I am shocked, unexpectedly thrust from one extreme, anticipation…happiness. to a totally different one, shock…despair.

Of course, as I write this now, it dawns on me that this was an incredibly heartless way to break up with someone. There had been no clues, no warning shots fired before this moment. Everything had been kept close to the wrist. Therefore, he certainly could have told me in some other space…at some other time. Set a kinder rhythm, bought me coffee and a gourmet cookie as consolation prizes, taken me to some park, dark with leafless trees. The mood should fit the occasion, I believe. Obliterating a weekend dream state seems particularly cruel to me, especially in my secluded COVID state of mind now. Still, I find myself feeling a wispy sorrow for him, somehow, these days. In fact, it almost feels like maybe it is his sad face that wavers down alleys and across those amber corners as I wait for the light to change, walking to work.

I, honestly, don’t blame him for breaking up with me. I was silly, a devastatingly insecure child whose only concept for relationships was my parents frustrated, frequently violent union and soap opera romances. Once during our short time together, I “seductively” ignored him when I saw him unexpectedly at a bar. Our eyes met and I sharply turned away, dancing quickly into the arms of the female friend I was club hopping with. Purposefully calling him the next day, I innocently and insistently claimed that I hadn’t seen him the night before, a classic missed connection turned amusingly wrong. Another time, I pretended the managers at work were horribly upset about our dating, throwing him off balance for a moment until I confessed my senseless, idiotic ruse. Like my favorite daytime divas, I thought I always had to keep him slightly out of tune. To maintain his interest, I had to create drama…intrigue…social unrest.

Of course, I didn’t need to manufacture such moments. Tension was beating there, sharply, all along. There was an ex…another young, blue eyed blonde. We could have been brothers I ascertained, the one time that I saw him picking up his remaining belongings from AJ’s closet. It was unnerving. Months later, I would catch AJ in the restaurant’s staff bathroom, crying…not over me, but him. The other one. The original angel. The truly loved. My twin.

But there was one day. One gloriously perfect day. Its ectoplasmic embers float around me as I move throughout this month. January 1st, 1988. My roommates were still away on their holiday adventures. AJ and I lay in bed, recovering from a joyous night of public reveling, ignoring any burgeoning breakfast hunger pains. Instead, we pawed through my vinyl collection, taking turns deciding what to play. We talked and cuddled…slept…eventually heading down to the neighborhood greasy spoon. Returning with burgers that tasted inordinately of grease and that venue’s overused grill, we watched The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful on someone’s tiny TV. Later, we trekked across town to catch The Running Man at one of the city’s notoriously chilly, ill kept second run theaters. We held hands as Richard Dawson taunted Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Conchita Alonso bravely plotted an escape.  We brought in that new year with fries and sex and Stephen King and it felt like a miracle, like the life I had dreamed about for so long was finally beginning. It was the first ideal afternoon I had ever experienced and it seemed to finally confirm my worth to the world. My importance to the universe seemed completely sure. In that moment. I would have never recognized myself as that soon-to-be tremulous lover who needed emotional games to feel in control. And for a moment, perhaps he too, thought his sorrow was over. My doppelganger banished from his mind in that still glittery seasonal glow as the world reset itself…bringing not only a new year, but a new sense of hope…a heart completely reborn.

So, maybe it is not only just his silvery outline that whispers to me slightly out of frame, as of late – but my own, as well. For that momentarily confident version of me belongs to this year, somehow, just as much as that unburdened version of him – though I have not regarded this past self seriously for decades. This year of hopes dashed so unreservedly, a year where light’s dearth has blinded us all, if only for smaller pockets of time, most assuredly would be the one to bring his essence back, unchecked – that past, very wishful, soon to be obliterated self. He worries me again beneath the piped-in carols…besieges me bittersweetly upon restlessly waking.

But perhaps he also teaches me that all this current sorrow, much like that old, old hurt, is survivable. He fills me with understanding, and most beautifully I think, compassion. Compassion for the person that I once was and, perhaps most importantly now, for the person that I am soon about to become.

Lady Possessed (1952).

Published March 28, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Lady Poster

1952’s Lady Possessed featured the distinguished pairing of the elegant James Mason and the always dramatic June Havoc. As veteran performers with such credits as A Star Is Born and Gentleman’s Agreement between them, they naturally imbued the supernatural melodramatics of the story here with an air of earnest believability.

Lady Mash-UpAfter a traumatic miscarriage, Jean Wilson (Havoc) begins renting a country cottage, due to the insistent recommendation of her husband (Stephen Dunne), in order to recuperate. But rest is the last thing that occurs for our beleaguered heroine when the house’s former mistress begins to take over her personality. Jean is soon tracking down the dead woman’s husband (James Mason), a famous novelty pianist, and integrating herself into his life. A disastrous séance, moodily filmed by directors Roy Kellino and William Spier, a change in her hair color and bouts of sleepless, incredibly erratic behavior ultimately lead to a moodily gothic yet emotionally abrupt climax here.

Produced by Mason and based on a story-script by his wife Pamela, who also sharply enacts Havoc’s sassy best friend Sybil, this project is also notable for providing Havoc with the rare opportunity to play a lead in a film. Always memorable, she was often cast in the Sybil role in her projects, perfecting the art of playing the bright, smart talking companion to a variety of leading ladies including Alice Faye, Dorothy McGuire and Gene Tierney. Lady Seance

Interestingly, years later Mason and Havoc would also be connected through their appearances in two different projects based on Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. Mason, of course, played the mysterious Straker in Tobe Hooper’s popular 1979 television adaptation of the book. Havoc, meanwhile, played the devoted yet bloodsucking Aunt Clara in Larry Cohen’s less successful A Return to Salem’s Lot in 1987.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: June Havoc and Evelyn Keyes

Published March 12, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

June and Evelyn A Return

Two years before infamously giving Bette Davis her last role in the horror comedy Wicked Stepmother, esteemed cult director Larry Cohen cast two other veteran beauties in 1987’s A Return to Salem’s Lot, his sequel to the Stephen King vampire story.

Here, Cohen gave June Havoc and Evelyn Keyes meaty roles as the matriarchs of a town filled with the blood sucking undead. Keyes, known for playing Vivian Leigh’s sister in Gone With the Wind and a series of femme fatales in noir flicks, was cast as the judge’s wife, lending not only her show business prestige to the proceedings, but a regal sense of bearing, as well.

Havoc, a Broadway legend and a vivacious presence in a series of Golden Age musicals and the acclaimed drama Gentleman’s Agreement, was cast as the former caretaker of the film’s lead, played by quirky Cohen regular Michael Moriarty. Tenderly trying to reconnect with the horrified Moriarty, Havoc is definitely given the more significant role here.

But both she and Keyes dive into the lurid circumstances at hand with glee. Tearing into their characters’ victims with malevolence, they also somehow keep their dignity intact. In fact, one of the funniest moments occurs as Havoc’s prim Aunt Clara takes time to adjust her lipstick after a particularly aggressive feeding.

June solo Return

Meanwhile, the film itself, containing dollops of Cohen’s odd sense of humor and strange plot structuring, was not well received by fans upon its release. But lovers of old school Hollywood should be charmed not only by the presence of Havoc and Keyes, but by maverick filmmaker Samuel Fuller (Shock Corridor, White Dog) who puts in a rascally appearance as a vampire hunter. Interestingly, singer-songwriter and A Nightmare on Elm Street star Ronee Blakley also turns in one of her last screen roles (as Moriarty’s ex-wife) while future terror regular and eternal media catastrophe Tara Reid commits to one of her first.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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June and Michael A Return

Review: Gray Matter

Published December 14, 2018 by biggayhorrorfan

Gray

What signifies a great horror project is its emotional relatability. Therefore, anyone who has been mystified by the behavior of their parents as a child is sure to find true connectivity to Red Clark’s Gray Matter.

Here a small town boy seeks asylum from his home life by approaching a motley group of pub regulars. His alcoholic father (finely played by indie wonder kind Larry Fessenden) has begun acting strangely and the kid has begun to fear for his life. His rescuers get more than they bargained for, though, as their worlds soon dissolve into gooey mayhem.

Based on a Stephen King story, this short film is filled with impressive natural effects. But what is most significant is the atmosphere that Clark creates. He and his believable cast, including Chicago theater actor Aaron Christensen, honestly capture the rhythms of rural life and its grizzled inhabitants. Everyone who grew up, awestruck, in such circumstances will find a piece of their past magnified, wisely, onscreen for them here.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Book Review: Blood Cruise

Published August 31, 2018 by biggayhorrorfan

bloodcruise1

The forbidden thrill of being a small town 14 year old diving into epic novels like Stephen King’s The Shining and Salem’s Lot can never be replicated. But floating through Mats Strandberg’s Blood Cruise, as an adult, definitely brings back a wonderful sense memory of those exciting, long ago afternoons.

While, joyfully, reveling in the visceral antics of grand horror fiction, this fine book also offers up an intricate look at the emotional lives of a wide variety of vacationers whose quick boat trip in Sweden turns into an odyssey of terror. Nicely, many of these individuals are relatable to queer terror lovers who often feel like they are left on the outside of both mainstream and alternative culture.

The proceedings begin with an introduction to Marianne, a still attractive senior citizen who feels as if life has passed her by. Readers will definitely feel for her as she is courted by a charming rogue and recognize all the insecurities and fears that she experiences as she begins to open up her heart and live again.

Nicely, another primary focus here is Calle, a former employee of the cruise line on which all the action occurs. His marriage proposal to his handsome boyfriend gone awry, this despondent romantic soon finds himself in charge of a couple of frantic pre-teens and eventually discovers the hero that resides deep within him.

Throughout, while rotating a dozen or so primary characters and various plotlines, Strandberg skillfully paints a true picture of life’s often harsh complexities. Here frazzled family dynamics, self image issues, rivalries and bitter regrets color in the personalities of all his characters. It is not always a pretty picture, but it is an accurate one …and as some of each reader’s favorite participants are bound to meet their deaths in a variety of unpleasant ways, it nicely binds the characters to us, making their ends all the more tragic. As all well rounded creative types do, Strandberg even paints in some nice emotional layers to his toothy, vengeful villains, granting them have a degree of sympathy, as well.

The most enjoyable thing here, perhaps, though is discovering the ways in which beloved individuals orbit into each other’s stories. Equally as fun, are those moments when one realizes that one personality’s point of view about themselves is often very different from those that encounter him or her.  These instances emphasize Strandberg’s talent for weaving not only a multi-faceted story but for inventing believable characters, as well.

A top ten seller across Europe, Blood Cruise, is available for purchase on www.amazon.com. Strandberg, whose book The Circle was turned into a hit movie by ABBA founder Benny Andersson, can be located on Instagram and Twitter @matsstranberg_ and online at www.matsstrandberg.se.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Betty Buckley

Published May 27, 2018 by biggayhorrorfan

Betty Carrie

She’s one of Broadway’s reigning divas. Fans of Carrie and Split also claim her as their own. But there are probably few as singular and solitary minded as the exquisitely talented Betty Buckley.

Interestingly (and in a twist of fate as unusual as herself), Buckley who played the kindly Miss Collins in Brian DePalma’s classic adaptation of Stephen King’s novel also played Carrie’s deluded mother Margaret in the widely panned, short lived Broadway adaptation of this beloved horror shocker.

Recent reexamination has given this work a renewed appreciation. But, as evidenced in the video below, Buckley always seemed to know the piece’s worth. Her performance here is deliberate, delicate and captivating.

Buckley, meanwhile, who is releasing a new recording called Hope in June, is always bringing heart and soul to www.facebook.com/BettyBuckley/ and www.bettybuckley.com.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Shark Bait Retro Village: City Killer

Published February 1, 2018 by biggayhorrorfan

City Killer Heather Mad

Naturally, Heather Locklear’s got the perfect feathered hair…the perfect apartment…and her stalker is of the handsome picture perfect variety that ‘80s television executives loved to provide for their perfectly eager audiences. City Killer was probably the perfect title to get audiences watching back in that soap-centric decade, as well. Riding high on the successes of Dynasty and TJ Hooker, here pixie cute Locklear faces down the wrath of a lovelorn demolitions expert while, simultaneously, finding romance with a moustache sporting daddy.

City Killer AudreyNicely, clear eyed viewers will also spot noir icon Audrey Totter as a secretary in Locklear’s office. Here, Totter provides some old school Hollywood rational amongst this television film’s ridiculously over-the-top offerings.

Built around stock footage of major buildings collapsing in unison, things reach a highpoint in this thriller when swarthy Terrence Knox’s deranged Leo Kalb brings an entire urban oasis to its knees with his demands. Of course, Locklear’s compassionate Andrea is one of them and there may be nothing that the concerned Lieutenant Eckford, played with rascally compassion by Simon and Simon’s Gerald McRaney, can do to stop him.City Killer Explosion

Highlighted by an action packed ending and by the awkward visual fact that none of the actors are actually anywhere near the rumbling destruction detailed, City Killer is, nicely, also bolstered by a solid, tempered performance from Locklear. Particularly in her first confrontation scene with Knox, Locklear shows, precisely, Andrea’s fear, frustration and anger. In this #metoo generation, harassment perhaps is no longer a flyaway plot point for cheesy entertainment, but here Locklear is able to show that, even in less aware decades, there were always strong emotional repercussions to this kind of abuse.

City Killer Heather HorrifiedLocklear, of course, made other genre-centric appearances in such projects as the big budget Stephen King adaptation Firestarter and the charming (very low budget) Return of the Swamp Thing. Interestingly, in a complete turnaround from his work here, Knox wound up playing a concerned father in 1992’s Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice. (Heads up: it wasn’t.)

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

City Killer Terrence.jpg

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Book Review: Town & Train

Published February 17, 2015 by biggayhorrorfan

town and train
When I was a kid, I loved Liza Minnelli, Marilyn Monroe, soap operas and horror films. Let’s just say that I didn’t fit in the small farm town of 600 that I grew up in…and all I dreamed of, at the time, was escape. Therefore, I can definitely relate to the beating pulse behind Town & Train, James K. Moran’s debut novel.

Taking place in a small, financially strapped Canadian town in the early 90s, Moran captures the wanderlust of both his teen and adult characters while simultaneously adding elements of Peter Straub and Stephen King into the mix. His invention of a supernaturally clouded locomotive, helmed by an evil shape shifting conductor is, also, certainly unique.

Unfortunately, while Moran definitely has talent, he lacks certain cohesive skills as an author, at this point in time. Much of the narrative here brims with awkwardness. This result is that, while he seems to know them well, his characters, ultimately, never truly come alive on the page. His ways of parlaying information about the town are odd, as well. Deep historical facts are planted in passages about both longtime residents and teen members of the community, giving off the vibe that everyone in this narrative is a historian, something which hardly seems possible.

While, Moran, nicely, tries to tackle issues of homophobia here, exploring the struggles of a bisexual police officer, this intent, also, falls a bit flat. It is not just the town’s hoods who use words like “fag” and “faggy”, but the narrative’s young hero, John, is often prone to use those terms, as well. This lessens the effect of Moran’s seeming point of ignorance, and, also, renders John’s toughened stance at the end of the novel a bit moot.

Still, Moran fares better as the novel gains steam and he creates some tense, nicely accomplished scenes of horror as he races towards the conclusion. It does seem odd that the death of one major character is kept almost entirely off the page during the interesting climax, especially considering the amount of attention that Moran pays to other details.

Thus, in the state it’s in now, Town & Train reads more like a noble failure than a truly successful excursion into social anthropology and fright. But, thankfully, there is enough of interest here to make one long to read a revised version of this tale. Moran, also, seems to be someone worth reading more of, whatever the project may be, once the kinks in his style are finally worked out.

Town & Train is published by Lethe Press, a publisher with a variety of very interesting queer genre books among their offerings. Dive into their impressive catalog at http://www.lethepressbooks.com.

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Bad CGI Friday’s: Nightmares and Dreamscapes (2006)

Published November 28, 2014 by biggayhorrorfan

CGI2
If there is anything more shocking than a half naked John Boy in the Autopsy Room 4 entry of Stephen King’s Nightmares and Dreamscapes, it has to be the sight of an obviously computer generated snake as it strikes out at its prey in that very same episode.

But you have to admit that, as a man in his late 50s (when the show was filmed), actor Richard Thomas (Battle Beyond the Stars and The Waltons, as referenced above) is looking pretty good. Spending the majority of the episode with flanks (etc..) bared on an autopsy table, Thomas fills his role, a war wounded businessman put in a death resembling coma by above said snake, with hard won regret and humor.

Greta romances, Thomas sleeps!

Greta romances, Thomas sleeps!

Thus, Thomas’ efforts and the elegant presence of Greta Scacchi (as a medical official gone giddy with love) help make this one of the better (if comically drawn out) entries in this occasionally lackluster TNT mini-series from 2006. And, of course, there is always that snake!

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Holy Bloody Confetti! Chatting with the Chicago Cast of Carrie, The Musical!

Published June 11, 2014 by biggayhorrorfan

CARRIE
I left my prom dress at home – but the kind cast of Bailiwick Chicago’s production of Carrie, The Musical still allowed me to chat with them after a recent show.

Carrie, the Musical runs through July 12th, 2014 in Chicago at the Victory Gardens Theatre, 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue. Further information is available at http://www.bailiwickchicago.com.

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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