The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Diary of the Dead (dir by George Romero)


I have to admit that I was a little bit hesitant about watching the 2007 film, Diary of the Dead.

It wasn’t that I don’t like zombie movies.  In fact, it was the complete opposite.  I love zombie films and Night of the Living Dead is one of my favorites.  George Romero, of course, went on to make several sequels to Night of the Living DeadDawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, and Land of the Dead are certifiable horror classics.  However, I had heard mixed things about the two zombie films that Romero directed after Land of the Dead.  Seeing as how Diary of the Dead was Romero’s second-to-last film before he passed away in 2017, I was worried that I would watch the film and discover that I hated it.  I didn’t want experience anything that would tarnish Romero’s cinematic legacy.  It didn’t help my expectations that Diary of the Dead is a found footage film and the conventions of the found footage genre tend to get on my last nerve.

(Seriously, nothing makes me throw a shoe at a screen quicker than the sound of someone in a horror movie saying, “Are you filming this?”)

But you know what?

I did watch Diary of the Dead and it’s actually not bad.  It may not reach the heights of Romero’s other zombie films but it’s definitely a worthwhile companion piece.  It opens with news reports about the start of the zombie apocalypse, meaning that Diary of the Dead is meant to take place at roughly the same time as Night of the Living Dead.  (Never mind that Diary of the Dead is full of references to YouTube and blogs and other things that most people probably couldn’t even imagine when Night of the Living Dead first came out.)  A group of film students are in the woods, filming a terrible mummy movie when they first hear reports of the dead coming back to life.  Some say that there’s no way it could be true.  Others say that something must be happening but surely the dead aren’t actually coming back to life.  They soon discover that the dead have indeed returned.

We follow the students as they travel across Pennsylvania, trying to find a place that’s safe from the Dead and discovering that there’s literally no such place left in America.  Along the way, they also discover that the government has no intention of telling the people the truth about what’s happening.  In fact, a group of national guardsmen turn out to be just as dangerous as the zombies.  In their efforts to survive, the students are forced to rely on an underground network of bloggers and video makers.

Diary of the Dead has all of the usual zombie mayhem that you would expect from a film like this but, at the same time, it’s got a lot more on its mind than just the dead returning to life.  Much as he did with Land Of The Dead, Romero uses Diary of the Dead to comment on the state of America under the Patriot Act.  With the government using the zombie apocalypse as an excuse to suspend civil liberties and increase their own power, the film’s characters are forced to depend on new and independent information sources.  It’s not hard to see the parallel that Romero is making between the War on the Living Dead and the War on Terror.  As well, making all of the characters film students allows for some discussion about whether or not horror films should simply concentrate on being scary or whether they should also attempt to deal with real-world issues.  The film leaves little doubt where Romero came down on that issue.

On the negative side, Diary of the Dead struggles a bit to overcome the limitations of its low budget and none of the characters are as compelling as Ben in Night of the Living Dead or Fran in Dawn of the Dead.  At times, you find yourself wishing that Diary of the Dead featured just one actor who was as into their role as Duane C. Jones or Ken Foree were in Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, respectively.  But Diary of the Dead still features enough zombies and enough of Romero’s trademark political subtext to be an acceptable addition to Romero’s vision of the apocalypse.

Horror Scenes That I Love: Jack Torrance Explains The Donner Party


This scene, of course, is from 1980’s The Shining.

Technically, this is  before Jack Torrance met the ghosts and started to lose his mind but, in this scene, you can tell that Jack’s already getting a little bit tired of his family.  Jack Nicholson’s delivery of, “See?  It’s okay.  He heard it on the television,” gets me every time.

Night Surf, Review By Case Wright


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Where do stories come from? Not important or interesting.  Why are some stories shot out like a cannonball from an artist’s brain in a matter of days like Kerouac’s “On The Road” and even written on a scroll; whereas, some stories take a decade or more of developing until they are born like Stephen King’s The Stand?  Very Important and Very Interesting!  I will not be discussing King’s opus The Stand, but rather how it evolved from Night Surf.

Night Surf was written for the University of Maine literary magazine in 1969 when King was twenty-two.   Night Surf introduces us to the plague that kills off mankind and how people can be pulled to darkness when no one is looking. The disease is even called “A6” just as it was called in The Stand, but The Stand didn’t get published until 1978.  Why did it take so long for The Stand to incubate and his other stories seem to shoot from him like they are on a sluice?

I see this dichotomy in my own writing.  For some stories, I’ll get pieces of dialogue and scenes in my head that kick around for years, but I don’t know how they fit together like a jigsaw puzzle with too many smooth edges.  I can’t speak for Stephen King, but for me the longer developing stories occur when I’m picking at something personal like an emotional wound that’s been puffed out by pus, but not yet ready to drain.  I guess I just want to hold onto the pain; maybe, King does too?

Night Surf takes place on the New England coastline when summer’s ending, but it’s not just the leaves dying on the trees; humanity is blowing out from a massive viral extinction event.  The disease is called A6- a superflu.  In The Stand, he refers to the virus also as Tube Neck and Captain Trips.  The world is not quite dead yet, but it’s getting there.  The story is narrated by Bernie who is spending humanity’s last days at a beach town.  At first, the group believes that they are immune from the disease and demonstrate their superior immunity with the most primitive act of all: Human Sacrifice.  A man who’s dying from the flu comes to their town and, instead of caring for him and helping him die, they burn him to death in a bonfire.

Why burn him?  They describe it almost like a sacrifice to the beach itself.  The act seemed to me to be more like a line in the stand between the dying world and themselves.  The mere mortals are simply cord wood and can be used for fuel.  Their perception as the kings of humanity is vindicated by their health because they are immune and the rest of humanity perished.  It harkens to the idea of the Puritans where the Select were touched by God and were guaranteed success in life and VIP treatment on the ethereal plane.  Of course, the Puritans would balk at using lesser people as a duraflame.

Soon after burning the flu victim alive, Bernie realizes that one of his comrades has A6 symptoms and will soon die, indicating all of them might expire soon.  The story forces us to look at what allows us to be moral.  Are we only good because society will punish us if we are bad?  It could be argued that they looked at the immolation as a last hurrah, but I think that is wrong because at the time in the story, they believed they were immune.  If their friend had developed symptoms before the unlucky traveler arrived, would they see him as their brother or would they have burned them both to adamantly declare their superiority?

The theme of people being seduced to darkness is throughout The Stand, but in this story, they don’t get the devil made me do it excuse; the group murdered because they could and felt like doing it.  After the immolation, we return to Bernie’s backstory, humanizing him even more.  It seems King is saying that this horrendous act was just another act in a number of countless acts that Bernie did from birth to his upcoming demise.  Maybe doing evil is just as common as getting the paper? I hope not, but as the great philosopher Bobby Dylan said, It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.

This story is more relevant to me today than when I first read it years ago.  What makes it more difficult for me is that the people in the story are just so normal.  I hope none of my readers will ever have to do this, but I’ve looked right into the face of evil once and the man looked like he could have been a cousin.  When I remember the encounter, it still chills me to the bone.  I met a Bernie once; maybe, you have too, but you didn’t know it.

The Lawnmower Man, Review by Case Wright


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The “Lawnmower Man” by Stephen King really makes me understand the power of peyote.  Stephen King has is very open about his drug and alcohol addiction and in the 1970s even regular folks were dabbling in the Yayo.  In fact, he has said that he doesn’t remember writing The Shining.  In those days, he would use cotton balls up his nose from the constant nose bleeds from his cocaine use.  The Lawnmower Man  has to be seen in this context.

Harold Parkette is a typical suburban man.  He’s lawn obsessed and needs to make it purdy.

Sidenote: This story takes me back to me youth.  In my football and track days, I would mow lawns and split wood to make extra cash.  I would never wear a shirt because I would get hot.  I never understood until later why only the wives would call me to do the yard work, would make really odd excuses to give me extra lemonade, and cash. A lot of times they’d just sit on their porch, watch, and occasionally wave. 

The Lawnmower Man is not that kind of story.  Harold gets an odd landscaper who starts working and then Harold takes a nap.  When Harold wakes, he sees that the lawnmower is moving on its own and the lawnmower man is eating the clippings.  The image that stuck with me the most is that grass was growing on the lawnmower man’s teeth- yuck. The Lawnmower Man reveals himself to be the Greek God Pan and proceeds to eat Harold.

This story is just plain weird.  Pan was into wine and sex, not landscaping.  Also, I get the economy can be tough, but if you’re a god wouldn’t you do better than a solo landscaping biz? All around, I’m very confused.

The Ledge, Review by Case Wright


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The Ledge by Stephen King is a masterclass in realistic suspense.  I’ve never been forced by a mom boss to circumnavigate a highrise with crazy gusts, but I believe that it would be like this story.

Stan Norris is an Ex-Con now Tennis Pro who is love with a mobster – Cressner’s wife.  Stan is a parolee and fell for the mobster’s wife and helped her escape to they could run off together.  Unfortunately, Cressner captures Stan and says that he put heroin in Stan’s trunk.  He can either go back to prison or circumnavigate a ledge around his high rise.  If he succeeds, he gets Cressner’s wife, Twenty-Grand, and freedom.  If he fails, he’ll be a pain for the street cleaners.

There’s a reason I joined a land based military branch; heights are not great.  Stan does not have these qualms.  He agrees and faces freezing wind and a diseased pigeon who starts pecking at his right ankle….yuck.  Pigeons are nasty.  Side note: they are totally unprotected in any city and state. Therefore, if you’re hungry, feel encouraged to take one out and braise it!  

He manages to get around the building and back inside, but Cressner is waiting for him and slightly broke the deal.

The story reads like an anecdote or almost a confession.  I highly recommend reading the story or listening to the John Glover audiobook performance.

Strawberry Spring – The Youtube Video!!!, Review By Case Wright


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Sometimes films are done poorly.  Sometimes films stay true to the source material. Sometimes they are just kinda fun.

This adaptation of Stephen King’s- “Strawberry Spring” is just kinda neat.  I was looking for Strawberry Spring images online for my post and here this was.  It’s a High School student film of Strawberry Spring.  It’s just straight up fun. All of his friends are obviously in the film and the director did a pretty good job.

The story of Strawberry Spring is that a serial killer slasher is on the loose at a New England liberal arts school in the 60s.  The narrator is more than unreliable; he is a possible suspect.  The Strawberry Spring refers to a false spring that occurs in New England similar to a blackberry winter where warm weather occurs and then a severe nor’easter hits.  The book makes a point that a mist appears before the murders and that the mist itself is likely sapient who infects the narrator, causing him to kill.  The campus is terrorized by a series of murders and then when the Strawberry Spring ceases, so do the murders.

This student film tries to dramatize the story and although there a bit of overused fog machine sequences, it deserves a lot of credit.  There was obviously a lot of effort put in and I give a tip of the hat to these young artists.

You can watch it here and if you have 15 minutes to definitely check it out!!!

Horror Review: “One for the Road” (by Stephen King)


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Stephen King is a name in horror literature that pretty much everyone has heard of. Some would say he’s the most important horror writer of the 20th-century. Others would say that his work has been a mixed bag with his earlier novels being his strongest run as an author and the second-half of his career being just ok.

One thing he cannot be accused of is taking his time between books early in his career. This man was as prolific a writer as George R.R. Martin is glacial with his own literary turn-out. Even before he was finally able to publish his first novel with Carrie, Stephen King had written hundreds of short stories with some of them being published under a pseudonym in men’s magazines of the time or later on in his career as the public clamored for more Stephen King tales.

One such short story would be included in Night Shift. This collection would be the first of many. It would be in this collection that he pens a very quick, but very frightening tale of events that occurred after the end of his second published novel, ‘Salem’s Lot (recently reviewed by our very own Lisa).

“One for the Road” occurs many years after a huge fire tore through the town of ‘Salem’s Lot, Maine. The short story is told by one of the elder fixtures of Falmouth, Maine. A town that straddles the town of Jerusalem’s Lot. While the surrounding and neighboring towns and it’s residents never outright say what continues to haunt and stalk the burnt and abandoned town of ‘Salem’s Lot, they silently acknowledge to themselves just what happened to it’s people.

The story’s told first-person through elder Falmouth native Booth as he sits in the local bar owned by his friend Herb Tookey. Set in the depths of a hard, New England winter, we see the third character in this narrative arrive near-to-death freezing in family man Gerald Lumley whose family car broke down some miles from the bar in the driving snow.

Soon enough Booth and Herb hear this family man’s sad tale of leaving his wife and daughter in the broke down car while he went for help. It’s only when Gerald Lumley mentions having his car break down near the outskirts of a town called Jerusalem’s Lot that the two elderly patron and proprietor reluctantly help the distraught father in trying to get back to his family.

The rest of the story is a master-class in Stephen King building up the tension and dread at what the two Falmouth natives think they might find once they get back to the Lumley car. King allows the mood and unspoken horrors that these locals know to drive the mounting danger both physical and spiritual that these men have awaiting them at the outskirts of what the locals call The Lot.

For his later predilection to being too focused on world building the settings of his later novels, King shows that he’s still a master at maximizing the limited time a short story format allows a writer to create an experience for the reader as rich and satisfying as his massive epic novels.

“One for the Road” is a terrifying quick tale that gives readers of his ‘Salem’s Lot novel to find out what happened to the area once that novel ended. While the protagonists of both the novel and this short story do end up doing the right thing when presented with evil it also shows that both stories buy into King pointing out that evil never goes away. One could only contain it and once in awhile it creeps out to stalk and frighten.