Locke & Key (Netflix)

Given Locke & Key's crooked journey from series development at Fox TV, to its pilot deal at Hulu through to its final home at Netflix, it should be applauded for making it to series at all. Its marriage of fantasy and horror is seldom an easy one, with thick-booted horror too often treading on the delicate toes of fantasy, and the history of the project indicates that this was the most pressing element in the alchemy of adaptation.

While the project was in development at Hulu, Carlton Cuse (writer, and co-developer on Lost and The Strain) joined the team; writer Joe Hill reportedly embraced Cuse's more fantasy-oriented approach and has declared the Netflix series the best possible adaptation of his comic.

Whether Locke and Key will seduce the horror fans is yet to be determined. Season one offers less than a sixth of the full epic, and Hill has dropped hints that the graphic novel could be further expanded.


Ruin Me (Shudder)

Screenwriters Trysta Bissett and Preston DeFrancis stumbled across the core concept for their first feature when they signed up to participate in an 'interactive experience' inspired by horror films familiar to us all, called "The Great Horror Campout." For their film, the activity is named "Slasher Sleep-Out," but the concept is the same -- scare the bejesus out of a group of movie fans stranded in a woodland campsite.

Whether you call the obvious plot devices tropes, cliches, or time-honored tradition, there are enough of them here to keep horror fans either giddy with amusement, or stiff with boredom, depending on which way your knee jerks. If the concept appeals, there's good performances, clever in-jokes and old-fashioned slasher thrills -- enough to make this a slasher sleep-out that's a cut above the rest.


Bliss (Shudder)

In an early review of VFW, Fangoria Films' first collaboration with young dynamo Joe Begos, Slashfilm slyly included  a warning/recommendation: "A cannon full of guts blasted straight into your face – the FANGORIA way." Such a sentence plays both sides of the aisle in a way that would be appropriate for any of Begos' films thus far; his work is not for everyone, but does seem primed to appeal to the Fangorian in each of us.

Bliss, Begos' most recent effort, tells the story of Dezzy (Dora Madison), an artist at the end of her creative tether, who has chosen mind-expanding street drugs as a means to clear away the cobwebs, specifically an item called Bliss. As in Henenlotter's Brain Damage, the protagonist learns that, while drugs may have their benefits, no trip is free. 

While there is some dark humor in it, nowhere does Begos allow the type of upfront jokiness that smoothed the ride through the dark territory of Brain Damage. Bliss is relentlessly dark, which is what this picture needs to be.


A Girls Walks Home Alone At Night (Shudder)

While its title may promise a dance of seduction and predation, Ana Lily Amirpour's debut film -- shot in the Farsi language with the dusty streets of Bakersfield, CA representing fictional Wind City, Iran -- fulfills its promise in ways not likely to be expected by the average viewer. Not to be too spoiler-y here, but you can expect a vampire film as unique and different as Let The Right One In.


The Black Room (Netflix)

l cannot see any film with Lin Shaye in it without thinking of her when, not yet an actress, she used to work in the offices of New Line Pictures. As the struggling editor of FANGORIA, I knew she was way outta my league (a - she was gorgeous, and b - her brother was top exec at New Line) but I had a crazy crush on her nonetheless. 

Shaye's role here is confined to a pre-credit sequence that is possibly the worst pages she's been handed in her career. Luckily, bad word-of-mouth makes it unlikely many will witness her embarrassment, except for big fans of ghostly rape. If that sounds appealing, it's on Netflix.

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In the 1970s, while working in the distribution department of a major book publisher, Robert Martin enrolled in a writer’s workshop conducted by Henry Beard, one of the founders of National Lampoon magazine, and Anthony Hiss, an editor at The New Yorker.

With their training, and a resume that (falsely) claimed a Liberal Arts degree from Brown University, along with some freelance writing samples from newspapers and “men’s entertainment” magazines, he gained the assignment from the publishers of STARLOG magazine to edit their new sister magazine, FANGORIA. By emulating the horror film magazines that he loved, The Monster Times and Castle of Frankenstein in particular, he was able to make FANGORIA the most successful magazine of its kind in publishing history. After leaving the editor’s chair in 1986, he began working with his most admired filmmaker, Frank Henenlotter, first adapting Henenlotter's screenplay Brain Damage into a short novel, then co-writing the screenplays for the films Frankenhooker and Basket Case 3. He now lives in semi-retirement in Las Vegas, Nevada.