Devil’s Night by Curtis M. Lawson

Devil’s Night is a collection focusing primarily on the myths and urban legends emerging from the darkness and the destructive tendencies of people during the Devil’s Night eruptions of violence and arson in Detroit. It would be easy to write off Curtis M. Lawson’s short story collection as an outlet for bleak and cynical tales of horror lurking below the surface of those actions, but it would only be telling a fraction of the story. There is a deep and abiding love for Detroit embedded within these tales. Lawson’s is a love that doesn’t cling with shallow superficiality to the glory days of the motor city or Motown but embraces the painful and often ugly reality that coincides with those things that once set Detroit apart from the rest of America.
In these pages, you’ll certainly find stories of the Nain Rouge, The Pig Lady, and other urban legends that are specific to that region, but you’ll also find the far more sinister forces at work, racism, predatory capitalism, and addiction. In Lawson’s Devil’s Night, you’ll meet a city that has a nebulous mind and spirit of its own, one poisoned by generations of residents and the corruption they brought with them. You’ll discover a Detroit where toxic, venomous plantlife flourishes beneath the surface, ready to flay alive any who stumble across it, poisoning those who survive with unquenchable hate and anger.
In Trash-Fire Stories and The Work of the Devil, we meet children who have experienced every tragedy life can throw at them, each event preceded by the appearance of the Nain Rouge, presaging the bad things soon to come.
In D20, we learn that two brothers attempting to escape the cruel reality of their lives through a role-playing game might be awakening a force to affect the real changes they so desperately need.
Devil’s Tongue and The Exorcism of Detroit, Michigan both take us to a place where we catch glimpses of the underlying evil that poisons the city and turns the residents into the monsters they’ve become as Devil’s Night arrives. The latter tale providing the reader with a certain sense of hope and faith that things can be better.
Through Hell for One Kiss shares a haunting love story that proves to be a quite literal haunting for those caught up in the annual remembrance of the ghosts involved.
A Night of Art and Excess showcases the awfulness and depravity of human nature and greed, without any supernatural scapegoat to assuage the guilt.
No One Leaves the Butcher Shop tells the story of a pair of arsonists who stumble across something far worse than homeless people encamped within the building they’ve been hired to burn.
The Graveyard of Charles Robert Swede takes us on a journey with a monstrous serial killer who learns–as the line between our world and another are blurred–the truth behind why he’s chosen the burial site he’s utilized for the disposal of his victims.
We discover that even the devil has standards and sometimes a more stringent moral code than the clergy in This City Needs Jesus.
There’s more within this collection than solely the stories I’ve referenced, but these are the ones that stood out the most for me. Interspersed through the book are numerous illustrations that are positively magnificent. It was these illustrations that first brought this collection by Lawson to my attention, and as awesome as they might be, they’re no more spectacular than the stories they reference.
I wish I had read this collection in the final days of October because this book is so perfect for reading at that time of year. If you have a chance to read this for the first time, I recommend doing so at that time. You will not regret the decision.

Rhyme Or Reason by Dan Chadwick

Have you ever gotten a ridiculous song stuck in your head?
Of course, we’ve all experienced that.
There’s a reason I mention this, but you’ll know that if you’ve already had the pleasure of reading this surprising story. If you haven’t read it yet, skip the rest of this review and remedy that mistake ASAP.
I’d hate to spoil the surprise.
Rhyme Or Reason details a series of gruesome murders taking place during the nights leading up to Halloween. The victims are horrifically dismembered while still alive to experience most of what’s being done to them. I would certainly hope I’d be long gone before the torture reached an end, but the people being slaughtered while the killer hums his eerily familiar tune are not blessed with that small mercy.
The brilliance of Dan Chadwick’s story is that every bit of the story is building up to a punchline that almost had me laughing out loud. It’s a horror/comedy that the reader doesn’t realize is a comedy until they’ve reached the end.
Does the killer commit these atrocities because the song is stuck in his head? Did the earworm drive him to do the things he does? Is he just a killer who finds humor in what he’s doing, irreverent and cruel enough to make light of it in such a way? Perhaps we’ll never know…and perhaps the author was just hoping to elicit a groan from the readers as they reached the end.
This is a fun story that sneaks up on the reader in a delightfully absurd way.

You can grab this one for yourself by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app on your mobile device of choice. Rhyme Or Reason was released as part of the 31 Days of Godless event for October of 2021. The link is below:

Bone Cider by Lucas Mangum

Lucas Mangum listed Bradbury and Laymon as his inspirations when writing Bone Cider, but he didn’t need to tell us that. Reading this story made me want to pick up my worn out copies of Bradbury’s The October Country or The Illustrated Man or Laymon’s Night In the Lonesome October.
Mangum’s descriptions of the sights, sounds, and experiences shared by our young protagonist evoke reminiscence of the Octobers of childhood. Reading these words, we can’t help but feel the chill in the air, the fallen leaves blowing with a light rattle across the sidewalk as we trespass in the gloom of dusk or full night, and the tingling deep inside that remained only so long as we still believed in the magic of those nights. Some of us hold on to that tingling sensation well into adulthood, and Mangum is clearly one of those people.
Bone Cider is a story of loss, of family, and of the way the world seems–or is–different when the nights are long and the world is only thinly separated from other worlds we glimpse only in our dreams. Lucas Mangum brings all of that to life in the tale he tells.

Bone Cider was released as part of the 31 Days of Godless event at http://www.godless.com for the month of October, 2021. You can grab a copy for yourself by going to the website or using the app on your preferred mobile device. The link is below:

Bone Cider by Lucas Mangum

Halloween Kills (2021)

Halloween Kills picks up on the action only minutes after Halloween (2018) rolled credits. As Dylan Arnold’s Cameron walks home, upset with himself and wallowing a bit, he comes across Will Patton’s Officer Hawkins where he lies bleeding on the pavement as he’d been left to die in the final third of the previous installment. Though Hawkins appears to be dead at first, he is soon revealed to be clinging to life.
We are treated to a surprisingly well-produced return to Halloween (1978) in a flashback that shares the concluding events of that night from the perspective of a younger Hawkins and his partner. In this, we discover that Hawkins has cause to feel no small amount of guilt over the events of that night 40 years before.
We witness further events of that night, encountering children having an altercation before being sent home by police roaming the streets in search of Michael Myers. One of those children will be a familiar character to discerning viewers of the older Halloween.
We meet up with Tommy Doyle (now played by Anthony Michael Hall), Nancy Stephens’s Marion (returning to the character for a fourth time in the series, though only the second in this internal timeline), and Kyle Richards’s Lindsey (reprising her role from the 1978 classic) at a bar where open mic night is in full swing. While I would have enjoyed seeing a nod to The Curse of Michael Myers, with Paul Rudd returning to portray Tommy Doyle, I was nonetheless pleased to see so many performers returning to roles they played in 1978 and 1981 respectively. This includes Charles Cyphers returning to take on the mantle of Leigh Brackett yet again.
As emergency services race toward Laurie Strode’s burning home, Jamie Lee Curtis’s Strode shouts a desperate plea that they let it burn. If they had heard her and heeded her request, the movie would have turned out quite differently. A single firefighter falling through the floor into Strode’s trap basement provides the means for the still breathing Myers to remove himself from his imprisonment below the house.
Carnage ensues in a scene that pits Michael against a group of firefighters, in which the killer’s prowess is displayed to be anything but diminished. This is something we experience more than once in this movie that has rarely, if ever, been incorporated in a slasher flick. In Halloween Kills, we are treated to one-against-many conflicts that are typically antithetical to the slow, methodical stalker and prey relationships we often expect from such stories. The Michael Myers of this movie is more a force of nature than we’ve come to expect, capable of bursts of intense violence directed, rather than toward singular targets, at groups of people. An economy of brutality is on display with murderous efficiency, as Myers dispatches multiple opponents with expedience and ruthlessness.
I went into Halloween Kills with the expectation that it would suffer from middle movie syndrome, being the second of a planned trilogy of sequels following the events of Halloween 40 years before. What I experienced was more like The Empire Strikes Back than The Two Towers, a self-contained narrative that–while it is designed to carry the plot between beginning and end of the trilogy–manages to satisfy my needs as a standalone experience.
The performances are spectacular, the kills are savage and visceral, the soundtrack/score was superb, and the story unfolding for the characters as Michael makes his way through Haddonfield toward his natural destination is a vivid enough assortment of threads as to make for a worthwhile tapestry. The sheer brutality of Michael’s murders is almost enough to distract the viewer from the underlying theme of fear spreading through a community primed for terror and harboring a certain tension just beneath the surface for nearly half a century. This explodes in a predictable fashion as the residents of Haddonfield create the conditions wherein Michael is able to thrive and flourish, feeding–as he seems to–on the very anger and horror being amplified by the mob mentality spreading like wildfire throughout the movie.
A bit of dialogue near the end of the movie manages to sum things up nicely. When Hawkins expresses his regret at having made this possible by not letting Michael die back in 1978, Laurie Strode corrects him and explains that this is her fault, that her fear of Michael’s return has been allowed to spread and fester like an infection in the otherwise quaint community.
I know that I am certainly looking forward to the release of Halloween Ends next October, and I truly hope a whole lot of you are as well.