Jenny Got Sick – pandemic flash horror fiction in 100 words or less


It was a hot, humid August day in Texas. Jenny’s mom was busy escorting her brother through the Reptile House off I-35 and Jenny had to pee. The washroom was occupied so she went out back to the vast field behind the building. She found a secluded spot and squatted.

Suddenly there was a rustling sound and a growling armadillo foaming at the mouth emerged from the grass. It rushed at her, but she managed to grab it. The creature’s belly was covered with pulsating black sores. One of them burst, sending hot black pus into her mouth.

Falling back, Jenny swallowed.


Originally published March 11, 2012 as part of 100 Horrors: Tales of Horror in the Blink of an Eye

Pre-order my 1st full-length horror book now! Ghosts in the Graveyard

I’m pleased to announce the impending release of my first full-length horror book: Ghosts in the Graveyard

It’s been a work-in-progress for a year and excited to release it on the world 10/1. You can pre-order it on Amazon today (see below) and here’s a synopsis:

Ten years ago, three girlfriends set out to play an innocent child’s game: Ghosts in the Graveyard. They knew they shouldn’t sneak into a cemetery on that Halloween night, but the twins, Lisa & Louise Grady, and Ari West are always up for some mischief. When one of the twins disappears without a trace that night, her sister and best friend never recover from that loss.

Now Ari must race against time to find out what really happened to her lost friend. In this spellbinding Gothic horror story, Ari and her family become convinced something is trying to possess her. As they experience increasingly violent psychic phenomena, will she learn what really happened ten years ago before history repeats itself and her soul is lost forever?

Ari’s about to learn that some games only children should play.

Looking for supporters to help with book launch:

My favorite films/shows to honor Memorial Day & horror of war

Associate Press - Arlington Cemetery bugler

Associate Press – Arlington Cemetery bugler

All Quite on the Western Front (1930)
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
The Great Escape (1963)
The Dirty Dozen (1967)
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
M*A*S*H (1972)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Das Boot (1981)
Rambo: First Blood (1982)
Platoon (1986)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
Blackadder Goes Forth (1989 – TV – in particular the last episode of the series)
Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
Glory (1989)
Casualties of War (1989)
Henry V (1989)
Dances with Wolves (1990)
JFK (1991)
The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
Braveheart (1995)
Hiroshima (TV movie – 1995)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Band of Brothers (2001 – TV)
Enemy at the Gates (2001)
Red Cliff (2008)
The Pianist (2002)
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
Atonement (2007)
The Warlords (2007)
Inglourioius Basterds (2009)

‘What They Say’ and Heather Dorff – a cut above the rest

‘What They Say’ is a short horror film (2011) directed by Justine Romine, based on a story by, and starring Chicago’s own, the incomparably talented actress Heather Dorff. It’s a trippy film that warps time and perception as we follow the lead character/narrator who is unnamed (Dorff) through a downward spiral into madness and bloodshed.

Heather Dorff

Heather Dorff

It’s clear from the beginning that the main character is isolated and at odds with herself and everyone around her (family and friends alike). The opening credits features disturbing imagery implying she’s surrounded by monsters disguised as people. As she finishes a cigarette break under a tree, we follow “unnamed” as she walks across the campus of her school and encounters her classmates.

Their reactions range from mockery to outright disdain and it’s clear she spends most of her time alone, bitter, angry and suffering as she deals with her classmates. At one point she makes eye contact with one young man and it’s immediately clear he’s got some amount of regret or guilt in his expression (we’ll soon learn why). As they make eye contact, it’s clear pain (in all its forms) is a constant in “unnamed’s” life.

We then see pieces of her home life and it’s just like her school world: a mess. In between, we see flashbacks to her youth, in particular things she saw her father doing while she was a little girl. History repeats itself as the father’s pain and self-destructive nature have clearly imprinted on “unnamed” and we watch as her mental fabric slowly, painfully and bloodily unravels thread-by-thread. Before I delve deeper into this film and any spoilers I’ll stop you here to say you should definitely see this film!

Unnamed prepares

‘Unnamed’ prepares herself

Buy this film NOW via digital download:

Follow Heather Dorff online:

Her website

Her Twitter profile

Midwest Indie film

Her Facebook profile

‘What They Say’ Facebook page

Full length horror film ‘Truth or Dare’ Twitter profile

Her new short film ‘The Tour’ Twitter profile

******Spoiler warning******

Throughout the film we witness the self-destructive therapy “unnamed” is engaged in: cutting. We see several instances of the main character cutting herself, remembering seeing her father cut himself when she was a child, and as her encounters with family and former friends continue to be hurtful and damaging, we follow the lead as she retreats repeatedly to her bathroom and attempts to relieve her pain with a razor.

What They Say poster

‘What They Say’ poster

Overall the writing, acting, music and f/x are top notch. The warped faces seen during the opening credits and makeup f/x on Heather during the final scenes are creepy as hell (especially the latter sequence). The camera is essentially always following Heather and she has an intense energy and stare that reminded me of some of the better enraged/possessed characters in horror films. She owns every scene she’s in, but when she’s looking into the camera full of possessed rage…shivers will run down your spine. You would NOT want to be on the receiving end of that stare!

About the only quibble, and it’s a common quibble among indie films regardless of genre, was the ambient sound in a few scenes. In particular a scene where her mom and a friend’s mom join “nameless” and her sisters for tea. As the camera moves from character to character, and angle to angle, there is no ambient sound effect(s) or music for parts of the scene. It’s probably my surround sound set up, but the ambient background sound varied significantly as the camera shifted and it was a little distracting. Again this is a minor issue which probably could have been covered by some creepy background sound(s) or music.

Heather Dorff

‘Unnamed’ about to unleash

However, I should point out that the end of the scene erases any memory of this. As the inane conversation escalates amongst those around her, Heather erupts in rage and the sounds and music replace the empty background noise. In other words, unlike many indie films where sound can be inconsistent and an ongoing issue, this was really the only real instance of this problem in the movie. In brutal detail, we see her lashing out at those present who’ve been talking incessantly about her as if she wasn’t there. One by one she attacks in her mind before coming back to reality or at least that semblance of it that each of us does our best to cope with each day. In the end, the bathtub cutting rituals get more elaborate as “unnamed” fully embraces the one thing that relieves her pain and empowers her.

Heather Dorff

‘Unnamed” unbound

The ending leaves things open to interpretation which is just fine with me. Too much of art is spoon-fed to the viewer. Leave some ambiguity. Is “unnamed” crazy? Are we seeing what’s really happening, are things in her head, or some combination of the two? What I know is that Heather Dorff is a great writer, an amazing actress and the horror genre is all the better for having her.

I highly recommend you find and see this short film and check out Heather’s other works such as the upcoming full-length film “Truth or Dare” the first film directed by fellow horror actress, the equally amazing Jessica Cameron. Horror is a very exciting genre at the moment. And a large part of that is the new generation of artists like Heather and Jessica taking the reins.

Grindhouse film review: ‘Sushi Girl’ by Kern Saxton – 4 out of 5

Sushi Girl poster

Sushi Girl poster

I recently saw ‘Sushi Girl’ at Immersed in Ink’s Tattoo & Horror convention on 4/19/14. It’s a grindhouse film directed by Kern Saxton with Tony Todd as star and executive producer.

What can I say? I was really blown away by they very stylized film, easily the best put together (in terms of direction, camera work, etc.) of the various post-‘Grindhouse’ (as in the Rodriguez/Tarantino film) movies in this genre. I remember seeing the trailer and thinking it looked really cool and interesting with one of the more quirky casts around. Everyone from Tony Todd (“Candyman”) to Sonny Chiba (many films most recently the “Kill Bill” films) to Jeff Fahey (“Machete”), Michael Biehn (“Terminator”) and Danny Trejo (at least a 1,000 films including “Machete”) to Mark Hamill (yes, Mr. Skywalker himself).

I had the pleasure of meeting one of the other cast members, Andy Mackenzie and he was one of the coolest, chill celebrities I’ve met. He was clearly proud of this film and his part in it: and rightly so. After showing the film, attendees got to ask some questions and he was approachable and shared some great stories about making the film.

Sushi Girl - Cortney Palm

“Sushi Girl” (Cortney Palm)

We initially see the gorgeous Cortney Palm (the “Sushi Girl” of the title) as she prepares to be the serving tray at a very special feast. We are quickly introduced to a group of villains who haven’t seen each other in just over six years when a robbery went wrong and the newest member (“Fish” played by Noah Hathaway) ended up behind bars. He’s just been released and before he can breathe fresh air as a free man, he’s picked up by a Duke’s (Tony Todd) driver. As a storm roars overhead, we feel his increasing discomfort and tension build as he approaches his destination.

Sushi Girl prepares - Cortney Palm

“Sushi Girl” prepares (Cortney Palm)

The destination is a run down, Asian-looking building, which has been partially remodeled inside. The entire room is focused on a massive dinner table, which is meticulously laid out with plates, place settings and Sushi Girl covered in an elaborate array of sushi rolls. She’s been instructed by the Sushi Chef (the always awesome Sonny Chiba) to be a tray and not move, speak, or react to anything she sees or hears around her. Never a good sign.

As each former team member arrives one-by-one, old rivalries start to arise and Duke works to keep them in check (which becomes harder as time passes). Soon everyone is present and Fish arrives as the guest of honor at his homecoming party. He knows the truth and refused to participate in the pseudo party that is in fact an interrogation. The focus of the evening? What happened to the diamonds Fish was responsible for during their robbery as the rookie bag man? He claims to have no idea, they know they weren’t on him when he was arrested, the arresting cops apparently didn’t take them and everyone present vehemently denies taking them all those years ago.

One thing is quickly clear; Fish isn’t leaving the room before convincing his former crew he really doesn’t have them stashed somewhere. Unfortunately for him, a game of escalating torture will be the price of their belief in him. Things get more brutal and darker with each passing moment. And all the while, the Sushi Girl lays motionless, as things get bloodier by the minute.

Sushi Girl - Tony Todd

Sushi Girl (Tony Todd as Duke)

Several great characters actors appear in one flashback scene (Fahey, Biehn and Trejo) as we slowly but surely see what really happened six years ago. Tony Todd is amazing and NEEDS to be in more drama. The scene that particularly blew me away is one where Duke shares a story from his childhood involving his brutal father before the game begins. It’s a great, great scene and Todd nails it.

Max - Andy Mackenzie

“Max” (Andy Mackenzie)

Also impressively, and completely believable in character (and 180 degrees from how he was in real life at the convention) was Andy Mackenzie as Max. Rough, tough and ready to beat the truth out of Fish, Mackenzie fully owns the role and has a simmering rage that frequently is about to erupt that is truly sinister. If DC Comics/Warner Brothers does make a “Lobo” movie, my vote is for Mackenzie to be at the front of the line for that character.

Crow - Mark Hamill

“Crow” (Mark Hamill)

I have always loved “Star Wars” and have a special fondness for Mark Hamill. That said, if I were to criticize anything it would be his performance that is a bit too much/over-the-top. Could have dialed it down a bit and been more subtle, but most of the time it works as he’s the thorn in Max’s paw and that comes across clearly as their back/forth bickering escalates throughout.

I loved seeing it at the festival and picked up a Blu-ray copy while there. Before writing this I wanted to watch again at home with optimal viewing conditions and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the disc. Not only the visual 1080p presentation, but also the audio is actually presented in 7.1 DTS-Master HD that is crystal clear and immersive (in particular the ongoing rain throughout the film). I wasn’t really expecting it to be that high quality, as many companies would have just put it out with the bare minimum effort.

If you’re into grindhouse, quirky casts, “Reservoir Dogs” (to which this film clearly owes homage to) and some brutal torture – it’s a must see. Oh and that Sushi Girl? Joining Mathilda May (“Lifeforce”) and Jenny Spain (“Deadgirl”) in the niche world of actresses who are naked all or nearly all of a film and are still powerful, not victims, we have Cortney Palm who steals the movie.

Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but this film brings the heat and I look forward to more from director Kern Saxton and these actors (especially Todd, Mackenzie and Palm).

Trailer and links to watch now on Amazon or buy (recommend the Blu-ray version).

Horror film review: ‘Truth or Dare’ by Jessica Cameron – 4.5 out of 5

I will keep this review a spoiler-free as possible, but some amount of divulging will no doubt occur so you’ve been warned.

I first saw Jessica Cameron at the 2013 Fatality Fest in Florida, and heard about her new film ‘Truth or Dare.’ There was a fundraiser in progress and after meeting her, reading about the film and watching the trailer (warning it’s a “red band trailer so not safe for kids) I decided to donate. However, I didn’t get to see the film as it is still on the festival circuit at that time and still is today.

Truth or Dare

Award-winning film ‘Truth or Dare’

Now, many festivals and many awards later (28 and counting as of 5/1/2014), I was finally able to see this horror film at Immersed in Ink’s Tinley Park Tattoo Arts & Horror Festival yesterday (4/19/14). In fact, I ended up seeing several screenings during the day, and it’s indeed one of those films that demands multiple viewings if for no other reason to test the endurance of your friends to see when they will cry uncle.

I only knew initially that the movie was about a group of friends playing a real game of bloody, gory “truth or dare.” The how/why they would do this was a mystery and things quickly click into place.

The film is a commentary on our culture’s incessant narcissism, celebrity obsession and viral video addiction. These “daredevils” have created a national outcry over their videos purporting to show actual deaths resulting from vicious versions of this game.

What transpires is one of the bloodiest, sickest films I’ve ever seen. The f/x are top notch for a low budget indie. I could almost taste the copper from the blood. The truths reveal the lies we keep from even our closest friends (I definitely will NOT spoil those) and the “dares” get more vicious and brutal from round to round. Throughout there’s some decent humor that made myself and many attendees laugh out loud multiple times.

April Chainsaw Sally Burrill

April “Chainsaw Sally” Burrill

If you enjoy sick, twisted horror (such as works by Jimmyo Burril & April “Chainsaw Sally” Burril, Debbie Rochon or the Soska Sisters, Jen & Sylvia) you’ll be right at home. If you laugh as flesh is cut and people are brutally wounded, maimed, etc. this film is one to support. Go see it at a film festival, buy it when it’s out and give it reviews. Let the big studios know the horror community supports both strong female writers/actresses/directors and boundary-pushing horror/gore.

For too long the industry has celebrated male artists while ignoring women (in general and horror specifically). As a horror author who’s come to know many of these artists I’ve referenced, I stand firmly behind the next generation of horror leaders – strong female voices who demand our attention and respect… or else.

Is this film for everyone? No. But I’m telling you it’s WELL worth the ride. And like any good roller coaster, you’ll be a wreck afterward and then ready to go again.

Rating 4.5 out of 5 – must see/own/review/spread the word

Pre-order your copy of Truth or Dare today for $25! You’ll also get a signed poster or picture from the film. Click on the link below to find out more information:

***Spoiler warning***

Delving into the game that takes up the majority of the film, I wanted to express my sincere admiration for Jessica Cameron’s vision and direction of this brutal film. Others would have pulled back from some of the gore/violence, but she pushed forward into each logical next step.

truth or dare poster

Truth or Dare

The film opens with the team’s most recent episode which involved a variation of Russian roulette that appears to go wrong. Milking the controversy, the “victim” actually goes into hiding for awhile to add to the “reality” that he’s really died.

What follows from those events, when faced by their #1 one fan/fanatic who desperately wants to join them, they are forced to play the game for real. He knows more about them then they know about each other and delivers brutal punishments for those trying to avoid the truth.

Unlike most films, the women are the real standouts here and I was really struck by both Heather Dorff and director Jessica Cameron’s characters who are not the cookie cutter women we normally see in horror films. I would NOT want to play this game with either them despite considering them peers and friends. I wouldn’t last to round two.

While most people will focus on the brutal dares, many of the audience members in the screenings I attended were sickened by the revealed truths. And cleverly, despite being essentially forced at gun point to play to the death, the truths some reveal feed into executing the dares.

Devanny Pinn

Devanny Pinn – the truth hurts… but not as much as the dares

I liked the realism in the writing. All of the brutal actions, in particular some so spectacularly awful I would never dare to reveal them, were researched for accuracy by Jessica. The actresses here are all more than up to the challenge of playing strong women in a horrific situation. I love Devanny Pinn’s work, and I will only say that her portion of the truth and dare rounds will haunt you. One thing in particular really challenges the strongest audience with something I guarantee you’ve never seen in a horror film before.

I also liked the simple attention to detail of the events being film on alternating memory cards and uploaded as the game progressed. Many films skip even the simple reality of things, but this felt natural and “real” in terms of what would be occurring.

Jessica Cameron in Truth or Dare

Jessica Cameron in ‘Truth or Dare’

And the killer constantly checking their “views” and comments of each new scene was both realistic and hilarious. The obsession with “going viral,” view counts and viewer comments in today’s world is skewered over and over much like the participants.

As I disclosed, I am a horror author who calls these folks peers and friends, but I still take a critical eye to all films I watch. In fact, out of respect to my friends, I would honestly say I hold their work to a higher standard than others. Just as I would expect them to comment on my work and drive me to be my best that’s who I approach things.

I can easily say that this film is a sick one that I love and am proud to have had any part in supporting and promoting. I expect to see a lot more of Jessica, and Heather, in the future and the horror world will be the better and bloodier for that!

Rating 4.5 out of 5 – must see/own/review/spread the word

Pre-order your copy of Truth or Dare today for $25! You’ll also get a signed poster or picture from the film. Click on the link below to find out more information: