Film for a Friday: Woman Who Came Back

Yes, it is written like that in the title card: no article on Woman. Low budget offering from Western Television, Woman Who Came Back (1945) offers a tale of the past invading the present in the form of a witch burned at the stake who wants revenge. In New England — where of course no one was burned as a witch.

Criminy people: witches were not burned in the US, they were hanged (and occasionally pressed). Also EARLY MODERN ERA was the time of the  wild witch crazes: you needed the print era to really get propaganda going on a massive scale.

Anyhoo: this is a fun little no-budget film. Including great creepy vintage Halloween costumes.

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The story is simple: Lorna Webster (Nancy Kelly) on a bus returning to her hometown and the man she ran away from at the altar meets an old woman who claims to be Jezebel Trister (Elspeth Dudgeon – best name I’ve heard in a while), the witch who had been condemned by Lorna’s great grand pappy. Of course she’s back to curse his progeny and the bus crashes killing everyone except Lorna and the old woman’s dog who haunts her the rest of the film.

Her paternalistic head-patting fiance (Now Voyager’s John Loder) assures her everything will be fine and the epically old guy pipe-smoking Rev. Jim Stevens (Otto Kruger) agrees. Let’s just all forget this bus full of dead people and get on with our charming New England lives of small town paranoia: Shirley Jackson meets Grace Metalious.

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Of course weird things happen: everything Lorna touches dies and it spooks people, like Expositio her housekeeper (okay, her name’s not really Expositio but she does explain a lot of back story before giving notice presumably because the windows won’t stay shut and the curtains billow mysteriously in the ever-present wind).

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Naturally, Lorna discovers the truth about her curse from a volume in old grandpappy’s study that just happens to be in a mausoleum in the crypts under the church. The townfolk don’t like these goings on especially when her fiance’s niece falls ill and they react accordingly.

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Will they gather into an angry mob or will clearer pipe-smoking heads prevail to show they’ve all been Scooby-Doo’d? It’s only a little over an hour so you can watch and find out for yourself. Hardly a masterpiece, it’s nonetheless fun and goes on my list for the course on witch films I’m thinking about doing sometime in the near future.

I learned about this film from a terrific piece on the folk-horror of Powell & Pressburger’s Gone to Ground.

Tuesday’s Overlooked A/V: Abed

My post is actually over at The Girls’ Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse — Abed (The Film):

What would you do to keep your family alive?

Watch the trailer to see if this is something you’d like to check out (i.e. not for the faint-hearted!)

Or just buy Beth’s story for 99¢ on Amazon:

And be sure to pop over to Todd’s to see the round-up of overlooked sights & sounds. Busy week: news soon! So little time, so much to do…

Writer Wednesday: Jan Kozlowski

My pal and fellow Horror in Film and Literature lister, Jan Kozlowski, first fell in love with the horror genre in 1975 when the single drop of ruby blood on the engraved black cover of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot hypnotized her into buying it. She sold her first story, Psychological Bacchanal to the EWG E-zine in 1997. Her short story, Parts is Parts, won awards in both the International Writing Competition sponsored by DarkEcho’s E-zine and Quoth the Raven’s Bad Stephen King contest. Another short story, Stuff It, was sold to an independent film producer and went into production as a movie short called Sweet Goodbyes. Her short stories have appeared in: Remittance Girl’s A Slip of the Lip Anthology, Lori Perkins’ Hungry for Your Love: An Anthology of Zombie Romance and Fangbangers: An Erotic Anthology of Fangs, Claws, Sex and Love.

She is extremely proud and excited to announce that her first novel, Die, You Bastard! Die! debuted February 7, 2012 as part of Lori Perkins’ new horror line, Ravenous Shadows, edited by the legendary John Skipp.

Q: What do you write on? Computer, pad o’ paper, battered Underwood? Give us a vivid picture.

I do the majority of my writing on my cherished MacBookPro laptop. I tend to turn my MacBook on at 6:30am and not shut down until 9pm or later most days [Ed: Hmmm, you can shut them down?]. If I either get stuck or get a jones to feel pen against paper, I’ll pull out my old white L&M Ambulance Company clipboard loaded with scrap paper and start scribbling. The board is a souvenir of my days as an urban EMT in Hartford, CT and I keep it around as a reminder of what I COULD be doing for a living.

Q: Do you listen to music while you write? Does it influence what you write?

I almost always listen to my local Dinosaur (Classic) Rock radio station when I’m working. Since Die, You Bastard! Die! is such an ultra violent story, I tried putting together a play list of heavier metal like Avenged Sevenfold (my granddaughter’s favorite band), Testament, Broken Hope, Disturbed, but I ended up distracted by the unfamiliar songs. Listening to the rock I grew up with in the 70’s like Bob Seger, The Eagles, Bruce Springsteen and Aerosmith, with a little Tom Waits, Frank Zappa, Nathan & the Zydeco Cha-Chas, Bon Jovi and Bacon Brothers thrown in via iTunes works best for me.

Q: Do you write in short bursts or carve out long periods of time to work? Is it a habit or a vice?

For me, writing is a business. I’ve been freelancing since I was about 12 and sold articles about raising tropical fish to my hometown newspaper. For the past 15 years or so I’ve run my own freelance writing shop doing all sorts of business and web related writing, editing and research work. Over the past two years, I’ve slowly been moving away from the business projects in order to focus on my horror fiction, but whether I’m writing fiction or non-fiction my work style is the same….commit to the project and write until the client, the editor or I’m happy with the finished product.

Q: What writer would you most want to read your work? What would you want to hear them say?

That’s already happened…on one of the drafts of Die, You Bastard! Die! I think I managed to gross out my editor, legendary Splatterpunk King, John Skipp! Now if I can, one day, pay Dean Koontz back for the creeps he gave me with his novel Whispers, I’ll die a happy writer.

Q: On the days where the writing doesn’t go so well, what other art or career do you fantasize about pursuing instead?

When I was a little girl my grandfather used to tell me stories about his adventures working for a funeral home during the pre-embalming fluid days. I always thought I would have loved working in mortuary sciences, but when I was going to school women weren’t exactly welcomed into the funeral services industry. Now that times have changed and we have a first class Mortuary Sciences degree program at our local college, I’ve always thought that would make a fabulous Plan B, even now at age 50+.

Q: What do you read? What do you re-read?

I try to read a little bit of everything. I get some great ideas from newspapers and magazines. I just discovered and am now devouring Mad Money Wall Street guru, Jim Cramer’s books. I try and read as much classic horror like Robert Bloch, M.R. James, Fritz Leiber, H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Matheson, Edgar Allan Poe and J.N. Williamson as possible. I also try to keep up with who’s publishing today beyond Bestsellersaurus Rexes Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I’m a huge fan of Edward Lee, Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Joe R. Landsdale, Jonathan Maberry, Elizabeth Massie, Yvonne Navarro, Weston Ochse, Monica O’Rourke, John Skipp and Andrew Vachss.

I rarely find time to re-read anything unless I’m researching a specific writing technique, like how Jonathan Maberry handled the fight scenes in his Pine Deep trilogy or how Dean Koontz ramped up to the reveal of the cockroaches in Whispers.

Q: Where did the idea for  Die, You Bastard! Die! come from? Do you have a surefire way of sparking inspiration? And is that an awesome title or what?!

The idea for Die, You Bastard! Die! came out of a lovely dinner Ravenous Shadows publisher Lori Perkins and I had during the 2011 Northeast Writer’s Conference, known as NECON. Lori mentioned she was looking for a story about an adult child coming home to take care of her abusive parent and it matched up with a story I had been kicking around for years about a survivor of childhood sexual abuse coming home to deal with her past. After the conference I got home, wrote up the proposal, Skipp green-lighted it and we took off from there. I realize that’s not the way most writers get a book deal but it goes to prove that if you consistently put the hard work in, you WILL find yourself at the right place, at the right time with the right story. 

Writing inspiration and story/character/plot ideas are everywhere if you’re open to them…and my motivation for being open to them usually is based on my memories of being paid $5 an hour to be projectile vomited on as an EMT or waitressing at Friendly’s for .60 below minimum wage. 

John Skipp raves about this book:

Die, You Bastard! Die! is one hard-as-nails crime story indeed, with a crime at its core so heinous it boggles both mind and soul. That said, it is also a horror story, a mystery, and an insanely taut suspense thriller. Categories are funny like that. 

But human monsters don’t get more humanly monstrous than Big Daddy. And it don’t get much rougher and tougher than Jan Kozlowski’s violently matter-of-fact, emotionally ass-kicking, downright incendiary son of a bitch. 

I love this book, and stand behind it 100%. Hope it blows you away, as it did me. And has you coming back for more. 

Drop by Jan’s blog or website and follow her on Twitter. Find her on Facebook and check out her Amazon author page. Thanks, Jan!

Know-vember: Dana Gravesen

The days are just packed, to steal a phrase from Calvin and Hobbes! No sooner does Dana compliment me on the fun to be had in Know-vember than I strong-arm him into answering my devious questions. And now they’re up — BAM. Serves him right! I first knew Dana as a snot-nosed thirteen-year-old on the Horror in Film and Literature List. He’s now a doctoral student. How awesome is that? Damn. From New York City to Iowa no less, but he’s one of those folks who bloom wherever they’re planted. Well done, you! We need to drink more martinis together, young man.

1. What’s the first thing you do upon waking in the morning?

Nicely ask Alley (my cat) to stop chewing on my hair. [Ed: Kipper chews my hair too! I miss him 😦 waah!] Then I hit the snooze button 10 times. Then panic about what day it is and what needs to be done. Then I hit the snooze button 5 times. Then I put coffee on to percolate while I smoke 2 cigarettes outside.

2. What’s a song you might be persuaded to dance to?

There are so very many. But dancing for me usually requires a bit of “lubrication.” The excellent thing is that I can dance to Slayer and Rihanna on the same evening at the local gay bar. “Rude Boy” is my favorite.

3. Where in the world do you live?

Iowa City, Iowa USA. It’s a town dominated by the University of Iowa, but it has a few charming elements like good restaurants, the Pioneer Food Co-op, and shirtless jock neighbors who like to leave their blinds open 24/7.

4. What’s a great night out for you?

A couple of good friends at a restaurant or tavern. I’m more of a stay-at-home kind of gal and usually get irritable or quickly exhausted with late nights out.

5. What’s a great night in?

Alley on my lap, the couch, boxed wine, and Roseanne.

6. If you were offered an all expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Hong Kong. I’m a huge fan of Hong Kong cinema and I absolutely love exploring super-metropolises. Plus I have a lot of friends who grew up in Hong Kong and could show me the ropes. My second and third choices would be Copenhagen (I’m part Danish) or to return to Belize.

7. What book do you wish everyone would read so you could talk about it?

Any of Maupin’s first six in the Tales of the City series. [Ed: Love those! In my novel Owl Stretching, the dead cat is named Mr Tolliver]

8. What movie makes you cry?

A couple of years ago my answer to this would be the following Simpsons quote: “This is where the tears would be if I could cry! But I can’t. Botched facelift.” I never used to cry at films. But the first film to ever make me cry was The Bridges of Madison County. I threw the book across the room but thoroughly enjoy the film (Go Iowa!). Truth be told, the first movie to ever make me cry was Bird on a Wire with Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn. I was 8 years-old when it was released and I forced my mother to take me to the lobby during the final “zoo” sequence because I didn’t want to see any animals get hurt.

9. What makes you laugh?

Witty friends and drag queens.

10. Are there fairies at the bottom of your garden?

No, but there are often fairies smoking with me on my stoop.

Thank you, you’re beautiful!

Know-vember: Susan

Susan is the third of the Three Mothers with me and Mildred, Mater Suspiriorum. My cat Colette is buried in the backyard of her old house: that’s the kind of friends we are. Small critters of all kinds know to trust her. Her home, consequently, is ruled by cats. Her home is an oasis for humans, too — as long as they know the score. I love being there: kitties to cuddle, screened-in porch at night when it’s cool for chatting and drinking, big screen tv for movies and friends who laugh along with Lost Skeleton of Cadavra and The Lost Skeleton Returns! The Three Mothers [plus significant others] Reunions are always a joyful respite. Here Susan is looking lovely at her niece’s wedding along with her husband Ron (who’s looking surprisingly calm and mayhem-free).


1. What’s the first thing you do upon waking in the morning?

Pour myself a cup of coffee and feed the cats. I know, that’s two things but they’re done simultaneously. Five “starving” moggies wait for no woman (or coffee).

2. What’s a song you might be persuaded to dance to?

Almost anything. I used to go dancing a lot and had a dance partner for a while when I was “young” with whom I danced in competitions.

3. Where in the world do you live?

In the middle of the United States bible belt – central North Carolina. Thankfully though due to the influence of several major universities, our area is a fairly liberal and enlightened spot. Not sure I could stand it if it was more, uhm, rural (Trying to be polite).

4. What’s a great night out for you?

A nice dinner, great conversation and a good bottle of wine.

5. What’s a great night in?

See 4. 🙂

6. If you were offered an all expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I have to pick just ONE?!?! Since it’s all expenses paid, I’ll pick the most expensive – China. Their ancient culture both repels and fascinates me. I would like to explore some of the old cities including the Forbidden City, see the Great Wall and visit the panda preserve. I’m an ancient history buff.   (Spent all day yesterday watching documentaries on ancient Egypt. 🙂 ) 

7. What book do you wish everyone would read so you could talk about it?

The one book I keep going back to (can’t really tell you why) is Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow.   The only science fiction novel that I have read where the aliens were truly ALIEN.  Plus, like Mary, I fell in love with Emilio the first time I read it.  The story is just heartbreaking due to the mistakes made by Emilio and the rest of the crew through trying to map human behavior on an alien culture.   That description isn’t quite right (map human behaviour) but I can’t summon the right words and emotions at the moment. 

8. What movie makes you cry?

Uh oh.  Gonna reveal my big secret here – it’s a tie between Sophie’s Choice and Starman.  I think I’ll die happy if I never see Sophie’s Choice again.

9. What makes you laugh?

My very silly significant other every day we’re together. [Ed: I can attest to that. In abundance!]

10. Are there fairies at the bottom of your garden?

Oh most definitely.  They even have a village.

That’s why they love your home, too!

Know-vember: Mildred

The stuff of legends! It’s Mildred, the Demon Den Mom, wrangler of the Horror in Film and Literature List and Mater Lachrimarum of the Three Mothers. Look — she’s drinking a beer that’s not the usual sex-in-a-canoe variety! Hee hee.

1. What’s the first thing you do upon waking in the morning?

I have no choice in the matter. First thing is the let the cats out. If I do anything else first, I pay for it later.

2. What’s a song you might be persuaded to dance to?

That song doesn’t exist.

3. Where in the world do you live?

The middle of nowhere, south central Indiana. We have no close neighbors and we love it that way.

4. What’s a great night out for you?

Last night we saw Madeline Albright speak. Tonight is women’s basketball. Tomorrow night is The Three Musketeers at the Ruth Halls theater. Saturday we’re going to French Lick to spend money at the casino. So, I guess just being out doing something is a great night, though I love just being at home snuggled on the couch watching a DVD with my sweetie.

5. What’s a great night in?

Right now the DVDs are Farscape. We’ve been working our way through the seasons and are almost done.

6. If you were offered an all expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, > where would you go?

Probably a small town in Ireland. [Yes, please!]

7. What book do you wish everyone would read so you could talk about it?

The Stand, so we could talk about its myriad problems.

8. What movie makes you cry?

Knightrider. Every time. I know George Romero has really lost it, but in his day, he made fantastic movies.

9. What makes you laugh?

The amazing funny pictures that make the rounds on-line.

10. Are there fairies at the bottom of your garden?

I suspect there are and that’s the reason the cats love it so much out there. 

Thanks, Mildred: I sorely miss having the usual Three Mothers [+ Birdie and Ron] Reunion this year. I hope you two can come visit me.