Posted on

Genre Filmmaking Comes to Life in Austin, TX

by Max Booth III

One week every year in September, the best of genre filmmaking comes to life in Austin, Texas. Originally established in 2005 by Tim League, Harry Knowles, Paul Alvarado-Dykstra, and Tim McCanlies, Fantastic Fest emphasizes on films that fall under genres such as horror, science fiction, and fantasy. Typically, the fest is held at an Alamo Drafthouse (which is owned by Tim League), and for eight days straight, movies are played on a total of eight screens. It is total fucking madness, and every fan of genre film must make it their life’s mission to attend it at least once.

This year Dark Moon Digest was lucky enough to obtain a press badge for Fantastic Fest. While I did not attend every single day of the event, I did show up for a good majority of it, and I’d like to report my experiences. I should note here that I live in a small town outside San Antonio, and the festival is held at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar in Austin, which is about a solid hour’s drive away from my house. I did not rent a hotel room, but instead drove back and forth each day. Traffic on Interstate 35 is hell on earth and I would not wish it on my worst enemies. Actually, I would probably wish something much worse than bad traffic on my worst enemies. I mean, when you think about it, bad traffic sucks, yeah, but there are way worse things in this universe to wish upon someone. Like waking up with one’s head trapped in an active wasps’ nest, for instance. Or being Jonathan Franzen’s glasses. Like, physically transforming into a pair of glasses that belongs to the author. Can you imagine? Holy shit.

Anyway, back to Fantastic Fest. The event began on September 20th and ended on September 27th. The 20th was a Thursday, which meant the previous night I had gone into work at the hotel that has employed me for the last six years. So, I clocked out at 7:00 in the morning on Thursday and immediately napped until 10:30. I woke up, showered, and raced up to Austin to meet some pals for lunch. The first film didn’t begin until 5:30, so there was plenty of time. The only reason I left so early had to do with the lunch I’d already agreed to attend with Andrew Hilbert, Trey Hudson, Robert Dean, and Zach Chapman. We met up at Shake Shack and made fun of Alex Jones for a solid hour, then parted ways and I walked down the block to register at the Drafthouse. Of course, nobody could find my badge, and for a brief moment I decided they hadn’t actually accepted my press application, that some prankster was having some fun at my expense. Well done, prankster, I thought, while standing in front of the table and sweating nervously. Well done, you sly little fucker.

Eventually they found me in the system and printed out a new badge, and all was well. Except I now had like five hours to kill until the first movie began, and I knew absolutely nobody attending Fantastic Fest. Anxiety is something I’m very familiar with, and being around random strangers is my own personal hell, so I found a random coffee shop and wrote for a while, then just kind of…wandered around aimlessly until it was time for the opening night movie.


(Thursday, 5:30 P.M.)

Easily the film everybody attending Fantastic Fest was most excited to watch. David Gordon Green’s Halloween made its North American premiere on opening night, with a good chunk of the cast and crew showing up to participate in a Q&A afterward. Now, I have not been to many film festivals. Most veterans of these things, at this point, already know to skip the Q&As. I’ve heard it from critics before, but I always thought they didn’t know what they were talking about. Let me be clear: they knew what they were talking about. Film Q&As are terrible. Nobody should ever allow sweaty randos to ask celebrities questions. They will never, under any circumstances, ask anything relevant or even decent. The only highlight of the Q&A involved Jamie Lee Curtis flipping the bird to someone in the audience after he made a comment about her age. The film itself, however, is pretty dope. Not amazing, but totally worth your time. It’s very funny, which isn’t a surprise when you remember Danny McBride collaborated on the screenplay. Check out my full review of the film later on in this issue.


(Thursday, 8:35 P.M.)

The Greasy Strangler is one of the weirdest films I’ve ever seen. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t, well…it’s not difficult to find. Go find it–then, you too, can have the lyrics, “Hootie tootie disco cutie,” stuck in your head for the rest of time. Jim Hosking’s follow-up, An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn, became a must-watch the moment I discovered it existed. With an ensemble cast consisting of folks like Aubrey Plaza, Jemaine Clement, Emile Hirsch, Maria Bamford, Matt Berry, and Craig Robinson, it was pretty much guaranteed to rock my socks off, and I am pleased to announce it did, indeed, meet my sock-rocking expectations. It is nowhere near as gross as The Greasy Stranglers, but somehow it’s even stranger. Jim Hosking has an insane gift of making his actors move and speak as awkward as humanly possible, and this talent truly shines in his latest offering.


(Friday, 2:30 P.M.)

I had no idea what to expect from this one. I went in knowing absolutely nothing about it, and I gotta say, that’s really the way to go with Border. Here’s what I’ll say: it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever had the chance to watch. Everything looks wonderful and the story is entirely unpredictable. Here is a script that does not care about meeting formulas. It is wild and crazy and it’ll make you laugh and it’ll make you cry. Border is a bizarro fairy tale if there’s ever been one. Watch it with a date.


(Friday, 5:20 P.M.)

The Raid is one of the best action films ever made, so obviously I was looking forward to Gareth Evans’s new film, Apostle. After Border, I bumped into two friends I know from the circle of horror writers I hang out with, and we gushed for a solid half hour about the Border’s brilliance. Then I got high for the first time in probably three years, walked inside the theater, bumped into a very tiny man and grabbed his arm to save him from crashing to the ground. “I’m sorry!” I nearly screamed, and the man told me everything was okay. He turned around and I realized I was grabbing the arm of Elijah Wood. “Oh!” I cried, and fled through the lobby, reminding myself there was a reason I did not get high often. I hid in the bathroom until we were allowed to enter the theater playing Apostle. Now, this film…well, there’s a good chance you’ve already seen it, since it’ll be on Netflix by the time you read this magazine. A lot of people are going to have problems with the film, due to its pacing and excess length, and both are valid complaints. However, I fucking loved Apostle. Dan Stevens plays almost the exact same twitchy lunatic that he plays in Legion. The action is sparse, but when it arrives it is brutal as hell. Imagine The Wicker Man pumped up to 11. I’m a sucker for island cult movies, and Apostle might be one of the best. It also might be the closest to an adaptation of Brian Evenson’s Last Days that we will ever get.


(Friday, 8:35 P.M.)

I’ve noticed a couple reviewers calling Burning a “Korean Vertigo” and, honestly, that might be the best way to describe Lee Chang-dong’s latest, adapted from a Haruki Murakami short story titled “Barn Burning”. And, since it’s Murakami, obviously the plot involves a cat. Starring Yoo Ah-in, Steven Yeun, and Jeon Jong-sea, Burning is intense as they come. It’s a slow, agonizing build, and every second will stress you out.


(Sunday, 2:10 P.M.)

I had to skip Fantastic Fest on Saturday because we were selling books from our press, Perpetual Motion Machine, at Paranormal Fest in San Antonio (specifically, at the Brick in the Blue Star Arts Complex). Over a thousand people showed up for this event, I’m told. The line stretched way the hell down the street, and people waited up to two hours in line. We did okay at the event. I’m glad we did it. And I’m also glad that, on Sunday, I made it in time to catch Chained for Life, a film I’m not likely to ever forget. It’s basically a spiritual sequel to Freaks, only in Chained for Life we’re given an entirely new perspective of those disfigured and disabled. Freaks is an extremely problematic and exploitative movie. Chained for Life, on the other hand, is a dreamy folktale for outcasts. I loved it every second of it.


(Sunday, 5:15 P.M.)

Every year Fantastic Fest has a secret screening. Nobody knows what the film will be until it starts playing. In the past, secret screenings have turned out to be some real gems, like John Wick, The Martian, and The Greasy Strangler. Leading up to Sunday evening, Fantastic Fest found itself full of speculation of the secret screening’s true identity. I figured it would probably be M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass, since his previous film, Split, had also been a secret screening a few years ago. However, most people thought it’d end up being Luca Guadagnino’s reimagining of Suspiria, and they were of course correct. In retrospect, it was probably the more obvious choice. Anyway, Suspiria is fucking awesome and you need to see it in a theater. It’s so different from the original film, I hesitate to even call it a remake. Dare I say I enjoyed this new version more? Maybe. I’ll need to watch it a couple more times, but seriously, this shit is the goods. Watch it on the big screen and soak in every detail. And just wait for that ending. This film is nuts.


(Sunday, 9:15 P.M.)

Sitting down to watch All the Gods in the Sky, I realized I had not eaten a single thing since early in the morning. Since we were at a Drafthouse, I ordered a plate of chili cheese fries, which were delicious. Until they were gone. Then…uh, things turned quite bad. It turns out, eating chili cheese fries after eating nothing all day is not a great idea. About a half hour into the film, my stomach started making these disgusting growls that only seemed to get louder as more time passed. Oh, I thought, I have to shit. The people sitting next to me kept shuffling awkwardly. Obviously they could hear my stomach. The movie was super quiet and in a foreign language. The whole goddamn theater could hear my stomach. I fled the theater and didn’t return until midnight. I have no idea if All the Gods in the Sky is a good movie. The last scene I caught involved a man hiring a prostitute to have sex with his paralyzed sister. I will probably never know what happened after that, as it will just bring up painful bathroom memories. Yes, the promoters for All the Gods in the Sky can quote me in their advertisements.


(Sunday, midnight)

After my unfortunate stomach issues, I seriously considered just driving back home and giving up for the day, but Deadwax sounded too cool to miss, so I made it through my troubles and caught Shudder’s new original series in its entire first-season run at midnight. Deadwax has a simple enough plot: a vinyl record is killing people. The sound effects on this show kick ass. It’s very low-budget, so it doesn’t look that great, but it’s still a very fun time. I don’t know how much I would have enjoyed it watching at home, but there was something special about binge-watching Deadwax on a big screen at midnight with access to unlimited popcorn.


(Wednesday, 2:15 P.M.)

Monday night I returned to work, so I didn’t bother to come back to Fantastic Fest until Wednesday. I still had to work this night, but I’d managed to convince the 3-11PM girl to stay until midnight so I could catch a film I’ve been dying to see for a long time now: Under the Silver Lake. But before that one, I snuck in two other films, beginning with Isabella Eklof’s Holiday. You might have heard about Holiday already–specifically, you might have heard about its very long, graphic rape scene. Listen. This film is tough to watch, but I also feel it’s an important film. It’s not exploitative like other films of this matter can sometimes feel, largely thanks to its writer/director. And it’s no surprise, considering Isabella Eklof is also the woman who wrote Border. Eklof is definitely a filmmaker to keep on your radar. She’s putting out work unlike anybody else right now.


(Wednesday, 5:40 P.M.)

I was really rooting for Donnybrook, since it’s adapted from a novel by an author I really admire (Frank Bill). Unfortunately, this was probably the worst film I saw at Fantastic Fest. Its action scenes reminded me of Marvel movies. Too many camera angles resulting in the viewer just being confused about what’s happening. It’s also lazy filmmaking, as the director doesn’t have to commit to actually showing us anything real. Donnybrook is a film afraid of its own violence. It also could have cut several characters and plotlines and almost nothing would have changed.


(Wednesday, 8:15 P.M.)

And, finally, the film I had been looking forward to the most. Under the Silver Lake is David Robert Mitchell’s follow-up to It Follows, one of the best modern horror movies I’ve ever seen. Under the Silver Lake, however, does not fall under the horror genre. Instead it is this weird, hilarious, pseudo-detective avalanche of conspiracy theories. Andrew Garfield is a fucking miracle in this thing. Most people will probably hate Under the Silver Lake. It is very long, a lot of it doesn’t make sense, there are numerous extended shots of asses, and it feels like it could be edited down to something much tighter. But I loved every second of it. I loved that it wandered wherever the hell it wanted. Under the Silver Lake sometimes feels like it was made specifically for me. It is exactly my kind of film. The thing is pure weirdo paranoia and it’s perfect.

Will I be attending next year’s Fantastic Fest? I sure intend on it, and I hope to see you there, too.


This article originally appeared in Dark Moon Digest Issue #32/33. Order your copy here.


Raised in Northern Indiana on an unhealthy diet of horror movies and Christopher Pike paperbacks, Max Booth III now lives in San Antonio, TX where he is constantly trying not to get shot. It is harder than you think. He is the author of several novels, including Carnivorous Lunar Activities, which will be published in early 2019 as an original Fangoria Presents! paperback. His non-fiction has been published on websites such as and He is also the Editor-in-Chief of Perpetual Motion Machine, the Managing Editor of Dark Moon Digest, and the co-host of Castle Rock Radio: A Stephen King Podcast. Visit his website to learn more and follow him on Twitter @GiveMeYourTeeth.

Posted on

Finding Your Own Light This Holiday

A Personal Essay from T. Fox Dunham

Author of Destroying the Tangible Illusion of Reality; or, Searching for Andy Kaufman
Published by Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.

This is how I celebrate Yule. Many of you have myriad names and traditions for the holidays—and even more of you hate this time of year, feeling dread and despair. You don’t have to, and I’ll tell you why. I’ll start with the story of the Long Island Messiah, Andy Kaufman.


Andy Kaufman as Santa on the Johnny Cash Show

Andy Kaufman always wanted to do a Christmas special with Santa and milk & cookies and the Rockettes. He also wanted to bring someone back from the dead. Death bummed Andy out, so he refused to accept it. If anyone could summon the power of ancient shamans and messiahs, it was Andy Kaufman. He burned with the fire that he ripped from the hand of Prometheus—and this fire burned him to ash. They referred to this show in Milos Forman’s Man on the Moon, though it was the wrong year in his life and not on Christmas. In the movie, Andy’s show becomes about balancing the negativity he’d created in the dark periods of his career. He fills the show with all things good and positive, and this is the way he’ll survive cancer. It’s all lies and deception, but the fun kind, the deception magic that grows good things in this world.

It didn’t happen this way, but what the hell? Why do we care? Andy Kaufman understood as I understand that history is tangible. So is life. We derive our personal narrative, our identities from our memories—and memory exists as a subjective element. We all possess selective recollections, and we craft our future actions based on previous experiences.

We create our souls from our memories. A soul is not given to us. It is a debt from God that we must fill. Take away our memories, and we become blank slates, empty vessels. History is re-written again and again. Most Christians in the west believe that Christ was born on December 25th. They feel so sure of this. Try to explain to them that the bible gives no birthday for Jesus and that December 25th was selected for its propaganda value in Rome, and they’ll probably want to burn you as a heretic. Yet, it’s true. And what does it matter? If people believe it, then it affects the world as if it was true.

So Andy created a Christmas special to fight cancer—and he was Jesus Christ.


Andy’s dancing on stage, wearing his classic Hawaiian shirt. He invites his Grandmother to watch from a chair he’d placed on the side of the show. Dear old Grandma! Who was really Robin Williams in a wig. He’s performing shows for his sister again just like he did as a little boy. Andy owns the stage. It merges into his skinny his legs. He’s only alive when he’s in front of an audience all so wet and hard to watch him sing and dance and play all the funny people. He does his Foreign Man. Tony Clifton appears. He brings Eleanor Cody Gould on stage, dancing on her pantomime horse just like from the old western movie. Andy’s conducting an orchestra—faster, faster and faster, driving her to exhaustion. She can’t keep up. The old woman collapses. She’s dead! Heart attack.

But Andy doesn’t like death. Death isn’t fun. There’s no audience beyond death, no one to watch him. He wants to keep performing, playing his bongos, being other people and fucking as many women as he can. He loves the stage and will never give it up. No. Death is an asshole, and he’s going to deal with it. Not on his stage. Not for Christmas!


I pushed my ass too far in October, supporting my horror writing and show, What Are You Afraid Of? Halloween is our busiest time, and I setup reading events in Philadelphia for authors, plus do my D&D games and write articles. I put on an incredible reading event at Fort Mifflin in Philadelphia, inviting several Pennsylvania authors including Todd Keisling, Kenneth W. Cain, Pete Molnar, Phil Thomas, Michael Garrett—and we brought Nick Cato down. The brilliant author PD Cacek read from her work. We shared an amazing event together.

But I nearly killed myself. Cancer crippled me when I was 18, eating away my strength, and I don’t always know my limits. I pushed myself too hard. In November, I ran a high fever and suffered lung congestion. After 12 days, I went into hospital, and the doctors diagnosed me with pneumonia. For many my age, pneumonia would be an annoying but survivable issue. I’m a cancer survivor. I suffered through intense chemotherapy and radiation for a rare Lymphoma. Only nine other people in the world have had this cell type of blood cancer—and lymphoma is usually the end-disease, the last before death. I survived it, but I would suffer severe side effects from the treatment. They burned my body, but I wasn’t supposed to survive beyond 40. Well, shit. I did. It’s Allison Ledbetter’s fault. She convinced me to keep fighting then married me. I guess she had her own selfish motivations. I married such a jerk! But I love her so much. So a year ago, I developed an infection in my jaw and neck, nearly went septic. Now they must rebuild my jaw. I didn’t see this pneumonia as a possibility. And it’s dangerous for someone with burned lungs and a weak immune system.

Why am I complaining like this? Because it’s reminded me of something: a feeling that dimmed over the years. I’m far from healthy, but I can at least enjoy something of this holiday season. I’m not delirious in bed with a high fever or in the hospital, and I can spend this holiday with my wife. Most people would be pissed off, but I feel grateful again to even be here.


Eleanor Cody Gould falls dead on stage at Carnegie Hall. Andy Kaufman keeps pushing the orchestra. Finally, someone alerts him that she’s died. The audience freaks. The show is ruined. Andy’s killed someone. But Andy doesn’t do death. He vanishes off stage as a ‘doctor’ puts his jacket over her face, giving her a last bit of dignity. But then Andy returns wearing a Native American headdress. He shakes a rattle and dances over her body. People are horrified but soon figure out that more is afoot. He raises her up, and her heart beats again! She’s alive! Andy has raised the dead. He is the new messiah—and he will fuck many women that night.


People of the original tribes of North America didn’t believe in real death. Unlike the Christians of Europe who would come to assimilate these wanderers of the natural world, the tribal shamans and people believed that all life turned a cycle. Nothing ever stopped. The concept of going to a final resting place felt like the worst fate. I understand that. I wrote about this terrifying idea of stasis in my novella, Doctor Kevorkian Goes to Heaven for Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing—back when we believed in our dreams. Max, do you ever wish we were still naïve? I do. For the tribal natives, life and death spun a cycle.

Sioux writer Charles Eastman reports:

“Many of the Indians believed that one may be born more than once, and there were some who claimed to have full knowledge of a former incarnation.”

Shirley Muldon of the Midwest wrote:

“We believe in reincarnation of people and animals. We believe that the dead can visit this world and that the living can enter the past. We believe that memory survives from generation to generation. Our elders remember the past because they have lived it.”

Communication between the living and the dead was possible. Among the Narragansett, the souls of the dead were able to pass back and forth between the world of the dead and that of the living. The dead could carry messages and warnings to the living.

So Andy tapped into this ancient power and brought this woman back to life. Was it real or just a fiction? Does it matter? If people believed it, if she believed it, then she came back from the dead. Truth is a concept that we’ll never really possess as humans because we perceive the universe. Thus, it becomes tangible.

That night after the show was finished, Andy Kaufman surprised the audience by carrying them on twenty-four rented school buses to a cafeteria where he served them milk and cookies. The audience delighted in such a simple and pure joy from childhood. Magic milk and cookies. It didn’t cure cancer, but for a time, they all found their innocence. The world steals our innocent spirit.


Yule is actually celebrated on December 21st or 22nd, considered the first day of winter. It comes from Scandinavia. The Norse celebrated it through January in recognition of the return of the sun. They would bring home large logs which they set on fire and would feast until the log burned out, which might take two weeks or a fortnight. Each spark thrown from the Yule log represented a new animal born in the spring for livestock.d

The Romans celebrated Saturnalia. Winters weren’t so harsh in Italy, and as the name denotes, the holiday honored the god Saturn. The holiday started during the week leading up to the winter solstice then went the entire month. The upper-class observed the birthday of Mithra—the deity of the undefeated sun. This holiday was on the 25th, and Mithra was an infant god, a baby. This was the holiday that Christianity assimilated into its own traditions, replacing one infant for another. Pope Julius I chose December 25.

First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to England by the sixth century. Eventually, Christmas took over Europe. It was the new thing! In the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th. This is called the Epiphany or Three Kings Day, the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger. (These were all pagans by the way, getting along with a different faith.)

But Christmas didn’t stay religious. People got drunk, ate too much and indulged in mischief. A custom celebrated was the Lord of Misrule. Keep in mind these people lived under tyrants and a government kept in power by keeping them poor. Each year, a beggar or student would be crowned the Lord of Misrule, and he would captain the poor to the houses of the wealthy, demanding food and drink. If they didn’t receive these gifts, they played pranks and annoyed the wealthy occupants. For the wealthy, this holiday became the time when they could reset their karma and pay their debt back to society.

Over time, Christmas was outlawed! Oliver Cromwell, lord protector of England banned Christmas because of its pagan traditions. He led Puritan forces and eventually took over England for 18 years in 1645. When he died and Charles II of the family Stuart was invited to renew royal rule, he re-instated Christmas and made it a beautiful time of celebration and light. Those pesky Puritans didn’t give up though. They came to America in 1620 and canceled Christmas. From 1659 to 1681, Boston banned Christmas. Anyone showing Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. Then, the colonists kicked off the rule of George III of Hanover. Christmas was considered an English holiday, so they didn’t really celebrate it as a national tradition; however, many people came to America and brought their traditions with them. Finally, Christmas was declared a federal holiday in 1870. Americans either absorbed the traditions of the immigrants such as the Germans who brought Tannenbaums into their homes, and it was the writings of Washing Irving who changed it from a party holiday into a day about family and peace. Dickens did the same with A Christmas Carol.

As a pagan, I celebrate Yule, the solstice, the birth of the year after the death at Samhain. This is the darkest day of the year but the light begins to return. It is about the sun. I decorate my altar with yellow candles, pomanders made of dried oranges studded with cloves and cuttings of the season: holly, mistletoe, juniper and pine. As a living soul, I enjoy the traditions of many cultures. We are a celebration of many races and cultures in America, and we reflect this in our holiday.

This is my altar, well a shrine for now. I am in the process of decorating it for Yule. I’ll be creating garland from dried orange slices and making natural displays from yew, juniper, holly and pine. I have also made pomanders—an ancient practice before we had Febreeze. You take an orange, insert cloves in different patterns then dry out the orange naturally over months or use an oven on a low setting. Then you roll it in mix of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and decorate it with ribbon. You can hang them from decorations, your tree, and the orange symbolizes the sun—the icon of Yule.


I realize today is December 16th. I nearly forgot—my sacred and second birthday. On this day in 1996, my radiation-oncologist at The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Doctor Giles McKenna examined several pre-ordered scans and officially declared me in remission from composite lymphoma. At the time, we never really believed I’d last to that point. (People often use such terms as ‘fighting cancer’ when really you just wait out the horrific symptoms as the chemo and radiation kill fast growing cancer cells. You don’t fight cancer. You endure the treatment and let the doctors do things to you.) But there I was on December 16th. I was going to live. I knew I’d always be a patient and that the treatment had done severe damage. Everything I have suffered over the last few years has been a direct result of the radiation: thyroid cancer, jaw infection nearly causing me to go septic, potential skin cancer—that’s part of Tuesday’s fun trip to Philly—and most recently this tenacious pneumonia that rooted in the scar tissue in my lungs. But I’ll never forget the euphoria that burned through me when the oncologist declared my war won. My words still fail me. It felt like I had been blessed with a miracle. I can only describe the feeling by saying that it felt like a spirit had ignited a hundred candles within me, a bon fire that burned in the dark night, warming and invigorating me. The sun. The sun rose in me, and I worship this gold disk as we do on Yule. I burn the yellow candle, and it burns in me. The sun. The sun of God. It burns fulgent in the dark time. I’ve often compared the elation to Ebenezer Scrooge waking up on Christmas morning after an uncertain and nearly fatal encounter with the spirit of Christmas Future. From that moment, the way I viewed the season transformed. I felt so ecstatic and lucky to be alive. Stray and previously banal moments of beauty suddenly burned radiant. I noticed every second, cherishing frissons of light. Previously, going to the mall at the holidays felt like a trip through hell; however, now I could only see the colorful decorations, listen to the live choir singing holiday songs and loving the stressed crowds shopping for gifts. If only they could have seen what I saw.

We went to Holly Night at Pennsbury Manor. (I was too sick this year to go.) They decorate the colonial home of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, with greens and candles, bringing the site to life with cooks in period clothing, bon fires and apple ciders. The burning of the woes! Little did I know that one day I’d be helping make the natural decorations and would contribute myself to that wonderful event. We visited my paternal Grandmother on a night when she had many relatives over at the house. And Christmas was lovely with my family. I changed so much. And the best part is that this feeling and perception never dulled or evaporated. I still feel this passion and excitement every December, as I did today.

The beautiful Pennsbury Manor, colonial home of William Penn, at Holly Night.

Even in the angry crowds, the violent traffic, the commercialism and insipid versions of the holiday today, I enjoyed the same feeling of wonder and excitement. It is something I wish others could see. I try to share it with my wife, her family, friends but they never quite get it. Christmas, Yule, Mid-winter—whatever you celebrate—shouldn’t be dictated to you. To appreciate the experience and ceremony, you must create the holiday for yourself. Go back to basics. Why do we celebrate this time of year? Many cultures do so, even though the customs and rituals can be vastly different. But what are the sames? Light. It’s all about light. This is the darkest, bleakest time of year for the northern hemisphere. In Australia, they switch the winter and summer solstice. Early astronomers and sky-watchers counting the hours realized that the day of the solstice is the shortest day of the year. After the day of mid-winter, we start moving to light again.

This was the end of the year, as the pagan cycle of days is based on the life cycle of a human. Samhain is death. Technically, the winter solstice marks the final day of death and then rebirth, leading to the day of birth or Imbolc. I was born on Imbolc, which is probably why I felt compelled to follow Bardic traditions. So think about this time of year from the point of view of a farmer in a mostly agrarian society. They didn’t have trucks or trains to transport fruit and vegetables from southern climates now any means of preservation. When winter began, you had to live off of what you managed to store from your autumn harvest. This was the last of the feasts, eating all the food that would soon go bad. You drank the last of your beer and wine, having recently fermented. Farmers slaughtered their cattle because they couldn’t feed them during the winter months and eat as much of the meat as they could, trying to preserve the rest. Then the desolate months came when you couldn’t grow food. Without a fire, you’d freeze to death and sickness killed many. This was a truly desolate and terrible time.

So why do we celebrate the longest night of the year?

Because we need to.

The significance of the solstice comes from the human need to find motivation and inspiration at the most depressing and barren time of the year. We do it because we need some help to keep going. I don’t have to tell you about winter depression. Everything’s dead or asleep. Snow and low temperatures freeze the land. We just saw everything die in autumn. Many cultures assimilated this need into holidays that then gained religious significance. We bring evergreen trees and branches into our homes to draw some of that undying energy from nature at this dead time. Then we decorate the tree and our homes to create more beauty and light, inspiring us. We give gifts, spend time with loved ones, enjoy our traditions and create delicious food and drink to essentially make us feel better, less depressed and motivated again. 


The pneumonia has rooted itself into the lower left lobe of my lung and along the right lung. The intense radiation burned these areas, leaving heavy scar tissue, making my lungs more vulnerable to infection. As a lymphoma patient, I also suffer a weaker immune response. Pneumonia presented a worst-case scenario for me. I’ve often been warned to monitor for it because not only could it do me great injury, but it could prove to be too strong for antibiotics to cure entirely. It put me in the hospital, dropping my blood-oxygen levels to 90 (and falling) and my pulse to a dangerous frequency. Basically, I was in the early stages of pulmonary failure, and if they couldn’t get it under control, my lungs would have shutdown. After weeks of antibiotics and treatment (which are not proving the most effective) it still endangers me. If the pneumonia relapses a fourth time, then there will probably be very little we can do to cure it. Eventually, it will kill me. This is how I could really go, and we’re worried. I’m waiting right now, and we’ll do another chest x-ray. I’m showing some symptoms again, though they could just be residual. We don’t know.

We’ve had to cancel many of our plans including a weekend stay in Philadelphia to enjoy the holiday features—a trip that’s become a beloved tradition for us. I was unable to celebrate my wife’s birthday, and my life ceased. After 16 days of heavy antibiotics, I have improved, become mobile and able to function better, but I am still quite sick. Low-grade fevers have popped up, and my lungs feel full of gunk. It comes and goes, and I’m the rope in a tug-of-war between my immune system and the infection. We don’t know what is going to win, so we have to watch it. I require much rest. I cannot push myself at all or weaken my already weakened state.

But it’s Yule, and the light heals me. It is part of my strategy for survival.

I felt it today—that inspiration, the energy, the love and light that I felt all those years ago. I really didn’t know if I’d be stuck in the hospital on a respirator. But instead, I was shopping with my beloved wife. I am not in hospital, and my chances of recovering have improved, and I will have a better holiday than if I ran a 103 fever.


While attending Thanksgiving with family in 1983, Andy discovered a strange lump.

In May 1984, after fighting cancer through archaic traditional means, psychic surgery and holistic medicine, Andy Kaufman dies. (Of course, his death has been the source of controversies with people claiming it was a hoax. I don’t believe this at all. Every good magician knows that when you make a rabbit disappear the audience won’t be satisfied until it re-appears. Andy never appeared to take his bow and to call the world a bunch of idiots. After researching Andy for years to write Destroying the Tangible Illusion of Reality, or Searching for Andy Kaufman, I’ve come to understand how desperate Andy was for attention and compliments to his massive self-centered ego. I doubt he could have gone a year without declaring himself undead and then rolling around in the attention like a hog in shit. That was just Andy. If he did survive, he’d be dead by now. There was no hoax. Andy was not immortal. He didn’t beat death. None of us can.

Happy holidays! (While you still can.)

But what people don’t consider is that death and loss compels Christmas. This was a dark time. Consider this. Winter is the harshest season to fragile human life. In the past before technology, people couldn’t grow anymore food this time of year. They had to burn fuel to stay warm and stay alive. Disease killed many without effective medicine. Christmas isn’t really the time of birth. It’s a day of death.


I love my wife. Allison has given me the best part of my life, and for the first time, I am glad I survived. Pain tortures me every moment. The oncologist destroyed my spine and burned me into agony. They are amazed I can still walk. I can only endure because of heavy opiates that patches and pills infuse into my system every moment of every hour of every day for the rest of my fucking life. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to think from the agony. That is my life. That is the cost. I see neurologists and pain management doctors every month, and I surprise them with what I can actually endure. If you think we should abolish opiates and make it harder for doctors to prescribe them, then you don’t understand what this feels like. I don’t recall what it’s like to not feel pain.

Yet I endure and strive to perform customs and traditions, even though most of the time I suffer through them. Why?

Because life is about what we create.

I garden. I fish. I bake. I cook. I write. I decorate. I play Dungeons and Dragons. I laugh. I read. I learn. This makes me feel alive. It connected me to the world and others. I need this. I’d die without it.


I don’t want to be the wise man. I don’t need to be a priest. And please don’t call me a mentor. You’ll probably hate me one day for opening your eyes to the light and your soul to agony. That’s what I do. I share what I know, and I’ve learned how to listen.

If you’re listening properly to others, then you just might learn a lesson from their mistakes without having to make your own.

Don’t dismiss the holidays. Don’t just call them a lot of commercial bullshit and ignore them. You wound yourself by doing this. It’s depriving you of vitality, of nutrition, of spiritual renewal. Before all the religious dogma and commercial demands, people understood. The world spins on suffering. This is a brutal life that tortures you until you break—then you die. But beauty exists. So does love. We can ascend beyond our finite states. Christmas, mid-winter, Yule, the holidays exist to bring us light. They help us through the darkest coldest time of the year and give us hope. Look. You don’t have to do the commercial part of it, hanging up plastic reindeer and putting up gaudy lights. Make it what you feel. Find your own traditions. Know your own beauty. Sure. I love gifts—more getting then giving—but I love making Allison happy too. I like to bake cookies and create seasonal D&D adventures for my friends. This year, I take such joy seeing the tree we got together and put up. It lightens my soul every time I walk down the stairs—and I suffer so terribly right now. I need this. In a few weeks, I could be in hospital with my lungs filling with water. Last week, I went down to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania so they could check for skin cancer. Today, I have to figure out an x-ray. I didn’t sleep last night. I hurt. I ache.

This is the season of finding hope, but don’t expect it to be handed to you. Create it. Find the light. Ignite a sun in your heart. If you have trouble, just ask, and I will share a bit of my fire.

Bill. Jon. Cindy. Megan. Tom. Rose. Max. Lori. Michael. Marjorie. Jeff. Jay. Val. Nieces. Nephews. Amber. Debs “BESTIE” and so many more: I love you.

Allison, thank you. I love you. You reminded me that love is about making someone else more important than yourself even when you have cancer. We’ll have our home soon and our children. I have faith.

I didn’t have faith before, so I made it. I ignited my own Yule sun. So should you. When they offer no cure, create one.


In this surreal road novel, Anthony searches for the father he’s never met: Andy Kaufman, the legendary song-and-dance man from the ’70s. There’s a few problems here, of course. Andy Kaufman died in 1984, and thanks to a recent cancer diagnosis, Anthony doesn’t have much longer to live, either. However, new evidence has come to light that questions whether or not Kaufman is actually dead. Could he be in hiding, after all these years? Anthony is determined to discover the truth before his own clock runs out. During his travels, he will encounter shameless medicine men, grifters, Walmart shoppers, the ghosts of Elvis and Warhol, and the Devil himself.

How to purchase:

Directly through the publisher

Your local indie bookstore

Barnes & Noble







Christmas has a dark side.

During the holidays in the days before television, people gathered to share food, drink, and a glowing fire, and to entertain themselves by competing through storytelling. Ghost stories won the night. Consider this. When winter came, food ran low, the cold threatened and disease killed many, often taking your loved ones. You missed them at Christmas, so the holidays used to be a mournful time. Eerie tales were popular, and if Halloween was the start of ghost story season then it peaked at Christmas. So what a perfect time for a new episode of What Are You Afraid Of? To celebrate mid-winter, horror authors T. Fox Dunham & Phil Thomas celebrate tales of monsters and the supernatural. Fox has researched several Philadelphia haunted houses and has written an account of a notoriously spooky mansion in Chestnut Hill: The Baleroy Mansion. English folksinger David Walton narrates part one of these stories about the myriad spirits who inhabit this beautiful home including a ghost boy who appears to workers and a mother who refuses to stop giving advice even from the afterlife. Then, the hosts talk about the many horror movies set during Christmas including the classic story of holiday mayhem, Gremlins! Little green monsters torment a small American town, and they burn most of it down on Christmas Eve. This movie is considered a Christmas classic, watched by many. They pay homage by discussing the history and trivia of Gremlins. Remember the three rules? The hosts also play some funny holiday songs including the ballad of a frustrated neighbor forced to look at a hideous blow-up Santa. Then, Fox shares some of the rich history of the mid-winter holidays from the ancient holiday of Yule to the evolution of Christmas in the United States. So, we wish you happy holidays and remind you to indulge this dark and cold season. Christmas has a dark side—or the lights wouldn’t be so bright.

T. Fox Dunham lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Allison. He’s a lymphoma survivor, cancer patient, modern bard and historian. His first book, The Street Martyr, was published by Gutter Books. A major motion picture based on the book is being produced by Throughline Films. Destroying the Tangible Illusion of Reality or Searching for Andy Kaufman, a book about what it’s like to be dying of cancer, was recently released from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and Fox has a story in the Stargate Anthology Points of Origin from MGM and Fandemonium Books. Fox is an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and he’s had published hundreds of short stories and articles. He’s host and creator of What Are You Afraid Of? Horror & Paranormal Show, a popular horror program on PARA-X RADIO. His motto is wrecking civilization one story at a time. & Twitter: @TFoxDunham


Posted on

The Sky is Hungry: Betty Rocksteady’s THE WRITHING SKIES is Now Available

Morning, folks. I’m pleased to announce Betty Rocksteady’s new novella, a weird science fiction body horror extravaganza, is finally available for your delicious little eyeballs to feast upon. Check out this badass cover, also illustrated by Betty:

Plus, I must remind you that, in addition to writing the book and creating the cover art, she also provided twenty black and white interior illustrations. What’s the story about, though? Well…

Glowing lights and figures in tattered robes force Sarah from her apartment. Outside, phosphorescent creatures infiltrate her every orifice. They want to know everything, especially the things she would rather forget.

Nice and short, right? Trust me when I say, this book is going to screw you up. You might think you’re prepared for what’s inside, but you aren’t even close. Oh, unless you actually are prepared. That could also be true. I don’t know who you are and it would be rude to assume your level of preparedness.

Either way, the book is available, and you should buy it, then you should read it, then you should review it.

Here are the places you can find it: our webstore, your local indie bookstore, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.

Watch the official trailer…


“The word I would use to describe The Writhing Skies is ‘nightmarish.’ That seems like a run-of-the-mill description for a horror novel, but I mean it more literally. The way the plot progresses often seems to function on dream logic and the imagery is incredibly surreal. In fact, some of the scenes here remind me of actual nightmares I can recall having. The result is gripping and intense.”

—Ben Arzate, Cultured Vultures

“From the opening chapter, The Writhing Skies will have you scratching at your skin as you turn the pages. This book gets deep under your skin, I was constantly looking for blemishes on my forearms, a slight unexplained movement under my skin, the feeling that something was growing inside of me, desperate to introduce itself to the world. This all could be down to the fact that I was high as a kite on meds for a sinus infection I developed a few days prior, or, it could be down to Betty’s excellently vivid descriptions? Who knows? I’ll leave it for you to decide.”

—Adrian Shotbolt, The Grim Reader

“Don’t let the cover fool you, this isn’t some cartoonish fun horror story. This is a dread inducing punch to the stomach, which leaves you feeling hurt and empty inside. It’s weird, it’s gross, it’s beautiful, and it’s everything that’s horrible in the world wrapped up in a cute odd Betty Rocksteady bubble.”

—Scott Kemper, Signal Horizon

“This is the first story I have read by author Betty Rocksteady and it makes me ask, ‘Where have you been all my life!’ The Writhing Skies has everything a horror reader wants. Unparalleled atmosphere, constantly building dread and unease, believable characters and an ending that will kick you in the teeth.”

—Jim Coniglio, One-Legged Reviews

Posted on

Dark Moon Digest to Attend FANTASTIC FEST!

Every year in Austin, the country’s biggest genre film festival takes place. Horror, crime, science fiction, fantasy, you name it. This year, the new Halloween will be making its U.S. premiere with Jamie Lee Curtis, the legend herself, in attendance. Take a look at all the films showing at the fest. So much good shit, they gotta stretch the fest an entire week. Seven days of films. Can you imagine? Well, you won’t have to, because I am pleased to report Dark Moon Digest has received its first press badge for this event, and will be reviewing numerous FF films throughout the next week and a half on this very website. Here’s a list I made of everything I hope to watch and review, although obviously there’s a good chance I won’t make it to every one of them.

A little bit more about the fest:

Fantastic Fest is the largest genre film festival in the U.S. specializing in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and just plain fantastic movies from all around the world. The festival is dedicated to championing challenging and thought-provoking cinema, celebrating new voices and new stories from around the world and supporting new filmmakers. We work with various other festivals, archives, cinematheques and individuals to spotlight lesser-known film regions, luminaries and more in an ongoing effort to expand the general knowledge and appreciation of cinema. We are committed to supporting film in its most provocative, ground-breaking and lesser known forms and giving the audience a chance to find new favorites and future genre classics.

Each year we bring together audience members, guests, industry, press and others in an inclusive and fun environment for a weeklong celebration of film in all its forms through carefully curated screenings and events, both in and outside of the theaters.

So, stay tuned for more FF coverage. In the meantime, since I’ll be driving from San Antonio to Austin every day instead of renting a hotel room, I encourage y’all to support our Patreon. I’m, um, gonna need the gas money.

Posted on


Finally, the latest anthology from Perpetual Motion Machine, Lost Films, is available for purchase. This book has been a long time in the making, and for good reason. It’s a giant tome of horror featuring nineteen authors, both respected and new to the genre. Together, they deliver a collection of terrifying, eclectic stories guaranteed to unsettle its readers. In Lost Films, a deranged group of lunatics hold an annual film festival, the lost series finale of The Simpsons corrupts a young boy’s sanity, and a VCR threatens to destroy reality. All of that and much more, with fiction from Brian Evenson, Gemma Files, Kelby Losack, Bob Pastorella, Brian Asman, Leigh Harlen, Dustin Katz, Andrew Novak, Betty Rocksteady, John C. Foster, Ashlee Scheuerman, Eugenia Triantafyllou, Kev Harrison, Thomas Joyce, Jessica McHugh, Kristi DeMeester, Izzy Lee, Chad Stroup, and David James Keaton. George Cotronis can be blamed for the front cover, and Luke Spooner’s responsible for the nineteen interior illustrations.

Purchase Lost Films through our webstore, your local indie bookstore, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon. And don’t forget to track your reading progress on GoodReads.

LitReactor was kind enough to reprint our intro from the book yesterday. Read it here.

Here’s what people have been saying about the anthology:

“Easily one of the strongest horror anthologies of the year.”

–Signal Horizon

“If you’re a child of the VHS era, a cinephile with a penchant for the absurd, or just a horror junkie who really wants to find a new set of mind-bending ideas, Lost Films is going to have something to pull you in.”


“If Lost Films represents the general quality of horror fiction that Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing are submitting to the marketplace, then I believe they have a very bright future in front of them. Lost Films is a brilliant horror anthology, containing well-written, highly engaging and often intensely horrifying and disturbing stories, all based around a theme that has yet to be well-mined by the genre. Accompanied by fantastic cover art and superb interior illustrations, editors Max Booth III and Lori Michelle have produced an anthology that should sit on the shelf of any discerning fan of the horror genre.”

–Sci-Fi and Fantasy Reviewer

“Betty Rocksteady’s ‘Elephants that Aren’t’ stands as a picture-perfect example to other purveyors of the weird and bizarre; such a surreal but grounded experience that really packs a wallop. Then [Jessica McHugh] comes in with ‘Things She Left in the Woods, ‘ a deceptively simple yarn of an abandoned shack in the woods that twists the folk-horror approach of creepypasta and fleshes it out with her deft hand at character.”

–Cemetery Dance

“[…] rich in imagination […] this anthology features all manner of descents into madness, horror, and mayhem, aided by the largely inhuman hand of technology. [A] melting pot of horror.”

–Publishers Weekly

Posted on

THE WRITHING SKIES Cover Reveal + Pre-Order Special (AKA: Betty Rocksteady Day)

Why hello, stranger! Fancy meeting you around these parts. Tell me – have you heard the good word? Have you accepted Betty Rocksteady as your horror lord and savior?




First of all, rude.

Secondly, it’s like you didn’t even know she has a new novella coming out in September, and it’s a surreal horror/science fiction mix featuring aliens and terrible boyfriends. And you probably also didn’t realize, on top of writing the damn thing, Betty Rocksteady has not only illustrated the front cover but also created twenty (20) black and white interior illustrations. Twenty! She recently calculated how much time she spent on the art for this book, and her calculator committed suicide rather than cough up a real answer.

Oh, you probably want to see the cover, don’t you? If you know what’s good for ya, you do.




Glowing lights and figures in tattered robes force Sarah from her apartment. Outside, phosphorescent creatures infiltrate her every orifice. They want to know everything, especially the things she would rather forget.

Pretty gosh darn cool, huh? Well you haven’t even seen the full jacket yet! So look at this! LOOK!

Holy cow! And you haven’t even seen the interior illustrations yet! Just you wait. We aren’t gonna reveal those right now. You’ll have to just buy the book! And then open it and look at the illustrations! And also the text. Also! Guess what! Today is officially Betty Rocksteady Day, meaning if you pre-order The Writhing Skies today (July 18, 2018), we will throw in a free (FREE!) paperback of her other novella, Like Jagged Teeth, which Cemetery Dance called “the literary equivalent of Silent Hill.

I know what you’re thinking right now. “Holy crap, do you mean to tell me, if I pre-order The Writhing Skies today and today only, I’ll not only receive the new ILLUSTRATED novella by Betty Rocksteady, but also her other critically acclaimed Lynchian extravaganza?”

To which we say, “Yup!”

So for the love of disgusting jellyfish aliens, pre-order The Writhing Skies.



Betty Rocksteady is made of 1920’s Max Fleischer cartoons, cats and a smattering of digusting goop. This is her third novella, and probably the grossest. Find out more about her art and fiction at

Posted on

Now Available! Patrick Lacey’s BONE SAW!

We hope you’re ready for some delicious slasher fun, because Patrick Lacey’s latest novel, Bone Saw, is finally available for your viewing pleasure. If you enjoy books about she-demons, cult filmmakers, and cough syrup addiction, then look no further!

Purchase from our webstore, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.



Liam Carpenter spends most of his time above his aunt’s garage, watching obscure horror movies and drinking cheap beer. But this week’s different. This week, things are getting weird. First, there’s his favorite director, Clive Sherman, showing up in town unannounced. Then there’s the string of murders that all seem like something out of Clive’s popular Pigfoot movie monster franchise. Throw in Liam’s mysterious new crush and the cough-syrup-addicted private investigator chasing her down and you might gain somewhat of a clue of what’s going on in Bass Falls lately.

And don’t even get him started on she-demons and blood sacrifices. Bone Saw studios is in town and they’re bringing you the bloodiest sequel featuring a pig-human hybrid killing machine you’ve ever seen.




Patrick Lacey was born and raised in a haunted house. He currently spends his nights and weekends writing about things that make the general public uncomfortable. He lives in Massachusetts with his fiancee, his Pomeranian, his over-sized cat, and his muse, who is likely trying to kill him. Follow him on Twitter (@patlacey), find him on Facebook, or visit his website at

Posted on

Did You Really Think We Were Done Talking About Rats Fucking? (A Stephen King Podcast)

Let’s thumb a ride back to Castle Rock for a little rodent coitus fun in Stephen King’s “Nona” from 1985’s Skeleton Crew. And while we’re at it, why don’t you go ahead and cut that hippie hair already, you utter freak. That’s right, folks, it’s a new episode of Castle Rock Radio!

Direct Download | iTunes | Stitcher | Google Play | Spotify

Support us on Patreon.

We now sell T-shirts (and other junk).

Join our Stephen King discussion group on Facebook.

Like our fan page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CASTLE ROCK RADIO: Max Booth III and Lori Michelle ridicule and laud the massive bibliography of our lord and savior, Stephen King. Sometimes with special guests!