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There’s a scene in Uzumaki, Junji Ito’s much-lauded horror series, that I think best exemplifies his particular style. The overarching story involves a secluded village in Japan whose residents become obsessed with spirals and usually meet grotesque and destructive ends as a result. In the third chapter, a scar on a teen girl’s forehead turns into a spiral black hole of sorts, eventually consuming her entire body. A horrific reveal shows the spiral hole extending back into her head, her right eye sitting gruesomely on the edge of her face. Then, in a series of smaller panels, the eye starts to roll back towards the vanishing point in the back of her skull.

It is, obviously, pretty horrific. It’s also very, very funny: a rimshot as we literally stare into the abyss, acknowledging the absurdity of the image while underscoring the gore. More… “Death by Balloon”

By day, Chris Mautner is the mild-mannered social media producer for PennLive.com. By night, he writes about really nerdy things for The Comics Journal . . . and this site. He is one-quarter of the podcast Comic Books Are Burning in Hell.

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The skeleton of a young girl: This is the first thing to seize my eye as I enter the cemetery of the Capuchin monastery in Rome. Mounted at the vault’s center and framed by four elliptical rings of vertebrae, she holds in her right hand a scythe made of tibias and pelvic fragments; in her left hand, she holds a balance, also made of human bones. The shadowed hollows of her eye sockets, rather than conveying blindness, ceaselessly drink the late-morning sunlight that pours through the windows.

It is some time before I notice the other two child skeletons on the back wall, perched, legs dangling, on a mantle of scapulae. They are bookended by two hourglasses: counterpoised coccyx, their holes giving from a distance the impression of mottled sand. Each hourglass has a pair of scapula wings, as does the disembodied skull floating between the children.

I see these things and I do not see them. To focus on any one object takes considerable effort. My eyes are always being drawn to some new detail — a femur that seems a darker umber than the hundreds of others stacked along the walls, the wooden crosses that mark graves in the crypt’s dirt floor, the distinctive “cappuccino” brown of a monk’s habit, that same monk’s mummified flesh, his collapsed nostrils, his curled parchment lips — and to the overpowering sum of all details, this precise chaos that tempts me to close my eyes, rinse them in darkness. More… “Graffiti These Bones”

Justin Lee teaches in the Composition Department at UC Irvine, where he earned an MFA in Creative Writing in 2014. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared (or are forthcoming) in Vice, First Things, the Los Angeles Review of Books, ABC’s Religion and Ethics, Amazon’s Day One, FLAUNT Magazine, Juked, Gargoyle Magazine, Arc Digital, and elsewhere. In 2016, he received an Emerging Writers Grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation. Their generosity enabled him to complete his first novel, Lightless Lands, which is currently seeking a home.

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If you’re a character in The Ring (’02) and you watch Samara’s psychically imprinted video cassette, you will receive shortly thereafter a phone call. “Hello,” you’ll say, because that’s how people answered the a phone at the turn of the millennium, and a voice will reply, “Seven days.” You’ll either be perplexed and/or dismissive — “a prank call” — or you’ll shudder because you know you have but seven days to live unless you can overlook the ethical — nay, moral — implications and show the video to someone else who’ll then themselves have a week to resolve the same dilemma.

Night (or Curse) of the Demon (’57) is about an easily insulted warlock who murders rivals with a slip of paper inscribed with runic characters; if said paper is passed by the warlock without the victim’s knowledge, the victim is pursued by a demon for three days, then killed — unless he can return the paper to the warlock without the warlock’s knowledge. Maybe you’ve sung along with Richard O’Brien and Miss Strawberry Time’s lips at the start of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (’75): “Dana Andrews said prunes gave him the runes / And passing them uses lots of skill.” You’ll be happy to know that Dana Andrews, before his three days are up, passes the runes to the warlock.

More… “There’s a Ghost Behind You”

Adam Golaski is the author of Color Plates and Worse Than Myself. His poetry has recently appeared in SHARKPACK, Word for/Word, and Vestiges. He is currently at work on The House of the Devil for Auteur’s Devil’s Advocates monograph series and on a pair of novels. More at Little Stories.

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I don’t watch horror movies. Most of them involve demons, too much gore, and unrealistic stupidity that makes you think that the characters must have wanted to get murdered by the serial killer. I also don’t care for the trope of the black character (usually a man) dying first. But once your Twitter is being flooded with everyone talking about a film, it becomes something that you have to see. There was something about Get Out that seemed more complex and even more dangerous than the average man-in-mask-chasing-teens-through-woods kind of movie.

More… “Flipping the Script”

Byshera Williams is a Junior English Major at Drexel University and the current Associate Editor for The Smart Set.

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Netflix’s newest series, Stranger Things, premiered July 15, and it has swiftly become one the most talked about shows of the summer. Each major media outlet has published their own think pieces, quizzes like “Which Stranger Things Character Are You?” have circulated, and Winona Ryder (who stars in the series) has made her comeback as a magazine cover girl.

There aren’t spoilers in this essay. Or shouldn’t be, unless you consider the lack of information an incredible spoiler (and I hate these type of concessions, because plot is secondary to the creation of character, formation of relationship between audience and narrative, and the feelings depicted and attached to the narrative). The only spoiler I’m going to provide happens by episode three, when teenager Barb goes missing, pulled by a monster into a pool and through to the “other side.” Despite being a minor character, I became infatuated with Barb.

More… “We Got to Talk about Barb”

Melinda Lewis has a PhD in American Culture Studies. She knows more celebrity gossip than basic math and watches too much television.

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Characters sweat a lot in Michael DeForge’s comics. Not the kind of flop sweat that traditional cartoon characters exhibit, with water droplets literally flying off the body in a halo formation, but beads of perspiration that cascade down the character’s face in such a plentiful supply that you sometimes wonder why there isn’t a puddle around the character’s feet.

What makes them sweat so much? Oh, you know, the usual. Your organs and flesh are slowly turning into leather and spikes. You had to join a secret mafia club in order to get your niece’s beloved clarinet. You’re an ant that’s overwhelmed by the meaningless of it all. You got infested with baby spiders because your weird kid brother insisted on wearing that dead horse head all the time. You’ve been consigned to a hell populated by beloved cartoon characters. You’re a hapless, divorced flying-squirrel dog trying to deal with your own inadequacies and two unruly kids. You’re desperately trying to fit in. You just killed someone. More… “Between Tree and Twig”

By day, Chris Mautner is the mild-mannered social media producer for PennLive.com. By night, he writes about really nerdy things for The Comics Journal . . . and this site. He is one-quarter of the podcast Comic Books Are Burning in Hell.

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If Christmas is the great holiday for sounds — think of all of the masterworks and the centuries of carols — then surely Halloween is the bushel holiday harvest for sights. The very plumage of the landscape itself morphs from pastel verdure to vermillion explosions of the sorts of colors that we think of as having tongues, lapping across expanses as if summoning your gaze. The boogeymen come out, too, much as the ghosts do at Christmas, but whereas the latter have a subtle ease to them, the Halloween haunts rarely do. Part of that may have to do with Washington Irving and his Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon from 1820, a work that, in one vignette, helped inspire a visual schema that still colors the season.

Most people don’t read the Sketch Book in full anymore, focusing instead on its two most famous tales: “Rip Van Winkle” and, of course, the object of our purpose, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” These are bumper crop works that repay and repay, but that’s the gist of the thirty-four essays, stories, anecdotes, and musings that comprise the Sketch Book itself, a weird piece of Americana by turns folksy, Gothic, chatty, and terrifying which also happens to be exceedingly accessible. And, wouldn’t you know, entirely modern, as if Irving’s words have piggy-backed atop the Horseman’s mount and rode into the latest age, ready to gallop off with a willing reader.
More… “Getting to the Bridge”

Colin Fleming’s fiction appears in Harper’s, Commentary, Virginia Quarterly Review, AGNI, and Boulevard, with other work running in The Atlantic, Salon, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and JazzTimes. He is a regular guest on NPR’s Weekend Edition and Downtown with Rich Kimball, in addition to various radio programs and podcasts. His last book was The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe: Stories from the Abyss, and he has two books forthcoming in 2018: Buried on the Beaches: Cape Stories for Hooked Hearts and Driftwood Souls, and a volume examining the 1951 movie Scrooge as a horror film for the ages. Find him on the web at colinfleminglit.com.

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Two Toronto-based artists have opened KillJoy Kastle, a lesbian feminist haunted house, in West Hollywood. The art installation is in response to the“Hell Houses” put on by some Christian groups during the Halloween season, whose hellish rooms dramatize real-life situations with the aim of scaring sinners into penitence. (laist.com and Vice)

As some heritage sites around the world are lost to time or terrorism, a California non-profit is working to digitally preserve these sites in 3D. If and when sites are lost, as in the case of those destroyed by ISIS this past February in the Nineveh Region, a full-sized holographic replica can be made. (Observer)

If you’re looking for something horrific (and funny) to read this Halloween season, check out this interview with Margaret Atwood about her new novel, The Heart Goes Last. Then stop by the Free Library of Philadelphia this evening from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. for a reading and book signing with the author (if you’re lucky enough to have a ticket to the sold-out event, that is). (The Millions) •

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.

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The writing guru William Zinser once said words to the effect that if you wish to write long sentences, you best be a genius, the movie version equivalent of which is, probably, if you want to do long takes, be Orson Welles.

There wasn’t a shot Welles thought he couldn’t get, and it didn’t matter if we’re talking the artistic majesty of Citizen Kane, or any of a number of the cheapjack efforts Welles, having fallen from Hollywood grace, spent the bulk of his life trying to cadge up funds to shoot.

With May 6 marking Welles’ centenary, Kane will get still more props as not only one of the two or three best pictures ever made, but the sole picture on which Welles had complete artistic control. He was 25 when he made it, a conqueror of Broadway, the radio, and now Hollywood, and after racing off to South America to shoot a war effort the next year and leaving his Magnificent Ambersons footage in the hands of others, Welles would essentially be kicked out of Camelot on account of the final result, with a reputation for not seeing projects through.
More… “Orson Welles’ Horrorshow”

Colin Fleming’s fiction appears in Harper’s, Commentary, Virginia Quarterly Review, AGNI, and Boulevard, with other work running in The Atlantic, Salon, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and JazzTimes. He is a regular guest on NPR’s Weekend Edition and Downtown with Rich Kimball, in addition to various radio programs and podcasts. His last book was The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe: Stories from the Abyss, and he has two books forthcoming in 2018: Buried on the Beaches: Cape Stories for Hooked Hearts and Driftwood Souls, and a volume examining the 1951 movie Scrooge as a horror film for the ages. Find him on the web at colinfleminglit.com.

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I am not sure if people still make a practice of listening to the radio in bed, late at night. This was always something, in times past, one endeavored to do in youth, especially as there was a sense of getting away with an act — albeit a harmless one — that had to be carried out so surreptitiously as to require darkness. And for the best nocturnal stealth listening, there were two sources that just couldn’t be beat: baseball games and horror radio programs.

Colin Fleming’s fiction appears in Harper’s, Commentary, Virginia Quarterly Review, AGNI, and Boulevard, with other work running in The Atlantic, Salon, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and JazzTimes. He is a regular guest on NPR’s Weekend Edition and Downtown with Rich Kimball, in addition to various radio programs and podcasts. His last book was The… More…