Other Voices, Other Tombs

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OTHER VOICES, OTHER TOMBS is an anthology packed with unsettling stories from the finest independent authors in the horror genre. This anthology runs the gamut of styles, including everything from literary horror to creepypasta. Ania Ahlborn, Kealan Patrick Burke, Michael Wehunt, Mercedes Yardley, and Gemma Files are widely considered some of the best authors working in dark fiction right now. Also included are stories from NoSleep Podcast legends: Gemma Amor, JD McGregor, and Michael Whitehouse. OTHER VOICES, OTHER TOMBS is a must-read for the Summer and Fall of 2019!

Now available in paperback and eBook!

This book is a general horror anthology, but there is a light summer theme. Kealan Patrick Burke leads off the book with a throwback tale that takes place in the summer of 1989. Two boys uncover a terrifying entity while exploring an abandoned swimming pool in “The Second Hand”.

“Uncomfortable Gods” by Michael Wehunt takes place entirely on the grounds of the sleazy 40 Winks Comfort Lodge. Husband and wife, Den and Karen, are sidetracked on their way to the beach by Den’s horrible toothache. Den leaves Karen in the motel room for longer and longer periods to deal with his toothache, eventually Karen is forced to uncover what is leading Den astray. A psychological tale with wonderfully gruesome imagery. Worth multiple reads!

Gemma Amor leaves it all on the hot tarmac in “Three Lanes Deep”. A long, sweaty traffic jam forces Lucy to leave her car in search of a place to relieve herself. She encounters friendly strangers who offer her a cold drink and a place to go to the bathroom–then all hell breaks loose.

“The Switch” by Cameron Chaney takes place at a summer camp. Fans of the Lindsay Lohan star vehicle The Parent Trap should appreciate Chaney’s light homage, and his heinous twist.

Astute readers will certainly be sweating Kevin Lucia’s oppressive “A Circle that Ever Returneth”. A man takes a job beneath his perceived status in life at a bottle and can redemption center, and soon realizes he’s being ground down to nothing by the repetitive tasks and mind numbing interactions with his co-workers. This story is a proper lost episode of The Twilight Zone. Jordan Peele, take note.

There are other non-seasonal themes that run through the book like Ania Ahlborn’s take on the difficulties of early motherhood in “The Governess”, featuring one of our favorite storytelling devices, a malfunctioning baby monitor; Mercedes Yardley’s “Urban Moon” which deals with a mythological reinterpretation of violence against women and a major problem with social media.

A woman must cope with the emotional difficulties of her occupation as an end of life nurse for a young girl in a hospice center, in Garza and Lason’s “Fly away, little fledgling.”

There are many more fantastic stories from incredible authors like Gemma Files’ apocalyptic “This is How it Goes”, Mike Duran’s folk horror, witchcraft infused “Bury Me in the Garden”, poor choices made by a woman on a snowy stretch of highway in Upstate New York “Alone in the Dark” by J.D. McGregor, Michael Whitehouse’s government cover-up on a remote Scottish isle in “Forget the Burning Isle”, C.W. Briar’s horrific children’s POV regarding bad behavior in “Can We Keep Him?”, and Caytlyn Brooke’s take on psychotic teenage angst during prom season, with her tale “The Red Rose”.

Pick up a copy now and support independent writing and publishing!

eBook or in paperback

The Thrumming Stone

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Could you really prevent a massive disaster if you knew it was coming?

Would your friends and family even believe you?

What if you were an average high school freshman, and seemingly the only person who could save your town from utter destruction?

THE THRUMMING STONE is a sci-fi horror novella (with interior illustrations by Ryan Sheffield) about teen siblings who discover a nightmare-inducing monolith in the woods near their home. Once unleashed, premonitions and apocalyptic visions spread throughout their high school like a plague.

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Drawn by artist Ryan Sheffield

Read the first chapter for free!

The illustrated paperback version is now available here!

Or check out the eBook on Amazon here!

What Waits in the Dark

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Who truly knows what lurks in dark corners or in the darkest of hearts? WHAT WAITS IN THE DARK contains eighteen illustrated tales which explore the horrors found at the periphery of shadow and light.

A Soviet doctor attempts to play God during the Battle of Stalingrad.

Friends come face to face with a Japanese urban legend in Syracuse, New York!

A woman hears her husband sweetly singing to their daughter over the baby monitor, but soon realizes he’s not home.

A raucous fraternity takes a haunted hayride through the woods that they won’t soon forget.

These and 18 other creepy tales can be found within WHAT WAITS IN THE DARK.

Pick up a $10 paperback copy at Amazon!

or the eBook here.

20 interior illustrations by Mikey Turcanu:

Illustrated Horror Stories for Kids: A ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ Lineage

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The Thing at the Foot of the Bed and Other Scary Tales — Maria Leach, illustrated by Kurt Werth (1959)

This book was a touchstone for Alvin Schwartz in writing his Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series. It features many of the same urban legends he would go on to include in his booksspecifically, a cemetery dare, ghostly hitchhikers, body parts falling down chimneys, departed souls seeking lost possessions, and even a killer in the back seat.

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Monster Tales — edited by Roger Elwood, illustrated by Franz Altschuler (1973)

Monster Tales and its 1974 sequel Horror Tales read more like The Hardy Boys meet The Brothers Grimm. Most curiously, the introduction to this book was written by Robert Bloch (best known for writing Psycho) and it certainly feels like it could have been the inspiration for each of Alvin Schwartz’s introductions in the Scary Stories series. “Precious Bodily Fluids” and “The Vrolak” are fun stories with fantastic illustrations.

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Ghosts — Seymour Simon, illustrated by Stephen Gammell (1976)

This book has had a long shelf life. It is one of the Eerie Series — nonfiction books describing historical encounters with ghosts, monsters, and aliens. I remember it fondly in my elementary school library in the early ’90s. My boys regularly borrow it from our local library, though the newest version is missing Gammell’s drawings. I guess creepy babies in coffins is a harder sell in the 21st Century.

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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark — Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Stephen Gammell (1981)

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Schwartz is known as a modern folklore populist for good reason. Since Maria Leach’s The Thing at the Foot of the Bed, no other author had attempted to encourage storytelling in kids. The tales are short and memorable, and Schwartz gives tips on how the stories should be performed. I’m glad I heard these stories from a friend (in a dark, dark closet) before reading them, or seeing Gammell’s unbelievable illustrations. As a kid, you get caught up in the illustrations because they’re so garish, so unlike anything you’ve ever seen. You miss out on the full experience if you never hear the stories performed by someone your own age.

Esteban and the Ghost — Sibyl Hancock, illustrated by Dirk Zimmer (1983)

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The artwork will seem familiar to fans of Alvin Schwartz. The story should too. It’s about a man who was dared to stay the night in a haunted castle. Everyone else who took the challenge died of fright. Esteban begins hearing noises coming from the chimney, body parts tumble out of the fireplace, then he finally encounters the ghost…

In a Dark, Dark Room/More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark — Alvin Schwartz, Illustrated by Dirk Zimmer/Stephen Gammell (1984)

Most kids first encountered Alvin Schwartz through his I Can Read entry: In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories. Tales like “The Green Ribbon” and “The Teeth” were memorable and frightening for a young reader, and could’ve easily been in the second installment in the Scary Stories series.

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More Scary Stories ups the ante by instructing children in the practice of spirit conjuring with “A Ghost in the Mirror.” As long as there are mirrors in bathrooms, Bloody Mary will be with us for the rest of our lives.

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America’s Very Own Ghosts — Daniel Cohen, illustrated by Alix Berenzy (1985)

There are some American ghosts present in this collection of tales, such as Lincoln, Edison, and Houdini. But its strengths lie within its location haunts like “The Bell Witch” of Tennessee, and “Black Aggie” of Maryland.

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When the Lights Go Out: 20 Scary Tales to Tell — Margaret Read MacDonald, illustrations by Roxane Murphy (1988)

This is actually a sequel of sorts to MacDonald’s Twenty Tellable Tales (1986). Both books are clearly inspired by Shel Silverstein’s poetry books and the Scary Stories series, but aren’t meant to be frightening, and focus on the sillier elements of storytelling.

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Halloween Poems — selected by Myra Cohn Livingston, illustrated by Stephen Gammell (1989)

In the midst of his Scary Stories tenure, Gammell illustrated the heck out of 18 Halloween inspired poems. The poetry is forgettable, and it almost seems a waste of Gammell’s talent for the macabre, which he certainly delivers.

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If You Want to Scare YourselfAngela Sommer-Bodenburg, illustrated by Helga Spiess (1989)

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This book’s a hidden gem. Five original tales, originally published in German in 1984. It was a Scholastic release, but quickly got drowned out by the glut of elementaryage horror releases following the success of the Scary Stories and Fear Street books.

World’s Strangest “True” Ghost Stories — John Macklin, illustrated by Elise Chanowitz (1990)

The text is from Macklin’s 1967 release Strange and Uncanny, and the stories are ‘true’ in the sense that America’s Very Own Ghosts is ‘true.’ This version of the book is illustrated and did well enough to warrant a sequel in 1994. There are some familiar topics, such as the vanishing hitchhiker/lady in the white, a murderous car, and a phantom pirate. But the text was written long before the Scary Stories craze and there are some genuine American legends that I promise you’ve never heard before.

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Scary Stories 3 — Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Stephen Gammell (1991)

The stories are longer, and Schwartz is at his most gruesome (see “Harold” and “The Red Spot.”) No longer are there instructions for performing the tales. The following year (only months after Schwartz’s death) would see the first Goosebumps release, which would change the face of elementary school reading — favoring chapter books, no illustrations, toneddown gore and much less violence. It’s interesting to think about what the next iteration of Scary Stories might have looked like. Would Schwartz have attempted a kid’s horror novel? R.L. Stine is a fan of the Scary Stories series. I can only imagine how much fun a hybrid Goosebumps/Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark style series might have looked like — and certainly illustrated by Stephen Gammell.

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Scary Stories 3 was Gammell’s last iteration of his most beloved drawing style.

Grimm’s Grimmest — Arranged by Maria Tatar, illustrated by Tracy Arah Dockray (1997)

A solid collection of the goriest of Grimm’s fairy tales. The interior illustrations and choice of material remind me most of Elwood’s Monster Tales, while Professor Tatar offers a more interesting taste of classic folklore than many of her predecessors.

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Nightmare Soup — Jake Tri, illustrated by Andy Sciazko (2016)

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25 years passed before there was an illustrated collection of spook stories that even came close to the style of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Which might speak more to the reach and influence of the Goosebumps and Harry Potter franchises. Nightmare Soup and its sequel, Nightmare Soup 2: The Second Helping, hit the tone and style of Schwartz and Gammell wonderfully. The stories have enough edge to keep 10- to 12-year-olds interested, without the confusing depth or vulgarity of contemporary horror and creepypasta. There are many illustrated books of horror stories that have come out following Tri and Sciazko’s first publication, but none are as accessible to that 10- to 12-year-old audience as the Nightmare Soup series.

Joe Sullivan is co-author of Corpse Cold: New American Folklore and Resurrection High.

An Indie Publisher’s Guide to Launching and Supporting a Successful Kickstarter Campaign

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We’ve only run one successful Kickstarter campaign as a publisher, so most of this will entail what worked for Cemetery Gates Media in raising $29k last October for Corpse Cold. But if you’re an indie publisher in the horror/sci-fi/fantasy genres, I think our lessons learned will most readily apply to your crowdfunding project.

The following is a questionnaire that one might ask themselves before launching any Kickstarter, followed by my answers as related to launching a book.

Do I have a unique product?

The most successful books are illustrated, representing visual arts as their major selling point. This coffee table book on Norse Mythology is a gorgeous collectible. It raised 75k last year!

Are you filling a niche in demand? Handcrafted spell books and books about witches tend to do well because there is a strong online community of Wiccans and Neopagans. Warning: niche impostors won’t attract the same interest as someone with a preexisting presence in the genre, community, or lifestyle.

Launching a single-author general anthology is a difficult task, even if it’s illustrated. Which is why so many books launched are group anthologies. Everyone needs to first identify their crowd, the characteristics of who might support their project before running a campaign. A group anthology often attracts a crowd by including authors with the desired characteristics of their targeted crowd i.e. authors who’ve been featured in other anthologies in their desired genre, authors who’ve had success on other platforms like Reddit, Tumblr, YouTube, etc.

Can I expect to reach consumers outside of my family, friends, current social media reach?

Establishing a brand that can be promoted is so much more important than establishing your author ‘name brand.’ You need to have a finished product to show, a back catalog of work, even if it’s only a few paid anthology credits. You need new eyes to be able to trust that your work is already well-regarded by an audience, any audience. Launching a Kickstarter to gain your first exposure, to build your first brand is incredibly difficult, and likely an insurmountable feat in the publishing world.

If you can’t dip into the audiences where your work has had some traction, then you’re going to have to rely too heavily on Kickstarter itself as a promotional tool. This is the death knell for most failed projects on Kickstarter. The Kickstarter algorithm pushes traffic from within its site to your campaign on par with the traffic generated by you, from off the site. If you’re successful in generating traffic to your campaign page, Kickstarter will stand shoulder to shoulder with you in driving pledges.

Do I have to RISK money on advertising?

Even if you have tens of thousands of followers on various social media platforms, have an existing marketing pipeline for selling books, you’ll need to spend hundreds of dollars and be willing to risk losing that money. There’s an incredibly common misconception that you can really start to promote a Kickstarter campaign after its been funded — when the marketing is already paid for.

If you don’t hit half of your goal within the first two weeks of launching, your project might not get funded. Projects tend to lag ¾ of the way through. There will be days that you remain flat or even lose money from backers withdrawing their support. The most exciting times for a campaign are at its launch and conclusion. If you fund your project early, you can count on the interest of latecomers, watchers, fence riders, to propel your funding in the final week.

How much should I spend on advertising?

You should aim to hit 10k eyeballs a day for the first week using a static image with your brief message. Facebook is still the most efficient way for small budget publishers to generate traffic to a Kickstarter page. Rates have increased, but you should still be able to target genre readers for $40-60/day, or ~$350 for the first week. I think we spent $1400 for our 30 day campaign on FB alone.

You have one shot at capturing someone’s attention with your image as they scroll by. Use little to no text in an image, using the book cover is fine if it’s a great cover, but you can get creative with the image you choose. The ad text needs to be brief. What brand are you selling and why should someone click your link? The link can go right to the campaign page, but it’s not a bad idea to have a landing page to continue the argument for why someone should back your project. The project landing page is your full sale for what you’re doing and should be promoted in your video and on your Kickstarter page.

We spent a small amount on Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, but they were largely inefficient for generating traffic. We weren’t able to get any deals done for promotion by social media influencers or YouTube personalities during our campaign. However, the micro-influencers were key in promoting our project on social media. Once you hit your goal you become a news piece for your genre and then it’s incredibly easy getting people to work with you in getting your message out.

Should I promote my campaign video?

Yes, and no. You shouldn’t spend money on promoting your video. It’s unlikely that it’ll be a viral sensation even if it’s a good/funny/creepy/emotional professional production. You want people to go to your campaign page to watch your video to garner information about why they should pledge.

You should promote the sharing of your video with press releases, through your existing network of contacts. New eyes aren’t going to watch any video for more than ten seconds as they scroll through their feeds.

What does a good campaign page look like?

A few images associated with your work. A few paragraphs summing up the message of the video and some additional information from your web page, including a link to your web page which should have at least one full story for a potential backer to sample. Don’t include anything about stretch goals until you hit your stretch goal! It’s clutter.

If you’re promoting a book the reward tiers shouldn’t be all that complicated.

Digital

Paperback

Hardcover

Bundle -offer things associated with your genre, an audio version, things readers might appreciate.

Special Version -additional material, not just rejected material.

Ultra Tier -you might offer your time, mentorship, handmade items.

People get hung up on creating wacky reward tiers, largely for their own amusement; or trying to convey what might happen if funding is successful early on. You should be offering a boutique experience as a publisher. You need to convey the idea that you are putting out this limited product for, and only because of, your backers, and not because you’re using Kickstarter to jump-start your writing/publishing career.

If you’re launching a campaign from the US, include the cost of shipping in the cost of the book! International shipping will cost $15-35. We purposely set our international shipping at a flat “deal” rate to generate more international buys, because we included excess cost of a couple dollars in our domestic shipping calculation.

How much money should I ask for?

The minimum amount that makes the project work for you. Assuming $350 dollars is your minimum advertising fee, your goal should be 10x your risk, before taking into account other costs.

Shipping to 100 unique buyers isn’t a big deal, and isn’t that costly if you’re in the US and shipping to mostly American backers. Shipping to 500+, when you have closer to 100 international buyers, is labor intensive. The last I checked, you could ship flat rate international for $30-35, but it’s constantly increasing.

If you have a successful campaign you will be contacted by distribution expediters, some of them are worth their fee, some aren’t. Are you willing and do you have the time to be a distributor yourself?

Producing paperbacks is cheap! You can get your cost to about $4 per book shipped to your distribution area. Hardcovers are a different story. If you only have to produce 30 hardcovers you might end up paying $16-18 per copy.

Let’s assume that you hit 100 unique physical item backers at an average cost of $35 per sale to hit your goal, and that you’ll have to produce 90 paperbacks and 20 hardcovers. ($360) + ($340) = ($700) just to get your books to you, before shipping to your customer. If you’re shipping these yourself, you average $3.50 book rate in the US w/tracking, so 100 packaged x 3.50 = ($350).

So, now your expected costs are ($350 advertising) + ($700 books) + ($350 shipping) = ($1400). Remember, our tentative goal is $3500, so we’re in great shape. But we’re also going to lose ($385) in Kickstarter/Transfer fees. Everyone is going to have to spend money on a cover, editing, and if it’s a group anthology, you have to pay for the material you’re publishing.

Professional cover: ($300)

Editing services: ($100-300)

If you’re trying to put out an illustrated book, 100 unique buyers won’t be enough to cover that cost, even if the illustrator is partnered with you for the project.

Token payments for a group anthology might run $30-80. 20 stories x $50 = ($1000)

Now our cost for 100 unique backers is approx. ($3285). $3500 – 3285 = $215 which covers a few credit card charges that won’t go through, a few international packages lost, and materials for shipping. So, if your author payments were more than $50/story, you’d be losing money.

I just wanted to show one model for calculating a doable group anthology, since they usually have the best chance at funding. You’re going to want to get more than 100 unique backers. It costs more to get those eyeballs. I promise you, you can’t hit the volume you need to hit through your normal social media channels. A 500k reach on all your social media avenues through everyone involved in the project won’t be close to enough(you can’t possibly contact every follower, fan, subscriber.) Ideally, you want your project ad in front of 200k-1M people in your genre, to return you 500+ unique backers. 500k eyes for 500 backers, a conversion rate of 0.1%! That’s $350 per week of your campaign toward advertising.

Does seasonality really matter for Kickstarter projects?

Yes! You shouldn’t run a Kickstarter campaign in December or January, no matter the content of your book or product. If you have a Christmas book you launch in September or October into November, ending before December and promising to deliver by early- to mid-December.

People love to buy books for presents in December, but they’re less likely to back your book Kickstarter. January is a retail wasteland, don’t fight 100 years of sales knowledge. People don’t have excess income in Jan/Feb.

Am I looking to fund my project based on its merits, or am I looking for donations?

Kickstarter is not GoFundMe, or even Indiegogo! Kickstarter is now a decade-old community with its own culture. The pledges are only considered ‘donations’ for boring, legal reasons. What you offer your backers has to resemble what they’d pay at market for equivalent items. The Kickstarter community knows and accepts that they’ll have to pay a reasonable premium over the market price of a new book in order to get your project off the ground, but it’s not over 10x the cost of actually producing the book!

-Joe Sullivan

This is a really brief guide. If you have any additional questions, you can hit me up on social media or via email. Cemeterygatesmedia@gmail.com facebook.com/cemeterygatesmedia u/EldraziHorror

Legend Tripping Centralia, Past and Present

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Centralia, PA would be in a proverbial Hall of Fame for legend tripping. It is an odd place, and it’s even a creepy place under the right weather/daylight/seasonal conditions. I heard from a friend about this (mostly) abandoned coal town in the summer of 2001. He had read a brief passage about it in Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. Bryson mentions a town with a few dozen inhabitants, with streets, mailboxes, driveways serving homes that had long been razed; streets lost to massive, smoldering sinkholes. The very same night that my friend told me about Centralia, we went off to go see it for ourselves.

This is what the closed section of the abandoned highway looked like in 2001-2005, when we made yearly trips. There were a few graffiti marks right at the beginning of the road, and then it was desolate for a mile or so. Centralia is the type of place where you can feel that you are passing from the ordinary to the strange.

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Centralia is a living legend. The coal fires still burn, but not as noticeably as twenty years ago. The deep fissures in the abandoned highway (which a grown man could stand in, at one time) have been filled in. A few more houses have been torn down. In 2003 you knew when you were in the ‘center’ of Centralia. There was a manicured park in the center of town, a grouping of homes near the crossroads. I went back in the summer of 2017 with my kids and I drove past the town!

Here is the same abandoned highway(pictured above) in 2017:

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I don’t know that I’m upset with what Instagramers have done in terms of popularizing this special place. The graffiti/rainbow road is something different, almost worthy of notoriety in its own right. Centralia is a living thing, its legend is only growing. I don’t know that I’d want to go on the same legend trip twice.

John and I write weird fiction with real places like Centralia in mind. Locations that we sometimes even name(or just mildly obscure) that a reader can visit for themselves. At the Cemetery Gates: Year One and Corpse Cold: New American Folklore are riddled with these locations. These places we’ve visited as kids and adults, and have been inspired to re-imagine. We’re contemplating putting together a collection of stories that focus on real, strange locations in Upstate New York, with photographs and a map, something one could travel in a day or a couple of afternoons.

-Joe Sullivan

“Happy Death Day” Spoiler-Free Review: Fun But Not a True Slasher

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By Joe Sullivan

There has never been an era of the PG-13 slasher, for good reason. Violence, the shock and awe of any classic R-rated slasher, sells itself best to the most impressionable of minds. Halloween and Friday the 13th were carried into the iconography of our culture by 12-year-olds who bore witness to the sort of movie the MPAA deemed unsuitable for their eyes. There is no proper ‘best of’ list for PG-13 slasher films. Happy Death Day is no exception. PG-13 slasher movies can’t properly function as slasher movies. Yet, Happy Death Day is certainly a fun, flavorful movie in other regards.

Tree (Theresa) keeps waking up in Carter’s dorm room, and she relives the same Monday, over and over, which always culminates in her death at the hands of a baby-masked killer. The filmmakers have fun with the premise, and I did enjoy the Clue-style whodunit mystery. Tree eliminates a suspect with each subsequent revival, and I found myself anticipating a satisfactory resolution – that one of the cast of characters we’ve encountered, again and again, would finally be unmasked as the killer. So, I was let down when a new, Mrs. Voorhees-level-of-unknown was thrown into the cast of suspects late in the movie.

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Happy Death Day revels in pop-culture snark, creates characters filmgoers wouldn’t mind see dying, and nearly gives Tree a proper character arc during her Sisyphean day. Carter, Tree’s sometimes assistant/sometimes love-interest, is easily the most likable character in the movie. When Carter is put into a risky situation, you genuinely want him to survive. However, the film will fail to convince many viewers regarding whether Tree should ultimately survive. She is too rotten of a person, and even on days she makes progress, she seems to undermine said personal improvements, with subsequent revivals.

The deaths in the movie were uninteresting, and this alone should alienate a large part of the genre fan base. Happy Death Day is by no means a slasher film, and certainly has no relationship to the day or month it came out. The movie has no ‘creepy’ factor, which seems to be what drives most genre movies released in October, or on Friday the 13ths.

Happy Death Day does have some suspenseful moments, and is a curiosity in its choice of story form. Ultimately, it feels like its audience might be the parents of thirteen-year-olds. Folks who grew up with Scream and such movies from the late-90s, and want to share something with an impressionable young mind in their household – without venturing into the world of the extremes we’ve come to expect from a genre slasher film like the upcoming Jigsaw.

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Who would I recommend this movie to? Fans of late-90s R-rated slashers. It’s more fun than the When a Stranger Calls remake – more like watching a Jawbreaker/Urban Legend crossover.