Halloween is upon us and soon shall pass like a fine mist rolling across a pale cemetery. An army of jack o lanterns flicker dimly in the silent autumn night as whispers of the haunting season linger on well into our unsettled dreams. We may grieve the parting of our favorite holiday but there’s no need for woe. With any of these marvelously malignant reads, the spooky season need not vanish entirely.
The Living Dead – by George Romero and Daniel Kraus
That’s right, my oozing Nasties. We’re starting this list right off right with a George Romero gem. Papal Romero planned this book to be a pay-per-chapter online read and had already completed chapters to upload. Unfortunately, we lost Papal Romero (way too soon) before the web series was finished and many projects he was working on were lost with him.
This book, thankfully, is not one of them. Luckily his notes and chapters were picked up by Daniel Kraus and what could be considered the very last of Romero’s Dead projects was brought to life. That’s right, this book comes to us from beyond the grave which in of itself gives it Halloween credit.
As with all of his Dead projects this book covers some of the political tension and cultural paranoia of its time, which was honestly just a few years back. The book is rich with relatable characters and glows with some very nicely detailed gory moments.
This book is a treat to horror fans. I remember reading about this book a year – or maybe two years – before its publication. Then there was nothing more said of it. I kept it in mind however but began wondering if it would ever get published or be another lost project. That mystery made me want to read the thing so much more.
I finally found it at a Barnes and Nobles last October (2020) and kinda fucked out right there. I was shocked to finally see it. And to be frank I want more (really good) zombie novels. In a world of World War Z and The Walking Dead graphic novels, it’s great to have a fresh new vision by the man who made zombies what they are today. This is one horror fans will want to own.
The Fog – James Herbert
This book has nothing in common with the John Carpenter movie save name alone. It’s much, much better. Before any assumptions are made let me assure you I do like Carpenter’s The Fog. Very cool atmospheric ghost story. But this book has nothing to do with specters out for revenge.
The Fog begins with a street caving in causing lots of stress and injuries to those caught on the road. But rest assured this is only the beginning of their woes as a yellow mist rises out from the cavernous expenditure. Anyone caught in the sickly fog start indulging in their most violent fantasies. Anyone familiar with the Crossed comics will have an idea of what I mean. Honestly, after reading this book I wondered if Garth Ennis might have been inspired by it when writing up Crossed.
Oh yes, there is blood and beatings, and brains splattered about on walls a plenty. This is a meaty good one for the gore fiends among us. There are some incredible (and quite graphic) death scenes in this book. You could call this a sticky book for all the slaughter found in it. My personal favorite is when the Fog hits a cow pasture and the herd proceeds to eat the farmer alive. Absolute genius. Another scene that caused readers some genuine anxiety was the slow torture of a gym teacher at the hands of his Fog-poisoned students.
But like his grotesque The Rats don’t think this is all splatter without substance. Herbert weaves a believable group of unfortunate survivors trapped in a world where the Fog causes carnage wherever it’s seen. The book manages some epic tense moments and plenty of chills as you follow the heroes in their apocalyptic search to defeat this bizarre intelligent veil of death.
Said it before that it’s a shame, not more people know who James Herbert is today. So I want to change that.
Zombie, Gates of Hell, House By the Cemetery – Eibon Press.
Our long-time readers will be very familiar with these guys. I can’t shut up about them, but that’s only because they are so fucking good! This is where you’ll find the perfect blend of cult-horror and comic books stitched together with some of the best visual art you’ll see this side of Hell.
Building upon the cult cinematic imagination seen in Lucio Fulci’s most beloved films, Eibon Press takes readers back to the dark side where pain is god and there is no escaping the approaching maul of doom. Any title these guys released is a great read, but for first-timers curious to try out the material of Eibon Press would be doing themselves a favor by starting out with Zombie, Gates of Hell, or House by the Cemetery.
Faithfully adapting Fulci’s movies EP adds their own incredible talents of striking art and narrative to flesh out a broader lore found out of the source material. Luckily these guys are current and, unlike plenty of other horror comic publishers I could mention, are not out of print. You can log on to their website (click here I dare you) and find all these titles plus way more. They do not pay me to plug their stuff either. I pay them in fact. I’ve ordered comics, T-shirts, movies, and just everything from these guys. Honestly, they are the best horror comics out there.
Tomie – Junji Ito
I’ve been wanting to talk about this guy for a while now. When I’ve re-read everything from Eibon Press I turn to Ito’s macabre manga. Again, this is someone I cannot get enough of. Every time I see a new Junji Ito title I can’t help myself and pick it up. His library is growing and it may feel daunting to know which title to start with though.
I recommend Tomie, a weird story about a woman so damningly beautiful that men cannot stop themselves from falling in love with her. And the men who do fall in love with this enigmatic beauty are soon given over to an inexplicable need to murder her. And Tomie comes back again, and again, and again to ruin more lives and shatter more souls.
I suppose one could call it a succubus story for how her beauty lures in lover’s hearts but it’s herself who lies in sawn-off pieces by the men whose hearts she’s captivated. The manga is phantasmal, eerie, and shocking. Considering how Tomie constantly is slain in many different ways you’ll find yourself sympathizing more with her killers who oddly seem to be the true victims of her wiles.
Now knowing this will not ruin the story for you though. There’s plenty of suspense and anxiety awaiting readers daring enough to pick this title up. I personally found myself dreading to turn the page because I knew something really, really unpleasant was waiting for me on the other side.
If you find this your cup of tea you’ll want to try out even more of Junji Ito’s works. Not a one of them is bad and each broadens the writer/artist’s influence over modern horror.
Junji Ito’s been a rising star for a while now.
Hope you all have a Happy Halloween!