Author Jonathan Janz Defines Horror

Jonathan Janz:

Earlier this month, author Matt Manochio was kind enough to share some of my thoughts on his blog. See what you think about my definition of horror…

Originally posted on Scary Funny:

Today’s a big day for Samhain Horror authors Hunter Shea and Jonathan Janz, whose respective books, Hell Hole and Castle of Sorrows, hit shelves both physical and digital. I’ll be posting something with Hunter in a few weeks regarding both Hell Hole and his recent Kensington release, The Montauk Monster, which is already on my Kindle just aching to be read. Both guys have been supportive of me in my schlep toward publication come November 4, and I can’t wait to meet both at a yet-to-be-determined horror convention down the road.

But today’s post involves Jonathan Janz, which isn’t his real name and I’m still not sure how to refer to him when I write to him. But that’s another story. Isn’t this a kick-ass cover? (Yes.)

Courtesy: Amazon (Lord of Everything)

Courtesy: Amazon (Lord of Everything)

Castle of Sorrows is the sequel to Jonathan’s 2012 release, The Sorrows, which I read, and which involves the…

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Hunter Shea Prepares You for THE WAITING…

Today, I take a break from my final, final edits of my current work-in-progress to share with you some words by one of my favorite authors, a guy that also happens to be a good friend: Hunter Shea.

The Waiting cover

His new novella THE WAITING is available now, and folks, you’ll want to check this one out. I’ve not read it yet, but I’ve read everything else by Hunter, and they’ve all been five-star reads. But before you check out his new tale, here’s something spooky from Hunter to get you in mood…

Wanna hear a scary story? Yeah? Okay, but first you have to throw another couple of logs on that fire. That’s it, stir up the flames a bit. See those sparks? They’re like fireflies, aren’t they?

Now before I start, I need to take a little sip of what’s in that cup over there. You mind passing it over? Thank you. I see your nose cringing. That’s why it’s for adults like me. Warms you inside and out.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, the scary story. This one is a little bit different than the ones your camp counselors have told you. You know why? Because it’s true. Now I know they say their tales of hook-handed mental patients and bloody Marys are true, but they’re not. Plain and simple. They make them up to frighten you. This one I’m about to tell you, the folks that lived it wish it was all make believe. People that have heard it sometimes wish they hadn’t.

Campfire_Pinecone

Here’s something else to think about. I was there. I saw the ghost of that boy living in my friend’s house. He was no bigger than you, and he didn’t look like no ghost. That boy was solid, real. But you see, he wasn’t. Not really.

Did I touch him? No sir. There was something in his eyes, black as points of coal, that told you not to come close. He moved without making a sound and he didn’t care who saw him. Because, we learned later, he had a mission. A fixation, if you like. No matter what my friend did, that boy wasn’t going to leave.

What was he? A nurse that was visiting my friend’s wife called it a bhoot. It’s some kind of Hindu word for a trapped spirit.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It all started at a wedding. The bride, she got real sick right when they were cutting the cake. We all heard her scream and watched her pass out on the floor. She almost died that night, and a lot of other nights after that. But she was a fighter.

One day, months later, she was on life support and her husband took her to their new home even though she wasn’t able to wake up. He wanted to take care of her, and hoped that being out of the hospital would change things for the better.

It wasn’t long before he started hearing strange noises. Things went missing. And then, one night, he saw the boy creeping down the hall, headed to his wife’s room.

To read the rest of this true campfire tale, download a copy of THE WAITING. Keep that fire burning bright, and be very afraid of the dark.

J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Here’s the thing about the Harry Potter books…

They’re awesome.

Deep, huh? Well, deep or shallow, it’s the truth. I waited a long time to read the Harry Potter books because I wanted to experience them with my own children. My son (8) and I just finished the sixth book, my first daughter (6) and I are working on the first, and my youngest child (3) is content to commandeer her siblings’ wands and run around shrieking, “I have a Harry Potter stick!”

In other words, we all enjoy it.

Cover-HalfBlood

I could write a great deal about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, but it’s a tough book to write about without giving things away. And though I loved this novel for many reasons, I find it quite difficult to separate it from the other tales. This, I think, speaks to J.K. Rowling’s ability to connect the stories in a such a way that they each have their own identity while still continuing to trace a gigantic glowing arc through the sky along which the reader is able to ride from the first book to the seventh.

So before I tell you a few things I loved about the novel, please know that there might be spoilers below. Not huge spoilers, mind you, but I’m always afraid of letting something slip. So…be forewarned. Don’t read on if you haven’t read this book yet. And if you haven’t read the book, why are you reading a review of it by a writer whose skills don’t yet approach J.K. Rowling’s? Seriously. Get off the danged Internet and read this amazing series!

Some delights and terrors and sorrows…

fenrir greyback

1. Fenrir Greyback: Bet that surprised you a little. I know that this character played a relatively minor role, but on the page he was a scene-stealer, a flesh-chewer, and a perfect foil for one of my favorite characters, Remus Lupin.

An aside: About a year before I began reading the series, my Creative Writing class was discussing characterization. The kids began talking about the Harry Potter books. One remarked that the supporting characters were as interesting as the leads, which led another student to bring up Remus Lupin. She was halfway through her cataloging of his merits as a character when she stopped and looked up at me, as if seeing me anew. She then said, “Mr. (Insert real name here). You sort of remind me of Lupin.” When I later found out he was a werewolf, I was a little bit shocked (and secretly pleased). But when I really got to know the character, I found the remark incredibly gratifying.

Back to Fenrir Greyback (with whom I hope I have nothing in common)…

What made Greyback so incredibly interesting to me was not only the sheer ferocity of his behavior, but the diabolical simplicity of his motives. If the Harry Potter books were likened to Lord of the Flies and Voldemort’s ambition were compared with Jack’s (the leader of the hunters), then Greyback would be Roger, the sadist. This powderkeg of a character lives only to rend flesh and to guzzle the steaming lifeblood of his victims. Greyback doesn’t want to rule the world; he simply wants to terrorize it. I don’t know what kind of a role he plays in the seventh book (if any), but his unreasoning brutality added just the right note of menace to a book that largely—and sensitively—focused on the romantic relationships of its teenagers.

Fleur-delacour

2. Fleur’s Surprising Reaction: I admit to falling prey to a stupid prejudice here, and I feel awful about it. But I wrongly assumed Fleur Delacour was a pretty face without a soul. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire she was the object of many male desires (Ron’s particularly), and though she was skilled at wizardry, she wasn’t an especially affecting character. She did seem affected, however, and when she showed up again in Book Six, I, like Mrs. Weasley, rolled my eyes and dismissed her as a fluttery, vapid future supermodel.

How wrong I was.

One mark of a great writer, I think, is the ability to surprise the reader without cheating. That’s J.K. Rowling. When something terrible befell Fleur’s fiance, I was all set to mentally berate her for her superficiality. But rather than making a caricature out of Fleur—as I fear I unknowingly did—Rowling transformed her and made her deeply endearing with a couple elegant lines of dialogue.

And I loved that. So here’s to continual reminders to not judge people by appearances or even their seeming personalities. People can still surprise us, and we need to give them the opportunity to do so.

*takes a deep breath*

And lastly…

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

3. Dumbledore: If you’ve read this far, you’ve only been assailed by minor spoilers. I don’t want to spoil this plot twist, but I don’t know how to talk about it without spoiling it. And the fact is, I don’t want to talk about it.

Rarely has a fictional character so resonated with me the way Albus Dumbledore has. In the first book he was wise, eccentric, and a constant source of comfort. As the series has developed, he has persisted in exhibiting those traits, but he has also grown more than most might think. He has revealed a penchant for trusting others too much. He has admitted how fallible he is, how prone to mistakes. He has been injured, accused of wrongdoing, and generally fed through a physical and emotional woodchipper.

And he has come through it all with an open, caring heart and an enormous capacity for love. One passage in particular, I think, summarizes this amazing character for me. In a scene that chronicles how Tom Riddle became Lord Voldemort, Dumbledore attempts to gird Harry’s resolve and confidence in the inevitable battle with his nemesis:

“Yes, you have,” said Dumbledore firmly. “You have a power that Voldemort has never had. You can—”

“I know!” said Harry impatiently. “I can love!” It was only with difficult that he stopped himself adding, “Big deal!”

“Yes, Harry, you can love,” said Dumbledore, who looked as though he knew perfectly well what Harry had just refrained from saying. “Which, given everything that has happened to you, is a great and remarkable thing. You are still too young to understand how unusual you are, Harry.”

“So, when the prophecy says that I’ll have ‘power the Dark Lord knows not,’ it just means—love?” asked Harry, feeling a little let down.

“Yes—just love,” said Dumbledore.

The above passage will strike some as too direct, too naive, or worst of all, too emotional.

It struck me as incredibly beautiful. There are all sorts of belief systems in the world, and no two people are exactly alike in their beliefs. But what Dumbledore says here is something that, were it adopted by more people, would alter our world for the better. Harry, for all his flaws, usually acts with good intentions. He befriends Luna Lovegood (another one of my favorite characters in all of fiction), gives of himself to others, and is willing to suffer so that others won’t have to experience the same pain. In other words, Harry loves.

And so can Dumbledore. Which is why this book was so memorable, wonderful, and painful to me.

I’m going to go now. My wife is making a delicious supper. My son and first daughter are ready to wrestle. And my three-year-old is racing around the house casting spells on the furniture with her Harry Potter stick.

And for that, J.K. Rowling, I thank you.

Dark Dreaming: A Conversation with Stanley Wiater

Folks, I’m really excited today. Truthfully, I’m excited just about every day because I’m thankful to be alive and I’m endlessly thankful for my family. But right at this moment I’m also excited about something else too. An interview I’m about to share…

wiater 5

If you’ve been around the horror genre at all at any point between 1980 and now, the name Stanley Wiater will be familiar to you. One of our pre-eminent writers, editors, interviewers, and teachers, Mr. Wiater has played a key role in helping the realm of dark fiction evolve into what it is today. He has worked with Stephen King on a wonderful book called The Stephen King Universe. He has interviewed (in print or on television) King, Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell, David Morrell, Joe R. Lansdale, Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison, Clive Barker, Richard Laymon, Wes Craven, and too many others to mention here. His editing and writing has not only advanced the genre—it has ensured that future generations of horror writers and fans will understand the amazing legacy of which they’re a part. I could write for hours about how much I respect Stanley Wiater, but that would further delay our interview.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

Wiater 1

JANZ: First of all, thank you so much for agreeing to talk with me. You are an essential member of the horror genre and a man who has helped shape horror for more than three decades. I am deeply honored to have you on my blog.

WIATER: Thank you for the very kind words. All I will admit to is that, over the years, I’ve become a fairly large fish in what will always remain a relatively small pond.

JANZ:  You list Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Bradbury as major early influences on you and your career. These are both incredible storytellers, but they’re also very different storytellers. What did you learn from Poe, and what did you learn from Bradbury?

WIATER: From Poe I learned that words can literally scare you. From Bradbury that words can forever haunt you.

wiater 4

JANZ: You have sold a staggering number of stories, essays, and other works. I know this is putting you on the spot, but do you have any favorites among your own works? If one were unacquainted with your fiction, for example, do you have a story you would suggest that he or she read first?

WIATER: For my books (almost all are now available on Kindle) it would have to be DARK DREAMERS ON WRITING: ADVICE AND COMMENTARY FROM FIFTY MASTERS OF FEAR AND SUSPENSE. It won me my second of three Bram Stoker Awards. I think the title pretty well sums up its contents.

For a short story, my most highly regarded is “The Toucher,” which was the sole winner of a competition judged by none other than Stephen King back in 1980. It was in fact my first professional short story sale. (It will be included in a forthcoming short story collection of all my short fiction.)

JANZ: DARK DREAMERS: CONVERSATIONS WITH THE MASTERS OF HORROR is one of my favorite non-fiction books in the genre. In that book—which I’ve read cover-to-cover about six times—you interview many of my favorite writers of all time (from Stephen King to Richard Matheson to Joe R. Lansdale and too many others to name here). Did you ever feel intimidated or nervous when speaking with these authors? Were you always confident in your interviewing skills, or did you often second-guess yourself? How did you approach an interview with a writer like Stephen King, for instance? (I’m very nervous about interviewing you, by the way.)

WIATER: No, I never felt intimidated by anyone I’ve ever interviewed. That’s why I refer to them as “conversations” and not formal “interviews.” I approached King in the same manner as I have everyone else. I simply say, “Okay, we’re finally alone. Now spill your guts if you ever want to leave this place alive.” That subtle approach has served me well since 1970. My first formal interview with a dark dreamer was with Ray Brabury, which occurred on August 7, 1974. I can remember the conversation like it happened last week….

JANZ: You believe in humanizing a story’s antagonist, and when you write fiction, you go to great lengths to make your antagonists three-dimensional rather than inhuman killing machines. Is there an example of a villain in your own fiction of which you’re particularly proud? And why are you fond of this villain?

WIATER: I try to write stories where the “victims” are also the so-called “villains.” This is the case in “Moist Dreams,” “When the Wall Cries,” “Smoke,” “Close Call” and of course “The Toucher” where the victim/villain is an illiterate little girl from rural Kentucky. There is no greater monster than ourselves.

wiater 3

JANZ: I apologize for how generic this question sounds, but I’m genuinely curious about your opinion. Having lived through and been involved in multiple periods or stages of the horror fiction genre, how healthy do you feel the genre is at the moment, and how do you feel about the genre moving forward?

WIATER: The genre is a self-healing wound. Horror cuts itself open every few years, explores a new facet of itself,  then goes back and further explores such traditional elements such as vampires, ghosts and zombies. Most critics now prefer the term “dark fiction” to “horror fiction,” but it’s still about taking the reader on the same journey into the darkness.

JANZ: In CUT! Horror Writers on Horror Film (published, I believe, in 1992), you list and write very eloquently about thirteen films you found particularly disturbing (including Eraserhead, which tops my own list). What horror movies in the past twenty years have you found especially well done (either frightening or disturbing or simply interesting)?

WIATER: Polanski’s THE TENANT (1976)  has always shaken me. Yet it’s usually completely overlooked in  most discussions. His World War II epic THE PIANIST is also very upsetting for an entirely different list of reasons. But both will haunt you for years even after viewing them just once.

JANZ: You conducted the only filmed interview with the late Richard Laymon that I’ve ever seen. It’s a wonderful interview and a further confirmation of my belief that he was a genuinely kind person. Why do you think Mr. Laymon’s work continues to be so popular?

WIATER: Because he was BRUTALLY direct and honest as a writer. He showed no mercy for his characters–and very rarely for the reader.

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JANZ: You once taught workshops at the University of Massachusetts about writing and the business of writing. I realize this is a simplification of what I’m certain are multi-faceted workshops, but what lessons do you especially try to impart on your students?

WIATER: Have a professional attitude until you prove yourself to be  professional. Write out the whole story or novel in first draft, rewrite only when you’re done with the entire project. Finish what you write. Sell whatever you write. Keep writing and you will keep selling.

JANZ: Lastly, I’m curious about what you’re working on now. Do you have any fiction or non-fiction projects in mind currently or in the near future?

WIATER: For the past two years I’ve been working on an oral biography of the late Richard Matheson. (He asked me once if I’d be interested in writing his biography, and now is the time for me to tackle it.) I daresay I’ve  interviewed Matheson more times than anyone else on the planet, save perhaps for my colleague Matthew Bradley, with whom I co-edited THE TWILIGHT AND OTHER ZONES: THE DARK WORLDS OF RICHARD MATHESON. (Also available as a paperback or a Kindle/Nook book.)

I’m also issuing next year a collection (in two volumes) of all my fiction and selected non-fiction. And hopefully we’ll get DARK DREAMERS: THE TELEVISION SERIES back on the air for a third season. As you know, the first two seasons are out now on DVD. Some of my finest work is done there.

As they say, I haven’t left the building yet…..

JANZ: And at this point in your career, are you more interested in creating your own nightmares or helping others find their own voices?

WIATER: I in fact get bored way too easily, so I try and maintain an equal level of interest of doing both……

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And…CUT!

I want to thank Mr. Wiater for making my questions sound halfway decent with his wonderful answers. It was an honor to have him on my blog. If you’re interested in Mr. Wiater’s fiction or non-fiction (and by now, how could you not be interested?), his Amazon page is right here.

Thanks, folks, for reading, and have a beautiful weekend!

 

Creepy reads for the Halloween season: good horror authors, old & new.

Jonathan Janz:

Deadlines. Stressed. Good stress, but stressed.

So…I leave you with the The Paranormalist, who prepares us for Halloween!

And have you bought Savage Species yet? It’s doing some really cool things…

On Sale Now!

Originally posted on Renae Rude - The Paranormalist:

seven weeks

At Halloween-time, there are few activities more satisfying than falling whole-heartedly into a scary book. Reading opportunities abound:

  • read during the last couple of trips to the cabin, because the lake turns chilly as soon as the earlier dusk sets in
  • take your lunch hour at a park when the leaves are turning, the sun is warm, and the breeze is cool
  • curl up with a mug of your favorite hot beverage and a blanket during one of the season’s last thundery evenings
  • steal a chapter or two while waiting for the kid’s band / dance / karate lessons to end
  • stay up too late so you can get through just one more chapter

*****

I don’t read enough.

I used to. From the time I could pick up a book until my first child started walking, I was voracious. I’m well-versed in at least one era of horrorbooks. (See…

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Some Things You Might Not Know That I Love: Part Two

Hello, Friends! Busy times as usual around the ranch here. With school starting up again and writing deadlines coming due, I haven’t been able to blog as much, but hey, you all know about being busy, right? And it’s not like your life hasn’t been complete without reading my review of some obscure 1940s horror/science fiction novel.

This isn’t to say I don’t have some news coming—I do. And it’s big news. And there are several pieces of smaller news. But for now, I’m going to torture you by oversharing (my specialty) about some things you might not know that I love…

Elmore Leonard

We miss you, Dutch.

We miss you, Dutch.

 

Cary Grant

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Night Walks

Walking-at-Night

 

Flannery O’Connor

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Buffalo Wings

buffalowings_tdm

 

1984

1984-book-cover-slice

 

Baroque Music

yo yo

 

The Smell of Lilacs

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The Devil Went Down to Georgia

The-Devil-Went-Down_320

 

Climbing under the Blankets on a Cold Winter’s Night

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Grace Kelly

Cartch-a-Thief-Grace-Kelly-590px

 

Cheers

Cheers-cast

 

And that’s plenty for one night. Time to go edit.

Have a good one!

 

 

To My Son on His Eighth Birthday: The Exchange

Okay, Pal. Here’s the deal. In exchange for the items listed below, I promise not to tell Mommy the following three things, okay?

1. That we pee in the yard every chance we get. We usually keep the micturation to the back corners where no one can see us, but everybody likes a little variety, right?

A Lovely Spot for Peeing

A Lovely Spot for Peeing

2. That every time we eat Doritos and bean dip and watch Harry Potter, we finish the entire bag of Doritos and devour the entire can of bean dip. If we were billy goats, we’d eat the can, too.

3. That we sometimes sneak out for night walks. I won’t tell her how we run through the graveyard pretending Voldemort‘s chasing us or how we spend too much money at the local open-till-all-hours cookie shop an-hour-and-a-half after your bedtime.

So in exchange for keeping the above three items secret, I’m going to ask the following three things of you. An exchange, if you will. I’ll love you no matter what, and I don’t expect you to be perfect, but if you can do the following three things I’ll be extra, extra happy. Okay? So here they go…

1. Know how loved you are. I could type ten thousand words every day for the rest of my life on the subject, but I’d never even scratch the surface of what I feel for you. You’re my son, of course, but you’re also a dear friend, someone to laugh with, someone I trust, and someone who makes me smile every time I think of you. You don’t have to be perfect, and I’ll never expect you to be. We weren’t made perfectly, and the fact is, your imperfections are part of why I love you. So do your best, but when you fail or make a mistake, know that I’ll always be there with a smile on my face and my arms open wide. I love you more than you’ll ever know.

We're coming for you, Doritos...and we're not messin' around.

We’re coming for you, Doritos…and we’re not messin’ around.

2. Show people how strong you are by how much love you show. You’re a tall kid for your age with bigger muscles than I had when I was thirteen. You’re also really, really smart. You don’t have to right all the world’s problems, and like I said above, I don’t expect you to be perfect. But when you can…

Show kindness to the kid no one talks to. There are few things more painful than being left out. Your friends might not want to, but if you include someone that no one else does, you’ll feel good about yourself and have very good reason to feel that way.

Stand up for those who are being bullied. If a boy or girl is being picked on, do what you can to protect that kid and to make that kid feel better about himself or herself. You might not think it matters now, but I promise you that kid will remember your kindness someday.

Be nice to old people. Remember how happy your great-grandma and great-grandpa were last night when you helped them clean out their old garage? That’s the kind of strength I’m talking about. Do nice things for old people that others can’t be bothered to do.

Lurking in a graveyard near you.

Lurking in a graveyard near you.

3. Treat girls (and women) with respect. Remember that girls are not perfect either, and sometimes they’ll make you mad. If a girl is mean to you, you don’t have to break your back trying to make friends with her. But when you can, remember that every girl is someone’s daughter. Remember that every girl has a heart, a mind, dreams, and fears. You know, sort of like you do.

I know I’ve already asked more of you in this exchange than I’ve offered, but here are a few more of my wishes…

Keep reading. And while I’m at it, know that there’s nothing wrong with being silly, with dancing, with laughing, with singing, with playing a musical instrument, with drawing, with writing, with appreciating nature, with loving animals—with generally enjoying life. You are a joyful person right now, but there will be people who will hurt you. That might tempt you to hide some of your joy, but the problem is, when you hide it for too long, you stop feeling joyful. You have brought more joy to my life than you’ll ever know, and you’ve only just turned eight! So remember to be joyful and to be silly. And to read, read, read. Your life will be immeasurably better.

After-Curfew Xanadu

After-Curfew Xanadu

I’ll stop now. Because the truth is, this isn’t an exchange at all. You don’t need to give me anything. I will love you forever and will always be proud of you because you’re an amazing, loving, caring person. Because you’re you. And to me, you are perfect. Thank you for being my son. You are a blessing and a source of neverending joy to me. God bless you, my little man. I’m so thankful I get to be your daddy!

Some Things You Might Not Know That I Love

By now you know I love my wife and kids. You know I love Stephen King. But here are some things you might not know that I love…

George Strait

"I cross my heart..."

“I cross my heart…”

The Brothers Karamazov

A Classic That Exceeds Its Reputation

A Classic That Exceeds Its Reputation

The smell of Iams Weight Control cat food

Yes. I used to sniff this every time I fed my cat.

Yes. I used to sniff this every time I fed my cat.

Jimmy Stewart

Unparalleled

A Gift

The change of seasons

I didn't take this picture. That's why it's pretty.

I didn’t take this picture. That’s why it’s pretty.

Patricia Arquette in True Romance (especially her imperfect teeth)

"Even tastes like a peach."

“Even tastes like a peach.”

Seinfeld

Genius

Genius

Ray Bradbury

We miss you, Ray.

We miss you, Ray.

 

Jonathan Janz ‘Savage Species Part Five: The Old One’ Review

Jonathan Janz:

Five-out-of-Five Stars for THE OLD ONE, the Final Installment of SAVAGE SPECIES!

Originally posted on Horror Novel Reviews:

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Written by: Joe Hempel (of www.topoftheheapreviews.com)

The final installation of Savage Species has now been released, and what a ride it is!

The violence is stepped up, the fear is stepped up, and the excitement and suspense are turned to 11 on the dial.

I guess the biggest compliment I can give with this is to say, I hate you Jonathan Janz, I hate you so much!

You don’t get a lot of answers here.  For instance, I still don’t know exactly why one of the Children took Charly’s son, or where these things came from, but you do get a sense of why the appeared at the time they did, and also find out a bit more about the NightFlyers.

One thing is for sure though, this creature feature is left wide open for a sequel or even a prequel explaining where these things came from.

The Bottom Line: …

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