My Halloween recommendations

I realised today why I like Halloween so much; for a few weeks, the world looks like the inside of my mind. People decorate with ghosts and pumpkins and let in the dark and scary with reckless abandon. Horror films dominate the TV. And we all eat more sweets than is good for us. It’s my Christmas.

Every year, I choose a Halloween read, a Halloween horror film, and a Halloween treat (not chocolate, I eat that all year round anyway!) This year, I’m going to share them all with you.

My Halloween read is, thanks to Netgalley and Amulet Books, Blood Countess by Lana Popović. Here’s the summary:

A historical YA horror novel based on the infamous real-life inspiration for Countess Dracula

In 17th century Hungary, Anna Darvulia has just begun working as a scullery maid for the young and glamorous Countess Elizabeth Báthory. When Elizabeth takes a liking to Anna, she’s vaulted to the dream role of chambermaid, a far cry from the filthy servants’ quarters below. She receives wages generous enough to provide for her family, and the Countess begins to groom Anna as her friend and confidante. It’s not long before Anna falls completely under the Countess’s spell—and the Countess takes full advantage. Isolated from her former friends, family, and fiancé, Anna realizes she’s not a friend but a prisoner of the increasingly cruel Elizabeth. Then come the murders, and Anna knows it’s only a matter of time before the Blood Countess turns on her too.

I’m really looking forward to it. I love the history of Countess Elizabeth Báthory, so am chomping at the bit to get my teeth into this one – too much? If you’d like to read it, you’ll have to wait until the New Year :(

My Halloween Horror film is the Ginger Snaps trilogy – yes, I’m being greedy and having a three for one. Featuring sisters bonded by more than just blood, and believable werewolves; it even takes us back to the start of the curse with Ginger Snaps Back. I would highly recommend all three films. If you have the channel, they’re on Starzplay, or you can still find them on DVD.

My Halloween treat is going to see Dracula the ballet performed by the Northern Ballet . I’ve never seen a ballet before, and I’m hoping that with its Gothic costumes, beautiful scenery and amazing feats of grace, it’ll start a life long love of this art form. Who knows, I might even meet a real vampire there…probably not!

I love this time of year, and I hope you do too. So get out there and carve scary pumpkins to keep the evil spirits at bay, buy overpriced sweets that somehow taste better shaped as ghosts, zombies and witches. And feel, just for a little while, that the supernatural world is close enough to touch – and to touch you back!

Happy Halloween!

Two 2019 Anniversaries that I’m celebrating

200th Anniversary of John Polidori’s The Vampyre

Before Dracula, there was The Vampyre. John Polidori penned this story in 1819 – 78 years before Bram Stoker gave us his iconic vampire.

The Vampyre is a must-read for any fan of gothic literature, and of course fans of the blood-sucking monsters themselves. I read the book when I was 11 years old. At that age it felt as if I was reading something I shouldn’t – although my parents were never the type to forbid any books on my reading list – it was still a book that I hid the front cover of when I was in public (there were no Kindles back then that successfully camouflaged your reading tastes)

The character of Lord Ruthven bore many similarities to Dracula. A high-class gentleman – it appears that vampires could only get away with their bloody deeds when lurking in the halls of the aristocracy. With their class came riches that afforded both travel and time to indulge their scarlet tastes. They both seemed to have a preference for seducing and killing maidens, and they seem psychotically inclined to play with their chosen enemies, Aubery and Harker respectively.

So, as this book is celebrating its 200th birthday, why not celebrate with it and curl up in front of a fire, with a glass of red (be that wine or Vimto) and experience first-hand the sinister nature of true vampires.

40th Anniversary of Ridley Scott’s Alien

One of the first horror films I ever watched. The 1979 film Alien is a masterpiece body-shocker, claustrophobic, sci-fi scare-fest. Set in deep space, the story line has a depth that surprises me every time I watch it. Treachery, greed, and politics underpin a rather hard-to-kill violent Xenomorph.

Let’s not forget that this film also pioneered the concept of a kick-ass woman, Ripley. One of the unsung survivors in the pantheon of horror’s final girls. She shows little girls everywhere that, in the face of nightmarish disaster, you can survive – even when the odds are stacked against you, and exits are nowhere to be found.

Alien lead to my all-time favourite film, Aliens. Both films still stand the test of time and should be a right of passage for any young horror/ sci-fi follower.

My older brother is a huge Alien fan too and, a few years ago, he took me to London to experience Alien Wars – a live action version of the Aliens film complete with marines, facehuggers and of course long-limbed oil-black Xenomorph aliens. Now, I don’t scare easy, and I was all set to venture into the dark with him, along with the marines guarding us on our journey into the infested colony, however, I took one look at how fast those grabby little facehuggers were and how fluidly the aliens could scramble up to me and decided to sit it out. Not my best day. However, even as I sit here writing this blog post, I still wouldn’t choose to take on such other-worldly horrors; no doubt, I would have probably been slapped with alien snot to the wall and impregnated within the first 3 minutes! I’m certainly no Ripley!

Interview with Wattpad author Angela Merlo

meTell us about your writer’s journey…
It’s really hard to keep this answer concise. It’s been a long journey, a sad journey, one connected to my personal struggles with anxiety and depression. Fast forward through all of the, I can say that in the spring of 2014, I had an unfinished manuscript that I’d been playing with for years. An author I admired and a few other people were impressed by it and encouraged me to get serious about finishing and promoting the project.
Later that year, I joined Wattpad and began syndicating chapters of my novel, Devil’s Lake. I was a bit sheltered from other author’s ideas and ambitions about success on Wattpad.  I was easily impressed, and kept waiting for the chapter that would have zero reads, or the day the book would stop ranking. I suppose that’s my whole strategy for being happy. Anticipate the worst so that you’re expectations are always exceeded. Maybe that’s why I always get anxious when I’m tempted to raise my expectations and hopes.

My journey hasn’t been like some of the authors I’ve admired on Wattpad, but I still appreciate the successes I’ve had. Devil’s Lake reached #4 in its genre about a month after Wattpad began featuring it. It occasionally makes it back into the top ten or very near there. I’ve been aiming to self publish a paperback for awhile, all without the anticipation of making any real money off of it.  I’ve still tended to have that pessimistic approach of “Throw it out there without expecting a bite. Maybe something will surprise you.”

But with that said, I have been growing a little more confident and did recently write a story for the #OnceUponNow contest. Honestly, it’s the most light-hearted work I’ve written that I actually think is good. Amazingly I like my characters. They’re just a little eccentric in a fun way, rather than the dark and depressing way I’ve always defaulted to. Maybe that’s just a reflection on how much I’ve grown since I began writing Devil’s Lake. I don’t know. I am excited about the contest though and feel more enthusiastic. Even though I feel prepared for it not making it, it doesn’t feel as threatening to hope for it. So that’s got to be a good thing.

What do you love about being a writer?newdevil2
I think it’s more about being in love with the story and characters you’ve developed than with anything else. I am always surprised when I hear so many authors complain that they hate editing. I enjoy editing far more than I do drafting. The story and characters are far more fleshed out in you mind by the time you complete a draft than when you have a mere outline.

I once had someone point out to me that this might mean I didn’t spend enough time planning the story and developing the characters before I began writing. That may be true. Devil’s Lake especially has involved lots of rewritten chapters and revisions. It’s been a learning process even with the planning I did ahead of it.

I do think I could write a story faster and more organized than this one was (if I’m passionate enough about the project to start it), but I don’t think any author magically gets there by attempting to restrict themselves from the path of mistakes. Those paths teach you more than merely “what not to do.”

What’s been the best part of being on Wattpad?

The community is amazingly supportive, and its a good place to build your initial band of followers and supporters. Recently I became a part of the Wattpad Community Toast Group on Facebook. It’s still pretty new. It started with RK Close organized an online toast for Juliet Lyons to celebrate sending off her manuscript to her publisher. Primarily it’s about toasting book launches.

Largely it seems that the most successful writers on Wattpad don’t just have talent but really network together to help each other. Even when it comes to the #OnceUponNow competition I’m competing in, there’s a supportive vibe and I think the platform is really designed to encourage that sort of interaction rather than to look at each other as mere competition.

But I suppose maybe what I love about Wattpad is the access to readers. I love getting comments from my readers. I get teary-eyed just thinking of the number of people who’ve read my work. I’ve never had this many people read my work willingly.  Friends and family always seem to afraid they’ll hate it. They’ll read three sentences and tell you it’s wonderful and then go on about having no time to read. At least that’s been my experience.

Wattpad has given me a great boost in self-confidence. I’m so happy people enjoy my work.

onceuponnowIf you could have dinner with any authors, who would it be and what would you eat?
Oh goodness! I haven’t a clue. I’ll say this. If I could get a phone booth time machine and do a Bill and Ted, I’d gather up GK Chesterton, CS Lewis, and JRR Tolkien, put them in a pub and just listen to them talk. Maybe I’d throw in Flannery O’Connor as well, but I’m not sure she would stay.

Vampires – do you prefer them as sexy leads or blood hungry monsters?

Do you mean do I prefer Dracula or Twilight? I’ve only read the first Twilight book. It’s not as terrible as some people make it out to be. Certainly the level of it’s success is a head-scratcher. It’s not that good. I’ve also never been that much of a Dracula fan. I like Carmilla better.I’d say, though, it was really the early 90’s re-revival series that really got me first into vampires. At 10 years old, I did find Barnabus frightening, and yet by the time the show got to his relationship with Victoria Winters, I really wanted them together. I loved his internal battle.

In high school, my favorite author was LJ Smith. The Vampire Diaries were originally published in the early 90’s, so by the time I started reading her work, she was publishing “The Night World series.” Everyone loved Ash Redferd, but I still loved Poppy and James’ story over any of the series. Poppy had pancreatic cancer and was dying. James, the vampire, was offering to save her life.

I’d say, I don’t think it’s either/or.  It’s both. Meyer’s vampires, especially as they come across in the film, aren’t scary for reasons beyond the romantic elements.


Where can fans find you online?
They can find me on Wattpad at www.wattpad.com/light-in-darkness (or just search @light-in-darkness).
They can friend or follow my personal author profile on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AMerlo.light .
My blog is angmerlo.wordpress.com . My twitter handle is @AuthorMerlo though most of my posts are fed from Facebook. Twitter frustrates me to no end.

Interview with Kerry Schafer

smilemeTell us about your publishing journey.

It’s been a very long and winding road. How much time do we have? My very first published work was a poem I wrote in grade school that found its way into some sort of church paper or something. My memory of the details is a little foggy, although I can still recall a few lines from the poem. Which was dreadful, by the way. Since then I’ve submitted poetry, short stories, picture books, and essays to a variety of places. Some of the essays were published and there was a near miss with the picture books. Finally, after years of this sort of thing, I put a couple of chapters up on the Book Country author site and an editor saw it and just like that I landed my first ever publishing contract! Sort of like a fairy tale only with a lot of hard work leading up to the magic.

What do you love about being an author?

Making stuff up and creating new worlds. Also – the opportunities to hang out with writers and talk about books and writing are amazing.

If you could have dinner with any literary character, who would it be and what would you eat?

My current favorite literary character is Dante from Carol Berg’s Collegia Magica trilogy, but I don’t think I’d like to have dinner with him. Bilbo Baggins, maybe, because the food would be excellent and maybe some dwarves and a wizard would show up.

If your book was to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the leads? Wakeworldfinal

Jason Momoa would make an excellent Zee, I think. And Emma Watson could pull off Vivian.

Vampires – do you prefer them as sexy leads or blood hungry monsters?

Honestly, I think Stoker did it best with the original Dracula – who was both a blood hungry monster and a charming, debonair seducer.

If you had a time machine, which era would you go back to and why?

Can I go back in time in an imaginary world? Because I really want to see Middle Earth, especially Lothlórien, before it fades.

What life advice do you wish you’d been given sooner?

“Your job on this planet is to be the best and most fulfilled version of you that you can be. Embrace that, and don’t waste time wishing you were other.” Of course, if anybody had told me that when I was young I wouldn’t have understood what was meant.

If you were a supernatural creature, what would you be and why?

A dragon. I’d be at the top of the food chain, have the gift of flight, and be able to set things on fire with my breath.

Where do you write best?

Usually at the kitchen table in my house, when everybody is gone and I’m home alone. But sometimes I need a change of pace and the words will really flow in the coffee shop.

What was the last book you read, and what were your thoughts on it?

Burn Me Deadly, by Alex Bledsoe. Great fun – I think Bledsoe is brilliant in the way he mixes elements of fantasy and crime in his Eddie LaCrosse novels. I recently discovered the series and am reading through from the beginning.

If you didn’t write in your genre, which other would you prefer and why?

Some of my favorite authors – Martha Grimes, Jonathan Kellerman, Lee Child, to name a few – are mystery or thriller writers. I’d like to see if I could pull it off.

Where can fans find you online?

Twitter: @kerryschafer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/kerryschaferbooks
Website: www.kerryschafer.com

My favourite villains.

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We all love a bad boy, it’s practically ingrained in our DNA. So I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about a few of my favorite movie, comic, and literary villains of all time and why I like them.

Eric Northman – be still my beating heart. Not a villain per say but he’s not exactly a good guy either. He’s the dude your daddy warned you against and the one your mom secretly wants for herself. In the books, like most villains, he seems to be only held up as a mirror to other characters such as Bill, Quinn and Alcide. And Sookie only falls for him when he has his memory zapped – it’s harder to stay with him when he is back to his conniving true self.

Ming The Merciless – Fresh from the Flash Gordon comics, Ming rules the planet Mongo and has a weakness for a beautiful lady. He has an almost Guinness Book of Records style beard and has that look in his eye that lets you know, he always has a plan. And hey, power is sexy, right?

Dracula – Depending on the version you read/ watch, this blood-sucking tuxedo wearing villain usually has a tug at my heart strings. Although his polygamous vampire brides are slightly off putting, he’s usually on the quest for true love and doesn’t mind how many lawyers and doctors he battles to get there.

Dr Frankenstein – come on, who doesn’t want to make their own man? His crazy God-complex aside, he’s a driven medical student, who in my humble opinion, masquerades as the villain in the book. When all is said and done, the horrors that occur in Mary Shelley’s novel only happen because of his poor choices and selfish nature. Okay, but he’s still a doctor and quite wealthy, so still kind of attractive.

Candy Man – The supernatural serial killer from the movie of the same name and originally from the dark mind of Clive Barker. He’s polite, as he only comes when you call him. He’s good to animals, he keeps bees. And hopefully is made up of a few sweet treats (I’m really grabbing at straws now!) He’s actually one of the only movie villains that scared me when I first saw the movie back in 1992.

The Phantom of the Opera – Okay, he had an unfortunate accident and is kind of a murderous control freak, but who doesn’t want to be serenaded and called his ‘Angel of Music’. The novel was amazing and the movie, although a bit disappointing, still had a gothic romantic vibe that clung to the Phantom like an extra cape.

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The King slayer Jaime Lannister – The rugged yet alluring knight from Game of Thrones. Started off as an incestuous, child killing scumbag, but through the third season has been tormented into a more noble, loyal knight. I’m looking forward to the conclusion of this season to see his continued transformation.

Now I can’t very well talk about my favorite villains without giving a nod to my own creation. Nicholas the vampire is a the nemesis of Bad Blood’s heroine Britannia. He does some very naughty things and has quite a warped sense of love and loyalty. He is a gentleman though, and is always impeccably dressed, even when fighting zombies, and he has a secret – one that you’ll find out if you pick up your copy of Bad Blood today.

Interview with Nathan J.D.L Rowark

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Nathan J.D.L Rowark

My first interview is with a fellow UK horror author. He’s also an editor and publisher. It’s, Nathan J.D.L Rowark.

When did you realise you wanted to be a horror writer?

I wrote my first horror novel when I was Twelve years old (unpublished – still have it), and continued to work on it until I was thirteen. I was influenced by emerging authors of the time (Clive Barker), and became a big fan of the work Stephen King produced when he was around 18. In those days we had no internet, no mobile phones, so I found it difficult when approaching publishers by snail mail. Once they found out how old I was, most wouldn’t entertain I was writing those works (Deckerland, A view of Heaven), so I found responses were laced with cynicism and suspicion. Coming from a working class background, my family were unable to support me in my chosen profession, and with little help available to me, I stopped writing  around my fourteenth birthday. I knew from early on that I wanted to be a writer, had my own table in the corner for poetry classes, so that I would remain undistributed, and was the only eight year old in my class whom was allowed to write his own work rather than read someone else’s. The teachers did their best for me, but the system required that everyone achieved to the same level so I found I was held back. It was almost twenty years before I started writing regularly again.

My love of horror originally stems from my mother’s love of horror. She would record for me the Frankenstein movies of Universal and the Dracula tales from Hammer; for me to watch before I went to school in the morning. Now that’s what you call a superior education :-) The first books I remember getting in to were King’s ‘Skeleton Crew’ and the works of Alan Garner.

What was the first story you got published? Is there anything you’d change about it now?

The first poems I wrote which were published came to me just after I decided to give my writing career another shot. I didn’t know if they were any good but submitted them to an online webzine anyway (in the hopes they could give me some feedback, more than anything). That webzine turned out to be highly prestigious, ‘The Horror Zine’, edited by Jeanie Rector. She read through them and decided to publish them on the webzine and in one of her anthologies (Sanctimonious Saint at the Sinners Ball, Cross but Shan’t, Unending Battle of Self). Later, I found out that I was extremely lucky to be included, and it gave me the push I needed to continue writing. My first short story was published by Static Movement Press, a little tale I like to call ‘Word of the Warlock’. It was a short story based on the misinterpretations associated with the name ‘Warlock’, and told the story of a man gifted, yet cursed by his heritage at the same time. I think it’s about to get a third outing in Static Movement’s ‘Gifted’ anthology soon.

Would I change anything about these pieces now? I don’t think I would. After spending so long away from the writing scene, I had to relearn a few skills; to then improve upon them, but no. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for ‘Word of the Warlock’. Maybe I’ll expand upon it, one day. In the story, I mention that the author character has his own book out called ‘Tribal Death’. Six months later I had another story accepted for an SM antho. It was for their ‘Western Ghost Stories: volume II’ collection. Guess what? ‘Tribal Death’ exists now :-)

What’s your thoughts on authors and social media? What sites do you prefer?

I’ve found that Facebook and Twitter are great mediums to gather fans. Blogs are good too. It can be hard  sometimes, to grab people’s attention (there are so many people on the internet now), but if your work is good, chances are people will gather to find out more. Boy has the world changed.

 As well as being an author, you are also a publisher. Tell us a bit about Horrified Press.

Well, I started Horrified Press in September of last year after months of planning and preparation. Using my experiences working for companies that had me dealing with book distributors on a daily basis, and taking on-board my own experiences as a writer (over fifty works published), I decided I could help other authors get their works noticed too. It’s been going really well, so far. It’s a lot of work, hours and hours of it, but very rewarding when you see what comes from it all. Some authors, like yourself, are very succinct when telling a story. Others have the ideas and the creative vision but need help to refine them; so that the reader will see the sights the author wishes to convey. In both cases, I enjoy the process, helping other authors develop and showcasing already developed talents. It’s what I love the most about our horror anthologies, the way you can have a first published author side by side an established name. Aside from reading the authors bios after their stories, in some cases you’d never know which author was established and which one was new.

In the end, working together, I firmly believe we give our readership a truly frightening and original reading experience. The future of ‘Horrified Press’ is very exciting :-) Oh, and I’ll give you an exclusive, right here, right now. Check out our website (horrifiedpress.wordpress.com) and our facebook page for the announcement of major new developments from Friday (31st May).

 As an editor, what do you look for in submissions? Which stories tend to make the cut?

That’s a good question, Nicky. I try not to be judgemental. I read a submission as it’s laid out and then sit back and mull it over for a few hours. Did I enjoy it? More importantly, will other people enjoy it? Did it meet the submission criteria? What was particularly special about it? I look for emerging talent. Will I have the time in my schedule to give the author additional support, to work with them on their piece (if needed – it’s an extra consideration)? I needed tutelage when I first started back and there’s not enough of that literary support available. Finally, I’ll ask the most important question of all… Will our readers enjoy it? Many authors will probably disagree with me on this, but what we do has to be for our audience; not ourselves. We’re like creative public servants, in a way. Another aspect of our anthology collections I feel is unique, we have many writers contributing that normally wouldn’t write horror. It gives those tales a unique perspective, and some of those have been my personal highlights.

What’s your favourite horror monster and why?

I have many favourites, from the obscure to the obvious…

I loved the rabbit (Frank) in Donnie Darko, but he’s probably more of a victim than a monster. Freddy Kruger was a particularly clever creation (thank you, Wes Craven). I liked the old depiction of him, not the new one. It focused too heavily on the child molestation aspect which didn’t frighten me; more repulsed me. Remakes… hmm. In literature, Dracula – of course. Pinhead was a fascinating creation; so multi-layered.

What is the worst mistake a new writer can make? And what advice would you give them?

Creative writing is just that. There are no right and wrong answers. I would say that grammar is very important, firstly. If you can’t say what you want to in a way people can understand, you have a major brick wall to surmount, in terms of making it your career. I would also say (one of my great problems as a writer when I first started out) don’t over-complicate things. That’s not style. You need to replace those lines with hard substance. Another  thing I come across often (and was guilty of myself, back in the day) would be the use of ‘she said’ – ‘he said’.

“I’m going to the shops,” said Tom – not – “I’m going to the shops,” the excited, scruffy young man with blonde highlights and ripped jeans gushed to his displeased friend.

These things are time things, they disappear when you write regularly, read regularly and take stock of your own work. We’ve all been there.

Oh, last but not least, check out the latest horror anthologies from ‘Horrified Press’. Our writers work for royalties, so we need horror fans to support their awesome work and enjoy their amazing stories. Our e-books are $3, that’s the price of a small bottle of fizzy drink from a bad vending machine on the good side of town. Not to much to ask for over twenty gripping stories per pop, eh?

To buy the anthologies, click on the images below to be taken through to Lulu – for US and ROW please see www.amazon.com and search for the title.

Tales of the Undead – Suffer Eternal

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Tales of the Undead – Hell Whore

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 Tales of the Undead – Suffer Eternal: volume II

Suffer Eternal II (small)

 

My Top 20 Horror Films

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You can’t beat a top 20 list! So here’s my top 20 horror films (in no particular order and with no spoilers)

 1)      Dog Soldiers – A very under rated British werewolf film set in the Scottish Highlands.

2)      Cabin in the Woods – If I tell you about it, I’ll ruin it – just watch it with an open mind.

3)      Pans Labyrinth – Spanish layered brilliance – I didn’t even mind the subtitles.

4)      Fright Night (the original one) – when vampires were still scary and whistled ‘Strangers in the Night’.

5)      Sinister – The imagery in this one is so horrifically soul-bending, it really should have been an 18 certificate.

6)      Creep – Another un-sung British horror film set in the London Underground.

7)      The Decent – British again, this one’s claustrophobic, dark and has very scary monsters (although if you get this on DVD you can check out the outtakes in which you see the monsters doing a body popping dance – kind of takes away some of the scare factor)

8)      I Spit on your Grave (new one) Gross beyond belief and a very satisfying tale of revenge.

9)      Texas Chainsaw Massacre (both new ones) does what it says on the tin, serrated gas-powered slasher-palooza.

10)   Bram Stoker’s Dracula – this is a Marmite film (you either love it or hate it) I loved it, it’s dark, gothic and romantic – what more could you want (apart from better British accents!)

11)   House of 1,000 Corpses – a Rob Zombie film that takes all the old video nasties you’ve ever seen through the fringe of your cushion, and mashes them all together into a big uncomfortable bloody pulp.

12)   The Hills Have Eyes (new one) Cannibal mutant red-necks running amok.

13)   Silver Bullet – a Stephen King werewolf movie from 1985. Might seem a bit tame now, but still worth a watch.

14)   The Monster Club – another oldie but a goodie, it’s also suitable for the kiddies.

15)   Jennifer’s Body – I’ll ruin it if I describe it – just watch it!

16)   A Nightmare on Elm Street (old one) – Don’t fall asleep!

17)   Jeepers Creepers – It’s got the scariest monster in I’d ever seen!

18)   Lord of Illusion – based on a Clive Barker novel – magicians, cult leaders and damsels in distress – who could ask for more?

19)   House on Haunted Hill (new one) – Very creepy ghosts and a great plot to this one – loved the opening sequence.

20)   Dawn of the Dead (new one) – Zombies and shopping malls – killer combination in my eyes!