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Bizarro Summer Reading: Dirty Rotten Hippies and Other Stories

Wherein Bizarro Central takes a wide-ranging look at all the weird books coming out this summer…

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They’ve come from all over the world for a three-day celebration of peace, music, and groovy vibes. Then a mystery drug sickens thousands and the dead begin to rise in Dirty Rotten Hippies, the new novella from the author of Depraved and 68 Kill. No one is safe during this weekend of carnage in the countryside.

This new collection includes several never-before-published short stories, as well as other stories that previously appeared in various anthologies. The collection also includes the first widely available print appearances of the novelette Some Crazy Fucking Shit That Happened One Day and mini-collection Seven Deadly Tales of Terror, both previously only available in eBook format.

Available HERE

Bizarro Summer Reading: I’m Not Even Supposed to be Here Today

Wherein Bizarro Central features a wide-ranging look at all the weird books coming out this summer….

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“Sometimes you stop by the convenience store for a slushy and the world just goes straight to hell, and takes you along with it. I haven’t had this much fun watching terrible stuff happen in a long time.” -Stephen Graham Jones, author of Mongrels

A Bizarro fiction tribute to the Kevin Smith cult classic CLERKS.

After a killer surf session, Scot Kring stops into his local Fasmart for a delicious, icy Slushpuppy. But before he can leave, a homeless guy outside has a stroke and accidentally recites an ancient Latin phrase that summons a very hungry demon, who just so happens to look like filmmaker Kevin Smith.

Now Scot’s stuck in a time loop along with the other occupants of the convenience store who may or may not be demonically possessed and he’s fighting back with nothing but a fistful of greasy hot dogs and a souvenir Slushpuppy cup as the giant menacing kaiju Kevin Smith threatens to kill them all.

I’m Not Even Supposed to Be Here Today is a demon apocalypse comedy for the slacker generation.

Available HERE

Bizarro Summer Reading: Unamerica

Wherein Bizarro Central features a wide-ranging look at all the weird books coming out this summer….

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“Cody Goodfellow knows how to chill your blood. . .” —STEPHEN KING, author of It and The Dark Half

#thisisunamerica

NEVER WORK, NEVER DIE

Buried half a mile beneath the desert sands of the US-Mexico border, exists a secret city that holds the promise of everything that draws refugees and immigrants to America––liberty, luxury and excess. . .

In this Terminal Autonomous Zone, two prophets will rise—one, a reckless seeker who believes the psychedelic mushrooms he’s discovered will spur a revolution in human consciousness; the other, a fire-and-brimstone preacher endowed by strange angels with a power that heals the sick and raises the dead—and as rival factions emerge around them, a march toward war begins . . .

Unamerica is madness. Timely, familiar, brilliant—but most of all, terrifying—madness.” —ROB HART, author of The Warehouse

“Goodfellow satirizes the excesses of capitalism, religion, and drug culture in this macabre dystopian fantasy… a wild, trippy journey through a horrifying nightmare version of America.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Available HERE

Bizarro Summer Reading: LAKEHOUSE INFERNAL

Wherein Bizarro Central features a wide-ranging look at all the weird books coming out this summer….

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Lakehouse Infernal is the coolest, ball-bustingest, most outrageous, and most ENTERTAINING horror novel you’re likely to find in a long time.” – Edward Lee author of CITY INFERNAL

Lake Misquamicus was an unremarkable lake in Florida, unremarkable that is until suddenly it was filled with six billion gallons of blood, bile, pus, piss, shit and …things… directly from the pits of Hell. First the public was in shock, then the government built a wall, and as time passed it became another urban legend. But for some, it has become a travel destination. Spring-breakers, drug-runners, and religious nuts. But a weekend getaway on the shores of Hell, may not be the safest idea…

With an introduction by and officially endorsed by splatterpunk legend Edward Lee, LAKEHOUSE INFERNAL is an official entree in Lee’s infamous INFERNAL series. Christine Morgan (SPERMJACKERS FROM HELL) expands on this universe with her own twist of hardcore horror tourism.

“Think Spring Break, only instead of a beach house, it’s a lakehouse, but the lakehouse IS IN FUCKIN’ HELL, that’s right, a chunk of Hell that’s been upheaved and pushed up into our pretty little world-sunny Florida, no less!” – Edward Lee

Available HERE

Bizarro Summer Reading: MOUSE TRAP

Wherein Bizarro Central features a wide-ranging look at all the weird books coming out this summer….

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For almost 20 years, Carlton Mellick III has been writing some of the strangest and most compelling novels the bizarro fiction genre has to offer. Described as one of the top 40 science-fiction writers under the age of 40 by The Guardian and “one of the most original novelists working today” by extreme horror legend Edward Lee, Mellick returns with a quiet, apocalyptic tale of young unrequited love in a dying world.

It’s the last school trip young Emily will ever get to go on. Not because it’s the end of the school year, but because the world is coming to an end. Teachers, parents, and other students have been slowly dying off over the past several months, killed in mysterious traps that have been appearing across the countryside. Nobody knows where the traps come from or who put them there, but they seem to be designed to exterminate the entirety of the human race.

Emily thought it was going to be an ordinary trip to the local amusement park, but what was supposed to be a normal afternoon of bumper cars and roller coasters has turned into a fight for survival after their teacher is horrifically killed in front of them, leaving the small children to fend for themselves in a life or death game of mouse and mouse trap. There appears to be a hope for salvation when eighth grader Clyde Donner, a boy Emily has had a crush on ever since she was a little girl, enters their lives and promises that all the children will be safe as long as they do exactly as he says.  But when it appears that Clyde does not have everyone’s best interests in mind, it’s up to Emily to put her feelings aside in order to ensure the safety of those younger and more vulnerable than her.

Mouse Trap is an intense, suspense-filled thrill ride for fans of Mellick’s more disturbing YA stories such as Sweet StoryQuicksand House, and The Terrible Thing That Happens.

Available HERE

Flash Fiction Friday: Mandrake Stew

by: D.J. Tyrer

People who live in glasshouses shouldn’t throw stones, they say. But, what if you live in a house of lint and wool: should you throw stones then?

Serennessa lived in a house of lint and wool on the edge of the village, not far from the lake and quite a distance from the Rectory, and she was throwing stones at the little boy who lived next door.

“Ow!” said the little boy as a stone struck his head.

“Ouch!” he cried as another clipped his ear.

“Oof!” he grunted as one caught him right in the stomach.

“Get out of my garden – get out!”

Serennessa hefted up a particularly-large rock and the boy took the hint. With a hop and a skip, he jumped the yew hedge that separated the two gardens and landed in his backyard.

“I shall have to grow it another fifty feet,” muttered Serennessa, dropping the rock.

The little boy was always hopping over to uproot her mandrakes and the pained shrieks of the plants had killed her dogs and her hens. It was only her habit of wearing earmuffs at all times that had kept her alive. Worse, once uprooted, the mandrakes became useless unless chopped up and added to a stew within three minutes. The little boy seemed to take a delight in ruining her crop. She wished she knew how he’d managed not to die. Perhaps he was deaf.

Serennessa resolved to talk to her neighbour about her child. Perhaps she could be persuaded to weight him down so he couldn’t leap so high.

After wiping her hands clean, Serennessa pulled on an old grey shawl that was beginning to unravel and headed next door. It always reassured her that, if she ever forgot her way home, she could follow the loose strand back to where it inevitably caught in her front door. Today, the strand was not very long.

She knocked upon her neighbour’s door and waited.

While Serennessa lived in a house made of lint and wool, her neighbour’s home was one built of bundled twigs tied together with twine.

The door swung open and Serennessa saw her neighbour, an old woman whose circumference exceeded her height.

“Yes?” enquired the old woman in a creaking voice.

“Hello, Mrs Bunbury, it’s me, your neighbour. I want to talk to you about your son.”

Mrs Bunbury sighed. “You’d better come in.”

She led Serennessa through into a kitchen, where she kept several small children, possibly her own. Serennessa stepped delicately about them, lest any fasten themselves to her ankles.

Mrs Bunbury sat down, trapping a couple of the children beneath her more-than-ample buttocks and indicated for Serennessa to do likewise. She sat, but removed a child from her seat first, not being paid to care for it.

“Yes?” said Mrs Bunbury.

“It’s about your son.”

Before Serennessa could say anything more, there was a sudden squall from the cot in the corner of the room. Mrs Bunbury rose and went over to it and returned, a moment later, with a child in her arms. The baby she cradled had a head like the skull of a song thrush and was making a terrible noise.

“My son?” asked Mrs Bunbury, before cooing at the child and dangling it upside-down by one foot in an attempt to quieten it.

“Yes, your little boy.”

“Oh, my little boy, Jack; not my young man, Godric?” Mrs Banbury said between snatches of plainsong and a fragment of a bawdy limerick. “What about him?”

“He keeps jumping over my yew hedge and uprooting my mandrakes. I throw stones at him to make him leave, but he always comes back.”

“So?”

“So, could you do something about it? It’s very annoying.”

“Well, you know what they say: Boys will be boys. Or, sometimes, girls. Or, one occasion, I did hear of a boy who would be a puppy-dog.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

Mrs Bunbury shrugged and nestled the baby with the song-thrush-skull head in the capacious cavity of cleavage in her possession. That seemed to quieten the child and she looked at Serennessa, who repeated the question to prompt a reply.

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Very little, my dear.”

“So, you’ll do something? Weight him down, perhaps, so he cannot leap?”

“Oh, dear, I couldn’t do that. My little Jack goes where he wants and does what he pleases.”

The baby thrust its beak up from the Bunbury bosom and began to make a pip-pip-pip sound that caused its carer to crumble a chocolate digestive and drop the crumbs into its gaping maw.

Serennessa rose, defeated.

“I shall go and speak to the Rector,” she said, with ominous intent, but Mrs Bunbury was too busy dropping crumbs to listen.

Serennessa huffed her way outside and set about walking from one side of the village to the other where the Rectory lay.

The Rectory was, in fact, a glass house and a number of signs surrounded it, sternly admonishing visitors and inhabitants alike not to throw stones.

She might not dwell within it, but Serennessa had no intention of tossing stones about. In fact, she was rather glad not to live there, valuing her privacy. She tried to imagine what it would be like if every passer-by could observe every moment of your life in intimate detail and shuddered.

Having shuddered, she knocked, producing a chink-chink-chink sound.

It was a mere formality to knock because she could see the Rector could see her through the glass walls of the house, but it was polite.

The Rector glided over to the front door in his wheelchair and opened it with care. He didn’t need a wheelchair, being perfectly capable of walking, but, like his house, was made of glass and lived in perpetual fear of shattering and took no chances. The pressure of a footstep might have been his undoing.

“Hello, Serennessa, how can I help you?”

“Good morning, Rector. It’s the neighbour boy.”

“Do you mean that strapping chap, Godric?”

“No, his little brother, Jack.”

“Head like the skull of a song thrush?”

“No, this one jumps a lot.”

“Oh, that Jack. I thought you meant Cedric.”

“Jumping Jack, yes. He keeps leaping over into my garden and pulling up my mandrakes.”

“Shocking!” cried the Rector. “We all need your delicious stews to ward off the baleful effects of the Blotch. Without it, we could all be infected and die.”

“So, will you do something?”

“No, I’m afraid not. The last time I went by the Bunbury residence, young Jack threw a stone at me. Oh-oh-oh-oh-ohhh…” The Rector wilted a little in his seat, then clutched tightly at its sides so he mightn’t slide off and shatter. “No, I’m well out of it.”

“But, the Blotch!”

“It’s a tragedy, but it seems we may all die. My only suggestion is that you grow that yew hedge of yours even higher. Surely, there must come a height at which he cannot jump it?”

Serennessa sighed. “Fine, that’s what I’ll do.”

The Rector smiled benignly. “You’re welcome.”

Serennessa followed the loose thread of her shawl home and sat in her parlour, thinking. There were spells to make yews grow taller, but how many would it take?

Then, she heard the muffled shriek of a mandrake and the squawk of baby Cedric.

Serennessa rushed outside. Jack was pulling up mandrakes with gleeful abandon and his little brother, with the head like the skull of a song thrush, was tugging up yet more.

“No!” she shrieked. This was the last of the crop.

Serennessa grabbed the large rock she’d hefted earlier and threw it at Jack. It landed by his feet and he leapt skyward, taking an ululating mandrake with him. She watched as he soared clean across the village and, though she didn’t see him land, she heard the crash and tinkle of broken glass.

She turned to see Cedric pull up the last of the mandrakes, before uttering a squawk that might have been a mocking laugh and bouncing out of the garden and into the lane and back to the Bunbury house.

She fell to her knees and sobbed. Serennessa had no doubt the Rector was dead and was certain all the rest of them would soon follow, consumed by the pestilential Blotch.

There seemed nothing left to do but go to the lake and throw herself in. But, she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She hated to get wet. Instead, she went into her kitchen and made herself a cup of tea, then headed into her front room and settled down in her favourite comfy chair. She plucked a book from the nearby shelf, something to distract her mind as she waited for the inevitable blotchiness to spread across her skin.

Serennessa laughed. The book was 101 Recipes for Mandrake Stew.

________

DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing, was short-listed for the 2015 Carillon ‘Let’s Be Absurd’ Fiction Competition, and has been published in anthologies and magazines around the world, such as More Bizarro Than Bizarro (Bizarro Pulp Press), and Irrational Fears (FTB Press), issues of Sirens Call, and Tigershark, and on Cease Cows, Strange Story Saturdays, The Flash Fiction Press, Space Squid, and Trembling With Fear.

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Send your weird little stories to flashfictionfridaysubmissions@gmail.com.

Flash Fiction Friday: Six Days and Endless Nights

by: S.E. Casey

It was during the limbo contest that I knew something was horribly wrong. I wasn’t being ageist in noting the winner was a sixty year old man. As the captain of the cruise ship, he certainly had a lifetime of practice. But when the bar was lowered to two feet and he weightlessly contorted underneath, something was amiss.

Many of the other cruise-goers hooted in drunken admiration, but there were a few other grave faces confirming my concern. My husband wasn’t among them.

You’re worrying already! It’s a cruise for Christ’s sake!

Maybe Tim was right. It was only the second day of our trip. This vacation was supposed to be therapeutic. Sun and fun, nothing in which to worry.

 

Day Three. The waitresses serving breakfast cried unapologetically. The water at the bottom of the mid-deck pool turned purple. Young couples in the piano bar danced merrily to a continuous rendition of the Halloween theme.

No one seemed concerned.

Stop worrying! This ship is a paradise!

Tim made reservations for a late night comedy show. A good laugh would make me feel better. The smug comic had everyone shaking in hysterics, my husband along with the rest. However, I didn’t find the grinning stand-up’s recounting of past vacationers’ deaths amusing.

Drowning, food poisoning, suicide…

I excused myself for bed.

Lighten up! Fine, just go. And don’t bother waiting up…

 

Day Four. Even with my heightened vigilance, the day passed rather uneventfully.

At the formal dinner, our limber Captain reappeared choosing to grace the Borland table with his presence. Strolling in through the main entrance, an identical-looking Captain took up a seat with the Sutters. Soon after, a third Captain walked in pulling up a chair at the Munro table.

Identical triplets were relatively common, maybe another stunt the Captain had up his sleeve. But when another of his doppelgangers entered to patronize the fondue bar and yet another sprinted past the aft windows, I lost my appetite.

Would you just eat! I paid a fortune for this!

 

Day Five. According to the itinerary, it was to be an island beach day.

I shook Tim awake.

Do whatever. Just let me sleep!

I didn’t press. Taking one of the two bags I packed the night before, I headed topside.

A group of women, all carrying suitcases, stood near the gangway. Although none of us had been formally introduced, I joined them. As a group, we headed off ship.

Out of nowhere, the Captain swooped in, cutting us off.

Don’t slither away too far now, ladies.

It sounded like a threat. However, he let us pass.

We walked straight off the beach into an empty parking lot. A road devoid of signs, streetlights, and telephone poles cut into the jungle. We walked two hours without encountering a single vehicle, the wind hissing through the leafy canopy the only sound.

Two cables lay across the road ahead, a first sign of civilization. However, when we approached, they were gone. For the first time, we looked into the trees around us. What we had assumed were vines and creepers slithered over and around the branches and trunks.

Motivated by the serpentine danger, we retraced our steps back to the ship in an hour.

As if he hadn’t moved all afternoon, the Captain greeted us at the top of the ramp.

Welcome back, ladiesss.

We retired to our cabins for the rest of the day.

 

Day Six. Over the intercom, a bored voice announced that the ship had run out of food and alcohol. All planned events were cancelled.

Tim spent the morning shuffling in and out of the cabin to unadvertised fights held somewhere down in the bowels of the engine room. I didn’t know if he was spectator or participant. I didn’t ask. I knew his sullen look.

The roaring engines and the nauseating vibrations made it impossible to relax. The temperature in the room spiked. Despite it being noontime, the sun set. Maybe I lost track of time. It didn’t matter. I got in bed hoping to be asleep before Tim next returned.

 

Night Six. I was being crushed, pinned under a weight. Something pressed onto my spine. I tried to struggle out from under, but couldn’t move or breathe.

Intimately familiar with sleep paralysis, I knew I was dreaming.

Suddenly, the room tipped, everything thrown against the wall. The sounds of scraping metal and shattering glass were terribly real. Still I didn’t wake, falling deeper into a frozen slumber.

 

Night —. Tim lay heavily on top of me. I opened my eyes, surprised not to be in bed, but walking backwards onto a beach. However, there was no sand under my feet, the shore made of fiberglass and steel.

The stink of diesel mixed with the ocean scents, blue and orange flames burning on the water. The light from the oil fires faintly lit an islet made from the twisted metal and broken glass of countless shipwrecks.

There were others hobbling onto shore. At first I thought they were men carrying women, strapping them over their shoulders like backpacks. But man and woman were one, inextricably fused back to back into a single form, sharing extremities and a single spine. One head featured two faces, the masculine and feminine facing opposite ways.

From the extreme pressure on my spine, I deduced it to be the same with Tim and me. I flexed my legs—our legs—to stop us. Tim easily overpowered me. He was stronger than me. He had always been stronger than me. I couldn’t stop him. In fact, my defiance only made him more powerful, providing his muscles some resistance training.

If he even noticed my tiny rebellion, he didn’t acknowledge it.

Wow, look at the stars. They’re wonderful.

Tim was right, the night sky a spectacular purple sheet dotted with brilliant white stars. But it was wrong, the celestial clusters foreign and strange.

There is Orion, Sagittarius, Odin.

Tim sat. As he looked up, my eyes were forced down.

The Twins, Cassiopeia…the hulk.

I began to laugh. He was an idiot, bluffing his knowledge as if I wouldn’t notice.

Tim lay flat on his back—my front—gazing skyward and reeling off star names both real and imagined. My face pressed into the twisted metal of the island, its sharp edges cutting into my cheek.

Titan, the frying pan, King Kong.

I laughed harder. I don’t think he even realized that I wasn’t able to see what he described, my face on the opposite side of his.

My voice joined with the others lying face down on the distant shore. Harder and harder, we women laughed as one. And we kept laughing, until we weren’t, tears pouring down and pooling on the unyielding metal ground.

________

S.E. Casey grew up near a lighthouse. He always dreamed of smashing the lighthouse and building something truly grotesque with the rubble. This is the writing method for his broken down and rebuilt stories published in Weirdbook, Hinnom Magazine, and Vastarien, among others. See more at secaseyauthor.wordpress.com.

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Send your weird little stories to flashfictionfridaysubmissions@gmail.com.

Flash Fiction Friday: Decomposing Isn’t Easy

by: Ben Fitts

Mike spotted the water cube first, which meant that it was his to jump in.

The water cube slithered across the desert towards us where we waited in nothing but our swim trunks, the hot sand stinging the bottoms of our feet. It looked like a big block of fresh marble not yet chiseled away to reveal the masterpiece hidden inside, except it was transparent with schools of fish swimming around and seaweed growing out of its bottom.

As the water cube drew near, Mike charged and dove into it, sending ripples around the spot in its side where he entered. Water cubes might look solid, with their sharp corners and right angles, but don’t let that fool you. They’re nothing but water, scattered remnants of the ocean that used to be here.

Mike swam around inside the water cube, disturbing some fish, then swam out the other end when he ran out breath. He landed on the ground with a thud, sand clinging to his wet body.

We watched as the water cube glided past us and off into the distance, marking its path with a moist trail like a slug.

“Next one is all you, dude,” said Mike.

When the next water cube sailed into view, I held my breath and ran straight into it. The cool water enveloped my body and I swam up towards the top of the cube, passing a squid. Mike liked to thrash around in the heart of the cube until he ran out of breath then dash out the other side, but I liked to float to the top and hang out up there, looking down at the cube and ecosystem inside as it crept through the desert.

I rose to the top and to my surprise saw there was a boat up there that I had somehow not noticed. It was a rowboat, small and crumbling and ancient.

I swam over and hoisted myself up. Once aboard, I saw that there was a woman in the boat as well, presumably the person who had once done the rowing. She was very dead, of course. Her skeletal fingers clasped the oars and empty eye sockets poked out from gray, rotting flesh.

“Hey kid, what are you doing on my boat?” demanded the dead woman.

Embarrassed, I stammered some nonsense.

“You better have a good reason for bothering me, kid. You’ve interrupted me while I was busy decomposing. Decomposing isn’t easy work, you know.”

“I’m very sorry, ma’am,” I pled and hastily dove off her boat, back into the water cube.

I dove with a bit too much force, and the coral-infested floor of the cube raced towards my vision. I pierced through it, breaking through the bottom of the world.

I fell out the other side, as one does in these situations, plummeting from the top of the sky. I was lucky enough to land on a cloud, its velutinous surface breaking my fall.

I peered over the side of the cloud and saw Mike on the ground, tiny and confusedly searching for me.

“Hey Mike, I’m up here!” I called down.

He looked up at me. “Dude, did you fall through the bottom of the world again?”

“Yeah.”

“You’ve really gotta try to stop doing that.”

“I know,” I admitted.

I felt the cloud growing warm around my feet and gasped as I saw dull red embers swelling on its surface.

“Mike, you have to get away!” I screamed. “I think this is a storm cloud!”

“Oh, shit!” he shouted and began to run, but it was too late. The storm cloud began to rain.

Drops of sizzling magma poured from the cloud, blistering and scorching Mike’s tan skin.

He ran around for a little bit, howling in pain as he burned, but then collapsed onto the ground and didn’t get back up.

I waited until the storm cloud cooled down and stopped raining fire, then I tore off a little chunk of the cloud in my hands and lept off its side.

Gravity wanted me to plummet to Earth, but the celestial nature of the nugget of cloud I held wanted to remain floating in the sky, so the forces worked against each other to create a mild, gentle descent back to the ground. That’s the same way I got down the last time this happened.

I scooped up big handfuls of the desert sand and piled them off to side.

“Hey, what are you doing?” asked Mike from the ground beside me. His flesh was seared red and swollen in the spots where it hadn’t been burned clean off to reveal the naked bone beneath.

“I’m digging you a grave because you’re dead.”

“Oh, thanks. That’s real nice of you.”

I nodded and continued to dig Mike’s grave in the sand.

I was careful not to dig too deep because the last thing I needed was to fall through the bottom of the world again.

When the grave was just the right depth, I rolled Mike’s corpse into it. He stared back up at me with dead, glassy eyes.

“Thanks, Stan. You know, you’ve always been a really good bro to me. Being buried will really help me focus on all the decomposing I have to do now.”

I held back tears as I poured the sand back over my friend and filled in his grave.

________

Ben Fitts is a writer, musician and zinester from New York. He is the author of over twenty published short stories, and his work has been featured in Weird Mask, Futuristic Fiction, Horror Trash Sleaze and other publications. He is the creator of the zines The Rock N’ Roll Horror Zine, A Beginner’s Guide To Bizarro Fiction and Choose Your Own Death. See more of his work at: https://doomgoat666.wixsite.com/benfitts

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Send your weird little stories to flashfictionfridaysubmissions@gmail.com.

TOP TEN MOVIES OF 2018

Jeff Burk is the author of several bizarro books, the head-editor of Deadite Press, the host of the Jeff Attacks Podcast, and watcher of too many movies.

It’s that time again – my favorite movies of 2018!

Want to see what I liked in previous years? Check out these links:

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Holy shit was 2018 a fucking crazy year. If you follow the news and world events you know that 2018 was one of the nuttiest years in recent memory. Just as the world went crazy around us, I feel the movies of 2018, whether intentionally or not, captured that spirit perfectly.

Hollywood hasn’t known what to do with the box office as of late. While giant budget franchise sequels still dominate, the studios have been forced to reduce their budgets on other projects and began to desperately throw anything at the wall to see what would stick. How else do you explain a year in which MANDY, SORRY TO BOTHER YOU, and AN EVENING WITH BEVERLY LUFF LINN all ending up with wide distribution or backing from a major studio?

There’s been a lot of talk for years about how we are in a new golden age of television. I’d like to propose that we may be in that for film as well. Sure, if you’re just looking at box office numbers it doesn’t appear that way but then OZ was never a number one rated show either.

Due to studios quietly release niche titles, streaming services getting in on the production game, and the almost infinite number of independent distribution methods, there was a shit-ton of movies to see this year if your tastes lean to the wacky, horrific, and/or weird. I saw about eighty movies in 2018 and there were still another about another twenty that I never got around to.

If you’re one of those people that say there’s no original movies coming out these days, you aren’t even fucking trying.

When I was looking at other people’s top ten lists from 2018 one big thing jumped out at me – everyone’s lists look so different. The sheer variety and quality in all corners of the film world in 2018 was nothing short of inspiring. No matter where your tastes lay, there were movies for you.

Just to get it out of way because if I don’t every comment will be asking me – yes, I saw HEREDITARY. No, it didn’t make my list. Deal with it.

Every year there is some debate in the comments on how I come up with my list, in particular, the question of how I determine release dates. Most movies it’s easy to pinpoint the year they were released it but sometimes there are releases that have festival screenings up to a year before the general audience can see it. If a movie had a limited release last year but the wide wasn’t until this year and that’s how I saw it – I count it. If it had a limited release that I saw but it’s not wide until next year – I still count it. It’s not a perfect system but it’s what I got.

With that out of the way, let’s move on to my favorite movies of 2018! Like I said, there was a ton of movies that I liked this year and they couldn’t all be on my top ten. Here’s some that almost made the cut.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: ATTACK OF THE ADULT BABIES, LOWLIFE, REVENGE, UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB, ASSASSINATION NATION, and THE RITUAL.

Check out those movies. They were all seriously good. But they weren’t my favorites of 2018.

These were.

10: YOU MIGHT BE THE KILLER (Brett Simmons, United States)

killer

A camp counselor wakes up covered in blood with himself and his fellow counselors are being hunted by a masked killer. He calls his horror movie obsessed friend for advice on survival but she puts forward a question – is he sure he’s not the killer?

YOU MIGHT BE THE KILLER is a clever and innovative film that takes all the cliché slasher tropes and completely turns them on their head. Inspired by a twitter thread between Chuck Wendig and Sam Sykes of all things, the movie is hilarious for horror fans who have seen way too many slasher flicks and spend way too much time wondering what Jason Voorhees does off-screen.

9: ANIMAL WORLD (Han Yan, China)

animal world

After a man finds himself in extreme debt, he enters the world’s most extreme rock-paper-scissors tournament to win a chance to have his debt voided. Also, when he gets stressed out he hallucinates that he is a ninja Ronald McDonald that graphically kills monsters. And Michael Douglas is in this for some insane reason.

Just reading that description makes this sounds like a mess but against all odds, it works fantastically. The tournament works as a tight and gripping thriller and you’ll find yourself completely hooked and absorbed in each round. In a year that had a lot of insane films that shouldn’t have worked but did, this is a stand-out that fell beneath most cult-fans’ radar.

8: UPGRADE (Leigh Whannell, Australia/United States)

upgrade

After an attack leaves a man fully paralyzed and his wife dead, he gets an experimental cybernetic implant that gives him full control of limbs again. But the implant has a “mind” of its own and can take over his body to perform superhuman feats. With these new abilities, he sets out to find who killed his love and ruined his life.

This was THE action movie of 2018. The action sequences are just a joy to watch in their kinetic energy and effective punctuation of extreme gore. While the movie could have just had the main character and his implant and still be weird, the creators went the extra mile and created a truly bizarre cyberpunk world. Each scene introduces new characters and situations that could have been their own entire movie. Instead, we go at a break-neck-pace (sometimes literally) from one over-the-top surreal action scene to another.

I won’t give anything away but the ending to this movie is fantastic. You’re going to think you know what is actually going on the entire movie but the twist here is so satisfying.

7: CAM (Daniel Goldhaber, United States)

cam

An up-and-coming camgirl finds herself trapped in a nightmare as a digital doppelganger of her attempts to steal her business and ruin her life.

Sex workers are frequently portrayed in horror as either objects of exploitation or titillation. It was extremely refreshing to come across this title which uses the world of sex work as a main theme and yet never comes across as leering at the characters (it helps that the script was written by a camgirl).

Not only do we get character types we rarely see taken seriously in film but we also get an original and relevant story revolving around technological horror that most horror films are desperate to avoid (characters actually have phones and know how to use Google in this movie!). I would describe the overall horror of this story as almost a Lovecraftian take the internet and social media.

It’s not a perfect movie but this is the type of forward-thinking horror that I want to see more of.

6: PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH (Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund, United States)

puppet master

How fucking insane was 2018? It was so insane that one of the most fun movie watching experiences of the year was a fucking PUPPET MASTER sequel of all goddamn things.

Essentially a soft reboot of the franchise, the story follows a convention dedicated to collecting Nazi puppets (there are conventions for everything these days) which, predictably, come to live and begin to kill everyone.

If you like your horror trashy, offensive, and gory, oh boy, do I have a winner for you here! The puppets are racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic and their bigotry comes out in their kills. And what glorious kills they are! This is easily the more violent and graphic movie that came out in 2018.

If you’re into Troma and other similar low-budget trash (I say that in the best way possible), this is an absolute must watch.

5: SORRY TO BOTHER YOU (Boots Riley, United States)

sorry to bother

How a film about black call-center workers makes sales using their “white voices” that turns into a grand and surreal critique of capitalism got a mass release completely boggles my mind. Boots Riley (of the fantastic anti-capitalistic funk/hip-hop group, the Coup) has his first turn (and maybe his last) behind the camera in a movie that is smart and just out-and-out strange.

I want to talk about so much of this movie but it’s really best that you just go into this blind. Even the trailers, which seem to show a lot, don’t even hint at how out-there this movie gets.

Funny, insightful, and destined to be a cult classic.

4: THE ENDLESS (Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead, United States)

endless

I just fucking love the films of Benson and Moorehead. There is no one else out there making movies quite like them. Their previous two works (RESOLUTION and SPRING) made my top ten lists in years past and now with their third film, we are here again.

This time, not only are Benson and Moorehead the writers and directors, but they are also the stars of the movie. They play two brothers who, years ago, escaped what may have been a suicide cult. After getting a video from the cult, they decide to go back to see old friends and family to try to get some sort of closure. The story spins out from there an turns into a cosmic horror journey into the very nature of their reality.

Once again, this genius creative team has delivered a stunningly original work that mashes genres together and creates something visionary. Of all the new voices in genre films in recent years, no creators are as cutting-edge and willing to take chances as Benson and Moorehead. Whatever they do next, I can’t wait to see it.

3: TERRIFIED (Demián Rugna, Argentina)

terrified-demian-rugna-movie-poster

The scariest movie of 2018.

After a series of very strange and very violent events rock a neighborhood, a group of people began an investigation believing an entire city block is haunted. We’ve seen this basic set up many times before in the horror genre. I do appreciate the little twist that it’s not one house but a whole block that is haunted but we are all familiar with the trope of a team of people investigating a haunting. Where this film shines is in just how effective it is.

Like TRAIN TO BUSAN last year, TERRIFIED takes a well-worn horror set-up and just does it better than almost everyone else that has come before. From the opening scene to the very end, the movie constantly shocks and surprised with supernatural horror and bursts of brutal violence.

Sometimes you don’t need to reinvent the genre to make a great horror movie. Sometimes you just need to be fucking terrifying.

2: DIRECTOR’S CUT (Adam Rifkin, United States)

director's cut

This is one of the most innovative and original movies I have seen in many years.

Try to keep up with me in describing what this is – a man (play by Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller fame) is part of crowd-funding a low-budget horror movie but is extremely unhappy with how it turned out. So he kidnaps the star of the film (who he is also obsessed with) and make her film new scenes which he splices into the film (also in the process he makes himself the star). We, the viewers, are watching his new edit of the film. And if that wasn’t confusing enough, we’re watching his director’s commentary that would be a bonus feature on the home release.

Written by Penn Jillette, this is a mind-bending deconstruction of the nature of horror tropes, celebrity obsession, and the blurring of who is really in control of production that crowd-funding brings to modern film-making (and, yes, this was crowd-funded), you have never seen a movie presented like this before (if you have, let me know what it was). The layer upon layer of meta-narrative shouldn’t work and yet somehow it all comes together to tell a great story in a truly new way. When was the last time you saw a movie that really was completely different than anything else that has come before?

This is one of the most ambitious and intelligent low-budget features that I’ve seen in a very long time. You may not like it as much as I did, but I guarantee that you’ll agree there’s nothing else like it in the world.

1: A QUIET PLACE (John Krasinski, United States)

quiet place

I feel dirty right now.

Me, mister underground-low-budget-hardcore-horror-guy, and here I am naming a mass market PG-13 film the best of 2018.

Fuck it, this movie was fantastic.

The movie follows a family in a post-apocalyptic world in which the Earth has been overrun with man-eating monsters that hunt using sound. So the only way to survive is to be as quiet as possible all-the-time. Almost a silent film, the movie takes a large scale end-of-the-world scenario and zooms in to focus on just one family’s battle to live.

Spoiler for the opening scene here – I have to give credit to any mass release film that is willing to start with killing a little kid. When I was in the theater and that happened, I was totally in.

I don’t have much analysis to give here. This was just straight-up wonder Hollywood film-making that reminds you how much fun going to the movies can be. I’ve heard and read some criticism and accusations of plot holes, but nothing I’ve heard really bothered me just because this was just such a fun experience.

My underground street cred be damned, this was the most enjoyable experience I had at the movies all year. It’s just a wild and thrilling ride that will have you on the edge of your seat for 90 minutes and leaving with a smile and feeling revved up on the excitement of film.

What more can you really ask for?

WHAT I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2019

GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (Micahel Dougherty, United States)

It’s Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah.

Nuff fucking said.

Flash Fiction Friday: In My Younger and More Vulnerable Years, My Father Used to Take Me to the Strip Club and Make Me Hold Down Drunks While He Rolled Them for Empty TUMS Travel Containers and Raspberry Fruit Roll-Ups

by: David S. Atkinson

I spent the better part of the afternoon packaging up my excreta in cardboard boxes and clear packing tape again. It’s time consuming, but there isn’t a whole lot of choice. Given my particular situation, I have to dispose of it through the mail.

A piece of advice: don’t try to get money off a leaky sink faucet repair by challenging a plumber to single combat. They are much better trained on the Bolivian balloon Theremin than one might imagine. Also, if you accuse them of cheating, neither they nor any other contractor will come to your house ever again.

My toilet broke the next day.

At this point, I wish I’d just paid the requested $20. Who will install a toilet for me now? I attempted the operation myself but somehow ended up with a new concrete patio instead. Those directions are so confusing. I don’t even live on the ground floor.

This left me in dire straits, nothing to go on and all. I was barred from the Rotary Club hall down the street within a week and needed to come up with another solution fast. That’s when I stumbled across those remote medical testing services.

Seriously, those are a Godsend. I get cancer screening for my colon at least once a week now. I’m pretty sure I’m clean after so many, but it gets rid of the feces all right. No one has complained that I send thirty times the indicated sample amount. The procedure does get expensive, but until I’m forgiven there’s not much else I can do.

At least I get a deal on the spectrographic body composition urine analysis I send to that place that usually serves pig farms. I don’t know how they haven’t figured out that I’m not livestock, but I’m not asking any questions. It’s enough work to let the liquid evaporate down a bit to save on shipping as it is.

Regardless, we all do what we have to in life. That’s what mama always taught me—though she was also the one who started combatting tradespeople instead of coughing up the fee. Perhaps I should have been a bit more judicious on which of her lessons I learned.

It might have helped.

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David S. Atkinson is the author of books such as Roses are Red, Violets are Stealing Loose Change from my Pockets While I Sleep; Apocalypse All the Time; and the Nebraska Book Award-winning Not Quite so Stories. He is a staff reader for Digging Through The Fat, and his writing appears in Spelk, Jellyfish Review, Thrice Fiction, Literary Orphans, and more. His writing website is http://davidsatkinsonwriting.com/.

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Send your weird little stories to flashfictionfridaysubmissions@gmail.com.