Horrorstör Review: Read. This. Book.

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Horrorstör Cover

Some may recognize Grady Hendrix as the former film critic who ran Variety’s superb Asian movie blog, Kaiju Shakedown. I bemoaned when Variety finally shuttered his corner of their site, but if I’d had any idea that closing that door would eventually lead to Hendrix opening the door to the fiction side of his career, I’d have sent them a bottle of whiskey, because Horrorstör is a must-have in this world.

Here’s the basic, Amazon-level pitch: Three employees of an Ikea-esque store called Orsk are tasked with working late one night in order to figure out who has been moving objects and leaving behind disgusting messes and weird graffiti in the middle of the night. They suspect it’s a homeless man or a weird shopper; we, knowing this is a book called Horrorstör, suspect it’s a ghost.

That’s an accurate description of the setup, but here’s an even better way to pitch it: Imagine if in the middle of the night, when no employees were around, Ikea turned into Silent Hill. Now imagine you were just some average nobody who hated their job at Ikea, were forced into working an overnight shift by your socially inept manager, and ended up having to fight your way out of the increasingly twisted hellscape that emerges within. That’s Horrorstör.

And I do mean increasingly twisted. Hendrix opens his novel by letting us get to know our main gal Amy, who is a totally normal, relatable woman who probably could have done something exciting in life if she put her heart into it, but who ended up doing nothing in a boring day job because that’s a whole lot easier. We get to meet her dorky manager, Basil, and the three other employees who wind up in the store after hours, and it leans in to a cheeky setup about how a suburban heaven like Ikea is really a bit of a nightmare on the inside, with all that it represents being a little soul-rotting at its core. And that’s amusing, but it’s pretty surface level stuff.

Hendrix knows this, though. He knows that simply saying, “What if an Ikea was haunted? Wouldn’t that be kinda funny and kinda freaky?” can only carry you so far. And so about half-way through the book, he cranks the horror knob to 11 and never dials it down. From then on it becomes a gripping, imaginative, subversive story that doesn’t necessarily zag when you think it’s going to zig, but it makes damn sure that each zag and zig is coated with razor wire and consequences.

But what’s particularly striking about Horrorstör is how contemporary of a horror story it is. These days I find horror to be largely voiceless. Most, be it a movie a show or a book, don’t exist in the moment. They have nothing to say about the world around us, they simply put people through the grinder to revel in the sausage getting made. But Hendrix isn’t that cynical. There’s a bolt of optimism that runs through Horrorstör as it tests the temerity of a young woman who has been disenfranchised in life purely of her own accord.

Amy is a typical millennial. She was told the future was bright, so she put on sunglasses because she was too cool to look into it. And now she’s stuck holding the bag on her own life because of it. She’s got no one else to truly blame, and so it’s either deal with the overwhelming horde around her or get swept away by the river of time. And the craziest thing about it all, is that once the shit really hits the fan, part of you (and Amy) starts to wonder if it might indeed be better for her to just fade away than fight to matter in the world. There’s actually a logic to letting her become complacent and just another dead-eyed worker bee.

Having you root for a hero one second only to later think “You know, the Warden of Hell she’s facing raises some good points…” is deceptively complex and clever writing, and it shows that Hendrix has what it takes to tell a horror story that will stand the test of time. It’s not just gory. It doesn’t just cash-in on a popular trend. Horrorstör gets inside your head and takes you to a world where this nightmare makes total sense. And like a trip to a real Ikea, it’s a beautiful, punishing hellscape I’d gladly submit myself to again.


Buy Horrorstör here. I recommend the paperback, which is shaped like an Ikea catalog and even has appropriate furniture product pages at the start of each chapter. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that this book just flies by. I tore through it in two sittings, which is exceedingly rare for me these days. 

Giveaway: Passes to see ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter looks like a ton of fun. If you think otherwise, you hate America. Or something like that. Maybe you’re a strict historian, or maybe a head-chopping President just isn’t your bag. That’s fine. Whatever the case, why not find out what you think of the latest from the director of Night Watch for free?

If you live in HND’s fine homeland of Austin, Texas, then we’ve got the hookup to do just that. Shoot me an email at peter AT horrorsnotdead.com (or use the Contact Page on the site) with the subject “I Want to See Abraham Lincoln Destroy Vampires,” and the first 25 people to do see will earn themselves a pass good for two people to see the film on Tuesday, June 19th at 5:00pm at a theater in Central Austin.

That’s all you gotta do. No need to write an essay or take a silly photo, just be one of the first 25 people to email me, and I’ll email you a pass. And if you do get a pass, please pay attention to the wording on it. While it’s good for two people, it does not equal a reserved seat for two people. It’s first come, first served; so if you show up at 4:59, tough luck.

What: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Where: Central Austin

When: June 19th at 5:00pm

How: Email peter AT horrorsnotdead.com (or use the Contact Page on the site) with the subject “I Want to See Abraham Lincoln Destroy Vampires”

‘The Innkeepers’ Giveaway: Win DVDs, Posters or a Not-For-Sale Limited Edition

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Regular readers of this site should know that I think The Innkeepers, the new film from the brilliant Ti West, is the best horror film of 2011. Non-regular readers, well, now you know that I think The Innkeepers is the best horror film of 2011. Even if you don’t agree with me, hopefully you’ve seen it by now, and hopefully you paid for it because supporting indie horror means a great deal to this website. If, for whatever reasons, you still haven’t seen it, though, today is your lucky day, because on Tuesday, April 24th the film hits DVD and Blu-ray and we’re giving away several copies.

The great folks at Dark Sky Films have graciously provided us with a bounty of copies to giveaway, and while the bulk of them are your average DVD version of the film, we’ve also been privy to two limited editions of the movie to gift to readers. And when I say limited edition, I really do mean limited edition– these Gatefold Blu-ray versions of the film are designed to look like record LP covers, and they will never, ever be for sale. So, the only way to get a copy of it is to get one directly from Dark Sky, and we are proud to be your gateway to the opportunity. As if that weren’t cool enough on its own, they’re signed by West to boot.

I’ve seen them up close, so trust me when I say, you want this:

So, how do you win one? Don’t worry, I’m not going to make you write an essay about how much you love West’s films (though I will kindly ask you read my massive interview with the no-bullshit man). All you need to do is reply with a comment here using a valid email address (don’t worry, it’ll be hidden on the site) saying you want to the best horror movie of 2011.

We’ve got 5 DVDs, 1 poster, and 2 Gatefold Blu-rays to giveaway, so thanks to Dark Sky’s generosity, your odds of getting something are pretty solid. Good luck!

Note: If your comment doesn’t appear on the site right away, that’s just spam protection. We’ll still see it.

Tales From the Elliptical: Bob Gale Makes Wil Wheaton Eat Poop, Martin Sheen vs. Billy Zane, and More

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It takes me just shy of 30 minutes to run 3 miles. It takes just shy of 30 minutes to watch an episode ofTales From The Crypt. Combine the two and you have Tales From the Elliptical, a recurring column at HND where I supplement my love for anthology horror television with my love of not dying of a heart attack.


Tales From the Elliptical: Ed Begley Jr. Screws Tim Curry, Ernie Hudson Gets Telepathic Head

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It takes me just shy of 30 minutes to run 3 miles. It takes just shy of 30 minutes to watch an episode of Tales From The Crypt. Combine the two and you have Tales From the Elliptical, a recurring column at HND where I supplement my love for anthology horror television with my love of not dying of a heart attack.

“Death of Some Salesmen”
Season 5, Episode 1 (Oct 2, 1993)
Directed by:  Gilbert Adler
Written by: Gilbert AdlerA L Katz
Starring: Ed Begley Jr.Tim Curry

If you need a one-two combo reminder of how singular of a series Tales From the Crypt is for both its content and the time period in which it was created, just watch the opening scene of the fifth season premiere. It opens with Ed Begley Jr. going down on a woman in a motel, then leaving her the next morning after blatantly telling her he lied when he said he loved her and she only bought it because he’s such a damned good salesmen. He then leaves town to go sell recently widowed old ladies funeral plots their husband’s supposedly put a partial down payment on. His grift works surprisingly well until he shows up at a particularly backwoods abode and runs afoul of a mother and father whose distrust of salesmen results in them kidnapping Begley Jr. out of the hope that maybe he’ll be a better suitor for their disgusting, attic-hidden daughter than the last couple traveling salesmen they murdered with their own warez (a vacuum salesmen with a vacuum tube shoved through his mouth, etc).

Did I mention that the backwoods mother, father and daughter are all played by Tim Curry? So that means not only do we see a nude Ed Begley Jr. go down on a chic in the opening scene, but we also get to see him try to pop a boner to have sex with Tim Curry wearing Nothing But Trouble levels of revolting, mongoloid make-up. It may be one of the weirdest episodes of the series, casting-wise. The ending hits as kind of a surprise, but it’s hard to be shocked one way or the other after you’ve watched Ed Begley Jr. compliment Tim Curry’s kegel skills.

Tales From the Elliptical: Running Through the First Four Seasons of ‘Tales From the Crypt’

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I am by no stretch a health nut. I drink way too much and eat too many things that once had faces for that to be the case. I have, however, spent the last few weeks running 3 miles every day on an elliptical. I’m no speed freak, so it takes me about 30 minutes to hit that mark. You know what else takes about 30 minutes? An episode of Tales From the Crypt. Guess what series I own every season of but haven’t actually watched every episode of? I think you see where I’m going with this. So welcome to Tales From the Elliptical, a new recurring column at HND where I supplement my love for anthology horror television with my love of not dying of a heart attack.

This column is in a bit of an odd predicament, though. I actually started this episode-per-run project months ago, but back then I was lazy and not running every day (or, after a while, every week). I’ve been doing it daily for close to a month now, though, and I’ve reached the point where I actually enjoy exercising, so I’m finally committed to starting this column. The rub is between last year’s half-hearted attempt and the past few weeks’ earnest attempt, I’m now up to Season 5 of the series. So, this first entry is going to be a general overview/highlights of the prior seasons. Then, starting next week, we’ll be able to focus more on individual episodes (probably one post per disc, which is usually 6 episodes).

And yes, I realize I’ll be running out of Tales From the Crypt episodes before too long. But hey, I haven’t seen any of Tales From the Darkside, so that’ll be next.


The Best Horror Movies of 2011 [The Top 10 Released and Top 5 Unreleased]

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2011 was a really shitty year for horror. There’s no reason to dance around it; it just sucked. Sure, some good movies managed to find release, but not nearly enough. You know it’s been a bad 12 months of genre when it’s a struggle to assemble a Top 10 filled with films that leave any kind of a significant mark– and even then, several are just unreleased films from 2010. But such is the genre these days…

Halloween White Elephant: Lesbian Vampire Killers

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From JC–“I’ve heard stories about how awful this is, and I’ve never seen it myself, and I’d like for Peter to write a hilarious review of this.”

[Note: Because the Weinstein Company is apparently afraid of the implication of breasts, the movie is titled just Vampire Killers in the US.]

Lesbian Vampire Killers is the kind of movie that I should hate, but don’t. I’m normally not a fan of spoofy horror movies. Either make a real horror movie or make a real comedy, because whenever the two get overtly cross pollinated, the result is crap like Stan Helsing and Transylmania. You’d think from the title alone that Lesbian Vampire Killers is a lot closer to Transylmania than, say, Dracula Dead & Loving It, but this is a surprisingly tolerable and occasionally enjoyable horror comedy.

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