Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Never List: Fiction That's Frighteningly Close To Real-Life Horror

A book that by coincidence (?) was published right around the time that a man monster was given life in prison for holding three women hostage for a decade or more in Cleveland, The Never List has been touted as this year's Gone Girl - but by no means is as electrifying as the Gillian Flynn bestseller.  That said, this psychological thriller by Koethi Zan does have its satisfying moments.

Told from the perspective of Sarah, one of the victims of the story, it starts out introducing us to both Sarah and her best friend Jennifer.  The two teens had been tight for years, and even more so after the death of Jennifer's mother in a car accident when they were younger.  With her father a raging alcoholic, Jennifer ends up moving in with Sarah (the first of a moderate amount of convenient-to-the-story-line incidents) and her family.

The two young women spend an unreasonable amount of their time composing a "never list", in which they configure all the ways to prevent something awful befalling them. The list continues into their college years: Never get in a car with a stranger. Never park more than six spaces from your destination. Never go to the campus library alone at night.  They put  bars on the windows of their joint dorm room, chose housing on the first floor in the event of a fire, kept a rope ladder at the ready, carried pepper spray everywhere...the list was endless and always being added to.  Their paranoia extends to every aspect of their life.

One night they line up a car service (the one with the best record for no accidents, naturally) to pick them up after a party - because they would never drive drunk or risk riding home with a random fraternity brother. Unfortunately, the rule 'never get in a car with a stranger' must have flown out the window because the next thing you know, they are drugged by a gas leeching into the car and wind up in a dank cellar with two other girls.  When Sarah wakes up in her dark prison, Jennifer is no where to be seen. The two other captives, Tracy and Christine, are both naked, skin-and-bones, and have obviously been abused in more than one way for longer than imaginable. There is a large wooden box in one corner, and Sarah comes to realize Jennifer has been locked away in said box. What the four women endure from their captor is never fully elaborated on. I suppose we should be thankful for that. But we do get tidbits here and there, in memory flashbacks that torment Sarah's waking (and sleeping) hours.

The book shifts from the past - with the dark secrets of the dungeon-like cellar haunting Sarah - to present-day, in which her obsessive fears have turned to a monstrous, raging case of PTSD.  It has been ten years since she escaped the evil Jack Derber, a college psychology professor who apparently did his own kind of unsettling research.  The psychopath is about to go up for parole, and the FBI agent on her case has asked her, Tracy, and Christine to testify at his parole hearing and hopefully ensure that he stays behind bars where his repulsive and disturbed mind needs to be.  However, Sarah has never gotten over the fact that Jennifer did not get out alive from the ordeal, and is on a quest to find the body of her friend that Derber so often teased her about during her three year imprisonment.  Derber's sentence was reduced due to the fact that they never found Jennifer's body.

Sarah's life since her ordeal has been one giant agoraphobic nightmare. She never leaves her NYC apartment, even having most of her meals delivered. She can't (won't) drive. She works from home and keeps all her comforts - the ones she allows herself - right at hand.  So it's not without extreme trepidation that she gets herself involved in the case again.  Convincing the other two survivors isn't easy either, and she runs into more than one roadblock. But once again embroiled in the life of Jack Derber, Sarah finds that his creepy tentacles don't stop in the penitentiary, they reach out to choke the life out of everyone he has touched. And while investigating the years-old case, she finds that his influence extends to former colleagues at the college and beyond, leading to one too many vicarious situations - especially for someone of her limited social acumen and delicate mind-set.

The Never List is a quick read, admittedly I couldn't put it down.  The first two-thirds of the book went like lightning...I couldn't wait to find out what had happened in that cellar to make Sarah and her friends the way they were in present day. But my misgivings about the novel came near the end, when things were wrapping up in too neat a bow for the grueling storyline. The finale of the book felt incredibly rushed, like the author was trying to meet a deadline (or possibly tie-in to horrific events of the real-world?).  There is a twist in the last pages that I'll admit surprised me, but in retrospect if I wouldn't have been in such a rush (like the author, perhaps), I may have seen it coming.

Seeing as how this is Zan's first novel, I would be interested in seeing more from her.  This book, while lacking a perfectly crafted ending, did intrigue me and felt right in my wheelhouse (as a fan of dark fiction, of course) - and I would recommend it as a good read on a stormy evening.
*I have to add that while reading this novel I kept picturing the inevitable movie adaption and had my virtual cast picked out before book's end. I'm thinking if they tweak the ending, it could be a fairly decent horror thriller.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Joyland (2013): The Return Of The King

Every once in a great while, a book comes along that you are truly sad to see end. Everyone always says that, but how many people mean it?  It's been a long time for me. In fact, I'm trying to recall the last time I really hated to finish a book. One that I drug out reading for well longer than I intended. Maybe last summer when I read James Newman's The Wicked. I loved that book. I was also very enamored with John Harwood's The Seance from a few years back.

When I was a kid, I couldn't wait to get my paws on the newest Stephen King novel.  I gorged myself on his works, couldn't get enough.  And while I still love my favorite author, I haven't been nearly as excited about new releases, probably because I just tend to prefer his earlier (spookier) works. I still purchase every single one though, for completeness' sake. Which brought me to Joyland.

Joyland is brought to us courtesy of Hard Case Crime, for which King has penned another novel (The Colorado Kid). The Hard Case series emulates the crime novels of the 40's and although they are supposed to be more of a "pulp fiction",  honestly Joyland just doesn't fall in that category for me. Though it does have crime elements - in fact the story centers around a gruesome murder - it is much more a coming-of-age tale.  And with stories like The Body (adapted into the film Stand By Me), Carrie, Heart in Atlantis, Christine, and It (among others)  - we know King knows how to relate to the angst of growing up and making your way in the world.

The basic premise: Devin Jones is a naive college student who gets a summer gig at a North Carolina amusement park called Joyland.

Now, Joyland is no Disney World. It's not even a King's Dominion. It's more of a Kennywood Park (those of you from the Pittsburgh area know what I'm talking about) - an old-school independent park that thrives on tradition and yearly repeat customers.

From the moment Devin steps on the grounds, strange things begin to occur. Nursing a broken heart, he balks when the gypsy fortune teller tells him that relationship is well in the past and that he will meet a little girl with a red hat and a little boy with a dog and that both will have an important impact on his life.

He settles in to the summer job, taking unexpected pleasure in his duties as Howie the Hound - Joyland's honorary canine mascot. He dons "the fur" several times a day, dressing up in costume as a large dog and dancing for kids while parents take photos and enjoy the smiles on their children's faces.

As predicted, Devin meets the little girl in the red hat one day when she chokes on a hot dog. He saves her life, becoming an instant hero and the apple of the park owner's eye.  As the summer passes, Devin and his new-found friends, Tom and Erin (fellow employees that happen to fall in love) try to uncover the pieces of a puzzle involving of the death of a young woman at the park who died in the parks' Horror House several years ago at the hands of a mysterious stranger. All three friends become rather obsessed with the violent crime, and heed the rumors of a ghost haunting the park.

As the trio hopes to see the ghost of the deceased girl on the tracks at the Horror House, Devin finally meets the aforementioned boy with a dog. 
Mike is a charismatic youngster destined for a horrible death by way of an especially nasty type of Muscular Dystrophy. His mother Annie is a beautiful yet aloof caretaker for her sickly son, taking him from their seaside rented house to the shoreline every day to the edge of the water so he can watch the vacationers enjoy their time at the beach.

 As Devin begins a friendly relationship with the small family, the mystery of the murdered girl starts to unravel. Also integral to the plot is the fact that young Michael has a bit of the "shine" to him. He's touched with psychic intuition, and it makes a huge and very significant difference as the book continues toward the dare-I-say bittersweet finale. King has always had terrific character development, and things here are no different.  The main characters are very genuine and likeable, and the supporting cast of personalities make for entertaining interactions and plenty of eccentric "carny" action.  You just can't help but enjoy this story.

Joyland is a terrific summer read, full of boatloads of angst and peppered with just enough mystery to make you wonder how things are going to turn out. Fans of King's more horror-centric novels might be surprised when looking for the gruesome read they may be used to, as the novel is nearly bloodless. It does have its fair share of violence to keep the crime element alive.

One of the best things about Joyland is definitely the ending. (Not that I wanted it to end, mind you.) But sometimes I like a book to be tied up with a nice, neat bow. I like knowing what happened to the characters and how the events of the story affected and changed their lives.  An ambiguous ending works in many cases, but for this detective novel, its flawless finale was so perfect that I honestly started to tear up. I cannot even think of the last time a story made me feel that way.  It's just a great read, and King has got me psyched again. I can't wait for the end of September release of his upcoming Doctor Sleep, the long-awaited sequel to one of his most famous novels (and my personal favorite): The Shining.

The King has returned.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Magic Magic (2013): A Shattered Sense Of Reality

~Review by Marie Robinson

Horror is a very welcoming genre—almost greedy. In horror we like to accept a very broad spectrum of sub-genres. But what do you call a film that couldn’t be considered just a stark horror film, is heavily psychological - but isn’t necessarily thrilling… I could call this film a psychological drama, but that doesn’t sound right, either. Let’s just call it Magic Magic.

Chilean director Sebastian Silva has only been making films for a few years, but from what I have seen I have gathered a heavy indie vibe to his flicks, almost comparable to Diablo Cody. Another trait I can compare in these two is actor Michael Cera.

Michael Cera is known for his oddball, deadpan comedic roles and while he certainly maintains that in Magic Magic, this is the darkest performance I have to see him in.

It takes place in Silva’s homeland of Chile, where Alicia (Juno Temple, Killer Joe) is visiting her cousin Sarah (Emily Browning, Suckerpunch, The Uninvited), an American exchange student. The two cousins are supposed to accompany Sarah’s strange group of friends to a secluded country home for a holiday but Sarah dips out last minute under some suspicious pretenses related to school. So Alicia is left alone with three complete strangers. And when I say strange, I mean it.

Alicia is particularly perturbed by Cera’s character, Brink, who likes to push his boundaries around the young girl. The stress of being in a foreign country, basically alone, and other unseen elements in Alicia’s mind begin to unravel her, and it becomes difficult to determine what is a threat, what is real, and what is not.

I was immediately intrigued by the trailer, which puts emphasis on Michael Cera’s character who is, indeed, incredibly chilling. His unsettling performance was certainly the best, which isn’t necessarily surprising given that he is the most acclaimed actor in the humble cast, but it is always nice to see an actor doing something different and proving that they are malleable to roles.

Juno Temple, who I’ve seen only in Atonement, did a wonderful job acting the difficult and unconventional role she is given. Although the audience does have some sense of dramatic irony, one feels that they are right alongside Alicia in her uneasiness, which quickly becomes panic.

This film is bizarre and had a slow, droning pace, but it is really quite unique. There isn’t much action and the climax is fairly muted, but you can tell that there was meticulous care put into the film making. And that is precisely what I loved about Magic Magic—the details. They are small and hard to catch, but when you do they are fantastic. It’s in the sound, the script, the acting and the cinematography. I wish I could tell you specifics but then it would ruin the fun of you seeking them out and would perhaps prevent you from paying attention, and this film deserves all of it!

As for the title, the most obvious explanation for it is the unusual climax of the film… which you will have to see for yourself!
Magic Magic is now on DVD!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Spreading The Fear: Guest Post At "The Lightning Bug's Lair" Explains WHY HORROR MATTERS...

Just wanted to take a moment to mention a featured series that one of my favorite bloggers (and my official internet cousin), Zachary Kelley has running at his blog - THE LIGHTNING BUG'S LAIR - this hot and sweaty August.

The Lair is celebrating five years this month, and you and I are reaping the benefits as he is bringing us a month-long series featuring several guest writers taking their turn explaining "Why (enter specific genre) Matters". It's a clever idea, and he's backing it up with talented writers that I feel quite honored to be in company with.

First in the series was Nigel Maskell of ITALIAN FILM REVIEW speaking, naturally, on Why Italian Genre Film Matters.  An astute scholarly brilliance shines through in everything Nigel writes, so I'm sure anyone who is a fan of Italian cinema (and who isn't, really?) will want to check out his thoughts on the subject.

My guest post went up today, and it's something all fans of FASCINATION WITH FEAR (and horror buffs in general) will appreciate: Why Horror Matters

I enjoyed writing this essay very much, and had to keep myself in check so that I wouldn't ramble on too damn long.  Horror fans are notoriously rabid and obsessive about defending their genre, to which I feel I have done justice here.

So take a look at my entry, and keep an eye on The Lair the rest of this month - this is gonna be a hot one!

Friday, August 9, 2013

My Amityville Horror (2012) : Of Hauntings And Anger Management...

When I was ten years old, I got my hands on a book that was probably inappropriate for my age. No, no...not Valley of the Dolls (I waited till I was eleven to steal that one from under my mom's bed!) -  The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson.  Dare I say it wasn't exceptionally inappropriate, considering I'd already read The Shining, and I suppose if Room 217 hadn't kept me awake all night, then pigs with glowing eyes and swarms of flies shouldn't bother me too bad, right?  But even as a kid, my reasoning was fairly straightforward. It wasn't the made-up frights that scared me, it was the fact that something truly awful - evil, even - had happened at 112 Ocean Avenue.

The fact of the matter is, I wouldn't have moved into that house if you gave it to me. As beautiful as it was (and still is), six people were murdered in their sleep in that house. Do I really have to explain my reservations about living in a house where such a horrific act (SIX horrific acts) took place?  As entertaining as it may be to tour the house now, and I would love to do so - hell, I might even stay overnight and participate in a seance, let's just go for broke here - I WOULD NOT OR COULD NOT EVER MOVE INTO THAT HOUSE.  It's just too tainted. Not that I think the ghosts of the DeFeo family would prowl around and make my life a miserable mess, it's more like I don't think I could sleep at night knowing someone died violently right in the same room. And in the room beside me. And the room above me. That kind of thing would bother me more than a six figure mortgage. 

The Amityville Horror is a highly entertaining read, no doubt.  I am a raging fan of haunted house stories, it's one of my favorite sub-genres of horror, and as a pre-teen and going forward, I read a whole slew of those kind of books.  I don't remember thinking much about the Amityville book being a true story while I was reading it, it was more of an after-effect for me. Thank heavens there was no internet back then or I may have never joined the volleyball team or played in the band.

I also remember getting the book High Hopes: The Amityville Murders (1982) and devouring it like some kind of lunatic, though.  That book tells the story of Amityville murderer Ronald DeFeo, detailing the crimes and subsequent prosecution of said killer.  It is most certainly the book that jump-started my love of true crime (because I hadn't read In Cold Blood yet, folks) and got me interested in the details of the Defeo murders. 

Reading The Amityville Horror was a thrill. All the heinous things that supposedly happened to the Lutz family upon their arrival at the doomed house were the stuff of nightmares.  Basement rooms painted red, flies swarming the sewing room, doors slamming in the dead of night, demon pigs befriending the Lutz's young daughter, etc.  It all made for very good storytelling.
As I got older and read the book a few more times, and then saw the movie, I had to question how legitimate the Lutz's story was. As much as I wanted to believe in demons, ghosts, and the like, it was pretty hard  to imagine bleeding walls and priests that couldn't even bear to go inside the house.  Eventually the book was revealed to have been a hoax and though I had a tinge of disappointment, it really didn't surprise me. I just chalked it up to decent fiction and moved on.

When talk of My Amityville Horror first started to hit the internet, I was intrigued. It promised to yield never-before heard information from Daniel Lutz, the oldest member of the Lutz family and supposed "eye-witness" to the horrors of the house. He claimed to have experienced the harrowing events of the 28 days spent at the house first-hand, and assured us that this was no hoax.  So when I finally sat down to watch the film, it was with equal parts curiosity and trepidation.

First off, I have to say that Daniel Lutz is a truly messed up individual.  He seems very much a product of abuse and publicity. The degree of anger that this man holds inside is incomprehensible. Even though his mother Kathy and his step-father George are deceased, it's obvious he harbors an inherent contempt of them, in particular George. He details how he and his step-father never got along, even going as far as saying he hated him and was happy he was dead.

Regardless of how he feels about his parents, it's plain to see after listening to Daniel discuss the events in question, that he wholeheartedly believes he experienced an overabundance of  wild supernatural events within the house. He even claims to have been possessed himself.
Just the look of Lutz, like a hardened criminal if I'm being honest, can evoke many emotions - not many of them good.  He gives off such a despondent vibe throughout most of the film, and seems so positively sure of his memories of the past, it's actually pretty depressing. Perhaps this is the filmmaker's intention, to have us - the audience - feel badly for Daniel Lutz. When the man isn't angry, he's gloomy and obviously unhappy.  He has two children of his own now, and I really can't imagine what he must be like in day-to-day life. I'd love to think his kids don't see this side of him - or that it was put on for this production - but that's kind of hard to fathom.

If nothing else, he is certainly sure of himself.  Interviewers in the film rarely get the upper hand, as Lutz is ready to bark back at the drop of a hat. To anyone disagreeing with his "truths", he slams them with insults and gets pissed fairly quickly.  He immediately places most of the blame for his unhappy childhood on George, painting him as an abusive and intolerant man who treated him and his brother and sister like possessions, yet showed them no love.  He details them moving to the Ocean Avenue house, where supernatural events promptly started.  We're all familiar with the various evil happenings in the house - such as a priest not being able to go into the home to bless it - but with Daniel, you delve a little deeper, and he goes into further detail in particular about George. Whether or not you believe anything supernatural ever occurred in the Ocean Avenue home, George has made Daniel believe it. As an impressionable ten year old when they moved in, Daniel was both berated and bullied by his step-father and it's no wonder the fears in real life made the transition to young Daniel's inner mind.  He believes George was also possessed, and claims to have witnessed things such as George making things move with his mind. 
He almost lost me there. I nearly turned the DVD off.  Unfortunately Daniel just does not come across as very convincing, probably because of his hostile attitude. The poor guy is trying so hard to legitimize the story of the Amityville haunting, and instead I think he made me feel more bewildered.

To help his cause along and get his story told, Lutz has conversations with several people, including interviewers, investigative reporters and even Lorraine Warren, the psychic who with her husband Ed originally came to the Amityville house to research the haunting.  The Warrens are infamous in many circles, as they are thought to have exploited many families with their talk of demonology and psychic awareness. Whether or not you believe in their psychic prowess and ability to talk down demons, it certainly didn't help their believability status when the film crew goes to the Warrens' home (Ed passed away in 2006) and one of the first things you see is a pair of twin roosters - in separate cages - right in the living area of her home.

My Amityville Horror will certainly appeal to die-hard fans of the film, the book, and/or the actual DeFeo murders. Anyone with any inkling of interest about those "28 days of terror" that plagued the Lutz family after they moved into the nefarious house will get at least a moderate amount of enjoyment out of the film. Though it really is less a tale of a haunting than it is sitting through Daniel's tales of his wretched childhood and his abhorrence for his step-father that obviously left an indelible stain on his psyche.

Daniel Lutz does not consider himself "The Amityville Guy", he says he goes about his daily life without thinking about it 24/7. But it's a certainty that the juggernaut that is the Amityville "haunting" has affected every pore of this sad "survivor". I only hope getting these feelings out in the open has given him some kind of liberation from the misery and anger locked deep inside.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Mindless Movie Monday: The Tortured (2010) - Please, Let It End...

I love revenge films just as much as the next guy, but when revenge turns into these "torture-porn"-type of films with little to no plot, I just have to sigh and say stop. Please. These movies have really been coming out of the woodwork these last ten years or so and to be honest, they can cease to exist any time now. From the producers of Saw (of course), The Tortured is directed by Robert Lieberman and clocks in at just under eighty minutes, so at least we don't have to be tortured any longer than that. 

Now don't get me wrong, I love Bill Moseley to death. But great actors do not always save bad motion pictures (i.e. Johnny Depp's last ten films) and that's precisely what I'm talking about here. Even the acting of the two other main characters played by Erika Christensen and Jesse Metcalfe wasn't awful, but the material was so utterly clichéd and the ending so baffling that it could hardly make up for it.

They play Elise and Craig Landry, a young professional couple whose lives change drastically one day when, while on Craig's watch, their young son is kidnapped from right under his nose. When Craig slips into the house for just a moment, a crazed kidnapper flashes into the yard and grabs Benjamin and runs to his van, throwing the child in and tearing off.  I must admit those first twenty minutes or so of the film were gut-wrenching. It's hard to imagine anything worse than your child being kidnapped. Well, except what happens next.

Benjamin is tortured and killed, and though we don't really see the body, the shock of the police officer that finds the child, as well as the horrific looks of the parents when they come to identify the body is proof enough that they are dealing with one sick puppy. Yes, that is the worst possible thing that anyone would ever experience.

Naturally the parents are beyond distraught. Fair enough. And though I don't have children, I can only assume you would want to absolutely decimate someone who murdered your child. I feel that way about my cat for pete's sake, so I'm sure the revenge factor would top that by about a hundred times.  When John Kozlowski (Moseley) is given only 25 years to life for the murder, it goes without saying that Benjamin's parents are understandably upset.

Except they aren't just upset.  They are driven.  Elise in particular becomes obsessed with getting vengeance for the death of their child. The couple devises a scheme to abduct Kozlowski from a van transporting him to a federal prison.  Yes, that is as ridiculous and unrealistic as it sounds. The idea doesn't work quite as well as they hope, with a car accident en route throwing a bit of a wrench in their plan. But they are able to make off with their target and ultimately they serve up some nasty revenge in the basement of an abandoned house out in the middle of nowhere.

The film quickly moves into Saw territory, with the Landry's serving up some private justice of their own with various gruesome and painful tortures. 

Conveniently, Craig is a doctor, so he's able to bring Kozlowski to the brink of death and back several times - just to make sure he gets his due.

The actual torture isn't really anything you haven't seen before, and once Elise starts the obligatory regret and begins to think twice about whether or not this is the right thing to do, the film's already went off the rails and there was no coming back.

There is a twist (isn't there always) that pretty much anyone could see coming, and yet - it was entirely too confusing.  Just when you think you've got it figured out, it becomes completely convoluted to the point of being absurd.

Sometimes I wonder how I get stuck watching these kinds of films - I'm pretty sure it's all Netflix's fault with their famous "recommended for you" tactics. And I fall for it every damn time.
If the director was trying to get people to talk about his film, I guess it worked. Just not in a positive way, if I'm being honest.

In all, The Tortured isn't completely awful, it's just nothing you haven't seen before. Metcalfe and Christensen both do an able job here - in particular Christensen playing the grieving mother - but the script just can't save the movie, and I really wish I could get those eighty minutes back.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Roots Of Horror: The Jersey Devil - The Monster Of The Pine Barrens

~by Marie Robinson

These days when you think of New Jersey you probably think of some pretty horrifying images: spray tans, meatheads, awful accents and vocabulary… but believe it or not, a legendary creature far more frightening is said to inhabit the Pine Barrens of the Garden State.

The Pine Barrens are one million acres of thick forest that stretch across seven counties of New Jersey. The region is protected by the state and great care is taken in keeping the region as natural and undisturbed as possible. Almost half of it is public property and is divided into various parks where hiking and camping is available. However, there is something you should be warned about before you decide to spend the night under the canopy of the Pines…

The legend of the fearsome cryptid known as The Jersey Devil dates back about 300 years; the Native American Lenni Lenape tribe were among the first to spin this yarn. In a place now known as “Leeds Point” was a woman named Deborah Leeds, also known as Mother Leeds. Mother Leeds, a poor woman who had twelve children; she was also believed to be a witch, so it wasn’t really too much of surprise when she inexplicably became pregnant with her thirteenth child. She claimed that the unlucky baby would be the Devil, himself, and when she gave birth in 1735 it was to a horrible creature. The monster—which killed the midwife before it escaped, shooting up through the chimney—had a horned goat’s head, a kangaroo-like body, a forked, serpentine tail, cloven hooves and leathery wings.

This diabolical beast has been popular with paranormal investigation reality TV shows; the teams of MonsterQuest, Paranormal State, The Lost Tapes, and Destination Truth have all sought after the Jersey Devil, unsuccessfully. It does make for a creepy concept though, a small group of brave (and naïve) people stumbling around the forest with nothing but flashlights and cameras.

Such was the subject matter of the 1998 found-footage film, The Last Broadcast; set-up in the style of a documentary concerning the murder of a group of men who spent a night in the Pine Barrens. Locus and Stephen were the creators and hosts of a local access television show called Fact or Fiction, the subject matter of which was primarily the mysterious and paranormal. In hopes of boosting their ratings they plan to live broadcast a trip deep into the Pine Barrens in search of the Leeds Devil. They bring along two others, Rein—who specializes in recording EVPs and other paranormal sounds—and Jim—a self-proclaimed psychic. Their trip turns deadly and all of the crew ends up dead or missing, except for Jim - who appears to be the only suspect, unless it was something… unnatural.

Another film that directly references this myth is the 2012 flick, The Barrens. It stars Stephen Moyer (the one and only Bill Compton) as Richard, who decides to take his family on a camping trip to—well, you know. There are plenty of reasons for Richard to be stressed; the disappearance of the family dog, the tension between his teenager daughter and his new wife, and now, the growing number of mutilated bodies found in the woods. As Richard’s fear builds and his sanity wanes, he can’t help recalling the legends of that grotesque beast that is said to inhabit the very forest he is lost in.

The Jersey Devil has made quite a name for itself in fiction. A few television shows have dedicated an episode to the fiend, such as Supernatural and The X-Files. Several authors have penned their own tales inspired by the legend, as well. Horror author F. Paul Wilson has written twice about the Devil, once in short story form and the other in his novel, All the Rage. Although it has never been confirmed, one could speculate that H.P. Lovecraft may have taken inspiration from this myth. A Jersey Devil-like creature is described in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath and The Dunwich Horror has similarities to the legend of Mother Leeds.

As there is really no sure way to prove the Jersey Devil does not exist, naturally many people believe that it is, in fact, real. “The Devil Hunters” are one such group that are confident in the creature’s existence. They have appeared on several TV shows and have a pretty in-depth website if you are interested in checking it out. You can find countless stories of people’s alleged experiences with the Devil online. Each vary a bit, some are pretty freakin’ creepy, but one signature quirk of the Jersey Devil is a loud, "blood-curdling scream" that it likes to let ring out through the forest.