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[Tales of Dread] ‘Imagination Land’ by Michael Santiago

Posted by Tales of Dread on October 12, 2021 Imagination Land Title Card - [Tales of Dread] 'Imagination Land' by Michael Santiago

Tales of Dread is an ongoing series dedicated to showcasing the best works from underrepresented and emerging voices within the horror community.

Story Two: Imagination Land by Michael Santiago

Check out the visual audiobook here:

I’ve been able to read minds since before I could remember. It’s always come natural to me. It’s not really like how you see in the movies. It’s not like listening to the radio. It’s not just hearing thoughts. It’s much more… immersive than that. I can see everything in my mind like I’m seeing it right in front of my eyes. I can feel raw emotion and even sometimes smell things. It’s a thrilling experience when you read the right minds. The trouble is really with finding minds worth reading. 

Frankly, adult minds are boring. I mostly get images laden with work and dreams which have long been given up, coupled with feelings of stress and overall dissatisfaction. It’s about as fun as doing taxes. Kids’ minds, on the other hand, are amazing. They’re not bogged down with reality or the stresses of money or bills. The mind of a child is filled with rich, imaginative landscapes, adventures, and monumental aspirations. That’s a big reason why I became a kindergarten teacher. I’m exposed to the world through the minds of the most optimistic people in the universe. 

I sit at my desk and watch as my class colors. I smile at the focused looks on their faces as they doodle away with their crayons. I reach out with my mind and peek into a few of their brains. Carlos wants to be an astronaut when he grows up, but because he’s only five, he doesn’t seem to realize it’s more science and less aliens. I take off with him in a rocket ship, hurtling past vast nebulas and swirling galaxies. I visit far-off planets full of green, blob-like aliens and two-headed Martians. I smile and move on to Marcy. I can smell the candy canes and jelly beans as I’m pulled into a veritable candy kingdom, complete with gumdrop castles and caramel waterfalls. She plays ring around the Rosie with lollipop boys and girls, giggling her musical little laugh.

I’m about to move on to Thomas when I feel a tug at my dress. I look down to see Sarah. She’s the newest addition to my class and she’s one of the most adorable little girls I’ve ever seen. Beautiful brown curls, big puppy dog eyes, and a smile that’s never seen unhappiness. 

“Miss Dupree, I made this for you!,” she exclaims, handing me a piece of paper. I take it from her and see myself, in stick figure form, holding her hand. “I Luv Ms. Doopry” is scrawled across the top in multiple colors. I smile wide.

“Thank you so much, Sarah!,” I say, and I lean in as she gives me a great big hug. “I love it!”

Sarah’s only been with the class for a couple days and I have yet to get a look at her hopes and dreams. I reach out and the second I touch her mind, I nearly throw up.

I can barely breathe as I’m hit with wave after wave of stench, hot and fetid, like a rotting carcass, bloated with gas and baking in the sun. Unlike all the other minds I’ve touched, I don’t see a thing. My mind’s eye is blinded, blotted out by a darkness that seems almost alive, spilling into my brain, seeking to snuff out everything it touches. In the void, I feel something cold and slimy, coils of ice roiling around me, wrapping around my legs, pressing against my face, a gigantic, unseen beast, probing the blackness in a hungry search for food. And then a keening wail rises up until I can feel my eardrums almost burst. It’s the screaming of thousands of souls, crying out for help… crying out for death.

Then I’m back in the classroom, my hands still wrapped around Sarah. I let her go, trying not to let her see me shaking. I put on my best face, hoping she can’t see that I’m about to cry. She smiles up at me.

“That’s a lovely picture, Sarah,” I say, almost whispering. I put on a smile and try to pretend everything is normal and happy. 

“Now, go along and get ready for snack time, alright?” I say to her, trying to get my space. 

She nods happily and skips off to her desk to get her lunch box. I watch her as she goes about her business. I’ve always enjoyed the minds of children. But whatever the thing in the blue dress is, it is no child.

About the author:

Michael Santiago is an LA-based background actor, horror writer and aspiring screenwriter. His favorite horror movies include Friday the 13th Part 3, Sleepaway Camp 2 and Chopping Mall. From time to time, he likes to share his spooky stories on Reddit.

Follower Michael Santiago online:

Do you write horror fiction? Dread Central wants to see what you’ve got! We are now looking to digitally publish short horror stories on an ongoing basis for a new creative initiative.

Submissions are open! Click here for more information.

Artsploitation Films Releasing Horror Stories Anthology Today!

Posted by Debi Moore on October 8, 2013

Artsploitation Films Releasing Horror Stories Anthology Today!We learned back in February of this year that Artsploitation Films would be releasing the Korean anthology Horror Stories (review here) this year, and now the day has arrived!

From the Press Release:
Horror anthologies are creeping up everywhere, and the Korean entry Horror Stories raises the bar with four terrifying stories (and a nail-biting wraparound tale), each one chilling enough to be its own feature. If you thought this was going to be a tame collection of teen-friendly “ghost girl” stories – think again. Horror Stories, out on DVD Tuesday, October 8th, goes right for the jugular with non-stop splatter, intense shocks, and riveting suspense.

A high school girl is abducted and forced by a psycho to tell him the scariest tales she knows:

• "Don’t Answer the Door" finds a little brother and sister home alone at night and
under siege.
• "Endless Flight" has a serial killer escaping police custody in the middle of an otherwise
empty flight.
• "Secret Recipe" serves up a wildly macabre fairy tale about two jealous stepsisters who
take plastic surgery to nightmarish extremes.
• "Ambulance on the Death Zone" is a claustrophobic zombie shocker with a paramedic and
a mother at a standoff over her possibly infected young daughter.

An international genre festival success from Sitges to Fantasia, this is one of the best Korean horror films in years and has been called “one of the scariest Asian horror anthologies of the 21st century.”

The segments, written by Bum-shik Jung, Dae-woong Lim, Kyoung-eui Lee, Hae-ju Byun, Gok Kim, and Sun Kim, are directed by Bum-shik Jung, Dae-woong Lim, Ji-young Hong, Gok Kim, and Sun Kim. Horror Stories stars Bo-Ra Nam, Hyeon-Soo Kim, Ji-Young Kim, Tai-Hyun Zin, and Soo-Bin Bae.

Special Features::
• Cast Interviews
• Trailers
• 12-page Collectible Booklet
• Reversible Cover

Artsploitation Films Releasing Horror Stories Anthology Today!

Artsploitation Films Releasing Horror Stories Anthology Today!

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Fantasia 2013: Dread Central Raises the Curtain on Our Top 11 Must-See Films

Posted by Drew Tinnin on July 18, 2013

Fantasia 2013: Dread Central Raises the Curtain on Our Top 11 Must-See FilmsWith the onslaught of Comic-Con coverage beaming your way right now, this a firm reminder that Fantasia, one of the world’s preeminent genre film festivals, is also kicking off today; and we have a list of our Top 11 most anticipated entries.

The Fantasia Film Festival, now in its 17th year after debuting in 1996, will likely be making heads explode with this year's lineup so we thought we'd point you in the direction of those films that look dressed to impress. So take off your Hulk Smash Hands for a few minutes and give these talented filmmakers a little bit of your time!

24 Exposures (USA) Dir: Joe Swanberg (World Premiere)
Joe Swanberg has been an indie darling for years for his intimate portraits of twenty-something hipsters, but it’s his latest stint in the horror genre that has us turning our heads. After the director’s effort in last year’s V/H/S entitled "The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger", I’m personally taken with a premise centering around a photographer whose subjects model as if they were deceased only to find out that one of his subjects actually does. 24 Exposures seems to harken back to late ‘80s, early ‘90s softcore melodrama. Anyone out there that remembers "Friday After Dark" on Cinemax might want to put this one on their radar.

Billy (Adam Wingard) is an erotic photographer whose images blur the line between fine art and pornography. Together with his girlfriend, Alex (Caroline White), he lives in a haze of drugs, sex and models. When a gorgeous model ends up dead, Billy draws the attention of Detective Michael Bamfeaux (Simon Barrett), an unstable cop dealing with some personal demons of his own. Meanwhile, Billy tries to lure Rebecca (Helen Rogers), a curious and innocent young woman, into his photography, while balancing a complicated relationship with Callie (Sophia Takal), his favorite model. As the murder investigation deepens, Detective Bamfeuax is drawn into Billy’s lurid world, which he may prefer to his own.

After School Midnighters (Japan) Dir: Hitoshi Takekiyo (North American Premiere)
There isn’t a lot of fanfare circling around After School Midnighters, probably having to do with the fact that it’s a 3D animated film in Japanese with no recognizable stars. The famed director Hayao Miyazaki has almost single-handedly put 2D animation in Japan at the forefront with films like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, but Midnighters attempts to make some much needed progress in the world of three dimensions.

A school’s morbid monsters of the night are no match for a trio of irrepressible little girls in this charming, distinctive and eye-poppingly weird work of 3D digital animation from Japan. Scientifically proven to spook and amuse! Official Selection: Annecy International Animation Film Festival 2013, Raindance Film Festival, Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival 2012.

Cheap Thrills (USA) Dir: E.L. Katz (Canadian Premiere)
Being the most recent example of why you should probably just go to the park to think things out after losing your blue-collar job instead of going to the bar, Cheap Thrills follows Craig (Pat Healy) and his downward spiral of debauchery and dares, in that order. Reminiscent of the premise of The Magic Christian starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr, Thrills forces you to consider what you would really do for the love of money.

Recently fired and facing eviction, a new dad has his life turned upside down when he meets a wealthy couple who offer a path to financial security... but at a price.

Curse of Chucky (USA) Dir: Don Mancini (World Premiere)
The real grabber for me is not the return of Don Mancini and Brad Dourif to the series (as if they ever left) but the addition of newcomer Fiona Dourif, daughter of Brad. Bringing in the next generation from father to daughter in order to introduce Chucky to a new generation is a great move. She’s also in a wheelchair, so the Lakeshore strangler might have a fighting chance this time around.

Nica (Fiona Dourif) is grieving over the gruesome suicide of her mother when her domineering older sister Barb (Danielle Bisutti) arrives with her young family in tow to help settle their mother’s affairs. As the sisters butt heads over Nica’s plans for the future, Barb’s young daughter comforts herself with a grinning, red-haired talking doll named Chucky (voiced again by Brad Dourif) that recently arrived mysteriously in the mail. But as a string of brutal murders begins to terrorize the household, Nica suspects the doll may hold the key to the bloodshed. What she doesn’t know is that Chucky has a personal score to settle. He’s determined to finish a job he started more than 20 years earlier, and this time he’s going to see it through to the bloody and shocking end.

The Complex (Japan) Dir: Hideo Nakata (Canadian Premiere)
The Complex has a lot of hype surrounding it - and for good reason. J-horror genre king Hideo Nakata (Ring, Dark Water) returns, and word is he’s honed his skills for creating atmospheric, sense-driven scares. With that in mind, it’s safe to assume that The Complex might get you to pull the covers up all the way when you try and go to sleep after watching.

Asuka (Atsuko Maeda) moves into the Kuroyuri apartment complex, without knowing about the mysterious deaths that occurred there 13 years ago. She begins to hear strange sounds of "garigarigari" from the apartment next door. One day, an old man, who lives next door, is found dead. People became aware of his death after his alarm clock continually rang. Since the death, more horrifying incidents occur. With the help of Sasahara (Hiroki Narimiya), who specializes in cleaning out the homes of recently deceased individuals, Asuka tries to find something from the old man's apartment to give to his family. Official Selection: International Film Festival Rotterdam 2013, Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival 2013, Udine Far East Film Festival 2013.

Cottage Country (Canada) Dir: Peter Wellington (North-American Premiere)
Starring Tyler Labine (Tucker & Dale vs. Evil) and Malin Ackerman (Watchmen), Cottage Country is more comedy than horror, but that is very much in Labine’s wheelhouse after garnering acclaim and new fans in Tucker & Dale and "Reaper." If we didn’t learn our lesson from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Cottage Country looks to remind us that it’s the country where bad things happen, not the city. And for the love of god, never bring hippies or slackers with you. They tend to ruin a romantic getaway!

Todd wants everything to be just perfect at the family cottage where he plans to propose to Cammie. But things go awry with the arrival of Todd's slacker brother Salinger and his free-spirited girlfriend Masha. When Todd accidentally dispatches his irksome sibling with an axe, Cammie is determined not to let murder stand in the way of their happiness.

Horror Stories (Korea) Dir: Min Kyu-dong, Jung Bum-shik, Lim Dae-woong, Hong Ji-young, Kim Gok and Kim Sun
What would a horror festival be without an anthology? Seriously, you had me at anthology.

A high school student is kidnapped by a killer and has her life on the line. To survive, she tells him the scariest stories she knows; starting with “Don't Answer to the Door”, a story of eerie things happening in a house with a brother and sister who are waiting for their mother, “Endless Flight” in which a flight attendant and a serial killer is left alone in an airplane up in the air, “Secret Recipe” a cruel 2012 version of a folktale in which two stepsisters fight to marry a rich man, and “Ambulance on the Death Zone” in which the survivors in a city filled with a deadly zombie virus suspect each other of being infected while riding together in an ambulance.

I Am Divine (USA) Dir: Jeffrey Schwartz (Quebec Premiere)
From the director of Spine Tingler: The William Castle Story comes another documentary centering around a famous cult icon, Harris Glenn Milstead a.k.a. Divine, who has been largely forgotten by the general populace even though their contribution to pop culture is undeniable. This documentary highlights one of the freaks but looks to do it in a thoughtful and endearing way.

I Am Divine is the story of Divine, aka Harris Glenn Milstead, from his humble beginnings as an overweight, teased Baltimore youth to internationally recognized drag superstar through his collaboration with filmmaker John Waters. Official Selection: SXSW, Sheffield Doc/Fest 2013.

Rewind This! (USA) Dir: Josh Johnson (Canadian Premiere)
Featuring in-depth and revealing interviews with Frank Henenlotter, Jason Eisener, Atom Egoyan, Cassandra Peterson, Charles Band, Don May Jr, Zack Carlson, David Gregory and more, Rewind This! documents the rise and fall then rise again of the VHS industry. With over 50% of movies that were on VHS still unavailable on DVD or streaming services like Netflix, it’s no wonder why an entirely new faction of geeks have become obsessed with the format.

An exploding industry without rules! Backyard filmmakers with zero budget and a surplus of dreams! Unchecked global piracy! The race to control media consumption! Videotape changed the world and laid the foundation for today’s digital culture. Low cost equipment created unprecedented opportunities. Major studios and small indies operated on an even playing field for the first time ever. The story of the home video revolution is a tale of both technological advancement and human ambition. VHS vs. Beta! Porn invades the home! Direct to-video madness! It's all here, along with a rogues gallery of directors, rental employees, XXX vets, box artists, collectors, and more. Join the pizza party! Official Selection: SXSW 2013.

Return To Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1 (USA) Dir: Lloyd Kaufman (World Premiere)
It took me awhile to come back on board with Lloyd Kaufman and Troma, but now my freak flag waves for them just like it did when I was twelve years old. Kaufman is the Sylvester Stallone of indie horror right now, smartly returning to the well, breathing new life into the few true trashy classics in Troma’s stable.

Return to Nuke ‘Em High Vols. One & Two, directed by Lloyd Kaufman, is a satirical sci-fi comedy event film with themes ripped straight from today’s headlines: the contamination and degradation of the world’s food supply, rampant bullying, love triumphing over prejudice and LGBT rights. The film, a redux of Troma’s 1986 Class of Nuke 'Em High is in the same vein as other classics such as Class of 1984, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, and Carrie, but seen through the unique vision of Lloyd Kaufman and the Troma Team. Welcome to Tromaville High School where, unfortunately, the glee club has mutated into a vicious gang of Cretins. Chrissy and Lauren, two innocent lovers-bloggers, must fight not only the Cretins, mutants and monsters but also the evil Tromorganic Foodstuffs Conglomerate. Will they save Tromaville High School and the world?

Willow Creek (USA) Dir: Bobcat Goldthwait (International Premiere)
I’m not really sure what possessed Bobcat Goldthwait (Shakes the Clown, God Bless America) to want to go into the woods to shoot a found-footage Bigfoot movie, and I don’t really care. Almost a satirical sister film to Blair Witch, the teaser trailer follows the same beats, but this time around the tent scene is twenty minutes long and supposedly very suspenseful. What answers will be revealed? Maybe John Landis and Rick Baker will emerge at the end and finally reveal that they were the ones that faked the 1967 Bigfoot footage.

Handsome young city lad Jim is a true believer — he’s convinced of the existence of the Sasquatch, the elusive shambling man-beast nicknamed Bigfoot, said to haunt the wilds of the American West Coast. Jim’s girlfriend Kelly isn’t so sure. But she loves Jim and hey, joining him on his silly quest to craft a homemade documentary while seeking out the notorious creature, well, there could be worst ways to spend her downtime between bit-part acting gigs. The couple drives out to Trinity County, CA, on a pilgrimage to the site where the famous Patterson-Gimlin film clip, which purported to capture the mysterious monster in motion, was shot in 1967. Rolling into Willow Creek, they find a wonderland of Bigfoot-themed gimmickry and tourist traps, and chat with assorted locals. Some of the townsfolk are happy to share, while others are apprehensive. Their warnings become increasingly aggressive. The deep woods are no place for a couple of naïve city slickers — as Jim and Kelly are soon to find out!

Stay tuned to Dread Central for reviews and interviews from the 17th edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival which kicks off TODAY, July 18th, and continues into the first week in August. Visit the Fantasia Film Festival website for more info.

Fantasia 2013

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Artsploitation Films Lands Three International Terror Tales – Memory of the Dead, Horror Stories, and Wither

Posted by Uncle Creepy on February 11, 2013

Artsploitation Films Lands Three International Terror Tales - Memory of the Dead, Horror Stories, and WitherThe company that gave us Hidden in the Woods, Artsploitation Films, has just announced it has three more foreign fright features up its sleeves to lay down upon the waiting horror-hungry masses.

Horror Stories, Memory of the Dead, and Wither will all be given full Stateside releases by the new label based out of Philadelphia. "With this trio, we go deeper into our horror series," says Artsploitation President and CEO Ray Murray. "The three films here are truly edgy, stylish, and creepy; each [has] a new delight that we hope even hardened horror fans will embrace."

From the Press Release:
HORROR STORIES from Korea is an omnibus film which tells the tale of a kidnapped girl forced to tell scary stories to the serial killer that kidnapped her. She tells four stories all made by different directors: "Don’t Answer the Door" (Jeong Bum-shik), "Endless Flight" (Yim Dae-Woong), "Secret Recipe" (Hong Ji-Young), and "Ambulance on the Death Zone" (Kim Gok and Kim Sun). MEMORY OF THE DEAD (directed by Valentin Javier Diment) from Argentina follows a girl as she undertakes a bizarre cult ritual to restore her deceased husband to life – a ritual that will see her home and friends visited by the spirits of the dead. The Swedish WITHER (directed by Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund) begins with a group of young friends who head off to a secluded cabin in the woods only to have their fun weekend turn to a bloody mess when they disturb the resting place of an evil creature.

The official synopses for each film follow below. Look for more soon!

Director: Bum-Shik Jung, Dae-Woong Lim, Ji-Young Hong, Gok Kim, Sun Kim
Producers: Jin-Soo Min, Won-Kuk Kim
Starring: Bo-Ra Nam, Hyeon-Soo Kim, Ji-Young Kim, Tai-Hyun Zin, Soo-Bin Bae

A girl is kidnapped and is forced to tell scary stories to the serial killer who abducted her. She tells four tales... "Don’t Answer to the Door": A little brother and sister are home alone during the night. The doorbell rings, but they're never supposed to open the door to strangers. "Endless Flight": A plane flying at the height of 30,000 feet; there is nowhere to run or jump from. What if you're left alone with a serial killer? "Secret Recipe": The untold true story behind a good sister and her evil stepsister; a fairy tale told in 2012 giving the true and hidden aspects about the jealousy and lust of two stepsisters. "Ambulance on the Death Zone": In an ambulance running away from a fatal zombie virus, who are the infected among the five survivors?

MEMORY OF THE DEAD (La Memoria del Muerto)
Director: Valentín Javier Diment
Screenwriters: Martín Blousson, Valentín Javier Diment, Nicanor Loreti, Germán Val
Starring: Lola Berthet, Horacio Acosta, Raquel Albéniz, Jimena Anganuzzi

A distraught widow summons her dead husband’s closest friends together in her Gothic home. There she tells them that, with their assistance and love, she will attempt to bring him back to life. But the woman has an ulterior motive, one that involves sacrificing the souls of each of her guests to bring her husband back to life. An atmospheric parody of horror films and a subtle homage to Italian giallo films; director Diment utilizes a mix of comedy, sex, and old-fashioned gore to present a dizzying tale of the occult.

Directors: Sonny Laguna, Tommy Wiklund
Screenwriters: Sonny Laguna, David Liljeblad, Tommy Wiklund
Starring: Lisa Henni, Patrik Almkvist

Ida and Albin are a happy couple. They set off to a cabin in the vast Swedish woodlands to have a fun holiday with their friends. But under the floorboards waits an evil from Sweden's dark past.

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