Tired of all those saccharine sweet Christmas Rom-Coms on the box? Need a change? Will here’s a few suggestions for those of you with strong stomachs:

Animalistic is brought to the screen by the directing duo of Sonny Laguna & Tommy Wiklund whom together are responsible for, amongst other things, the latest in the Puppet Master franchise, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018). They are also credited with the writing, together with their creative partner David Liljeblad.

Hanna Oldenburg does a reasonable job as the unfortunate Emma. She’s scared, she’s cocky, she’s scared again, and then she is quite wonderfully twisted and vicious at the end, to the point where she seems even to scare herself. The trio of bad guys is made up by the acting talents of Ralf Beck as the main man Jim, Torbjörn Andersson as the simple side-kick Pete, and the late Niki Nordenskjöld as taxi driver Shirley.

If you fancy a rather vicious and uncomfortable hour of viewing, then you need to look no further than Animalistic. There are quite a few movies in this grim subgenre, and most follow similar plots, so don’t expect anything new, you won’t find it here. That being said, there are some excellent performances and a bloody satisfying, if short finale. Hurrah!

Bite contains my favourite film quote explaining everything: “People always get sick after vacations.”

Ummm. They certainly do in this film. Those egg sacs still trouble me, boys and girls, they really do.


In Death Ward 13 we join a group of four nubile nursing students who arrive at Stephens Sanatorium for the Criminally Insane to help with the institutions permanent closure. There should just be one or two harmless patients but in fact the four are confronted by a mob of vicious psychopaths. Shame.

Happy viewing children.

As in the tales of Grimm and Perrault [Tsvetaeva] suggests that it is the fear, the delight in our fear, we enjoy, a delight we cannot enjoy in reality since we fear for our skin. Conversely, Tsvetaeva tells us, a fairy tale that doesn’t frighten is not a fairy tale. It is terror that transports us to the place where Dostoyevsky was transported when he was condemned to death, this most precious place, the most alive, where you tell yourself you are going to receive the axe’s blow, and where you discover, by the axe’s light, what Kafka made Moses say: How beautiful the world is even in its ugliness. It’s at this moment, as Blanchot would say, that “we see the light.” It’s at this moment, in extremis, that we are born and enjoy the strange things that can happen during such a dangerous, magnificent, and cruel experience as losing a relative while still in the freshness of childhood or youth. We feel, to our unspeakable horror, something that is incredibly odd: on the one hand an infinitely greater loss than the one we feel when we are of a mature age, and on the other, an unavowable joy – difficult to perceive – that is simply the joy of being alive. The pure joy of feeling that I am not the one who is dying.”

Hélène Cixous
The School of Dreams
Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing

Fairy tales — the proper kind, those original Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen tales I recall from my Eastern European childhood, unsanitized by censorship and unsweetened by American retellings — affirm what children intuitively know to be true but are gradually taught to forget, then to dread: that the terrible and the terrific spring from the same source, and that what grants life its beauty and magic is not the absence of terror and tumult but the grace and elegance with which we navigate the gauntlet.

Maria Popova
The Importance of Being Scared: Polish Nobel Laureate Wisława Szymborska on Fairy Tales and the Necessity of Fear

dark, malicious delight

September 6, 2018

She was beautiful, pale, and serene. Her eyebrows were smooth and thin, and angular, as in all antique portraits. Her mouth was very small and scarlet, her teeth set close together. In my heart she roused terror. A terror which nothing can explain, a dark, malicious delight.

Zinaida Nikolaevna Gippius




They speak German. They carry whips. And they are connected in some mysterious way with Nazi experiments carried out in a charming old Irish castle during World War two.

When members of the vacation party are found to be missing from their beds, and when pleading cries ring through the halls of the great house, terror grips hearts and minds, and the vacationers are brought face to face with the unknown…

What better read for a Sunday morning, boys and girls? Gestapochauns in the basement. Stunted lovers of S & M who engage in pleasure / pain sessions at the drop of a hat. Incredible…

Duncan raises the blade and watches the parcel squirm. He’s going to love the next few hours. The pain, the fear, the pleading. Not that the parcel can speak, of course – he always makes sure of that. But the eyes: he can tell from the state of the eyes. That’s why he leaves those till last. So they can watch him watching them. So they can watch his work.

Tess Makovesky
Raise the Blade


Heart of Kali

You the one who Opens Hearts. You who defy this westerner’s preconceived ideas and bring me to the ground in surrender, time after time. Heart opening, tears flowing. You the dark one, Kali awesome power.

You who are the creator of worlds – whether through lovemaking with Shiva, or through menstruation – you the Cosmic Creatrix, Black Time, Mother of Worlds, Dark Mother, Dark Matter. From whom all is breathed out, and to whom all returns.

You who slay the demons of oppression, greed and war on the planet when no one else can, in consort with your sister warrior goddess Durga. You who lick up the blood of demons to stop them from multiplying. You who shake the worlds with your bloodlust dance until you recognize your lover Shiva laying on the ground, and invite him to play with you.

You who are the energy of worlds, that which expands and contracts, that which allows involution and evolution of consciousness. You who are Kundalini, coiled energy at the base of the spine. You who rise with your three red eyes and tongue up my spine to my 3rd eye and out my crown when I am altered, when I feel the energy, when I am meditating, when I am making love.

You with your matriarchal tribal origins – warrior goddess who loves when she wishes, who calls us to love our fierceness, to honor our bodies and sexuality, who loves menstrual blood on the altar – who calls us forth on the wild woman path, the path of witches and Sybils, yoginis and Tantrics before us.

You who are Tantric Wisdom Goddess, who comes to us as we chant your name, whose image brings the ecstatic, whose geometric yantra can induce trance, who takes possession of her teachers and even her devotees. Who teaches us to pay attention to the energy, to come back to our power, our selves. Who shows us that the whole universe is within us.

You inducer of altered states – who gave me the star pillow as I floated up through the ceiling to visit you in dream-time. Who caused me to wake in the middle of the night with my body vibrating and my tongue sticking out. Who raised the sensual energy again and again, making love to me in meditation, until I really got it – the link between sexuality and spirituality. Who saved me in dreams only when I called on you and Shiva at the same moment. You who came through me as electric current, blanking out my waking consciousness. Who allowed the dream-time Voudou Loa to channel through me.

You, with your necklace of skulls, challenging me to confront my fears, calling me to meditate in the cremation grounds, bringing me so many dream-time images of skulls. Until I was no longer scared, and welcomed them, welcomed you.

You sky dancing Dakini – who scared me with your dance on top of the twin towers, until I understood that you were absorbing all back into yourself, including the demons of greed and destruction, including the fear of those who died, so that all were free to fly, so that all could come to you. You who help us confront our fears, our mortality, our death.

You Kali Maa, who came to me through my anger and rage at patriarchal authority – at those who try to control, or bind the power of women here and now, in this time – and in all times. You who confronted me with my shadow, so I could flex my warrior muscles and absorb my shadow self! You call us to look the beauty and terror of creation in the face and recognize it is all you. And that we are ‘all that.’ You who slay my demons and blow my heart wide open. You who rise again and again in the fire of my emotional cremation ground – you who devour my density, you who allow release.

You the dark one, Kali.

Mari P Ziolkowski


It was a sound and a movement that brought me back into myself. The great clock at the farther end of the room just then struck the hour of three. That was the sound. And the movement – ? I was aware that a figure was passing across the distant centre of the floor. Instantly I dropped back into the arena of my little human terror. My hand again clutched stupidly at the pistol butt. I drew back into the folds of the heavy curtain. And the figure advanced.

I remember every detail. At first it seemed to me enormous – this advancing shadow – far beyond human scale; but as it came nearer, I measured it, though not consciously, by the organ pipes that gleamed in faint colours, just above its gradual soft approach. It passed them, already halfway across the great room. I saw then that its stature was that of ordinary men. The prolonged booming of the clock died away. I heard the footfall, shuffling upon the polished boards. I heard another sound – a voice, low and monotonous, droning as in prayer. The figure was speaking. It was a woman. And she carried in both hands before her a small object that faintly shimmered – a glass of water. And then I recognized her.

There was still an instant’s time before she reached me, and I made use of it. I shrank back, flattening myself against the wall. Her voice ceased a moment, as she turned and carefully drew the curtains together behind her, closing them with one hand. Oblivious of my presence, though she actually touched my dressing gown with the hand that pulled the cords, she resumed her dreadful, solemn march, disappearing at length down the long vista of the corridor like a shadow.

But as she passed me, her voice began again, so that I heard each word distinctly as she uttered it, her head aloft, her figure upright, as though she moved at the head of a procession:

“A drop of cold water, given in His name, shall moisten their burning tongues.”

It was repeated monotonously over and over again, droning down into the distance as she went, until at length both voice and figure faded into the shadows at the farther end.

For a time, I have no means of measuring precisely, I stood in that dark corner, pressing my back against the wall, and would have drawn the curtains down to hide me had I dared to stretch an arm out. The dread that presently the woman would return passed gradually away. I realized that the air had emptied, the crowd her presence had stirred into activity had retreated; I was alone in the gloomy under-space of the odious building…. Then I remembered suddenly again the terrified women waiting for me on that upper landing; and realized that my skin was wet and freezing cold after a profuse perspiration. I prepared to retrace my steps. I remember the effort it cost me to leave the support of the wall and covering darkness of my corner, and step out into the grey light of the corridor. At first I sidled, then, finding this mode of walking impossible, turned my face boldly and walked quickly, regardless that my dressing gown set the precious objects shaking as I passed. A wind that sighed mournfully against the high, small windows seemed to have got inside the corridor as well; it felt so cold; and every moment I dreaded to see the outline of the woman’s figure as she waited in recess or angle against the wall for me to pass.

Was there another thing I dreaded even more? I cannot say. I only know that the first baize doors had swung to behind me, and the second ones were close at hand, when the great dim thunder caught me, pouring up with prodigious volume so that it, seemed to roll out from another world. It shook the very bowels of the building. I was closer to it than that other time, when it had followed me from the goblin garden. There was strength and hardness in it, as of metal reverberation. Some touch of numbness, almost of paralysis, must surely have been upon me that I felt no actual terror, for I remember even turning and standing still to hear it better. “That is the Noise,” my thought ran stupidly, and I think I whispered it aloud; “the Doors are closing.” The wind outside against the windows was audible, so it cannot have been really loud, yet to me it was the biggest, deepest sound I have ever heard, but so far away, with such awful remoteness in it, that I had to doubt my own ears at the same time. It seemed underground – the rumbling of earthquake gates that shut remorselessly within the rocky Earth -stupendous ultimate thunder. They were shut off from help again. The doors had closed.

Algernon Blackwood


August 20, 2016

Saba Khandroma

Terror made me cruel . . .

Emily Brontë
Wuthering Heights


At age ten, we lived in a rambling old house that backed on to a cemetery. Frequently, at that time, I’d be left to my own devices after school. I enjoyed my own company, mind, but in the summer I’d go to the park and hang-out with friends beside the boating lake; in winter, with the onset of colder evenings, I’d remain indoors reading or watching TV. At least two evenings each week I was left entirely alone in the house until about ten o’clock; on occasion, slightly later.

I remember one evening, a Wednesday, being alone in the living room, reading a book. There was a blazing fire in the hearth. The rest of the house was in darkness, brooding in a silence that was almost profound. Earlier, I’d heated baked beans on the stove and toasted bread under the grill. I’d sat in the breakfast room listening to the radio and eating beans on thickly buttered toast. I tossed my book aside now irritated by it, but as I did so I heard “The noise” for the first time.

That came from upstairs, didn’t it? I thought.

Yes, certainly. From the front of the house. My mother’s room, perhaps? But what had caused it?

It sounded, “The noise”, like a hesitant footstep on a loose fitting floorboard. Had mum come home early and gone straight to her room? It seemed highly unlikely. Surely I’d have heard her coming in? The front door closing, the rattle of keys. And she’d have called out a greeting, she always did.

Almost certain that “The noise” hadn’t been generated by my mother, I went to the door and called up the stairs: ‘Mum…that you?’

Silence, the only response.

It was an old house, draughty and prone to unexplained creaks and groans. We’d moved in about two months earlier, so I was still unused to its ways: its peculiarities, you might say. All these old places have a character of their own, don’t they? Anyway, while reassuring myself “The noise” was nothing to be concerned about, I heard it again.

Definitely footsteps, four or five of them this time, crossing the bedroom floor overhead. I felt suddenly terrified. It was like every muscle in my body turned liquid, and my skin became this continuous stretch of goosebumps. My heart pounded as I grabbed up the poker from the hearth for protection.

Someone must have broken in…a lone burglar. In my mind’s eye I conjured up this character from the Dandy comic, a burglar in a stripped jumper and black eye mask with a torch.

‘WHO’S THERE,’ I yelled up the stairs. ‘I’ve already phoned the police. They’re on the way. Get out while you can.’ My voice sounded strong enough to begin with, but died away ultimately to a whimper.

I clutched that old poker two-handed, and it was shaking like a leaf in a breeze. I felt sick, nauseous. And then I heard “The noise” again.

Footsteps, definitely. I couldn’t move. After a tremendous effort, I raised my head, straining to see upstairs. More footsteps, and this time I peed myself with fright. Truly, I did. It was most embarrassing, believe me. I tried to brace myself against this mind-numbing terror. Holding the poker one handed I finally managed to flick on the upstairs lights.

Nothing. No one up there on the landing.

I would, I decided, make a dash for the front door. I’d go outside and wait in the front garden until someone came home. Outside would be safe. If any situation developed, I could run to a neighbours house for help…Only my trousers and the carpet slipper on my right foot were soaking –

Perhaps I wouldn’t go outside, then. It was utterly silent in the house now. I’d retreat to the living room with the poker…after all, why would a burglar enter a room where he knew someone was waiting for him? A room with the lights on.

And that’s exactly what I did. I spent the rest of the evening with my back to the wall behind the living room door. The minute that door opened (if it were to open) I’d leap forward with the poker and clobber whoever it was that had scared me so.

When my mother finally arrived home later, I explained to her what had happened.

‘I’ve heard noises in the house, too,’ she told me. ‘I think we might be haunted – ’

‘A ghost?’

‘Yes, but a harmless one. It won’t hurt us. Just likes to wander around now and again. You mustn’t let it worry you.’

‘It felt like I was listening to it forever,’ I told her.

‘Never mind, it’s a harmless nothing. Just ignore it. Now go upstairs and get a bath. Leave those wet clothes on the bathroom floor. I’ll sort them later.’

‘Will you come up with me? Just to check round?’

‘Oh, alright, you silly child. Come on. But I tell you there’ll be nothing up there.’

And of course she was quite correct. Whoever or whatever had been responsible for “The noise”, was long gone. However, two days later “The noise” returned. Footsteps in my bedroom this time. Both my mother and I heard them. She laughed, and said:

‘It’ll wear the darn carpeting out next thing.’

And from that time on I was never scared again of our “ghost” or “The noise” or the faint sour-sweet smell that lingered in the rooms where our spectral intruder had walked. Although I heard it frequently, (once in the darkness of my own bedroom while I lay in bed), I accepted it as a perfectly natural phenomenon. I came to regard it almost as one of the family, a spirit we coexisted with. And one, moreover, not put off by my father’s almost non-stop violin practice, with his constant repetition of Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64. My God, that piece haunts me still…