The ‘Burbs: An American Gothic Tale

A cul-de-sac in an unassuming Midwestern suburb is the setting for this classic dark comedy from the ’80s. Though underappreciated, The ‘Burbs (1989) is one of my favorite movies and helped spark my interest in the unusual. It stars Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, and Rick Ducommun as three friends who suspect an eccentric and reclusive family is up to no good in their neighborhood.

Though on the surface a lighthearted satire of ’80s horror, The ‘Burbs delves deep into the American gothic and the double-sided nature of modern American society, a society that consumes true crime, horror, and paranormal books, movies, and television behind picket fences and manicured lawns.

On Mayfield Place in the fictional suburban town of Hinkley Hills, Art Weingartner (Rick Ducommun) and retired Lieutenant Mark Rumsfield (Bruce Dern) suspect a family named Klopek, who live in a dilapidated house next door to Ray Peterson (Tom Hanks), are really satanists responsible for the disappearance of the house’s previous occupants, and later, an old man named Walter Seznick.

Ray Peterson is skeptical, simply wanting to enjoy a quiet weeklong vacation at home with his wife (Carrie Fisher) and son. Strange events gradually convince Ray his friends are right, and they break into the Klopeks’ home seeking evidence of their crimes.

Keep on reading!

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Excerpt of Sonic Fear, from Lost in the Witching Hour

Lost in the Witching HourThe following is an excerpt from my short story “Sonic Fear” from Breaking Fate Publishing’s latest anthology Lost in the Witching Hour. Released in August, Lost in the Witching Hour is a collection of 13 ghostly tales from up-and-coming authors including myself, Ryan Tandy, Amelia Cotter, Jason Hughes, Walter Conley, Nicky Peacock, and many more.

Fifth Avenue was empty as well, and only a handful of cars sat in the parking lot of the Fifth Avenue Pub. Not a very inventive name, but this was where James found himself for the past couple of nights. The pub was as dimly lit as the street. Its interior was mostly wood—wood paneling, wooden tables, a heavy oak counter—but decades of patrons had carved messages in the walls and tables until they were colored in red, blue, and black ink. The messages chronicled proclamations of love and hate, phone numbers and addresses, and some were scribblings only decipherable by their long-departed artists. The whole place reeked of the beer soaked into the tables and the body odor of the old men who sat at the same table in the corner, at the same time, every day. James picked an empty bar stool and sat down.

The bartender was a clean-cut black man in his mid thirties, dressed in a silver shirt with sleeves rolled up to the elbows. Sweat and oil glistened on his forehead. Every few minutes he spat into what James hoped was a sink or trash can. “What’ll it be tonight?” he asked.

“Don’t you want to see my ID?” James replied as he reached for his wallet.

“Nah, I remember you from last night,” the bartender said. “Haven’t seen you around before though.”

“I just moved near here a few days ago. I grew up on Harlem Avenue, but this apartment is my first place on my own.”

The bartender laughed. “Maybe I do need to check your ID. How old did you say you were again?”

“Twenty-three,” James mumbled. “I’ll take whatever you have on special.”

Continue reading “Excerpt of Sonic Fear, from Lost in the Witching Hour”

“Sonic Fear” in Summer 2010 issue of KILTER

Check out the new issue of KILTER – I have a pretty decent short story published in it called “Sonic Fear” about a guy who loses his mind because he lives too close to the railroad tracks…

From their website: “Number 8 is busting at the seams with great content. Art coverage, movie reviews, An Interview with Voltaire by the Reverend Chicagodom, a review of the Chemlab/16 Volt show, a piece about Latebar, the fashion of Dollface, art by Sinee Misgari, Zmiya, Judgehydrogen, an expanded comics section, Poetry, fiction by Michael Kleen, Cleo LaVamp on the Continuum (including a pictorial tour) SS-Triple-X, and our regular features, Ask Happy, the Horriblescopes and another vegan recipe by Scary Lady Sarah. :gasp: (and so much more)”

Order now ($5 + Shipping) It’s also available in select Chicago stores.