Films That Fell Through the Cracks: The Frightening

The Frightening (2002)

Film Review by Zakary McGaha

What you need to know going in: there’s a new kid at a weird high school, people start dying, and there are ghosts…sort of.

The Frightening, directed by David DeCoteau, is a mixed bag, to put it delicately. Still, it has a swath of charm that makes it memorable. With this whole “Films That Fell Through the Cracks” series, we want to focus on movies that aren’t viewed as classics by anyone’s standards, but, at the end of the day, prove a point most genre fans are well aware of: not every movie needs to be a fucking classic.

Some movies are mediocre when viewed separately, but if you add them all together, they create a genre of trash that imprints itself on your soul. The Frightening certainly fits in this category.

I was unfamiliar with David DeCoteau before stumbling upon The Frightening, but it has since come to my attention that he has a pretty strong cult following. His ‘Brotherhood’ films, which I haven’t seen, are said to contain a strong homoerotic pulse. The Frightening has the same pulse; it definitely fits into the sub-genre of homoerotic horror films, along with the infamous Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (I seriously love that one, by the way; always have).

Learning of this homoerotic through line in his work after watching the movie confirmed my suspicions about DeCoteau. He has a distinctive style and isn’t just one of the many directors of straight-to-video horror flicks who work on things without consistent vision. You’re probably thinking, “Come on, you’re just saying that to make yourself seem more observant.”

To that, I would say: No, once you watch The Frightening, you’ll realize it has that certain type of charm that indicates the people working behind the scenes had a passion for the genre they found themselves in.

Still, though, I can see why people wouldn’t like this flick. It fails miserably in a couple areas. First off, the deaths, save for one in which a cowboy-looking fella gets his face melted, are lame. They’re all laughable and fun, but tiresome at the same time.

Basically, a group of elite-ish type teens is running around dressed like burglars with the sole purpose of offing the “different” kids at the high school (there’s more to it than this, but I don’t want to get into spoiler territory). Needless to say, all of these kills come off as clumsy and stupid. Nothing scary to see here, folks! Just bumbling preppies trying to be FBI-like assassins.

Secondly, the dialogue is horrible, but this is to be expected in a lot of low budget horror. It wasn’t so bad that I felt compelled to write down notes of horrible word exchanges, however I’m unable to decide at this moment if it all adds to the film’s charm or detracts from it.

The last area of concern is the half-formed explanation or “mythology”, perhaps. It was fun in a Twilight Zone way, but it could have been handled better. It’s never a good sign when a character has to spend a long time explaining the “why” of supernatural occurrences.

Despite those things, The Frightening deserves a 3/5. It’s got problems, sure, but that it was a labor of love is apparent. It’s a gleefully bad genre film that’s never boring, continually hilarious…and its singular cool kill is pretty wicked. Not necessarily ultra-gory, but wicked.

If you’re like me, you’re a sucker for anything that mixes “school” culture and horror. This film delivers on that, although it could’ve been better. This is no Heathers, certainly, but it’s pretty good if you want to catch a brain-numbing flick before bedtime.

Zakary McGaha is a dog lover, film buff, and horror hound living in Tennessee. His horror-comedy novella Locker Arms is available from Kensington Gore Publishing. Soothing the Savage Swamp Beast is forthcoming from JournalStone/Bizarro Pulp Press.

Horrifying and Bizarre Animals

By JL Mayne

I love animals, I love learning about them and hearing random facts about crazy things they can do. There are days that I have spent hours watching videos on YouTube about some crazy thing I heard about. Today, I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned. This isn’t a list of top ten or anything like that, just a bunch of neat animals and insects that I want to share.

The sad blobfish

Have you ever put a marshmallow in the microwave and watched the thing expand before catching on fire and burning your house down? That’s kind of what the blobfish is like. It’s a deep sea animal whose body is designed to live under pressure. When the fish isn’t under pressure, it looks like Jabba the Hutt, or the sad old man down the street… who looks like Jabba.

The bad ass mantis shrimp

One of my favorite creatures (I have a couple on this list) this thing uses its arms at the front to pummel prey to death. Its claws can, at times, move so fast as to boil water… boil… water. If an aquarium wants to house one, they have to have reinforced glass so it doesn’t break out and go on a killing spree. Or flop on the floor and die, which is probably more likely. But it really can break glass.

Tiny Tardigrade


The tardigrade is a microscopic animal that lives all over the world and is more resilient than the roaches in your sock drawer. They’ve done experiments sending these things into space… and they haven’t died. Granted, they’re not indestructible, but they’re quite nearly.  They can withstand extreme hot and cold temperatures, radiation, and probably other unknown horrors. Some scientists believe they’re… wait for it… aliens.

Holy Hyena, Batman!

The above picture is of a FEMALE hyena. I’m not kidding. That thing that looks like a penis between her legs is an elongated clitoris. Can you imagine… You’d actually be able to find it. But, if you’re going off of popular media’s take on the hyena species, your woman might be a bit grouchy because of it. Especially given the fact that female hyenas give birth through the thing.

Mango Worms

Quite honestly, this one makes me itch and want to vomit. The above picture is a puppy full of the little blow-fly bastards. They’re common to parts of Africa and almost make me never want to leave my house for fear one will randomly be around where I live.


In their larval stage, these things consume their hosts alive. The dog above died… Death by disgusting worm monsters.

The I-can’t-decide-what-the-hell-I-am platypus

After the last one, I had to include something that doesn’t plain suck and is still one of the most bizarre creatures on the planet. Just about everyone (I would imagine) have heard of this guy. They lay eggs, live in the water, have a bill, are a mammal, and have poisonous barbs on their feet. You can’t get much more bizarre than that.

The alpha African wild dog

The only reason this animal is on the list is because of a video I saw on YouTube. Imagine getting eaten alive stomach first, then deciding you aren’t ready to give up so you start fighting back, only to have a bunch of other guys coming over to help the guy eating you. It’s like zombies, only real and with dogs.. I’m sure lots of animals do similar things to their prey, but this one is at the forefront of my mind due to the guts hanging out of the impala. Gotta get the juicy bits first.

Sea snail with a built-in spear gun

I took a biotechnology class in high school. During it, we went on a field trip to a biotech summit. We got to meet some scientists working on some pretty crazy experiments.

One of the experiments was with poisonous sea snails. They were working on producing pain killers from the venom of certain snails which can fire a spear into fish, paralyzing them so that the snail can slide on over and have a nice meal.

The guy we talked to had gotten speared. He didn’t die (obviously), but from his story, he thought he would for a while. Try not to get stung by the snail.

Mosquitoes – the real vampires

I hate mosquitoes more than almost anything else on the planet. When I was a kid, I went on a hike with my siblings and father. My sister got cold so I gave her my shirt; trying to be a good brother. I was then bitten repeatedly by mosquitoes and have been mortified of them since.

If we’re talking about scary, these things kill more humans than anything else on the planet. Including humans. That’s right, mosquitoes kill more humans than murder, accidental deaths, car crashes.

They’re horrible beasts raking in hundreds of thousands of deaths a year. In my own opinion, and others, they should be eradicated. In fact, some scientists are trying to do so, or at least reduce population. Good riddance.

There you have it, a short list of horrible monsters that I either love or hate or have no real feelings towards. If you know of any other bizarre or horrifying critters, feel free to drop me a note, or leave a message in the comments.

The 20 Best Albums of 2018

Welcome to SMM’s first year-end “Best Albums” list! There’s been a lot of great music this year, and it’s been a tough pick. Keep in mind that on SMM, we’re focused on the weird and experimental side of things, and this “Best Albums” list is no exception. I hope you enjoy, and leave a comment if you think I’ve overlooked something!  

Justin A. Burnett

Daughters You Won’t Get What You Want

Without a doubt, the latest Daughters album storms the album of the year slot. Following nearly a decade of silence after the release of their self-titled effort, You Won’t Get What You Want came crashing down from a distant planet like a maddened beast, giving the lie to the old assumption that bands tend to mellow with age. This album is loud, unsettling, and a continual display of carefully considered sonic manipulation. Fans of Swans are destined to fall in love with this dark masterpiece, and it definitely deserves every bit of the laudation its received this year, plus some.

Piggy Black Cross Always Just Out of R.E.A.C.H.

Always Just Out of R.E.A.C.H was nearly as good as getting another Kayo Dot release this year, and long term readers will recognize this as nearly the highest praise I can bestow on an album. This brilliant meeting of the minds of Bridget Bellavia and Toby Driver is all a long term fan could hope for. Continuing with the neo goth synth-infused sonic palette of Plastic House on Base of Sky, Driver and co stretch into some sinister yet slightly more straightforward territory with Piggy Black Cross. It’s more than a worthy listen, and has boldly held its own throughout the year as one of 2018’s top releases. That it hasn’t received more recognition is a shame.

Deena Abdelwahed Khonnar

Even though I only reviewed this album a few days ago, I’ve put it on steady rotation since to allow for second thoughts before including it here. I can honestly say that it still has much to offer after repeated listens, and certainly stands head to head with the strongest releases of the year. Tunisian producer Deen Abdelwahed comes out swinging with Khonnar, a folk-infused slab of edgy experimental electronic dance music that accumulates in an overall atmosphere fit for a nightmare. This release is certain to turn some heads in the electronic music world, despite the brilliant outpouring of creative, cutting-edge material from the genre in recent years.

Puce Mary The Drought

This year’s release from Danish industrial artist Frederikke Hoffmeier under the Puce Mary moniker is truly something to behold. The Drought is a creeper liable to pass underappreciated over the first listen or two. It operates in a more minimal space than its cousins in the dark electronic and experimental world, making it more difficult to spot in a genre overrun with lavish and complex arrangements. However, when the subtlety and atmosphere of this monstrous leviathan of a release sink in around listen three, there’s no going back. Swimming (or drowning, rather) in the blackest of bass tones punctuated by understated spoken word refrains by Hoffmeier, this album promises to get under your skin in the best of ways. I would’ve liked to have seen more hubbub around The Drought this year, but I guess we don’t always get what we wish for.

Sleep The Sciences

I must admit that I haven’t paid as much attention to Sleep as I should’ve over the years. I was late to appreciate sludge/stoner metal during its rise to prominence in the metal scene, intent on focusing, instead, on developments on the tech-death and black metal fronts. The Sciences is certainly one of those sludge releases that gives me the painful realization that I’ve truly been missing out. The Sciences is everything you could hope for in this genre. The riffs positively drip with fuzz, the hooks are strong, and, even better, a careful attention to harmonic instrumentation saves this release from the frequent pitfall of oversimplification. This album is particularly interesting in that I didn’t expect it to make this list; that it’s from a genre I generally undervalue should testify enough to its greatness.

Amnesia Scanner Another Life

This one nearly slipped under my radar this year; I’m glad it didn’t, since passing over Another Life without comment would’ve been a serious mistake. This UK duo makes some seriously chopped and edgy electronic… uh… “dance” music, and I mean that hesitation in the best of ways. This was my first exposure to Amnesia Scanner, and it was easily the most perplexing and unexpected listen of the year. While the vocals–drastically manipulated to the point of suggesting a posthuman motif–can seem messy and utterly disorienting at times, the album doesn’t let the listener dismiss it so easily. A method arises from the madness as the album progresses, consisting of a series of challenges to the lister’s conception of, very broadly speaking, pop music. Another Life simply must be heard to be believed, although it certainly won’t be for everyone.

Julia Holter Aviary

Aviary is certainly Holter’s finest achievement since Loud City Song, and that’s saying a lot. The lush, otherworldly, atmospherics are back, this time relocated from the dim and foggy cityscape to an overgrown and deeply sinister Garden of Eden. The more stripped and simplified sound of Have You in My Wilderness is, thankfully, left behind in favor of combinations of chamber arrangements, electronic soundscapes, and, well, bird sounds. This is everything I could’ve hoped from a Holter release, and more. Aviary is easily one of my shining stars for 2018, just as Loud City Song was five years ago.

Imperial Triumphant Vile Luxury

Vile Luxury is much, much more than just a blackened death metal album. Like much of Kayo Dot’s earlier work, New York’s Imperial Triumphant are just as intensively focused on keeping things engaging as they are in pummeling listeners with a brutal onslaught of towering riffs. Pianos, horns, and an assortment of other miscellaneous instruments periodically crash into the mix of swirling guitars and gut-churning shrieks, resulting in a very tasteful diversity you won’t commonly find in the dissonant black metal bloodline going back to Deathspell Omega. Vile Luxury’s thick and cleverly-constructed atmosphere makes blackened death metal exciting and new all over again, and there’s really no higher honor a band can achieve in this genre.

Polyphia New Levels New Devils

Damn, this thing is good! New Levels New Devils is easily the coolest new album on this list. Finally moving past the weary djent format the band has deployed in the past (albeit from a vantage point generally ahead of the curve), Polyphia infuses their highly-complex instrumental metal with a rhythmic and groovy approach that feels uncannily close to hip hop. What a pleasant surprise! New Levels New Devils also leaves some of its sharper corners unsanded–while the production is top-notch, it’s not produced right out of the realm of manual instrumentation like most djent albums. Smart, strange, and downright fun, New Levels New Devils marks a much-needed turning point in the rapidly stagnating swamp of instrumental metal music.

Earl Sweatshirt Some Rap Songs

Fans are calling this album Earl Sweatshirt’s Madvillainy, and I have to agree. Hailing from the legendary Odd Future collective (home of Tyler, The Creator), Earl Sweatshirt has generally been known for dropping quality releases in his extremely laid back, casual style. Although I’ve somewhat enjoyed his work in the past (particularly in the case of 2013’s Doris), nothing prepared me for an album that would make the top twenty weird albums of the year. Some Rap Songs is dark, harsh, and challenging, constituting a welcome new phase for Sweatshirt. This album has certainly accelerated him from the hip-hop peripherals to one of the forefront artists worth watching, for my money. I can’t wait to see what comes next!

A Forest of Stars Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes

Of all the metal albums I reviewed on this site earlier in the year, Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes is by far the most worthy of recognition. This folk-infused blast of highly eccentric and deliciously captivating metal is as strong as ever; fans of Current 93 would find much to love here, along with listeners who prefer a little tasteful melodrama in their forward-thinking black metal. If you only listen to one metal album from this list, make it Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes, especially since the music world of 2018 seems liable to overlook this gem. What a tragedy. This is easily one of the most rewarding listening experiences of the year.

Young Echo Young Echo

I almost missed this one this year; thank god that didn’t happen! This 11(!)-person hip-hop collective’s latest release is every bit as trippy, off-kilter, and stunning as Earl Sweatshirt’s Some Rap Songs. While some critics complain that this 24-track behemoth feels underdeveloped in terms of individual songs, as an album, this slight fragmentation works to Young Echo’s advantage. A pastiche of stylistic emphases drift through this opaque world of shadows, seeking to accompany each member to his or her strength; the resulting fragmentary collage of voice and color still feels utterly cohesive and painstakingly-crafted. Don’t listen to the haters. Young Echo is amazing.

Hermit and the Recluse Orpheus vs. The Sirens

Mythologically-themed hip hop? Count me in! Orpheus vs. The Sirens is an intelligent, literate, and magnificently-performed rap album. Favoring the laid-back, casual vocal delivery (which seems to one underlying factor among the hip-hop albums on this list) Hermit and the Recluse are perfectly at home among the tasteful, more traditional beats featured on this release; the mythology theme never feels gimmicky, and the influences are never nostalgic. Orpheus vs. the Sirens, despite its older instrumental aspect and even older theme, never feels less than cutting edge. If you click away from this list to listen to one hip hop album, make it this one.

Nine Inch Nails Bad Witch

As much as I’ve enjoyed following Nine Inch Nails over the years, I didn’t expect to include anything from Reznor and company on a best of list. As a semi-casual fan, admitting that Nine Inch Nails has maintained a very slow but steady decline in relevance poses no problem; instead of continuing that trajectory, however, Trent turns things around with a delightfully forward-looking and, dare I say experimental, offering which seems to have revived the sleeping fanbase a bit. Trent’s bite is back, and in a better way than some trite “return to form” could’ve accomplished. This is unlike any Nine Inch Nails album you’ve ever heard, and it seems set in the best musical direction Trent could’ve possibly taken at this advanced stage in his career. Bad Witch gets an enthusiastic round of applause from me, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Death Grips Year of the Snitch

While I, like everyone else, was crazy about The Money Store, Death Grips’ follow ups consistently felt underwhelming to me. Year of the Snitch marks a triumphant return to relevance for Death Grips, moving past the strained, glitched-to-ten sonic assault to explore more melodic and diverse territory. This is the exciting Death Grips all over again, and I hope they’ll continue to push boundaries in this direction. While this came out relatively early in the year, it still gets a remarkable portion of playtime. This album manages, somehow, to be harrowing, beautiful, and extremely playful all at once.

Jack White Boarding House Reach

No inclusion on this list surprises me more than Jack White’s Boarding House Reach. I loathed the White Stripes back when it was imperative to own a copy of 2003’s Elephant, and Mr. White’s solo career left me even colder. Jack White’s entire approach seemed to insist on looking backwards, which clashed with my strongly-held belief that music, while embracing its roots, should always seek to transcend them with something new and innovative. And that, much to my surprise, is exactly what Jack White has finally done with Boarding House Reach. This album is experimental, bold, and truly forward-looking in its assemblage of dance, classic rock, soul, and who-knows-what-else. I hope this marks a turn in White’s career. He has finally proven himself an artist with the potential to offer something exciting and new.

Toby Driver They Are the Shield

I still feel profoundly disoriented about this release, but not in a bad way. Given Driver’s turn to a more bare and understated sound on 2017’s Madonnawhore, it should be no surprise to see him push a bit further in that direction with They Are the Shield, although, as usual, it’s more than different enough to ensure that no one can fault Driver for inhabiting the same space for too long. This album demands patience and attention even to a greater extent than its predecessor with its ethereal formations and its frequently strange invasions of heavy synth sounds reminiscent of the last two Kayo Dot albums. If you meet the album half way, however, you’ll find yourself on a strange and beautiful planet. Do yourself a favor and dive into the otherworldly pop dreariness that is They Are the Shield–it generously rewards an unhurried ear.

Current 93 The Light is Leaving Us All

In the early hours of this album’s release, I read that David Tibet’s new offering marked a departure from the more ethereal and haunting atmosphere of 2014’s I Am the Last of All the Field that Fell: A Channel, which made me somewhat worried. While it’s true that, instrumentally, The Light is Leaving Us All abandons the ultra-spare arrangements that have dominated Tibet’s output of late, Current 93 is just as weird, melodramatic, and haunting as ever. The production on this album is excellent, giving Tibet and company a new sheen that absolutely works in this otherworldly setting of bells, strings, and subtle percussive elements. Tibet magnificently over the top here, painting dreamscapes of a mystical apocalypse with his usual fervor. If you’re an acclimatized Current 93 fan, there’s nothing to fear here; dive on in.

Low Double Negative

If Tim Hecker’s release this year was somewhat underwhelming, Low more than makes up for the lack of noisy, dreamy electronics this listener has come to anticipate from Hecker with Double Negative. This beautifully simple and somehow continually disintegrating album continues in the vein that Low initiated way back in 1994, albeit fully updated with a millennial, glitchy aesthetic that seems like it shouldn’t work but does. Double Negative seems to operate in borderlands, such as those between sleep and wakefulness, noise and melody, fragility and harshness. While structurally weak at times, this album’s tastefully strange amalgam of pop and ambient is innovative enough to demand serious attention in 2018.

L’Enfant De La Foret Strangled

The latest, dropped-out-of-nowhere release from James Kent (AKA Perturbator) is really good—even better, I’d argue, than 2015’s Abraxas. Kent’s made quite a stir on Bandcamp with his terrifying soundscapes under the L’Enfant De La Foret name, and Strangled represents the creative pinnacle of what we’ve heard from this particularly gruesome corner of the music world. Layering haunting synths over variations ranging from dance beats to black metal inspired noise and dark ambience, Strangled is possibly the strongest shade of evil that 2018 produced, surpassing even this year’s Gnaw Their Tongues split with Crowhurst. This album stands proudly with the best of this year’s dark music; it’s definitely owed some recognition.

Honorable Mentions:

-Justin A. Burnett

Kindle Crack: Or Bookbub for Weirdos

I’m not overly familiar with Compass, although I own it. It’s supposedly a genius, eclectic work set to a dreamlike narrative; “dreamlike” + tons of accolades from almost everyone who’s read this thing = good enough for me. Besides, for two bucks? Why not?

Nightwood is a brilliant, underpraised weird classic lauded by none other than T. S. Eliot. I’ve sung the praises of this book many times before, and I can’t say it enough: read Nightwood, especially now that it’s $2.99!

By the way, if you get Nightwood (not like that, you sicko), and you want to read one of Barnes’ major influence, or if you just want to study the history of lesbian literature, grab The Well of Loneliness, also for sale.

“Charles Beaumont’s legendary collection of weird stories on sale now for the wonderfully merciful price of $4.99” you ask? Yes. The answer is yes. Good times.

I have to admit that I’m not very familiar with Oates, but a lot of people tend to like this collection. Why not give a spin at a discount?

Instead of making something up about a book I’m unfamiliar with, here’s an opinion of someone I blindly assume is an expert: “The stories in Johnson’s debut collection straddle the drama of transformation in both the uncanny and the everyday. . . . Imaginative. . . . Thrillingly direct.” ―Publishers Weekly

At $0.99, bizarro’s own Donald Armfield’s Frozen Display is the cheapest steal on this list! Grab it while it lasts, and stay tuned for more Kindle Crack.

-Justin A. Burnett