MY FAVORITE HORROR MOVIE is and it isn’t exactly what it says on the front cover. Yes, it’s a collection of 48 essays — some shorter than others — helmed by Christian Ackerman about memorable horror films from the eyes of those who are horror industry insiders.

That said: every. single. one. of these films are films they watched as youths.

These are all tales of pre-teen or teen experience, and there’s a surprising number of overlap. While HALLOWEEN, THE EXORCIST, Romero’s original DEAD trilogy, and THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE are all represented multiple times, there are a handful of lesser-known films in there, such as the MST3k-featured classic DEVIL DOLL and THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. Also, JAWS — not necessarily a film one thinks of as a horror classic but more of a thriller — repeatedly pops up.

These are all films that spurred an infatuation with horror in their pre-teen brains, films that would lead them towards a career in what is arguably one of the most unfairly least-respected genres.

Some essays are more astute and passionate than others, especially a paean to THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, while others feel almost perfunctory and penned out of obligation. There’s one essay that I will not name that is very obviously the author trolling the audience in a very distasteful way.

While reading this, I was wondering what my favorite horror film would be. Unlike everyone else in this collection, I didn’t latch onto modern horror until my mid/late teens, and even then they were not exactly the films you’d expect: GOTHIC, THE COMPANY OF WOLVES, GINGER SNAPS, WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE, etc. That said, I was and still am a devoted Universal horror fan, especially of James Whale’s work.

However, while I have a handful of rotating favorite dramatic films ever which include Kieslowski’s BLUE and Peter Greenaway’s THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE & HER LOVER (arguably a horror film), I simply can’t choose a favorite horror film. Perhaps THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Maybe TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME. Possibly GREMLINS 2, or another sequel: FINAL DESTINATION 2. Tempted to note NIGHT OF THE COMET. However, none of these films — apart from perhaps FIRE WALK WITH ME — had the seismic impact that these essayists felt when watching their favorite horror movie.

Consequently, I feel like I’m missing out a bit. Even though I am a hardcore horror fan, I came about the genre late-in-life. Also? For many personal reasons, I am not a fan of slashers, which consist of most of the creatives’ selections. And that’s fine! Horror is a surprisingly personal genre — hence this collection — and the fear these works instill hit different people in different ways. (For example: see MEN, WOMEN AND CHAINSAWS as well as the collection of essays in LAURA’S GHOST.)

I will note that one major recurring theme throughout these essays is how much these horror creatives and fans appreciate humor in their works. From THE EVIL DEAD to CREEPSHOW to PUPPET MASTER, folks love laughs with their thrills. Why shouldn’t they? Every great work — horror or otherwise — leans on humor and jokes to take a bit of the sting out of all of the shit that is going on around them. It may consist of slapstick, absurd situations, or barbed quips, but every piece should make you laugh at least once.

Yes, this is a qualified recommendation. The insiders are pretty tightly-knit — there are a lot of folks who have been involved with FANGORIA and you see a lot of the same production credits as you go through the work — but almost everyone’s heart here is in the right place, and their effusive love for their favorite films is absolutely infectious. I’ll never tire of hearing people pontificate about what they love and why they love it, and MY FAVORITE HORROR MOVIE certainly exemplifies that sort of glee.

MY FAVORITE HORROR MOVIE Vol. 1 is available here, and there are two more volumes, of which I’m sure I’ll get to sooner rather than later.

On Notebooks and Media

I’m a big fan of NPR’s Linda Holmes — perhaps best known for hosting POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR and the author of EVVIE DRAKE STARTS OVER and FLYING SOLO — so, unsurprisingly, I quite enjoyed these musings extolling the virtues of physical notebooks.

I’ve been using notebooks most of my life. While I’ve jotted down almost all of my writerly drafts — including this post — via for at least a decade, I use notebooks to err, well, note certain thoughts I have on what I’m watching or playing or reading or hearing.

I usually have two notebooks going at once (specifically Field Notes notebooks as I find Moleskines to feel too precious): one that lives in what we colloquially call the ‘media room’ — most people would name it as a dining room, but it’s where we watch tv/films and play games more often than eat. The other I carry from place to place, so I don’t have to run to my computer to jot a musing down and then get distracted, or it’s used while I’m out reading in the wild.

Additionally, I’m one of those folks for whom physically penning something gives it greater permanence in my mind, as opposed to word-vomiting into a digital word processor. I label the works on the front once I’ve wrapped it up and can transcribe the notes for easier searching. It’s a workflow that I’ve found to be positive for me.

One qualm I have about Holmes’s post?

“I kid you not, white out — AKA liquid paper — which we used to use in the olden days to cover mistakes made in pen. They make it in the form of tape now, so you don’t have to paint it on like nail polish and blow on it.”

I assume this was a bit of convenient underscoring, as I doubt that Holmes was unaware that correction tape predates liquid paper. It was frequently used by those who utilized typewriters, which I certainly did for many years — despite having a computer and WordPerfect as a youth — because it was far more tactile and memorable and put me in a different headspace. (In fact, a friend just gifted me a typewriter recently, which will live side-by-side with my departed grandmother’s typewriter.)


Since this is the world we live in, the thick of 2022, and apparently people aren’t terribly familiar with the Satanic Panic but there seems to be quite a bit of discussion concerning it as of late, I will direct your attention to the FAB Press essay collection SATANIC PANIC: POP-CULTURAL PARANOIA IN THE 1980s.

If you are too young to be familiar with the Satanic Panic: it was a period of time during the 1980s where suburban institutions insisted that the ills of culture were due to teens being wooed to devil worship via media and coercion. At the time, it was inescapable. The scare permeated all of commentary and political culture which, as you can imagine, resulted in the Streisand Effect, boosting anything and everything, having a reverb effect on all artistic endeavors.

FAB’s SATANIC PANIC is an expertly curated collection of scrutinies of life during that time, one that ranges the gamut from what you’d expect: D&D, cartoons, metal and MTV, to forgotten culture like the wall-to-wall lies of the memory recovery of Michelle in the book MICHELLE REMEMBERS as well as HBO’s INDICTMENT: THE MCMARTIN TRIAL. It also looks at Satanic Panic beyond the US, including the UK and Quebec and Australia.

It’s an extraordinarily comprehensive look at the irrational pop culture paranoia of Satanism at the time, all wrapped up in an immaculately attractive package.

You can wrangle your own copy at:


Pauline Kael’s TRASH, ART, AND THE MOVIES is an essay I want to hand out to everyone.

Kael simmers about being bored with films, about how she luxuriates in the garbage nowadays as opposed to the ‘prestige’ pictures, such as 2001 (a film she deftly eviscerates, an unpopular opinion around here, but one I respect given how she backs it up).

Ultimately, it’s Kael saying: stop trying to preach, give me something new, something interesting, take big swings! Trash with a glint of charm is far more intriguing than most art, and stop pawning off all film as art, because so many works are born of a simple consumerist need.

It’s a timeless piece, one that holds up over fifty years later, one that is still provocative.

Instead of blathering on about it, I’ll simply send you along to read her words. The entirety of TRASH, ART, AND THE MOVIES is available here:

Or in her third collection of film reviews and essays, GOING STEADY: FILM WRITINGS 1968-1969:

Or if you have a HARPER’S MAGAZINE subscription, you can read it here:


If you’re a writer, or just a casual reader, the essay “What Working at a Used Bookstore Taught Me About Literary Rejection” by Carl Lavigne is an insightful look at how people seek material to read, and the ennui of confronting reams of books that have been discarded.

At one point in the essay, he notes that the bookstore he works at stocked a signed copy of his friend’s novel. Carl brought the book back home, afraid of the repercussions that would occur if his friend would see that that unread book on the shelf.

I trawl through used bookstores all the time — usually picking up books from authors I’ve never heard of but appear intriguing — and often find that I’ve inadvertently purchased a signed copy. In fact, the book I’m currently reading — I won’t name it — was signed to a friend of the author who had invited them to a writer’s colony that, presumably, they used to work on the novel. Like Carl, I thought: “Maybe the friend died. Maybe they had a falling out. Maybe the friend loaned it to someone, never got it back, and the loanee sent it along. Maybe it was simply an unwanted copy.”

Every writer wants a physical copy of their work to be cherished, especially if it’s a copy you took the time to sign.


The crux of TWIN PEAKS is Laura Palmer’s death, a death due to a family and town that let her down, that turned a blind eye, that didn’t reach out. LAURA’S GHOST: WOMEN SPEAK ABOUT TWIN PEAKS is a collection of essays and interviews about women who have worked on, or been affected or influenced by TWIN PEAKS, conceptualized by, interviewed by, and collected by Courtenay Stallings.

It’s primarily focused on the film prequel, TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME, as well as Jennifer Lynch’s gut-punch of a novel THE SECRET DIARY OF LAURA PALMER (which created the foundation that would become TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME), but there’s plenty of discussion about the original series, as well as TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN.

While it does feature interviews and discussions with Sheryl Lee, Jennifer Lynch, Grace Zabriskie, and Sabrina S. Sutherland (Lynch’s “right-hand woman”, to use Stalling’s own words), the bulk of the book is focused on those involved in the fandom of TWIN PEAKS. Not all of the interviews are about relating to Laura’s sexual abuse and incest, but several women certainly do share their experiences, and most interviews and pieces note how Laura helped them process their own trauma and abuse. Especially noteworthy is film essayist Willow Catelyn Maclay’s piece, NORTHERN STAR but they’re all worth your time.

It’s a fantastic and insightful collected work that may change how you perceive the series, or may have you nodding your head and commiserating over shared trauma, or perhaps both.

I highly suggest purchasing it via media writer Matt Zoller Seitz’s online bookstore. He’s a fantastic booster of intelligent, non-CIS-white dude pieces on film and TV — I wouldn’t have heard about this book if it weren’t for him — plus, you get a signed copy.


I haven’t read all that much from Joan Didion — I loved PLAY IT AS IT LAYS and enjoyed select essays I’ve stumbled over through the years. I’ve seen PANIC AT NEEDLE PARK, read a couple of other novels, and watched the recent doc on her. In other words, I’m not extremely well-versed with her work, but I am familiar enough to know when a writer has clearly been influenced by her.

I’ve been ragging on myself as of late for my absolute inability to read influential works in any proper order, and I’m especially kicking myself here regarding SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHAM — a collection of previously commissioned essays — which I explicitly picked up because Emma Cline (THE GIRLS, DADDY) lists it as one of her favorites.

It features Didion penning a number of deep-dives into classic Hollywood, just as the studio system is beginning to crumble. (She has a singular essay about how Howard Hughes represents America and I’m absolutely shocked it wasn’t mentioned in Karina Longworths’ recent opus regarding him, SEDUCTION.) She interlopes on the set of John Wayne’s THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER. I discovered that SLEATER-KINNEY’s album THE CENTER WILL NOT HOLD has that name partially because SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHEM is Carrie Brownstone’s favorite Didion collection. (Yes, it’s technically a line from Yeats’ poem SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHEM but it’s most certainly a nod towards Didion, as she writes about the importance of the poem in the preface of her collection.)

The most surprising revelation came in GOODBYE TO ALL THAT, when Didion discusses living in New York City for eight years. Obviously, Didion’s best known for perfectly describing living in California, and I’d never suspected she’d spent such a long time away from it. I should have known, given the fact that PANIC AT NEEDLE PARK is a character piece about junkies living in NYC, but I assumed she’s spent some time living there to research a piece. Instead, she lived a long journey there in-between heading back to California.

Unlike Cline, SLOUCHING isn’t my favorite of hers, but it is up there. I imagine some of the pieces will stay with me for years, while one or two I’ve already forgotten. I’m guessing any proper Didion fan has already consumed it but, hey, I hadn’t, and it’s never too late to dive into a classic.