Thursday, July 13, 2017

Beast Within--An Analysis of Ginger Snaps

(I put out a request for guest blog posts, and struck it big. Here is Alison Armstrong's detailed analysis of Ginger Snaps, a must see movie. And this is a must read analysis)

Fleeing fairytales of prince-pleasing Cinderellas and toe-confining glass slippers, a girl hibernates in her fantasy lair. She, like the passive damsels she despises, desires transformation, but the metamorphosis she craves is as terrifying as it is ecstatic. A beast within her moans, and the girl-skin casing splits open.

Unlike vampire films, in which females appear about as frequently as males in the predatory role, most movies involving shape-shifting, at least until recently, have featured a man as their growling, hair-sprouting main character, the “beast” seeking his young, innocent, succulent, smoothly depilated female “beauty.” Despite the modern settings and modern characters in many of these films, the same beast/beauty gender roles usually predominate, indicating that even in the supernatural realm a certain degree of raw animal attributes are accepted, at times even celebrated, amongst men, whereas women are generally encouraged to embody a sweetly perfumed, cheerful, sanitized, unaggressively alluring yet pleasantly sensual ideal that is often at odds with their bodily processes and personality. Although women spend their reproductive years enmired in the animality of their menstrual cycles, they are still expected to conceal the evidence of their beastly biological bondage, the tell-tale ebbings guiltily staunched like the blood of a murder victim, the odor disguised by pretty-smelling, potentially poisonous chemicals. Women battle against their bodies, the physical aspect of themselves by which they are judged and because of which they often suffer. Therefore, it is even more relevant perhaps for the shapeshifter film to have a woman instead of a man undergo this physical transformation of self and body.

Ginger Snaps features a female shapeshifter/beastly doppelganger to explore themes of sexuality and self-identity. Making blatant use of traditional horror movie conventions related to shapeshifters, it subverts these clich├ęs to examine puberty and adolescent psychology from a female perspective.

Ginger Snaps tells the story of Ginger and Brigitte, two misfit teenaged sisters who share a fascination with death. Creative and apparently proud of their outcast status, they like to take photographs of themselves pretending to be dead as a result of various suicidal techniques. Befitting their morbid, rather misanthropic outlook, they shun the cute, sexy, rather revealing outfits other girls in their school wear, preferring to shroud themselves in dark, baggy, Goth-like clothing. Unlike their female peers, they are late bloomers, having not entered puberty and showing little interest in the opposite sex. Scowling, their hair wild and seemingly uncombed, they keep to themselves, cherishing their gloomy, almost suffocating sisterly bond, a connection they believe will never be broken.

Their strangely reassuring routine of morosity is disturbed, however, by two unrelated yet equally impactful events: the discovery of a dog that has been gored to death by some large, presumably rabid, animal, and Ginger’s first menstrual cramps. At first Ginger refuses to believe her naively cheerful mom’s observation that the cramps are a sign Ginger is becoming a young woman, for she, like Brigitte, loathes the idea of menstruation and female fertility. Instead, she focuses her attention on her morbid, mutually protective bond with her sister. When, during a field hockey game, Brigitte is shoved by a popular mean girl and ends up landing in a pile of gored dog remains, Ginger diverts her mind from menstrual malaise by concocting with Brigitte a macabre plan for revenge. Defying warnings to stay inside due to the rabid animal attacks, they sneak out at night to carry out their plan and come face to face with another mortally maimed canine. As she and her sister stare at the mangled beast, Ginger notices blood trickling down her leg, the dreaded “curse” of womanhood. Aroused by the scent of blood, the creature suddenly springs back to life, attacking Ginger, clawing and biting, but Brigitte manages to destroy the beast, then helps her torn and staggering sister home. Despite the severity of the injuries, Ginger’s wounds begin to heal so quickly that Brigitte agrees to her sister’s request not to tell their parents what happened. It is to be their secret, another confidence only they will share.

As Ginger angrily endures her painful metamorphosis into womanhood, she also starts undergoing her transformation into a werewolf. Although her wounds from the attack have miraculously healed, the pangs of puberty have just begun. Bleeding profusely from her period and racked with pain, she bristles at the way menstruation is euphemistically discussed by her mother and the school nurse. When her mother tells her that menstruation is the “most normal thing in the world,” Ginger grouchily retorts that so are cancer and tuberculosis. In addition to experiencing intense cramps and copious bleeding, Ginger is disgusted by her body’s apparent treason against her. “You kill yourself to be different, and your body screws you,” she exclaims, fearing that her uniqueness, the creepy peculiarities she and her sister defiantly flaunted, are being undermined by this biological process that indiscriminately afflicts nearly all young women, preparing them for their traditional, domestic role as bearers and nurturers of children. Despite her antipathy towards menstruation, however, Ginger finds herself developing sexual feelings towards boys, and, as a result, starts dressing in alluring clothes to attract them.

Although at first it seems as though her sexual awakening is causing Ginger to behave more like the other girls, thereby weakening her intense creative bond with her sister, the sudden changes Ginger experiences are not merely the effects of ordinary puberty. Ginger’s erratic behavior and emerging lust are also symptoms of lycanthropy. Paradoxically, the more Ginger, on the surface, appears to become flirtatious and conventionally alluring, like the other girls, she is actually becoming more of a monster. From her pretty mouth tiny fangs have started to sprout. Hidden beneath her cute, sexy outfits lurks a lengthening tail, and, where her wounds used to be, strange, bristly hairs erupt. Only Brigitte knows the secrets Ginger is desperate to conceal, and Brigitte bears the brunt of Ginger’s volatile stew of emotions regarding them. At times Ginger embraces the changes; at other times they appall her. She likes the “wicked” feelings of power and eroticism she feels as a result of her pubertal and lycanthropic metamorphoses, but she fears the rapid progression of symptoms she cannot control.

Her pubertal hormones, intensified by the lycanthropic virus, make her a fierce female beast in heat, desperate to mate, and her ravenous werewolf hunger goads her to kill. Flesh to copulate with, flesh to consume she craves, the desire for sex and the hunger for prey becoming more closely linked as her brain is controlled, her willpower diminished by the onslaught of hormonal and viral-triggered impulses. When she finds a boy who wants to have sex with her, she becomes the aggressor, groping and biting like a maenad, infecting him with her virus. Still ravenous and perhaps dissatisfied following her bout of frenzied fornication, she kills a dog, then, covered in blood, slinks home and vomits. Sullenly, she realizes that even though she overpowered her lover, assuming a much more masculine role than the startled boy anticipated, she will still, by society’s standards, be derisively dismissed as a “lay,” whereas the male will be regarded as a conquering “hero.” The fury of a wolf-woman scorned simmers within. Her appetite for sex and gore, temporarily appeased, has not been sated.

As Ginger’s transformation process continues, her murderous instincts increase. Although repulsed by the physical changes gradually taking place, she feels exhilarated and empowered by her bestial strength and ferocity. "No one ever thinks chicks do shit like this. Trust me,” she proudly exclaims. “A girl can only be a slut, bitch, tease or the virgin next door because girls don't know how the world works,” whereas she experiences an ecstasy beyond anything most people, especially women, have known. “It feels so... good,” she later tells her sister after slaughtering the school janitor. “It's like touching yourself. You know every move... right on the fucking dot. And after, you see fucking fireworks. Supernovas. I'm a goddamn force of nature. I feel like I could do just about anything.” Ginger is addicted to the thrill of murder, the atavistic violence associated with her regression into a repulsive, ruthless creature neither human nor animal but assuming the most dangerous characteristics of each.

Brigitte struggles to reverse her sister’s bestial transformation. With the help of a male friend knowledgeable about werewolf lore, she experiments with monkshood, a plant traditionally regarded as a lycanthrope deterrent. When the boy Ginger infected turns into a werewolf, Brigitte manages to inject him with the monkshood, thereby eradicating his symptoms. Ginger, however, resists Brigitte’s attempts to cure her. Although Ginger becomes depressed after one of her kills, even cutting herself and telling Brigitte she wants to die because she cannot control her bloodlust, the murderous ecstasy her lycanthropy provides overrides her occasional bouts of despair as well as her residual humanity.

Ginger is becoming more beast than person, and this beast is much more horrific than any real-life animal. Lacking any of a wolf’s majestic beauty, the mutant monster Ginger transforms into resembles a gruesomely swollen sow with a rictus snarl spread over its slavering porcine muzzle. Ginger is too far gone to be redeemed, having lost her human conscience and any control over her savage impulses. In a final showdown Ginger attacks Brigitte, and Brigitte stabs her sister to death.

As in traditional werewolf movies, Ginger Snaps concludes with the destruction of the dangerous creature. However, unlike Larry Talbot and his lycanthropic descendants, Ginger does not return to human form after her death. She is not given this post-mortem benediction. Instead, her grotesque bestial corpse lies in a distended heap, bloated or possibly even pregnant with some aberrant but hopefully never-to-be-born progeny. Ginger has achieved her former goal of being different than other girls, not bound to a life of conventionality and domesticity, but, though she experienced feral thrills surpassing even her darkly creative imaginings, she ended up becoming enslaved by her body and her uncontrollable urges. Instead of flying free like some wildly exotic butterfly, she remains trapped in a decaying tumescent cocoon, never able to escape her prison.

Although shapeshifting offers the potential to attain in animal form an ecstatic sensory experience that transcends the language-filtered limitations of human consciousness, it often imposes its own restrictions, the transformations occurring unbidden, the result of lunar phases or turbulent emotions, such as anger or lust. Its addictive thrills can, as with Ginger, overpower the will, imprison the soul.

Author Bio

Alison Armstrong is the author of two literary horror novels (Revenance and Toxicosis) and a novella (Vigil and Other Writings). Her work focuses on inner terror, stealthily lurking, solipsistic dread and nightmare flash epiphanies. Having obtained a Master of Arts in English, she has taught composition and literature at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, MI and Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn. In addition to her novels and novella (available on Amazon), she has recently had poetry published in The Sirens Call ( ). Currently she is writing Consorting with the Shadow: Phantasms and the Dark Side of Female Consciousness, a book that will combine literary and film analysis with fictional explorations of women’s experiences regarding dark entities and doppelganger figures. Further information on her writings is available on her Web site, , and on her Facebook page for the novels Revenance and Toxicosis:

Saturday, July 8, 2017


     I'm a quarter century sober today. My last drink was 25 years ago. It was dark rum, which was all I could find. I vividly remember gulping some down for breakfast, praying it would stay down.
     It didn't. I threw it up in the sink. Shortly after, I was in detox. Another painful three days, but this time, I followed it up with three weeks of treatment.
     Treatment was something I resisted again and again, only agreeing to detox but then often drinking on my way home. They tried to make me go to rehab, and I said No No NO many times, but finally had to say Yes. If not, my organs, which were literally swollen and bleeding, would have bled out for good and I'd be a bunch of ashes on someone's mantle. How the hell the sobriety stuck for 25 years is amazing, and certainly an act of the old Gods and the new, for even though staying sober is my 'default', there is a beast inside me that wants to drug and drink every day. Right now. A mountain of Coke and Vodka please.
     But I've learned a million ways to let the cravings pass, to grasp on to joy, to live with the darkness and absurdity and find some meaning. I find ways to escape reality. I run. I bike, I let my children teach me how to live. I also write a lot of dark fiction, much of it revolving around addiction. Writing is how I stick a knife in my heart and spill it all over the page.
     Anniversarys always bring the annual questions from those around me, “Do you still want to drink?” I inevitably ponder if I should be honest (as I was above) or if I should lie in order to provide comfort to the loved one. I could say, “hell no! the idea makes me sick” in order to put them at ease, but I don’t want to mislead anyone. I eventually reply with a watered down version of the truth.
     And the truth is, of course I want to drink. If I didn’t want to, I wouldn’t fully have this chronic condition. My alcoholism that lives within me sure as hell wants to, but I have learned how to cherish life and feel the full force of its joy, its sorrows, its pain, its ecstasies.
How did you do it?
     In a sense, and based on the odds, it is the hardest thing you’ll ever do, and I’m so grateful that it ‘happened to me’, not just ‘because of me’. I put it that way because, in a sense, the best way to stay clean and sober is to ‘get out of the way and let it happen.’ It wants to happen, but all of our own fears get in the way, including a fear of success and living life to its fullest. Be patient, get out of the way, let it happen. Patience is perhaps one of the most essential strengths in being sober, especially the patience to ride out tough times. I’ve let bouts of depression, anger, hurt, and even rage blow through me by tying myself to the mast and feeling the full force of the hurricane until the storm passes.
     And there have been storms, some due to the unexpected tragedy or two, but many of them from my own making. I’ve made plenty of decisions that set off a crisis. The irony is I used to be so scared my life would be unbearably drab and boring if I stopped using. That to stay clean was akin to ‘selling out to the man.’ That sober people are boring, mindless, shallow. They have no depth. They haven’t expanded their minds. They don’t like adventure. This is the kind of bullshit I used to tell myself and believe. The irony is, staying clean and sober is experiencing life unencumbered and is as bad-ass as it gets. It’s going to the dentist and getting a root canal without novacaine and feeling the rawness of your fully exposed nerves getting drilled by cold metal. (um, that’s just a metaphor). Bring it on, Gods and Devils, is that all you got?
     I do hope I will die clean and sober. I expect to, but I do not take it for granted, for nothing is a given. One last irony: I used to be terrified of how I will die and pray that it happened in my sleep so I felt no pain. Now I think the opposite. I want to be fully aware of my last breath, to feel my death completely stone cold sober and soak out every last sensation of it, for we only die once. I want to know what it is like to feel death, and not die in some drunken blackout, but to be fully aware of my senses. Same way I am now experiencing life.
**Mark Matthews is a substance abuse therapist and author of addiction-based dark fiction including MILK-BLOODAll Smoke Rises, and the newly released anthology: GARDEN OF FIENDS: TALES OF ADDICTION HORROR**

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Cover of GARDEN of FIENDS Wins Recognition

 Zach McCain won a GOLD STAR for his cover of GARDEN OF FIENDS: TALES OF ADDICTION HORROR by one of the premier cover contests in the Digi-verse. 

Check out more here:  The Book Designer

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror
$4.99 for Kindle
$12.99 for paperback 
(buy the paperback, and you can get the kindle version for only .99 cents more)

"There's something here to scare anyone and everyone. Garden of Fiends pushes all the wrong buttons in all the right ways!"
-Jonathan Maberry, New York Times best-selling author of Dogs of War and Mars One

"Garden of Fiends is scary in the realest of ways. What fertile ground for horror; stories that already, by nature, take place in the Twilight Zone; where lies and shady acts are the rule; where men and women step out of one world and into another; a place where addiction is king. John FD Taff's 'Last Call' is worth the price of admission alone."
-Josh Malerman, Bram Stoker nominated author of Bird Box

"A brilliant and original concept, Garden of Fiends captures the struggles of addiction and the horrors they inflict on those affected by it. Yes, it is dark and visceral, but with moments of hope throughout that make this a memorable collection of stories."
-The Horror Bookshelf

"Garden of Fiends brings us face-to-face with the demons driving us to dependence. Raw, brutal and insightful, Garden of Fiends is an important work."
-Lee Murray, author of Into the Mist

"An unflinching and intense look at addiction and its consequences, from some of the best horror writers in the business."
-Char's Horror Corner

"An incredibly fascinating and at times grim read. These are dark tales set against a backdrop of fear, addiction and self-loathing where families are ripped apart and relationships are left in tatters. Some of these stories will infect your conscious, burying themselves deep inside of your mind, leaving you scarred and itching to read more."
-Adrian Shotbolt, The Grim Reader

"Every offering drips with truth, blending tales of horror and addiction into an emotionally draining, yet essential experience."
-Ben Walker, UK Horror Scene

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

GARDEN OF FIENDS MARCH MADNESS CONTEST! Win a paperback or one of ten kindle copies

It’s MARCH MADNESS. Time to fill out your bracket. And by bracket I mean, “Garden of Fiends” brackets, of course. Here's how you play: Match the authors from the Table of Contents with their story’s first sentence and email to Get the most correct and you'll have a paperback delivered to your U.S. doorstep. (see below if you're not from the U.S.)

 If there’s a tie, first one to submit will win the paperback, rest will win a voucher to download Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror for FREE the day it is released. In fact, if you're one of the first 10 who submit, regardless of your bracket, you'll win an amazon voucher for a FREE kindle download to your email on release day. Contest closes after 50 entries.

Below is the list of authors on the table of contents, as well as a list of the first sentences of all the stories.

Just match the author number with the corresponding sentence letter. (
For example, one entry might be 1.B  2.F  3.A  4.G  5.C  6.H  7.D  8.E )

Enjoy! Email your answers to:

Author Number:
1. Kealan Patrick Burke

2. Jessica McHugh

3. Max Booth III

4. Johann Thorsson

5. John FD Taff

6. Glen Krisch

7. Mark Matthews

8. Jack Ketchum

First Sentence Letter

A. Ted was so nervous about that evening's AA meeting that he'd gone out and had a drink or two.

B. The best way to take atlys is to inject it straight into the testicles.

C. Julia tried it for the first time in a party uptown, a party she only went to because her friend, that friend, the one who knows all the cool people, convinced her to come. 

D. Jeremy watched the blood flow out of him, helpless and terrified.

E. "I'm here.”

F. I wake up drowning in a puddle, my lungs filled with rainwater.

G. “Stop listening right now if you don’t want to hear the truth.”

H. Exhausted after hitching for hundreds of miles, Maggie had finally hopped on a Greyhound in Wichita to take her the rest of the way to her long lost father.

**Email your answers to Most correct answers wins a paperback, ten more prizes of a voucher for a FREE Kindle download.
(if you're outside of the U.S., you can win but must pay paperback shipping. Sorry.)
(if you are in possession of an advance review copy, you're not eligible.)

Friday, February 24, 2017

GARDEN OF FIENDS PRESALE is NOW! (But read from the Table of Contents TODAY)

So excited to announce that The Presale has begun! Get your copy at a discount.  But who wants to wait for release day? Not me, and not you. 

So Check this promo out:

The first 25 readers who send a receipt confirming a pre-sale purchase of GARDEN OF FIENDS to will win the kindle book of their choosing written by any author on the GARDEN OF FIENDS table of contents. Yep, don't wait for April, read from the table of contents TODAY.

Lemme break this down:

1. Purchase Garden of Fiends on Amazon presale (currently at a discounted price.)

2. Choose from one the books listed below written by authors appearing on the table of contents

3. Email your Garden of Fiends' purchase receipt along with your choice of one of the books below to and...

Bamn! If you’re one of the first 25 you’ll receive an amazon voucher right back for a free kindle download of your chosen book.

 (And, pssst... if you're not one of the first 25 who email, I can still promise something extra.)

Here are your choices: 

Jack Ketchum 
The Girl Next Door
Off Season
Peaceable Kingdom
The Woman


Kealan Patrick Burke
Sour Candy
Secret Faces
The Turtle Boy

Jessica McHugh
The Train Derails in Boston
The Green Kangaroos
Rabbits in the Garden

John FD Taff
The Desolated Orchard
I Can Taste the Blood
The End in All Beginnings

Max Booth III

How to Successfully Kidnap Strangers
Lost Signals
American Nightmare

Johann Thorrsson
Not Your Average Monster: Volume 2

Glen Krisch
Where Darkness Dwells
The Hollowed Land
The Nightmare Within

Mark Matthews
All Smoke Rises
Lilly's Tale: The Milk-Blood Trilogy
On the Lips of Children

 (Don't see a book by one of these authors on the list? please inquire within)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Beast Within--An Analysis of Ginger Snaps

(I put out a request for guest blog posts, and struck it big. Here is Alison Armstrong's detailed analysis of Ginger Snaps, a must see...