As we gear up for a strange WrestleMania this coming weekend, I thought now would be a good time to talk about one of the contenders and a Dark Deviation in the World Wrestling Entertainment sphere – The Fiend.
WWE’s Bray Wyatt (Windham Lawrence Rotunda) is no randy when it comes to putting horror into his wrestling. During his NXT days, he founded the faction The Wyatt Family with Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. Later on, The Wyatt Family joined Raw, continuing the creepy backwoods origins and its Bayou/voodoo cultist imagery. This led to Bray Wyatt eventually facing John Cena at WrestleMania XXX, in a weird match between the “Eater of Worlds” and the current host of “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” on Nickelodeon.
After Bray Wyatt was defeated by Cena, the Wyatt family still kicked around for a while, sinking disappointing lows when Randy Orton joined the group.
The group officially disbanded in 2017. Bray Wyatt still wrestled (and even teamed up with the “Deleter of Worlds” Matt Hardy for and after Wrestlemania 34), but never fully rose to his full potential.
Until April 2019.
There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture.
In April 2019, strange occurrences started happening on the live feed of WWE. Short and ominous clips of strange, grotesque puppets began airing. Soon, they became longer segments of a “children’s show” called “Firefly Fun House”, featuring a intensely cheerful Bray Wyatt with his puppet friends: Mercy the Buzzard, Abby the Witch, Ramblin’ Rabbit and Huskus the Pig Boy.
During its first full segment, the new and improved Wyatt destroyed a cardboard cutout of his old self with a chainsaw and cheerily told viewers that all they had to do was “let [him] in”. Thus began the catchphrase and constant request throughout the show as it became more sinister in tone and the request increasingly became more demanding.
Over the following weeks, Bray began to gleefully mention HIM, the one who was able to finally give him safety and comfort. He talked about this new friend as a mentor and guardian, teaching him how to control the darkness and to not be afraid. How this friend is also a friend to you and to me…
All we have to do is let him in…
The Fiend Emerges!!!
Three months later, HE appeared. No one saw it coming, least of all Finn Bálor. Poor Finn Bálor.
In July, The Fiend made his unofficial debut as all the lights went dead during Monday Night Raw as Finn was in the ring. Only seconds later, the lights flashing on to reveal The Fiend had destroyed Finn within the darkness.
After some matches, some wins and some losses, we have The Fiend going after old rival John “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-grader” Cena in the next Wrestlemania on April 4-5th, 2020. Cena accepted this challenge, but the stipulations of the Firefly Fun House match are not yet known. However, I doubt it includes a rap battle between The Fiend and Cena, so we can all be rest-assured.
Bray Wyatt (Windham Lawrence Rotunda) is a master story-teller and a terrific actor. The lead-up and the reveal of The Fiend is one of the best and scariest things that the WWE has ever had in its history.
I am so, so glad that he was given creative license to try this and to try the Wyatt family, because that was absolutely the foot-in-the-door for this character. Wyatt not only has the charisma to pull this character off, but the passion behind it to make it work. Without both, this could have been a hot mess and fallen flat. It’s a bold move that has paid off big – for fans, for Wyatt and for the company.
According to some theories, this character has been in his mind for quite some time and they are major layers of complexity. That’s what makes it resonate so much with the fans. This persona is carefully crafted – from personality, to moves, to the horrifying and hideous mask.
Yowie wowie! There’s a good reason why that mask is as mother-snuggling terrifying as it is. The mask was first designed by tattoo artist Kyle Scarborough, owner of The Washington Tattoo Collective. But as horror aficionados, you’ve most likely seen the work of the official mask creator before. Once the sketch was given the green light, it was then handed to horror legend and special effects icon Tom Savini’s studio and created by Savini, Jason Baker and Ell Farrington.
Not only is it utterly horrific, but needed to be completely wrestling-proof. That means he had to be able to see every dropkick coming his way or could be seriously hurt. It had to be easy to breathe in, and breathable itself for all the sweat and movement of getting, say, dropkicked in the face.
Truly a work of art from Bray Wyatt, Kyle Scarborough, and Tom Savini’s team, this is an instant classic and iconic mask in horror history.
A little while after the construction of the mask, Wyatt also asked for at least one other accessory that we know of…his own head.
Again, Wyatt went to Scarborough for the concept art.
“The idea was to have the face that we know that he has, stretched over a lantern with a glow coming out of his mouth,” Kyle Scarborough said.
The lantern was also created by Savini’s studio, with the fear that it would get the boot because it was too scary. They were given the go-ahead…mostly. While the mask has been an easy sell to promote, the WWE has edited out the lantern for their Youtube channel, but it can be seen during its live shows. And, if you’ve got a spare $100, you can buy a replica on the website, complete with stitched eyes!
I have thoroughly enjoyed Bray Wyatt’s Fun House and The Fiend since Day 1.
The Fiend is a fast fan-favorite and it’s easy to see why. A lot of time and preparation has been taken to create and perfect this character. While Wyatt has always dabbled and moved within the realm of horror in the WWE, this character takes it to a whole new level. He is a carefully crafted jump-scare and not just a quick gimmick. Bray Wyatt is one of the best entertainers they have right now in the WWE, regardless of his wrestling, regardless of his physical attributes. He has people terrified and loving it. (5 / 5)
#ChadGetsTheAxe Coming Out September 1st
But sometimes there comes a film that’s smartly written, full of humor and social commentary, plus great acting. Oh, and scares that actually scare the shit out of me.
Almost a year to the date, I got to watch such a film called #CHADGETSTHEAXE that I saw as a screener for FilmQuest Fest in October, 2022. And I was blown away by the talents of director/co-writer Travis Bible and co-writer/producer Kemerton Hargrove; starring Spencer Harrison Levin (Black Jesus), Michael Bonini (New Amsterdam), Taneisha Figueroa (Duck World), Cameron Vitosh (Walker), Brandon Doyle (Murder Made Me Famous), and Shun Hagins (Snitch).
Mini-Review, I swear it’s short:
And, I know, I know, I know. ‘But Brannyyyyk, isn’t livestreaming horror movies just a flash in the pan? Hasn’t it been done beforeeee?’ For one, stop saying it like that, it’s weird. For two, not like this. The care and attention that went into #CHADGETSTHEAXE is wickedly clever with such tongue-in-cheek humor of influencers, humanity, and the toxic culture of fandom. It’s the shining example of live-streaming movies because it’s so f-ing smart.
Case in point, the characters are living up to their personas. However, even when the personas are ragged and driven to the edge of life and death, we never see them as people, fully dimensional people, because we never see them break away from their devices. There’s never a shot that shows us ‘hey, this is a film, now let’s see them as the real character they are’. The actors are really carrying dual roles as the personas and the real people underneath; as they are struggling to keep up appearances in front of the millions of viewers.
Plus, don’t get me started on the characters within the livestream feed, along with running jokes and clues to the haunted house.
Anyway, I don’t want to give too much away as I’m going to be covering it on Streamin’ Demons soon. But I wanted to also tease about the fact that I’m going to be interviewing some VIPs from the movie for What’s Kraken? So, shhh, only tell your closest friends because it’s going to be incredible.
Join the Hype Train:
Adapted from an award-winning short with the same title, #ChadGetsTheAxe follows four social media influencers as they live-stream their trip to Devil’s Manor, former home to a Satanic Cult. Things don’t go well. And as the violence ramps up… so do the views.
The film premiered at FilmQuest in October 2022 and Internationally at FrightFest Glasgow in March 2023 where it was well received by critics. #ChadGetsTheAxe was produced by Travis Bible, Eric Gibson, Kemerton Hargrove, and Frances O’Hanlon, while Dream Big Group serves as executive producers.
The Horror Collective is the genre label of Entertainment Squad — a production and distribution company founded by veteran producer Shaked Berenson (TURBO KID, TALES OF HALLOWEEN). The label’s latest releases include the Daytime Emmy nominated Limited Series DOOMSDAY, the killer-pants Shudder Original SLAXX, and the critically acclaimed horror-comedy SUMMONING SYLVIA.
June Title for Arrow Streaming
Welcome to June! There’s so much on the hopper for Arrow that I just have to give you, my friends, the hot goss.
June 2nd: Paul Joyce Documentaries
June 2nd kicks off the month with ARROW’s latest curation of Paul Joyce documentaries, this time looking at legendary filmmaker John Cassavetes, straight from the mouth of his friend and collaborator co-star Peter Falk (Columbo) in Out of the Shadows: The Films of John Cassavetes.
After a six year directing hiatus, Monte Hellman sat down with Paul Joyce and just talked for an hour while Joyce filmed. The result is Plunging on Alone: Monte Hellman’s Life In a Day.
June 2nd: the wild world of Ero Guro
What is Ero Guro? Well, the Japanese sub-genre of horror and pink films Ero Guro combines the erotic (ero) and the grotesque (guro) to deviant, decadent and unforgettable effect. ARROW’s Ero Guro collection features the unholy trinity of core Ero Guro films, Teruo Ishii’s Shogun’s Joy of Torture and Horrors of Malformed Men and Yasuzo Masumura’s Blind Beast, plus plenty more exciting, explicit and enticingly depraved delights to delve into.
Titles Include: Shogun’s Joy of Torture, Blind Beast, Irezumi.
June 6th: Warriors Two (US/CA)
After making his directorial debut with the intense The Iron-Fisted Monk and firmly solidifying his worth at Golden Harvest, Sammo Hung would be given more creative control behind the camera. Now able to inject more of his own personality, Hung would bring to life the more upbeat (yet only slightly less violent) Wing Chun cult classic: Warriors Two!
Predating the Ip Man tetralogy by three decades – as well as Hung’s own The Prodigal Son (starring Yuen Biao as the younger incarnation of Leung Tsan) by a few years – Warriors Two is one of the earliest films to authentically portray the teachings of Wing Chun while also delivering the kind of kinetic and pulse-pounding fights synonymous with the name Sammo Hung!
June 16th: Eli Roth Selects (UK/IRE/US/CA)
Splatter icon Eli Roth takes a stroll through the archives with Eli Roth Selects (UK/IRE/US/CA). “I absolutely love Arrow and have been a collector of their editions for years, and Arrow Player is the most streamed channel in my house. I’ve seen a lot of Select lists, and while I agree with them, I wanted to highlight some that people might have otherwise overlooked.”
Titles Include: Basket Case, Contamination, Madhouse.
June 19th: Toru Murakawa’s Game Trilogy (UK/IRE/US/CA)
Made at the end of the 1970s, Toru Murakawa’s Game Trilogy launched actor Yûsaku Matsuda as the Toei tough guy for a new generation. Matsuda was the definitive screen icon of 1980s until his career was tragically cut short by cancer at the age of 40, following his Hollywood debut in Ridley Scott’s Black Rain.
The Most Dangerous Game (UK/IRE/US/CA): In this career-defining triptych, Matsuda is Shohei Narumi, an ice cool hitman of few words, a steely trigger finger, and a heart of stone, hired in The Most Dangerous Game by a company bidding for a lucrative government air defence contract to take out the competition.
The Killing Game (UK/IRE/US/CA): Narumi finds himself caught in the midst of violent yakuza gang warfare, while his own brutal past catches up with him in the form of two beautiful women still bearing the emotional scars of his past assignments.
The Execution Game (UK/IRE/US/CA): Narumi falls for a mysterious saloon bar chanteuse who may or may not be part of the same, shadowy underworld organization as the rival hitmen he is employed to rub out. (I’m assuming the tough-guy way and not the sexy way)
June 23rd: SHAAAARKS!!!
Yessss, Cruel Jaws is coming to Arrow!
ARROW heads to the beach for some terror with shark attacks.
Cruel Jaws (US/CA): A huge shark terrorizes a beach in Florida, and the locals try everything to kill it.
Deep Blood (US/CA): Several young men have to stop an ancient native American evil in the form of a killer shark which is attacking a small beach community.
June 23rd: Sci-fi Stunners (UK/IRE/US/CA)
For the penultimate Season, ARROW boldly goes to the stars on June 23, seeking out new life and new cinema.
Sci-fi Stunners (UK/IRE/US/CA): There are other worlds than these. Come and explore them in this collection of cybernetic, planet-probing, time-travelling, cosmos-trotting, aliens-zapping, virtual and far-too-real adventures in Sci-fi Stunners – ARROW’s home world for the coolest Cult science-fiction films in the galaxy.
Titles Include: No Escape, Donnie Darko, Crimes of the Future.
Last but not least
Cosa Nostra Collection (UK/IRE/US/CA):
The most American of directors according to celebrated critic Paolo Mereghetti, Damiano Damiani (A Bullet for the General) nevertheless surveyed his own country’s mafia history unlike anyone before him, to critical and box office success.
Full of twists and a fascinating meta-commentary on cinema, Damiani points the camera at himself and the genre as he investigates the social impact of mafia violence, a fitting end to this survey of Damiani’s Cosa Nostra.
Titles Include: Day of the Owl, The Case is Closed, Forget It, How To Kill a Judge.
From Arrow Films, a recognized world-leader in curation and creation, ARROW is a premium platform giving audiences an unparalleled viewing experience across multiple devices, so fans can explore the films and TV shows that the Arrow brand is famous for.
Specially curated by members of the ARROW team, ARROW is home to premium film and TV entertainment, exclusive new premieres, cutting edge cinema, international classics and cult favorites – such as the works of Lars Von Trier, Brian De Palma, Dario Argento, David Cronenberg and Park Chan-wook, and brand-new short films from both new and established filmmakers.
In the coming months, ARROW will be adding Oscar-winning hits, European classics, Asian cinema masterworks, rediscovered Westerns, offbeat gems and much more as part of ARROW’s international strategy to support and celebrate the medium of film.
A horror author goes to Nebula Con
The Science Fiction, Fantasy Writers Association is one of the most prestigious organizations in America for speculative fiction writers. While horror is not specifically mentioned, we all know that it’s nearly impossible to discuss fantasy and science fiction without the shadow of horror creeping in.
Each year, SFWA hosts a convention for writers called Nebula Con. I have virtually attended the convention for the past two years. And if you’ve never attended, you might want to consider it. Even if your writing, like mine, is long in the shadows and short on the elves.
First off, I do want to be clear that Nebula Con is a convention for speculative fiction writers. There are some fan panels, like the one on the works of Robin McKinley, this year’s Grandmaster. But the majority of the panels and events are for writers.
That being said, there are panels for writers at every stage of their careers.
For writers interested in crafting better stories, craft panels abound. My favorite panel was the one titled For The Love of Short Fiction. This panel started with a reading of some of the best short works from 2022. Then, each panelist dug into what made that piece work for them.
There were several other terrific panels, including one all about constructing a realistic legal system in your fictional world and writing fictional podcasts. (Like I do.)
But, you might say, these are panels for sci-fi and fantasy writers. No, these are panels for speculative fiction writers. Horror authors who want to have any kind of career would do well to master the short story. And if you don’t think there’s room for some legal horror in the market, you are wrong.
While the craft panels were wonderful, the career and marketing panels were probably the most useful and valuable of the whole convention. Are you, like many other online creatives, worried about the effects AI-generated writing is going to have on our field? There were two informative panels regarding that. Are you wondering how writers’ relationships with agents have changed now that self-publishing is so prevalent? There’s a panel for that.
A lot is going on in the publishing world. It’s confusing as hell, my friends. And one of the ways we keep each other up to date is with conventions like this. What I got out of the panel most was that having a career in writing is possible. My fellow participants and I learned from writers who are doing the thing. It’s hard, but it’s possible.
Of course, a convention is more than just panels. There’s the chance to meet with other authors. This might be where a virtual convention seems to have a deficit. And while I’ll admit that meeting online isn’t the same as meeting in person, there are certainly perks. I was able to meet, chat with and share stories with other writers in a Zoom chat room. And I came away feeling much like I did as a kid, having met new friends at summer camp. Even if I wasn’t sitting across from them, it was great to be surrounded by other people who want to make a living scaring the hell out of other people.
All of this writing joy culminates with the Nebula Awards Ceremony. If you’re interested in catching the awards but didn’t make it to the convention this year, you can watch it all on Youtube. Each year speculative fiction authors of all kinds of honored, from written work to gaming to television. This year’s toastmaster was Cheryl Platz, an author, and actress. As a critic, awards ceremonies are usually something I usually force my way through. The Nebula Awards are a rare treat in that scene. Partially because there’s a chance I’ve met the people up for the awards. But also because the people involved are, first and foremost, writers. It’s amazing how much more entertaining events are when the people being honored are, you know, talented storytellers.
If you’ve been on the fence about attending Nebula Con virtually, I suggest giving it a try. The world certainly needs more stories that go bump in the night.