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After last week’s relative stumble, can Lovecraft Country pick up the pieces and slow its pace? Is the show still burning the candle with a flamethrower, or has it shifted to something a little more moody?

Leti is about to make a point to the neighborhood.

The story so far…

“Holy Ghost” opens with a dire warning that in 1955, three people will disappear from the recently-purchased house of Leticia Lewis, and with that Lovecraft Country turns into a haunted house story for the duration of an episode. Throughout the episode title cards updating the timeline over the course of days suggest something awful approaches.

Leti, as with the other Ardham survivors, has a lot to work through. We open the episode with her in church, but while those around her take in the joy and comfort of God she can only shed tears. That changes, however, when she reveals to her sister Ruby that she purchased a run-down old house in a white neighborhood and plans to turn it into a boarding house. Leti throws herself into different things to come to terms with what bothers her, her boarding house, trying to reconnect to her sister, her photography, celebration, sex with Atticus, and rage against white agitators in the neighborhood, but none of it helps.

It takes a truly selfless action, motivated by ghostly encounters, to find a form of salvation that has escaped her since the flight from Ardham. At her lowest point, separated from her sister (again), her tenants, and still dealing with the guilt of surviving when George died, she turns her attention to the evil in the house, in the form of a cultist doctor’s ghost, and hopes to put the spirits of the 8 murdered black people to rest. She finds that salvation, by the end of the episode and finds a renewed home.

Let’s extended focus leaves a little less room for the rest of the cast in the aftermath of Montrose’s rescue, but we get snippets of life after the death of George. Hippolyta takes out her frustrations on Atticus, whose well meaning attempts to help her and Dee just rub her the wrong way. She event turns to destruction, tearing the pages from George’s favorite book, Dracula. Her discovery of an astronomical model within a locked room of Leti’s house, however, might mean something. After all, Hippoltya had an interest in the stars and we see the model is curiously absent later, when two of the white neighbors break into the house to inflict harm.


Atticus is feeling lost and with fewer answers than he had hoped. He intends to head back to Florida, but is convinced to stay long enough to help ensure that Leti’s house remains safe from the white neighbors. He tries to connect with Montrose who would rather drink, and their discussion is cut short by a violent outburst on the part of Montrose over the topic of keeping the truth of George’s murder secret. He eventually aids Leti in the process of exorcising the house through a Voudou ritual at one point becoming a vessel for the sinister spirit within. Tic’s final moments of the episode have him confront Christina Braithwhite, who arranged the entire scheme of putting the house in the possession of Leti. Atticus nearly killer her, but her formidable powers prevent that, and she lectures him on the dangers of killing white women and offers him a task, to track down missing pages from The Book of Names.

One of the better haunting sequences in the episode.

How it worked out…

Lovecraft Country is a show of tremendous potential, but I am becoming concerned that it may not live up to it. I’ve given up, at this point, on the idea of being scared of otherworldly creatures and concepts in the show. The horror of the specter of racism is enough in that regard. Yet, for a ghost story there should be some material that is unnerving, correct? Nothing about “Holy Ghost” struck me as remotely scary outside of the inhumanity of man. Though, maybe that is the point.

Ghost stories are a particularly favorite genre of horror for me. I adore ghost stories but came out of “Holy Ghost” rather passive about the hour run-time. This might be best blamed on the pacing of the show which, continuing the precedent of episode two, feels like sprinting through a story rather than letting it play out. The show has the challenge of juggling the ongoing stories of the characters while establishing the anthologized storylines that the characters weave in and out of. In that regard, you would think it would make sense to give those elements room to develop, but that does not seem to be the approach for Lovecraft Country.

That being said, the ghost story present in the episode isn’t bad at all, and it plays pretty well with the show’s exploration of racism and the abuse of black bodies (quite literally). It’s just that there is no tension in the episode actually connected to the ghost story at all, and what would normally make for a full movie or a couple of episodes end sup getting handled int he span of about 40 or so minutes. We see the signs of a haunting, the major encounter, the research, and the exorcism – all in one episode. It feels a little much, especially when the show also tries to tackle the trauma and grief of George’s death as well. With the limited time the show can spend with different characters and plotlines the developments are admirable, but also a little perfunctory, less full explorations and more like checkmarks on an outline.

Lovecraft Country is burning through multiple episodes of storytelling to diminishing results. Despite a strong foundation, mood and tension have given way to a breathlessly paced ghost story where little seems to haunt.

I give the third episode, “Holy Ghost,” four Cthulhus. I gave this one a little bit of a ghostly-bump simply because the bones are solid. I don’t know what possessed me.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
Montrose clashes with Atticus over the truth about George’s death.

Miskatonic Musings

As always, there is a wealth of references to uncover in an episode of Lovecraft Country.

  • Jurnee Smollett leads the charge this week with an episode that gives her a great range of emotion and is worthy of notice in any list of great actresses.
  • One of the boys playing with the Quija board may be referencing the real-life Emmett Till, which is another example of the profound horror Lovecraft Country evokes best.
  • We see Dracula and The Count of Monte Christo again. I’m definitely curious about Montrose’s record collection.
  • So what was with the ghosts? Well, the previous owner of the house, Hiram Epstein, was engaged with his own experiments to reach the Garden of Eden, but he used kidnapped black people from Chicago to do so. The ghosts as they are seen throughout the episode bear the scars of those experiments which seem to have something to do with time travel. So now you know why the basketball player had a baby’s head.
    • These experiments definitely echo the experiments on black people, such as the harvesting of the cells of Henrietta Lacks or the horrific Tuskegee Study.
  • The poem in the opening sequence at the church? It came from a 2017 Nike ad featuring Leiomy Maldonando.
  • While Lovecraft didn’t write about ghosts often in his stories, but there are some significant ones, such as “The Mound,” a novella he ghostwrote. The further irony is that the story was published posthumously.
  • Lovecraft also wrote a great deal on supernatural horror, such in his essay, “Supernatural Horror in Literature,” which shares some thoughts on ghosts.
  • The show continues to use a great mix of contemporary and anacrhonistic music. Let’s close out this review with my favorite song from the episode, “Good Rockin’ Daddy” by Etta James:

What did you think of the third episode of Lovecraft Country? Let us know in the comments.

And yes, I did update the title graphic for the reviews, thanks for noticing.

David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

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Movies n TV

Goosebumps, The Haunted Mask



Episode two of Goosebumps was honestly more fun than the first. It was dark, funny, infuriating and wonderful. Best of all, it has a killer twist ending.

Let’s discuss.

The story

Based loosely on the 1993 story of the same name, The Haunted Mask begins sort of partway through the first episode.

Cover of R.L. Stine's The Haunted Mask.

We’re introduced to a character we haven’t seen much of so far, named Isabella.

Isabella’s life doesn’t seem great. She’s all but invisible at school. She is responsible for taking care of her little brother. It seems like her only real joy is bullying people online. She was the person who tried to get Allison’s party canceled by sending the invite to her parents. Why? Because she is a very unhappy person.

Despite trying to get the party canceled, she decides to go anyway. At the Biddle house, a voice calls her down to the basement. There, she finds a mask.

The mask inspires her to do wild things. She wanders around the party, flirting with everyone. And she has a great time.

Several days later, after Isaiah breaks his arm, Isabella brings an expensive drone to school to get shots of the football team’s practice. Unfortunately, Lucas breaks it fooling around. And Isabella, tired of being ignored, says some awful things to him.

When her mother grounds her because she took the drone without asking, the mask compels her to do some awful things.


What worked

I would first like to talk about the storytelling structure in this season. It appears that we’re going to be getting the events of Halloween night multiple times, from multiple points of view.

Ana Yi Puig in Goosebumps.

I love this structure. It’s unique, and it allows for more mystery in a shorter period. It’s also more complex, showing just how much madness was happening, while just showing one part of the story at a time.

Another thing I appreciated was the evolution of the character Lucas.

On one hand, it’s easy to be angry at Lucas. Even if he thought the drone belonged to the school, it’s still kind of a selfish move to break it.

But Lucas just lost his father. We don’t know how yet, but we know from Nora that his death caused Lucas to start doing things like jumping on drones and skateboarding off the roof from his bedroom window.


We all mourn differently. Losing a parent as a teen is awful. So while we can all agree that he’s being a problem, he’s also being a sad kid working through something hard.

And the same can be said for Isabella.

Look, we still don’t know what the adults of this town did to make Harold Biddle haunt them. But we do know that these parents are messing up in all sorts of other ways. And Isabella is suffering from parentification. She’s being forced to play mom at home while being ignored by her classmates at school. Even without the mask, I could see her lashing out and trashing the house.

Finally, I love Justin Long in this series. His visual comedy was fantastic here, as he falls through the hallways. But he also manages to be scary as hell. His creepy smile and jerky movements are enough to make anyone’s skin crawl. I honestly can’t think of a living actor who could have played this better.

What didn’t work


If I have one complaint about this episode, it’s the music. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great. Every song seems like it’s just screaming what the characters are thinking. Which isn’t really what I’d consider the point of a soundtrack.

Maybe it’s just a curse on RL Stine. None of his projects can ever have good soundtracks aside from the theme song.

Unlike the original Goosebumps series, there were moments in this episode that did startle me and unnerve me. Which is wonderful. And while it’s still clearly for kids, it’s something anyone can sit down and enjoy. I’m very excited for the rest of the season. But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)


If you’re a fan of my work, please check out my latest story, Nova, on Paper Beats World. New chapters launch every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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Movies n TV

Goosebumps Say Cheese and Die



Released in 2023, Goosebumps is the latest in a line of content based on the insanely popular children’s book series with the same name. And if you’re here, I’m guessing I don’t have to tell you a lot about Goosebumps. Most horror fans are at least passingly aware of the colorful covers, dark plotlines, and surprise twist endings. Some of us even have a few of the original books lying around.

For nostalgia.

Cover for Say Cheese and Die, Goosebumps number 4.

With so many good and bad versions of the original stories floating around, I was unsure how to feel about this brand-new series. I was sure, however, that I had to watch all of it. Especially with the infamous Slappy appearing so prominently in the advertising.

So, how was the first episode?

The story


We start this episode with a flashback to 1993, and a young man named Harold Biddle. We don’t spend a lot of time with him. He comes home from school and goes right to the basement. There he starts writing some concerning notes in his journal. This is interrupted when a fire consumes the basement, killing him.

We then flash forward thirty years to the real start of our story. The Biddle house has just been inherited by a man named Nathan Bratt, played by the delightful Justin Long. He adores the place but is less than thrilled when a bunch of teens crash it for a Halloween party.

The teens end up not being thrilled either.

Now we come to our real main characters, Isaiah, Margot, Allison, and James. It is the four of them that planned the ill-fated party.

Zack Morris in Goosebumps

While in the house, Isaiah finds a Polaroid camera. He starts taking pictures of his friends, only to find that they don’t come out right. One of them, Allison, shows her on the ground in the woods, terrified for her life. Another shows Margot in a panic next to a snack machine.

Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that he eventually sees both of the girls in those exact situations. The real trouble comes when Lucas takes a picture of him, and it shows him on the football field, horribly injured.


All of these near-death experiences seem to be caused by the flaming spirit of Harold Biddle. And it soon becomes clear that the adults of the town likely know more than they’re willing to tell about what went down at the Biddle house thirty years ago.

What worked

For someone who grew up with the series, and is therefore of a certain age, the first scene of the episode was a lot of fun. It oozed 90’s vibe in a way that’s immediately recognizable to most, and familiar to my generation. Well, insomuch as wearing flannel and coming home to an empty house is the pinnacle of being a 90s kid.

It was also fun for the constant references to books in the original series. Blink and you missed them, but I saw the Cuckoo Clock of Doom, Haunted Mask, and Go Eat Worms. These make sense, as they each have their episode this season. But I’m sure I missed a few. Please let me know in the comments.

That was a lot of fun for someone who grew up with the series. But it wasn’t so constant and all-consuming as to distract from the story. Someone could have never read a Goosebumps book in their lives and just enjoy this episode of television.


More importantly, younger viewers can watch this and feel like it’s for them. The main characters aren’t the parents, they’re the kids. And it’s clear even in this first episode that, even if it was the grownups who caused this horror, it’s going to be the kids that fix it.

This is a series that is for kids. And that’s great. It’s introducing a whole new generation to a series in a way that feels like it can be theirs just as much as it was ours when we were kids.

What didn’t work

All that being said, the story also felt a little dumbed down. A little too predictable. There was one line that particularly irritated me in this regard. When Nora goes to see Isiah’s dad in the hospital, she just flat-out says, “The children will suffer for the sins of the fathers.”

Not only is that just a bad line, it’s also a lazy one. It’s awkward and unrealistic. People simply do not talk that way. And we frankly didn’t need this information dropped on us. It was pretty clear during the football game that at least some of the grownups in town were going to be involved with this when we saw Nora recognize what was happening to Isaiah and try to stop the game. Kids are smart. They would have figured this out by themselves.


It’s also a really tired trope. Freddy and Jason after all, are both killing young people for the sins of their parents. It was a big part of the storyline in Hide. And while I get that this might feel relevant to the next generation who are all paying for the mistakes of Boomers that Gen X and Millennials have not done enough to solve, it’s also a bit lazy. I just feel like, if this is going to be our main story, it could have been a better one.

But this isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy this episode. Overall, it was a fun start that left me with lots of questions. I’m excited to see where the rest of the season takes us.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you’re a fan of my work, please check out my latest story, Nova, on Paper Beats World. New chapters every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.


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Book Reviews

The Dead Take the A Train Review: Queer Magic and Monster Mayhem



“Julie crawled onto the table, straddling her intern, both hands around the knife. She torqued it downward, cursing. Brad shrieked harder.” -pg 57, The Dead Take the A Train by Cassandra Khaw & Richard Kadrey

The Dead Take the A Train is the first book in a duology by authors Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey. It was published in 2023 by Tor Nightfire (like the Scourge Between Stars, which I reviewed here). I was not previously familiar with Kadrey’s work, which most notably includes the Sandman Slim series. However, I was introduced to Khaw through The Salt Grows Heavy (review here), which I absolutely adored in all its twisted, gory glory. Therefore, I was thrilled to pick-up The Dead Take the A Train, which promised similar heart in a modern cosmic horror package.

In The Dead Take the A Train, a magical fixer named Julie must hunt down eldritch monstrosities threatening the lives of those around her. To do this, she has to go up against her shitty ex, a questionable angel, finance executives, and her own sobriety. When an old friend shows up, Julie is terrified to find herself making a retirement plan that doesn’t involve getting murdered by a demon.

The Dead Take the A Train is reminiscent of N.K. Jeminsin’s The City We Became, with both featuring queer characters tackling eldritch horror plots in New York City. In the same way, the novel was reminiscent of a gorier version of Dimension 20’s Unsleeping City actual play series. However, it clearly carves out a space for itself among the droves of cosmic-horror inspired love letters to New York City. For one, it is mostly unconcerned with borough beef, which (not to sound like a curmudgeonly Midwesterner), is so refreshing. The book also has a relatively novel way the world works, which helps it stay memorable.


Overall, I really liked The Dead Take the A Train. First off, the characters are fun and easy to root for. Julie is a mess in pretty much every aspect, but her bad decisions are understandable and she is charismatic. Her romance with her friend, Sarah, also serves to make Julie more likable. It helps that the villains are so easy to hate too. What’s not to hate about rich Wall Street assholes engaging in human sacrifice? Speaking of which, I liked the juxtaposition of corporate Wall Street and cosmic cultists. The actions taken were evil, but more importantly, they were just business.

The prose was flowery, but not quite as much as in The Salt Grows Heavy. So, if you struggled with Khaw’s other works for that reason this may be a much easier read. Personally, I enjoyed the prose in both. There is quite a bit of gore in The Dead Take the A Train, but I didn’t find it to be overwhelming. I think you could still enjoy the book if you don’t love gore, though maybe not if you have a weak stomach.

One of the largest issues I have with The Dead Take the A Train, is the lack of clarity in power levels of the various characters. Especially since all their forms of magic work in different ways, it is sometimes unclear the level of danger present. This can also sometimes create room for plot holes. For example, Julie has a friend who is tapped into anything and everything happening online. This is an absurdly powerful ability (and is used as such). But there were moments where the main conflict probably could have been avoided or solved using that power. It also felt odd that no one else in this thriving magic community felt strongly about stopping a world-ending catastrophe. Because of this, the magic underground of NYC could feel smaller than I think was intended.

Having been familiar with Khaw’s work previously, The Dead Take the A Train clearly feels like a mix of Khaw’s style with someone else’s. This could be a boon or a hindrance, depending on your view of Khaw’s distinct prose and storytelling. Either way, if you are interested in learning more about the process or the authors, check out the interview they did for SFF Addicts Podcast!

Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey on the SFF Addicts Podcast

I recommend The Dead Take the A Train, especially for those who are fans of modern urban eldritch horror. The book is an even bigger steal if you are looking for danger, gore, and queer characters. Check it out! And keep your eyes peeled for the next book in this duology. 


[USR 4.2]

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