CHRIS F. HOLM: 5 MOVIES THAT INSPIRED THE BIG REAP

When I sit down to write a Collector novel, the first thing I decide on is the flavor I’m going for. DEAD HARVEST blended old-fashioned crime pulp with the fantastic. THE WRONG GOODBYE tossed some Shane-Black-style buddy comedy and Lovecraftian horror into the mix. And for THE BIG REAP, which hit shelves July 30, I wanted to pay homage to the horror movies that warped my brain from a young age – from stone classics to silly schlockfests. And so I present five of the flicks that worked their way into my subconscious and THE BIG REAP both.

1. Frankenstein: Everybody knows the story of Frankenstein, but darn few these days have ever sat down to watch the iconic 1931 Boris Karloff version of the tale. It’s surprisingly effective given its age – in part due to Karloff’s brilliant performance as the monster, and in part due to the ingenious choice not to soundtrack the movie, which leads to long stretches of quiet that only serve to ratchet up the tension. The Universal movie monsters loom large over THE BIG REAP, and this movie, for my money, represents the best that slate of flicks has to offer.

2. Jaws: The first time I saw Jaws, it was edited for television and playing on a tiny, black-and-white TV. I was five. My parents had ducked out on an errand, so I was alone, and I recall being so terrified, I’d pulled my knees up to my chest so that my tempting shark-bait legs wouldn’t dangle off the couch. I wanted to change the channel, but I was afraid to cross the ocean of carpet between me and the TV – so instead I watched, transfixed.

3. Alien: Flat-out one of the best horror movies ever made, even if it’s all dolled up in sci-fi trappings. I watched this one too young, too, one New Year’s Eve with my dad – while my mom, a night-nurse, was on shift and therefore not around to yell at him for scaring the bejesus out of me. My version’s more monster than alien, and the cramped confines I employ are tunnels, not the corridors of the Nostromo, but the eagle-eyed will note the parallels nonetheless.

4. Poltergeist 2: Okay, I’ll admit, this movie’s nothing more than a tacky cash-in on the commercial and critical success of the unassailable original. That said, there’s a scene in it where Craig T. Nelson downs a demonic tequila worm and winds up vomiting up a massive, horrifying slug-beast that to this day sends shivers down my spine. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised it worked its way into my fiction.

5. The Howling: I could have slotted any number of werewolf movies in here, but this flick made the cut for two reasons. The first is that it contains one of the coolest werewolf transformations ever captured on film; horror buffs know how hard that is to pull off. The second is that its director, Joe Dante, is a cinematic smartass of the highest order. The movie’s stuffed with winking references and in-jokes from front to back – including an onscreen copy of Alan Ginsburg’s HOWL, cameos by horror icons Forest J. Ackerman and Roger Corman, and ten characters named after directors of other werewolf flicks. Point is, Dante may be the only guy who crams more nods to his influences into his work than I do.

Chris Holm was born in Syracuse, New York, the grandson of a cop with a penchant for crime fiction. It was the year of punk rock and Star Wars, two influences that to this day hold more sway over him than perhaps his wife would like.

His stories have appeared in a slew of publications, including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Beat to a Pulp, and Thuglit. He has been an Anthony Award nominee, a Derringer Award finalist, and a Spinetingler Award winner.

He lives on the coast of Maine with his wife and a noisy, noisy cat. When he’s not writing, you can find him on his porch, annoying the neighbours with his guitar. The author lives in Maine. His latest, THE BIG REAP, is out now.