Day One: Freaky (film)
This gem got overlooked when it came out, it's a solid horror-comedy romp with some serious gore. The body swapping element is used well and could make for a great Monster of the Week Hook. Fun characters and decent effects.
Day Two: Don't Panic (film)
A Mexican riff on Nightmare on Elm Street done in the late 1980's. Worth watching to see how these tropes and concepts get remixed through another cultural lens. It’s definitely a campy film and of its time, but still fascinating.
Day Three: Nibiru (rpg)
While it leans more sci-fi than horror, there's a lot of nightmarish ideas and imagery in this wild game: the implications of the nightmare consciousness, some of the parasite aquatic beasts, the absolute sense of uncertainty. Worth reading.
Day Four: The Elementals (book)
Michael McDowell's South Gothic horror book is a slow burn read, with a striking physical location. The haunted house and its presentation is truly creepy. Bonus points for listening to it as an audiobook.
Day Five: Sensor (manga)
Not the strongest of Junji Ito's works, but it has some bits of cosmic horror here worth lifting-- and the smaller mysteries which play into the larger sinister plan remind me of Brindlewood Bay. Some great images.
Day Six: Slasher: Flesh & Blood (TV show)
It feels like a combination of The Final Girl and And Then There Were None, with a mix of the good and bad characters dying gruesomely. It would be cool to figure out how to play strong flashbacks and backstories for the characters in TFG.
Both the Morrison comic run and the TV Show have some moments of devastating personal terror-- and emotional betrayal. At the same time both offer takes on cosmic horror which are simultaneously relatable and completely alien.
Day Eight: The New Mutants (film)
It isn't a great movie, but it has a number of striking set pieces and it captures a weird feel. It's Masks meets Gothic horror which someone needs to write up as a playset. There’s a little of that in Better Angels (rpg), but that has a very specific setting premise.
Day Nine: Porno (film)
An indie horror film which has a great, closed location premise. Porno has a lot of solid character work with a 1990s setting. Has an interesting take on sexual tension and teen horror.
Day Ten: Oligarchy (rpg)
This Rooted in Trophy Zine-Quest 2 rpg is horror in its context today: "You play as rotten bastards: corrupt politicians, decadent aristocrats, and other greedy elites." Eventually things go wrong and there's catharsis in that.
It really makes we feel uneasy and worried because it doesn't feel implausible. There's horror there in the revelation that the world's as messed up as you imagine. You can find that here: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/320045/Oligarchy
Day 11: Lycanthia (book)
So much of Tanith Lee's work is amazing, and her horror fantasy stuff is extra special. This is a "modern werewolf novel from the threads of legend, forgotten sin, and dark romance."
Day 12: Magical Industrial Revolution (rpg)
A sourcebook of a Victoriana flavored fantasy city. It offers a set of different sorcerous innovations and how they will go horribly awry. Most, if not all, of the magic-gone-out-of-control apocalypses are ripe with horrific elements. You could easily repurpose the ideas to have the PC arrive in the midst of everything going wrong. Find it here: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/291774/Magical-Industrial-Revolution
Growing up in the 1970s, these covers haunted me. Something about them unsettled me-- and drew me to steal them out of my sister's room to read and then get terrified by. While Whelan's later art is good, but there's something deeply disturbing about these. Less is more here. For a discussion of them see https://2warpstoneptune.com/2014/10/24/john-holmes-h-p-lovecraft-covers-1975-ballantine/
Day 14: The Editor (film)
A satire (?) and appreciation (?) of giallo Horror done on a low budget. At times it swerves into absurdist parody that feels a little SNL. But despite that, it has effective imagery and a decent indictment of the genre's misogny.
Day 15: Warning: Do Not Play (film)
Korea (2019) I'm a sucker for cursed object and especially cursed film stories. This one works pretty well blending the present and the past together. The payoff isn't tremendous, but the ideas here could easily be used for a scenario.
Day 16: Svalbard (rpg)
A CoC-inspired scenario set in 1993-- the big concept is that the PCs try to stop something and die. Repeatedly. And because of the nature of the threat, they respawn and try again. Well done and a good model for other scenarios.
Especially good for how it prepares the GM. It includes a super-simple, stripped down set of mechanics you can use to do a fully narrative version of the adventure. But it also includes ideas for using CoC and other similar games as well.
Day 17: Anything for Jackson (rpg)
The basic premise of an elderly couple messing with demonic magic in order to restore their lost grandson is a good one, and easily repurposed for MotW or the like-- and the twists and execution here make it work. Pretty horrific in places, so be ready for that.
Day 18: Dream Home (film)
Hong Kong (2010) Wuff. Brutal. Don't watch if that's not your speed. But given that we've seen a couple of recent ttrpgs about economic anxiety (Red Markets, #iHunt) this movie provides another touchstone with a killer driven by history and financial distress.
Good, simple premise leads into a striking horror comedy. Great characters and good acting. Has some well done 4th wall breaks that don't wear out their welcome. The uncertainty and powerlessness has some strong Monsterhearts vibes to it.
Day 20: Hellblazer (comic)
It's worth re-reading this amazing Vertigo comic-- with striking runs by amazing writers like Delano, Ennis, and Milligan. Each brought something new and they'll all seriously inspirational for modern urban fantasy horror. It’s amazing how much you can work with the same basic material and characters, yet end up in vastly different places.
Day 21: The ALIEN Role-Playing Game (rpg)
Free League's Alien does a solid job supporting horror via mechanics. The stress dice build up works and enhances the push-your-luck feel. It takes the best feels from the Mutant System: resource deprivation and bastard dice.
Day 22 Remina (manga)
Another by Junji Ito. Definitely not his best work-- it aims for the cosmic horror of Uzamaki but with a sci-fi bent. And then it gets really weird. Like a weird stream of consciousness pulp horror story. It goes to 11 and then breaks the dial.
Day 23: Malignant (film)
Enjoyed this much more than I thought I would-- striking visuals and some homage to giallo, though it gets weird. Brilliant camera angles in several scenes-- a fun movie overall with a nice Monster of the Week twist.
Day 24: The Night House (film)
Some striking images, especially early on. Rebecca Hall is dynamite. Interesting ideas which could be repurposed for a scenario. Third act drops the ball, but the early shivers make it worth it. Definitely catch this rental or streaming when you’re more interested in atmosphere than anything else.
Day 25: Videodrome (film)
Worth going back and watching this classic for two reasons. First to see how loose trail of high weirdness can lead through the story. Second to see how you react to James Woods now knowing how loathsome a person he is irl.
game can do.
A setting sourcebook for the old-school fantasy rpg Godbound, Ancalia offers a truly terrifying undead realm. If you're looking for an over-the-top place of undeath with lots of horrifying villains this is it. Dynamite GM resources and tables.
Day 27: The Witcher RPG (rpg)
While system-wise The Witcher rpg isn't my bag, I still love it. It offers an amazing sourcebook for the setting and great ideas on how to play out these elements. The lethal mechanics and options make it clear how dangerous monster-hunting is in the setting. It's worth buying if you have any interest in The Witcher or hacking it for another system. I'd love to see Evil Hat do a Monster of the Week book that has a fantasy take on monster hunting. Maybe a collection of different ways to do MotW with other genres like sci-fi or Wild West (complete with reworked playbooks).
Day 28: Saga of the Swamp Thing (comic)
I know I mentioned it on my list last year, but I keep coming back to Swamp Thing. Alan Moore's run is brilliant in many places and changes magic and horror in comics. It starts with a massive shift in the basic premise and get better and wilder from there. It has some really excellent short horror arcs as well as the big story of the American Gothic arc. It has some missteps, large and small (like the Plantation story and his fallback sexual assault trope) but overall it holds up.
Day 29: Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven (music)
An album by Godspeed You! Black Emperor which remains my favorite dark modern, wall-of-sound listen. It remains unique and unnerving every time I listen to it.
Day 30 Apocalypse Keys (rpg)
This forthcoming rpg from Jamila Nedjadi offers monsters trying to stop the apocalypses while being undercut by their own passions, dark desires, and curses. I’ve had a chance to both play and run it—it is dynamite. I really enjoy the playbooks, how much emotions are at the core of play, and the new mystery solving approach.
Day 31 The Between (rpg)
It may be a little self-serving to mention something created by The Gauntlet, but The Between is good. It has a great, well-developed approach to campaign play and innovative new PbtA mechanics. Having read all 45 entries in the recent Between Threat-Writing Contest, I’ve come to appreciate the breadth of what this game does. Find it here: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/360858/The-Between
For the full index of the Gauntlet Blog see here.