Interview with Peter Aaron

In a recent interview, spoke with Peter Aaron about the multi-faceted nature of musician as an artist: You also wrote a book about Ramones? I grew up in Forest Hills where Ramones started out and I could tell you I understand the angst and ferociousness of their music to the core. Why did you decide to embark on this project?

I did. Sort of. It’s more of a book about stuff that relates to the Ramones. It’s called If You Like the Ramones… and IYLramonesCoverwas published last year by Backbeat Books as part of the If You Like series. I was in negotiations about doing a book for the series—originally I was going to do If You Like Frank Sinatra…, but Backbeat ran into legal problems with the Sinatra estate and took that project off the table—and the idea of a Ramones book came up, so I jumped on it. In keeping with the IYL concept, the aim is to steer new fans toward the artists and other entities (certain movies, cartoons, comic books, TV shows, etc.) that influenced the Ramones, were influenced by the Ramones, or are connected with the Ramones in some way. Obviously it mostly targets neophytes, but I did try to cover some stuff that even long-time fans might not know about. How important is it for a musician to get out of the music world and focus his energies elsewhere? Is it for sanity’s sake or mere detachment?

Very. The music world is like the Island of Misfit Toys. It’s a sanctuary for musician-freaks like me, who was never going to fit into the general population. And yet the music world, especially the underground music scene, is a bubble, an alternate reality that we’ve created to escape the insanity of mainstream society. I don’t at all advocate joining the masses, but I do believe it’s healthy to keep things in perspective by venturing outside your comfort zone and challenging yourself at least once in a while. I can’t help but think of all the interesting music, art, ideas, and people I would have missed had I remained stuck in the same New York rock scene I inhabited in the 1990s—which, from what I can tell, continues to be a largely tail-swallowing environment. Not only does trying new things make you grow as a person, but as a musician it makes what you do richer and more interesting. Are there any other arts you are dabbling with? Any more books on the horizon?

FAQ_LOGOwebRight now I’m working another book for Backbeat, The Band FAQ. It’s for their FAQ series, which is more in-depth than the recently discontinued If You Like series. So this one will cover everything connected with the Band and dig more deeply into topics connected with them—the music that influenced the Band and has been influenced by them, but also their history collectively and as individual members; examinations of each of their albums; their time as Ronnie Hawkins’s band, the Hawks; outside figures associated with the group; The Basement Tapes and their years with Bob Dylan; solo albums; their contemporaries and collaborators; their best and worst music; the Toronto and Woodstock scenes they were part of; books; movies; etc., etc. Since I’ve lived in the area that gave birth to Music from Big Pink and The Basement Tapes for over a decade, have covered the local music scene for both the main area newspaper and the arts magazine Chronogram (of which I’ve been the music editor since 2006), and even got to interview Levon Helm, I’m kind of sitting right in the bullseye for this one. I’m also planning an illustrated anthology of the many profiles of Hudson Valley musicians I’ve written over the years, which includes everyone from the Bad Brains to Pete Seeger, Sonny Rollins, Graham Parker, Pauline Oliveros, and others. And of course I’d like to write a memoir, which in addition to my time in the Chrome Cranks and the ’90s Lower East Side scene would cover my participation at the start of the East Coast hardcore scene, my years in the 1980s Boston and Midwest scenes—I was a promoter when I lived in Ohio and booked most of the touring underground bands of the day (Nirvana, Flaming Lips, Pussy Galore, etc.)—and perhaps some of the Hudson Valley stuff.

Check out the rest of the interview with Peter Aaron here:

A New Generation of FAQs: Lifestyle and Pop Culture

Soccer FAQBeginning in the spring of 2015, Backbeat Books will take the FAQ series beyond performing arts and publish Lifestyle and Pop Culture FAQs. The debut titles will include Tattoo FAQ, Soccer FAQ, UFO FAQ, The Beat Generation FAQ, Pro Wrestling FAQ, Beer FAQ, Dracula FAQ, and Cocktails FAQ.

Since its 2007 launch, the FAQ series from Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group has evolved into a robust, successful line of books. Originally conceived by pop culture historian Robert Rodriguez, the FAQ series offers books

Beat Generationthat are one-stop sources of info, history, and minutiae on a given subject—from a music artist to a film genre to an iconic television show. Packed with a staggering amount of data and rare photographs and period ephemera, these reader-friendly volumes are presented in a lively, engaging style. Each chapter serves as a freestanding article on any aspect of the story, allowing readers to put down and pick up the book with ease.

In the past seven years, Backbeat Books and Applause Books have published more than 30 FAQ titles, earning critical acclaim as well as success in the marketplace. Library Journal called James Bond FAQ, “A complete and appealing volume of information,” going on to say that “Bond aficionados, movie buffs, and trivia junkies will enjoy this title and refer to it often.” Vintage Guitar said of Bruce Springsteen FAQ, “Flip to any page and you’re bound to find something to grab your attention.”

Wrestling FAQ

“The FAQ series has had great success within the subject area of music, film, and TV, appealing to passionate fans who wants to know all that’s left to know about a given subject,” explained Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group publisher John Cerullo. “It is a natural evolution to take the series into subject areas beyond performing arts with the logical next step being pop culture.”

The fast-paced, entertaining format and depth of coverage that define the series are no longer limited to fans’ favorite bands, films, or television shows. Book lovers can now enjoy the same stimulating reading experience with their favorite hobbies and varied interests.

Keep an eye out next Summer for the introduction of new lifestyle FAQs!


Stephen King Films FAQ

Stephen King Films FAQScott Von Doviak’s Stephen King Films FAQ, the latest in the series from Applause Books is now available, with all that’s left to know about the king of horror on flim.  While his book looks back the four decades during which Stephen King has made his mark at the movies, Von Doviak is also looking forward.  Here are his thoughts on what this year may hold for Stephen King film fans.

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Two things we know to be true: Stephen King is one of America’s most prolific authors, and Hollywood is always hungry for material. So it’s not surprising that the Stephen King movie has become a genre unto itself, spanning nearly four decades since the 1976 release of Brian De Palma’s Carrie. This year is shaping up to be one of the most King-heavy in some time, so here’s a brief look at what 2014 has in store.

– Mercy is based on the 1984 short story “Gramma,” which was previously adapted by Harlan Ellison for an episode of The New Twilight Zone in 1986. This feature-length version is directed by Peter Cornwell (The Haunting in Connecticut) and stars The Walking Dead’s Chandler Riggs and Super 8’s Joel Courtney as two boys who discover their ailing grandmother is not what she seems.

– On a similar note, A Good Marriage is a novella from the 2010 collection Full Dark, No Stars about a woman who discovers her longtime husband is a serial killer. The adaptation directed by Peter Askin (Company Man) stars Joan Allen and Anthony LaPaglia and boasts a screenplay by King himself.

Cell is now shooting and may make it into theaters by year’s end. The big-screen version of King’s tale about a cell phone virus that turns people into zombies stars John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson, who previously co-starred in the King-based thriller 1408. Tod Williams (Paranormal Activity 2) directs.

– The first season of Under the Dome on CBS was so successful from a ratings standpoint that what was once intended as a limited series has been extended indefinitely. What began as a promising series quickly deteriorated, however, and the first-season finale was a nonsensical mess. There’s reason to hope the show will get back on track, as King is aboard to write the first episode of the second season, due this summer.

In addition to the above, there are always King projects in various states of pre-production, notably Tom Holland’s The 10 O’Clock People, which may finally go before the cameras this year. One film fans shouldn’t hold their breath for is the long-awaited big-screen version of The Stand, which has churned through a number of potential directors over the years. The latest word is that Josh Boone, writer/director of Stuck in Love (a movie in which Stephen King made a cameo appearance) is on board, but the actual end of the world may come before this post-apocalyptic vision reaches theaters.

Q & A with Mike Eder

Mike Eder, author of Elvis Music FAQ, answers some questions about his book on Elvis Information Network.

Mike, thanks for agreeing to an interview, I’m really looking forward to the book finally getting published. How long have you been working on your book ‘Elvis Music FAQ’ ?

Mike Eder: I have been working on it since the fall of 2011. I did the initial chapter for the proposal and then wrote most of it in from June to December 2012. Editing has gone on pretty constantly since then, ending only about one month ago. I had input on pretty much every aspect of the book. Backbeat has a great team who came up with a lot of great ideas, but they were very respectful of me as the author at all times. It is a nice feeling.

It must be hard to gather so much information and then distil it down to a publishable size!

Mike Eder: It is because I am a completest by nature. I basically used my Elvis record collection to write this book. I have read over 300 Elvis books myself so I knew what really had NOT been said. Or at least I didn’t feel it was said in the same way. I do cover every song and make some sort of comment on each one. I did draw the line on home recordings as they weren’t really meant for public consumption and truthfully there is too much we just don’t know about to cover them as definitively as I like to generally. Every tour is mentioned and given a review of sorts, all the films, and every major record, LP, EP, or 45, released during Elvis’ lifetime.

The FAQ series of books tend to cover some quirky stuff and I also had fun doing chapters on “borrowed” songs, records made by imposters, etc (see below left). I always try to be accurate on my dates and most importantly to have a balanced perspective. I am hard on myself that way but the great thing about doing an FAQ book is that you can take your subject seriously without losing the reader. These aren’t dry reference books, but rather meant to be thought provoking and fun. I want there to be a degree of entertainment for the reader.

I know what I like as a fan of Elvis, and music books in general, so I try to make it a book people will want to thumb through again. At the same time I put basically as much information as a typical reference book might have. Whether you have one scratchy 45 and a Christmas comp CD, or every pressing known to man, I aimed to make it work for any kind of Elvis listener. I want it to be a different sort of project in that any sort of fan can take something away from it.

Do you have a favourite period 50’s, 60’s or 70s?

Mike Eder: Well my very favorite Presley recordings generally come from 1954-60 and then 1968-72. I like a lot of stuff from 1961-67, and bearing in mind his troubles at the time, I also find much to enjoy during the later years. Though from a live standpoint the pickings get slim by 1976. Still I think the two periods I mentioned are when Elvis was enjoying what were ultimately two different kind of peaks.

There is no secret that Elvis was a great artist who made some bad records. I try to make sense of those and maybe try to understand how many of them came about. Elvis must bear the blame for making some bad decisions, yet I have no anger or disgust at him for not always making the best choices.

Throughout his career Elvis performed so many different types of music, do you think that your reviews might reflect your own taste in music? 

Mike Eder: One thing I would like to point out is that I am a huge fan of most any sort of rock, folk, blues, country, and gospel from the early fifties to the early seventies. I tend to focus on that one period of music history, but my tastes within that time are quite wide. I think that has put me in the unique position in that I like most of the styles Elvis tried. I have no hang up about him doing pop songs, if they are good pop songs. I like hard rock and I like love songs. It all depends on what I get from it myself.

Aside from the kind of historical factual information that a responsible writer does not let their own feelings color, I ignore other critics and try to tell the story that I get from the music personally. My own take on the whole Elvis Presley story is different than those that have been published before and I hope that’s why I have been able to gain readers over the years. I don’t want to come off like my tastes are more definitive than anyone else’s, I only want to make a case for what moves or doesn’t move me.

Keep reading the interview on Elvis Information Network!


Elvis Music FAQ is for anyone who has been inspired by an Elvis Presley record. Following in the tradition of the FAQ series, in Elvis Music FAQ, a lot of rare information is woven together in one concise, entertaining package.

There are chapters about every year of Elvis’s career, including a look at his pioneering original record label Sun; insight on his management; the continued importance of television in his career; a summation of each Presley concert tour; the inside scoop about the role Elvis’s band members and songwriters played in his sound; stories about the amusing musical oddities created by those trying to ride on the Elvis success train; details about the contentious role drugs played in his career; and, finally, a full review of every record the King ever issued.

Stephen King’s Horror Films

The talented and prolific Stephen King is 65 years old today! Now we can celebrate with an excerpt from Horror Films FAQ, written by John Kenneth Muir.

Although the horror film has frequently adapted literary material in its long history, from Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley to Thomas Harris and Dean Koontz, perhaps no writer has seen his work translated to the silver screen more often the oft-named “master of horror,” Stephen King (1947– ). King is a longtime resident of Maine and sets most of his stories in that region. And as a young man, the author was reportedly inspired to become a horror writer by the works of H. P. Lovecraft (1890–1937).

The writer of more than 50 novels and 200 short stories, King has written books selling more than 350 million copies worldwide. He has earned multiple honors, including the Bram Stoker Award and, controversially, the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Suffering an identical fate to many authors who choose horror as the avenue for their storytelling, King’s work is often dismissed out of hand as lowbrow when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. King’s work often deals directly with the American blue-collar experience and the interfacing of that experience with the supernatural or paranormal. His protagonists are often a circle of friends reckoning with something outside the human experience but using their bond of friendship to defeat it.

Since 1976 and Brian De Palma’s cinematic adaptation of King’s novel Carrie, several dozen of King’s works have been adapted to film, television, and even the stage. “The simple fact is that King’s stories and novels have provided a wealth of materials for filmmakers,” writes King biographer Michael R. Collings. “Almost every novel published under King’s name has been produced as a film, is in production, or has been optioned.”

Furthermore, writes another King scholar, Tony Magistrale, “Between box office receipts and film rental distribution around the world, the Stephen King movie business is now worth well in excess of a billion dollars.” Tellingly, King’s most critically acclaimed film adaptations have emerged from outside the horror genre. Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me (1986), Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption (1994), and Green Mile (1999) have all been met with kudos and award nominations, whereas the horror films have achieved far less acceptance. In the eyes of judgmental, “elitist critics,” writes Mark Browning, “the films are associated with a cinematic subgenre with historically low status [horror] and secondly, the films are adapting overtly popular, best-selling writer who is commonly associated with this particular genre in literature.”

Clearly, however, the horror-film adaptations of Stephen King’s literary works have created a dilemma of “authorship” for many who admire the books. Audiences familiar with King’s novels bring high expectations to the theater that often can’t be met since film is a different art form than literature, and settings, events, and characters are sometimes eliminated, combined, or changed to so as to vet the cleanest, most concise narrative.

Secondly, many of the directors who have crafted films based on King’s work are of an unusually high caliber. As auteurs, they inevitably bring their own creative aesthetic to any filming of a King story. Thus King’s vision is changed or sublimated to accommodate the vision of the director in question. The result is that the images onscreen abundantly represent a hybrid vision: Stephen King through the lens of Brian De Palma (Carrie), Stephen King through the lens of Kubrick (The Shining), or Stephen King through the lens of John Carpenter (Christine).

Horror Films FAQ explores a century of ghoulish and grand horror cinema, gazing at the different characters, situations, settings, and themes featured in the horror film, from final girls, monstrous bogeymen, giant monsters and vampires to the recent torture porn and found footage formats. The book remembers the J-Horror remake trend of the 2000s, and examines the oft-repeated slasher format popularized by John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980).


The Birds

The following is an excerpt posted by Bookgasm of Horror Films FAQ, written by John Kenneth Muir. Check out the rest of the excerpt here.

Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds opens on a seemingly normal day in the early 1960s with attractive Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) visiting a bird shop in scenic San Francisco. As she enters, a flock of birds is seen in the distance among the skyscrapers: circling and cawing but otherwise nonthreatening. This view is a deliberate foreshadowing of what is to come, a simmering before the inevitable boil.

Once Melanie is in the store, however, things do heat up. She attempts to pull a prank on a handsome man, Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), by pretending to be a bird-shop employee. But Mitch, who claims to be there to purchase two “love birds,” is actually pulling a prank of his own and soon gets the better of Melanie.

This game of cat and mouse spurs a veritable obsession in Melanie, and she soon tracks Mitch to his home, sixty miles up the coast in scenic Bodega Bay, a little hamlet described as a “a collection of shacks on a hillside.” Her not-so covert mission is to initiate a sexual relationship with Mitch. Melanie does so under the guise of delivering him his love birds.

Once in town, Melanie also meets the town’s schoolteacher, Annie (Suzanne Pleshette), another woman who once shared an intimate relationship with the apparently promiscuous Mitch. There is a quick rivalry between Annie and Melanie, and some jealousy, too. Meanwhile, as Melanie grows closer to Mitch, she is looked upon with stern disapproval by Mitch’s shrewish, controlling mother, Lydia (Jessica Tandy). Lydia is a cold, emotionally closed off woman, still despondent over the death of her husband years earlier.

While all these tumultuous personal relationships shift and grow, the inexplicable suddenly occurs. Birds of all varieties launch a coordinated attack on Bodega Bay, ambushing the local school, killing Annie, dive-bombing the local diner, and laying merciless siege to Mitch’s family farmhouse, a location reachable primarily by motor boat and therefore isolated…

Today, The Birds has lost little of the searing dramatic punch that captivated audiences four decades ago. The lack of a scientific or rational explanation behind the avian attack lends the film a powerful and undeniably sexual subtext. The bird attacks, one can detect upon close viewing, occur because of turbulent human emotions. In short, this film is all about not just the birds, but the bees.

Keep reading at Bookgasm!

Horror Films FAQ explores a century of ghoulish and grand horror cinema, gazing at the different characters, situations, settings, and themes featured in the horror film, from final girls, monstrous bogeymen, giant monsters and vampires to the recent torture porn and found footage formats. The book remembers the J-Horror remake trend of the 2000s, and examines the oft-repeated slasher format popularized by John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980).

After an introduction positioning the horror film as an important and moral voice in the national dialogue, the book explores the history of horror decade by decade, remembering the women’s liberation horrors of the 1970s, the rubber reality films of the late 1980s, the serial killers of the 1990s, and the xenophobic terrors of the 9/11 age. Horror Films FAQ also asks what it means when animals attack in such films as The Birds (1963) or Jaws (1975), and considers the moral underpinnings of rape-and-revenge movies, such as I Spit on Your Grave (1978) and Irreversible (2002). The book features numerous photographs from the author’s extensive personal archive, and also catalogs the genre’s most prominent directors.


The following is an excerpt from Horror Films FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About Slashers, Vampires, Zombies, Aliens, and More by John Kenneth Muir.

Splice reaches all the way back to an obscure 1976 “science run amok” horror flick starring Rock Hudson and Barbara Carrera, titled Embryo. In that effort from director Ralph Nelson, a scientist named Paul Holliston (Hudson) reshaped a fourteen-week-old human fetus with “placental lactagen,” a special growth hormone.

What he created, in a matter of days, was a fully formed twenty-five-year-old woman, Carrera’s Victoria, who knew nothing of the world and therefore was never appropriately socialized. Holliston taught his creation to read the Bible, to play chess, and to otherwise entertain him, before eventually becoming his “daughter’s” lover, too. In Embryo, the amoral Victoria was driven to commit murder over a hormonal imbalance that caused her to age and wither at a highly accelerated rate.

Splice boasts remarkable similarities. Vincenzo Natali’s film involves two incredibly arrogant twenty-first-century genetic engineers, Elsa (Sarah Polley) and Clive (Adrien Brody), who decide to introduce human DNA into their revolutionary experiments involving chimeras. And yes indeed, Elsa and Clive are named after the great actors who played the lead roles in the landmark 1935 film Bride of Frankenstein: Elsa Lanchester and Colin Clive.

Working in secret for a big pharmaceutical corporation, Elsa and Clive create a not-quite-human creature called Dren (first Abigail Chu and then Delphine Chaneau), a female being that is part amphibious. Dren also boasts an accelerated life span, which means she will live, age, and die while Elsa and Clive can watch and take notes. She’s their living petri dish.

Like Embryo’s Victoria before her, Dren is lonely, confused, and unsocialized, and Elsa, especially at first, treats the creature has her own biological child. There are good reasons for this, as the film makes clear in the later sequences set on Elsa’s wintry and foreboding family farm. Specifically, Elsa used her own DNA to create the “human” part of Dren.

But unfortunately, this family faces a crisis. As an adolescent, Dren turns her burgeoning physical affections unexpectedly toward her “father,” Clive, much in the same fashion as occurred in Embryo.

Yet what makes Splice more than just a variation on an old tale like Embryo is its laserlike focus on the concept of Elsa and Clive not just as bad, mad scientists, necessarily, but as bad parents. Together, Elsa, Clive, and Dren form a family unit, yet the parents here don’t seem to take their familial responsibilities seriously. Dren wants to bond with the adults, and still they just consider her a “mistake” they made after, on a whim, noting, “What’s the worst that could happen?” when they decided to make a life.

Splice concerns those things that occur when irresponsibility conceiving a life is followed by a deeper moral wrong: irresponsibility in rearing that life. Elsa quickly proves to be a psychologically troubled, capricious mother figure, playing out her own personal family drama on this new and innocent creation. One scene finds Elsa cruelly and vindictively strapping Dren to a surgical table and slicing off a portion of her “alien” anatomy. It’s a genuinely disturbing moment from an emotional standpoint.. The first thing Elsa does is take off Dren’s clothes, an indication that the girl is not human to her, no more than a specimen. A mother’s “love” can be taken away just like that, apparently, when the maternal figure feels displeasure.

Then weak-willed Clive makes the ultimate physical and emotional betrayal and has sexual intercourse with Dren, an adolescent who considers him a father figure. At best, he’s weak. At worst, he’s monstrous. And that’s the key to understanding Splice and its modus operandi. The “monsters” here are Elsa and Clive, two arrogant, flippant, self-involved scientists/parents who, through their ill-considered actions, irreparably harm another individual, an innocent individual. Dren may be genetically different from her parents, but she is nonetheless a result of her biological nature, which they created, and her terrible upbringing, which they are also responsible for. Dren might be inhuman, but Elsa and Clive are inhumane.

Like Karloff’s monster in the 1930s, audiences feel tremendous sympathy for the Dren character. When she commits the equivalent of a rape at film’s end, when she is no longer quite the Dren we know and recognize, the horrid act may be all about instinct and the biological imperative of all living things to reproduce. Or it may be about the fact that she was emotionally and sexually violated by a man she trusted and loved. What did she learn from this act? And from Elsa’s cruel, heartless domination? Like parent, like child? Dren was abused, and now she is the abuser.

From the movie’s very first shot, in which the audiences gaze out of the birth canal at parents Clive and Elsa, Splice asks viewers to contextualize the film as a story about what it means to be a parent. It asks the viewer to weigh this couple’s behavior and ask some important moral questions about it. Is this another life, or is this just an experiment? Is this about another being’s sovereignty and rights, or is it about “what we can learn”? As parents, what are our responsibilities to new life? Although Clive and Elsa possess special talents vis-à-vis their creation of life, they aren’t out of the norm in how they see child rearing.

In Splice, the film mirrors the life of a parent, from a child’s conception through adolescence, but with two “bad” parents as surrogates and negative examples. When Dren is first born, Elsa and Clive lose a lot of sleep, have no time for intimacy, and worry about things like messy feeding times. And while taking care of their child around the clock, their work at the office suffers.

Anyone who has raised a baby knows how authentic these moments feel. Sleep deprivation. Frustration. Loneliness. But there is also great joy as your infant starts to become an individual with a real personality and takes amazing first steps into the larger world: speaking, relating, learning. These passages involving Dren’s growth and development in Splice are simply stellar, and deeply affecting in a very human, very intimate way.

But this is a horror film, of course, and something goes wrong. At some point, Elsa and Clive forsake their roles as parents, and when threatened by Dren’s rebellion in adolescence, they try to write her off as an “experiment.” They try to control her; rein her in, make her act in the fashion they desire.

At some point, children stop being cuddly and fun and start to become demanding, rebellious, and self-directed. A good parent allows that growth to happen responsibly, and a bad parent begins to act antagonistically and imperiously. Bad parents fail to recognize their children as individuals and not as extensions of their own desires. That’s what happens to Clive and Elsa. When they don’t like what Dren has done, they shout, “This experiment is over.” Like that’s the end of it. Like the life they created just never existed, never flourished, never interacted with them.

So while Splice is a view of arrogant, out-of-control, cutting-edge science and its practitioners, it is also a bracing view of arrogant, out-of-control bad parenting.


Horror Films FAQ explores a century of ghoulish and grand horror cinema, gazing at the different characters, situations, settings, and themes featured in the horror film, from final girls, monstrous bogeymen, giant monsters and vampires to the recent torture porn and found footage formats. The book remembers the J-Horror remake trend of the 2000s, and examines the oft-repeated slasher format popularized by John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980).

Visit the author’s blog.