The God in the Hills by Jon Steffens (2021 Splatterpunk Awards)

GodintheHillsEvery summer, the tiny Arkansas town of Hotspur fills to the brim with tourists eager to enjoy the adjacent river. Ageing local Dale Bellflower is the self-appointed “welcome ambassador” to Hotspur, and with the help of Deb (waitress at the town’s only bar) he persuades out-of-towner Keri to take a car trip around the area with him. Then Keri wakes up to find herself in a dark enclosure, naked and gagged with duct tape. Her attacker, however, is more than just a local creep: she has run afoul of a demon that haunts the hills around Hotspur – and she is not his last victim…

Although nominated in the Splatterpunk Award category for short stories rather than novellas, The God in the Hills exists somewhere between the two formats, apparently brief enough to qualify as a short story yet long enough to be sold as a self-contained volume and divided into six chapters plus an epilogue. The comparative length should not be mistaken for heightened sophistication, however, as the story turns out to be an extremely straightforward matter of one graphic monster-rape occurring after the other. The first, of course, is the fate of Keri:

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Werewolf Wednesday: The Werewolf of Washington (1973)

WerewolfWashingtonWhite House Press Secretary Jack Whittier gets bitten by a werewolf during an assignment in Hungary. After he returns to the halls of American power, he finds that the full moon has a strange and dismaying effect on him – which, as it happens, turns out to disrupt things for his boss, as well.

The Werewolf of Washington is a comedy, that much goes without saying, although it’s a long way from the cartoonishly broad humour typical of monster comedies since Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. Instead, it turns out to be an oddball film that mixes dry political satire, distinctly understated genre parody and the occasional bout of out-and-out weirdness.

The sequence in which Whittier gets bitten by the werewolf is essentially a remake of Lon Chaney Jr’s first lycanthopic encounter in The Wolf Man, so much so that the protagonist’s jaunt between countries feels like an analogy for a switch between genres. Whittier heads from political drama to Universal horror, taking something of the latter back with him on his return trip. The overall aesthetic, meanwhile, is very much the product of 1970s New Hollywood: erratic visual storytelling, hazy cinematography, and a steadfast refusal to pick a tone and stick with it.

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