New Horror: Wicked Awake by Merril David

Horror Books Indie Horror

Author Merril David’s new book Wicked Awake is available for pre-order on ebook now and following shortly after in real-life print. Here is the kicker, it’s about an outbreak! We had a chance to chat with him about his forthcoming novel.

PB: So this is a virus outbreak story, have you had any new thoughts after what has been going on with Corona Virus?

MD: I’m starting to think I should have addressed the whole issue of a world without toilet paper. That in itself might make for a scarier read than the infected zombies I write about. In my story, I mention how as the ‘Infection Armageddon’ goes on, the affected areas begin to experience the loss of utility services, cell towers go down and streets become impassable. Gasoline and fuel shortages occur, and the media as we know it today no longer exists. Newspapers become a thing of the past, as do the major outlets who broadcast across the TV and internet. Information is dispersed through You Tubers and then disseminated over short wave radio to the many who have no internet service. So, I’m already working on book two. I’m considering having my main character, Jake Hathaway, living off the grid and incapacitated by the paper cuts on his ass from having to wipe with copy paper.

PB: You worked in Law enforcement for over 20 years. How has that influenced the story and your writing?

MD: My protagonist, Jake Hathaway, was a Marine and then goes on to become a Dallas Police Officer. He promotes to be a Sergeant and is also a training officer, then a K9 handler. Another of the featured characters is a rookie officer, Kelvin “Mack” McElroy, who was trained by Jake.

 I include several scenes in the novel based upon things I or my co-workers actually experienced. I also touch a little bit upon how being a police officer has changed over the years. Right after the 9/11 tragedy, cops and firemen were considered to be heroes. Parents encouraged their kids to wave at us and be friendly with us. Nowadays cops are hated and targeted. Firemen are still loved (apparently I chose the wrong career), but not the police. Kids are told to question all authority, especially Law Enforcement. 

And I get it, I think politics and some of our past leaders are partly to blame, although I’m not going to act like I don’t realize there are some very bad officers out there who have done some really fucked up things. In my book, I mention one seasoned training officer in particular who acts as if he is untouchable, above the law. But for every bad cop like that exists, I would say there’s another nine who are honest and professional. 

Also, keep in mind that even the cop haters are the first to call 9-1-1 for help when their house is being burglarized or their car is getting jacked. That being said, I don’t want readers to think that my whole book is all just zombies and cop talk. I believe I injected a good amount of humor into the story as well. So much so, that one person who read my book so far commented that it is “extremely clever and brisk-paced. The narrative is witty, even when horrifying.” I like that he chose those two words WITTY and HORRIFYING to describe my work, as this is exactly what I was aiming for.

If I was a rock group instead of an author, I might be compared to the band Tragedy, a metal band that put their own spin on Bee Gees songs. Or better yet, I might be more like that Death Metal Band that plays Weird Al Yankovic tunes. Is there such a band? There should be! But I also attempted to make WICKED AWAKE smarter than the average zombie book by applying a great level of detail, science, and research into it. Hopefully, I have succeeded!

PB: What inspired you to write this story?

MD: I have always loved horror shows and movies, but my favorite genre has been zombies. I would load up on Walking Dead and the movies, always telling my wife and kids how those stories could have been better (like the zombies in World War Z were way too fast, everyone knows the real DEAD are slow! Ask George Romero). So my wife suggested that since I was such an expert, I should write my own novel. At first, I thought she was joking, but she wasn’t- so I did it!

PB: What has been the biggest challenge in getting the book done?

MD: The biggest challenge was not in writing the story itself, but it has been all of the related things I have had to do since its completion. I was clueless when it came to editing and formatting and such. I never took typing in school (I just showed my age there, I think now they call it keyboarding, right?). So I type like a cop, driving down the road, left hand on the steering wheel and right hand holding a coffee (doughnut in my mouth) while using my right pinky finger to type license plate numbers into the mobile data terminal. 

But even more difficult has been this whole querying process; contacting literary agents and book publishers day and night, sending them query letters and synopsis’. Some ask for a small sample of the book while some like to see the entire manuscript. And many of them want to see that you have some sort of social media presence and even a marketing plan. I wasn’t prepared for this; I had a Facebook account just to spy on my teen-aged daughters but I wasn’t actively posting my meals on there or anything like that. So now I am doing Instagram and Twitter, taking lessons from my kids on how to use them. I already got blocked by the Facebook police after I made 700 friends in a matter of six hours (they said I broke some FB rule!? I was just being overly friendly. Isn’t that the objective?) Anyways, this is all new to me but it’s all good, I’m learning a lot as I go along.

PB: You must be a horror fan! What are a few of your favorite horror movies and books?

MD: Growing up, I loved watching horror and Sci-Fi type programs on TV and going to the theater or renting movies (again aging myself! For those who remember Blockbuster). I was also very into Marvel Comics (never got into DC for some reason) and horror novels. Some of my favorite television programs were the Incredible Hulk (with Bill Bixby and, of course, Ferrigno) and the Twilight Zone, as well as reruns of the original Planet of the Apes movies (not really feeling the re-makes). Some of my favorite movies were the Friday the 13th series (until Jason went into outer space, then they lost me), Halloween, Freddy vs Jason was greatness! I also loved Nightmare on Elm Street, The Fly with Jeff Goldblum, Fire in the Sky (an alien abduction film that was supposedly based on true events), those bizarre Faces of Death films.

I also dug the People Under the Stairs, the Ring, the Strangers, the Saw movies, Hellraisers, The Exorcist, Jeepers Creepers, Joyride, and of course everything zombie; Evil Dead, World War Z, Zombie Land, Shaun of the Dead, I Am Legend, Army of Darkness. Some of the novels I have enjoyed the most are The Strand, Andromeda Strain, Max Brooks’ World War Z and Zombie Survival Guide, Bird Box, The Amityville Horror, The Shining. I just started to read Mark Tufo’s Zombie Fallout and enjoying it greatly!

You can find and follow David here:


Website –



Join "The Horror List" for Weekly Horror in your inbox

New Indie Horror – Beyond the Shadows (2020)

Indie Horror

Beyond the Shadows is a horror/ dramedy that touches on Native American genocide. The film follows a group of ghost hunters filming a fake TV show. They decide to do a live special with a group of scientific debunkers, 3 super fans, and a medium. Chaos ensues as the ghost hunters become the hunted.

First off, tell me about yourself and how you got into filmmaking?

I’ve always been writing scripts.  But a problem I had as a nobody screenplay writer, was that I was writing with no regard to the budget.  My brother, Jacob Royce Gustafson, and a friend, Carl Billington, all decided that I write something that we could film on a nothing budget.  That script became our first feature,  High Note, an indie/ dramedy/ druggie/ musical.  I wanted to do something different.  

What inspired you to create this film?

I’ve always been big into ghost hunter shows.  So I took that little idea, and wanted to have a “Clue” meets slasher flick feel to it.  Chaos in a haunted mansion.  Plus I love Native American history.  I’m part Athabascan.  So I really liked the idea of throwing in some history of Native genocide and then letting the Native Americans start picking off the ghost hunters.

We don’t see a lot of horror drama so tell me was that planned or did the story just play out that way?

I’m actually not a horror genre writer.  This is only my second horror script.  I’m definitely more comfortable with drama.  So it was planned. 

What were some of the biggest challenges getting the project done? Did you self fund it?

The biggest challenge with both of our features was funding.  We used Seed and Spark for both movies which are crowdfunding options.  It got us a little bit and the rest, our production company Great Gus Productions pitched in.  The production company is my siblings and I.  Another challenge was scheduling.  We shot the majority of the movie at a lodge in the hills.  And with a limited budget comes a limited shoot schedule.  

Any good stories from the making of the film?

There’s plenty of funny stories from filming.  We will have to add some deleted scenes at some point.  Not only was the lodge our set, but it doubled as housing for most of the cast.  So it had a slumber party feel to it.  And when members of the cast weren’t shooting, some of them would watch from behind the camera at their castmates scenes.  

You must be a bit of a horror fan, give us a few recommendations of horror films you like?

I’m a big horror fan.  My wife, who plays Eve in the movie, not so much.  So I haven’t seen a lot of new stuff.  The Shining, The Excorcist, Scream, Friday the 13th, Hatchet, anything with zombies, lots more.

Where can we find and follow you online? | @ProductionsGus Twitter | @greatgusproductions • Instagram photos and videos

Finally, when does the film come out and where can we see it?

The film is on YouTube now.  Here’s the link:

Is there is anything else you want to mention?

Please check Beyond the Shadows.  We have an unbelievably talented cast and crew.  We like to make weird movies.  High Note is available on  And thank you, Tritone, for the interview



Join "The Horror List" for Weekly Horror in your inbox

New Indie Horror film Body Farm Coming March 1st 2020

Indie Horror

We had a chance to catch up with co-directors and co-stars Nicholas LaMantia and Brandon Keenan about their upcoming feature film “Body Farm.”

What inspired the story behind Body Farm? 
Brandon Keenan: Back in 2007 I had someone bring up the topic of a Body Farm in Tennessee. I started researching it and once I saw the reality of what the place was in just pictures alone I had churned up the idea f making a movie based around a place like this. The idea that human beings that donate their bodies to science and have their bodies put into studies that seem horrific to any outsider was enough to get the creative juices flowing. 6 Months later I had a full script. 

What are your favorite horror films? 
Brandon: I love Saw, Hostel, High Tension (French Film), and a lot of old horror films. Scary horror films for me are ones that could actually happen. I appreciate science fiction films as well such as Ghostbusters, Alien, and War of the Worlds. 
Nicholas: I would say that I truly enjoy films that may not classify as straight-up horror but have horror elements. Silence of the LambsOld Boy (2003), and Shutter Island stand out as heavy influences on me. I like character studies, but I also enjoy films that treat the location as a character which heavily influenced my direction of Body Farm.  

Any advice for new horror filmmakers after making your first feature film?
Brandon: Grab a camera and start shooting. I’ve been filming small videos since I was a little boy and ultimately there is just myself with a creative mind. I would encourage others to work with what you have. You don’t need big budgets or a huge studio backing to make a movie. 
Nicholas: Do not forget the story. Simple is best, and you are not better than your audience. People connect with simple stories that are told by interesting characters. The easiest part of making a good film is a good script. It is your blueprint. I can not build a house without blueprints. I would have a random pile of lumber and nails. I need the blueprint to organize it. A script is the same way.  

What as the hardest scene to get and how did you make it happen? 
Brandon: The gun shot scene! We had one take.
Nicholas: Oh, yeah! The bloody (both British and literal definitions of the word) gun shot scene was nail-biting, nerve-wracking, and nauseating. 

Any other interesting facts or funny stories from making the film you want to share? 
Brandon: My weight went up and down during those 2.5 years. Literally from 245lbs to 270lbs. I didn’t make it easy for continuity to say the least. Nick had to keep a scruffy beard and long hair for all of it as well and he did a much better job on that end! LOL.
Nicholas: There was so much sugar-based, fake blood in one scene that the sugar melted under the lights and then caramelized. This process froze the actor, who was laying in the gallons of fake blood, to the floor. It took quite a bit of warm water to remove the actor from the floor. 

Body Farm a joint production by KVT Productions and Nickel 17 Films, will be available on Amazon Prime, Direct TV, Google Play, iTunes, and Microsoft TV & Movies on March 1st. 

Body Farm Trailer

Body Farm follows an independent film company that sends a videographer ahead of a story. She goes to investigate a body farm where human decomposition is researched. The footage that is sent back leads the rest of her team to follow her footsteps where they uncover a grisly medical abyss. 

Co-directors and co-stars Nicholas LaMantia and Brandon Keenan shot the film over twenty days over the course of two and a half years to complete the 75-minute film in their feature-film directing debut. 

Both filmmakers have been active in the Pittsburgh-area film community for over ten years, but this is their first independently-produced feature film. 

Completely self-funded, the $35,000 production used mostly Pittsburgh-based actors and crew members as they shot in Western Pennsylvania, New York, in the mountains of North Carolina and at the West Virginia State Penitentiary. 

The film also features a cameo from Richard Christy (The Howard Stern Show, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2). 



Join "The Horror List" for Weekly Horror in your inbox

Join The Horror List