It was Leisure’s mass market paperback line of horror books that got me back to horror and reading.  It introduced me to a plethora of new writers and some old ones.  One such writer was John Everson.  Wait a minute, I’m supposed to be talking about Kristopher Rufty and instead here I am babbling about John Everson.  I only bring it up because Everson is a writer who can mix eroticism and horror into a true masterful story.

Most horror stories are mystery novels at heart.  Something is up and its going to take our protagonist to a couple dozen chapters to figure out the root of the problem.  In horror, when the protagonist figures out what is wrong, they are usually bloody and on the last vestiges of life.

Rufty’s ‘Oak Hollow’ is a great mystery horror novel mixed in with erotic themes and a baby.  I will not lie, this book was not my cup of tea at times.  I felt like the pace would speed up, only to slow down to portray a mundane life of a preggo teenager as she is living with her grandmother in this strange town.

But it is a good story.  Eerie elements of a town watching you.  Great characters, especially Tracey.  Tracey, I felt, was the only character to stay true.  The supporting cast came off as cliche in some parts.  I also enjoyed the background of Sunow and his cult.  I would not mind reading a book about the rise and fall of this cult. 

I would give this book a 6/10.  The pacing slowed down at parts for me.  But it encompasses a great mystery with great characters.  Give it a shot.  Also do not read this book in a public place.  It might get awkward for you if you choose to do so.

Movie Reviews:

Dredd – I was pleasantly surprised by this film.  Great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.  A more solid story that reflected its comic book roots.

Carrie – It was hard for me to get into the movie.  Pretty much a shot for shot remake of the original movie except all of the actors/actresses look like models.  I did enjoy the prom scene, more action-packed.  But why was the blood CGI-ed?  And why were there three blood money shots?

Until next time.

-SJB

Everyone who discusses horror with me, knows that I wave the flag of Hunter Shea.  He is part of a new crop of writers that are putting out great horror stories.  I suggest that if you are getting tired of reading about zombies, vampires, and or werewolves, give Hunter a try.  He has been writing some chilling ghost stories lately.

My previous post was all about transition books.  Shea nails his transition book for Jessica Backman.  We meet her 13 years after the ordeal in Alaska.  First I am happy to report that Shea finishes his story arc with the poltergeist in this story.  Poltergeists are one of my main interests of the paranormal.  While Jessica helps the family with the poltergeist, Shea develops another arc featuring Selena and her family who are having terrifying instances with Selena’s double.

So Backman becomes paired with a psychic, Eddie.  Eddie can see and talk with spirits as well as some telepathy and telekinesis.  Eddie sets out to find Jessica after meeting her deceased father.  Once the poltergeist case wraps up, the two decide to stay in contact to work Selena’s case.

Selena is being haunted by her doppleganger.  From Eddie, we soon learn there is something sinister in the house.

Shea nails the characters as usual, as well as the action.  He crafts some particularly nasty ghosts.  His development of Jessica is spot on.  I can only guess that Jessica and Eddie will be tested to their limits on their next case.  I enjoyed the book immensely and I think anyone willing to give it a shot, will too.

Suggested reading environment.  Late at night, the winter provides a perfect setup.  Turn your thermostat down a couple of degrees, just to get a slight chill in the air.  Now its just you, the book, one lamp, and an eerie darkness that seems to creep closer. 

Its a great ghost story that anyone will enjoy.

Sure the Hunger Games trilogy might not ideally be horror, but since there is really a lack of movies out in theaters right now and because I just finished the book and recently watched the movie; and frankly its my blog and I can do what I want with it.

So here’s my review of Hunger Games: Catching Fire:

I was a fan of the movie The Hunger Games over the book.  This time, I feel both mediums have their merits and their faults.  I find myself beginning to hate the main character Katniss.  The constant indecision, whining and pining over two boys, etc.  She is supposed to be this strong, kick-ass character who would prefer shooting your eye out than dating.  I felt that in the book, she often had her priorities all twisted and she lost her focus. 

The good thing about the movie is that I did not have to hear the inner dialogue of Katniss, this is a huge plus in my book.  The book does well in broadening the scope that is Panem.  Katniss and Peeta go on a Victory Tour and we get a taste of some of the other districts.  In fact the Victory Tour takes up about half of the book, along with the underlying plot that President Snow is Super-pissed at Katniss for her stunt that she pulled at the last Hunger Games. Her job on the tour is to appease Prez. Snow and try and calm down the other districts (there are rumblings of revolution and rebellion against the Capitol).

Here is the fault of the movie, they speed through the Victory Tour, not allowing the audience a chance to see the vastness of Panem as well as denying them to learn of anger from the other districts towards the Capitol.  Another fault of the movie is a key scene from the book in which Katniss goes hunting to clear her head and hikes towards an abandoned cabin her dad takes her to.

It is in this scene that she runs into two refugees who are running away from their district to District 13.  The fabled District 13, which was explained that it was utterly destroyed and its ruins left an example to the other districts of the Capitol’s power.  So anyways, there are rumors that people still live in District 13.  It is becoming a mecca for refugees of other districts.  Surely, the Capitol knows about this, so why does District 13 continue to exist?  I’ll get to that in just a second.  So the movie only briefly mentions District 13 at the end when the stolen hovercraft is heading towards it as safe destination.  If you go in cold, not reading any of the source material, then you could not grasp the gravity of Katniss and her allies heading towards District 13, which falls squarely on shoulders of the filmmakers.

So back to my question, why is District 13 so important for the rebellion?  In the book, it is explained that District 13 had the potential to make NUCLEAR WEAPONS!  As a filmmaker, how the hell do you leave this tidbit out?!?!?

Catching Fire has a difficult job, both as a book and as a movie.  Sequels are easy.  Amp up the action, allow for returning characters to grow, present more vicious villains and challenges.  Catching Fire is not a sequel, its a part 2 of a trilogy, which can be difficult to pull off.  It is the setup and the transition.  You make the character grow as well as setup for the final climax.  If you can combine elements from both book and movie, you would have a tremendous part 2.

The best part from both mediums is the end scene, which is visually gratifying.  Katniss is put through Hell once more.  More emotional baggage is piled on.  In the movie, she is awakened, given some shitty news and she takes it like the hero she shall become.  The final look at the camera will give you goosebumps.

I’d like to end this with a little quip, parodied from the college humor Batman videos on YouTube.  To make it a bit more humorous, I suggest reading this in your best Batman voice:

President Snow!

Katniss is alive

And she’s–

Super pissed.

Admittedly these are not the most current movies that I am reviewing.  Like all movie-going audiences, I pick and choose what I am going to spend my money and what I am willing to wait to show up on Netflix (either streaming or when it comes up on my DVD Que).  Thanksgiving provided an opportunity to view some titles that I felt compelled to review:

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

This has the feel of a comic-book movie.  The characters, the weapons, the scenery are very stylized.  I half expect to go to Toys R Us to find Lego versions of this movie being sold at outrageous prices.  It can be a fun movie at times and it is not a movie I regret viewing, but it is not a movie I will be seeking out for a repeat viewing. 

The movie begins with an accurate depiction of the tale of Hansel and Gretel.  The two siblings are booted from their home by their mother and led into the woods by their father in the middle of the night.  They are left alone and soon become lost.  They walk aimlessly until they come upon a house made of candy.  The door ominously opens up and the brother and sister walk inside.  (Here’s a tidbit for you, if a door opens up by itself to a place you are unfamiliar with, perhaps you should just walk away.  What waits on the other side is never a good thing.)  The witch captures them, force feeding Hansel sweet goods.  Gretel gets loose, frees Hansel and they kill the witch by shoving her into the oven.

Fast forward about 20 years, Hansel and Gretel are badass Witch Hunters.  A small town is plagued by the kidnappings of young children and are desperate to keep their people safe.  H & G are brought in; action, some decent story-development, and exploding bodies ensue.

Two things I took away from this movie:

1. Whenever there is a death, the body explodes in a shower of gore and blood.  This is one of the reasons why I feel this is adapted from a comic book.  Very stylized deaths that erase emotion from the loss of life. 

2. I love the fact that Hansel has diabetes.  This lends some realism to a movie that laughs in the face of realism.  Any child that eats that much sugar that is implied during his imprisonment would become sick.  It helps with later character development.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is a fun, quick movie.  Like a piece of candy.  Goes down easy and quick and then simply vanishes.

 

 

Pacific Rim

Another very stylized movie from fanboy (and fangirl) favorite, Guillermo del Toro.  Bringing in elements seen in children’s television and some Anime cartoons.  Giant robots vs. Giant monsters.  There is no more plot development than that.

In the near future, giant monsters come to our planet via a giant crack in the floor of the Pacific Ocean.  The world unites and builds giant robots.  We succeed in defending out planet and soon the world governments decided to build walls and forget about the robots.  As per usual of government decisions, it backfires.  Idris Elba (who plays the commanding officer of the giant robot squadron) has one year to get shit ready.

When we are introduced to the main lead, Raleigh, he is working on a coastal wall.  He is recruited to pilot his old giant robot, but with a new partner.  We also get a glimpse of the three other robots in the squadron.  One of them features three arms.  Cool looking and gets everyone excited for some robot on monster fighting.

So after about 40 minutes of story and character development, we get what so many paid money for.  I was disappointed that in one battle, half of the squadron is decimated and defeated.

Charlie Day steals this movie with his antics.  I look forward to a sequel just to see what they do with this character.  The battles were pretty good.  Yes there are some pretty dumb parts.  But it is a fun, summer, popcorn movie.  The point is escapism, not an Oscar.

To fully enjoy this movie, I give this piece of advice: Lower your expectations.  Go into this movie knowing that it is all about an easy to follow story line, exciting fights, and not a whole lot of realism.  Also a big bowl of popcorn.

 

So I have room for a new blog feature, One-word Movie Reviews:

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance…Horrible.

I finally finished ‘Prank Night’ by Kristopher Rufty.  A Halloween tale about a small town that wakes up one morning to find themselves trapped inside their own homes.  One by one they are stalked and murdered by the last thing they thought possible. 

I am a sucker for Halloween tales.  Anything that involves pumpkins, scarecrows, costumes; and chaos all happening on a day that is supposed to be safe and fun.  It is the true essence of Halloween.  The day that we celebrate horror.  The day when we accept that things go bump in the night.

‘Prank Night’ does capture the essence of Halloween.  The atmosphere is perfect.  Kids and adults alike getting ready by changing into costumes.  Pumpkins everywhere.  And the cool, briskness of Autumn as Summer and Winter battle for control.  Oh and malicious mayhem and murder running rampant throughout the town.

It is called Prank Night, but really the murders begin in broad daylight.  Just a couple people at first, before the real siege begins. 

Rufty’s story stumbles a bit coming out of the gate.  I did not like the repetitious scenes of women coming out of the shower and becoming scared of being stalked.

I had trepidations about the motive for killing.  But in the end, no clear explanation can be just as scary.

To quote Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) from ‘Scream':  “We all go a little crazy, sometimes.”

This past Halloween I got a chance to finish up Jonathan Janz’s serial novel, Savage Species.  The last two parts of this book are pretty relentless.  The action is very high tension and there is no ease off the accelerator.  Just when you think a threat has been eliminated, three more pop up.  Janz has done a wonderful job of connecting the readers with the characters.  To the point that my heart was pounding hard as I read each word.

So let me get you caught up.  Group A which consists of Jesse, Emma, Colleen, and Red Elk are being chased through some caverns by a vicious species that Red Elk refers to as The Children.  We last left off with Emma and Colleen being taken away by some nasty bats.  Group B is Sam and Charly, followed by Charly’s jealous husband, Eric and his assistant Mel.  Group B is searching for Charly’s newborn who was kidnapped by one of the Children.

So naturally both groups eventually collide.  In part 4, The Arena, both groups finally reunite with their lost loved ones and are placed squarely in the middle of a battle between the Children and the Winged Species.  From here its escape and survive.

Since I was able to finish Savage Species, I can now comment on the story as  whole.  I loved what Janz did with the Species.  They are not necessarily vampires, but they are vampiric in nature.  Way more vicious than vampires and they certainly do not sparkle.  The characters and their stories are well crafted.  They help keep the story going forward when there are not any savages breathing down their necks.  The connection with the characters also make it difficult to get through part 5. 

Janz has crafted one hell of an action-packed story with wonderful characters and some nasty antagonists.

And I have a feeling we will be seeing the Savage Species again.

 

Mini-Movie Review:

Evil Dead:  Not so great.  Like many remakes, this one fails to capture most of the magic of the original.  There are some iconic images that fit well.  But for the most part, there is no character development and a whole lot of blood.  I enjoyed the twist of the story and the characters, but not enough for me to really tout this movie.  I am confounded as to why this movie received so much praise.  Two out of five stars.

Some quick, mini-reviews for ya as I blast through movies and stories on this fine October friday:

Let Me In – This is a shot for shot remake of the original foreign film Let the Right One In.  What it lacked was the emotion that was delivered in the original.  I suggest getting your hands on the original and best.  Subtitles be damned, it is a great story.  Not a scary story, but one worth experiencing.

Crypto-Squad by Eric S. Brown – A fun, quick read featuring your favorite cryptids; such as Loch Ness Monster, Mothman, the Sasquatch, Jersey Devil, and many more.  Brown creates a world in midst of a zombie invasion.  They have not overtaken the country, but are close to the verge of doing so.  A cult is at work to raising the dead for an army and in hopes of raising an ancient Snake God.  Working against them is a secret agency where humans and cryptids work together to fight the forces of evil.  This work is very sci-fi, very pulpy, and just plain fun.  The Mothman is by far the strongest character and will grow throughout the rest of the series.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – I attempted to watch this when I was 15 years old.  I ended up stopping the movie, because I was bored.  It must have been my young, adolescent mind that could not keep my attention.  I just viewed this ground-breaking film last night.  I wanted to gain the original perspective before watching the latest movie in the series.  First, Ed Gein has been a hell of a muse.  He inspired Hitchcock for developing Psycho.  Leatherface and his messed up family can also thank Ed Gein.  The story is a bit of a slow build as some teens are on a road trip through rural Texas.  They pickup a hitchhiker who, like in all horror movies, displays how insane he is.  They proceed to kick the man out and head out to some old property.  The action and killing picks up as one by one, the teens fall victim to Leatherface.

What TCM accomplished is using brutality to bring fear to the audience.  Everyone cringes at the sound of a chainsaw.  It is a tool of unstoppable pain and destruction.  The chase scene with Sally is very riveting.  I loved it when Leatherface would get close as she struggled through the brush.  And then Hooper has the audience delve into the insanity of the family at the dinner scene.  Superb horror film-making.  I anxiously await for the latest TCM movie to compare.