Even though this is my first Tony Burgess read, I'm not exactly a Burgess virgin. He's a bit of a cult figure in Canada, thanks largely in part to the...more Even though this is my first Tony Burgess read, I'm not exactly a Burgess virgin. He's a bit of a cult figure in Canada, thanks largely in part to the iconic zombie flick Pontypool, based on his novel Pontypool Changes Everything. Confession time: I've seen the movie (it's brilliant), but I never got around to reading Burgess's book. Or anything else by him either. Until now.
Sweet Jebus. I was dimly aware of his reputation as a gore master, a mad splatter genius who frequently pushes boundaries of decency and sanity every chance he gets. It's a reputation well-deserved. Reminiscent of another iconic Canadian's early work -- David Cronenberg -- Burgess delves into body horror in such a way to disarm the reader and distress the shit out of you.
It's not a mere gross out that's easily dismissed as senseless pulp either, but an exercise in relentless brutality that leaves you mentally and emotionally floundering. In a lot of ways, reading The n-Body Problem reminded me of Kafka's The Metamorphosis because I was left feeling similarly shuddering and sad. (view spoiler)[The narrator's fate as an armless, legless torso mummy wrapped and encased in glass is a metamorphosis that leads to much the same kind of alienation and dehumanization experienced by Gregor Samsa. Except the ultimate fate of the narrator here is so much worse, if such horrors can indeed be quantified. (hide spoiler)]
This isn't a book I would easily recommend. It's Grade A disturbing, and very much not nice. I repeat: This is not a nice book. It doesn't want to hold your hand, or stroke your hair. Or make you laugh and feel better about life's absurdities. It wants to show you something very dark and nasty, about humans, about death, about our fear of death and extinction. Approach with caution -- and a very strong stomach. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This little Faustian ditty is a hoot and a half, let me tell you and should you think my three stars indicates a less than enthusi...moreOCTOBER COUNTRY 2013
This little Faustian ditty is a hoot and a half, let me tell you and should you think my three stars indicates a less than enthusiastic recommendation, think again. I adore Frank Darabont because he is one of the few film directors out there who truly "gets" Stephen King's work (as an artist and as a fan). The proof is in Darabont's King adaptations onto the big screen with stunning cinematic results, including The Green Mile and my personal favourite -- The Shawshank Redemption.
There is a persistent rumor that Darabont is sitting on the film rights to King's Bachman novel The Long Walk, another favorite of mine which I like to re-read every couple of years. Just the thought of Darabont bringing this classic edge-of-your-seat dystopian nightmare to the big screen is enough to send me into a raving fangirl tizzy. So c'mon Darabont, get on that please before the zombies rise up and we're all more concerned with hoarding toilet paper.
But back to Walpuski's Typewriter. Darabont is a talented director, and an equally passionate screenwriter. He knows how to construct a story and give life to characters, but mostly in the visual sense. He is a man who thinks and experiences the world cinematically. Which is why you see his name on movie marquees, not on the New York Times bestsellers list.
But this fantastical tale laced with dark humor and outrageous outcomes showcases Darabont's admiration and respect for the craft of storytelling, in particular for the works of Stephen King and Anthony Boucher. In Walpuski's Typewriter Darabont is paying homage to these men, a short story that proves imitation is the highest form of flattery. King fans will chuckle. There's something here that feels so familiar and honest, in an adorable, tongue-in-cheek way. It's Creepshow and Tales from the Crypt, a delightfully gruesome story ripped from the pages of the 1950's EC horror comics.
It's appropriate I should be reviewing this on November 1st, as thousands of people all over the world sign up to participate in NaNoWriMo. The overwhelming urge to write a novel can make hungering desperadoes out of the most calm and sensible people. As all you NaNo participants venture forth this month to slay your literary dragon, ask yourself how far you would go to succeed in this madcap adventure, to bask in the glory of your triumph and drink from the sweet well of fame and notoriety?
My advice -- stick to pen and paper, and whatever you do, don't resurrect that old typewriter from your uncle's basement or grandma's attic. (less)
I'm not giving any stars here, only a warning: beware which edition of this collection you choose, for if you choose unwisely, you will be sorely ripp...more
I'm not giving any stars here, only a warning: beware which edition of this collection you choose, for if you choose unwisely, you will be sorely ripped off in more ways than one.
I chose unwisely. My edition is the 2010 "updated" version published by Harper Collins with new illustrations by Brett Helquist. To say that it's been sanitized for safe consumption is an understatement. The reason the original 1981 edition became an instant classic and a frequently challenged book in schools and libraries was for Stephen Gammell's ghoulish and nightmarish artwork.
I cry foul and bullshit. You don't mess with perfection and genius. Without Gammell's drawings, this collection loses its bloody, beating heart and is barely worth the paper it's printed on. Who thought this was a good idea? I'm incensed, especially for all the kids who might pick up this book expecting to have the bejeebers scared out of them and wind up merely bored or slightly amused. Unforgivable!
I was going to rant here about our ill-conceived, often hypocritical efforts to "protect" our children and censor their reading materials, but I'll save that for another day. Perhaps for when I write a real review for the real version of this book, the only one that counts, the only one that should be bought and gifted to any young person seeking his or her gateway drug into the realm of the macabre.
You know, the thing about a shark...he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be living... until he bites ya ~JAWS (1975)
The perfect beach read (for my twisted tastes anyway)...found as summer's door closes on the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend. The book's blurb describes 'Bait' as: "Survivor meets Lord of the Flies meets Drugstore Cowboy" and that's pretty accurate as blurbs go, with a side portion of Trainspotting to sweeten the deal.
Subtract the worst of its gory torture-porn aspects, I also couldn't help be reminded of the original SAW -- oh yes ladies and gentlemen, this is a winner, a white-knuckled page-turner with a gaping maw of shark's teeth ready to take a chomp out of your ass at any moment. I'd love to see this as a movie, and its length would also have made it the perfect one hour Twilight Zone or Night Gallery episode.
The novel works so well because Messum takes some time (amidst the roiling action) to develop his cast of sad, deplorable and desperate characters. As readers, what are we to think of protagonists plagued by heroin addiction and the jagged guilt of dirty deeds?
The six victims who wake up stranded on a deserted beach are not the people we usually cheer for. It's hard to warm up to them, and unless you've suffered from addiction yourself, it's very hard to relate to them in any way. Despite this challenge, Messum takes what could have easily resulted in stereotypical junkies -- the archetype, the caricature -- and turns them into sympathetic characters, nicely fleshed out in a short period of time with minimal details.
On the surface, Bait is a thrill-kill, adrenaline read, a man versus nature versus man extravaganza. But beneath the surface, there is deep water that runs, not just with sharks, but with thematic purpose tinged with social commentary and observations of the human condition -- our rage, our prejudices, our lack of empathy and understanding, our human ability to dehumanize ourselves and others around us. In some respects, this cautionary tale has an allegorical feel to it all, about justice and second chances and who deserves them.
As the dog days of September draw near, I can't recommend this book enough for a quick and satisfying read. (less)
First of all, there are some fantastic four and five star reviews available that really sell the merits of this book's accomp...moreOCTOBER COUNTRY 2013 - #1
First of all, there are some fantastic four and five star reviews available that really sell the merits of this book's accomplishments in mood and story. But it's this review that most closely captures my reading experience of it.
What can I say? I like my horror to hit the lizard part of my brain, rather than the mysterious, atmospheric-laden kind that's literary and beautiful, yes, but misses my lizard brain altogether and goes right for the higher thinking part. I'm not opposed to literary horror -- some of it can be quite effective and evocative -- but it's not my favorite, it's not what I seek out, and it's not what I tend to remember. The best horror combines the elements of both, succeeding not only in a literary sense, but in attacking that primal part of our brain that feels and reacts rather than thinks and considers.
I want to provoke an emotional, even visceral, reaction in my readers. Making them think as they read is not my deal...if the tale is good enough and the characters vivid enough, thinking will supplant emotion [only] when the tale has been told and the book set aside.
As a reader of horror, that's the experience I'm seeking first and foremost. I want to be made to feel on an instinctual level of 'fight or flight'. The cerebral stuff is for another time and place.
Aspects of The Sorrow King tickled my lizard brain, but like Elise's time spent in the Obscura, or Steven's long midnight walks, it's more a tale constructed out of dreams and moods, colors and sounds. Don't get me wrong -- things really do happen, frightening things accompanied by disturbing imagery -- I just feel like I spent too much time in my head while reading this one, and not enough time looking over my shoulder for the monster creeping up behind me. (less)
Huh. Well, that was...interesting. Overall, I can say I enjoyed it. But two things chipped away at the star rating: 1) not enough creee-py (though a f...more Huh. Well, that was...interesting. Overall, I can say I enjoyed it. But two things chipped away at the star rating: 1) not enough creee-py (though a few scenes work incredibly well) and 2) waaaaay too much solving of codes and clues and shop-talk about genetics and DNA (oh, and these biological aspects are much more strap on your suspension of disbelief fantastical than this guy's done his research science fiction with the emphasis on science).
There's some crazy ass theories going on in these pages and if you don't commit to just sit back and enjoy the ride you will not. This is j-horror, not a medical thriller nor Isaac Asimov. Reality bends, and bends some more. Just go with it.
For fans familiar with the Ring movies, this is a pretty wild *evolution* of the original premise and curse. It seems overly ambitious to me at this point, without the "meat" to sustain it in a satisfying, credible way. But I'm willing to give Suzuki a chance and see what he can pull off in the final installment of the trilogy - Loop.
One more thing: (view spoiler)[is the identity of the young woman coming out of Mai's apartment supposed to be a "big reveal" moment towards the end of the novel? I assumed immediately this is vengeful Sadako in the flesh. And it also seemed fairly obvious to me that the only way she could be walking and talking is if she's the "thing" Mai gave birth to (because we know Mai gives birth to something). When Ando receives the fax and figures out the woman he's been shtupping is in fact Sadako, his terror and bewilderment is way out of proportion to the reader's. I felt like saying, "d'uh man, pay attention." (hide spoiler)]
Certainly that fax reveal pails in comparison to this fax reveal.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
How could I resist a behemoth, colorful coffee table book about cinematic monsters put together by the legendary John Landis? I couldn't of course, it...more How could I resist a behemoth, colorful coffee table book about cinematic monsters put together by the legendary John Landis? I couldn't of course, it would have been impossible, which is why I'm writing this review.
I have a bit of fangirl squee going on for Mr. Landis, who wrote and directed one of my favorite movies of all time -- An American Werewolf in London. He's also famous for Animal House and The Blues Brothers (and a plethora of cheesy stinkers that I won't mention here). Landis hasn't made a lot of monster movies, but what makes him the perfect person to put together a book like this is two-fold: 1) he's a screaming fanboy for the genre and 2) he's best friends with a lot of the directors -- and more significantly, special effects masters, who make the monsters come to life.
This entire book really does read like a love letter from a fanboy. Landis's characteristic exuberance pours across every page captured in about 1000 exclamation points. Seriously, this book has A LOT of exclamation points. So many I began to giggle and couldn't help but remember this scene from Seinfeld. No amount of exclamation points however, can truly capture Landis's passion and enthusiasm for the medium, his sparkling eyes, his fervent gesticulating, his habit of leaning forward as if he spends most of his life perched on the edge of his seat (which I firmly believe is the case). Watch this guy in person and you'll see what I mean.
So this is not an academic treatise on cinema culture. Landis makes this very clear in his introduction when he calls his book "a labor of love" and not "a ponderous examination of film theory." Budding special effects geeks out there should take note that the book is also missing detailed descriptions from the creators of how movie monsters actually get made. There are no secrets of the trade I'm afraid.
This book is mostly a magnificent, shiny compilation of movie stills and posters featuring just about every monster that has appeared on film in the last 100 years (the good, the bad, the ugly and the cheesy). It is by no means an all-inclusive encyclopedic list; still, there's so much to feast your eyes on, I don't think you'll be left feeling cheated. Some of the most fun I had was spent pouring over the movie posters and laughing at some of the ridiculous tag lines:
That's not how you write a tagline. This is how you write a tagline: (can you name them all without employing Google?)
1. In space, no one can hear you scream. 2. When there's no more room in Hell, the Dead will walk the Earth. 3. Who will survive, and what will be left of them? 4. A romantic comedy. With zombies. 5. Trapped in time. Surrounded by evil. Low on gas. 6. Man is the warmest place to hide. 7. To avoid fainting, keep on repeating...it's only a movie, it's only a movie. 8. If Nancy doesn't wake up screaming, she won't wake up at all 9. Herbert West has a good head on his shoulders, and another one on his desk
In addition to Landis's short introductory essays to every chapter, he has also included "conversations" with some of the biggest names in the business -- Christopher Lee, Joe Dante, David Cronenberg, Sam Raimi, Guillermo Del Toro, Ray Harryhausen, Rick Baker and John Carpenter.
I adore Guillermo Del Toro. To me he is a big giant teddy bear with a soft warm voice and a generous expansive laugh that erupts from the bottom of his belly. He is articulate, introspective, and acutely observant of the human condition. It is what makes him such an extraordinary storyteller and filmmaker. I would listen to him talk about any subject under the sun (and have in countless interviews), but when he speaks of horror and what scares us I am absolutely, positively riveted. The world could end around me and I wouldn't even notice. In the conversation recorded between he and Landis, Del Toro shares very specific ideas of what constitutes "monster" both philosophically and cinematically.
John Carpenter is the "old guy" now, cynical, almost curmudgeonly, wise with the long view. I love his take on the value of getting "to see" the monster. Implied horror which is only hinted at is basically bullshit and a cop out to Carpenter. Movies like The Haunting and The Innocents represent "the bad and beautiful way of making horror movies." He argues: "I paid my money, I want to see what the fuck it is." That made me laugh so hard. It's true that there is power in what we can imagine, but turning on the spotlights, pulling back the curtain, and letting us really see everything -- leaving nothing to the imagination -- can be a satisfying, cathartic experience in its own right. Ballsy filmmaking too, cause it can blow up in your face if the audience sees any strings or zippers.
This is one of the things that made American Werewolf in London so ground-breaking. Landis wanted to show David's violent metamorphosis from man to werewolf in broad daylight with no cutaways and thanks to the amazing work by Rick Baker he pulled it off. To this day it remains an extraordinary transformation, putting to shame many modern day monsters and their over-reliance on CGI effects.
The chapter entitled "The Devil's Work" includes Carrie White, and I do not think this is the best fit for her, since her abilities and acts of violence do not originate with or are influenced by Satan (Carrie's mother certainly believes this to be true, but we know better). I was also disappointed that Viggo Mortensen's portrayal of Lucifer in The Prophecy did not make the cut. Viggo has very little screen time, but what he has he uses to astonishing effect. It's a chilling, convincing performance (certainly heaps better than Gabriel Bryne's in End of Days alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger).
Missing from the "Ghosts" chapter is Stir of Echoes with Kevin Bacon, which always gets overlooked in favor of its more famous cousin The Sixth Sense. For the record I think Stir is the better movie. If you haven't seen it, pick it up because it is awesome.
If you have a coffee table in your home, this is the perfect book for it (or your bathroom if that's how you roll). Wherever you keep this book in your house, you'll likely never run out of horror movies to watch. There's plenty I haven't seen, and plenty more I can't wait to see again. It's a luscious, visual feast for the eyes and incredibly fun to flip through. It would make the perfect gift for the film buff or horror junkie in your life.
Jack Torrence thought: officious little prick ~The Shining (1977)
**Note: I chose not to put this review behind a spoiler tag. Below I discuss both the...more
Jack Torrence thought: officious little prick ~The Shining (1977)
**Note: I chose not to put this review behind a spoiler tag. Below I discuss both the book and the movie assuming if you're reading this, you're familiar with both.
Even though Stephen King's primary reputation has been 'America's boogeyman', I can count on one hand the number of pure horror novels I feel he's published (and they all come early in his career) -- 'Salem's Lot, Pet Sematary, It, Misery and of course, The Shining. King is most famous as master of the macabre, but fans know he is also a keen observer of human behavior and emotions. He knows what makes us tick, and he's just as likely to make us laugh and cry as he is to scream. These five books? These he wrote to make us scream – and shiver, and look over our shoulder, peek under our bed, bar the closet door, and leave the lights on. He wrote them – to put it bluntly – to scare the shit out of us.
His tale of the doomed Torrence family and the sinister Overlook Hotel is in many ways a classic ghost story with its roots firmly planted in Gothic literature, Anne Radcliffe, Henry James and Edgar Allen Poe. More than these however, King is clearly writing under the influence of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and Richard Matheson's Hell House. The notion of a malevolent house, seething from within with awareness and intent, was far from virgin territory by the time King came to it in the 1970's. Yet, King brought his own distinct brand of terror to the table and the result has left an indelible mark on not just the genre, but on contemporary literature.
Is The Shining scary? You're goddamn right it is. And I think I never really thought about how scary until I listened to the audiobook. Actor Campbell Scott does an outstanding job, and like all the best ghost stories going all the way back to caveman times, this one is meant to be told, you kennit? Not merely read – but listened to -- surrounded by darkness, hunched around a dwindling fire. There are tropes and themes embedded in The Shining that penetrate to the very lizard part of our brain where fear and anxiety make their home.
In regards to the movie, Stephen King has not been shy over the years voicing his discontent with Kubrick's cinematic interpretation of his novel. I love the movie for many reasons (even though it's been around for so long and parodied so often it's hard to take it seriously anymore). But it pays to remember that Kubrick chose to tell an entirely different story from King.
The beating heart of King's novel is the sundering of the family unit, the destructive forces of alcoholism, the legacy of domestic violence and the incipient guilt and self-loathing it can bestow. If I have one complaint about the movie is that it fails to show any tragedy. King's version is not only terrifying, but heartbreaking. It is the story of a flawed but decent man in the process of clawing his way back into the light when all that he loves is ripped away from him. Whereas Kubrick's film focuses purely on a man losing his shit (in other words, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy).
In the film version, we see Jack Torrence go stark raving mad and viciously turn on his family with homicidal intent. But King's Jack Torrence doesn't go crazy, or suffer from the proverbial “cabin fever” alluded to in references to Grady, the Overlook's infamous previous caretaker. In the novel, it's the Overlook itself acting with malignant and malicious forethought that uses and abuses hapless Jack Torrence. It manipulates him, it twists his thoughts and controls his behavior. You can look at it as an alien invasion, or an outright demonic possession, but by the end of the novel, Jack Torrence is no longer a who but a what referred to as an it.
It hurried across the basement and into the feeble yellow glow of the furnace room's only light. It was slobbering with fear. It had been so close, so close to having the boy....It could not lose now.
Jack is lost inside of the monstrosity the Hotel has made him, as it uses his body to hunt down his little boy to murder him. A large part of the story's inherent tragedy for me, is watching Danny Torrence -- who loves his father very much -- lose him in such a frightening and grisly manner.
”Doc,” Jack Torrance said. “Run away. Quick. And remember how much I love you.” “No,” Danny said. “Oh Danny, for God's sake--” “No,” Danny said. He took one of his father's bloody hands and kissed it. “It's almost over.”
Now this fall, after a wait of almost four decades, readers will finally discover what kind of a man this little boy with his unique ability to shine has become. That's a story I didn't even know I wanted until it became a reality. Now I want it more than I can even put into words. In all of this overlong review where there are still many, many things I could have rambled on about, I failed to find a moment to speak briefly of Dick Halloran. I love this character -- his humour, his kindness, his fierceness and strength. I can only hope that catching up with Danny Torrence will mean crossing paths with Mr. Halloran again too. (less)
David Moody fans (or sci-fi junkies) will be pleased to note that he has made this title available online for free at this website until about the end...more David Moody fans (or sci-fi junkies) will be pleased to note that he has made this title available online for free at this website until about the end of January. And it's pretty damn fine. Not as strong as Hater, but perhaps it isn't even fair to compare the two because in a lot of ways they are very different stories.
Imagine if you will your average particle accelerator -- the Hadron Collider if you please. But instead of smashing sub-atomic particles into one another, let's say you're David Moody and you decide you want to take Shaun of the Dead and violently crash it into M. Night's Signs and Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind until you're left with this existential, entertaining mash-up of a story that's reflective, funny, and chilling in its probabilities.
Tom Winter is your average English bloke who has left his high pressure job in the city and retreated to the very small coastal town of Thatcham. His parents have recently died and he and his younger brother are trying to put their lives back together. Into this small town an unidentified aircraft of behemoth size deposits aliens from an advanced civilization. They claim they have come in peace. They claim they only want our help to get home. But are they telling the truth?
Moody is not giving us an action-packed, pulse-pounding story about an alien invasion here; rather, he's focusing on the psychological and philosophical ramifications of human behavior in the face of a peaceful close encounter of the third kind. It's pretty interesting actually the way characters behave, how they gradually grow to accept the aliens as non-threatening visitors, the questions it makes them ask of themselves and of one another, the deep desire to weigh in on meatier moral issues and "the meaning of life."
It's a slow build that did feel like it goes on a little too long in parts. I started to get a bit twitchy; I just wanted something to happen. In a way, that's very effective writing though. If the aliens do land in peace and it turns out to be pretty innocuous and ordinary, our human reaction might very well be to wish for something more outlandish and mind-blowing. This can't be all there is? Surely, there's something else to occur.
When the direction of the story does change, it happens abruptly and is over quickly. I guess I wish there had been more of a balance between the first three parts and parts four and five. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it though, or that I don't appreciate what Moody is trying to do here, I just longed for more B-movie action and less navel-gazing character angst. (less)
I usually like to end my year (or start) with Stephen King, so I decided upon this feisty freebie available online here. I first read this back in Oct...more I usually like to end my year (or start) with Stephen King, so I decided upon this feisty freebie available online here. I first read this back in October as a short story included in the Stephen Jones anthology A Book of Horrors. I enjoyed it then very much, but I really dig it as a graphic novel.
I love the coloring used - almost a sickly underwater green, black and bruised shades of blue - and I love the facial expressions. I'm not a graphic artist by any stretch of the imagination, but I found the close-ups of the eyes very effective.
This is also a very text heavy adaptation, so if you don't like your comics to be swimming in words, that will probably be a turn off. I didn't mind it though. I love how King's words build mood and atmosphere and a slow, inevitable creep towards something sinister.
In my original review of the short story I made comparisons to those great speculative machines of the past famous for churning out stories of the weird and the macabre -- Tales from the Crypt, Twilight Zone and Night Gallery to name the holy trinity. King himself has described his adolescent obsession with horror comics (before such comics were disbanded as lewd and contributing to the delinquency and illiteracy of juveniles). Good call guys. Job well done.
King's love for the genre eventually culminated in his collaboration with George Romero producing the cult classic Creepshow, a cheesy romp of delight and a fitting homage to the great horror comics of the past from two rabid fanboys. This story - "The Little Green God of Agony" - could have been slipped in there and filmed with all the others without missing a beat.
King is no stranger to excruciating pain. His long road to recovery after his near fatal accident has definitely influenced his approach to the subject. Fans won't be surprised to see him turn his writer's eye to a pain so intolerable one can only imagine the body itself has been possessed by an evil entity that feeds off the agony. While the ending is not that surprising, it sure is sweet getting there. (less)
a post-apocalyptic zombie soap opera, where the soap is made out of lye. The story is harsh -- almost nihilistic in its way -- extremely violent, and peppered throughout with characters hooking up in almost sure to be doomed relationships.
Now, after wading through another 1068 pages of Compendium 2 I can't say much has changed.
Other than the fact I'm completely, utterly exhausted from all the carnage and devastation.
Seriously guys, when this series goes dark side it does not fuck around. It is bleak goddammit, B-L-E-A-K. Surviving the zombies is the easy part; it's all the crazy, fucked-up, out to slice and dice you and take what you have humans with Grade A mental issues that Rick's gang has to worry about the most. It's one tragedy heaped upon one depravity after another. And what does it do to a person to take on the savages and repel them? End them? Mutilate them? It's certainly changed Rick from the man we first came to know in the first few issues. It's most definitely changed little Carl (who is starting to creep me out a little bit truth be told). In some ways, all the survivors have been carved into new animals by forces beyond their control.
It's good. It keeps the pages turning most of the time, but it can become positively grueling and yes, even a bit repetitive at times, over the long haul. Especially if you're a pig like me and devour the story in huge non-stop helpings. (view spoiler)[The big shocker for me this time was Carl getting half his head blown off. My jaw literally dropped open. But then he survives, and I mean, nothing against the kid, but I felt cheated. I felt like Kirkman was out and out cheating. That's the kind of thing that happens on soap operas all the time and we roll our eyes. I'm surprised there wasn't an "experimental" brain transplant tried or some such thing. (hide spoiler)]
What's more, I find myself missing characters introduced in the television show -- namely Carol, Daryl and even Merle. It really sucks not to have those guys around and I find the story is suffering from their absence. Michonne however, continues to be kick-ass and delightful. She is the saving grace of this entire series character wise if you ask me, reminding me of Agent 355 from Y: The Last Man series. I like Glenn too, but I find Maggie really whiny most of the time. I should be more forgiving I suppose considering everything the poor thing has been through.
So the series is not without problems. By issue #96, it's starting to repeat itself and Kirkland needs to get serious about wrapping this baby up. Go out on a high note, man. Some are already saying you've stayed too long at the party. The goal should be for the narrative to remain fresh and bloody and vital. The gore should still feel wet on the pages. Unfortunately, it's starting to feel like a limping, dessicating zombie. I've given it my all, I've suspended my disbelief where I had to, and I would argue this remains required reading in the genre; however, let's end it. It's time. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I have a book shelf named "what the bleep" for books that unexpectedly shock my delicate sensibilities, blow my mind, and/or turn it into a pretzel. S...more I have a book shelf named "what the bleep" for books that unexpectedly shock my delicate sensibilities, blow my mind, and/or turn it into a pretzel. Sometimes the "what the bleep" is shouted in disgust or disappointment (as in -- this book sucks and the weirdness cannot save it). Other times, I shout it with glee for books that break my brain or tickle it so deliciously I can't help rubbing my hands together and cackling like a villain ripped from the pages of a Marvel comic.
I am delighted to report that '14' by Peter Clines is of the latter variety. It truly is a Coupe de Ville hiding at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box. I think what I loved most about this book is that it doesn't play by any fucking rule book whatsoever. It's horror, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery and episodes of Friends mixed with Scooby-Doo and the movie Singles all rolled up into one. It should be a bloody, confused mess, but IT ISN'T. Once it really gets going, it shimmies and jives like John Travolta boogying his way through Saturday Night Fever, with pizzazz and fervor and purpose. And a HUGE side helping of crazy pants.
And it TAKES ITS TIME. Oh, how I love it when a writer can give me some literary foreplay I can work with. Clines lays on the mystery quite thick in the early stages. There's something going on, with lots of hints and just enough reveals to keep us interested and reading on with bated breath. But for a long, long, time Clines keeps the mystery unsolved. The stakes get higher and higher. And the reveal -- while a creaky house of cards and not built of perfection -- is supremely shocking and satisfying. At least it was for me.
This book is a celebration of weird and wacky, finding the fun and the supremely creepy all in one place. Clines borrows from a lot of different sources including Lovecraft, House of Leaves, and John Dies at the End, and cooks it all up in an unforgettable stew of unique flavors and textures. He's a guy to watch. Read this book. (less)
This is very good, just a smidge shy of four star good actually. It's been awhile since I've read such a convincing "monster" story as engrossing as t...more This is very good, just a smidge shy of four star good actually. It's been awhile since I've read such a convincing "monster" story as engrossing as this one. And it's squicky goodness too. I'm still scratching and feeling all paranoid. The hoarding details are tremendously well done, treated with real understanding and sensitivity yet not shying away from the more horrific and disgusting dimensions of the disorder.
I was a little disappointed with the soft, ambiguous ending, pretty much standard for this kind of "monster of the week" fare. It's not certain who survives in the end, and there's always that dangling promise that the threat will be back. Oh yes it will. ::Cue ominous music::
Another good thing about reading this book? It will make you want to clean for your life!!!!
***ARC received from Dark Fuse publishers through NetGalley(less)
I love lists, I love horror movies, so when this little baby crossed my path I snatched it up without even thinking about it. As a handy reference gui...moreI love lists, I love horror movies, so when this little baby crossed my path I snatched it up without even thinking about it. As a handy reference guide for the uninitiated, it's almost perfection. For the more discriminating horror veteran, it's laced with lots of glossy extras. Even though the accompanying essays are short, most are meaty, with tidbits and trivia and a little film canon context, enough to help you win your next bar bet anyways. However, spoiler phobes beware -- a few of the essays do reveal some major plot twists (which is a real shame), so watch the movies first before you read the blurbs is all I'm saying.
This 400 page pint-sized gem contains full color reproductions of the original movie posters for all 101 selected films. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed pouring over the details in those. In addition to the posters, there is one movie still per film. Fun! As for organization, this IS NOT a countdown list from 101 to number 1. Rather, each chapter is organized by decade beginning with the 1910's and ending with the 2000's. While it's fun to countdown, I liked this presentation better. Lists can be so subjective and arbitrary at the best of times -- to come at these movies in the context of the decade in which they were made makes way more sense.
On to the list itself:
This is a very respectable selection of films, and as a horror movie buff who has been avidly watching since she was eight years old, I give the editors my stamp of approval, with a few caveats and addendums. First of all, the selections are a nice mixed bag of old and new, foreign and Hollywood. If you're not interested in classic cinema, a lot of these movies probably won't appeal to you. The first six chapters include films to the end of the 1960's. Five movies from 1932 alone. Even for my tastes, which run the gamut, I would have liked to see more emphasis on post-1960 horror cinema (it's come a long way, baby).
I also felt that the selections leaned a little too heavily on the "critical darlings" like Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and Ingmar Bergman as well as other weird and dated movies that have been sanctified as "must see classics" amongst the snobbish film aficionados. Still, despite some of this pandering, there is a lot of celluloid on this list that if you haven't seen yet, you really must make the time to do so.
I was tremendously relieved to see that Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 2 made the list; even so, it should not have come at the exclusion of the 1981 original Evil Dead. Both are brilliant, but the original is such an exquisite piece of guerrilla filmmaking on a shoe-string budget and balls-to-the-wall wunderkind genius that to leave it out of the 1980's chapter is more than just remiss, but an actual crime. At least the original gets mentioned in passing as a landmark for the genre. Other "must see" films I was chagrined to see overlooked: Alien (1979), The Changeling (1980), and John Carpenter's The Thing (1982). Not to mention neitherversion of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Egregious oversights.
So here it is, the complete list of 101 horror movies you must see before you die. I have hyperlinked to the trailer all those near and dear to my heart.
Well, well, well, what do we have here? A bona fide horror story my friends and Constant Readers, sprouted from the father/son imagination team of Ste...more Well, well, well, what do we have here? A bona fide horror story my friends and Constant Readers, sprouted from the father/son imagination team of Stephen King and Joe Hill. This story is not without its problems (and won't be suited to everyone's tastes). It is ghoulish and a tad gory, and depending on your sensibilities you may be disgusted, even offended. But before it goes there it is a magnificent piece of storytelling steeped in dread and what I like to call, epic creep. One reviewer has likened it to Open Water meets The Ruins and that's not inaccurate. There is a Mile 81 vibe as promised, but I was reminded more of King's earlier classic short stories such as "Children of the Corn" and "The Raft" and if I had to pick a movie, The Blair Witch Project.
Getting lost in tall grass is one of my most primal fears. And I don't mean grass that comes up to your waist (icky enough), but grass that is over your head and obscures the view of what's in front of you. Stuff lives in grass. Entire ecosystems of crawly, stinging biting things. Then there's mud and dew and pollen and mice and snakes and well... you get my point. I don't want to be there. No way.
The first half of this 60 page short story is so very strong in the way it taps into our claustrophobic fear of becoming lost. As humans we are very good at -- not to mention very attached to -- knowing where we are at any given moment in space and time. Our evolutionary sense of well-being depends on it. Strip it away and we quickly lose our shit. Panic, fear, frustration, they all come bubbling to the surface as we projectile rage against the environment that has conspired against us in such an unforgivable betrayal. What is that tree doing there? That wasn't there before. I thought the river was to the east of us. I'm sure the car is just over the next hill there.
As much as we hate it, getting lost is pretty much a universal human experience. It's probably happened to all of us at one time or another, even if it was for a very short period of time in a new city or on a short hike in a national park. King and Hill take that germ of an idea and run with it like mad lunatics in an asylum. This is a supernatural horror story, so if you like realism and stories that "could really happen" this might not be your thing. I wasn't entirely satisfied with the explanation of what is really going on in the tall grass, but enjoyed the first half of the story so much I'm willing to overlook that here. Plus, the story is just so well-written. It's tightly coiled prose with some great phrasing and sentence structure. These guys know what they're doing, okay?
Imagine being a fly on the wall for the father/son conversation such a collaboration requires. There are a few things that happen in the story where I was like: "Okay, whose idea was that?! Fess up!" I guess part of the fun is in trying to guess, and perhaps never knowing. These guys work good together though, and I'm looking forward to many more collaborations (fingers crossed).
Note: If you buy this as an ebook for three bucks it also comes with sneak previews of Doctor Sleep (King's sequel to The Shining) and Hill's novel NOS4A2. Let me just say that these previews have got me so revved up to read the books next year. If I thought I couldn't wait before, now I'm positively slavering to get my hands on them. At least Hill's book is coming in April; King's Doctor Sleep has been pushed to September! Almost another whole year! And what if the Mayan calender is right and we all go boom in December? What then people? What then?(less)
I really, really wanted to love this collection. I was so stoked to get my hands on it (as excited as I get about short story anthologies anyways). It...moreI really, really wanted to love this collection. I was so stoked to get my hands on it (as excited as I get about short story anthologies anyways). It contains an original story by Stephen King for heaven's sake, not to mention other original contributions from some of the genre's heaviest hitters including: Ramsey Campbell, John Ajvide Lindqvist and Dennis Etchison.
I think what frustrated me the most about this collection is that the majority of the stories have great beginnings but fizzle out on underwhelming, meh endings. Regardless of how pregnant with potential the premise, none of the authors really nail it, hit it out of the park, stick the landing (pick your metaphor, I got plenty).
That's not to say I didn't enjoy myself, because I did. I just expected more. I wanted that punch to the solar plexus, that tingly feeling of dread or shivery sensation of creep. Instead, I was moderately entertained and mildly amused.
Not surprisingly, one of the strongest is Stephen King's "The Little Green God of Agony", which carries a Twilight Zone or Creepshow vibe. A master of suspense, King controls the mounting tension on this one near perfectly. Anyone who is aware of King's long road to recovery after his near fatal accident won't be surprised to see him turn his writer's eye to the subject of excruciating pain. A pain so intolerable, one can only imagine the body has been possessed by an evil entity that feeds off the agony. While the ending is not that surprising really, it sure is sweet getting there.
King may be my sentimental favorite of the collection, but Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist (author of Let the Right One In) offers the most original and beautifully executed story. "The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer" is a darkly imagined ghost story about grief that resonates with sadness and desperation. A mother dies suddenly, and in the vacuum of a father and son's loss a ghost finds its way in. Not just any ghost. A murderer of children. This one actually wormed its way in and unnerved me. The writing is very good. It's really hard to believe that the same country that exported ABBA, has given us Lindqvist. Both are fantastic, but one of these things is not like the other.
The story idea I was most excited about came from horror legend Ramsey Campbell called "Getting It Wrong". It's a deadly games premise whereby a radio quiz show called Inquisition requires its contestants to answer questions correctly ... or bad things happen. I love the set-up on this one. Imagine taking a show like "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" and amping up the stakes so it's not money you're winning or losing, but the right to keep limbs intact, or eyeballs in your head. Now you're really in the hot seat. You have a life line, literally. So, idea? Perfect. Set-up? Pretty damn fine. Final denouement? Meh. This story could have been so much more, with just a little more meat on its bones.
Finally, Elizabeth Hand's novella "Near Zennor" just sucked me in and kept me turning the pages. It takes place on the English moors and has a very Gothic vibe. A man loses his wife suddenly and finds some old letters she wrote when she was just a girl to the author of a series of children's books. It becomes a mystery that he wants to investigate and he travels to the place where she spent one summer in 1971. This is an odd story that I couldn't quite make up my mind about as I was reading it, but still, it's very strong and I couldn't put it down even when there didn't seem to be anything really happening.
Overall, a fair collection with a couple of pieces worth the price of admission.