Category Archives: horror
This is the superb first novel from author Johnny Worthen, a man whose knowledge of the occult bleeds into his work, educating and illuminating.
It is also a tale of love and horror, refreshingly set against a modern day background of the American Northwest.
This is a horror romance that manages to inform as well as entertain, worth reading. You can buy the book here.
The Sentinel ~ This 1977 horror, in the style of other urban 1970s horrors like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, scared the hell out of me as a kid. No, strike that, not the movie, the ending of the movie scared me. The rest of the flick is pretty typical of the genre at the time, and fairly pedestrian.
Written and directed by Michael Winner, and based on the book of the same name by Jeffrey Konvitz (who also co-produced with Winner), The Sentinel is the story of a troubled flaky model, played by Cristina Raines, who wants her own place. She gets an apartment in a sectioned brownstone filled with equally neurotic neighbors, and a blind priest on the top floor who’s always staring out the window.
The kicker is the neighbors are demons and the brownstone is a gateway to Hell. Burgess Meredith does a fine turn as the head demon, kindly and subtly sinister. On the other hand, Chris Sarandon demonstrates that none of his ex-wife’s acting skills rubbed off onto him in this flat performance as Raines’ boyfriend. Also look for early roles for Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum, Tom Berenger, a very creepy Beverly D’Angelo, and a scary young Jerry Orbach.
The cat’s birthday party is one of the more messed up scenes I’ve seen. It’s comparative to the wedding reception in Freaks. Instead of “one of us,” you’ll have “black and white cat, black and white cake” ringing in your head.
The scene that scares the crap out of me is at the end, as I said. The priest guards the gate to Hell, but he’s about to die, and a new guardian is needed – guess who’s elected? I’m not really giving all that much away. Once you get to a certain point, it all becomes pretty obvious what’s going on.
When the switch is made there’s some overflow from Hell until the new guardian is installed. We see the denizens of Hell walking and crawling across the floor after Raines, and that’s the part that gets me. Speaking of Freaks, this film did set off a bit of a controversy when it was revealed that, like that movie, real disfigured persons were used for the ending. To much effect.
I must admit, after seeing it for the first time again after almost three decades, it was more the anticipation of the ending that I remember scaring me than the ending itself. Still, not a bad flick for the genre of the time.
Prometheus ~ First things first, get any notion out of your head that this flick has anything to do with the Alien series. It may, but waiting for those bits that connect it, or even expecting them, will lessen your enjoyment of this otherwise fairly good scifi horror. It’s Ridley Scott, it’s terror in space, but Alien it is not.
Motivated by ancient cave drawings, a space mission in the future travels to a distant planet described in those drawings. The assumption is this is where to find the origin of man, our creators, who the scientists in charge call The Engineers. Yes, it’s vague, and attempts are made to explain it along the way, but in the end it gets us to the planet, and starts the action moving.
The Prometheus and its crew land on the planet, explore an abandoned complex full of dead Engineers and one by one get picked off by various horrors from within and without in Alien-like suspense. Ghosts, monsters, mystery goo, infections, its all here. There is also the obligatory robot we don’t know whether to trust or not. Paranoia is the name of the game, and Scott does it well.
Now for the cringeworthy spoiler alert and reason you might not want to see this flick. After being quite suddenly impregnated, Noomi Rapace (from the original, and superior, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), playing a character named Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (yeah, I couldn’t get the Doctor Who reference out of my head either), gives herself an abortion. It is every bit as horrifying, and more so, as it sounds. Definitely one of the hardest things for me to watch in a movie in quite some time. Consider yourself warned.
There’s a terrific ensemble cast including Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Wong, Guy Pearce, and the always terrific Idris Elba. Can that man do no wrong? There’s also Sean Harris, who played the assassin Micheletto, the best thing about Showtime’s “The Borgias.” He is equally as good at scene stealing here too.
Worth seeing, but with several provisos, you have been warned.
Stephen King may have always been the king of horror since his emergence in the mid-seventies, but for a while at the same time, there was one man who outsold King in horror in the UK. I discovered James Herbert around 1980, and found him to be a suitable rival to King. Where King took his time, Herbert seemed to go right for the jugular. He was a similar writer but with a more canny sense of the horrific and the repulsive – a true master of the genre.
His books, The Fog (unrelated to the James Carpenter film), The Rats and its sequels, and especially The Dark were early influences on my writing just as much as King in that genre. He was extremely prolific, pumping out a book a year during the 1980s and slowing down as the years went on.
Author James Herbert passed away yesterday at the age of 69. The man will be missed, but his work will live on. If you’re a fan of King, I urge you to seek out Herbert’s books, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, and horrified.
I’ve never been big on secret origins, except when they are shorter than a sentence or two or a minute or two. Just tell us what we need to know about the character or the situation and start the story. As a matter of fact, one writer rule states that you should always start in the middle of the story – beginnings are for suckers. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 Psycho is a near perfect classic of the horror thriller genre, did we really need an ongoing prequel TV series? Why do we need A&E’s “Bates Motel”?
While it might not be the first to do such, I do blame “Smallville.” It’s the story of Superman, before he was Superman. If you’re a comics person, your first instinct is probably Superboy, and that’s really the problem with “Smallville.” All of the names are the same, but nothing else is. “Smallville” bears very little resemblance to Superboy. In the series, there is no Superboy, we see the looong journey of Clark Kent growing to manhood, and in the last moments of the last episode of the series, he finally becomes Superman. Over a decade later. Yeah, that long. And the whole time, all you really want from this show is to see him as Superman.
And that is why I hate secret origins, especially when they disguise themselves as ongoing TV series. I have to wonder, is that what “Bates Motel” will be like? Will we be waiting forever for our young protagonist Norman Bates to begin showing signs of the sociopath he is by the time the events of Psycho roll around? Will it take a decade?
The other obstacle (or perhaps it’s a good thing, for the new show at least) is the many folks who are watching who have no point of reference for Norman Bates. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s a factor. After all, believe it or not, there were teenagers watching “Smallville” who didn’t get the Superman (or Superboy) references and thought it was just a cross between “The X-Files” and “Beverly Hills 90210.” Certainly that worked. Half the audience was there for the soap opera, and half for the pseudo-superhero stuff. Perhaps “Bates Motel” might just work as a show about a gawky kid with a overbearing mother who run a creepy motel, period.
“Bates Motel” is set present day, we begin with Norman’s dad dead, and Mom rushing them away to start over again, a habit she seems to have. The two are a little bit too close, and Vera Farmiga is just as overbearing as Norma Bates, as Freddie Highmore is creepy as young Norman. She’s a bit too pretty for my tastes, even as a young Norma Bates, but her paranoid craziness fills out the rest of her character well.
On their latest ‘start over,’ they buy an old motel foreclosed on by the bank. When a even creepier neighbor starts to harass them because the motel and property had been in his family for decades, well, things escalate. He breaks in, rapes Norma, and Norman saves her, after which Mom finishes the job, killing the attacker. Don’t call the police, we’ll cover this up ourselves is Norma’s battle cry. We kinda start to get the vibe maybe Dad’s death wasn’t quite what it seemed.
As creepy as the killer and the collaborator are, Nestor Carbonell is even scarier as Sheriff Alex Romero. If you locked me in a room with the three of them, he’s the one I’d be most scared of. There are some genuinely chilling moments here, as well as some “90120” caliber teenage soap moments. There’s also a cliffhanger that is very tempting to keep me watching, but I have to wonder, will this drag on forever and take a decade to get to the point, or will it surprise me. We’ll just have to wait and see.
The Barrens ~ There has never been a decent movie made about the Jersey Devil. There have been more than a few duds, usually made by folks who either don’t live here or don’t know anything about the legend. Research is so important. I’m convinced that until a film is made of “The Pines” by Robert Dunbar (and done right), there probably won’t ever be a good movie on our local legend ever made.
|The real Pine Barrens|
Case in point – Anchor Bay’s The Barrens, written and directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, a Kansas native, and a veteran of three Saw movies, and Repo! The Genetic Opera. I could just stop there, I suppose, but I’ll also add that he chose to film this horror flick, set in the South Jersey Pine Barrens, in Toronto. Yes, Toronto. To his credit, he wanted to film on location, but Toronto was cheaper. The Pine Barrens is an area that looks nothing like any other place on earth, for those not from here. The trees are stunted, not tall. So much for authenticity.
Also known as The Forest, and The Jersey Devil, the film has Stephen Moyer, vampire Bill Compton from HBO’s “True Blood,” as a British dad in the States who forces his family – second wife Mia Kirshner, teenage daughter, and young son, none of whom want to go – on a camping trip into the Pine Barrens like he used to do with his dad when he was a kid.
|Where am I supposed to be from again?|
I spent a lot of time trying to figure what vampire Bill’s accent was supposed to be. It should have been British, but was it Australian? But he’s not Australian, is he? It was very distracting. I know that Moyer can do an American accent. So why confuse the audience?
The saddest part of the film, for folks like me, is that this Kansas clown can’t even get the legend of the Jersey Devil right. It’s a very simple story, but he’s got witches, evil spirits and Indian legends mixed in there. And since when does JD butcher deer? It’s not even the right kind of deer. A little research please?
Anyway, apparently Bill is a bit troubled, more than a little disturbed actually, traumatized by something that happened in the Barrens years ago when he was a kid, or a dog bite. By guess who, yeah, duh. I saw it miles away too. Even his family thinks he’s nuts, they’re just trying to be really calm about it – you know, the way you tiptoe around a crazy person. All in all, it’s the predictability of the story that is most disappointing.
The last half-hour of the movie is seemingly endless. And for the most part, pointless. I couldn’t wait for this to be over with. Again I suppose we will have to wait for Robert Dunbar‘s “The Pines” to be made into a film for a good movie on the Jersey Devil. This isn’t it, The Barrens is just a sad excuse for a horror flick. Skip it.
For the record, I think there are more bears in New Jersey than there are mountain lions, Native Americans, or Jersey Devils. And Oswego is not a trail, or a river – it’s a lake. Research, people, research!
The Next Big Thing is a blog project designed to help writers get the word out about their latest works. Author Kevin R. Tipple tagged me, and I’ll be tagging a few writers at the end of those Q&A, and they’ll be doing their own blogs about their work next week. Check ’em all out.
1. What is the title of your current book?
Strange World is a short story anthology put out by Biff Bam Pop!, featuring previously unpublished tales of suspense and horror by various authors from across North America. My story in the collection is called “Live to Write, Write to Live.”
2. Where did the idea for the story come from?
Believe it or not, writing on the toilet. Since getting an iPhone, I have stopping using small notebooks for writing notes on the go. I have almost exclusively moved to doing it on the iPhone with the Notes app. Sometimes this happens, ahem, when ‘occupied.’ This image is at the start of “Live to Write” and propels the plot from there.
3. What genre does the book fall under?
Strange World contains thirteen tales of thriller, horror and suspense. My own story in the collection, while containing horror and suspense elements, I feel is more black comedy than anything else. You’ll have to read it yourself and see.
4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie?
Wow. I never really gave this one any thought. I would say that Naomi would be well served by an aged and ragged version of either Sharon Stone or Michelle Pfeiffer. Mandy Patinkin as he looks in “Homeland” would make a good Blaine Taylor. The others you’ll just have to use your imagination.
The truth is the characters are actually modeled on folks I know, but I ain’t telling who they are. If I did, I’d have to kill you. And them. 😉
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your story?
Write what you know is not always the best policy.
6. Is your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Strange World is self-published by the Biff Bam Pop! pop culture website and staff, the first of several books. Keep a look out.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Unlike a lot of stuff I write, I wrote the story in a whirlwind of passion and creativity over a couple days. It is the first short story I have written and finished in decades, and the one done in the quickest time.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Oh my, I couldn’t say. I would hope anything in the horror or suspense genre that has a sly wisp of subtle humor.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this story?
You mean besides writing on the toilet? I have nothing but kind words, gratitude and praise for Andy Burns, editor-in-chief of Biff Bam Pop!, for kicking me in the butt and getting me to submit a story to Strange World. It is all his fault. 😉
10. What else about the book might pique a reader’s interest?
Besides my own, there are twelve other terrific stories in Strange World by twelve other very talented writers, like Jason Shayer, Lucas Mangum, Anne Michaud, David Sanford Ward, and the aforementioned Andy Burns, among others. And don’t forget, the book features an introduction by award winning author Jonathan Maberry.
You can purchase an ebook copy of Strange World on Kobo here.
One week from today, be sure to check out what Marie Gilbert, Fran Metzman, Ann Siracusa, Suzie Tullett and Bex Aaron have to say in answer to these questions, too. And also check out what my tagger Kevin R. Tipple has to say on his blog as well – he’s a terrific writer and friend, always worth reading.
If you’ve been to the Biff Bam Pop! website, you know that other than the regular pop culture features, we’re all big horror fans there. Special for this month of October, and culminating today on Halloween is 31 Days of Horror.
31 Days of Horror takes a look at the past and present in horror movies, both in front of and behind the camera, horror television, horror comics, and even horror videogames.
Highlights include reviews of The Shining, The Exorcist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Monster Squad, 28 Days Later, Freaks, Night of the Living Dead, The Ring, Sinister, Nightbreed, Prometheus, Paranormal Activity 4, Evil Dead, 30 Ghosts, Tomb of Dracula, Dexter The Game, “666 Park Avenue,” episode by episode analysis of the new seasons of “American Horror Story” and “The Walking Dead,” and interviews with Danielle Harris and Richard Crouse. It’s the best way to celebrate Halloween!
Oh, and if you just want to read my stuff on the site, I’m here. Happy Halloween!
Teeth ~ Okay, warnings up front. This movie, and this review, is not for the faint of heart, easily offended or shocked, or those with zero sense of humor. Teeth is a black horror comedy with strong sexual elements and horrific visuals. For many of you, there’s nothing to see here, move along, come back next time.
For everybody else, you’ve been warned.
Vagina dentata. For those of us high school Latin students, and maybe for some of the more learned out there, this is an impossible and very scary concept. Especially for the men. It literally means ‘vagina with teeth.’ I’m spelling it out, not to be gross, but because some folks might not get it. I know at least one dentist who didn’t and rented this movie only to be shocked out of her mind.
That’s what this black horror comedy is about. Vagina dentata, and a girl with the condition who grows up in the shadow of a nuclear reactor. Ironically she’s a believer in waiting until marriage, purity, and promise rings who is just starting to date. This is the subtle part, it gets graphic later.
Played by Jess Weixler, the acting goes between cardboard cut out and Emmy level. She’s excellent as a teenage girl but when she should be serious she looks like she’s about to giggle uncontrollably. John Hensley from “Nip/Tuck” is also in there as her creepy step brother, and as fans of that show know, creepy is what Hensley does best.
Teeth for the first forty-five minutes could be an after school special, but then the would-be boyfriend forces himself on her, and the hilarity and horror begins. And as I mentioned at the top of this review, it’s not for the faint of heart.
Now while just as ridiculous and graphic as One-Eyed Monster, another film in this vein (I am so so sorry), it never sinks to that level of silliness or crudity. Teeth, like most good horror movies, takes itself pretty seriously, despite the subject matter. Fun at some points, horrific at others, Teeth is definitely worth a look for distinguishing genre fans.