When this film was first announced, people weren’t sure what to say. They were especially wary after hearing that a comedy director was helming the film. But then Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter, two of the people who were such instrumental parts of the original Halloween’s success, signed on for the film, and people thought this could be something. And then the trailer for Halloween dropped, and it became a contender for Horror Film of the Year. Today I went with a friend to see if this was worth all the hype.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Halloween film we’ve been waiting years for.

Taking place forty years after the original film’s events in 1978, Halloween erases all the previous sequels and sets a new course (so yeah, Michael’s no longer related to Laurie Strode). Laurie is a mother and grandmother still living in Haddonfield but extremely shaken by her experiences as a teen and has lived her life preparing for a possible reunion with Michael Myers, at the expense of her relationship with her daughter. Michael, on the other hand, has been in custody for all these years, and is about to be transferred to another, much harsher facility. Of course, the night he’s being transferred, on October 30th, he escapes. Thus begins a night of terror as Michael makes his way back to Haddonfield for another night of terror.

I think this film’s greatest strengths lie in its storytelling and its cast. Rather than going for an overly-loud approach like the Rob Zombie remakes, Halloween instead goes for a more human approach, focusing more on Laurie’s relationship to Michael and to her family and how Michael continues to influence the Strode family and vice versa. At the same time, it weaves in a strong suspense story that knows how to show its kills. Many kills are only shown off-screen, after they’ve occurred, or from the victim’s perspectives. The ones that are shown on-screen are for the most part the ones that have maximum effect on the audience, and believe me, they will leave you shaking. Add in a few surprising twists and some great callbacks to the original Halloween and you have quite a thrill ride.

And yes, Michael is portrayed as menacing and as hard to penetrate as he was in the first film. Thank God they didn’t try to humanize him like they did in the sequels and in the remakes.

And as I said, the cast is extremely strong. Curtis returning as Strode is given a significant role, which gives her plenty of room to show off her acting chops. She’s believable as a woman suffering from PTSD.. You get the sense from her that Michael is always with her, even if his physical form is in chains and behind walls. Judy Greer as Karen, Laurie’s daughter, does a great job of portraying a woman who is trying to have a normal life after a pretty messed-up childhood and wanting better for her family. I liked watching the character at first trying to be the antithesis of her survivalist mother, insisting the world is a nice place full of love and goodness at one point,* and then completely changing after realizing her mother was always right and did everything out of love for her. And Andi Matichak is a great new introduction as Allyson, Laurie’s granddaughter who wants a relationship with her grandma despite the latter’s problems. You see her sort of go through Laurie’s journey from the original film, albeit with a few changes. If there are sequels,** it’ll be interesting what changes her character goes through and what she’ll be put through.

I can’t think of anything in particular that the film does wrong. Some of the humor in the film does feel a little out of place, like it doesn’t belong. I laughed at it, but still.

All in all though, Halloween is a great return for the franchise and its silent lead. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.4. Buy yourself a ticket, and prepare yourself. This Halloween, you’re going to be scared.

*Apparently Karen doesn’t watch the news that much.

**Yes, they do leave some doors open for sequels. Not going to say how, but they do.

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You ever find yourself doing something casually, thinking it’d be a fun hobby or just a way to pass a couple of hours, and then it ends up becoming something much bigger than you could ever have imagined? That’s happened to me a number of times. Reading Harry Potter as a child and then reading Stephen King’s It as a tween led me to become a writer and a horror writer, respectively, when I’d only been looking for something new and fun to read. Likewise, reading books about the Holocaust while traveling through Israel during the summer before senior year of high school led me to want to study the Holocaust along with creative writing in college.

And just recently, a story I started writing in-between drafts of Rose back in spring has quite possibly become my next novel. And I have no fucking clue how that happened.

Let me explain. Back in late winter/early spring, right after I’d finished another draft of Rose, I started a story I’d been wanting to work on for a while, both to pass the time and to experiment with writing by the seat of my pants. I didn’t think it would be a very long story, maybe twenty-thousand or thirty-thousand at most (so a novelette or novella), so I thought it would be a good side project. I named this story River of Wrath, as it deals with a certain aspect of Dante’s Inferno, and I went at it.

The writing by the seat of my pants didn’t work out so well, and I only got about nine-thousand words or so in before I had to do another draft of Rose (still impressive, but I felt like I could do better). I got that draft of Rose done, and then sent it to the imprint that would become my publisher. I worked on other stories while I tried to figure out how best to edit River of Wrath. After I sent the latest draft of Rose back to Castrum and did a few other stories, I decided to write an outline for River, and then go off that.

Whoo-boy, did that work! Writing the story went a lot faster, especially after I went through the initial thirty pages or so and tried to clean them up a bit. I was enjoying the story, and I found it challenging in a fun way, which is usually a good sign.

And then I got past ten thousand words.

And then fifteen thousand.

And then twenty thousand.

Thirty thousand arrived before I knew it.

I reached thirty-five thousand around Sunday.

And last night, I reached forty-six thousand. Yeah, I wrote around eleven thousand words over three days. I’m not sure how I did that either. On the bright side, I think I can do it again and write stories a lot faster now.

But back to point. Defining novels by word count varies from person to person. Mine is usually around sixty thousand (for clarity, the first Harry Potter is seventy-seven thousand words, give or take a few), but many people and quite a few publishers consider forty-thousand words or higher a novel. As I said, this novel’s upwards of forty-six thousand, so some would definitely consider it a novel. And I have a feeling River’s going to be at least fifty-thousand or higher by the time I’m done.

Like I said, I did not intend for this story to get so long. I thought it would top out at twenty-thousand. At the outside, it might reach thirty-thousand, too long for a magazine but perhaps good for a future short story collection. I never thought it would get this long! But parts of the story I thought would be short as heck became entire pages, complete with dialogue and inner thoughts and a couple of crazy scenes for people have to fight for their lives! And I felt that if I was going to do this story justice, I’d just have to go with the flow and write till I finished it.

So yeah, I’ve got another novel in the works, one called River of Wrath, and one I didn’t even know I was writing until it got as long as it did. And if I’m lucky, I’ll finish it by Halloween (which, coincidentally, is also when this story takes place). And afterwards? I plan to hand it off to some beta readers and do some edits, of course. And hey, if Rose sells well and Castrum wants to continue working with me afterwards, maybe they’ll take on River of Wrath and publish that as well.

But I’ll cross those bridges when I get to them. First thing’s first, I’m going to finish River. And when I do, I’ll celebrate with a drink and let you all know about it (whether or not you want to know or not).

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m going to get ready for bed and think of more scary stories to write. Expect a review of the new Halloween movie at some point this weekend. Until then, pleasant nightmares!

I saw the trailer for this new Netflix film several weeks ago, and got intrigued. A British horror film taking part in Edwardian England and involving an isolated cult? Where do I sign up? So last night I made some popcorn and logged in to check it out.

Holy shit, I think we have a winner here!

Apostle follows Thomas Richardson, the prodigal son of a wealthy family with a past who comes home when he finds out that his sister has been kidnapped for ransom by a cult living on an isolated island off the coast of Wales. He goes undercover and joins the cult to save his sister, but finds that things on the island are not all that seem. Thus begins a twisted descent into insanity, religious zeal, and blood that will leave no one untouched.

This movie is wonderfully fucked-up. It starts out slow with very few hints of anything off, but over time throws in hints of how messed up things are, mainly strange actions on the part of the characters. As the film goes on, these hints become more obvious and horrific, involving blood, strange sights, and much worse. It creates this very unnerving atmosphere al a The Shining, only by the final third the film can sustain the intensity and somehow keep building on it. Just when you think that this film can’t get any more horrifying, it throws something new–a revelation about the characters, body horror, etc–to throw you for a loop. There were more than a few times I felt myself gripping my computer with white knuckles because of what I was seeing on screen.

The acting is great. I forgot that I was watching people in roles and thought they were the people they were playing for most of the film. And I especially liked how the film mainly relied on practical effects and only used CGI for minor touches. I prefer practical effects to CGI in most instances, and it’s good to see the director, Gareth Evans, seems to share my preferences. And a good thing too, as all the practical effects give this film’s body horror elements a realism that makes it especially disturbing and which would’ve lost their power if CGI or some other trick had been used.

If this film does have an issue, the plot does seem to meander at times. There are numerous subplots that are woven into the film, and while the majority of them do get resolved, a few don’t (what about that oath? Why wasn’t that picked up?). That might work better in a novel, where we can see the characters’ thoughts and that sort of thing can be explained, but in a film it’s a problem. So some people might find the story slow or boring because of the way the plot is set up.

All in all though, Apostle is a terrifying and powerful film and possibly a new classic of the genre that will stay with viewers long after they’ve logged off Netflix. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Apostle a 4.6.  If you’re brave enough, go check it out and begin your spiral into a world of trauma and terror that is rarely put to film.

Also, I wish the director Gareth Evans, who only has one other horror credit on his director’s belt, comes back to the genre soon. If Apostle is anything to judge by, I look forward to seeing what else he can contribute.

I wanted to post something other than a review before my next one (which should be very soon, believe me), but I couldn’t think of anything that I felt passionate enough to write about. So I decided to just give you all an update on what’s been going on in my life lately. Because if average folks on YouTube can pay their rent doing just that, why can’t I just write one for the hell of it?

So what’s going on in my life? Well, it shouldn’t surprise anyone, but life has been busy crazy lately.

Current WIP

I’ve been working on a story that I started back in the spring in-between drafts of Rose and picked up back in August. The story, which I’m calling River of Wrath, was inspired by Dante’s Inferno and certain events in America’s history. I originally expected River‘s length to end up as a long novelette or a short novella, but at the time I’m writing this post, the story’s around thirty-six thousand words, and I’m guessing I’m going to put in another ten-thousand or so before I’m done. Maybe even more! This could easily turn out to be my next novel, even though I didn’t plan it that way.

Not that I’m complaining. I’m finding this story very engaging. It’s got a lot of themes and topics I feel passionate about, and I enjoy getting into the narrator’s head and seeing things through her point of view. I’m easily getting out a thousand or more words some nights, and I usually aim just to get two-hundred and fifty out per night.

Hopefully, I can get through River before I have to look at Rose again. And if not, I’m sure I’ll work twice as hard so I can get back to it as soon as possible.

Speaking of Rose

Rose

I heard from my publisher back at the tail end of September. As I said in a previous post, my publisher has been busy with multiple projects and that’s slowed down the response time on Rose. However, they’re planning on devoting time to Rose during the month of October. Hopefully that means I get their feedback around the end of the month, and decide next moves then. I’m praying they’ll just say they want me to clean up this or that part and then we can move to publication. But we’ll just have to see about that.

Car Chasers

The Binge-Watching Cure II, the anthology from Claren Books that my short story Car Chasers will appear in, is still set for late 2018/early 2019. Hopefully I’ll have more definitive news in the months to come.

Wow, lot of “hopefully’s” in this post. Well, that’s kind of how it is with writing sometimes. You just have to hope you can accomplish your dreams and that things will work out in your favor.

Life in general

My Halloween costume for this year. What do you think?

Well, work’s been crazy busy. I recently got a raise and was put in charge of an important project, so I’m trying to make sure the faith put in me isn’t misplaced. I’m also being trained on a number of different tasks that my office specializes in, so I’m just trying to get the processes for those down pat. It’s difficult, as a lot of the time we’re busy with other tasks, which limits training time, but we’ll deal with it. We always do.

I also got my driver’s license a few months ago, so I’m getting ready to get a car of my own. I’m looking forward to all the possibilities a car of my own can open up. It can even help with marketing Rose, when the time comes.

And finally, I got my Halloween costume this past Thursday. And holy crap, is it something else! As you can see, I am a goat-headed demon. You know, like the one in that creepy illustration the Church of Satan uses in a lot of their materials (aka Baphomet). I really like it, as it scares the heck out of people. And even though visibility is pretty limited (I now know what a Disneyland cast member goes through every day), I plan on keeping it. At the very least, I can use the cloak piece for other occasions and costumes.

Also Church of Satan, I’m available for weddings, funerals and rituals. Send me an email.

 

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got a scary movie to watch tonight, so I’m going to get to work on dinner. Until next time (probably later tonight), pleasant nightmares!

How is life for you these days? What are you going as for Halloween?

Saturday night usually means popcorn and a movie for me. This evening I decided to check out the new Netflix movie Malevolent. I figured it would be a good way to round out a day busy with cleaning, grocery shopping, home decor projects, and sacrificing teenagers* to an ancient deity so I could set in motion a series of terrifying events unlike the world has ever seen before this October.

Malevolent is set in 1986 Scotland and follows Angela, a university student who, along with her brother, fakes being a medium in order to make money for her brother’s debts. When they get called to an old manor that was the sight of several grisly murders however, they start finding that the afterlife they’d conned people over is very much alive, and can be very…well, malevolent.

This film’s got a decent, if rather overcrowded, first half. It sets up Angela’s worries about her life and her mental health, due to her mother committing suicide. It shows her brother Jackson as an opportunistic asshole who’s willing to take advantage of anyone just to pay off his loan sharks. And it sets up a decent Gothic location for the main action of the film. There’s also some good jump scares and a creepy atmosphere at times during this half. The best part is probably during the initial walkthrough of the house, when Angela is starting to realize this house may really be haunted. It’s visually powerful and puts you on edge.

However, the second half has a lot of problems. For one thing, it feels pretty rushed. Usually there’s a slow build up to the climax, but in this film it just goes from zero to sixty, and not in a good way. If they maybe added twenty minutes to half an hour more, I wouldn’t feel so whiplashed. Also, the tone during the second half is a little inconsistent. Like it can’t decide if it wants to be a Gothic ghost story or a thriller story about serial killers. Along with a twist introduced in the last twenty minutes that seems more shoved in than clever, it just takes me really out of the film.

Also, why was this film set in the 1980s? I know that’s like the popular trend these days, to put your story in the 1980s, but there’s no reason at all to do it in this film like in Stranger Things or another 80s-set show or movie. You could do this in the present, and you’d get the same effect. In fact, I think it might be better if it were set in the present. It would feel less gimmicky if they used GoPros instead of big, bulky video cameras.

Overall, Malevolent can’t capitalize on the interesting setup it promises. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m going to give this film a 2.5. Frankly Followers of Fear, there are better Netflix horror films to peruse. I suggest you go and find some if you want some pleasant nightmares.

*Don’t worry, the teenagers were unharmed. The sacrifices were symbolic. The deity, however, was very much real. I’ve got a bandage on my left thumb as proof.

One of the YouTube channels I follow is Tale Foundry, a channel that breaks down how different genres and mechanics of storytelling work and then uses the lessons gleaned to write original short stories. They present themselves as robots in a foundry that works with fiction rather than metal (hence the name Tale Foundry). Their latest series of videos has been around worldbuilding in fiction, and their latest video, which I’ve embedded below, really got me thinking.

Now, if you didn’t watch the video for whatever reason, let me just quickly talk about one of the methods of worldbuilding they discussed: found design, which to put very simply is when you modify an aspect of the world in order to accommodate or address an issue (or “emergent concern,” as they call it in the video) that’s come up in the course of telling the story. An example would be if while writing your novel about a war between werewolves and humans who hunt them, your beta reader says that the conflict has been done before and that something needs to be added to make the story more interesting (other than a forbidden romance). The something required to spice up the story is the issue or emergent concern, and the integration of whatever you decide to add to the story (a threat to both armies, an original twist to lycanthropy, etc) is the act of found design worldbuilding.

Yeah, it’s a lot to absorb, but whoever said fiction writing was simple?

Anyway, this last method got me thinking, because that’s the method a lot of horror writers use while writing their own stories. As we all know, horror stories are more often than not set in our world, but with modifications to allow for the fantastical things that show up in it. Modifications to allow for something new to be added to the story and its world…sound familiar?

I call this the “build upon” worldbuilding method (if there’s an official name in academic circles, someone please let me know). You take an already-established world, one that many people would already be very familiar with, and add your own twists or details to it so you can tell the story you wish to tell. This is a method used by fanfic writers, anyone dealing with Arthurian lore, and of course, horror writers.

A good example of how this method works is with my own short story, “Car Chasers” (being released in late 2018/early 2019 in The Binge-Watching Cure II anthology from Claren Books). This story is set in a world similar to ours, except ghosts are capable of participating in illegal street races in this story. When I wanted to write that story, I had to not just modify the world so that it was capable of having ghosts (though if you ask me, our world has always had ghosts in it), but I had to add rules to these ghosts, how they interacted with the races/racers and under what conditions they participated in these races. Will all this be evident when the story is finally released? You’ll have to read it to find out, but whether or not it is evident, all that work in designing this world was necessary for it to be written, let alone accepted anywhere for publication.

So as you can see, it’s a handy method to build a world for your story. And if you’re into creating a shared universe across your stories, like Stephen King, HP Lovecraft, or I do, it’s pretty helpful in making that possible. All you need to do is make a slight tweak and you can find ways to connect your various stories together into a fantastic and varied world.

Of course, this isn’t the only method for building a world in horror. But this is the one that I use the most in my stories, and which I’m sure plenty of other horror authors use when they make their stories and their worlds. And it’s not hard to see why: it’s a wonderfully flexible tool for any storyteller, and helps in the act of storytelling every day.

Thanks to Tale Foundry for giving me the idea to write this post, and as always, I’m looking forward to your next video. And I encourage you folks to check out their stuff. From Lovecraft and Junji Ito to Celtic mythology and satire, you’ll find plenty of videos exploring the various aspects of storytelling and how they can be applied.

That’s all for now. I’m off to work a little bit on that novella again. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on worldbuilding in your genre? Any methods that you find helpful? Let’s discuss.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

IT’S OCTOBER!!!!! The best month of the year, when things start getting cooler, the nights grow long and you get a little more leeway in how spooky you can be! Or in my case, reveal a bit more of my non-human side. And on this month, my powers of darkness grow by a hundredfold! You can bet I will be raining terror upon certain heads this month. Just you wait and see!

In the meantime, I thought I’d talk to you about something that happened to me yesterday. I was at my mother’s house for a party, and as often happens when family and family friends get together, everybody wants to know what the latest news is with Rose and the anthologies I have stories being published in. Rose, for those of you who don’t know, is a novel I wrote in college as my thesis, and which is being published by Castrum Press, a publishing company based out of Belfast, North Ireland. The story follows a young woman who finds herself being turned into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems!).

I told them that I’d heard from Castrum on Saturday, and that they were hopefully going to get back to me on the latest draft of Rose some time this month. I expressed hope that when I heard back from them, they’d say I just needed to do some touch-ups here and there, and then we can set a publication date. My mom, who had been one of the most ecstatic and amazed people when I’d told her about Rose back in March (I still remember how she said “Oh my God” two or three times as clear as a whistle), remarked, “Wow, I had no idea the publishing process could take so long.”

And that’s the thing: the publishing process can take a long time. For any book. Not many people realize that, even among writers (including me at one point), but it’s the truth. Nowadays, technology and the Internet have helped speed some things along, but it’s always taken a long time for books to get out. Heck, even Stephen King had to wait a while for his books to come out early in his career. Yeah, now he can put one or two out every year, but that’s after nearly forty years of proven success. When he was still basically an unknown, Carrie took over a year before it got on bookshelves. And while I hope it doesn’t take that long with me, it may be a while longer before anyone gets to read Rose.

I’m not saying this to trash any publishing houses or complain about the publishing process. I’m just stating a fact. And if you think about it, this pace makes sense. After all, most publishing houses involve a few people handling projects from multiple authors. Any one project takes a lot of time out of the day, and while it would be nice if there was a single editor for each and every author contracted to a publishing house, I don’t even think even big publishing houses have a staff like that. So obviously each publisher has to juggle their projects, devoting time here and there to each one, deciding the order based on all sorts of factors. It’s an involved process.

But it’s also a process I’m grateful for, because it’s not just the number of books being published, but what’s being done to get them ready for being published. Each one is being polished and cleaned up, formatted and given the best cover art, strategized over and discussed ad nauseum. All to make sure that when the book finally does come out, it’s not just a great story, but one that’s free of typos and with words not falling off the page or some other unforgivable goof. I’m glad the process is slow, because I’d hate it if the process went by super-fast and when Rose did come out, it was full of errors and had terrible art. And I’m sure you would too.

So while it may take some more time before Rose comes out, I know the book is in good hands and I’m looking forward to the state it’ll be when it’s ready to be released. And I know that you’ll love it too.

In the meantime, I’ve got plenty of stuff to write and blog about (I might even have a new blog post tomorrow, depending on a couple of factors). And I can’t wait to share them with you. So until then, you all have a goodnight and pleasant nightmares, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to celebrate the month. After all, it is October. Plenty of material to review, plenty of stories to write, plenty of people to terrify senseless. I can’t wait.