It’s been a rough week, so I was looking forward to ending it with a horror movie that’s been on quite a few people’s radars since the first trailer dropped. I mean, it has the producers of Get Out and Us on board! Even if Jordan Peele wasn’t part of the project (yeah, I know, I thought that meant he was too, but he’s not), it looked like it was going to be uber-scary and tackle difficult issues that have been plaguing America for centuries. How could I not watch?

Antebellum begins in what appears to be a Civil War-era plantation, and follows a slave called Eden. Suffering from the worst brutalities from her captors, she must find some way out of the nightmare she’s in. But not all is as it seems. What does what’s happening have to do with a woman in the modern era and an almost identical face named Veronica Henley? In the answer lies an evil dating back to America’s bygone days, one built on power, race and cruelty.

I think the film’s biggest issue is that, because of the creative decisions of the filmmakers, its plot is confusing. We start out on the plantation, then it changes to the modern day without any warning, then back again. It’s like two different movies have been edited together, one a historical horror film, the other a slightly supernatural horror film involving contemporary racism. It’s confusing.

And when the big twist of the story is revealed, it took me two or three minutes to wrap my head around it. And I’m the kind of guy who can usually guess a major plot point in a horror movie or at the very least wrap my head around a difficult concept rather quickly. If I’m having trouble, imagine what the casual viewer is going to have.

That being said, the rest of the film is decent. The sections on the plantation during the first third were especially horrifying for their brutality, and the second third had an uncanny, creepy feeling that balanced psychological and supernatural horror. The climax is exciting enough, and the actors are great at portraying pain, terror, hatred, sadistic joy and grief when called upon. Props especially to star Janelle Monae as the lead. The costumes and sets are also amazing, with everything looking like it might on an actual plantation in the mid-19th century. Except for the outdoor furnace, which gave me Holocaust vibes and scared me down to the core of my Jewish soul.

And like Get Out, Antebellum explores its main theme of racism and slavery in an angle that wasn’t expected and made me think. Especially after seeing the documentary 13th and learning how the modern prison system is very much a form of slavery.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Antebellum a 3.5. How it tells its story does bring down the score, but there’s plenty there to keep you invested in the film. And if you need some new horror right now, this will scratch the itch for you. Just don’t expect Get Out or Us levels of terror or deep-thinking.

 

One more thing before I sign off, my Followers of Fear. Tonight begins Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish community prays for our past sins to be forgiven, seek to forgive and be forgiven by our peers, and hopefully have a sweet new year. I have no idea what made this past year such a horror, but I’m hoping the next one will be better, and that the news of Justice Ginsburg’s death is the last in a year’s worth of horrors.

Shabbat Shalom and L’Shana Tovah (that basically means Happy New Year) to you, my Followers of Fear. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life, and may the horrors of last year not follow us into the new one.

Ugh, today was an awful day. I did not get any sleep last night, so I was running on fumes and frustration this morning. Then I started feeling off after lunch, so I had to take leave for the rest of the day. I took a long nap, and felt better, but I had to get this post out today before an early bedtime. There goes my movie plans for the evening. At least I got an email from work informing me of a pay bump. That was a bright side.

Where was I? Oh right. Big announcement. Back to it.

I hinted in my last post that I was going to make a big announcement about my next writing project. After all, when someone says in their last post, and I quote, “And as for my next project…well, I’ll save that for a blog post tomorrow,” you get a feeling it’s going to be a big deal. And this is a big deal. For my next project, I’ll be working on…the second draft of Toyland!

Yeah, I made a new graphic for Toyland. It’ll work until I can find the story a publisher. Also, fun fact: the font the title is written in is called Germania One. It’s based on older German fonts like Fraktur, as well as newer fonts like certain sans serifs. You see it used in titles relating to Germany or Germany-related subjects, such as one of my favorite horror movies, Overlord (on my list of underrated horror films to watch this Halloween season).

Getting back on topic, if you’re unfamiliar with Toyland, it was my National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, project last year. I started it in November and finished it in late February this year. It’s a Gothic horror/dark fantasy novel set in a boarding school in the southern half of Ohio, one haunted by a ghost. A ghost obsessed with a children’s book and who appears to be terrorizing the student body.

Yeah, weird concept, but would you expect anything different from me.

I’m sure you’re wondering why it took me so long to get to work on a second draft. That’s just usually how I roll. I need to put a story away for a while in order to look at it with fresh eyes for the second draft. That’s especially so with novels. The longer the novel, the more space. And Toyland was over ninety-seven thousand words long, the second-longest story I’ve ever written.

So I focused on shorter stories. And I wrote one more novel, The Pure World Comes, though that was on accident. Anyway, I’ve gotten an average of one story a month written since then, some of which I’m shopping around to various publishers, others I’ll edit soon. But I think it’s damn time I get to work on editing Toyland. That won’t mean it’ll be ready to be published, but the story will be a bit closer to that point.

I hope to start this editing process tomorrow or Wednesday. Given that I edit faster than I write, I think might be done some time around Halloween, maybe a bit later. And after that…we’ll see.

In the meantime, I’m exhausted and need a nap. I’ll see you guys soon with a new review.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

Oh, and if you need something to tide you over until I get Toyland or something else out, I have a short story collection and two books for you guys. Click the links below and check them out. And if you read them, please leave a review letting me know what you think. I love reader feedback, and it helps me out in the long run anyway.

The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones: Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

Snake: AmazonCreatespace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

Rose:  Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

Hey everyone! Did you miss me? I know I’ve been away for a bit, but I have a good excuse. I’ve been hard at work at a new story. And as of a little while, I finished it!

Blood and Paper Skin follows a bunch of young adults who go out one evening looking for some fun. Which swiftly turns for the worse when several of them wake up in a prison-like room, trapped by a middle-aged man who has a sinister purpose for them.

Ooh, I think I felt a chill run up my back!

And let me tell you, this was a fun story to write. For one thing, I got to include a lot of oddities from the real world in this story. For example, a major part of the story was inspired by an article I read about a house with an actual jail in the basement. Why was there a jail in the basement? Because it used to be the local jail, according to some (here’s an article about it if you’re curious). And would I buy it? Of course I would, if I had the money and it was a bit closer to where I live now. The possibilities I could get up to in that home are ENDLESS!

But that’s not the only thing from real life I put into the story. You see, a couple of months ago, I was driving home from my sister’s place after celebrating my birthday there. It was evening, I’m sitting at a stoplight waiting for the light to change, and I see a large white vehicle (I’m not sure what kind) pass through the intersection. And there are people hanging off the sides of the vehicle. Why are they there? Presumably, because there wasn’t room in the car and nobody else had a car.

Anyway, it was such an odd sight, that even as the light changed, I took my eyes off the road to see where that car was going. And it made such an impression on me, I wrote it down to remember so I could use it in a story someday. Which just so happened to be this story, the opening scene depicting a car with people hanging onto the sides because there’s no room in the car (in the story, it’s an older Chevy Tahoe).

Another interesting feature about this story was, despite its length (more on that in a bit), I didn’t write an outline for it. The vast majority of the story was already in my head before I started working on it, so I didn’t feel the need to write an outline. In some ways, it felt more like I was putting movie scenes down on paper for a novelization, with a bit of artistic flourish for the novelization reading crowd (not sure who reads novelizations, but I assume they enjoy a bit of artistic flourish in their books).

A great visual metaphor for the title of this story, wouldn’t you say?

As for the word count, it’s a decent-sized novelette at 14,675 words across fifty pages. Which might make finding the story a home after it’s edited a bit difficult. Still, I think that there’s a place out there for it. And if I can’t find a home for Blood and Paper Skin, then I might put it out as an ebook exclusive. You never know. Just have to keep working hard and trying to get stories out there so people take notice.

For now though, I’m going to see if anyone wants to give it a read and critique it for me before I edit it. Gotta give it a good edit before I think of sending it anywhere.

And as for my next project…well, I’ll save that for a blog post tomorrow.

In the meantime, I’m heading to bed. It’s late, I’ve got a hell of a week to look forward to, and I’m going to need all the rest I can get.

Goodnight, my Followers of Fear. Stay safe, and until next time, pleasant nightmares.

Today, I saw a full Halloween display in a supermarket. You know what that means. As of today, the Halloween season has officially begun! That’s right, it’s here! Break out the candy, dress up as something scary, carve up your pumpkins, and decorate your house like the Addams are coming to visit! Who cares if there’s a pandemic right now? We can still celebrate the season.

That being said, you’re probably wondering to yourself, what horror films should I watch this year? I’m sure plenty of you will be watching classics and beloved staples of horror/the season. Believe me, I will be too. But there are a bunch of films that don’t get as much love as they should. So I’ve come up with 11 films I feel would make great viewing for this year. Why 11? Because THERE’S SOMETHING WITH FANGS BEHIND YOU!

Anyway, on with the list. And in no particular order, might I add.

11. Overlord

A team of American soldiers parachute into Nazi-controlled France hours before D-Day to take down an operations center inside a church. However, the church is also being used to perform inhuman experiments in life after death. And if the soldiers don’t do something, the fate of the world might be at stake.

Whenever somebody talks about Nazi zombies, it’s usually in humorous terms. That, and the trailers for this film were all over the place, so nobody was really sure what audience this film was meant for. Horror? Action? War? Which is a shame, because Overlord is one of the best horror films I’ve ever seen. Its sets are atmospheric, the zombies are only used enough to be scary, and there’s an emphasis on psychological and war horror rather than guts and gore (though there’s plenty of that).

Make sure to check Overlord out. You won’t regret adding it to your watchlist.

10. As Above, So Below

An archaeologist leads a team into the Paris catacombs to find an ancient artifact. However, they stumble upon a gateway to hell, where their worst fears and guilt are used against them.

Coming out at the tail end of the found footage craze, this film was lost among audiences who were tired of shaky cameras and home video-style films. However, it’s found new life on home media, and it’s not hard to see why. The film takes advantage of its setting to deliver a claustrophobic and unnerving atmosphere. Not only that, but there’s a philosophical bent to the film that I spent discussing with friends for about an hour after we saw the film. It’s not everyday you meet a horror film that makes you think.

9. Carrie (2013)

I know the original Carrie is beloved, but I’ve always preferred the remake with Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore. Not only are the special effects much better, but none of the strange editing (like that infamous fast forward) and odd creative choices are present. For example, in the original, when Carrie starts her revenge, the students start panicking because the doors won’t open. Yeah, nothing overtly psychic has happened yet, just the doors won’t open. And yet everyone is screaming in terror. Whereas in the remake, the progression from students laughing at Carrie to screaming in fear is much more natural and believable. And Julianne Moore’s interpretation of Margaret White gets her crazy factor across way more than any actress before her. Those factors are why I prefer this version of Carrie, and why I’m recommending it for this Halloween.

8. Underwater

This came out earlier this year and didn’t receive that much fanfare. That being said, it’s become something of a hidden gem within horror. It’s a pretty compelling disaster flick set in an underwater base, with a Lovecraftian twist about halfway through. While it’s not as effective as scaring people as Hereditary or as memorable as 2017’s IT, it’s still a film I recommend you see.

7. Annihilation

Based on the book by Jeff Vandermeer, Annihilation follows a team of scientists into the Shimmer, a strange zone on the West Coast where nature mutates and changes, and perhaps our own selves are at risk of changing. It’s a creepy film with a great group of female leads, as well as a Lovecraftian angle in its approach to body horror and the final twists. In the end, you may have more questions than when you started, but you’ll enjoy the thrill ride along the way. As well as the dark truth hidden in the conclusion.

6. The House of the Devil

A film made to look like it came right out of the 1980s, House of the Devil follows a college student taking on a babysitting job, only to find something very dark at the heart of her assignment. You’d never guess it was filmed in 2009. Also, it’s damn hard to look away. A supernatural slow burn that lures you in and ends up surprising you with how terrifying it can be. I’m sad that it’s flown under the radar so much, but that’s why I’m happy to post about it and recommend it this Halloween season.

5. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Based on the graphic novel by Allen Moore, several of the greatest figures from 19th century literature come together to stop a terrorist from causing WWI fifteen years early. It didn’t do as well in theaters, but it’s become rather beloved since it came out on video. Action and horror, intrigue and steampunk/Victorian aesthetics. I swear, if this came out today rather than in the early 2000s, it might be something of a hit (though I do admit, its slow moments do bring down the film a bit).

Hell, my siblings and I nearly had a fist fight over our mom’s DVD copy when she was downsizing, we loved it that much. And half my sisters don’t even like horror! Given that, shouldn’t you check it out?

4. Van Helsing

Bram Stoker’s vampire hunter is reimagined as a badass monster hunter played by Hugh Jackman, going up against Dracula as the latter tries to bring a terrible plan to fruition.

A lot of people give this film flack, but I love it. It’s a great action-horror flick along the lines of the previous entry, and was one of my favorites as a teenager. It may be over the top, but if you’re looking for popcorn horror at its best, you could do a lot worse than Van Helsing.

3. Devil

Five people get on an elevator, only for them to get stuck and picked off by a supernatural entity. The devil has come for sinners, and it’s not going to stop till it has all of them.

This was originally supposed to be part of a trilogy, but M. Night Shamaylan, who directed the first film, was unable to follow it up. That being said, I find this film to be creepy and a lot of fun to watch. It takes an interesting concept and adds a time-is-running-out element to it. I loved it when I first saw it, and I still kind of like it. Maybe you will too.

2. The Reaping

A professional debunker of miracles is called to a small town in Louisiana when a little girl is accused of killing her brother and bringing the ten plagues upon the town. There, she finds a Satanic cult devoted to bringing about the end of the world, and this girl may be the vehicle to do so.

The mystery of the film isn’t that hard to figure out, but the film has its moments and its got some great performances from Hillary Swank, AnnaSophia Robb, and Idris Elba before he was famous. Plus, when you reach the end of the film and realize the final twist, 2020 as a whole makes a lot more sense (you’ll have to watch the film to get what I mean).

1. Clown

Released three years before 2017’s IT, Clown follows a man who puts on a clown suit he finds for his child’s birthday. However, what he doesn’t know is that the suit is cursed, and is slowly transforming him into a child-eating monster. This is a bloody and terrifying monster movie with lots of effective body horror, and I’m honestly surprised more people haven’t heard of it. Hence why I’m recommending it here.

 

That wraps up my list. I hope it gave you some ideas of what to check out this year. But tell me, what are you planning on watching this Halloween season? Any other films I missed that should be on this list? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and no opening doors to Hell without me there. I make it a lot more fun.

What a mouthful of a title. Let me explain:

Back in college (I want to say 2012), when featured blog posts were advertised to WordPress users under the feature “Freshly Pressed,” I read a blog post from a father who recently had a run-in with someone else’s spawn. I can’t remember much about the blog post in question. I can’t remember the blog or blog post’s name, the blog’s general theme, or anything of that sort. However, one detail stands out in my memory and it’s why I’m writing this blog post:

After reprimanding another person’s child for selfish (and maybe violent? I can’t remember that well) behavior at a children’s playground, the child’s mother came to apologize. And the parent described the mother’s face as “crunchy.” You read that right, crunchy. For someone’s face.

I tried pressing the author in the comments about what he meant by “crunchy.” What makes a woman’s face crunchy? But no matter how much I tried or he tried, he couldn’t describe it better than “crunchy.” I’m guessing he doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to understand the meanings of adjectives in order to mix and match them in stories and not use the same word over and over again. That’s more of a creative writer thing, not a parent blogging about their experiences kind of thing.

Anyway, I put the issue aside, but every now and then, I would come back to it and wonder how you could describe someone’s face as “crunchy.” About two weeks ago, I decided to finally search for answers and decided to discuss it with my various writers’ groups online. And I got some feedback that proved quite helpful.

Among my writer friends and colleagues, there were three main responses:

  • The author really meant “scrunchy,” not “crunchy.” This would make more sense, as it’s easier to visualize someone’s face scrunch up.
  • He meant she was a crunchy-type person, as in a sort of neo-hippie that eats granola and lots of other natural foods that are crunchy when eaten (hence the nickname).
  • The person’s face was so covered in lines, that you could almost hear those lines crunching whenever their face moved.

Honestly, given that I mainly asked horror authors for their feedback, I’m surprised that only one person made a wisecrack about cannibalism, and the woman’s face looking like a crunchy snack. Like a Cheetos snack or a Crunch bar.

And now I’m hungry. Dammit.

What people tend to think of when they hear the word “crunchy.” Not in regards to people’s faces.

Anyway, of the responses listed above, it was a variation of the last one that rang right to me. One author commented that she’d seen people whose skin texture was like cornflakes due to too much exposure to the sun and applying too much beige make-up to “make up” for it. Given my vague memories of the original blog post and the context the author used for the woman he was conversing with, this felt right. In fact, it lines up with the image I conjure in my head when I think of the woman from this blog post.

So, that’s the description I’m going with. In fact, I’ve already figured out how I could work it into a story someday, as well as which story I’d like to use it in. And perhaps which foolish person who got on my bad side and received the ultimate punishment of getting a hateful character based on them to use the description on.*

But damn, it was a crazy trip just to get to the right description. At least I finally found a description that works for me and I can work into a story someday. And I got to write a blog post that hopefully was edifying and enjoyable. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning, right?

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope this post was amusing. So, until next time, what are some other weird or mystifying descriptors you’ve come across in your reading? Any that you’ve struggled to find an answer for? Let’s discuss.

And until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and no eating people’s faces off. It’s generally frowned upon in Western society.

*Don’t mess with me. My retribution is not only dangerous and eternal, but safe from lawsuits owing to that little clause in the copyright section stating it’s a work of fiction and that any connections to real persons, places or events are just coincidences.

I first read the source material by authors Richard and Billy Chizmar in the Dark Tides Charity Anthology (which I highly recommend and not just because proceeds go to charity) back in April. I found it terrifying, psychologically thrilling. I even expressed on Twitter that I thought it might make a good movie, though I doubted one would be made right after the release of The Lighthouse. Then about a month or two ago, I found out a movie had not only been made, but would be coming out on September 1st. I had some free time, so I rented it off YouTube and sat down to check it out.

Widow’s Point follows Thomas Livingston, an author and paranormal investigator who is doing an investigation of the infamous Widow’s Point lighthouse in Harper’s Cove, Maine. The lighthouse has witnessed numerous murders and suicides over the years, making many speculate it’s haunted. Livingston and his crew arrive to stay the weekend and hopefully make some quick cash. Too bad he’s going to get so much more.

I feel like I was watching a Stephen King miniseries or TV movie from the 1990s, with a bit of classic Doctor Who serials. Yeah, on the surface it does seem a bit hokey and amateurish, and the one or two special effects are laughable. But it’s a lot of fun to watch, and I keep smiling when I think of the film and my experience watching it. Also, since all of the actors were unknown to me and looked like people I might see on the street, it gave the film a weird sort of plausibility. Like, this could happen to average joes. Add in a little suspension of disbelief, and you can believe in the story.

On top of that, there were some scary moments. Particularly when Livingston, played by Craig Sheffer,* is undergoing psychological stress and his mind is really beginning to snap. Those moments gave me some chills, I’ll tell you. And a lot of attention is paid to historical detail with flashback scenes detailing the lighthouse’s history, which I loved as a fan of history.

But there are things I didn’t care for. Like I said, the special effects were laughable, and I disliked how the filmmakers tried to give an explanation to the lighthouse’s evil, rather than leaving it mysterious like in the original short story. Sometimes less is more, and it certainly would have been more here.

All in all though, Widow’s Point is a nice guilty pleasure horror movie to start the Halloween season with. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 3.5. It probably won’t make you shit your pants in terror, but it’s entertaining and will scratch that horror itch. It’s on DVD and streaming sites, so give it a go if you’re interested.

 

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to work on one of my own stories. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

*By the way, I want this guy to narrate an audio book of one of my stories someday.

The other day, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and I saw a tweet from a fellow writer in the writing community (or #WritingCommunity). This was the tweet.

Now, if the tweet hasn’t loaded properly into this blog post at the time you’re reading this, it’s from writer Rey Roland using the hashtag @rrowlandwrites and goes like this:

#WritingCommunity do you think that characters have to make mistakes in a story?

I found the question stimulating, so after some back and forth between us, I decided to do a full post on the question (hope you don’t mind, Rey).

So, can and should characters make mistakes? First, let me start with can: yes, characters can make mistakes. In fact, there are plenty of stories where characters make mistakes which become integral to the plot. And yes, characters should on occasion make mistakes, though it depends heavily on the story. A character shouldn’t make a mistake just for the sake of making one when it serves no purpose to the story. Otherwise, the readers will think it’s weird.

Of course, this leads to an even bigger question: is there a benefit to having characters make mistakes? Actually, there are multiple benefits to having a character who makes mistakes.

For one thing, characters who make mistakes are easier to empathize with. Not to say characters incapable of making mistakes can’t be empathized with, but it does make a character more human and easier to identify with for the audience. The possibility of a reader continuing with a story can depend greatly on their connection to the protagonist, so showing them as being like the reader–more human–can be an advantage.

Edmund Pevensie’s mistake was a major driver of the story.

Another reason to have characters make mistakes is that it can help the story along or add to its complexity. Sometimes, it’s even the catalyst of the story. In The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Edmund makes the mistake of falling under the White Witch’s spell, and betraying his siblings adding both an extra dilemma to an already difficult situation and giving the character a redemption arc during the story. And in the manga Death Note, Light Yagami tries to eliminate suspicion of himself as the murderer Kira by killing the FBI agent following him, as well as the other FBI agents following other suspects. However, this eventually just leads to him becoming a prime suspect again, a problem which lasts the rest of the series.

Of course, it isn’t just protagonists who make major mistakes. Minor characters make mistakes all the time, and they often benefit the plot significantly. In Ania Ahlborn’s novel The Devil Crept In, the protagonist’s mother makes the mistake of not treating her son’s obvious mental issues, which has major consequences before, during and after the story. And in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Cho Chang’s best friend Marietta Edgecombe tells Umbridge about Dumbledore’s Army, leading to the organization’s dissolution, Dumbledore’s exile and Umbridge’s assent at Hogwarts, and boils to appear on her face in the shape of the word “SNEAK.”

And villains make mistakes all the time. Often, that’s how their downfall begins. Often, these mistakes are due to the villains’ pride, ignorance, or some other character flaw. Voldemort doesn’t believe anyone will find his Horcruxes; Bane talks too much and doesn’t watch his six; Annie Wilkes is so obsessed with her Misery Chastain novels, she falls for Paul Sheldon’s trick; the White Witch doesn’t read the instructions carefully and misses the deeper magic in the Stone Table; Kaecilius also doesn’t read the instructions and misses what actually happens when you join Dormammu’s dimension; and the Wicked Witch allows water in her castle for some reason, even though she has a serious water allergy (I guess the book version thought Dorothy would never think to use water against her?).

As you can see from the above, not only can and should characters be able to make mistakes, but there are numerous benefits to doing so. Whether to include one or not depends on the author, character(s), and story in question. However, if an opportunity comes up and you think it’ll ultimately benefit the plot, I say do it. Who knows? It could be a major turning point in the story, and the moment readers talk about for years to come.

I hope you found this post edifying, my Followers of Fear. I had fun writing it. And I hope Rey Rowland (whose Twitter page you can find here) enjoys reading this. Thanks for the mental stimulation.

That’s all for now. I’ll check in with you all very soon, I’m sure. So, until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and DON’T TAKE THAT ACTION! IT’S THE KIND OF MISTAKE THAT’LL LAND YOU IN A HORROR STORY! AND NOT ONE WRITTEN BY ME.

The New Mutants. The last film in the Fox X-Men movies and promising in the trailer to be a horror film set in a comic book universe. Originally supposed to be the second to last, but its release date was pushed back several times over the past two years. Released this weekend after the latest delay due to COVID-19. I went today to see it, the first movie I’ve seen in a theater in months.

Let me tell you how it ranked as an X-Men movie, a superhero film, and a horror film.

The New Mutants takes place at a facility for young mutants whose abilities have led to deaths: Dani Moonstar, whose abilities are as yet unclarified; Rahne Sinclair, who transforms into a wolf; Sam Guthrie, who can fly at jet speeds; Illyana Rasputin, who has sorcery powers (lucky girl); and Bobby de Costa, who can manifest solar energy. They are watched over by Dr. Reyes, a mutant with barrier abilities who says she’s helping the teens get their powers under control. However, as odd events occur around the facility, it becomes apparent that not all is as it seems. They’ll have to band together to find the truth and defeat the evil menacing them.

I’ll start my review by saying this: while this may be advertised as a horror film in a comic book universe, that’s not true. At some level during the creation of this film, someone (probably 20th Century Studios’ execs) didn’t want the film to lean too far into the horror elements. Despite proving time and time again that comic book/superhero movies have the ability to tell mature stories, they’re still considered films for children and families, and too much horror will alienate families from theaters. That’s why, in general, there are very few horror films in comic book/superhero universes (and not all of them good).

Which is why, as a horror film, The New Mutants sucks. While the trailer promised us plenty of horror, there’s very little attempt to actually scare us. No atmosphere, tension or jump scares, and what scary imagery we get is done mainly through CGI. And as you know, if you’re not careful about it or rely too much on the CGI, it actually makes the film less scary. It’d be more accurate to call The New Mutants a comic book film with a couple of horror elements.

And as far as X-Men and superhero films go, this is average at best. The character building needed for a superhero film is minimal at best (and is most lacking in Bobby de Costa’s character), the one action sequence is not as spectacular as it could be, and the final showdown ends anticlimactically. It’s not as bad as the worse of the X-Men films or of superhero films in general, but it still leaves a lot to be desired.

Was there anything I liked? Well, Rahne and Dani, played by Maisie Williams and Blu Hunt respectively, have a romantic relationship that’s pretty cute to watch. It’s nice to see two broken people fall genuinely in love without their own fears or toxic personality traits getting in the way. And I think this counts as the first superhero film with openly LGBT superheroes, let alone LGBT superheroes in a relationship. Props.

While the characters don’t have that much development, their actors do a great job bringing those characters to life. The setting, while cliche, is constructed very well. And the CGI for the superpowers is done very well.

All told though, The New Mutants is a film confused about what it wants to be, and it shows in how poor this film was. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving this one a 2.5. All told, not worth the wait for it to come out, let alone the trip to the theater.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If anyone needs me, I’ll be working on a list of horror films to watch this Halloween season and probably watching a good superhero film, namely Black Panther (rest in peace, Chadwick Boseman). Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Reborn City, Book 1 of the Reborn City series.

As many of you know, I started this blog while working on a sci-fi series, the Reborn City trilogy. It follows street gangs in a dystopian future, and focuses mainly on the Hydras, a gang whose leaders have strange powers and abilities. At the very core of the series was a theme of overcoming various prejudices, especially racial and Islamaphobic. I self-published the first two books, Reborn City and Video Rage, and started work on the final book, Full Circle.

However, trouble started around the third book. Midway through the first draft, I realized the direction of the story wasn’t epic enough for what I wanted for the series. It neither provided the action, nor the catharsis needed to end the series. So I stopped working on the story, with the hope that eventually I could finish the series.

That was 2017. It’s 2020. And I’ve realized some things about the series. Things that made me change how I feel about those books, and about selling them to people. The biggest thing being that I’m a different person than I used to be. I’m not the same person I was when I first started writing those books.

Let me explain. When I first started that series, it was 2009, I was sixteen, and I was full of the naive, optimistic hope that most teens are filled with. That hope filled Reborn City and its themes of the power of tolerance, which I hoped would do some good in the world. I thought if I could take those themes and work them into a story, I could beat back some of the horrors that were plaguing the world.

In a way, I still think it’s possible to write a story and make a difference through literature. We’ve seen it with multiple books that have withstood the test of time and build conversations around difficult topics. I just don’t think the Reborn City books can do that anymore.

It’s now 2020. Eleven years have passed, I’m twenty seven, and I’m a lot more educated, as well as a lot more jaded, about the very issues I was writing about. I think we all are. We’ve seen too much these past several years, felt too much heartbreak and harsh realities. Knowing that, I look back at the Reborn City books and realize that those stories don’t fit their purpose anymore. It’s like you try to build a better hose to put out house fires, but you find out after the fact that what’s needed is a fire hose, and you built a garden hose. And the whole house is on fire.

See where I’m going? I can’t finish the books because I know the hose I’m building is inadequate, and I don’t feel right selling the books for the same reason.

This, among other reasons, is why earlier this week, I made the decision to take both Reborn City and Video Rage off Amazon and Smashwords.

Reborn City and Video Rage. As of today, I’m not selling copies on Amazon or Smashwords.

Yeah, I can hear some of your shock. Believe me, I’m not happy about it, either. But it is what it is. I won’t sell a product (and make no mistake, that’s part of what I’m doing as a writer) that doesn’t work, and these stories just don’t work. You can maybe still find the last few paperback copies of them on Amazon, but after those are gone, that’s it.

That being said, there are a couple of bright sides. For one thing, I may revisit the world of Reborn City again someday. I still think there’s some potential with those characters and that world, I just need to write a story around them that works with what I know now. And in the meantime, I still like to put the issues I care about into the stories I write, like I did with Rose, or with River of Wrath. The latter of which, by the way, tackles some of the same issues Reborn City and Video Rage did.

Also, while those books are no longer available, my two other books that I self-published, the short story collection The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones, and the horror-thriller Snake, are both still available. While those stories aren’t perfect, they’ve weathered the test of time better than the Reborn City books did, so I feel more comfortable putting them out there. I’ll include the links for them below.

I’m sorry to drop sad news on you on a Friday night, my Followers of Fear. But I thank you for reading, and for your understanding. Do know that I plan to keep putting out quality stories in the future, and I hope you’ll stick around to keep supporting me while I work on that.

That’s all for now, and I’ll be back soon. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares.

 

The Quiet Game: AmazonCreatespaceBarnes & NobleiBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

Snake: AmazonCreatespace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

Rose:  Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

NOS4A2‘s TV series has been a highlight to my week during the pandemic. And given how well season one adapted the first half of the source material (see my review here), I was eager to see how well they adapted the second half, when protagonist Vic McQueen is a mom trying to protect her son Wayne from Charlie Manx.

I’m happy to report that season two is better than season one. Not only that, it’s great stuff.

Eight years after her first clash with the vampiric wraith Charlie Manx, Vic is struggling to be a good mom to her son while also battling her own demons. She hopes that life will improve when it’s reported that Manx is dead, but things are never that simple. Not only is Manx still alive, but he’s out for revenge against Vic. And he’ll use her own son Wayne to achieve that revenge if Vic isn’t fast enough.

What I liked about this season was that, while adapting events from the book, they added in things that contributed to the story. This was a welcome change from the first season, where they added crap like a halfhearted love triangle and Vic partying with rich kids right before a showdown with Manx. Highlights include the episode around the original character the Hourglass, the deteriorating relationship between Manx and his assistant Bing Partridge, and scenes involving Manx’s previously-unrevealed backstory.

I also liked how they fleshed out some of the side characters. Vic’s partner Lou Carmody gets plenty of time to shine and show what sort of person he is, rather than the love interests from the first season, who can be summed up as “rich kid who likes a girl from the other side of the tracks” and “stoner with a heart of gold and a crush on his childhood friend.” Another character who gets fleshed out is Millie, Manx’s daughter and his first victim. In this season, she takes on a central role as she starts to question her world and her father. It’s fascinating to see her discover so much about her father and herself throughout the show.

Add in some scares and tension, as well as some great acting and storytelling, and you get an awesome second season.

I do have some criticisms though. For one thing, while it’s cool to see how Charlie Manx came to be the monster he is, there’s too much emphasis on making him somewhat sympathetic. And you know what? I don’t want to sympathize with Charlie Manx. He’s a monstrous character who uses the kids he “rescues” while at the same time believing his own propaganda. I really don’t want to sympathize with that.

Another issue is that Craig, Wayne’s biological father, makes a few appearances in the latter half of the season, but it feels unfulfilled. We see him a few times, and then he’s kind of forgotten. I would have liked to see him utilized a bit more at the end of the season.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving NOS4A2 season two a 4.8 out of 5. It’s a freaky, thrilling ride that improves on the first season and makes revisiting this world a pleasure. There’s a possibility that a third season might happen (whatever that might look like), so you might want to grab your seat belt and catch up on the series while there’s still time.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be posting another review soon, as I bought advanced tickets to see The New Mutants in theaters. That’s right, I’m going to a movie theater. And should I survive the experience, I’ll hopefully have a new review for you all.

Until then, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!