Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Today was my first trip to the movies since October. Wasn’t planning on going, but this movie wasn’t streaming anywhere and I needed some new horror. No point to this story, I just thought I’d mention it.

Based on James Herbert’s 1983 novel Shrine, The Unholy follows Gerry Fenn, a disgraced journalist who goes to the small town of Banfield, Massachusetts for a silly tabloid piece. However, while there he becomes wrapped up in something much bigger. A deaf-mute girl named Alice is suddenly able to hear thanks to the Virgin Mary, and is performing miracles through her. Thinking this is his shot at the big time again, Fenn follows Alice’s case and gets close to the investigation by the church into the miracles. Soon, however, he realizes that Alice’s miracles may come from something darker and with plans for those coming to see Alice’s miracles.

I think the scariest thing about this movie is that so many people were in a single small space, worshipping together, without masks or social distancing! I mean, how much more terrifying can you get?

Jokes aside, this movie wasn’t really scary. It’s overly reliant on CGI and jumpscares, and the latter are so loud you can’t help but jump in your seat (and afterwards wonder if you’re going to lose your hearing). It’s just another popcorn-horror flick that just tries to make some money instead of actually telling something truly memorable and scary.

Also, I think the exorcism chant used in one scene is the same one used in Supernatural, which itself was cobbled together from various Latin passages in the Bible. I wonder if the writer is a fan?

Was there anything to like in the movie? Well, I haven’t read the original novel (might try to change that), so I can’t tell you if it was a decent adaptation. But I can say it was written somewhat well. There was definitely more depth in the story than one would expect from one of these popcorn horror films. And the characters were actually pretty complex and deep, which is nice to see given the talent in the roles. Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays Gerry Fenn, and he plays the character in such a way that you feel his excitement and his horror as this case develops.*

Did I mention the cast is full of some amazing talent? Katie Aselton, William Sadler, Cary Elwes and Christine Adams (I recognized her from a Doctor Who episode she was in), and many more. And I think Cricket Brown, who played Alice, might end up becoming a well-known name someday. I totally believed she was a deaf-mute girl going through a miraculous occurrence.

Cast and slightly-deeper writing, however, does not elevate the movie as much as one would like. On a scale of 1 to 5, I award The Unholy a 2.6. If you’re dead-set on seeing this movie, I would recommend waiting until it’s out on DVD. If one of my stories is ever adapted, I hope it turns out better than Shrine‘s adaptation.

And I hope the next time I visit the movie theater, whenever that is, the movie is better than what I saw. Whether it’s a horror movie or not.

*He’s also been in a significant role in Supernatural. Is that a coincidence?

I don’t know if this past week went on forever or went by so quickly. All I know is, Passover is just a few days away and it’s going to be busy preparing for the holiday.

Okay, enough complaining. As you know, I had a new story released last week. “Agoraphobia” follows a young man with severe anxiety who is forced to leave his home when a hurricane bears down on his area. Needless to say, things don’t go as planned. It’s a short, deliciously creepy horror story and I’m quite pleased with it.

And I’m happy to say, the short story has been well-received. Not only have I been getting a lot of people downloading copies, but since the release there’s been an average of a review a day for a total of seven. And even the lowest, a 3-star review, has been very positive. Here has been some of the responses to “Agoraphobia:”

Another great story by Rami Ungar, this one is more traditional horror. (not that there’s anything wrong with non-traditional horror!) As another reviewer said, you can’t say too much about a short without spoiling, so I’ll try to be brief.

Peyton lives alone in a well fortified house. Suffering from Agoraphobia, and secure in the knowledge that his house is safe from everything, he even ignores the coming hurricane. But, alas, it turns out his residence isn’t quite the castle he thought it was. A broken window leaves him with a water soaked carpet and – are those footprints?

Great read, good pacing, with some twists at the end. Highly recommend!

Joleene Naylor, author of the Amaranthine series

An intriguing short story of a man who has problems, sadly those problems are about to get worse. The author does a great job making this short story feel longer with complete content in a short space.

PS Winn, author

I would include more reviews, but as Joleene says, you can’t say too much without spoiling the story. Anyway, thanks to everyone who has read the story so far and has taken the time to leave their thoughts online for others to check out. Your reviews help other readers decide if they want to read it, so it means a lot to me.

Anyway, I’m very pleased with the response to “Agoraphobia.” And now my goal is to get more people reading it. I’m not expecting thousands of readers and adaptation offers, but I would like to make a little splash and expand my audience. We’ll see what occurs (though, being me, I always hope for the best).

If you’re interested, I’ll post links to “Agoraphobia” down below. If you decide to read the story, please let me know what you think somehow. A review, a tweet, or an email works. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback. And as I said, when you leave your thoughts in a public place like Twitter or Amazon, it lets others know and helps them decide whether the story is right for them.

And if you’re interested, I have a lot more stories you can check out on my Amazon author profile. Novels, short stories, and short story collections, plus some of the anthologies I’ve been lucky enough to have stories included in. I got them all and then some. Click this link to check them out.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got a busy Tuesday ahead of me. Work, shopping for Passover, and a beta reading for a colleague. Hopefully afterwards I can work on my mermaid horror story. Until next time, stay safe, happy reading and pleasant nightmares!

Agoraphobia: Goodreads, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

I think I’ve been hearing buzz about this novel since it was released last year. However, I only just got around to reading it recently (or more accurately, listening to it on audio book). I had somehow managed to stay spoiler-free despite the buzz, and knew nothing beyond the fact it was a Gothic novel set in 1950s Mexico. And knowing nothing, I was going in expecting something amazing.

Mexican Gothic follows Noemi Taboada, a young high-society woman living in Mexico City in 1950. That is, until a mysterious letter from her cousin Catalina arrives at the family home. Concerned, Noemi is sent out to check on her cousin, who has been living in the countryside since her marriage to a mysterious Englishman named Virgil Doyle at his family’s estate, High Place. When she arrives, she’s not surprised to find things are not what they appear. However, the biggest surprises are yet to come. And if Noemi’s not careful, she’ll find these surprises may keep her from leaving High Place. Forever.

I can see why this novel was nominated for a Bram Stoker award, it’s excellent!

For one thing, the language this book is written in is just beautiful, like a Victorian novel without being too stuffy or overly wordy and dramatic. From the opening chapters, I felt like I was listening to the sort of writing I aspire to write (maybe someday I will). And Moreno-Garcia uses this brilliant language to not only bring the novel to life in your mind, but to bring out this strong sense of atmosphere and dread. I could almost see High Place and feel the horror that Noemi felt.

Speaking of which, I loved Noemi. She’s a very spunky young woman who refuses to compromise or let anyone tell her what to do just because she’s a woman. I loved watching her go up against the stodgy, stuffy Doyles with their rigid ways and gloomy lives, as well as how she refused to submit.

In addition, Mexican Gothic‘s story has a unique twist on the concept of a haunted house. I won’t go into details, because it’s more fun for you to read it yourself. Let me just say, it’s different than anything I’ve read and you’ll probably find it pretty clever on a number of levels.

I can’t think of any real downsides to this story. If I did, it would be nitpicking on my part. I will warn some readers that there are some things in the novel that might be triggering to them. One of the characters turns out to be…skeevy, to put it mildly. Just warning you.

In any case, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a wonderful addition to the Gothic horror genre. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.7. Wonderfully written, ingenious and spooky. Pick up a copy and find out for yourself why people are raving about this book. Preferably before they decide the Bram Stoker winners in May.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, happy reading and pleasant nightmares!

I would like to thank my friend Kat Impossible for tagging me for this (especially since I was in the mood to blog something other than an “Agoraphobia” update, just didn’t know what). Go check out her answers on her blog.

Now, I don’t know how much I’ve talked about my alcohol preferences on this blog (though I’m sure it’s come up once or twice). But while I do like beer, I also enjoy wine every now and then (in fact, Brothers Drake honey wine, better known as mead, is what I use to celebrate finishing novels or getting them published). I’m especially fond of sweet wines, like Moscato, Japanese plum wine, or the abovementioned mead. That’s why I’m kind of excited to do this tag, even if it involves wines I don’t normally drink. So, without further ado, let’s begin.

BOX WINE–a book that people will judge you for liking but you like it anyway!

I can think of only one book that could possibly fit this category, and believe it or not, it’s a Stephen King novella! The Library Policeman, which you can find in his collection Four Past Midnight. The story involves a real estate agent who runs afoul of a creature masquerading as a librarian and which intends to use the agent for its own nefarious purposes. While it’s good and extremely unnerving, there’s a pretty graphic scene in the story that’s essential to the story, and it’s one of the first things people think of when they think of the novella.

It’s also why people might judge you if you say you like the story, or if you want to see an adaptation of The Library Policeman. Which, honestly, given the subject matter, would be a hard sell. Still, if you either approached the problematic scene in the right way or rewrote it in a way that preserves the impact…anyway, that’s my choice. Don’t judge me too harshly now!

ORGANIC WINE–a book that doesn’t have any added crap in it and is just written perfectly.

I was going to put one novel here, but I’m saving it for later, so I’ll put this one here. The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. *shiver!* That book is famous for how traumatizing it is. And considering that the events it’s based on aren’t too different from what’s in the book, that somehow makes it even more terrifying. But that kind of lends itself to winning this category, as none of what’s depicted in the novel is technically gratuitous or unnecessary. It’s just a reflection of real events.

Not only that, but if Ketchum wasn’t such a talented writer, he couldn’t write the novel the way it is and make it so terrifying. In another person’s hands, they may have added all sorts of melodrama or other unnecessary elements. But in his hands, and with his willingness to push boundaries, it’s a masterpiece!

That being said, anyone going in for the first time should prepare for a ton of anxiety and maybe some nausea. You’ve been warned.

Accurate representation of many first-time readers of The Girl Next Door.

GLUEHWEIN–a spicy, wintry read.

Never heard of that wine. Also, what do you mean “spicy?” Like, sex scenes? Whatever, I’m going with The Shuddering by Ania Ahlborn. It takes place in winter, in ski country, and there are a lot of romantic subplots in the story, so I think that works. Plus, it’s scary. For those unfamiliar, it’s kind of a cross between a creature feature and a good, old-fashioned splatterpunk slasher story. I enjoyed it immensely. Why haven’t they made a movie out of it yet? Keep the monsters in the shadows but keep the focus on the survival instinct and it’ll be great!

SAUVIGNON BLANC–a really sharp and aggressive read that you couldn’t put down!

I actually had to look back through my reviews to find a book that works for this one. In the end, I found one that fits “sharp and aggressive,” and that’s The Five by Hallie Rubenhold. This book takes a look at the Canonical Five, the five confirmed victims of the serial killer known as Jack the Ripper, and uses historical records and an understanding of Victorian social mores and beliefs to reexamine their lives. Doing so, the author Ms. Rubenhold strips away every belief we’ve had on the victims, and therefore the Ripper, till we’re forced to look at the case in an entirely new light.

This book was an eye-opener for me, and I found the author’s argument highly convincing. In fact, I even referred back to The Five while writing The Pure World Comes, where the Ripper is an important aspect of the story. And if you read the book, you’ll understand why I place The Five in this category.

Click here for my full review of the book.

PINOT NOIR–a book you didn’t expect much from but ended up getting blown away.

It’s easier to pick a movie than to pick a book for this one. Still, if I go back far enough, there’s one book that I can think of. The Amulet of Samarkand, the first book in The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. I was a huge Potterhead when I was younger, so my mom suggested it to me while we were shopping in a Barnes & Noble one day. At first, I was dismissive, but eventually I was convinced to try it out. And then I read it.

Hoo-boy. The lead characters are awesome and easy to relate to, Bartimaeus himself is hysterical, and the world building was quite an eye opener after reading nothing but Harry Potter for ages. Add in some political intrigue, a plot with twists and turns, and excellent writing, and I was hooked. I was really sad when the series ended, because it was just so good (there was a prequel, but without certain characters, it just wasn’t the same).

Still mad that they haven’t made a movie franchise or TV series off of these books. Supposedly, a movie adaptation is in the works, but until I see some actual progress, I’m not getting too excited.

CHARDONNAY–a good summer read that was super zesty.

What does that even mean, super zesty? Does the story have to have melted cheese with a sharp taste on it or something?

Oh well, I’m going with Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. I mainly associate it with summer reading, and while not covered in cheese, it’s an exciting thrill ride that really engrosses you as you get into the story. So, I guess that makes it super zesty. In any case, this book was the first book in the battle royale genre (which is why it gets away with using the name) and does it better than anything since, especially Hunger Games.

Click here for my review of the book, old as it is.

ROSE–a book that has a little bit of everything in it.

Why, that’s easy. It’s my novel Rose! Just kidding. I’m not that kind of guy.

No, I’m going with the Kieli novels by Yukako Kabei. The series follows an orphan girl who can see ghosts and other spiritual beings. Who befriends/falls in love with an undead soldier with an attitude problem. They travel the world together, which has a dystopian, steampunk aesthetic. Most of the planet is also ruled by a tyrannical church. And the planet is an exoplanet that was colonized by spacefaring humans centuries prior to the book’s storyline. And on this planet, they deal with monsters, ghosts, dangerous church figures, criminals, and so much more. All the while trying to wrestle with their feelings for each other.

See, it has a little of everything in it! And I’m honestly sad not more people have read the books, even among fans of Japanese light novels (novels with the occasional illustration thrown in). If, however, the above description sounds interesting to you, I suggest reading it. I loved it in my teens and early college years, and I’m sure you would too.

Click here for my review of the series.

How I describe the Kieli books.

SHIRAZ–a full-bodied book that is dark and juicy.

By “full-bodied,” do you mean doorstopper thick? If so, I’m going with Needful Things by Stephen King. Not only does it have one of King’s best antagonists, but it makes fun of and delves deeply into human materialism and greed. How much will you go to keep something you desperately want? To own something, or to be right, or to get answers and/or revenge? While a lot of what occurs in the book seems silly, it also feels like some of this stuff could really happen.

I especially love the audio book, which King narrates himself. He has a much better speaking voice than I do, and he gives each of the characters a distinctive voice. You have to listen to it to believe it.

Also, it’s a damn shame that the only adaptation of this book was a movie, and a really bad one at that. I think a comic book adaptation would work very well. Not only could the artists actually depict some of the darker, weirder, or smuttier stuff without constraint like in a movie, it would just be fun to read and see how they depict some scenes or situations (*cough* two middle-aged ladies who think they’re having sexual affairs with Elvis Presley *cough*).

MERLOT–a smooth, easy read with a soft finish.

Ooh, tough choice. I guess I’ll go with Remina by Junji Ito. For those unaware, it’s a manga about a mysterious planet that appears in the night sky and is named after its discoverer’s daughter. As the planet starts approaching Earth, however, other planets start to disappear, leading to trouble for both its discoverer, and young Remina as well.

I love this book. It’s a great story that you can finish in just one sitting, but it has quite the impact that leaves you satisfied. The last few pages especially leave you with this strong feeling that there is no other way the author could have finished the manga without sacrificing the quality. Yeah, some elements are a little hard to believe, but who cares? It’s still an excellent science-horror story that shows how humans react in the face of annihilation, and how attributing blame to the wrong person can ruin lives.

Still waiting for a movie based on this. The fact that nobody has yet bewilders me. Get on that, Hollywood!

Click here for my full review.

CHAMPAGNE–Your favorite book!

That’s an easy one, it’s Kill Creek by Scott Thomas. Still my favorite novel these days. Four famous horror writers go to a reputedly haunted house for a publicity event, but end up awakening something powerful and dark. Something that takes control of their lives and twists them for its own use. And if they’re not careful, they will die because of it.

This novel was a revelation for me. It basically lists the qualities of Gothic novels in the early chapters and then uses those qualities to great effect. Plus, the characters all feel like real people and you really come to love them, especially the four writers (TC Moore, you are the bomb!).Hell, it’s so good I bought my own copy after listening to the audio book fifty thousand times, and I sent a copy to a friend who did me a big favor recently as a thank you.

If you’re a horror fan but haven’t read this one yet, at the very least put it on your TBR list. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Click here for my full review.


Those are picks. What did you think? Have you read any of them? Are there any you want to read? What would you pick? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

And if you like this tag and think you’d like to try it, THEN CONSIDER YOURSELF TAGGED!!! I hope you enjoy doing the tag and maybe you’ll link back to me so I can see your answers.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope to be back for another post very soon. Until next time, I’m off to enjoy a beer (I’m saving the wine for Passover, because that’s really the only alcohol you can drink during that holiday) and do a late-night writing session. Pleasant nightmares and watch out for “Agoraphobia” coming out in just over nine days (links below!).

Agoraphobia:Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

Okay, technically this film is a 2019 film, but it’s being released in the States in 2021, so that’s the designation I’m going with.

Also, just a little background for my non-Jewish readers: in Judaism, it’s traditional that when someone dies, the body is constantly watched over and had Psalms recited over in order to comfort the soul of the deceased. The person doing this is known as a shomer, or a guardian. Usually this is done by friends and family of the deceased, but occasionally people are paid to be shomrim. This is all explained in the movie, I just wanted to put it upfront here.

And to complain that nobody ever hired me to be a shomer while I was job hunting. Seriously, I have experience with dead bodies and I charge reasonable rates. I would have been great at it!

Okay, onto the review. The Vigil follows Yaakov Ronen, a Jewish man who has left his ultra-Orthodox community for a more moderate style of Jewish living after a terrible tragedy befalls him. His old rabbi asks him to be a shomer for a man who has recently died. Desperate for money, Yaakov agrees, but soon finds himself up against an ancient evil that oppressed the deceased in life, and is now looking for a new victim to torment.

Wow, this movie did not disappoint. It took what could have been just regular popcorn horror movie fodder and made something really amazing out of it. Camera work and lighting is used really effectively to build a tense, creepy mood. There are these long, uncomfortable moments where we’re forced to watch as Yaakov uses his phone or gets comfortable around the body, which is laying in the living room under a shroud like something out of the Victorian era. You really get to know the folds and creases in the blanket, and it makes things creepy and disconcerting.

The monster of the movie, a Jewish demon called a mazzik,* is also well done. I’ve said this before, but showing too much of the monster can backfire on films, especially in popcorn horror films. Thankfully, the filmmakers keep the mazzik hard to see throughout the film, and that only adds to the terror. Like no matter what, you can’t truly see, let alone comprehend, this creature.

Add in some mind games right out of the movie Oculus and a couple of nods to Nightmare on Elm Street, and you’ve got one hell of a scary film.

It’s also a deeply personal film. Yaakov, played with powerful pathos by Dave Davies, is a very sympathetic character. He’s dealing with PTSD, he’s struggling with himself, his faith, and making his way through this world. The events of the film really force him to confront what he’s been dealing with and it’s amazing to watch.

I could find something to dislike with this film, but I would be nitpicking. On a scale of 1 to 5, The Vigil stands at a solid 4.2. Creepy and dark, led by a lead you can identify with, you won’t be able to turn away. The film is currently available through Amazon, so grab a seat, pour some kosher wine, and get ready for an unnervingly good time.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be back soon, believe me. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*And yes, I think we can be sure mazzik and the plural mazzikim is the source of the name for the comic book character and the character we love and adore in Lucifer.

I read the book back in 2018 and loved it (would have done a review, but I think by that point it had been out a while). I was excited when I heard that it was getting a show…and then sad when I heard it would be on HBO. However, now I have HBO Max, so I was able to watch the show. Which I finished watching today. As I’m obligated to do, I’m writing a review.

Based on the novel by Matt Ruff, Lovecraft Country follows Atticus Freeman, a black soldier living in 1950s America who returns home to Chicago after receiving a mysterious letter from his estranged father Montrose, stating he is in Arkham, Massachusetts, a location from the works of HP Lovecraft. Turns out, it’s actually a secret community called Ardham, but that doesn’t change how fantastical life gets for Atticus. Pretty soon, his life starts to resemble a Lovecraft story, involving secret societies of sorcerers and magic, ancient history, and entities that defy reality and biology. And it may end up putting Atticus and his whole family in danger.

So, it would be more fair to say this is a variation on the novel’s story than a direct adaptation. The first season acknowledges the concept of a multiverse and uses that to explain the changes from the novel. Some of these changes are minor–some names or genders are changed, roles are reduced or expanded, etc. Others are good, such as the expansion of Montrose’s character to be a meaningful exploration of a man with a troubled past still effecting his present. And others just made me scratch my head.

An example of this would be the creation of the character Ji-ah, a character from Atticus’s past who knows more than she lets on. On the one hand, I get why they added her and they tried to make her inclusion into the story important to the plot. At the same time, I feel like this whole character’s reason was diversity for diversity’s sake, which is an odd choice considering the show.

As for the rest of Lovecraft Country, it was great for the most part. The writing in even the dullest episodes was superb, and the actors were awesome. There were several scary moments, such as the events of the first two episodes and episode eight. The exploration of racism in America was powerfully done as well, drawing many parallels between events then and now (and making me want to know more about the Tulsa race riots. I do not remember learning about that in school).

If you haven’t checked out the novel, that’s also worth the read.

However, there were some downsides. The actress playing the villainess, Abbey Lee, played her role so emotionlessly I wondered if she couldn’t get into her character’s head, let alone play her convincingly. A lot of the music choices were modern rap or music from well past the 1950s, which honestly felt out of place in a historical fantasy-horror piece. And there were a few episodes where things kind of dragged for me.

Like the novel, Lovecraft Country the TV series isn’t perfect, but there’s plenty there to enjoy and make the watch worth it. You’re going to get different things from each iteration of the story, so it’s up to you which one you prefer.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give the first season of Lovecraft Country a 3.7. Combining horror, magic, heavy themes and great characterization, it’s worth the hype I heard. A second season may be in the works, but until we get confirmation one way or another, there’s still plenty of time to check it out. Get on HBO Max if you can and prepare for a powerful experience.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to work on stories I doubt will ever get their own adaptations (though it can’t hurt to try). Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

Not sure when I first heard of this book or its author (might have been a documentary about the history of zombies I saw around Halloween), but I looked both the book and its author up and was like, “Huh, that sounds interesting.” The original plan was to listen to the audio book as part of my Black History Month/Women in Horror Month reading in February, but then the move happened, and I needed something to listen to while I unpacked.

Glad I started early. And to quote one of the replies I got when I said I was going to listen to it on Twitter, “Why hasn’t this been made into a limited series yet?”

The Good House follows Angela Toussaint, a lawyer who returns to her family’s house, known by the locals as “The Good House,” two years after a horrific family tragedy tears her life in two. While up there, strange events lead her to confront a monstrous evil, something that her grandmother, the beloved and powerful priestess Marie Toussaint, battled in 1929. And this confrontation will not only have consequences for the living, but for the dead as well.

Where do I start with this book? The story, the narration, the atmosphere, it’s all done really well. Dr. Due* brings these characters and settings to life, making you really believe them. Some of my favorite parts were told from the perspectives of Marie Toussaint or Angela’s son Cory, because I could honestly believe they were real people. I also found it fascinating to listen to the parts where Vodun was explained to the readers. I don’t know much about real Vodun or voodoo, but what’s in The Good House, if based on actual belief, is a decent introduction.

And the villain, the baka,** was great! How it inserted itself into so many aspects of Angela and her family and friends’ lives, just to taunt them. Half the time, it wasn’t even trying to do anything other than scare Angela or warn her it was coming, and it was freaky. When it then got serious, it was quite the spectacle.

The one aspect I wasn’t in love with was the ending. Yeah, it was a good ending, but I kind of felt it erased a lot of the progress Angela made as a character.

On the whole, though, The Good House by Tananarive Due is a scary, engrossing story that you’ll be glad you picked up. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.8. Grab a copy, put on an album by the Orishas (Cuban band mentioned in the book, and they’re good when you’re in a certain mood), and start reading.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. My next audio book will be Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I’ve heard amazing things about it, so I’m looking forward to diving in and eventually giving my own review.

In the meantime, Dr. Due, if you happen to be reading this, I would love to interview you on my blog someday. If that’s something you’re cool with, let me know somehow. I’ll send you an email and we can discuss it.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*I assume she’s a doctor or a professor, she teaches at a university.

**Or is that spelled bakka? So hard to tell with audio books. The anime fan in me hopes it’s the former, however. So many wordplay jokes to make.

I first heard about this film last month, described as The Call of Cthulhu meets small Norwegian island and with Barbara Crampton of Re-Animator and Chopping Mall fame heavily featured in the marketing. The trailer looked cool, so I mentioned it in a post about cosmic horror becoming popular, and patiently waited for it to come out. I watched it evening, so obviously I have to write a review about it.

Based on a short story by Paul Kane* and influenced by the works of HP Lovecraft, Sacrifice follows Isaac Jorgstadt and his pregnant wife Emma as they return to the tiny Norwegian island where he lived until he was a child and his mother took him to America. As his mother has recently passed, Isaac now owns the home and has come to see if he can sell it. However, between the townsfolk’s bewildering behavior, unearthed family secrets, and strange dreams, Isaac and Emma find themselves in the crosshairs of a powerful cult worshipping an ancient and terrible god.

Pandemic or no pandemic, I think we can call this the first good horror film of 2021.

First off, the movie was really well done. The strange behavior of the townsfolk adds to this feeling of unreality in the story, which is heightened by frightening imagery and occurrences. The tension between Isaac, who becomes more and more enchanted by the island, and Emma, who is just freaked out, compounds the uneasiness we feel. And the slow-burn nature of the story ramps up in just the right way in the third act.

I also like the way HP Lovecraft’s work is incorporated into the story. Images and statues of Cthulhu–or as he’s known in the movie, “The Slumbering One”–abounds; Isaac’s name in America is Pickman, a reference to Pickman’s Model; dreams play a prominent role in the film; and of course, we get the occasional tentacles. You really enjoy stumbling across all these references and being like, “I get that!”

I always enjoy when cosmic horror is incorporated well into a non-Cthulhu Mythos film.

Excluding Barbara Crampton’s attempt at a Norwegian accent and one line that could be misconstrued as offensive to certain belief systems,** I only had one problem with the film. During the climax, the ending was epic and scary, and then that final shot felt…anticlimatic. I would have liked to see a shot of the Slumbering One or his tentacles or something. Just something more Lovecraftian and scary to end the movie with. Is that too much to ask?

All in all, though, this was a creepy and enjoyable ride. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.1 As of right now, it’s only available from iTunes, but I say it’s worth the cost to check out.† Especially if you can pair it with some good calamari.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to birth my own nightmares. Until next time, pleasant nightmares (or as they say in the film, “dream well”).

*Whose work I need to check out.

**That better have been a put down on female genital mutilation and not on bris milah or similar rituals, I’m just saying.

†Hopefully you have an easier time playing the movie than I did. Still not sure if that was my iTunes player or my computer, but I had so many issues with the streaming.

Fun fact: apparently Scott Carson is actually Michael Koryta, an award-winning author who does both crime and supernatural fiction. If what I’ve heard is true, his fanbase is pretty divided between his crime and supernatural books, so he created a pen name for the latter going forward. Everyone got that? Good. Onto the review!

The Chill takes place in the fictional Torrance County, upstate New York, home of the fictional Chillawuakee Reservoir, or “The Chill.” This reservoir was built at the loss of a small town called Galesburg, which was submerged after the dam went up. Prior to that, some of the Galesburg residents didn’t take kindly to being evicted so New York City could have another freshwater supply, and reacted violently. Even after the dam went up and many of the protesters died, some still swear revenge. Now, nearly eighty years later, the dam is old and in need of repairs, and the dead are aware of this. They’re active, they’re working behind the scenes, they do not forgive and they do not forget. And they want their revenge.

So, the concept of the story is pretty cool. It kind of reminds me of The Shining, though instead of ghosts at an old hotel, it’s ghosts by a dam and the afterlife is kind of busy and cult-like as well. You can tell the book was meticulously researched by how it goes about explaining the inner workings of dams and reservoirs, as well as (what I assume to be) the problems with maintaining them. And the prophecy in the story makes a clever twist on the trope that I like.

However, there were a lot of problems with the novel. For one thing, it seemed to take forever before it got interesting. Several times before the halfway point, I wanted to put the book down and not read anything else because of how slow it was going. We also don’t meet one of the focal characters, Gillian Mathers, until about a quarter in, and it takes even longer for us to identify with her and see her as more than just a trope in a story. I feel like Carson wanted to focus less on her until she was needed because she is a type of trope, and instead focus on another character, Aaron Ellsworth, because he’s got a much more interesting character arc.

Another issue was that, while the dams were well-researched, I had trouble visualizing certain things in my head. I’m not familiar with dams, and I don’t know many people who are beyond the fact that they hold water back. It would have been nice if a couple more paragraphs were shown to help readers like me visualize the structure, the discharge tunnel, etc.

However, past all that, it does get interesting. There are some spooky scenes, an epic disaster scene, and some excellent writing. I just wish we’d seen more of that in the first half.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I award The Chill by Scott Carson a 3 out of 5. It’s okay, but there were definite areas to improve in.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m still relaxing so that when I return to writing, I can be as refreshed as possible. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

As many of you know, I have a YouTube channel that I post to every now and then. Today, I had a bit of time and decided to film a quick little video. What was it about? Well, it’s about reviews. Specifically, how you should help your favorite authors by leaving reviews online for their books, as well as why.

I’m not going to lie, I’m proud of this video. It’s not very long, but I managed to make a nice thumbnail, do some fun editing tricks, and even add music and a short title card at the beginning of the video. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. I may still be an amateur when it comes to video production and editing, but I am getting better at it.

And yes, I did mention Rose‘s audio book in the video. Can you blame me?

Anyway, as the video said, if you like an author’s book, please leave a review with your thoughts online somewhere. Even a short tweet or post on Facebook or Goodreads can be a momentous help to authors. Especially those who aren’t very well-known. Every review helps an author improve, helps other readers find the book, and lets the authors know their work is being read and hopefully appreciated.

And if you would like to support me, I’ll leave the links for my works below. Please consider checking my stories out and letting me know in a review what you think. Because…well, you know why.

And if you liked this YouTube video, please consider subscribing to my channel. I don’t post often, but when I do, it’s usually because I’m passionate about whatever I’m posting. And I would love to see you all there.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to dispose of Santa’s body before the authorities find me. Until next time, Happy Holidays and pleasant nightmares!

Mother of the King: Amazon US, Amazon CAN, Amazon UK

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

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

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