Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

All you measly humans, fall to your knees! Scream in awe and horror! Get out the beer and ice cream! In less than three weeks, Rose has attained ten reviews on Amazon!

Well actually, eleven reviews. Across Amazon’s American, Canadian, and British sites, the majority of which are on the American. But I’m making a big deal out of it anyway.

So if you have no idea what I’m going on about, well first off, you must be very new here. Welcome to the blog and to the Followers of Fear. I hope you have a scary good time with us. Second, Rose is my fantasy-horror novel which was released three weeks ago by Castrum Press. It’s my first book with a publisher (I’ve self-published previously), and is the result of about five years of work, starting in college as a senior thesis. For what it’s about, here’s the back cover blurb:

Rose Taggert awakens in a greenhouse with no clear memory of the past two years and, to her horror, finds her body transformed into an unrecognizable form.

Paris Kuyper has convinced Rose that they are lovers and as Paris could not bear for her to die, he has used an ancient and dark magic to save her from certain death.

But the dark magic Paris has used comes at a price. A price which a terrible demon is determined to extract from Rose.

As Rose struggles to understand what is happening to her, she must navigate Paris’s lies and secrets; secrets that Paris will do anything to protect.

I’m over the moon that so many people have read the book and left reviews. Not only are reviews great ways to give writers such as myself feedback on what worked and didn’t work, but it’s also a great way to let other readers know if a book is worth their time. And apparently a lot of people think this novel was worth their time.

And what reviews, too! Author of the Portia Adams mystery novels, colleague and friend Angela Misri posted this on Amazon Canada:

Rose is one of those characters (like Carrie in Stephen King’s book) who pulls you into the story, wrapping herself around you, making it impossible to stop reading.

Being compared to Carrie. I consider that an honor.

On the British version, this anonymous Amazon customer left this review (which has been shortened to avoid spoilers):

This is my first encounter with Rami Ungar, and, I must say, it was an enjoyable one. The story gets you hooked right from the beginning and it doesn’t loose much steam all the way through. I liked the rhythm of the story – it’s alert, spot on, with very few dead moments. If you like slow burning, atmospheric novels, then this is definitely not gonna be up your alley.

The story itself isn’t something new, but it’s well written and very easy to follow. If you’re not a native English speaker, you will read this book with flying colours, as the author tends to use a simple and concise wording, avoiding obscure idioms or long poetic metaphors.
The story is not extremely gory like in a Serge Brussolo one, nor is it a contemplative one, like in a Michelle Paver one -I’d say it’s somewhere in the middle, with a few good twists and surprises. Characthers development is quite good, and by the end of your reading you’ll really root and feel for Rose.

And on the American website, the reviews have made my heart warm, my horns sharp, and my wings unfurl. Here’s what people are saying:

This book starts with a surreal quality (I mean, human-plant thing, hello!), but even in the midst of that bizarre stuff it’s easy to follow. The protagonist, Rose, is turning into a rose. I kept thinking, “Oh, the poor woman!” And then the story turns into something so scary that I kept holding my breath as I was reading.

PROS:
The tension between Rose and Paris (and between other characters, too) kept me turning pages.

There is a disembodied laugh in the second chapter that ignites a mystery, and the mystery isn’t solved until almost the end of the book. It’s sort of a B-story, but more like a layer of the main story. I loved this added complexity to the plot.

The fight scenes are excellent! They are well-written, easy to picture, and full of excitement.

And then there’s the twist that I should have seen coming but totally didn’t. Fabulous fun.

CONS:
The book has a fem-lit overtone having to do with how men are supposed to treat women in relationships. Rose’s thoughts got a little preachy on the matter, so I took off half a star for that.

There are a few typos, like calling Chrissy “Christy” later on, and Paris comes out “Pairs” once. But the typos are few and far between and didn’t affect my reading experience. I didn’t take off any stars for this.

OVERALL:
Rose is a fun, scary, and crazy-imaginative book. I super enjoyed reading it. 4.5 stars!

–Priscilla Bettis

Rami Ungar’s Rose is frightening from the first sentence. He creates a world of steadily deepening terror, built not just on power, but on deception and mind games. Ungar is a smart writer who isn’t afraid to leaven the darkness with wit, and the book’s plot gallops along beautifully. No wonder so many reviewers call it a page-turner. It’s irresistible to see what will come next, and always a surprise.

–June Star

This short novel starts off as if in a bad dream. Unfortunately for our main character, Rose, everything is all too real. The ancient spell that saved her life also changed her body from human to a trans-humanoid-rose. Getting back her memory and trying to remember her love and relationship with her savior, Paris, is the least of her worries. The real threat is yet to come and what will Rose do to overcome it?
The book was a page turner for me and one I didn’t want to stop reading. I liked the challenges that Rose faced. Rami was clear with his settings and situations. His characters had depth. The Japanese gods and demons concept was refreshing and deliciously twisted.
I like that this is a stand alone novel. (I am sick to death of series.) It’s a good read and I would read this author again.

–a girl is not no one

This is a solid novel. It’s always entertaining and surprising. The premise reminds me of Kafka and the book never fails to deliver the ups and downs of the protagonist while moving a solid plot forward. Enjoy!

–Hernan

I could go on, but I doubt you would keep reading if I kept tooting the proverbial horn.

Suffice to say, I am so thankful for so many people leaving their reviews on Amazon (and on Goodreads, but I’ll post about that another time). It means a lot to me that you’re enjoying Rose and are willing to spread the word about it. I can only hope that more people will check out the book soon and maybe give their own thoughts on the novel.

If you’d like to check out Rose on any of these sites, or just read a short excerpt, I’ll post the links below. And as always, thanks again for following and supporting me. I couldn’t do it without you. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

Rose Excerpt

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

Amazon UK

Goodreads

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Hereditary was one of the scariest films of 2018. It’s considered so unnerving and terrifying, watching it a second time is considered by some to be a masochistic act (believe me, I was called that when I watched it again a month or two ago). So when we all heard director Ari Aster was following it up barely a year later with Midsommar, horror fans everywhere get excited. We were even willing to forgive him diving back into the evil cult trope just because he did so well with it in Hereditary. With the bar set high, I went to the theater today to see if this follow up could measure up to its predecessor.

Midsommar follows Dani, a young woman who, after suffering a family tragedy, joins her boyfriend and his friends on a trip to Sweden for a summer solstice festival held in the childhood home of one of the friends. While at first things seem innocent enough–minus a bit of drug use, of course–it soon becomes clear that these rituals and celebrations have a dark side to them. And not everyone will survive the nine-day festival.

I can say this movie is weird and fucked up. But not in a good way.

Obviously, this movie’s going to be compared a lot with Hereditary. But you know why that film worked? Because everything in it, from the painful breakdown of the family to the supernatural occurrences–felt like one big domino effect or Rube Goldberg machine. And in the end, it turned out to be that way. And it was done by looking into every situation where horror could be derived and then exploiting it to its most effective length. There’s none of that here. It felt like Aster just took one of the most prominent factors in Hereditary–the cult aspect–and extended it with psychedelic imagery and as much weird stuff as possible, though with barely any rhyme or reason, let alone with a Rube Goldberg-like exactness.

Even worse, it wasn’t scary. Actually, at times it feels kind of comical. One guy in the theater laughed at out at one point, and I couldn’t blame him. What happened was ridiculous.

And the majority of the characters are flat as rocks. You can sum most of them up with a single sentence, and it’ll encompass all of them completely and succinctly. You have the horndog who’s pissed he’ not having sex every other minute; you have the scholar who only cares about the research; you have the boyfriend who clearly isn’t happy but is guilted into the relationship; and you have the friend who invited everyone and is obviously hiding a lot.

Oh, and there’s something involving disabled villagers which just…didn’t sit right with me. I won’t go into spoilers, but I’m troubled by it, and let’s leave it at that (if you know what I’m talking about, let me know if you were troubled as well in the comments below).

Was there anything good in this film? Well, there’s some beautiful cinematography, shots that take weird angles or go on for minutes at a time. The psychedelic imagery, at times, is pretty cool. There are moments where flowers seem to breathe, which is visually stunning. And Dani is not only a fully realized character, but one whose battle with anxiety and depression come across as very genuine. You really see this woman who has been beaten down by life, and is just trying to find some joy and happiness while on this trip. It’s really heartbreaking.

But on the whole, Midsommar feels like a promise broken after the gem that is Hereditary. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the film a 2. If you really want to watch this one, I’d wait until it’s on DVD or streaming. Either that, or watch either Wicker Man movie, because they deal with similar concepts. Or The Apostle or The Ritual on Netflix, because they have similar concepts as well and are done soooo much better.

Either way, Ari Aster will have to do a lot better with his next film to regain our trust.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Hopefully the next review I do is for something that really hits it out of the park. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

So it’s been about a week since Rose was released, and a few days since the paperback was uploaded onto Amazon (though those pages still aren’t linked for some strange reason. Jeez Amazon, what are you waiting for? A kindergartener to play a matching game?). And while I can’t be certain of how well it’s been doing, I can say the responses I’ve gotten so far have been overwhelmingly positive.

A lot of people have, of course, praised the cover. Not surprising, given the work of The Gilded Quill, the cover’s designer. It’s actually been quite the lure, if some of the comments I’ve gotten are anything to go by, as has been the excerpt I’ve been leaving on various sites. And according to Goodreads (a site I don’t use, but which I may have to start using), a lot of people are either reading it now or are going to read it. I’ve also heard from some friends and family and a few of my advanced readers, and those who have started the book say they’re enjoying and find it intriguing.

But biggest indicator of all is that Rose already has a few reviews! Yep, that’s right, we have reviews. Two on Amazon (one of which is also on Goodreads) and one on the website of a colleague of mine.

The first review came from one of my advanced readers, and someone who you may have seen in the comments sections of these posts. Priscilla Bettis gave Rose 4.5 stars (though Amazon doesn’t allow half-stars, so she gave it a 4) and had this to say:

This book starts with a surreal quality (I mean, human-plant thing, hello!), but even in the midst of that bizarre stuff it’s easy to follow. The protagonist, Rose, is turning into a rose. I kept thinking, “Oh, the poor woman!” And then the story turns into something so scary that I kept holding my breath as I was reading.

PROS:
The tension between Rose and Paris (and between other characters, too) kept me turning pages.

There is a disembodied laugh in the second chapter that ignites a mystery, and the mystery isn’t solved until almost the end of the book. It’s sort of a B-story, but more like a layer of the main story. I loved this added complexity to the plot.

The fight scenes are excellent! They are well-written, easy to picture, and full of excitement.

And then there’s the twist that I should have seen coming but totally didn’t. Fabulous fun.

CONS:
The book has a fem-lit overtone having to do with how men are supposed to treat women in relationships. Rose’s thoughts got a little preachy on the matter, so I took off half a star for that.

There are a few typos, like calling Chrissy “Christy” later on, and Paris comes out “Pairs” once. But the typos are few and far between and didn’t affect my reading experience. I didn’t take off any stars for this.

OVERALL:
Rose is a fun, scary, and crazy-imaginative book. I super enjoyed reading it. 4.5 stars!

Tension and twisty. High praise. As for the feminist tone, yeah, guilty as charged, but given some of the news stories out there, I felt like adding that overtone was necessary.

The other review came from Kimberly Napolitano, aka kimnappi, who said this in her 4-star review:

Rose is a wholly original story that has about everything horror and fantasy involved that it will satisfy every reader.

Rose wakes up in an unfamiliar home with her memory erased all of the past two years.. she’s in a panic because something is happening to her…

No spoilers, actually anything beyond that point would ruin the story for you. The action was fast, scare jumps perfect and plot twist? Absolutely! So if you love supernatural to creature feature. You got it all here! Enjoy!

Apparently that plot twist is popular. Good to know. I promise to not be M. Night Shyamalan and overdo plot twists in future books or insert stupid ones for no good reason.

As for KG Finfrock’s review, I won’t post it here but instead give you the link to check it out so you can check it out yourself. Just know, it’s very positive and I’m glad she enjoyed the book so much.

If any of this has convinced you to check out Rose, the links below lead to its Amazon pages. And if you do read it, I hope you’ll let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love feedback, and reviews help me out in the long run.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve a previous engagement to get to. Until next time, happy reading and pleasant nightmares!

Paperback Link

E-book Link

One of these days I’m going to get my own Annabelle doll. Not a Raggedy Ann like the real Annabelle doll, and certainly not the actual cursed doll (there’s not enough room in my home for two powerful demonic entities). No, I mean I’m going to get one of the collectible dolls based on the one in these movies. That would be a great addition to my ever-growing doll collection.

Also, did I mention I plan to name a major character in my project for National Novel Writing Month after this doll? Well, now I did.

Annabelle Comes Home follows Judy Warren, Ed and Lorraine’s young daughter; Mary Ellen, Judy’s babysitter; and Daniela, Mary Ellen’s best friend. Judy’s home alone one night, and Mary Ellen’s sitting, which Daniela, who is grieving the loss of her father, uses as an excuse to come over and explore the Warrens’ haunted collection of dangerous objects to try to contact her father. However, she lets Annabelle out of her case by accident, and the doll awakens all the evil in the collection, trapping the girls in the house for the most fateful night of their lives.

From a storytelling perspective, Annabelle 3 was decent. Nothing extraordinary, but it does a good job. The writers give Judy Warren her first major role in the series as a girl trying to come to terms with her parents’ work as well as her own paranormal gifts, and Daniela is given some depth as more than the rebellious friend who’s just looking for something fun to do (aka look through a collection of cursed possessions). There are some really tense moments, and the practical effects allow for some creepy and creative visuals.

And I loved Bob, the sweet boy-next-door interested in Mary Ellen and who goes by the nickname “Bob’s Got Balls.” He gets caught up in the horror and ends up stealing the show at times. Can we get a movie around him trying to be a cross between the Warrens and van Helsing? Maybe with Judy as his sidekick? You can make a whole series of horror/action films out of those two!

Sadly, I had a few issues with Annabelle Comes Home. The biggest is that, after seven (eight including La Llorona) films, the jumpscares in the Conjuring Universe are getting old. We know what to expect, and it’s getting repetitive. After one particular jumpscare, people started laughing in the theater! I’ve been saying since The Nun, they need to done down on the jumpscares and try to switch things up. If the series is to continue past The Conjuring 3 next year, it may need to try some new things or all the projects in development are going to get shelved (and there are a few of those).

I also had issues with one of the spirits featured in the film (who I’ve heard might be the villain in The Conjuring 3). It was animated with a lot of CGI, which was not that scary. In fact, the first time we see it looked kind of ridiculous. Look, I know CGI was probably easier to create it, but there were twenty different ways to make that thing scary, and I would’ve liked to see them.

And finally, there’s the friendly ghost in the film (yeah, there’s one). Given how little it was in the film, was it even necessary to include it? You could’ve given it one more minute of screen time, made the appearance worth it.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Annabelle Comes Home a 3. Not the best of the franchise, but not the worst. Fans of the franchise will love it, but others may need something with a bit more meat to it, if you get my meaning. But hey, at least it’s not The Curse of La Llorona. Anyway, let’s hope next year’s Conjuring 3 does better.

Let me preface this review with a disclaimer: I’ve never been a fan of the Child’s Play franchise. I saw the original Child’s Play when I was too old to be scared of Chucky, and I never bothered to see any of the sequels. So I was not among the many people who raged at the thought of a redesigned Chucky, a new origin story for the character, or the concept of a reboot in general. However, I knew that there was a good chance this would fall under horror remakes we all wish we could forget would ever make. So I braced myself, bought a ticket, and went in.

Child’s Play follows Andi, a young deaf boy with trouble making friends. His mom finds him a used Buddi doll, a cross between your Alexa smart product and the worst of the uncanny valley, as an early birthday present. Unfortunately, neither of them realize that this particular doll was sabotaged by a disgruntled factory worker, and has all the limiters taken off. The result is a psychopathic stalker unhealthily obsessed with a little boy. And he’ll stop at nothing to make sure his best buddy stays his best buddy. Especially when he gains access to the network.

Okay, first off, I’m just going to say it. In what world does ANYBODY want THAT version of Chucky in their home? Give the original design its due, at least it looks somewhat adorable, something your child would want to play with. Take it from the guy who has a doll collection and his favorite is kind of creepy, this doll looks too creepy for the average family, let alone something people would allow into their home and pretend is their best buddy while at the same time handing control over their home devices.

There’s this thing called the suspension of disbelief. Don’t go too far with it, or nobody will believe your story.

Yeah, I wouldn’t trust this with my devices. Why would anyone?

And now that that’s out of the way, let’s just say it. Even if you can forgive all the changes from the source material, the Child’s Play remake is not very good. For one thing, it’s predictable. We’ve seen this story, the doll that comes to life and becomes too attached to its owner, again and again. Beyond adding the element of a doll connected to the cloud and the Wi-Fi and everything else, there’s nothing new to add. If you have a checklist for this kind of trope about what to expect, you can check every single one off and rate it as average at best.

I also disagreed with some plot choices. The worst was with Andi’s mom, played by Aubrey Plaza. She seems caring, but at the same time she’s like, “I could care less and want to go back to being a carefree teenager.” And then, in a scene where Andi displays some behavior that seems disturbing, she instead…takes him to work? How about a hospital to get his head looked at?

Oh, and talk about a waste of Mark Hamill. I totally forgot that was Luke Skywalker/arguable one of the best Jokers ever playing Chucky. The robotic voice mutes the actor’s distinct voice, making you forget who’s behind the character.

Was there anything good about this film? Well, the cast is okay. They’re not trying very hard, but they convince me anyway. Some of the sweeter, more heartfelt moments are decent at giving you the feels. And some of the moments of horror and dark humor are enough to terrify and gross you out. Especially with one scene in the basement.

But all in all, the Child’s Play reboot is a sad attempt at revitalizing a slasher franchise. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 1.8. Even if it somehow is a success at the box office (which, with a ten million dollars budget, could be done in a few weeks), it might not get a sequel just based on how bad it is. Only go if you don’t mind wasting two hours of your life.

Thank God it wasn’t a bad Friday the 13th reboot. Can you imagine how disappointing it would be if that happened? Oh wait, that did happen! And it’s still a shitty piece of filmmaking courtesy of Michael Bay’s toilet. That’s right, I found another opportunity to trash the Friday the 13th reboot! And I’ll keep trashing it until a better (or worse) Friday the 13th film is released, mark my words!

Since the very first trailer, I’ve been excited for this film. I mean, a horror film led by the phenomenal Octavia Spencer? That should be amazing! And even though I was enjoying myself this past weekend in various locales associated with spirits (more on that in other posts), Ma was never far from my mind. And since I’m still on vacation, I thought I’d go see an afternoon matinee.

Ma follows a group of teens, including new girl Maggie, as they wrangle a veterinary technician named Sue Ann Ellington (aka Ma), into buying them booze. Sue Ann later entices them into partying with her in her basement, and soon her place becomes the place to be. However, Sue Ann starts to exhibit some strange behavior, and it becomes clear that she has a history, one involving the parents of some of the kids. And she’s still upset about it.

There are two things about this film that stand out to me. The first is Octavia Spencer’s performance. She does crazy so well, it’s terrifying. I’m no psychologist, but I’m pretty sure the character of Sue Ann displayed traits of both borderline personality disorder and Munchausen’s by proxy, and it’s convincing. The second is the storytelling, a slow-burn of a story showing a woman twisted by her past out for revenge after several years of keeping most of that anger under wraps. It’s not done with big scares or a tense atmosphere, but small things that eventually grow into a freaky finale.

The one gripe I have–and this is a gripe shared by other critics of the film–is that it could’ve gone farther. Tate Taylor, the director, feels like he’s not willing to lean into the concept and portray more violent or disturbing acts on the part of Sue Ann. I mean, there are definitely some things she does that are chilling, no doubt, but a few more would’ve only helped the film. Certainly the low kill count will trouble some horror fans.

Still, I can see some sequel or prequel potential in Ma. The film sprinkled enough things into it and had an ending that might be conducive for further films. And if done right, Sue Ann Ellington–aka Ma–might join the ranks of great horror villains like Michael Myers, Freddy Kreuger, and my boy Jason Voorhees.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Ma an even 4. If you prefer subtle horror with a focus on storytelling and a compelling villain, this may be the horror film for you. Grab a drink, and check it out.

And while I have your attention, this is another reminder that you have till Friday to sign up to be an advanced reader for Rose, my upcoming fantasy-horror novel from Castrum Press. The story follows a young woman who starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). Anyone interested should send me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. All I ask is you read the book and consider posting a review after the release. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.

What if the Superman origin story had a dark, horror-movie style twist? That’s the conceit of Brightburn, a movie produced by the director of the Guardians of the Galaxy films and the upcoming Suicide Squad film, written by his brothers Mark and Brian, and directed by David Yarovesky, who directed the pretty-good horror film The Hive. And from the trailers, it looked like it could be really good, or just plain bad. Either way, I put my butt in the seat and waited to see how it would go.

Brightburn follows the Breyers family, consisting of farmer Kyle, wife and artist Tori, and adopted son Brandon. Around his twelfth birthday, Brandon starts exhibiting supernatural powers and psychopathic behaviors. When he starts to hurt classmates and people around town start dying or going missing, Tori and Kyle reveal to their son his extraterrestrial origins, and he reveals to them his dark purpose in coming to Earth.

*sigh* You know, I can forgive them for copying Superman’s basic power-set in this film. I can also forgive them for not mentioning him at all (probably did that out of legal reasons). But I can’t forgive them for making a bad film that puts all its best bits in the trailers!

I kid you not, everything that was supposed to make this film exciting and scary was revealed in the trailer. The woman who got glass in her eye, the guy in the car seeing Brandon flying on the road, the girl’s hand getting broken, the plane crash. Those should’ve been surprises, but we all saw them in the trailers, and that takes out all of the suspense and horror of the actual movie. Except for a few moments, I watched the film thinking to myself, “That’s predictable. That’s predictable. Oh, how could I have not seen that coming? Oh wait, I did! In the previews!”

What do you have left when you take all those elements out? Just your below-average evil child horror film, like Prodigy from earlier this year (which I didn’t review because it was so much like every other evil child film out there). Parents get a kid, usually not their own. Kid grows up mostly fine, but then starts exhibiting scary behavior. Kid turns out to be evil, either because they were born seriously messed up or because of some supernatural reason, one parent ends up dead, the other either successfully kills the kid or is killed while trying because a bystander was nearby and didn’t know the truth.

Seen it. Done it. Took it to dinner. Had a good time afterwards. Ordered them an Uber. Point is, done to death.

There were only two things I liked about Brightburn. One was the mask the kid Brandon wore, which looks like a crocheted cross between an insect head and Cthulhu’s face. The other is Elizabeth Banks as mother Tori. You really see her love for this strange boy, and how much she tries to hold onto that little boy despite all he’s done.

But other than that, Brightburn is sadly unoriginal despite marketing itself as original. And I’m convinced the filmmakers knew that, and that’s why they put all the highlights in the trailers, to get butts in seats. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving this one a 1.5. Avoid, unless you like wasting two hours of your time. I hope to God I never write anything as unoriginal as this.

Speaking of which, I’m still looking for advanced readers for my upcoming fantasy-horror novel from Castrum Press, Rose. The story follows a young woman who turns into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). Anyone who’s interested should send me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com before June 7th. All I ask is that you read the book and then consider posting a review after release. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!