Archive for the ‘Scary Stuff’ Category

And welcome to my first review of 2020! As many of you in the horror community are aware, the Grudge film series is famous both in its homeland in Japan, where it is known as the Ju-On movies, and in America, where both the original films and the first remake are considered classics in terrifying people.* However, the sequel to the American remake was only so-so, and the direct-to-DVD Grudge 3 was awful. Thus ten years have passed since the last film was released. When word of a new film got out, people were skeptical, but some were willing to give it a chance based on the trailers. Including me.

2020’s The Grudge begins with a live-in nurse leaving the original house from The Grudge and heading home to Pennsylvania.** However, she brings the curse home with her, and ends up killing her family and herself, making her home and her family an extension of the original curse. Years later, a detective enters the house while investigating a possibly-related murder, setting off a chain of events that will impact her life forever.

So this is technically a side-story to the original Grudge remake, following a new family of spirits and a new community to torment with the curse. The filmmakers did this so they could hopefully reinvigorate the franchise.

And they failed miserably on that front. While the film is told in a non-linear fashion and has plenty of callbacks to the 2004 film, switching Kayako and the Saeki family out for a new family of spirits was a huge mistake. Not only do these new ghosts feel so generic that they could come from any other ghost-centered horror movie, Kayako is an iconic part of the franchise. You can’t separate one from the other. It’d be like calling a movie Friday the 13th and having it focus on Jason’s cousin Matthew Bellman, who wears a football helmet and kills people who enter an abandoned ski resort. It just wouldn’t work.***

Even if you don’t factor that in, the film leaves a lot to be desired. As I said, the ghosts feel like they could come from any horror film, and the rest of the film feels pretty lackluster. Most of the scares derive from jumpscares, which are there and then gone pretty quickly. Most of the plot and acting feels pretty phoned in, and Lin Shaye’s appearance is horribly wasted (good thing she’s had better roles in most other horror films).

Is there anything good about the film? Well, there is a scene where the main character has to defend herself from the spirits in the dark basement of the police station that’s kind of tense, and a bloody scene with LIn Shaye that’s super-freaky. And John Cho as a realtor dealing with a crisis in his marriage is a surprising highlight of the film.

But other than that, 2020’s The Grudge is a poor horror film that was banking more on name visibility than actually trying. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving this one a 1.7. Only watch if you want to make a drinking game out of how many times you see the number 4 (which in Japanese sounds a lot like the word for death). Otherwise, watch either the 2004 remake or the original Japanese films, but definitely not this.

I’m off to get the remake from the library. I need my faith in the series restored.

This is a bad start to 2020’s horror films. Hopefully the other ones coming out this month are better by leaps and bounds.

*No joke, when I first saw the American remake, my sister asked me to watch it for her to let her know if she could watch it without getting scared. I watched that movie in our basement, and then I never let her near that franchise until I moved out of the house. As far as I know, she still hasn’t watched any of the films.

**Why a live-in nurse goes from Pennsylvania to Japan for work when her family is still in Pennsylvania is not actually explained, so don’t expect an answer from me. I can only guess that there was a sudden shortage in live-in nursing jobs and they were only available in Japan, because otherwise it makes no fucking sense whatsoever.

***And it would also be worse than the 2009 remake, as hard as that is to believe. Yes, I found another way to blast that horrific movie! Screw you, Michael Bay! Your horror movies are travesties and deserve to be erased from history!

Happy New Year, Followers of Fear! I said I wasn’t going to do one of those “the year ended, let’s talk about what happened and what might come” posts on New Year’s, because nobody really reads those.* Instead, I thought I’d post a few silly videos on my social media, including my YouTube channel, and then share them with you wonderful people.

And to answer the question you just asked yourself, yes, I have a YouTube channel. I don’t do much on it, especially when compared to my other platforms, but I do post a video there every now and then. Usually it’s related to horror or writing or ghost-hunting (that last category tends to be the most popular). You can check out the channel here if you like.

Anyway, the first video is a New Year’s message from me and my friend Ramsey Hardin, who’s come up to Columbus to celebrate the New Year with me and stayed over last night. We recorded this just after midnight, so the reminder about drunk driving may not be as relevant anymore, but we’ll put it out there anyway.

Aren’t we a pair? Also, yes, that’s what my voice sounds like. I wish it sounded like Sir Patrick Stewart’s too, but life is rarely fair.

The second video is…well, that’s the thing. I’m not sure how this happened, when or why. It’s really weird. It kind of happened in an Otherworld. And it involved me finding one of the Great Old Ones, the All-in-One and One-in-All Himself. Be warned, for if you watch this video, your sanity may be eroded forever.

With that in mind, please watch it and let me know what you think.

Yeah, that happened. It was strange. And it may have resulted in me opening the gate between this world and whatever’s beyond to let The Great Old Ones in. If reality is destroyed because of my actions, I humbly apologize.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I hope we all have a great 2020 and a great new decade. In the meantime, expect another post from me Saturday at the latest.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, Happy New Year and pleasant nightmares.

*Though if you do want to read a post like that, I did write one back in November. Here’s the link.

Cover for The Binge-Watching Cure II, from Claren Books

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the paperback edition of the new anthology The Binge-Watching Cure II, featuring my short story “Car Chasers,” had not yet been uploaded to Amazon. I’m pleased to say as of now, the paperback edition of The Binge-Watching Cure II is now available.

Now if you missed yesterday’s announcement, this is a really cool horror anthology. The Binge-Watching Cure II is written with stories becoming longer as you get further along in the book. The first story is the length of your average tweet, while the longest stories are upwards of ten-thousand words. This way, you can easily go for a shorter story, if you’re in the mood for a quick jolt of horror, or something a bit longer if you’d like something to kill time with.

My own story, “Car Chasers,” fills the eight thousand words spot, and is what happens when you turn Fast & Furious-style car races into a ghost story. I’m very excited to see it in the anthology, and I hope plenty of people get a chance to read it.

I also hope James Wan will direct a movie adaptation, but I won’t hold my breath.

Anyway, I’ll post the links for both the paperback and ebook versions below. For some reason, Amazon’s hosting both versions separately, like they did when Rose came out. Why they do that, I don’t know, but whatever. If you get a copy of The Binge-Watching Cure II and you like it, please leave a review. Doing so allows more readers to find the book, and encourages Claren Books to publish more anthologies like this one.

That’s all for now. I’m going to be working on the next chapter of Toyland this evening while watching the OSU-Clemson game (Go Bucks!). Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

The Binge-Watching Cure II: Paperback link, Ebook link

Look at this cover! It’s freaking beautiful!

If any of you checked my Facebook page or my Twitter feed after my last post, I hinted that I might have some good news I would be sharing today or tomorrow. Three years ago, I wrote a story called Car Chasers, which I describe as a mash up of Fast & Furious-style races with a ghost story. About a year and a half ago, I announced that the story had been accepted into an anthology. And last night, that anthology, The Binge-Watching Cure II, was released by Claren Books on Amazon!

I’m very excited to let you know this horror anthology has been released. It’s a rather unique anthology, as every successive story is longer than the one preceding it. In fact, during the submission process, we had to submit our stories based on a certain word length and how close we were to fifteen percent of that word count. I was lucky enough to be considered for the eight thousand word spot, and after some deliberation, Car Chasers was selected as the story!

And after having Rose accepted by Castrum Press a few months previously, seeing this story accepted by Claren Books was a really big deal for me. I was still having some anxiety over the amount of editing I needed to do for Rose, so this was a boost to my confidence.

Where was I? Oh right. The Binge-Watching Cure II‘s stories range from 140 characters (just over the original size of a tweet), to twenty-five thousand words. So if you’re looking for something quick to digest, or something long to chew on, you’ll find it here. And there are some great authors here: Amanda Crum, Nick Youncker, Lana Cooper, Robert E. Stahl, and Armand Rosamilia, among many others.

Also this guy named Rami Ungar. Have you heard of him? Neither have I, but I hear he’s a bit of a weirdo. Hopefully the good kind of weirdo, right?

The only version available right now is the ebook, but the paperback will be out soon enough, so keep checking back to the Amazon page if paperback is more your jam. I’ll include the links below. And if you do get the book and read it, please consider leaving a review online where you can. Not just because we love to hear your feedback, but because reviews help more people find the anthology and get them to read it, which keeps the cycle going, as well as encourages Claren Books to put together and release more anthologies like this one.

Also, I’m hoping director James Wan, known for both Furious 7 and the Conjuring movies, will somehow come across the anthology, read Car Chasers, and want to adapt it. I doubt it will happen, but I can dream and encourage, right?

Anyway, thank you to Bill Adler Jr. and Sarah Doebereiner, as well as the rest of the team at Claren Books, for letting me be part of this anthology. And thank you to the other authors whose company I find myself with in The Binge-Watching Cure II. It’s an honor to join you.

And thank you, Followers of Fear. I hope you check out the book, and let me know what you think. And thank you for your continued support. One of the reasons I keep writing is because you keep supporting me, and I’m so grateful for that.

That’s all for now. I’m off to start a new chapter of Toyland, make dinner, bring in Shabbat and the latest night of Hanukkah, and chill out with some TV. Not necessarily in that order. Until next time, Shabbat Shalom and pleasant nightmares.

Link for The Binge-Watching Cure II.

I heard first heard of Mr. Hamill and his novel after I came across his article on contending with the legacy of HP Lovecraft as a writer. The idea of his book interested me, so I put it on my reading list. Took a few books to get to it and a few weeks to get through it, but I read A Cosmology of Monsters from front to back. And with that out of the way, it is my pleasure and duty to review the book.

A Cosmology of Monsters follows the Turners, a family living in North Texas and running their own haunted house, The Wandering Dark. Told by the youngest member of the family Noah, the story begins with the meeting of his parents in 1968 and follows them as various tragedies befall the family throughout the decades, as well as the threat following the family through the years and generations.

Cosmology is literary horror at its finest.

Told in the style of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (which I’m told was a major influence on Cosmology and which I recommend as a read on its own) Noah Turner narrates how his family began, and through the decades the many hardships his family endures. It’s an engrossing way to tell the story, because every decision has far-reaching consequences on the Turner family. You also get a deep understanding of each character through this storytelling method, what their motivations and their troubles are, and how those play into the events of this story.

Noah himself is a fantastic narrator. He’s talking from the perspective of a grown-up looking back over fifty years of history, but he does a good job of calling up his childhood feelings of loneliness and isolation, of feeling alienated and not understanding why the people around him do what they do.

I also like how weird it can be sometimes (makes sense, since it’s me). The supernatural aspect of the story is very slight at the beginning and only gains prominence as you move deeper into the novel, and as you do, you find yourself with more questions than answers. Conventional monsters do play a part, so to speak, but there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes and it gets weirder with every layer revealed. It took me a while after I finished the book to really understand what all these revelations meant, and even now as I write this, I’m only half-certain I understand what everything meant.

All that said, there were things that I had issues with. There’s a section in the book where, instead of black letters against a white page, it’s white letters printed on a black page, and for some people, especially for people with certain eye issues, that might make things difficult to read (and why I don’t use my blog’s original theme anymore). And if you’re looking for a more typical horror story, with monsters popping out every five seconds or the supernatural aspect a constant presence in the story, this won’t be your kind of novel.

That being said, A Cosmology of Monsters is a mesmerizing read and one of the best books I’ve read this year. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.8. Grab your flashlight, and prepare to walk through a house haunted by the tragedies of the family. You won’t want to leave till you get to the very end.

And then you’ll want to think about both the deeper meaning of the book as well as what it’d be like to create your own haunted house attraction. Or is that just me?

And I thought the news story of today would be the fact that I’m sick. Yes, I’m sick. I even had to leave work early because of it. Don’t worry, I’m drinking tea and taking it easy. And this news definitely improves my mood and health.

So unless I’m delirious (which would go a long way to explaining why there’s a Swedish man named Hampus claiming to be my uncle in my apartment), the Rose audio book just went live on Audible and Amazon a little while ago! I have been so excited for this to happen, and now it’s finally here. I’ve already downloaded it onto my phone and plan to listen to it while I work on my dinner tonight.

Now if you’re unfamiliar with Rose, this is my first novel with a publisher, and follows a young woman named Rose Taggert. Rose awakes in a greenhouse with no memory of how she got there or why she’s there in the first place. She soon discovers her life, and her body, have been irrevocably changed. It’s a dark, Kafkaesque horror story and I’m so excited to listen to the audio book, as well as for all of you to listen to it as well.

Also, great timing on the release. Friday marks the six-month anniversary of the paperback and ebook’s release. One could almost call that synergy.

Oh, and funny story: I found out about the release by accident! I went to Rose‘s Amazon listing while working on another blog post. When I logged on, I found a new listing under “formats.” You guessed it, it was the audio book version. Right away, I filed the first blog post away as a draft to work on later, posted on most of my social media platforms (several times on Facebook) about the good news, and started work on this blog post. I also emailed my publisher, who I might be as surprised as I was when all is said and done.

Anyway, if you want to check out the audio book for Rose, I’ll leave the link below. I’ll also leave the links for the Amazon webpages, so if you’re more interested in the paperback or ebook, you can check those out as well. And if you do check them out, please do let me know what you think once you’re done reading/listening to them. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback, and reviews help me out in the long run.

Also, thanks to Sara Parlier for giving Rose a chilling narration, and to Castrum Press, the company who took a chance on me and published this book in the first place. What you do means a great deal to me, and I can’t thank you enough for what you do.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to make phone calls, make dinner, and either write or just chill with Disney+. Depends on what Uncle Hampus and I are in the mood for. Also, is that a bicorn and a chichevache? Dammit, these delusions make it hard to tell what’s my mind and what are actual supernatural occurrences in my life!

Oh well, until next time, pleasant nightmares!

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

The original Black Christmas from 1974 is a beloved, if kind of weird, early member of the slasher subgenre. The senseless nature of the killer “Billy,” for whom we never get any sort of explanation, as well as the helplessness of the characters, still makes it terrifying forty-five years later. A 2006 remake tried to capture that terror, but it failed miserably, mired in too much exposition and cliches. So, of course, everyone was skeptical when Blumhouse decided to make another remake. But the trailers promised a new angle, so who knows? It could be good.

2019’s Black Christmas again follows sorority sisters trapped on campus and in their sorority house with a killer who appears to taunt them through messaging apps. But there’s more at play here, and it all leads back to a particular fraternity on campus and the university’s controversial founder.

Um…how do I even talk about this one?

As far as storytelling and scares go, this is pretty run of the mill for a slasher, especially ones where a lot of stuff is given away in trailers. Granted, a couple members of the audience did get freaked (one audience member did yell out “that ****er is smart!” when an antagonist did something pretty sneaky), but if you’re familiar with slashers, it all feels standard and a little pulpy. A bit more exciting near the late middle and the last third, but still pretty standard.

The one thing that sets this movie apart is its incorporation of feminism into the plot. And this is where I have to really think about what I type, lest readers get the wrong idea.

Now, let me say this outright. I identify as a feminist. I get upset when I read stories in the news where women are subjected to harassment and misogyny and they are the ones blamed or called into question rather than the men attacking them. I also work in an office whose job is partly to deal with harassment, misogyny, and assault in our organization’s workforce. So I support women breaking barriers and creating more equal places for them in society.

Black Christmas tries to explore these issues in what, considering some of our current events, could be considered timely. And unlike Countdown, which felt gimmicky with its use of the #MeToo movement (see my review here), there was no gimmick here. The film’s handling of feminist issues is well-done at times. There is a lot of discussion of campus rape culture and how we as a society should approach it. Two characters have opposing views on the subject: one says everything must be done to stop the systemic problem, including by survivors, while the other says that not every survivor is willing to be a warrior and may just want to move on. And both bring up good points.

Another scene where the theme is handled well is when one of the protagonists goes to report her friend missing, and the male cop is apathetic, even acting dismissive. Like he thinks the protagonist is making a huge fuss because she’s a woman, not because there might be an actual problem.

Still, there were some moments where I wondered if the inclusion of these themes, as well as some exaggerated aspects, were meant to check some boxes and make this a “woke” sort of film, not really explore the subject matter and allow for enlightening discussion. But then, as I got home, I remembered something that put the film in a new light.

Back in 2018, Jason Blum, owner of Blumhouse Productions which produced the film, made comments about women directors, especially in horror, that drew a lot of ire from the horror community. Blum apologized for the comments and promised to do better. Fast-forward to 2019, and Black Christmas is the company’s first film with a female director, Sophia Takal. Takal also served as a writer with another woman, April Wolfe.

So this film could’ve been Blum’s way of apologizing for his comments and showing that he’s progressive. Or, and I like this scenario more, Takal and Wolfe were given the freedom to make their own horror movie, they were very much aware of what Blum said and they made a film not just to talk about their own issues with the film industry, but also to remind Blum that he, along with a lot of other people and segments in society have to go to really make things equal between men and women. And if that’s true, I can imagine how much Blum squirmed in his seat.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving 2019’s Black Christmas an even 3. While not as bad as the 2006 remake and a nice comeback to Blum’s comments, it still has areas that could’ve been better.

Thus ends the horror films of 2019, which, with a few exceptions, were either average or just bad. Here’s hoping 2020 is A LOT better. Until then, pleasant nightmares!