Since we’re still over a month out until the new adaptation of It and the new season of American Horror Story (which apparently will be featuring clowns in its Cult-themed season this year) hit screens, I thought I’d take the time to watch and review a movie I’ve been wanting to see for a while: Eli Roth’s Clown.

This movie actually has something of an interesting history: back in 2010, director Jon Watts and writer Christopher D. Ford uploaded a trailer to YouTube saying that Eli Roth was producing the film, even though he wasn’t involved with the film (I assume this was meant as a joke). Roth was impressed by the concept of the film and their ballsiness, so he offered to help them produce an actual film. However, when this film came out, it did poorly at the box office. Since then, I’ve heard both good things and bad things, making me curious as to its true worth. And when it popped up on my Netflix feed, I knew I had to watch it and see for myself what this film was made of.

Clown follows the McCoy family, real estate agent Kent, wife Meg and son Jack. When the party clown they ordered for Jack’s birthday is double-booked and can’t make it, Kent finds an old clown costume in one of his vacant houses and dresses up as a clown himself. However, he finds himself unable to take off the costume afterwards. In fact, it’s starting to become attached to him, literally. As Kent’s body and mind starts to go through unimaginable changes, Meg must find a way to save her husband from becoming a legendary demon with a hunger for children.

This film was awesome in so many ways.

First off, the costume and Kent’s evolution into the demon. The make-up and costume here is phenomenal, slowly showing Kent turning into this terrifying monster that puts Twisty and Bill Skarsgaard’s version of Pennywise to shame in how scary his look is. The transformation is gradual, but with every change, you see not just how creepy the clown demon is, but also the battle for Kent’s mind playing in his head. From an extra line, a darker color, a colored contact lens, everything in this costume is used to maximum effect.

I also liked how the story at first seems formulaic, but actually takes some routes that keep you guessing about what will happen next and actually surprising you at times. The story also takes some risks in terms of body horror and at some of the stuff that it’s willing to show us, which is a welcome change. It actually makes for a much more terrifying experience. It’s almost like the filmmakers were saying, “We know it’s a movie, but we know real life isn’t nice. Therefore, we’re going to introduce a terrifying concept into the real world and see that concept play out with real world results.”

One interesting thing I noticed was the characters, and how they were written. They’re not that deep or well rounded-out, but the story and the direction allows the characters to feel real. Rather than using dialogue and exposition to explain character traits or relationships between characters, the actors show the audience those aspects. Just from Meg’s interactions with her father and the things he does, you get the sort of feelings he has for his son-in-law. From seeing Herbert Karlsson’s actions during the film, you get an interesting twist on the expert-on-a-monster trope in horror films that doesn’t need to be told to the audience. It’s just there for us to absorb! It’s a brilliant decision to approach characterization like this on the part of the filmmakers, and I kind of wish we’d see that in more horror films.

Not even the scariest image.

The only problems I really had with this film is that it may have dragged at points, and that there’s this one short scene involving Meg and a patient from her dental clinic that I just found slightly contrived. Actually, very contrived, even if it did show how Kent’s transformation is kind of transforming his wife Meg into someone else.

Like I said, this film was awesome. So why didn’t it do well? If I had to guess, I’d say bad marketing. I heard about this film the first time in college with a trailer. I thought it looked cool and I would like to see it when it came out. But that was the last I heard of it, and it dropped off my radar. Occasionally over the next three or four years, I heard whispers, but I somehow got to thinking that Clown was either being delayed or only available outside of the United States. So when it showed up on Netflix, I was honestly very surprised. I was like, “Wait, that’s out now?”

Too many good films are under-advertised.

Well, with any luck this review might get a few more people interested. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give Clown a 4.8 out of 5. It’s creepy, it’s a fun concept, and it’ll leave an impression on you. Sadly, it didn’t get the advertising it deserved, but I can see this becoming a cult hit and a Halloween favorite ten or twenty years down the line. Definitely sit down and watch the film, and prepare for some clown-filled nightmares.

 

I was tagged again by my friend Kat Impossible from Life and Other Disasters. Well, technically she tagged anyone who’s a writer who read the post, but I’m pretty sure I at least crossed her mind as someone who would do this post. Anyway, let’s get started.

What genres, styles, and topics do you write about?

Well, there’s an easy one. Horror stories, of course (though I do like the occasional dive into science fiction). Usually my stories revolve around teenagers and young adults finding themselves in fantastical and terrible situations, usually ones involving the supernatural. However, they’re often human stories where the characters are growing and sorting through an internal conflict while dealing with an external conflict. At least, in the novels that’s how it is. With the short stories, it may just be me writing a story and trying to leave an impression on the reader.

How long have you been writing?

Probably since I could string two words into a sentence on a page. *laughs* But I don’t think I started writing seriously with the goal of being a great author until I was maybe ten or so. I think it was a conscious decision that I liked to write, so I should make that my life. But it could have easily just been a gradual thing where I found myself entranced by storytelling, doing it often, and then someday knowing that this is what I want to do.

Why do you write?

Besides the fact that I enjoy storytelling? Well, I have a pretty active imagination. I spend a good chunk of each day in stories, whether they be books, movies, TV shows, or daydreams. While they’re up in my head, they can be pretty fluid and volatile, changing and shifting and God only knows what. I’m neuroatypical, so while I love being an eccentric, I do like a little order in my head sometimes. Writing these stories down helps to exorcise them from my brain and make them static. It’s freeing, in its way.

Plus, I just LOVE sharing my stories with people and getting their feedback (it’s an author vanity thing. We all have them, to some degree).

What is the best time to write?

I’d like to say, “Whenever.” However, I find the evening is the best time to write. Since high school, evenings have often been the only time available to me to write. Yeah, sometimes in the afternoons or even the mornings opportunities to write come upon me, but often it’s limited to the evening, especially after so many years of doing this. Perhaps if I ever become able to write full-time, I can work on being more flexible, but for now it’s not until after dinner that I’m able to effectively summon those creative energies.

What parts of writing do you love and hate?

I love:

  • Being able to tell a story and exorcise them from my head.
  • Share my stories with people.
  • Be as creative and dark as I want to be.

I hate:

  • How easily ideas come to me but how hard it is to get even one of them on the paper
  • Not having a large audience

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Usually when that happens there’s a problem somewhere in the story and I need to go back to fix something before I can move forward. That’s usually how it works, anyway.

Are you working on something at the moment?

At the moment I’m editing my college thesis Rose, about a girl who starts turning into a plant. I’m in the middle of the third draft, and I’m nearly a third of the way through. I hope after this draft I can start having it looked at by beta readers, but we’ll see where we are when I’m done.

What are your writing goals this year?

Finish the third draft of Rose and get a few short stories written and published. And if I can manage it, I’d like to reach a thousand followers.

I TAG YOU, BLOGOVERSE!

Do you write? You do! Great, you’re tagged. Have fun, and make sure to link back to me when you do.

Today I wanted to talk about something that is becoming much more common in fiction these days, and that’s the twist villain. If you’re unfamiliar, a twist villain is when one character in a story seems to be the villain, but later on it’s revealed that another character, usually a character we thought was a good guy, is actually the villain. This twist villain is supposed to be a surprise, something you didn’t see coming while reading the story. Hence the name “twist villain.” The problem is, the twist villain is becoming such a common trope these days. In the past couple years, we’ve seen it in Disney films like Zootopia and Frozen; popular novels like Gone Girl and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; a couple of recent superhero films; and more than I can possibly name in this blog post. And when so many works of fiction are using the twist villain, we become used to not only seeing the trope but also the signs that a twist villain is going to be used (and trust me, there are signs), and then when we see the twist villain, we’re not very surprised. Heck, sometimes we even predict who the villain is well before it’s revealed.

Why is this trope becoming so popular? Simple: people want a good story. Good stories produce good memories and good profits. As standard stories of good vs. evil have been done to death, creators need to think of new stories and story elements to keep consumers interested in their work. One way to do that is a third-act twist, which when done right can really enhance a story. And a twist villain can be a very good third-act twist, if you’re careful with it.

Sadly, I find that a lot of creators aren’t careful with their twist villains, making the twist ineffective when it happens. Which is sad, because I love the idea of a twist villain. Heck, it’s one I might use in the future, if I haven’t used it already. A good twist villain can make your mind reel, make you look back trough a story to see if there were any clues and make you marvel at the genius of the creators for setting up that twist so well.

A bad twist villain, on the other hand, just leaves you feeling neutral at best (my reaction during Zootopia) and disappointed at worst (my reaction looking back on Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed). Which is why I’ve come up with a few tips for writing an effective twist villain. With any luck, these tips will help other authors (and myself) avoid making a bad twist villain.

1. Does your story really need a twist villain? Any time you want to include something in a story, ask yourself if it’s really needed. I swear, so many stories just add in elements that aren’t needed (*cough* lots of stuff from BvS *cough*). Ask yourself if your story can stand on its own without any of the extra elements. If it doesn’t, DON’T FORCE IT IN! Especially with twist villains.

2. If you’re going to leave clues behind, don’t make them obvious. You can have a twist villain without leaving a trail (Hans from Frozen, for example), but with twist villains, creators often like to leave little hints of who the real villain is. I think this is narcissism on our part; we like to show how clever we are. But that leads to us leaving some rather obvious clues, which our readers/viewers will pick up on and deduce the twist long before the twist occurs. Take Scooby-Doo 2: it was so obvious that the reporter was the villain! Why else would they include a reporter with poor ethical practices unless she was at least in league with the villains?

3. Have a good herring villain. A herring villain is just that: a herring to keep us off the real villain. In Frozen, the herring villain was the Duke of Weselton. He had obvious malicious goals, is willing to kill Elsa, and he was over-the-top, which felt right for a villain in this movie. Imagine our surprise when we find out he’s not the true villain, but Hans, who had no trail leading to him and was such a nice guy up till that reveal! A good herring villain will often lead to a great twist villain reveal.

Compare that to Zootopia or Wonder Woman: the former doesn’t give us a herring villain, which causes us to consider each character and eventually land on Ms. Bellwether, who has said some interesting things and has actually benefited from these events. The latter gives us a herring villain, but it’s a comic book movie, and the General doesn’t do a thing to make us think he’s a famous DC villain we’re very sure will make an appearance.

In short, have a herring villain, and make sure they’re set up in a way where people will actually consider them as the main villain, so the twist will actually be effective. To do that, be aware of what sort of story you’re writing. Often the story will have certain requirements for villains (motive, opportunity, etc), so make it seem like the herring villain has those. You’ll find your herring villain much more effective.

4. Do the reveal earlier than the third act. A lot of twist villains reveal themselves in the third act. Nothing wrong with this, but it’d also work if the reveal was done earlier. For example, Hydra was revealed as the villain in Captain America: Winter Soldier in the second act, and that was a really interesting twist, as we hadn’t expected it. If they’d done it later in the story, we might have actually figured it out by then, or there wouldn’t be enough time for exposition mixed with a great climax. So consider doing the reveal elsewhere.

5. Try a variation on the trope. The twist villain, like most tropes, has a standard formula: something happens, one character seems like the villain, but another character is revealed at the third act to be the villain and why. Oh, and it’s usually not the protagonist.

Variations on common tropes have proven to be very effective in storytelling, so try something a little different with the twist villain, like these examples below:

  • It’s a villain, but which one? In Doctor Who series 8, we’re introduced to a character named Missy, who seems likely to be a villain, but we’re not sure what her deal is if she is. In the second-to-last episode, she explains that Missy is short for Mistress, making her a female regeneration of the Master, a well-known DW villain. A lot of minds were blown that day, believe me. The idea is you can introduce a seemingly new character into a long-running story, and then link them back to a previously-established character. Trust me, it works.
  • Everyone’s the villain! Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express ends with every suspect actually having some sort of hand in the murder. It made the novel a sensation back in the day, because it was a seemingly impossible idea, but it worked. So try something impossible and make it possible: everyone’s a villain, no ones’ the villain, or even two very good suspects with alibis both committed the murder. It could work.
  • The hero? American Horror Story: Hotel is my favorite season of the series, and this twist is one reason why. The protagonist, a police detective, is on the hunt for a serial killer, only to find out in the second half of the season that he’s the killer! Trust me, I did not see that coming until the reveal episode, and only by a few minutes! So making a hero or a character who nobody thinks of as a possible villain the villain can work very well.

And these are just some examples of variations that have worked in the past.

Twist villains are a trope that won’t go away anytime soon, but as long as we have them, we should write them as well as we write any other type of character or trope. Because if we’re not going to give people our best, then what are we actually giving them?

What are your thoughts on twist villains? What are some good tips for writing them well?

You may have heard me speak of the Five Nights at Freddy’s video game franchise about a haunted pizzeria filled with killer animatronics before on this blog (if you’re unfamiliar with what that is and want a quick lesson to know what I’m talking about, click HERE), including the novel released about two years ago, Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Silver Eyes, that’s part of the franchise’s lore (click HERE for my review of that novel). I find the franchise itself fascinating, though I did not care for the novel that was produced from it, finding it cliched and predictable, as well as poorly edited. So when I heard that a sequel to the novel, Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Twisted Ones, was coming out, I was skeptical. Could this be an improvement? Or would it just be terrible? I decided to get a copy and find out.

And if you’re a huge fan of the franchise or whatever, don’t expect me to delve deeply into the lore and try to figure out the exact mythology of the game. I’ll leave that to the people on the Game Theorists channel on YouTube. No, I’m going to evaluate the novel as a novel: how it was written, if it was scary, how good the plot and the characters are, and what could’ve been fixed or improved. Why? Because that’s what I do here.

So, FNAF: The Twisted Ones takes place not too long after the events of the first novel. Charlie, the protagonist of The Silver Eyes,  is at college learning about robotics and trying to sort out all the things that have happened in her past. However, a series of murders that can only have been caused by the sentient animatronic suits from Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria draws Charlie, as well as her friend Jessica, old flame John, and hometown sheriff Clay into a bizarre nightmare, with more mysteries to uncover and an old enemy out for blood.

Was it any better than the first book?

Well, it did have some improvements. For one thing, The Twisted Ones is edited much better than The Silver Eyes. You can tell that franchise creator Scott Cawthon and writer Kira Breed-Wrisley took their time making sure the grammar, spelling and punctuation was up to scratch, as well as ensuring that the indentation wasn’t all over the place. There was also way more animatronic action, something that was sorely missing from the first book. And I have to admit, the plot was somewhat unpredictable, with the final third–especially the climax–being actually a bit of a whirlwind in how it gripped and held onto you. And there were new elements introduced into the story that actually did shed a little light on the franchise (I won’t go into them here, but observant readers should be able to put the pieces together).

However, there were a number of things I didn’t like about the book. For one, these characters feel even flatter than they did in the first book. In the first, they were just given enough characterization to carry along a slasher movie, but those characters that have come back feel even less like actual people. The exception might be Charlie, but most of her character is fretting over the events of her past rather than getting to know her and see her grow as a character. Speaking of characters, I also found the character of Arty totally unnecessary. He’s introduced as this classmate/friend of Charlie’s and a possible rival to John, but he’s only in about two percent of the story, and he doesn’t contribute anything. If you took him out of the story, it seriously wouldn’t make a difference. I wonder why he was even in the story in the first place.

I also found Charlie’s obsession with her past and her brother coming across as melodramatic. You can have a character affected by a horrible experience that exposes a lot about their past, but here it felt almost corny in how over-the-top the emphasis was. Please, can we scale back on that? Surely there’s more to this character than “Oh, my past is so tragic! I’ll live my life around my dark and horrible past!”

The next book. Hopefully it’s good.

But the biggest thing that I didn’t like was that during one scene about two-thirds of the way through the book, the scene is set in Charlie’s dorm room. A few paragraphs later, however, they’re in the car, and it’s such a sudden transition. How sudden, you ask? Imagine in a Marvel movie, Nick Fury and Captain America are talking in a hangar bay in one frame, and in the next they’re in an open field, but none of the characters notice the change. It’s that sudden, and it’s very sloppy.

Still, The Twisted Ones is a better novel than The Silver Eyes. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving this book a 3.0, an improvement of 0.4. The characters aren’t that interesting and there are problems with the book, but I honestly prefer it. Though you can’t get me to love this series, and I honestly would like Cawthon to stick to video games. Just being honest.

Speaking of which, Cawthon is releasing a new book late next month titled The Freddy Files, which is supposed to go over game mechanics and even answer the complex lore of the series. I might read that, but I honestly don’t know if I want to. Not only that, but I’m pretty sure Cawthon’s going to release a third book in the franchise at some point. Like I said, I wish he wouldn’t, but with any luck, he’ll take another year and a half to release his next book, enough time to improve his next literary venture by another 0.4 or more.

Anything’s possible, especially when killer animatronics are involved.

I actually almost missed this milestone. I was going to bed Saturday evening, and I was like, “Wait a minute, that’s Monday! Note to self: write a blog post in the morning after cleaning the bathroom.” And now that the bathroom is squeaky clean (as well as the kitchen, which also needed a touch up), I’m taking the time to talk about this milestone and ask myself, “Has it really been four years? Blimey, it feels longer.”

So if you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, here goes: about five years ago, during my sophomore year of college, I started putting together a collection of short stories. I was still editing Reborn City at the time, and I wanted to have something to work on while the editing process of that took its time, as well as something to release and test the waters of self-publishing. A short story collection felt like a good idea. So I wrote five scary stories in about a couple of months, edited them and had other writers/horror fans look at them, and designed a cover. On July 17th, 2013, I published The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones on Amazon and Smashwords, later putting them on Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

The five stories in the book are: Addict, about a man dealing with trying to kick his sex addiction; I’m Going to be the Next James Bond, about a bunch of kids who go to an abandoned hospital to hunt for ghosts; In the Lady Ogre’s Den, about an autistic child’s stay in a hospital; The Quiet Game, about a Catholic school that finds itself cut off from the world and deaf all of a sudden; and Samson Weiss’s Curse, about a senator being stalked by a spirit known as a dybbuk.

This has been by far my most commercially successful book, not only because it’s been out the longest, but because it’s a very quick read, and costs less than my other books do, e-book and paperback. People who might not necessarily want a long read see this little collection of short stories, and that it’s received positive reviews, and they’re like, “Okay, let’s check it out.” For the most part, people love it. So for someone still growing an audience, that’s a pretty good achievement.

Speaking of reviews, this is also my most reviewed work. I think that the reasons for that are the same ones for why this has been my most commercial work to date. And as I said previously, it’s had some pretty good reviews, with a score of 4.1 on Amazon based on 14 reviews. Here’s what people have been saying about the book:

5 wonderfully crafted tales! I purchased this as an eBook originally and put off reading it for quite a while, I really wish I hadn’t waited. Sometimes when one purchases a collection of short stories you expect some of them to be less entertaining or of lower quality than the others, but none of these disappoint. Well worth the money, especially considering after you read each story the author gives you creative insight into what inspired him to write each tale, which is really wonderful.

–Jeff D.

This is not my genre, but since I know the author [:-)], I read the stories. Each one was very unique and created its own atmosphere and mood. My favorite story was the Quiet Game but I found the ending a little confusing since I didn’t really know the literary reference at the end; what I loved was the world created in the story and the message it conveyed. I look forward to the author’s improving his craft, and I will certainly read more.

–Gefilte63

Imagine if you will a young Stephen King penning dark scenarios inspired by his youth, and what you get is this anthology. Through this collection of short stories, Rami Ungar brings us into the world of dark urges, childhood traumas, ghosts, phantoms, and dark psychological thrillers. An inspired creation, and definitely a good intro to this indie author’s world!

–Matt Williams, author of “The Cronian Incident”

I especially like that last one calling me a young Stephen King. Always love being compared to him.

If any of this makes you want to read The Quiet Game or check out more reviews, I’ll include the links for the book below. An if you do end up reading the book, please make sure to leave a review. Positive or negative, I love feedback, and it helps me out in the long run.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I may have a new review out tonight, so keep an eye out for that. Until then, have a good one.

The Quiet Game: Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

My good friend Kat Impossible from Life and Other Disasters (definitely check her out) tagged me for the 777 Challenge! Normally I don’t get tagged for these things, and when I do, I don’t always have the time for them. However, Kat only tags me for something if she thinks it’s up my alley, and it not only sounded fun to do, but it’s something I’m in a unique position to do because I’m currently working on something and I’m at a stage where I want to showcase something from it. That story, to be a bit more precise, is Rose, whose first chapter I just finished editing the other day (20 more to go!).

So what does one do when they are tagged for the 777 Challenge? Well, simple enough: share 7 lines from the 7th page of your WIP! They can be completely random if you want, it’s your story. Also, you can use a fun little graphic, like the one I created up above (it’ a skull made of shoes! How could I not use that?), but I’m pretty sure that’s optional.

So without further ado, here are some random lines from Rose, currently in its third draft:

  1. There’s another angry pulse, but that’s all that happens.
  2. My nails are turning a deep shade of pink as I stare at them, while the skin around them is turning light green, the skin tingling where it changes color.
  3. I blink, my eyes itching, and I know without having to look that they’ve turned green as well.
  4. “What the hell are these?” says the man, drawing my attention back to him.
  5. Maybe he’s just as scared as I am.
  6. Soon everything below the shoulders feels like it’s buzzing with electricity, until the green coloring climbs up my neck and spreads over my face.
  7. I wonder if whatever’s happening is over.

What did you think of that?

So now I have to tag some others and pass the challenge along. And I know just which three authors to challenge:

Check out their websites, because they’re awesome. Also make sure to link back to me if you decide to do the challenge, guys. I’d appreciate it.

That’s all for now. I hope you liked what you read and I hope my friends are willing to try this out. Until next time!

I swear, this is the last time I’m posting about my Boston trip. Unless I actually did capture ghost voices (or EVPs, as believers prefer), in which case there will be another post. Don’t worry though, that’ll take a while to accomplish, so don’t go to the unsubscribe button just yet. Also, this post will be a quick one…I think. I’m saying that while still writing it, so who knows?

Anyway, as you can tell from the title, this is about the souvenirs from my Boston trip. On Instagram I broke these down by type of souvenir (book, toy, etc), but here I think I’ll separate it by day or location. Why? Just makes more sense that way, it seems.

Independence Day souvenirs.

As I said in my last post, I went into a Harry Potter shop and a comic book shop on that day. I’m a Slytherin (mostly because I’m pure evil), so I bought some Slytherin gear from the Harry Potter shop. Specifically, a sticker and a tie.

The ancient and noble House.

I’m wearing this the next time I wear a tie.

From the comic book store I went a little crazy. In addition to some more stickers, I bought a couple of those Funko Pop dolls. Those who know me won’t be surprised which franchises I bought dolls from.

You know it’s true.

Looks great on my laptop.

My first, and probably my favorite Doctor.

Moonies forever!

Including all the anime figurines I’ve been collecting, I’m building quite the doll collection. And I’m not ashamed to say that.

Salem souvenirs.

It won’t surprise you that most of the souvenirs here are witch-related. They’re also all books. Well, there is a print of the House of the Seven Gables under a creepy moon, but it’s copyrighted, and the last thing I want is a copyright lawsuit on my hands, so forgive me if I don’t post a photo of that here.

Looks cool.

I’ve always been curious.

You knew this was going to be coming home with me.

This will make a great reference material.

I swear, it’s another reference book. I’m not going to do anything evil…probably.

At least you can’t say I won’t get bored or go without reading material for a while.

Lizzie Borden souvenirs.

Luckily, I went easy on the souvenirs here. And of course, they are so totally me.

Because I’m on a true crime kick lately.

 

Not going to lie, this doll creeps even me.

So that’s all my souvenirs. Pretty cool, huh?

That’s all for now…on Boston, anyway. I probably won’t post anything new until the weekend so you don’t get sick of me, but if something big comes up, I’ll probably have to talk about it. In the meantime, I’m going to work on Rose for a little while. Wish me luck, and good night, my Followers of Fear. Pleasant nightmares!