Posts Tagged ‘American Horror Story: Hotel’

The Shanley Hotel in Napanoch, New York, one of the haunted locations I want to visit.

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written one of these posts. And for those of you who don’t know, I keep a rather extensive list of places purported to be haunted that I want to visit someday, and I’ve been lucky enough to visit a few of them, such as the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast and the Paris catacombs. I’ve even been to the Ohio State Reformatory twice (and if it weren’t for this damned coronavirus, I’d have been there this past weekend for a convention).

And as of last month, I’ve finally come up with enough additions to that list to warrant another one of these posts. So if you’d like to know what places I could possibly visit in the future to look for ghosts, or you want to know some places to avoid in the future, please read below. And you can check out the first three in this series here, here and also here.

And don’t worry. The places on these lists may be haunted, but the posts themselves aren’t. I think.

Drovers Inn, Loch Lomond, Scotland

Head out to rural Scotland, and you’ll find an old, historic house on the north end of Loch Lomond. In addition to being a working hotel, the house also features good food, live music, and more than a few ghosts. Guests have reported flickering lights in midair, a ghost girl in a pink dress showing up in a photograph, the ghost of an angry cattle driver, and a family who died in a snowstorm looking for shelter, among others.

One room, please!

The Shanley Hotel, Napanoch, New York

Yeah, you’re going to be seeing a lot of hotels, motels, and inns on this list. Almost like these places attract spirits for some reason.

Anyway, the Shanley Hotel is a beautiful, three-floored bed and breakfast located in the northern area of New York. Built in 1845 as a hotel, it has gone under many names, but has always been known for an elite clientele and even has been an active bordello at times (scandalous!), and was a site active for bootlegging during Prohibition. To this day, there are many spirits who still haunt the house, including a few children of the previous owners who died young, one of the bootleggers, a cat that died, and perhaps even a few of the bordello women.

Supposedly this place is so haunted, you need to sign a waiver and pay a handsome fee to stay there. But like that is enough to scare me off. Nope, I’m in, and I’ll take anyone who’s brave enough with me.

Wolf’s Creek Inn, Wolf Creek, Oregon

The oldest still-running inn in the Pacific Northwest, this beautiful building features lovely rooms, a restaurant, and more than a few ghosts hiding within its walls. It’s been featured on paranormal shows like Ghost Adventures, and advertises ghost hunts and paranormal tours on its website. If you ask me, it sounds like a good excuse to go out west further west than I’ve ever gone before.

RMS Queen Mary, Long Beach, California

The Queen Mary is a former British ocean liner that first set sail in 1936. It briefly saw use as a troopship, ferrying soldiers to the war. Afterwards, it became a passenger ship and traveled across the Atlantic Ocean until the 1960s. It was retired in 1967, and has been moored in Long Beach, California ever since. It has since become a tourist attraction, and there have been rumors of hauntings ever since, including shadow figures and one room where the ghost of a murdered passenger still hangs around.

Normally I’m not one for cruise ships, but I’d make an exception for this lovely lady.

Hell’s Bridge, Algoma Township, Michigan

If you go into central Michigan, and then into the woods, you’ll find an old, metal bridge spanning a narrow river. It looks unassuming, at least in the day time, but at night it looks rather eerie. Especially when you learn about the legend surrounding the bridge. Supposedly during the 1800s, a serial killer named Elias Friske murdered several children and threw their bodies into the river off a stone bridge. When the bodies were finally found and Friske identified as the killer, he claimed the devil had told him to kill those kids before he was lynched by the locals.

While there are no records of Friske or these supposed crimes, at least none that I could find, the area where the stone bridge was and where the metal bridge now stands has gained a reputation. Supposedly, if you stand on the bridge at night, you’ll spot the spirits of Friske or the children he killed, and perhaps even the forces that he claimed influence him to kill. I’d check it out if I had the chance.

Wisner Bridge, Chardon Township, Ohio

Yeah, there’s a few bridges on this list as well. Another haunted location in Ohio I need to visit, the Wisner Bridge was a Crybaby Bridge, or a bridge where the spirits of dead children can supposedly be heard crying. In this case, the Wisner Bridge supposedly was haunted by spirits of melon heads, diminutive humanoids with bulbous heads in American folklore. While the legends vary from state to state, in Ohio it’s believed the melon heads were orphans who were experimented on by a sadistic doctor, either causing or worsening their appearance. They later killed the doctor, burned down the orphanage, and retreated to the woods near the bridge to live in the wild.

Today the bridge itself is gone, having been torn down in 2013. However, locals still report hearing crying babies at the site where the bridge stood. Whether or not you believe the urban legends, this might be a place for me to check out.

Gold Brook Covered Bridge, Stowe, Vermont

A wooden bridge that has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, this bridge is also known as Emily’s Bridge, owing to the legend surrounding it. While stories vary, most of them agree that a young woman named Emily was supposed to get married or elope, and when her lover never showed, she died on or by the bridge. There’s no evidence Emily existed and the legend first popped up in 1968, after a student wrote a paper about how they used an Ouija board and made contact with a spirit named Emily.

Since then, many people using Ouija boards and other devices to contact the dead have supposedly come into contact with Emily and learned her story. Even stranger, many people passing over the bridge have been touched or scratched by her, whether on foot or in their cars. Is Emily the spirit of a real person? The result of overactive imaginations? Or did belief in her bring a spirit into existence, one that took on Emily’s identity to answer the demand to see her? I want to go and find out!

Franklin Castle, Cleveland, Ohio

Another Ohio location, the Franklin Castle is an old Victorian manor with a reputation. Its original owners, the Tiedermann family, suffered several deaths while they lived there, including four of their children, and there were rumors of horrific crimes within its walls. Since then, the house has changed hands several times, and several of its past owners and residents have reported hauntings. One family even performed exorcisms in the house before moving out. And in 1975, human bones were found on the property, though there is evidence to suggest they may have been planted.

The good news is, my dad lives up in Cleveland, so there’s a good chance I’ll visit this house the next time I visit my dad. The bad news is, the house is privately owned and there’s very little chance the current owners will let me in. Still, I can at least drive by and take photos. And who knows? Perhaps someone living there will allow me in. Whether that someone is living or not, however, is up for debate.

LaLurie Mansion, New Orleans, Louisiana

Fans of American Horror Story will know Delphine LaLurie as the sadistic southern slave-owner who took pleasure from torturing her slaves. What they may not know is that the house featured in the show was not her actual house. Or that her real house is still standing in New Orleans, and that it may have a few spirits living in it. Supposedly there have been moans heard from the room where the slaves were kept and the sounds of footsteps at night. When the building was an African-American girls’ school, many of the children there reported being attacked by a mysterious woman, and when the building was converted into apartments, one resident was found murdered after claiming a demon was after him.

Sadly, today the house is privately owned and the current owners show no interest in having investigations conducted in the home. So, like the details of LaLurie’s life and the full extent of her crimes, we may never have the full truth. However, ghost tours passing by the house occasionally have encounters of the weird kind. And I would be happy just to have that.

Cecil Hotel, Los Angeles, California

Speaking of American Horror Story, the Cecil Hotel was another inspiration for the fifth season, Hotel. Originally a luxury hotel for businessmen and travelers, after the 1940s the hotel became a home for transients as the neighborhood took a dive. Even before that, though, the hotel had been known for murders and suicides. Other violent and illicit activities occurred there over the years, and the hotel was a temporary home for serial killers Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger. In 2013, a Canadian student was found dead and naked in the water tank on the roof. Footage was found of the student acting erratically, poking in and out of and hiding in an elevator hours before her death. The footage is, to say the least, unsettling.

While the hotel has since been renamed the Stay on Main and is trying to gain back its reputation as a luxury destination, the building cannot escape its reputation of sinister and violent occurrences. And perhaps, if I were to check in, I would find some guests that had never checked out.

 

There you go. Ten more haunted or strange locations I’d like to visit after this pandemic has run its course. But tell me, have you been to any of these places? Do you want to go to any of them? Maybe with me? And what haunted places have you been to that I haven’t named? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my  Followers of Fear. I’ll be busy writing this week, so hopefully I get plenty done. And in the meantime, you can still order signed copies of Rose by sending me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. Until next time, stay safe, be healthy and pleasant nightmares.

At the beginning of American Horror Story‘s ambitious eighth season, Apocalypse, I said that the first episode was a dark and violent good start to the series, and I was looking forward to the next nine episodes. Well, last night was the season finale, and I just finished the episode a little while ago. So what did I think of Apocalypse as a whole?

I have a feeling that this season is going to be very divisive among a lot of fans, but overall most people, including myself, will walk away satisfied by it.

While the first two episodes follow a group of survivors when they come into contact with Antichrist Michael Langdon, the rest of the season switches to a new focus, one-half biopic of Michael’s life and how he became the instigator of a nuclear holocaust, the other half about the efforts by his enemies, most notably the witches of Coven, to stop him from ending the world. And while structurally this form of storytelling can be a little jarring, it’s very effective here. It’s hard to look away as you watch Langdon realize his destiny and as you watch the witches try to grapple with the monumental task of saving humanity. The best way to describe it may be hypnotic, which I’m sure both Langdon and the witches would be glad to hear, as well as cinematic.

As for the scares, most center around Michael and what he sets into motion once we get into the biopic section of the season. While I would’ve enjoyed seeing scares from more quarters, what I saw was absolutely beautiful. Seeing Michael being so evil is chilling. And speaking of Michael, his actor, Cody Fern, was phenomenal, at times menacing and then at others very emotional and vulnerable. I hope he comes back for Season 9 (more on that below). I also liked the character of Mallory and her actress Billie Lourd. You could see the toll of all the events on the character, and the love she felt for the people she cared about.

Cody Fern as Antichrist Michael Langdon was excellent. I hope he returns for the next season.

And by the way, seeing so many actors and characters from previous seasons, especially the guest appearances, was such a treat. Every familiar face was like seeing an old friend. An old friend you never want to hang out with because they might be the cause of your death, but still an old friend.

That said, there were problems with the season. For one, the disjointed storytelling won’t work for everyone.. There’s also the fact that for a lot of people, Apocalypse usually means big battles, big power plays, big deaths. Just everything is world-sized, but at times the events of the story aren’t as big as one would expect. That’s understandable, as this is a cable TV show and not a Marvel movie, but for some fans, it might be a disappointment that things don’t measure up to the name Apocalypse.

I don’t feel that way, I thought they told a great story. But for some fans, this might be the thing they take issue with for this season.

But the thing I did dislike was that Michael Langdon wasn’t the greatest Antichrist I’ve ever come across (and I’ve come across a few in my time. Not all of them fictional). Yeah, he’s bloodthirsty and dangerous, but he’s very indecisive. He needs someone to hold his hand and point the way most of the time, and for an Antichrist, I expect a bit more independence. I don’t know, maybe that’s just my quirk, but I’m sure other people will gripe about that as well.

And as for the season finale, I’ve heard a lot of diverse opinions on it. Personally, I liked how it ended. Sure, the final episode wasn’t what I expected, but I felt like they gave a decent resolution to the story, and the ending did set up not only possible future storylines, but reminded us of something very important: that the horror lives on, even after the story ends. For me, that’s enough to satisfy me.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving American Horror Story: Apocalypse a 4.3 out of 5. It’s not the best season or my favorite season of the series (my vote on both counts still goes to Hotel), but it is an engaging season with memorable characters and character appearances that will satisfy most fans. On most counts, I’d say the ambitions of the writers and showrunners were met. Take a look, and hope you’re lucky enough to survive.

So what can we expect for Season Nine? Well, a lot of fans have been asking for Urban Legends, or Cruise, or a continuation of Apocalypse (which could happen). I’m all for those ideas, as well as maybe Orphanage or Academy. I’d also like to write for those ideas, as well as for the return of Lady Gaga to the show. And maybe something from the Cthulhu Mythos? They haven’t mined that goldmine yet.

Better cross my fingers and pay attention to the news as the season continues on, shouldn’t I?

Until next time, pleasant nightmares my Followers of Fear!

I finally watched the final episode of American Horror Story’s seventh season (one day I’ll be able to give a review right after the season premiere or finale on my own cable package), and I have to say, this has definitely been an interesting season. When people heard that the new season was going to be about the 2016 American Presidential Election, after months of speculation that it would be about either a cruise or something else ocean-related, we weren’t sure what to expect. Would it be preachy and lean towards one end of the political spectrum or the other? Would Trump, Clinton, or some other political figure be featured as a character? And would Sarah Paulson play Trump (if she did, she’d be great at it, no doubt)? And as further details came out, namely that it would be about a cult that arose in the wake of the election and focused on people who felt isolated and galvanized by the election, we got intrigued. Could this actually work as a season arc? Could this be good?

Well, before I get into that, let’s go a bit deeper into the plot. Returning to a normal mode of storytelling after the reality TV show format of Roanoke and being perhaps the most down-to-Earth season in the show’s history, Cult follows two very different people who become intertwined in ways neither would believe. The first is Allie Mayfair-Richards, a business owner and mother with liberal leanings and crippling anxiety who isn’t dealing well in the post-election climate. The other is Kai Anderson, a charismatic young man who begins to gather a group of devoted followers around him as he pursues power in local politics. As their lives start to intersect, they’ll not only make permanent impressions in each other’s lives, they’ll make impressions in the very surface of American politics.

I loved this season. Yes, the first two episodes were kind of slow and clunky, more devoted to commentary than to actually scaring the viewer, but after that the story and scares really picked up. The writers kept things very intimate, so that while this may have seemed like a big story about national politics and American political culture on the surface, it felt incredibly intimate, letting us into the lives and minds of these people. As per usual with American Horror Story, the story was twisty as heck, keeping you guessing where the story would go from one episode to the next and being unable to figure out most of the time where things would go. And after the second episode, they managed to keep the political commentary from getting too over the top. In fact, I think they managed to capture the spirit of American politics very well in this season: confused, divisive, changing from day to day and week to week. Things come up and down, change and merge and break, and become so muddled that you don’t know how it all started. All this was captured very well in this season.

And oh my God, that ending! That’s going to stay in my head for a while.

Beware this guy. He is a villain par excellence.

I also really enjoyed the characters. Obviously, the two main ones are exaggerated distillations of the stereotypes of the liberal and conservative voters, with Kai representing some of the darker views of what Donald Trump is to some Americans, but they also feel like real people whom you want to watch and see where they want to go from episode to episode. Each major character is given time to develop so that they feel real to the viewer, and you feel their struggles and/or death. I especially love Beverly Hope, played by Adina Porter (who played my favorite character last season), whose struggles within her workplace, followed by her struggles within a cult that changes drastically from the time she joins to the time she escapes. Kai is also just terrifying to watch. You know what his final goal is, but you never know what to expect from him from moment to moment. He’s like a pinball, causing something every time he touches something. He makes for a great villain. And watching Allie go from this weak, paranoid woman to this strong, somewhat devious fighter was just stunning.

Now, were there any parts I didn’t care for? Well, as I said, the first two episodes didn’t jibe with me, they were more devoted to commentary and set up than actual scares. Those could have been done better. Another issue I had was that I felt the final episode was kind of predictable. I mean, once I saw where it started, I kind of knew where it was going to go (except for maybe that last scene). I expect better from American Horror Story.

I also didn’t care for Lena Dunham playing Valerie Solanas in the seventh episode. Now, I have nothing against Lena Dunham. I think she’s a great crusader for a number of important issues, and I admire her for the success she’s had in the entertainment business. But sadly, I’ve only seen her in a couple of roles, not enough to get a gauge on whether or not I like her as an actress. And in the seventh episode, she just felt miscast. The episode was written brilliantly, the character she played was interesting, but she just didn’t fit well into the role, to the point that she was annoying (I don’t mean that in a sexist way, I just mean she didn’t fit the role and it had a negative impact. Don’t go after me in the comments).

And finally, I felt like the clown costumes could’ve used an explanation. Yes, the character Meadow designed the costumes, but why clowns? Why not a minority abused by the right, or ninjas, or just people dressed in dark clothing? It’s hinted that it has something to do with Twisty the Clown, who makes a surprise guest appearance in the first episode, but we never find out why the cult decides to commit crimes in custom-made clownsuits. I would’ve loved an explanation on that, especially since clowns figured so much in the advertising for the season (speaking of which, where are the bees? They show up a lot in the ads and the opening theme, but barely in the show proper).

This needed more of an explanation.

But other than that, American Horror Story: Cult was a great entry into the series. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give this season a 4.2, as well as the designation of my second favorite season so far (Hotel‘s still the best). It’s engaging, thrilling, and different from any other season so far. Plus it does a better job of talking about oppression and women’s empowerment than Coven ever did, so good on the writers for fixing that mistake. Check it out, and see it for yourself.

Now as for Season 8, details are scarce beyond that it will come out sometime next year, and that Sarah Paulson will return for her eighth consecutive season (yay!). I’m still hoping that I’ll eventually get an Orphanage or Academy/School-themed season. I’m curious as to how, if the theory about each season being a circle of Hell is true, how those themes might apply to those circles that are left. And I’m wondering who will be coming and going for the next season (Lady Gaga! Kathy Bates! Please come back!).

Well, that’s American Horror Story for you. It leaves you wondering up until the moment something happen, and then it blows us all away.

I know, I usually try to get these reviews out a day after the movie or show premieres, especially with American Horror Story, because I have to stream it the next day (I don’t need another bill). Unfortunately, the past couple of days I’ve been busy with personal stuff and I didn’t really have time to deal with watching and writing reviews. The only thing I’ve seen for it was a review on Twitter by someone I follow, stating that the season opening was intriguing, but not outright scary.

Well, I finally had some time to watch and review the episode, so let’s get into it. American Horror Story: Cult begins with news footage from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns, starting from when the Donald started running and ending with his election as President. From there, the story follows two very different characters: Allie (played by Sarah Paulson), a woman with an anxiety disorder whose phobias, including clowns and even objects full of holes, come back in full force after Trump’s election. The other is Kai (played by Evan Peters), a purple-haired Trump supporter who has some bizarre beliefs, including that Trump’s election is the beginning of a revolution. From the look of things, their lives are going to be intertwined in strange ways.

As the Twitter reviewer said, Cult‘s first episode is less scary than intriguing. There’s a lot of focus on how the election affects everyone. Allie, being married to and having a child with another woman, is understandably scared that her family will be torn apart under the new administration, and that activates her other phobias, to the point that it’s affecting her marriage and her son negatively. Kai, on the opposite end of the spectrum, feels empowered to speak his views loud and proud, even if not everyone is interested in hearing them. The characters are exaggerated  amalgamations of reactions from both sides of the aisle, but they do get to a lot of what many Americans felt post-election.

Speaking of which, there’s an interesting scene during the first half of the episode where Allie walks into a store, and starts up a conversation with someone, only to find out they’re a Trump supporter, even though at first glance, they didn’t seem like the stereotypical Trump supporter. I had an experience like that at a drug store during the primaries, where I made a comment about the Trump campaign, and a store clerk said he might vote for Trump. And like Allie, I felt a little perturbed afterwards, because I didn’t really care for some of Trump’s policies, and I thought someone working a minimum wage job wouldn’t either. But then you got to remind yourself that the Trump campaign drew people from a number of walks of life, which lead to his election. This scene portrays that well, to the point where I felt a little deja vu.

But as for scares, it’s pretty lacking. The design of the clowns is very freaky (especially when you’re not sure if they’re real or hallucinations), and Kai is freaky all on his own, but it’s not going to scare anyone used to horror scenery. If it were more like the opening of the fifth season, where every ten minutes there was a bloody, out-of-left-field scare or death. Here, it’s just not that impactful, they’re more concerned with setting up the story. And while that has worked in other seasons and in the first episode of The Defenders, here it just doesn’t work. After all, this is American Horror Story, and the setup needs to be balanced with that horror we were promised.

It makes me hope that in the next ten episodes it’ll really ramp up on the scares and make for a fun season. And it makes me hopeful that Colton Haynes’s character gets a lot of screentime (I love him whenever I see him in anything).

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the first episode of AHS: Cult a 3.2 out 5. Good setup with believable characters and excellent tapping into America’s fractured post-election psyche, but definitely a lot more horror is needed.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Join me Saturday at some point when I review another scary thing with clowns, IT. Prepare to float!

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?

(The following review contains some spoilers. Reader discretion is advised)

It’s finally here. After months of speculation, of no subtitle or definitive casting list, we have the new season of American Horror Story…and I had to wait a day because I don’t have a TV and I work. That sucks, but you learn to live with it. Anyway, since Hotel ended, there has been rampant speculation as to what Season 6 would be. Rumor was we were supposed to get the theme earlier this summer, but after Orlando, the show’s producers decided to hold back, and instead tease us with multiple trailers that may or may not be related to the actual story of Season 6.

But as of last night, we have a theme, and it is Roanoke! Now for those of you not familiar with American history or who haven’t seen the show’s first season in full, let me explain: Roanoke was an early American colony on the North Carolina coast in the late 16th century. One day, ships from England returned to the colony after a long absence with supplies, only to find the colony mysteriously empty, with not a person in sight. There were no signs of plague or foul play, and the only indicator of what might have happened was a single word carved into a tree trunk: Croatoan. The strange circumstances around the “Lost Colony” has led to a number of theories, both credible and crazy, as well as numerous fictional works about the disappearance.

And it looks like AHS is tackling Roanoke’s legend this year, and they’re doing it in odd fashion too. Rather than telling it like a regular story, as they’ve done in past seasons, AHS is presenting season 6 as a Discovery Channel docuseries called My Roanoke Nightmare, which tells the story of a couple who move into an old house and start to experience strange, supernatural events, both through interviews in what I assume to be a studio, and through dramatic reenactments with actors (it’s very meta). And from the looks of it, it may not be your average haunted house story. Already there are plenty of hints that there’s more to this season than meets the eye, and with showrunner Ryan Murphy promising that this season will begin to tie up the series’ sprawling mythology, you know you’re in for something interesting.

So what did I think of the first episode? Well, it’s definitely intriguing. It’s not the fright fest that the first episode of Hotel was, but I think that’s intentional. This episode is meant to be a lure, showing just enough to get us interested in the story. Which it does very well, giving us a format and a setup that is different from the norm. And near the end, you’re given quite a lot of weird stuff that hints at a very dense story for this season, which will definitely make longtime fans want more.

And speaking of more, I get the sense that, like the story, there’s more to the characters we’re seeing. As the season is modeled after a docuseries, you don’t really see the people in it. You see a version of them meant to keep people interested in the show. You’ve got the interracial couple who we’re supposed to root for, as well as a sister-in-law who has a lot of baggage, and as time goes on, I’m sure we’ll get more characters who start out as versions of people who are meant to keep our interest in the story, but, in typical AHS fashion, their characters will go in directions that nobody will expect, and it’ll be both bonkers and totally amazing.

In any case, this season will conclude in November after ten episodes, just like a real docuseries, so I have a feeling that we’ll get a pretty fast-paced season compared to the past. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing (a few slow moments to develop characters are sometimes necessary for good storytelling), but it’ll definitely be different, and in an anthology series that has surprised and terrified us year after year, that’s definitely what we, the viewers, expect.

All in all, this is a solid start for the show’s sixth season. It’s not super-scary, but it definitely is interesting and I have a feeling plenty of people will be buzzing about the possibilities right up until Episode 2. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the first episode of American Horror Story: Roanoke a 4 out of 5. Good luck, AHS. I have high hopes for you this year. Don’t let us down.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m getting The Conjuring 2 from the library this weekend, so I’ll most likely be doing a review of that as well. Yeah, I’m not doing too well on that whole “two blog posts a month” thing, am I? Well, until then, have some pleasant nightmares!

(Again, slight spoilers on this one, so be careful going own. You may learn something you were hoping to be surprised about)

Well, we’re back. I’m listing the five greatest villains I’ve seen throughout the past year. Will your favorite appear on the list? Who will win the number one spot? And will I use a real person or one of my own villains (no on both of those)? Let’s dive in!

Also, check out #10-6 if you haven’t already.

5. The Society (Red Rising trilogy)

The society pyramid

Big thanks to Kat Impossible for introducing me to this series and getting me hooked on it.

Now, if you’re not familiar with this trilogy, let me explain the premise: imagine about 700-1000 years in our future, mankind has evolved and divided itself into colors: Blue, Green, White, Pink, Red, Obsidian, etc. And on the very top are the god-kings, the Golds, who use the system they helped create to become rich and powerful.

But even if the Golds are the ones who benefit most from this system, and even if there plenty of Golds who alone would qualify for this list (I’m looking at you, Jackal!), none of them on their own are the true villains. If you ask me, the Society as a whole–one that enslaves some of its citizens, and kills others in order for the strongest to survive and rule–is the true villain. It’s a system that takes the very essence of humanity and destroys it for the sake of economic power and prosperity, where those who are compliant can get power even if they’re not Golds or any of the other High Colors. The Society molds the monsters it creates, and the people who fight against it, all at once.

For that reason, I’m nominating an entire civilization for #5 on this list.

And if you haven’t read this series, I highly recommend you do. The characters are awesome, you never see where the story will go, and it constantly finds ways to surprise you and keep you reading. I highly recommend it for anyone who has a thing for science fiction, or just good stories in general.

4. James Patrick Marsh (American Horror Story: Hotel)

I said in my review that AHS: Hotel was my favorite season of the series so far, and March was a big part of that. Played by perennial series mainstay Evan Peters and based partially on real-life serial killer HH Holmes, March is a serial killer who builds the Hotel Cortez to be the ultimate murder palace. After his early death, he mentors other killers as a ghost, inviting people to stop in his hotel to learn the art of murder from him, and even doing a few kills here and there as well.

There are so many reasons to love him as a villain. For one, he’s just so much fun! He’s like Walt Disney turned into a murderer, full of old-fashioned charm and bravado. He’s literally the sort of person you would want to meet in a bar and have a drink with. Whenever March appears on screen, he steals the scene, and no one seems to have more fun with him than Peters himself, who looks like he’s having so much fun playing this murderous hotelier.

Another good reason to like this guy is that everything that happens in the show, you can trace back to him. Even when he was alive, a lot of his actions tended to have far-reaching effects, some of which are felt in the modern-day events of the season. I love a villain who only needs to flip a single domino and then sits back to watch the chaos unfold, and March does it with just a few words and a charming smile. His spot on this list is well-deserved.

3. Whitney Frost (Marvel’s Agent Carter)

Season 2’s villainess is definitely a unique woman, and that’s why she’s so high up on the list. An actress who moonlights as a world-class genius physicist for her husband’s company, Whitney has always been told that, as a woman, her value is in her looks, not in her brains, and is upset when her film roles start to dry up because she’s considered “old” (though if you ask me, her best days are still ahead of her). Because of that, she helps to develop, study, and eventually become one with a strange and destructive substance known as zero matter, which allows her to break down and absorb the people and objects around her. After that, she starts using zero matter to gain power, creating even more so that she can become even stronger.

What’s interesting is how she’s such a contrast from series’ lead Peggy Carter, and yet so very similar. Both are women, very pretty women, and because it’s still a male-dominated age, men continually underestimate them and think they’re better off as secretaries or housewives. However, Peggy proves herself time and time again by taking on the cases and getting the bad guys, while Whitney uses crime, her looks and brains, and zero matter as a way of gaining power in order to validate herself. She’s kind of a dark Agent Carter, in a way, and her evolution through the season and her war with Peggy Carter make for a fascinating battle of the beauties. For that, I give her #3 on this list.

2. Helmut Zemo (Captain America: Civil War)

The penultimate entry on our list is another Marvel villain, this time Baron Zemo’s film portrayal in Captain America: Civil War. Now, I know that the film version, portrayed by Daniel Bruhl, is extremely different from the comic book version. The thing is, I don’t read the comic books (too many continuities and canons to keep track of), so I really have only this version to go on.

And what a version it is. He goes to great lengths and does such elaborate things to carry out his plan. And what is his plan? Simple: to manipulate the Avengers so as to fracture them. And he does it! He breaks the Avengers apart with more fireworks than any boy band could muster, and he almost gets away with it! In fact he does, he just gets captured at the end. This probably makes him the most effective villain in the MCU, and definitely worthy of the Number Two spot on this list.

And he does it all because his family was murdered in Age of Ultron. That’s anger and dedication mixed with patience and intelligence. Seriously, the #2 spot is definitely deserved.

1. The Dread Doctors (Teen Wolf)

Teen Wolf has produced three members of this esteemed list, including last year’s #1 spot. And this year, without a doubt, goes to Season 5’s villains, the well-named Dread Doctors, who I knew as soon as I saw them were going to be somewhere high up on this list.

A group of long-lived mad scientists who have taken the supernatural powers of the world and bent them to their own purposes, they produce hybrids of humans and the various creatures that the show’s famous for. A mix of steampunk fashion, Dr. Frankenstein, Venice plague doctors, Darth Vader, and a few other things, they take teens from Beacon Hills and experiment on them. And all for a very sinister purpose.

Creepy, ephemeral, and willing to go to any lengths to reach their goals. I seriously wish I’d created the Dread Doctors before the show did (or wrote the novel about the Dread Doctors that appears in the show). They deserve the #1 spot, and if you haven’t already, I seriously think you should go online and find some footage on them. You might get some nightmares from it, but it’s definitely worth the risk.

 

That’s this year’s list. But tell me, what did you think? Did you enjoy the list? Any entrees you disagree with? Who do you think should’ve made the list? Let’s discuss.