Posts Tagged ‘Disney’

I heard about this book sometime last year and immediately requested my library buy copies (they did, and I was #1 on the list). I mean, a horror story set on the Titanic and having to do with some sort of creature living in the sea? Where do I sign up? And it came in for me at the library right before my library ceased operations due to the virus, so I was happy to get it when I did.

The Deep follows Annie Hebbley, a maid who works on the Titanic, and gets involved with the Fletcher family, a troubled married couple with a baby girl. Strange things occur on the ship leading up to that fateful (or fatal?) meeting. Years later, Annie meets Mark Fletcher, the very same man she waited on during that voyage, though now she’s a nurse on the Titanic’s sister ship the Britannic and he’s a wounded soldier returning from the battlefield of WWI. Coincidence? Or is something else at play? Something that has unfinished business with these ships and their passengers?

Let me tell you, this book has a lot going for it. For one thing, it’s set partially on the Titanic, which is always a fascinating topic and setting for any story. And turning it into a ghost story? Even cooler.* That, and the Titanic sailed during the Edwardian era, which is close enough to my beloved Victorian era that I felt right at home.

But beyond that, this is one damn good horror novel. Author Alma Katsu takes a psychological approach to this story, using hints to keep us guessing as to what’s going on. Are people going crazy onboard? Is there something supernatural afoot? Whether it be a seance or someone acting strange, you’re kept very up in the air about it up until the last fifth or so of the book, and even then, you may still have questions.

At the same time, you get to know a lot of these characters intimately. It’s a big cast, told from the points of views of Annie, Mark Fletcher and his wife Caroline, you have the POVs of several historical figures, including boxers Dai Bowen and Leslie Williams, whom I absolutely fell in love with; Madeleine Astor, worried about an alleged curse on her unborn child; and William Stead, an aged journalist with an interest in the occult.** But Katsu does a great job of developing each and every character and giving them a unique voice and issues to explore.

A lot of attention is paid to detail as well, the same sort of attention that went visually into James Cameron’s movie. It really brings alive the setting for both ships, and makes you feel like you’re there. And there are plenty of moments filled with tension, such as the aforementioned seance, a scene at the saltwater pool, or close to the very end, when things are finally revealed.

The ship may have sunk, but the stories about it, like my heart, will go on. And in some cases, get very creepy.

All these factors kind of make it feel like you’re watching a really dark and spooky stageplay about the Titanic, only you’re reading it out of a book. In fact, I can imagine The Deep being made into a stageplay someday, or perhaps even a Broadway musical, one that’s scarier and has less humor than Sweeney Todd. I’d even help adapt it if someone deemed me experienced enough and wanted me to.

I can’t find anything to put as a downside to this novel. Some might find it a bit too slow, or maybe too much time is spent on the characters’ problems and backstories. I didn’t, but I can see other people feeling that way.

Overall, I’m giving The Deep by Alma Katsu a 4.5 out of 5. It’s an unnerving, intimate historical horror novel that’ll have you enthralled. Pick up a copy, put on that one Celine Dion song you’re probably thinking of, and get ready to dive in to what may be a contender for next year’s Bram Stoker awards.

*Of course, when I try to turn a luxury cruise liner into a ghost story, Disney’s lawyers come after me. How was I supposed to know ritualistic murder wasn’t allowed in international waters? It’s always okay in wartime!

**I recognized him from my own research into Victorian England. When I came across him and the reference to the occult, I literally shouted “Wait, I know this guy!” to my empty apartment.

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

I meant to write this earlier but, like my last post, the day got busy. Consequently why I’m writing this now.

But to get to my point, earlier today I finished a new short story, “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” And yes, that is a Disney reference, which may mean the title and some of the final lines in the story may need to be reworked somewhere down the line (is anyone here an entertainment lawyer or at least extremely knowledgeable about this subject?). The story follows a young woman who gets roped into attending a party in the Paris catacombs, and the unexpected guest who arrives at the party to throw things into chaos.

I really enjoyed writing this story. I’ve had the idea for it rolling around in my head since around college, but I only got around to writing it now. Which, in hindsight, was probably for the best. It probably would not have come out as well as it did unless I wrote it now, and having waited this long allowed me the time to educate myself on the issues of the community of the main character, one which happens to be of a minority both in society and in horror. That time spent educating myself allowed me to make the character rounded, sympathetic, and hopefully a good fictional representative for her people.

So at a little under six-thousand words, the story could be sent out to magazines or other publications. However, I think Ill keep this one for that upcoming collection of short stories I mentioned a couple of posts ago. I think it would be a good story to end the collection on, as well as the one I name the collection after (though again, that depends on if I can legally do that without invoking the cosmic monstrosity that is the Walt Disney Company). At the very least, I’ve made good progress on getting this collection finished. Though it’s still waaaay far away from being ready for release, let alone me sharing details about it.

In any case, I’ll be editing that Arthurian legend story I wrote for an upcoming anthology for my publisher, and then maybe edit another short story. After that…well, we’ll see. I’m still waiting on my beta reader to finish River of Wrath, so how that goes will affect a lot. Still, looking forward for everything that’s coming up. It should make for a fun autumn season.

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

So here it is, finally. The first in my Rewatch Review series, in which I look at horror or thriller movies I’ve seen and didn’t like/had problems with and see if maybe I missed something the first time. I’m kind of just winging it with this first one, with no fixed plan on length or how deep I’m going into these films and their respective qualities, but at the very least, I hope if you haven’t seen these films, you get an idea of whether or not it’s worth checking out. And if you have seen any of these films, you’ll get an idea of what my thoughts are on them these days.

With that out of the way, here are my thoughts on Perfect Blue!

WHAT’S IT ABOUT: Perfect Blue is an anime film that follows Mima “Mimarin” Kirigoe, a Japanese pop idol singer who, on the advice of her agency, is reluctantly leaving the pop idol industry to become an actress on a TV show.  Experiencing a crisis of identity and followed everywhere by a violent stalker, things only get worse for Mima as events conspire to blur her perceptions of reality and fiction, leading to a violent and horrifying head where not just her own life is at stake, but her very identity as well.

WHY I DIDN’T LIKE IT: I thought it was too trippy when I first saw it in college, and it kind of dragged at points. I had expected something much more dynamic, and this felt more slow-burn to me.

WHY I REWATCHED IT: I saw a video essay on the movie a while back, and it pointed out some interesting things about the film that made me want to go back and give it another chance.

THOUGHTS: I’m glad I rewatched this film, because it is really good. I’m actually a little disappointed that I didn’t care for it when I saw it in college. It’s a great psychological thriller, and there’s a lot to talk about on several different levels (I’ll stick to the film quality and not to diving deeper into the psychological aspects. I’ll leave that to the video essay I mentioned above).

First off, the animation is different from most anime, which is very stylistic. The artwork isn’t exaggerated or distinctly cartoony, full of jumpy animations and wild reactions. If you think of most anime, like Sailor Moon, Pokemon, and One Piece as analogues to cartoons like Family Guy or Looney Tunes (just examples for the non-fans out there, don’t kill me, fellow anime lovers), then Perfect Blue‘s style is more analogous to early Disney films, particularly those of Cinderella and Snow White (the latter is actually a lot darker than you probably remember it if you go back to watch it). It’s very grounded and scaled back, with very few characters actually looking pretty, cute or cool. The only ones who do are characters directly involved in the entertainment industry, and that makes the movie feel real to us. It’s a world very much like ours, with violence like ours, and people just like ours. So when you see something violent within the film, the realism makes it all the more powerful. This isn’t just animation, this feels like it could happen. Maybe it has happened, and it’s amazing to see animation portray that.

Speaking of the main character, Mima is presented to the audience with extraordinary skill. There’s no exposition or anything, but who she is and how she feels is made clear to us, which makes her real to us. We’re shown quiet moments for her, such as grocery shopping or getting to and from work, presented in contrast to her life as a celebrity, and that really conveys to us just what sort of character Mima is. And that’s good, because the central conflict is around who she is: Mima has trouble dealing with the fact that she’s been talked into changing careers, and isn’t sure who she is now that she’s changed. With the struggles of her new acting career starting to get to her, as well as visitations from her stalker, Mima’s own grasp on reality starts to go. She starts to lose track on what’s part of her new TV show, which bears some resemblances to her own mental struggle, as well as starts to see a phantom version of her pop-idol persona. And so do we, the audience, unable to tell what is real, what is part of her show, and what is part of her tortured pscyhe.

And when that happens, we feel Mima’s inner anguish. We’re right there with her, trying to unsuccessfully figure out what’s real and what isn’t. And when we can’t come up with those answers with Mima, it only makes the terror of the moment and of the unreality of the situation that much stronger.

JUDGMENT: If you think that anime can’t be deep or anything other than silly cartoons, you need to watch Perfect Blue. It’s a twisted story of a girl trying to find herself under the most terrifying circumstances reality can give her, full of gorgeous but realistic animation, intense scenes and visuals (I’m talking to you, screwdriver scene!), and great questions on the idea of our true selves versus the personas we create for ourselves (that’s a subject for another post). Definite 4.5 out of 5. Pop it in and see what the rabbit hole uncovers.

 

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you enjoyed the first entry in the Rewatch Review series, and I hope you join me when I get my hands on 2008’s The Strangers.

It goes without saying, I love villains. They’re often the most memorable part of a story or among the most memorable parts. Everyone recognizes the killer clown from Stephen King’s IT or Dr. Lecter tied up and wearing a mask in Silence of the Lambs. And in certain musicals, when they have a song about the villain, it can become the best part of the entire show. In fact, in some cases it’s the only good part of some musicals.

I guess I’m a little obsessed with villain songs, particularly “In the Dark of the Night” from the movie Anastasia (perhaps the only good part of an expensive Disney rip-off) and “Be Prepared” from The Lion King. I’ve even written my own villain song about me as a horror writer called “Eater of Fear” (boy, would I love to get that thing produced into an actual musical track) and I came up with an idea for a short story involving a villain song. And I’m not the only one. You’ll find plenty of people who like villain songs and even create lists for them (you can find examples of other people’s lists here, here, and here).

What’s with the love of villain songs? Well, I can think of several reasons. One is that everyone likes a catchy song. It’s part of the reason why we can’t get some of Taylor Swift or Carly Rae Jepsen’s songs out of our heads sometimes (I’ve been there more than once). Villain songs are among the catchiest because they are often used to explain the plans or motivations of the villains, so a lot of thought is put into making the lyrics and tune exciting while explaining these plans/motivations. It’s a lot more fun than you’re average monologue about the villain’s plans or beliefs, right? Nobody downloads those on their iPods!

Tell me you weren’t wiggling a little in your seat when Dr. Facilier started doing this fun little song and dance.

 

Another reason is that–and this is my own opinion, but I think it has merit–most people want to indulge in their dark side every now and then, they want to have a little fun being evil. How many times have we wished we could get revenge on our bosses or on that nasty kid on the playground? Probably a lot, but we don’t because most of us are good people who would never do something so horrid or we’re afraid of the consequences. A villain song is a sort of trip to the dark side. You get to indulge in being bad and have fun singing about it. And when the song is over, what’s the worst that comes back to haunt you? Maybe someone sees you singing and goes to warn somebody else, but that might be it. Usually, the song ends and we move onto the next part of the story.

In addition, villain songs are packed with dark visuals. Even non-fans of horror like the dark and the creepy every now and then, they just don’t like being assaulted with it in the books or movies or shows they read or watch. No, they prefer to dip their toes, and a villain song is a perfect way to do it. If you’ve ever watched “Hellfire” from The Hunchback of Notre Dame or “Be Prepared”, you know they’ve got some arresting visuals. The former has some freaky Gothic and hellish imagery, the latter has freaking Nazi hyenas marching in front of Fuhrer Scar. It’s kind of creepy, it stays with you, and it’s a lot of fun to watch.

Anyone who didn’t find this scene a little chilling is either lying or possibly has ties to dangerous organizations or groups.

 

These and a bunch of other reasons could be why villain songs resonate with us so much as an audience. Whether it’s because we love a villain, indulging safely in our dark side, or we just like a catchy tune, villain songs are just a ton of fun and as long as people are writing musicals, they’re bound to show up again and again in our shows and, if they’re good, in our consciousnesses.

Do you have a thing for villain songs? Which are your favorite? And why do you think they tend to stick in people’s minds so much?

Oh, just a reminder that my Big Birthday Sale is in 2 days. From June 10th to June 14th, all my titles–The Quiet Game, Reborn City, and Snake–will be marked down or, in the case of the e-books, free to download from Amazon and Smashwords. So if you’re looking for something new to read and want to get it at a good price, this might be the opportunity for you. Get excited, because it’s coming soon!

That’ll be all for now, Followers of Fear. I’ve got to go and sing some “Eater of Fear” in my head. Have a good one.