Posts Tagged ‘Doctor Who’

I first read the source material by authors Richard and Billy Chizmar in the Dark Tides Charity Anthology (which I highly recommend and not just because proceeds go to charity) back in April. I found it terrifying, psychologically thrilling. I even expressed on Twitter that I thought it might make a good movie, though I doubted one would be made right after the release of The Lighthouse. Then about a month or two ago, I found out a movie had not only been made, but would be coming out on September 1st. I had some free time, so I rented it off YouTube and sat down to check it out.

Widow’s Point follows Thomas Livingston, an author and paranormal investigator who is doing an investigation of the infamous Widow’s Point lighthouse in Harper’s Cove, Maine. The lighthouse has witnessed numerous murders and suicides over the years, making many speculate it’s haunted. Livingston and his crew arrive to stay the weekend and hopefully make some quick cash. Too bad he’s going to get so much more.

I feel like I was watching a Stephen King miniseries or TV movie from the 1990s, with a bit of classic Doctor Who serials. Yeah, on the surface it does seem a bit hokey and amateurish, and the one or two special effects are laughable. But it’s a lot of fun to watch, and I keep smiling when I think of the film and my experience watching it. Also, since all of the actors were unknown to me and looked like people I might see on the street, it gave the film a weird sort of plausibility. Like, this could happen to average joes. Add in a little suspension of disbelief, and you can believe in the story.

On top of that, there were some scary moments. Particularly when Livingston, played by Craig Sheffer,* is undergoing psychological stress and his mind is really beginning to snap. Those moments gave me some chills, I’ll tell you. And a lot of attention is paid to historical detail with flashback scenes detailing the lighthouse’s history, which I loved as a fan of history.

But there are things I didn’t care for. Like I said, the special effects were laughable, and I disliked how the filmmakers tried to give an explanation to the lighthouse’s evil, rather than leaving it mysterious like in the original short story. Sometimes less is more, and it certainly would have been more here.

All in all though, Widow’s Point is a nice guilty pleasure horror movie to start the Halloween season with. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 3.5. It probably won’t make you shit your pants in terror, but it’s entertaining and will scratch that horror itch. It’s on DVD and streaming sites, so give it a go if you’re interested.

 

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to work on one of my own stories. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

*By the way, I want this guy to narrate an audio book of one of my stories someday.

You would think that in the midst of a pandemic, nobody would be interested in pandemic fiction. Paul Tremblay’s new novel Survivor Song, released just last month, is about a pandemic (still trying to figure out if that’s coincidence or if Tremblay knew COVID-19 was on its way and wrote the story in response). And yet I, and many others, picked it up as soon as we could, and devoured it. I got it done in about a week, reading through the last half today. So yes, even in the midst of a pandemic, there’s an appetite for pandemic fiction. And Survivor Song is a welcome addition to the fold.

Survivor Song follows Dr. Ramola Sherman, a pediatrician experiencing a pandemic of her own in her state of Massachusetts. This one is a fast-moving form of rabies, one that affects its host within hours instead of days or weeks. As fear, anger, and conspiracy swirls around the state, Ramola gets a call from her best friend, Natalie, who is eight months pregnant and ready to burst. An infected man killed her husband and bit her. Thus begins a saga to find someplace to get Natalie treated, to save her and her baby. But with rabid humans and animals everywhere and time running out, can Ramola help anyone, let alone her friend and her friend’s baby?

A pandemic story with a slash of zombie thriller (though Dr. Sherman will remind you, none of the infected are zombies), Tremblay’s novel offers a stark, believable story of a disease running rampant through the state and the problems that come up in such a situation. That said, there are plenty of twists and unexpected turns, and they add to the tension of a clock running out of the story. Quite a few times I read something and was like, “Oh no!” or “Well, that’s a complication.” I also loved how Tremblay managed to hit on a lot of what we’re seeing in our current situation, including but not limited to: hospitals fighting an uphill battle; people not obeying health guidelines or employing easy “solutions” that are actually problematic; and crazy, convoluted conspiracy theories.

Also, that ending! Guy knows how to write a tense climax.

At the same time, there’s a deep-running love story here. Not a romance story or romantic love, but love between friends and a mother and child. Through Ramola and Natalie’s interactions, and the messages Natalie leaves to her child, you really come to care for these characters and hope for the best despite the threat of the worst.

If there’s one thing I didn’t care for and would’ve liked to see changed, it’s the ending of the story for Josh and Luis, two teens whom Ramola and Natalie meet while trying to get to the hospital. They were in the story for only a short time, but I really grew to like those goofy nerds and would’ve liked to see more of them in the story, or maybe in a story of their own. And not just because they were Doctor Who fans (Whovians, unite!).

All in all, Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay is a thrilling and emotional read and perfect for these mad times. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the book a 4.5. Stay inside, grab a bite, and get ready for one roller-coaster of a story. Just hope the bite you grab isn’t something biting your arm off while you’re at it.

And while I still have your attention, guess what happened last night? Stephen King tweeted about this book, and I replied mentioning my progress in it and when I hoped to have it finished. He retweeted it. King retweeted it! And I’ve been fangirling ever since (while at the same time daring to hope this isn’t the last time I end up on his radar). What a world, right?

Earlier today, someone in a movie-themed Facebook group I belong to asked when the last time other members were carded before going to see an R-rated movie (if you don’t know, in the US anyone under 17 can’t see an R-rated movie without an accompanying adult). I laughed and commented that I didn’t start seeing R-rated films in theaters until I was in college, and my student ID came with the assumption that I was already over 17. So unless you count my Student ID as being carded, I never got carded at a theater.

This made me realize something: when I told people offline about my history with going to the movies, they always react with amazement. Sometimes, given how many people still turned out to see movies in the theaters before the pandemic, it amazes me, such as the carded story. And then I realized I never told that story to my blogging audience, who would probably appreciate it the most.

So since this weekend is upon us, let me tell you about my odd history of going to the movies, and why I will likely start going again once it’s safer to do so.

First thing you should know is, until I was off at college, the most I got to go to the movies was a few times a year. It was a treat for me. There are probably several reasons for this. My parents were raising four kids and holding down full-time jobs that didn’t always hold to the normal nine-to-five. We had plenty of free movies from the libraries we patronized, as well as from video stores when those were popular and later streaming services like Netflix. Any theater I would want to go to would require a ride, which wasn’t always on hand). And perhaps I just didn’t beg enough to go see movies I was interested in, though I’m not sure how effective asking repeatedly would’ve been.

Still, we did go to see every Harry Potter movie in theaters when they came out. I did on occasion get to see the new superhero film or book adaptation or whatever when I wanted, especially for birthday parties or if I was invited out by friends, or once or twice my folks had something to do nearby and knew I would be bored senseless if I was dragged along (one time I was even dropped off to watch an action film while my sisters went to see something that was more their speed. I was really happy about that arrangement). And of course, having two sisters who were five and seven years younger than me, I got to see a lot more kids films than I care to admit.

That being said, I did miss out on seeing a lot of films I really wanted to see in theaters. And occasionally, I did feel like I was missing out. When Paranormal Activity came out, and everyone was raving about it, how it was a revolution in horror movies (and for a while, it was), I was sad because I knew I wouldn’t see it in theaters. There was no way in hell I could get my folks to agree to take me to see it, and I would need them. After all, I was only sixteen at the time.

Then college came around, and the nearest theater was only a twenty minute walk from the dorms and later the apartment where I lived. I started going regularly, paying attention to releases. And at some point, I realized that not only was going opening weekend a rush, but it was something I’d been waiting to do my whole life. I was addicted.

Wish I could hop on the TARDIS right now. Then I could see all the movies on opening weekend I want to. Even the ones that have been delayed due to COVID-19.

Even after I moved away from campus, I would go out of my way to see new movies. And then when I moved into my current apartment and learned there was another theater even closer than the ones I went to previously, I went there, taking two buses and nearly two hours to get one way and the other, no matter the weather. And when I got my car? Hoo-boy, did life get good! Now, every movie was only a twenty-minute drive away, no matter the theater I had to go to. It was a blast.

It’s been four months since I’ve been able to sit in a theater, when I saw The Invisible Man (and found it to be average). I miss it. Yeah, occasionally you have to deal with high ticket and food prices, other patrons checking their phones or bringing their babies or otherwise being noisy. And occasionally, when you ask those people to not be so distracting, they threaten you with violence (happened to me once, I did not appreciate it).

But I also enjoy sitting with like-minded viewers right before a big horror or superhero film, that rush of emotions when something amazing or terrifying or heartwarming happens, and the thoughts going through my head as I write my review in my head. I miss the experience that goes with seeing a film opening weekend.

So when it’s safe to do so, I hope to go again, and experience all that again. In fact, I probably will. It’s hard to keep me from a good horror film or superhero film anyway (and I have the eyewitness accounts and court trials to prove it).

Do you miss going to the movies, Followers of Fear? Will you go when the theaters reopen again? 

It’s been a while since I’ve done any sort of tag, so I saw this on my friend Kat Impossible’s blog and I was like, “Sounds like fun.” And while I’m not sure I believe in “perfection,” I tried to come up with stories that come close to that in my personal opinion. Most of these titles are from the horror genre, but I do add some from other genres and even a few other mediums (I can be a rule breaker when I want to be). With that in mind, let us begin the Perfect Book Tag.

THE PERFECT GENRE

(pick a book that perfectly represents the genre)

I had a hard time choosing on this, between what could be considered a quintessential horror novel, and what could be the most terrifying novel (AKA the “perfect” horror novel). In the end, I wanted to include the quintessential novel elsewhere, and I hate repeating myself, so I decided on the most terrifying novel I’ve ever read, The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. Honestly, this novel’s show of brutality, the ease in which regular people can be persuaded to commit acts of evil and the graphic descriptions of torture and cruelty were enough to make me put the book down at times just so I could process what I was reading and get control of my dread. If you want perfect horror, this might be close enough.

Just don’t blame me if this gives you an upset stomach or nightmares. Trust me, it’s a tough one to get through.

THE PERFECT SETTING

(pick a book that takes place in a perfect place)

Again, I’m not sure if there’s anything considered “perfect” in entertainment, let alone a perfect setting. However, as far as I’m concerned, this might come damn close. The Doctor Who universe has every sort of setting imaginable. From futuristic cityscapes, to the distant past, and even our own modern times, you can find aliens, historical personages, gods and demons, magic (sort of) and science, friends and enemies, and even new universes or pocket universes! It’s an endlessly adaptable setting, and that’s why it’s my choice for perfect setting.

Also, I know it’s a TV show and the books are expanded universe and semi-canonical at best, but like I said, I like to break the rules.

 

THE PERFECT MAIN CHARACTER

(pick the perfect main character)

For this one, I didn’t pick perfect as in “they’re the best at everything and never have to improve. The story is just a way for the reader to fawn over how amazing the characters are.” Those are known as Mary Sues and Gary Sues, and most writers learn to stop creating them when trying to write compelling stories. Instead, I picked examples of characters I like to work with the most: women/girls who don’t start out as protagonist material, but as time goes on they grow into their heroine roles. Sailor Moon and Buffy are two great examples of those characters, as well as the reason I love that character type.

Neither Buffy Summers nor Sailor Moon started out as heroes who were thrilled with their roles. They just wanted to be normal girls, not burdened down with these destinies to save humanity from evil. But over time, as they get stronger and build their support networks, they become stronger, able to defy evil and inspire everyone around them and everyone watching them, regardless of age or gender. It’s part of the reason why these characters have endured over thirty years after their debuts, and part of the reason why I am who I am today.

 

THE PERFECT BEST FRIEND

(loyal and supportive, pick a character that you think is the best friend ever)

 

This one was easy. She’s smart, kind, brave, and is willing to point out when you’re wrong or doing something stupid. And she’s willing to stand up for the oppressed when no one else will, including many of the oppressed. She can be a bit stubborn, and at times she loses sight of reality when it comes to studies or other things she deems important. But honestly, Hermione Granger would make a great best bud.

 

THE PERFECT LOVE INTEREST

(pick a character you think would be an amazing romantic partner)

Let me level with you all. I may be bisexual, but I’m aromantic, so I don’t really feel romantic attraction to anyone. Sexual, definitely, but I have trouble imagining myself wanting to be tied to someone like a partner or lover. And since I don’t feel like telling the world about a character I may find sexy, I’ll just leave this one blank. Sorry if you really wanted to know what my type was or wanted to set me up with someone you know. You can’t change someone’s nature that easily.

 

THE PERFECT VILLAIN

(pick a character with the most sinister mind)

Remember that quintessential horror novel I mentioned as a contender for Perfect Genre? Yeah, IT was the runner-up. But in terms of villains, Pennywise is the ultimate, hence why he’s here. Honestly, he’s a perfect mix of both the human villain and the supernatural. He understands human fears and motivations, is a master manipulator and knows just how to get under our skin and either terrify us into a stupor or make us his pawn. At the same time, he’s this giant cosmic entity from beyond the universe, a thing we can only grasp as orange lights known as The Deadlights. His motivations aren’t born from hatred or greed or any human desire, but from the need to feed and eventually the need to procreate. It’s just another show of his Otherworldly nature.

And let’s face it, he’s devious! It takes a special sort of evil to enjoy being an evil clown 24/7, and Pennywise does it better than the Joker. Yeah, you read that right. What are you going to do about it?

 

THE PERFECT FAMILY

(pick the perfect bookish family)

Well, they’re not from any books, at least not originally, but the Addams Family would be my perfect fictional family. You can guess why.

 

THE PERFECT ANIMAL OR PET

(pick a pet or fantastic animal you need to see on a book)

Although I’m against the breeding of white tigers (they’re a genetic abnormality and breeding them leaves the tigers with all sorts of genetic problems), White Blaze from the anime Ronin Warriors is a creature I always wanted. He’s a tiger and deadly towards his enemies, but he’s smart, kind and good with people. You could honestly have him babysit your kids, he’s that good. And in a fight against evil, you couldn’t ask for a better animal partner.

In fact, White Blaze might be part of the reason why tigers are my favorite animal. And it’s not hard to see why.

 

THE PERFECT PLOT TWIST

(pick a book with the best plot twist)

I won’t say what it was. But it left me reeling. Took me half the next chapter to realize the author was serious and wasn’t pulling my leg. Still the hardest a twist in a novel has ever hit me.

 

THE PERFECT TROPE

(pick that trope you would add to your own book without thinking)

Let’s face it, I love a cosmic horror twist. The idea of an entity that defies human conception, to the point it can drive us mad, excites me as a horror writer to no end.

 

THE PERFECT COVER

(pick a cover you would want on your own book)

I want a cover similar to this on one of my books someday. Either that, or something that disturbs just to look at it.

 

THE PERFECT ENDING

(pick a book that has the perfect ending)

My favorite endings in horror have the horror continuing on long after the heroes appear to have won. So if I have to pick one that’s a good example, I think I’ll go with Needful Things by Stephen King. Great book with an enigmatic and terrifying antagonist. If you haven’t read it yet and you have a stomach for horror, you might want to change that sooner rather than later.

 

I TAG THEE:

  • Priscilla Bettis
  • Iseult Murphy
  • Joleene Naylor
  • Ruth Ann Nordin
  • Matt Williams
  • YOU!!! (If you want to)

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Tomorrow, I finally start that essay, and then I start on a new short story. But in the meantime, what did you think of my choices? Any of them resonate with you? Let’s talk in the comments.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Anyone else notice 2018 was…kind of rough on a global scale? Like, oh my God why was this year so full of nastiness and pain?

Yeah, this year has been hard. Horrific shootings, assassinations of journalists, global warming, the Tide Pod challenge, racist incidents like at that Starbucks, data hacks and leaks, denial of truths and facts in favor of beliefs, hurricanes, bomb threats, the election of far-right demagogues, the Campfire in California, the deaths of beloved and influential people like John McCain and Stan Lee. I could go on and on.

But despite all the bad things, there has been some good things this year. Black Panther became a billion-dollar franchise and caused all sorts of social waves; more women and minorities were elected to political office than ever before; more youths in America became involved in the electoral process than ever before; Ireland repealed restrictions on abortion; Australia legalized gay marriage and India decriminalized homosexuality; Jodie Whitaker proved that a woman could be the Doctor and kicked ass doing it; authors of all stripes came together to stop people like Faleena Hopkins after Cockygate to stop creative freedoms from being restricted by trademarking common words; several popular TV shows, including Brooklyn Nine-Nine and my own Lucifer were saved from early cancellation by the efforts of fans; Michael Myers was revitalized with Halloween; and so much else.

Remember, positive things did happen in 2018.

2018 had its bad moments, but it also has some good moments.

I wanted to remind you of that before we go any further. These past couple of years, I’ve seen so many people say that each year was worse than the last. And while at times I agree, I think it’s important to remember the good too. Otherwise, our worldviews start to grow dim and sad. and we lose the ability to be happy. So let’s do our best not to be jaded, shall we? Remember the good.

On a more personal level, 2018 was a pretty good year for me. Actually, that’s not true. It was an excellent year for me! Let me tell you why:

  • My novel Rose was accepted for publication by Castrum Press, the beginning of the fulfillment of a dream I’ve had for years. Since then, it’s been in deep editing stages, and I’ll hopefully have some news to share by the end of January. In addition, my short story Car Chasers was accepted for publication by The Binge-Watching Cure II from Claren Books, hopefully out sometime in early 2019. Another short story has been accepted by another anthology, but I’m waiting for a bit more news before I elaborate.
    I also wrote several new works, and finished a new novel, River of Wrath, which I hope to also get accepted for publication. It’s been a good year in terms of writing.
  • My blog grew past a thousand followers this year! At the beginning of January, Rami Ungar the Writer was close to hitting that number, like under fifty followers away. In June, it surpassed that hallowed milestone, and at the time I’m writing this it continues to grow. I’m so happy that so many of you became Followers of Fear over the past year, and I hope you’ll continue to support me as I work on my dreams.
    This was also my best year on the blog. This year I had over sixteen-thousand reads on the blog, or an average of thirteen-hundred and sixty-seven a month. Holy crap! I still have vivid memories of when I was lucky to get twenty people to read my posts a month, so thank you all for reading my work here and making it worth all the effort.
  • Work’s been going very well. I got a big pay raise, and coordinated several successful projects, including an observance for National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October.
  • I got my driver’s license in July after nine and a half years of on-and-off practicing, and I bought my first car, which I call the Unholy Roller, in October. Let me tell you, I LOVE the independence of finally having my own car, and accomplishing so many firsts with it. I’m looking forward to doing book tours and visiting haunted locations now that I have a set of wheels to do so.
  • Despite developing anxiety in December 2017, I managed to get help for myself and have managed to keep it from ruling/ruining my life.

My car, the Unholy Roller.

This is only a fraction of all the good things that happened to me this year, but they’re the highlights. 2018 was a good year for me, despite all the horrible things that occurred, and I hope I’ll be able to have a similar experience in 2019. Though hopefully 2019 will be filled with more good events than 2018, am I right?

Speaking of which, let’s talk 2019. Like everyone, I’ve got goals for the coming year, and most of them won’t surprise you. This year, I’d like to:

  • Make sure Rose gets published and does well in sales. I also want to see Car Chasers and that other short story I mentioned published, and I want to get more stories written and accepted for publication. And of course, I want to see this audience I’ve managed to grow to continue growing and fill with people interested in what I have to say and what I write.
  • To continue doing well in work and in my personal life, including being a good driver, taking care of my health, paying bills and building up a savings account, among other things.
  • Have plenty of awesome experiences to make memories with.
  • Hopefully make a positive difference in the world however I can.

We’ll see what the next 364 or so days bring, shall we?

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m heading to bed, so I’ll see you in the morning, where I’ll spend most of it lounging in bed and hopefully getting plenty of writing done (either that or just reading and watching Netflix). Until next time, Happy New Year and pleasant nightmares.

What were the highlights of your 2018? What do you hope to accomplish for 2019?

I’m halfway through this series I’ve been doing of rewatching and reevaluting horror films I previously disliked to see if I missed something. And for those of you who are keeping score, I found I now love Perfect Blue, hate The Strangers more than I did the first time, don’t really have a different opinion on The Witch, and feel underwhelmed by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And I’ve just finished watching my fifth entry, Oculus. What did I think? Let’s find out.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT: Oculus follows Kaylie and Tim Russell, a pair of siblings who witnessed their parents murdered by the spirit in a mirror as children. They return to their childhood home ten years after those events with the mirror in tow, Kaylie determined to prove that the mirror is haunted, Tim believing he hallucinated everything he experienced as a child. Weaving between past and present, Kaylie and Tim unearth dark memories, old wounds, and eventually, must decide if they are facing they’re own insanity, or an old and intelligent evil.

WHY I DIDN’T LIKE IT: Simple: the ending. I really liked these siblings, and without going into spoilers (though I could be forgiven for them, this film has been out for four years), I didn’t like how the ending treated them. Plain and simple, it just poisoned the film for me.

WHY I REWATCHED IT: An online critic I follow on YouTube did a video a while back of the Top 11 New Halloween Classics, and Oculus got #7. That alone was enough to get me interested in a rewatch. And when I did this series, Oculus was definitely on the list.

Thoughts: How did I hate this movie? It was awesome!

Now, I won’t go into full review mode, but this movie is almost entirely flawless. The concept alone is pretty ingenious, but it’s done in a way that puts you right in there with the characters. You’re seeing their memories as they remember them, at the moment they’re remembering them. And you’re experiencing what they’re experiencing the moment they’re experiencing it. It leaves you not only wondering what is real and what isn’t, but also makes you feel the paranoia and terror of the characters, who by the way are played amazingly by their actors. Especially Karen Gilliam as Kaylie Russell (we love you, Amy Pond!).

I also like how the film isn’t afraid to use a bit of body horror. There were definitely moments where I had to look away because I was so freaked out by what I was seeing, and these moments are never excessive in terms of gore or number of uses.

Add in some great camera work, ambiguity, and CGI that really deposits itself within the uncanny valley, and you got yourself a creepy horror film.

And as for that ending, it’s been four years, and I’ve done some just like it in that time. It’s honestly a good way to close out a horror story, especially if you care about these characters. It makes the ending that much more gut-wrenching. To sum it up, I now approve of the ending.

Judgment: This is definitely a masterpiece in horror filmmaking. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Oculus a well-deserved 5. Check it out, and see the horror through the looking-glass.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. The next one in this series should be entertaining, at least. And if it’s not, at least the sequels are supposed to be betterthan the original. I’m talking Evil Dead.

Until next time, Happy Holidays and pleasant nightmares one and all.

Today I’m doing something different, and showcasing one of my favorite things: collect dolls and figurines! I’ve mentioned it maybe two or three times on my blog, but I have a growing collection of these, coming in a variety of styles and themes, and from a number of franchises. Why am I showing this off, when this is a blog about a horror author? Read on, I might get into that later in this post.

First off, plenty of anime figurines. As many of you know, I’m a huge anime and manga fan, so it’s no surprise I have figurines based on anime characters:

From left to right: Homura Akemi from Madoka Magica; a cutesy chibi Christmas version of Asuka from Neon Genesis Evangelion; and Madoka Kaname, also from Madoka Magica.

Hatsune Miku, a famous Japanese music persona; Nina Wang from My-Otome; and Asuna from Sword Art Online.

Asuka from Neon Genesis Evangelion, outitted in a Gothic Lolita style (this one partially inspired a novel).

Except for the Nina Wang figurine, which I bought on Amazon, all of these figures were purchased at Akiba Arcade, a local place that caters to the Japanese game, manga, and anime fans in Columbus (which are many). They have a ton of Japanese games and merchandise, and I visit as often as I can. Yeah, they can cost a lot (most of these cost between $40 and $60), but they’re well worth it.

Of course, not everything I have that is Japanese in origin is anime/manga-related. For example:

This is a maneki-neko, or a lucky cat statue. In Japan, these babies are supposed to bring good luck, especially financial luck. I don’t know if it has, but I’ve noticed my life has improved bit by bit over time, so maybe it’s having an effect?

Of course, not everything I have is Japanese. True, a lot of it is, but not everything. Like these:

Ninth Doctor Funko Pop doll

Sailor Moon and Luna Funko Pop dolls.

Jason Voorhees Funko Pop doll

Lizzie Borden bobblehead doll and a raven statue. Nevermore! Thwack!

The barfing gnome from Gravity Falls; a Grinning Jak from The Nighmare Before Christmas; and Waddles the Pig from Gravity Falls

Yeah, the Sailor Moon one is technically Japanese, but Funko is American, so it evens out. And you’ll notice, a lot of these are related to franchises or pop culture properties I’m a fan of. The exceptions in this group is the Lizzie Borden bobble head doll and the raven. The former is related to an amazing experience I had earlier this year, while the latter is just a fun Halloween decoration that I have out all year because for me, every day is Halloween. Not to mention, they’re creepy.

And now for some of my most recent acquisitions:

 

These are Sally and Jack, and they’re pixified versions of the Sally and Jack characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas. In fact, you can see them holding doll versions of their namesakes in their arms. These are first-edition figurines made by the Hamilton Collection. There are two more figurines in the series, and I hope to collect those two in time. For now though, I’m really happy with these two. Thy’re very pretty, based on a truly awesome movie, and I just love to see them when I walk in the door each day.

And finally, here’s the oldest figurine I own.

This is Zero from the anime Code Geass, which is still one of my favorite animes ever. I made it in art class back in high school, because I couldn’t afford figurines or dolls at that time, and not for several years afterwards. Zero was my way of saying that one day, I would be able to own these sort of things I’d always wanted. And I think I can say I’ve accomplished that goal.

And my collection is growing every day. I’m probably going to get the other two figurines in The Nightmare Before Christmas series from Hamilton, as well as many more figurines from various anime (including an actual Zero figure), and maybe even some of the more traditional kinds of dolls, the ones that wouldn’t look out of place in Victorian England, among others. I’m saving up for them, and for a cabinet to put them all in so they don’t get dusty. And when that happens, maybe I’ll post about those new editions too. We’ll see.

That’s all, Followers of Fear. Just wanted to post about my weird hobbies and show you all how proud I am of them. Until next time, pleasant nightmares.

Last week I read an article where Adam Winguard, the director of the disaster that is Netflix’s adaptation of the Death Note franchise, had to quit Twitter because he was receiving so much hate mail and even death threats over his adaptation. And yesterday, the admins of a YouTube channel dedicated to reviewing and discussing anime and manga received death threats for posting a positive review of the movie.

Let that sink in for a moment. A whole bunch of people are sending people hate mail and threatening to kill them over the Internet for either making or liking what many consider a bad movie. And I’d bet one of my anime figurines the majority of these angry people are fans of the Death Note anime and manga who are incensed that the director cast white actors in the movie and the numerous changes from the source material, as well as just making a really bad film, or that anyone would like the film.

Now, all three complaints are legitimate: the casting of white actors as what were originally non-white characters is a serious problem that Hollywood and the public are continuing to grapple with even now. The many changes from the source material were not only unnecessary, but actually made the film more of a mess than a wonder. And it was a really bad film (check my review here for my own thoughts on the subject).

But there is absolutely no excuse or reason–ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE OR REASON–to send hate mail or threaten someone’s life. Especially not for their creative work, no matter what decisions they make or the quality of it. And those who think nothing of doing it have some serious issues that need addressing.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time fans of a franchise or a character or something along those lines have gone a little bonkers. I was ranting about this issue of fans going crazy back in 2013, when people were leaving intentionally bad reviews of Charlaine Harris’s last Sookie Stackhouse book because it was the last book, and threatening harm to themselves and others if their favorite couples didn’t end up together (and possibly followed through after a copy leaked in Germany). Later that year, people were sending tons of mail to Warner Bros. and trying to get the White House to intervene in the casting of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie (not sure what they expected to happen with that one).

Seriously, was this worth the hate campaign? I actually enjoyed the movie.

Since then we’ve seen negative reactions to the idea of the Ghostbusters reboot, and then the female-led cast, which was so hateful everyone involved in the movie felt the need to comment and even make a joke about it in the movie. We’ve also seen people react negatively to Captain America becoming an agent of Hydra in the comics, with some people threatening the writers behind this move. One man claiming to be a Marine even said that he would abandon his moral code and become a stone-cold killer because of the change (seriously, did any of these nincompoops think that maybe this was a mind-controlled Cap, or one from another dimension, which apparently is the case?). We’ve probably all seen articles about angry males attacking women online for attempting to be part of the video gaming community and industry. And there are more of these than I’m probably aware of, with this Death Note thing just being the latest.

What’s causing people to become so angry and violent over fictional characters and worlds? Well, it might actually be nothing new. As long as there have been creative works and their creators, there have been people who have gotten passionate about them, sometimes a little too passionate (*cough* John Hinckley Jr. and Ricardo Lopez *cough*). And sometimes people even feel that their love of a property gives them some sort of ownership over said property, and therefore they have a legitimate voice in any decisions over said work. And with the Internet as both means to reach like-minded individuals and platform to voice their vitriol without worry of censure, some of these overly-passionate fans can gather en masse and make their anger heard, warranted or not. Sometimes, a few of them even feel emboldened to make threats of violence.

And I get it. I hated the Death Note movie too. I can think of several ways the Star Wars prequels or some episodes of Doctor Who could’ve been better (I actually nearly threw a shoe at the TV once because I really disliked an episode). And God, was I upset when shows I really liked, such as Dracula or Sleepy Hollow, got canceled. I would have loved to find the people responsible for all these mistakes and given them a piece of my mind.

But therein lies the problem: none of these fans have any actual ownership or say in the decisions revolving around these stories, and at the end of the day, it’s the creators themselves who get to make those decisions. And we should let them. After all, they are spending valuable time and energy to bring us these stories we love so much. It’s essentially a gift from them to us, the readers and viewers. And while not all these creative variations are welcome (*cough* first three DCEU movies *cough*), some of these creative risks have led to some the greatest pieces of storytelling ever made. Remember there was a time when the Winter Soldier wasn’t a thing, let alone a former friend of Captain America gone evil. When Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker, people swore it was the worst casting decision that could be made, and yet Ledger’s Joker is arguably one of the best Jokers ever brought to life. And let’s be real, William Shakespeare ripped off and made changes to most of the stories he’s famous for! And look at him!

A decision that turned out to be right after all.

And this is not just for variations in already established characters and stories. Creators should be able to experiment with stories and characters. Otherwise, would we have Doctor Who? Harry Potter? Death Note the manga? Stephen King’s IT?

So what should you do if a story you like or an adaptation of a story goes in a direction you dislike? Well, there are two possible decisions that you could go that won’t make you look like a tool (trust me, as both fanboy and creator, they work). One is to do what I did with Death Note: calmly point out what was wrong with it or what you disliked. You don’t have to be angry to get your point across. I’ve found calmly discussing what you disliked about something does more than shouting. And besides, being rude or angry or telling someone to die never convinced anyone to your point of view or made them change their ways.

The other is to just not take part at all. After Jodie Whitaker was announced as the 13th Doctor, many fans reacted by simply deciding not to watch the show anymore. I even have a friend who decided to do that, and while I disagree with their view, I respect how adult their reactions were. (Thought to be fair, after all those years of Moffat tropes, it might’ve been easier to leave than to work up anger over a casting decision). So if you don’t like what the creators are doing, just leave. Don’t ruin the experience for everyone else who may want to try out the new direction.

And if you’re a parent with kids who may get overly passionate about fictional works, maybe have a conversation with them about how to respond to this sort of thing. It might save someone a lot of headaches later on.

While I doubt this problem will go away anytime soon–if anything, it might get worse over time–we can at least approach it in a healthy manner, rather than with further fear and anger, as well as to find healthy alternatives to anger and/or death threats. Either that, or we never get any sort of new stories ever. And I really don’t want to see that.

 

That’s all the ranting for now. The next week and a half will be crazy for me, so I have no idea how much, if at all, I’ll be able to post until October 1st. I’ll try and get something out next week, though if I don’t, please don’t hold it against me or send death threats.

Until next time, Followers of Fear. Pleasant nightmares!

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?

Oh come on, did you think I wasn’t going to do this? It’s a tradition, and whether you like it or not, I’m doing it! So strap in, and let the villainous torture begin!

So if you don’t know, every June or so I like to rank the top ten villains in fiction that have really impressed/scared me. Villains are always a central part of horror stories, so it’s important to see what makes a villain memorable, or strong, or terrifying. What makes a good villain, in essence. Some years are easier than others to rank, but with each entry, there’s always something to notice with a villain.

Before we begin, let me remind all who read this that no villain from my own work, or any real life person, will make it on this list (otherwise this would just be political views and shout outs to my own characters). Also, SPOILERS!

Ready? Okay, here we go! #10-6!

#10: Tom Martin/Alex Whitman (Scream TV series)

Scream is a twisty slice of TV-horror awesomeness, and while not everyone loved its Halloween special, I certainly found it a fun break from the show’s normal format. One thing I really liked about the Halloween special was Alex Whitman, a rich young man whose parents died tragically when he was young and who strikes up a sweet romance with protagonist Emma Duvall. Or at least, that’s what we think at first. After a huge twist in which the suspect we thought is the new Brandon James Killer ends up dead, it’s revealed Alex Whitman is actually Tom Martin, a disturbed young man who witnessed his parents’ gruesome death as a child and was warped by all the attention relating to his survival. He sees Emma as a kindred soul, and tries to get close to her by any means, including murder.

What makes Tom a great villain is that he’s so sympathetic! Even after he’s revealed to be dangerous and out of his mind, we feel sorry for him, because his backstory is truly heartbreaking, and there was real chemistry between him and Emma. It’s very hard to make a despicable killer into a sympathetic character (believe me, I’ve experienced that struggle firsthand), and Scream did it really well. It’s a good character for the series to go out on.*

#9: Garrett Douglas (Teen Wolf season 6)

Teen Wolf has had many villains show up on this list, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that they got one on this year’s list too. Garrett Douglas is a former captain in the SS–yes, the SS, as in the Nazis–who tried to control the ghostly Wild Hunt, supernatural beings who kidnap people and erase them from existence to replenish their numbers. His attempts to do that led to him being held captive for nearly seventy years by the Dread Doctors from season 5, but he escaped after the latter fell, and set out once again to put the Wild Hunt under his thumb. This time he very nearly succeeded, nearly turning the town of Beacon Hills into a ghost town in the process.

While the Wild Hunt were the main villains of the story arc, they were just an elemental force trying to replenish its numbers for survival. They looked scary and had terrifying powers, but they weren’t menacing or evil. Douglas, on the other hand, was a sadistic power-hungry madman, and he was willing to sacrifice whoever he needed to in order to accomplish his goals. That’s a villain right there. However, compared to other villains on this list and on the show, he’s not as intimidating, and he doesn’t rely on his own power, so he ranks rather low. Better luck next time, Teen Wolf. I have confidence in you.

#8: Amunet (The Mummy 2017 film)

I gave this movie a harsh rating in my review (read that HERE), but honestly Amunet was one of its saving graces. Played with convincing power by Sofia Boutella, Amunet is a powerful undead sorceress who made a deal with the god Set for power. Resurrected in the 21st century, she’s willing to sacrifice anyone in order to bring about an apocalypse and become Queen of the Damned (see what I did there?).

What makes her a great villain is that she’s so convincing! You really feel her rage, her lust, her desire for power. And then you see her power at work: she’s influencing Tom Cruise, using animals as weapons, turning people into obedient slaves with kisses or even just with an animal bite. She’s a force to be reckoned with, and proves that even if you have a bad movie, you can have a great villain.

#7: Kevin Wendell Crumb (Split)

I’m not sure if this is one villain or 23 villains or what, but either way, they’re all here. A man with disassociative identity disorder, some of Kevin’s personalities go rogue and take over his psyche in order to bring out a new personality known as the Beast, who causes pain and suffering in the belief that such horrors purify. Kevin and each personality is played with amazing skill by James McAvoy, making each feels real and fully formed. But it’s his darker personalities, the ones that set out to cause destruction by kidnapping three teenage girls from a mall parking lot, that really scare you. You can feel their belief in their godlike Beast, and then when you inevitably see the Beast, he’s a powerful force that makes your heart beat from start to finish. Kevin and his personalities’ place on this list is well-deserved. Cannot wait to see him again in two years in Glass.

#6: The Shadow Kin (Class TV series)

Give it to the Whoniverse to come up with memorable villains. In Doctor Who‘s new spin-off Class, the Shadow Kin are beings made of fire and brimstone, who believe their existence in the universe is a cosmic mistake, as they cannot stand bright light and must travel as gas and shadows. In revenge, their goal is to eliminate all life from the universe by infecting the shadows of their enemies and then killing them. These villains appear throughout the show’s first season, at first only to kill off the refugees of one of their battles, but when their king becomes biologically linked to one of the show’s protagonist, it sets off a literal shadow war as the Shadow Kin battle for control of their king’s power and the planet Earth. Definitely a dangerous villain who kept us on the edge of our seats, wondering what would happen and where the Shadow Kin would appear next.

 

And that’s all for now, Followers of Fear. I’ll have #5-1 out soon. Until then, what did you think of the Top 10 so far? Do you have any favorite villains from this past year. Let’s discuss in the comments below.

*I’m not counting the upcoming third season, because they’re basically rebooting the story with new characters and setting. Um, WTF? You didn’t even wrap up the original story! You had loose threads leading up to the third season! And we know the third season is going to be the last season, so why change things up like that? Why not just wrap things up and let it be like that? TV execs! They’re sometimes the worst people to direct the courses of their own properties.