Posts Tagged ‘Halloween’

I’ve been keen to read this novel since Stephen King tweeted about it months ago, saying this novel, which apparently is the first work of an already-established author published under a pen name, was the first great thriller of 2017.* By the time it came out on July 11th, I was one of the first people to get a copy at the library. And while I don’t always agree with King on what makes a good story (see my review for A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay), I have to say, he was right that this is a great thriller novel, possibly the first great one of 2017 (I haven’t read most of the others that came out this year, so who am I to judge?).

Final Girls follows Quincy Carpenter, the lone survivor of the Pine Cottage Massacre, in which a man she only refers to as Him killed all her friends while on a camping trip and she was the only survivor. This has made Quincy part of an exclusive club known as the Final Girls, women who have survived horror-movie style massacres and, like the girls in those movies, are the only ones to survive. The other two are Lisa Milner, the survivor of a sorority house murder spree in Indiana, and Samantha Boyd, who escaped and killed a killer known as the Sack Man at a motel in Florida. Quincy, who has no memory of the events at Pine Cottage, wants nothing but to keep up her baking blog, maybe marry her defense attorney boyfriend someday, and have some definition of normal.

That is, until Lisa Milner dies under mysterious circumstances in Indiana, and Samantha Boyd shows up at Quincy’s apartment in New York to talk. Suddenly Quincy’s life is thrown into a maelstrom as Sam’s presence threatens not just to unearth the memories from that fateful night, but change her world forever.

Immediately, you feel like this is two stories in one, a standard slasher and a mystery/thriller. On the slasher hand, you get to read Quincy’s recollections of Pine Cottage, which are told in third-person POV and past tense. And on the other hand, you get the events of Quincy’s current life, which are told in first-person POV and present tense, which is a mystery/thriller mixed with the story of two completely opposite people trying to bond over an incredible and dark situation. And both stories are peppered with references to horror movies, especially the best of the slasher genre. There are some obvious ones: Quincy’s last name is a reference to director John Carpenter of the Halloween series, while Lisa Milner’s massacre is an obvious reference to Black Christmas. But there are other, subtler references.  The mystery elements definitely remind me of the Scream movies and the TV series, which utilize mystery to offset themselves from tried-and-done-to-death slasher stories, as well as elements that make me think of Urban Legend. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, there are probably references I don’t recognize from movies/comics/shows/books I haven’t seen or read yet.

I also really enjoyed the characters. Quincy felt incredibly real to me: rather than being a character who’s always good and delicate or always damaged and dealing with her issues, she’s actually a pretty good balance of both. She’s clearly made some progress in trying to move on and have a new normal, but she also has issues that she doesn’t want to address, even takes some joy in, and those occasionally threaten the balance she’s trying to maintain in her life. It’s very refreshing to see such a realistic character like that. I also found Samantha Boyd (or Sam, as she prefers), to be very real. She’s a girl whose life is one defined by horrors, and who’s trying, in her own way, to reach out to the one person left in the world who knows what it’s like to have felt horrors like hers. The way she does it isn’t exactly smooth, but it does feel like someone with her background might use to reach out and find some mutual catharsis.

But the best part of the story is definitely how twisty it is. Even when we go back to Quincy’s past, it is anything but a standard slasher, going in directions you don’t see coming. Just today, while reading the last 70 or so pages, I kept marveling at surprise after surprise after surprise. And that’s pretty much how it is for most of the book, especially in the latter half of it. I think even some veteran mystery/thriller fans will find themselves surprised at the twists in store here in Final Girls.

If there’s one thing that might have been a drawback for this novel, I felt that the moments that Quincy and Sam were trying to bond were a little slow at times, but that may be nitpicking on my part. They were still well-written parts, and they showed both how much these girls wanted to be friends and how much they rubbed against each other as people.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Final Girls a well-earned 4.6. From one page to the next, you never know what to expect, and it will only leave you wanting more. Go ahead, pick it up, and find you have a hard time putting it down.

* This tweet and hints about the author’s identity make me think it might be Stephen King’s son Joe Hill doing his own Richard Bachman turn, but that’s just my guess.

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

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

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

This film was awesome in so many ways.

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

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

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

Not even the scariest image.

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

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

Too many good films are under-advertised.

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

Hey, Followers of Fear! Long time no see! I’ve been busy trying to get a short story done before November 1st. And tonight, I managed to do it. Car Chasers is a short story that centers around a Fast & Furious-esque race held in a forest where ghosts chase the racers. Yeah, it’s a pretty out there concept, isn’t it? And I think it might make a great movie, even without Vin Diesel in a starring role.

I liked writing this story for a number of reasons. Along with a fun concept, it focused on a particular incident with these races, told through the point of view of an unreliable narrator. Normally, the unreliable narrators I encounter in fiction are jackasses (the main characters of Gone Girl and Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, for example), but the narrator in this story is actually telling it trying to put a good spin on a friend of his, which is different from my normal experience. I also put a few people I know in the story in varying capacities (you’re welcome, Pat Bertram and Melissa Mendel), and named the bad guy of this story after a certain public figure I dislike a lot right now. Yeah, I’m sadistic that way. It’s fun.

So when can you read this story? Well, it’s a first draft, and it’s going to need a lot of work. For one thing, there are some places in the story that could be fixed or trimmed down. As the story is a bit over ten-thousand words, and therefore technically a novelette, I might want to really trim it down if I want to get it into a magazine. If that doesn’t happen, I can see this in my upcoming collection of short stories, Teenage Wasteland. The characters are at the right age, so it’s a good choice for the collection.

In the meantime though, November is just around the corner. And for novelists, that means one thing: National Novel Writing Month. I’ve got the final Reborn City novel to write, and after that, I’m devoting all my time to getting that novel and Teenage Wasteland out as soon as possible.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll see you guys with a couple of posts on November 1st, when I’ll be doing another “First Day, First Paragraph” Tag, and talking about Reborn City and the final novel, Full Circle. Have a happy Halloween, guys. See you soon!

Okay, so I was grocery shopping yesterday at Meijer’s (which is a huge superstore, if you live outside the American Midwest and don’t have the chain near you), and they have this huge Halloween section around this time of year. I think, “Hey, why not pick up some stuff to decorate the apartment? After all, Halloween is a year-long thing with me.” So I go shopping, looking at what I want to furnish the apartment with, and I find an animatronic grim reaper near the back. And I decide to have some fun with it. And this was the result.

How did you like that? I thought it was hilarious enough to film, and then to post online. And since YouTube is the platform to post videos on, here you go. One YouTube video, for your enjoyment. And the best part is, the title of the video is just goofy enough that I think people will actually click on it and watch it.

By the way, after I filmed this, I had my younger sister walk in front of the skeleton. It freaked her out enough to make her jump back two feet, which was pretty hilarious. Sadly though, I did not get it on video, but I’m not sure my sister would like me putting her in a YouTube video, so maybe that’s for the best.

I seriously doubt this will go viral, but I hope a lot of people see it and find it hilarious. I also hope that my voice does not sound that reedy outside of recordings, but this isn’t a perfect world, so maybe that’s how my voice actually sounds and I just hear it differently.

Well, that’s all for now. I hope to have some more Halloween-related stuff out this month, including a picture of me in my Halloween costume (believe me, it’s a real freaky one this year. Until next time, my Followers of Fear.

first-day-first-paragraph-tag

It’s time for another tag. Only this time, I’m the one who created it! Mwa ha ha ha!

And sorry if the graphic is kind of basic. First time using Canva.com (which I think I’ll use in the future for other projects).

So as many of you know, I had to stop doing #FirstLineFriday on a weekly basis because I needed to spend more time writing. Still, I liked doing #FirstLineFriday, and I think a lot of you enjoyed it too (I certainly never got any comments or messages from anyone saying that they hated my #FirstLineFriday posts). So I decided to create a tag that I could do on a less frequent basis, but does something similar to #FirstLineFriday. Hence the creation of the “First Day, First Paragraph” Tag.*

Now that that explanation is out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty gritty details. Here are the rules. Once tagged for “First Day, First Paragraph,” you must:

  1. Publish your own post on the first day of the month.
  2. Use the graphic above
  3. Thank and link back to the person who tagged you.
  4. Explain the rules like I’m doing now.
  5. Post the first paragraph of a story you’ve written, are writing, or plan to write someday.
  6. Ask your readers for feedback.
  7. Finally, tag someone to do the post next month (for example, if you do the tag on the first of August, the person you tag has to do it on the first of September), and comment on one of their posts to let them know the good news.

Rules 1 and 2 are done. I’m not going to link back to me or thank me, because that’s weird. And I just did number 4, so now onto number 5. As it’s October, and that means Halloween, I’m going to do a potential opening for a story idea I have that takes place around Halloween. Anyway, enjoy:

Lanie sat in her chair, feeling like a piece of shit. It was over. Everything was over. She had had one last shot, one last chance to prove herself as an actress before the money ran out and she had to pack it up and head back home. Why couldn’t she have held it together? She had been so confident coming in, knew every line from the audition script by heart (most of it raunchy jokes and puns revolving around shoes and feet), as well as how to say each line to deliver the most punch. And she had totally fucked it up. Now she had no chance of getting the stupid part!

Thoughts? Errors? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

And now to tag someone to continue the tag. I had two people I wanted to be my first victim tag. In the end, I chose to do one person this month and the other next month, because the first person usually loves doing tags. So, Kat Impossible, you’ve been tagged! You have to do the “First Day, First Paragraph” Tag on November 1st. Have fun! I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll have a Reflections post later this month, most likely, so keep an eye out for it. Until then, as always, I’ll update you if anything needs updating. Have a great October, my Followers of Fear! I know I plan to.

*This is actually the second tag I’ve created. The first, The Black Dragon Award, was back in 2013. Sadly, I don’t think it got very far after the first few nominations. Perhaps someday I’ll have to try to resurrect it. You never know. It could go much farther this time.

I’ve been wanting to see this movie for months, and this evening I got the chance. Let me tell you, it was everything I’d hoped it would be.

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with the Krampus story, let me do some background: Krampus is a being whose origin dates back to ancient pagan beliefs, and he’s particularly well-known in central and northern Europe. While St. Nicholas is supposed to reward good children, Krampus would punish the bad children. Normally portrayed as a big, hairy demon with horns, he would leave coal, hit the bad kids with birch twigs, and/or drag the kids to wherever Krampus hangs out the rest of the year, depending on who you ask. On December 6th each year, plenty of cities and towns have Krampus Night, where people dress up as Krampus and have a parade chasing people around the town (sounds like fun).

In this movie, Krampus is summoned when a family loses the Christmas spirit, and proceeds to abduct each one of them to take them to the underworld. And let me tell you, from the very beginning, when you see an entire superstore torn apart by shoppers desperate for Christmas gifts, to the twist ending, Krampus is just excellent. It’s so well-written, with the writers (one of whom is the director and also directed the Halloween cult classic Trick ‘r Treat) taking us through a comedy film that manages to do all the horror tropes but remain funny throughout without being too obvious or self-referential. There’s never a dull moment, keeping your attention glued to the screen no matter what’s happening. The actors are also great, with most of them seeming like they’re either being themselves or playing around rather than doing any real acting, and just adds to the fun of the movie.

My favorite part of the film is the visuals, Krampus goes all out to make this the most visually interesting film ever. Except for the CGI gingerbread monsters (yes, there’s that in this movie), the monsters are all done with make-up and animatronics and actors. To say the least, they are terrifying, but what’s really interesting is that so many of them look like they’re pretending to be people in costumes instead of actual monsters. I’m not sure if that’s part of the humor or if that’s some sort of commentary on the Christmas season, but I like it. And I still would probably hide from these monsters if they showed up at my door on Christmas (thank God I’m Jewish).

Another thing I loved about Krampus is how it finds so many ways to make fun of the Christmas season. From the opening sequence’s critique of the commercialization of the holiday to the family’s interaction’s with each other to showcase how little time we actually devote to being nice and generous around these holidays, this movie finds all sorts of way to point out what’s wrong with the Christmas season. And maybe it’s because as a Jew I find the Christmas hype a little annoying at times, but I just love every second of it. And if you’ve ever been annoyed with how people treat Christmas or act around this time of year, you will love it too.

The one critique I would give this film is that when we finally get a good look at Krampus, he’s actually not that intimidating. He looks like someone took a Father Christmas costume, stuck on horns, lots of fur and chains, and added really bad teeth to the mask, looking more like that old rat Nicodemus from The Secret of NIMH than an actual demon. And maybe that’s because the other monsters are just so scary that the filmmakers decided to make Krampus look a little comical, but I would’ve preferred it they actually made him a bit more terrifying.

Overall though, this is a very fun movie. Is it something that’ll become a staple at Christmastime? Maybe not, but I think that the film has enough going for it that we’ll find good reason to revisit it every December. Especially if we want to remind ourselves how not to act around Christmas, or if we want to imagine certain politicians we dislike getting a visit from Krampus (I can think of about three or four right now).

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Krampus a 4.6. It’s funny, memorable, and reminds you what this season is really all about. Go check it out and have a good laugh.

It’s Friday, so you know what that means. It’s #FirstLineFriday!

Here’s how this works, in case you’d like to do it on your own blog: every Friday I write up a post titled #FirstLineFriday (hashtag included), explain the rules like I’m doing now, and then post the first one or two lines of a potential story, a story-in-progress, or a completed or published story. After that, I ask my readers for their thoughts and suggestions.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been doing #FirstLineFriday posts with stories relating to Halloween (because you know I love the spooky holiday season). And since tomorrow’s the big day, I’ve saved a very special first two lines for last. This excerpt is what may or may not start a very interesting book series, the events of which take place all on a single Halloween night. Yeah, that’s the story I have in mind. Let’s hope I get to write it before I’m old and grey, right?

Anyway, here’s the excerpt. Enjoy:

Chloe held up her witch’s costume in front of her and looked in the mirror. She knew it, too much pink and purple.

Starts innocuous enough, but get’s very strange and dark later on.

But what do you guys think? Any errors in grammar, punctuation, etc? Too innocent and YA-ish to start a horror series? Let me know.

That’s all for now. I’m currently muddling through a cold, so I don’t know if I’m going to be out celebrating at all this Halloween. I’ll consider myself lucky if I get out to see a scary movie. In the meantime, I want you all to have a fun and scary weekend (more than I probably will, anyway).

Have a good one, my Followers of Fear!