Posts Tagged ‘Once Upon A Time’

The cover’s typo is finally fixed. In case you hadn’t noticed.

Do I need an introduction? The Pure World Comes, my Gothic horror novel, has been out a week. And I am really happy with the results.

The Story

Shirley Dobbins wants nothing more than to live a quiet life and become a head housekeeper at a prestigious house. So when she is invited to come work for the mysterious baronet Sir Joseph Hunting at his estate, she thinks it is the chance of a lifetime. However, from the moment she arrives things are not what they seem. As she becomes wrapped up in more of the baronet’s radical science, she realizes something dark and otherworldly is loose within the estate. And if left unchecked, it’ll claim the lives of all she holds dear.

That blurb on the back has gotten some people interested, so I’m proud of it. Along with the whole book, of course. It’s kind of a love letter to the Victorian era and the literature that came out around that time (particularly the scary books). And for all the glitz and charm that era has in our memories, it was actually a pretty dirty era, especially if you lived in London. I actually included a lot of the grosser stuff of the era, such as shit-filled streets, crazy theories about pregnancy and childbirth (trust me, they had some wacky beliefs), and Jack the Ripper.

Yeah, he appears in the novel as well. Anyway, I worked hard to make the age feel real to readers while at the same time delivering a terrifying novel. And I think based off the reviews, I did just that. More on that later, though.

Trivia about The Pure World Comes

I’m not lying, I’ve kind of wanted to do some trivia for this book for a while. And now that it’s been out for a week and a lot of people are reading it, I think I’ll do some trivia:

The Westover plantation. See the resemblance?
  • If TPWC were to be made into a movie (I can dream), I think I know whom I’d like to play the two leads, Shirley Dobbins and Sir Joseph Hunting. At least, using the current roster of actors out there. First, for Shirley, I’d want Millie Bobby Brown. If you’ve seen Enola Holmes, you know why.
    As for Sir Joseph, I’d like either Robert Carlyle (Rumpelstiltskin in Once Upon a Time) or Julian Richings (Death in Supernatural). I kind of based the character on both men and integrated parts of the characters they played into Sir Joseph, so it would be awesome if either of them were to play the character.
  • As for the Hunting Lodge, Sir Joseph’s home (and technically also a character, as tends to happen in Gothic stories), I based it on the Westover Plantation in Charles City County, Virginia. The red brick, symmetrical house just struck me as having a lot of character, so with some mods I made it into the Hunting Lodge.
  • I originally had ideas for more characters around Shirley’s age, and there was going to be a whole lot of love triangles and unrequited loves and whatnot. You know, kind of like what goes on in Bridgerton (which is Regency rather than Victorian, but you get the idea). However, that got complicated pretty fast and distracted from the main plot, so I whittled it down to just one and stuck with it.
  • Finally, I added a whole lot of references and Easter eggs to the story for kicks. Some of you might have realized that the character of Nellie is named after the character from Wuthering Heights, a classic of Victorian literature (even if I do hate it). But I also included references to Doctor Who, Once Upon a Time, and even the anime Overlord. Points to everyone who can find them all!


As I said above, I’ve been getting some great reviews on TPWC. At the time I’m writing, the book has four on Amazon and thirteen on Goodreads. Here is what people are saying:

I really like Gothic stories, so I was excited to read this, and it didn’t disappoint.

I liked the protagonist very much. Shirley had many qualities that, for me, make a strong protagonist. She struck me as being a character who didn’t rely on others for approval, and while she seemed a sensitive character in many ways, I felt that she was self-contained. She was not overly emotional, and it seemed that she had a realistic view of the world around her. I liked that.

The story itself was very gripping, and there were even some moments that caused me to gasp in surprise while I was reading. However, this was something that encouraged me to keep reading.

Something else that I enjoyed about this was that it wasn’t too long or drawn out. It was a satisfying read, and intriguing read, but short enough to read in one sitting, if desired. The kind of thing that I might choose if I wanted a short book to read on the evening before my book club meeting. I have some friends who are keen on this type of story too, so I may recommend this book to them.

Kelly Marie Purdy, Goodreads

In Victorian England, Shirley Dobbins rises from lowly maid to competent scientist. The problem is, her tutor and employer is a mad scientist, and his mansion is haunted.

I loved the cast Ungar put together, young to old, rich and poor, lower class and upper class, and most dramatically, kind hearted and evil. The mad scientist’s haunted mansion is a character, too, with its secret laboratory and portals and rats and a haunted toilet.

Jack the Ripper makes an appearance. He mostly lurks in the background, but he adds a menacing plot thread to the book. It feels natural to the story and the setting, not at all gimmicky on Ungar’s part.

Meanwhile, Shirley and the mad scientist are trying to perfect animal and human imperfections, but where do they draw the line between playing doctor and playing God?

While I enjoyed this story, there’s a scene that contains a misunderstanding about the physics of vacuums. But if readers aren’t into science they might not notice. Also, the title doesn’t work for me. Thematically, it makes sense, but it neither catches my attention nor sparks my imagination. So The Pure World Comes is almost a five-star read for me, but not quite.

Gothic horror fans will love The Pure World Comes. Ungar keeps getting better and better. He has become an auto-buy author for me.

Priscilla Bettis, Amazon

The Pure World Comes by Rami Ungar
The story started with a slow build which
quickly turned into a page turner for me.
It has a bit of a Frankenstein feel to it.
It was a little out there but I really enjoyed

Anette Johnson, Amazon

Fun fact, the last review is written like that on Amazon and Goodreads and I kind of love how it looks a little like a freestyle poem. But more than that, I love how enthusiastic these reviews are. And if you look online, you’ll see plenty of other people saying positive things about the book. Even the three star reviews seemed to like it, which is nice.

I hope more reviews are like this.


This coming weekend in Mansfield, OH. Hope to see you there.

Anyway, if you want to check this book out, I’ll include links below, including Goodreads. It’s been a fun ride writing, editing, and publishing this book, and seeing what people think of it. i hope with time, more people come to read and enjoy it and let me know what they think. After all, reviews not only help other readers decide if a book is worth their time, they help the writers improve their craft and know what their readers are thinking.

The Pure World Comes: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo, Goodreads

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you enjoy The Pure World Comes. I probably won’t post again until after ParaPsyCon this coming weekend (where I hope TPWC sells out), but the moment something comes up worth posting about, I will. Until next time, good night, happy reading and pleasant nightmares.

I reviewed the premiere episode, and I reviewed the previous two seasons after the season finales. I’m reviewing this season, and speculating on the sixth season. And here’s what I have to say: Hotel has replaced Asylum as my favorite season of American Horror Story. And given my high standards, that means something.

Honestly, it’s hard to pin down a favorite part or moment to Hotel, so I’ll try to get in as much as possible. First, there’s the story. With AHS, it’s really hard to pin down where the story will go or how things will play out, who will live or die at the end (though I kind of saw how the first season was going to end at a certain point), and Hotel continues that, keeping me guessing right up until the last episode. I couldn’t even tell who the Ten Commandments Killer was until the show decided to scream it at us right before John Lowe finds out, at which point I was like, “I should’ve seen that twist coming! They’re really that good.” Not only that, but the writers manage to keep things interesting even in slower moments. Okay, not all the slower moments, there were a few moments in some early episodes where I got a little bored with the pace, but other than that, the writers told the story well, kept our interest, and even scared us a bit.

The show also managed to get across its main theme to us the viewers very well. Whereas Freak Show hit us over the head with its theme of “the other”, this year’s theme, “addiction” is given to us with a bit more finesse. Yes, there are lots of shots of needles and all that, but you also see it in the interaction of the characters, how certain characters cling to each other like a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean, and how other characters act as merciless and heartless as drug dealers to the people who need them. Besides the actual shots of heroin, the closest they ever get with giving us the addiction theme overtly is in episode 6, where one character reams out another about how she uses men, but that’s it. You really get multiple layers of the theme throughout the season, all done with a skill and complexity that I hope I can someday do with my stories.

Absolutely loved this character.

And then there are the characters. Oh my God, these characters are just so great. My favorite is Evan Peters as James Patrick March, the Hotel Cortez’s founder. He’s such a fun character, like a twisted, murderous Walt Disney, and he steals every scene he’s in. Not only that, but Peters looks like he’s having so much fun every time he’s on screen. Not surprising, considering this is such a different role than anything he’s handled on the show (or maybe in anything he’s ever been in). I also adored Lady Gaga as the Countess. I’ve said it a million times by now, but you forget that you’re watching Lady Gaga when she’s on that screen. She becomes her character, and it’s a magical spell that doesn’t break after the credits roll. I really hope she comes back next season, because she is so talented and fun to watch.

The rest of the cast is also a ton of fun. Denis O’Hare as transgender Liz Taylor is just divine, and totally a woman I would invite out with me on a night of wild partying. Wes Bentley (call me!) does a great job embodying John Lowe, who is a little flat as a character until the big twist about him is revealed, and then he’s just amazing fun. And the hotel itself is a character all on its own (how can it not be, when the word”Hotel” is part of the title?), with the most beautiful sets and an atmosphere all its own. It’s like meeting someone at a party, someone with looks and personality that everyone is drawn to, but if you get too close you see an all-consuming darkness.

Okay, that’s a good description of a lot of serial killers, but you get the idea. I like the hotel. The one character I disliked was Dr. Alex Lowe. Now her actress, Chloe Sevigny, was in Asylum as Shelley the nymphomaniac, and she had such a personality in that season, but here she plays her character like she’s bored most of the time. I know she’s going for frustration and depression at life’s injustices, but it feels more like boredom here. So yeah, not a fan of Alex.

I do have some complaints about this season, as much as I did love it. One was that the entity of the Addiction Demon was so underutilized in the story that if you got rid of it the entire season would be unaffected. I mean really, that thing was scary, so why wasn’t it used more? Not enough actors to play it? Too much time in the make-up chair?

I also could have used a bit more Finn Wittrock in the show (please marry me). I mean he’s such a great actor, he played two separate characters in the same season, and I was willing to forgive him for a bad accent on one of them. But hey, that might just be my problem. I do like handsome actors. Hopefully he’s around a lot next season.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving American Horror Story: Hotel a 4.9 out of 5. It’s near perfect as a season as AHS has produced yet, and I cannot wait to see how they try to top it next season.

Seriously hope she’s coming back!

And speaking of next season, what could it be? We’ve had Murder House, Asylum, Coven, Freak Show, and Hotel. Where could they go next? If I were a betting man (and I only occasionally buy lottery tickets), I’d say we might see something set at a private school. Schools are great places to portray a horror story, a lot of the regular actors look like they could be high schoolers, and I could imagine Gaga, who may come back next season, as an English teacher who has an affair with a student. I somehow doubt it’ll be anything involving a prison or a camp: the former is too similar to Asylum, and the latter is being done by the guys behind Once Upon a Time. Perhaps we’ll get something with a political bent, or maybe they’ll try to do a period piece in the 19th or 18th century (plenty of untapped potential there). Or maybe something involving a trial, that would be interesting new territory. In any case, a story set at a school, particularly a private one, is my bet.

Well, we’ll find out soon enough. Possibly very soon, if they release a promo like they did after Freak Show. In any case, I cannot wait.

What did you think about AHS: Hotel? Enjoy it or hate it?

What are your guesses for Season 6?

Hollywood is stuck in this phase where the studios are obsessed with sequels and prequels and spin-offs and franchises and remakes and reboots and re imaginings and a million other things. I have mixed feelings on this culture. On the one hand, I love the Marvel movies and a clever re imagining of a classic story or stories (like what Once Upon a Time has done with some of my favorite fairy tales when I was young) is a great thing. Plus who doesn’t love a good adaptation of a beloved novel or comic book or even video game into a movie or TV series?

On the other hand, seeing all these stories continued or retold constantly encourages filmmakers ane viewers to seek out familiar stories that are sure bets to be successful rather than new material that they don’t know will work out for them, when there is new material. And plenty of these sequels/prequels/reboots/whatever, when they come out, they are just awful and you wonder how the filmmakers could do this to beloved properties (see my review of the Poltergeist remake or watch these two dudes review the Smurfs movie if you need further proof).

The horror genre has been a big part in this, for better or for worse. Since the success of 2003’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake (as opposed to 2013’s remake of the film), there have been a slew of horror remakes, mainly slashers but quite a few others, and they have been showing up with increasing frequency). I’m focusing on the slashers though, because of the horror remakes the slashers are often the ones I see the most advertising for (an exception being Poltergeist, but we know how that turned out), they have some of the most iconic characters in the horror genre (Freddy, Jason, Leatherface, etc.), they’re notorious for putting out too many sequels of varying quality, even for horror, and they’re difficult to get right, because they rely on blood, guts, and gore to scare people rather than suspense and atmosphere.

And for God’s sake, there’s just been so many of them:

  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre and its prequel (the former was good, the latter awful)
  • Halloween and Halloween II (same deal as TCM in terms of quality)
  • My Bloody Valentine (lacks all that made the original so awesome)
  • Black Christmas (awful murder-porn)
  • Prom Night (awful and nonsensical)
  • Friday the 13th (of all the Michael Bay shit movies, this one is the shittiest)
  • Nightmare on Elm Street (I liked it, but others disagree with me)
  • Leprechaun (more of a re-imagining of average quality)
  • Texas Chainsaw 3D (I liked this too, but not everybody else did)
  • Evil Dead (fun and extremely bloody)
  • Scream (got rebooted as a TV series. Only saw one episode before leaving for Germany, but wasn’t impressed by what I saw)

On TV and in the movies at the same time. Like Kevin Bacon or Viola Davis.

And that’s just the ones that I know of that are out. And believe it or not, there are more on the way: Friday the 13th is getting a new movie as well as being re-imagined as a TV series for CW (haven’t heard anything on the movie, but what I’ve heard on the TV series sounds promising), Halloween is getting a new movie (also looks promising), Evil Dead is getting a TV series set years after the original films (excuse me while I skip it, because I’m not much of a fan of the franchise), and Texas Chainsaw Massacre is getting a prequel exploring Leatherface’s origins (I’m skeptical). There was also talk of a Hellraiser reboot, but there’s been no word in two years on that, so I’m going to say it’s been shelved.

So why are slashers being remade by the dozen? Like I said, they’re difficult to pull off, and they’re formulaic. Plus blood and gore is how they primarily scare you, and a lot of horror fans, including myself, find that distasteful. What makes them so appealing?

I think a lot of it has to do with the characters. Slashers have produced some of the most iconic characters in horror and in cinema: Norman Bates, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers. Heck, Freddy Kreuger isso well-known that he’s made cameo appearances in movies parodying the 1980’s in one form or another. People love these characters as much as they’re scared of them, they love watching them in action and being terrified of them. They like to sit there and think, “What’s he going to do next? What’s he going to do next? What’s he going to do–AAAH!”

Studios are aware of that, as well as they are aware of how much people go back to see the old films (the better ones anyway) and see these beloved characters do what they do best. With huge fan followings like this, and how easy it is to make a horror movie under twenty million dollars with minimal special effects, they know people are going to come and see the films so they can see these beloved characters resurrected again and perhaps in a movie worthy of carrying the franchise’s name.

The problem with that is, these same studios may just be banking on the popularity of a franchise and its character or characters to draw in crowds. Take a look at Friday the 13th, or another horror movie that Michael Bay meddled in, Ouija (read my review here). Both of those sucked, but yet they still made money. I think the latter was because of very good marketing, but the former had the draw of the first Friday the 13th film in six years, and one not bogged down by sequels’ worth of mythologies. Problem was, they didn’t invest in a good story, like the first film did and most of the early films tried to do with varying success. Instead they gave it a passable story and then added in as much drugs, sex, nudity, swearing, and gratuitous death scenes as possible so that the audiences would stay interested.

The result was a waste of film that makes watching people defecate on public streets look more entertaining. And I’m very worried that these other films that are on the way will do the same thing. They’ll be made with just drawing in fans and their credit cards in mind and the results will be absolutely terrible. And no horror fan wants to see beloved characters treated that way.

Hoping for better films for all these guys, and more.

On the other hand, I like to imagine that some of these filmmakers are huge fans of the franchises and really are trying to give these characters the stories they should be in, stories that are worth investing seven dollars and two hours in. The Halloween movie supposedly has an interesting plot, and the one thing I’ve heard on the Friday the 13th sequel indicates it’ll take place in the 1980’s, when the series started and where most of the better films are set. Perhaps there is hope here.

Well, we’ll just have to wait and see…and pray that along with better sequels/franchises/whatever, we get some new material too (*cough* Hollywood, call me *cough*).

All for now, my Followers of Fear. I have to get ready for the High Holidays tonight, so I’ll be busy for a while, but I’ll write again when I can.

See you next year, and Shanah Tovah (that means “Have a good year” if you don’t speak Hebrew).

2015: 10-6
2014: 10-6, 5-1
2013: 10-6, 5-1

Well, it’s time for the Top 5 Villains of 2015. These are the baddest of the bad, the freakiest of the freaky, the ones you have to watch out for. Are you ready to take on this list? Then let’s dive in!

A reminder that these villains are fictional and none of them were created by me. Otherwise it’s me taking a swing at politicians I don’t like or plugging me own books.

5. Mary Wells/The Weeping Lady (Sleepy Hollow)

People had some differing opinions on Season 2 of Sleepy Hollow, but honestly I think we can all agree this is one of its best episodes, and one of its most memorable villains. Mary Wells was Ichabod Crane’s fiancee, their marriage arranged for them as children. However while Mary was infatuated and obsessed with Ichabod, the latter only felt brotherly feelings for her. When she died in an accident involving Ichabod’s future wife Katrina, she became a ghost forever weeping for her lost love. When she is raised by Henry, the Horseman of War, to cause chaos, she goes after every woman close to Ichabod, including Katrina and Lieutenant Abby Mills. When she reveals Katrina’s role in her death, it is the wedge that begins the end of the Cranes’ marriage. Sad and spooky, we love this woman, feel for her and can’t get her out of our heads. Her spot on the Top 5 is well-deserved.

4. Annabelle (Annabelle)

I love creepy dolls, but even I would hesitate to have this one in my house. Originally from The Conjuring and based on a real haunted doll, Annabelle was popular enough to get her own prequel movie exploring how she was a woman in a satanic cult who died and possessed a rare collectible doll along with her demon master. The result was that she got the chance to cause chaos for a young family, with the intent to take an innocent soul and send it to Hell. And she nearly succeeds too. Creepy to look at and dangerous to have in your house, Annabelle will inhabit your nightmares for years, which is why she’s Number 4 on this list.

Oh, fun fact: the real Annabelle doll is actually a large Raggedy Ann doll. However the makers of Raggedy Ann (or whoever owns the copyright these days) would never consent to have one of their dolls portrayed in a horror movie like that, so the filmmakers designed a creepy looking doll for the part. And that doll has been creeping us out ever since. Yikes!

3. Ultron (Avengers: Age of Ultron)

Actually more like Couple Days of Ultron, but that’s another story. No matter how long he was around though, Ultron is still a terrifying force to be reckoned with. He seems genial and funny at times, but his humor and reasoning, along with his fascination for religious philosophy, are only a cover for his true sinister nature and his plan to cause an extinction event that will wipe out humanity and allow his clones to take over the Earth. With a silky smooth voice provided by James Spader, you won’t want to be anywhere near him when he starts singing classic Disney songs. Definitely deserving of the Number 3 spot.

2. Isaac Heller/The Author (Once Upon a Time)

Now, if you watch the show you may not think he’s much of a villain. But in actuality he’s definitely real villain material. A wannabe F. Scott Fitzgerald who is chosen to become the chronicler of great adventures through out the many different worlds, he abuses his power and starts directing events, earning himself the punishment of being sealed in his own book. When he escapes, he uses his weak attitude and his power to weasel his way out of any situation, not caring who gets hurt or what has to happen in order for him to receive his fifteen minutes of fame. And the crazy thing is, he still considers himself one of the good guys! Yeah, he does. Even when he traps the residents of Storybrooke in a fiction novel and tries to kill the one guy who escaped, he still thinks he’s a good guy. This sleazy character will justify his actions no matter what, and his spot at Number 2 is perfect for him.

1. Meredith Walker/The Benefactor (Teen Wolf)

Sometimes the greatest villain is someone who is sweet and innocent, but has been influenced by the wrong people. Meredith Walker is a banshee, one who predicts death. Years ago she overheard the thoughts of Peter Hale, one of the show’s recurring villains, where he had an insane plan to kill off the weaker members of Beacon Hills’ supernatural community and remake it in his own image. Meredith, who is already a little unhinged but normally very nice, carries out his plan, paying assassins and hunters to go after the supernatural community. Even worse is she doesn’t think this is wrong, she just thinks she’s doing what she’s supposed to do because Peter implanted the idea in her brain. Only when she realized that she’s caused the deaths of many innocent people and that Peter was more unhinged than her does she regret her actions. Kind and afflicted, Meredith’s turn as a villain was terrifying and stunning and I’m seriously hoping she has a role in Season 5. Bravo Meredith, you’ve earned the top spot.

What are your thoughts on my Top 5 villains this year? Do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments below. Tune in next summer for 2016’s Top 10 villains. By then we might have a few new entries or maybe some old ones will resurface. One can only hope.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear!

I’ve been meaning to do this post for a while, but with Laura Horn still needing to be finished and everything…

Anyway, last year I did a countdown of my favorite villains from fiction (to read that contest, click here for #10-6 and here for #5-1). I’m doing it again this year to show case the awesome villains that have impressed and terrified me since that list last year. And a lot has happened over the last year: we’ve got only one person is returning to the list from last year, which just goes to show that Hollywood/New York/everyone else can come up with some really amazing villains sometimes. In fact, I’d like to announce our honorable mention now: Peter Pan from Once Upon a Time. The revisionist fairy tale show came up with a unique take on the classic character as a manipulative sociopath living in a magical Lord of the Flies kingdom who will go to any lengths to stay young, free, and powerful forever. Creepy!

Now let’s get this show started with the first half of the list!

10. The Daleks (from Doctor Who)

Despite their at-first rather ridiculous appearance, the Daleks are terrifying to behold. A genetically-engineered creature living inside a cyborg transport machine, the Daleks are a powerful metaphor for racism, particularly Nazi racism. That, their pure destructive force, their popularity with fans, and many other reasons is why they’ve continued to terrify children and adults since their debut in 1963, and are still part of DW lore and pop culture today. Honestly, even though I love Daleks, if one of them shouted “EXTERMINATE” near me, I might freak out myself.

9. Bughuul (from Sinister)

Sinister is probably one of the best horror films in the past ten years, and Bughuul, also known as Mr. Boogie, is one of the main reasons for that. Portrayed by Nick King, Bughuul is a reimagined boogeyman, a Babylonian god that causes children to murder their families and then feeds on their souls for centuries in his spirit world. Throughout the movie, Bughuul weaves a web of psychological terror around the main character and around the viewer, even up until the final moment of the film. It’s no wonder a sequel is in the works, and no wonder Bughuul deserves a place on this list.

8. The Headless Horseman (from the Sleepy Hollow TV series)

In this reimagining of the classic short story by Washington Irving, the Headless Horseman is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, specifically Death, and he’s looking to find his head so he can continue with his mission to start the end of the world. Not only that, he is looking to gain his revenge on Ichabod Crane, whom he has a strange history with, and the revelation of that history just makes things that much more exciting in this awesome show. Also, it’s so cool to see the Headless Horseman riding down the street with an axe and automatic weapons. Total badassery right there.

7. William Lewis (from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit)

Portrayed by Pablo Schreiber, Lewis appeared in the finale of Season 14 and throughout Season 15 and is probably one of the worst villains ever to be on the show in its 16-year run. A monster who gets his kicks from terrorizing his victims and putting them in pain and agony, Lewis kidnapped Detective Benson and tortured her even as he was running from the cops who were looking for him. Even after he was caught, Lewis continued to find ways to harass Benson both in person and in her nightmares, and even escaped to cause more terror. Even after committing suicide, he nearly destroyed Benson and a few other people too. A man like that is the worst, and deserves his place on this list.

6. The Nogitsune (from Teen Wolf)

Season 3 of the hit MTV series was unique in several ways, particularly because it was literally two seasons in one, each half comprising of 12 episodes. The latter half of the season featured the Nogitsune, a fox spirit of chaos who causes murder and mayhem wherever he goes. And all for the sake of a few laughs. When he possesses one of the main characters, you know you have reason to be afraid. Especially when he starts out his day by telling his potential victims riddles.


That’s all for now. Tune in later this week when I list #5-1 of my top villain list. And let me know what you think of these villains. Like them? Hate them? Who do you think should have gone on the list? Let me know in the comments below.

For my first review upon returning from Europe, I’d like to do Maleficent, a retelling of the 1959 Disney film Sleeping Beauty. And like its predecessor, Maleficent has some storytelling problems. Emphasis on the “telling” in “storytelling”: during the course of the movie more is left to narration in this film than to actually showing us the exact events as they happen. So we basically skip over several of the formative events in Maleficent’s early life, and in King Stefan’s early life as well. The result is that we really don’t get to know the characters very well, We just see Maleficent go from sweet girl to young woman to angry witch, all in the course of maybe half an hour. We also don’t get to see Stefan’s development either, which would’ve made his character easier to understand and relate to.

And this is only the tip of the problems with the story here. I don’t want to go into great detail, but let’s just say the writing and the lack of characterization leave much to be desired, with huge plot holes and characters that are as two-dimensional as paper cut-outs and as unrelateable as them too. I know Disney made this film mostly to catch in on the trend of retelling old fairy tales for a new, modern audience (explaining why Once Upon a Time is heading into its fourth season and why Disney is doing retellings of Cinderella and a Cruella DeVil movie and Alice Through The Looking Glass, among others), but it wouldn’t have destroyed te studio to add maybe another forty to fifty minutes to a ninety-seven minute film and fill out those characters and plug up the plot holes.

Overall, I give Maleficent a 1.6 out of 5. Not even its good moments (few and far-between) are enough to redeem this film. Not even Angelina Jolie can fix it, and she’s an amazing actress! I really can’t wait to see how the guys at How It Should Have Ended decide to fix this film up. Because like I said, it’s not a very good film.

This is the second in my series of blog posts exploring the general guidelines or common themes that appear in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror (click here to read The 7 Beauties of Science-Fiction). This whole series started in my science-fiction/fantasy literature class this past Wednesday, when we examined the 7 Beauties of Science-Fiction, we also came up with an original list for the 7 Beauties of Fantasy, and I on my own came up with 5 Beauties of Horror. I thought a series of blog posts sharing and examining these various beauties would be helpful and fun to write, especially when you consider how often the three genres intertwine and overlap.

Now without further ado, here are the 7 Beauties of Fantasy, seven themes or motifs that are found in most fantasy stories, as the examples I pick will show.

1. Character–someone through whose eyes we see this mysterious world. Every fantasy story has at least one focal character, someone through whom the world we’ve been introduced is explained and explored. These sort of characters usually end up becoming heroes of some sort and we end up identifying with them very deeply in the course of the story. Examples include Bilbo Baggins and his nephew Frodo in the Lord of the Rings canon, Eragon in the Inheritance Cycle, and Nick Burkhardt in Grimm.

2. Setting and culture–the magical, mysterious world our character explores. If it’s a fantasy novel, there’s almost a 99% garauntee that the world is nothing like the world we live in, and there’s a 100% certainty that something will need to be explained to us. Be it Middle-Earth, Narnia, or Harry Potter’s Wizarding world, there’s a whole realm to explore, with its own cultures, nations, societies, geographies, floras and faunas, and so much more. It’s up to the author, through the narrator’s eyes, that we find out as much as we need to about it.

3. Novums and Neologisms–technology/tools and words/phrases exclusive to the world we are in. Just like in science-fiction, the world of the story in fantasy has words or devices that are exclusive to that world and that we don’t understand entirely. Be it the Invisibility Cloak and Apparation, or the gedwey ignasia and Eldunari, they make no sense in the context of the real world but they make plenty of sense in the context of a fantasy realm.

4. Adventure(s)–you will go on one. Can you think of a single fantasy novel that doesn’t involve some sort of quest or journey or something along those lines? Neither can I. It seems every fantasy story is predicated on the main character going off to save a princess from a dragon or to toss the One Ring into the boiling flames of Mount Doom or find the genie she’s engaged to but who has been kidnapped by an evil sorcerer. Along the way the character fights enormous perils, learns valuable lessons, and grows as a character until he or she becomes the hero or heroine we all long to be on some level.

5. There are things that can’t be explained rationally. How does magic work? Why can a dragon fly when its body is too big for its wings to reasonably lift it off the ground? How come unicorns have magic in their horns? In a science-fiction novel, television show or movie, everything is based on science, and in theory everything can be explained scientificially. Not so with a fantasy story, which are not based on science but on mysterious forces and strange new worlds to explore and are limited only by the author’s own imagination. So don’t ask how come a sword from a water maiden is more powerful than your average sword or how magic can respond to a blood sacrifice, because you’re not likely to find the answer unless the author wants you to.

6. Familiarity–the characters don’t wake up one morning going “what the heck?” The world of the character is the one they gew up in. They know it like the back of their hand, and it would take much to surprise them in this world. In other words, unless they’re a little baby the world isn’t one they are unfamiliar with. It’s the one they know like the real world is the world we know. Not only that, but the world is somewhat familiar to us. You could channel-flip to HBO and might think you’re watching a special on the War of the Roses or on the Norman invasion, and not realize you’re watching Game of Thrones.

7. Internal history–there’s a history to this fantasyland. This is similar to the “historical extrapolation” beauty in science-fiction, but very different. Sci-fi is what could be possible with our world, so the history is the same for the most part. In fantasy though, the world has a very different history than ours. Different nations, different wars, different cultures, different creatures. This world we are visiting through the story likely has its own history that has its own unique players and events. And probably the one person who knows the full extent of that history is the author of the story his/herself (or sometimes not even then: half the time I’m not sure the writers of Once Upon a Time know where there story is going, let alone the entire history of each and every character).

No matter what, fantasy is always a strange and new exploration of new territory. It’s fun to look into and it’s fun to inhabit. And in some cases, it can even become a phenomena lasting years after the new world has entered ours. Knowing how to examine and analyze such places don’t detract from the story, but they make them all the more fun, all the more beautiful.

At least, I think so. Hope you liked the post and be on the lookout for the 5 Beauties of Horror, coming soon.

“Film is powerful and powerful is film. Hover on the TV and silver screen. Mwha ha ha ha!”

We’ve had the vampires, cool, collected, tortured, ferocious and merciless while elegant and noble. With so many Twilight knock-offs, they’re out the door, though a few want to stick around.

Ladies and gentlemen, possibly the new face of supernatural fiction, played by Sheri Moon Zombie (Rob Zombie often includes his wife in his work. I bet it does wonders for their marriage).

We have zombies at the moment, metaphors for the numbing effects of society on man and creepy cannibals without brains (fast or slow depends on which adaptation you’re watching/reading). Not sure if this fad is peaked yet, but I think you could make an argument for affirmative and negative on this.

And werewolves, with Teen Wolf and The Wolf Gift rocking critics and bringing in the money, might still get their own fad (I’m hopeful they will, anyway). And why not? They can go from calm, human, and even meek to large, ferocious, and virile in a space of seconds and then back again. There’s something magnetic about that.

However quickly beating the werewolves to the popularity stage and joining the zombies are some ladies I didn’t see coming: witches. Double double, boil and trouble.

With Oz, The Great and Powerful making millions at the box office, a reboot of Sleeping Beauty based around Maleficent by Disney coming out next year, the Rob Zombie movie Lords of Salem starring his brilliant wife Sheri Moon Zombie coming out this coming this weekend, plus a whole slew of other works that I can’t list here and more that I don’t even know about, it’s safe to say that witches are getting their own turn in the supernatural spotlight.

Why witches? it can’t be the Harry Potter fandom looking for something to keep them occupied now that there are no more books or movies, is it? I seriously doubt it. In fact, I think it’s the idea of a woman taking power and fighting back against the cruel world with a tool all her own. Witches–or Wiccans, as they were first called–were seen as mediators between the physical world and and the spiritual worlds, making them objects of both admiration and fear. With the later demonisation of Wiccans, witches gained an official position of being for good or evil. And in the past hundred years, witches have taken a center status in the scale of good and evil, with the evil including the Evil Queen, The Wicked Witch of the West, and Maleficent, while the good include Glinda, Hermione, and Willow Rosenberg (that’s a Buffy the Vampire Slayer reference if you didn’t get it).

Until now, portrayals of witches has been somewhat sporadic. But I think now, with the women’s rights movement gaining a new prominence in our world and women showing men that yes, they can do many of the same things that men can do and sometimes even better, studios and authors are using witches to portray women in roles of leadership and power and able to do things that some say only men should do, including saving the free world, and are not usually desperate for love, though they don’t mind companionship in their lives. It’s a stunning archetype compared to women in zombie or vampire films, who are often damsels in need of saving and often only become warriors after a lot of prodding and are constantly looking for love.

I’m looking forward to seeing more of this in the future.

So what can we expect? Perhaps a resurgence in older works centering around witches, like The Wizard of Oz and perhaps Anne Rice’s Lives of the Mayfair Wtiches trilogy. There might be a wave of magic-centric books with female protagonists (I know I’ve got one tucked away that I might pull out one of these days), plus movies and TV shows that remind us of Once Upon a Time while they try to be better than that show. And of course, as with vampires and zombies, there will be the detractors and parodies that always acoompany fads in fiction with this.

It’ll be interesting to see what materializes in the next couple of years if this fad takes hold, won’t it?

And as for my own stories about witches (and there are a couple, though only one features a magic that can be used only by women under normal circumstances), I’ll probably wait for a while. I don’t like to follow fads in fiction, which is why I haven’t written a zombie novel yet or released my previous vampire novel (which I’ll rewrite at some point in the future, I’m sure). But hey, look on the bright side: when I do write these stories, you won’t have to worry about my stories being the same as everyone else’s.

Do you think witches will be the new zombies or vampires? How do you feel about that?

This evening at my dorm, we had a program about how Disney might’ve affected our worldviews in a number of ways when we were children. The discussion wasn’t so much to bash Disney as an evil organization that brainwashes children (though that might actually be the case, for all I know), but so much to sit back and tak as educated adults about how Disney may have incorporated certain things into their works, willingly or unwillingly, that changed our outlooks on life. The discussion went through all sorts of topics, from the princess mentality (you saw that coming), sexuality, the villains all are ugly and wearing black, the good looks of the main characters and the sometimes stereotypical ugliness of the villains and minor characters, the differences between men with power and women with power, and it encompassed all sorts of works, from the early Disney films that were obviously about women in traditional roles and love at first sight, to Disney’s current attempts to be more modern and accepting at the expense of the princess of Brave being called a lesbian and the popular TV show Once Upon a Time, which is owned by Disney but takes it old classics and turns them upside down in an interesting fashion.

What we discussed was really interesting and I learned a lot more than I thought I would, and I think everyone else feels the same. Heck, we brought up major criticisms of Aladdin involving stereotypes and mishmashed cultures, and that’s something I haven’t thought about. If you go back and look at some of these old films, you may find yourself seeing things you didn’t see as a kid (I went to Youtube to look at some songs brought up at the discussion, and Good Lord, there were lyrics with more significance than I remember).

Oh, and for those of you wondering how much Disney may have affected me (and consequently my writing), you don’t have to worry; when I first saw those films, I was at an age where I had pretty pictures and sounds to occupy me. I didn’t absorb much beyond that. It wasn’t until I was older that I started absorbing stuff from what I watched, and by then I’d moved onto animes like Sailor Moon and Ronin Warriors. Trust me, it showed in my early writing: when I was ten I tried writing a pirate novel, and a princess ended up joining the crew after they boarded her ship (why she was on the ship or what happened to the crew of said ship or why she joined the pirate crew as an alternative to a dungeon on a magic island or why she was automatically made first mate, I never explained, but I was 10, so go figure), and for a while she was only interested in being a good first mate. Romance didn’t develop till later (or it would have; I never finished that story to tell you the truth).

What about you? Has Disney films affected you in any way?

That includes wondering if your kids should be watching this sort of stuff with all the themes you’re noticing in the storyline and animation, by the way.

Oh, and who in the discussion group said that in the Aladdin song “Arabian nights” there was a lyric about getting ears cut off for ugly faces? I looked, but it’s not in the official movie. It’s in another version though. Look:

I was a little hesitant to do another prediciton post, but the last one got a lot of views (over 20 in just two days) that I felt compelled to do another one:

(the following post contains spoilers, so if you have not seen the Once Upon A Time season finale, please skip this post or wait to read it until you have seen the finale)

So, I’m watching the season finale on Hulu this morning, and can I just say I did not see that coming? After slaying Maleficient underground in order to get the love potion Rumplestilstskin/Mr. Gold created, Emma barely manages to save Henry and restore everyone’s memories with the power of her love for her son. Afterwards though, Mr. Gold, reunited with Belle, throws the potion into a well and brings magic back to Storybrooke (whether for his own power or to find Baelfire is not made clear, but it’s probably a bit of both).

So here’s my predicitons:

First, now that magic is back, it won’t spread beyond Storybrooke, which will remain in the strange isolation it’s always been in; however, the magic will allow Regina to return to power and become an evil overlord hiding in the forest. Rumplestiltskin (his name is so hard to spell), will also return to power, but his evil ways will put some strain on his relationship with Belle, which may cause him to start to doubt himself and his goals. The fairies will regian their abilities, and Red/Ruby will be able to turn into a wolf again (that’s going to be a problem; where’s her cloak?), and others will tap into the magic that’s now returned (I’m pegging Henry to be a magical prodigy).

Second, we’ll still have flashbacks, like how Snow White and Charming/James took back the kingdom(s)–I have no idea whether King George’s or Regina’s kingdoms will be conquered or both, all I know is Regina lived in the same castle as always, and Snow White and Charming live in a different one. Also, I think we’ll find out how Regina gained her mother’s magic (I don’t think it was through her mother kindly teaching her), and how Maleficient and Regina became friends. Oh, and how about how Regina gains the dark curse and the sleeping curse? That could work.

Third, relationships: Pinnochio/August, restored thanks to the return of magic, may become a romantic interest to Emma, while Emma, Henry, Snow White, and Charming will adjust to being a family and living together (tough to do, especially when your daughter is around the same age as you). Regina will try to reach out to the few people she has left, and maybe learn a little bit about herself; Jefferson may become an ally to Emma once he has his daughter back (and maybe a 2nd love interest); Astrid/Nova and Leroy/Grumpy will try to resume their relationship (or whatever they had together); Henry’s father, falsely reported dead, may make an appearance (I don’t know why, but I think Henry’s dad might actually be Baelfire, turned bitter by his father’s betrayal. Talk about a plot twist, huh?), and rock the whole family; and in additon to the Rumplestiltskin/Belle thing I mentioned above, we may find out what happened to Baelfire and resolve the conflict between him and his father.

Fourth, interlopers and outsiders: remember when I said that magic would probably not extend beyond Storybrooke? I never said anything about new people coming in, did I? I bet we haven’t seen the last of Wonderland, and how long before somebody like the government noticing the strangeness of Storybrooke and sending in the troops to investigate and harness the force of magic for national security purposes? I can so see Regina and Rumplestiltskin wanting to get in on that for their own purposes.

Finally, minor points: new characters and backstories will be introduced; Jiminy Cricket will resume his grasshopper form; the blind witch from the Hansel and Gretel episode will return to wreak havoc; the residents of Storybrooke won’t return to the Enchanted Forest till near the end of 2nd season, at least; Prince Thomas/Sean may disappear again, right before his (re)marriage to Ashley/Cinderella; and maybe we’ll see how magic is possible, and perhaps primal forces, neither good nor bad, that are magic in and of themselves and may interfere with the events of the stories. Oh, let’s not forget, we’ll see more magical creatures out there! Count on it.

Thanks for the rant, I’m done till another season finale leaves me wanting to guess at what happens next.