Posts Tagged ‘sequels’

With the emergence of escape room experiences in 2007 and their rising popularity among the worldwide populace (hell, I have a sister who does them all the time with her boyfriend), it was probably inevitable that a film would be made based on them. Especially seeing as the concept isn’t exactly owned by any particular company or anything. Of course, a film like this would also be compared to the Saw films and Cube (the former I never liked, the latter I only heard of today). Are the comparisons valid? And is the film any good on its own?

Escape Room follows three individuals–quiet physics student Zoey, stock boy Ben, high-powered stockbroker Jason–as they are joined by three others–Army veteran Amanda, trucker Mike, and escape-room nut Danny–after being invited to attend a special escape room experience with a cash prize of ten-thousand dollars. Problem is, the escape rooms are designed to be able to actually kill people, and it will push the participants to the brink physically and mentally. And not all of them will make it out alive.

For starters, this film is very well-done visually. Every set is made to look as real as possible. Also, boxes are present throughout the film, reinforcing the film’s theme. The escape rooms themselves are very clever in their layout and their traps. The latter two, by the way, are where the film’s tension comes from, and the tension is strong. You’re always wondering, where the next trap will be triggered, what will it lead to. And when it does show, whoo-boy is it hard to look away while the characters try to save themselves and move onto the next room. Add a decent focus on showing who these characters are and how the rooms challenge them, and it’s easy to get drawn in.

Plus, no torture porn! I hated the first Saw film because I saw no point in all that excessive gore and torture, and haven’t seen the sequels because of it. Glad to see they didn’t go that route with Escape Room, though they easily could’ve.

The film does have a couple issues. While the characters are given enough time to develop on screen, the reveals of their traumatic pasts is told more than shown. And while telling might work in a novel, in a film it’s better to show. I also would’ve liked Nik Dodani’s character Danny to be given more screen time (though that might be because I saw myself and people I know in him). And the final scene of the movie does feel like it was tacked on with the hopes of generating a sequel (which I could see happening if the film does well, though the team behind it would have to really work to make the sequel as good or as tense as the original). You could’ve easily ended the film one scene before and with a slight tweak made it a perfect storybook ending.

But all in all, if you want a film involving puzzles and life-or-death situations but you prefer tension, character development and storytelling over gore and torture porn, this might be the film for you. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m going to give Escape Room a solid 4. Leave the kids at home* and get ready for an armrest-clenching thriller.

*Seriously, leave the kids at home. One woman in the row behind me brought her four year old son and I heard him whispering (and possibly crying in fear) more than once during the film. Lady, what are you doing bringing a four year old to a PG-13 film that’s just a bit of blood and a few swear words short of an R rating? You want him to grow up traumatized? Either get a babysitter or wait six months for the film to hit DVD! You’ll survive if you don’t see the film because you have a kid who takes priority!

I’ve been thinking a lot about what’ll happen after Rose comes out. Specifically, what sort of stories I’ll work on once I’m done with Rose.

I know that’s a crazy thing to think about at this point. I’m still doing revisions on Rose for the publisher, and likely they’ll have me do more revisions before we get to publication, and then there’s the publication, and then a whole ton of marketing and other work just to make sure the book is read and sold and reviewed and whatnot. Thinking about future projects should be the last thing on my mind.

But of course, being “logical” has never been one of my strong suits, and dreaming about the future has been what’s helped me get to this point anyway. So why not wax on about what might happen after Rose?

Well, there are a number of short stories I’ve been thinking about working on. I very much want to edit Hannah, the ghost story I wrote back in January, and I want to write a few stories that have been circulating in my head for a while. I also want to eventually get back to the novelette I was working on that was giving me so many challenges, and see if I can get a bit further in that, if not finish it up entirely. It may end up becoming one of those stories where I revisit it every now and then to see if time has given me a clearer vision of how to improve and/or finish it (I’ve got a few of those). And I’d like a few months to spend on all of those, just to see what I can come up with, and if any of it is publishable.

And of course, I’ve been thinking about what sort of novel I’d like to write next, when I’m ready to write a novel. Probably, that won’t be immediately: Rose has challenged me in ways I’ve never been challenged by a story, and I want some time to refresh my mind before I make a commitment to a project that I could end up working on for years and years. But I have some ideas on what sort of novel I’d like to write next, when I am ready to make that sort of commitment.

For one thing, it won’t be a sequel to Rose. I could write one, and I have ideas I could develop into a sequel for Rose, but I don’t want to return to the world of Rose just yet. Especially when I can’t guarantee I can make the story better or on par with the original so soon after finishing the original.

For another, I’m not yet ready to return to the world of Reborn City. Yeah, I know there are a couple of big fans of that trilogy who want the final book, Full Circle, already (I know a few of you are probably out there), but I’m just not ready to get back to that yet.

And finally, I want to do something that’s different. Think of it like houses: I don’t want to try selling Castrum on a house that’s basically the same one they bought, just on a different block and with a different coat of paint. I want to sell them a house that’s just as good as the first one, but an entirely different design, while still retaining the Rami Ungar architecture (is this metaphor getting too weird/complicated, or does it still work?).

All these books are different from one another. I want to do the same with my books as well.

I mean, look at Stephen King: he followed Carrie (a psychic girl who gets revenge on her psychotic religious mother and the bullies at her high school) with Salem’s Lot (vampires invade a small Maine town, and a writer and his allies have to stop them), and then went on to write The Shining (a family that includes a psychic four-year-old becomes the winter caretakers at an isolated hotel haunted by something dark and evil) before creating The Stand (a super-disease causes most of Earth’s population to die off, leaving the survivors to engage in an apocalyptic war between the forces of good and evil). None of those are carbon copies of the other, so I want to do something very distinct from Rose.

And I have a few novels I can choose from. I have more ideas than I know what to do with, so I have plenty of options, but there are a few stories I can think of that would make great projects. There’s one in particular I’d like to work on when the time comes, but it’ll depend on a number of factors, including if I have to pitch something to the publisher (I’m not sure if that’s something I have to do, but it’s something I’ve thought about).

Still, there’s plenty of time to think about all that. I just know that when the time does come to think about all that, I’ll have plenty of ideas to work with and consider. Hopefully whatever I choose, it’ll make for some good reading.

In the meantime, I’m off to work on Rose for a little bit. Here’s hoping I can make some good progress before I have to hit the hay tonight. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

My first entry into the Rewatch Review series, Perfect Blue, turned out to be an enjoyable film, much better than I remember it. That said, could the next one do just as well? You’ll have to read on to find out. Here we go with 2008’s The Strangers.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT: A couple go home after a wedding to relax and work through their issues. They’re stalked and attacked by strangers who show up in the middle of the night (simple and to the point).

WHY I DIDN’T LIKE IT: I just thought it was basic horror fodder. Nothing original or likable, nothing to make it stand out. It was bad, the kind of film that people hold up when they say horror movies are just lifeless stories about boring people screaming while someone or something tries to kill them.

WHY I REWATCHED IT: I heard some people praise it as scary. I heard it was loosely based on the Manson murders (right around the same time I read Helter Skelter). And I heard a sequel was being filmed. That’s it. Motivation enough.

THOUGHTS: I didn’t think it was possible. It was worse than I remember.

Nothing about this film makes it especially good or scary. For one thing, our two main characters are the blandest I’ve ever seen. It’s like watching white bread with saltines trying to be interesting and have chemistry, but the characters feel mismatched, and their actors feel like they couldn’t give a crap about making us believe them, just as long as they get paid! So when they discuss their issues or try to seem “in love” with one another, it just rings hollow. And when that happens, it’s hard to get invested into the movie at all.

On top of that, the camera is seriously unsteady. Not kidding, in shots where the camera should stay still to focus on a character or a dramatic scene to make it more powerful, the camera is moving around shakily, which is seriously distracting and takes away from the scene. I felt like the cameraman was holding a handheld, and his arm just got tired from holding the camera, so it shook. Seriously sloppy.

And beyond all that, the story has been done to death! “Killers in the house! Ooo-oooh! Scary!” But here’s the problem, we’ve seen this sort of story done so much better, in classic slasher films like Halloween and When a Stranger Calls. This is trying to be those films, but it doesn’t even feel like pale imitation here. It’s like paint-by-the-numbers (or kill-by-the-numbers, I guess).

The only good points were that the film did pick up a bit as it went on, with decent attempts at atmosphere and a few jump scares, but the first half hour of the movie just made it so boring, it’s hard to move past that and get emotionally invested in the story. But other than that, there’s nothing redeeming to make up for the mistakes made with this film.

JUDGMENT: I had more fun checking my phone than watching this movie. The Strangers, on a scale of 1 to 5, gets a well-deserved 1. Stay away from it, because let’s face it, the crap in your toilet will be more entertaining than this film. Don’t expect me to go anywhere near the sequel.

 

That’s all for now, Followers of Fear. Let’s hope that the next film I watch, I actually enjoy. Especially since I thought it had great potential the first time around.

Cover of Snake by Rami Ungar

As I mentioned before, today is my twenty-third birthday. Wow, twenty-three. Technically, I’m still pretty young, but I feel old. I’m already paying bills and rent on my own apartment and starting a job. Ah, adulting. How you make me feel older than I am.

And as I mentioned in my last post, it’s also been two years since I published Snake, my second novel. This book, which was inspired by movies like Taken and eighties slasher films, as well as all the suspense novels I read in my first year or two of college, is the story of a serial killer who goes after members of a powerful New York mafia family, and the reasons why he does this.

It’s definitely one of my more “what the fuck?”-worthy stories, as well as one of the ones I had the most fun writing. At the time I wrote it, I just wanted to create a very thrilling, violent story involving a serial killer whom people would find themselves cheering for (like I said, “what the fuck?”-worthy). I did a lot of research into serial killers and psychopaths, even consulting with a forensic psychiatrist who helped me figure out what an actual criminal profiler would say about the crimes, as well as a lot of rewrites and reworking of the plot. The end result was one hell of a bloody, exciting thriller-horror novel.

True, there are some things I would’ve changed in the final product if I could go back (technically I could, but I don’t do rewrites after publication unless absolutely necessary), but yeah, it’s a good novel. And that’s not just my own ego telling me that. Here are some reviews, a few of which are by friends and other authors [WARNING! Some of these reviews do contain spoilers. Please be advised]:

Well, I took yet another vacation where I made my family “just wait until I finish this chapter.” This page-turning read was another great effort by Rami. He is not afraid to take risks in plot twists and turns, character development and he takes the reader on quite the journey in this book. So looking forward to his next creation!

–Michele K

This book is another awesome creation by Rami. This book is scary and brings the reader to the depths of how evil the human character can be and how anyone can be driven to commit acts of torture. The author does a wonderful job of developing the plot and characters and there are certainly twists and turns. I highly recommend reading this book if you love a good frightening thrill.

–ENJ

Rami Ungar makes a promise to (the reader) in all his writings: he WILL scare you, and if he does “his job is done.” Snake will scare you. I am a huge Stephen King fan, so this should give you some idea of my tolerance level for gore, death and mayhem – I was scared. Rami takes you into places you would never have believed possible, and manages to pull his hero (and eventually his heroine) out of them against all odds. If you like to be scared. If you LOVE to be scared. You should read this book.

–Angela Misri, author of No Matter How Improbable

I really enjoyed this book. When I selected “dark” for the mood, it was almost a toss up with suspenseful. You knew early on who the mafia killer was, but the question of how he was going to find his girlfriend and rescue her was suspenseful. I ended up choosing “dark” because of the level of violence our main character used in getting to the girlfriend. But he was a complex character. Even though he definitely had the dark side to him, there was a surprisingly good side to him, too. You don’t really see this until later on in the book. So early on, you might think this is an unredeemable character. But one of the most intriguing characters are those who aren’t what they initially seem, and for this reason, I enjoyed this character. The pacing was just right. It wasn’t rushed, and in no way did I ever feel it dragged, which is awesome for a book that was over 500 pages in paperback.

–Ruth Ann Nordin, author of The Mistaken Mail Order Bride

I guess people really like it. Which is good, because I have plans to someday write a sequel. I just have too much right now to devote time to one. Though considering the experience I had with the first book, I’d probably have a blast getting the second one written and going back down that creepy-as-hell rabbit hole.

So if you would like to read Snake and see if it’s as good and as scary as these lovely reviewers have made it out to be, I’ll include the links below. And if you do decide to read the book, please let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love feedback from readers (and it makes me a better writer to boot).

That’s all for now. I’m off to have birthday celebrations with my family. I’ll see you around, my Followers of Fear. Have a great weekend.

Snake: AmazonCreatespace, Barnes & Noble,iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

Video Rage

I can’t believe how fast a single week can go. And I’m happy to say that Video Rage‘s first week has been very successful. Already a lot of people are getting copies of it, and even sales of Reborn City, the first book in the trilogy, has picked up a bit. This makes me really happy because it lets me know that people are very interested in reading these creations of mine.

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with Reborn City and Video Rage (and you must be really new here if that’s the case), they’re the first two books in the science fiction trilogy I’ve been writing since high school. The series follows Zahara Bakur, a Muslim teenager living in a dystopian future, and how her life changes drastically when she is forced to join the Hydras, a rising street gang in the western projects of the Vegas-style city-state Reborn City. Once in the Hydras, she learns that the gang’s leaders have amazing powers and abilities, and that there’s some connection between them and Reborn City’s mysterious leaders. The events that occur in the aftermath of these revelations will not only shape the lives of Zahara and her friends, but perhaps change the world.

When the first book came out back in 2013 (yeah, it took me three years to get the second book out. I was busy with school and work and a few other things), I was gladdened by how much people liked it. Indeed, those who left reviews had some very nice things to say:

This is not a genre I typically delve into, but I took this book on vacation and couldn’t put it down. The plot had me turning pages at quite the clip. The characters were unique and interesting and the imagery had me creating my own visual of what Rami’s interpretation of the future looked like. For first time novelist, Rami Ungar, this was an outstanding showing of talent and commitment to his passion of writing. Looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next!

–Michele K

As a reader who does not read books in this genre, I must admit that I could not put down the book. I attribute this to the talent of the author. I am looking forward to reading the next books published by Ungar. I recommend this book to readers who enjoy action with features of supernatural powers and sci-fi.

–ENJ

This is an extremely commendable effort by a new young writer, whom I believe we will see much more of in the years ahead. Rami Ungar’s vision of a frightening dystopian future is peppered with those elements that make us all human. There are quite a few surprises in the book, and I am anxious for the next volume in the series to be released.

–Marc N

Gangland violence, superhero-like enhancements, a futuristic setting, and social commentary that stems from a semi-post-apocalyptic theme. And then there’s a story where people come together as a family to deal with mutual loss and tragedy. What’s not to like?

–Matthew S. Williams, author of Whiskey Delta and Pappa Zulu

That last one was especially important for me, because it came from an author friend whom I admire a lot.

So yeah, people have enjoyed the first book. And I’m hoping that with the second book, people have similar reactions. With sequels, I try to include the parts that worked, improve or fix the parts that didn’t, and overall expand the world and action in the story without just adding more explosions and some flimsy plot a la Michael Bay (there are explosions here and there, but they’re definitely not excessive).

Reborn City and Video Rage, side by side.

Reborn City and Video Rage, side by side.

I also hope that people take the main theme of the book series to heart. A lot of the characters have been through a lot, and have been told that they are good for only one thing, usually not something good. The series follows them as they realize that they can be better than what people think they’re good for. I’m hoping that a lot of readers will find that theme applies to their own lives and that they take it to heart.

If you wish to check out Reborn City and Video Rage, I’ll include the links below. I hope you enjoy the stories, should you decide to check them out, and that whatever your thoughts, positive or negative, you let me know. I love getting feedback from readers, and it makes me a better writer to begin with.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear. Happy reading!

Reborn City: Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & NobleiBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

Video Rage: Amazon, Kindle, CreatespaceBarnes & Noble, iBooks, Smashwords, and Kobo

It’s Friday again, so you know what that means. It’s #FirstLineFriday, my weekly ritual trying to create a blogging trend (and apparently I’m making some success).

Now, here are the rules for the people who’ve never seen or done #FirstLineFriday before:

  • Write a blog post on your own blog titled “#FirstLineFriday”, hashtag and all.
  • Explain the rules like I’m doing now.
  • Post the first one or two lines of a potential work, a work-in-progress, or a completed or published short story.
  • Ask your readers for feedback.

So, this week’s entry is from an idea I had for a sequel to Rose, the novel I wrote as my thesis project during my last year of college (and which I hope to do another draft of once I finish the second draft of Laura Horn). Now, I never planned to do a sequel to Rose, though I did try to leave open the possibility of a sequel while writing the story. The other morning, however, I woke up and the idea for a sequel just formed in my head. Immediately I had characters, situations, the conflict, the setting. All of it just–pardon the pun–sprouted in my head (read the summary for Rose if you don’t get the joke). I got out of bed, wrote down the basics in my little notebook, and then when I got on the computer later I wrote it down on my Ideas list. Now I’m turning it into a #FirstLineFriday entry. That’s progress!

Anyway, I don’t know when I’ll get around to writing a sequel to Rose–it would mostly depend on my mood, how busy I am, and any other projects calling to me to be written, among other things–but the idea is there if I want to pursue it. For now though, here’s what I imagine the first two lines would be:

The door of the house was wide open, despite the cold weather outside and the big “Foreclosed” sign in the yard. I should’ve been immediately suspicious, but I was too tired, cold, and hungry to care.

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

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Tomorrow night I’m planning on heading to the movies and seeing the new horror movie “The Forest”, so expect a review of that either late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. Until then, have a pleasant weekend, and make sure to check out the 2016 New Year’s Sale while there’s still time.

Oh wait, one last thing. This #FirstLineFriday, I’m doing something different. This time, I’m tagging someone and making them do #FirstLineFriday too. And this week, I’m tagging…YOU! Yes, you! You’re tagged, so either this week or next week, do a #FirstLineFriday blog post. Got it? Good! I can’t wait to see what you create.

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).