Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

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I’ve heard this term thrown about a few times since January, first in the new Scream movie and most recently in an analysis of a horror film on YouTube. “Elevated horror.” And the speakers, whether in in the Scream movie or in the YouTube video, made it sound like it’s a recognized subgenre of horror with its own staple of tropes and trappings. Like slasher and its killers and gore, or Gothic with its ancient, diseased settings and corrupting influence.

The thing is, it isn’t. Elevated horror isn’t an actual subgenre of horror. I’ve consulted with dozens of writers on this (thank you, Twitter and the Horror Writers Association Facebook group) and it’s not a subgenre. It seems like a subgenre of horror at first glance when you look at works referred to elevated horror. In movies, films referred to as elevated horror include The Witch, Babadook, It Follows and Get Out, among others: they’re horror stories that focus more on probing psychological drama, characters and metaphor than blood and gore or supernatural horrors. Often, there’s a powerful social commentary being presented through the narrative, such as Get Out‘s commentary on race.

In terms of literature, “elevated horror” might have all of these as well as flowery language. It might be almost called “literary horror,” because there’s an emphasis on wording the story nicely and making it just too dark to be called “literary fiction.” Examples include The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers, Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, The Deep by Alma Katsu, and A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill.

And, most importantly, “elevated horror” can sometimes cross over into other genres, such as thriller, literary, or even comedy.

Can you really say The Witch and Get Out belong in the same subgenre?

Sounds like a subgenre, doesn’t it? But it’s not. The works called elevated horror are all as different from each other as roses are to tulips are to primulas. All flowers, but all different kinds of flowers. Let me explain: The King in Yellow and The Deep are cosmic horror mixed with deep psychological themes, The Witch is some cross between folk, religious and historical horror, and Get Out‘s searing satire makes it borderline horror-comedy. In fact, it was nominated at the Golden Globes under categories for comedies or musicals!

Yet all of them are given the designation of elevated horror. So, if it isn’t a subgenre, what is it?

The conclusion I’ve come to after speaking to numerous other writers is that elevated horror is actually horror films taking place in elevators.

Just kidding, that’s elevator horror, and the only example of that I can think of is 2010’s Devil.

No, “elevated horror” is a marketing term. And like all marketing terms, it’s directed towards a specific audience. Who is this target audience? It’s people who normally wouldn’t check out horror because they fear it’s low class, dangerous, or degenerate. They may want to check out horror or be curious, but the stigma still attached to the genre keeps them from doing so. Either that, or they won’t check it out unless a work is given a specific designation.

Calling something “elevated horror” is basically saying, “This isn’t like other horror stories, where half-naked teens are voyeuristically killed with tons of blood and gore, or where supernatural entities menace children in sewers. No, it has nuance and social commentary! There’s psychology and drama and fleshed out characters! You can be respectable while enjoying this!”

In other words, it’s another way of something is high-brow. “There are no explosions and superheroes here. No aliens or elves. No star-crossed lovers up against the odds. Only real people having real life situations, or real people in situations that are absurd but it’s okay, because it says something important about society.”

I almost wish it was a subgenre. I might have found a home for my ballerina-meets-the-King-in-Yellow story already (still working on that, give it time).

Pinhead may not be from an elevated franchise, but that doesn’t make him or Hellraiser any less awesome.

And the problem with this marketing term is it’s misleading. By calling certain movies or books “elevated horror,” it’s labeling all other horror as “trash,” or at the very least “common.” Either way, the designation puts other horror stories down. And that’s a shame, because there’s such good horror out there. Dark Harvest, Kill Creek and Salem’s Lot aren’t high brow, but they’re great stories that thrill and can leave their readers up late into the night. Same with The Thing or the Hellraiser franchise: they may never win Oscars, but goddamn are they scary, and the latter has led to one of the most memorable characters in the slasher genre.

I’m not trying to put down the term. I’m just saying we should understand what it means, both for works designated as such and those that aren’t. And if it lets you enjoy horror, great. Just make sure to check out works that aren’t “elevated” and whose creators don’t really think or care if their work is called that.

Personally, I can see some of my work being called elevated, but I’ll just say that I was trying to write a fun story and wanted others to enjoy it as well.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. After getting my thoughts on this topic out, I’m off to dream of beasties and ghosts. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

Occasionally in fiction writing, you create characters you find utterly repulsive. Maybe it’s their personality, maybe it’s what they do or believe in, but these characters are VILE.

And surprisingly, writing them well is kind of challenging. I should know. I’m working on a story now where I hate most of the characters. Why? I’ll get into that a little later.

(Though if you’ve been paying attention to my Facebook posts or Twitter feed, you might already know why.)

The thing is, while you may hate the character you’ve created, you can’t let that hate show too much in your writing. You have to treat them like you would any other character. Showing your contempt may be easy, but the reader may notice. And while they may agree with you, they will be turned off by the clear aversion and disdain coming off the page, especially if it’s a protagonist. “Why even bother writing this character if you’re going to make it so obvious you don’t like them?” That might be what goes through their minds. Instead, write them like you would a character you like.

A good example of this is how Vladimir Nabokov treats Humbert Humbert in the novel Lolita. In an interview, Nabokov stated he found Humbert a hateful person for obvious reasons. But he didn’t show his dislike for the character and his predilections in the story. Instead, he writes the novel normally and let’s the readers come to hate him by his actions.

That’s something to keep in mind. Instead of showing your disdain for a vile character, let their actions do the work for you. You can do a lot just by showing a cruel teacher depriving a kid of ice cream or a prison warden manipulating his prisoners to attack each other, rather than by describing them as nasty pieces of shit.

Dolores Umbridge. A great example of a vile character.

You can then supplement that by showing other characters’ reactions to the hated characters for being assholes. JK Rowling, despite her faults, did this quite well when Harry and his friends described characters like Umbridge or Pansy Parkinson and focused on their negative traits. Rowling famously hates those characters, by the way, and made sure they suffered or didn’t get happily-ever-afters in the end.

What if you have to show things through the perspective of the hated character, however? Well, that’s where it can get queasy to write them. Because, as much as you might hate them, you’ll often have to write them as any other character. For instance, l’m writing characters who are neo-Nazis.

Yeah, you read that right. The story I’m working on now is full of neo-Nazis, people who would gladly see me dead for being Jewish (among other things). And I am writing them as I would most other characters. I could write them and focus on their hatred and nasty ideology, and in another story I could get away with that. But for this story, I can’t let them just be stock characters or stereotypes, much as I want to. Instead, I’m trying to show the reader how the characters might see the world. And let’s face it, neo-Nazis are people, and they’re as complicated as any other character. So I should try to write them that way.

That being said, I am going to show just how horrible these people and their toxic ideology can be. And then I’ll take great pleasure in showing what horrors occur to them later in the story. Hey, I’m a Jewish horror author who loves visiting terrors upon his enemies. What do you expect?

So, writing characters you consider vile is more than just making them hateful or showing how much you hate them. It’s a combination of actions, character description, and even writing them in a complex manner. And, of course, making sure they get what’s coming to them if it fits the story. It may make you feel sick to write them that way, but it can also lead to a good story becoming that much better.


On an unrelated note, the anthology I’m helping to produce, That Which Cannot Be Undone, is closing in on forty percent funded on Kickstarter! Not only that, but we’ve added a whole bunch of new perks and have announced some new authors joining the project as well. Some of those authors have even volunteered to name characters after backers and kill them off in style should they back certain limited pledges. Isn’t that cool? You could be a character in another author’s story!

If that, and helping our group produce a kickass horror anthology featuring new stories from me and my friends, you can check out the campaign by clicking the link below.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/crackedskullproject1/that-which-cannot-be-undone-an-ohio-horror-anthology

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. For those who celebrate, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas. If you need me, I’ll be joining my friend John McClane at Nakatomi Tower for Nakatomi Corp’s annual Christmas party. I hear they tend to go out with a bang every year.

Until next time, Happy Holidays and pleasant nightmares!

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Lately, I’ve been deep into two very different books of horror. The first, which I finished last night, is What One Wouldn’t Do, an anthology of horror stories around the idea of “what wouldn’t you do for…what? Power? Revenge? Love? Etc?” The other is Ghoul by Brian Keene, a coming-of-age horror novel about three boys who discover a ghoul living in the graveyard near their homes. They’re both very good, very different from one another, and both deal in emotional horror.

Emotional horror is horror that relies more on the feelings the story provokes in the reader than a supernatural/paranormal entity or a serial killer or anything like that. And yes, I’m aware that all horror tries to provoke an emotional response in readers. Namely terror and fear. But this is a much more subtle kind of horror. Emotional horror scares you with the situation the characters are in and their responses, particularly their emotional responses, to the situation.

A good example of this is the 2015 movie The Witch. You may have noticed, but the titular witch is actually pretty peripheral to the story. She doesn’t show up except to maybe push events in the story. In total, I think she’s maybe only in the film for three whole minutes, if even that. Rather, the horror of the story is how each character reacts to the witch’s interference in their lives. It starts with the baby being kidnaped, then with the older son disappearing into the woods and then coming back horrifically changed. The kid has an ecstatic vision before dying, which leads to the family to believe they’re being victimized by a witch, who could possibly be one of them. And you’re terrified not by the witch or what could be her supernatural influence on the characters. You’re scared by their paranoia, their heartbreak and distrust, and how quickly things devolve from here, leading to an awful, irreversible decision on the part of the protagonist.

The true horror of this story may not be from the titular monster

This is the kind of horror both What One Wouldn’t Do and Ghoul deal in. Many of the stories in the former deal with supernatural elements, but the horror itself is what drives the characters to commit heinous acts or to make deals with the devil or go through insane challenges, and then seeing the fallout from those decisions. And for the latter, while the titular monster is scary in its way, it’s no Pennywise. Rather, a lot of the horror we experience is through the main characters, twelve-year-old boys who are becoming disillusioned by the world around them through the adults in their lives. It’s honestly heartbreaking to see the adults around them fail them so spectacularly, and one scene in particular was so upsetting, I had to post about it on Facebook and Twitter just to get my emotions out.

So, how do you write these scenes? Honestly, it’s not easy. I’m not sure you can set out to write a story that deliberately tugs at your heartstrings and fills you with the emotions the characters are feeling. It’s kind of like how you can’t write a story around a theme. Instead, you take a story and the theme evolves naturally from your working on it. Only when that theme has revealed itself can you play with it and the story together to bring out the best in both.

That was certainly the case with Cressida, the story I wrote that was published in Into the Deep (click here to check it out if you haven’t yet). While it’s a horror story and a mermaid story, it’s not a horror story about mermaids, though they aren’t the pretty fishtailed supermodels Disney animated, either. Rather, the mermaid is in herself a catalyst for the true horror, which is what the characters do upon encountering a mermaid who shares an uncanny resemblance to a deceased family member of theirs.

But when I set out to write that story, I never intended that the horror would come from the characters’ emotional and psychological reactions. I wrote the story because it sounded like a lot of fun to work on and I made changes to the storyline along the way to better bring out the horror I was discovering. The result is Cressida, which I feel is some of the best work I’ve written yet.

You know, that makes me realize something: in emotional horror, whatever is happening in the plot, be it mermaids, ghouls, necromancy, witches, etc., is often not the main focus of the story (even if it’s in the story’s title). Rather, they’re plot devices, tools to draw out the horror hidden within the characters’ emotional responses.

My story in this anthology didn’t start out as an emotionally-driven horror story. It just ended up that way.

I guess that makes emotional horror a kind of psychological horror.

Anyway, that’s what’s going through my mind at this time. The fact that I was getting into all these stories with similar kinds of horror at the same time got my brain working, so I decided to write it out. I’d love to hear what your thoughts on this subject are. Let’s talk in the comments below.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I leave for my trip tomorrow, so I likely won’t be around as much as I would otherwise be. However, I’ll be around on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, so check there for updates if you start to miss me.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night, pleasant nightmares, and there’s only a week till Halloween. Prepare to give yourselves to the dance of terror and to raise the old gods so we can all enjoy their infernal gifts. If you do not, I suggest you run.

Bye!

I don’t know if this past week went on forever or went by so quickly. All I know is, Passover is just a few days away and it’s going to be busy preparing for the holiday.

Okay, enough complaining. As you know, I had a new story released last week. “Agoraphobia” follows a young man with severe anxiety who is forced to leave his home when a hurricane bears down on his area. Needless to say, things don’t go as planned. It’s a short, deliciously creepy horror story and I’m quite pleased with it.

And I’m happy to say, the short story has been well-received. Not only have I been getting a lot of people downloading copies, but since the release there’s been an average of a review a day for a total of seven. And even the lowest, a 3-star review, has been very positive. Here has been some of the responses to “Agoraphobia:”

Another great story by Rami Ungar, this one is more traditional horror. (not that there’s anything wrong with non-traditional horror!) As another reviewer said, you can’t say too much about a short without spoiling, so I’ll try to be brief.

Peyton lives alone in a well fortified house. Suffering from Agoraphobia, and secure in the knowledge that his house is safe from everything, he even ignores the coming hurricane. But, alas, it turns out his residence isn’t quite the castle he thought it was. A broken window leaves him with a water soaked carpet and – are those footprints?

Great read, good pacing, with some twists at the end. Highly recommend!

Joleene Naylor, author of the Amaranthine series

An intriguing short story of a man who has problems, sadly those problems are about to get worse. The author does a great job making this short story feel longer with complete content in a short space.

PS Winn, author

I would include more reviews, but as Joleene says, you can’t say too much without spoiling the story. Anyway, thanks to everyone who has read the story so far and has taken the time to leave their thoughts online for others to check out. Your reviews help other readers decide if they want to read it, so it means a lot to me.

Anyway, I’m very pleased with the response to “Agoraphobia.” And now my goal is to get more people reading it. I’m not expecting thousands of readers and adaptation offers, but I would like to make a little splash and expand my audience. We’ll see what occurs (though, being me, I always hope for the best).

If you’re interested, I’ll post links to “Agoraphobia” down below. If you decide to read the story, please let me know what you think somehow. A review, a tweet, or an email works. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback. And as I said, when you leave your thoughts in a public place like Twitter or Amazon, it lets others know and helps them decide whether the story is right for them.

And if you’re interested, I have a lot more stories you can check out on my Amazon author profile. Novels, short stories, and short story collections, plus some of the anthologies I’ve been lucky enough to have stories included in. I got them all and then some. Click this link to check them out.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got a busy Tuesday ahead of me. Work, shopping for Passover, and a beta reading for a colleague. Hopefully afterwards I can work on my mermaid horror story. Until next time, stay safe, happy reading and pleasant nightmares!

Agoraphobia: Goodreads, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

This morning, I checked my memories on Facebook, and what popped up in 2018? No, not an embarrassing photo from that year’s Purim celebration. I killed the person who took the photo and destroyed their phone’s SIM card before they could post it. No, it was the announcement that my novel Rose had been accepted by Castrum Press, a publishing company based out of Belfast, North Ireland.

And over the course of today, it just kept hitting me. Three years. Three whole years. It felt like so much longer (and not just because of the mess that was 2020). And given all that happened with the book over those three years, it only feels right to blog about it.

So if you’re unfamiliar, Rose is a novel I first wrote as my college thesis and which later became my first novel published with a publisher. The story is a Kafkaesque fantasy-horror tale about a young woman who wakes up with no memory of the past two years. She then finds herself transfigured into a plant/human hybrid by ancient magic, setting her on a path of no return.

As I said, a lot happened with Rose in the three years since Castrum Press accepted the novel. The novel itself went through a heavy editing and rewriting process that lasted about fifteen months, from March 2018 to June 2019 when the book was released. Characters were changed or written out, plot points were added and pulled out, and at one point two-thirds of the book needed to be thrown out and rewritten. Yeah, that happened. Word of advice, don’t add flashback scenes that have nothing to do with the main plot of the story, let alone make one-third of the book flashbacks and the other third somewhat dependent on the flashbacks.

But it was worth it. The book came out soon after my twenty-sixth birthday, and people started reading it. Soon, I had some great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and they kept growing. In August, I had a reading at Brothers Drake, a local bar and meadery, or distiller of honeywine. In December, the audio book released, narrated by the incomparable Sarah Parlier, who made chills go up my back with her narration. 2020 came in, and the book continued to do somewhat well. I wasn’t making Stephen King money, but I was doing okay for an author of my skill and reach.

Honestly, though, the fact that anyone’s reading Rose at all, especially with so much good horror out there, is incredible. Yeah, people enjoy it, but I had to do a lot of plugging over the course of these three years to get people interested, let alone willing to read it. That’s part of the author lot, truth be told: you gotta do a ton of work to let people know your book is available. No one’s going to do it for you, at least not without compensation.

Well, I’m not complaining. All the work has paid off. More and more people are reading Rose, and are leaving reviews. I just got a new four star review today from an author I know through Twitter, which made my day. It makes me happy. And I’m hoping, with continued work, some devoted fans, and a few conventions/author events, Rose will continue to do well.

If you would be interested in reading Rose, I’ll leave links below for you to check out. And if you end up reading it, I hope you’ll take the time to let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback, and it not only helps me, but your fellow readers in the long run.

That’s all for now. I’m off to enjoy the weekend. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night, Shabbat Shalom, have a great weekend, and pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

A small screenshot of the website article I took on my phone earlier today. It’s had nearly twice as many shares since then.

You’re probably looking at that title and thought, “Oh, he published an article and–wait, what?” Well, let me explain.

Ginger Nuts of Horror is a well-known and well-regarded horror website on the net. They do news articles, reviews, and the occasional essay or feature, among others. Not too long ago, I sent them a copy of Rose for them to hopefully review in the near future, and their editor encouraged me in the meantime to consider sending them an article for their website. I liked the idea, but I couldn’t think of anything to send them that would be worth their time…until recently, that is.

I recently saw Kurt Neumann’s 1958 film The Fly for the first time. I wasn’t expecting to be scared, but I was expecting to be entertained. And I was…until I reached what could be considered the second climax of the film, the spider web scene. And I. Was. TERRIFIED!!!

Which, honestly, I didn’t expect to happen. It’s a B-grade science-horror film with dated effects that, even when it was released, were more goofy than scary. And yet this one scene left me in terror. Which made me ask, why? Why did this scene scare me (and presumably others) so badly.

This led to me writing my article, “Why the Spider Web Scene in The Fly is Actually Terrifying.” As you can tell from the title, I break down why that scene is so terrifying element by element. It’s a bit longer than some of my blog posts, about fifteen hundred words, but I think you’ll find it worth the read. I’ll include the link below. At least, nearly a hundred people have shared the article across social media since the article went live this morning, if that’s any metric.

I would also like to thank Jim McLeod and the team at Ginger Nuts of Horror for publishing my article and even giving Rose a shout out after my bio at the bottom of the article.* It was great to work with you guys, and I hope I can send you guys something you would be proud to post again very soon. I’ll also make sure to post a link to the website and the associated Twitter account in case any of you want to check them out.

This scene may look hokey, but to many people, including myself, it’s quite terrifying.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you’ll let me know what you think of the article once you’ve finished reading it. I’m also curious to know if any of you were as scared of the 1958 version of The Fly as I was. I’m not alone in that, right? Right?!

Until next time, pleasant nightmares and be careful when doing teleportation experiments. You never know what’ll happen if you don’t do the proper safety checks.

*This also counts as my first publication of 2021. I’m quite happy about that, especially after how sparse 2020 was.

GINGER NUTS OF HORROR ARTICLE LINK

GINGER NUTS OF HORROR HOMEPAGE

GINGER NUTS OF HORROR TWITTER PAGE

The other day, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and I saw a tweet from a fellow writer in the writing community (or #WritingCommunity). This was the tweet.

Now, if the tweet hasn’t loaded properly into this blog post at the time you’re reading this, it’s from writer Rey Roland using the hashtag @rrowlandwrites and goes like this:

#WritingCommunity do you think that characters have to make mistakes in a story?

I found the question stimulating, so after some back and forth between us, I decided to do a full post on the question (hope you don’t mind, Rey).

So, can and should characters make mistakes? First, let me start with can: yes, characters can make mistakes. In fact, there are plenty of stories where characters make mistakes which become integral to the plot. And yes, characters should on occasion make mistakes, though it depends heavily on the story. A character shouldn’t make a mistake just for the sake of making one when it serves no purpose to the story. Otherwise, the readers will think it’s weird.

Of course, this leads to an even bigger question: is there a benefit to having characters make mistakes? Actually, there are multiple benefits to having a character who makes mistakes.

For one thing, characters who make mistakes are easier to empathize with. Not to say characters incapable of making mistakes can’t be empathized with, but it does make a character more human and easier to identify with for the audience. The possibility of a reader continuing with a story can depend greatly on their connection to the protagonist, so showing them as being like the reader–more human–can be an advantage.

Edmund Pevensie’s mistake was a major driver of the story.

Another reason to have characters make mistakes is that it can help the story along or add to its complexity. Sometimes, it’s even the catalyst of the story. In The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Edmund makes the mistake of falling under the White Witch’s spell, and betraying his siblings adding both an extra dilemma to an already difficult situation and giving the character a redemption arc during the story. And in the manga Death Note, Light Yagami tries to eliminate suspicion of himself as the murderer Kira by killing the FBI agent following him, as well as the other FBI agents following other suspects. However, this eventually just leads to him becoming a prime suspect again, a problem which lasts the rest of the series.

Of course, it isn’t just protagonists who make major mistakes. Minor characters make mistakes all the time, and they often benefit the plot significantly. In Ania Ahlborn’s novel The Devil Crept In, the protagonist’s mother makes the mistake of not treating her son’s obvious mental issues, which has major consequences before, during and after the story. And in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Cho Chang’s best friend Marietta Edgecombe tells Umbridge about Dumbledore’s Army, leading to the organization’s dissolution, Dumbledore’s exile and Umbridge’s assent at Hogwarts, and boils to appear on her face in the shape of the word “SNEAK.”

And villains make mistakes all the time. Often, that’s how their downfall begins. Often, these mistakes are due to the villains’ pride, ignorance, or some other character flaw. Voldemort doesn’t believe anyone will find his Horcruxes; Bane talks too much and doesn’t watch his six; Annie Wilkes is so obsessed with her Misery Chastain novels, she falls for Paul Sheldon’s trick; the White Witch doesn’t read the instructions carefully and misses the deeper magic in the Stone Table; Kaecilius also doesn’t read the instructions and misses what actually happens when you join Dormammu’s dimension; and the Wicked Witch allows water in her castle for some reason, even though she has a serious water allergy (I guess the book version thought Dorothy would never think to use water against her?).

As you can see from the above, not only can and should characters be able to make mistakes, but there are numerous benefits to doing so. Whether to include one or not depends on the author, character(s), and story in question. However, if an opportunity comes up and you think it’ll ultimately benefit the plot, I say do it. Who knows? It could be a major turning point in the story, and the moment readers talk about for years to come.

I hope you found this post edifying, my Followers of Fear. I had fun writing it. And I hope Rey Rowland (whose Twitter page you can find here) enjoys reading this. Thanks for the mental stimulation.

That’s all for now. I’ll check in with you all very soon, I’m sure. So, until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and DON’T TAKE THAT ACTION! IT’S THE KIND OF MISTAKE THAT’LL LAND YOU IN A HORROR STORY! AND NOT ONE WRITTEN BY ME.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone, sing it with me.

Happy Birthday to the blog,
Happy Birthday to the blog.
Happy Birthday to Rami Ungar the Writer
Happy Birthday to the blog.

Great job singing, everyone. Except you. Yes, you. You were off-key.

So, as this post says, Rami Ungar the Writer, the very blog you’re reading right now, is nine years old as of today. And even though my memory of starting this blog at my local library has faded over time, this blog hasn’t. True, there were times where I thought it would. During the first year or two of college, there were days where I was lucky to get one or two views a day. I would wonder if writing this blog was even worth it, given how few people were reading what I had to say as I tried to make something of myself as a writer.

But I kept at it. I’m stubborn when it comes to goals, particularly writing-related goals, and I kept blogging. And you know what? People found my posts. They liked them, commented on them. Some even decided to subscribe to the blog. When my books came out, some of those subscribers elected to read them. And many of my subscribers have become dear friends of mine. I’ve even had the pleasure of meeting a few in person, and making happy memories with them. It’s been quite the ride.

As of writing this post (and I know it’s tacky to brag, but nine years! That’s a long time to be blogging, especially in Internet time), Rami Ungar the Writer has 1,694 posts (including this one); 1,217 subscribers; 6,160 likes; and 4,526 comments. Crazy to think about. Even crazier, despite all common sense, some of you are actually proud to be Followers of Fear. I think one or two of you even used the title in hashtags on Twitter. The world is truly something else.

So what’s next? Well, even without a pandemic, I doubt much would change. I’ll be writing and editing stories and working on getting them published. I’ll have reviews on new works of horror as I come across them (and a few new ones are now cheap enough to rent through YouTube, so that’ll work). If I want to discuss a particular aspect of writing or of horror, I will. And if there’s any ghost-hunting or travels to be done, I’ll post about it.

Anyway, thanks for celebrating the blog’s ninth birthday with me. I’m so glad to have so many Followers of Fear interested in my stories and what I have to say. I hope you’ll continue to read what I write, blog or book form, and even let me know what you think.

Also, what do you think I should do for the tenth anniversary? Buy a cake and some champagne? Do another AMA on YouTube? Throw a wild party? I guess we’ll just have to wait till next year to find out.

So, until next time, thanks for being here. And as always, pleasant nightmares!

So the other night on Twitter, I see Richard Chizmar (you know, that author/publisher I interviewed a while back?) tweet about this movie, The House of the Devil, saying he had to stop watching it thirty minutes in and could only finish it by the light of day. Obviously, I’m intrigued, so I went and reserved a copy from the library. And I finished it in one sitting after dark, so I think I can brag about that? Wait, I live in an apartment with noises, and part of the reason Mr. Chizmar couldn’t finish it was because he was watching the film in a dark, quiet house. Obviously, there’s a difference.

Anyway, on with the review!

Set in the 1980s and “based on true events,” The House of the Devil follows Samantha, a college student struggling to make ends meet. In desperation, she answers a babysitting ad she finds on campus and takes it. However, things get weird when she gets to the house. And once she’s alone with her charge, she learns that there’s more afoot than meets the eye.

Ladies and gentlemen, I may have a new favorite horror film!

So first off, this really does feel like a horror film from the late 70s/early 80s. In addition to the normal signs of a 1980s-set story (teased hair, Walkmans, and music from the best era for music ever, etc.), the movie was filmed with 16mm film, giving it that slightly filtered quality we know and feel so nostalgic about. Add in some yellow credits and some pauses during opening credits, and I could almost believe this film was made over thirty years ago rather than just eleven years ago.

I also love how this film builds tension. I know I use the term “slow burn” quite a bit, but it fits here. Director Ti West takes his time laying the groundwork and establishing our main character Samantha (wonderfully played by Jocelin Donahue, who embodies natural 80s beauty as much as Natalia Dyer in Stranger Things). Once we get to the house, things switch to showing Samantha’s increasing unease and paranoia. The camera work in these scenes is great, showing the heroine exploring the house multiple times, as if she’s not sure she’s really alone, while at the same time the camera films things in a voyeuristic way, like we’re the ones stalking Samantha, allowing us to share in her unease.

And that final third! Whoo-boy, things go zero-to-sixty real quick, and it is scary and thrilling to watch. I also like seeing how Samantha strikes a great balance between terrified final girl and willing to fight back. Usually in these films it’s either they’re screaming their heads off or they’re angry vengeance personified, so it’s a nice change to see a compromise.

As far as problems go, this film might be a bit too slow and quiet at times for some viewers. If you prefer your horror film have faster paces or not so many quiet points where characters just talk, this may not be the film for you. Also, there are some flashing imagery at the beginning of the final third that might trigger people with photosensitivity. It’s not as bad as IT: Chapter Two was, but it’s still something to keep in mind.

All in all, The House of the Devil is a wonderful homage to the slasher and suspense-horror films of the 70s and 80s. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.8. Settle into the couch, order a pizza and prepare for one of the best horror films you haven’t heard of. You won’t regret it.

Unless you have nightmares. In which case you may regret it.