Tag Archives: horror

Movie Review: 28 Days Later — 4 Juicy Brains

I’m a peering-through-my-fingers kind of horror watcher (which is to say, I don’t). But I wrote a zombie novel, so it’s kind of expected that I’ll know, you know, something about some of the major zombie movies. While I don’t think my ignorance has held me back at all, really, it is a little embarrassing to admit. (This is how I explain: “I’m more of a Shaun of the Dead kinda gal than a Living Dead…”)

But I’m working to remedy things. Last month I watched Zombieland. I’ve continued my education with modern cult classic 28 Days Later.

28 Days Later- Zombie Movie Review

Premise: Jim wakes up from a coma 28 days after a zombie outbreak (related to scientists and chimpanzee experiments on “rage”) has swept through London. After stumbling around in confusion, he links up with other survivors: the tough, no-nonsense Selena; the bad-joker Mark; young girl Hannah; and Mark, her father. They seek sanctuary, and Jim hardens from soft, confused coma patient to badass survivor.

Zombie Characteristics: Zombies are technically infected with this “rage” virus. Outwardly, they pretty well match your basic zombie template, with perhaps less rotting flesh. They’re fast, or at least as fast as a human would be. They seem more inclined to rip and tear than actually eat, and there is no indication that they’re after brains in particular. They’re dumb but not totally moronic. The infection is spread by saliva (being bitten) and blood transmission.

Apocalypse Level: Severe. Jim wakes up to a totally abandoned London. It’s pretty eerie. It looks like there may not be any other people at all, but he gets lucky. There aren’t hordes or roaming undead, but it doesn’t take many to be a real problem. Though the radio/TV services are all down, rumor has it that the zombie infection was not contained… perhaps the whole world is infected. There are, however, hints of other survivors.

Gore Level: Medium. There really aren’t that many intense zombie attacks, but when they do show up, they can be visceral. Most of the “gore” and scare factor seems to come from the setting, and the rough film techniques. Isolation is the biggest danger here…after you’ve outrun the zombies.  The worst parts may be the violence of the other survivors.

Overall: It turns out the scariest parts of a zombie apocalypse may be the other survivors. The parts with the soldiers… were deeply unsettling to me. I mean, they’re supposed to be, but I found it more upsetting perhaps than was intended. That was the part that made me mad/scared, more than any of the creepy zombie parts. Zombies are scary and should be avoided, but trust for other survivors may be the hardest thing to come by in the apocalypse. Women, bring your Tasers and pepperspray when the zombies start rising up.

But I can see why 28 Days Later got so much attention. I’m grateful that the creators allowed a speck of hope at the end (though I did watch the two alternative endings, for science). I wouldn’t call it “fun,” but it’s a great movie. Plus it introduced the world to Cillian Murphy, and for that we should all be grateful.

For that, and its importance in zombie lore, I give this movie 4 juicy, blood-splattery brains!

juicy brains

juicy brains

juicy brains

juicy brains

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Review: Cat Out of Hell

Cat Out of HellCat Out of Hell by Lynne Truss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s only the end of April and I think I can safely say I have found my favorite book of the year. Cat Out of Hell is dryly hilarious, surprising, riveting, and–most of all–utterly charming.
It’s a quick read featuring an unlikely protagonist and a believable-if-unexpected villain. Alec is a librarian who has just lost his wife and retired (rather early, by American standards) from his job. While trying to distract himself from his grief, he is sent a curious set of documents…about a talking cat. Alec is thrown, quite unwillingly and yet headlong, into a great grisly mystery dating back at least a hundred years.

The story format itself is unique: it is a combination of diary-ish entries, descriptions of photos and audio files, email exchanges, attempted screenplays, and at least one incidence of “emiaow”–cat telepathic communications, of course. Utterly charming, as I said.

One challenge for some readers may be that it is Very British, with absolutely no Harry Potter-like accommodations for American readers. That means you’ll just have to accept (or Google) the many Britishisms and pop culture references, or miss out on a lot of the fun. The sense of humor is also resolutely British in flavor, with our artless protagonist feeling a little bad about winning even when he is completely justified. It’s so incredibly, delightfully, downplayed.

Cat lovers will adore this book for its adroit insight into the feline mind, and cat haters will walk away certain they are correct to dislike our independent little companions. (Oh, dog lovers, don’t worry, there are some nice bits for you, too.) I can’t recommend it enough!

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Zombies and Adventure! ‘Undead Rising’ Now On Amazon

Undead Rising: Decide Your Destiny is now available for purchase on Amazon for Kindle and in print! This zombie adventure is not for the faint of heart–or the humorless.

Undead Rising: Decide Your Destiny is available RIGHT NOW on Amazon for Kindle and in print!

Don’t you want to know—would you survive the zombie apocalypse? Undead Rising: Decide Your Destiny slams you into New York City just as it is struck by a zombie outbreak, leaving you to decide how to survive when your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and strangers join the undead. With more than 45 different scenarios, it’s tough to survive, but even when you die, sometimes you become a zombie—opening up new, monstrous options, including eating celebrities, being used as a genetic experiment, and exploring the Mariana trench. Every time you read “Undead Rising” you have the chance to change your destiny—but every scenario will leave you flipping pages to try again.

Note: This isn’t a kids’ adventure. I recommend it for older teens and adults who need a dose of nostalgia, a little bit of creepiness, and some laughs.

Undead Rising coverAw yeah, look at that awesome book cover! Zombies are coming for YOU!

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Review: Skeleton Crew

Skeleton CrewSkeleton Crew by Stephen King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For a collection of short stories, this book took me forever to read. It’s an interesting peek behind the curtain of the famous writer while also being chock-full of scary, interesting, and mysterious tales. It’s a lot of fun, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to read it on your relaxing vacation (see: took me 3.5 months to read it all).

If you’ve read King’s famous “On Writing,” you may find this book extra interesting. He can’t help but reveal himself in these short stories, and when they are all collected together, it’s easy to see commonalities. For one, I feel like I have a real roadmap to Bangor, Maine (King’s beloved hometown). The laundry where he worked before he found a teaching job (and then became a writer) makes several appearances, and country roads in the vicinity twist and tangle until some of the more unruly characters appear. I have to wonder if King’s drug addiction lies behind some of the more nauseating and skin-crawling horrors: the rat-person in “Mona” in particular, and certainly the methodology in “Survivor Type.”

It’s interesting to read “The Mist” and King’s thoughts on it in the decades before it became a movie (his son Joe Hill even being “cast” as the precocious little kid in the story). The story, which opens the book, is one of the best, but is not the most frightening, by far. “The Jaunt” is a cheerful attempt at science-fiction, with the ending practically obvious from the get-go. The final story, “The Reach,” wasn’t horror in the slightest; it’s more of a quiet contemplation.

I found it intriguing that the horror factor in several of the stories (“The Mist,” “The Raft,” “The Monkey,” “Morning Deliveries (Milkman #2)”) is never clearly defined, explained, or even resolved. Particularly in “The Mist” and “The Raft,” bad things just sort of happen, and there isn’t a lot anyone–reader, character, perhaps writer?–can do about it.

While I enjoyed reading these stories because it allowed me to study King while he was at work (or, as he says, “my muse shat on my head–this happened as it always does, suddenly, with no warning.”), it reads like the grab-bag off his desk: a little of this, a little of that, some worth more, some not worth writing on the back of a napkin. It’s a ragtag bunch of stories, and shows the breadth of King’s talent and interests, but may not be for every reader.

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Stephen King at His Worst

I’ve been reading Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew. (Pro tip: It may not be a great idea to read horror when you’re going through a stressful time! The more you know!)

It’s taking me awhile. I picked it a) because it’s Stephen King and I feel like there’s a lot I can learn by studying him, b) my fiance brought me the book when I didn’t have one to read, and c) I figured hey, short stories! Perfect for when I’m busy!

I sort of forgot that I don’t read Stephen King generally because he writes horror. …The subsequent nightmares reminded me, don’t worry.

Anyway, so I’ve been reading this book. And you can tell he’s talented, even though many of his successful books, including On Writing, hadn’t been written yet. But the really interesting thing, to me, is the prologue. He writes about how he likes to write short stories, how he got started with them, selling a thing or two to a magazine (back in the day when mainstream magazines bought fiction to publish) to keep his family afloat. He writes about how it’s been harder, since he started in on novels, to find time for the shorts.

And–critically–he talks about how the contained stories aren’t really “winners.” (He specifically calls them “losers” and then details why, and why you should read on anyway.) I don’t know if that’s an author’s critic chewing away at him or what, and I haven’t read enough of his works overall to know for sure but… I believe him.

Some of the stories don’t really work. Some are dalliances with other genres and then remember they’re supposed to be horror so make a sharp and weird turn at the end, like The Jaunt (science fiction), The Wedding Gig (1920s crime intrigue) and The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands (maybe Poe-sian or Doyle? I dunno, it just didn’t work). Some are clearly horror but are so undefined that it’s hard to be frightened, like The Raft, which read like an episode of Supernatural, except those guys would have killed the monster somehow.  Then there are those where you can see the ending coming from a mile away, like the charming wish-fulfillment fantasy Word Processor of the Gods.

Nevertheless, I feel like I’m learning a lot from these “losers.” (I mean, they were still published, some of them twice, so they aren’t so bad, really). King is great at giving his characters baggage; everybody has issues of some kind. This makes his people relatable. I think I can work on that in my writing. I also feel like I know the general landscape of Maine, even though I’ve never been anywhere near it; he does a great job mining his geography for detail, and maybe I need to work on embracing Texas in my writing more. His word-choice manages to have depth without ever feeling too out of reach for a general audience, and it feels like you’re getting to know him.

But the biggest lesson, perhaps, I’ve gotten so far? Failure doesn’t always mean the end.

Skeleton Crew was published in 1984. In 2007, the first story in the book became a movie: The Mist.  I haven’t seen it, but it seems like it stays pretty true to the text…with a critical and gut-wrenching change to the ending.

23 years later, his “loser” became a success–or at least a pretty good movie, with a slight change. It has a rating of 7.2 stars on IMDB right now. That’s not so bad for a “meh” story, is it, Stephen?

Twenty-three years seems like a long time to wait, but it does give me hope. (Though I’d prefer things come along a tad faster.)

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True Stories of Being Buried Alive

Snopes is definitely one of the best things to ever happen to the internet–maybe the world. The smart-but-snarky duo behind the website has saved me from many a well-intended grandparent spam message (“No, Grandpa, I don’t need to look under my car for someone who might slash my ankles…Snopes says it isn’t true. Ok, ok…I’ll check anyway. Love you too.”).

I didn’t realize it may also be such an incredible font for story ideas and research…until I found this article: Just Dying to Get Out
True stories of people who were buried alive.
If that doesn’t send a flutter through your belly, I don’t know what will. Maybe this:
“In the 1850s, a young girl visiting Edisto Island, South Carolina, died of diphtheria. She was quickly interred in a local family’s mausoleum because it was feared the disease might otherwise spread. When one of the family’s sons died in the Civil War, the tomb was opened to admit him. A tiny skeleton was found on the floor just behind the door.”
Or maybe this punishment for vestal virgins who were found to be unchaste in Roman days:
“…a narrow room is constructed, to which a descent is made by stairs; here they prepare a bed, and light a lamp, and leave a small quantity of victuals, such as bread and water, a pail of milk, and some oil; so that body which had been consecrated and devoted to the most sacred service of religion might not be said to perish by such a death as famine. The culprit herself is put in a litter, which they cover over, and tie her down with cords on it, so that nothing she utters may be heard. Then they take her to the Forum…when they come to the place of execution, the officers loose the cords, and then the high priest, lifting his hands to heaven, pronounces certain prayers to himself before the act; then he brings out the prisoner, being still covered, and placing her upon the steps that lead down to the cell, turns away his face…the stairs are drawn up after she has gone down, and a quantity of earth is heaped up over the entrance to the cell…”
Eeeep.
So now we know: Snopes is good for a whole lot more than just crazy urban legend-busting. It’s also good for giving yourself nightmares.

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