Monthly Archives: October 2015

All Hallow’s Reads 2015 – The Visit: A Review

My friend, Nic and I had a meeting to go to, and it was far away and it was during the evening, so we had time to see a movie! And since my wife had refused to go see this with me, we ended up watching The Visit. And the real twist of the film was that it was good!

The Visit is the best thing M. Night Shyamalan has done since Signs. It’s not better than Signs. That movie is incredibly rewatchable for being as scary as it is. But The Visit doesn’t need to be rewatchable, it just needs to creep you out, take you on a wild ride of a third act and leave you feeling tense after the credits role.

Two kids visiting their grandparents doesn’t seem like it should be scary, but the ravages of age on the human brain can be frightening to young children. And the kids in this film are freaked out by behavior they haven’t seen or expected. But for the viewer, because we know who the director is, we’re sure it’s not just sun-downing or dementia. We know there is something else, right?

The Visit has a few red herrings to throw at us, but the end reveal left me satisfied and I found it creepier than going in the other direction. It helped that my friend and I were the only two people in the theater so I could really let myself react to the scares. I’m not one for talking to the screen, but there were plenty of times when I shook my head and yelled “No, I don’t want you to do that”, hoping to save myself from more tension.

If this movie had come out post-Signs or even after The Village, I think Shyamalan would be in a better place today then he is now. Luckily, The Visit is strong enough that I’m actually willing to call it a come back and see what else this once lost director has to offer. It will be a long time until he regains my full trust, but this is a good first step.

For different adventures this Halloween, all my friends are blogging our holiday celebrations!

First we have Smallville Chronicle with Nic Gunning, a long-time friend, co-worker and all-around fun time!

Then we have Sallylife’s Blog by Sally Murphy, another long-time friend, artist and all-around fun time!

And then there’s Musings From a Music Box by Kendra Mikols, my lovely wife, singer and all-around fun time!

All Hallow’s Reads 2015 – The Books (Part 1)

Let’s cover some Halloween Reads! This year, I’ve got a brand new list of titles to get me in the mood for the season!

13597728First up, Asylum by Madeleine Roux. The story takes place in an old, abandoned mental institution from back when it was okay to drill holes in people’s heads because they were a little off. Except, it’s been turned into a college prep summer school. I mean, sure, they haven’t renovated everything, the locals still see the place as a house of torture and may or may not be haunted, but the extra credit you’d receive!

Asylum is a YA book so the horror only ever gets so creepy but it has the benefit of some very eerie photographs placed throughout. You wouldn’t think scribbling pencil marks in a man’s eyes would make for an unsettling image until you turn the page and see it yourself. In all honesty, the creepiest parts of the book are in the beginning and then in the second half it starts feeling a little complacent in its terror. Again, it’s written for teens but I think they could handle a little more.

So as our three heroes (all exceptional, all dealing with some mental unrest) try to uncover the secrets of this old building, people start getting murdered. Not only that, but they might have more to do with the history of the asylum than they would have known.

Asylum is the first of the series, continued in Sanctum and then Catacombs. Sanctum is about a circus so I might jump ship now before I get to creeped out. If you’re looking for a scary story but something that reads more like an older Goosebumps rather than a true exercise in horror, check the series out.

The second book I’ve read this Halloween is Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia. I actually bought this as a three book pack for my Kindle a few years ago and it’s taken my a long time to get on board.

The book is about a secret organization of monster hunters who go around the world collecting bounties off of the things that go bump in the night. Our hero is an accountant turned werewolf-slayer and we follow him into a whole new world.

Correia’s world is one where all of our horror movies and books exist so it get’s a bit meta. H.P. Lovecraft writing may not really be fiction, Ann Rice might have made it easier for vampires to go about their business and Bigfoot’s not really a concern. Correia also turns a lot of monsters on their head. Elves are trailer park hillbillies who have let themselves go in a big way, Orcs a lot more noble than Lord of the Rings would have us believe and killing undead is just gross.

Correia also writes a lot about guns. A lot. In complete detail, we learn about each firearm’s design, how it works, how it sounds, how it feels, what damage it can do and how much our heroes love it. Now, your mileage may vary on how much you enjoy these sections. If you’re a gun enthusiast who thinks the 2nd Amendment is God’s gift to America, you’ll love it. If you’ve never picked up a gun in your life and aren’t planning on it, than these might get a little annoying. By the end, I was skimming over a lot of these love letters, but that meant a few pages at times.

Is the book scary? Not really, but MHI is more of an action-adventure read than horror. It does that part well, especially during an assault on a freighter full of vampires. But it’s a long read. There was a time where I was sure the book was over but I had another hundred pages left. It’s the same problem I had with Hard Magic by Correia, he writes in a pulpy-adventure fashion but overstays his welcome.

Either way, the first book is worth checking out but you’ll have to make your own call with the rest of the series.

And that’s the first part of my reading this Halloween!

For different adventures this Halloween, all my friends are blogging our holiday celebrations!

First we have Smallville Chronicle with Nic Gunning, a long-time friend, co-worker and all-around fun time!

Then we have Sallylife’s Blog by Sally Murphy, another long-time friend, artist and all-around fun time!

And then there’s Musings From a Music Box by Kendra Mikols, my lovely wife, singer and all-around fun time!

All Hallow’s Reads 2015 – Secret Window

Secret Window was the official first pick of our groups Halloween movie picks. See, no one wanted to take the blame for Dragonfly, not even Kevin Costner.

My wife, Kendra, got to pick first and she chose a movie that she’s been telling me to watch for years. Secret Window, if you’re memory serves, was the film all your friends went out to see in March 2004 because they thought Johnny Depp was the best thing since Ashton Kutcher. Most of this was due to Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl being so freaking good. But Mr. Depp doesn’t play a pirate in Secret Window, he plays a writer! So all our little sisters and high school pals got tricked into watching a movie that was probably darker than they were expecting.

The movie is about a writer (Depp) who’s being stalked by a man claiming that Depp stole his story. There’s a lot of ways to prove that not to be the case, the internet for one. But maybe the movie gets a pass because it was the early 2000s and not everything had been digitized yet?

Depp then tries to solve the problem by going to the worst cop in the world, the laziest agent/bodyguard ever to protect, and having constant phone calls from his cheating ex-wife. Not a lot of it makes sense when held to a microscope.

You stole my story!

But maybe it doesn’t need to be over-analyzed because despite some obvious flaws, unlikable supporting characters and no real secret window, the film is surprisingly entertaining. Johnny Depp gives a surprisingly subdued performance (for the most part) and the movie has a few more laughs than I was expecting. There’s zero tension and it would be generous to even call it a slow-burn, but it’s not bad. Does it fit well in Halloween? Actually, it kind of does. It’s based off of a Stephen King story, so there’s that going for it in the eerie department. What really makes it is knowing the twist of the film because then you’re just watching a car accident in slow motion.

Three and a half out of five star-shaped pumpkins!

For different opinions, all my friends are blogging our holiday celebrations!

First we have Smallville Chronicle with Nic Gunning, a long-time friend, co-worker and all-around fun time!

Then we have Sallylife’s Blog by Sally Murphy, another long-time friend, artist and all-around fun time!

And then there’s Musings From a Music Box by Kendra Mikols, my lovely wife, singer and all-around fun time!

All Hallow’s Read 2015 – Dragonfly

Gah.

Look. I didn’t want to start my holiday celebrations with this movie either. But friendship is a democracy and I was outvoted in the movie pick that night. I mean, I knew this movie was going to be bad. I kept shouting, “I brought games! Let’s play a game! Anything but that movie! PLEASE!” but my voice was drowned out under the excited baying of cattle unaware of the slaughter before them.

I guess the cattle are my friends in this metaphor.

Anyway, on to the movie.

Dragonfly is a movie of sorts that came out in 2002. It’s one of those films that I remember seeing commercials for and thinking, in my sixteen year old wisdom, that it looked bad and was not worth seeing. Not even as a casual viewing. There’s so much good cinema out there that I haven’t seen, why waste any time on a Kevin Costner dud? And so I was successful for thirteen years, until a few weeks ago.

Kevin Costner’s wife has died (maybe) and now she might be haunting him (maybe). Of fun note is that his wife is played by Susanna Thompson, mother of Oliver Queen and failer of cities. That’s about where the interesting notes end.

Do you like jump scares? This one tries and fails at a few. Do you like creepy kids with weird psychic powers? This movie hopes so but then drops the ball by having the kid not be creepy or psychic.

In the end, Costner isn’t being haunted, he’s being texted by his wife because she may have left something for him in the jungle. The movie stops being creepy after the opening shot but things really lose all sense of purpose when Costner gets on a plane. The whole third act is in a jungle with him looking for a bus and his wife (maybe). Seriously, I can’t describe this movie, it makes me go into a comatose state.

This is the type of direct-to-dvd trash that my friends of my teenage years made me watch and that gave me such a bad taste for bad movies. The kind that even a Rifftrax can’t fix. I know people who can watch a bad movie if it’s at least entertaining, or the prestigious so-bad-it’s-good. But I can’t. Films like Dragonfly waste everyone’s time. It has nothing to say, it poorly says that nothing, and in the end, you’ve wasted a hundred minutes watching Kevin Costner talk to a bird.

For different opinions, all my friends are blogging our holiday celebrations!

First we have Smallville Chronicle with Nic Gunning, a long-time friend, co-worker and all-around fun time!

Then we have Sallylife’s Blog by Sally Murphy, another long-time friend, artist and all-around fun time!

And then there’s Musings From a Music Box by Kendra Mikols, my lovely wife, singer and all-around fun time!

All Hallow’s Read – An Introduction

Hey! It’s Halloween! The best holiday?

Here’s the thing I love about Halloween; it’s the only holiday, besides Christmas, that gets the whole month! Think about it, as soon as Thanksgiving is over, we’re celebrating Christmas, even a few days after until New Years. No other holiday gets to do that. Not, Valentine’s Day, not Independence Day, not Thanksgiving or Easter. But Halloween, as soon as the leaves turn orange, it’s time.

And it’s such a unique holiday. We have multiple memorial holidays, multiple religious holiday, that one day we celebrate a guy who found a discovered country and destroyed it’s indigenous population. But Halloween isn’t any of those things. It’s just a day (month) when we celebrate spooky things and have fun letting a little chaos into our lives. And candy! Sweet, sweet candy!

I like getting the most out of my Halloween time too. It’s too unique to let is pass. My book pile becomes horror/spooky themed in it’s nature, I have my selected classic films I like to watch, I try to play a game or two that gets me in the mood for the season. It’s a fun time!

This year I’m going along with some great people and we’re blogging our celebrations!

First we have Smallville Chronicle with Nic Gunning, a long-time friend, co-worker and all-around fun time!

Then we have Sallylife’s Blog by Sally Murphy, another long-time friend, artist and all-around fun time!

And then there’s Musings From a Music Box by Kendra Mikols, my lovely wife, singer and all-around fun time!

And here! So, if you’re wondering how other people spend this great month of October and their All Hallow’s Eve, check these blogs out!

*Mic-carved pumpkin drop*

Updraft – A Review

I received a copy of this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

UpdraftWhat’s the point of getting these Advance Reader Copies if I don’t review them in time? I’m doing it wrong!

So here we have Updraft by Fran Wilde, a fantasy book that goes full fantastic but loses me in the process. The story follows Kirit, who is rebellious and just wants to fly. See, this world is far in the sky and people travel with mechanical wings and live in spires made of bones. There’s trade routes, sky monsters, flight test and religious sects that are also the government.

This book is not my cup of tea.

I like fantasy books. I do. Maybe not as much as science fiction, but that’s not the genre’s fault. It took me a long time to realize there were fantasy books out there that I would like and I really owe that to Patrick Rothfuss, Neil Gaiman and Brandon Sanderson. But their books all feel relatable, they all feel like a humanity I know, even if it is in a world I don’t recognize. Sanderson rights about whole worlds he creates, but the people and their desires are very Earth-bound.

But Updraft doesn’t do that, or at least not for me. This book has a world, civilizations and people I can’t relate to, no matter how much I tried. The world is bizarre and there are terms and phrases the characters use that make sense to them, but the reader is thrown into all of this without a helping hand. By the end of the book, I still didn’t have a full understanding of what was going on.

Alien. That’s what the book felt like. The characters felt alien and even though they’re humanoid, they don’t feel like it. And you know what? That’s okay and there are readers out there who will find this whole book fascinating but it didn’t click with me. If the universe you’re creating is so different from mine, I need a point of entry or a viewpoint I can understand.

If you like your fantasy as far out as it can get, I’m sure you’ll love Updraft because it’s not a badly written book and there are plenty of things to like. For others, this is a risky read.