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All the Books Show: Episode 112 – Spooky-lite

It’s a spOoOoOoOoOky episode! Because it’s Halloween month! Did you know I like Halloween? I do. You should know this by now.

We talk about this year’s additions to the horror genre, both Young Adult and regular Adult! You want scary teen adventures? How about There’s Someone Inside Your House? You want ghosts and evil spirits? Boom, here’s House of Furies, You want twins in danger and James Patterson’s name on a cover. Good news, we talk Crazy House.

jemc-cover-largeNic talks about three books and they’re possibly too scary. That The Grip of It sounds horrifying. Anything without skin is scary. Anything. Picture a duck. Do you have a clear image of a duck? Now, picture that duck without skin. And, yeah, it still has feathers. That’s terrible.

Even that cover is scary. WHY DOES IT KEEP SAYING, “A NOVEL”?!?

It’s also the one I might pick up if I had to choose. Crazy House too, maybe. I don’t love murder, so I doubt I’ll be reading There’s Someone Inside Your House, no matter how “subversive” it is. Everything’s subversive these days. Not this blog, though. It’s very traditional. Paragraphs and all, you know?

You can follow us on SoundcloudYoutube or iTunes and even Twitter! I’m sure there’s another, cool platform I’m forgetting but you can follow us on that too!

See you next week, podcats!

Stream Recap – Alan Wake

61yl1rjcxsl-_sy679_In which I recap streaming a game I just completed. Please accept this stream recap.

Alan Wake was an interesting game, and one that felt like it was meant for the Playstation 2. Back on that console, a lot of games had one concept, sometimes two, and that was their main selling point. Prince of Persia had great combat and climbing mechanics, but it was sold on the concept of time manipulation. Final Fantasy X was a Final Fantasy game but it made a big deal about its voice acting. And Alan Wake is a third person action game with flashlight-based combat.

The core mechanics and concept would have fit right at home on the PS2 and I think the game might be looked upon more fondly if that was the case. But, the lighting and environmental effects needed the graphics of the Playstation 3 (or, in my case, a PC) to do it right. So, Alan Wake comes across as being part of two different generations. The PS2 qualities feel dated on newer machines, but it needs newer machines to work it’s mechanics.

alan_wake_f_01Playing the game today, I was able to sit back and enjoy the ride. I found the simple flashlight-based combat to be a fun variation on shooting a bad guy til he’s dead. I liked throwing flares around like grenades and blasting shadow monsters with shotguns. It wasn’t complicated but it was exciting.

I didn’t come across the public’s negative feelings about Alan Wake until after I played the game, so I was surprised to see how many complaints people had. While it sounds like the majority found the story to be a disappointing failure, I thought it was a silly roller coaster ride, just throwing twists and turns around for the fun of it. None of it made a tons of sense, but, in the moment, it was intriguing. The game never took me out of the story.

alan_wake_2Maybe that’s because it’s told in an episodic format. I’ve read how that bothered people back when it was first released, as a full game with recaps and end-of-episode breaks. Today, the concept of episodic gaming, and owning full seasons of Telltale’s series, is commonplace and didn’t bother me at all. In fact, it helped with streaming the game, because it gave me a great stopping place and, then, a fantastic recap to get me jazzed for another session.

I chose Alan Wake because I wanted to stream a spooky game for October and, while it wasn’t scary, it brought that Halloween vibe. It’s not survival horror, not really, but the setting and style help create an atmosphere that’s creepy without being scary, that’s off without being Silent Hill 2. I jumped but I didn’t hide under my bed. It’s got shadow monsters, Stephen King references and crows that want Alan’s eyeballs for dinner. I wouldn’t play it again, but I would happily buy a sequel.

You can find this stream and other videos here or watch live at my Twitch channel!

Book Review – Day by Day Armageddon

510vg5q2bdilJ. L. Bourne’s Day by Day Armageddon is written as journal entries. The whole book is journal entries. Reading the book is liking reading a journal, because the book is written in journal entries.

I hope I got across that this book is written as journal entries because that’s the one and only interesting thing about zombie-tale Day by Day Armageddon. I’m not being too harsh either, since most of the marketing and blurbs about the book are about how it’s written. But, where as Max Brooks’ modern classic, World War Z, used a unique format to tell enthralling zombie stories, Bourne uses his style to hide a dull, plodding book.

The beginning of the book starts out strong enough, with an account of how the zombie apocalypse comes about and how it escalates. The cause and effect of the early chapters works because there’s momentum in the dominoes of the modern world toppling over. But, even then, cracks begin to show.

Bourne reveals his amateurish writing from the beginning. I don’t want to call it lazy, because laziness doesn’t complete a book. But, you can write a novel without having much skill in the art. There’s an overemphasis on descriptions, from locations to activities. As we follow our main character, every step he takes is accounted for, even if he does the same things everyday. Now, that could be interesting, as it could be an examination of how monotony can ruin a person’s psyche, especially in survival situations. That’s what Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend is all about and it’s fascinating.

Unfortunately for Day by Day Armageddon, Bourne isn’t up to the task. He rarely brings psychological ramifications to light and, when he does, they’re random and thrown away quickly. Thoughts like “Why am I still trying to live?” and “What’s the point of tomorrow?” are ignored as quickly as they arrive. Either Bourne isn’t interested in that type of story, or he thinks these quick snippets are enough.

Now, not focusing on the psychology of the character would be fine if that’s not the type of story Bourne wants to tell. But, I’m not sure what he is trying to say. Day by Day Armageddon isn’t an action story and it’s hard to feel tension when we know the character had to survive to tell the tale. It’s not a book about relationships falling apart or the evil nature of humanity. None of the characters have enough depth to invest in and there’s no dialog to learn from. There is a group of survivors who show up and cause trouble for the main group, but they’re taken care of without much fanfare.

Without any unique perspective or point of view, Day by Day Armageddon is just a daily account of someone taking the bus to the office. Except, even that type of story could be interesting if it had the right focus. Here, we’re reading about survival without purpose. The book doesn’t end with a cliffhanger or closure, it just ends. There’s no inertia given for the reader to want to continue the series. Bourne shows he has the commitment to write a book and get the technicality of it down, but he doesn’t have the skill to make it something worth reading.

If you’ve read more than the first book, maybe you can tell me if he gets any better as a writer. I doubt it, but I won’t be finding out for myself. Day by Day Armageddon is a book I wouldn’t recommend, even if you were desperate for zombie fiction. Maybe, when this book was written in 2010, we had less options and would read anything we could find. Today, you could spend years reading zombie apocalypses and never need to pick this up.

The Great Halloween Playlist – Volume 2

werewolvesWelcome to The Great Halloween Playlist – Volume Two! You can find the previous volume here!

Halloween is my favorite holiday and it’s the only other one besides Christmas that takes up the whole month. From October 1st to the 31st, it’s Halloween. And a month long holiday needs a soundtrack, it needs holiday music.

And I’ve been around the internet, I’ve seen the “best” lists for Halloween tunes. Some are good, some are bad and all include “Thriller”. But, I have my own list. My own Halloween playlist. And, yes, their true form is that of mix cds. I’m going to share this playlist, focusing on each cd, each volume, per post.

Two things to note before I start. There’s a good amount of instrumental music in each volume. Many of those tracks are video game remixes, mostly found from Overclocked Remix. There’s movie soundtracks too, but I just wanted you to know that music from Castlevania, Doom and Resident Evil shows up quite a bit.

Second, everything is personal and subjective. If you love these, great! If you don’t, make your own. Send me your list! Maybe you’ll inspire me to create another volume in this playlist of mine. Now, I’m done with disclaimers.

Fun fact about this volume, it was made at the same time as the first! It would be an annual undertaking afterwards, but I didn’t know that the first year. So, I went for broke with the first two and they act as companion pieces to each other.

Thus, we listen to Hallows’ Eve: Volume Two.

1. “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr.

The first song on each of these volumes is an important decision. If you’re listening to this playlist in cd form, the perfect form, it’s even more important. I’ve tried to keep each first song a fun one, because you don’t want a happy Halloween mood shut down with something more somber. But, a happy Halloween song can lift your somber mood! So…Ghostbusters”!

2. “Shikashi’s Dream” by anterroir

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is a creepy game. That giant moon just keeps looking at you…watching. The characters in the game aren’t that much better and there’s always something a bit off about them. This song could be the theme for any of them. Apart from the game, it’s the song you hear when you find a lone cottage in the woods, where you shouldn’t be. There’s something off about it too. Leave.

3. “Mitternacht” by E Nomine

Mitternacht means Midnight! What’s scarier than midnight during Halloween! And checkout that beat. I don’t know about your experiences with German techno, so Happy Halloween, I give you the treat that is E Nomine!

4. “Panic of the Undead” by Noppz

“Panic of the Undead”, a remix from the game Zombies Ate My Neighbors, is a fun tune that has that uneasy carnival vibe we find so much during October. There might be zombies, sure, but there’s a Ferris wheel that’s moving on it’s own and a clown that’s just laughing for no reason. Even the giant teddy bears seem to have teeth. This song is the tilt-a-whirl.

5. “Flame” by Bell X1

I like an October song that feels like Autumn as well. “Flame” paints that picture. Dark nights after it’s been raining, toasting marshmallows in a haunting light. It’s romantic too, with that deep sense of unrequited longing and sometimes that can get a bit unnerving too. It might not be about ghosts and ghouls but it creates a scene that leaves room for them.

6. “Clairvoyant Eulogy” by The Orichalcon

The creepiest Pokémon track from the creepiest Pokémon town. Lavender Town knows it has ghosts and the villagers just live with it! This source tune will come back in a later volume because it’s just so haunting. That repetitive opening, that sorrowful chorus, it fits the spirits that are still living in our house so well. Grab a flashlight before you go to bed.

7. “Thriller” by Michael Jackson

Hey, look, it’s “Thriller” on a Halloween playlist! Guess I’m a freaking sheep! Why else would I put this funky, rocking, so dance-able-it-makes-the-dead-groove song on my list? It’s probably the biggest and most obvious Halloween song out there, and even if you don’t like it, it has to be here. It’s earned it.

8. “The Accursed Seal” by Juan Medrano

A remix of “Bloody Tears” from Castlevania II was always going to end up on this playlist. It just so happens that Juan Medrano’s mix rocks too hard to ignore. It’s one of the harder songs throughout all the volumes, with that crying guitar just looking for someone to set it free. There’s that carousel-like bridge but it gets right back to business. This song chooses action over chills when it comes to vampires.

9. “The Twilight Zone” by Rush

The Twilight Zone is one of the best shows I never watch enough. Rush captures the sense of eeriness and otherworldliness that the show did so effortlessly. They wrap references and images in an already fantastic song, with that trotting bass and those almost teasing “nananas”. If a show like The Twilight Zone doesn’t deserve a song during Halloween, then nothing does. Also, 2112 is a fantastic album.

10. “Deadside Dance” by Alexander Previert

I’m such a sucker for voice samples in songs. “Deadside Dance” is full of moody and corny pieces of dialog, but, combined with the relentless beat of this mix, they create a spooky atmosphere of shadow and magic. We’re dealing with the end of the world and crossing over to the land of the dead here. You, like myself, don’t even need to have played the Nintendo 64 game to appreciate this song during those overcast evenings.

11. “Fatal” by RZA

The only good thing to come out of Blade: Trinity and I’m sure RZA could have put this out without that toothless vampire film. This song is the complete opposite of the movie, it’s all bite. Have vampires ever sounded this BA before? RZA makes them sound so frustrated, so ready to take back the night. It might be about Dracula, it might be about you. The important thing to remember is to not cross (get it?) a vampire in the night. (Also, I made that video more than ten years ago).

12. “My Loved Ones Are Gone” by Psycho Crusher

There hasn’t been a lot of sorrow on this volume but,  when it does shows up, it works. “Shikashi’s Dream” and “Clairvoyant Eulogy” had it and so does this song. It’s brutal, yes, like the moment you bust into that evil house and start cutting your way through the undead. But, you’ve lost many to get here and you’re not sure you’re going to make it out alive. How can you trust a guitar that sounds so heartbroken? That’s when it’s the most desperate!

13. “X-Files (UNKLE Variation On a Theme Surrender Sounds Session #10)” by Mark Snow

I really do mean to get back into the The X-Files. I think I’m in the middle of the third season? I remember an episode with Jack Black. For the purpose of this playlist, it doesn’t matter because the main theme from the show is strong enough to stand alone. It’s so eerie and evocative that’s it’s easier to understand why this was the one of the most recognizable tunes of the 90s. Even if you didn’t watch the show, you knew to be creeped out by this song. And this version from the last movie is a great variation that might even improve on the original.

14. “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult

And classic rock is the gift that keeps on giving. I’d say it’s not as woodsy and Lovecraftian as Donovan’s “Season of the Witch” but this song is haunting in it’s own way. The images of blue candles, ghosts and lost loved ones fit the holiday well and the bridge is right out of The Twilight Zone. It helps that it’s one of the best rock songs of it’s time.

15. “Neighburgers” by Protricity

Zombies Ate My Neighbors are back! And on the same volume! What might have been a glaring mistake made by yours truly has turned into a happy accident as this mix is darker and a lot more teasing. It rocks a little more, feels less like a carnival and more like a chase you can’t escape. It’s rainy and suburbia is dark.

16. “Halloween (Speedy Mix)” by Aqua

We return to Aqua’s helium-induced singing for the StepMania version of their song “Halloween”. It’s quicker, shorter and would work well on Dance Dance Revolution. Not much to add, other than I like the song so much, I found a way to get it on this playlist twice.

17. “Blood Bath” by Mazedude

I told you we would return to Doom II‘s Into Sandy’s City” and so we have. The other mix, “31 Seconds”, was a somber piece of cheese wiz. “Blood Bath” is lactose intolerant and sets out to be horror show. The title seems all too appropriate. It’s heavy, it’s scary, it feels like the dark Halloween nights we don’t want to be part of. But, with a soundtrack this good, maybe it’s worth the risk. And the axe in the back.

18. “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon

After “Blood Bath”. we needed to end on a lighter note. And sure, the werewolves have taken over, but it seems so fashionable. They’re hanging out with the Queen, for pumpkin’s sake! There’s still elements of danger, such as lungs being ripped out, but, mostly, Warren Zevon is more interested in their perfect hair. I’d rank this alongside “Thriller” in being required Halloween listening.

The Great Halloween Playlist – Volume 1

79901561-image_561eb20db805fWelcome to The Great Halloween Playlist – Volume One! You can find the volume two here!

Halloween is my favorite holiday and it’s the only other one besides Christmas that takes up the whole month. From October 1st to the 31st, it’s Halloween. And a month long holiday needs a soundtrack, it needs holiday music.

And I’ve been around the internet, I’ve seen the “best” lists for Halloween tunes. Some are good, some are bad and all include “Thriller”. But, I have my own list. My own Halloween playlist. And, yes, their true form is that of mix cds. I’m going to share this playlist, focusing on each cd, each volume, per post.

Two things to note before I start. There’s a good amount of instrumental music in each volume. Many of those tracks are video game remixes, mostly found from Overclocked Remix. There’s movie soundtracks too, but I just wanted you to know that music from Castlevania, Doom and Resident Evil shows up quite a bit.

Second, everything is personal and subjective. If you love these, great! If you don’t, make your own. Send me your list! Maybe you’ll inspire me to create another volume in this playlist of mine. Now, I’m done with disclaimers.

Thus, we begin with Hallows’ Eve: Volume One.

1. “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers

Cheese and Halloween are best friends and this song is a no-brainer. I’m almost embarrassed to have this on the playlist, it’s so obvious. But, it represents an era that brought about the first monster movies and B-movie pleasures.  It’s a required addition, yes, but it’s a fun way to start of the holiday season.

2. “Castlemania” by AmIEviL

I love the energy in this one. It’s an old mix from the site but it still has life. It’s not a creepy song, at least not until the end, but the original tracks from the NES game have a gothic funk to them.

3. “White Claudia” by K. Praslowicz

I’ll be the first to admit that I like “spooky” not “horror”. So, no, I haven’t played the Silent Hill games. I’ve seen them played, I’ve read about them and even started the second one for about two hours. But, they’re too much for me. Luckily, I can handle the music and this song remixes the track in a grungy, creepy fashion that feels like an old Japanese horror film from the 80s.

4. “Halloween” by Aqua

I know enough about Aqua to tell you that their second album, Aquarius, is the superior one. It’s also the album that gave us this silly song that still has a way of building up anxiety. No, it’s not “Thriller”, even with a silly narration but it represents the comedy of the season and an ode to slasher films.

5. “31 Seconds” by John Revoredo

This is the first track on this playlist that mixes creepy with that sad, lonely feeling you get during October. Those voice samples recall 50s B-movies but the piano pulls the original’s metal qualities back to something more human. This isn’t the last time we’ll see “Into Sandy’s City” remixed, as the original is a killer and has a lot to play around with. But, this mix fits nicely here to add a somber mood to what’s has been some frontloaded silliness.

6. “Somebody’s Watching Me (Single Version)” by Rockwell

What I like about “Somebody’s Watching Me” is that, yes, it’s silly, but it’s still makes you look around to make sure you’re not being followed. I think a good, cheesy Halloween song can still bring the goosebumps. Halloween is us having fun at death’s expense, but death is still watching us as we laugh. Maybe “Somebody’s Watching Me” isn’t that deep, but it might make you check under your bed before you go to sleep.

7. “The 2nd Law – Isolated System” by Muse

I’m not a Muse fan, even though I keep finding Muse tracks that I like. This song was part of the opening credits of World War Z, and it’s now connected with zombies for me. That makes this the first zombie track of the playlist! Like “31 Seconds”, this song is sad and creepy. If I’ve had too much caffeine,  it’s probably stressing me out. It paints the picture of gray skies, falling leaves and not being able to trust anyone.

8. “This Is Halloween” by Danny Elfman

Maybe the closest Halloween has to a “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” for music. Danny Elfman is able to create a piece of music that might creep out younger listeners, but it’s all in good fun. If Christmas music is about reminding us of snowflakes and cookies, this song is about wolfmen and bog monsters. It’s a tour, if you will, through what makes Halloween so much fun. It’s also, surprisingly, the only real, full Halloween song in a Nightmare Before Christmas. 

9. “Lost Sanctuary” by Daknit and Eric Dude

I’ll show throughout this playlist that a repetitive, creepy riff will freak me right out. There’s nothing technically impressive with this song, it doesn’t change much throughout it’s four and a half minutes, but it gives me the willies. It’s persistent and lackadaisical, like a stalker in the woods with all the time in the world. Gah, just typing that while listening to this song creeped me out! You’re a chicken! YOU!

10. “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” by Johnny Cash

An old song that hasn’t been bettered since Johnny Cash got his hand’s on it. He’s able to take this song that’s part country living, part morality warning and turn it into something that fits a leaf-covered cemetery. Is it his voice, that already has a haunting rasp? Is it that Cash even seems a bit unnerved by the sight of these ghost riders? I mean, if Johnny Cash is shook up, who am I to pretend to be brave?

11. “The Predator” by E-Type

I mean, this about vampires, right? It has to be! I never saw the movie but it feels like this would have fit for Jennifer’s Body. That was vampire film, right? Also, who says we can’t dance during Halloween? And, yes, I have a whole story for this song laid out, about a boy in college watching all his friends get taken out by this girl, and he’s the only who believes she’s a vampire, so he hunts her down and they have a big fight in the school’s chem lab which catches on fire and they end up out the window into a busy freeway and she gets away but he was right, dammit! He was RIGHT!

12. “In the House – In a Heartbeat” by John Murphy

As unnerving as they get, really. The track is from one of the most intense scenes of the excellent 28 Days Later but that guitar carries the song out of the movie and into every October. You can just feel your blood pressure go up as that unrelenting piano gives the sense of escalation without ever picking up speed. Axes in doors, window’s breaking, something on the roof. It’s Halloween!

13. “Season of the Witch” by Donovan

Donovan is one of the greats and here he creates a trippy, twangy creepshow. Is he losing his mind or is something really after him? All he knows is it must be the Season of the Witch. This is a song that works during anytime of day, making mornings just as eerie as nights. That organ doesn’t help matters. You know who plays organs? Witches.

14. “Wet Grass Inspired” by AmIEvil

Diablo is another game that freaked me out when I was younger so I’ve never played it all the way through. AmIEvil (he’s back, baby!) takes the creepy, atmospheric tune that is “Tristam” and folks it up a bit. There’s a chill in the air and it still feels at home with a forest-cloaked village. I wouldn’t want to get lost in these woods.

15. “Disturbia” by Rihanna

Let’s take a moment and be thankful for Rihanna. Not every generation gets a Rihanna. Which means not every generation gets a “Disturbia”. Still one of her best, it’s also the perfect track for any Halloween party. The song is celebrating the chaos, all while lamenting being trapped in this upside down world. It’s a haunted house of a song that spills out into to the neighborhood. It keeps us dancing while we’re trying to remember if all the knives are put safely away.

16. “Grindhouse (Main Titles) by Robert Rodriguez

The last track of the first volume of this playlist and we close out with filth and debauchery. The music is from the opening titles of the only good film from the double feature Grindhouse. Planet Terror is a silly, schlocky zombie film but it knows it. Likewise, this sax-guitar sleezefest knows what it’s about. Zombies, blood, burnt out cars and empty hospitals. Halloween can be silly but it can also bring out the punk in all of us and while that might be a little funny, it can be dangerous as well.

George A. Romero – A Brief Retrospective

night3

When I first watched Night of the Living Dead, I was fifteen. I had only gotten into the world of zombie fiction earlier that year when I watched the first Resident Evil movie. The very concept of zombies was relatively new to me, and creeped me right out. Even with that fear, as someone who found the first Alien movie not scary or that great, I wasn’t expecting to be put on edge by an older horror film,  no matter the monster.

Watching George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead made me check my attitude at the door. It didn’t matter how old the movie was, it was still unsettling. The zombies were still creepy and only grew in number throughout the night. The building tension was just as palpable as I imagine it was at the drive-in during 1968. It also showed me what zombie fiction was really about, the living. The whole movie is a boiler because the occupants of the house are flawed, sometimes destructive people and just because there’s a horde of zombies outside doesn’t mean the survivors are going to work together. Technically, it’s an amazing achievement of budget constraints and independent film making. While aspiring directors may look to Scorsese or Tarantino for inspiration, what Romero did is both attainable and impressive. It helps that Ben is one of the great movie heroes of all time and the shambling extras make for convincing zombies.

gaylen-ross-david-emge-ken-foree-et-scott-hDawn of the Dead is all of that but bigger. While not as focused as the laser-sighted storytelling in Night, the sequel is great and stands on it’s own. Less frightening, its an examination of consumer culture, as well as the struggle to survive in a world that will never get better. The opening raid in the rundown apartment complex is brutal, but so is watching the relationships break apart. I’ve watched both Night and Dawn multiple times and they both bring something new to table with each viewing.

It was by luck that I came upon Day of the Dead on TV.  I was hooked by that creepy synth playing over the calls for any survivors during the opening credits. The story is maybe less focused and maybe the budget wasn’t up to the Romero’s vision. Taking place in an underground military base, the movie does have a sense of claustrophobia akin to Night. New to the table is the idea that zombies can be domesticated, maybe brought back from the brink. Of course, being the dark film this is, it doesn’t work out but the journey is still entertaining. The end is one of the best shock/relief moments of the series as well.

261025-1For my money, one of the most underrated movies is Land of the Dead. It made money at the time, riding the wave of growing zombie mania, and most critics liked it, but no one talks about it like the previous films. The focus on rich vs. poor in the undead landscape is just as depressing as the zombies themselves. And Dennis Hopper’s character, ruling over the high tower, might have been too ahead of it’s time. If this movie was released today, it would be considered a political attack on the current administration. Luckily, the themes are relatively timeless. And it has some of the most impressive zombie carnage the series has to offer.

Romero would go own to make more zombie movies, such as Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead and he has a whole career of non-zombie films that are worth checking out. But what I find so fascinating with the man is that he created a genre of film, of storytelling, and then used it to make the movies he wanted to create. Others might have decided to focus on the lore of these new worlds or made them into action films, like World War Z or the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. But not Romero.

night-of-the-living-dead-blu-ray-2

Romero wanted to tell stories about people, politics, race, consumerism and classism. So he told those stories, tricking viewers with zombie horror and gore. Creating a brand new genre wasn’t enough for him, he had to perfect it and show how many layers could be found within it. Heck, Night of the Living Dead could be done as a stage play and it wouldn’t lose anything in scale and would be just as compelling as Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

Because of that, Romero made movies that will outlive him and remain watchable and timely. Because, while zombies may someday fall out of fashion, the ideas that fill his films will always be relevant. They’ll continue to inspire hopeful directors, writers and viewers. And they’ll continue to scare those who think age has weakened their potency.

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!