Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Just Read: Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King


“Why don’t you kill yourself? Because I don’t want to, the Rev. Lowe thinks petulantly.  This-whatever it is- is nothing I asked for.  I wasn’t bitten by a world or cursed by a gypsy.  It just …happened.  I picked some flowers for the roses in the church vestry one day last November.  Up by that pretty little cemetery on Sunshine Hill.  I never saw such flowers before…and they were dead before I could get back to town.  They turned black, every one.  Perhaps that was when it started to happen.  No reason to think so, exactly…but I do.  An I won’t kill myself.  They are the animals, not me.” –Stephen King, Cycle of the Werewolf

When I first started the book, I wasn’t sure that I was going to like it, because for the first six or so chapters, it was one repetitious event after the other: We would be introduced to one character, and then they would die by the hands of the werewolf, and so on, and so on.  I did however, like how King meshed romance and horror together in his February chapter while his character, Stella Randolph.  In this case, I thought it worked well because she was up late waiting for her lover, and when the beast came, it was almost like it didn’t matter – plus, I liked the line “Love is like dying.”

I didn’t start getting pulled in until the story hit the month of June, because here we finally got some inkling of a plot unfolding and the dots started to connect.  In this chapter, we find out that a man that normally visits the café is a regular and someone that everyone in town knows, so when it is he that turns into the beast, as a reader, I started going through names that were mentioned, possible witnesses, etc.  Now, I was curious.  And then I’m introduced to little Marty Coslaw.

I though Marty was a great addition/character in this book because it showed how the disadvantaged (not a beast) could take on the advantaged (the werewolf); then King added the fact that Marty was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, thus thickening both the plot and the conflict.  I don’t want to do a bunch of plot summary here, but I did like the fact that the fireworks blowing out one of his eyes was the sole reason behind how Marty ended up identifying Rev. Lowe at the end of the book – shame, shame, Rev. Lowe! Werewolves don’t give out candy on Halloween!

Oh, and I really liked how King kept reiterating the werewolf’s green eye.  After his first encounter with Marty, we view the description of the eye in almost each subsequent kill, so I liked that King kind of emphasized it at the end when the wolf fixes his one eye on Marty before getting two silver bullets pumped into his chest.  But realistically folks, I don’t think there is any way that Marty would have been that calm- adrenaline rush or not.  Yeah, yeah, I know he cries after it is all over… but throughout the entire climax scene of the book, it is like the kid is a fully trained warrior who shows no emotion and knows that there is no way that he is going to lose.  Just seems a little unrealistic to me…and if I’m going to believe that there is a werewolf running around, I want the ending to at least be probable.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Films to Watch out for this October

  1.  My Soul to Take -- Directed by Wes Craven
  2. Let me in -- Directed by Matt Reeves
  3. Case 39 -- Directed by Chrstian Alvart
     Also, be sure to check out:
    The Walking Dead: A television series on AMC that will air this October about a zombie apocalypse where a man is desperately searching for his family which he believes to still be alive...and human

    Picture copied from here

    Jonathan Mayberry – Fight and Action Scenes in Horror


    “The differences in size, the presence of violent intentions, the certainty of a committed aggression by a more powerful enemy define the situation.  We have to start with what we know of the combatants and then build the most logical possible scene around that.” – Jonathan Mayberry, Writers Workshop of Horror

    I found this chapter to be very well written and rather informative for me, because I don’t normally use physical fight scenes in my writings – I’m more of a battle within type of girl (got to love the psychological stuff!).  I did however like how Mayberry spelled it all out for us though, in regards to what one needs to consider when writing a fight scene such as: pre-existing injuries, allergies, pain threshold, etc.  I know I personally wouldn’t have even thought to consider these- I would have been stuck on height, weight and limb length.  Then, on top of that, you have to consider the environment on which the fight is taking place.  So for instance, if it is on top of a building, I should take into consideration the ledges, what time of day it is, what material the characters are standing on (wood, cement, etc.), the temperature and or weather conditions (because what they are wearing might come into play)….

    I personally enjoyed his comments about the type of attacker that one is going up against.  For instance, it is a violent stranger who killed everyone you were close to and is therefore trying to take over the world as you know it…you’re probably not going to have that hard of a time trying to hurt the person.  But, if that evil doer happens to be your lover, friend, or family member, that kind of shakes things up a bit. Sure, some people might have no problem beheading their boyfriend/girlfriend, but for others like me…it might be a tad bit difficult.

    In my case though, I’ll have to actually write some fight scenes before I can go more in depth with this question, since it isn’t a familiar area to me. That is, unless someone is fighting something within themselves... then I'm all over it ;)

    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    Writer's Workshop of Horror-- Continued


    “You must write (each story and novel) as if you are trying to convince someone not to commit suicide).” – Gary A. Braunbeck

    This semester, I’m taking a class for the Writing Popular Fiction program that is based on monsters, and one of the books that is under my required reading is Writers Workshop of Horror.  Now, I’ll be honest…I didn’t think I was going to find a better guide than On Writing Horror (edited by Mort Castle), but this book is really starting to win me over.  So far, we have only been assigned to read one chapter, and I think I might have read eleven so far (?).  Frankly, I’m really excited about how much I’m learning, and two chapters have really hit home for me so far: Gary A. Braunbeck’s article “Connecting the Dots,” and Tomas F. Monteleone’s piece “Using Dialogue to Tell Your Story.”

    In Braunbeck’s article, I think what inspired me most was how he said he goes about writing, and how a lot of it was inspired from his acting career.  In reference to starting the process, he writes “ I start with two simple questions, questions that are going to strike you as a bit silly on the surface, but questions that, for me, reveal so much more than what is simply seen: How much milk does  he or she use when having a bowl of cereal?  And:  How does this character put on his- or her coat? (32)”

    Now when I read that, I’ll admit, I thought it was a little strange, but when I kept reading to hear him out on it…I was really surprised but how much you can learn about your character from those simple questions.  So, needless to say, I decided to experiment with one of the characters that I’m using in my novel’s draft, and I’m happy to say that I feel more confident about where my story is going now.  You see, my character is caffeine addict, and drinks coffee like it is her job (since she has two of them to begin with).  But rather than get a big coffee pot, she has the tiny one that only makes two cups at a time.  Why, you ask?  Because she can’t afford to waste anything…and living off of the salary of a waitress, and a part escort (to say it nicely) all while putter herself through school full-time, she just doesn’t have it in her to  splurge if she doesn’t have to; ergo the fact that her bed is simply a tattered mattress on the floor, she has an old, emptied coffee can filled with spare change from cheap customers (see how the coffee came back), and her comforter is an afghan that she knitted herself a couple years back.  I could go on, but you get the point.  Amazing huh?  I feel like I’m learning more and more about my character as I do this, and yeah, I probably won’t mention how of the stuff that I’m discovering, but at least I will be able to use that information later on when it comes to introduces dialogue…which frankly, is my not-so-favorite-part of writing.

    So dialogue is my Achilles heel, and hey, I’m sure every writer has one…but mine is, let’s just say…really fragile, but thanks to Monteleone’s article, at least I have a pretty good idea of why I’m screwing up.  For instance, since I’m bad at it, I tend to use it really sparingly… ok, ok….so it’s barely there! But I know, especially from personal experience, that when I see those long, drawn out paragraphs page, after page, after page…I’m really not to pumped to read the book, so how I can expect my readers to be?  Monteleone talks about how dialogue is a cleverly disguised trick that allows the book to gain speed…which is so true when you think about it (I guess I just never did, until now).

    So what else did I learn from this you ask… HA that I’m pretty much doing everything wrong, hence why I’m falling in love with this book so much! It’s helping me hone my skills and teaching me aspects of writing that I probably wouldn’t have learned until I start graduate school in a year or so.  As an overview, here is what I grasped:

    • 1.       Sometimes I tend to write way more than I need to, and don’t give my readers the benefit of the doubt that they probably know what is going on.  So in this case, having my character say nothing is really all that they would need.
    • 2.       I hate constantly using he said, or she said…so I normally throw in something like he screamed, or she yelled (get the drift?).  Frankly, now that I look back on it, it’s just stupid, unless my characters are in a seriously heated argument. 
    • 3.       Then, to continue on that, I love adding those silly little adverbs to cover up my dislike for the he said she said drama. So I’ll put he said mysteriously, or something like that.  Point blank….I’m not supposed to do that.  No wonder I always feel like I’m being lame when I’m writing dialogue, because I am, hahaha.

    I would def. recommend this book to anyone that is focused on writing horror, because it has helped me out so much, and is continuing to do so with every chapter I read.

    Thursday, September 16, 2010

    When a Writer Tries to do Photography

    Writing will always be my number one love in life, but art is a pretty close second...and lately, it keeps trying to take our the writing side of me.  So this year, I decided to take Black and White Photography as my final studio class because photography has always interested me greatly, and I thought it would be pretty cool to work in a dark room.  Needless to say... I probably should just stick to a pencil and paper.

    Now, taking the pictures isn't really the problem; even though I didn't load it properly the first time. But I have a pretty creative eye and have a few photographs published and what not...but this developing your own film, is frankly....scary.  I epically failed tonight while I was locked in the pitch black room trying to load my film. The reel broke, I didn't use the can opener right, mixed the wrong chemicals together (creating the WORST smell possible), only to realize that for some reason the last 7 photographs I took just didn't decide to turn out.  So my role of negatives kind of exists but not really. HA, and to think, in a half hour, I have to go back down and try to work on my contact sheet...so I'm going to need all the prayers in the world for this one.

    I'm going to try and stay positive about this though...my best friend took the class last year and pretty much saved me today (!), and I think I'm going to take another roll of film this weekend and try the process over again next week.  I really want to have a line of black and white photographs to go with some of my poetry when I try to get my chapbook published...so that's one reason not to give up to soon!

    BUT, what does this have to do with horror you ask?  I don't know...I only know I want to take scary pictures to go with my poems, but here is one artist I found that I think you folks might enjoy ;)
    Enter at your own risk

    Currently Reading: Writers Workshop of Horror

    "You can tell that the author was wearing a twisted little grin as he or she wrote the blood-drenched decapitation scene."- Jeff Strand, Chapter 14 (128)

    I really liked this particular chapter, because as horror writers, we def. need to learn how to lessen things up so our readers don't run away screaming or jump out of a window or something.  Sure, most of the time it is really morbid humor that gives people like us a grim grin, but nevertheless, its a necessity.Although, I for one, was never a fan of the dead baby jokes...
     
    I liked what Strand had to say about using humorous dialogue as a way to make your character more likable and sympathetic to the reader.  I know when I read his piece (first without the humor, and then with the humor), I was really surprised with the different tones/feelings that I picked up -- I really did feel more for the character, and in more depth as well.  For example, yeah we see him as suicidal, but we also see the side of him that doesn't want people to be burdened by what he is going to do (i.e. when he covers the bathroom with garbage bags).
     
    After I read this, Zombieland was the only thing that I could think of.  That movie balances horror and humor in such a hysterical, grotesque way, that horror fans have no choice but to love it.  Same with Shawn of the Dead -- when he picks up the zombie's head while it is trying to eat him just to get a picture...classic!

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    Just Read & Watched: The Midnight Meat Train

    I'm not going to write a review on this, but merely say....if you love horror, if you crave reading it and getting lost in a dark nightmare, or witnessing hell open before your eyes on the big screen...read this short story and watch this film.  This is Clive Barker's true masterpiece.

    Just Watched: Trick 'r Treat

    Picture copied from here

    Trick 'r Treat was a unique film in my personal opinion, and I'm not really sure if I liked it or not.  When I first heard of the film a little while back, I was really excited to see a movie that had a strict plot revolving around Halloween legends; plus, I really liked the little guy on the cover (Sam!).  Now, maybe it is because I have just seen/read way to many horror movies/books, but this really didn't scare me at all.  It did however put a really interesting spin on the myths of Halloween -- like the importance of NOT blowing out your Jack-o-lantern before midnight, and the necessity of checking your candy before you eat it.

    Essentially, the movie is made up of four individual tales: a high school principal who is secretly a serial killer (and is mentoring his young son); a group of girls who are trying to find the right guy to indulge in for the night, a group of kids who are playing a dangerous prank on an awkward girl, and a couple who doesn't value the legends of Halloween. 

    Personally, the only gripe that I have with the movie is the way it is put in order/timed. The movie starts with the end, then switches to the beginning, filters through to the end again, and then kind of starts over (?).  Now, I'm a huge fan of the Quentin Tarantino method, but this simply just did not work.  One minute, someone would be dead, the next they were up and moving around again, and I just never really could figure out where I was in time.  

    SPOILER ALERT:

    The other issue I have is ironically, with my favorite character Sam (the little guy up front).  Here we have this little creature who runs around a kills people when, it appears, they aren't following tradition, i.e. the couple who blows out their jack-o-lantern before midnight.  Yet, he randomly pops up throughout the film eating candy and walking around dragging this blood soaked back behind him....just hanging out.   Now in the story where the kids are playing a prank, the entire thing is based upon a Halloween massacre that happened to a bunch of disturbed children and their bus driver some years back.  Now according to myth, all of the kids died, and no one knew what happened to the bus driver.  However, at the end of the movie, Sam goes about attacks the crazy old hermit that lives next to the serial killer out of the blue.  Now, here is where I get confused....  After Sam does what he does, we see pictures of the children and the bus driver burning in the old man's fire. So was he the bus driver that tried to kill the kids?  Was Sam one of the original kids that died, only to come back to reign terror on his own victims of Halloween?  Honestly, I have no idea.

    What I do know, is that the scene where Sam comes after the old guy is easily my favorite part.  He stabs him in the leg with a candy bar that has razors in it, he's crawling on all the walls and making the guy land in piles of razors and candy...frankly, it's just really cool.  Plus, when your kill setting is in a dark room that all of a sudden is illuminated by a bunch of jack-o-lanterns with Trick 'r Treat and give me something good to eat written all over the walls in blood... you just have to hand it the little guy. Genius. Plus, when the guy shoots Sam, and his insides explode with pumpkin innards, I just loved it!! Talk about poetic justice!  

    Overall, I would rate it a 7.5 out of 10



    Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    Just Read: Rawhead Rex by Clive Barker

    Classification: Zombie Apocalypse (Kind of thing)

    “Beneath the think crust of earth, Rawhead smelt the sky. It was pure ether to his dulled senses, making him sick with pleasure. Kingdoms for the taking, just a few inches away. After so many years, after the endless suffocation, there was light on his eyes again, and the taste of human terror on his tongue.” –Clive Barker

    I will be the first to admit that when I started this piece, I wasn’t really thrilled. Normally, Barker’s work lures me in on the first page, but I didn’t have that experience with this one in particular. Even when they talked about removing the stone in the beginning, I really couldn’t find myself caring about what was underneath it, or what it was protecting from getting out. However, when I met Rawhead Rex after a few pages…. I realized that I had judged him too quickly, and then proceeded to morbidly fall in love with all nine feet of him.

    When we first witness Rex, it is almost in a form of irony. We read about him killing Garrow in a way that represents the rawness of Rex’s overall being: “Blood ran down Garrow’s face from his scalp, and the sensation stirred him.” Once again, I have to applaud for Baker’s imagery/sensual appeal—I mean the man makes you feel like Rex is right behind you, breathing down your neck, and I don’t think that I have met one of his characters/monsters yet that I couldn’t completely visualize in my head. And while this will sound gross to anyone that is NOT a horror fan…the cannibalism scenes in here were AMAZING! The way Barker described the entrails falling out of the body, or how Rawhead lapped up the blood of the children….GROSS (in a sickly wonderful way)!

    While I was reading, I couldn’t help but to think of the similarities between Rawhead Rex and Frankenstein’s monster (physically at least). They were both larger than any other creature/human, were disproportioned, and held a huge grudge against their creators thus resulting in the deaths of many others in forms of revenge. Maybe I’m reaching here, but when we meet Rex in the beginning with the thunderstorm going on in the background, I couldn’t help but to think of the scene in Frankenstein where the lightning flashes and the monster becomes the silhouette against the light.

    I was a little confused about the whole Declan Ewan and Reverend Coot part of the story though. Declan just seemed like a crackpot to me; someone that wanted to believe in something so bad, that he would worship the first sign of a higher power that he saw…which happened to be Rex. Plus, it made me laugh that Barker through his infamous sexuality references towards the reverend, with his hard-on while he looked at Rex. Even still, I was a little confused about why Rex couldn’t go towards the alter. Maybe I’m looking into it to much and it’s because it’s a site of holiness and it is just that simple….but I wonder if it had something to do with the carving of his burial that was under the cloth? And the fact that Declan, a man of believing in the one, true God, was the one that touched it?

    And now to mesh my two loves together: Horror and Art History. When I found of that the Venus of Willendorf was what ultimately defeated Rawhead Rex… I had to laugh, only because it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. But when you think about it, it does kind of make sense in the fact that the ancient statue represented fertility in the sights of attractive iconography. Barker writes, “To him the stone was the thing he feared most: the bleeding woman, her gaping hole eating seed and spitting children. It was life, that hole, that woman, it was endless fecundity. It terrified him.” – So was this what was etched into the altar? Directions on how to kill Rawhead, and where to find this talisman?

    **I was a little confused about why Rawhead pissed himself in death….Can anyone explain that one to me? Did that represent his vulnerability or something? A trivial act to make him seem human?