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31 Days of Pure Horror (Day Three--P.T., Five Nights at Freddy's, and Odd Thomas)


Film number three for the month is Odd Thomas.  I’ve read the first few Odd books from Dean R. Koontz and really liked them.  Odd is a likable hero, and it is nice to see a silver beard like Koontz mixing things up as he creates his take on the Repairman Jack type of character.  I especially liked the oddball (sorry) dialogue choices and melodrama that occur in the first few books.  It reminds me of the philosophical musings and one-liners of the Buffyverse in a way, and, as an English prof, I love to see people playing around with those sort of things.  Also like the Buffyverse, the Odd stories have a solid emotional core, and they really take a lot of stabs at a reader’s heart as they roll along.  The movie, which has a big-release budget but got pushed to straight-to-DVD because the studio lacked confidence in it, is directed by Stephen Sommers or The Mummy fame.  He is the perfect choice for the film, and I think he does a really good job with the horror, the action, and the mushy emotional stuff.  I wasn’t expecting much from the film after hearing its production trajectory, but it turns out to be really solid.  I would recommend it to fans of the first book, certainly, and viewing it has got me itching to pick up where I left off in the series.  Four more books are now added to my TBR pile.  I might have to get a bigger sd card for my e-reader. 


Two horror video game recommendations:


Haunter got me itching to replay P.T., the “playable trailer” for the upcoming game Silent Hills.  Plenty has been written about the demo good and bad.  I’m on the side of finding it absolutely creepy and wonderful.  If you don’t have a PS4 to play it on, make do with this video compilation of players reacting to the jump scares:

Five Night’s at Freddy’s

This is less of a recommendation and more of a heads-up as I haven’t played much of the game yet.  Players take on the role of a night security guard at a Showbiz Pizza inspired restaurant.  At night, the animatronic musicians come to life and must be dealt with/avoided.  The game is built on simple jump scares and sound design.  Not sure how scary it is going to turn out to be, but I’ve had a number of students tell me they had to stop playing it because it scared them so much.  As with any horror, your mileage may vary.  I will say that the interactive nature of horror games helps me to turn off my critical eye and suspend my disbelief in a way I can rarely do with horror films these days. 



31 Days of Pure Horror (Day Two--Haunter and The Orphanage)

[Mild Spoilers Ahead!]

Well, I didn’t get to the theater to see Motel Hell last night as a family birthday party ran long, so I had to find a replacement once I got home.  I’m trying to watch mostly films that I haven’t seen before with only a handful of classics thrown in for good measure, so I began scanning my Netflix queue.  I eventually settled on Haunter, the most recent film by horror auteur Vincenzo Natali (Ginger Snaps, Cube, Splice).  I’ve liked but not loved Natali’s films over the years, and I always feel like he is on the verge of making a great horror film.  Haunter isn’t that film, but it was very enjoyable.  It captures the adolescent angst of the protagonist as well as he did in Ginger Snaps, but the film is, in a lot of ways, more relatable despite the supernatural setting.  Abigail Breslin, as Lisa, is a teenage girl stuck inside her own home by a mysterious fog.  In the style of Groundhog Day, she is living the same day over and over.  It doesn’t take her long to discover that she is dead.  The core of the film is Lisa learning how she died and trying to prevent it from happening to others while not jeopardizing her afterlife which, while boring, allows her to spend eternity with her parents and her little brother who are also ghosts.  Despite how much information I’ve given here, I’ve really not come close to spoiling anything.  Most of the above is made clear in the first fifteen minutes of the movie and is just setting for the film core mystery. If it sounds interesting to you at all, it is worth checking out.  The movie is streaming on Netflix.

Tonight I plan on watching the Guillermo Del Toro-produced The Orphanage.  I bought the DVD when it came out in 2007, but for some reason I haven’t got around to watching the whole movie.  Since I’ve been pretty heavily invested in the haunted house sub-genre lately, I’m hoping to really enjoy this one.  I’ll share my thoughts on it tomorrow.  Until then, here is the theatrical trailer for the film.


31 Days of Pure Horror (Day One--Motel Hell and some links)

It has become a tradition for lots of horror fans in recent years to celebrate Halloween by watching at least one horror film each day.  I start off each October with the intention of doing just that, but often life gets in the way and I fall short of the goal.  Despite how difficult it has been to reach the full goal, I'm going to make it even more difficult for myself this year by also doing a blog post about a horror topic each day of the month!  Some of these will be full articles about a horror-related subject, some will be film or book reviews, and other will simply be links to spooky things I've stumbled across.  Regardless, I'm dedicating my month to celebrating all things horror, and I hope you readers will join me and watch some of the movies.  Also, I'd love to hear suggestions of film for my 31 since I only have a dozen or so pre-chosen.  Tonight's film, by the way, is the cult classic Motel Hell, which is being screened locally.  I've never seen it on a big screen, so I'm really looking forward to some canabalistic highjinks.  

Motel Hell (1980) 


If you are unsure what films you want to watch for the month, here are some helpful lists:

Time out London's actually quite good list of the Top 100 Horror Films voted on by well-known horror enthusiasts.  

The Atlantic's insanely exhaustive list of every horror film on television in the month of October. 

I'll also be writing a bunch of review this month for The Blackest Eyes and hopefully recording a podcast or two there, also.  i'll let you guys know when those are up.


The Great Tarzan Adventure #8: Tarzan the Terrible

Let me say up front that Tarzan the Terrible has earned top ranking as my favorite of the series.  Yep, one finally beat out Beasts.  It has everything I love going for it: a lost world yarn, an undiscovered civilization, and dinosaurs!  This book reads like Burroughs’ imagination unleashed.  (Perhaps that would have been a better name for it!)  While he is referred to as “the Terrible” throughout the book, to me, this is the first time he has truly acted like a Lord of the Jungle.  Tarzan has dropped his cruel streak finally, and we see him acting out of love and fear for Jane, who was abducted in the previous volume.  But we also get to see Tarzan fighting for a sense of what’s right.    

Oh, and then there was another thing I loved about this book, but first I have to say –  *SPOLERS!*

Here’s what I liked:


  • Pal-ul-don: I really enjoyed this lost world.  Burroughs described it superbly, with its vast swamped-surrounded jungle, cliff dweller lodgings, and the fabulous walled city.  This is the lost world tale I’ve been waiting for.  Everything is eerily familiar yet strangely different.  I hope to see more of it in future volumes. 
  • The Waz-don and the Ho-don: Theses tribes are the perfect inhabitants for a lost world.  I was very surprised, too, when this “sub-human” folk with their monkey-tails, hands and feet turned out to be quite the opposite.  I don’t know that there’s anything beyond one being white and hairless and the other covered with black fur. I’m sure someone has read something into it.  (And the fact that the whites lived in the city while the blacks lived in the cliff-dwellings.)    I simply enjoyed the experience.  Both were equally intelligent and both had their good and bad traits.  Only in appearance did they differ from the “outside” world.  And tech level, of course.
  • Dinosaurs: Okay, so this was a big selling point for me from the cover.  I wanted a lost valley with dinosaurs.  Well, they were there – things called Gryfs.  These were actually omnivorous triceratops, which was okay, but then there were some kind of giant ape-men who could control them with sticks.  Sort of took the thunder out of them, but they were cool nonetheless.
  • Korak: The Killer returns!  I was so glad to see him again.  Even though he did not officially appear until the end of the book, we have glimpses of a mysterious tracker throughout the story.  I knew it was Korak all along, but it was thrilling to be verified.  Maybe we’ll get to see more of him in the next book (see last paragraph below).

Were there things I didn’t like?  Sure.  The story definitely moved at the pace of plot convenience at times.  Jane was lost, not only in Africa, but in a lost world in Africa.  She’s found in less than two hundred fifty pages.  Not complaining too much since any writer today probably would have done it in three 1000 page volumes at the least.  When Tarzan finds her, takes her away, she’s captured again pretty easily.  Tarzan always meets who he needs to or who can best help him, too.  Again, a minor complaint compared to the sense of wonder Burroughs creates.    

Yep, I really, really liked this one.  Terrible actually read like a fantasy novel.  It was filled with vivid scenes and images, and we have a hero that acts truly heroic.  While the conflict is pretty black and white, it does not diminish the story one bit.  If anything, it highlights the archetypal nature of Tarzan.

Next up is volume 9, Tarzan and the Golden Lion.  I glimpsed over Wikipedia, which stated that this one caps off the story that began in Untamed.  Maybe I just became so enthralled with the thrill ride, but I felt this one ended quite nicely.  Anyway, hope to see you there!


DragonCon: Paradigm Shift

Attending DragonCon has become a family tradition.  I started attending over twenty years ago; my wife has been to nineteen. My daughter has been every year since her birth.  I’ve seen changes over that time, some good, some not so, but the biggest, most startling change happened right underneath my nose.  I don’t know that I would have noticed it except for the events that happened at the end of the con this year.

The conevntion has always been a vacation for us, a time to relax as school starts back (my wife and I teach), and as we’ve gotten older – and since the little one has come along – we’ve moved away from the central craziness of the original hotels to the relative quietness of the Sheraton.  We have to walk a bit more, but, hey, it’s peaceful at night and we don’t have to fight for an elevator.  As the con winded down, we would always call to make our reservations for the next year, something you could never do in one of the other host hotels.  Been doing it for as long as we’ve been staying there.  Never had a problem.  Never until this year.  And that’s when it hit me: DragonCon had become huge.

Every year, the con had gotten bigger.  It had spread out a little more.  It had gotten more and more guests.  But none of that registered until I failed to get a room this year.  It struck me then how things had acually changed.  I remembered how I used to be able to go to any panel I wanted to attend.  Even those with the “big stars.”  All I had to do was show up a few minutes before and I’d get a seat.  It was usually toward the back, but it was a seat.  This year, and the few previous, if I wanted to see someone like Sir Patrick, I had to be in lines hours in advanced.  I therefore sought out the smaller, more obscure panels this year.  Full houses.  I tried tp get into one about commercial space flight – turned away.

So here’s my major gripes with the new DragonCon:

  • Massive lines to big events. Yep, if you want to see big names, you’re going to have to sacrifice other events.  Never really had to do that before.  I was used to walking from one event to another.  Now, it’s hours of standing – people are not allowed to sit because of fire regs.  This was the first year, too, I had to stand in line to get on an escalator.
  • Total stand stillTrying to get through the lobby of the Marriott sometimes is horrible at best.  There are times, esepcially in evening when the cosplayers come out, that you cannot even move.  I’ve had to stand for minutes out a time, just to go through the lobby.  And the walkways between hotels are great for the most part, but when it rains, everyone tries to use them.  They clog up too.  Makes for a very unpleasant experience when all you’re trying to do is get from point A to point B.
  • Displacement of writers and comics.  This is the saddest one for me.  Don’t want to be all hipster, but I remember when the writers and comic guests ruled the con.  They still do to an extent when you get a name like Salvatore.  But the grand old men like Niven and McDevitt are pushed to the nether regions.  On a good note, these are the few panels you can always get into.  Writers created and drove SF&F, but now they’re being replaced by movie stars and glamor girls.  The comic artist have their location, too, but try to buy a comic – good luck.  They were five comic dealers this year.  The con started out comic heavy.  I reckon SDCC is going through the same transition.
  • Mad dash for rooms.   Then there’s the mad dash for hotel rooms.  This is the first year I’ve purchased memberships without having a room.  My usual spot sold out for next year’s DragonCon weeks before this year’s even started.  And when the hosts hotels open blocks for the con-goers, servers crash and phone lines are jammed for hours while the rooms disappear in minutes.  I feel like I’m being pushed away from something that I felt I belonged to.  Rooms are available a mile or two away, but that’s just too inconvient for the family.  Before, we would separate, meet, and come and go as we pleased.  Those days may be gone for good.

Yep, I had an epiphany.  If I’m going to have a “full” con experience next year, I’m going to have to change my way of thinking.  I’m happy for the producers and staff.  They are undoubtedly sucessful, and they make lots of happy people.  But I’m going to have to change my way of thinking.  It’s not my little vacation anymore.  It’s an event, and I’ll have to get out and tangle with everyone to get those panels and to secure that room. 

I really don’t know if DragonCon will get as big as SDCC.  It doesn’t seem to be the corporate entity that ComicCon has become.  That makes me glad.  DragonCon, at least, still seems to be for the fans and by the fans.  There’s just a lot more of them now.  A whole lot more.