Horror

Nerves, Horror, and Revealing Secrets

I am trying to calm my nerves at the moment. I am extremely arachnophobic, going back to an infected spider bite when I was a child. A giant, jumping spider just hopped onto my chest, then arm, then off into the shadowy recesses behind my chair. I screamed like a little kid, and ran out of the room.

Brian is hunting for it now, and I am sitting in my office still shaking.  I know, I am a coward, right?

Irrational Fear

I hate that irrational fear can grip my very being and shake me to my very core. It is embarrassing, and beyond the limits of how someone my age should react.

Fear is a powerful motivator. It unfortunately drives politics, and fascinates me.  Sex and fear are two of the most irrational factors that tend to motivate people.  They are hard to control because they are not rational.  Reason is little to no help, only a healthy dose of willpower has a chance to rein in these powers.

This is something special to be thinking about today on the anniversary of 9/11.

Remembering that evil day

I remember how I felt that day.  I sat safely on my couch in Oakland, Ca, rocking back and forth watching the smoke billow out of the tower.  I felt like a sword was swinging at the Gordian knot that held our nation together.

I remember sitting on the cold concrete outside my appartment, desparately trying to keep my candle lit for the memorial.  I sat in my appartment listening to the Kiss' song, "We are One" on repeat.

I hoped this moment of unity would pull the nation together.  Entropy is a powerful thing, and eventually it all fell apart.

Fear and Horror

I think that is why I occasionally dip my toes into horror writing. I have written a lot of disaster fiction since then.  If you look at them carefully, then you will notice that most of them are about everything falling apart.

I suppose it is a way for me to explore those deep resources of horror and terror that reside just out of view.  My own unresolved issues, and those I see in others.  Shine Like Thunder is really close to me on these issues.

In some ways, I might want to be careful with the horror tales I share. It is possible I am sharing things that are too personal.

Can a writer be to personal?

I am not talking about sharing private information.  At its best, writing is about sharing aspects of our psyche personified.  I have scrapped several stories because I felt they were too close to home to share.  Maybe that was a mistake.

Maybe I should open up, and just let these stories out.

Peace upon them

I know this has been one of my most rambling posts, but somehow, I think it works this year.

Peace be upon the blessed dead of 9/11, and the families whose wounds will never heal.

BTW

The Spider turned out to be a grasshopper.  My bad.

EmzChat with Mike Bennett

With a voice that can chill your bones and a personality that draws in his listeners, Mike Bennett is on his way to becoming the finest horror storyteller our generation has known. Mike has oodles of creepy short stories included in his podcast Hall of Mirrors and reads other classic horror tales on his podcast called Sometimes. Mike grew up as a Science Fiction fan in England. He currently resides in Ireland where he is a teacher, but when the lights go out – or sometimes even during daylight – Mike becomes the macabre voice behind the mic bringing us such gems as Hair and Skin and his newest vampire novel, Underwood and Flinch. I was fortunate to be able to ask Mike some questions recently about fandom, his life, and what scared him as a child. EM: What were you a fan of as a kid? MB: Spiderman, The New X-Men (well, they were 'new' then, now they're just The X-Men), Batman, James Herbert's Rats Trilogy, especially the last one, "Domain". I also loved Man from UNCLE paperbacks. I still have a complete set. Doctor Who (70s), Marine Boy, The Persuaders, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, Starsky and Hutch.

EM: Who might you turn fanboy for today? MB: I met Tom (Dr. Who) Baker once. I nearly fainted. I was working in a bookshop and he came in to see if we were selling his book, The Boy Who Kicked Pigs. Fortunately, we had it in stock. I showed him around and got him to sign a copy.

EM: What was the first real life experience that freaked you the hell out? MB: Being relentlessly pursued - and finally bitten - by a horsefly.

EM: Which of your works is your favorite? MB: Underwood and Flinch.

EM: When you were researching for Underwood and Flinch, what kinds of tools did you use? MB: I lived in a small Andalucian town for six months. That gave me the insight into how a place like Almacena and its inhabitants worked. For vampire background, I watched all the Hammer Dracula movies (not exactly research, I know, but I enjoyed myself) and read Christopher Fraying's book, Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula. I also re-read Dracula.

EM: Is there any project that caused you more work than you were expecting? What would you do differently? MB: Underwood and Flinch is a write-to-podcast affair. I began podcasting it as soon as I'd completed a rough first draft. In hindsight, I'd prefer to have completely finished the book first and had an editor look it over and then I'd have implemented the edits and done another draft and so on and so on. But then again, the probability is, I wouldn't have done the whole editor thing and later re-writes. If I hadn't started podcasting it when I did, I mightn't have ever taken the project any further. I would have more likely started work on something else and come back to U&F later - maybe. Maybe not. I don't know.

EM: How did you get involved in The Parent Vac project and what possessed you to become a vacuum salesman and an undead dad on film? MB: My wife and I went down to Wexford to visit some friends, and someone said, 'Let's make a movie'. I was given the task of making up the story, so I looked around to see what props we had. We had a vacuum cleaner and a hat. I threw the story together and we improvised the lines over one or two takes.

EM: Where can readers find out more about you? MB: www.MikeBennettPodcast.Com or www.UnderwoodAndFlinch.Com

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Manhwa Review: Evil's Return

Author Jong-Kyu Lee and artist Hwan Shin bring us, Evil's Return. Every young girl thinks that something evil has taken over her body when she gets her first period but in Yumi’s case, it just happens to be true. This coming of age tale has everything a teen novel should, with a little demon mixed in. Yumi’s boyfriend, Sunwoo, is a long-haired hottie who all the girls are ga-ga over. He is obsessed with Yumi’s safety, which becomes more important when her “evil” period shows up. With it come hordes of baddies to kill her or make her their evil queen. Sunwoo gives her protection spells, but they can’t warn off the first devil woman who comes a-callin’. The ultimate big boobed baddy tries to hit on Sunwoo at first, but he banishes her with a spell. Meanwhile, a scary possessed teacher lures Yumi into a classroom and these evil spirits who look like a cross between zombies and vampires attack her.

In volume two, we learn that Yumi is pure blood. It is said that both the Virgin Mother Mary and Lilith, Satan’s wife, were pure blood. It all depends on if the woman is filled with light or darkness, and that is the way the next 1000 years will be ruled. Volume two is mostly fighting scenes, which took a little away from the story for me.

The art work and style of this series is contradicting to me because the inside features the good old Japanese style school uniforms, but the covers look like something off a 1980’s heavy metal band cover. Even the book blurb on the back sounds like a metal music video opening.

When the floodgates of Yumi’s womanhood burst open, demons rush in, clamoring to make the high school senior the mother of evil itself.

All hail Iron Maiden and all that. It’s strange to me how these two styles mix. This is definitely not a kids book with the graphic language and panty/boob shots. There aren’t any extras, but you won’t need them with these action-packed volumes.

One confusing thing about the art in this series is that sometimes they have the same character in the same frame doing two different things, so you might think… “Is that him split in two?” Or, “Who’s that new guy who looks exactly like Sunwoo? Does he have a twin?” But in battle scenes, this is a cool effect because it makes it like still shots of DBZ fights.

The Evil’s Return series is hard to find, but a few used copies can be found here and there on the web, including at Amazon.com.

Manga Review: Nightmares For Sale by Karou Ohashi

Nightmares For Sale, or Akuma no Omise: Shadow & Maria, is about a pawn shop that specializes in buying items that are evil. I thought I would like this manga for just that reason, but the devil-like pawn shop owner and his sassy doll assistant trick people into scams that they can’t possibly win, often costing them friendship or life. I found this to be a depressing book with sad stories. One story is about a beautiful woman who wants to be a model, but doesn’t photograph well. She is told that for a price she can photograph well, but that it is draining. She is soon in every magazine around the world, getting jobs left and right, but every camera that takes her picture drains life from her.  Only weeks later she is an old haggard lady and some paparazzi try to take her photo, which causes her death.

There are tales of friendship rings causing friends to be hateful to one another and an aborted son torturing his mother from the grave. Nightmares for sale is right! But don’t dare go near that pawn shop. You may come out wanting to off yourself without even buying anything!

The cover is deceivingly innocent. The art in this book is modern and the printing quality is clean and easy to read. For such a tame manga, it has a surprising use of bad language.

If you’re into tales where people taunt people to death or cause their lives to become utterly miserable just for the hell of it, this book is for you.

Manga Review: Angel's Coffin by You Higuri

Angel's Coffin is a one volume tale about Seto, a deity trapped in a book by the demon Baphomet. When Marie, an 1889 socialite, releases him, he thinks killing her to break the demon’s curse should be a snap. But he falls in love with her and can’t do what he must. Marie’s mother is only interested in marrying her off well to increase their social status. It helps that Marie is in love with Prince Rudolf of Austria. Because Seto promises to help Marie find her heart’s desire, he has to watch as Marie meets Rudolf and they fall in love. Unfortunately, Prince Rudolf has dealings that may mean the end to them both. Seto might be able to stop their demise, if only he can get away from Baphomet’s Curse.

Marie’s sickeningly sweet dreams of love might drive you away, but the pretty boys in this one might bring you back. The art is fantastic and the clothes in this volume are gorgeous and detailed. However, I found the chibi portions silly and “Cathy” cartoon-like. The representation of the demon Baphomet as an eyeball with bat wings is rather awesome.

Extras in the back of this book are:

  • A side story about the Prince’s manservant and how he loves the Prince.
  • A letter from the author.

Still interested? Check out Angel’s Coffin at Amazon.com.

Manga Review: Dolls by Yumiko Kawahara

What if Lestat was a shop owner?In Dolls, you can pretend our much beloved vamp owns a doll shop. Only instead of terrifying you by sucking your blood, he does it by selling you evil dolls.

This is a manga full of short tales about a doll shop owner and his beautiful “plant dolls”. The artist creates a haunting atmosphere  accompanied by the intricate lacing and curls of the dolls. At times, the doll renderings are so lifelike, you might feel like one of the clients, tricked or lured into buying a doll you cannot afford.

In the first installment, Milk at Mealtimes, you might think you’re reading a fan comic of Lestat, Louis, and Claudia. However, although the characters look like our favorite trio, they act quite different. A man is lured into the shop by the dolls beauty. He is conned into purchasing her by the shop owner and finds his doll has been spoiled by a previous owner. She will only sleep on luxury sheets, drink from the finest china, and eat premium sweets.

Doll’s care instructions: Milk three times a day Sugar cookies once a week Change into fresh clothes daily. No direct sunlight. Nothing more that milk & sugar cookies. Lots of love from owner.

As the weeks wear on and the owner realizes he can not make the doll content with what he has, he begins feeding her brandy. A few months later, we see the owner poor, destitute and the doll fat and spoiled.

These cautionary tales must come from some desire to teach businessmen a lesson, for in each one there is a horrible outcome when the doll enters their homes. One man buys a plant doll for his daughter and they become so close, he cannot tell them apart. He ends up giving his daughter away instead of the doll. Another story tells of a greedy jeweler who wishes for a special gem that is only created from the tears of a certain doll. Unfortunately, he ends up going mad because he is unable to make her cry. There is another tale of an artist who will not paint people because everyone he paints, dies. I’ll let you find out what trickery the dolls have in store for him!

This manga reminds me of the old Twilight Zone episode, "The After Hours", where all the mannequins come alive in the store after dark. While reading, you will feel as if you are in a store with wall-to wall dolls… and as you turn to go, you could swear one of them reached to strangle you!

Beware of the Dolls.

Theater or Renter: June 2010

Theater or Renter: June 2010 includes 6 SF movies Marmaduke, Splice, The A-Team, The Karate Kid, Toy Story 3, Jonah Hex.  Will we watch? Will we rent? or do we even care? Rules of the Game: Watch the trailers. Rate the Trailer. Then share with us your comments: does the movie, it’s trailer and buzz make you want to watch it in the theater, rent it, or not interested at all, and why?

Marmaduke:

Release Date:  June 4th 2010

Listed as:  Fantasy, Family

Studio:  20th Century Fox

Director:  Tom Dey

Produced by:  John Davis, Tom Dey

Written by:  Vince Di Meglio, Tim Rasmussen

Stars:  Owen Wilson, George Lopez, Fergie, Kiefer Sutherland

The Plot / Story: Based on the comic strip of the same name by Brad Anderson.  The Winslow family moves from the country to Orange County, California and has to adjust to the new environment.  This is particularly difficult for the lovable yet awkwardly large Marmaduke, who tends to wreak havoc in his own oblivious way.(Wikipedia) (The Official Site)

First Impressions:

Marmaduke is a renter at best for me.

Positive

It has a good cast.  The trailer made me laugh at times.

Negative

I have concerns that it may be more kidsey then a family movie.  All of the early promotion materials gave me the impression this movie is more fluff.

Splice:

Release Date:  June 4th 2010

Listed as:  Sci-Fi, Horror, Thriller

Studio:  Dark Castle Entertainment via Warner Bros. Pictures

Director:  Vincenzo Natali

Produced by:  Steve Hoban, Guillermo Del Toro

Written by:  Vincenzo Natali, Doug Taylor, Antoinette Terry Bryant

Stars:  Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chanéac

The Plot / Story: Elsa and Clive, two young rebellious scientists, defy legal and ethical boundaries and forge ahead with a dangerous experiment: splicing together human and animal DNA to create a new organism. Named “Dren”, the creature rapidly develops from a deformed female infant into a beautiful but dangerous winged human-chimera, who forges a bond with both of her creators – only to have that bond turn deadly.  (Wikipedia) (The Official Site)

First Impressions:

Probably theater definitely renter.

Positive

Guillermo Del Toro.  Premiered at Sitges Film Festival winning Best Special Effects and Best film.  Also had a showing at Sundance and was then fought over by several studios in a bidding war to get distribution rights.  The trailer looks very interesting.  and Guillermo Del Toro.

The A-Team:

Release Date:  June 11

Listed as:  Action, Adventure

Studio:  20th Century Fox

Director:  Joe Carnahan

Produced by:  Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Jules Daly, Stephen J. Cannell

Written by:  Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom, Skip Woods, Michael Brandt, Derek Haas

Stars:  Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quinton Jackson, Sharlto Copley, Jessica Biel, Patrick Wilson, Brian Bloom

The Plot / Story: (Wikipedia) (The Official Site)

First Impressions:

I'm on the fence if this will be a theater or a renter for me.  This is a niche movie that will probably have a limited appeal with the chance of also attracting the action movie going audiences.  I grew up watching A-Team on TV.  I loved what they stood for:  justice and helping those in need.  I can only hope those elements are in the movie.

Positive

The casting looks the part.  Trailer impressed me, it looked good and has a very A-Team feel to it.  Derek Haas did a good job with wanted so hopefully he brings some of those elements to this project.

Negative

Initially I thought a movie of this was a bad idea but after watching the trailer that has changed.  The Loosers was so disappointing that it has left great concerns for the A-Team which is a similar style of movie.

The Karate Kid:

Release Date:  June 11

Listed as:  Action, Drama, Family

Studio:  Columbia Pictures

Director:  Harald Zwart

Produced by:  Jerry Weintraub, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, James Lassiter, Ken Stovitz

Written by:  Christopher Murphey

Stars:  Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith, Taraji P. Henson

The Plot / Story: This is a remake of The original Karate Kid The Karate Kid Remake Trailer.  A 12 year old Detroit kid moves to China with his mother.  Due to cultural differences he makes the class bully and enemy.  With no friends, in a strange land, Dre has nowhere to turn but maintenance man Mr. Han, who is secretly a master of kung fu. Han teaches Dre that kung fu is not about punches and parries, but maturity and calm.  (Wikipedia) (The Official Site)

First Impressions:

Skeptical of the remake, I have concerns that those values from the original will not be maintained.  I may have to wait for early reviews before I can make a decision on whether I will even watch it.

Positive

Loved the original film.

Negative

Concerns over how they will keep some of the spirit of the original film due to some of the fundamental changes.

Toy Story 3:

Release Date:  June 18th

Listed as:  Fantasy, Family

Studio:  Pixar Animation Studios

Director:  Lee Unkricha

Produced by:  Darla K. Anderson, John Lasseter

Written by:  Michael Arndt

Stars:  Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, John Ratzenberger, Don Rickles, Estelle Harris, Wallace Shawn, Blake Clark, Jodi Benson, Michael Keaton, Ned Beatty, John Morris

The Plot / Story: Andy is now heading off to college and plans to put the toys into storage in the attic but his mom accidentally donates them to the Sunnyside Daycare.  Woody, Buzz and the whole gang meet new toys at the daycare for better and worse. Learning of Andy's sadness over their loss they must fight to find their way back to Andy's house before he leaves for college.(Wikipedia) (The Official Site)

First Impressions:

Theater

Positive

Really enjoyed the previous 2 Toy Story Movies.  The cast is stellar.   Trailer looks good.

Jonah Hex:

Release Date:  June 18

Listed as: Superhero, Westeren

Studio:  Legendary Pictures, DC Entertainment

Director:  Jimmy Hayward

Produced by:  Akiva Goldsman, Andrew Lazar

Written by:  Screenplay: Neveldine & Taylor  Story: Neveldine & Taylor, William Farmer  Characters: John Albano, Tony Dezuniga

Stars: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett, Michael Shannon

The Plot / Story: Jonah Hex is a scarred drifter and bounty hunter of last resort, a tough and stoic gunslinger who can track down anyone... and anything. Having survived death, Jonah's violent history is steeped in myth and legend, and has left him with one foot in the natural world and one on the "other side." His only human connection is with Leila, whose life in a brothel has left her with scars of her own. But Jonah's past is about to catch up with him when the U.S. military makes him an offer he can't refuse: in exchange for his freedom from the warrants on his head, he must track down and stop the dangerous villian Quentin Turnbull. But Turnbull, who is gathering an army and preparing to unleash Hell, is also Jonah's oldest enemy and will stop at nothing until Jonah is dead.(Wikipedia) (The Official Site)

First Impressions:

On the fence between theater and renter.

Positive

John Malkovich a plus.  Superhero movie a plus.  The steamPunk elements borrowed for the film it makes for a more fantasy version of the Wild West but one that I enjoy.

Negative

The trailer was not terribly exciting border lining on the boring.


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Manga Review: Muhyo and Roji’s BSI by Yoshiyuki Nishi

Muhyo & Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation

The BSI is an agency consisting of two boys named Muhyo and Roji who at first I found childish and annoying, but they grew on me. Made for the pre-teen shonen-jump market, this manga has it’s scary moments. The boys battle all sorts of creatures from the underworld. There are monsters that look like langoliers, a scary chair that eats your shirt - and then you, and some ghosts that look like giant sorting hats from Harry Potter.

Muhyo and Roji help a host of ghost or demon afflicted clients. If you can get past Muhyo’s pint-sized Napoleon complex, you will enjoy it. Armed with his official magic book of law, Muhyo casts beings into the underworld by yelling out a law such as:

“The laws of magic, article 741- For the crime of unlawful object parasitization, I sentence you to the Night Train.”

After which a whole bunch of chugga, chugga zap happens and the ghosty with the mosty gets sucked into the Night Train to hell.

I was more impressed with volume two where they travel to the school of magic to try to see if Muhyo’s assistant can pass the magic law test. Once there, they find the school is taken over by evil and some of the people are infected. The infection makes mouths break out all over their bodies. The artwork of the mouths all over their bodies is done really well. The fact that it starts infecting everyone there, including the main characters makes it an exciting read.

Something annoying to me was the unusual break in words. I know sometimes when the words are translated, the boxes are not sufficient and for this reason they may have to break words unnaturally, but in this case there seemed to be enough room. Words like should-ers, na-gano, prefec-ture were confusing and made me pause in the story to figure them out.

Overall, this is an interesting series and might perhaps be a little scarier for the pre-teens than I found it. Good news is, if you enjoy this series, there are 17 volumes to gobble up with one more to come in August 2010.

Get your copy here from amazon: Muhyo & Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation

Book Review: Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen is still alive today … as a vampire."

With a tagline like that, I could hardly leave my copy collecting dust at the bookstore. Jane Bites Back is an awesome read for any Jane Austen lover. Though set in a world where Jane is still alive, and a vampire, this book sways more towards chick lit than horror. The gore in this novel is supremely tame and safe for all ages.

Jane is a bookstore owner who boils about not being able to collect royalties from her books. From the author finger puppets to the JA massage books, Jane is rather sick of it all! But Jane has a plan. She will attempt to publish her last great novel, the one that no one has seen yet, and she’ll try to do it without her secret getting out.

Perhaps my favorite part is the first chapter in which she has to entertain a Jane Austen wannabe author after a reading. You can just feel the steam rise as Jane hears her put down JA fans as if they are mindless zombies and even slight her own work.

“I don’t get the big deal about Austen myself... I could barely get through them... Talk about boring.”

Even Mr. Darcy wouldn’t expect Jane to control her blood thirst after a proclamation such as that! The author spins this tale so masterfully that I was still guessing at the end. Which beau would she finally get together with, what well-known literature queen was behind her attacks and would anyone find out about her true identity?

Michael Thomas Ford has successfully transitioned into the big time with this awesome paperback and I applaud it. Mostly known for his gay-themed novels and instruction books, he has shown that he too belongs on the bestsellers list. It is about time he gets some main stream recognition for his talented writing style.

I am pleased to hear that Jane Bites Back is only one of a trilogy. After reading you will see, Ford left it pretty wide open – anything can happen!

Free eBook Review: Ivory by Steve Merrifield

From the looks of the cover of this free eBook, you might suspect Ivory is a horror book, and it is, but in a way you could never imagine. This new book is surprisingly engaging and better than those I’ve read straight from the bookstore shelves. Ivory is a mute girl who bewitches anyone she comes into contact with. When Martin runs into her with his car, she captivates him and causes him to find the artistic creativity he thought he’d lost forever.

Stranger than her lack of injuries is Ivory’s striking physical appearance with stark white hair and skin, and jet black eyes.

Finding she is a prostitute, Martin provides her with the means to live without the dangerous profession. He encourages her to get off the streets and away from men that may harm her, abuse her, or take advantage of her.

There are hints at Ivory being special, but is she immortal or merely nature's most precious creation?  One thing is sure, there is more to Ivory than her absolute beauty. Why does she have such power over all those who see her? Does she have the power to turn burnouts into award winners? Gay men straight? Law-abiding citizens into murders? Perhaps. But at what price? The question Martin has to ask himself is… Is she worth the loss of his family, his job, and his sanity?

I enjoyed this romp through London’s underworld and felt as if I was right there in the car with Martin as he realized the world as he knew it was coming to an end. This chilling read takes you through the artistic mind of a genius, the crooked world of prostitution, and the mysterious atmosphere of voodoo ritual.

Some of you are scared to try free eBooks because they might be badly edited or riddled with typos or even be written horribly. Ivory had none of these faults. This book is awesome and I encourage all of you with a digital device, or an interest in reading online to check out Ivory. It’s free. You really have nothing to lose. If you enjoy it, please leave a review for this brilliant new talent to let other readers know.

You can find Ivory free at Smashwords.com

Theater or Renter: Arpil 2010

Theater or Renter: April includes five SF movies Clash of the Titans, Date Night, Kick-Ass, The Losers, A Nightmare on Elm Street.  Will we watch? Will we rent? or do we even care? Rules of the Game: Watch the trailers. Rate the Trailer. Then share with us your comments: does the movie, it’s trailer and buzz make you want to watch it in the theater, rent it, or not interested at all, and why?

Clash of the Titans:

Release Date: April 1

Listed as:  epic fantasy

Studio:  Legendary Pictures

Director:  Louis Leterrier

Produced by:  Basil Iwanyk, Kevin De La Noy, Richard D. Zanuck

Written by:  Lawrence Kasdan, Travis Beacham, Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi

Stars:  Sam Worthington, Mads Mikkelson, Alexa Davalos, Danny Huston, Gemma Arterton, Pete Postelthwaite, Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson

The Plot / Story: Based on the 1981 film Clash of the Titans .  Born of a god but raised as a man, Perseus is helpless to save his family from Hades.  With nothing left to lose, Perseus volunteers to lead a dangerous mission to defeat the Kraken and then get revenge on Hades.  (Wikipedia) (The Official Site)

Theater: Liam Neeson as Zeus and Ralph Fiennes as Hades will be awesome.  I loved the original Clash of the Titans and have hopes that this one will be an epic like the first.  They even have a budget to make the effects look great but the trailers haven’t supported the hope.

More Clash of the Titans on dashPunk

Date Night:

Release Date:  APRIL 9th

Listed as:  Comedy

Studio:  20th Century Fox

Director:  Shawn Levy

Produced by:  Shawn Levy, Tom McNulty

Written by:  Josh Klausner

Stars:  Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig, Common, Ray Liotta, Taraji P. Henson, Leighton Meester

The Plot / Story: Claire and Phil Foster (Tina Fey and Steve Carell) are a suburban couple slogging through their daily lives and marriage. Even their "date nights" of dinner and a movie have become routine. To reignite the marital spark, they visit a trendy Manhattan bistro, where a case of mistaken identity hurtles them through the city at breakneck speeds, into non-stop adventure. Remembering what made them so special together, Phil and Claire take on a couple of corrupt cops, a top-level mobster—and a crazed cabbie—as their date becomes a night they'll never forget.  (Wikipedia) (The Official Site)

Between Theater Renter:  Date night will be a theater if I have time to catch it in the theater otherwise it is a renter.  The idea of Liz Lemon and Michael Scott together makes me laugh so much even if I realize these characters are probably not quite the same.  Tina Fey and Steve Carell crack me up so I expect this to be a fun and funny movie.  I'm also curious to see if Date Night is more like Adventures in Babysitting then the typical comedies we find in the theaters today.

Kick-Ass:

Release Date:  APRIL 16th

Listed as:  comic book movie

Studio:  Lionsgate

Director:  Matthew Vaughn

Produced by:  Matthew Vaughn, Brad Pitt, Kris Thykier, Adam Bohling, Tarquin Pack, David Reid

Written by:  Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, Mark Millar

Stars:  Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloe moretz, Mark Strong, Nicolas Cage

The Plot / Story: based on the comic book Kick-Ass by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.  a typical teenage boy, wonders why no one has ever decided to become a real-life superhero like the heroes in the comic books.  Despite the fact that he has zero superpowers, he looks to reincarnate himself as a crime-fighting superhero named Kick-Ass.  His decision inspires a subculture of copy cats, put his life in danger, and unite him with a similarly minded father-daughter duo. (Wikipedia) (The Official Site)

Theater:  the trailers look really funny.  The premise of a regular person stepping up for what is right and inspiring others to take his lead is also a plus.

The Losers:

Release Date:  APRIL 23rd

Listed as: action based on comic

Studio:  Warner Bros.

Director:  Sylvain White

Produced by:  Joel Silver, Akiva Goldsman, Kerry Foster

Written by:  Peter Berg, James Vanderbilt

Stars:  Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Óscar Jaenada, Jason Patric

The Plot / Story: An adaptation of Vertigo and DC Comics' comic book series The Losers. Five members of an elite United States Special Forces team are sent into the Bolivian jungle. The team find themselves the target of a betrayal instigated from inside by a powerful enemy known only as Max. Believed to be dead, the group makes plans to even the score when they're joined by the mysterious Aisha, a beautiful operative with her own agenda.  (Wikipedia) (The Official Site)

Between Theater Renter:  I lovingly think of this movie as the B-Team copy of the A-Team m0vie.  The story and even characters are similar.  That said The Loosers trailer did make me laugh more which hurts a little to say as a fan of the A-Team.  I don't have big expectations for the film but from the trailer it looks fun so if I'm not able to catch it in the theater I will put it on the rent list.

A Nightmare on Elm Street:

Release Date:  APRIL 30th

Listed as:  Slasher, Horror, Reboot

Studio:  New Line Cinema

Director:  Samuel Bayer

Produced by:  Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller

Written by:  Wesley Strick, Eric Heisserer

Stars:  Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz

The Plot / Story: A reboot of the 1980’s movie Nightmare on Elm Street.  A group of parents hunt down and murder a local stalker.  The children of the suburban parents are being haunted in their dreams by a horribly disfigured killer known as Freddy Krueger.  (Wikipedia) (The Official Site)

Theater:  I'm a big fan of Nightmare on Elm Street and in it's case a reboot makes more sense because Freddy was finally defeated in six.  I am concerned about my reactions to a non Robert Englund Freddy but the trailers look really good.


[reus name="Fandango"]

[reus name="Netflix"]

Concerns For Alien in 3D

There are plans to do an Alien remake in the 3D format and to make it a trilogy.  I loved the Alien movies they are a brilliant example of good horror.  This remake project brings great concerns.

Will James Cameron return to the project?  This is an important question.  He was so involved with the movies starting with his writing on the first Alien movie.

The gimmick concern.  The studios are going nuts over making movies in 3D as a gimmick to lure people into the theaters to watch movies.  This creates problems since not all theaters can handle 3D.  Thus if the movie is not shot with care it appears distorted and becomes troublesome to watch in non 3D.  I also find it offensive that the studios would take such a flagrantly lazy approach to create desire in watching movies in the theater.  Generally I find putting out movies that have good writing, storylines, and aren’t just throwaway media will make me want to go watch it in the theater.

One of the things that makes the Alien movies work so well as horror and to still appear fairly current even 30 years latter is that they don’t show too much and they use the real when they can for the effects.  Modern movies, especially those for 3D, tend to show too much moving from a terrifying scene toward the grotesque desensitizing the audience.

(via SCI FI Wire)

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Horrorfest III: Tales of Terror

Horrorfest III: Tales of Terror

A Second Life Convention presented by Bookstacks

Notice By Kghia Gherardi, Organizer

This month on the thirteenth, Bookstacks will commence Horrorfest III: Tales of Terror. You might not live to see the Ides of March this year! We will have a full schedule of events with numerous authors reading their works, including Mike Stackpole. The survivors will continue on the fourteenth when, amongst other events, Tobias Buckell will make one of his rare appearances in-world to read “Spurn Babylon.”

In other events you will be able to swap poetry with author Emerian Rich in the graveyard. Or learn about real life horrors with Mark Eller. Find out how to incorporate horror sound effects to your own shows. Sample Crap Mariner’s short shorts. Participate in a costume contest and attend a fashion show for the fashionably undead. And that’s not all! Bookstacks will be running all its normal events, usually with a twist…a twist of Terror.

Saturday, March 13 •9:00 am – Horrorfest opens with new and classic tales read by West of Ireland storyteller Gyro Muggins. •10:00 am - Emerian Rich, author and host of the Horror Addicts podcast, hosts a workshop on creating horror sounds for podcasts…or simply to scare your friends next Halloween. •11:00 am - Simeon Beresford serves as quiz master for a horrific game of Book Trivia. The winner of the game will take home 500 lindens, and the person in the best costume in the theme will also win 500 lindens. •1:00 pm – Emerain Rich reads from the sequel to Night’s Knights •2:00 pm - Science Fiction Saturday •3:00 pm – NYT bestselling author Michael A. Stackpole will give you nightmares when he reads one of his scary tales •4:00 pm - Join Emerian Rich for the annual sharing of scary poetry in the graveyard. There is more out there than “The Raven” •5:00 pm – Crap Mariner offers his own take on terror with his 100 word stories and scary shorts •6:00 pm – Author and host of the Hell Hole Tavern podcast, Mark Eller, will remind us that not all horror is fictional with his real life tales. •7:00 pm – Live performance by Scream Machine*

Sunday, March 14 (please note: Daylight Savings Time begins in the US) •11:00 am – Henry Snider reads from one of his stories about occult, parapsychology and esoteric studies •1:00 pm – Off the Shelf interviews Mark Eller, author and host of the Hell Hole Tavern podcast •3:00 pm – Poetry Libre’s Open Mic •4:00 pm – Award-winning author Tobias Buckell reads “Spurn Babylon” •5:00 pm – “Twenty Ten Horror and Chills Couture Event” – Fashion Show for the Fashionably Undead from the Infinite Focus Fashion Agency * Scream Machine is brought to us by Grave Concerns Ezine

Testing a Setting

Yesterday, I finished the first draft of a test story for a new setting I am developing.  Wow, that was a vague sentence, but it sounded like I really said something didn't it. I liked it.  I haven't written an Urban Dark (Gothic) Fantasy since 1996.  I blame Emerian for my return to Horror writing.  I love the genre, abandoning it only after I felt trapped in the rules and requirements it puts on fiction.

After my near breakdown in November, and the many months of recovery, I realized that I am tired of playing by everyone else's rules.  I have always been bound to one system or expectations.  The world I grew up in is gone, and there is little to nothing I can do to bring it back.  I have to just pick up from the mess that exists now and move forward.

If I can be allowed a cliché: "Be the change you want to see."

A couple weeks ago, I started working on an idea.  It was strange and scared me a bit.  Unlike anything I have ever written, I didn't have a model, or genre to define it.  I am not claiming that it is original.  I am sure somewhere someone has written something like it, but it is mine.  It is the type of story I want to read.

Form

My biggest hurdle has been getting beyond the structures of the novel and the short story.  I agree with H P Lovecraft that the best fiction is pulled off with the same craft as a well devised hoax.  So I started playing around with ways to tell a strory directly and from oblique angles.  I would love to share some of these stories, but they may be included in the final project, so I don't want to release them early.

My biggest inspiration comes from comics.  I love the shared universe, and I would love to find some writers to help me out on this project.  The idea of the setting as hero mashed up with characters that readers will really care about excites me.  In the end I would like this story to spawn blogs, vlogs, and podcasts set in the world, expanding it holding to the canon.

I have never been accused of dreaming too small, LOL.

Test Everything!

If I had any advice for the writers out there it is this.  Test everything!  If you get an idea, no mater how outlandish, bizarre, or out of the mainstream.  Give it a try.  See how it comes out, then move forward based on the results.  I have found a new setting I love writing in.  Who knows what you will find.

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Exploring: Paranormal Activity

A Review of Paranormal Activity Paranormal Activity is the first good horror movie I have watched in a long time.  They succeed in playing off the audiences fears, crawling into our head and best of all they do it without belittling their work with shock gimmicks.  It was also very entertaining to watch.  I give this movie a 9 out of ten and would recommend watching it.

The Story

After some strange things happen to Katie, her boyfriend Micah sets up a video camera to capture the events.  The paranormal occurrences increase in frequency and significance, leaving Katie more and more distraught -- and determined to put an end to the terror.

Immaculate Reality

They did such a great job establishing the setting and creating a feel of a real home video.  I actually felt uncomfortable like I was some kind of peeping Tom watching some ones private life.  The immaculate reality was maintained throughout the entire movie.

The Parts In-between

I was so impressed with the great discipline demonstrated in this film.  The choices taken by the director, producers and writers deserves a big kudos.  There is so much said without words.  More of the movie and story happens in the moments between the dialogue and action.  This reminded me of the line in Almost Famous when he is talking about what makes music so great are the moments left out and missed beats.

The Fear of the Unknown

Paranormal Activity draws it’s strength by playing off the fear of the unknown, the greatest of all the fears.  I was so impressed with what they chose to show the audience and what parts were left just off screen.

This gave them greater control over the budget so that they didn’t have to waste money on special effects that would not do as much justice as the audience’s imagination could.

Laying the Eggs of Terror in Your Mind

By subtly using our imagination to fill in those parts the movie is able to crawl into our minds and gets us thinking.

The experience of the movie is enhanced by how they would suggest and nudge the audience in the direction desired.  Showing us the more believable moments of paranormal interaction and our minds fill in the rest based on each participant’s desires.  The skeptic would not see more then they would believe and the believer would fill in all kinds of spectacle that would occur off screen.

The Conversation Generated

The amount of conversation that was generated from watching the movie is also another testament to it’s quality.  We actually found ourselves pausing the movie about 30 min in and shared personal stories of encounters with the unexplained and our own warning tales about using Ouija boards.

For me the theatrical ending was brilliant.  I'm glad they used it instead of the other although both are included on the DVD.

Favorite Parts

  • The foot prints
  • Standing beside the bed
  • picture in the attic
  • Ouija board
  • Ending

Though not an owner Paranormal Activity is a must see.

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Manga Review: Nightmare Inspector by Yumekui Kenbun

nightmareinspecAt the end of the Taisho era in Japan, a small tea house draws patrons to Hiruko. He is a Baku-he or eater of dreams. It is said Hiruko can enter a nightmare and release the victim from suffering. He can put people to sleep with the wave of his cane and accompany them into the nightmare. The stories in Nightmare Inspector are very odd and don’t seem to make much sense. In one case, a boy walks into the tea house and asks for help. It turns out he is a weather vane. I’m confused how a weather vane could walk into a tea shop and do weather vane’s have nightmares?

Another tale features a girl who always writes the same thing in her dream. She asks him to change it, but when they get to the part where he can, she ends up writing the same thing. There is a secondary character in the tea house who sometimes asks Hiruko what happened and his explanations don’t make much sense either.

There are also repetitive chapter beginnings which are common in mangas that were serialized in magazines.  I always think it is better for the editor to cut these out when composing the manga book.

I absolutely love the art in this manga. It’s a very interesting sort of steampunk/cosplay mix with long art deco kinds of lines. The styling of the Baku-he is awesome.

In back, there is a short letter from the author. The best thing in the whole book is a full page illustration/explanation of Hiruko’s cane by the friend of the author. It’s hilarious and informative. It makes me wonder what sort of manga would come from the author and best friend collaborating.

Check out this manga for the art. The story is not worth the read.

You can find this manga at Amazon.com.

Manga Review: Vampire Doll by Erika Kari

vampdoll1You gotta love the storyline for Vampire Doll.  A powerful vampire prince, Guilt-na-Zan, was sealed into a cross necklace by an exorcist. Years later, the exorcist’s descendant, Kyoji, releases him but there’s a catch. You see, instead of letting the vampire free to hunt, feed, and generally be his good old evil self, he awoke in the body of a wax doll. Not only has the exorcist handicapped Guilt-na-Zan by placing him in a cute blonde-haired girl with ruffles, he also expects him to be his maid. Such a concept probably has you wondering if it’s a horrible joke. Nothing like this could ever be good, right? Wrong. Though I was skeptical at first, I found Vampire Doll funny and entertaining. Example? There are many.

First, when Guilt-na-Zan first awoke, he tries to summon tempest and beasts, but with his new found doll body, all that comes is flowers and teddy bears.

Next, when he is given an apron by Kyoji, he asks what it is. Kyoji says,

“A special battle apron. Now your maid skills are at level two and your cuteness level is at five!”

Something about a powerful vampire prince being treated like a dress up doll is just too funny for words.

Other characters include Guilt-na-Zan's faithful bat servant, Vince, who is now in a man’s body. Although he has his own room with a bed, he insists on sleeping hanging from his feet in the closet.  He is cute, but very dumb.

Kyoichi is Kyoji’s brother and they have a bitter rivalry in which they try to kill each other regularly. Kyoji’s sister Tonae seems to be the only sane one. She adores Guilt-na-Zan’s doll form and every time she lets him drink a drop of her blood, he is able to transform into his male vampire form. These rare occurrences conveniently coincide with an event where they need his vampire skills to survive. Though Guilt-na-Zan's male form is like a 1980's hair band reject, he's still rather intimidating as the vampire prince.

In volume two, a master doll maker and his doll arrive to mix things up. The doll has scissor hands and a soul!vampdoll

The Extras

  • Glossy color pictures of the characters
  • Bonus comic strips which put the characters into silly positions or to tell jokes.
  • Author notes.
  • Trivia and Japanese word/concept definitions.
  • A funny manga about how the book is made.
  • A one page manga called “Sweets and Me” where the author explores why strawberries on cakes look so arrogant. “Nothing is done to them. They are naturally born with that shape. Yet, they have the attitude of a main ingredient!”
  • Cross over comics with the characters of Strange Plus.

Entertainment for hours awaits you in the pages of Vampire Doll.  If you’d like to purchase them, they are available at Amazon.com.

Manga Review: Missing by Gakuto Coda & Rei Mutsuki

missingMissingis a story about a literary club where one of the members disappears. These students claim to be the smartest in school and attempt to show it off by having lengthy discussions about society, religion, love, etc… I have never, in all my manga-reading years, seen a story with more words in it. The bubbles are practically bursting with conversation. At one point the font is so small (to get all the words in the bubble) that it becomes hard to read. This is a good thing for those of you looking to get more intellectual stimulation from a comic. For me, it was kinda exciting at first, then got tiresome, and just before it annoyed me, they got into the meat of the spooky tale. The reason for the overly wordy manga is because it's an adaptation from the novel Missing by Gakuto Coda.

The character all us Gloom Cookies will like is named Kyoichi. He is tall, dark, handsome, and wears a long black cloak like a priest. He’s the type that sits in the corner reading while the others are going on about whatever nonsense they deem important. Sort of a modern-day Mr. Darcy, he scares people by merely pointing at them. A couple of the classmates worship him and call him “Your Majesty” or “Prince of Darkness”.

One day, a raven-haired beauty shows up outside and he is drawn to her. Soon he goes missing and the club members meet to speculate on where he has gone. My first thought was, if I was part of this club and they had to discuss every facet of my disappearance, I would be dead before they figured it out! They discuss Kyoichi’s fascination with death, the occult, ghosts, and the Kamikakushi which are “Stealers of Souls”.

A poem starts this manga, which I am not a fan of, and there is not much action. However, it does have a spooky element because of the kids investigating what could be the cause of Kyoichi’s disappearance.  They pull out reference books and start referring to especially spooky passages.

To read this review, you may think I didn’t like it, but In a strange sort of way, I did. This manga is like watching Dead Poet’s Society. It’s deep, makes you think, and might even cause you to shiver, but when you’re craving something fun, leave it on the shelf!

Extras: 4 pages from the author and an excerpt from the novel.

Interested in checking this out? Buy it now on Amazon.com.

What is Supernatural Horror

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Image via Wikipedia

The tale of supernatural horror provides an interesting field.  THE OLDEST and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.  It is the literature of cosmic fear in its purest sense.  There is here involved a psychological pattern or tradition as real and as deeply grounded in mental experience as any other pattern or tradition of mankind.

A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain.  The more completely and unifiedly a story conveys this atmosphere the better it is as a work of art in the given medium.

  • The appeal of the spectrally macabre is generally narrow
  • It demands from the reader a certain degree of imagination and a capacity for detachment from everyday life.
  • Atmosphere is the all-important thing

Why is Supernatural Horror Effective

The thrill of the chimney-corner whisper or the lonely wood invades an obscure corner of the very hardest head; so that no amount of rationalization, reform, or Freudian analysis can quite annul the thrill.

This tendency, too, is naturally enhanced by the fact that uncertainty and danger are always closely allied; thus making any kind of an unknown world a world of peril and evil possibilities. When to this sense of fear and evil the inevitable fascination of wonder and curiosity is superadded, there is born a composite body of keen emotion and imaginative provocation.

Supernatural Horror Plays with

  • fear of the unknown
  • psychology
  • the sensitive
  • curious streak of fancy
  • more maleficent side of cosmic mystery
  • A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread

What Supernatural Horror is Not.

The literature of mere physical fear and the mundanely gruesome.  This type externally similar but psychologically widely different.  The true tale has something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains.

Such writing, to be sure, has its place, as has the conventional or even whimsical or humorous ghost story where formalism or the author's knowing wink removes the true sense of the morbidly unnatural.  These things are not the literature of cosmic fear in its purest sense.

For more read Supernatural Horror in Literature by H. P. Lovecraft

[reus name="lovecraft books"]

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How To Choose A Manga

There are so many manga out, you may be asking, “How can I choose the manga that is right for me?” First you need to know what part of the manga you enjoy most. Do you love goth-loli art? A good story? Something with horror in it? It’s rare to find all these things in one manga series. Believe me, I’ve tried!

Some of you may rely on reviews such as this one to lead your way, but for those of you who are trying to create your own manga hunting style, here are some tips.

Know what you like

I look for good art first, story second.

Seems kind of weird for someone to say that about a book, but  unlike fiction books, mangas need to capture your eyes as well as your mind.

Good manga authors are a skilled, rare breed that can somehow create a tale and put it down in art in such a delicate fashion, you hardly realize you are reading what is basically a cartoon.  What good is a tale in a manga book without interesting art? They might as well have written a novel, let the publisher worry about the cover art, and stick to word writin’!

Know what you don't like

I am emphatically against talking animals in manga. I hate them. Bats and spiders are sometimes ok, but bunnies and doggies and 300-year-old kitties reincarnated from a once great vampire god? Don’t get me started! However, my best friend adores animals talking and absolutely loves the manga (that shall remain nameless) with the vampire kitty. My point?

Know your tastes and just because your best friend urges you to buy her favorite manga because it has vampires in it, don’t automatically assume you will in enjoy it.  There may be a wisecrackin' bunny hidden in the pages, and we all know what that leads to!

Hone your skills

Here are some tips on how to narrow the competition down.

  1. Go to a store with a large manga selection.  This shouldn’t be too hard as it seems manga is the only hot selling item in bookstores these days.
  2. Stand back from the manga shelves and scan.  If any cover draws your notice from a few yards back, it’s worth a look.
  3. Check out the front cover in full. Are you a chibi lover, or do you enjoy killer cyborgs with little chibi interference? Make sure the cover speaks to your taste. If you see one character you don’t like, put it in the maybe pile. There is a good chance that character is going to be throughout the book and will irritate you every time you turn the page and see them.
  4. Once you have narrowed down a few of the great covers, glance over the description on the back. Don’t put too much stock in the description because they don’t usually relate very closely to the tale. I’ve found that often manga covers seem to be written about the whole series and not about the one volume you are purchasing. As long as there are no talking vampire kitties, you are safe to go on.
  5. Flip through the book and check out the art. Is the detail inside as good as the cover art? Is it appealing to you? Is the printing bad, or is it crisp and clean? Do you stop every so often to let a “wow” or a “ooooohhhh” slip from your lips? If you realize it’s a steampunk fantasy once you get inside and you don’t like that sort of tale, please don’t buy it just because you like the cover. You will be disappointed.
  6. Finally, the tale. Read at least the first four pages to make sure you like the story. Does the character cuss like a twelve-year-old boy trying to show off to his mates? Does the dialog not flow? Is there some sort of back story you just don’t like? Don’t buy it. It will not get better. Unfortunately, in some stores (especially in Japantown) they seal the books. In this case, you either take your chances, or get smart and browse them online first. Sites like Amazon and Toykopop allow you to read the first couple of pages before you buy.

I tell you all these things because, like you, I once was a manga investigator trainee. I still get caught buying a stinker once in awhile. It’s all about:

  • Knowing what you want
  • Believing in your first instinct and
  • Sticking to it, no matter how much the commerce bug has got you itching!

For those of you who still can’t decide, I’ve made a list of my top five series. Check out the reviews, see if you might like them, and then put on your manga p.i. hat and get shopping!

  1. God Child by Kaori Yuki
  2. The Tarot Café by Sang Sung Park
  3. Princess Ai by Courtney Love and DJ Milky
  4. Death Note by Tsugumi Oba
  5. Millennium Snow by Bisco Hatori